Cul-de-sac by Roman Polanski is a game involving three characters who play radically changing roles; it is a mockery of adopted positions which turn out to be extremely variable and ever so ephemeral. In a moment, they may as well mean nothing.
Usually, the performance artist is in the spotlight, exposed to the audience, in the limelight and at the centre of attention, tasked with keeping the audience’s attention until the end. The performer is the most important and visible character, it seems as she is the only one on stage, playing the leading role.
However, in this case, the performer turns the spotlight onto the audience and picks someone else for the leading role. First, a member of the audience must be selected who, in a moment, will merge with the artist. Some time is needed to inspect the audience and select someone who will come into intimate contact through tight bandage binding with the artist or intruding into someone’s clothes that are so tightly-fitting, as to make it possible to strip a man of his clothes and leave him exposed (Va banque, Chile).
‘Yours’ is a performance in which the artist epitomises a clingy woman, where a false impression of subordination, i.e. a woman stuck to a man, is juxtaposed with her stern command ‘Run, for fuck’s sake, run! Faster!’. An image of a victim trying to stop someone is, in fact, an act of violence committed against the viewer, against the man.
Role-playing is also about proximity, temptation, access, power and control over an unknown body; the degree of acquiescence evokes fascination or rebellion. The time to keep this relation public, a surprise and a punch line, a protest expressed by a living object or the artist’s absolute control...?
Control not only in curbing one selected viewer, but also in taming all members of the audience that are interested in the performance.
During a meeting with a German audience in one of Monchengladbach’s private flats, the artist imparted unofficial character through an atmosphere of inspection (ordnung). The order was: Ausweis, bitte. Historically, it has been associated with the borders in Europe, a number of post-war German states’ borders, check points and oppression when compared to what Europe has become. However, everyone who came to see the performance yielded to this order, eagerly producing their IDs or explaining why they do not have it with them (they were punished through isolation and barred from entering the exhibition).It wasn’t enough though, after some time, they saw the artist in military uniform on the roof of another building, sweeping the guests with the light from an army torch.
The artist wields control over the crowd, over the decisions of their visibility and invisibility, over their positions, rights and powers.
The performer’s other artistic encounters are with nobody, we don’t know with whom. Standing in the evening among high-rise buildings in Lodz, ironically called Manhattan by its inhabitants, she screams to the pyramid of windows ‘Mummy!’.
Some people react by opening their windows and inquiring briefly about what’s going on. They do not want to stay completely indifferent, however they wish to remain neutral.
She disappeared in open space, hiding in the branches of a tree in France; she eliminated herself, the boundaries of performance art and the stage, abolishing the relationship between the artist and the audience.
She impersonated a fountain sculpture, resembling Botticelli’s Venus, somewhere in a Poland’s provincial town. Only the smarter of bystanders were able to recognise that it was a performance.
In the Dominican Republic, where the artist was robbed several times during her stay, she did penance, in spite of all, for white man’s sins of colonialism (although historically, colonialists were men).Her tied naked body was exposed for many hours as a victim, and not a conquistador, however, it did not arouse compassion. White skin colour, cursed by the locals, is a negative stigma.
In Gdansk, a performance entitled ‘Last dance’ presents an existential story about a cool loneliness in the crowd, where everyone is having fun by themselves, as if on their own soundtrack.
Another performance also took place in Gdansk, in a building of the legendary Gdansk Shipyard, where the Solidarity movement was born in 1980.
This historical place that symbolises mass strikes, which swept all over Poland and changed the face of the world, has fallen victim to an economic transformation and disappears with the advent of construction companies . After the shipyard workers left, artists took possession of the place for a short moment. This has done nothing to help.
Angelika Fojtuch, in silence, coated her body with debris, rubble and dust; thus the imprint of her body rolling around on the floor symbolised a farewell to a lost place.
A modest gesture channels strong emotions concerning post-colonialism and neoliberal capitalism.
All has been said with her body, without a manifesto, maintaining a web of tensions, without supporting props. The most often used material is the body of the artist and of the viewer, merged into one form, one figure, one sculpture.
During a performance of a Berliner artist, the artist’s silent presence, with a leech on her face, symbolised protest against the contentious issue of copyrights. However, the organiser of the exhibition, which took place in Sopot’s municipal gallery, removed the artist by force and brutally attacked her loyal audience.
The subversive character of these close-knit, surprisingly intimate performances for which Angelika Fojtuch is particularly known, evokes a question of the emancipation process. The artist only feigned giving up the leading role to a man selected from the audience; in fact, she keeps the situation in check.
She fuels the antagonistic symbiosis of intimacy and alienation, as well as the strength of her own stubbornness, in contrast to the powerlessness of the surrendering viewer.
(Curator, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz)