Zone - Eastern Europe
Performance Festival

The Second Edition, Timişoara, 11-13 October 1996
Versiunea în limba română The English language version

Image from the varnishing

Alexandru Antik
"Casting one's skin coat"

Amalia Perjovschi

Imre Bukta - Károly Elekes
"Without Title"

Gusztáv Ütö - Kónya Réká

Participating artists:
Pawel Kwasniewski (Poland),
Bogdan Achimescu (Romania),
Imre Bukta - Károly Elekes (Hungary),
Dan Perjovschi (Romania),
Ion Grigorescu (Romania),
István Kovács (Hungary),
Artur Tajber (Poland),
Avdei Ter-Oganian (Russia),
Alexandru Antik (Romania),
Amalia Perjovschi (Romania),
Gusztáv Ütö - Kónya Réka (Romania),
Sándor Bartha (Romania),
Horst Haack (Germany),
Tibor Semzö (Hungary),
Orlin Panaiotov Dvorianov - Vassya Slavova (Bulgaria).

A space of isolated cultures, an expression of some contrary-minded national identities, permanently searching for its own image, Zone 2 became a mysterious territory of the central and eastern European performance. The spirit of the 1993 (first) festival was kept up through the 1996 festival. The latter one brought its contribution to the establishment of the inter-regional contacts, aiming at a better understanding of this area, confronting some similar experiences, or sometimes very different ones.

Why performance? In comparison with the ordinary manifestation of art, with forms well "settled" into genres and styles, the performance defines itself as a protest against the mercantile aspect of art, rejecting the idea that the art object is a product for sale, i. e. "merchandise", the artist places himself in a radical position, which has its roots in the conceptualism of the 1970s.

By live gestures in front of a public, the artist defends himself against the stereotypy and conventions which often circulate in the world of art. He keeps looking for the initial creative freedom, thus suppressing "the product" of creation. The artist expresses himself more directly, without making compromises in front of a public, establishing with the latter an unmediated contact. His action usually vacillates between social protest and individual drama.

Every artist understands performance through his own sensibility endowing it with his own signification. For Ion Grigorescu, performance is an interior necessity expressed by a unique moment, a kind of "his own theatre" to the extent to which the artist is the "actor"/the performer of his own life. Antik considers that performance is "the confrontation with the obscure points of the human condition and an imitation in a subjective-creative experience". On the other hand, Amalia Perjovschi accepts performance as a means of communication with a "target public" a collaboration between the artist and "the other one" without denying the essential part played by chance thus generating unforseeeable reactions from the part of the actor.

Several artists consider performance as a risky language, just on the line/limit in witch its becoming a failure is a danger. Another danger is performing it again and again thus depriving it of sincerity and spontaneity. Therefore in a text of his own, *Artur Tajber finds the "phenomenon" of performance ambiguous; he also considers that the term performer is unacceptable even if he uses the term performance for the action before a public. For Dan Perjovschi the performance is "a definitive, serious, unsparing act", "a decisive individual act" whitch has to tend the coceptual limits.

Developing between these guide marks, with unavoidable surprises and moments of suspense, the activities of the Zone 2 festival adumbrated several approaches. Pavel Kwasniewski's invitations to enter Performapolis (the fabulous place of performance) did not lack tension projected between the tender, almost naive vision upon the world and the physical violence, sometimes pushed to the limits of the bearable. Narrating whole "histories" the artist took his public into a universe governed by his own mythology.

Artur Tajber's performance "Desolation", in the very title evoked something from the atmosphere of the Zone: a void space, an utter absence invaded by an irrevocable sadness. This feeling was emphasised by the artist's action proper; he found himself in a tormenting search of his identity occulted by the use of the cagoule or by the confusion of splitting his own image, on the video screen. The sound background very attentively chosen also contributed to the apparent rupture in the unity of the ensemble.

The same grave register with tragic accents was also tuoched by Antik in his "Casting One's Coat" in which the public became a partner to the intimate painful spectacle of a transfiguration. This passage from a state into another was made with difficulty, as with a slow death followed by a resurrection. The old "skin", fastened with nails became the symbol-object of the exorcism of the evil. Considering the relationship between actor-public as being unequal, Dan Perjovschi observed that, while the artist is subject to an enormous tension in the time of his acting, the audience completely drives cares away. Those present may talk, be attentive or not, they may leave the place at their own will. That is why he suggested in his performance "Echo" that, the relationship between the artist-as-actor and the public-as-receiver should be inversed. The artist takes the liberty of doing nothing, appearing, in front of the public, as an actor on stage, under a spot of fight, and after a short time disappearing into the dark which falls upon the place of the performance. Switched on again, the light is directed towards the public and so is the sound; these will put the emphasis on the audience, partially transferring the responsibility of the show to it. The public will feel the discomfort and the frustration provoked by this unusual situation.

The communication between the artist and the public is analysed by Amalia Perjovschi in the performance entitled "Incomprehensible". The artist turns the spectators into partners, in a game, pointing out intimate gestures, as throwing their own clothes onto a surface covered with dust. If some of these meanings are brought to light by generally accepted symbols, the deeper significance of the performance is only partially revealed by intuition. Therefore the artist has the impression that she can only partially collaborate with the public, and only to a certain point.

The lack of communication among people, extending to the whole of the society, is evoked by the Bulgarian group Vassya Slavova, Orlin Panaiotov Dvorianov in their performance "They don't want to converse. They are afraid of integration? ...". The very title suggests a negative polarity, the entire performance being built on the lack of communication between the two opposite characters; the woman remains motionless to the end of the show, lying on a table, in the centre of the stage; the man tries hard to elbow his way, spirally, through a lot of transparent recipients, filled with water, continuously changing their places and pushing them away, in an effort with no finality at all.

This polarity is also underlined by the presence of images on two videos; one of these ceaselessly presents a bloody fight between dogs (with pedigree), stirred up by a mass of spectators, all shouting; the other video, extremely slowly screens images respiring the calm intimacy of an indoor space, in which a primordial element and source of life (water) sends out luring gleams as if calling the world to its essential tasks.

The communication between the artist and the public, put forth by Sándor Bartha in his "Circuit/Performance", also introduces a third element in the equation: the street. In order to emphasise the fact that performance has a small number of spectators, the artist tries to activate the reaction of the passers-by who have not been warned before. That is why, on triggering a sensor, Bela Bartok's music is broadcast in the street, making the foot-passengers raise their eyes, in search for its source. A video-camera gives, on a video, the reaction of those in the street.

Another aspect of communication was also involved in Horst Haack's performance ironically entitled "Status Quoi?". On a stage in a complete black-out, the artist achieves a mediation of the image, and its integration in the act with the help of a video-camera, laid on a funny head-covering, fulfilling several functions. The magnified and detailed image is visible synchronically, on two videos, transmitted to the public in this way. The collage of texts read in English, French and German suggests a multiple communication.

Multiplying the cultural message in several languages was the main idea of of Tibor Szemzö's musical performance. To this end he used a selection of texts from Wittgenstein's writings, and first and foremost from "Tractatus".

In his performance "King Oedip", Ion Grigorescu also makes use of intense cultural allusions. This performance consists of an installation and a happening event; the former is an excavation/hollow showing a sphinx moulded in a clay and various wooden objects. Resorting a subtle dialectics the author makes an analogy between the mythological happening and a Christian religious fact. This is evoked by both the hollow witch has become the foundation of a new settlement and by the quotations from king David's "Psalms", David being assimilated to Oedip.

Using as a pretext a sociological investigation about the condition of art, Bogdan Achimescu "forces" his spectators to express their opinions about the role, the position and the mission of art. The spectators keep waiting for the ansewers to "the questionnaire"; instead of answers, they receive juices, tooth paste, soap, chocolate, etc.

A special position in the festival was taken by the Russian artist Avdei Ter-Oganjan. He presented himself as a pseudo-gallery man, buying and selling the copyright, of reproducing some of the happening scenarios in the "Forward" Gallery. This gallery would have the role of promoting the art of a group of artists and the art of some young "students" modelled in "the academy of performance". Their "memorable" activities were presented in a video film in parallel with Oganjan's ones. The five performances presented in the program were based on scenarios designed by Ilya Kitup, Iuri Zlatnikov, Boris Tchattal, Nikita Alexejev and Alexandr Sigutin. Oganjan annulled himself with a view to forward, to upgrade the others mentioned above. Thus the pseudo-gallery artist "sells" his and his colleagues' works anarchical, not adapted to the contemporary requirements.

The richness of messages transmitted by the multiple performances, during the three days of the festival, captivated the interest of the public.

The narrative style is opposed to a blunt, straightforward humour, with inklings belonging to the absurd, in the group work of Bukta Imre and Elekes Károly their performance showing a plastic quality as well. On the other hand, Ütö Gusztáv and Kónya Réka opposed to the idea of the absurd; theirs was a constructive final based on the harmony of the couple.

Preoccupied (to the extreme) with the expressiveness of the body, István Kovács used these expressions in a scenario with an ecological tint combining the two domains he had been concerned with, for a long time. By taking steps into several directions, by their personal approaches the artists who participated in the Zone 2 festival staged their performances illustrating the most important orientation, of the genre.

1* - "Does Performance Exist?", in Artur Tajber's collection of texts, "Orient-Action", Krakow, 1995.

Zone - Eastern Europe:   The First Edition (1993)   The Second Edition (1996)   The Third Edition (1999)

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