The Poetic of the Daily Life in Calle, Abramovic and Ader Works
In the 70s and the 80s, Sophie Calle, Marina Abramovic and Bas Jan Ader, among others, staged their own daily life through long-duration performances. They used their actions to give a strong symbolic meaning to the usual passing of time by taking their existence as the starting point of their poetic projects.
In 1979, Sophie Calle realized Suite Vénitienne, one of her most inspiring piece. At this point in her career, Calle already had followed strangers without having any other reasons than her art, but Suite Vénitienne brings this fascinating idea to its culmination. This performance went on for fourteen days, while Calle was following a man that she had just met, through his journey in Venice without him knowing it. Like a detective, she followed each and every of his movements, took photos of him and noted her impressions. The performance ended when the man went back to Paris and met his wife on the platform of the train station.
“Sophie, herself, submits to an absurd task, because she prostitutes herself, as it were, to a senseless enterprise that requires more patience, servitude, boredom, and energy than any amorous passion, that she effortlessly obtains from others this irrational complicity that no consideration for her well-being could ever have inspired. ”
- Jean Baudrillard
In 1988, Marina Abramovic and her lover of that time, Ulay, realized a piece that is reminiscing of Calle’s wandering. In Lovers : The Great Wall Walk the two artists went on a spiritual journey while walking from each corner of the Great Wall of China. The two artists met in the middle after a 90-days walk of over 2500 kilometres and then said goodbye. They both continued their path alone and put an end to their relationship and artistic collaboration that had been going on for over twelve years.
“That walk became a complete personal drama. Ulay started from the Gobi Desert and I from the Yellow Sea. After each of us walked 2500 km, we met in the middle and said good-bye. (…) We needed a certain form of ending, after this huge distance walking towards each other. It is very human. It is in a way more dramatic, more like a film ending … Because in the end we both would be really alone, whatever we would do.”
- Marina Abramovic
In 1975, Bas Jan Ader realized his last performance that erected him into a mythical figure. Ader wanted to cross the Atlantic on Ocean Wave, a 12 and a half feet sailing boat that would have been the smallest to ever cross the sea separating Europe and America. The artist had planned it would take between 60 and 90 days to achieve his adventure, but his boat was finally found ten months after his departure. The location of the artist's body remains unknown to this day and his vanishing became iconic, showing how far one can go for art.
“ Nothing is as unmediated as the end of life. It is the only event one faces absolutely alone. Death’s truth is the unknown, and for most it is experienced — before one’s own — through others … whatever happened to Ader in the waters of the North Atlantic he discovered truth as such, and in the process also made “In Search of the Miraculous” unrepresentable. Remnants like the battered Ocean Wave provided testament to the journey but nothing of the art, which rested in Ader’s person, his presence, and now his aura.”
- Alexander Dumbadze
These artists used performance to show how artworks can distort daily life and turn it into something poetic. Calle, Abramovic and Ader's pieces break down the barriers of the imagination and puts back sensitivity and subjectivity at the very heart of human experience.