Anne Imhof, « Natures Mortes »

So I went to see the performance « Natures Mortes » of Anne Imhof. I was ready for any kind of things, knowing that the last perfomance I saw was « 150.Action » of Hermann Nitsch, in which performers were holding a bull carcass on a cross before diving in the animal's body and throw organs out ; to be brief. In « Natures Mortes », the performer bodies hypnotize. They move slowly and robotically, if not suddenly getting out of control, impredictable but looking like they know exactly what they're doing. And their gestual seem totally vain of purpose. For 4,30 hours long, we fluidly follow them in a huge space of 22 000 m² in the Palais de Tokyo. I say bodies, because they are totally deadpan. No laugh, no tears, no expression. Only one performer (on the twenty or so) concentrate the all panel of emotions. Wearing a Joker face T-shirt, he cries and laughs all evening through, and in the last part, repeats the same sentence « I will never write a manifesto again » over and over with each time a different tone. He's like the cliché of Comedy. Fake singular emotion VS common apathetic reality.

Then, Eliza Douglas the « main » performer and musician, who just licked the floor and hot neons, wears his Joker T-shirt on her face. Finally, she expresses something : a sadist and terrifying smile.

Exception said, spirit looks like gone for everyone. There are only cold interactions between them, and also with the public. There is no « encounter », even if bodies sometimes touch, support each other, but more like objects, a weight to carry. Apparently the performance slightly changes each time. When I went, Eliza Douglas poured wax from many litting candles inside her mouth. Next time, she does it on the back of another performer. So, if they're not cold, interactions are burning.

Public everywhere is an obstacle. Perfomers just press us out of their way. To do weird mechanical stuffs : go outside in the fountain together - exchange a cigaret - go back inside – wet the floor. Maybe what we need to understand is simply the message on their clothes : « Disturbed » « Drug Free Youth » « Depressed Rich Children ». Clothes make the man. Well, fashion industry, for instance Burberry is a partner of the exhibition.

Are we, public, supposed to feel something though, in that apathetic theatre ? I'd say yes because I found music truly stunning. Eliza Douglas sings beautifully, and it's hardly believable that she keeps such an impassibility while doing it. I found harmony in notes, rhythm – when they're not suddenly broken by screams or by a drummer getting totally autistic, making a dreadful noise (earplugs were missing).


Yes they all look lonely within a group. It shows something about our social reality, which become increasingly virtual and create a soap bubble with our ego in it. But hope remains somewhere there. In the poetry of music, or in front the photos of Wolfgang Tillmans, exquisite prints showing stars or an eclipse. A large part of the art collection of Anne Imhof was displayed in the space. And let's just say for us too, public, was a performance to do. 4,30 hours going around them is quite a deal. And I think it was worth it. I'm still not sure about the message to take tho. It is a true damaged and self centred world that we are all creating ? Is there room for hope in « Natures Mortes » or am I just too optimistic and was it all cocky and superfical from the beggining to the end ?


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