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As if he's a bad boy who’s been told to stand in the corner, Servie Janssen faces a white wall in a corner of the space. He's performing at the Premier Symposium International d’Art Performance de Lyon, in 1979. As the camera moves over his body we start to realize that he's standing behind a man-sized glass plate which is attached to the wall with putty. It creates a small triangular space in the corner. The floor in this corner is covered with an inch of water. Someone hands Janssen a bucket of water which he empties at his feet, increasing the water level a little more. Next, he faces the audience and takes a small tool with which he starts chipping off tiny pieces of glass from the top of the glass plate – seemingly eating away his own cage, but also…his own stage.
Bit by bit, the barrier between artist and viewer dissolves. He's liberating himself in a teasingly slow manner. It wouldn’t take much effort to break the glass and step out of the corner, but this would not do justice to the journey that Janssen is willing to endure to free his body. One can feel the tension between flesh and glass increase. A microphone records the sound that reverberates from the glass; the audio, which resembles the crackle of electrical tension, is played back through speakers in the space. After a while, some unexpected events take place: Janssen cuts his hand and washes off the little chips of glass in the water at his feet, while he waits for a band-aid. Then, only shortly after he starts chipping glass again, someone from the audience apparently cannot bear to watch it anymore and violently interrupts the performance. Janssen is now free, but also in shock.
Netherlands Media Art Institute, Anna Hoetjes Read more...