@ Mindpirates, Berlin, Thursday 28th August 2010, 7:30pm.
The promotional text for the performance simply read:
Partly autobiographical and partly fictional, Oliver Walker’s lectures are notes and observations on the complex emotional workings of falling in love.
But the ‘performance lecture’ involved me trying to hitch to Lyon, to surprise a girl I met in Istanbul six weeks prior to the performance. This was a surprise to those who came expecting to hear a talk. I stood in a petrol station south of Berlin (next to Nikolassee S-Bahn, just next to the autobahn), with a skype video link relaying images to the art space, and a mobile phone with hands-free kit working like a radio mic and enabling me to walk around the petrol station and relay my thoughts to the art venue in the city centre. It was live.
I then invited viewers to wish me luck on my trip, and follow my progress on this blog, updated from the road.
A lot is at stake. This isn’t my girlfriend I’m surprising, its someone I spent three days with. I really don’t know how it’ll turn out.
Art and life are coming together here in a way I’ve never experienced before. Its incredibly difficult to plan an art project around something as fresh and unstable as a genuine meeting between two people. The date for the performance was set long before I met this girl. I met her and realized little could be more live than this: meeting someone and falling in love.
There are two audiences here. One is standing in a space in Berlin, viewing this via skype, and the other is in Lyon, not aware that this is being created. Neither knows anything of the other: the Berlin audience doesn’t know her name, what she looks like, or anything about her, but she is at the centre of this. She plays the violin. The girl in Lyon doesn’t know I’m coming, and doesn’t know this is part of an art work.
Will she feel exploited when she finally hears the whole story? Will it lessen the effect? Would you? Just yesterday, another friend and his girlfriend had opposing feelings about the project: she felt it was great, but if she were at the centre of such an action, she’d be unimpressed that it was an artwork. He didn’t. Do these ‘two audiences’ cancel each other out? They experience different actions: The viewers in Berlin not only know nothing of this girl, they are going to find out little about me meeting her.
You know those strips at the sides of the motorway that make a noise if you ride over them? They are called rumble strips. They stop you veering, straying, and in my art practice, I have them too. There is one for cliché, one for self-indulgence, and actually one for making art about art. I’m in danger of rumbling my way through all three of them at the moment. I hope I can avoid self-indulgence by looking at other people’s stories en route, using my story to tease out stories and advice from the people who pick me up, and recording them in written and audio form. And cliché? By avoiding the hollywood ending. I have to work on that one en route to Lyon.
I’m also concerned about leaving Berlin without a strong concept at my side to defend me from the possibilities of artistic failure. Hitching to see a girl you met? Hardly critical, is it? But let me break down what I’m making – indulge my honesty. Perhaps if I present my doubts, if I wear them on my sleeve, it will shield me from failure. Perhaps this isn’t a trip to see a girl, but a trip to see what an art work ‘about a trip to meet a girl’, would look like. But that makes it not very romantic either, does it?
Wish me luck folks.