Performance and living sculpture at 13 Rooms

On this Thursday’s episode of Something Else,  I’m joined by Emma Pike, Curatorial and Communications Coordinator at Kaldor Public Art Projects, as we speak about the much anticipated performance art exhibition 13 Rooms, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach.

Performance art is experiencing a resurgence over the past decade and 13 Rooms is both celebration of its history and a reinvigoration of its form. John Kaldor and his team have brought an incredible exhibition to Sydney’s shores in their most ambitious project yet, with twelve great international artists and a thirteenth fresh young local double-act, Clark Beaumont who brings us ‘Coexisting’ 2013. It’s an exhibition to make your mouth water and your heart race.

Coexisting, 2013, Clark Beaumont

Coexisting, 2013, Clark Beaumont

The exhibition itself, at Walsh Bay, is an evolution on 11 Rooms (2011) and 12 Rooms (2012), in that the space for 13 Rooms has been purpose built, with each of the rooms holding a new experience for the intrepid art-goer who opens the door. The performances are re-interpretations of famous works, using over 140 ‘interpreters’ or performers, who range from experienced performance artists, to people chosen for more specific traits, such as being a war veteran in Santiago Sierra’s work, a twin in Damien Hirst’s, or a fit non-english speaker in Simon Fujiwara’s.

Luminosity, Marina Abramović, 1997

Luminosity, Marina Abramović, 1997

Once you have the courage to open a door, you might be confronted with a naked human body pushed to the extreme in Marina Abramovic’s ‘Luminosity’ 1997, or dancing gracefully with self-examination in ‘Mirror Check’, Joan Jonas 1970.

You might find yourself in darkness, straining to see a figure (or two?) writhing on the ground, reality struggling against the hallucinations of the mind’s eye in Xavier Le Roy’s ‘Untitled’ 2012. You might be engaged by a smooth salesman to give up toothpaste for tuna, as in Roman Ondak’s ‘Swap’ 2011, or marched about the room by a ‘Revolving Door’ composed of dancers, in a thrilling work by Allora & Calzadilla, 2011.

Thirteen Colorful Inside Jobs, John Baldessari, 2013

The tactile surface of paint in progress comes to the fore in Baldessari’s ‘Thirteen Colourful Inside Jobs’ 2013,  crouch down and see a performer squeezed under a roof only 40cm high in Laura Lima’s work, and marvel at a still and impossible floating body who breaths while frozen in time Xu Zhen’s ‘In Just the Blink of an Eye’.  For the curious minded, the thirteenth room may reveal itself in a work that plays on interaction and attention to detail, Tino Seghal’s ‘This Is New’ 2003.

In Just the Blink of an Eye, Xu Zhen, 2005

In Just the Blink of an Eye, Xu Zhen, 2005

The exhibition is a smorgasbord of experiences, a playground of the human form, human interaction and human endurance. There are works which remind me of nightmares from my childhood, works that inspire awkwardness, terror and confusion. There are works that impress me with the strength and beauty of the human form, situations that inspire laughter, envelop me in movement and capture a moment.

13 Rooms is momentous. It is momentous in scope and significance in contemporary performance art of the moment culminating right here in Sydney, and it is momentous in bringing one’s attention to the present shared moment with the artwork in time. In that moment, when you open a door at 13 Rooms, you are yourself both crystallized and set into motion in a performance exhibition to remember.

13 Rooms

11th April – 21st April

Pier 2/3 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay

There are also numerous talks, workshops and events on the Kaldor Public Art Projects website.

-Maren Smith

Maren’s interview with Emma Pike will air at 6pm Thursday 11th April, on Eastside 89.7FM, and will subsequently be available for streaming for a limited time on our website by clicking 11th April show.

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