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STEVEN COHEN LIFE IS SHOT, ART IS LONG


STEVEN COHEN LIFE IS SHOT, ART IS LONG

TEXTS BY IVOR POWELL AND GÉRARD MAYEN EDITED BY SOPHIE PERRYER

MICHAEL STEVENSON


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CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION SOPHIE PERRYER

6

FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN IVOR POWELL —

9

WORKS 1988-2010

19

D’UNE MORT TUTOYANT LA VIE GÉRARD MAYEN

114

BIOGRAPHY

116

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

120


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INTRODUCTION SOPHIE PERRYER

Life Is Shot, Art Is Long is Steven Cohen’s first solo

part of the Festival de l’Automne – where Cohen

Stevenson was raised, back injuries were prompting

exhibition in South Africa in over a decade, and the

presented I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That! with

Cohen to contemplate a ‘return’ to object

first to take a retrospective view of work spanning

Ballet Atlantique in 2006, Three Solos (Chandelier,

making. Yet this aspect of his practice was never

22 years. It is also the first publication devoted to

Maid in South Africa and Dancing Inside Out) in

abandoned. In an interview during the making of

him since the indispensable Taxi-008 of 2003. It

2008, and Golgotha in 2009; he has been invited to

the performance piece Golgotha (a fragment of the

represents both a return – to the country of birth

present new work again in 2011. He has performed

work in progress showed at the gallery in 2008),

and to the gallery context – and a bold assertion of

at numerous venues in Europe and abroad, and in

Cohen spoke of purchasing two human skulls and

Cohen’s stature as a visual artist.

2009 took up residencies at the Baryshnikov Arts

fashioning them into ‘skulletoes’, filing and sanding,

Center and the Center for Performance Research in

strengthening them with resin, attaching the metal

New York.

heels, the leather straps. I was reminded not just

Cohen moved to France in 2003, embracing a shift in context and audience. Affiliated to the Ballet

of his skill as object maker, but that it would be

Atlantique/Régine Chopinot, a national centre

Although Cohen is known first and foremost as a

entirely contrary for him to work in any other way.

for choreography in La Rochelle, he found a

performance artist, he has always insisted on being

Cohen conceives and executes his pieces in totality,

supportive environment for his work that had been

a visual artist, pointing to the distinction between

an approach that reflects his sense of responsibility

conspicuously absent in South Africa. When the

‘live art’ and the performing arts, and emphasising

for his work.

collaboration with Ballet Atlantique came to an end

the multidisciplinary nature of his practice. That

in 2008, Cohen moved to Lille, with the promise of

this is sometimes forgotten says much about

As a visual artist, Cohen works in a wide range

support for his work from the City.

the primacy of spectacle in our society, while

of media – live actions in the public realm, on

also testifying to the undeniable charge of live

stage, for video and photography; costumes

performance.

made for performance that stand as sculptural

During this period, Cohen’s work has been seen mainly on the performance art circuit, perhaps most notably at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as

assemblages, resonant with the accumulated When the possibility of an exhibition at Michael

meaning of their use; elaborate make-up applied


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to the body-as-canvas … Then there are the

As striking as the breadth of Cohen’s work in

screenprints with which Cohen began his artistic

this survey is its cohesiveness. The cover image,

career, taking a maverick approach to the medium.

stained with bloody douche, offers a succinct link

The early works reveal that from the start he had

between silkscreen and performance. Or trace

a magpie’s eye for found images, incorporating all

Cohen’s preoccupation with such a potent symbol

types of curiosities sourced from children’s books,

as the Jewish Star of David – delicately constructed

medical illustrations, newspaper photographs,

from nails to adorn his shaven head in the 1999

alongside self-portraits in costume and his

intervention Voting; applied to nose or forehead

own photos of people and things around him –

in portraits screenprinted onto serviettes in 2000;

Hillbrow drag queen Granny Lee, a woman from

in the form of the cloth badge, used by the Nazis

the Transkei in traditional clothing, a beggar’s

to identify Jews, incorporated into the costume

poignantly misspelt placard declaring ‘plaese help

worn by Cohen to the Centre for the History of

... things are squee me’.

the Resistance and Deportation in Lyon in 2004, footage of which is used in the performance

In a sense the act of collecting underlies all Cohen’s

Dancing Inside Out; the same cloth badge displayed

practice; his approach is to assemble, process,

amongst the pages of a Nazi Arbeitsbuch in the

intervene … This impulse gives rise to Inscribed in

Inscribed installation.

the Book of Life (2010), an extraordinary collection of Nazi documents and photographs from that era,

Underlying all this is the integrity that stems

interleaved with Cohen’s family photos, pornographic

from Cohen’s rigorous sense of ethics. It may

postcards, Victorian paper cut-outs and bric-a-brac.

seem incongruous in relation to his use of shock

These are brought together in a way that powerfully

and spectacle, but his work reveals a deeply felt

amplifies the resonance of each item.

humanity that challenges the empty taboos of doctrine and dogma, that cuts to the essence of a

Similarly, the collection of works in this exhibition

respect for and love of life. This quality has affirmed

and publication was drawn from a great stash of

itself over time and becomes more fully apparent

crates and boxes. Among the objects to emerge in

in the context of this retrospective exhibition – no

the unpacking was a tapestry bought by a friend

doubt contributing to the overwhelmingly positive

at the roadside, bearing the misquoted aphorism,

response that Life Is Shot, Art Is Long has received.

‘Life is shot, art is long’, which lent itself to the

But even as he matures Cohen has lost none of

title of the show. It offered a way of thinking about

his ability to provoke, and his willingness to take

Cohen’s oeuvre: that in the error – in the slippage of

risks and push boundaries continues to inspire a

meaning, the unseating of what is ‘normal’ – could

generation of younger artists for whom he has

be found a compelling veracity.

paved the way.


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APPLYING MAKE-UP FOR THE LIFE IS SHOT, ART IS LONG OPENING PERFORMANCE, 21 JANUARY 2010


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FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN IVOR POWELL

SELF-PORTRAIT IN SHRAPNEL

of textiles I formulated in the army psychiatric

IP What interests me in these ideas is not what is

hospital in my initial year in the South African

usually brought to the foreground in discussions of

IVOR POWELL Something that runs through much

Defence Force. I started making them in 1987 while I

‘The Work of Steven Cohen’ – the obviously provocative

of your work is a disparateness of reference, the

was in my second year of incarceration in the army.

and confrontational juxtapositions: pope and penis,

collisions of borrowed imagery. In the old silkscreens

The Alice images are completely accurate to John

postcard-innocent children and monster cocks –

from the early 1990s – like the Alice in Pretoria

Tenniel’s original drawings. With most of the objects

the shock horror element. Nor the baitings of the

series – images of military hardware and soldiers

or images I make use of, the horror is intrinsic to

bourgeoisie you do so well – the sparkler up the arse,

are forced to live together with strangely distorted

the found object. It needs no distorting, and benefits

eating shit as you did in the performance Taste, the

Victorian illustrations of an elongated, startled Alice

from as little alteration as possible. When I find an

appropriation of holy Judaic symbols in the context of

in Wonderland. Grand Guignol B-movie style bounces

object that scares me, it is because it is already

what Shaun de Waal rather nicely called ‘monster drag’,

up against the very recognisably South African

terrible unto itself.

the theatre of cruelty aspect to your work.

social realism of beggars with cardboard placards. Stylised homoeroticism versus photojournalism; sentimentalising flower decoration framing unashamed big dicks. The hallucinatory horror – Alice morphing into Paul Kruger in one of the prints. It’s tempting to see the component images in the register of dream imagery, bound together by the febrile logics of anxiety, loathing and fear, rather than the rational logics of everyday life. STEVEN COHEN Alice in Pretoria was the first range

SC (Q-ONLINE COLUMN, SEPTEMBER 1998): ‘I AM AN ARTIST AND I AM A DOG. I AM A FAGGOT AND I AM A JEW. I AM WHITE AND I AM AN UGLY GIRL. I HAVE A COCK AND I AM SOUTH AFRICAN. I EXPLORE MY LIFE THROUGH ART AND I AM PROUD OF MYSELF. I DON’T CELEBRATE MY QUEER IDENTITY ON ONE SPECIFIC DAY ONLY. I USE EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE TO EXPRESS PRIDE IN MY DEVIANCE.’


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IVOR POWELL

What I’m concerned with is something more

Note: An ongoing project, Inscribed in the Book

innocent perhaps but, at the end of the day,

of Life is presented in the Life Is Shot, Art Is Long

more explosive. It’s the deferred patterning or

exhibition on two contiguous display tables. One

presentation of self in your work. The position from

has genuine Nazi-era identity documents – the

which you make your art is multiple and fragmented

Deutsches Reich Arbeitsbuch, Reisepass, Wehrpass

– and essentially unresolved. You come to your

and Soldbuch (the books of work, travel, military

art as Jew, as fag, as democrat, as drag queen, as

service) – resonant with the horror of their history

tortured white South African, as compassionate and

and with official stamps, stickers and identity

morally driven human being, et cetera, et cetera.

photographs. The pages have however been

Each of these elements comes from or signals one

idiosyncratically modified to Cohen’s artistic ends,

of the worlds you inhabit, one of the elements that

with the addition of family photographs, occasionally

make you up. Everything does have its reference and

annotated, of forebears caught up in the Nazi

its interconnection, but at the end of the day the real

atrocities; of sentimental Victorian decorative floral,

uncle Hymie Katz whose nickname was Dogz, Aunty

interconnection is signally idiosyncratic: the bonding

avian and fairground elements such as those used

Ronza, various family members who disappeared

principle that it all reflects (usually in a sulphurous

in scrapbooks characteristically made by girls;

during the Holocaust ...’

mirror) is nothing more or less or other than your

pompous period photographs; Reich-vintage Stars of

Self with a capital S.

David superscribed with the legend ‘Juden’ … These

SC Collecting Nazi memorabilia is forbidden by law

are punctuated with the occasional jolting obscenity:

in many European countries – which just makes it

But that Self comes into being precisely in

a postcard in which a puckered vagina and anus

more circuitous, strange, exciting … and necessary.

the making of the art – in the space you open

have been airbrushed into the image of a face; an

The illicit adventures of finding it, paying for it

up between real-time and the time of art and

Indian boy with monstrous elephantiasis of the

and crossing borders with the contraband, not to

reflection. It’s something I see as being equally

genitalia; images of torture and inhumanity.

mention the strange milieu of those in the trade of it – it’s all a bit like being in the resistance in a Boy’s

important in the plastic artwork and in the performances, this holding-in-tension of highly

E-mail note to IP from Sophie Perryer: Inscribed in

Own adventure. But then, whenever I find something

charged but unresolved elements. Everything in

the Book of Life refers to the table of 30 books; the

authentic I am quietened by the reality of it and the

this way becomes a kind of deferred self-portrait in

other table is research material, which Steven will

belief I have in the project, convinced again, re-filled

fragments – maybe shrapnel, some kind of fallout

continue to use in making more collaged books

with conviction.

from the process that is Steven Cohen.

... In some places you’ll see he has written next to photos – for example, ‘the day Bobba arrived

IP I guess the reason the authorities try to control

in SA’ or ‘Bobba Ray and the KGB’ – according to

access to this stuff is because they fear it will

Steven: ‘Bobba (Yiddish for grandma) Ray and the

become grist for the ever-grinding mills of neo-Nazi

IP The Inscribed in the Book of Life installation is, I

KGB (genuine KGB archival photo) because she was

and other fascist urges in the European collective

think, the clearest and most explicit example in your

Russian born and Russian speaking until her death.

consciousness. (A less generous view might focus

work of the identity constituted in fragments.

Other family members are Zayda (grandpa Sam), my

on a kind of latter-day damage control by the

INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE


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FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN

GOLGOTHA WALL STREET, NEW YORK, 2007 PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER

Germans on one side and the paranoia of the

although the gone are not forgotten and we hear

SC I call them skullettoes – a combination of skulls

international Zionist lobby on the other.) As a Jew,

them, their absence is an unintelligible scream, not

and stilettos. Golgotha is a work made on feelings

your engagement with such material is, of course,

an explanation. The facts are scrabbled in these

rather than convictions. It started off all morally

different. What for the average skinhead is a piece of

shards of paper …

indignant when I found the human skulls for sale,

memorabilia becomes, for you, a relic. In both uses

but over the years making the work it became about

though – as relic or as memorabilia – what gives

In another way it explains to me a story of birth and

trauma and loss and grieving rituals and how to stay

the item its potency is the tracery of its history, the

survival, of how I managed to be born South African.

human. In New York it is possible to do what you

effect of time focused and frozen within the object.

And every time I find a single object (I now have a

can’t do in the Congo or in South Africa: to buy skulls

Because of everything invested in them, these things

collection of hundreds) it is like finding a human tooth

in a shop in Soho. Paying $2 000. Getting a receipt –

become memory made flesh, so to speak.

in the soil, a remain that alerts me to an absence.

which includes tax to the American government.

SC I feel like a Nazi hunter when I find fragments

GOLGOTHA

In the piece I am walking on dead Asian people –

of the Holocaust at flea markets. I feel conflicted

freshly dead, never buried, with all their teeth, no

negotiating the price of a Nazi party card with a

Note: Golgotha is the place of Christ’s crucifixion.

young blond person in Vienna – or Germany, New

In Cohen’s performance of that name, the Stations

York, Estonia, Belgium, all over France. I also feel joy

of the Cross – the road to Golgotha – proceed from

in gaining possession of it. And I am overwhelmed

New York City’s Wall Street, hub of global economic

with something like terror at the brittle surviving

imperialism, to Ground Zero (the site of the bombed

SC Yes, there’s a particular formation of the bone

fragments that I find, the immense power of the

World Trade Centre). Cohen wears a stockbroker’s

at the bottom of the skull that is distinctively Asian.

photographs, letters from Gross-Rosen, or Auschwitz,

suit, and his progress is bedevilled by the fact that

I looked in a book of phrenology. It sounds flaky

a young Jew’s diary with two yellow Juif stars and

he is wearing high, high stiletto heels whose bases

referring to a pseudoscience, but it was in an old

a thousand tiny drawings. The things of ghosts, and

are a pair of human skulls.

edition and the drawings looked realistic-ish. Also

dental work … IP They’re definitely Asian?


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IVOR POWELL

CLEANING TIME (VIENNA) – JUDENPLATZ #4 2007 PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER

I bought a pair of replica skulls in plastic for working

out of them. Maybe that’s me and the culture I come

When you take that giant toothbrush to the

purposes and those categorised as Asian best matched

from, because Jews are not big on the dead. There’s

cobbles of Vienna remembering the time when the

the authentic ones. You can buy Asian or African heads.

this enormous distance between us and death – you

Jews were forced to polish the square with their

You can’t buy Europeans, certainly not Americans.

don’t see the dead, there’s no open burial, there’s

toothbrushes (I presume the Austrian authorities

a special ‘wagter’ who looks after the dead, so as

were going overboard in demonstrating their

Conceptually it’s extremely strong to buy human

soon as somebody’s died they’re not part of the

commitment to the Third Reich), the work only

skulls over the counter in a chic shop in an upmarket

family any more, they’re part of the great system of

really gets a shape when that dumb cop feels either

district in sophisticated New York City, but the actual

Judaism … I do feel monstrous walking on the heads

moved or obliged to intervene.

objects, the shoes, the skullettoes that I fabricated

of the dead, but sacred in that I know exactly why I

from the skulls, are beautiful sculptural objects –

am doing it. And insist I will, the true horror of the

SC He seems kind of sensitive and naive and

astonishing … strong …

work is not that I walk in the skull shoes, but that I

unwilling to do what he does; there’s a gentleness to

am able to buy human skulls in a highly regulated

him. He’s not like the vicious old dude who puts him

IP How does it feel to be walking, cushioning your

and supposedly moral system. The obscenity is

on the case, giving him the instructions to act. You

tread, on somebody’s skull?

something I encounter rather than something I

see it clearly in a few seconds of the video. Which is

invent. I only go one step further when I develop

why I found it interesting – he is totally directed by a

them into transgressive footwear – I mean, art.

grumpy older fuck.

FIRE UP THE ART IN REAL TIME

IP My point is that, in a way, you require that

SC It feels wrong. It feels like I know I’m doing something wrong … but I know the reasons I’m doing it are not wrong. The practice of walking on the dead is extremely traumatising for me. I mean,

intervention to round out the narrative of the

buying them was difficult and even touching them is

IP You describe your performance work – or a

piece. The point at which the victimhood you are

difficult, because … agh, they don’t feel like nothing.

part of it – as being done in the register of ‘please

exploring, that is your subject, is enacted in the

They have an amazing kind of energy that resonates

persecute me’. Flip maybe, but also kind of true.

real-time scenario of the performance – that is


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FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN

IP In a note you made responding to some of my blunderings, you said: ‘I’m not the kind of person who behaves like I do’. I think this is true, and I think it says a lot about your practice as an artist, particularly your performance work. The things you do, the ways you behave in the cause of art: you stick lighted sparklers up your arse at award ceremonies; decked out in parodistic heels and chandelier costume, you interact with squatters being forcibly removed; ceremonially you drink anal emissions, toasting your (presumably speechless) audience with the traditional Jewish ‘l’chaim’ (‘to where the black humour is released. The cop in a

me front, left, right, face and crotch.

way becomes the straight man, in the same way

life’); you haul yourself in gemsbok-horn heels to vote in the general elections; you attend right-

that the guards at the Centre for the History of the

IP OK, but they also got trapped into the dramatis

wing gatherings in caricature drag; in a recent

Resistance and Deportation in Lyon reacted to you

personae?

performance on the roof of a national dance centre

in drag and Mogan David.

you masturbated in public … SC Even when people don’t overtly react or

SC That was the Police Nationale who were there

overreact, that still gets written into the script.

at the behest of the director of the museum, denouncing degenerate art. They took us in for most of a day, handcuffed and photographed and all –

Characteristically, you go over the top. And good for you: it’s funny, it’s fantastical, it makes for wonderful,

‘I’M NOT THE KIND OF PERSON WHO BEHAVES LIKE I DO’

often gobsmacking theatre. It forces your audience to engage with their own kneejerk viewpoints and prejudices, and all those obvious things. It is also highly extrovert. In the way it imposes itself in real

SC (Q-ONLINE COLUMN, SEPTEMBER 1998): ‘I KNOW WHAT UNSAFE IS BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN THERE - IN HIGH HEELS AND A WIG. I HAVE DANCED UNINVITED AT AN OBEDIENCE DOG SHOW WITH A DILDO UP MY ARSE. I HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM PUBLIC SPACE BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE FOR INDECENCY. I HAVE BEEN EVICTED FROM AN AWB RALLY FOR LOOKING BEAUTIFUL. I HAVE HAD A BUTT-PLUG (LIT WITH SPARKLERS) PULLED OUT OF MY ARSE AND BEEN CARRIED OFF A RAMP BY A BOUNCER AT A BRIDAL FASHION SHOW IN A MALL …’

time, it stands in something like the same relation to most performance art as extreme sports do to cricket. Real-time difficulty and discomfort … In your performance at the Life Is Shot opening, you couldn’t walk in the shoes you were wearing, you literally couldn’t move around unassisted. People helped you for a bit, but then they settled into drinking and discoursing. Eventually you just ended up in a kind of heap on the floor.


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IVOR POWELL

SC (IN Q-ONLINE COLUMN, JUNE 1999, DESCRIBING AUDIENCE RESPONSES TO VOTING, WHERE HE CAST HIS ELECTION BALLOT IN GEMSBOK HEELS AND DRAG): ‘I WAS CALLED “IT, SHIT, THAT THING, FREAK AND THE CREATURE” WITHIN HALF AN HOUR OF ARRIVING. I WASN’T CALLED ART ONCE. SIMPLY BEING IN AVANT-GARDE DRAG, IN FULL MAKE-UP AND TORTUOUS 1.2 METRE HEELS, SPRAWLED ON THE PAVEMENTS AND CRAWLING IN THE STREETS, IS CONFRONTATIONAL. IT REALLY WAS A FIVE-HOUR ENDURANCE ORDEAL.’

literally a case of ‘I cannot do it unless you help me’ and then I reached a point of ‘I can’t do it even if you help me’. I don’t know what validity it has for people, but you know it’s also ridiculous in the context of a simple social event like an art opening – this isn’t a major work at a biennale with people watching – and I think that’s a good place to put on performance art, in the midst of a tea party, or on a boring Tuesday afternoon. I’ve always looked for a non-theatrical time or setting for an enormous action. IP I’m interested in the way you describe it. In the classic performance situation the artist does the

SC For me it’s not about looking for the limit and

moment of falling you see a lot. For me that’s a kind

performance and the audience watches it. The way

staying just within that, it’s about looking for the

of metaphor I carry with me. It’s like blinding myself

you talk, you are as much the audience for your

limit and going just a little further from that. It’s not

in order to be able to see.

piece as the performer of it.

my fingernails; it’s about allowing myself to fall and

The Life is Shot performance was also an experiment

SC The normal thing is the audience is completely

in that moment of falling accepting the enormous

in depending on other people. My performances

passive and the performer completely active, but in

realisations that come … because I’ve had friends

are like forced interactions between us (artist and

these interactions I tend to adopt a certain passivity

that have committed suicide jumping off buildings

audience) – not usually on the level of touching each

of letting things happen, of being very quiet, of being

with their jersey pulled over their head. I think in the

other, it’s more through the visual – but here it was

outside myself and observing myself … Not kooky,

like jumping off the cliff and then hanging on by


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FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN

DANCING INSIDE OUT KUNSTHALLE WIEN PROJECT SPACE KARLSPLATZ, VIENNA, 2006 PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER

spooky astral-travelling shit, but in the sense that when something really enormous happens you do feel you’re outside yourself. As Andy Warhol said, when real life happens to you, you feel like you’re watching TV. Like when you break your arm … I’ve got memories of watching it happen, of seeing it from the outside. It’s also about activating the public, forcing them to be active, even if it’s in a refusal to watch or to leave, even if it’s to touch me or hit me or call the police. It’s about leaving all that open.

ENORMITIES IP Is it important to you that you’re not the same at the end of a performance as you were at the beginning? I’m thinking of the really difficult ones – Chandelier would be a good example, there’s something really painful about the piece, just watching it. I’m interested in the language of that pain and the way it’s projected … the way you engage with extremity and how that engagement becomes the subject of the work.


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IVOR POWELL

GOLGOTHA TIMES SQUARE, NEW YORK, 2007 PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER

SC That’s very much what I’m looking for, what

I’m finding it difficult to keep making performances.

head-to-toe mask and from behind there I can say

you’re describing – that engagement with all of

Also I’m getting older, I’m 47 years old, nearly 50.

things I really believe in.

those elements of danger, the unknown, infinite

The work I’ve done makes me feel 75 … my body

possibility, failure … Blood and death are not

and my mind … I mean Chandelier’s hard on the

IP There is a sense in which your performance work

what I hope for, but they are elements I must

body, but it’s even harder on the mind. You watch

scrambles the philosophical order of things. The

accommodate. If someone’s coming to hit me, I don’t

people with nothing losing what they don’t have …

way I see it, you pursue metaphor in extremity, and

know kung fu or anything, I just have to accept what

and I feel white and weird and I feel voyeuristic and

extremity in metaphor. Where the two intermesh is

is going to happen.

I feel I don’t have the right to be there and at the

the zone of what you are in the habit of calling the

same time I have to maintain a belief in the project

‘enormous’ experience. In this way, the language

I feel very different after a performance. I don’t feel

which gives me the right to be there. I believe in the

of your art-making subsists in psychopathology

better or stronger; I don’t feel as though I know

art that I’m making more than I believe in myself,

and cultural pathology. Its syntax is fetish. But what

something I didn’t know before. I just feel altered.

because I know that I’m often not right.

interests me particularly is the fact that all of this

So it’s not about improving myself, it’s not a form of

extremity … enormity … whatever you want to call

therapy, or people talk about it as catharsis. I don’t

IP You, Steven Cohen, are there of course. But you’re

it, is yoked, as I see it, into the service of what is

think it’s any of that. It’s the kind of shit that happens

also masked in a way. Tell me about the persona or

essentially a moral vision, a vision that is humanist,

to you when you have a really woes day … By the

personas you adopt for your performances.

shot through with the pathos of life and informed by

end of the day, you’re not the same, a lot of stuff has

powerfully felt values.

happened. I’ve written about it and I said something

SC I like to say it’s not a persona, it’s part of me,

about feeling injured and cleansed.

but you know … you’re right, it’s a persona. It gives

From my side, I want to end with two big thoughts,

me the liberty to reveal myself because I’m so well

big but I think not insupportably so. One is that

But now these days I feel polluted, not cleansed. I

disguised, behind the make-up, behind the shoes

in your artistic persona – I note here particularly

feel a bit damaged … more and more … which is why

and the stockings and the bizarre costumes … It’s a

that your career was hatched in a psychiatric ward


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FRAGMENTS OF A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN COHEN

during your military service – you take on at least

of the world. Funny stratum of metaphor for a nice

some of the characteristics of the shaman. At least

Jewish boy to be mining …

in metaphor, your practice of going that little bit further than the edge is not far from the courting

SC in email note to Sophie Perryer: The end of

of the near-death experience that characterises the

Ivor's text is so consistent with the birth of the

shaman in society. At the same time, the particular

performance artist in me which also took place in a

species of truth that you seek out – that detached

hospital, those months in Rietfontein Fever Hospital

quality you talk about, being there and watching at

10 years after the boshouse. I've written extensively

the same time, not being the same at the end as you

about the effect of the disease on even the colours

were at the beginning – these things are not far from

of my body - the yellow eyes, the black piss ... how

the particular truths brought back by the shaman

that made me aware of the palette of possibilities

from the ‘other side’. I don’t know to what extent I

that my body offered. Asked who or what inspired

am talking about metaphor and to what extent it is

me in the past, I've even mentioned this microscopic

experiential, but it certainly occupies some point on

virus that tried to kill me.

the continuum between the two; you would not be feeling so existentially exhausted otherwise. The second – and this is not unrelated - is that, in your persona, in what you called your ‘please persecute me’ approach, you set yourself up as a kind of sacrificial victim, in metaphor at least offering yourself in suffering to wash away the sins

IVOR POWELL BEGAN HIS WORKING LIFE AS AN ACADEMIC ART HISTORIAN, MOVING INTO ART CRITICISM AND SUBSEQUENTLY POLITICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM. BETWEEN 2000 AND 2008, HE WAS A SENIOR SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR WITH THE NOW DEFUNCT DIRECTORATE OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS (BETTER KNOWN AS THE SCORPIONS). HE IS CURRENTLY GROUP INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR FOR INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS.


18


19

WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

NATIONAL FAG c1988 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 104 X 126.5CM


21

WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

BUFFEL BUGS ON OLIVER TAMBO STREET 1988 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 116 X 215.5CM


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STEVEN COHEN

COMMEMORATIVE PLATE FOR MAYORAL ARTS BALL 1992 SILKSCREENED, HAND-COLOURED PLATE 18CM DIAMETER > UNTITLED (ALICE IN PRETORIA SERIES) c1988 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 211 X 167CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


27

WORKS 1988-2010

UNTITLED (ALICE IN PRETORIA SERIES) c1988 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 104.5 X 122CM


28

STEVEN COHEN

COMMEMORATIVE PLATES FOR MAYORAL ARTS BALL (BRONZE, SILVER, GOLD) 1992 SILKSCREENED, HAND-COLOURED PLATES 18CM DIAMETER


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

ICONS OF THE PLACE I LIVE 1992-1994 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 165 X 330.5CM


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STEVEN COHEN

FALLEN SOLDIER c1993 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 94.5 X 115.5CM


33

WORKS 1988-2010


34

STEVEN COHEN

ROUGH PLAY WITH BOYS AND GIRLS WHO KICK ARSE 1993 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 159 X 269.5CM


35

WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

GORILLA GIRL 1993 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 152 X 262.5CM


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

PLAESE HELP 1993 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 146 X 157CM


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STEVEN COHEN

TORAH 1993 SILKSCREEN ON MINIATURE FACSIMILE TORAH 16.5 X 3 492CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


43

WORKS 1988-2010

< DEAN 1994 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 76.5 X 110CM MARCEL WAVE 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CLOTH 102.5 X 81CM


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STEVEN COHEN


45

WORKS 1988-2010

< AND THEN EVE ATE OF THE FRUIT 1995 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 95.5 X 83.5CM COMMEMORATIVE PLATE FOR MAYORAL ARTS BALL 1992 SILKSCREENED, HAND-COLOURED PLATE 25.5CM DIAMETER


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STEVEN COHEN


47

WORKS 1988-2010

SECRETS 1996 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON FABRIC COASTERS (DETAILS BELOW), PERSPEX DISKS, PHOTOGRAPHS, TEXT, CERAMIC FIGURE, PLASTIC DOME, INSCRIBED METAL PLAQUE 11 X 9.5 X 9.5CM


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STEVEN COHEN

UGLY WORK I – LUXEMBOURG 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 112 X 152CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

LIVING ART 1998 SINGLE CHANNEL DIGITAL VIDEO 24 MIN 45 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

UGLY GIRL (LIVING ART, LUXEMBOURG, MAY 1998) 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS, BLOOD 91 X 161CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< NERVOUS SYSTEM 1999 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 100 X 49CM THE HIGHER THE HEELS, THE CLOSER TO GOD 2000 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS TWO PANELS, 65 X 33CM EACH


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STEVEN COHEN

AZ DIE MUTER SHREIT OIFEN KIND ‘MAMZER’, MEG MEN IR GLOIBEN (WHEN A MOTHER SHOUTS AT HER CHILD ‘BASTARD’, YOU CAN BELIEVE HER) 1999 C-PRINT 100 X 100CM PHOTO: JOHN HODGKISS


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

SMALL BOY WITH BIG DREAMS 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON XHOSA TEXTILE, SAFETY PINS 58.5 X 32CM > NOMSA 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON XHOSA TEXTILE, SAFETY PINS 103 X 46CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

NOMSA'S SKIRT 1998 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON XHOSA SKIRT 122.5 X 183CM


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STEVEN COHEN

SELFISH PORTRAIT QUARTERED 1999 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS FOUR PANELS, 62 X 62CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

VOTING 1999 (EDITED 2010) SINGLE CHANNEL DIGITAL VIDEO 9 MIN 35 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< CRAWLING … FLYING 1999 GEMSBOK HORNS, PATENT LEATHER POINTE SHOES 130 X 25 X 17CM WORN IN CRAWLING ... FLYING (1999), VOTING (1999), TRADITION (1999) AND I WOULDN'T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! (2003) I WOULDN'T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! 2006 CO-CHORE0GRAPHED WITH ELU, PERFORMED WITH BALLET ATLANTIQUE/RÉGINE CHOPINOT AT THE CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS


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STEVEN COHEN

LIMPING INTO THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE 2002 PERFORMANCE AT THE S-BAHN STATION, ALEXANDERPLATZ, BERLIN > LIMPING INTO THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE 1999 PROSTHETIC LEG, SOCK, SHOES 84 X 20 X 53CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< CRY THE BELOVED CUNT 1999 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS 112 X 147CM SERVICE 1999 HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS, HUMAN LUNG SECTION TRIPTYCH, 31.5 X 94.5CM


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< BROKEN BIRD 2001 OSTRICH FOOT, BALLET POINTE SHOE 33 X 14 X 26CM BROKEN BIRD 2001 PERFORMANCE (CHOREOGRAPHED AND DANCED BY ELU), JOHANNESBURG


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STEVEN COHEN

THE GOATFOOT GOD – PAN 2000 PERFORMANCE (CHOREOGRAPHED AND DANCED BY ELU) > THE GOATFOOT GOD – PAN 2000 KUDU HORNS, RUGBY SCRUMCAP 75 X 52 X 55CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

CHANDELIER 2001 PERFORMANCE, NEWTOWN, JOHANNESBURG > CHANDELIER 2001 C-PRINT 100 X 81CM PHOTO: JOHN HOGG


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

CHANDELIER 2002 SINGLE CHANNEL DIGITAL VIDEO 16 MIN 24 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< I WOULDN’T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! 2003 GIRAFFE LEG, BALLET POINTE SHOE 93 X 14 X 24CM I WOULDN'T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! 2006 CO-CHOREOGRAPHED WITH ELU, PERFORMED WITH BALLET ATLANTIQUE/RÉGINE CHOPINOT AT THE CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS


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STEVEN COHEN

I WOULDN'T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! 2006 CO-CHOREOGRAPHED WITH ELU, PERFORMED WITH BALLET ATLANTIQUE/RÉGINE CHOPINOT AT THE CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS > I WOULDN’T BE SEEN DEAD IN THAT! 2003 OWL ON BRANCH, HEADGEAR 51 X 21 X 40CM


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

< DANCING INSIDE OUT 2004 LEOPARD PRINT PLATFORM SHOES 33 X 33 X 48CM DANCING INSIDE OUT 2006 PERFORMANCE AT KUNSTHALLE WIEN PROJECT SPACE KARLSPLATZ, VIENNA


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STEVEN COHEN

DANCING INSIDE OUT 2006 PERFORMANCE AT KUNSTHALLE WIEN PROJECT SPACE KARLSPLATZ, VIENNA PROJECTION ON FACING PAGE: PUBLIC INTERVENTION AT THE CENTRE D'HISTOIRE DE LA RÉSISTANCE ET DE LA DÉPORTATION, LYON, FRANCE


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

MAID IN SOUTH AFRICA 2005 PERFORMED BY NOMSA DHLAMINI MYENI SINGLE CHANNEL DIGITAL VIDEO 12 MIN 35 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

CLEANING TIME (VIENNA) – HELDENPLATZ #0 2007 C-PRINT 125 X 158CM PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

CLEANING TIME (VIENNA) 2007 SINGLE CHANNEL DIGITAL VIDEO 10 MIN 36 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE 2010 FOUND OBJECTS (INCLUDING NAZI DOCUMENTS, ARTIST’S FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS, VICTORIAN PAPER CUT-OUTS) INSTALLATION 125 X 150CM DETAILS OVERLEAF


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010

INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE (RESEARCH MATERIAL) 2010 FOUND OBJECTS (INCLUDING NAZI DOCUMENTS, ARTIST’S FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS, VICTORIAN PAPER CUT-OUTS) DIMENSIONS VARIABLE DETAILS OVERLEAF


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

GOLGOTHA – DEAD MAN DANCING #1 2007 C-PRINT 80 X 95.6CM PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER GOLGOTHA – GROUND ZERO #1 2009 C-PRINT 80 X 95.6CM PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER > GOLGOTHA – SKULLETOES 2007 HUMAN SKULLS, LEATHER, METAL 38 X 30 X 14CM EACH


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

GOLGOTHA 2007-2009 SINGLE CHANNEL HD VIDEO 20 MIN 8 SEC


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

GOLGOTHA 2009 PERFORMANCE, CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS


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WORKS 1988-2010


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STEVEN COHEN

GOLGOTHA – PORTRAIT #1 2007 C-PRINT 80 X 65CM PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER > GOLGOTHA – PORTRAIT #2 2009 C-PRINT 80 X 65CM PHOTO: MARIANNE GREBER


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WORKS 1988-2010


114

D’UNE MORT TUTOYANT LA VIE GÉRARD MAYEN

Des verroteries et des dorures. Des frises et des

Cela en opérant au cœur du régime des signes,

physiques. La tension y aura atteint des points

torsades. Des motifs ailés, ou floraux. Le très

par emprunt, déplacement, réinvention. Corps de

limites, entre les implications de l’engagement

catholique âge baroque déchaîna ses éclats

l’art-performance. Plus précisément Golgotha se

physique scénique propre à l’art-performance, et

de fascination, dans un mouvement exalté de

développe à la façon d’un rituel. A travers celui-ci,

le soubassement autofictionnel, puisé dans des

dépassement spirituel des puissances de mort.

l’artiste tend à refuser l’exclusion de la mort à

éléments directement autobiographiques, qui sous-

Il les accumula avec faste, incrustés à même les

l’extérieur de la vie publique contemporaine ; tend

tend l’art de Steven Cohen.

matières immobiles des sculptures et retables de

à ramener la mort dans notre contexte de vie. Si

ses sanctuaires.

alors elle nous inquiète, nous transcende, nous

En 2001, son intervention Chandelier – comme

prend ou nous surprend, puisse-t-elle aiguiser nos

précédemment Crawling ... Flying (1999) ou plus tard

Lorsque, au début du XXIe siècle, Steven Cohen

regards critiques, sur les transactions suspectes

le film Maid in South Africa (2005) – articulait sur

emprunte à cette esthétique, il le fait en façonnant

qu’elle suggère avec le régime général des valeurs

un contexte clairement sud-africain son entreprise

de ses propres mains un corset d’apparat. Il l’expose,

mortifères de la marchandise.

de mise en cause de toute fixité des constructions

figé, à un scintillement de lumières. Il s’en affuble

identitaires. Steven Cohen y avait entrepris de se

aussi. Il l’incorpore alors. Rendu à une proximité

Le rituel de Golgotha honore un être très cher à

présenter dans un bidonville de Johannesburg –

physique du mouvement humain, cet élément de

l’artiste, très proche, un frère disparu en ayant, de

justement ce jour-là en cours de destruction, ce qui

costume se charge de connotations ambigües dans

lui-même, mis fin à ses jours. « Jamais ma propre

n’était nullement prévu. Déambulant quasi nu au

le régime des genres. Rendu à une vibration vivante,

performance ne pourra être aussi parfaite que

somment de talons aiguilles, au contact de cette

cet atour se nimbe d’une étrangeté tremblée, d’une

ne l’aura été ce suicide ; une auto-condamnation

population en plein désarroi, il exposait son corps

fragilité mirifique, quand il avait été historiquement

à mort ». Ce n’est pas un hasard si cette pièce a

de Blanc, harnaché d’une structure de suspensions

érigé dans une fixité sculpturale et ostentatoire.

connu, plusieurs années durant, un processus de

et verroteries.

A cet instant, au début de Golgotha, le corps de

création d’une très grande difficulté, accumulant

l’artiste a fait son œuvre ; fait directement œuvre.

les obstacles techniques, réglementaires,

Il était ainsi transformé en un modèle géant de ces


115

de toute assignation territoriale. En développant

perfection dans le profilage des coordinations

cette stratégie, Steven Cohen serait-il en train

dynamiques du corps).

d’inventer, depuis sa position de Blanc sud-africain de l’après-apartheid, une formulation postmoderne

De sourdes logiques d’autopunition et de châtiment

de l’antique figure du juif errant, comme opérateur

sont à la source des régimes religieux, éducatifs,

de la mondialité?

familiaux constitutifs des identités. Pour s’être suicidé, pour avoir défié par cet acte un interdit

Sans jamais renoncer à une once du marquage

communautaire majeur, le frère de Steven Cohen

gay de ses performances, il investit les termes

fut privé d’obsèques véritables. L’artiste les invente

de la composante juive de sa personnalité avec

à présent en leur conférant l’éternité d’un concept.

une insistance qui perturbe les schémas de

Mais à ses pieds, il chemine, jusqu’au point limite

distanciation commémorative qui caractérise

de ne plus pouvoir avancer dans le registre de la

lustres d’appartement qui signalent l’adhésion de

l’entretien de la mémoire de la Shoah dans les

marche humaine, sur des skulletoes, combinaison

leurs occupants – qu’ils soient Noirs aussi bien

sociétés européennes qui y ont directement pris

de crânes humains et de talons aiguilles, façonnés

que Blancs – aux codes les plus conventionnels

part. En 2004, à Lyon (France), la performance

de ses propres mains.

d’une esthétique kitsch de la réussite sociale.

Dancing inside out, produite dans la cour du Musée

Un film désormais fameux rend compte de cette

de la Résistance et de la déportation de cette ville,

Il chemine jusqu’à New York, jusqu’au cœur des

performance unique. Il atteste de la puissance

conduisait Steven Cohen au poste de police, à la

sanctuaires mondiaux de la marchandise. Ces

d’un art agissant à la façon d’un speculum

demande même de la conservatrice de ce musée.

crânes même, c’est dans un commerce qu’il a pu

pour exacerber à vif les contradictions sud-

Transportée sur scène, l’évocation de cette action

se les procurer. Quand il construit la fragilité de

africaines en particulier ; et les représentations

amenait l’artiste à retourner contre sa chair, aux

sa démarche au-dessus de ces skulletoes, l’artiste

identitaires contemporaines et interculturelles

limites de la torture, les outils audiovisuels – une

rappelle qu’il fait œuvre de groupe, dont sont

plus généralement.

caméra – qui opèrent la saisie, le traitement et la

partie prenante l’esprit de son frère, et les crânes

mise à distance du réel dans le régime généralisé

de deux humains dissous dans la circulation de la

tout-puissant de l’image.

marchandise ; alors à travers eux la main de Dieu,

Depuis plusieurs années à présent, Steven Cohen développe son travail le plus souvent depuis la

d’une certaine manière.

France. Toutefois, il a choisi d’y entretenir une

La dimension juive œuvre, de façon beaucoup

très grande indépendance, et de rester à l’écart,

plus discrète, à l’origine du projet de Golgotha,

pour l’essentiel, des dispositifs d’intégration et de

comme dans sa traduction effective sur le plateau.

contrôle institutionnel de la création artistique,

On y entend la prière du Kaddish, au moment où

particulièrement resserrés dans ce pays. Il s’y trouve

Steven Cohen détourne avec des connotations

plutôt en position d’artiste offshore, sans attaches,

sadomasochistes l’usage d’une machine Pilates

et dès lors apte à opérer de fulgurantes connexions

(fort prisée des artistes chorégraphiques qu’il

selon des lignes de partage ou de fuite qui se jouent

a côtoyés en France, cette machine vise une

GÉRARD MAYEN EST JOURNALISTE, CRITIQUE DE DANSE DANS LA PRESSE ET DES REVUES SPÉCIALISÉES FRANÇAISES (MOUVEMENT, MOUVEMENT.NET, DANSER, QUANT À LA DANSE, PREF), AUTEUR D’OUVRAGES SUR MATHILDE MONNIER ET SUR LA DANSE CONTEMPORAINE EN AFRIQUE. IL EST ÉGALEMENT MÉDIATEUR DE LA CULTURE CHORÉGRAPHIQUE ET PRATICIEN DE LA MÉTHODE FELDENKRAIS DE PRISE DE CONSCIENCE PAR LE MOUVEMENT.


116

STEVEN COHEN Born 1962, Johannesburg; lives in Lille, France

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

Contemporary, Johannesburg 1989 The Living Room, Gallery on the Market,

2010 Life Is Shot, Art Is Long, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town

Johannesburg 1988 Alice in Pretoria, Market Gallery, Johannesburg

2008 Fuck Off and Die, Chapelle Fromentin, La Rochelle, France

Research, New York City, NY, USA

PERFORMANCES

Poland

Three Solos: Holland Festival, Amsterdam, 2010 Chandelier, Cleaning Time, Maid in

the Netherlands

South Africa: Danae Festival, Milan, Italy

Three Solos: Queer Up North Festival,

Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-

Dancing with Myself, Chandelier: Centre

Manchester, UK

Hudson, NY, USA

Chorégraphique National, Montpellier, France

Golgotha: Trouble Festival, Les Halles de

Golgotha: Festival des Antipodes, Brest,

Schaerbeek, Brussels, Belgium

France

Three Solos: Festival des Antipodes, Brest,

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg 1998 Material Boy, Galerie Dudelange-Ville,

Chandelier: Théâtre d’Orléans, Orléans, France

Luxembourg

Chandelier: Festival Vivat la Danse, Vivat,

But Me, I’m Sitting Pretty, Galerie Mikado,

Armentières, France

Luxembourg

2009 Golgotha: Festival d’Automne, Centre

France 2008 Three Solos: Festival d’Automne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Dancing Inside Out, Maid in South Africa,

Camp Concentration, Hänel Gallery, Cape

Pompidou, Paris, France

Taste: Queer Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Town

Chandelier: Dampfzentrale, Berne,

Dancing Inside Out: Court Toujours Festival,

Switzerland

Poitiers, France

Gallery, Johannesburg

Golgotha: Les Subsistances, Lyon, France

Chandelier: Espinal, Le Mans, France

Uneasy Chairs and Bitter Suites, Everard Read

Three Solos (Dancing Inside Out, Maid in

Dancing Inside Out: First Live Art Festival of

1994 The Toilet of Adventure (installation), Civic Art 1993

Knock ’Em Dead: Center for Performance

Uninvited (with Elu), Center for Curatorial

1999 Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty,

1997

Porte V, Nancy, France

Three Solos: Body Mind Festival, Warsaw,

2006 Dancing Inside Out, Kunsthalle Wien Project Space Karlsplatz, Vienna, Austria

South Africa, Chandelier): Festival Souterrain


117

BIOGRAPHY

India, New Delhi, India

Dancing Inside Out: Panorama Festival of

Taste, Chandelier: Estonia

Dancing Inside Out: L’Arsenic Theatre,

Dance, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Chapelle

Lausanne, Switzerland

Dancing Inside Out: International Biennale of

Fromentin, La Rochelle, France

Dance of Ceara, Fortalezza, Brazil

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: FNB Dance

Vienna, Austria

Dancing Inside Out, Maid in South Africa,

Umbrella, Johannesburg

Chandelier: Mettre en Scène, Quimper, France

Taste: Latitudes Contemporaines, Lille, France

(Invited, then uninvited once there): First

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Le Vivat,

d’Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie,

Jewish Theatre Festival of Austria, Vienna

Armentierres, France

Caen, France

Dancing Inside Out, Rencontres du Court,

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Scène

In Transit International Performance Festival,

Poitiers, France

Nationale, Dieppe, France

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany

Hard Core Queer: Chapelle Fromentin, La

Danses du Loin Festival, Port de Peche, La

Space Karlsplatz, Vienna, Austria

Rochelle, France

Rochelle, France

Taste: Museum of Contemporary Art,

Dancing Inside Out: Johannesburg Dance

Chandelier: Playtime Festival, Newtown,

Umbrella, South Africa

Johannesburg

2007 Cleaning Time (Vienna): Public interventions,

2006 Dancing Inside Out: Kunsthalle Wien Project

Honolulu, HI, USA

Tradition (duo with Elu): Les Intranquilles, Les

2004 Chandelier: Cathedral of St John the Divine,

2002 Rencontres Video Art Plastique 16, Centre

Chandelier: FNB Vita Dance Umbrella,

Subsistances, Lyon, France

New York, NY, USA

Chandelier: Latitudes Contemporaines, Lille,

Free Jew is Cheap at Twice the Price: Museum

France

for African Art, New York, NY, USA

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Festival

Dancing Inside Out, This One Got Away: Estonia

d’Automne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Sorry I’m Late!: Public intervention,

Limping into the African Renaissance:

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Théâtre

Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la

Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg

Garonne, Toulouse, France

Déportation, Lyon, France

Art and Body: Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria

Chandelier: Théâtre Garonne, Toulouse,

Dancing Inside Out: Les Intranquilles, Les

Mandela/Rabbi/Queen: Book Shop, Hyde Park

France

Subsistances, Lyon, France

Centre, Johannesburg

Chandelier: Dressing the Contemporary,

I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Les

Jomba Dance Festival, Sneddon Theatre,

PROGR, Bern, Switzerland

Subsistances, Lyon, France

University of Natal, Durban

Dancing Inside Out: Montevideo, Marseilles,

Mauvais Genre Alain Buffard, Chapelle

Tradition: NSA Gallery, Durban

France

Fromentin, La Rochelle, France

Elephant Style: Miss Glow Vaal, Sebokeng,

Save the Last Dance for Me: Scénographies

Limping into the African Renaissance,

South Africa

Urbaines, Kinshasa, DR Congo

Chandelier: African Art Centre, Bordeaux,

Kudu Dance: Chagall exhibition opening,

France

Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg

Chandelier: Les Subsistances, Lyon, France

Limping into the African Renaissance (with

2005 Dancing Inside Out: Porte MC2a, Bordeaux, France

Chandelier: Palamino Gallery, São Paulo, Brazil

2003 I Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead in That!: Aix-enProvence, France

Johannesburg 2001 Chandelier: Squatter camp, Newtown, Johannesburg 2000 Shit Day at 702: Radio 702, Johannesburg

Nomsa Dhlamini): FNB Vita Dance Umbrella, Wits Theatre, Johannesburg


118

STEVEN COHEN

Limping into the African Renaissance: Public

Taste: Wits University Fine Art Department,

Jew at the Mall: Rosebank Mall and Mutual

road, eSigangeni, Swaziland

Johannesburg

Square, Johannesburg

Crawling: Gay Pride March, Johannesburg

Jew at the Zoo: Run for Wildlife,

Traditional homestead, eSigangeni, Swaziland

Intersection/Hijack: judging Miss Glow Vaal,

Johannesburg Zoo, Johannesburg

Boeredrag: Church Square, Pretoria

Sebokeng, South Africa

Dog, Ugly Girl, Faggot, Jew: Durban Art

Voting: Independent Electoral Commission,

Taste: Carfax, Johannesburg

Gallery, Durban

polling day, Johannesburg

Intersection/Hijack: North West Fashion

Blood: Durban July, Newmarket Race Course,

Crawling to Miniland and Radio 702,

Technikon, Mabopane, Gauteng

Durban

Johannesburg

Taste: Babel Tower exhibition, Civic Art

Faggot, Ugly Girl: Club 330, Point Rd, Durban

Flying: Johannesburg Zoo, Johannesburg

Gallery, Johannesburg

Dog, Ugly Girl, Faggot, Jew: FNB Vita

Fly: Hyde Park Centre, Johannesburg

Dog, Once Upon a High Heel: Nico Malan

Award exhibition, Sandton Civic Gallery

Fly: Goodman Gallery window, Johannesburg

Confluences Dance Conference, Cape Town

Johannesburg

1999 Limping into the African Renaissance:

Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty:

1998 Patriotic Drag: AWB Rally, Fort Klapperkop,

Fashion Mule/Fly: Sandton Square Fashion

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Pretoria

Week, Johannesburg

I’ll Walk with God: Goodman Gallery,

How to Receive a Cheque: Vita nominations,

Patronage: Nokia Corporate Office Park,

Johannesburg

Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Crawling: Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

Fascist Pig: Electric Workshop, Johannesburg,

Ugly Girl, Dog: Body Politics Conference, Wits

opening, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria

and African Window Gallery, Pretoria

University, Johannesburg

Freedom Day Performance: Club Zoo,

Dog, Once Upon a High Heel: Johannesburg

Ugly Girl vs Mugabe: Gay Pride, Pieter Roos

Johannesburg

Dance Umbrella, Wits Theatre, Johannesburg

Park, Hillbrow, Johannesburg

The Trek Song: Carfax, Johannesburg

Dog, Pieces of You: João Ferreira Fine Art,

Gay Couple Visa: Zimbabwe Embassy, Pretoria

Crawling to Register: Independent Electoral

Cape Town

Fly: Kine Centre, Johannesburg

Commission, Johannesburg

Dog, Ugly Girl: Galerie Dudelange,

Fly: Galerie Mikado, Luxembourg

Fashion Mule: Greyville Race Course, Durban

Luxembourg

Dog, Once Upon a High Heel: Dance Umbrella,

Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty,

Dog: Goldfields Kennel Club, Johannesburg

Playhouse Theatre, Durban

Tradition: Cape Town Dance Umbrella, Baxter

Dog: Sandton Square, Johannesburg

Crawling: Gay and Lesbian Film Festival,

Theatre, Cape Town

Penetrated Virgin: Bridal show, Killarney Mall,

Johannesburg

Crawling: British Airways flight, Cape Town to

Johannesburg

Crawling: Standard Bank Gallery,

Johannesburg

Jew: Walk for Life, Johannesburg Zoo,

Johannesburg

Taste: University of Cape Town campus

Johannesburg

Good Mourning: Bryanston Catholic Church

canteens, Cape Town

Ugly Girl at the Rugby: SA vs Wales, Loftus

and WestPark Cemetry, Johannesburg

Intersection/Hijack (danced by Elu): Public

Versveld, Pretoria

Simon Nkoli Memorial: St Mary’s Cathedral,

intervention at traffic intersections,

Jew at Bree Street Taxi Rank: Bree Street,

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Miss FNB and Father Christmas: Fourways


119

BIOGRAPHY

Crossing and Eastgate Mail, Johannesburg

1997

2008 Radical Drag, SAW Gallery, Ottowa, Canada

1997

Lifetimes: Art from Southern Africa, Out of

Menorah at Chanukah: Lubavitch Public Event,

Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting

Sandton Square, Johannesburg

attention, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town

Divorcee Drag: Hyde Park Shopping Centre,

Too Close for Comfort, Goethe-Institut,

Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Cape Town

Johannesburg

Johannesburg

Colours: Kunst aus Sud-Afrika, Haus der

Natural Angel: Krush exhibition, Troyeville,

Rencontres Internationales, Berlin and Madrid

Johannesburg

Spier Contemporary 2007, Johannesburg Art

Bridal Drag: Decriminalisation of gay sex

Gallery, Johannesburg

Biennale, Johannesburg Art Gallery,

hearing, Supreme Court, Johannesburg

The Enterprise of Art, Pallazzo Delle Arte,

Johannesburg

The Art of Kissing (with Elu): Supreme Court,

Naples, Italy

Johannesburg, and Arts Alive, Johannesburg

Under Pain of Death, Austrian Cultural Forum,

Johannesburg

Dagga Is an Alarming Problem: Second

New York

State of the Art, Everard Read Contemporary,

Johannesburg Biennale and Rosebank Mall,

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Dildo-Drag: Body Politics Conference, Durban

Rightfully Yours, Barnicke Gallery, University

I Was Fucked Up My Art: Sandton Civic Gallery,

of Toronto, Canada

Johannesburg

Rencontres Internationales, Paris, France

Johannesburg

Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin, Germany 1995 Inside Out, Africus: First Johannesburg

1994 Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery,

2007 Spier Contemporary 2007, Spier Estate,

Johannesburg

Theory of the Queer as a Slut: Kempton Park,

Africa Festival, Munich, Germany 1996 National Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibition,

Johannesburg 1993

Gallery, Johannesburg 1992 Queer Art, FIG Gallery, Johannesburg

Processed Image, Newtown Gallery,

10th Biennale Bandits-Mages, Bourges, France 2006 Personal Affects: Power and poetics in

Erotica for Home and Garden, Newtown

Johannesburg 1991

Cape Town Triennial, national touring

Monster Shopper: Eastgate Mail,

contemporary South African art, Museum of

exhibition, South Africa

Johannesburg

Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI, USA

Urban Artefact, Newtown Gallery,

Theory of the Queer as a Dumb Drag: H채nel Gallery, Cape Town

2004 Personal Affects: Power and poetics in

contemporary South African art, Museum

Johannesburg 1989 Porn/Pawn, FIG Gallery, Johannesburg

for African Art and Cathedral of St John the SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

Divine, New York, NY, USA

AWARDS AND RESIDENCIES

2000 Distinguished Identities, State University of 2009 Dada South?, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town

New York at Stony Brook, New York, NY, USA

2009 Research residency, Baryshnikov Arts Center

1999 Emergence, national touring exhibition,

and Center for Performance Research, New

Life Less Ordinary: Performance and display

South Africa

in South African art, Djanogly Gallery,

Postcards from South Africa, Axis Gallery,

2003 Ampersand Fellowship, New York, NY, USA

Nottingham, UK

New York, NY, USA

1998 FNB Vita Award Winner

Gender, (Trans) Gender and (De) Gendered,

1998 FNB Vita Art Prize, Sandton Civic Gallery,

York, NY, USA

1993

Vita Art Now, Joint Second Quarter Award

special project of the Havana Biennale,

Johannesburg

Winner

Cuba

Body Politics, Wits University, Johannesburg

Momentum Life Award


120

< INSTALLATION VIEW, LIFE IS SHOT, ART IS LONG, MICHAEL STEVENSON, CAPE TOWN, JANUARY 2010 COVER IMAGE UGLY GIRL (LIVING ART, LUXEMBOURG, MAY 1998), 1998, HAND-COLOURED SILKSCREEN ON CANVAS, BLOOD, 91 X 161CM PAGE 1 FOUND TAPESTRY, COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST PUBLISHED AFTER THE EXHIBITION LIFE IS SHOT, ART IS LONG, MICHAEL STEVENSON, CAPE TOWN, 21 JANUARY – 6 MARCH 2010 EDITOR SOPHIE PERRYER DESIGN GABRIELLE GUY IMAGE REPRO MARIO TODESCHINI PRINTING HANSA PRINT, CAPE TOWN BINDING GRAPHICRAFT, CAPE TOWN PHOTO CREDITS MARIO TODESCHINI: PAGES 1, 8, 21, 22, 24-26, 29, 30, 33, 35-47, 49, 55-57, 60-63, 65, 68, 71-74, 77, 82, 85, 86, 96, 98-103, 120 MARIANNE GREBER: PAGES 11, 12, 15, 16, 87-89, 93, 104, 105, 110-113 JOHN HODGKISS: PAGES 40, 41, 59, 69, 70, 76, 83, 84 JOHN HOGG: PAGES 75, 78, 79

ARTIST'S ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks to the following for supporting the production of works: Marie Collin of Festival d'Automne, Serge Laurent of Centre Pompidou, Guy Walter and Cathy Bouvard of Les Subsistances, CulturesFrance, Ville de Lille, Latitudes Prod, Jacques Blanc of Les Antipodes, Fabienne Verstraeten of Les Halles de Schaerbeek, Agathe Berman of Les Films d'Ici, Le Fresnoy; and, for their support for the catalogue, Laurent Clavel of the Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud, Vivien Cohen, Roelof van Wyk, Piet Viljoen, Hans Porer, Linda Givon, Emile Stipp, Gordon Schachat Collection. Thanks also to Elu, Nomsa Dhlamini Myeni, Ken Davis, Adrienne Sichel, John Hodgkiss, John Hogg, Robyn Sassen, Marianne Greber, Lili Chopra, Henri Vergon, Ann, Michelle, Phil and Calliopi; Michael Stevenson, Sophie Perryer, Andrew Da Conceicao and all at the gallery; my producer, Maria-Carmela Mini; and my dear brother Mark, because being dead doesn't exclude you from everything.

© 2010 TEXTS: THE AUTHORS © 2010 WORKS BY STEVEN COHEN: THE ARTIST © 2010 PHOTOS BY MARIANNE GREBER: MARIANNE GREBER/VBK WIEN PUBLISHED BY MICHAEL STEVENSON BUCHANAN BUILDING 160 SIR LOWRY ROAD WOODSTOCK 7925 CAPE TOWN INFO@MICHAELSTEVENSON.COM WWW.MICHAELSTEVENSON.COM ISBN 978-0-620-46350-8


Steven Cohen: Life is Shot, Art is Long  

2010