These glamorous animals are challenging the infamous spectacle. Anna Kalwajtys’ live art acts: Swine, Crab, Big Smile on the Face, Fickrealizm and I more than this.
What hides under the spectacular oppositions is a unity of misery. Behind the masks of total choice, different forms of the same alienation confront each other, all of them built on real contradictions, which are repressed. The spectacle exists in a ‚concentrated‘ or a ‚diffuse‘ form depending on the necessities of the particular stage of misery which it denies and supports. In both cases, the spectacle is nothing more than an image of happy unification surrounded by desolation and fear at the tranquil centre of misery. Guy Debord Society of the Spectacle
Tired of struggling with fiction, the human condition has moved towards a celebration of its supremacy. To enable this celebration we have created a number of ‘fiction producing’ products wrapped within our culture.
We are all conduits for this version of the human condition, being mislead and frightened by misery. We allow ourselves to follow someone, someone who usurps power, selfishly performs a number of identity transformations, and who challenges our emotional norms. In following this usurper we may temporarily risk upsetting the stability of the ‘society of the spectacle’, but by doing so factors of the ‘repressed’ are revealed.
Anna Kalwajtys’ performances seduce and satisfy those who betray ‘the spectacle’, as they often assemble recognisable and brutal elements, then decays the meaning of these elements and generate gestures of unburdening repression. This chain of actions within a performance enables a metamorphosis of Kalwajtys’ performed ‘entities’.
Kalwajtys introduces a coarse glamour to her latest work that is subsequently deconstructed during the performance. The artist degrades her quasi-glamorous image moving smoothly from very humanlike ostentatious gestures to zoomorphic behaviour. Her nonchalance turns into an instinctive awareness of the surrounding.
Competent use of mask in performance enables artists to connect to the encrypted images that their audience is potentially programmed to perceive. This sabotages a process of understanding by redirecting it onto a more instinctive track. Live art challenges ‘the spectacle’ as it targets its theoretical structures that are ‘installed’ in the audience’s consciousness.
During Kalwajtys’ performances a mask and costume is worn by everyone: literally by the performer and metaphorically by the audience. These performances take place both in specific venues created for the showing of art and public spaces.
Interestingly when the work is presented within an‘art space’, spectators tend to remain wrapped in a ‘costume’ of fear and nervous laughter. Paradoxically performances in public spaces offer the performer more freedom and adventure in the playing of the piece because of the different responses she elicits from an accidental and spontaneous audience. On the other hand these audiences also can hinder the piece as energy and focus is dispersed. Overall though by performing to ‚random‘ audiences there is more room for experimentation with issues of desolation, fear and mutual alienation. By interfering with a space that belongs to ‘regulars’ or ‘natives’, the performer exposes herself and her performance to oppression and a direct uncensored reaction. Furthermore, by challenging the common ‘fear of strangers’ the development of the piece is heavily influenced by its new environment and as a consequence it destroys the nature of the Debordian ‘spectacle’.
Despite a recent reduction in objects used by the artist, Kalwajtys’ acts have expanded. The artist strongly manages the surrounding space as well as the one directly engaged by her own body.
On the outset, the artists’ performed ‘entities’ consist of a costume, and gesture, these then expand to include vocal expression. This ‘evolution’ manifests itself in the wearing of sophisticated but vulgar feminine costumes to producing animal-like noises that are accompanied by experimentation with vertical body posture.
An uncertainity of the audience’s relationship with the artist results from an unreciprocated gaze. Kalwajtys wears sunglasses that are a costume detail, but they also express the choice to mark a border between the performer and us. However, as we engage with the performance the sunglasses become an embodiment of her gaze.
Kalwajtys challenges our fear, faded instincts and emotions through an open niche in live art. As the artist takes the opportunity to perform she becomes a celebrity, a trespasser and an animal.
The putting on and wearing of a mask is a building of a wall, an act that provokes others to climb up to see what is hiding on the other side. But by the time we reach the top of the wall this mask may decay as it becomes integrated into her performed ‘entity’ or absorbed by it. Kalwatys’ masks are transient and temporary. The elements of the artist’s image and costume change their shape and role starting off as accessories and evolving through the mask into presumptive features.
There is a dialogue between the hybrid protagonists and conjectural zoomorphisms throughout her work.
Anthropomorphism was the residue of the continuous use of animal metaphor. In the last two centuries, animals have gradually disappeared. Today we live without them. And in this new solitude, anthropomorphism makes us doubly uneasy. John Berger About Looking
Fear is tied with savageness and incomprehension. It is fear that often shapes the relationship between humans and animals.
Presence, absence, ridiculousness, cuteness, scariness, despair, determination; what do human languages impute to animals? Does the ‘spectacle’ include them? “Is this ape just an ape or does it mean something more?”
Live art has earned a specific position within contemporary culture because its allows audience members to be ‘instinctive beings’, we are exposed and we respond
We are both victims and our own ‘lord and master’ but we indulge ourselves in observing this role swap when performed by someone else. There is demand for victims, clowns, pets, authorities and celebrities. A mutual voyeuristic oppression employed within performance releases the ‘repressed’ and unites the victims of the infamous ‘spectacle’.
Let’s play! We accept the invitation and consent to party. We want to loose the fear of being punished and thereafter behave like ‘party animals’. This ‘play’, involving often occurring fear, leads us to see a chain of dependency the exists between play, fear and laughter. There is nothing darker than the total abandonment of oneself to play or performance. Kalwajtys „Big smile on the face” becomes zoomorphic and can cause a wan smile in the audience.
Kalwajtys explores a borderland between reality and fiction. Her live art acts filter ‘real elements’ and make ‘fictional particles’ implode. Suspected of treacherous exhibitionism, her work is an instinctive and intellectual act of tracing consciousness and its relationship with the body. The artist investigates a relationship between the presence and appearance of substances and the phenomena involved in the operation of beings.
Kalwajtys’ performance triggers and reveals the ‘present’ and the ‘repressed’ and the spectators may come to see some aspect of this in their own everyday lives, realizing that it is covert, but throughout they remain deeply involved.
A transgression or the playing of transgression may include ‘being’ an animal. When the act of transgression is completed we can come to realise that it is not a game, it is not fiction and we feel at home.
Everyone appears in this performance. Our ability to confront each other, the awareness of ‘the spectacle’ and ability to ‘spot the animal’ is tested.
Zbigniew Kotkiewicz, London, August 2009
I see performance as a process that happens in the space between the author and the viewer.
The focus of my work is the influence of culture on human condition. I am trying to answer why a Human Being can be weak, clumsy, dramatic, violent, and cruel in interaction with Culture. Moreover I want to find reasons that make a Human Being reject, exclude, excrete, and vomit all that’s alien and different. I am interested in the human being’s inherent desire to fulfill His potential of perfection. I delve into the process of how He strives to acknowledge and fathom His identity; grasp the core of who He is.
I explore these issues from a personal point of view, but I don’t avoid anthropological, sociological, and intuitive approach.
My explorations concentrate on the complexity of human identity, which contains in itself a mixture of feelings, emotions, thoughts, biology of body and gender, as well as of being. The object of my interest is human nature, both physical and psychological, the human form full fragments and parts, conflicts and tension, positives and negatives, oppositions, right and left sides, vertical and horizontal, and many other shapes and directions. There is no way to assemble and unite them. There is no equivalence. Despite the awareness of some invariables existing in human nature, the question about identity still remains unanswered.
Tranclation: Monika Niemczynowicz
The brain speaks or the body – it’s your animal.
It belongs to you, and what you are faced with is the puzzle of a human being.
I assume interaction with the Audience.
I enter a dialogue with the Audience.
I am asking questions.
I’m making various sounds.
I am making various movements around the Audience.
I look at the viewer as if I was looking in the mirror.
I am referring to the issue of finding and naming your own identity.
I am referring to the process that accompanies finding one’s identity.
I am trying to grasp the nature of myself
I am showing the inner conflict of a human being entangled in the nature-culture dichotomy.
I am creating space for exploring the manifoldness of human identity.
I’m sniffing like a dog.
I am like an animal.
I am a human being.
I’m looking for my bone.
I don't know people who surround me.
They try to get in touch with me.
Some comment on the situation, some provoke,they come closer,
talk to me or shout something from the distance.
They put beer, vodka and other things next to me.
They try to provoke me to leave the counter.
I am separated.
I don't get in touch with anybody.
I don't talk, and I don't answer anybody's questions.
A girl approaches me; she tries to get in touch with me.
She is looking into my eyes, she is asking questions.
She grabs my legs finally and with the help of the others she moves my body into the other end of the room.
I don't move, I don't react, and I don't change the position of my body.
They put me in an armchair.
I come back to the counter.
The girl moves me again.
She tries to get in touch with me again.
She strokes my hair; she puts it behind my ears.
She moves my glasses so they hold my hair.
She strokes my head, she leaves.
Now my face is exposed.
People look into my face and make comments. They try to talk.
They deliver their monologues addressed to me.
The situation change its intensity. An interest in me constantly rises and falls down.
After five hours of sitting on the counter I leave.
End of the action.
Anna Kalwajtys is lying on the floor; she’s almost naked, wearing only sunglasses and tights pulled up as high her chest. She’s pouring red wine over her head. Wine spills in puddles on the floor. The performer, still resting on her side, starts to crawl. She’s facing the wall. One of her arms extends upwards, the hand is clutching onto a piece of raw meat. The artist and the viewers are in one space together. The viewers move out of the performer’s way as she crawls across the room. It’s as if they were locked in a cage with a predator. We watch how the artist’s muscles tense up and release in the effort of making another move. She is using mostly her right arm and leg to crawl around the space of the room, still facing its walls. The association that comes is that of exploring and marking a new space. Suddenly, the performer turns onto her other side and now she’s facing the viewers. Her chest is bare. She pulls up and adjusts her tights every so often. The viewers are silently watching, cautious not to be in the way. Kalwajtys pauses for a moment, takes a deeper breath, and continues further. On her way she encounters a wire lying on the floor; someone helps out by removing it. The performer is getting visibly tired, she is changing positions more frequently. When she completes a circle, she crawls towards the middle of the room. One of the viewers is in her way. The artist stops and slowly gets up on her feet. The piece of meat is still in her hand. She’s holding it in from of herself. We can hear a hissing sound she’s making, as if trying to scare away what she’s holding in her hand. She’s staring at the piece of meat, shaking all over her body. Suddenly she runs out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Wine, which the artist was pouring over her head, symbolises a communion between her and the piece of meat. The trail of wine she was leaving behind looked like a trail of blood. The body and the meat were giving off the same sound when hitting the floor. Body as a piece of meat. Human as an animal in her crawling, hissing, snake-like eyes hidden behind the sunglasses. All these elements and associations make us see a human being and an animal that the artist embodies. The division between culture and nature is unclear. When the performer gets up onto her feet – changes position from horizontal to vertical – she becomes a human being. The viewer whom she encountered on her way becomes a mirror that reflects her humanity. Upon seeing that she rejects that what is alien to being human, the raw piece of meat, and she runs away. What she runs away from is her own nature and its animal side, as well as the other.
I enter the room.
I turn my head to the right and to the left.
I smile at the people gathered.
My feet are close to each other.
I start to walk making very small steps.
I cross the room like this.
I turn and repeat everything several times
I say a sentence -big smile on the face-
Very quietly to start with.
It gets louder and louder with time.
From an upright position I go into slouching.
I start moving like an animal;
I imitate a monkey.
The sentence big smile on the face changes into animal-like sounds
I imitate monkey cries.
I move among the people, interact with them.
I go back to an upright position.
Again I start repeating the sentence big smile on the face
I start shouting the sentence.
I walk among the people
And shout big smile on the face
I stop at the exit from the room
Shout big smile on the face
I leave the room