John Hurrell – 23 March, 2012
It was exciting to see an artwork that wasn't a video or film, but an action occurring at the time that you witnessed it - while you were sitting in the comfort of your own home.
Shirtology at Tate
Curated by Catherine Wood and Kathy Noble
23 March 2012, 9.00 am
This morning at 9 o’clock I was lucky enough to watch the first global-wide piece of online performance art transmitted live from a studio in Tate Modern, London. The work was designed for worldwide transmission, not for a local audience, and so it was remarkable to see art that was not going to be documented or repeated. It lasted for about 18 minutes, and then was followed by a half hour interview with Jérôme Bel the artist, that included a selection of questions sent in from viewers using social media.
Bel is a French choreographer and experimental dancer now established in performance. Today’s work consisted of him standing in front of the camera with the image aimed at his face and torso. A stocky wiry fellow in his late thirties, he wore blue jeans and about thirty faded t-shirts on top of each other. These he proceeded to reveal, examine on his chest for about thirty seconds and then after removing, throw in a heap.
The order of these t-shirts was very carefully thought through, as many had words printed in English and French, and images. These he read out aloud, enunciating words like ‘summer’, ‘heat’, ‘water’ and ‘l’amour’. One t-shirt had musical notation of a popular tune by Mozart which he proceeded to sing (delightfully badly) note by note, and another image of a dancer he mimicked. The sequencing of T-shirts was witty in its use of surprise for some were repeatedly blank, others instructed him to redo what he had just completed or to relax, another got him to dance to the music as he sang; one even told him to shut up and dance.
Bel’s work seems to be a wry parody of consumerism and audience manipulation, perhaps a laugh about the fashion industry and youth culture. In his movements he wasn’t as poised or graceful as you might expect, but he had an appealing clumsiness and awkwardness that endeared. It was exciting to see an artwork that wasn’t a video or film, but an action occurring at the time that you witnessed it - while you were sitting in the comfort of your own home. Far more exciting than live sport from the northern hemisphere, this was smart and humble at the same time. Quite brilliant. The next performance in this series will be on Thursday 26 April.
Here is the link to Shirtology: Watch the documentation here.