A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Writing about Performance Art Part 1: The mountain in my room by Dagmar I. Glausnitzer-Smith

The mountain in my room, Dagmar I. Glausnitzer-Smith, Berlin Jerxheim, 2008.

Every image, which I select from within as it occurs in my own painting, photography, video or words has the potential of performance; the action of the moment of awareness. The absence of actuality or the presence of the imagination is the necessary dynamic for the process when performance is about to happen.

Process here is potential being, as matter is in its indeterminate state. Form or shape can only be determined temporarily by its descriptive nature. I feel it is possible to patiently attend to the released form without the intellectual determinism to recreate a presupposed image or reiterate a known language.

During the process, the work carries out its ‘own’ context as it releases its own potential.

Performance is image. It is a process whereby the artist searches for orientation between the moment of actions and thoughts of the present which also contain past experiences and the words of ‘self’, even a projection of ‘self’.

When I was a child – a dreaming child midst a ‘chaos’ of toys and objects in my room, often my mother would come and create a mountain of these things in the middle of my room to demonstrate that ‘order’ should be made. The mountain of stuff in the middle of the room had to be sorted out, organized. Toys and objects needed to be placed. It took hours; hours of loneliness and concentration to undo the mountain, until new categories had been formed and different locations were found. I did not understand ‘order’. I still don’t.

At the centre was the existential no-child’s land, a justification for places and apparently the responsibility for life’s presence. I promised that I would create order and construct new relations between the spaces and the object-toys. This promise became my life’s task; no doubt it became the horizon for the work and a distant relief from loneliness without which the creative act is deemed impossible. But I still refuse to understand order.

Jean-Paul Sartre states in his search for the reasons of writing, that art can be the escape mechanism or the means to master something. One cannot escape alienation – whatever the reason; moving into death and moving towards madness, it is still possible to collect the weapons and (…sharpen their shining points) overpower the enemy.

(Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Why write?’ One essay in the Reclam edition, Stuttgart, 2000 of collected essays about the Theory of Authorship, p.106)

The mountain in the middle of the room for me produced the motivation, but also nourished a need. Both are reasons for the creative process; to ‘sort’ out the world’s objects and to create an absence of ‘chaos’. Only later did I begin to take responsibility that this was not about the construction of order but it was the building of actions within a single illusion of a non-realized world of my ‘toys’.

I started to collect objects. Objects came into my life.

The presence of objects became the margin of the world of illusion (Maya) but their presence also promised hope; hope beyond reasons and the responsibility; hope that there still might be an analogy. The Analogy of words which lead to related actions and through the world of thought enters the world of space and locations.

It is with these words that personal ‘authorship’ is born, because only through the composition of words and their analogy and the subjective invention of relationships, is it possible to remember a footprint in the world of objects, places, readers and writers. The reason is the origin and the motivation – not an aim but a situation of ‘chaos’ and entanglement. The moment of birth is not the aim but another beginning – a rebirth.

As Paul Nizon said: ‘At the beginning of the work is never the will to write a book (or to make an artwork): it is the captured self which wants to be released and revealed. The first motivation is the burning desire to come to oneself or to Life per se.” (Paul Nizon, ‘ Am Schreiben gehen’, p. 125)

Paul Nizon was born in 1929 in Bern, Switzerland. He became art critic in 1961 at the Neue Züricher Zeitung and spent time in many European cities resulting in writing books and reworking autobiographical experiences in places like Rome, Paris, Dublin, and London, Berlin. His stories are set between fiction, invention, biography and critical irony. My fascination with his work is based upon his intense and integral thought about the person ‘behind’ the work – the writer, the artist, the author.

Whatever occurs transpires within the continuum of actions and interactions, a chain of indifferent events, which only the intellect tries to reason thus forming a three-dimensional framework of past, present and future.

Someone said, ‘it feels like walking inside the brain…’ – among the currents between the sense organs and the nervous system are the buzzing inaudible sounds of changes in consciousness. The external source of energy is not the external stimulus itself but electromagnetic pulses vibrating in the nervous system within the mind itself.

The work negotiates an incomprehensible complexity when surrounded by objects of sensory stimulation, and then the act of centering attention on any one source can often be accomplished only with great difficulty. The preliminary ‘mountain’ is set in the ‘Arbeitsraum(ger.n.workspace), which may be associated with the space in the mind. Here, gathered and experienced objects are evaluated. They are like instruments in the orchestration of unexpected tunes. The fine-tuning is a crucial process which tends to present problems and ambiguity as to where the work begins and ends. It remains purposely unresolved – thus the potential for change and transition continues to take place.

With the accumulation of its particular parts one is forced to combine and link certain meanings and presuppositions only to find that the bigger picture is hardly suggested and it is fugitive, escaping the desire to make sense as a defined whole. A question governs the work and order remains ‘un-found’.

But origin for me is always the mountain in my room.

The act of thinking presents and pursues clouds or horizons of thought[.]


© Dagmar I. Glausnitzer-smith, Jerxheim, Berlin, 2008

For more information please visit our Guest Writers Page

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Writing about Performance Art Part 1: The mountain in my room by Dagmar I. Glausnitzer-Smith