Nathalie Responds to Non-Grata
*Non-Grata is an international Performance group with 40 members from Estonia, England, Korea, Quebec, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Germany, USA, France, and Chile. The purpose revolves around anonymity in group work, ignorance of the local art world and mass media – i.e. “a liberator, the orphic gap in the seemingly unalterable course, which however betrays us, is a cure from incest.”
Beyond Pressure IV was held in December 2011. Several attendees, including myself, were incredibly excited to be there and participate. I gave a talk on performance art in Myanmar in comparison with other countries and also moderated a symposium. When I arrived in Yangon last week, I finally received the catalog from the two week festival. My friend Htoo suggested I first read Non-Grata’s self-titled “World Wide Performance Transition,” an essay posited as a response not only to the festival in Yangon, but global performance. Whether the badass chick who represented Non-Grata at the festival (from Estonia, she shall not be named) wrote the essay herself or whether it was a collaborative effort, we may never know. But what I thought really fascinating was my reaction while reading. First thoughts: this is badass. Free write performance art dialectic crazy hysterical-confusion inducing awesomeness. Second thoughts: no wonder everyone finds “performance artists” so pretentious. The self-explanatory nature of this essay is not accessible to a wider audience. There are many artists who do not practice performance who would not get this. So, here goes my attempt to translate, from English to English, Non Grata’s essay. I’ll go by paragraph. Original in italics.
Spiritual —-> Physical Transition
As it is known, the instrument of a performance artist is one’s own body. Body as means but also, at the same time, the content. Mental, substantive that goes together with the body, the matter. How does the physical, the carnal, start to deliver the spiritual? Artists’ own bodies can be performance instruments, however, today its importance gradually decreases – there are robots, electronic and mechanical devices, automobiles, crowds of people – that can all be remotely directed. One’s own body is definitely the most available means. One can direct a performance totally separate from one’s body, using only one’s brain. To create a non-carnal space, a virtual performance or global catastrophe where peformative activities start functioning on their own, disconnected from body. As brain is still a material part of one’s body, a thought originating from there is already a compromise between an idea and materialized reality. The real world is, as we all know, imperfect. Within the compromise between the spiritual and real, the carnal side finally determines as it acts as a filter or stirrer of the channelized idea. Filters and stirrers are widely used in all kinds of technical activities precisely as the factors that distort the original signals and raise the quality. Carnal filter in co-operation with the surrounding real absurd theatre at its best will result in a creation of reality shift which, in turn, will bring out new mental dimension that will, on the meta-level initiate new processes. Therefore, the initial idea being thrown into the mundane reality is rather in a secondary role, it is more of a trigger.
With some tweaking and editing, I think the beginning of this essay (there are 5 paragraphs) is incredibly strong and explains, from an artist’s point of view, just how ethereal and freeing performance art can be. But I spend my days writing and reading about art, so the language speaks to me. To the average interested person, this is quite confusing.
The author starts off explaining the relationship between the body as a physical object – the material of the performance, just as paint is the material of a painting – and how the mental, the inspiration, joins with the body and directs into performance. Our connection to technology changes all this. Think of those painters who can now use the computer to break up their painting into a grid and then project it on their painting. But what performance art often chooses to be about is the body alone, without the assistance of a crowd, or a remote, or a any other kind of technological means. The performance artist’s body is AVAILABLE. The human’s body is available, and just as our brain is connected to our body, we must use both to achieve our inspiration. I interpret the spiritual as inspiration in this text, because I do not believe the author is talking about a “faith” but rather a “feeling.” So the body acts out the mental feeling and said feelings creates a filtered, distorting the original signals and creating something new.
So allow your body (the physical) to interpret your inspired feelings (the mental) and a new process/performance is born. Your view on the world changes, your body’s reaction to the physical world changes and as a result, your original thoughts are turned upside down.