S: I was watching your performance and lecture, The Vitruvian Body, and you seem so relaxed, while Oleg is suturing your body to that metal circular structure. And the pain you may have felt did not register outwardly in your expression. Meanwhile, there’s a palpable sense in the audience of a quiet trepidation or intense concentration.
B: Yes. I think it was one of the performances where we already mastered how to create distance between the physicality or the physiology of the performance and the audience’s state of shock.
Because we are not interested in shock value in our art. We are more interested in what we are saying with the work. We want the audience to think about what the performance symbolizes. We first started using stitching in The Last
Valve (2004), a performance where I stitch up my vagina. The piece was performed in our apartment in front of a five-person audience. Nobody wanted to show it. During the action, there was a lot of conversation between me and Oleg of a technical nature – what to do, and how. There was some interaction with the audience, who were mostly friend-artists who were documenting. The conversations were related to taking pictures. During the second piece with stitching – in the
SZ-ZS performance (2005, Sofia Art Gallery) – we incorporated the process of documentation into the performance. We also incorporated the conversations and spoke to the audience directly. In this piece Oleg is stitching me up to a mirror. After this piece, we began to invite audiences to document our work.
We have a piece titled, About the Living and the Dead (2006, RIAP Festival, Quebec City), which is about mediated violence. We incorporated rubber wounds that you can find in Halloween stores, stitching them onto our faces or body with surgical thread. It was a fake wound, with a little bit of our real blood on it. Again, we gave the audience an opportunity to take pictures. We also had two cameras beaming the live action of the performance onto the wall. These cameras were taking close-ups and projecting them. We were discussing this process with the audience, asking them if they preferred to see the real performance or the projected images.
They had very different reactions. Some people liked the distance provided by the projection. But other people felt that the projections were more confronting than the live action. For us, it was important to give them a way to detach themselves from the physiology of it. Another reason for asking the audience to take photographs was that at the time, in 2006, phones with cameras started to appear and were becoming more popular.
Audience documentation became part of our commentary, examining how images of events are easily created, reinterpreted and distributed with the spread of digital technologies.