PERFORMER STAMMTISCH: Anja Ibsch and Florian Feigl
‘Please come by and let’s see together what will happen.’ read the Performer Stammtisch website, on announcing that, sadly, the Chilean artists Perpetua Rodriguez and Prem Sarjo wouldn’t make it to the event.
Despite feeling ill with an earache and sore throat, I decided to take up the offer anyway and ‘see what would happen’. What did happen, (perhaps heightened by my sickliness), was two intense and quite surreal performances by Berlin artists, and core Performer Stammtisch members, Anja Ibsch and Florian Feigl.
Both Florian and Anja are seasoned performance artists, known to most of the small crowd that gathered again in the disused Berlin shop. I sensed a deep respect for the two artists, and heard many people express their delight at the opportunity to see them perform.
Florian is a warm and eccentric man with a seemingly genuine desire to physically connect with, and express himself through his interactions with, A4 paper.
“I want to be close to people, and that’s why I work with A4. If I want anybody to understand me I have to work with A4. A4 means I speak to the world.” Florian Feigl, Performer Stammtisch 2013
His four performances, three of which were 5 minutes exactly, all involved his simple interactions with the paper. The short performances alternated between hard and loud, and tender and quiet – first he dropped, then he blew and caressed, then blew again, then clapped the sheets together with all his might. These performances, Florian explained were being filmed to add to a bigger project he is working on.
‘300 is a 24 hour experimental video film in the making. It consists of a body of about 300 live performances. Each single performance lasts 300 seconds – five minutes. The performances included in 300 cover various and very different types of performance such as artistic, social, sculptural/iconographic, ethnological among others.’ Text taken from Florians website
Through the haze of my ear ache, I struggled to relate to the A4. For me, the performance was all about the material, the material quality of the most minimal and common of objects, A4 paper. In art I constantly seek a foothold in my emotions, I long to be touched, and to enter the work floating on the waves of a human connection. My only moment to enter Florian’s work came when he raised a single sheet of A4 in front of his face and began to tenderly move his fingers, ever so slowly across its surface, his breath fluttering the paper slightly. He is an intense performer, totally in the moment, and with a single minded (bordering on obsessive) vision.
In the short break that followed Florian’s performance, whilst chatting outside the gallery, I noticed Anja, stooped in the gallery doorway, sweeping dust and grit from the stone step into a large silver dustpan. Not long into Anja’s performance, I discovered that it was this same dirt which she drank from a wine glass topped up with sparkling water. The feeling of revulsion that I felt watching her calmly drink the gritty water, pervaded my entire experience of Anja’s performance. When, later, she forced a whole beetroot into her mouth, and it dribbled down her chin like blood from a raw pigs heart, I actually felt my stomach turn. How could a bit of dirt and a beetroot be so disgusting? Anja’s concentration drew me in, and I felt my body twitch in sympathy with hers. Surely it was hard to breathe with that beetroot in her mouth, and was it hurting her teeth? As I attempted to work out if she was trying to swallow the beetroot or bite through it, my jaw shifted of its own accord.
There were delicate moments too – when Anja slowly unfolded a paper Christmas decoration, or when she gently blew (as Florian had) a paper cut out of a hand.
Here I will report a general observation I have made this month about performance artists. Some performance artists seem as though their entire life is something of a performance, their personality and eccentricity permeates both their work and their everyday life. Others, like Anja, seem as though a new spirit enters them when they perform, they become braver, more transparent, their energy more available. After she had performed all of her actions and the piece was over, Anja walked to the edge of the room, into the viewers, and finally shattered the performance energy with her gracious, ‘danke schön’.
The discussion that followed the performances was really interesting. Please enjoy listening to our recording…