Friday, June 21, 2024

Autumn Knight on the sweetness and terror of doing nothing

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Autumn Knight, NOTHING#122: a bar, a bed, a bluff at Performance Space New York, May 2023. Photo: Rachel Papo.

Autumn Knight, NOTHING#122: a bar, a mattress, a bluff at Efficiency House New York, Could 2023. Photograph: Rachel Papo.

On a latest Friday night time, Efficiency House New York remodeled from a theater to a membership: a DJ performed disco and R&B, drinks had been flowing, and folks chatted beneath neon lights as a sense of electrical energy and potential lingered within the air. This was the setting for NOTHING #122: a bar, the primary efficiency in Autumn Knight’s residency on the East Village arts area. Knight and a cameraperson captured interactions between herself and viewers members, inviting them to speak about themselves, feed one another foods and drinks, and act out numerous scenes––equivalent to tying each other to a chair or mimicking one another’s actions––that sparked a fleeting intimacy between strangers. Throughout three installments at Efficiency House, Knight will discover the Italian idea of dolce far niente (“the sweetness of doing nothing”) and nothingness as integral to human relationships. Impressed by a 1994 interview between Félix González-Torres and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, NOTHING#122: a mattress grapples with love and loss; the ultimate work, NOTHING #122: a bluff, sees the artist on their lonesome on the stage, reveling within the terror and risk of solitude. Beneath, Knight discusses the sequence, viewers dynamics, and approaching efficiency as an experiment in impermanence.

I GOT A CALL from Jenny Schlenzka someday final yr. I used to be on the American Academy in Rome then, and he or she requested if I want to do one thing at Efficiency House. I don’t know the way I got here to the concept of getting three performances. a bar is an thought I’ve had for over a decade, however I by no means may determine a spot to do it earlier than this sequence. It’s primarily based on a kind of bar that exists in Japan known as kyabakura, the place individuals come and pay to have somebody be their companion for the night time––not sexually, however simply actually dote on them and make them really feel superb and nicely attended to. 

For a bar, I needed to create a buffet of consideration. I’m using a motorcycle by means of the area, DJ Tara is taking part in music, there’s lights and fog, and I’m interacting with the viewers. Video screens are suspended from the ceiling, letting the viewers watch moments between me and the performers. I’m solely particular person miked up within the room: You would possibly hear sure phrases when others are shut sufficient to my microphone, however the level is to not essentially hear the opposite particular person converse. You’ll be able to let your thoughts fill in these conversations and have your personal fantasy about what’s occurring between us. One thing concerning the incomplete story, the filling-in of it, is basically fascinating to me. 

I needed to get out into the viewers and scan the bar: see who’s on the market, who’s trying prepared, and if I believe I can persuade them to have a drink with me within my efficiency. I like making connections amongst viewers members, and that is one thing I used to be attempting to experiment with right here. How do I set it up in order that the viewers needs to work together with itself? How do I get individuals to interact with the work and each other on the similar time?

I started engaged on NOTHING#122: a mattress throughout the pandemic as a video challenge for Shedhalle, Zürich. Right here, I’m nonetheless fascinated about intimacy, however from one other perspective: how do {couples} rehearse the lack of our family members? NOTHING #122:a bluff, the final efficiency, is completely undefined. Two weeks out, and I don’t know what a bluff will likely be. It’s only a massive, clean, open area in my thoughts as a result of I’ve nothing deliberate for the efficiency. I’m enthusiastic about conceptually experimenting with that as a result of I do improvisations, however usually, there’s a little bit of a framework arrange round it––some mechanisms, a container to get issues going. However I don’t know. Possibly nothing will occur. 

There are numerous alternative ways I’m fascinated about the dolce far niente idea––methods which are nonetheless rising––however a few of it’s pushed by the motion to encourage relaxation and to get out of this relationship with hyperproductivity that we’re in. It’s about the potential for having pockets of time to do nothing, to contemplate nothing, and to launch your self from the worry of doing nothing. Within the context of this sequence, I would like to withstand the stress of getting to outline myself by way of what I make. I work improvisationally quite a bit, and that comes from a spot of beginning with nothing. I’m coming into area with the concept I don’t know what’s going to occur. Nothing would possibly occur; every thing would possibly occur. I believe that’s what’s so scary to individuals about efficiency: There’s a worry and discomfort to witnessing failure, however that’s the thrilling factor to me about this artwork type. 

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