Art in General, New York, 2010
The project “More Passive than Every Passivity” was created while I was artist in residence in Art in General in New York. It consisted of five performances that took as their point of departure the everyday urban social experience of the waiting room, the lift, the subway or street, the lunch break, and the activities of performers and audience in them were reduced to elementary actions such as sitting, standing, being silent, (covert) observation, terse verbal communications. The minimal almost static scenario of these situations created spaces in which the visitors stopped being just observers, and what shaped their behaviour was the closeness and awareness of others, which in public places is usually avoided.
* The name of the performance comes from Emanuel Levinas’ debate about radical passivity in “Otherwise than being”. Encounter face to face, the very present of the other, makes demands and has an ethical dimension. The closeness and exposure to the Other makes us vulnerable, and Levinas calls this vulnerability passivity, more passive than every passivity. This radical passivity enables us to open up and is a necessary precondition for taking responsibility in our relations with people.
Projekt “More Passive Than Every Passivity” nastao je tijekom dvomjesečnog rezidencijalnog boravka u Art in General u New Yorku. Sastojao se od pet performansa koji polaze od svakodnevnog urbano socijalnog iskustva – čekaonice, dizala, podzemne željeznice ili ulice, stanke za ručak – a aktivnosti izvođača i publike u njima reducirane su na elementarne radnje poput sjedenja, stajanja, šutnje, (prikrivenog) promatranja, šture verbalne komunikacije. Minimalni, gotovo statični scenariji tih situacija stvorili su prostore u kojima posjetitelji prestaju biti samo promatrači, a ono što oblikuje njihovo ponašanje je blizina i svijest o drugima koja se na javnim mjestima obično izbjegava.
*Naziv projekta dolazi iz Emmanuel Levinasove rasprave o radikalnoj pasivnosti u ‘Otherweise than being’. Susret licem u lice, sama prisutnost drugoga već postavlja zahtjeve i ima etičku dimenziju. Blizina i izloženost Drugome čini nas ranjivima, a Levinas tu ranjivost naziva pasivnošću “pasivnijom od svake pasivnosti”. Ta radikalna pasivnost nam omogućava da se otvorimo i nužan je preduvjet preuzimanja odgovornosti u odnosima s ljudima.
performance (duration: 6 hours); performers: Lehna Huie, Lauren Nickou, Adam Bach, Julian Diaz, Atif Hashmi, Božena Končić Badurina; photography: Željko Badurina
The performance was not announced, and was meant for casual users of the elevator in the Art in General building – mainly visitors to the exhibition on the sixth floor. Every time a visitor called the elevator on the ground floor or sixth floor, 6 performers would await him, facing the doors of the elevator. Neither on the sixth floor nor on the first did they get out of the elevator; the visitors had the impression they spent the whole time in there.
Performans je bio nenajavljen i namijenjen korisnicima lifta u zgradi Art in Generala – većinom posjetiteljima izložbe na šestom katu zgrade. Svaki put kad je posjetitelj pozvao lift u prizemlju ili na šestom katu, u liftu bi ga dočekalo istih 6 izvođača, okrenutih licima prema vratima lifta. Izvođači ni u prizemlju ni na 6. katu nisu izlazili iz lifta pa su posjetitelji imali dojam da oni cijelo vrijeme tamo borave.
video excerpt – Elevator:
participative performance (duration: 30 minutes); photography: Nina Horisaki-Christens
The audience members in the gallery are given textual instructions in which they are asked to stay in the gallery at least 20 minutes, and that during that time they do not look at anyone in the room, avoid the others’ gazes, in short, that in every possible way they should ignore the presence of the other people in the space and at the end, in silence, leave the gallery. Apart from these instructions, there were no other restrictions on behaviour. The visitors behaved exactly as they were asked, and at the end, one after the other, left the gallery in silence.
Publici okupljenoj u galeriji podijeljene su tekstualne upute u kojima ih se obavještava da su oni izvođači performansa te ih se moli da u galeriji ostanu barem 20 minuta, da za to vrijeme nikoga u prostoriji ne gledaju, da izbjegavaju tuđe poglede, ukratko da na svaki mogući način ignoriraju prisutnost ostalih ljudi u prostoriji i da na kraju u tišini napuste galeriju. Osim tih uputa nije bilo drugih ograničenja kako se ponašati. Posjetitelji su postupili točno po uputama, a na kraju su jedan za drugim u tišini izašli iz galerije.
video excerpt – Gathering:
performance (duration: 6 hours); performers: Ginger Shulick, Stacy Lynn Smith, Nicolas Djandji, Nicholas Van Zanten, Alexandra Paran, Heather Holmes; photography: Nina Horisaki-Christens, Božena Končić Badurina
The storefront gallery space is turned into a waiting room. Eight performers sit in the waiting room for the six-hour performance, reading, text messaging, eating, and doing various other activities common to a waiting room. Visitors to the gallery are greeted by the performers and are welcomed to join and spend some time in the space.
Galerija u prizemlju koja gleda na ulicu pretvorena je u čekaonicu. U čekaonici tijekom šest sati sjedi osam izvođača čije su aktivnosti svedene na tipične čekaoničke radnje poput čitanja, slanja sms poruka, igranja igrica na mobitelu itd. Oni pozdravljaju posjetitelje koji također mogu ući u ‘čekaonicu’ i provesti tamo neko vrijeme.
performance (duration: two hours); performers: Dana Zeno, Gabriel Zakharov, Fauziya Sani, Lori Zimmer, Christina Ferwerda, Grace J. Hwang, Catriona Lovie, Andy Miyamoto, Victoria Noel Nidweski, Glenda Reed; photography: Nina Horisaki-Christens, Božena Končić Badurina
In a gallery that looks onto the street, a small group of performers got together, and danced, each of them to music they chose themselves (similar to some subway riders and pedestrians in the city) from their own MP3 devices. Nothing was heard in the room but the thumping of their feet on the wooden floor. Some visitors went into the gallery and joined in; the rest of the audience watched them from the street.
U galeriji koja gleda na ulicu manja grupa izvođača pleše na glazbu po vlastitom odabiru sa svojih MP3 uređaja. U prostoriji se ne čuje ništa osim topota nogu po drvenom podu. Neki posjetitelji ulaze u galeriju i pridružuju se plesačima, ostatak publike plesače promatra s ulice.
video excerpt – Fever:
performance for the personnel of Art in General (duration: 5 minutes, five days in a row)
I take a seat at the conference room table in Art in General’s offices every day at 12:30 to sit in silence for five minutes. All staff and interns had been previously informed about the performance. They were invited to stop all activities for five minutes and to join me in in this short pause.
Pet dana za redom u 12:30 h sjedam za stol u sobi za sastanke Art in Generala i sjedim u tišini pet minuta. Djelatnici i praktikanti Art in Generala su bili obaviješteni o održavanju performansa i pozvani da u to vrijeme prekinu sve svoje aktivnosti i pridruže mi se u toj kratkoj pauzi.
More Passive Than Every Passivity
More Passive Than Every Passivity takes its title from Emmanuel Levinas’ discussion of radical passivity in ‘Otherwise than Being’. Levinas’ text describes how proximity invites a sense of vulnerability that is necessary for one to feel a responsibility to the other, or, more broadly, that the mere presence of the other makes demands on the individual that have an ethical dimension. Art in General’s Artist in Residence, Božena Končić Badurina has been exploring this concept through a series of actions and performances that she orchestrated over the course of her two-month residency in New York. This exhibition presents video documentation of five pieces: Elevator, Gathering, Waiting Room, Pause and Fever. Together, these works collectively examine the notion of passivity and self-consciousness.
As with most of Končić Badurina’s work these performances shift the traditional relationship between spectator and subject, interrogating the powers structures of human encounters. Each of these works takes a situation common to urban social experience – the waiting room, the elevator, the subway or sidewalk, the lunch break – and slightly shifts the social rules to put emphasis on a sense of presentness and an awareness of others that is usually avoided in public. In each situation the actions of her pedestrian-like performers, as well as those of her visitors, are restricted so that non-verbal forms of communication such as breathing, staring, meditation, and confrontation between performers and visitors become the focal point of the work. In Gathering, eye-contact and speaking are forbidden for all participants for the duration of the performance; in Elevator merely the movement and speaking of performers are restricted; while in Fever the performers are restricted; while in Fever the performers mimic the naturally insular behaviors of many pedestrians and subway riders.
Each of these situations enhance both the performers’ and participants’ perceptions of one another, making us aware of both the presence of those around us and our reactions to them. The basic rules of each situation are outlined in instructions for the participants or the performers. Yet the artist allows the resulting social encounters to unfold naturally, like an experiment. In this sense the works are unstaged; open to the possibility of unscripted events in the same way that participants are encouraged to remain open and passive themselves. This unrestrictive format paradoxically strips the audience of any sense of remaining at a safe distance. These situations have the power to remove the subjectivity that we grant ourselves as we pass through public spaces, forcing us to directly confront how we affect our social environment. As part of the artist’s choreography the viewer is clearly implicated in the network of interactions, and thus ethically responsible for the consequences of these interactions. The consequences may not be severe, but they are often unsettling, making us aware of our sheltering devices, devices that belie our fear of vulnerability and our avoidance of inevitable passivity.