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Photo: Danute Gambickaite

Touch-me-not but forget-me-not 0

Danute Gambickaite

“The lunatics are on the loose…”
Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Vilnius
December 14, 2012 – January 27, 2013

“The lunatics are on the loose…” is a strange travelling exhibition. Strange, because it is not easy to understand how to perceive it. On the one side, it is very rich in documentary material, interspersed in various (but not all) possible forms, however, on the other side, it is an assassination of this rich documentary material. It is an assassination, because it is often impossible to see it, to read it. It is either flatted, made as a decoration, ornament and attraction or it exists as a fact of documentary material’s existence. Curators try to create particular “Fluxus” festivals’ atmosphere where spectator would be able not just to read about them but also to feel them. With intention to feel it, interactive tools of material presentation are invoked: resurrection of creations and a special way of exposition (paper sheets with information about Fluxus festivals and creations that were presented there flying in the air and fastened with threads to the ceiling). Here, in my opinion, emerges essential problem of exhibition…

Taking a deeper look, there is a discourse, which has been discussed many times, in that the documentary material (documentation, fixation) already is some form of an assassination. In this case, there is a question: is it possible to kill something if it has been already killed? With reference to this kind of attitude “The lunatics are on the loose…” are already in captivity. They are held in captivity by the sheets of paper that ghostly flutter in the air and are moved by spectator’s-reader’s breathing. Peculiar artificial respiration and an attempt to insufflate the vital spark. They look down from that broken, dissipated, flying book, from those words that were spoken and written once. And they became not theirs. They were appropriated. Interactive inserts, odd little joints, Eric Andersen “Idle walk” (1982) resurrected and raised from the dead, it can also be entitled as an artificial respiration. To travel with a compass by indicated coordinations and cities written on the floor, cities where Fluxus festivals “takes place”, for example, to stop and look around in the first festival called “The International Fluxus Festival of the Newest Music” in 1962, which was organised in Wiesbaden. On the other hand, there is another discourse that theorist Philip Auslander describes in his text “Performativity of performance documentation”. As you can see from the title he talks about different type of documentation – a documentation that is a creation, for example, Yves Klein‘s “Leap into the void” (1960). In the instance of Fluxus festivals’ exhibition of documents and documentation, the line between simple documentation and conceptual documentation is very indefinite and washed out. Unlike in Klein’s case, events themselves, their documents and documentations are very important.

Talking about exhibitions of performance documents and documentations, an exhibition titled “About passers-by and neighbours” recently opened in the National Art Gallery. This exhibition displays documentations of performances, which were created during the length of eight to nine decades. I do not compare these two exhibitions in any way. Their tempers are too different. If in the first, the documentary performances of passers-by are sensitively and conceptually, like shadows or invisible passers-by, inserted into the space of gallery, the other tries to introduce it through documents and documentations. Hard to say if it works… The only thing that relates these two exhibitions is the conversation of performances and event documentations.

The problem is that “The lunatics are on the loose…” is an introductory exhibition, but documentary material in this exhibition is presented very interactively and often it is impossible to read it. Peculiar overabundance of interactivity. A spectator of the exhibition, a traveller through the pages of a book, stirs the pages with his being and breathing. Pages, texts, letters, screenplays turn away. It reminds me of a leguminous plant – mimosa or “touch-me not”. It is known for its sensitivity. As soon as it is touched, the tiny leaves fold and hide at one dash. Similar atmosphere hovers in discussed exhibition. As soon as you come to the sheet of paper, which you would like to read, turns away and hides. In the title of this review there are two names of flowers: touch-me-not and forget-me-not. When the conjunction “but” is inserted between them, a very interesting word combination composes – “touch-me-not, but forget-me-not”, – this is really and truly an allegory of performances, happenings and event documentation survival problem – do not touch me, but do not forget me either.

However, the exhibition “The lunatics are on the loose…” has its spectator and its audience. It is dedicated to passers-by who would like to meet, to pleasantly communicate with no commitments and serious discussions. The other part of the audience and passers-by, those who already know Fluxus, lunatics more or less remain untouched.