Discursive Title


Yarns of different strength and length connect all videos that make up this project: With Ezzam Rahman its a thread, with Evamaria Schaller wool, and with Maeda Yuzuru a strong plastic measuring tape which is essentially a modern day-version of the kind of string one maybe used for similar shamanistic/magic activities in ancient times. Maybe not quite by chance, the videos and with them performances portrayed get more complex with the thickness of the yarn. you're just going to stand there and watch me burn? (minority) shows stages in a straightforward and simple process: Ezzam Rahman embroiders the sole of his foot with the word Minority – re-staging, -creating that way Brazilian artist Letícia Parente's seminal 1975 video Marca Registrada in/for which she sews the words Made in Brazil into her sole. Seven Shades Red presents Evamaria Schaller's different ways of reddening her body, which includes smearing lipstick all over her face, hitting her chest, tying up her tongue with wool and wrapping her head tightly with strong, thin packthreat that (almost) cuts into her skin leaving pale red swellings – perverted aspects all of observances connected with bourgeois/patriarchal womanhood, ranging from dressing up for appearance's sake to silencing ones own voice; one might also add here apropos Rahman's piece that the way he “imprints” his societal statues on his body, whether one calls it sewing or embroidering, is traditionally considered an activity for women. Hexagram, finally, follows a ritual Maeda Yuzuru, as always clad in skintight pink, created to evoke particular energies of Suwa whose rising is evoked through an energetic, minimalist while sometimes slightly jarring soundscape, then made presence by a six-pointed star first all bright light in the night only to turn into a threat the same colour as the artist's bodysuit in the cold light of day. Rahman's work has a curious undertone if one is familiar with his praxis, as many an earlier piece involved the use of skin scraped from his soles: dead matter there got transformed into skeletal renderings of fishes or frogs, but also a flower all in bloom – Memento Mori of a weirdly soothing, even amusingly playful type; compared to which you're just going to stand there and watch me burn? (minority) feels upsettingly brutal, not so much because of the sewing but the sense that Rahman is violating a source of his art – a raw material of creation. That said: One might like to see also something light-hearted in this, something hopeful in quiet defiance of the piece's grim title: Yes, Rahman “brands” himself with the sum total of being a Queer Malay Muslim in a country defined by Chinese and an idea of their culture steeped in arch patriarchal values – but he'll also step onto, therewith erase the assignation with time, as the threat wears thin and disintegrates with every step he takes. Society forces ideas and practices upon humans, nature makes them fall apart. Seven Shades Red, in comparison, feels at first like a severe-, stark-, altogether grimmer piece: It all starts with a kiss, what follows is violence and subjugation – for doesn't Schaller at some point slowly pull the thread with which she tied her tongue out of her mouth, as if she's now herself producing one of the tool of her submission? Love turns the body red, which some learn to enjoy and other merely suffer, usually in silence. Over the years, Schaller has shown a great fascination with the morbid fragility of all flesh – in a untitled early performance she took the core act for making a proper Schnitzel Wiener Art to the extreme by not only hammering the chunk of beef into a thin, flat piece, but beating it for so long that the audience could get sprayed with minute morsels of raw meat, till only a pulp remained; connected to this is the 2011 Schnitzelzeit, for which a nice piece of veal gets cut into thin slices that would then be hung on a washing line, like linen. Strings, again, and also traces of blood could also be found in eg. in the 2015 triple screen installation Desmodontinae, here in the guise of cobweb, as becomes a story of the undead – a playful riff on motives found ao. in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novella Carmilla; while the mysterious werewolf who saves Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's posthumously published Dracula's Guest (1914) is revealed to have been the Countess Dolingen of Gratz, the capital of Styria where also Schaller was born. All of which is to say that Seven Shades Red condenses many symbols, materials and strains of Schaller's artistic cosmos, therewith a wide array of potential models, examples and paragons especially from the context of German-language Feminist art of the 1970s, like the (for the better or the worst...) inevitable Valie Export, Renate Bertelmann, Birgit Hein, as well as the nowadays sadly forgotten Friederike Pezold. They all share in interest in perverting activities deemed female in a bourgeois-capitalist context, to expose the violence inherent in these; also a the fascination with bodily fluids and excrements, their symbolic/totemic values and powers, reaching with Schaler back to some of her earliest performances like Scheiss.Theater (2009) or homogen (2010); finally the liberating dimensions of violence, of taking matters in her own hands – which in this specific work means: cutting the packthread with a pair of scissors, same way Schaller before wrapped her tongue with red wool; for if you can hurt yourself you can also heal yourself – you just need to understand the structures you suffer. Compared to you're just going to stand there and watch me burn? (minority) and Seven Shades RedHexagram feels like the most playful and light-hearted work. In a statement describing the origins of the project, Maeda says that the cultural particularities of Suwa and some kojiki-passages pertaining to the place gave her the idea that once it was home to a Jewish people. And thus she devised a ritual that would evoke a reflection of that ancient presence in the shape of a light hexagram which, interestingly enough, has the six points in common with the Star of David, albeit not the way lines interlink these. So what once lived in Suwa was maybe connected with the tribes of Israel but not necessarily identical with them – a different emanation of a cosmic design, its energies. Maeda striding regally through the lush nature in her gaudy outfit; the gleeful brightness of the star blinking through nightly alleys; and then the soggy yarn into which the star transforms in the warm morning sun imbue the piece with an enchanting glow that makes it a needed counterpart to the other works on display.