Palais de Tokyo

The Real Thing ?

21 Jun - 08 Sep 2013

Exhibition view
Photo : Aurélien Mole.
21 June - 8 September 2013

Antonia Alampi and Jason Waite are two curators respectively based in Cairo and in New York, who have come together to reflect upon emerging artistic approaches to performative practice in relation to the present condition. The Real Thing? is an exhibition where diverse attitudes towards performance question the ambiguous terrain of reality/fiction, challenging these constructions and our mediated experience of what can be called 'real life'.

A number of art historical sources state that in 1962 the Japanese artist Sho Kazakura presciently appeared naked, still and standing in an otherwise completely empty Tokyo gallery - in a performance entitled The Real Thing. Times when the ontology of performance located itself in the presence of the artist himself, when the mask, narrative and theatrical structure were discarded, to put forth art as inherent in every aspect of life.

Research by the curators has revealed that Kazakura’s performance most likely did not occur, calling into question constructions of the “real” itself and emphasizing its definition as a process of permanent revision, interpretation, perception.

Flash-forward to the present, this exhibition presents performative practices that can be seen as reformulating the declarative title into an interrogative one : The Real Thing?

Slavoj Žižek uses the metaphor of a cup of decaffeinated coffee to describe the “real life” substance-deprived experience provided by television, internet, and various other media. The artists in this exhibition, through diverse attitudes, question what notion of “real life” one can talk about today as the performative dimension inevitably defines itself as a contingent interplay between the event, its mediation and its reception.

The Real Thing? investigates and challenges the conditions that define an “event”, the (non) singularity of the subject, the staging of ideology, the responsibility of belief within the perception of phenomena, the thin threshold between fiction, the real and the subject, and the ways in which emotions are evoked in the space of performance. Artists here use the numerous instruments of the body—movement, speech, affect, memory—whilst directly confronted to the viewer and a new understanding of presence. This interaction motivates a renegotiation of the terms of engagement and generates a different grammar of being in space.

Antonia Alampi (1983, lives and works in Cairo) is curator at Beirut (Cairo), art history lecturer at Azzah Fahmy Design Studio (Cairo), tutor at Alchimia (Florence) and member of the curatorial board of DOCVA (Milan). Her writings appear in various journals, magazines and publications and independently she curates solo, group and other types of shows. She received her MA in Art History in Rome and attended the de Appel curatorial program in Amsterdam. She was co-director of Opera Rebis (Florence, Rome) and has worked for institutions such as Manifesta7 and Galleria Civica (Trento).

Jason Waite (1980, lives and works in New York) is an independent curator and writer based in New York. He was the co-curator of the 4th Biennial of Young Artists in Bucharest, and is founder of the mobile platform International Guerrilla Video Festival. He has worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Independent Curators International, and Cittadellarte - Pistoletto Foundation. He holds an MA in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths, London and is a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Museum ISP.

Jérôme Bel, Alicia Frankovich, Shadi Habib Allah, Chelsea Knight and Mark Tribe in collaboration with Valerie Oberleithner, Alexi Kukuljevic, Pilvi Takala, Diego Tonus and a contribution by Franco 'Bifo' Berardi

Tags: Shadi Habib Allah, Jérôme Bel, Alicia Frankovich, M. Pistoletto, Pilvi Takala