On Katya Ev's
As a curator, I always find performance to be the most challenging genre for an artist. In my humble opinion, very few artists are able to conduct it successfully, and there is far too much mediocre performance being made because it has become fashionable of late. Which is why I am always very impressed when I come upon a young artist who has the courage to engage with this discipline in an unusual and meaningful way. Katya Ev is such an artist. The conceptual scope of her performances and the spatial breadth she negotiates are quite remarkable.
What I mean to say here is that this is not simply a case of a person using their body in a space, but extending the scope of performance both spatially and in terms of other bodies to expansive and indeed ambitious dimensions. Like for example, Axe de Revolution, where she and a fellow performer walked for almost a whole day along the circumference of Moscow’s ring road, carrying a heavy metal beam. Or Augenmusik, created in response to France’s ‘state of emergency’ after the Bataclan terrorist attacks where 24 performers set out at exactly the same time from the 24 ‘portes’ (gates) of Paris heading to the geographical center of the city carrying blue police emergency lights, while police sirens bellowed from inside their back-packs.
With actions like these Ev creates a conceptual –abstract performative cartography of a decidedly political dimension. Apart from the artist’s capacity for ambitious and unexpected leaps of imagination, what makes Ev’s work particularly engaging is its immanent – not prescriptive – politicality. More importantly this is work that does not talk politically, as so much contemporary art does, but thinks, acts and behaves politically. Ev’s carefully orchestrated subtle interventions in public space spur unexpected results, uncontrolled reaction, and open up possibilities for spontaneous response situations.
Hence, there is a real factor of risk inherent in much of her work, which renders it vulnerable for unexpected occurrences. Such as Iceberg -18010813. Blue Room, for example, where strangers were invited to a secret location and were given the opportunity to use the dark web, spend the night, and engage in activities that could not be subject to any kind of surveillance. What is fascinating here, as in many of Ev’s works, is that the transgression takes place in the space of the invisible – one can only imagine what went on inside that ‘safe room’, because no one knows except those who made use of it individually. It will forever remain a secret to the artist as well as the rest of us. Again it is a case of a situation which is highly provocative and risky but without shouting out loud and parading its politicality.
Every performance or intervention is therefore carefully considered, mapped out and orchestrated – but always keeping open the possibility of the unexpected - and every performance is relevant to the situation it takes place in, be it a physical situation (as in her museum interventions) or a political situation be it local (Paris, Moscow) or global (the problem of mass surveillance of citizens). Ev engages with power dynamics of different sorts, subtly undermining authority, and creating subversive situations, whose soft power remains elusive, or invisible. She wisely avoids forced confrontation or visitor interaction, rather activating subtle challenges to structures of power. What is remarkable is both the imaginative scope of her work as it is difficult to sometimes grasp the sweeping remit of her performances, and the intelligent political commentary. The only challenge I see for Ev is how to translate the essence and residue of these actions into memorable documentation that can then have an artistic afterlife in exhibitions, for example. But apart from that, this is a bold and gutsy practice that I would be keen to see the evolution of.