In the beginning of this month, two days after my performance for LUCKY, I got to see a show by the artist Laure Prouvost currently on view at Palais de Tokyo in Paris titled Ring, Sing and Drink for Trespassing.
Before even seeing the big-mouthed tunnel entrance to the right, a small white metal door on the side catches my eye. It looks like a back door that could have “staff only” or “emergency exit” written on it. I decide to enter the space through the secret door, suspecting that the slightly thievish feeling I have while passing through it is somehow “part of the plan”.
L.P.: Do Come in.*
It’s there already that I start to feel the presence of someone, in a subtle pleasant way. I have never met the artist or seen an image of her. In fact, I had never even heard her name before receiving the recommendation to go see this show. Yet, immediately as I enter the space, I feel flooded with the perception of a body that I think of as belonging to the artist. It is the odd sensation of recognising intimacy with someone I have never met.
L.P.: We were hidden behind curtains.
It wasn’t exactly the persona of the artist whom I felt, it was not her face, her identity, her image. I stand in the open space for a while, looking at a fountain made of fleshy pink boobs silently squirting water into the air, while listening to the cacophony of the same voice speaking different things at once from corners across the room. The body I perceive in the space is not the artist; the body is the work.
Exhibition view, Laure Prouvost, Ring, Sing and Drink for Trespassing, Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 22 June 2018 – 9 September 2018). Courtesy of the artist and Nathalie Obadia (Paris/Brussels), carlier | gebauer (Berlin), Lisson Gallery (London/New York). Photo by Aurélien Mo.
I am struck that I could feel such a profound presence in a visual art context. The show is neither an installation nor a performance, it operates like a magic ritual does: Forms for evoking the formless.
L.P.: Ideally here would be an image of you.
I am having a text message conversation with my friend, while hanging out in the space, listening to the voices from off-screen, sitting in appropriately inappropriate places, dipping my fingers into the dirty fountain water. She is insanely precise about every placement, writes my friend retelling insider information from Prouvost’s assistant. On the light blue bottom of the fountain, I see a pale goldfish. It must be dead since a while. I find two eggs in one of the fridges in the front corner, and an open milk container.
L.P.: Ideally you would have not seen this before.
When I think about a body, I don’t think about an image. I don’t think about parts, contours and flesh in the first place. I think of the shapeless experience of intimacy. Intimacy shows itself most explicitly not with a lover but with a stranger, or with a friend: The sensation of being (unbearably) close to another body — hearing or sensing someone breathe, seeing two eyes looking back at you, sitting so close as to almost be touching. That flimsy, extremely thin veil between touching and not touching, the overlap and the incongruity of it, has always been the most exciting thing to me. I suppose it’s because it is a form of shared disembodiment, disembodying together, without plunging into one another. Simultaneously, you take off your skin. Consciously or unconsciously feeling that thin centimetre of air in between bodies can feel so much more immersive than being inside one another. Anyways, Intimacy sounds very much like Intricacy.
L.P.: Ideally all here would be moving like underwater.
There is a body within the physical body, or around it. It’s the actual body, the body beyond the image. A body that travels through images, faster or slower, defiant. This body is a trickster: constantly doing and undoing the world (image).
Somehow, the image and the word share the same parents. The writer Kathy Acker described being photographed as the same sort of play I do in my writing with identity….because an image is rigidity, and I’m always interested in seeing an image being able to fluctuate to another image. Or my identity to fluctuate to another identity. And this is one way I can do it.** It makes me think about the role that social ideas play in understandings of embodiment.***
L.P.: Ideally here would be something indiscribable [sic].
While I sit there, immersed in the presence of a shapeless body that feels so familiar to me, I think about whether really it is possible to talk about privilege without identity politics. In identity politics, the violence of the word and the violence of the image fall together. The scholar Kimberle Crenshaw wrote in her article Mapping the Margins: the problems with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference […] but rather the opposite — that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup difference. ****
Performance still, Xenia Taniko, Mesh & Wire, 2018. Performed at nGbK (Berlin, 28 July 2018), during LUCKY YOU Festival Weekend, as part of LUCKY program. Photo by Judy Landkammer.
L.P.: Ideally the entrance would be here.
I zoom into an instant from two days ago: My body close to the floor on stage. Its presence unfolds as simultaneously in depth and unreliable, ubiquitous, real and constructed. People sit around me. Some of them wear high heels. I can’t see their faces. My body parts are scattered across the room that looks like a pool. Slowly I am shifting my weight onto objects, hard and soft. I’m arriving there, I feel dispersed, disowned. I wonder who that is, sitting around me in those chairs. It’s like in a dream, where every person is actually just a version of yourself, all parts of yourself parsed into the choir of your Self. It all boils down to questions of access. Through something close to dream time I have created access to wearing a particular body, an animate periphery. One that tries to erase its own image. I swim in tainted water, hyper-natural. Gradually I turn into marble. I can feel the sensation of it spreading from the center of my bones to the circumjacent muscles, until I feel it like a second skin touching my flesh from the outside. I am being circluded. This is happening telepathically. If you looked at my lips you would notice that I am actually saying something else. My body is a kind of capital that exhausts the center. A double edged sword with milky edges. I cannot evade the pleasure. Disembodiment offers an altered sense of subjectivity — the inner sensation of an outer surface. The pain comes from the inside and outside not matching.
L.P.: Ideally this text was to be read tomorrow.
Words by Xenia Taniko
Header Image: Exhibition view, Laure Prouvost, Ring, Sing and Drink for Trespassing, Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 22 June 2018 – 9 September 2018). Courtesy of the artist and Nathalie Obadia (Paris/Brussels), carlier | gebauer (Berlin), Lisson Gallery (London/New York). Photo by Aurélien Mo.
* L.P. = Laure Prouvost, Signs taken from a variety of her art works
** Kathy Acker as quoted in: Chris Kraus – Kathy Acker. A Biography
*** Laboria Cuboniks – The Xenofeminist Manifesto
**** Kimberle Crenshaw – Mapping the Margins
Xenia Taniko is an artist based in Berlin, working in performance and choreography. In her making, she draws deeply from working with others, and approaches choreography as experimental practice of relating. Xenia is a member of the friendship-based collective female trouble and co-founder of the public platform VULVA CLUB. In the frame of COVEN’s show LUCKY, Xenia presented the performance piece Mesh & Wire. Recently, she has dedicated most of her time to community, non-sense and the dead.