The Artist Building Intimacy Through Ritualistic Play

Czech artist Lukas Hofmann creates intimate performances that serve as a refuge from a contemporary sense of detachment

Lukas Hofmann

Coined by sociologist Ulrich Beck in the late 80s, the term Risk Society refers to a mode of living marked by intense individualism. His theory claims that in a society where social classes are no longer static, where the narrative of “finding oneself” is ever-present and where inner fulfillment is associated with quantitatively measurable success, individual freedom is at an all-time high. But so is the risk of personal failure. Add the threat of modern warfare and the anthropogenic certainty that humanity is very well capable of complete self-elimination, and you are left with an ever-present sense of uncertainty. Lukas Hofmann aka. Saliva is part of a generation that was born in these very conditions. As an artist who grew up in Prague during the 90s and who is now staging performances across the countries of an increasingly unstable European Union, contingency and informality are reoccurring elements in the narrative of his life. He spends his time moving from place to place, leaving behind drops of lavender oil on the bedsheets he sleeps in. A nature child living within urban surroundings, he uses performance as a means to create archipelagos of increased presence that block out the feelings of desensation and dissociation awaiting outside the gallery door.

Lukas Hofmann

Hofmann’s works involve a carefully curated group of actants chosen from his immediate social surroundings. While he does take a leading role during the preparation of the pieces, he blends in with the crowd as soon as the performance starts. Along with his peers, he slides down museum handrails, deforms his face by pressing it against panes of glass and forms a red line between his body and theirs using thread and a sewing needle. At some point, the group stands still in formation as if posing for a fashion editorial, pretty and unbothered faces clad in deconstructed garments. For a moment, their attire takes centre stage. Whether he uses pieces stolen out of Ikea wardrobes or clothing provided by designers such as Ottolinger, Stefanie Biggel, Louise Lyngh Bjerregaard and Anne Sofie Madsen, Hofmann manages to add a cohesive personal touch to the styling of his performances. After an extensive instant of stillness, there is a sudden and simultaneous outburst of gasp, cough and sharp exhalation- the group has been holding its breath for the entire time. “An incredible amount of tension”, Hofmann says, “is required to keep a neutral pose.”

“This culture, which is often considered as low, might one day be seen as the mythology of our times” – Lukas Hofmann

 

Lukas Hofmann

Upon entering the exhibition space, spectators become part of an artificially constructed ecosystem, making their way through wet pieces of cloth and soaking in the scent of sage and propolis balm. “Retrospective” was developed in collaboration with Nils Lange for the closing of Manifesta 11 at Cabaret Voltaire and performed at the at the Prague National Gallery, and “L’Eau des Algues”. In it shimmering cabbage leaves and dry ice mixed with urine cracked open sterile surroundings and filled the air with an unexpectedly organic mist. At “Dry Me a River” in Ostrava, a former mining city in the Czech Republic, caged canary birds were spread around the 5000m2 Bauhaus hobby-market-turned-performance-venue. Elements from contemporary culture make their way into this world as ghosts – the distinct beat of Hips Don’t Lie briefly appears in the far distance of a soundtrack, songs from the Disney Pocahontas movie are chanted with a head stuck underwater and the imagery of action movies is referenced when performers try to lift each other up with visible force. “I don’t like the word pop culture – pop art is not what I do”, Hofmann says. “I rather see contemporary widespread mainstream as a sort of mythology-making. This culture, which is often considered as low, might one day be seen as the mythology of our times. It is shaped by what is happening in the world, and it equally influences what is going on.”

 

Suddenly, the entire room was soaked in sweat, out of breath and moved to tears.

 

Lukas Hofmann

 

It evoked a rare sense of earnest unity – no uncertainty, no isolation, only a collective presence.

As they grow accustomed to their surroundings, the onlookers become increasingly involved in the ritualistic play evolving in front of their eyes. Slowly and carefully demolishing their comfort zone, the performers start to enclose their bodies with their fingers and arms without directly touching them. From there on, they physically trigger the spectator’s emotions using a wide range of methods. At “Enzyme”, which recently took place at Galerie Frangulyan in Paris, the actors alternately blew cold and breathed hot air into the guest’s ears as the sounds of thunder unfolded in the background. Later, Hofmann pressed his mouth against mine and screamed until his breath had filled my lungs and my ears were ringing. People around me were beginning to tear up as menthol balm was being applied right beneath their eyes. Suddenly, the entire room was soaked in sweat, out of breath and moved to tears. Although the lines between artificially constructed and psychosomatic phenomena were blurred, this evoked a rare sense of earnest unity – no uncertainty, no isolation, only a collective presence.

Lukas Hofmann

Lukas Hofmann

 

Left: jacket by Gaelle Gervai, shirt by Jerome Navail, skirt by Junya Watanabe Archive At Vintage Clothing Paris, shoes and trousers by stylist’s own Right: shirt by Raphael Caron, dress by Maison Valentino Archive at Vintage Clothing Paris, tights by FALKE, shoes by stylist’s own
Left: top by Paul Barge, hoodie by Raphael Caron, tights by FALKE, shoes by stylist’s own Right: top by Leina de La Vallette, denim by Maison Margiela Vintage Stylists’s own, blazer and shoes by Stylist’s own
Left: jacket by Raphael Caron, top by Comme Des Garçons Archive at Vintage Clothing Paris, denim by stylists’s own Right: top by Mathilde Gouloumes, knit by Berenger Pelc, denim and shoes by stylist’s own, dourag by Dourane’s own, tights by FALKE
Left: shirt by Gaelle Gervais, trousers by Paul Barge Right: jacket and bracelet by Berenger Pelc, shirt and trousers by Jerome Navail, belt by Noemie Angel, girdle and shoes by stylist’s own
Left: jacket, belt and shoes by stylists’s own, top by Chanel Archive at Vintage Clothing Paris, skirt by Gaelle Gervais, tights by FALKE Right: bodysuit by Noemie Angel, blouse and denim by Comme des Garçons Archive at Vintage Clothing Paris, gloves by Berenger Pelc, knit by Luka’s own, shoes by stylists’s own, tights by FALKE
Left: shirt by Raphael Caron, dress by Maison Valentino Archive at Vintage Clothing Paris, tights by FALKE, shoes by stylist’s own Right: (left) jacket by Gaelle Gervai, shirt by Jerome Navail, skirt by Junya Watanabe Archive At Vintage Clothing Paris, shoes and trousers by stylist’s own, (right) dress by Samir Ayadi, shirt, and shoes by stylist’s own, tights by FALKE

“Frenzied chirping” 1/2 at Daily Lazy Projects Athens

Photos by Yiorgos Mavropoulos

Performed by Aris Parchalidis, Penny Rafferty, Marcelo Alcaide, Hara Kiri, Lukas Hofmann, Marianthi Kousentou and Nicolas Walker

Clothes provided by Stefanie Biggel

Casting direction by Hara Kiri

 

“Enzyme” at Galerie Frangulyan Paris

Styling by by Laetitia Gimenez and Juan Corrales

Performed by Daniela Alvarado, Aske Andersen, Jose Arboleda, Liza Basilaia, Maia Dubois, Vincent Esclade, Dourane Fall, Lukas Hofmann, Marge Togens Hule, Daena Phan

Music by Simon Thiebaut

Set Design by Bianca Tanchay

Donna Schons

Donna Schons

– Donna is a freelance writer currently based in Paris. As a sociology student, she is interested in interdisciplinary views on contemporary art and likes to convince herself that her indulgence in memes, pop and trash count as sociocultural research.

#donnaschons
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