Whittling

'The Wolf & the Winter' Performance Festival

February 7 – 10th  2001,

Milkfabriek Gallery,  s'Hertogenbosch, NL

A room’s worth of budget furniture - table, chairs, lampstand and bunkbed – stood in the street in a domestic formation as if a cabin’s walls had peeled away, exposing them to the winter. Clad in long underwear under a heavy coat (as if caught unawares by a sudden nocturnal disturbance) I sat amidst this arrangement over three rainy evenings. Using a hunter’s knife, I whittled the legs and edges of the furniture down to sharpened spikes.

Over the course of the performance the furniture became disfigured, tilted and sharpened by the whittling. Occasionally, I’d pause to gather the chips and shavings into a pile which, although the weather was inclement, remained unlit. Instead, the whittling served the dual purpose of keeping me warm (since the cutting was energetic) and focusing my mind. In English Midlands’ dialect ‘whittling’ also means ‘worrying’ and I conducted this action, not as in the bored, time-killing manner, but with a compulsive, urgent nerviness. As the furniture became sharpened I upturned and arranged it to surround me, forming a barricade of spikes as if defending against some impending, unknown threat.

This performance was made for the first, founding gathering of ‘The Wolf in the Winter’, a group of solo performance artists assembled by Brian Catling and Anet Van De Elzen in the home town of Hieronymus Bosch (the other artists were Kirsten Norrie and Denys Blacker). The collective subsequently expanded and has since performed in a wide variety of international settings (see other works in this book). However, it was in s’Hertogenbosch that the keynote of the collective was identified; each artist working with minimal staging and cheap props to build an atmosphere redolent of savagery and tension.

Duration: 3 x 3 hours per evening.

Aaron Williamson, London 2002 

 

 

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