Antonin Artaud und die Pest, 2005/2008

Installation view: Transitory Objects, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, 2009
Photo: Michael Strasser | © Bildrecht, Vienna, 2020 | TBA21

Installation with props, single-channel video projection (color, sound)
14 min 29 sec (video)
Overall dimensions variable

Since the early 1990s John Bock has attracted attention with his unpredictable performances, in which he reflects on and examines a range of social, political, philosophical and aesthetic interests, blurring artistic convention and constructing a boundless world entirely his own. Over time, the artist has developed increasingly complex, large-scale installations in which he employs simple everyday objects and materials like wood, fabric, wire, cotton wadding, toothpaste, shaving cream, cleaning products and food, which he treats and combines in unusual ways. Initially, these objects serve as props during the artist’s performances/actions and afterwards are left behind in the exhibition space. In addition, the medium of video has frequently played a role for example when the artist documents his actions with a camera, integrating the resulting video into his installations or when parts of his live performances are presented cinematically.

Antonin Artaud und die Pest (Antonin Artaud and the Plague) refers to “The Theatre and the Plague,” a lecture held by Antonin Artaud, Bock’s most important point of historical reference, famous for his role in the theatre of classical modernism. Artaud held his lecture on April 6, 1933 in a schoolroom of the Sorbonne, however to the audience’s disapproval and outrage he chose not to talk about the proposed topic of “The Theatre and the Plague” but instead to act out “dying by a plague”. As Artaud commented to Anais Nïn: “They always want to hear about; they want to hear an objective conference on ‘The Theater and the Plague,’ I want to give them the experience itself, the plague itself, so they will be terrified, and awaken. I want to awaken them. Because they do not realize they are dead. Their death is total, like deafness and blindness. This is agony I portrayed. Mine yes, and everyone who is alive”.

*1965 in Schenefeld, Germany I Living and working in Berlin, Germany
Artist's Website