I recently participated in ‘Holding Space’ curated by Danica Knezevic, the third and final exhibition as part of The Kiosk 3×6 Projects organised by Modern Art Projects Blue Mountains at The Kiosk Studio in Katoomba.
My contribution involved live performance as well as an installation, including video documentation, which remained after the performance.
Videography: Danica Knezevic.
Photography: Isobel Markus-Dunworth.
My artist’s statement:
For this performance I lay asleep on the couch while audience members took turns sitting beside me.
The idea for this works stems from an interest in psychoanalytic theory, particularly the writings of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, which informs my artistic practice and my theoretical research. The first psychoanalytic text I ever read was ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud and I’ve been interested in dream analysis ever since. My interest in psychoanalysis is also personal: I have a family background of psychiatric and psychoanalytic practice as well as a family history of mental illness. I see a psychoanalyst twice a week and dream analysis often plays a role in these sessions.
When I first came up with the idea for this work, I raised it during a session with my analyst. As we talked about the idea, I was reminded of a case from the book ‘The Examined Life’ by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz. In the book, Grosz describes seeing a man with HIV/AIDS who was often silent for long periods during sessions and eventually began to fall asleep on the couch. Grosz suggests that the man’s silences and his sleeping were ‘a way of rehearsing the moment of his death’.
This connection between death, sleep and psychoanalysis is also related to another theme in my practice: the still body as a metaphor for the ‘death instinct’. I understand Freud’s theory of the death instinct as a drive or desire to exceed the limits of subjectivity. The still body in performance represents this exceeding of subjectivity through altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming, meditation, intoxication, and trance, as well as through death – the ultimate obliteration of subjectivity.
Equally important to the performance, and to the story told by Grosz, is the role played by the other person present. Grosz writes that his sleeping patient felt that his “silences were healing” and that they were “a chance for him to regress, to be looked after”. Audience members who participate by sitting in the chair have the opportunity (or responsibility) to watch, listen to and care for the sleeper. The participants are asked for compassion, but also, perhaps, to see themselves in the same position/predicament as the sleeper. Participants are invited to explore concepts of self and other through empathy, mirroring and vicarious introspection.