Woman With Salad: An Evening of Live Giffing
By Hannah Moss
Emily Perry has made the definitive decision that “gif” will be pronounced a hard G (like “gargoyle”) for the purposes of her latest exhibition. She says she came up with the idea of LiveGiffing after a friend pointed out that she was continuously making the same joke over and over again and laughing at herself. She was on repeat. This immediately conjured up images of social media, emoticons, and pictures of women eating salad. No, this is not a new fetish. Go to Google right now and type in Woman With Salad. Is that not the most jovial female you have ever witnessed eating what looks to be dry undressed salad?
It is ludicrous. Cue Perry. The exhibition “Woman With Salad” held at Centrum in Neukölln was a live sculpture garden of women repeatedly carrying out stereotypically female tasks: watering plants, preparing food, sighing, scoffing, primping, and of course: holding salad on a fork and looking really sexually aroused by it.
Perry timed the introduction of each performer beautifully and subtly. Suddenly a noise would come from the corner of the room or outside in the courtyard followed within a few minutes by a different noise or swish from elsewhere. It felt like grown up I-Spy, people were observing each other to see if they were performers or audience members. The tell tale sign was obviously the repetition accompanied by a specially picked singular noise. Some sighed, some squealed, some giggled “femininely” and all stayed in character for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes repeating the exact same action and noise without pause over the course of two hours. It seemed extremely daunting and that energy leant itself nicely to the characterizations which started very excitedly and then sometimes progressed into raspy gasps, slightly fatigued movements, and exhaustion.
There was an evolution not only from the performers, but also from the audience. People were completely enthralled and made a point to be silent when each new performer began and then gradually came into physical proximity of the performers, but completely ignored them carrying out conversations with other audience members. It went from novelty to background noise and this is something that Perry has often tried to present in her work: presenting and using women as objects.
One particular moment that still haunts me was walking into the front room of the gallery and being met with the wild eyes of Nicole Michalla as she stood alone violently brushing her hair. I would like to tell you that I planted my feet firmly and wordlessly met her with an effusive gaze, but in reality I looked at my feet and shuffled past her with an apologetic air. I walked outside safely behind the windows with other members of the crowd and watched as two other women did just as I had. We stood together gazing in through the glass that gave this front room an almost Red Light District feel feeling ashamed as Nicole stood facing away from us staring at the wall diligently continuing her prescribed movement. Coincidentally enough the project curator, Natalie Weiland told me that the space Centrum used to be a brothel. A fitting site for such debauchery of the female spirit.
Perry strives to make her audience slightly ill at ease during her exhibitions, but this particular event went beyond that. It did not make me feel awkward, it made me feel ashamed and exhilarated all at once. Exhilarated to watch these women so perfectly capture the unfortunate artistic tradition of women doing mundane tasks as if it is all they can conjure up from themselves and ashamed of not being able to reach out and save them. They were performing consensually, of course, but it does make one think of the amount of people we turn our eyes from as we walk down the street.
While initial reactions were to laugh at the light-hearted exterior, the meaning is darker and imbedded deeply in our culture. Perry’s approach to this subject in making it accessible to a modern audience was utterly fabulous and deeply disturbing simultaneously much like many great and evocative pieces of art. Keep an eye out for her, Londoners, she is coming to you starting in August (lucky bastards).
For more information about Emily Perry and to see the actual gifs from the exhibition:
For more information about Centrum and their upcoming events:
Salad woman- Kyra Jacques
Mirror and picking teeth woman- Daphne Rouillard Urruchi
Reading woman- Camille Darroux
Hair woman- Nicole Michalla
Watering can woman- Lauren Heckler
Apple woman- Stefanie Dietzel
Smoking and wine woman- Zahra Banzi