foi9 Download


Boris Nieslony (Germany), Untitled, Future Of Imagination 9, Singapore. Photo by Jason Lim
Boris Nieslony (Germany)
Untitled (1 hour and 40 minutes)
Future Of Imagination 9,
Singapore 7th September 2014
by Daniela Beltrani

The space is a long room with wooden slats flooring and exposed bricks under a gable roof. The only, dim, light shining from above – clearly inadequate to cover such a large space - is encased in a metal frame with myriads of tiny holes. The light is channelled and fragmented through the holes, until it reaches the surrounding space and the wall in a dense reticulate grid of irregular dots. Upon entering the room, my eyes take a few seconds to adjust.

A pair of double windows lets in the artificial light from the street, but it is shut.The air is hot and stifled.

Boris is barefooted and dressed fully in black. Before my eyes adjust to the dim light, he is almost undistinguishable from the mostly dark, further away section of the bricked wall.

A planter with a tree, skinny and with foliage only at the top, is in the middle of the room. A church candle is resting on its upper central branches, lit up.

Boris is standing in front of the wall and facing it. A thin metal hammer with wooden handle is in his right hand. He regularly beats it on the high part of the wall, above his head. He seems completely engrossed in his action and perhaps oblivious of the audience, which quietly gathers, lined behind him, at respectful distance, against the opposite wall.

There is no violence whatsoever in the action, despite the masculine object. The movement is carried out simply and questioningly with a balanced strength and regularity.

Once Boris completes the hammering of the bricks over one length of the wall, he walks slowly to the starting point and begins his action again. The same, yet not quite the same, like the Heraclitean river of pre-socratic tradition. Occasionally I hear him making incomprehensible sounds,seemingly not corresponding to anything distinguishable in any language.imagine he is talking to the wall, which listens to him patiently and replies relentlessly to his action.

And in fact, there seems to be an intimate relationship between Boris and the wall, the hammer being only instrumental to his access to it.

Something is missing. I realise I am not seeing Boris’ face. I miss seeing his face during the performance. Somehow I think the face is simultaneously door and key to the performer, yet in this case I feel excluded and denied, having to be contented with his enigmatic profile, elusive in such faint lighting. I miss seeing his “performance” face: his bold head covered in white Nordic skin, his vivaciously blue eyes, silent and gathered, in stark contrast with his stern and unyielding mouth, characterised by the edges of the lips pointing downward and forming an arch. Instead, all my attention has to gather onto the hands and their actions.

Boris takes his time before hammering the wall: he lingers over it, he touches it, as if exploring or studying the right place where to hammer, his soft fingers feeling the roughness of the bricks. Oh, how I can recall clearly the irregular and pointy surface of the bricks. I can feel it now under the tips of my fingers, which are typing on the flat and smooth keys of my computer. He hammers the wall with such care and calm that I feel as if his utmost priority is to avoid making contact with a spot that may have disastrous consequences.

The incessant repetitive action eventually creates in me a sense of expectation: the past shapes the future over and over again and the present becomes an inescapable two-way mirror between past and future: nothing essentially different can really happen. Yet, the way Boris explores the wall seems to warn me that the future is not necessarily so predetermined. We must be aware and ready. Things may turn out differently, after all.

After one hour he hangs a red cloth on the wall, but it falls. He ignores it and continues, at every other turn lowering the imaginary line of his attention.

21:40. Boris completes the umpteenth length (I have lost count). He walks to the tree. He blows out the candle. The air fills up quickly with the smell from the smouldered candle. He goes onto sit down on a chair. The performance is over.