Peter Dobil, Absolvor (video still – 2007), “Pinned by spears, dragged down by hearts that hook my body, I exist between breath and flesh.”
Performed live at English Kills Art Gallery (Brooklyn, NY) in 2008.
This Friday, March 20, (7-10 pm) Grace Exhibition Space will be presenting Sans Tête, a new action-installation by Peter Dobill. Sans Tête will feature the Tête Astrale Guitarkestra – (Sir Ryan Dobran + Sir Amery Kessler).
Incorporating endurance action with a live sound accompaniment directed by the artist within an installation, Sans Tête will offer a special exchange for audience members in attendance.
Dobill’s work focuses on the body in actions. As he explains: “With my body, I alter and construct my vessel of experience, intrinsically connecting and emptying myself to a singular moment and time. Within these moments, I can then seek to communicate, focusing on energy exchanged between the audience and myself.”
I spoke to Peter to ask about his mysterious new work and his practice in general:
Hrag Vartanian: Can you tell me what exactly is Sans Tête?
Peter Dobill: Sans Tête is French for “without head” or “headless.” The term will make sense in the context of the work.
What will the “special exchange for audience members in attendance” be? That sounds quite mysterious.
I can’t really reveal the exchange before hand, its mystery will have to continue until Friday.
Since your work is quite grueling, I am curious how long it takes you to prepare before a performance. Do you have a particularly routine in the days leading up to a performance?
In terms of preparation, its depends on the installation element and the action itself. The larger the installation or more grueling the action, the longer it takes me to get my head into the mental state I need to accomplish the work. Unlike what one might think, physically demanding work depends on the mental state of the person within the action more than anything else, and for me to be honest in the work it requires a certain state of mind before and within the work.
The only routine leading up to the performance is working to get the installation elements correct. I don’t practice any facet of the action itself. This is a general idea of how performance art as a whole, specifically endurance work, separates itself from theater. Without practicing the action, the body receives the information as a new experience, which gives an honesty to the expression within the action.
You use the term “actionist” for your work, why? How does that differentiate what you do with performance art in general.
I call myself an “actionist” instead of “performance artist” due to the way in which I work, public actions for an audience and private actions for a camera. As I don’t always deal with a live audience in this way, I feel as though “performance artist” is misleading, a term, which for me at least, assumes a live audience for all work. “Actionist” and “actions” also read as a much more primal signifier for my work.
Semantics aside, my work is fully within the genre/canon of performance art as a whole.
Grace Exhibition Space
840 Broadway, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11206