On Art Rotterdam, thoughts and expectations

production still, From Head To Toe, HD w/sound, 43m46s, 2012, Sara Campos

To give air and space to a somehow confined place like an artfair booth requires, in my view, a particular attention to the notion of the non-spectacular. To find a way where the images are not being given before hand but to create a possibility that the images can be searched and explored. Especially when dealing with time based mediums, I wonder how could the viewer dedicate attention and spend time with the works.
I think this notion has been a great part of my focus as an artist in mostly every artwork I do. It has to do with something quite ephemeral that I try to visualize and that has to do with always having this thought that there is an overwhelming distance between people. I think for this reason, I tend to always question the basics as part of a research, a research that has to do with finding a kind of material trace, an image, a sound that can shrink the distance. I could call it a search for finding different forms of intimacy, but these words used only conceal the search as a maker. So when using the body as a medium and questioning the basics of a performance, I must embrace the non-spectacular, because perhaps only then, there would be a difference perceived, a learned thing, a kind of knowledge. Also because the materiality of a time based medium might be destined to vanish when the activity is over.
The works that are going to be shown in ArtRotterdam are all dealing with the same activity (in a visual sense). The works are being developed around the activity of stepping on clay but they are all questioning different senses. I am interested in how to visualize the difference between them in order to understand how meaning is constructed and how is it perceived. So, I suggested having a person, stepping on clay in relation to two video works. I cannot reflect upon something that did not happen yet but I can work with some conditions in order to shrink the distance between the performer and the one watching. When I deal with distance in this specific activity, I am thinking of what is happening to someone else when stepping on clay and what could happen regarding the context and the instruction given before hand. How are you going to approach another person physically? How big is the physical space in-between people and how can overloaded minds of both performer and viewer meet up?
Will it be possible to achieve concentration in the performance in the context of an artfair?
When the room is already full
On Art Rotterdam

After going through all the expectations and imagining how it would be like, dealing a bit with a shop window, fast pace of people passing by, some craving to have a bit of art of their own, others just curious in experiencing such a big publicized event where a lot of the re occurring names in the arts are now to be found incredibly condensed and compact under the two layer of spotlights and pre-fab constructions. Although that reality seemed to fit some of my expectations, something changed when actually being present, having to decide how to display the works in a 5x5 m2 booth.
I did not see that many artists around and I understood why. If an artist would be considering a space, the point of departure for the art he/she was making, the scenery of an art fair would be a very difficult place for presentation, since so many decisions were already taken for you, light and spatial divisions are already the given infrastructure for the works. In this sense, the idea of artistic diversity is taken over by the homogenous display, the fixed format of the booth where the galleries search to make visible their leading identity through the work of artists that are no longer present in this kind of discourse.
What happens then to the art that focuses on these elementary conditions as the basis for artistic creation? Is it possible to achieve a kind of concentration for the work in this kind of setting? How much is it even worth to question this space? The fact is, that by working with these conditions, or in other words, difficulties, I could question what kind of space I was dealing with and how I could create something better for the work without compromising it. I took up this kind of reality as an exciting departure rather then an extreme resistance. But because of not compromising the work in the kind of display that the structure was imposing, it became indeed a kind of removal and I’m not sure what the consequences of this are yet.
I observed that the visitor of the fair is usually put in a disengaging position towards the art. The dynamics of moving around the space are being directed through the corridors in between the booths and you tend to stand outside looking in a distance. The point of questioning this was to get to shrink the distance between the visitor and the work and to find a way that you could engage, and be part of an experience rather then taking a distant position.
After a long day of moving things around, the booth began to inspire something, at least in terms of how I could engage the visitor into coming inside and explore the images, instead of standing outside, in the passage way. Although, something was starting to happen by resisting in showing all the images at once, when you would pass the booth, there was nothing to see but a flickering light coming out of a projection and a sound of people breathing and physical exhaustion. I came home that night with an uncomfortable feeling of whether this kind of presentation would arrive anywhere, if it would be possible to explore the images and spent time with art, or if it would be rather swollen up by the context, disappearing in thin air. Perhaps it is already enough to be able to formulate the question in the first place…

For the opening, I proposed to have a live performance happening inside of the booth. I worked with a performer that would step on clay until she would wish to stop. The stepping went on for one hour and a half, with all the variations, movements and shapes that the body could create, relying on that pursuit for a voice within that clay patch.
It became clear, at some point, what was missing for me. It was an engagement with the question of art as a human activity, a relation between people and people and people and objects. Within that pre constructed setting it became a challenge to give voice to these questions but also a necessity.
There are many more questions then conclusions. Through the work and the short time I spent in the fair, due to financial reasons, the gap between managing to afford a train ticket and paying four euros for a glass of water, the way art is being displayed and looked at and the common fact that not that many artists are even present to install their work, made me realize that what becomes still very present are the extremities between the production of art, working conditions and how much of this becomes visible to a public in terms what making art is about.

From Head To Toe (searching colour gold)
performed by Johanna Illerhag
The performance took 1h 30m at
Art Rotterdam 2013