- Performing with Objects
Andrés Galeano—a Spaniard by birth and Berliner by residence—is a visual artist and philosopher. Performance, photography, and video are his main media of expression. He works solo and collaboratively with other artists and also curates performance art shows. In his early performances he worked with everyday objects and predominantly in public settings, dealing with historical, social, and ethical issues. Several of his performances have investigated the audience’s role in performance art, and he has challenged spectators to take some responsibility for the outcome of his performances. Galeano has also been interested in birds and flying, and his live performances have grown more complex by the addition of found photography, photo projections, and various audio and video presentations. He based the structure of some of his performances on the rhythms of birdsong. In his newer projects he not only uses photographs and slide projections but has begun to investigate the indexical and documentary nature of photography. His most recent series, entitled iPerf, consists of performances that incorporate found photography alongside photos and video materials from his preceding performances. It is, to use Galeano’s words, a digital performance during which the artist uses audiovisual materials and the internet, focusing on the iconography and usage of a pointing index finger and web-based communication channels. This interview was taped in the Theatre Centre, in Toronto, Canada after Galeano’s performance iPerf 1.0.1, on February 24, 2013.
Your artist’s statement notes that the elements you work with are “space, audience, objects, actions, time, and your body.” Why, of all these elements, do you choose “objects” as the focus of your performance art workshops?
These are the main elements of almost every performance—the columns that sustain every performance. Dealing with performance, you move between the coordinates of time, space, and presence, which also means the co-presence of an artist or a performer with the audience, actions, and objects. Performance is, in a way, the finest immaterial practice. With a performance work you change the paradigm of art; you are no longer dealing with the “subject–object” relationship but more with a situation. You create a certain situation—a certain atmosphere—which is also immaterial. When I do a performance I aim to create an experience. I am interested in it. [End Page 102]
But here is the paradox: on one hand, performance art is defined as an ephemeral art practice, but on the other hand, most performance art uses objects. Out of this paradox came an idea of a workshop on interacting with objects. My own practice is strongly influenced by the use of objects. I also studied in the sculpture department at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee.
What is the relationship between the body of the performer and objects that are being used, and how do you teach it?
First, we explore presence. We start with the simplest thing—standing in front of the audience and being present, breathing your presence. We realize, for example, that a body can become subject or object depending on how the gaze is used. When you gaze at somebody you are a subject; when you are watched, you become an object—for example, when somebody takes a picture of you. So the starting point in the workshop is the presence of the performer and then we continue with a group reflection about what an object is. An object has a presence. Objects are bodies. At the moment when you are standing in the space and there is a chair nearby you have to deal with the fact that you and the chair are two bodies in this space. It doesn’t matter that one is inanimate and the other is animate. There are a lot of different objects. There are objects that are performative, that is, machines that move. There are plants and animals, but are they objects? As a performer you have to be aware of very minimal, subtle elements. I insist a lot on letting the presence of the object breathe near the presence of the performer. This means, for example, dealing with the distance at which...