Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Ideas? Technical issues?
» Feedback to a-n
9 February 2007
Reviewed by: Rachel Lois Clapham »
For Flagrante Delicto the artist Claire refuses to use her surname and by this employs a deliberate strategy of anonymity. Claire’s anonymity is re-enforced in various texts accompanying the performance- in booklets, business cards and programme information - so much so that it becomes an important point for me: Why am I being deliberately led as reader, as audience member, to read this anonymity as significant in this artist’s practice? I am confused, firstly by the first name which belies the desired anonymity; 'Claire' is a western Judo-Christian woman’s name. And secondly, because denial of Claire’s surname is evidently strategic on her part; Claire feels the holding back of her surname is important to the content of her performance. As a result of this, I imagine what Claire’s surname could be, and in what way it would be distracting from Flagrante Delicto? Moreover, I wonder about what reasons –political, criminal, protective, familial - there might be for concealing a surname?
Once inside the darkened performance space my first glance of Flagrante Delicto confirms that Claire is white and, from the outside at least, she is a natural or biological woman. The work itself consists of Claire, dressed in black with black leather fingerless gloves and shaved head, moving in between four wooden doors and slamming each one firmly behind her. Isolating the action of a door slamming from its everyday context - be it the result of an angry domestic argument or a rushed exit – and repeating it in the pared down performance style reminiscent of Alan Kapprow’s 1960’s Happenings, highlights the ritual aspect of such ordinary gestures and in doing so makes them strange. In addition, each slam of the doors is a violent and irregular interruption that is impossible for the audience to anticipate or prepare for.
But, as a member of the audience my thoughts - however broken by the disturbing slamming sounds -are brought back to how ‘queering’ the action of a slamming door might be significant in relation to Claire’s desire for anonymity, or significant to the work as a whole? Flagrante Delicto brings together Claire’s attempt at anonymity - including her written statements and the attempt to strip down her (female) identity via her shaved head and sturdy all black clothing. The work also highlights the slamming of doors as ritualistic, loaded and performative of sonic and bodily violence. In addition, meaning is also lent to the piece via the translation of the Latin phrase ‘In Flagrante Delicto ‘ (while [the crime] is blazing); also a common English euphemism for being ‘caught in the act’ of a (flagrant) sexual encounter.
These distinct elements of identity, anonymity and violence are visually combined, and so clearly at stake, in Flagrante Delicto . However, the interpretation of sexual (mis)adventure is only immediately available to audience members with an understanding of the Latin phrase and the English euphemism that it relates to. Moreover, far from banal, the visual signifiers that signpost meaning in Flagrante Delicto act in defiance of Claire’s attempt at anonymity. Instead, the visual clues are brimming with specific, culturally loaded and potentially misleading information; Claire’s shaven headed look, masculine clothes and black leather fingerless gloves remind me of an overtly LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender ) 1980’s ‘scene’ look. A clear link can also be made from the leather gloves, the physical strain of slamming the doors and the violence of the slam itself (which is oddly reminiscent of a loud whip-crack) to sexual violence and Sadomasochism.
The sum of what these disparate parts combine into wasn’t enough for me to establish meaning upon my visit to Flagrante Delicto , nor were the individual elements tempting enough for me to want to stay for the works entire two hour duration. What Flagrante Delicto does add up to is a Live Art performance in the making, one that needs more careful choreography with regards to content and scripting of accompanying text material in order to be better pieced together and so stand up to critical scrutiny. To this end, re-considering the visual elements of the performance, re-drafting an accessible artists’ statement and having a translation of the phrase ‘In Flagrante Delicto ‘ available in the performance space, or clearly printed in the written material, would have been a real bonus.
Rachel Lois Clapham is a curator and a writer, formerly of Live Art UK's Writing From Live Art, who now writes as part of Open Dialogues.
25 Albert Drive, Glasgow, Scotland
No one has commented on this article yet, why not be the first?
To post a comment you need to login