I reach Falsnaes, 36, via Skype. He’s in Buenos Aires, preparing for two concurrent projects: a re-staging of an earlier piece, Moving Images
(2015), at the Bienal de Performance, and the launch of a new work, Force
(2017), at the arteBA
fair. For the latter, he’s constructing a stage in the center of the space, and then inviting six people at a time to enact pre-recorded instructions that they hear via headphones.
It’s not the first time that Falsnaes has brought his peculiar breed of interactive provocation to a fair; in 2014, at Art Basel, he presented Justified Beliefs. Part of the script for that piece involved demanding participants strip entirely nude, in public.
Not everyone was game. But, Falsnaes said, around 10 people each day compliantly shucked their clothes. “I wanted a situation where people really had to make a decision: ‘Stop, I’m going,’ or ‘Fuck it, I’m going to do it,’” he explained. “Most people, if they didn’t want to [strip nude], they took off the headphones and went out of the piece. They still believed so much in the authority of the voice that they couldn’t imagine staying there, and listening, but not doing it.”
Falsnaes digests the hoariest of performance-art cliches—the attention-seeking ego of the solo star; obscure, repetitive physical motions; occasional nudity—and respins them in novel configurations.
Mainly, he removes himself from the equation; he has, gradually, been disappearing from his own work. His set-ups are barebones: hired performers, a set of script-like parameters, certain technologies (headsets, a video camera). Like
wall drawings, they are semi-unpredictable recipes that can be enacted by almost anybody who is willing to abide by the rules.