Valentina Curandi: "What is this structure of bequeathment between the body of the bequeather and the body that accepts the gift?"
Valentina's's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day performance lectures marathon, June 2017 in Theater Oostpool in Arnhem.
Felicity Bequeathment (2016-2101)
Valentina Curandi’s performance lecture begins with a male voice chanting the title and filling the space as Valentina offers chewing gum to seven figures - female students at their first year of DAI - sitting and waiting on a number of sawhorses. When another audio track led by a female voice overlaps the ongoing chanting, Valentina wanders alone on stage. She seems to belooking for a place to position the performers. The narrative of the audio track starts with descriptions of the storage of the school: “Sometimes, objects there turn into subjects. When that happens, they are indicated by the initial letter of their name. Then, both letters and bodies appear to belong also to new students enrolled in the school.” The structure of the text and the personifications that arise in the text connect strongly on stage. The performers are presented as ‘variations of selves’, versions of Valentina’s previous performances of the proposition of bequeathing the body of artistic work to the school. Valentina calls to communicate with the others and arranges them in space. The conversations are inaudible and the female students’ bodily adjustments are improvised. As a male figure joins Valentina from the audience, the audio track suggests that an agreement has just been made involving the school, the execution of a reparation, and the student requirements towards graduation. On stage, the two performers (Valentina and the male student) join their bodies to spell the word UNDEAD. In the last stage of the performance, a cloth is stretched out to cover the set-up and to make a screen for a projection. “When fluidity is a naming ceremony and an issue of seepage in the routine of the maintenance of the school storage, what does it mean to leave something exclusively to the institution where it belongs to everyone?” The attempt to project Felicity Bequeathment on the cover is unsuccessful and goes unfinished. Felicity Bequeathment (2016 - 2101) was performed with: Tirza Kater, Ines Marita Schärer, Ulufer Celik, Agata Cieslak, Areumnari Ee, Wilfred Tomescu. This lecture performance is part of a project that Valentina will continue working on as Felicity Bequeathment. The website www.felicitybequeathment.xyz gives a comprehensive look at the project and its further developments.
Ray Brassier called it an intricate piece and found some similarities in the sound to Tibetan ritual chanting. For him this was a strong counterpoint to the spatial configuration. Recapping, he said “the piece/script seems to refer to this institutional operation unfolding here now, and of which this institution is a part.” He wondered whether a performer was trying to bequeath something to their colleagues, or the institution? He found the text cryptic but recognized that it was obviously related to what was happening on stage. He admitted that the piece doesn’t need to be terribly clear or independently comprehensible. The ending, with a projection on cloth was a striking transformation, but he said he did not presume to understand it.
Gabi Ngcobo agreed that it would take some time to unfold. She enjoyed the simplicity of a few of the subtle elements, such the performers chewing gum. For her, the chant seemed to hold everything together. She found Valentina’s movements “almost comical,” and considered that here they were perhaps also constructing meaning. It provoked her to “think of bodies as bodies and the institution as a body.” Ngcobo said that this question will stay with her for a long time.
Marina Vishmidt called the lecture performance a “powerful, opaque and elusive piece that demands thought in the moment of experiencing it and afterwards.” It involved an attention on the part of the audience to listen to and read along with the text as it moved from text to performers. Vishmidt was “trying to think about the performers as embodiments of certain ideas, motifs or impulses,” and the performance left considering “what it means to finalize a process (when it belongs fully neither to the institution nor the individual).” She was “struck by the invocation of beauty of the image of death - as a way of freezing and unworking a moment of finality/mortality.” This reference to reproduction and lineage and “reproduction of family and reproduction of artwork presents many rich conundrums.”
For Rachel O’Reilly, this series of readings of materiality and the economy of artistic contracts are connected to “feminist art history and the perpetual disappearance of women’s bodies.” She found the lecture performance presented nuanced feminist readings of the school, bringing up some similar themes in Valentina’s thesis. The “theoretical work shows a sharp reading around gendered expectations around occupation of time around contractual relations, […] issues around finalization of objects and research.” O’Reilly remarked that the droning voice was very effective because it offered a “materialization of deep time of what is performed.” She also thought there were many interesting operations at play between theory and practice, and said that she appreciated the form it took.