Music & Body Art on the verge of Pain Experience
a Beltane Celebration and performance at Duncker Club, 30 April 2019
Berlin-based German performance artist Louis Fleischauer is known for going to extremes, from aggressive voluntary body art piercing performances, and rituals of exhaustion to flesh-hook fashion pieces and prosthetics. For almost two decades, he has used his body and the body of people from his art Collective as a canvas for art and music on the edge of pain experience.
The dark & dusty rooms of the Duncker Club in voguish Berlin Prenzlauer-Berg seem like an unusual place you’d find Louis Fleischauer. But here he was in 1992 behind the DJ console playing industrial music, and on 1993 doing his first performance on stage shortly before leaving for the States to set the basis for his project Aesthetic Meat Front.
Fleischauer walked in the club wearing all black, looking dreamy by the vestiges of 1980s dark-gothic culture surrounding him and carrying a self-baked cake.
“This is not about pain, but about felicity and transcendence. Not about shock but about evolution” he writes. Again he says “The goal of these rituals is to invoke a reality-shift within the minds of audience members”.
Bodies as sonorous organisms and generators of contestable futures – possibilities that can be examined, tested perhaps appropriated, sometimes discarded. For the ritual to be effective, any barrier between stage and audience must be destroyed. People are encouraged to participate via various tasks, such as joining the orchestra of flesh and noise by playing amplified devises attached to the performer.
On the wave of Nineties Body Art star artists like Orlan, Stelarc, Ron Athey, Franko B., Yasumasa Morimura, Jana Sterbak, Matthew Barney who created a “virtuosos of disorder and hungry for afflictions of any and every kind, mystics-like persons who display the subjection of their bodies to cruel and invasive devices, or who revel in virtual fantasies of such self-inflicted pains-destroy themselves in order newly to find themselves… . They finally pay a visit to the world of the saints and victims, exploring and prolonging its seductions.” As the art critic Lea Vergine describes them in her Book Body Art and Performance: The Body as Language published first in 1974 under Skira Editions, Louis Fleischauer finds his own way to individual and group Performance.
When Body Art and Performance Art first appeared in the Seventies with the works of various artists, including Gina Pane, Gilbert & George, Urs Lüthi and Katharina Sieverding, Rebecca Horn, Trisha Brown, Günter Brus, etc. immediately it called the attention of most influential art historians and writers as well as other younger generations of artists. Under the influence of new technologies and the wish to overcome the fragile boundaries of the human body, Body Art artists shifted during the Nineties to a more high-tech kind of Body Work. Stelarc, Orlan, Jana Sterbak as well as for instance, the younger Marc Quinn, intentions also included an often deeply ritualized deconstruction process of body aesthetic that included a confrontation with the public and the society. Flesh, blood, and pain became the symbol of the fragility of human life.
Like Louis Fleischauer, they saw the body as an interface between artist and public, between inner, hidden processes taking place under our skin and the tangibility of everyday life, and thereby articulate something deeply meaningful about it. It’s not simply speculating about pain and technology. Louis Fleischauer performance is about making the body audible and visible, translating its fluid, invisible sounds into a completely new language. A possible future language.
One particularly striking example of his ritual performance interface was the one he realized in occasion of the Beltane Celebration 2019 at the Duncker Club in Berlin, in which he wired a woman to a metal coil with contact microphones attached – quite literally – by connecting electrodes to various piercings attached to her pierced flesh. By playing the wires like violin strings, pulling and releasing them, body and flesh could then be translated into sounds by an electronic device.
Fleischauer’s art does not seem futuristic to me. If it were, I doubt I would respond to it. Rather, I experience it in a context that includes circuses, freak shows, medical museums, the passions of solitary inventors. I associate it with Leonardo da Vinci human anatomy studies, eccentric nineteenth-century experimental machines, Victorian electroplating the dead, mad scientist workshops like the Inventions by Leonard De Vries (1971). Moments of the purest technologically induced cognitive disjunction. The performance at the Duncker Club recalled somehow the atmosphere of movies like the danish Haxan from 1922 or even The Brain that wouldn´t die from 1959.
Even with an aesthetical well-mixed dose of “mad scientist room” and “devil worshippers reunion” the Performance of Fleischauer and Friends still managed to recall the original topic of the Beltane Celebration, an ancient moment for celebrating the union between the female and the male aspects of life as well as the beginning of summer. And although the performance showed a rather passive female figure, still this one was the focus of the show, while the male character´s tribal dance appears more than an obsessive tribute to her. The performance at the Beltane Celebration was also an occasion for the artist to present his latest album Essence of Rituals. Buy Essence if Rituals here
Article by Valentina Ferrarese
Human Sculpture: @jessica.lia.tt
Hooks by Darkam Eugenia Monti, Andrea Kumme,r Florian Puffgy
Support on stage and beyond Devinity Berlin
Katsura Ota Merlin Jörg Noack