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PAS | THE BOOK / 172 pages / 2015

This publication is an insight in the work we did within our first theoretical studies PAS #37 | 'Critical Reflection' at VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK with drawings, texts, sketches, mind-maps.


The Studies which were held during the second Venice International Performance Art Week, in December 2014, were part of a curatorial project as a pedagogical initiative. The educational program “Critical Reflections” is born in this context, based on the opportunity of be present, analyse and conceptually re-elaborate the different performances going on during an artistic and cultural event.

A considerable part of all this has been published in this digital edition, as a summary of the traces left from the participants. In the books which we given to them the first day, they put down experiences, thoughts and sensations and this what you see here is the final result of it. A sort of common object, coming out from a process of encounter between different ways of thinking, different generations, different cultural backgrounds.

We gathered around performance art starting from having knowledge of the fact that our personal point of view must be put in play at all times, verified, called into question and even -if necessary- contradicted. The discussions between us were finally a medium of liberation of the language from the usual frames of its practical function, as a mere support of personal expression of thoughts.

Our personal language has been demolished and regenerated several times through the necessity of being understood, of willing express a sensation, of trying to elaborate a scandal, a surprise, a feeling of pain, happiness, hilarity, compassion, eroticism. Often, in front of a performance we put in discussion ourselves, more than the object of observation, so that the object of our attention reflects us in the critical position of being called into question. Critical Reflections was a process of discover the potential of language, not a workshop on critics in art.

At the same time, to the participants was given the opportunity to be a part of the event in itself and live directly its evolution, from the beginning until the end, from the first until the last performance and thematic round-table.

Actually, the two spaces dedicated to our Studies (one in Palazzo Mora, for the performances, and one in Palazzo Michiel, for the round-tables) have been soon integrated and identified as a pulsating and creative part of the whole event, and were visited by some of the artists (i.e.: Tania Bruguera. Particularly in the case of the latter, the team of the participants was also actively involved in the planning and realization of the performance).

As a member of the curatorial team, I witnessed the interpenetration of the cultural event with the character of the pedagogical studies through the possibility offered by both, to experience and learn through art.

As a guest teacher of the PAS, I could verify the value of a pedagogical study parallel to a cultural event like this but, more than this, I discovered the value of the pedagogical activity that merges with a similar cultural event.

Performance art is fulfilled in an ephemeral and fleeting dimension, so that the process of its reading and interpretation must be deconstructive and adapted to the specific complexity of each performance. It's what exactly happened in Venice: through the constant and open discussion between the participants, every personal prejudice or cultural barrier was left behind reaching a wider and more spherical point of view, personally and collectively.

We were going through every temporary community*1 created from the different artists, within which we became temporary citizens hosted by the artistic gesture. Then we hosted and took care of those gestures in our intimate considerations, perceptions, critical interpretations and in the dialogues between us.

Through the repeated attendance to the long-duration performances, and participation to the other shorter performances and to the round-tables, we reached a knowledge of the whole event in its different parts. In a certain way, we transformed our fragmented approach in a finally composed mosaic of images, significances, impressions and questions, giving back something more than a collection of analysis on different performances. The final container of this mosaic is the book of the books*2 that we are presenting as the synthesis-object of the #37 PAS - Critical Reflections.

“ ..and then, they tear down the house”
presence, absence, memory

The first day, one of the participants was trying to explain to a friend, what we were seeing in the morning: a documentary*3 in which, at the end of an articulate process involving different artists in the same empty spaces of a little house, the last of the artists has tore down the entire building with bulldozers.

Destroying the rooms that hosted the actions and the people, tearing down walls, windows, doors and stairs, the performer cancelled the containing place of the happening of the various performances, putting the radical sign of the ending of an experience, and giving / entrusting to each of the presents, the memory of the facts.

It was a moment at the same time of melancholy and of freedom, because of the end of something, and because of the beginning of something else. There, where an intense and touching experience was ended, the memory / metabolization of it was beginning.

But how could the participant tell about what she have lived ? In fact, in the moment that she was trying to explain it, she realized that something important were missing and that was not enough just tell about what she saw (the final demolition of the house). Because the meaning of things, that dwells within the territory of coexistence and exchange, was totally lost.

In the failed try of communication, she understood that for to transform physical sensations and feelings in a communicable meaning, you have to let the absent person be present, not in look but in the significance of the things that you lived.

This sentence “..and then, they tear down the house..”, and the following failing of communication was to me the real beginning of our Studies.
Realizing that to express yourself on something, and reflect critically on it, it means to go through a process of identification and comprehension, this leads you to the possibility of a reflection: for to transform the presence in experience, and the experience in (conceptual and emotional) knowledge, and for to change the knowledge in memory and the memory in (conceptual and emotional) significance. But I think the book of the books will be more eloquent than any other word. Good vision.

Francesco Kiais


*1 “Temporary communities”. A term used from Guillermo Gomez-Peña (Pocha Nostra), and
that was repeated several times, in several places during the Week.

*2 The book that each participant received from the Pas | Performance Art Studies in order
to “fill” it with his/her thoughts, sketches, collages and so on.

*3 A documentary of the “Proyecto Liquido. Fear”, 2012. Presented from the Alumnos 47
Foundation, Mexico.