Is my viewer
also my ideal buyer?
BUYER WITH AN EYE
Auction performance by Katarina Stegnar
In this performance Katarina uncompromisingly tackles the question about the value of a performers work: “For the money you had to pay for the entrance fee you legitimately expect to see something new. A new art piece, a new fascination, a new vision… To be honest, for this money you expect a lot. But in this situation, that is the real relationship between us. This is the real price you’re prepared to invest in an event, for which nobody can guarantee it will have any artistic value. Since the entry stakes are high, the beginning price is expectedly low.” Katarina puts the viewer into a witness position of the creation of her art work. By that he in fact becomes the only one who can place value on it, and asks herself: is my viewer therefore also my ideal buyer? This she can test only by the auction of artefact she has created in front of his eyes.
Conceived and written by Katarina Stegnar and Bojan Jablanovec
Performer: Katarina Stegnar
Direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Photographer: Marcandrea Bragalini
Producer: Špela Trošt
Production: Via Negativa, 2010, with the support by Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 22 August 2009, Young Lions Festival Ljubljana
Duration: 45 min
Performance for Our Time
Geographies of contemporary performing arts VII. Dialogi, January 2010, Tomaž Toporišič
If Incasso can be said to be an appropriation of the entire history of performing arts, then Buyer with an Eye must be a feature appropriation consistently blurring the lines between genres and acting and non-acting in a manner of a production-cum-essay or an essayistic performance or a theoretical as well as a documentary production. At the same time it is also an appropriation of, or rather a playful take on, Via Negativa’s own project history.
While Jablanovec in the project Via Negativa – he takes the name from Jerzy Grotowski and his concept of ‘poor theatre’ – strives to free theatre from representation following Artaud, to save it from serving one language only, namely the language of the word and its logical discursivity, Katarina Stegnar in her latest performance Buyer with an Eye plays precisely with language as a discursive apparatus, re-enacting the point where it becomes perfectly clear that a thought can never be fully absorbed by the physics of dramatic action itself.
Jablanovec and Katarina Stegnar strive to attain the ‘theater of cruelty’ through new theatrical forms of ‘reactivating the audience’s participation’ (Hans-Thies Lehmann), and new connections between the private and public, the intimate and open. In turn this reflects the research into how an actress can tune herself as a performer through her relationship with the spectator, or rather how an actress can tune her audience as well as the theoreticians whom she subjects to close reading on the stage as she appropriates and parodies their discourses.
In her new performance Stegnar once again proceeds from Incasso as a case study of re-articulating the history of performing arts and an auto-poetic feedback loop (Fischer-Lichte) it becomes in the process. This is encapsulated by the scene in which the performer drenches bank notes with drops of her own blood, wraps them in plastic and sells them as works of art to the audience. This is of course a variation on the kind of artistic actions done by Fluxus, for example the Italian conceptualist Piero Manzoni and his project Artist’s shit (1961), in which the artist filled up ninety small boxes with his excrement and put them up for sale for the price of gold. And if Manzoni’s way of playing with the audience lies in his warning the spectator that the box, if unsealed, will lose its artistic value, then in Incasso Katarina Stegnar launches an uncompromising attack on her audience, destabilizing it, or, as Blaž Lukan has aptly put it, ‘following the terrifying logic of the performance, the audience are utterly stripped (we could say till they bleed), as they are subjected to a set of fundamental questions for which they suddenly appear to be more naked than the performer herself’. In Buyer with an Eye, this situation is on the one hand heightened and aggravated; Stegnar refuses to find the buyer, for all her seeming intention to the contrary, and on the other, it is of course a comment on the destabilization of the audience’s place itself, emphasizing their powerlessness.
The true place of the performance is thus located in the reader, every moment being something singular and performative, though this singularity is not necessarily linked merely to pleasure. The spectator must take upon himself something of the masochistic as he subjects himself to the domino-actress in her double role as a seductress and the seduced.
Once again hidden wallets are out selling art
Arena, journal of Mladi levi festival, no. 2, Ljubljana 24.August 2009, Mojca Ketiš
(…) There is no fiction here, permeated with the allusion that the spectator is directly addressed, for indeed the spectator is directly addressed (sometimes even by name). The mediator between the work of art and the spectator is an artefact itself. It is because of her that we decide on such a (non-)sensible purchase. And with the last number to fall, the creating of the idea comes to a stop. Pause. Time to reflect. If the work of art is going to be sold while it is being sold it will never be fully realized. Creating a work of art is a work of art, (…) selling itself is a work of art. If Katarina Stegnar is a part of the artistic process, she is also part of the work of art. Once the product is sold, the process is finished (…). You can come away with a bank note for 10 Euros suffused in blood of a young actress, preserved under glass in a black polished box, for an exorbitant price, and yet you will not come away with the value of the idea as it was being created. An artistic idea is the selling of the idea. (…)
Buyer with an Eye
Radio Študent, Ljubljana, 23. August 2009, Zala Dobovšek
(…) Posited between ingenuity and shallowness, this ready made in the form of a bloodied bank note – which in the sequencing of performances becomes a manufacturing production of sorts – is this time around given an undreamt of transformation. The offer which attains a certain sum sets the spectator up for further reflection: blood (the sole and key factor for which the so-called artefact is rendered unique and approaches a concrete value judgement) is irrevocably removed by the performer; it is erased, thereby annulling its essential artistic substance. The banknote reverts back to its initial everydayness, at the same amplifying the ‘ingenious emptiness’ of the ready made. With her gesture of cleansing it, the performer relocates it in a new context in which an artistic product can be wilfully changed and made to disappear any moment, and yet, because of its history, it will remain ‘artistically relevant’. What remains therefore is only the remembered trace of blood, but not the result of a concrete action.
The metaphorical annulment of the initial preciousness of the artefact acts as a provocation to the buyer, at the same time throwing up a naughty idea which could, who knows, with some careful reflection form a more permanent pattern for dismantling any theatrical setup at the height of its dramatic tension. Where does the worth of an object when its attribute is erased go – when its status as a previous absolute passes and it remains only a memory? Does it go into the written method of astute provocation or the capricious whims of contemporary art? (…)