Under the Tree
French & Mottershead’s Afterlife (Woodland)
By Antonín Brinda
You lie down on a blanket, turn the mp3 on and through the headphones you hear a nice and calm woman voice talking. With poetical language a story of the decomposition of your body is spoken. Instead of a dry description you hear a narrative about your summer afterlife with a continuation to the autumn, winter and future years, ending with a fossilization of your bones.
But your afterlife does not end at that point. Why did the authors decide not to continue further to the atomization of the stone and beyond? What is presented to the audience members is a narrative which has to grab an attention, has to have an impact on each individual. Maybe it is more difficult to create such a connection once your body is completely disintegrated. Every story has its beginning and end and this one is not an exception.
It is a tale told by one human being to another one. There once really had to be a living person recording this gloomy – and amusing – message. The (missing?) presence of the narrator is an explanation why one can find this installation in a performance art festival. Headphones, one of those tools which helps a person be isolated from an one another, isolates once again. The body in the Afterlife becomes a part of the environment, merges with the Earth. But why does our experience of the piece have to be so solitary? We are not able to connect with others around us as everyone is decomposing alone, nor can we approach the narrator. Can we trust that voice which intimately whispers to our ears? The content was created by artist duo French&Mottershead not by a prophetess.
The performer is missing but with her soft and natural voice she is still able to influence the audience – in some cases quite strongly, as it is a death that is thematised. All of a sudden you find yourself lying with your eyes shut and with a motionless body. It is a blanket you receive, other lying people you see and the voice especially, which neutralizes your movements. Suprisingly it is pleasant to be in such a position and to listen about one’s own death and decay. There certainly are many of us who like to sleep, to dream, and be manipulated.
As you can see the text whose reading you are about to finish is more of an open field of thoughts than a critical analysis, and I am glad French&Mottershead were able to provoke such a stream. I will leave you know. I will leave you know. If you want you can lie down and think on your own if „a zebra is a white animal with black stripes, or a black animal with white stripes“¹ as Peter Greenaway, another excellent British artist, puts his paraphrase of the big questions of life and death.1. Quotation from a Peter Greenaway’s movie A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), famous work of art concerned about death and decay.