No Sense of Place

Curated by Elisabeth Byre in collaboration with Christian Alandete

No Sense of Place is an attempt to look at the interplay between performance art, physical spaces and media. The project title is inspired by Joshua Meyrowitz’ book of the same name from 1986 on how electronic media, primarily television, were dissolving the historical relationship between social behaviour and physical place. Of course, the digital social media of today have far exceeded Meyrowitz’ original observations. Still, the ideas of place and placelessness in relation to social interaction trigger relevant questions when applied to the relationship between performance-based art, originally based on live performance, and its various documentation and reproduction possibilities.

As an art form historically existing outside, and at times also in opposition to the material universe of art objects, performance art has nonetheless always relied on documentation (written, recorded, photographed) as evidence of its existence in the aftermath. In the gap between past and present, between performance and reproduction, the significance of place becomes crucial. How does the context of the place influence our understanding and perception of the performance? And how, for example, can the artist manipulate the relationship between performer and audience when the performance is transferred from one space and time to another?

No Sense of Place presents some performance practices in contemporary art production that address the issue of place. Consisting of various media and representation techniques such as video, sound recording, dance, or text, the works of these artists operate somewhere between ‘classic’ performances, taking place in a here-and-now with performer and audience present, and reproduction. No Sense of Place is therefore a double construct: it is an independent exhibition, presenting installations, video, photography, texts and objects; but it is also a performance programme that will take place on 26 November, and for which the exhibition will function as a backdrop and raw material.

The six artists presented in the exhibition have different approaches to performance art, and – rather than describing them as ‘performance artists’ – one could say that they have all integrated performance in their diverse artistic expressions.

David Adamo often alters familiar objects to create new, distorted readings of our everyday surroundings. In No Sense of Place, Adamo introduces four works that together link this exhibition with the past, present and future of other spaces and performances. Untitled (Column) (2010), is a tall, slender wooden column which has been chopped and cut into, surrounded by wooden chips as evidence of these violent acts. A small door, Untitled (Door) (2011), is painted in alluring red and cannot be opened. A video projection the size of a post card, titled Untitled (My Skull Is Too Small) (2010), documents the performance My Own Private Marathon from the Whitney Biennial in New York, where Adamo tried to walk the same distance as a marathon within the space of the Whitney Museum. Alone in the museum at night, he slept in front of another artist’s work and ended up dancing a waltz with himself in an empty video room. As a continuation of this project, Adamo will conduct and document a live performance within the space of another exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall (by the artist Tauba Auerbach), and, hopefully, present the performance elsewhere in the future. David Adamo was born 1979 in Rochester, New York, USA. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Brendan Fernandes presents a new installation titled Encomium (2011), where he draws on his background as a dancer and questions related to place, language and identity. Inspired by Plato’s Symposium, where the men gathered must give an ‘encomium’ or speech in praise of love, Fernandes creates three different movements: a blinking neon sign, a morse-coded pattern and a dance performance. Morse code messages mark the floor of the exhibition space, creating choreographic patterns; as a second non-textual language in the exhibition, the coded messages lead the audience through the space.

Fernandes has written a narrative text describing and giving instructions for a dance performance for two men. Printed on posters and presented as take-away mementos to the audience, the posters open up the performance for later reinterpretations in other forms and places, with the audience as possible participants or actors. Brendan Fernandes was born in 1979 in Kenya. He lives and works in New York, USA

In Einat Amir’s works, the viewer is often invited to participate, or even to take the role of the protagonist. She presents the work Ideal Viewer (2009), a video installation based on three video performances. Two male actors, playing an art critic and the artist’s ex boyfriend respectively, speak directly to the viewer in consecutive monologues. Against the backdrop of abstract paintings, their faces appear on a pair of flat screens on the wall. On the floor are two screens: one is similar to the wall screens, but broken, while a small screen shows a woman crying bitterly. Through the three actors, Amir plays with our understanding of an exhibition as a place for reflection upon art in general, but also of this specific art work in itself. The relationship between what is explained for us by the performers and what is actually happening becomes unclear. For the live performance, the female actor is present in the exhibition space, adding another level of disorientation for the ‘ideal viewer’.
Einat Amir was born in 1979 in Jerusalem, Israel. She lives and works in New York, USA and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Keren Cytter is presenting two videos, Konstruktion (2010) and Peacocks (2009), as well as the new performance Show Real Drama (2011). All three works share a notion of disorientation and uncertainty within their constructed universes, caused by complex narratives. Playing with the conventions of the language of mainstream film, television, and theatre, Cytter deconstructs the linear storytelling into bits and pieces. Konstruktion is based on Cytter’s own experience with a 48-hour long poetry reading at a dive bar in Berlin. Transferred to video, the poems are joined with fragments of conversation and the cityscape of Berlin as a backdrop. Peacocks explores the memory of a broken relationship. Cytter tells the story in five chapters, each inspired by random photographs collected in flea markets across Berlin. Show Real Drama is staged as a theatre performance where the two actors’ lives are woven into a script they are writing about characters and scenes they would like to perform. With the help of a back-projected video, the audience is guided through several stages in the performer’s life. Keren Cytter was born in 1977 in Tel Aviv, Israel. She lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Carole Douillard is occupied with themes such as the presence of the audience, the space of the performance and the significance of signs. Douillard often uses her own body as the main material of her work, as she does in the large colour print This Sign I Make (2011) which depicts a single gesture: a hand making a circle. The title of the work can be seen as a leitmotif in Douillard’s performance practice, where the act of performing itself is discussed. The photograph precedes and points towards the performance she will carry out in the performance programme. The performance has the same title as the photograph, and will deal with the influence of the artist’s presence in the room. Carole Douillard was born in 1971 in Nantes, France, where she lives and works.

Collaboration is a crucial element in the artistic practice of Dora García. She delegates full responsibility to the performers she engages, often neither artists nor actors, diverse in age and occupation. Within a given framework, she only presents a starting point and guidelines for the performance. For this exhibition Garcia presents the work Prayers (2007-2011), an ongoing performance project started in 2007 and hitherto performed in Madrid, Jerusalem, Bristol, Cartagena de Indias, and Cracow. In Bergen, six performers will be placed in six different public locations. Their instructions will be to describe their surroundings non-stop for a given period of time on a given day and to record the process. The recordings will later be uploaded to a website that will make it possible to combine the different recordings in complex patterns of sound. A give-away map in the exhibition space describes the location, date and times of ‘recorded sites’. The exhibition space functions both as an information platform for the performances that will take place, and as a mapping of the city. Dora García was born in 1965 in Valladolid, Spain. She lives and works in Barcelona, Spain.

Listen to the recordings from Bergen at

An instruction piece by Brendan Fernandes, Ecomium I, will be performed at the opening.

Performance programme 26.11 with performances by David Adamo, Einat Amir, Keren Cytter, Carole Douillard, Dora Garcia, among others.

The exhibition is supported by Arts Council Norway.

David Adamo, Einat Amir, Keren Cytter, Brendan Fernandes,
Carole Douillard, Dora García.