PSYCHOSONORIC LECTURE NO. 6: Disgraceful Disappearance
(Göteborgs Konsthall: September 6th, 2013)
In the performance “Psychosonoric lecture no. 6: Disgraceful Disappearance”, presented at the 2013 installment of GIBCA (Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art) entitled Play! Recapturing the radical imagination, Psychic Warfare barricaded two of the five exhibition halls in the Gothenburg Konsthall. No one, except the persons inside the blockade, knew beforehand that this was going to happen.
The lecture was given by a lecturer unknowing of its content and was accompanied by the noise of breaking glass, drilling, electric saw, hammers and and objects being destroyed, emanating from behind the blockade.
The work that Psychic Warfare presented was nothing but surface, it had no hidden depths, but since some people are more superficial than others we’re obliged to point out some of the many folds of this convoluted enterprise.
Psychic Warfare were invited to make a performance inside the Konsthall. The curator of the biennial was intrigued by the psychic attacks and wanted us to perform one at the biennial. We pointed out the problems we perceived in doing it in that context, that it is not a product, but a self organized act whose strength lies in it being neither a mere political protest nor an art performance. Instead we wrote a few proposals that were all declined before we at last gave way to her wish and said yes to performing a psychic attack, and added another proposal, a psychosonoric lecture on the issues of the event in Gothenburg. This was the birth of what we came to call between ourselves the overt/covert operation. If we weren’t going to be able to do what we wanted, we decided to smuggle it into the biennial under the pretense of doing something else. The overt story was that we were going to deliver a lecture, the covert was that we were planning a psychic occupation.
We had given an official proposal that tied in neatly with one of the themes of the biennial, the carnival: a lecture to trace the link that connects the Gothenburg Carnival, a grassroots organized street carnival that lived on from the mid 80’s to the 90’s, to the 2001 riots with the so called “Event City of Gothenburg”. The event city, we said in our proposal, we understood as the reaction to the dissident nature of the carnival and the riots, where the legislative powers in Gothenburg “realized that it needed outlets in order to prevent any further outbursts. The order is imposed by allowing festivities to take place in surveyed and demarcated areas of this new ‘Event City’ where every citizen is free to choose among a list of predetermined pleasures.” (Proposal, can be read in the logbook).
How our performance was going to be executed was indicated only vaguely. In the proposal and in our email-correspondence with the curator and the staff of the biennial we stated that we were going to use sound, choreography and props, most importantly a sedan chair.
Our covert plan consisted in blocking the space of the konsthall and then simulate the destruction of the artworks inside. In order to do this we needed to smuggle the material for the blockade and the power tools of art destruction into the konsthall, and it had to be done right in front of the eyes of the spectators. We came up with the idea of constructing a sedan chair that could be transformed into a blockade. This particular object was chosen since it could be motivated by its carnivalesque connections. The sedan chair, we said, was going to transport our carnival queen/king, Juli Apponen. Juli, a performance artist and friend of Psychic Warfare was, like the curator, the biennial staff and the spectators given no information of what we really intended to do.
In the performance Juli was let off the chair and proceeded to inform the audience that she was there, not as a member of Psychic Warfare but as their messenger. After handing over a sword to the audience, she opened the envelope with the letter and began reading its content of which she had no prior knowledge. At the same time five psychic warriors carried the chair into the two rooms where it was divided into two wooden structures that was drilled into the walls completely sealing the rooms off from the rest of the konsthall.
In the letter that Juli read we stated our intent to destroy the artworks behind the blockade and the reasons why. The rooms were chosen only from their location in the konsthall and not on the content of the artworks inside. We said that the destruction of the artworks was a way to ”impair the biennial event logic” that according to the slogan of this year’s biennial, Play! Recapturing the Radical Imagination, could only do just that – recuperate and profit on every political potential on behalf of and under the auspices of the ”Event City of Gothenburg”. The reading was accompanied by the noise of objects breaking and electrical saws coming from inside the occupied rooms. The reading and the noise was the means by which some of the spectators were led to believe that we were actually destroying the art works. When the reading ended and Juli walked out, a short applause was heard before confusion and anger arose in the audience. The psychic occupation ended soon afterwards when the emergency exit door, that we’d chained down, was kicked in by the Konsthall staff.
Of course no real event is possible in the biennial, and so was also the destruction of the artworks fake. The real event took place outside the occupied rooms, in the psyches of the artists and the staff, in the fear that their fetishized art objects were being damaged. To produce this effect was our intention, to spread – if only for a minute – anxiety and discomfort in the minds of the self-reassured personnel of the art world-machine.
To our delight, upon leaving the room, we were greeted with contempt and anger. Embarrassing accusations, invectives like “burn in hell” and other insults was hurled at us. We were given the cold shoulder, there was tittle tattle in the corners, but also words of praise.
To be despised was what we expected. But these sentiments were followed by the agile adaptability of these people: anger and the feeling of having been offended at the day of the performance was transformed the day after into a forced welcoming, but at the same time disavowing stance : “It was good” or for the lesser minds who deemed themselves capable of keeping a critical distance: “Destroying art! It has been done. It’s so 80’s”. The need to reduce the performance to something it was clearly not (art destruction; “good”) can only be seen as the defense mechanism of those who are too attached to both their space, and their precious objects, not to say their pretended claim to be radical.
It seem that the participants of the biennial, artists and staff alike, can only be critical if their own position is left untouched. It has to be pointed out that the biennial is not some safe haven that stands outside of the development of the Event City of Gothenburg, the main vehicle in the repression of the city’s history of street carnival and protest. The biennial can only pretend (or play as the title ironically suggests) to deliver a critique from the outside, or rather from the inside of an art event, which is why the effects of the critical event that we produced had to be disavowed and suppressed in order for the blind functioning of the art world to return to normal.
Our only regret is that we, even though we didn’t destroy any artworks, created the illusion that they were worthy of being destroyed. The only thing that was harmed was the egos of the narcissistic and possessive inhabitants of the art world.
Thirty minutes after the performance ended people started gathering outside of the Stora Teatern for a psychic attack, where the bulletin was also handed out together with a catalogue from Sportshopen i Tanum (The sports shop in Tanum) our private sponsor who had provided the occupants with their outfits. The use of a sponsor was a way of openly showing the absurdity of the situation in which we were working, the double bind of a radicality that is sanctioned by the very apparatus it is trying to critique: commercial interest and local politics.
If you want to know more, watch a video of the performance, imbibe nectar, dance, listen to music and discuss with the psychic warriors you’re welcome to Taverna Brillo in Stockholm on Wednesday, September 18, from 20:00 til 02:00 for the release party of The Psychic Warfare Bulletin no. 11.