AGAINST EMBODIMENT: ANTI-HUMAN GARBAGE IN A FOREST OF NIHIL
03/11/2023 - 03/11/2023
Created, developed and performed by enormousface (Kalan Sherrard) produced as a part of Performance Art Week Aotearoa.
Performance Art Week Aotearoa
A DENSE KINETIC INSTALLATION BUILT FROM LOCAL RUBBISH, BROUGHT TO LIFE BY STRINGS AND COLLABORATIVE INTERVENTIONS WITH THE AUDIENCE AND CASCADIAN PUPPETEER ENORMOUSFACE, THE WORK QUESTIONS THE ISOLATE PERMEABILITY OF THE [HUMAN] BODY, ITS CONTEXTS AND ITS WASTE.
A ko-labor-ative installation of trashed utility coming to life to scream against the human body — [The tacit centering of homo-sapiens “people” as the de facto bearers of signification has disenchanted the world and created a horded underclass of Abjects afloat in a sea of their own disembodied, unpersoned uselessness…..can leap to lend these specters valent corporeality in the floating pathos of their absence?]
8pm Friday Night, 3rd November at Adam Art Gallery, Donation (You can just show up!)
Puppetry , Performance Art , Theatre ,
Re-mattered matter threatening to spew
Review by Lyne Pringle 04th Nov 2023
Enormousface aka Kalan Sherrard, street performer, puppeteer, anarchist, posthumanist and former Occupy Wall Street protester, described by New York magazine as “NYC’s Most Avant-Garde Nihilist Subway Performer” fills a corner of the Adam Art Gallery with a smash palace, mess of garbage for AGAINST EMBODIMENT:ANTI-HUMAN GARBAGE IN A FOREST OF NIHIL.
A, not random assortment of bits and pieces: cardboard, ubiquitous single use plastic bottles sprouting form a tree, bouncy cute ringlets of paper, tyres, bobbing sci fi street light baubles in packaging net, banshees in boxes, a Len Lye bouncing rubber kinetic loop, a toilet seat door to nowhere, hub-cap-breast-plate, plastic vomit, pipe as fog horn, even a nod to the Venetians, albeit bent and warped and misaligned. Seemingly ad hoc and thrown together hurriedly. Digging deeper* reveals monuments to: religion, extinction, fascism, mediocrity, fossil fuels, surveillance, hope, consumerism, loneliness, homogeneity, police, genesis.
Anti aesthetic, anti-mattered then re-mattered matter threatening to spew all over everything else and hypnotise with spiralling umbrellas.
Joining Sherrard a bevy of co-opted performers, following a loose script, kick-off wearing undies and repurposed singlets, naked under bed rolls, faces and bodies swathed in mesh, or a slashed reusable nappy cover and other assorted detritus, a nod to the anti-corporealness of the title. Humans are shafted down the hierarchy whilst objects, deemed to be no longer useful, have worth, are lauded and rise to the realm of the corporeal in the evolutionary pile.
And away we go . . . the ‘live’ bit.
An intentionality of repurposed purpose is animated. Screams, throat singing gurgle, groans and murmurs sound off as the heap of nihilist garbage heaves alive. Reconstitute, reconfigure and the odd instructions, whether rudely painted on cardboard or delivered by Sherrard through his sharp echo reverb mic.
It’s playful, whimsical back at kindergarten type exploration, lightweight idiom for a heavy topic. Build ‘the wall’ then let the plebs tear it down, everything tussles with nothing. The ‘audience’ are here to join the party no holds barred. Happily building a large babbling babel tower that is then pushed down the stairs – mayhem. DESTROY IT the instruction. Feels like ‘group therapy’.
Series curator Mark Harvey mumbles in my ear chuckling ‘like Paul McCarthy* goes full Baptist in an apocalyptic garbage dump’. ‘Can I quote that’ I say, appreciating the clue, but not being up with the vernacular I write down Paul McCartney oops this ain’t no ‘band on the run’.
Sherrard, when he gets going, has a solid set of pipes in the upper ranges, an operatic warble with an edge, milking his chords.
Invited to ‘select your very own piece of garbage’ – a plastic ex seedling container calls me: ‘Give that garbage human rights/personhood’. It’s thingness is worshipped then stomped on loudly, then kicked around the gallery when I work on, as instructed: first communing with, then hating, then being disgusted by then perhaps tuning into the domain of ‘never felt before’ – is that shame I detect at my outburst or something else on the shady perimeters of my emotional range?
Or you can take a spin on a go kart outside clutching a witchy staff to relieve the pressure.
Anarchy teeters on the edges of this ‘happening’, one acolyte in ripped black singlet with strong BO staggers about and we move aside, but this bunch of performance art cultists, happy clappers, are jovial and polite and despite the mess and junk nothing gets really junked or messed up.
Later Harvey whispers in my ear ‘It’s like vegetable soup’.* Huh?
It’s fun to go to the void and look in. I change perspective to the long shot.
But wait, a serious bit. One minute of silence for the 300 creatures that went extinct today.
Gulp. Sound becomes threnody.
The place looks like a bomb site – but thankfully not like the real ones in zones where people, things, lives are really getting trashed, although a decomposing possum, (I overhear discovered at the Air BNB where out of town artists are staying), is put to good use as a corpse on strings (Enormousface’s chops as a puppeteer come to the fore). The poor creature (‘only good possum is a dead possum’ says a voice behind ) tumbles in danse macabre down a sheet of plastic for the grand finale leaving behind a REAL stench before being dispatched politely to a plastic bucket outside. Last gasp, last gasp ‘Sorry the world is in such a terrible state’ says Sherrard softly or words to that effect. The soundtrack ends with a squeak.
The morning after my husband comes home from a chat, about the show he saw last night, with his panel beater Kim (been in the trade for 40 years about to retire, from Upper Hutt; husband, ongoing relationship with Kim, long story about butterflies and the varnishing available at Kim’s workshop amongst the beaten up cars).
Suffice to say any description of AGAINST EMBODIMENT:ANTI-HUMAN GARBAGE IN A FOREST OF NIHIL lands on Kim like a meteor from the outer.
‘I was describing the performance to Kim: there was a whole lot of garbage in a corner and a group of people in their undies etc. ’ says Paul. ‘How did he respond?’ I say. ‘Just sat there shaking his head, then said ‘And the point is?’
Answer: You need to go and hang with those folks up on the hill at the Adam Gallery, Kim. It’s all about: Concept, time, space and the relationship between performer and audience and sometimes but not always skill.
It’s not trash Kim, it’s ‘Abjects afloat in a sea of their own disembodied, unpersoned uselessness…..[but we humans?] can leap to lend these spectres valent corporeality in the floating pathos of their absence?’
*Paul McCarthy’s transgressive art often revolves around the body and the breaking of social norms. Whether he makes a mess with ketchup, chocolate syrup, and meat or depicts beloved fictional characters in uncanny or sexual ways, his viewers are usually left to have strong reactions.
*Something my father made for lunch in our house using a packet of soup mix , adding vegetables, particularly grated carrot and cooked for an hour and a half.
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