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should i stay or should i go?

niki russell: in between time 13, bristol, uk

Niki Russell is a UK-based artist who produces artworks, organises events and develops collective projects. He is a member of the art collective Reactor,, and Director of Primary

 Sylvia Rimat, If You Decide To Stay, IBT13 Sylvia Rimat, If You Decide To Stay, IBT13
photo Delia Spatareanu

Before arriving in Bristol this decision is shaped both by my agency, and by structures that limit or influence my choices. Some decisions I take quickly, even subconsciously, others I deliberate over at length; rumination influenced by bias, reason, emotion and what is expected from me in this situation.

sylvia rimat, if you decide to stay

Decision-making is the explicit subject matter of Sylvia Rimat’s If You Decide to Stay, a performative lecture that meanders through personal experience, specialist knowledge and a loose set of experiments. Rimat analysed the types of choices we make on a daily basis and speculated as to whether these reflect what we really want. Listing the gamut of reasons that could explain our choice of seat within the auditorium, she then asked us to get up and choose a new one—somewhere we would not usually sit. I chose the middle seat of the back row and considered this to be a reasoned choice. However, the person I was with read this as an emotional choice, as it involved me moving closer to them (we were separated to start)—an audience predisposition that had already been described. Perhaps it was not one or the other, but rather a bit of both.

The complexities of decision-making were expanded upon: neuroscience, mathematics, psychotherapy and astrology formed tools to address the level of conscious choice we have and how much this is influenced through environmental, social and psychological cognition. However the work began to take a random turn. As The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” blared out, Rimat hopped around in a bunny outfit pondering some vaguely existential questions. This reflection on ‘not knowing’ appeared feigned. When Rimat said she did not know if there would be applause at the end of the performance, this consciously ignored the surrounding social structure that determined that there would be.

kim noble, i am not alone

Kim Noble, I Am Not Alone, IBT13 Kim Noble, I Am Not Alone, IBT13
photo Paul Blakemore
Kim Noble’s I Am Not Alone presented a similarly dispersed narrative. As the audience entered, Noble was lying on the floor near the entrance. Wearing only a kitchen apron he simulated sexual noises, stating, “I just wanna be a woman.” This was followed by a rant about the couple living above him having sex (to which he responded by playing loud internet pornography back at them) and a detailed description of how he monitored another neighbour’s sex life. Acts of documentation extended to the minutiae of the artist’s life—from the text message he receives in Morrisons [supermarkets] to his taking a shit on a church floor—and border upon pathological self-obsession cum narcissism. Noble’s search for novel types of personal connection with others is deeply provocative and seriously funny, while being fundamental to his work. Noble chooses anonymous, banal individuals, for example Keith, a checkout assistant at the supermarket he has filmed for two years, or Dan with whom he forms a romance via a false female profile on Facebook.

The most extreme and sexually explicit relationship Noble forms is with a truck driver called John. John wants to fuck Noble, believing him to be a woman called Sarah. Noble adapts his behaviour in an attempt to impress John, sending him explicit texts and images in which he has fashioned breasts and a ‘pussy’ using parts of his own body. Noble juxtaposes this material with his relationship with his father, exposing him as a lonely, struggling old man with a nurse washing his arse. As Noble’s relationships descend into potentially humiliating territory—stalking Keith to his home, cross-dressing to meet Dan in a bar—the exploitation of himself and others is tempered by the sense of a kind of unrequited love. I Am Not Alone proved to be a paradox of a title. Noble is alone. Very much alone. As are Keith, John and Dan. The work deconstructs the reality of all our relationships, where characters and roles are performed and exchanged and affect is constructed. The performance comes to an end with the death of Noble’s father, brutally emphasising Noble’s pathetic failure to connect with anyone.

fiksdal, langgård, becker, night tripper

Night Tripper, Fiksdal/Langgård/Becker, IBT13 Night Tripper, Fiksdal/Langgård/Becker, IBT13
photo Oliver Rudkin
In stark contrast to these performance lectures, In Between Time offered an array of different formats. The course I chose transported me to the woods for Night Tripper by Fiksdal/Langgård/Becker, saw me wander through the sprawling exhibition survey, Version Control, and fail to find my role in Coney’s Early Days (of a Better Nation). Whilst Night Tripper was framed by ritual and a dream-like state of consciousness, this attempt at an all-consuming experience sometimes fell flat. The work was instead at its strongest pared back to its basic components: a minimalist dance aesthetic and accompanying sound from musicians and a hidden choir. In the transition from twilight to darkness, rolling, rocking figures, whining strings and droning hurdy gurdy offered cycles of repetition and a pleasing, numbing boredom.

coney, early days (of a better nation)

Coney presented a work in progress where the audience was set the task of collectively shaping a new nation. This aimed to reflect a wider political context of world events, and to get a hundred or so individuals to make decisions together. However, the narrative felt clichéd and the game mechanism was not strong enough to retain the audience within this performance fiction. From the outset the game structure and narrative did not facilitate the suspension of disbelief required to immerse us in the production of the work. Assigned groups tried to clarify what to do, as individuals drifted off, wandering aimlessly, acquiring additional wealth that was not then deployed with purpose. Over two hours the structure broke down, with video interludes and scripted oratory failing to bring it back under control; many now simply watching on as certain individuals chose to engage in familiar rhetoric, either exchanging rehearsed political positions or simply trying to disrupt them. (For another response to this work-in-progress see

version control

The exhibition Version Control was an attempt to explore how a gallery can present performance and performativity, but resulted in an installation where the relations between works felt clunky, bunched together under broad groupings. This awkwardness was less apparent in work within the exhibition documenting Return of the Blogs, a two-week performance program from the collective Grand Openings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. [The title Return of the Blogs refers to the documentation of the works in 2011—a daily account of the actions in the form of handwritten texts, fabricated objects, and audio podcasts presented in the gallery space and on Eds.] It was an intriguing reflection on performance as a collective act, and live archive, within an institutional frame.

Over 1000 words covering five shows at In Between Time. The desired output is complete. Stop.

In Between Time 13, Sylvia Rimat, If You Decide to Stay; Kim Noble, I Am Not Alone; Fiksdal/Langgård/Becker, Night Tripper [Norway]; Version Control; Coney, Early Days (of a Better Nation); Arnolfini and other venues, Bristol, UK, Feb 14-17

Niki Russell is a UK-based artist who produces artworks, organises events and develops collective projects. He is a member of the art collective Reactor,, and Director of Primary

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 23

© Niki Russell; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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