Delfina Foundation

Q&A - Alex Mirutziu

Performance as Process resident Alex Mirutziu expands on his practice, theory and the underlying question 'what performs?'

Alex Mirutziu in conversation with Graham Harman, 2015. Photo courtesy Alex Mirutziu.

How did you arrive at this question of 'what performs' over 'who performs'?

I strongly believe that to create a climate is more fetching and I see the world as a collection of problems. One of this problems has to do with the position we have in the world as shapers of the world. If you superimpose the ontology of objects (and by objects I mean, appliances, phenomena, language etc.) onto current theatre performance practices then you end up with a problem, you realise that presence and reality are incongruous. It’s not all about the performer, the individual, but an awareness of the performativity of objects shaping the individual and the world. The individual is part of the matrix of objects, operating ontologically at multiple and apparently similar degrees when it comes to change and action. Therefore I would say that 'what' has more to say than 'who' at this point in time. Everything entails degrees of performativity, the stage, the building in which one acts, the public itself; only that it happens on a minute or hyper-scale. Most of the times these 'performers' are very silent, but nevertheless important.

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Joshua Hubbard in rehearsal for Alex Mirutziu’s Stay[s] against confusion, 2016. Photo courtesy Alex Mirutziu.

How has your residency in the Delfina house affected the performance you gave, Stay[s] against confusion?

Delfina Foundation has a lot of character to it, the space has many entrances and exits, many ways to enter and leave the building, people are also working and sleeping here, and the space itself has different qualities, the floor of the living room has a different quality to that of the project space. I wanted to bring this accumulative and versatile quality out in my performance: One way was to place sensors on the floor to allow it to talk, you could call it a prepared floor, just like a John Cage piano. It gives the setting of the performance agency, and a degree of control over the performer.

How did you come about working with Joshua Hubbard?

I thought it would be good to work with someone else, to have distance so I can take a critical position. Normally I perform and exercise with mirrors around me, like a typical dancer, in this case, I became the mirror for Joshua. He doesn’t usually perform in a gallery context, so to bring him to Delfina Foundation to work on a score based on typography, and for me to choreograph as well as to take in Joshua’s statuesque and graphic body was very interesting. In the process of making this piece Joshua’s handling of movements become very poignant in transfixing the question of what is Etc. (a concept I have developed in recent years) in dance and how that space of Etc. is negotiated to create meaning or lack of meaning, if at all possible.

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Alex Mirutziu, Falling apart with vegetal fatigue, 2016. Photo courtesy the Alex Mirutziu.

Do you see your object and text-based work as separate to your performance practice?

You can see a performative aspect in many of the installations I make, but on a general level they are different. Many times I have artworks that start from ideas central to performance, and working some objects is a very performative process. The Italian sculptor Adolfo Wildt talked about the block of marble that indexes the history of the mountain from which it was cut, and how the material embodies a history, as a record of past traumatic events. This introduces the problem of responsibility, from a certain point of view you have to respect the object and its qualities, rather than simply manipulate it to reach a conclusion. This process is very much performative.

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Street sign model by designer Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir. Photo courtesy Alex Mirutziu.

How does this approach link to your study of Dieter Rams’ and Margaret Calvert’s design languages?

A good designer's job is not only to notice things but to go one step further, and try to fix them to make us function in the world, and the world with us in it. There’s a reciprocality to this, and it presents a major problem for designers. The idea of invisibility is very important here, to keep the world in some sort of control to help us navigate and make a better sense of it. Typography has something to do with this idea of invisibility, to keep distraction as much as possible out, this is done through the quality of the paper and the small details in the typefaces to name just a few. Dieter Rams as well as Margaret Calvert shared the principles of good design when working on a product as well as service. My work is very much informed by notions of understanding as a way to make present, to tackle head-on accumulation to clarify our context. These notions, I feel are expressed in the work of both Calvert and Rams. To come back to my work I used the New Transport typeface (an adaptation of the original Transport typeface created in the 1960s), designed by Margaret Calvert and Henrik Kubel. Margaret mentioned the fact that it was created from the point of view of the driver. Because it was created for the motorways the driver has to be aware of the typeface from a specific distance in order for them to have enough time to take decisions. This is an example of how typefaces are reliable if thoughtfully created, when it comes to orientation and making sense, being unpretentious but regulating our daily lives in traffic or at home reading the newspaper.