Isolation in a series of liminal states proposes a performative, visual, and architectural approach, which connects fragments of the complex history of Malmaison with the current situation of an isolated body, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work looks at isolation from a historical perspective while aiming to contextualize this phenomenon as one deeply rooted in the social and political life of a community. In a crisis of redefining its relationship with society, historical heritage and uncertain predictions about the future, the performative body proposed by the artists is ritualistic and transitory, in an unstable oscillation between what was and what could be.
Following historical, anthropological, and architectural research, the performative installation starts from the memoirs of political prisoners that were imprisoned at Malmaison, a former transitional prison in the Romanian communist era, partially occupied by artists in the present, under the name of Atelierele Malmaison (Malmaison Workshops). Zapping through Malmaison’s history and its transformation process, the installation explores different perspectives of being isolated influenced by the functionality of the building: a former military garrison, Court-martial, a prison for political dissidents and intellectuals, research institute, film set, an underground place for parties, and working space for artists. The memory of the space, transposed into pulsating movement scores, is constantly renewed by assuming foreign identities, which merge with the exchange of information between performers and the public.
Isolation is detachment, individualization, separation, singularization, loneliness, closure, siege, decomposition, fractionation, splitting, fencing, cloistering, dungeon, seclusion, alienation, quarantine. The body in isolation is a liminal body, whose memory becomes uncertain, a dynamic body, dialectical and in perpetual transformation. Space becomes body, the body becomes time and vibration. Starting from images, interviews, chronicles, testimonies of the bodies that passed through Malmaison, the performative installation explores the phenomenon of body reconstruction, of reassembly into a new identity.
Sometimes emotional, sometimes cynical and ironic, often pragmatic and direct, the installation is a potential (dis) functional organism. The collective work steals the kinesthetic material of the body’s experience in isolation and recalibrates it in a space that intentionally loses its ceremonial character, becoming an accessible resource. In Isolation in a series of liminal states, several temporalities overlap, familiar bodily states are recontextualized historically, leaving room for fantasies about the future.
Upon entering the exhibition space, the visitors receive an object that attaches to their bodies. Each object contains text and a graphic sign. These are fragments of information that underlie the traces of the people that have temporarily inhabited the building. Performers are hosts at the same time, inviting visitors to connect objects to the panel placed at the exit of the installation. The panels composed by visitors every night remain in the exhibition space after the performative interventions, recomposing and rearranging the information in another chronology, which entails a new narrative.