Comment about “26 days in OKS”
A white curtain in front of the windows reveals the room in soft and milky light. In the middle of the room the artist stands wearing a floral white summer dress. Folded paper boats are floating in the air around her. She keeps her eyes closed and sways her body continuously in a steady pulse from right to left and back, as if in a trance.
Yingmei Duan has staged scenes of surreal dreams in her 26 performances, which place fragments of memory and atmosphere at the centre. There are aspects of our everyday life: fears, aspirations, and experiences. She is often seen sleeping, and the arranged elements in her surroundings are like pieces of a puzzle. The viewer can enter the dream world of the artist and is simultaneously confronted with their own personal wishes and fears.
In performance art authenticity and immediacy are pivotal factors that can only be maintained for the duration of the performance. The audience can become active themselves in the presented performance, by showing reactions and sometimes even through direct contact with the artist.
For this reason the documentation of performance is problematic, and must be regarded as a relic of an event in the past. It in no way replaces the moment of presentation and can never reproduce a similar effect. Thus the works of performance artists are mostly shown on the occasion of various artistic events and festivals, where the performances are presented as dynamic happenings. Here they are an interplay of artistic action and audience reaction, live performance involves modification and movement. The processual character which underlies all forms of art is here visible for the public.
For the artist Yingmei Duan this special characteristic is the starting point and philosophy in her work. She regards her work as an unsettled conglomeration of ideas, which can change continuously and be reworked afresh to create new solutions.
The concern to make this viewable for the audience lead to the idea for a conceptual exhibition. The artist was asked to present her work for one month at the OKS Gallery Braunschweig. She took this as an opportunity not only to show live performances, but to reveal her artistic work as a continual discussion of ideas and ongoing concepts.
Each day Yingmei Duan showed a one hour performance, beforehand she outlined the concepts for these 26 performances on a 60 meter role of paper. The drawings and notes covered all walls and formed a surrounding ribbon. Everyday she looked at the paper and reworked her concepts, underlined something or added special explanatory notes. From this display the public not only got a taste of finished works but also gained direct insight into the process of the artist.
In addition the spectrum was enriched by video documentation. In the gallery a camera was installed that recorded the ongoing performance. Upon first entering the gallery the audience found a monitor showing this recording. Then when the spectators entered the main exhibition space they were able to witness the live performance and experience its impact. The performances were shown at the same time every day, so that a specific regularity was given to the visitors. There was a guestbook in which they could write down spontaneous observations.
The individual elements expanded the project into a larger installation, in which the performance itself was only part of the whole. The concept itself was the actual work of art in which the 26 performances were assimilated. Yingmei Duan conceived a presentation that was different from conventual exhibitions as well as standard performance events.