Anne Imhof's Impressive Performance 'Faust' in Venice

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

Faust is German and means ‚fist‘. A fist can be the ultimate striking arm of the human body. At the same time, it can also be the strongest protection device of the human body to hold your most valuable treasure.

 

Anne Imhof, the 39 years old Frankfurt-based artist, who won the Golden Lion at the 57th Venice biennale, created a stunning work for the German pavilion. She said in her opening speech, ‘This performance is about freedom!’

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

I cannot remember any recent work of art that would mirror our time as much as this one.  The artist said recently in an interview, she 'is interested in the impression of something abandoned. Something that is already over, but anyhow must kept running.’

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

Before you could enter the pavilion, there was a long line, where you had to wait for about one hour until you could get in. This was no rule imposed by the artist, but depended on the amount of people and the time they decided to spend inside the pavilion. In other words, the audience inside had the freedom to decide about the length of the line outside.

 

The artist created a very daunting borderline between the inside and the outside of the pavilion. There was a high fence. There were even two Doberman watchdogs. From time to time, some of the performers were leaning from the roof of the pavilion to watch the scenery outside with marginal interest.

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

Once I entered the pavilion, I realized, the artist raised the audience’s floor by a glass floor. This created a souterrain-space for the performance. There were three rooms: The central room where the performers were among the audience or underneath the glass floor and two separate smaller rooms, where they could perform without the audience. These were equipped with glass and steel pedestals, pale paintings on the wall, industrial sinks and the like. The dominant materials were glass, chrome-plated steel, black rubber matrasses or a white industrial sink with a hose. You might feel like in a strange laboratory or even the closed department of a mental home. During most of the five-hour long performance, you could hear a disturbing soundtrack reinforcing this impression.

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

In most parts of the performance, subtle acts of violence were present: Often, a performer stepped at the hand of another performer and the other just let it happen without any resistance. At another sequence, there was a couple embracing on the floor, which turned out to be a fight, rather than a loving gesture.

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

Often, there was also a strong element of boredom and dullness in the performance: When the performers were all just staring in their mobile phones, or shooting around in the souterrain with their professional slingshots.

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

You could see the thoughtfulness of Anne Imhof’ s work in the many references she also uses as a given means of performance art: The performers often seek eye contact to the audience like Marina Abramovic in ‘The Artist is Present’; or the embrace sequence like Tino Shegal’s ‘The Kiss’. Just to name a few.

 

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

Anne Imhof asks, ‘How do we show ourselves today and face up to the other’s gaze? How are we looked at, and how do we look back?’

 

 

Anne Imhof: ‘Faust’, performance 2017 © the artist, photo by PAS

 

The whole piece would not be what it is without her performers. Anne Imhof works with the same group of performers, who already did most of the previous pieces, like ‘Angst’ with her.  All of them were outstanding. Anne Imhof said in an interview about her performance team, ‘I couldn’t replace one person. The work would look different then.’

 

I left the pavilion overwhelmed with the feeling that a fence has effects on the people at both sides of it. Everything is connected with everything anyway – there is no simple separation, not even with any kind of Faustian pact.

 

By UGL.

 

 

Anne Imhof ‘Faust’ at the German pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale

Until 26th November 2017 (I recommend to inquire before the visit, when the next performance will be.)