The exhibition currently on view in the MacRobert building at the University of Aberdeen, “East European Performance Art in Scotland: the Legacy of Richard Demarco” attempts to display the impossible: it attempts to display the relationships among colleagues and artists across Scotland, the UK and Europe over the past several decades.
The exhibition came about as an effort to explore the phenomenon of documenting performance art, to create a red thread through events related to performance art that took place in Aberdeen throughout the academic year 2015-2016. In October 2015, two performances occurred at the University of Aberdeen in the context of the conference “Performance Art East, Northeast, West.” Those performances were documented by local photographer Blazej Marczak, with the am of exhibiting them later in the year.
I see many parallels between my curatorial practice and that of Richard Demarco, a Scot of Italian origin (based in Edinburgh) who was the first to invite pioneering artists from Europe to Scotland and the UK. Long before I arrived in the UK (I am originally from the US), Demarco invited many of the artists that I currently research, in my work on performance art, to perform and exhibit in the UK. In addition to conducting research and organizing performances and exhibition, I am also attempting to build and foster relationships between artists and arts practitioners in Europe with the hopes of bringing them to, or showcasing their work in, the UK. While Edinburgh and Glasgow are the usual destinations for artists, I think it is important to recognize that art is something that is happening and can happen in many places – including Aberdeen. Demarco felt similarly, and invited artists to perform not only in Edinburgh, but in Aberdeen and across Scotland, even in the Highlands.
The exhibition is a collaboration between numerous individuals— between myself and Demarco, as it includes photographs from his archive—which he considers a gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art—that document the relationships that he fomented. It is also a collaboration with my three PhD students, Mariya Lanko, who helped curate the exhibition, and Jasmina Zaloznik and Denisa Tomkova, who assisted with the installation as well as providing creative insight and ideas. It is a collaboration with two artists from Eastern Europe, Bozidar Jurjevic, from Croatia, and Branko Miliskovic, from Serbia, who performed in Aberdeen in October 2015. It is also a collaboration between those two artists and the works of art in the University Collections, as their performances either interacted with or took place in the context of works from the collections, for example, Evolutionary Loop 517 and H.A. Crawford’s Let the Dialogue Continue. It is a collaboration between those artists, myself, and a local photographer, Blazej Marczak, who not only photographed the performances, but came up with the idea for the display of the canvas in the exhibition, and the passport photograph. Finally, it is a collaboration with faculty and staff across the University of Aberdeen, from Estates and Museums to Human Resources and Finance, to facilitate all of the travel and events—and this invisible labour should not be overlooked.
Anyone who has met Demarco knows that he, too, constantly endeavours to capture the fleeting traces of meetings, relationships and connections in photographs and text. Long before the camera phone or the selfie, Demarco was snapping photos of everyone he met, and of those he introduced. To this day, he wears a camera around his neck, ready to capture any moment. He also carries his trusty blue notebook, in which he will ask you to leave your name, contact details and comments – it is an important record of conversations and interactions that have taken place throughout the years, all in the circle of Richard Demarco.
The photographs and displays in “Eastern European Performance Art in Scotland: the Legacy of Richard Demarco” are a vain attempt to capture that which cannot be captured – precisely those relationships and connections that make art possible. These relationships involve much that is invisible: trust, good will, love, kindness, joy, interest, desire, and more. If even some small portion of the positive energy and love that has been exchanged over the last several months, let alone years, has been conveyed through this exhibition, then I will consider it to have been successful.
Tweet about your experience with the exhibition at #DemarcoEast
East European Performance Art in Scotland: The Legacy of Richard Demarco
Gallery Opening Hours:
27th April – 27th September 2016, 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday
Special event: A Conversation with Richard Demarco, followed by a drinks reception and official opening of the exhibition in the MacRobert gallery at 7:30pm
Wednesday, 25 May 6:00pm, King’s College Conference Centre
The event on 25 May is free, but booking is required: http://www.demarco-abdn.eventbrite.co.uk
Written by Dr. Amy Bryzgel, University of Aberdeen