“Autobiographiction”: Month of Performance Art in Berlin


If someone had told me a year ago that I could participate in a performance art event, I would have been at least skeptical. I had always looked at avant-garde phenomena with a strange fascination, but this very feeling set boundaries. After having recently attended some of the events of the Month of Performance Art in Berlin (May), I am ready to declare that one, even if you identify yourself as a “mainstream” artist / thinker and these kind of happenings as avant-garde, the “mainstream” can only benefit from opening its eyes to the latter; and two,  ultimately, how “avant-garde” is it? Perhaps, a century after the first “wave,” we should stop labeling.

The fortunate event which reconfirmed my impressions happened at the end of May (thus, close to the end of the Performance Art Month), when I participated in a writing performance / workshop at Freies Museum, playfully entitled “Autobiographiction”.

In anticipation of the event, we received some letters from the authors of the concept (which made everything sound perfectly abstract, I must admit, increasing the suspense). Thus, in Nicolas y Galeazzi and Joel Verwimp’s vision (the latter being the organizer of the event here, in Berlin):

Autobiographiction is a permanent workbook in constant flow of dissemination. In a chain-reaction of events it unfolds itself as shared content dispersing performance on paper. At the Freies museum it now will be handed over to all the participants. The methods of creating content, editing and disseminating are proposed by VerlegtVerlag.

The tools were developed over the past months in Helsinki (Baltic circle festival), New York (apexart) and at the Roter Salon (Volksbühne Berlin). The archive will now be considered anew during the research session in an economy of mutual dependency.

Through a performative praxis, we hope to create a tension in the conceptual limits of research, mutating the way we appropriate space. This tension arises from recalibrating our own position which in the case of autobiographiction, departs from the archive XY in relation to the reuse and further development of VerlegtVerlag’s objects and models. Locating this practice in a continuous dialogue between visual and performance art develops situations that frame the event by building a space that becomes VerlegtVerlag’s speculative environment.”

Having now confronted you with just a fragment of the whole conceptual construction (It does sound quite abstract, doesn’t it?), let me tell you what factually happened (although the philosophy of the event is to precisely erase the limits between appearance and reality).

Over the course of one day, people freely enter a wide white room in the museum, in which the only pieces of furniture are 10 or 12 chairs and, somewhere in the corner, a small table with a suitcase and a box with folders. You choose a folder or an object from the “archive.” For the next two or three hours (the moment you stop is completely arbitrary, in fact) you will talk in a quasi psycho-analytic flow about your own biography, but provoked by what you actually find in the folder. The other(s) will write it down, filtering this again through their own vision. Or vice versa: you will be writing while the other(s) will be talking. It is less important (less obvious) how the constellation of individuals is arranged.

What is really important (more obvious) is the final product: a complex, multi-layered biography of a fictive individual Z, which somehow encompasses the identities of all those Xs and Ys who have, at some point, contributed to the “narrative”. Interestingly, the two artists who initiated the project possess each other’s archives. Through these kind of events, they are, in fact, writing and rewriting each other’s biography. But, because of the multitude of “rewriters”, these could no longer be simply biographies, but rather, as the title suggests, autobiographictions!

Needless to say: what this does to the ideas of biography and authorship is simply hallucinating. This so called (by the authors) amorphous authorship (or agencement) simply annihilates any boundaries between the initial owners of the archives (the two artists selecting specific moments from their biographies), the secondary owners (the two artists “managing” each other’s biography) and the tertiary authors (those who, through re-writing, include their own biography in the equation). The outcome is neither more nor less than a “colonial” identity. Plus,  it is not clear when the two artists will actually stop rewriting and tie together all the threads of this new biography of Z, this child of fiction (at some point, the materials produces by the participants at the workshop(s) could themselves be used as starting points).

Ultimately, I’m not sure that actually that mysterious Z hasn’t changed my own biography. The reason why I say this is that, from the pile of folders, I chose one which had a map. Strangely, the map contained an itinerary which, by coincidence, I had also undertaken. From the very moment I saw this, all abstractions and equations collapsed. By talking it through and writing it through, my life was simply happening.

 by Aurelia Cojocaru (1st year BA, Moldova)

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