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Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.

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11/07/07 01:11:43 pm
'Review: Christian Jankowski'

Christian Jankowski Rooftop Rountine, 2007.

Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine on Christian Jankowski??s Rooftop, Nov 3.

Standing on a roof in the lowest and eastest of the Lower East Side in the briskest of brisk autumn winds, earlyish (10am) for a Saturday to look for hula hoopers on nearby roofs was already fun. One of the bundled pair of hoop-spotters just over my right shoulder said ???It??s like ???Where??s Waldo!????? and the other, face smothered in round black glasses, giggled. We were all a little giddy from the trip up (sharing turns on the elevator with the construction workers and materials going to another floor), the walk through Christian Jankowski??s apartment, the climb to the roof and the emergence into the morning. There is something, maybe especially for backyard-depraved New Yorkers, exciting about being outside on a private patch of roof.

The remark I overheard was right. Spotting the hoopers was a seek and find game; the twirlers kept appearing on rooftops, some far away and some on other sides of the building (three were accessible.) The near ones were at points lower than us, and some of the far ones were higher. The far ones were specks of color-green, red, black-against the sky or other buildings or watertowers or the bluish-greyish sky. The near ones were swivel-hipped athletes. Another of the audience, as I passed by, noticed that they each had, despite the limited possibilities for motion, her (I only counted one ???his???) own style of hooping; this one was upright with planted feet apart and moving steadily but not so fast; that one was leaning into the motion with something like a runners stance and spinning her hoop fast. We, the audience drank teas or coffees in paper cups, if we had had the foresight to bring them, and wandered around the roof.

And then I heard Jankowski talking to a group of three or four people. He was explaining that the woman in red, very visible to us, was his neighbor and that she was the original collaborator. I knew this already from the listing on the PERFORMA07 website and had thought it was a nice idea, collaborating with your neighbor. We live packed pretty tightly and it is not always a pleasant thing. Some neighbors are friendly; some are tight-mouthed and remote, and most are both of these by sudden and surprising turns. So, sweet to arrange a morning exercise with a neighbor. Then I heard Jankowski continue; pointing to the neighbor, he explained that she was deciding and dictating the hard or arm gestures of the hoopers. They were to change their gestures based on her signal and, depending on how far or obscured they were, this information might take time to arrive at them or may not arrive at all.

Ah, now this is even more fun and I was glad to overhear the conversation. I hadn??t noticed the gestures because, maybe, I am unobservant, but, in my defense, I couldn??t see the arms of all the hoopers. But there they were, once I watched, first doing a prayer, then, minutes later, with arms raised. So this game was also an illustration of how information travels across a community. It was uncertain and slow, but there they went, following the leader when they knew she had led. In a darker interpretation, this spread is similar to any virus that moves from body to body across a community. The relationship between community information and community illness can be seen in the language of the Internet (virus, for the obvious, and random other words that mimic community actions in the real world, like mail and breadcrumbs) but it??s good to see it in the language of performance too. And, according to me, a better experience. I hope Jankowski??s explanation spread across this rooftop too, since watching hula hooping is already fun but such well-orchestrated and thoughtful fun is better.

Vanessa Baish

11/07/07 12:10:46 pm
???Will Things End Before They Start???

The TM Sisters, Things Will End Before They Start, Digital Video Performance in Uncertain States of America, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2006. Photo copyright Declan ONeil.

TM Sisters Things Will End Before They Start at Artists Space
7pm November 02
Curated by Benjamin Weill and Silvia Karman Cubina
Presented by Artists Space in collaboration with Moore Space (Miami).

Two women in matching retro dresses fly through the air. They soar through a pale blue sky, arms straight out in front of them, their gaze fixed intently elsewhere: somewhere out in the ether. Together they float smoothly across pink clouds, white stars and pass awkwardly through abstract geometric shapes andworm-holes in outer space. Then, all of a sudden, God reaches out from the heavens, grasps both girls with two large hands and gently plonks them down on stage in front of us.

This is the colourful world of the TM Sisters in Things Will End Before They Start, a performance presented as part of PERFORMA 07 in which the distinctly bored looking art duo physically interact on stage with animated digital landscapes. The work involves the sisters running (in realtime) through digital streets, doing gawky dance moves with virtual characters in on-screen discos, pretending to fly through simulated clouds and physically encounter a cartoon pair of God??s hands, all to the rhythm of 1980??s sounding pop music.

The TM sisters are bound together by their artistic collaboration, but also by blood (they really are sisters). The sisters also share a religious upbringing in Miami where they were home-schooled under the watchful eye of their father, a church pastor. This spiritual element fits in with the naive graphics, cheesy choreography and retro-cool aesthetic of the sister??s performance, in which spoof and sincerity are enacted in equal measures. However, this distinctly in vogue art-world mix of silliness, ennui, irony and contemporary retro that the sisters employ makes picking out what is spoof and what is sincerity in Things Will End Before They Start a very messy affair.

In that case, perhaps we should not pick at Things Will End Before They Start; not analyse the conceptual, faintly apocalyptic, title or the professed seriousness of Gods?? influence in the work, and so not look underneath the skirts of the TM sisters to see what is at stake behind their poptastic veneer. Perhaps then, it is too cynical, amid the undoubtedly fun, deliberately low-fi and lightweight tone of the work, to wonder how firmly the TM sisters have their tongue lodged in their cheeks, and if so, who exactly - them or us - their joke is aimed at? Then again, perhaps all this is of the utmost importance. What I do know is that it remains to be seen if Things Will End Before They Start is critical enough to bring on the creative, transformative or religious apocalypse its title anticipates.

Rachel Lois Clapham

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