High on the wierd factor, like a psychological thriller movie, German artist Anne Imhof’s Angst II (2016) begins with searing sounds, *boom*, that goes louder and louder, and performers walk on the tight-rope (strangely reminiscent of the 1964 classic film Mary Poppins) or move around, walk up the spiral stairs that go nowhere, in anticipation of something, like they’re warming up. The gaseous, searing sounds later transform into angelic sounds, *hark*, reminiscent of a cathedral choir,
performed robotically by the performers, under watchful gaze of a consumer drone, spectators gather around out of the fog. Its increasingly difficult to distinguish the difference between performer and spectator. Perhaps people who have gathered are the artistic types who are more than happy to just jump on ‘stage’ (if there
was one) and take over the performance. There are trapeze artists walking along a tight rope, above the layer of fog, performers smoking a bong, foggy, someone spits out seeds, seedy, a performer wearing a flesh colored top straggles forward, twisting
and rolling her upper torso like she was handicapped, and finally rolls around on the floor, nudy, and did someone just give me the finger? Some performers start doing some strange, fluid movement that evolves into a ballet routine, while another stands on top of someone, raises his index finger triumphantly, only to slowly fall over backwards moments later, and be carried off by others.
As the ‘music’ stops, all the performers hang around, loiter by the railing, just like the rest of the spectators. Thoughts of “Who’s the next performer?” and, “Where’s the show going to be next?” arise as people look around wondering what’s going on and what’s going to happen next.
Considering the meaning of all this, it is clear that these seemingly meaningless and random moves and movements were carefully choreographed into a part theatre play, part dance and part ‘situation’. But these situations differs from Tino Seghal’s situations, in that there aren’t any conversations with the spectator, only spectacles. Nevertheless eventually, the spectators inevitably, unwittingly, find themselves becoming part of the show.
If Jack Whitten talked about the ‘curve out of art history’, how he had to forge ahead with this own style, Angst (2015) weaves in and out of art history and pop culture, with references to Picasso’s Blue Nude (1902), the film Mary Poppins (1964) and multiple references to, and commentaries on certain behaviors that human beings in western countries exhibit, such as crowd surfing (literally), rave dancing and peculiar way models walk the catwalk.
Fog has a way of diluting color, combined with an inadequate amount of lighting, makes the scene almost appear black and white. Perhaps that’s the vision of Angst II (2016), a mechanical, primal place where people act out their desires, communally, and at times individually, communicating with only actions and body language, all the while being watched from above by a drone.
Deal (2015) might even be wierder, set on a deserted beach in Atlantic City, with glass casinos in the background and the lone, 1920’s neo-Victorian house oddly standing out, an obvious hold out, didn’t want to sell to developers of these glitzy glass offices and hotels. Dystopian and somewhat sadistic, it starts getting sordid with the speech about loving nature, a close-up scene looking straight into the bunnies eyes against the glow-in-the-dark, sodium blue lighting and ‘wanting to be your dog, the shadow of your dog’.
Then enters the main character – milk. Along with all the ways one can interact with milk (buttermilk in this case, presumably chosen for its opaqueness and viscosity). Like pouring it out of a carton, squirting it out through a slit between one’s teeth, transporting it in the cusp of one’s hand, drinking it, spilling it all over one’s mouth, arm and body; a study on the materiality of liquid milk, as well as human postures and behaviors that communicate or dis-commmunicate.
What could be made of the meaning of all this? The scene cuts away from the beach intermittently to an interior scene with sodium blue lighting, with a trough of milk on the floor and more ‘dealings’ with milk and bunnies.
An understanding of Deal (2015) maybe made with a look at an earlier work, School Of The Seven Bells (2013), where performers gathered in a group to discreetly pass around a metal tube, which resembles the codes, body and hand signals, being made on the street – ‘illicit street transactions’. This is a type of silent body language which enforces and protects the established power hierarchy. The metal tube represents the object to be traded; be it currency, drugs, guns etc.. which sustain these sub-cultures.
Compared to Angst II (2016), Deal (2015) is slower, to the point of being almost low-motion; a study in inter personal communication using postures, stares, sounds made with certain activities (like brushing one’s teeth), texture, and the reflective qualities of milk under sodium blue light. Absent are the broad gestures of Angst II (2016); it is an intimate exploration into alternative languages that people use when they don’t want to say anything audible.
Again, there are subtle references to commercial pop culture with a scene reminiscent of the 1980’s band B-Movie’s 12″ single Nowhere Girl (1982), while the white rabbits symbolize a purity and naivety not unlike the white collar working people go about blissfully unaware of these street transactions everyday.
In the end, Imhof’s work can be seen as a kind of living, ‘moving sculpture’; a cross between a dance, play and sculpture that contains a narrative but no storyline and reflects hidden aspects of our culture.