Then a monotonous mantra from Kraftwerk presumably connected a twirl of diagrams, spirals and portraits of famous psychoanalysts. We’re watching Mirror Tower – a digital b/w video put together by former Rijksakademie resident, Xue Mu. According to the artist, whose attire was color schemed in resonance with the work, the trippy video was the result of ‘an ongoing exploration of the concept of Self’, but to me it looked more like the result of an ongoing exploration of Google and Wikipedia. I’m positive that Freud and Jung never meant to bring such obscurity in the field of Psychoanalysis. The Ego is hard enough to surmount as is and in no way is a whirlpool of notions and quotes going to bring anyone closer to self-realization and/or empowerment. The Self simply isn’t a concept.
Making a famous quote from Jung the fruit of the artistic labor, the helical vid perpetuated one great central truth that kept re-appearing throughout the work in capitalized font: “THERE IS NO COMING TO CONSCIOUSNESS WITHOUT PAIN” - something I can personally stand for.
Elsewhere in the crevice of the work I managed to catch a rapid reference to Kali and Astarte, two ancient Goddesses. In retrospect, they seem to have introduced us to the Blade Master that will be taking the stage later on in this text.
But first another woman enters the scene. Wearing a brick-wall costume and sporting a white-afro, the recently graduated filmmaker Carlijn Fransen is standing in front of a brick-wall-print projector screen as she mutedly introduces us to her marvellous short film, De Eenzame Eenheid. Funnily enough, this colorful film contains no quotes or direct references to famous thinkers, yet it marvellously provides the audience a space big enough for us to find ourselves in.
De Eenzame Eenheid features the young artist herself, portrayed as an adolescent in the midst of defining a nation of her own. In reminiscence of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, the psychedelic short features masterful analogue camerawork on cunningly crafted sets that bring us into an asphyxiating domestic environment. An eerie yellow bedroom long shot illustrates exactly what if feels like to grow up on this strange planet, to which we all come as alien beings in the beginning. The absolute highlight of the film is a small painting of a roundabout hanging on the wall above the couch – a symbol of impotence redeemed from being just that. Go and see the film, it’ll take you by its hook.
Up next: Ania Shestakova taking the floor as the last speaker before the break to raise awareness of a decaying generation of Moscow youths. As chaotic as her slideshow management, the Russian-born artist speaks of a rave scene that has prematurely been given symbolic, fashionable and cultural significance. Lost in the remix of neo-liberalism X communism, Russian kids have currently revived the 90’s Dutch Gabber subculture across the capital in an attempt to feel leftist and free. At raves for which they wear carefully selected vintage sports garments, perpetual drug-abuse is being made synonymous with political resistance. While we have witnessed the underground crossbreeding with pop-culture and consumerism for some decades now, Moscow seems to bring the art of relapse to another level. While the juveniles remain under the impression that they have entered the “Dream of the West,” as Shestakova put it, their disassociated jadedness has already been marketed in advertisement campaigns. Even the gallery scene has picked up on the hip movement by exhibiting fake dance floors and rave-club interiors inside official art spaces.
In praise of our current Digital Age we are then directly live-streamed to a Moscow club while a sexy pixelated & anonymous DJ is being webcammed back at us. There is no space to feel the pain of a self-abusing generation as their beats fill our eardrums through the Skype connection. We scramble for the break. Peeps smoke and replenish themselves with Gin Tonics and I wonder if self-harming had always been as glamorous and capitalized on as it is today.
And then the Ultimate happens.
As symbolic layers of Hip-Hop & Rave clothing are stripped-off a body, Ylva Falk hands over the defensive layers of significance to arrive at a much deeper truth. Covered in talismanic tattoos that spiral around her arms and buttocks, the performer wields a Shaolin Kung Fu blade as she slays the image of female frailty in an evocative break-dance trance that personifies Liberation.
A skinned signature of modern fashion lays cast aside while the flesh of the real is in motion. Sighs and groans filled the atmosphere as her entire body expressed. What we are looking at is POWER FINDING GRACE. As utterances, soft singing and ‘fem’ prancing is harmoniously interwoven with the thrusting of the sharpness of the blade, Falk’s performance rips apart culturally attired gender expressions. The essential erotic charge of true empowerment is being channelled. What a Warrior Empress.
“We don’t have the whole image,” the artist explains, “Seeing the naked body of a woman moving in action, seeing flesh itself move in action, seeing boobs, seeing body hair, in a non sexual way, is something that we as a culture aren’t used to anymore.” In the corner, Jung exhilaratingly points his spirited finger towards the real 3D Lara Croft incarnate; his archetype is here, daring us to look beyond our own still image, to open up to the real kinetics of our moving fat, flesh and bones. Falk has completely shattered the 4th wall and the 5th dimension has vigorously oozed itself into the artsy night.
“Shine Bright like a Diamond” she exclaims at the end of her act, honorably administering the essence of RNB-Pop to her sacred act in memoir of a dying paradigm that we have trouble shaking off.
Then four huge white Styrofoam and chipboard blocks are erected inside the Theatrum Anatomicum. Reminiscent of a Greek Forum, the life-sized model of a cancelled public artwork hosts a lengthy dialogue on how the velocity of today’s social media is overwhelming the traditional democratic conduct. Although the footage shot at rivers, streams and waterfalls definitely looks beautiful as it is projected on the cubist stalagmites of the revoked commission, the neighborhood had conspired against it and so the city council retracted her support. Femke Schaap, I truly hope that the results of the lawsuit are soothing and that you can joyfully focus on what is next.
Brilliantly turning the same aborted artwork into the scenery of a sprouting performance artist, Julia had asked Ivan Cheng to sing a song whilst standing in the middle of it. The otherworldly final act of the night featured the glamazonian wearing a glittery white dress with a black thin overcoat, which on and off revealed his hairy armpits. The nymph began his Acte de Présence by suggestively offering the control of the lighting over to the technical team. He mentioned a few brief seemingly spontaneous anecdotes about love and then commenced his concept singing.
Dramatized voice-alterations and facial expressions left the audience internally divided between a belief in the beau’s sincere vulnerability and the quite profound sensation of being fooled by a young man’s dramatization of being so.
The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush is one of the most touching pop songs that I know, so seeing it being mal-fabricated into another concept of self did not fare well with me. Whereas Ylva Falk’s performance had torn open the gender-divide in a visceral way, Cheng’s attempt at bringing the non-binary to the next level didn’t really come to fruition. The imposed innocence of the delivery was as lank as the border between honesty and acting, while the actual voice of the gorgeous young man didn’t call for such trickery at all. On the contrary, I would have loved to see him sing open-heartedly & full of trust. Every now and then I could see his Essential being emerge like a powerful Black Dragon waking up amongst the white swirls of the vestigial fountain – and that was really beautiful.