Linking Europe: The Zone Festival (IV, V) in Bucharest
Zone 4 (2002)
The Eastern Europe Zone Festival, or simply Zone, began in 1993, in Timisoara. It had already acquired first a local and then a regional tradition, gradually becoming an internationally renowned artistic event. Zone was one of the first events of this kind organized after the fall of the Berlin wall.
The aim of this festival is to re-establish cultural and artistic relations between the East and Central European countries, as well as between the East and the West. Those ties had been lost because of the isolation imposed on the area behind the “Iron Curtain”.
Between October 4-6 in Timisoara, Zone 4 reunited artists coming from all parts of Europe. In addition, there was also a workshop which was meant to present a theoretical support, rendering information about the artists and offering the proper place and time for discussions among specialists about performance in general.
In the workshop there were distinguished participants – Kristine Stiles, Berislav Valušek, Karen Kipphoff, Vladimir Bulat, Lia Perjovschi – who triggered discussions with the public and with the artists present.
Unlike the previous events of the Festival, Zone 4 brought into focus the image transmitted by a video-projection related to the artist’s body or to that of a model. In Adi (named after the model in the work) a video action and installation created by Jozsef Bartha, the artist was interested in the relationship between the immediate presence of the body and the various forms of representation transmitted, as well as the interaction between them.
The model is in the posture ofa museum monitoring worker patiently sitting on a chair. Near an inscription on the wall placed there instead of a picture, reads “Please do not touch the artworks!”.
A video camera is focused toward the model and her image is projected on the wall in succession; the artist is interested in creating simultaneity and temporal sequences, in the two realities: The immediate and the projected.
If for Bartha the body-projection relationship is connected to a special case, that of a museum visitor, for Karen Kipphoff the same relationship is transformed into observing her own body exhibited in the action entitled Speech. With her back turned to the public, the artist faces the camera and her own image (or that of herself making grimaces) is projected upon a whole wall.
The relationship between the real body acting and the projection makes up a subject of reflection, which also undergoes an experiment in communicating deficiencies. Making use of several languages, some of them known by the viewers others unknown, Karen Kipphoff puts forth communication as a topic of discussion. In fact she suggests an impossibility of perfectly communicating through language because of its lack of clarity and ambiguity-so that most times the message fails to hit the target.
Artur Tajber is interested in the same relationship between the corporeal reality and projection. For him, the projected image serves as a kind of double, “anticipating” the actions developing in front of the public. The ambiguity between this corporeal reality and its projection is so great that the onlooker seems to be induced by the very image conveyed.
The mixture between the real and the virtual also seems to produce a predetermination. The interference between action and projection creates a sophisticated visual relation, which is, however, in a continuous migration and transformation.
Starting from the idea of communication, creating a relationship between the speaker and the public and also among the members of the group within the public, Oskar Dawicki creates an action reflecting this relationship by projecting the image of the public “caught” by the camera during a conference. The artist builds up a relationship with the spectators, gradually asking from them the chairs they had been sitting on, thus obliging them to go through some discomfort.
If the majority of the Zone artists sought a link between the corporeal and the projection, some of them were interested in resetting social ties within an urban area. André Stitt and Roddy Hunter performed together as well as separately.
They engaged in a pair of performances that had points of interference but also offered a separate, divergent image of the two actions. The spot chosen was a public square, animated by the spectators and chance onlookers; giving birth to some unexpected interactions.
Starting from a topic also developed in his other actions. In Humament (a combination between Human and Monument) André Stitt found himself in a dialogue with a public monument, offering a modest variant of the idea about the monument.
Near the Virgin Mary’s statue, the artist built a small perishable monument of potatoes, in this way entering a chance intersection with people who happened to be in the public square. Some spectators asked for potatoes, the main food for people with a low income. These people were then given potatoes.
Generally, the ritual was completed around a modest “monument”, in which the artist used various substances bearing a symbolic character, such as milk and honey, his own urine, or props echoing concentration camps (the mess kettle hanging on a chain from this coat, metal enameled dishes).
The ritual led to a dialogue with the public in which the artist succeeded in catching the spectators’ interest and mobilizing them for an exchange of ideas and opinions.
Presented in the same square, Roddy Hunter’s action entitled Civil Twilight also consisted of symbolic props, although he used a smaller number that were more personal in significance. Some of the props that Hunter used were ribbons of various colors that the artist solemnly wore tied on his hand.
Quite obvious, at the beginning of the action, the lack of communication was gradually turned into the contrary: Hunter walking alone, alongside the public sites, only being watched by the spectators from a certain public place. The artist also began a dialogue with the “chance people”-a dialogue that ran until the end of the performance.
The two artists’ idea (to remake and use the public space as an agora) proved to be fruitful: The onlookers waiting for this polarization to happen experienced a pooling of general interest and communication. Communication has become more and more precarious in a society in which the individual has lost interest in the other.
At the end of the festival, through the action Provocation, created by Lia Perjovschi and Kristine Stiles, the authors aimed at getting the passive spectators to participate in discussions and to debate what they had seen in the course of the three festival days.
While Perjovschi formulated questions, both for the artists and for the public, Stiles “reflected” the public’s passivity by not participating in the discussion or answering questions. She avoided questions by formulating another question to determine whether the person was interested.
Stiles attempted to discover what, in fact, the individual expected from art and performance. Occasioned by that performance, the challenges thus proceeded, creating an exchange of ideas and clarifying some confusion on the part of the public.
Without directly performing in Timisoara, Dan Perjovschi continued a performance initiated in 1993, at Zone 1, entitled Romania (the last part). By next year it will have been ten years since Perjovschi allowed himself to be tattooed on the shoulder with the name of our country.
In the meantime, exasperated by “the changes”, which, however, point to stagnation, the artist made up his mind to go through the surgical operation of removing the tattoo, thus putting an end not only to a performance but also to a thematic series.
As the operation is expensive, even more than the Zone festival budget, Perjovschi has sent a “promise” letter, also undersigned by two witnesses, taking a pledge to complete the action within the next year.
Matei Bejenaru’s artistic project was also atypical for a performance festival: Acting as a curator’s assistant, doing any and all necessary jobs, ranging from the most ordinary to the most pressing ones. This type of post-performance (as the artist himself names it) adumbrates the artist as a social mediator.
For a few days, Zone 4 was a place for artistic meetings and artistic debates, bringing under focus topics of great interest. This event created the opportunity of bringing the artists and the public together in a relationship contributing to the understanding of the contemporary artistic phenomenon.
Zone 5 (October 4-6, 2003)
October 4th-6th, Timisoara, Romania, Memorialul Revolutiei, str. Ungureanu nr. 8 (contact: Ileana Pintilie, curator, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Opening: October 4th at 5 p.m.
The participants in Zone 5 will include:
Olimpiu Bandalac (RO), Jozsef Bartha (RO), Matei Bejenaru (RO), Oskar Dawicki (Pl), Roddy Hunter (GB), André Stitt (GB), Karen Kipphoff (D), Stefan Bertalan (D), Amalia Perjovschi (RO), Dan Perjovischi (RO), Eugen Savinescu (RO), Artur TAJBER (Pl), Berislav Valusek (Hr), Kristine Stiles (USA)