Between 2: a game within a game, Cornerhouse

Last Friday on 8th June 2012, Swedish artist Annika Ström and Manchester-based artist Louise Adkins transformed the gallery space at Cornerhouse, Manchester with live performances. Dr Alexandros Papadopoulos writes about the encounter.

The art-world is witnessing a boom of simultaneity. Art-practitioners are endlessly seeking to re-invent and advance the simultaneous diffusion, projection and presentation of their materials. By synchronising screenings with human bodies and video-art with performance, the aim is now to redefine, violate and transgress the dividing lines between action and interaction, spectacle and spectatorship, artist and audience. It is precisely these characteristics that underpin the performance pieces of Between 2. The title refers both to the institutional circumstances – the work occupied the empty space-time intervening between two exhibitions – but also to the dynamic interaction between two different performance acts – Material Balance and Inept 5 – occurring at the same time, at the same place and in front of the same audience.

In Material Balance three children re-enact a renowned cultural event of the Cold War era:  the third-game of the 1972 World Chess Championship between American Bobby Fisher and Soviet Boris Spassky. In Inept Five, a group of performers, disguised as gallery-stewards, serve drinks in a rather episodic, erroneous and almost clownish way at the audience of the Material Balance. Taken together, these two performance acts set a reconstruction of pastness (chess game) against a provocative replication of presentness (art event). The final result looks like a re-enactment within a re-enactment, or else, a farce within a farce. This setup gestures towards a playful reflection on playfulness. It is telling that the original chess game did not have an immediate audience: following the demand of the players, the game was transmitted to its fans through a screen. In contrast, in Material Balance the audience is welcomed to approach, photograph and be filmed by the same camera which is filming the protagonists, i.e. children who impersonate the chess champions. Under these terms, the re-enactment set in motion a series of mutations and translocations. It is not only that the past conflates with present while a video-recording conflates with a performance piece.

Most importantly, Material Balance seems to operate as a deranged time-machine: it transfers a predominantly adult game (a chess tournament) back into childhood, in other words, into a space-time zone where adult life is in principle experienced as an endless re-enactment. (As is well known, in one way or another, most children’s games tend to re-appropriate and re-value the world of adults). Parallel to the development of this twilight-zone-chess-experience, the gallery-stewards start to behave like children. They serve wine instead of water, move like drunks and make the audience feel uncomfortable. The gallery is transformed into a playground of juxtapositions. Placing the viewer in between children playing adults and adults playing children, Between 2 essentially encapsulates the 1960s situationistic manifesto as worded by Michelle Bernstein in the final phrase of All the Kings Horses: ‘Childhood? Childhood is here, we have never left it’.

Dr Alexandros Papadopoulos is cultural theorist and performer. Some of his post-cinematic poetry can be read here.

Photography courtesy of Jonathan Purcell.

Published 12.06.2012 by Bryony Bond

517 words