1. Visitor Account

      Visitor Account by Susan Gibb of «THAT’S IT!» (+3 FREE minutes), Veem Theater, Amsterdam, 13 April 2014

    2. The following is a visitor account on Joëlle Tuerlinckx’s performance <<THAT’S IT!>> (+3 FREE minutes) at Het Veem Theater on Sunday 13 April 2014 at 8:30 pm.

      Where to find a beginning?

      Maybe I should start with an itinerary, a simple list of all the things I could see on stage, moving methodically from left to right:

      A clear curtain made of industrial plastic
      A large orange brick tied and suspended from a piece of red string
      Two white pieces of board leaning at an incline on a trolley
      A red velvet curtain slightly caught up in itself
      A large white screen, corners rounded, hung on a frame of movable scaffolding
      The black curtains of the theatre on either side of the scene
      A microphone held in a stand
      A man seated behind a drum kit in possession of an electric guitar
      Another man in front of a small instrument made of strings, a keyboard, a humble roll of sticky tape, and some other electronics and objects that I could not readily identify
      An LCD screen suspended from the roof
      The artist Joëlle Tuerlinckx and an assistant seated directly in front of me with a series of projectors and laptops

      I have missed things though. The performance was already in motion you see. Two women had appeared on the stage each wearing similar skirts of different coloured hues. They began to push and pull the curtains, rearrange the boards, to bring props on and off the stage, with the effect that they cast the scene into a constant state of alteration. Punctuating these actions, which were being performed at a steady and rhythmic pace, were routines of simple choreographic gestures that provided moments of concentrated attention. On other occasions the two women would completely vacate the stage and one of the seated musicians would take their place. At other times all three appeared together.

      On the choreography I took the following notes:

      Eyes, eyes, eyes, looking over the screen
      Leg… revealed
      Blue buckets, mops
      She speaks in French, she speaks in Dutch, she speaks in English, into the microphone
      They change skirts
      They make capes
      A shuffle backwards and forwards, and to the sides
      Swaying hips

      The projectors had also lit up and were beaming streams of images across the set’s surfaces, warping and shifting its appearance as Tuerlinckx and her assistant carefully guided the direction of the projectors' lights. They also selected the pictures to be shown in real time, an action made visible by the cursor of Tuerlinckx’s mouse cruising the display. It opened and closed windows, and double clicked files at consistent succession.

      Of the many images I saw I noted the following:

      Politicians captured in the Benday Dots of the printed news - the aesthetic and performance of politics made apparent
      Headlines: ‘European stocks fall’, ‘Capital avalanche’
      Images of audiences similarly seated in banked rows
      Post-it notes
      Photos of Tuerlinckx’ work that I have seen before
      Two-dimensional abstract shapes
      A three-dimensional cube

      With all this action taking place on stage the performance had quickly delighted me, pushing me further inside it with its ceaseless advance forward. I was an enthralled spectator, however the performance itself refused to be so easily captured. I looked down at my notes and wondered what sense I would make of them later, of the immediacy and inadequacy of their descriptions. My obsession with notating details seemed to fall short of the importance of experiencing the performance as a whole. I left with the question: how to adequately describe what I had seen?

      It could be called an art object

      I was holding this red rope, I made a knot with it and I put it on the table.
      It was both the beginning and the end of something.
      This thing, devoid of reality and therefore of a reality name, could be called an art object.

      Luckily the performance provided its own fair share of cues to assist me. Throughout, in the form of voice-overs and spoken texts on stage, quasi-explanatory-like statements were provided. I managed to note one such refrain repeated above. Spoken by one of the women into the microphone, her words had prompted me to look at the rope hanging to her left and to think of its latent potential to be transformed into the shape that she had described, and how, through the strategy of the ‘readymade’, it could be elevated to art. I further imagined a circle, tracing the shape in my mind to study how it had no definable beginning or end beyond itself. Struggling to latch onto any set linear narrative in Tuerlinckx’ own performance I also wondered if perhaps it too would be best described as an art object. So I tried to imagine the performance's borders, its many faces as a three-dimensional object. This prompted me to write down the word ‘worlding.’

      After the performance I read that the phrases spoken throughout were extracts of texts written by Tuerlinckx – ‘aphorisms, exhibition notes, press releases, real and fictional interviews.’ I also read somewhere else that this performance followed in the trajectory of Tuerlinckx’ ‘oeuvre-exhibitions’ that were typified by her three-part retrospective - WOR(LD)K IN PROGRESS?, WORLD(K) IN PROGRESS? and WOR(L)D(K) IN PROGRESS? - held at venues in Brussels, Bristol and Munich across 2012 – 2014 and which set her archive in motion. Thinking about Tuerlinckx’ confounding of the words ‘work’, ‘world’ and ‘word’ in these exhibition’s titles, and the question ‘IN PROGRESS?’ that they posed, I took another look at the title of the performance I had seen, <<THAT’S IT!>> (+3 FREE minutes). I mused on the encapsulation of the ‘THAT’S IT’ between the twin set of pulsing arrows that pointed ever outwards from the centre, suggesting both movement and expansion. I then thought about the mobilisation of Tuerlinckx’ archive, it reaching out and including everything it touched or named within its confines. If this performance was an art object it was neither static nor isolated out of relations.

      It could be called an exhibition

      It follows that an exhibition is, above all, a spatial experience, possibly made of spatial objects, which put forward action – or reaction – as a means of reflecting on our human condition. Being a common experience, its vocation is to be public and open: to everyone, and to all forms of creation, interpretation, within a territory or on a given space.

      At some point I also noted this phrase, which coaxed my mind to carry thoughts about objects on display throughout the performance's duration. I had also chosen to place this phrase alongside my notes about the use of images of audiences that had been projected somewhere near the performance's beginning. In particular I kept returning to the use of one such image - J.R. Eyerman’s well-known photograph for Life magazine of an audience wearing 3D glasses, an image later appropriated for the 1983 edition of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. The use of this image seemed to encapsulate a certain inclusive approach across the images that Tuerlinckx had used in the performance, which straddled the social, popular culture, avant-garde and geometry, while clearly prompting an active self-reflexivity within the audience to be aware of their own role as viewers.

      Throughout the performance I also found myself looking up at the LCD screen hanging from the ceiling at regular intervals. Upon its surface, scenes that looked similar to the action on stage were being broadcast. However, these scenes appeared more provisional. They often focussed on a single action, were less layered in terms of their scenography, and worked to emphasise the role of the theatre as a site by capturing it in documentary representation. And while these recordings were most obviously documentation of rehearsals that had occurred in the past, I compared these moments to the ones unfolding live on stage, exploring the temporal and performative shifts between the two, and how the simultaneous presence of both within the same time and space collapsed them together.

      It could be called a musical score

      However, when thinking back on the performance, what I can’t stop thinking about the most is music. Throughout, the two men had played their instruments invoking sounds that had both swarmed and dropped, accompanied and drove the action. The electric guitar had been run through distortion, the drum kit played in shudders, magnets had been placed on the stringed instrument to startling sonic effect, while the roll of sticky-tape had been cast down the keyboard to tickle its ivories in haphazard improvisation. Looking over my notes, I realised that all of the sounds I had recorded with my pen were the ones that I could visually see occurring and thus most easily capture. But there had been a whole lot more than this. In fact I couldn’t remember the performance without thinking of its rhythm and aural stimulation.

      With music in mind, while reflecting on Tuerlinckx’ performance, my thoughts have continued to drift to the radical innovation that took place in the sphere of advanced music in the 1950s and to the central place of the musical score within this – how the score was opened up to alternate forms of graphic and linguistic notation, and adopted across by other art forms in fields shifting to the multi-disciplinary. I also thought about the acceptance and importance of music as an art form to be re-performed, then about all I had seen and heard as fragments or notes in a composition just waiting to be played again.

      Where to find an end?

      Refrain. Repeat.

      Susan Gibb, April 2014.

      If I Can't Dance,
      I Don't Want to Be Part of
      Your Revolution