TEXT- Zbigniew Tomasz Kotkiewicz
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