The journey began in St. Georges market, on a slightly damp morning with the artists taking up their respective positions in and around the already bustling market. Those already familiar with the station-like space will remember the aroma of seafood. Although the market is open to the street from three sides, the humidity engendered by the throng, and the Belfast weather in general, ensures that the various odours remain trapped; adding to the general atmosphere of dense airlessness in which the less meteorologically optimistic shoppers found themselves on that day.
As the transactions took place I was reminded of the distinctly ageless or age old character of the market place, the ‘civilising’ flavour of economy, of meeting,, mixed with the mild pleasures of just looking. (Perhaps even the horrific slave markets of the Caribbean once cloaked themselves in this kind of ‘normality’) Nevertheless, one can imagine the market place as having been something like an original, secular public space where the economic imaginary met an aesthetic of display and the good order of things tastefully arranged. Indeed the ‘orality’ of discernment denoted by the word ‘taste’ seems to announce at the outset one of the reasons the venue has often been thought so appropriate in the first place. (The messenger Hermes, noted as a symbol of the creative mind, is also the protector of trade and of thieves)
Another and important reason resides in the notion that as economy consists in the rational arrangement of the relations between production, circulation and consumption, a performance art that brings an alternative, but equally meaningful, kind of rationality to that situation, makes the nature of transaction itself appear as item for thought, if only for the brief duration of exchange that characterises the performance work. That, of course, must attend to notions of judgement and of value whose object must remain the unique and irreducible nature of the works themselves.
Moreover, it is in wishing to preserve the opacity of the work, that I find myself in broad agreement with Aristotle when he treats it as a matter of little consequence whether or not an artist has a reflective understanding of what it is they’re doing when they create works. This is to be on the side of the artist rather than against him/her in that, as Aristotle contends further, the ability to make good works resides in a capacity for metaphor; in perceiving similarities; a talent that cannot be taught. Indeed it may be particularly applicable in the case of a poetic art that a modicum of irrationality and perhaps even a touch of insanity might be necessary in making these important leaps of productive imagination.

Elvira Santa Maria from Mexico was the first artist that I saw beginning to make work. She had a large black bin-liner that she had filled with air and then tied off at the bottom. Santa Maria then proceeded to wallop the inflated bag into the air with her hand making an audible slapping sound as it was lifted by the force of the blow. Walking at a pace in keeping with the drift of the ‘balloon’ she moved through the busy aisles between the stalls repeating the said action. Of course, the appearance of this kind of playful activity began to attract attention, and as many of the other artists had begun to do their work there was a visible series of ‘double takes’ and “what the!”- comments.
It doesn’t take an incredible leap of empathy to imagine being rudely awoken from a shopping delirium, but there is a definite sense of delight and wonder at the unfolding order of events. Children, needless to say, have a natural affinity for imaginative play and experimentation and their capacity for astonishment is infectious. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the artists use of the black bag lay in her attempts to keep it buoyant. A sense of the hope embedded in experimentation, a hope that might require sustained effort but that is nevertheless independent of any notion of ultimate utility.
In L’Derry Santa Maria filled the bag with helium and, with it tied to her hair on a length of string, she walked along the walls from Double Bastion via Bishop’s Gate to Market Street. Between the bag and the tuft of hair that held it, was tied one white feather. Of course feathers are heavily loaded with symbolic value and in Aztec and Mayan culture, for example, they were associated with the Moon and the growth of plant life, as indeed were hair, grass and rain. Feathers and hair are thus associated with ascent. Just as the rains water the earth, which gives forth skyward growing plants, hair reminds us of this essential fecundity. The notions of ascent and freedom attached to hair did not escape the restrictions placed on them by the Christian Church as women were required to cover their locks- as if they might have recourse to ideas of bodily and moral freedom.
At the Giants Causeway the artist allowed two bags held in her hands to be caught by the inshore breeze. The polygonal structure of the Causeway, at the place she was standing, slips into the sea at an angle of between forty and forty-five degrees so it seemed as if Santa Maria were using the wind- resistance of the sacks simply to preserve her balance. Or perhaps to distantly echo the technology of Columbus and Magellan, and like More’s ‘Nonsenso’ (Hythlodaeus) who, having sailed with Vespucci, returns with tales of a ‘Noplace’; an island of exotic political practices (!), Santa Maria’s performance becomes a painful and playful historical cipher for the Conquistadorial events that gave More’s Utopia (1516) such impetus. It is with reference to this deeper sense of play as a serious activity that Gadamer explains;
We are used to talking about the element of play proper to all human culture. We discover forms of play in the most serious kinds of human activity: in ritual, in the administration of justice, in social behaviour in general, where we can even speak of role playing and so forth. A certain self- imposed limitation of our freedom seems to belong to the very structure of culture.
As Alexis de Tocqueville has written, “Human societies, like persons, become something worthwhile only through the use of their liberty.” Upon reflection might it not be the case that within the intentional structures of any finely wrought activity like Santa Maria’s performance, as just one example of the capability to use our freedom with and for others; that in speaking of a ‘certain self – imposed limitation’ belonging to the arena of exchange we are talking of nothing other than the epitome of politics as the call to responsibility characteristic of discourse itself? The seriousness of the artist’s balloon play and the buoyancy of what is usually weighty; filled with stuff; words, is a timely pharmakon to the ‘sharpener of sophisms in his house of truncated quotations’.
Just inside the south entrance of the market stood Berlin- based artist Boris Nieslony. Wearing a mask and holding a substantial 8ft staff in one hand, and a cup in the other, with what looked like wild flowers tied to his wrist, he rapped the pole on the concrete floor intermittently. Holding the cup out in begging fashion the sharp clash of the wood on the concrete startled some people as they move passed.
The mask was a seriously disturbing image of a mutilated and murdered man’s face, one of many that Nieslony has archived. One cannot help but be reminded by this powerful act, that what lies at the heart of human suffering and our capacity for evil, is the demand for justice coming from those whose voices have been taken from them. Moreover as the site of our ultimate responsibility, the face of the other, as Emanuel Levinas has shown, does not appear as a representation but expresses itself. While Nieslony’s mask is nevertheless a photograph; an image (in one sense it recalls the ecce homo tradition of representations of the suffering Christ) this mask is of a human being who can no longer express himself; is also abjectly exposed to cruelty and death.
The possibility of murder calls us to allow ourselves to be instructed by kindness and the non- violence of discourse wherein the other is seen as a teacher of justice. The begging cup is perhaps indicative of a plea for generosity with the flowers offered as a kind of thanks. Nieslony in his performance manifests this ethic of reciprocity, his act is one that gives a figure to that summons, and in this work’s case, functions both as an indictment against this ‘infinite withholding of happiness’ and a call to be vigilant.
While it might be somewhat easy to ascribe this kind of reading to the work, given its visceral nature, on a literal level Nieslony’s performance on the Giant’s causeway on day three of the journey, points to a bearing and a bearing of weight that is perhaps in tune with a notion that responsibility- as an ability is something that one ‘activates’ as in ‘a taking upon oneself to do’. While on his way down to the causeway proper, the artist lifted a rock onto his shoulder, carrying it some distance to the tourist- laden structure itself. Having chosen his position on a height some short distance from the sea, he lifted it onto his head, balancing it there for some time.
The rock, like the causeway, is composed of an extremely dense and therefore weighty igneous basalt that must have caused no little discomfort to the vertebrae in his neck and the top of his cranium. Like some great inversion of the natural order, the bulk of the rock balanced on Nieslony’s head and the column of air stretching above it to the limits of the atmosphere, made him seem like a contemporary Heracles struggling to hold up his enormous burden. The impression given by this lone caryatid was of a kind one might indeed associate more often with architectural features, but as an appropriative strategy that idea must remain rather tenuous; all interpretations are not equally valid.
Where the rock may give rise to notions of immutability, and the sea to notions of its opposite, or to notions of slow, incremental destruction, of geological weathering, decay and new eruption, a performance between the three figures of Pluto, Poseidon and Nieslony, who himself becomes a figure of something else, perhaps requires no over- elaboration. However, if context must weigh, lightly or heavily, as a factor in IPOP, it is in L’Derry perhaps more than any other place in Northern Ireland that it weighs most markedly.
The city’s most distinctive characteristic is history, being laden and invested with all the contestations, recriminations and assertions of right that those with even the most rudimentary knowledge of Northern Irish politics might have come to expect. The artist’s performance there on day two, which was essentially an act in tandem with those of Alasdair MacLennan, and Sigmynt Pio Troski, indicated at least one sense in which it was possible to read the work contextually so to speak. The three artists had positioned themselves in the middle of Guildhall Square, just outside the 17th century walls. Nieslony lay on his left side facing the hall, lifting what looked like barley seeds from a small white ceramic cup, and placing them in his ear one by one.
Obviously, one is not born with an ideology, one has it planted in one’s ear as it were, and although that is not in the first instance necessarily always a bad thing, ideologies do have an uncanny habit of distorting the very thing that constitutes them as positive in the first place. That is to say they distort the relation between you and I when I can no longer see myself in you because you do not share my dearly held beliefs. Thence emerges the clogged hearing in which dialogue is substituted for violence and I have let it happen; wanted it to happen.
It would be wrong to ascribe such an overwrought didacticism, to quote Aquinas as ‘quem auctor intendit’, to Nieslony’s performance, but that art might be the site of such an inscription and be the bearer of certain anamnetic lessons is at least a possibility and more importantly an act of resistance to the fossilisation of an original symbolic synthesis. And if by symbol we imply a semiotic system, then rhetorical forms such as metaphor are clearly a part of that complex play of signification.
Esther Ferrier is a Paris based artist from the Basque country in Spain. Her materials consisted of things that can be purchased in the market itself; a role of off white masking tape and some sticks of chalk with which to write on the floor. Having written the legend ‘walking is the way’ at her starting point, Ferrier moved along the market aisles laying the tape out in front of her in an exaggerated stepping manner. If in a basic sense performance can lift our minds toward the contemplation of the uncanny, the surprising or the merely neglected, Ferrier’s obviation of the paths that are laid out for us and through which we are ‘allowed’ to move, makes that demarcation between public and franchised space available to thought. Of course the notions surrounding the constructed nature of spaces and their uses are a marked feature of performance’s ‘remit’, generally speaking, and so the precedents concerning this work (as well as that of the other artists) make it a lot richer in the viewing for all those observing the process (some not only observing but ‘participating’; pulling the tape up behind her). Performances that construct a trace in the space, as it were, are familiar from Carl Schlemmer’s detailed diagrams like Gesture Dance (1926) in his work with the Bauhaus, to Bruce Nauman’s Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square (1968).
A concern for the objectness of the body and temporality as it concerns duration may be historically significant aspects of Ferrier’s work but actually seeing it performed is a different order of experience compared to reading anthologies. In Derry the artist walked along the walls slinging ping-pong balls over the battlements to be lifted by passers-by. Each ball had something written on it, in one case for example, the message read “What is the answer to give”. For every ball launched Ferrier stuck a number to her face, eventually covering the greater part of it. This action may have been intended to refer to the military history of the city; many of its cannons are still in place, and whereas they once presented a mortal threat to any would be besieger, Ferrier’s tiny balls present, of course, a different kind of ‘engagement’ altogether.
There is still a military presence within the walls of the old city, overlooking the Bogside area, site of some of the more ‘famous’ incidents of N. Ireland’s recent history. Sporting state of the art surveillance equipment, the contemporary installation is in keeping with historical developments in military technology that saw the construction of the walls themselves in 1618. In contradistinction to the high circumvallations of medieval fortresses, Londonderry stands as an example of the trace italienne design that began to appear after the fall of Constantinople to Mehmet the II’s army in 1453. Mehmet’s gigantic wrought iron cannon- firing huge stone projectiles- made it clear that high defensive walls could no longer be counted on as impregnable. The development of the relatively low, thick, star- shaped fortress became essentially a design meant to utilise the new technology, giving a wide and potentially murderous field of fire to those besieged in them. Derry’s walls were never breached and so serve today as both a symbol of heroic resistance and of colonial domination. Caught between Mehmet II and William III the walls represent both the local history of ethno- religious conflict and the intensely global flavour of that conflict’s embeddedness within the wider narratives of European power struggles after 1492.
The traditional enmities in Northern Ireland remain, and so are not yet properly speaking, historical. Ferrier’s intervention in the midst of the written and the not yet written presents us with an impossible challenge. Many quietly believe the attitudes in Northern Ireland to be somehow intractable. That impossible intractability is acknowledged here only in the sense in which Derrida re-imagines the category of the impossible as an other than nihilistic or disabling proposition. As an affirmation it is precisely im-possibility that reveals possibility; makes it possible, in the sense that it is only when the power of my possibility is displaced and conditioned by an/other (s) possibility that an im-possible possible is allowed to return. According to Derrida this other possible returns as a spectre from the crypt of ‘my’ own possible in the form of an in- coming other as gift, surprise, hospitality.
The im- of the im-possible is no doubt radical, implacable, undeniable. But it is not simply negative or dialectical; it introduces to the possible… it makes it come, it makes it revolve according to an anachronistic temporality or incredible filiality- a filiality which is also the origin of faith.
If faith carries any force whatsoever it must be in this sense; the sense of an eschatology as yet unwritten, not yet codified in dogma or already fulfilled in belief. Perhaps Ferrier’s performance in Derry also carries the ‘trace’ of this in- credibility.
The Rome-based French Canadian artist Miriam Laplante with speakers attached to her chest began a kind of waltz to the subsonic tones of Barry White’s ‘My Everything’ as she wove in and out of, and around the shoppers and stalls. This solitary but public dance immediately attracted attention and, I’m convinced, even some expressions of fear on the faces of a few of those in close proximity. I noticed the same look some years ago in a bar in Ventimiglia just across the French border with Italy. A man, obviously the victim of some affliction, began shouting and gyrating around the coffee tables, although, admittedly, he had some class of a rock in his hand where Laplante is holding a less potentially offensive ‘walkman’. That said it should be remembered that Salome’s dance for Herod was not without a kind of lethality. If there is a point to this anec/dotage it must lie in a contemplation of the opprobrium that those with mental illnesses have come to suffer, doubly, in our society.
A somewhat less depressing but related idea concerns the notion of actions and their context. Of course we would not be surprised to find someone dancing at say a rock concert, but if what is ordinarily speaking a familiar action removed from its familiar context then automatically we are forced to begin to try to imagine what the possibilities are. That kind of immediate emotional response to the irruption of the unfamiliar is probably a deep seated, very human reaction. Tentatively, it may even characterise the modern relation to art itself; no longer the transparently recognisable medium of familiar narratives. We are familiar with the histrionics that accompany some contemporary responses to art. The highly ordered, ritualised forms of dance ordinarily at home elsewhere in their contexts, but transplanted by Laplante to the market, could perhaps, be seen in relation to Walter F. Otto’s notion that the Greek Gods actually represent aspects of world itself. According to Gadamer, this is why their machinations in Greek drama still carry the freshest of significances. Even though we are separated by great expanses of human time from Greek drama’s cultic and religious meanings, our experience of the world ensures they remain to be understood. “They remain real for us because we too can still be dismayed by a sudden transformation in the appearance of things – one event can change everything at a stroke.”
As Greek drama may appeal to our experience of the world La Plante’s structured gestures in her performance constitute an event that has the capacity to transform our normative expectations regarding the world of as yet unimagined experiences. The artist’s performance at the abandoned Quarry near Carrickarede involved her walking slowly around the perimeter of the limestone space with something attached to her left ankle. On closer inspection the object turned out to be a large spotted dog, something like a sinister child’s toy, its teeth clamped around her leg. As the dog dragged behind her there was again this sense of familiarity, of an incident from childhood with the maladjusted neighbourhood mutt.
Noted more usually as a cipher for fidelity and loyalty, the dog represents also a notion of nature meddled with. Many will be familiar with the stories of certain breeds that have turned on their owners, or attacked farm animals; I can remember one television advert that asked the question “do you know where your dog goes at night?” Or words to that effect. Behind this lies the fear that we have not really been able to suppress millions of years of evolution. There is still some remnant of the wolf in your average Pekinese. Perhaps this is part of the story of Romulus and Remus. At the heart of civilisation lurks a terrible id that must be named for it to be properly controlled. Many foundation myths carry the notion of elemental mother deities like the Hellenistic Eurynome or the Assyrian Babylonian Tiamat a goddess of the chaotic abyss. In Hebrew she is Tehomat and was dealt with by Yahweh, just as Tiamat was sundered by Marduk to create the heavens and the earth.
While it is scarcely likely that Laplante would acquiesce in this treatment of the female- as/in- myth, that societies carry the stain of violence, is probably nearer the point. In one sense this could be related to the artist’s performance in L’ Derry. Standing to the right side of Shipquay gate just a few meters from the seat of the Bloody Sunday inquiry Laplante seemed to be making reference to the figure of justice. Another female embodiment of an abstract, she stood on one leg holding three eggs in each hand, much like the familiar scales associated with the statue. She was not, however blindfolded in the traditional fashion, or holding a sword, but wore an array of flowers on her head. The performance lasted perhaps some forty minutes, at the end of which she dropped the eggs, which naturally enough, splattered on the ground in front of her. Perhaps that calls to mind certain aspects of fragility associated with expectations of fairness, of healing, or reconciliation. ‘Things’ that we may demand of law in the face of injustice, that it can never fully transcend- Paul Ricoeur;
there exists a place within society- however violent society might remain owing to its origin or custom- where words do win out over violence. Yes, the parties to a trial do not necessarily leave the courtroom pacified. For that, they would have to have covered the path of mutual recognition to its end.
The Norwegian artist Kurt Johanssen is a tall man and presented a striking figure in a black suit, discalced, carrying two galvanised steel buckets- brim filled with a sky-blue paint. His progress through the melee had the slow considered pace of an old man carrying buckets of sky- reflecting water, some distance home from a well. The intensity of the pigment, reminiscent of the skies in the Tres riches heures of the Limbourg brothers, began to spark off associations with the colours of the wares on display around the stalls. There were a lot of blue things in the market. The quietude of this performance, the absence of any sudden changes in pace or direction allow the spectator to take in the surroundings, make casual associations, or just watch the play of the liquid in the buckets as it reacts to the moment of Johanssen’s gait. Before the development of synthetic pigments for the textile trade a man carrying buckets of blue paint through a market might have presented a good target for thieves. As among the most highly prised of materials the blue, ground from lapis lazuli, was usually reserved for the most illustrious of subjects, as was the case in the representation of Christian deities; personages deserving of such expense as befitted their position in the firmament. Whatever the cases may be, however tenuous, that are made for interpreting the colour blue, or its use in any given situation, the delight taken in unearthing hidden symbolic contents is probably as old as language itself. It has often been said, ironically speaking, that Northern Ireland is a society particularly at home in a symbolic universe. But the symbols one sees around the place and in particular areas are not of the same sort, since the meanings they convey are anything but obscure, at least to those toward whom they are directed. The silver lining is this: There is a kind of optimism to the thought of communication as a rule governed activity, which we tacitly agree to follow. It’s a start.
On the Rathlin Island leg of the tour, Johanssen stood right on the very edge of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Extending from his mouth, and over the lip of the precipice, a long plexus of thin, multicoloured wires of the sort one finds in a junction box. Seeing this at first was somehow as one would imagine some sci-fi android with its innards pulled out through its mouth. One could only view the performance obliquely, since it would have been dangerous to go anywhere near the front of the artist. That the image was arresting would be to understate the sheer beauty of how this looked. The black figure soaring against the intense blues of the sky and the sea, no distinct horizon, several species of sea bird turning on the air currents beneath.
Just to mention Caspar David Freidrich would be to labour an association unnecessarily. Although the location is more often than not rather windswept and dramatic, on this day, it seemed more like the Aegean. Sites like that on Rathlin would once have animated the religious imagination of that particular brand of Irish monasticism called to the desolate places, (Yahweh is, after all, a God of the desert), that flourished in Ireland around the time that Bede (673-735 AD) was composing his history of Ceolfrith’s journey to Rome from Jarrow with the Codex Amiatinus. Skellig Micheal, a large rock off the South coast of Ireland, is a good example of how such a community was organised. Johanssen’s communication bundle, spilling out of his mouth and over the abyssal edge, could for all that be a reminder of a different sort of abnegation of contact. The solitary ego cogitans in his bedroom cell, connected to a Cartesian Aleph, (of Borges’ Buenos Aires, not Dante’s Paradiso); a live, simultaneous, downloading ecstasy of scopo- degradation.
Belfast based artist Alastair MacLennan entered the market carrying two galvanised steel buckets, each holding a mackerel in a small amount of water. One bucket also contained what appeared to be a dandelion leaf; the fish next to it was upside down. MacLennan moved at a considered, contemplative pace, moving past the stalls, and was at first barely noticed as he appeared much like any other customer carrying his shopping. However, the artist’s movements were not the random ones of casual shoppers as they venture from stall to stall; attracted first to one thing and then another. In this performance one gradually became aware of an order like the invisible progress of the hands around the large clock that dominates the market. One got the feeling from watching this action that if time were speeded up MacLennan would remain as still as the pole star, precessing in accordance with the earth’s wobble around its axis. According to the seventh and sixth century pre- Socratic philosophers of Greece, the origin of all things i.e., reality, lay in water, in original infinity and in the air. It was their wish to reduce the terrible multiplicity of things in the world to the intelligible order of the one. “All things that are known have a number: without number it would not be possible to know or think anything whatsoever.” (Alain Badiou agrees) Pythagoras was the first to formulate the idea systematically; in his opinion the origin of all things lay in the essential order of number. His aesthetico- mathematic rule of music is a familiar enough demonstration of this principle and notwithstanding the possible significances of MacLennan’s materials (at one stage he purchases batteries) it is this essential ordering trait that lends this performance just one aspect of its readability.

The Polish artist, Artur Tabjer, appears dragging a chair and various objects toward the South entrance of the market. The din of a chair being pulled along the floor cuts through the dull buzz of business that is amplified, several orders above comfort, by the echoing space. As he takes up his position sitting on his chair near Boris Nieslony, Tabjer places a small black bag over his head. He is also wearing white gloves and holding a small placard with the phrases ‘I love you’, ‘I need you’, ‘I hate you’ printed on it. Music is coming from a speaker hung around his neck. Apart from the immediate association with the infamous images of torture in the Abu Greib prison in Iraq, the notion of a gesture that amplifies, in this strangely formal manner, emotions like love and hate; pivoting around an assertion of need, begins to ask questions about the nature of this I/Thou relation presented by the artist. The structure of these short assertions at first seems to intimate a certain kind of interchange/ability between the notions of love hate and need that may be almost arbitrarily inserted into the space between this I and you formulation. Becoming the slogan like sentences found in advertising or spin, the formal look of the print seems to want to empty the words of the force of their meaning. However, it is precisely this action that must force us to consider them more closely, given not least, the context of their ‘announcement’. The identity of the artist is concealed so ‘we’ (passers-by) are faced with a problem of ascription that further complicates the notion of just who it is that is speaking/acting. (hooded figures for whom human beings are just objects or signifiers for something they oppose, are a commonplace in N. Ireland) In ordinary conversation we are used to knowing the identity of the person we are speaking with or at least catching the meaningful intonations of speech and other non verbal means of understanding like gesture and facial expression. As the potential recipients of this ‘I’s’ need, love, hate we become the nervous objects of this anonymous address. Or perhaps it is the negation of the identity within the hood, a condition of utter vulnerability, that calls for another interpretation. If the ‘I’ of this act is addressing us from a position of self imposed defencelessness then might it be that we are being asked to consider ourselves also as beings that address others from such a position of vulnerability? In recognising that weakness this ‘I’ that is the site of love need or hate is forced to re-examine the demand that wishes to gather the other under the sign of what is mine; my love, my hate, my need. At least this might secure the un-immediacy of a relation that says that perhaps the other one is never completely commensurate with my love, my hate or my need.
The Finnish artist Roi Vaara, wearing a black suit, a nest box on his head, and carrying a portable stereo, makes his way around the market. Coming from the cd player is the call of a cuckoo, a bird known for planting its eggs in the nests of other birds. This practice amounts to a kind of evolutionary side-step wherein the cuckoo delegates the costly process of having to provide for its own offspring. However, interestingly, this never seems to result in anything like an identity confusion suffered on the part of the juvenile. The cuckoo always knows itself as a cuckoo even if its erstwhile parents happen to be swallows, blue tits or whatever. (whereas the imprinting process in other species is seen to be important with the hatchlings of some captivity-bred birds taking themselves for humans for instance). Nature, of course, is replete with deceptions of this kind- camouflages, visual deceits, mimicry- one need only think of hoverflies, stick insects or anglerfish to realise the advantages of this incredible adaptivity within nature. While Vaara’s appearance in this performance does not represent any direct attempt at mimicry in the sense that we are meant to take him for some other thing that presents itself in nature, it is nevertheless a visible gesture that reflects the world of meaning from which it arises. Many meanings could of course reside in the referential or symbolic values one might attach to the materials of this performance; the nest box with its single entrance hole and perch is reminiscent of something like the distribution of features on a face. One might recall the Cyclops of Homer’s Odyssey, or the nest itself as a kind of symbolic ‘birth- place’ of the imagination. However multivalent and potentially loaded the work may be, one aspect of Vaara’s performance in the market consists in the sheer pleasure generated by the gesture itself. As it conceals as much as it reveals; what it reveals is perhaps primarily the ‘being of meaning’ rather than the knowledge of it as such. Like Kafka’s Gregor, who upon waking up one morning to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect, proceeds nonetheless to worry about being late for work- the ‘readerly’ delight that the appearance of the extraordinary among the mundane generates in our imagination, is also something that makes the mundane itself appear as a condition of possibilities.
Standing just outside the North entrance to the market the Polish artist Sigmynt Pio Troski has set out his space. Roughly one metre square, four thin metal rods have been planted between the joins in the pavement slabs, each rod sporting a small plastic flag with the phrase ‘ground work’ printed on it. Standing very still his movements if any are extremely minimal; extending on occasion to turning his palms upward in an almost prayer-like manner. Of course what appears most readily available to understanding here is what is immediately available to be read, namely the printed text on the flags. The yellow and black colours of these pennants present themselves in nature, again, as a warning. This accounts, simply speaking, for their use on construction sites among other similar situations in which hazards may be a factor. Beyond the ostensive aspects of what might contribute to the notion of what a work might refer to, it may be interesting to consider, however briefly, the notion of temporality that Pio Troski’s performance seems to call to mind. Upon reflection it is in seeing this work that certain aspects of time, ordinarily associated with clock time, spring to mind. However it is in a sense other than that linked to a mechanically represented notion of the division of time into units of measurement that seem to be valid here. (not to mention the relatively recent standardisation of time associated with the development of the Great Western Railway in England). If the temporality of performance has only minimal aspects in common with practices involving ritual-like actions, one of those must be in the basic sense that it involves a certain suspension of that mechanical order in which one thing follows upon another and sooner or later must reach a conclusion, that is as a logic of the linear. Of course we are all familiar with this idea of time and it is no less a necessary one in the organisation of our daily lives- I have time to go shopping, I have no time to eat etc. However, perhaps it is in the suspension of this kind of powerlessness with regard to time that we can speak of a kind of temporality more in tune with a mythic notion that is particularly human; subject to limit. A degree of human time that is neither the continuous inevitable flow of infinite, cosmic time or the miniscule differentiations of atomic clocks. The word ‘timelessness’ evokes an aspect of that suspension of linearity belonging to myth. For instance Christian mythology tells of a cleft in the floor of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, traditional site of the crucifixion, where upon Jesus’ death this crack opened up allowing his blood to spill onto the skull of Adam, giving him life. The Christian story thereby appears at the beginning of time! This circularity, of course, functions to separate the sacred narrative from the normal flow of profane history. Nonetheless, there is something interestingly discontinuous about this sense of time which is, perhaps, more immediately illustrated in memory when we think about how we felt time as children, and how we feel it now; how we feel time when we are happy, or how we feel it when we are anxious about something. It is in this sense that time is particularly our own, or that a performance has a time that belongs to it and that contributes to its unique flavour. Pio Troski’s ground work does not provide us with myths or symbols to elaborate upon, but does call us, in one sense, to consider time; that which belongs to us and to the space of the work.