Alexandra Pirici: Delicate Instruments of Engagement
14. November 2018 – 25. November 2018
Prague, National Gallery Prague, Trade Fair Palace
Ongoing performative action
Performers: Paul Dunca, Paula Gherghe, Farid Fairuz, Maria Mora, Cristian Nanculescu
Light design: Andrei Dinu
Classically trained as a dancer, artist and choreographer, Alexandra Pirici (born 1982 in Bucharest) got her start in that rigorous, tradition-grounded milieu but found herself naturally transitioning into the art world as her works grew increasingly experimental and the limits of the theater stage began to feel too constrictive. The first of her works to be framed in the context of the visual arts was made in 2011 in Bucharest; titled If You Don’t Want Us, We Want You, it saw performers performing sculptural additions to different historical monuments around the city, placing the human body in relation to stone and bronze.
In 2013, Pirici seized international attention when she represented Romania together with choreographer Manuel Pelmuş at the Venice Biennale, memorably using performers to stage an “immaterial retrospective” of the international show through recreations of artworks, actions or controversial moments from the Biennale’s history. In 2014, she participated in the public program of Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg, where she had performers embody sculptural additions to the city’s monuments. Then, in 2016, she was invited by DIS to create an acclaimed, unnerving work for the 9th Berlin Biennale; in the piece, performers in motion-capture suits enacted a “top 30 most relevant stories” presented as web content that users could interact with, and ranked by a self-designed content ranking algorithm similar to Facebook’s “Edge Rank”.
In 2017, Pirici’s ongoing action “Leaking Territories”, commissioned by Skulptur Projekte Münster, , has become one of the most talked-about works at the decennial art show. Her troupe occupied a room in the City Hall where a series of Peace Treaties known as the Treaty of Westphalia were signed in 1648. The dancers connected the historic site to other such sites around the world—such as Tiananmen Square or the Warsaw Ghetto—by reciting the distance separating the two and then enacting the distant event; at another point, they functioned as a “Google search engines,” performing search terms requested from the public and providing answers explicitly based on easily perceivable parameters like age, gender, signifiers of social status, while making visible in the results the online biases related to them.
"Delicate Instruments of Engagement" is a collection of artworks, internet memes, political speeches, actions or images that the performers remediate but with emphasis on different narratives and meanings that emerge from these associations and representations. They are performed in different sequences, according to different dramaturgies, while the audience can, from time to time, chose from 4 different beginnings. The beginnings are associated with different sequences/ dramaturgies but sometimes the actions overlap and they can acquire different meanings depending on the sequence in which they are situated: a Coca-Cola commercial takes on a different meaning if performed after a first free television broadcast during the Romanian Revolution of 1989 or Mikhail Fokine's "Dying Swan" choreography for Anna Pavlova after the image of the Ceausescu couple execution during the fall of the Soviet Bloc. The work is more "active" and more abstract at the same time.
The ongoing action makes reference to the following images, speeches, situations, events, and cultural artefacts:
The 'confused Travolta' meme; Anna Akhmatova’s poem 'A Land Not Mine'; footage of the Ceausescu couple’s execution during the Romanian Revolution of 1989; David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmid and Barack Obama taking a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral; an excerpt from Grace Jones’s 'Slave to the Rhythm'; Bolivian president Evo Morales shining shoes after winning the election in 2007; the covering of the Guernica tapestry at the UN during Colin Powell’s speech advocating for American intervention in Iraq; the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov by a Turkish gunman in an exhibition space in Ankara; Rembrandt van Rijn’s 'The Abduction of Europa' painting; the last speech of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, before his death during the American backed coup against the first democratically elected socialist government in Chile; a STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) photograph; Russian protesters arrested for holding up invisible banners; a first free television broadcast during the Romanian revolution of 1989;
a poetry reading with Marsha 'Pay it no mind' Johnson; Joseph Beuys’s 'Plight' installation; Joseph Beuys’s Japanese whiskey commercial made to co-fund his '7000 Oaks' project for documenta; Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in what became the 'human rights' salute during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City; 'The Right to Be Forgotten' – data protection law; George Michael’s 'Freedom ‘90' song; Bill Clinton’s apology to the nation for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky; a scene from the movie 'Birdcage'; a 3D rendering of the killing of Osama bin Laden; Erdem Gündüz’s 'Standing Man' protest action; Céline Dion’s song 'My Heart Will Go On'; the fake sign language translator from Nelson Mandela’s funeral; emoticons; Melania Trump and Michelle Obama performing similar speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2008 and 2016; the 'Dying Swan' choreography; a stabbing at Art Basel mistaken for performance art; an image of Hillary Clinton waving to supporters taking selfies with her; a monument in memory of Mohamed Bouazizi depicting his fruit cart, erected by local artists in Sidi Bouzid – Tunisia; the 'Google' search engine; Natalia Goncharova’s painting 'The Cyclist'; the monolith scene from Stanley Kubrick’s '2001: A Space Odyssey' movie; the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem; a man against a tank during the Tiananmen square protests in Beijing, 1989, a Coca-Cola commercial.
Delicate Instruments of Engagement is a project of the Impulse Theater Festival and the FFT Düsseldorf. A coproduction of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, National Centre of Dance Bucharest, HAU Hebbel am Ufer and the Tanzquartier Wien.
Funded by the Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen and the NATIONALE PERFORMANCE NETZ (NPN) Koproduktionsförderung Tanz from the means of the federal government allocated for culture and media based on a decision of the German Bundestag.