Lisa Biedlingmaier and Burkhard Meltzer in an email conversation, published on October 18, 2020 in: tria Spreadsheet #21.
Dear Burkhard, After the entire Swiss art scene ascended to the mountains this summer (from what I can see on my insta bubble), I too decided to relocate my practice, and followed a herd of yaks at 2700 m MSL around the Valais. I spent several days interacting with the animals with the intention of finding a suitable moment when they would allow it to happen. The performance was to take place exclusively for the yaks’ entertainment, and captured for posterity as a photographic documentary on Instagram.
Re: Dear Lisa, that sounds very much like you took quite a step away from the usual art scene this summer. So how did you approach the yaks and how much time did you spend with them?
Re: Re: We spent three days together, but it felt much longer. Approaching the yaks took place on two levels, physical and psychological. We were instructed to keep a safety distance from the yaks, as they would communicate with their horns if addressed from within a two-meter zone around them. This coincidence – the social distancing restrictions – is noteworthy. The second level concerned our state of mind. A guide explained to us that the animals are basically mirroring this state, so one should generally stay calm and grounded.
Re: Re: Re: To engage with yaks through space, distance and behavior seems one thing, but to imagine them as an art audience in something that you have called “performance”, another. In one case, you are acting/imagining the human-as-animal, whereas in the case of the art performance, it seems like the other way: are you not projecting/imagining an animal-as-human there?
Re: Re: Re: Re: I wouldn’t say so. Usually I would present my objects on racks in human scale, creating a vis-a-vis, so the recipient feels addressed. This time the performance included myself showing textile objects to the yaks and putting them on the ground, so the curious ones could have a closer look/smell. It felt like this could be a gesture of devotion and rebalanc-ing towards my work and art in general on the one hand and on relations towards nature/animals on the other. Walking up together and joining a herd was very much part of this process for me. And I just had the trust that the yaks would get whatever they needed in that moment – even if it would be hardly accessible or explicable to me.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: So what do you think was it that the “curious” yaks experienced from your performance, or in other words: what triggered their “curiosity”? Was it maybe that art appeared as an offering, donation to them? And: did this experience change something in your position towards the art world that one usually encounters in exhibitions?
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I would not dare to make any assumptions concerning what kind of expe-rience the animals had. Anyway, there was some kind of an energetic impact – a force that has been reflected in myths and legends of cows/bulls for thousands of years the world over. For me, more and more, it makes no fundamental difference to reflect on my life or on art. So, I focus in my work on lived and inherited experiences, conserved and archived on different levels of our being, which I translate into knots and patterns. The recent yak experience has now shifted my focus away from analyzing knots to transcending/releasing them, from complexity to immediacy.
This email conversation refers to a performance that took place in the context of the Swiss Art Awards 2020.