Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmings: When the Guests Are Not Looking
January 20 – February 17, 2018
SFU Audain Gallery
How do we define performance to exist? Do we allow it to exist only as it is active and happening in front of us, or is it still alive after it is rendered into retainable art through documentation and writing? Do we hold it to the contemporary standards of productivity, in which we expect a tangible outcome, or does it exist only in the labour of the performers body? Or in their props, or the audience that bears witness to its happening?
For the sake of Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens’s When the Guests Are Not Looking, we’ll say that performance exists while the labour of the performers exist. This is an intangible art product compared to more typical art objects, in which the labour is still occurring but is finite; the art exists once the labour has completed and ceases to exist. Only to begin again and consistently.
The performance exists only as long as the performers labour endures.
There are remnants however, should you, the viewer, so happen to arrive to find the gallery empty. In fact this may be apt. Do not think that you are missing the proper way to view this show. In fact, perhaps you can now envision yourself as a performer and participant in this space and wonder if time collapses two moments together here. You have been set up to think of work and arrive to think of home.
If this happens, you will find the rooms empty amongst domestic stagings; these spaces take on an air of haunted. As though they are merely awaiting the return of their keepers to return them to use. Stage props, they themselves are not art objects; merely tools of Ibghy and Lemmens. They are incredibly commonplace, you might find these things in your own home. After all, we have already said that the work is the performance that you have missed. The glowing stage lights remind you of this. But the artists have been so kind as to leave you a description of the performances, poetic descriptions or relevant prose for each one displayed neatly like postcards. Read these to try and understand the meaning behind the actions that you do not see. Think about these imagined actions and imagine the tension between the object itself and its function. Think about the tension between the body and its labour, and the mind and the concept of productivity and the concept of time. Wonder if these objects are defined by their function or by our use of them. Wonder at how they exist without us.
If you find yourself alone with these items, you may begin to realize that you too can see yourself in their situation. Their value is quantified in their use, in rest they are nothing but haunted stage props. But what is your value if not use? Do you not define yourself by the demonstrations of your own labour? And is your labour not with a goal in sight, activating in pursuit of something predetermined?
“The Life I’d Lead Were I in Their Shoes Is Precisely the Life They Do Lead”