CIVIL was first created in 1996 as a five person piece but evolved into a solo work for the director Robert Pacitti which he then performed until 2003 when it then was re-committed to Richard Eton (Dicky). Richard Pacitti is a guest artist at the LIVEWORKS Festival for Performance Space over the next two weeks. He is creating with Australian Artists a project: FINALE which will be premiered next Friday the 5th of September for three performances.
Richard Pacitti is the Artistic Director of Pacitti Company and creator of the SPILL Festival Of Performance-London’s premier biennale of experimental theatre and live art. Pacitti in his program notes explains that this piece is now 12 years old and that “the past decade has brought about a great number of changes, not least in the development of performance….” political concerns and technologies. In a forewarning Pacitti states that “whilst CIVIL is not a museum piece aspects of it are undeniably more common place than when it was made….” And this is true. However, it is quite interesting to see one of the progenitors of this world of Performance Art and to trace a line through to the artists of today. All the more exciting it is to anticipate this collaboration that will emerge next weekend. Just where has this artist’s interests and skills grown too?!!!!
CIVIL is a homage to Quentin Crisp."a raconteur who had defied convention all his life." CIVIL began in embryonic form when Pacitti was a child. His parents had a copy of Crisp’s book THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT and it became a source of inspiration when in 1996 he wanted to make a show about disobedience. Pacitti travelled to New York and spent two weeks “hanging out with Crisp.” A work was developed. In 2003 when the show was being revised for Richard Eton as performer they went back and shot more photographs and footage around the famous Chelsea Hotel.
The work is performed on a large white tarquette floor. At the back there is a very large screen onto which black and white photographs and black and white film is projected. The furniture has two solid wooden chairs, a made up queen size futon mattress, a microphone and stand. The props include a knife, a white dead rabbit, a polaroid camera, candles, a bottle of red wine and cork screw. The performer begins semi-naked in jeans and then into white silk pyjamas and then is fully naked. He is for most of the performance. (It becomes so much of the accepted imagery that it is neither distracting nor offensive. Interestingly the performance has an “R” rating. MMMM?) An original Soundtrack, written, performed and recorded by Robert Pacitti accompanies the action of the piece. The sound has music (eg Cohen, Nico’s Chelsea Girl), recorded voice-overs as well as live script.
We begin with a pose by the artist Richard Eton semi-naked holding a lighting fixture as a torch as the Statue of Liberty against a black and white photograph of the New York skyline and it finishes with a fully naked pose as the Statue of Liberty with an empty wine bottle as the torch against a colour photograph of a lurid sunset over New York that features hauntingly the World Trade Twin Towers of the American Empire. In between Eton has dragged a knife over his torso, seemingly gutted the rabbit and daubed his body with fingerprints of blood, poured the wine over his body, foot printed the floor with a trail of fading red wine, and in an almost final gesture drank some of the dregs of the wine. The images are much the clearer communicator. The text is less expertly delivered. It needs more vocal care, precision and active thought to have the same vividness of effect.
The effect of the performance for me was quaintly and conventionally theatrical. One can imagine that the nakedness and the knife blade situated at the anal hole and much else was once quite provocative. Today, I looked on it as a stroll through a time long past, I reconnect to recent work that have had similar objectives, perhaps of obscure political provocations, and appreciated CIVIL as I do when I watch an early art work of Nijinsky or Balanchine. I see here in CIVIL the origins of some of our contemporary experiences by artists at Performance Space and elsewhere. It is satisfying and historically quite a contextualising experience. My curiosity is certainly raised as to Mr Pacitti’s contemporary preoccupations and methods. What does he believe needs to be provoked in 2008? How does he do that in 2008? FINALE is supposedly sprung from a viewing of a BBC2 dramatisation of Zola’s THERESE RAQUIN. Love, Murder. Guilt. HMMMM?
In the mean time there is a wonderful program curated by Fiona Winning the Director of Performance Space over the next two weeks and any of us who are really interested in the width of the possibilities of performance expression should give it a try. The website is PERFORMANCESPACE.COM.AU You can explore the diversity of the events. Some of it is ticketed, some of it is even FREE. It might certainly be more politically interesting than SATURN’S RETURN or BUMMING WITH JANE and this space is an ART a buzz of its own. To be in it is a worth while artistic experience.