Derek Di Fabio: untitling matter from a confined nature that forces categorical identification

‘Aeroponic’ – root systems nourished by air – Acts is the name given to the nomadic Dutch Art Institute’s final Kitchen presentations. Each participant addresses one question, as a practice of engagement.

Here you will find the documentation of Derek Di Fabio's presentation as filmed by Baha Görkem Yalım. The written report is by Hubert Gromny and it includes a summary of the comments by esteemed guest respondents. 

untitling matter from a confined nature that forces categorical identification

How to engage with losses without falling into habitual remedies of fences and concrete perimeters?

Derek's introduction: A lecture-performance that swings a{cross the} glassed room of a former power-plant. Propelled by dialogues on prison and police abolition, personal anecdotes sway nearby conflict counter-measures, overlapping references with “the pause that precedes each breath before a moment comes into being and the world is remade again.” (Quote from Karen Barad’s “Meeting the universe halfway” p.185)

Hubert's report: While entering the space audience is asked to leave their phones outside. The room is bright with daylight but also illuminated by artificial lights located outside of the windows, which creates a distinct feeling of the space. Small, colorful disco-ball lamps add to the movement of light in the room. Big group of performers are moving in the space. Small elements of patchy clothing allow to tell apart the participants of the performance from the audience. Outside two kites created of printed score are floating with the wind. Part of the group get busy with assembling two ladders, while other are roaming within the space. Some starts to climb the ladder while Derek souths “Hi! Hi! … how long should I wait here?”. The performers are humming and hissing, form groups and engage with each other in various ways. The performance unfolds with the ladder becoming a podium, for which a person who climb it performs a part of a text composed of excerpts from: m “conforme ad Umanita”, Jean Genet “Our Lady of the Flowers”, Anne Sexton “Words”, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner “Anointed”, Clarice Lispector “Agua Viva”, Goliarda Sapienza “Università di Rebibbia”, Nearly God “Poems”. Various props are used such as leg extenders or laser lights while the text is performed in different modalities of speech such as whisper, shout or declamation. The variety of activities performed by the group creates an immersive an immersive world, where speech and reality are skewed. At the end Derek announces the end of the presentation and invite everybody to shout loudly. The performance end with a collective yell.

Phanuel Antwi commented on the abundance of the performance. The performers engaged with the space in different ways and using various props created a map of symbols within the room. The use of green strobe lights was evoking somehow the symbolism of green lights as a marker of safety, which is a synecdoche of how certain details within the performance were calming the chaos unleashed by it. The presentation created a chaotic space where signals and cues based on trust were distributed. Phanuel spoke also about the symbology of the ladder as a tool allowing to reach what is inaccessible. Regarding accessibility Phanuel posed a question on modes of being and tactics, beyond giving an option to leave, in situations such as yelling and screaming, which might be distressing for audience members.

Ana Teixeira Pinto noted that the ladder as a symbol refers to the aspirational dimension. It is related with imagery of capitalist myth of climbing on the social ladder by accumulating wealth. This symbol was not necessarily directly present in the performance, but the presentation was so rich in symbols that one can read it that way as well. The density of the presentation reached an extent it was almost erasing social structures by overwhelming them with its abundance. Ana noted that the work allowed the question of the state of ambiguity and disorientation to emerge. Disorientation as a way allowing an individual to potentially leave the social stage. Referring to the notion of ritualized individuality Ana posed a question what happens when there is no ritual or no comprehensive ritual to guide the individual within the social space. Many characters in the performance seemed to be looking for their place and identity, which created a collective sense of disorientation. Ana also discussed the notion of tactical misrecognition and overidentification with forms of oppression as other strategies leading to disidentification.

Momtaza Mehri reflected on the formation of the pyramid created by the bodies of performers around the ladders, which seems to evoke strongly a symbolism of social hierarchy. Within the work this hierarchy was disassembled, as the order in which speakers were ascending to the ladder and all the actions which took place around it had a decentralizing and diffusing effect. Commenting on dispersal, separability and invertedness of the score composed of excerpts,  Momtaza reflected on how Jean Genets’ writings on the difficulties of solidarity resonated with the performance’s lack of parameters and the human pyramid’s struggle to retain its shape and hold. Having that in mind Momtaza suggested that an idea of anchoring points for chaotic engagement, without seeing them as a constraining force, would be interesting to further explore.

Chiara Figone reflecting on her experience of the work noted that it carried an idea of destruction, which she connected with certain elements such as lazer light indicating violence or a ladder referring to hierarchy. The performance felt like an attempt to destroy the world we don’t want to live in, but also reflected on the inability to create and articulate the world to aspire for. The work was thus situated in the liminal zone between this what is not yet dying and that which is not yet to come. The question which such space evokes is if it is possible to imagine a different world beyond pointing out what we want to move away from.

About: Derek di Fabio

Centrale Fies - vignet


Derek Di Fabio's "untitling matter from a confined nature that forces categorical identification" was presented before live audience at the Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy on July 14th.

Find the overview of all 24 AEROPONIC ACTS 2022 here: tuttə (le) rottə - all (the) ways: unfixed