Site Gallery

Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci premier at the Site Gallery Sheffield with a joint exhibition of video works and live actions. Cool spends a durational time in the exhibition space, performing daily an ongoing series of actions. Cool is both mediated on-screen and performs live in the space-time of the work. The relationship between Cool’s on screen actions and those performed live are intrinsically intertwined, yet nevertheless, exist as separate works in their own right.

The actions Cool draws upon are ones she has regularly performed in her live work since her first public performance with Balducci in 2000. She works with sheets of crisp white paper, a table, chair, string, wire and tape. Both live and in the video she performs simple gestures and encounters with these materials. Enveloping her arm in a sheet of paper. Holding a length of tape with sheer intensity and steadiness, away from where it wishes to fall. The elementariness of matter is the theory at work in all of these actions. The live action follows the same structure as the projected performance, with Cool repeatedly moving from one ‘action’ to another. It is hard not to imagine her live performance and that on the screen are interlinked, as they have endless similarities. Yet here the audience does a double-take, as the live work is not filmed and the filmed work action is not projected as part of the live performance. The projection screen shows a collection of previous work; including Untitled (2007) and Untitled (2004) and these formerly performed actions are never performed live. Through this staging, Cool and Balducci become masters of misconception, heightening our awareness of real-time and the reconstruction, or rather pre-construction, of actions as we see them on the familiar surface of a screen.

Moving into the room where Cool performs, her liveness in the space creates a dramatic shift in atmosphere. Sphere, paper boxes and oblong objects are hung from invisible wire in the gallery where Cool resides. She places her hand no more than a centimetre from a delicately suspended object, pausing, yet moving constantly. Her movements appear choreographed in their precision and certainty, yet still show signs of a methodology of improvisation. The visitor punctuates these ongoing actions by breaking into Cools solitary space. Immaculate, her centre of attention on the object is clear. There is no acknowledgement of the audience and the witness feels uneasy and unsure of how to approach both the artist and the objects. Cool moves from one article to the next, maintaining a slow and exceptionally gentle pace. The work unravels in the visitors sudden realisation, that Cool is the constant in this performative equation and the witness is the misfit. Ferociously trying to read meaning, quicken pace, spot some error or misjudgement, the spectator fidgets. Cool’s tempo never alters, a mistake never surfaces and a basic human interaction with matter is all that is left, but all there was to begin with.

Sculptural, this work sites the moving and shaping of matter not only as its stimulus and concept, but as the very performance at stake. The process is the sculpting and the sculpture itself. The ‘matter’ of paper, tape or wire and how it responds to her movements, or fails to respond, has equal accountability in the act as Cool does, as it is the relationship between person and matter that is under investigation here. The notion of an ongoing existence, beyond and above our own personal experience, is nurtured in the knowledge that Cool’s actions continue at the regular times, regardless of any audience or witness being present. Visitors are forced into acknowledging presence and physicality – of their body, the body of Cool and that of the video – in a way that is only possible here as the artists’ grapple with the exquisite live-ness of live performance. The here, now, time-space Cool and Balducci have emphasised, like the plain blank paper Cool moves amongst, has no narrative or pre-written text inscribed onto it to give it definition, purpose or meaning, it just is and it is for us to decipher, for us to write.

Joanna Loveday

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Joanna Loveday is a writer based in Yorkshire, UK specialising in writing on performance and live art. Contact: [email protected]