Daniella Valz Gen

PSX: On live anthologies, memory and dreamscapes

This text is one of three commissioned works produced in response to PSX: 10 Hours, a durational performance event held at Ugly Duck in London in August 2021.

PSX: 10 Hours was the culmination of PSX: a decade of performance art in the UK, a celebratory programme marking the 10th anniversary of ]performance s p a c e[.

︎︎︎ about PSX

Martin O’Brien and Alastair MacLennan, PSX, 2021. Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou.

An account of 10 hours of performances by 10 artists,

a celebration of 10 years of ]performance s p a c e [


This is an account, way after the fact, of 10 hours of being in the immersive altered statecreated by 10 performance artists activating the same dilapidated space. As an account, it ispersonal and partial, tinted by connections, eroded by time and filtered through my ownsubject position. As a response it engages with the constant effort to articulate that whichresists linearity and clarity, and to recall the nuance found in ephemeral instances, hence it isinconclusive, scattered and in process.

I want to start by acknowledging that after almost a year and a half of lockdowns and withoutaccess to embodied live performance, my own levels of sensitivity to being in a space for aprolonged period of time with 10 artists performing in front of a live audience were immense.Sensitivity is cultivated through withdrawal and it can act as both a gift and a hindrance whenoverload gets in the way of being able to stay present. In this context I traversed through thatpolarity, from sharp vivid reactions and resonances, to saturation that needed me to takebreaks and disconnect, as an ongoing cycle throughout the 10 hours.

Durational live performance has the power to evoke memories, it also has the power toinfiltrate the depths of our consciousness and shake us enough so that symbols andarchetypes can arise in unforeseen connecting ways. Witnessing highly activating works livearouses the nervous system, mobilises emotionally and mentally, the tempering comesafterwards, with distance, so a more sober and holistic view can emerge. That view is still emerging.

Some of the images from PSX 10 have infiltrated my dreams, and some seem to have comeout from them too. At times, I still feel in a daze when I recall the experience. What is amemory from a past experience and what is a dream? It’s hard to know when we enter atime warp.

As I write this I realise that even though it’s been almost three months since PSX 10 tookplace, it also feels very recent. Understanding at a deep psychic level the effects of aperformance can take me years. Cognitively, I can map out the threads, categorise,describe, criticise. Emotionally, I can locate surprise, discomfort, tension, boredom, nostalgia, shock and elation. This all can be identified without much need for reflection, it’saccessible, we’re all trained to do so, more so as artists. Yet the deeper psychic effects takea much longer time to ferment and filtrate through the layers of the self.

A document of immediate responses

The space is cold and dark with low level light, some candles. Damp smell, dust and mould,it rains outside.
A birthday party
Alistair is Odin - looking at
Anne is searching, staging acts of intimacy
Elvira is hosting a party
Rubiane is working
Selina is sensing and testing

Elvira works a mound of clay around a table
A cake, a birthday cake
A candle
A party for one

Poppy is within herself
This is what a voice is
This is how a body feels
Dedication, an act of intimacy towards self

Selina listens to the wall, sounds the wall, intimacy with the space

There are ghosts around

Martin in the coffin
Joseph creates a burial in reverse, a ceremonial unearthing of bone

Selina becomes wall, peeling paint and plaster
Oozing glue from mouth

Alistair hands Poppy a rose and she mamas into the petals,
they both mama
Anne mamas

Joseph redistributes bones. The smell of soil, their body digs a trenchThere’s a slow sadness permeating their actions

Poppy and Anne mama in the mirror and I feel unsettled and moved, teary and hot. Howeasy it would be to turn away and ignore, this is a devastating realisation and I notice I’m watching myself watching them watching you watch them watching the desire to avoidwithout letting it set.

Anne wipes a tear

Selina squirts glue on the floor

Elvira whistles and walks in circles

Anne and Alistair compose with words:
Looking at
Seeing into
Seeing into

Poppy Anne and Alistair are in the mirror, in the portrait frame, the family portrait, they traverse dimensions.

Selina puts the pieces of a plate back together

Death and the baby
Waking up to death
A sensitising awakening

Touching tender flesh

The amount of death

I stand with Anne in the mirror
I’m there with her. She’s with me. There’s not much to say.
What is connection through reflection? Watching you watch me.
Image of you Image of me
Vision breaks and blurryI sigh you sigh
I feel you through seeing you
I feel you through being seen by you.

Vivian cleanses, blesses, administers.
Elvira, Vivian and Anne in the mirror, speaking their mother tongues.
Is Anne speaking in a made up language?
Elvira hugs them with clay hands and marks them.
She’s the naughty child having her own party.

Rubiane works
A collection of feet with severed toes

Selina and Martin hold each other’s gaze
Sharks and feathers
Selina creeps through the floor gently blowing feathers from her path, she creeps as if pulled by Martin’s eyes and he gets back in the casket. He’s pulling her in with him. But no.

Elvira raises her voice: Que hablen los niños! Hablen! Hablen! Niños Hablen!
Speak up children!

Martin’s casket is on Joseph’s mound

The static from the tape recorder
The playback of Martin’s breath

Joseph’s reassembled bones tenderly held and contemplated like a baby lamb sacrifice

Alistair hands out homily

Elvira’s laser pen and glassy clay table

Martin on top of the standing casket, menacing, looming over

Anne chats to a man about the thought process as they interacted in the mirror

Rubiane performs over and over again the delicate act of removing the plaster foot from themould trying to not break the toes. Again. She’s tired and she keeps going

If one follows Anne’s rules you can only see her looking at you but not yourselfI didn’t follow the rules

Anne rocks in sync with Martin’s coffins tower rocking motion tic tocThey laugh and it’s hilarious and sad and edging on something other Perverse
Selina suspends a table on glasses

Rubiane is making the feet of those that are absent
An army of amputees
A memorial

Anne is not making an image but an act of seeing
She shatters the mirror with a mallet

Selina has made a mattress of an iron sheet and stuffed it with feathers: re-compositions

Joseph is gold and spit
Fire and bones

Wrapping melting enveloping covering digging

Rubiane places herself as part of the memorial of feet
The absentees
The amputees

Elvira calls the names of all the artists into the space
The anthology

A post-script, an inventory

Image based performance
Connection and exchange performance
Images that enhance other images
Images that diffuse other images
Remedial images
Images that infiltrate your psyche
Gestures that harmonise
Also a cacophony, a jarring
Energy in tides
White bodies western obsessions
Tensions and splits
The quest to defy death
The quest for connection
The quest for a moment of celebration
The quest for sacredness
The quest to show what’s absent
The quest to memorialise
A bridge
The quest to bridge and to show

Familiar faces, old parties and old tricksNew faces, fresh views on old things
Age old images under a new light
Old gestures and new constellations
Constellations that have already died but still shine
Bursts of beauty amongst profound loss
Death again and dying moments
Time out of time

Reflections and questions. A mapping, a scattering.

What is an ‘authentic’ state, a primal playful curious state?
What is it that is altered?
Performance art reverses that.
Is it the state in which sense making happens through the body, and an acute sensitivity(awareness) to the surroundings (others/space/environment)?

Is it unselfconscious self-absorption?

How long can you stay with yourself and be watched, unmovable from your concentration onthe exploration of your game?
How long can I stay?
How are we different from each other?

What are the different forms of labour here?
Who’s doing what?
Which bodies feel safe to access certain altered states in public?
Art and embodiment. Embodied Art.
Which bodies can do what?
The sacred space of difference.
Is this the past?
I feel like I’ve seen all this before. I feel like I’ve never seen all of thesethings at the same time.

Where’s the space for the softness that we long for?
So much to take in at once.
Sparks of tenderness and connection.
Veils that fall and re-erect themselves
Awake and stunned.