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JOKO, Karin Jost / Regula J. Kopp

Photo: Franziska Bodmer, Paris 1998


Interview: Beate Engel


Vertigo, sweat and pain

Anne Duden writes: "My memory is my body. My body has holes in it. The only things that do nor fall through its mesh are love and torment." How is the relationship of love and torment reflected in your body-performances?

Love and torment are eternally inseparable. The images we create show two people longing for a con-nection, the impossibility of total fusion. That is painful.

Why do you work as a pair?

We are two different people who act as a mirror for each other. Interpersonal things are important in our work for settling conflicts, admitting pain and dependency.

This dependency was demonstrated very graphically in your performance "Borderline", when you stood for three hours with your hands behind your backs, fastened to a hangman's rope that was hanging from the ceiling ba a hook and looped round your necks. This work reminds me of Abramovic and Ulay's risky pair-performances.

Even if there are certain similarities in terms of motif we are lacking in the specific tension that Abramovic and Ulay acquired from the battle of the sexes. Battle of the sexes - that's a terrible phrase. We are active and passive at the same time, in our case there are always two winners or two losers.

Do you use the performances to get over particular personal fears?

We do not go in for deliberate self-finding. For example, the stinging-nettle-trauma did not set until we had been rolling in the nettles for a quarter of an hour.


Beautiful and vulgar

Your immobile faces seldom betray emotion. Why this strict control?

There is something very beautiful about not seeing pain expressed on someone's face. We don't make any sounds to show that we are suffering either. Expressionlessness has very negative connotations in the We-stem world, but the situation is quite different in Eastern thinking. We are not concerned with a brutal frenzy of destruction or effective theatre, but with mental concentration and discipline.

In the sixties there was quite a trend towards female masochism in performance art. Gina Pane and Valie Export rolled in broke glass or slit their skin, as a symbolic attack on injuries to women and their object status in society. What links you with this tradition?

We are now working on the foundations of this emancipation, we do not have to present ourselves as women. Gina Pane and Valie Export are very important for our work in this sense. But we do not use pain as a public accusation, but as a technique for crossing borders, as a personal challenge and source of strength.

You are not inhibited about showing your own naked skin. How do you cope with your audience as voyeurs?

Why should we be inhibited about showing ourselves as we are? There is nothing negative about voyeurism as such. We expect a certain level of voyeurism from our audience. Otherwise we would not have to show ourselves in public.

How important is it for you to construct beautiful images?

Apparently we correspond to the classical ideal of beauty, we have often heard that, but it is not particularly important to us. But we are interested in introducing our own view of aestetics, even in performances that are anything but harmless.
Ugliness and suffering are too much badness. Beauty and mere rapture are too much goodness, in the long run. It is only a mixture that is interesting. But painful situations are often portrayed in the beautiful images and statues of art history. Pictures of saints, pictures of battles, caryatids, all these are embodiments not just of beauty, but also of the bearing of suffering and fear.

Vanessa Beecroft once said to me about her performance models, who were running around posing for photographers in titillating underwear during the last Biennale in Venice:"Oh, they are just pictures, beautiful pictures." What happens when you two are photographed?

We are not pictures, we show pictures! An observer once said that it is more disturbing to see photographs of us than our live performances, because the photographs also show one's own idea of what might have happened.

How have you performance experiences affected your real relationship?

We cange and extend our perception in our opposite number, this 5 a genuine process even though the symbols as such are staged. We have grown together through our performance work.

Have you actually become blood-friends yet?

We should do that sometime. But only in the forest, with a sacking knife.


* Shortened version from: "Wenn zwei in ihrem Namen sich treffen». Performance Art Duos. Catalogue and CD-Rom, Landesmuseum lnnsbruck, 1998


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