Supporting Text for 'The Inept Five' by Raimar Stange
The good, the bad and the ugly one
"It's better there during the day – the strippers aren't as good but they make more of an effort". This is how Charlie Harper, a.k.a. Charlie Sheen in the TV series "Two and a Half Men" aptly describes, albeit with a typical macho gesture, a possible combination of performance and (staged) passion. Even back in 1969 in "Notes for a workshop", Yvonne Rainer wrote "28. Make a work that must take place midst the observers (and nowhere else)". Two aesthetic cornerstones are defined with these statements, precisely locating Annika Ström's 2012 performance "The Inept Five". Distrust of skills and confidence in a work of art occurring in the midst of the audience provide the framework which constitutes the performance.
But one thing at a time: Five professional actors play the role of gallery assistants during a vernissage, tasked with serving drinks, opening doors and providing visitors with information about the show, etc. However, the five actors obviously appear unable to cope, standing around helplessly, making silly mistakes – all this despite being paid for their performance. But perhaps they deserve to be paid, if anything it's not easy to act out inability in a convincing manner – surely Charlie Chaplin could write a song about it. Also, given the neoliberal art system and its highly-paid star system, maybe aesthetic performance rests precisely on (once again) substituting the artistic perfection of a "brilliant masterpiece" with so-called inability?! And, staying with the Chaplin metaphor, our sympathy shouldn't go out to the pathetic "tramp", or the omnipotent, performance-oriented (in an inhumane way) "global players". But they're all "players" because at least in public we all play a role, with any (post-modern) identity being shaped by the pressure of "authenticity" and "role-play"
As a result of the principle of "take place midst the observers (and nowhere else)" (Rainer), "The Inept Five" ties in with Annika Ström's 2010 performance "Ten Embarrassed Men". Back then the artist made 10 similarly dressed actors walk around the Frieze Art Fair in London. They skilfully played out their confusion over how poorly women were represented at that particular art exhibition (besides others). As I said, in their criticism of the existing art world, "The Inept Five" aren't emphasising the moment of anger and confusion but rather the aspect of mere incompetence. Robert Fillious' "principle of equivalence" from the good old days of Fluxus art in the 1960s is implemented in a new and consistent manner. With his "principle of equivalence" and as part of his "permanent creation", Robert Fillious placed emphasis on the equality of "WELL-MADE, BADLY-MADE and NOT-MADE". Annika Ström has now managed to put all three into effect simultaneously: WELL-MADE as in "The Inept Five" and BADLY-MADE and NOT-MADE being the usual routine of the gallery assistants.