Although the term performance has since the turn of the century been used to refer to just about everything that takes place in the presence of an audience, Performing the self is based on an understanding of the term as it was used in the 1960s. The performer does not ‘play’ a character, but instead remains – certainly in the eyes of the audience – very close to his actual ‘being’. The video works of Acconci and Lehman take this position to the extreme. Both investigate the question of how it is possible, through film, to describe oneself and others. The camera becomes a mirror, a third eye. Alternating between personal reveries, the medium of the film letter and documentary techniques, the presence of a viewer is in both cases essential to the existence of the work itself. The ego and psyche of the individual – the ‘performer’ – is of central importance here and the artist’s highly personal project is fully exposed to the viewer. This tension is further accentuated by metaphorical actions which refer to the mental conditions of the artists, as well as – particularly in Acconci’s case – a self on which doubt is continuously cast in the form of an extremely powerful psychological language game. The artists in Performing the self force the viewer into a paradoxical, uncomfortable position. On the one hand the viewer is regarded as an accessory and on the other as a voyeur.

My Word
Vito Acconci, 1974, 91’30”, colour and b&w, silent.
Tentatives de se décrire
Boris Lehman, 1989-2005, 165’, colour and b&w, French spoken, English subtitles.

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This event is part of THEMATIC SERIES - SCREENINGS