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Footfall – JocJonJosch in London, 2016

1 January 2017

As a collective of three artists, JocJonJosch are interested in issues of identity relating to the individual and the group both on a universal as well as a more self-reflective level.
JocJonJosch portfolio introduction.

In Dig Shovel Dig, each of the three artists dig their own hole in the earth, only to fill their neighbour’s hole. The process of digging and shovelling repeats till JocJonJosch eventually give up. What remains are neither three obvious holes in the ground nor three equally filled pits.
JocJonJosch ‘Dig Shovel Dig’ (2013) video introduction.

In spring 2016 the collective called for volunteers to collaborate with them in digging earth at a site in Martigny, Switzerland and build a series of totem poles that would stand for a period of time, before eventually being razed to the ground. Come winter, this evolution through practice and intervention was ready to be presented as a new performance in the heart of London.

Foot-Kroku-Zvuk-Klingen-Fall – the corruption of ‘footfall’ through translation from English, to Czech, to German places an emphasis on the motion and the sound of the action implied by the word Footfall. The collective JocJonJosch are devising a new performance entitled Footfall premiering at Laure Genillard gallery…
Laure Genillard gallery event introduction.

Preparation

The call for performance collaborators came on 16 October. After the joy of working with JocJonJosch for Existere (2011), Ouroboros (2013), and Ouroboros (2014), I immediately expressed an interest. Frustratingly, I would not be able to take part in the opening night private view on Friday 25 November, but I took consolation from at least being able to join its dry-run movement rehearsal (earthless) six days earlier.

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Photo of a raised totem – at the Laure Genillard gallery.

Six of us would be part of the second performance: Joc (of the collective), Chris, Cy, Stan, me, and Esther; late sickness meant Esther was to be a lone female. When I arrived, Joc and Jon were already well advanced in preparing a large round-ish pile of mud at the centre of the upstairs gallery space. For this performance, we were to be trampling it for 90 minutes whilst naked and covered head-to-toe in the stuff.

It was an endurance piece without a break. We were to start at 6:30pm and continue until 8pm, with Jon (of the collective) giving a single clap at half-hourly intervals so we would have an idea of progress. The time came for us to put on the mud. Esther and I went first, lathering each other all over with dirty great handfuls. When the rest joined us, we helped them cover those hard-to-reach places.


Pre-performance, behind the scenes – me and Esther.

Performance

With the doors about to open, gallery assistants took away our possessions and we started to tread through the mud – always looking downwards, never at each other or those who entered the room. I had felt uncomfortably cold when the mud first went on my body, but I quickly warmed up once we were underway. The thick heavy mud was firm yet satisfyingly squashy… albeit peppered with annoying little stones.

It wasn’t physically fatiguing work, only mentally tiring as time dragged. The first clap seemed to take ages coming. Although theoretically we were all performing the same action, in practice our movements varied according to our physicality: some marched while others glided; some were upright while others slouched; some created patterns while others were directionless. Thus, we persevered curiously to a close.

Aftermath

At the finish, with all guests cleared from the gallery room we stepped from the mud into paper suits and flip-flops. Speedily we dashed via the street to the flat next door, where we would shower and dress. The mud on our skin was part caked, part sticky, part crumbly and there was no way to shift it all without making a fearful mess. I pity whoever tidied up after but, as is said: no good art is produced without suffering.

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Post-performance, behind the scenes – ready for a shower.

Once sufficiently clean for admittance to decent society, we joined the artists, fellow performers and select guests for wine and tortillas in the lower gallery space. As we relaxed, so we could enjoy what previously we’d endured. Meanwhile, the expanded disc of mud above us set slowly in serene solitude. Every ridge and impression now seemed to be imbued with a serendipitous artistic quality. We’d done good work.

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Post-performance, behind the scenes – mud.

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Post-performance, behind the scenes – marks.

I look forward to returning for a final performance of Footfall on Friday 3 February 2017.

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