Pressing Times III
Text by George Themistokleous
Marcel begins his performance by stating that he is a guest in our home, not a performer. The space of the gallery is converted into a domestic interior. A wooden table is laid out with plates, bread, chocolate, wine glass and so on. Marcel then shifts to host later as he offers us chocolate and, initiates a conversation. After his offering, he contemplates the relations between the English words house and hunt, also utilizing the equivalent and more effective Turkish pair of av and ev (house and hunt respectively). Besides offering chocolates and engaging in conversation with the audience he also reveals past photographic family moments. In certain instances a domestic object, the bread knife, is suddenly turned into a threatening object as Marcel balances it on his forehead. Taking his clothes off, and wearing only underwear and military boots he scrapes a pile of paper with his feet. In another scene, the bread –suddenly appears to be hollowed out and full of candles- is lit on fire while Marcel ominously puts a fist in his mouth.
photos: Maria Spivak
As he radically veers between being both hospitable and threatening, perhaps it is another pair of terms, from Marcel’s mother German tongue that is more fitting for this event. Heimlich – homely, canny and unheimlich – uncanny might provide another prompt by which to consider the performance. In Sigmund Freud’s paper ‘The Uncanny’ the relation between the canny and uncanny hinges on the home. What Marcel creates with his performance is an exploration of this moment of the house/ hunt that moves beyond any language, as ‘we ourselves speak a foreign language’. Thus the moments that seem strangely unsettling occur because of Marcel’s alternating between poles, he is both inviting and discomforting. There is never a moment of ease only an allusion of an intimate setting. As the enunciated words and the verbal intonations become odd or strangely ominous, these are usually followed by a surprisingly threatening action that will give way to a more inviting tone. The space between a settling and an unsettling feeling produce a paradoxical image, a rupture in the perception of the self, a suffusion of the self by an other.
Marcel’s double act, centred on the notion of a homely inside that is invaded by an-other presence, induces a strange slippage between a conscious and unconscious self; a doubling. Anthony Vidler in his essay ‘Unhomely Homes’ writes ‘hence the sinister relation between the double, which is both mask and presentation, and the evil, voracious eye, which demands to be deceived by itself’. As Marcel points towards the host/ guest in a hostile manner, the psychic space of the viewer is affected. Inducing a shock. The strangely unfamiliar disturbs my space… space becomes ambiguous. The sense of my self is no longer here, it lies on the other side of my body. ‘I know where I am, but I do not feel as though I’m at the spot where I find myself’.
Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny, translated by David McLintock (London: Penguin Classics, 2003 ).
Anthony Vidler, ‘Unhomely Homes’ in The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992). 35.
Roger Caillois, ‘Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia.’ October no31,1984 . 30.