The Variety Show
I enter Titanik Gallery to discover a situation in media res. In the front room burnt matches and banana peels litter the floor, along with a half-empty bottle of Koskenkorva, a shot glass, a tipped-over chair and chunks of styrofoam. On a plinth are pieces of peeled bananas and bits of foam. Around the walls are photographs an didactics describing a number of performances. Virpi Vairinen is writing on the wall. I ask what she’s doing. “I’m documenting the performance as best I can,” she says as she continues to write.
Title: Repetitive Imitation
In the next room ieke Trinks welcomes the audience back to the performance after a 22-hour break (the piece had been ongoing for 2 hours a day for the previous 2 days). She describes a performance titled Repetitive Imitation, the score for which is projected on the wall. For this performance, she explains, she needs a projection screen and asks some members of the audience to help by building one for her using paper and tape while she continues cleaning the gallery of the mess left from the previous day. After cleaning up the space, Trinks plays back a recording of people describing a number of small plastic objects, which are arranged around the edge of a table in the back room. As they are described, she picks them up and moves them around the table as one might move playing pieces around a game board. The scene is chaotic, with actions activating nearly every corner of the gallery. A slide for another performance score is projected on the wall:
Title: Things that I can do
“110. A man writes about this performance. The audience helps ieke to clean the gallery space.”
I find these words written on the wall in the main room, corresponding to the time when I asked Virpi about her writing. Similar things are written about various things that have happened around the space. Every minutes, something is written on the wall, counting down from 360: the duration of the piece. It becomes apparent that observing is not possible, without also becoming part of the performance. The piece is continually being documented as it is happening and that documentation is constantly being added to the walls of the space, in photos and text. There’s also simultaneously so many thing s happening that I realize the impossibility of my task. To write down my observations would be to risk missing something happening. Without taking notes, it would be impossible to keep track of anything that has happened.
Trinks directs the documentation of her own performance, instructing the photographer what to take pictures of based on what had been documented in previous performances. She enlists another audience member to take part in restaging actions for the camera, even asking her to take off her coat as it matches too closely the colour of the one she is wearing (this would not make for a good photo). They pose with a variety of objects: a brick, a water bottle, eventually the end up tossing a bunch of nails back and forth to one another between cupped palms.
In the back room, she performs Repetitive Imitation. The volunteers who built the screen hold it up for her. She walks behind it, rolls it down, takes off her sweater, then rolls it back up, passing it back to her helpers to hold, and puts the sweater back on. Then, after rearranging the audience for better documentation, she plays back a recording of these actions and tries to perform them exactly the same way again. One of the pieces of paper composing the screen comes loose, creating a hole in the screen. Repeating this a third time causes another piece of paper to come loose, creating another hole. In the end, she accidentally puts her sweater on inside-out.
To recreate a collaboration she did with Jacques van Poppel she needs a wooden plank from which to construct a bench. She had requested a wooden shelf, thinking this would do, but instead has a wooden bookcase to work with. She gets help from Márcio Carvalho, standing in for van Poppel, to disassemble the bookcase into planks. Afterwards, they stage documentation with the photographer to make it seem as though they are nude, since that’s how the original performance began. Trinks poses with a hammer and nail, staging the construction of the bench, then brings in a bench from the back room so they can pose sitting together on it, sharing the bottle of Koskenkorva while Carvalho balances an inflatable Pikachu on his head.
Antonín helps by buttering a table.
Title: Reconstruction of reconstructing a hole
Petros helps by drilling a hole in a piece of MDF. He’s having trouble changing the bit, so I help him.
We gather in the main room to watch the continuation of the table buttering.
In the back room, ieke draws a square around the hole in the piece of MDF using black permanent marker. She wears ear protection.
Title: Documenting the show
There is now, at this point, so many things happening simultaneously as the work accelerates towards its end. The process is becoming quite exhausting. Two performances, and now a third are happening at once, as I am asked to help document the documentation process of the performance of Trinks restaging the reconstruction of reconstructing a hole. I photograph the documenters documenting her reconstruction of the reconstruction of the reconstruction.
Title: Trash bin clean up
Trinks recreates a busy Saõ Paulo luxury shopping district on the street outside Titanik, using the audience as passers-by while she reorganizes the contents of a trash bin.
Back inside the gallery, the table buttering has escalated to the point where an entire diorama has been constructed on the table using bits of food and other found materials, deviating sharply from the score for the piece. It is deemed no longer suitable for documentation.
Title: Call for Participants
Trinks passes out some booklets to the audience and asks us to turn to page 7, on which is a dialogue between herself and a woman from a bureau for legal advice. She asks two people to reenact it. Virpi informs Trinks that the time is up.
I take a photograph of the photograph I took earlier, which has now been printed and stuck on the wall.