Another UK artist that left me breathless and tear-eyed and almost religiously silent after her performance.
When we met, in a Slovenian town of Ljubljana some 13 years ago during Break 21 festival while an insanely hot summer featured constant heat of over 45 degrees Celsius. And it was in that heat, that a tall British woman approached me and asked what am I eating. Oblivious to who she was, I honestly replied - BUREK.
Now for those who never had a chance to enjoy eastern pastries, Burek is a sort of a super fucking mega greasy meat pie. And I happen to love that pie a lot. And since I haven’t tasted any of it for over 8 years prior to that summer, even the heat wave from hell could stop me from indulging such a delightful artery killer.
Which I must say came as some surprise to a tall Brit who ate only seasonal fruit and vegetables at the time. So she said “Just looking at it can give me a heart attack”, to which I replied, grease pouring down my chin “I’m a performance artist, I can take it!”
Which was partly true. I was artist, but not so much of a performing kind. She however was, and we started talking about art, and love and truth and perception of beauty, and in fact, as I learned, she was to perform tomorrow evening at a local art festival.
The piece was called Sssshh-Succour and I had no idea what that meant, in fact I still don’t know. But the final image of her performance stayed with me for all these years as one of the most profound images of beauty and vulnerability I have ever seen.
After a night of talk and drinks and overly arty intellectual brain farts from all involved, I went to sleep not knowing that this would be my last night of established beauty standards, and that all will change in less than 20 hours.
Tomorrow evening, an audience of about 150 people, sat down on a floor of a dark room and watched as Kira naked on a chair covered with a white towel, one beam of light on her body. In front of her were surgical scalpels and a paper tape.
She started by applying the tape to her legs. First long vertical pieces up to her knees, then horizontal ones, sticking it to her skin and leaving only small squares of naked flesh. Then she took a scalpel, carefully removed it from a sterile packaging and began making small, shallow cuts like cat scratches in the areas of skin exposed between the tapes.
She did the same with her upper legs and tights, her abdomen and breasts, her arms and shoulders. The whole process must have taken over an hour, but the image was so hypnotizing it could have been five minutes or five days – it wouldn’t matter.
It was absolutely insane and touching and beautiful and it demanded respect. In fact, for the whole duration of the show, no one made a sound. 150 people were present, but it could have been just her alone, such was the silence.
As finally stood up from the chair, tape removed from her body, only these tiny cuts were left, with a few trickles of blood running down her body.
It is that image of her, standing and bleeding in a single beam of light that established her, in my mind at least, as absolute Goddess of artistic expression.
To me it erased anything I’ve seen before, it even pushed Marina Abramovic into a second echelon – at least in a visual sense.
I shivered and watched and felt that anything I ever try to create from there on, will be but an attempt to recreate such powerful expression of freedom. To this day I haven’t achieved it.
Day after we said our good byes, and a redneck that I am, I gave her a big hug, forgetting that she has wounds all over her body.
As she winced, I realized my mistake, and before I could apologize, she looked at me and said “I can take it, I’m a performance artist”