About Performance Homework
Text by Katia Huemer / Kunsthaus Graz
Real gatherings are not possible at the moment (*as of April 2020), so we need to search for new ways and forms of encounter. Although the Internet and social networks were already being used long before the appearance of Covid-19, in the days of “social distancing” these are the platforms that are now offering alternative spaces for art and its reception. Vienna-based Japanese artist and choreographer Michikazu Matsune has curated an online exhibition that examines the effects of the “current Corona status” on one’s own environment: Performance Homework.
Matsune’s own oeuvre explores the relationship between body and objects, movement and image, place and action. Last December, for instance, he and his colleagues staged the annual Homesick Festival: a duo of artists could be booked to visit your home and perform for you (and your guests) in a private setting.
Performance Homework takes this idea of using private apartments as a stage, and replaces the aspect of encounter and shared experience with an individual investigation of one’s own four walls. The project website is set to show works, ideas and actions by around 25 international artists (there are currently 20 projects online and some works still in progress): these can all be performed alone, and in the comfort of your own home. In line with Matsune’s earlier projects, the selected works are located on the interface between dance, performance and visual art, and display a subtle humour.
Each contribution is presented with photos, videos or drawings and includes a simple description and instructions on how to perform the work. As a mix of new and older works, Performance Homework is both an online group exhibition and a documentation archive of performances at a time of “social distancing”. Each of these small ideas is, of course, an excerpt from a larger body of work, hence the project also raises the question of art’s value in times of crisis. Especially for performance artists, for whom a direct encounter with an audience is inherent in their work, this is a period of great existential insecurity.
One of the important aspects of Performance Homework lies therefore in the financing of the project, for which the many participating artists are paid a minimum fee. Larger institutions such as Kunsthaus Graz are called upon to recognize their responsibility by also enabling projects that do not increase their admission numbers, and so supporting the project and its artists. Under the international motto “Separated but united”, Matsune not only thinks about the increased precarization due to Covid-19 in the artist community. In a playful and humorous way Matsune also shows us that we should not just let the time of this decreed standstill pass by, but can also experience it consciously. Perhaps it will help us to recognize some of the traces that this phase will leave on all of us even as they are being made.