‘In his unsettling solo performance I-on, the Bulgarian choreographer and performer Ivo Dimchev is fighting an absurdist battle with Franz West’s portable works of art.
‘What the fuck is this supposed to mean?’ was the first thought that entered Ivo Dimchev’s (1976) mind when he saw Franz West’s art. After a performance of his solo Some Faves (2010) in Vienna, Dimchev was approached by the award-winning Austrian artist with the strange request to create a video with improvisations based on West’s adaptives: a kind of portable, touchable art works. Dimchev became fascinated: “I felt hugely attracted to the absurdity of West’s art objects: they are completely useless, but at the same time, the viewer is supposed to touch them and pick them up. They challenge you into doing something with them. But what? I had no idea, but I love taking decisions based on my own resistance and my contrary nature. So I decided I would participate.”
He was offered an opportunity to start over. A few months later, the two ran into each other again. This time it was in Rome, while Dimchev was performing his solo Lili Handel there. Upon West’s request, Dimchev created the opening for West’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery with a more serious and more elaborate performance: a clean, 15-minute choreography based on two of West’s adaptives. Later, Dimchev elaborated on this idea, lifting it to a much larger scale in his solo performance I-on, which will now be presented at SPRINGDANCE. Three years after Paris (2009) he will be making his first return to the festival.
I-on is an absurdist collage of physical interactions between the concrete, human body and a number of amorphous art objects. Alternately worked up, surreal, comical, disturbing and frighteningly calm. But always intense. Dimchev: “I have been working like this for years. Twelve years ago I presented my video art at a gallery in Sofia, and the curator came up to me and almost apologised. He thought I would find the works of other young artists dull and bland, because, wasn’t my performance art much more extreme, compared to those? That was a true eye-opener. They thought I was extreme, AND they thought I was a performance artist. Whereas I see myself much more as a choreographer and a dancer, and one who only goes to extremes when the composition asks for it. Perhaps sometimes I seem like a hysterical lunatic in need of medical assistance, but the intensity is a very conscious choice.”
West’s art really needs a stage, Dimchev states. That is where the pieces truly come into their own. In a gallery the relationship between the spectators and the objects is too one-dimensional and restrictive. By placing the pieces onto a stage and making contact with them as a performer, in front of an audience, he generates countless possibilities for interaction, interpretation and context. West advised Dimchev to approach his objects with as much abstraction as possible in I-on. A good tip, but easier said than done. “The adaptives are purely abstract,” says Dimchev. “But the human body is not. As soon as the two come together, there is always a risk that suddenly these objects acquire too much of a distinctive function. That is not what I am after. On the contrary, I-on is about a desire for the unspeakable – the thing that cannot be named. With my body, the objects, the soundscape and the dynamics and intensity of the movements I try to constantly balance on the verge between sense and nonsense.”
I-on - Ivo Dimchev
Thu 19 & Fri 20 April / Theater Kikker / 7:00 pm
Daniël Bertina is journalist, criticus, schrijver en dramaturg. Hij studeerde theaterwetenschap aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam en schrijft voor diverse publicaties over kunst, cultuur en media. Van mainstream tot underground.