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A report by Sieglinde Geisel on the ninth CON_TEXT event by Érica Zingano, Tatiana Ilichenko, Marion Breton, Barbara Marcel and Tom Nóbrega ‘The hairy goddess’ misstory.’ Translated from German by Hester Underhill.


We take off our shoes because the Lettrétage space has been transformed; the floor has been covered with soft cling film, and in some areas with bubble wrap that crackles under foot, ‘Watch out for the glass’ is written on red tape. On the wall is a dark red bathrobe supspended from a hanging balance, a wreath on a loop ‘In loving memory OIKOS.’

All kinds of things are lying about in the room: an old fashioned TV set with a small propeller ventilator, a red rimmed clock on the wall displaying the wrong time, and on an old speaker I discover a perfume spray, a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mayonnaise. Art or everyday? In a corner I find a heap of dirty cutlery, along with sponges and washing up liquid and next to it a kind of altar with candles in a shell, flowers and matches. And now real art, or at least not everyday items: diagonally at eye level in a scrolling sprawl of script, of which I can only manage to glean individual phrases. Apocalypse… Big Bang… army of the encrypted angels… hairy goddess… A disco ball rains stars over us, dry ice, faint blue light. We sit on the floor and watch what happens. The evening is named ‘The hairy goddess’ misstory’ a collaborative work by visual artist Tatiana Ilichenko (Russia) and poet and video artist Érica Zingano (Brazil), performed with assistance from Marion Breton (France), Barbara Marcel (Brazil) and Tom Nobrega (Brazil). In transparent white plastic overalls, the performers move through the room, a voice rings out from offstage in an English that isn’t easy to understand. We’re in an elevator the voice tells us, relaxation… sudden muscle contractions… the heart stops… body convulsions… end of an era… Europe is a sinking ship… At one point I pick out the word zombies.

The performance has the feel of one of those pieces where a rifle, which was hanging from the wall in the first act, is fired in the final one. The objects spread across the room come gradually in to play, whether it’s the white plaster cast, the bright red bathrobe or the dramatically enflamed candles. A woman lies down in the suitcase, the aquarium is filled with water, two performers drop teaspoons in to water, then burning matches and so on. Speech is part of the performance, but there isn’t any you can, or have to, listen to. A woman gives a speech that should last 15 minutes, since 15 minutes is a third of 45 minutes, she holds up a small plastic bag, claiming the red-brown liquid inside is her menstrual blood, which is now laid on the foil surface of the projector…life in the time of sinking… the goddess as a ventriloquist,… guts-goats-ghosts-gods… late state of capitalism, someone mentions Nietzsche’s parable about the camel, the lion and the child, then it’s about Rosenkrantz, the trinity and hypostasis, then the dramatized vocal performance, which should never be absent at such events, and so on and so forth.

‘And nowadays that’s what people don’t know anymore from boredom, what they should choose… anything goes… exhausting and meaningless,’ mutters the person sitting next to me in annoyance and dangles his wristwatch in front of their noses.

At the time when the performance was invented and there were still members of the public who could be shocked by it, it was called ‘Happening.’ The audience is divided. Some leave after an hour, the others applaud frantically at the end.

I’m part of the group who were bored and in my state of perplexity I pick up the press release again. I find inside a statement by both of the artists about their ‘magical performance’: ‘the day before yesterday. We mourn. The 21st century is dead, but we’re still preparing for its funeral. On one side is the story of an apocalypse, and on the other is the inverted version of history, that could be called revolution and ‘reincarnates itself as the hairy goddess.’