"Artwork" borrows from somatic, spiritual, therapeutic methods and aesthetics but it is mainly a way to recontextualize and activate artworks in a "technique"/"method" format. It has the Unworks at its core (Unexperiences, Unimages, Unvisitors, Unhere, Unexist), and it expands, incorporating works by other artists. Artwork is ambiguous – technique, performance, therapy, workshop, exhibition, educational and promotional event – an artwork and a new method at the same time. Performers attend the events and subtly perform Artwork practices that amplify their already ambiguous presence there as Artwork method representatives /gallery guards /artworks. They can work with interested visitors /clients, individually or in groups. People can choose their degree of participation on the interval client - spectator. The visitors / clients have to negotiate their presence and readjust their automatic readings of the Artwork environment. This can open new possibilities.
Technologies of the self, forms of life experiments, were the domain of religion and spirituality, very much based on tradition, discipline, dogmas and rigid forms of practices, not updated in hundreds or thousands of years. Experiences and practices that appear in dialog with contemporary situations and phenomena are proposed in art. Nietzsche saw the potential and the need in approaching life through art but he noticed that, sadly, the artists are not applying their craft to it. Artwork aims to remediate this, and to contribute to the urgent project of affecting the forms of life that enable the current realities.
The therapeutic and transformative functions of art are often minimized and avoided because of perception that they diminish an artwork, or expel it from the art field. Yet, there were artists who transformed their lives or parts of their lives into art. Artwork explores the opposite, the transformation of art into life – the embodiment of artworks based forms of thinking, feeling and acting. Many artworks explore new thoughts, new sensibilities and forms of experience. Why all the effort to create them just to be finished in objects and products to be consumed? They should be practiced. Art shouldn't just be seen, it should be lived.
Works incorporated in Artwork:
Florin Flueras, Unhere (2020). Unhere is activated by visitors-performers that seem out of touch with reality, out of place, unhere. They deviate from basic adjustments, activating states and affects corresponding to other realities than the situations in which they are. Because we simulate the bodies that we encounter, the feeling of other realities/worlds can be contagious. In general we conform to environments, we want to be adjusted to "here and now", to behave adequately, even in art, and usually that's fine. But sometimes is good to undo the automated submissions, to open up or transcend situations, to go Unhere.
Alina Popa, Point Pet (2015). "I once took the point on a walk in the forest. It was not a wild forest. It was crossed by a large alley, comfortable to step on even with shoes made for asphalt. I was flying it at a distance not much higher than that of two humans of average height on top of each other. I wanted it to enjoy the perspective of a high branch of a tree, and to look down on me, yes, the abstract always looks down on humans. … Some people have dogs or insects, even rats or piglets. I have a point. It is generic, an abstract pet, a disposition and dislocation, its leash is my consciousness and I groom it with my thoughts. It cannot gain weight but it oscillates qualitatively. It is a superior pet, companionship as alienation. It is the only pet able to accompany humans in the dreamworld. It is a weak pet. It distracts construction, of thoughts, desires, and important stuff, and distracts distraction, from anything."
Lygia Clark employed her Relational Objects (1970s-) in healing processes, to treat patients with psychological problems. Thus, she restored the link between art and medicine, which was present in ancient cultures.
Robert Barry, Telepathic Piece. “During the exhibition, I will try to communicate telepathically a work of art, the nature of which is a series of thoughts that are not applicable to language or image.”
Florin Flueras, Unimages (2017), introduces glitches in the behaviors of certain visitors-performers, subtle anomalies in their self-presentations and images, deviations from the plausible comportments meant to affect the others' automatic readings and perceptions. The capacity of seeing and understanding, of forming coherent images about what is in front of our eyes, may be questioned and refreshed.
David Levine, Farmers’ Theater, Mr. Barlow, whose last role was as Edgar in “King Lear,” rehearsed for 3 weeks a play about a farmer in 1950s East German farmer, but he is not performing the play. Instead he is putting his character preparation to the test by actually planting the potatoes, in character, from 8 to 18 using “acting as a technique for absolutely turning into someone else.”
Geta Bratescu, Toward White (1971). She covered the entirety of her studio in white paper, effectively erasing the space until she was all that was left – at which point she proceeded to cover herself in white and paint her face the same color, effectively dissolving into the studio space itself.
Francis Alÿs, Paradox of Praxis (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing) 1997, the artist pushes and kicks a block of ice around the Centro Historico for nine hours until it melts.
Florin Flueras, Collapse Yoga (2016) mixes Yoga with possible "negative" states as weakness, sadness, illness, anxiety, hopelessness, renouncement, exhaustion, grief, boredom, decrepitude, failure and their traces in the bodies. It collides the Yoga's aims for coordination, balance, strength, flexibility with the body's deep desires for asymmetry, incoordination, weakness, relaxation, unbalance, abandon, collapse, freedom. It affects the normativity of the human form. Collapse Yoga is often practiced next to intimidating buildings, monuments, in charged public spaces symbolically associated with cultural stiffness, harmful ethics or bad politics. There is a correspondence and influence between body's politics and society's problems.
Vito Acconci, Following Piece (1969). He was following people around the streets and documenting his following of them, until they entered a private space. He submitted his own movements to the movements of others, showing how our bodies are themselves always subject to external forces that we may or may not be able to control. "I am almost not 'I' anymore. I put myself at the service of a scheme."
Jay Chung, Nothing is More Practical than Idealism (2001), “I produced, wrote and directed a 35mm film to be shot without film on the camera. Each stage of the film's production was carried out exactly as if it had been for an ordinary film. Cast and crew included the sound and boom operator, cinematographer, assistant cameraman, production assistant, prop master, assistant producer, still photographer, and approximately ten actors and actresses. Of these, only those who absolutely had to know were told there was no film in the camera.”
Doris Boerman, Skin (2019), an abstract crib, the gallery attendants as babysitters, presenting the baby, making silence in the gallery…
Ivan Moudov has stolen museum audio guides, by plugging a recorder into the devices found in major museums across the world. In a gallery setting in Bulgaria, he enables the visitors to take the tour, and visualize the artworks for themselves. He does the same with museum labels – exhibiting them on blank walls. In this way, the artist invites his viewers to perform art history themselves, by imagining and envisioning the artworks, which then exist in their minds, if not on the walls of Bulgarian institutions.
Florin Flueras and Alina Popa, Second Body (2012) is based on a practice of adding a more sensible and abstract perception to everyday behaviors. Second Body starts as a theoretical talk and progressively turns into something else, through the recontextualization and abstractization of all the usual postures, gestures and attention needed for the task. The talk becomes more and more affected by this practice and its subject slowly becomes the body and its drift into a second, unknown body.
Maria Hassabi, Plastic (2016), "a lot of the elements I use work against our current culture’s sense of time and placement. The works are slow and still, the dancers are mostly placed on the ﬂoor, sometimes in unpredictable locations. Some of the repeating images I use are of bodies falling apart – or what we call ‘forgotten bodies’."
Linda Montano, 7 Years of Living Art, 1984, Related with the 7 chakras. "Daily, for seven years, I will: Stay in a colored space (minimum three hours). Listen to one pitch (minimum seven hours). Speak in an accent (except with family). Wear clothes of one color (1 year). Focusing my mind on the location of that center during everyday life actions."
The Kipper Kids, Boxing Ceremony (1972) - one performer beats himself until bloodied whilst the other acts as referee. "I would do a oneman boxing match and beat myself up. Martin would be my referee. It was a real masochistic ritual, and yet I would feel cleansed, as if I had confessed and gotten something off my chest after I beat myself up."
Florin Flueras, Love (2021) explores practices for embodying love – extrasensitive approaches to mundane things, ecstatic affects, overwhelming feelings, subtle affective connections with things around… The sensitized love bodies are inserted in "inappropriate" contexts – from art spaces to supermarkets and anything in between. They start from and often return to the position of visitors from which they deviate towards Love. The visitors / performers / artwork overlappings give Love a vague, ambiguous quality. Bodies automatically simulate other bodies, affects are contagious, the atmosphere can get love charged. Artworks are usually visual, sound or conceptual. Love is affect based.
Fischli and Weiss, Visible World, nearly 100 hours of their unremarkable journeys, video in which everything they see appears to demand their attention.
Alma Suljevic, Annulling the Truth (1999). Alma put her own life at risk when she was involved in the deactivation of actual land mines.
Florin Flueras, Unexperiences (2016). From the posture of visitors, performers shift their attitudes and moods, embodying and slightly distorting suspicion, awe, confusion, pensiveness, sadness, boredom, joy, alienation, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, hypersensitivity and other possible states in which art visitors can be. Sometimes the reactions seem to be related to the space, to other visitors, to the works, or to shared expectations and conventions. Unexperiences affects the experience of having an experience – affecting the ways of encountering the work becomes the work.
Alina Popa, You Are (2017), "The patient in the room is activated when she receives therapy from as many visitors as possible at the same time. The therapy can be given by simple touch, no healing skills required. To be a patient lie down on the mat and take what's happening as therapy, even if 'nothing' happens."
Manuel Pelmus, Abstract Togetherness, 2018, two performers moving together in two locations, starting at the same time during two hours every day, without any live streaming or seeing each other. Moved by the same materials, imagining each other's presence by supporting one another from a distance.
Amalia Ulman, Excellences & Perfections (2014). She played the 3 Instagram profiles that amass the most followers, being a wannabe it-girl trying to make it in LA: First, she was a young girl in virginal pastel-hues who loved brunch and cute bunny rabbits. Then, a sugar baby posing with a gun, having a (fake) boob job and fanning fat wads of cash. Finally, she found redemption and became a clean-eating wellness goddess.
Christian Falsnaes, Self, one synchronized anonymous body movements in a collective, moving through the streets of Berlin.
Florin Flueras, Ion Dumitrescu, Military Performance (2010). A unit of Romanian Army was invited to perform a drill with guns and to teach a workshop at the National Dance Center Bucharest.
Dora Garcia, The Beggar's Opera, a character inhabits public space and deals with it in a half improvised, half scripted way.
Marina Abramovic, The Artist Is Present (2010). She sat all day, every day, for three months at MoMA New York, engaging in silent one-to-one encounters with members of the public, giving “unconditional love to complete strangers”.
Mette Edvardsen, Black (2011). "The space is empty. There are no things. Through spoken words and movements in space a world will become visible, where the performer is the mediator between the audience and what is there. … only the body is physically present, performing actions and handling invisible objects, constantly trying to bridge the invincible gap between thought and experience, between here and there."
Adrian Howells, Held. Howells invites his audience into three twenty-minute scenes. First, they sit at a table, drink tea, and chat. Then they sit together on a couch in front of the television and hold hands. Last, they go up to a bedroom, lie down together, and spoon. Howells’s work maximizes the possibilities of what he describes as “accelerated intimacy.”
Florin Flueras, World, World (2015). Through induction and simple body practices, World, World walks half asleep through philosophic, politic, scientific, supernatural and artistic perspectives on its surroundings. It affects the perception about space, objects in space, and its temporary community.
Bethan Huws, From New York to San Francisco to… Induction to an actor: “For you, and therefore for us, the works of art in the exhibition cease to exist; there is nothing in the gallery space except the gallery, yourself and the other visitors.”
Tehching Hsieh, Rope Piece (1983-84), he was tied to fellow artist Linda Montano for a year.
Alina Popa, All of Nothing (2014). A paradoxical process of producing nothing in the situation of a performance, while live commenting on how this (doesn't) works. This attempt produces 'something' that has to be continuously negated. "All of Nothing negates that the performance happens where and when it is performed. It lingers in vagueness and dissipation, looking for something that appears in the blind spots of nothing."
John Baldessari, I Am Making Art (1971). He says repetitively "I Am Making Art" as he makes a series of simple body movements.
Jiří Kovanda, In 2004, for the show Being the Future, he spent the entire opening hidden behind a column in a remote part of the building. Since the 70s he has used his body for actions almost impossible to distinguish from real life (bumping into passersby, waiting for the telephone to ring, opening his arms in the streets of Prague).
Florin Flueras, Unvisitors (2019). Unvisitors are performers acting as visitors for the duration of exhibition. The ambiguous meeting between real and “fake” visitors can create a slight dissonance in the space, an incongruence between the two types of presence. The visitors can become suspicious about who is performing but also the subjects of others' suspicion, becoming performers. A meta layer that includes the visitors’ own roles in the art experiences is added to the event.
Oleg Kullik, Dog House, 1996. Kullik pretended he was a dog at a 1996 exhibition in Stockholm; he damaged other artworks and even bit members of the public. "This piece was a fight with logocentrism, with the suppression of the impulse of the direct gesture, of the visual and emotional shock."
DD Dorvillier, No Change or "freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill” (2005), presupposes a horizontality in the relationships between object, body, movement, sound, performer, and spectator.
Dan Graham, Performer /Audience /Mirror (1975). An investigation into perception and real time informational feedback by overlapping his live minimal actions, his mirrored reflection and his real time commenting about his movements and audience's behaviors.
Florin Flueras, Ion Dumitrescu, Alina Popa, Pillar Artists, 2019. The pillar saints spent all their lives on top of pillars. Their withdrawals were performative, they were usually within cities. Pillar Artist is a twisted re-visitation of these ancient durational-performances, proto-monuments and pre-artworks. Audience is invited to become pillar artists for a while. The work entails a short training and signing of a contract which stipulates that the person accepting this call would live on the provided pillar for at least one hour.
Krõõt Juurak, Alex Bailey, Performances for Pets (2015). "Through research into pet’s tastes and interests and with consultation from pet behavioural therapists and psychologists this performance is an attempt to bring an experience of theatre and contemporary art to domestic pets."
The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, Cry-Baby. How to Win Hearts and Influence People (2011). The Bureau uses the peeling and cutting of onions as a natural catalyst for the socially forbidden tears eruptions in the public space.
Mette Edvardsen, No Title (2014) "is about how reality exists in language and how this extends into real space. It is about how memory and imagination blur. It is about things and how things can be there and gone at the same time, and that what defines this is various. It is about things that are gone and about things that remain."
Florin Flueras, Ion Dumitrescu, Postspectacle 1 (2008), is a playful staging and embodiment of iconic images and events. It is also a friction and sometimes a fight between presence vs image, experience vs representation. The "amateur" aesthetics of Youtube culture, of self made performances, collides with the contemporary performance aesthetics of dance and visual arts in a work that is often dislocated from where it is expected to be.
Yoko Ono, Induction Paintings, ”makes it possible to explore the invisible, the world beyond the concept of time and space … you do not have to stick to the two-dimensional or three-dimensional world; in your mind you can be in touch with a six dimensional world if you wish.”
Linda Montano, Mitchell’s Death (1978), Using performance as a means of personal transformation and catharsis, Mitchell’s Death mourns the death of Linda Montano’s ex-husband. Every detail of her story, from the telephone call announcing the tragedy, to visiting the body, is chanted by Montano as her face, pierced by acupuncture needles, slowly comes into focus then goes out again.
Mladen Stilinović, Artist at Work, 1978, seems to negate what the work actually entailed: the artist sleeping in the gallery. For Stilinović, art and labor were opposites, and creativity only resulted from having free time. “There is no art without laziness.”
Florin Flueras, Unexist (2016). Text on the wall: "Lie down with the intention to unexist for a while, and notice how your mental and body functions are slowing down. If you are watching and feel that somebody has too deep an experience, please gently stop it."
Jan Ader, In Search of the Miraculous (1975). He disappeared at sea in the smallest boat ever to cross the Atlantic. Was he really dead or had he staged his disappearance? He died for his art. "He believed that going to sea was the only transcendental thing one had left."TD
Alina Popa, Heal the Line, 2018, "Instead of my body, there is a line drawn on the floor of exactly my height. My body could be any body, so feel free to adjust it in your mind to the height of the person you want to heal, even to your own. Imagine that touching the line you are healing my body, or someone else's, or your own. Please touch the line or come close to it as if it were a real body and perform the therapy that you would like to offer to me, to you, to a sick friend. The therapy is more powerful when it is collective, when the line is healed by as many people as possible at the same time."
Sarah Schonfeld & Adrien Missika, Partition Animale. "Pick one element from the Partition Animale. Ingest the chosen element. Exit the room. Pay attention to your body and mind for the next 24h. Take notes on any remarkable thoughts or feelings. Pay attention to your next dreams. Examine your next defecation. Assemble all your notes. Analyze what it could possibly represent."
Florin Flueras, Unofficial Unworks (2020) are Unexperiences, Unimages, Unvisitors, Unhere appearing uninvited in art venues and other public spaces, enacted by visitor-performers. As public we usually conform, performing our visitor roles, consuming quietly what is in front of our eyes. As artists we usually follow artworld's implicit codes, protocols, structures of validation, hoping to be seen, invited, appreciated. Artists can and should sometimes deviate from these dynamics. And visitors too. Unofficial Unworks points to normative equivalences between art venues, shops and other environments and affects some of their invisible influences.
Hu Xiangqian, Reconstructing Michelangelo - Hu hoped to pass everything he knew to this “disciple”. 99 months every day and all day, discussing and practicing. The question was, what could be passed on? Hu’s performances never involve technique. Studying performance is none other than studying “confidence”. As for performance, what Hu thinks should be imparted is not technique but some sort of belief; the search for the “art of performance” involves learning about one's grasp of subjectivity.
Most somatic /spiritual practices aim at self-awareness and self-knowledge, Artwork, through works like Unimages, makes us increasingly unknown, stranger and incomprehensible to ourselves and others.
Most somatic /spiritual practices aim at improving strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, appearance, Artwork, through works like Collapse Yoga, listen to the deep desires of the body for asymmetry, incoordination, weakness, relaxation, unbalance, abandon, collapse, freedom.
Most practices seek authenticity, connection and identification with our own emotions, Artwork, through works like Unexperiences, creates artificiality and distances in our own states, opening us to meta-experiencing.
Most practices aim at increasing the immersion in what we do, Artwork, through works like Unvisitors, creates distances, alienations, and performative forms of life.
Most somatic /spiritual practices idolize life. Artwork, through works like Unexist, connects us with death.
Most somatic /spiritual practices pursue "presence", Artwork, through works like Unhere, introduces disconnections from the time, place and situation in which we find ourselves, alienations that open the possibility of new connections.
First chapters of a future Artwork book:
In collaboration with Eliza Trefas
Thanks to Viktoria Draganova, Alexander Manuiloff, Voin de Voin, Swimming Pool Sofia, Radar Sofia, Aether Sofia, Goethe Institut Sofia and Akademie Schloss Solitude Stuttgart, for the three months residency in Sofia and production support.
And to Laura Borotea, Gabriel Boldis (Minitremu) and Andreea David for inviting and supporting the early stages of Artwork.
At Swimming Pool Sofia, 📷 Ivan Donchev
At Beyond School, Minitremu Târgu Mureș
At Technofields Cuca
Artwork at ETI Sovata