Exhibition and seven acts inspired by the work of American anarchist artist Christopher D’Arcangelo with contributions by personalities of the contemporary international art scene.
When I State that I Am an Anarchist is an exhibition and performance freely inspired by the work of American artist Christopher D’Arcangelo, written by Pierre Bal-Blanc for an exhibition space with contributions from several artists. It takes up the chronology of the seven actions that punctuate the artistic biography of this marginal figure of New York performance art. The seven acts illegally carried out by this young white American between the ages of 20 and 24, from 1975 to 1978, within different artistic institutions, problematize through performance the definition of the canon of the Western exhibition space (White Cube) defined in the 20th century. This project also aims to elaborate an approach to performance art in its relation to its ancient sources, linked to the philosophy of Cynical gestures, to the merciful acts of Christianity or to anarchist actions, rather than to stick to the official history of this practice which, according to art historians, began at the end of the nineteenth century.
The seven acts of Christopher D'Arcangelo are thus related to as many memorable gestures from the ancient heritage of Cynic or later anarchist practices. D'Arcangelo's actions form the pivot around which the new movements written by the artists of color Sammy Baloji, Trajal Harell, Pope.L, Rick Lowe/Maria Papadimitriou, Paul Maheke, Jimmy Robert, Shikeith unfold. Seven sequences actualize these immemorial gestures in the body of a performer, Štěpán Tuček, recruited for this purpose and thus demonstrate the transhistorical character of performance practice.
These seven sequences form the first corpus of movements that make up this solo, the second set of works is the one linked to the exhibition of the project realized in collaboration with Eva Barto, Nina Canal, Dean Inkster, Marianne Marić, Mark Ther, Iris Touliatou and Štěpán Tuček. The body of the performer who executes this solo ensures the synthesis of these remarkable gestures. Putting these acts of yesterday and today into perspective informs us as much about the history as the present of this artistic practice that inhabits cultural institutions today.
When I State that I Am an Anarchist deals with the embodiment of an idea by superimposing different modes of representation of the body, temporalized by biography, performed by acts that construct an identity, and rhythmically by the movements that an individual incorporates. The places where the circumstantial actions of the American artist were deployed are repeated in the contributions of the points of view of artists of different generations translated into instructions which follow one another during the solo by means of the body of the actor who wears clothes on which they are written. The first group, composed of artists of color, is invited to contribute according to its own practice of performance and in relation to the action of Christopher D'Arcangelo, which has been arranged chronologically by the curator of the project. The progression of acts forms a succession from the youngest Shikeith, to the oldest, Pope.L, who is the same age as D'Arcangelo would be today. The second group of artists, composed mostly of women and queer people, presents and mediates the project, echoing the role played by Christopher D'Archangelo's female partner, with her photographic and cinematographic production that testifies to these performances and actions; however, access to it is limited to consultation at the Fales Library of New York University.
The exhibition duration from March to May 2022 will offer access to existing individual work from each artist involved, while the performance will offer through scheduled events in April a collective construction of a situation. The ambition of When I State that I Am an Anarchist is to propose an alternative history of the performance by going from its ancient form until its current status within the “white cube,” which passes by the activation of bodies (audience included) by proposing a performed syntax that questions and consequently takes the risk of reconducting the signs of segregations of races, genders and classes that persist within the museum institution – whose origin is situated in the disciplinary organization of the gallery of the XIXth century, and which presents itself in this project, by means of the clothes conceived by Vier5 for the performer, as the epidermis of the character of this play.
Pierre Bal-Blanc is an independent curator and author based in Athens and Paris. His work focuses on two main themes: reflection on institutional practice frameworks or their deconstruction, and the history of performance in a broader sense, which is a starting point for a new, distinctly authorial interpretation and activation of the legacy of artists working on the periphery of the Western canon. Between 2003–2014, Bal-Blanc was director of the CAC Brétigny in the suburb of Paris. He was also one of the curators of documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel under the artistic direction of Adam Szymczyk, and a guest curator of the 7th Lyon Biennale under the direction of Hans Ulrich Obrist and Stephanie Moisdon. In 2021, he made the Collective Exhibition for a Single Body – The Private Score for Galerias Municipais in Lisbon, focusing on artists from Central and South-Eastern Europe. In 2017, Sternberg Press published the book Project Phalanstère summarizing Bal-Blanc’s experiments at the CAC Brétigny.
Sammy Baloji lives in Lubumbashi and Brussels. Within his exploration of identities, social history and memory of his native Congo, he juxtaposes architecture, industrial ruins, huge slag heaps and pictures of people.
Eva Barto is concerned with the power relations governing property law, in particular the study of hegemonic discourses, mechanisms of corruption and legal obstacles. She is the founder of the French art rights collective La Buse.
Nina Canal is a musician and painter working in the United States. A former member of the UT and Dark Day groups of the New York no wave scene.
Trajal Harrell has been researching the relationship between modern dance and Japanese Butoh dance since 2013. Today, Harrell is considered one of the most important choreographers of his generation.
Dean Inkster teaches art history and theory at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et Design Grenoble Valence in the south of France. He is the co-curator, with Pierre Bal-Blanc and Sébastien Pluot, of the exhibition Anarchism Without Adjectives: On the Work of Christopher D’Arcangelo (1975-1979) (2011), which opened at the CAC Brétigny in France (2011), before traveling internationally.
Rick Lowe is an American artist, professor of interdisciplinary practice at Huston University and community organizer. His Project Row Houses that transformed the Afro-American community in Houston through collaborations with artists, is considered to be one of the most significant examples of social practice art. He has developed Victoria Square Project for documenta 14 in 2017 (ongoing) together with the Greek artist Maria Papadimitriou, who is a professor of Arts and environment at Thessaly University, well known for her project Temporary Autonomous Museum for All (ongoing project 1998 up to now).
Paul Maheke is an artist concerned with ideas of decolonization and emancipation and the ways in which history, memory and identity are shaped. In his work, he uses the body as an archive and movement as a means of exploring physical memory.
Marianne Marić is a French photographer and artist; she considers the body as architecture. She plays with symbolism in her work and depicts her friends, who often pose for her, as if their bodies were things or objects.
Pope.L is an American visual artist best known for his work in performance and interventions in the public space. His central themes are issues of consumption, social class and masculinity in the context of racial discrimination.
Jimmy Robert lives and works in Berlin. As an artist he moves in the gaps between art object, performance and art history. He explores the delicate relationship between the power of the performance and the audience that observes it.
Shikeith received his MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art, after earning his BA in Integrative Arts from The Pennsylvania State University. His work investigates the experiences of black men within and around concepts of psychic space.
Štěpán Tuček is an actor and puppeteer who started puppet playing in an early age and established his own touring pupper theatre. He performs in several Czech theatres, engages in film and television and produces his own events.
Mark Ther works mainly in the field of video art and moving image. His videos dealing with camp and queer aesthetics, the expulsion of Germans and Nazism, often border on fictional documentary.
Iris Touliatou, an Athenian artist, works across various disciplines and mediums – sculpture, photography, sound, scent and text – and creates open forms and shared experiences to comment on time, love, transience, mortality, economies and states of being.
Vier5 is a Paris-based graphic design and visual communication studio formed by Marco Fiedler and Achim Reichert. The imperative of Vier5’s work is to avoid “visual clichés.” That is why they work with individual, creative statements for each specific client and medium.
Special thanks to the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and Moravian-Silesian Region.
We also thank the TON corp.