Florencia Almirón: "What is the politics of form?"

Florencia's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day performance lectures marathon at Theater Oostpool in Arnhem, June 2017

Any Space Whatever


Florencia Almiron presents a 2-channel video. On the left side we see marble statuary, not actual relics but copies. On the right side we see a living person with clay, shaping it, molding it. In the foreground, onstage, there is a handful of masked performers gazing up at the screen, adopting various positions and postures throughout the 20-minute screening. Some of the movements on the right side of the screen show a woman biting clay, and using a plaster or clay hand to shape the clay. The contrast between the past and the present comes to the fore in this lecture performance with video and live performers.

Ray Brassier recalled the elements of the composition: two videos showing the contrast between clay being shaped by a living being and replicas of statues, a percussive soundtrack that punctuates the unfolding of the images in a subtle way. With regards to the question, he reflected on how the series of contrasts between the marble reproduction and the shaping and molding of the clay by a living person seemed to be carefully plotted. The work resonated with images of Caesar saluting a prone figure. Elaborating on this, he said, “the reproduction of an image is an exercise of power and the statuary plays a role in the symbolic representation of power. The constant images of the clay indicate the role of forming and shaping. If power is exercised through the reification of form, then [there is a] need to constantly shape form (in relation) to the body or the subject or the living human being.” For Brassier, the contrast was powerfully suggested and intelligently articulated and it prompted him to wonder if Florencia could unpack some of the suggestions / resonances in the piece.

Gabi Ngcobo was especially interested in how the space was configured - creating a space between the performance and herself. She enjoyed the powerful presence of the people on stage and how they seemed to direct the audience’s gaze towards the many elements that were present. Thinking of it as drama or a sketch, Ngcobo found it “a means of finding form, or suggesting know-hows of looking/finding form, but also searching for the grammar of inhabiting space, of inhabiting history, and form.” She was struck by the suggestion of the failures of history and the impossibility of grappling with history.

Marina Vishmidt called this a layered experience and was compelled by the contrast between the original and the reproductions. This “derivative tension” was initially brought into framework of thinking of the statuary on left screen as originals, while those on the right appear as clumsy reproductions. She describes how this lets the clay behave as affective resonance. When the performer uses broken fingers to mold the clay this appears as an “interjection of appropriation” in a geopolitical, historical background. This is an “activated disturbance of hierarchies of base materiality. The performer violently situates herself within that history of making and sculpting while also dismantling it at the same time.” This provoked her to think of “the controversy over coloring statuary - how white marble becomes a strong emblem for xenophobic racist ideology.” She saw this as a breakdown of whiteness, compounded by the presence of the performers in the space.

Rachel O’Reilly saw it as contrast between perspectival and phenomenological aspects, and found it to be both playful and physically violent. She described it as “working with the assumed ways we receive the form,” by breaking the sculpture into the sculpture. For her, the “deformation of power along lines of gender” was the most prominent aspect. She found the camera angles to be very effective, particularly the way they highlighted the difference between the foreground and the background. 

About Florencia Almiron