OPHELIA is a performance project and video-sculpture awarded with a Franklin Furnace Grant by Martha Wilson & Franklin Furnace in New York. As part of a planned transatlantic collaboration via the Goethe NY, I am looking for a donations to realize the performance and production of the sculpture.
OPHELIA will be an architectural performance both presented as live performance and video sculpture evoking questions of anthropocentric attitudes and actions that are resulting in human destruction of the biosphere. The most famous rendering of the character of Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was that of a young woman who passively allows her own destruction. The iconic artwork and text that have inspired and will inform this performance includes Ophelia (John Everett Millais, 1852) and Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Jeff Koons, 1985) and text from The Werld (Daniil Kharms, 1939).
For the performance of OPHELIA, the artist, Nadja Verena Marcin, will float inside a life-sized, saltwater aquarium, live performed and later shown at an exhibition space, as well as public locations (TBD) as video sculpture. Wearing Ophelia’s dress and a transparent breathing mask, the artist will appear dream-like but restrained, quoting text from The Werld about human subjective perception. The sound rising to the water’s surface will be recorded, and the performance filmed by four HD cameras, each covering one long side of the tank. An invited audience will witness and be able to immerse into the live experience, casting shadows on the glass of the tank.
Whereas the performer is isolated from the audience in a state of complete self-reference, the emptiness of the aquarium will contrast with the richness of human life and memory, the innate potential of humankind. The artist’s body will be vulnerable, threatened with death by drowning. Air bubbles, representing unheard messages, will add dark humor to the piece, representing the human search for understanding that neglects their obvious presence and ability to communicate.
At the heart of a lively art-gallery the viewers will thus be located inside a powerful urban superstructure. Setting OPHELIA in this context will render the sculpture as a perfect Matryoshka doll, a collection of selves nesting one inside the others. An exhibition as the incubator for experimental audience interaction lends with the platform to highlight a continuous conversation between artist and audience, breaking down the traditional hierarchies and focusing on the circumstances all humans are caught in.
Thereafter, the documentation videos will be presented on customized scaled HD monitors placed on long sides of the water tank, which will be elevated on metal legs as a pedestal-like structure, evoking the sculpture by Koons. Kharm’s text will be added as subtitles floating inside the videos. The aquarium and its metal structure will be designed in collaboration with an interior design architect. The video sculpture with visual, scientific and textual references will be on first time view inside an exhibition. Additional presentations will be sought for in- and outdoor urban settings such as pedestrian space, train station, park, shopping mall.
OPHELIA will warn of how humans in a technologically sophisticated environment are destroying our original ties to nature while simultaneously seeking authenticity. The image of Ophelia inside an advanced, constructed reality, kept alive through a mask and encircled by technology, will be a metaphor for the Anthropocene: “The human imprint on the planet has now become so large that it rivals some of the great forces of nature.”
The meaning of OPHELIA will be observed through the subjective lens of the viewer, who will be overpowered by the superstructure, while the superstructure in the end will be overpowered by nature’s forceful response to our disregard for and corruption of it. Within this dire prophecy will be the ethereal image of Ophelia suspended and on life support, lending a poetic sensibility and fragile potential for a purer embrace of the precious nature of life than humans have chosen thus far.