On February 2003, I experimented with a form of art where the artwork is an experience facilitated by the artist; The artist gathers relevant information about the subject of experience (an individual or group) and then uses this information the same way a poet uses words to compose a poem of experience. I present two experiential artworks below. Individuals and organisations who are interested in commissioning experiential artworks can submit their proposals through my contact page.
Les Fleurs du Mal, created on January 22nd, 2005.
People come together because there is chemistry between their personalities and because of the experiences they go through. Sometimes those experiences are so powerful that they create bonds between people that are wildly incompatible. If a person saves my life that experience creates a bond between us regardless of what personality he or she might have.
I was tired of living through the prefabricated experiences they offer us every day. Cinema, restaurants, bars, clubs, concerts, were too passive for me. They reminded me of Russell’s remark that what passes as entertainment in the West these days is the passive viewing of other people’s skilled activities. I didn’t want to be a spectator. I wanted to be an actor and create experiences that had meaning between us. That is why I started taking notes about my girlfriend at the time, and noting pieces of what she considered important. I wanted to create experiences that would bring us closer and create a connection different from the one that you acquire by the passive ingestion of food at restaurants or the cloned plots they feed us at the cinema. Thus, I decided to create a unique experience for her, about her.
1. Her favourite color: Orange
2. She had made an artwork with burnt branches
3. She had given me a painting with a black flower on colored backgrounds entitled Les Fleurs du Mal.
4. She had eclectic tastes in poetry: Charles Baudelaire.
We gave a date at a familiar cafe. When she entered the car I blindfolded her. I tried to avoid answering her questions so as to keep the suspense high. I just told her we’re going somewhere and that she had to trust me.
The drive to the place took around 40 minutes. By now she didn’t know where she could be. I took her out of the car. I led her to the spot I had chosen without taking the blindfold off. I reassured her it was all right and positioned her correctly. I had calculated the position of the sun to hit a specific spot. Then I gave her the following directions:
1. To count to 10 (enough time for me to run off and hide so she would be alone)
2. Then press “Play” on the mp3 player I had given her (I had already put the headphones on her ears).
3. To take the blindfold off and stare straight ahead for 30 seconds.
4. Finally, to turn her gaze slowly to the left.
I created the video below to virtually recreate a taste of her experience (best viewed in full screen mode):
Thessik, created on November 2004.
I was madly in love with the girlfriend I had at the time. She used to tease me by telling me that I’m “losing control” due to my excessive desire for her. Looking back I think I can now understand what she meant. I had equated losing control with what I thought you were supposed to do in love: surrender. Yes, you’re not supposed to hide behind a mask, holding back who you really are. However, surrendering out of love does not mean that the person to whom you’re surrendering to ought to unconditionally accept the self you are surrendering. Perhaps sometimes it is wiser to modulate your desire so that it is beautiful rather than gluttonous. Surrendering means being authentic, without defenses; vulnerable but real; standing naked in front of the beloved, and saying: “This is who I am.” It is the only ground from which meaningful relationships can occur. But it is not a license to do whatever you want nor an obligation on your partner to endure your shadow. So that was the dynamic that was going on between us that gave me material for the experience I created for her. At some point she had informed she enjoyed the experience of being examined by a doctor. So I decided to take that information and make it part of the experience I created for her.
We set up a date at a familiar cafe. When she arrived I blindfolded her and told her we were going someplace interesting that I wanted to keep as a surprise and that she shouldn’t be afraid. So on I drove for about 20 minutes. I parked, took her out of the car and led her to a building, all the time reassuring her she didn’t look that silly with a blindfold on. So we went up the building, and we entered a room. I told her we had to wait for a while but everything would be fine. She was nervously laughing asking whether there were other people around. Luckily, there weren’t.
It was time. I took her by the hand and led her a couple of meters ahead, and took her blindfold off. The first thing she saw was a smiling man with white overalls: “Hello there, my name is Dr. P. and I’ll be examining you today.” She laughed and entered into the doctor’s office.
I had made an agreement with the doctor and given him a role to play. Even though he was to give her a full physical, when he was taking her cardiograph (measuring her heartbeat) I told him to tell her: “You seem to be losing control, but that’s not necessarily bad.” Then when he finished the check-up, he made some excuse to write her a prescription. It read: “Thessik by the pharmaceutical company Rodin, to be taken strictly at least twice daily.”
So we left the doctor’s office, and we went to the pharmacist across the street. We entered the drug store and she gave the prescription to the pharmacist. The lady pharmacist looked at the prescription and handed her a small note. My girlfriend, surprised, opened the note. It read: “Kiss him.” She laughed and just as she reached over to kiss me the pharmacist took out a photo camera and started taking pictures of us kissing.
It was all planned. A couple of hours ago I went to the pharmacist, who fortunately was a woman in her thirties, and told her: “I’m in love, you have to help me.” So I gave her the camera and directions on what to do. I chose black and white film on purpose because drug stores have all these colored products and I didn’t want my background to look like a circus. I didn’t want any distractions. I wanted the emphasis to be on the kiss. The “drug”, Thessik, that the doctor prescribed was an anagram for The Kiss, a sculpture.
The “company” that supposedly made was named after the sculptor who made it, Auguste Rodin. And the directions to be “strictly taken at least twice daily” were given by none other than a man in love.
For some reason, the paint ended up looking yellow despite being orange.