A 7-hour live endurance performance
Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow
October 3, 2016
Performed: 7 hours
Commissioned by Pechersky Gallery
Photos: Alexander Astakhov, Igor Afrikyan, Gennady Cherkasov, Feliks Golyansky, Mikhail Grebenschikov, Dmitry Lebedev, Anton Parfenov, Anna Shpilko
‘O PAIRADO’ (Suspended in the Air): a 7-hour live endurance performance that unfolded at the height of 25 meters/82 feet, above the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art, commissioned by Pechersky Gallery, part of 'Temporary Monuments', my solo show on view at the gallery until October 16th.
To begin, I looked for the tallest industrial crane in town – the one that high-rise window washers use to clean the glass of skyscrapers. Next, I bought a giant roll of red fabric and inscribed it with the words ‘Freedom to the Slaves’ in white paint. Finally, I attached this improvised banner to a long wooden stick and asked Mguer, the Armenian crane operator, to lift me 25 up meters above the Art Centre. From there, I had a good view of the building while my solo show was happening inside.
I want to say a few words in defense of the local slaves. Russia has over a million of them, according to the Global Slavery Index. They hail predominantly from Central Asia, and over the years we’ve invented an impressive repertoire of insults and nicknames to describe both their appearance and mental prowess –all with the underlying assumption of our own superiority, of course. All the while, they have remained voiceless and powerless, with no advocates to speak on their behalf. It is an ironic dichotomy: out loud, nobody wants them in Russia, yet we depend heavily on the fruits of their cheap labor. Every year, around 3000 coffins are sent back to Central Asia from Russia, containing bodies of those who did not ‘make it’.
It was outright scary for the first two hours –the flag attached to my feet was constantly shaking. However, it was decidedly on a different level of scary than when five young Tajik workers were called by their employer to come over –he's got the cash and is ready to pay them. All five were then shot dead, with the police refusing to investigate, citing an imaginary blood test that proved the workers were on drugs. Or when seventeen Kyrgyz girls were burned alive as the result of a devastating fire in a paper printing factory on the outskirts of Moscow –with the owner now on the run.
What can I possibly do for them? I can suspend myself in the air for 7 hours – just the way they were suspended between the here and the there, the heavens and the ground, unwanted in either realm, the pariahs.