Lives of the Saints, 2002

Video work (self-filmed performance-to-camera).
12 minutes approx.
The Helen Chadwick Fellowship, British School at Rome and Ruskin School of Art, Oxford University


In a bare studio and using minimal props I made twelve one-minute video works, each named after an individual Saint and informed by a classic performance work:

A): St Perpetua dreamt of ascending a spiked ladder to heaven. B): Gina Pane’s documentation of her performance ‘Non-anesthetized Climb’ (1971) shows her barefoot and bleeding, climbing such a ladder. C): I covered a steeply positioned step ladder with ketchup and attempted to climb it, slipping barefoot from the ladder into a pile of drawing pins.

A): St Monica is known for being unable to cease weeping. B): In ‘I’m Too Sad to Tell You’ (1970) Bas Jan Ader depicted himself crying uncontrollably. C): I took a pile of onions that, surprisingly, could not induce me to tears until I tied them right onto my eyes and face.

A): St Vitus’s dance is named after the frenzied movements of pilgrims on the way to the Saint’s shrine. B): A photograph of Vito Acconci’s ‘Trademarks’ performance (1970) show him biting his thigh above the knee. C): I discover that the easiest dance to perform whilst biting my thigh is a doubled-up version of ‘the Twist’.

For these and nine other video pieces I worked in isolation, direct to a remote-controlled camera, building up the performances in relation to the props I had assembled and recording and watching back footage as the piece evolved. These performance films became – not a direct addition to that collection of work that has been generically labeled performance art – but a reflection on, homage to and critique of it.

LivesOfSaints_1
St Perpetua

LivesOfSaints_2
St Monica

LivesOfSaints_3
St Vitus