The original point of departure was a misfired proposal for the symposium Photography Performing Humor which had been postponed due to a deep red terror alert in Europe’s Capital. Patrick Morarescu and I had organized an interactive/ investigative studio-performance at “Buktapaktop” in Brussels in advance of said symposium… friends flew in from Switzerland and Germany for what ended up being a Belgian shuttered and lockdown weekend.
The run-up to our slapstick operation would be marred by the terror attacks in Paris, reminding us, as Charlie Hebdo did—that being funny can cost you dear… and the consequent raids on local and presumed jihadi-cells in Brussels–Code Red. But rather than postponing, as many venues did, we decided to go ahead. The small impromptu studio was based on primitive historic models; drapes and curtains, traditional incandescent lights, some props, and attitudes… reminiscent of nomadic studios as one still finds in far-flung places and which used to wander about our itinerant fairground circuits…
Perhaps because of the lockdown some sitters opted for the new fashion of covering your face, everybody beginning to hide behind veils and headdress, balaclavas and bataclans… running around with pixelated faces—except those who are about to detonate… a different kind of blow-up than we considered in the 60s… Yes, even the kids decided democratically not to participate for fear of having themselves displayed on facebook or other unsavoury social media… now that imagery has become so free-for-all, no-one wants it any more… wary of punctuated targeting.
After a careful start the studio warmed up with the presence of friends, passers-by, and curious voyeurs, producing a series of discrete portraits in a predominantly blood-red environment… We had prepared notions on photography, portraiture, performance, and humor on index cards for the sitters to use as inspiration… but most were quite creative enough without prosthetics, thank you.
The second part of the operation was curtailed somewhat by the fact there was no longer a need for a preparatory discussion for the upcoming symposium, and boiled down to a short performative send-off by an improvised samurai (Heinrich Obst) based on Shen Zhou, “On growing a Beard” and a presentation of the photographs taken, after which socializing and banter rounded off the evening, making for a cozy steamy soup kitchen before heading off into the uncertain night.