As part of Cardiff Contemporary this year me and Natalie Ramus were asked by CSAD to participate in ‘Cardiff’s Contemporaries’ where current and past students are exhibiting work at Morgan’s Arcade. On Saturday RAMUS|EVANS Collaborative which was formed in September 2015 presented GWAITH, a durational performance exploring the tension and support that comes with working relationships.
‘Contained within a confined space over a 6 hour period with minimal materials, repetitive actions will take RAMUS|EVANS on a journey through the ritual and madness of mundane labour. By taking the ritual of the workplace into the gallery they will ask the questions; When does the artist stop making art? And where does the performance end?’
Entering the space we found ourselves instantly uncomfortable, wearing very oversized blue boiler suits and black clumpy boots, calmly applying thick layers of red lipstick where we sat at our desk, our ‘work space.’ In the centre of the table lay 300 pink balloons, which would become our main material for the duration of the performance. The space became very surreal, unknown but calm and safe, and then the actions began. We started to blow up balloon after balloon allowing the air to carry them into the wider part of the space. What was particularly alluring about this space was access to the window; we began introducing the performance outside of the space by throwing balloons into the public view. Where does the performance end? During the course of the day, the actions became far more absurd and at times, sexual. There were times when balloons became a replica of a condom, slowly stretched over the legs of the table and chairs. We also began blowing balloons into small cavities, causing that instant tension and apprehension of whether the balloons would burst.
At times there was laughter, harsh and heavy breathing, complete silence for long periods of time and direct eye contact with Natalie and the audience. The durational aspect of the performance became a challenge, this was mainly due to lack of water, and the constant action of blowing up balloons. As time went on I became unaware of my surroundings and found myself repeating an action again and again without any awareness of how long this action had been performed. It was physically and mentally draining, the limitation of material became an apparent challenge. There were times when audience members stood for long periods of time, others walked directly amongst us and became apart of the work. An important element to the work was our frequent re application of red lipstick, we created this glamorous, feminine appearance that became juxtaposed with the grotesqueness and loss of ‘perfection’ when frequent contact with balloons smeared, and disrupted the application. A residue of red lipstick stained our hands and left a harsh lip stain on the balloons.
The destruction of the working space became apparent from the very beginning of the performance, chairs turned over and were discarded of. We found ourselves standing, leaning against walls and lying on the floor for the majority of our time in the space, testing our physical endurance. We slowly deconstructed the table, placing it upside down, pulling away its legs, and beginning a dialogue between space, body and object. The colour clash between the red lipstick and the pink balloons read as phallic, referencing gender and sexual qualities of genital areas (breasts, penis’) the playful but macabre aspect of the work became apparent . GWAITH became an extension of our practices, exploring the body, objects and traces of the artist; minimal objects, materials and our bodies collaboratively explored individual repetitive actions and traces.