Alejandro Cerón: Take care in beholding the self
Alejandro's 20 minute presentation for CONSTANT CRAVING ~ PERFORMING UNDER CONDITIONS - DAI's 3 day lectures marathon at State of Concept in Athens, June 2018.
Q: "Despite the heat, aren’t we enjoying this?"
Alejandro Céron’s presentation begins with a literal reorientation by giving instructions to move our chairs in the opposite direction, faced towards the giant glass doors, outlooking onto a kind of busy Athenian street. As the audience adapts to this restructuring, there is a certain promise of performance noticable. But right at that moment, Alejandro leaves the room, the audience remaining in its newly organized seating and he closes the door behind him, which seemed almost like a comical slapstick gesture. Once the artist has literally left the building, we are noticing our view on the streets, framed by the windows. Alejandro is nowhere to be seen, but an orange is being being thrown back and forth, from the left side of the window to the right. The people throwing the orange are unseen and only move into the frame, once or twice, to switch places, sometimes wearing different clothes.
The performance continues with Alejandro reentering the room and starting to sharpen a pencil, whispering instructions to audience members, before giving out more pencils and sharpeners. Simultaneously, fellow student Clara is giving oranges to the audience members, giving them instructions to pass it on to the front, “without throwing it”. This ritual continues, but with the implicit instruction to do it faster or to pick their favourite orange, oranges going from front to back to front again. The audience that was before silently anticipating a performance, is now very well part of it and is murmuring, laughing, sharpening. Meanwhile, Alejandro is outside slicing the oranges, before coming back in and collecting the sharpened pencils.
He returns outside and for a while, Alejandro assisted by fellow student Olivia, both leave the frame, with a pile of sliced oranges remaining in our view. As they reenter the frame, they start sticking the pencils in the oranges, building a sculpture of oranges. Clara brings in the sculpture on a plate, and without instruction gives it to an audience member who is unsure what to do with it. Treating the sculpture with some reverence, the audience is laughing. Alejandro and Olivia continue outside, building orange sculptures, which seem to become more grandiose.
The performance ends with the elements of the play scattered throughout the room, with oranges everywhere throughout the audience. When life gives you oranges, make orange sculptures together I would say.
Maria Lind opened by saying that she appreciated how Alejandro used the existing conditions; the space, the street and everything that happened in the street becoming part of the performance, reminding her of early slapstick films. The reflection in the windows of the buildings on the opposite side of the street, perhaps unintentionally, revealed some of Alejandro’s activities with his collaborators, which demystified the process. The performance also reminded her of the notion of collaboration, or rather the cult of collaboration, in contemporary art of the last two decades. As art collective WHW explores it, collaboration is to do things we could otherwise do. This would be interesting to ask also of this performance: what is the purpose of collaboration? And what is the difference between collaboration, teamwork and collectivity?
Hypathia Vourloumis followed Maria’s comments in noting how Alejandro used his environment as a stage, while interpreting ‘play’ more in the sense of playfulness than as a theatrical performance. She appreciated the multidirectionality of the passing of the oranges, emphasizing playfulness, with moments of mis-performance (when the orange is not being caught) in between. From the very start, all these elements evoked the play of childhood. In addition, the repetitious character of the play and the constant movement with difference evoked thoughts on process as well as division and remains. The performance made visible how play becomes necessary for doing things differently with others.
“First of all, you have a bright future ahead of you as a Dadaist caterer.” Marina Vishmidt commented that Alejandro’s focus in his thinking on conditions of what constitutes, defracts or decomposes labour and what constitutes, defracts and decomposes artwork, as well as part of a collective art composition, was certainly visible in this performance, with the orange being one of Alejandro’s returning collaborators. With the squeezing of the oranges, she related it to how our energies in the process of art work and collaborative art work, dissipates and intensifies and decreasing efficiency as past the point of optimizing. The performance in many ways was a social sculpture at play: “getting people to work for you, or to work for one another”, resulting in a very collective and a more than human presentation.