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hair cells, plays the most important part in regulating human balance. But this inner ear is at times counteracted by its neighbouring cochlea, dedicated as it is to human hearing, its auditory function therefore enlisted by Lee Wen’s music to just about throw everyone off balance.

Painted and Shod June Yap

Lee Wen with Myriam la Plante “This is Performance Art” Black Market International, Glasgow, 2011

The representation of performance, or art for that matter, as suggested by Ray, undoubtedly goes beyond the object or work, or object in work, itself. The artwork and its representation as Heideggerian poetics or Derridean haunting, an operation performed by viewer and writer, reflects their relations to the work. The amplified opacity of performance art, its Heideggerian ‘thingliness’, deters neither the viewer’s nor writer’s tenacious endeavour for meaning or visceral engagement with the performance. However when a call is made, such as by the artist on the interpretation of shoes – articulated in terms of subjugation – and as Ray points out in reverse orientation, that of elevation – the performance transforms; it twists (scoliotic-like), and the sense of it is irredeemably transfigured. Or is it? Where is the truth in painting, or for that matter, in performance? The contest over Van Gogh’s shoes (notably always in a pair, never at a loss of their other), points to a failure of words, or the failure of locution more specifically, that appears marked in performance art. For Derrida, it is a failure of the remains – the “untranslatable”,17 where Cezanne’s promise, “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”, renegades: “in the

performance of this performative promising another performative saying nothing that will be there”,18 a condition that discursivity is perhaps unable to avoid.19 Approaching then almost in a sidle, an anti-logocentrism of performance is arguably found in Lee Wen’s participation in the performance network Black Market International. The network that began in 1986 with the idea of the art of begegnung, or as lost in translation, as the art of ‘meeting’,20 does not attempt to articulate the performative encounter between individuals from around the globe. Performance art within the network’s deliberate framing is approached at the moment of begegnung, that is once there and then gone in an instant, and where in the space of that moment a series of unplanned connections occur – “we steal each other’s material. We become one image in creating moments together by walking into different directions. We lose tracks. We find new ways. We accept no rules. We destroy moments in creating situations”.21 Little is said after the fact, the act of the performance, by those involved. But rather during the performance, as Lee Wen writes, the present is activated, it is “electrified”,22 and then it passes. All else is arguably moot, image and act, that wordless moment, is simply presented... and then fools rush in,23 like “cobblers with short awls”.24


Referencing Cezanne’s statement about “the truth in painting”, and his promise to Emile Bernard. Ibid., p. 9.

“Teleology and hierarchy are prescribed in the envelope of the question (of what is art, what is the meaning of art) the philosophical encloses art in its circle but its discourse on art is at once, by the same token, caught in a circle.” Ibid., pp. 22–23.


Boris Nieslony, Art of Begegnung, BLACKMARKET_f/TEXTES_F/BORISTXT.htm. The translation of begegnung according to Helge Meyer as “meeting” is oversimplified. “BMI is permanently experimenting with questions that deal with the term “meeting” or better begegnung which is the German term for a meeting that has got a deeper quality in a philosophical sense.” Helge Meyer, ‘Black Market International – Structure and Anti-Structure’, Performance Art Research, http://www.performance-art-research. de/texts/black-market-international_helge-meyer.pdf.



Helge Meyer, ibid.

“There was electricity whenever we meet, live wire, sparks, never boring. Bit too much sometimes. And there have been various different versions of what it was, is about. And still going on with different claims and perhaps also different clones of it. Still going on the electricity live wire sparks have no power failure despite earthquakes or hard rain.” Lee Wen, ‘Black Market International’,


“Untranslatable: this locution is not absolutely so. In another language, given enough space, time, and endurance, it might be possible for long discourses to propose laborious approaches to it. But untranslatable it remains in its economic performance, in the ellipsis of its trait, the word by word, the word for word, or the trait for trait in which it contracts: as many words, signs, letters, the same quantity or the same expense for the same semantic content, with the same revenue of surplus value.” Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod, tr. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 4–5.


Johnny Mercer, music by Rube Bloom, ‘Fools Rush In’ (1940), as recorded by The Morning Benders on Bedroom Covers, 2008, Rough Trade Records.



Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, p. 300.

Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body.  

"Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body" written by Lucy Davis, Ray Langenbach, Lee Weng Choy, Adele Tan and June Yap. Lead essay of Sing...

Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body.  

"Lee Wen: Variations On The Exquisite Body" written by Lucy Davis, Ray Langenbach, Lee Weng Choy, Adele Tan and June Yap. Lead essay of Sing...