A woman lives in a gallery in Berlin-Neukölln for 42 days and consumes a total of 1,764 walnut halves in a daily repeating and clearly structured procedure. She hangs her deep red braids on a net under the ceiling, looking like blood vessels, like a tree, or like a mushroom mycelium, a network of fine root-like threads. With “The calculating mind can not be trusted” – the cycles last chapter dealing with the subject brain, the performance-cycle “until death do us part” will close. Therein, the artist Barbara Kowa has spent twelve years, dealing with our existential dependencies in 7 different jet connected chapters.
The brain and its system of association often do not work as the conscious process, as which we like to regard it. While some people have the quirk to hang up their socks sorted by color, the artist Barbara Kowa must eat any “broken” crisps in a package first. To clean up. Even if one know it’s irrational, one still has to do it anyway. Some strange drive passes by the brain and manipulates it. And like anything that is strange or traumatic, we can only get rid of these things by looking at it closely.
Barbara Kowa lives for 42 days in the middle of an installation that shows the connections between the past performances of the cycle. At noon, she first spins the red ribbons with a spinning wheel that create the network of relationships stretched through the exhibition. She places three bowls, each with seven walnuts, and two empty plates, each for the nutshells and for the walnuts-halves, next to them. She immediately eats any parts of the nuts that were damaged during the process of cracking the nuts. She loudly counts the undamaged halves of the nuts which look like miniature brains: these rows of numbers will remain her only spoken words for 42 days. Recorded on tape, a loop machine now plays the numbers. In an expansive action, Kowa knits just as many red ribbons woven into her hair into the net stretched under ceiling.
The “miniature brains” are consumed bowl by bowl, adding the next row of numbers to the previous one. At the end of the performance, this creates an acoustic palimpsest of three rows of numbers and a large-scale installation in the middle of which the artist is stretched out by her hair. For Kowa, this is a picture of how we humans are “hung up” between heaven and earth.
Every night at 7pm., she begins spinning around, and the net of strapped bands collapses. An external equivalent of the fact that all so carefully counted and assorted nut halves are still metabolized as a single mass. Barbara Kowa will not leave the place during the performance and will sleep in a coffin on site, which is an important part of the installation. Of course, she is not dead in it, but as a sleeping Person, her consciously calculating brain function is switched off. The performance will be live-streamed, and people around the world will be able to follow it online via a personal account and connect with the artist, optionally as a kind of art Big Brother or as a virtual analogue video game.
This virtual reality, which is processes all data as an algorithm of 0 or 1 and thus embodies the calculating consciousness par excellence, becomes part of the performance as well. Also the gallery visitors with their internal and external movements become part of the performance. The public is invited to spend time in the rooms of the gallery. A small library is set up to sit and read, to listen to the artist’s experiences during the previous performances of the cycle via mp3-player or to study the texts of the whole cycle. Videos of the cycle are shown in the basement. The entire living installation is meant to be a place of contemplation that leads visitors to their inner space of silence. Conversations are therefore not desired – 42 days the whole place is a meditative art space.
The artist and actress Barbara Kowa was born into the world of fine art as the daughter of the curator and art historian Wieland Schmied. Seeking distance and identity, she initially focused primarily on acting and found the freedom of fine art in a performance that is surely influenced by the fine arts and the theater as well.
Opening: 2018-01-12 from 7:00 pm
Live-stream on the Internet via www.barbarakowa.de
Basic access: The performance can be tracked for 42 days, 24 hours a day. See the live behind the daily living Installation-piece put up during gallery- opening hours. And join the artist on her exercises and meditations that enable her to sustain the 6 weeks non-stop performance.
Extended access: a kind of virtual-analogue oracle: In addition to observing the performance, questions can be asked, that the artist answers with 0 or 1 only. An online-oracle. Since the quality of the question determines the result and content of each oracle, the questions can optionally be submitted in a personal online-chat, or in a multilingual group chat of members.
Total access: This access also gives access to the dream diary, written in the universal language of Art. You also receive Photos of the artist’s death mask exhibited in the basement. The mask made of beeswax is illuminated by a candle and thus is in constant metamorphosis during the 42 days.
Cycle “until death do us part”
To embody Giovanni Segantini’s painting “The Evil Mothers” and to experience inwardly a perceived external image with iconic quality, was the starting point for this cycle. It was not just about bringing this Image to life, but also about communicating intimately with the trees.
There was no invited audience for these performances. The nature and our physical dependency on it, is what Kowa sees as the real “until death do us part” – so she wears wedding dresses in all the performances of the cycle. For the first three years she repeated the performance “tree talks” in different places and in different trees with which she connected, and wrote her experiences on the wedding dresses.
More and more, her thoughts started to cycle around “until death do us part” started to circle and other chapters of our conditionality were added. Kowa discovers the essentials through the process of performance with is embodiment in space and time, and likes to work in cycles that offer her a continuity of inner debate with the necessary artistic freedom. So, for example, it only became gradually clear why “blood and breath” 2014 it was only gradually clear to her, on an instinctive level why “blood and breath” belong together as one chapter of the cycle. Repeating to work with this chapter in 2017 she understood that beyond the intimate physical connection of lungs and heart, breath and blood can be seen as representatives of space and time. Because we all share the same air through our breath that connects us in space and we are connected through the blood with our ancestors in the linearity of time.
The cycle, like the circulatory system, is a self-contained cycle, concerned with what our incorporation in this world allows us to do and what we are inevitably linked to.
Photo credits: Joerg Reichhardt
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