Naked as Adam, baths in glass
To be naked as Adam, lie in a bath entombed by over 300kg of glass shards, and then ask a group of art enthusiasts to watch you climb out, is to risk everything.
Yet this is exactly what Swiss performance artist Yann Marussich did at the National Art Festival in Grahamstown.
His work is titled “Bain Brisé”. Convened in a softly lit gallery space, it takes over an hour of intense observation to see the whole thing through.
The affair resembles a ritual gathering of sorts. The artist emerges as a secular miracle worker of some kind.
He survives certain harm and stands unscathed in a tub of dangerous glass. The eager and curious mass gathered to witness the miracle of his death-defying performance is not only impressed but convinced of his exceptional ability.
Speaking to the artist’s team after the performance, we learn that in other part of the world where the show has toured, audiences intervene.
Perhaps they could not stand the idea of a man undergoing such risk while they watched and did nothing. A comment was made that the performance reveals more about the audience than it does about the artist, although it is the artist who must learn to negotiate the sharp shards of glass and avoid being cut or killed.
The question then is whether South African audiences’ choice to look on and not intervene, unlike their peers in Geneva, betrays something about them. Some thought it was the result of our exposure to violence. Others said it was the novelty of performance art: audiences here were amazed into passive participation.