Society Diluted by Art
Mr. X, who up until now has been an unknown artist from Salzgitter in Germany, staged a major environment for his neighbors by leaving all the taps of the kitchen sink, bath tub and toilet of his apartment running non-stop for an entire year. The event became a live performance in October 2017 when he blocked the drains and let the water run freely and flood his building, possibly also entering the external environment of the street. The prospect of water flowing down the stairs and seeping through the ceiling of the apartment below, all created by Mr. X, must have been quite visually exciting, while also being an amazing show of ingenuity. The main actors of this art form were the residents of Mr X’s building and the policemen who intervened; the material he used was water.
The vision of the water must have been irresistible to Mr. X, overflowing from the kitchen sink with a lovely waterfall of cold water and even more strikingly from over the bathtub. The water, slowly traveling across the floor and soaking into his carpets, would have quickly given rise to various small objects and papers floating around his living space, or rather, display area. The water leaking under the door from his apartment to the stairway and elevator shaft must have been his “momento clou” (moment of glory) and surely also would have been when his neighbors finally became involved in the performance. They would not only have experienced the happening visually, but must have also had to have contact physically with the water invading these closed and unique art spaces. The aesthetic aspect of this installation is most certainly hard to resist, cascades of water falling in every direction, following its gravitational flow.
However damaging this event unfortunately was, it must have been quite spectacular, something many children often dream of doing, though only few dare to try. Have we before us an artist who is unaware of even being one? Perhaps we need to also blur the boundaries of what is recognized as an art form.
Though Mr. X had to be subdued by four police officers and covered with pepper spray to be removed to a psychiatric ward for evaluation, he has indeed created a live event. Considering the worldwide reviews he has received with his original installation, the £10,000 spent on water consumption, apart from the obvious waste of water, plus other unspecified damages to be paid for building repairs, is a small amount for so much publicity gained. No promotional efforts could have made a more powerful impact than what the media did for him for free in the news. It may, however, be his last and only performance.
NAE does not encourage this kind of installation art, nor support it in any form. At this writing, Mr. X’s real name has been withheld from the press.
Pendery Weekes in Germany
Volume 32 no 3 Jan/Feb 2018 p 31
30 thoughts on “Society Diluted by Art”
How I would have liked to have seen the video of this “installation”, as I can only imagine the scene of water flowing and flowing. It made me think of how many of life’s events are actually live “installations”, some of which go on in our lives as flashbacks, continuing the visualizations over time.
Amazing! It’s never too late to express ourselves through performances in our lives. This makes me think that as young children we all experience life as a performance. We try and show the world what our imagination can do, since we’re not too aware of how the world can restrict our actions. We all can potentially be artists, and Mr. X probably never forgot his ideas as a child.
Great job, Mr. X! It reminds me of the installation by Bill Viola “Expérience de l’infini”, where he recreates a very similar situation, in which daily routine is diluted by this giant waterfall that explodes in a house left with its bath taps turned on. Here you can see the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07nY5dywIEI. It left me stunned when I saw this exhibition in Florence in summer 2017.
Bellissimo video! Who knows, maybe Mr. X traveled to Florence in 2017 and saw Bill Viola’s installation.
Bill Viola has an exhibition ongoing now at the DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art in Montreal.
Memory underpins Art.A process of embedding.
What do you mean by,”Memory underpins Art. A process of embedding.”?
Derek Guthrie, could you explain this phrase please, as I find it incomprehensible.
Many thanks, from a dyslexic but artistic woman – I hope to understand.
Art of the absurd; however, I must confess, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve appreciated all your comments and especially the contribution from Chiara Campagnoni with the link to Bill Viola’s installation, “Expérience de l’infini” and from George Wiltshire who confessed “it’s something I’ve always wanted to do”.
I seriously identified with this article, as one of my children had the passion of Mr. X. He loved nothing more than opening the washing machine door while operating, flushing towels down the toilet, flooding bathrooms of friends we visited, and also of somehow damaging the upstairs bathroom of a very posh restaurant in Lugano, leaving it to overflow down the stairs in a cascade of water – to my horror. Water was his specialty and passion. Fortunately he grew up into an apparently well mannered adult, though he has now become one wild daddy, a true candidate for performance art.
Sounds just like my son but he had an admiration for fire instead of water. He once put paint thinner in a iron thinking that he made a makeshift flame thrower.. I think Mr. X and my son should meet. Do any of you have any more information on Mr. X?
You should take your son to see Bill Viola’s work; he does something with fire too. Are you anywhere near Montreal?
As a plumber and water artist, I can appreciate the pleasure that Mr. X must have felt when he starting flooding his apartment and also the rest of the building where he lived. I, too, must confess that I find indoor cascades of water quite spectacular and amazing mobile sculptures of water.
What exactly is a water artist; could you give us a few details please? I hope you’re not just a flooder.
Leonardo da Vinci was also enthralled with water and its power, doing a series of drawings on floodings, called “deluges”. The inability to contain water as it overcomes its barriers is indeed fascinating, though potentially damaging, to say the least.
William Pye, British water sculptor, has done some interesting work with water.
The men in this video must be related to Mr. X in Salzgitter; how anyone can destroy a perfectly good house!
Pendery Weekes, I can only admire you. This is perhaps a new modality of conceptual art, where an event costing millions of Euros and affecting the lives of hundreds of people, destroying a building, and possibly a 15 year sentence for the perpetrator, would all occur conceptually. It is not only economical, but shows a superb imagination. Unfortunately, copycats are never far behind and this story may have loosened a curse of humanity. But congratulations sir or mam, my hat off to you.
Thank you for your comment, which I found quite interesting. Perhaps Mr. X could have become an amazing Performance artist, if his “talent” had been better channeled. Many anti-social people have unexpressed creativity that could be developed in all fields of the arts; it’s getting to them before they commit wrongdoings that is the problem. Current educational practices in the western world don’t encourage artistic expression, nor do the drug-laced mental health treatments used today, but that’s a topic for another article.
Here are the facts on Mr. X from the news:
Had the apartment been installed with one of our flood prevention devices, this “artistic performance” would have never occurred.
Obviously, Mr. X wanted to make a statement and wanted to call attention to himself and his living space. Was his leaving the taps open to run for a year a protest against his landlord, his city, his country and the environment? Otherwise, why waste all that water, if not as a form of protest? When he then progressed to the final step of his “Performance”, blocking the drains so that the water would flood the building, he was calling attention to this enormous waste of water by making this waste visible or public. At this point he had created an event and live action with a show. In a certain sense it was a real performance.
What is the difference between the artists in a production of Performance Art and certain displays of mental illness? When does it become art and when does it become mental illness?
From the American cartoonist, Scott Adams, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
Another example of a performance gone wrong, this time with the artist Terry Roderick who went and sang ‘Burn the Castle’ by New Model Army at St. Michael’s Mount. He is now banned from the island for life or threatened with a £30,000-£40,000 fine if he ever returns.
Here’s the song “Burn the Castle” and the lyrics that give an idea of what Terry Roderick’s performance below the castle on St Michael’s Mount must have been like:
Burn The Castle
(Sullivan, Dean, Monger) 2016
It’s like a great lord in his castle owns everything that we do
So we plough up his fields and tip our hats to the courtiers riding through
And we polish up his suits of armour and we guard his hordes of gold
In the hope that he’ll protect us but he will not protect us
Burn the castle
Down in the streets of Bedlam it’s left for a free-for-all
All fueled by debt and paranoia and rivers of alcohol
And the streets are filled with the sound of sirens but no ambulance in sight
While in the lighted windows of the turrets above
They count the takings for the night
Burn the castle
The smell of blood and buzzing flies
As around the corpses the posse of newsmen rides
To bring the fear and to bring it well
Same old, same old, same old…
You know there’s no great lord in the castle – just the courtiers and their men
And we’re still ploughing up their fields and wishing we could be like them
And we build their fleets of armour and we guard their hordes of gold
In the hope that they’ll protect us but they will not protect us
Burn the castle
Something very interesting is happening with performance art in India; please take a look and comment if you like. We feel very close to Mr. X and hopes he has a full recovery.
Since Mr X’s rental contract included his water bill, I think Mr X was simply trying to make his landlord spend as much money as possible, being angry with him for some reason. This waste of money (money down the drain!) would be particularly aggravating to the German mentality of being thrifty, where we pride ourselves in saving at all levels.
This can be evidenced by an exhibition on “Sparen Saving – History of a German Virtue” that just opened at Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.
Not to be missed for art lovers of water exhibitions is the upcoming display of water and mud flooding a main gallery at the Royal Academy in London in autumn 2019 with none other than Antony Gormley, world famous artist. Already in 1991 he flooded a part of an old jail in Charleston, South Carolina with mud and sea water, then again in 1997 in Kiel, Germany he flooded a gallery with 5,000 litres of water and mud. His work is “about bringing the outside in”. Hopefully, the New Art Examiner will send someone to review this important exhibition!
None other than Antony Gormley (now Sir), but no mention of water works, except toilets:
“When given one of the most high profile art platforms in the country, Sir Antony Gormley put it to the public to decide what to say with it. The empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square has hosted a rotation of work by contemporary artists for most years since 1999. In 2009, Gormley’s commission saw him select 2,400 people to occupy the platform for an hour each over the course of 100 days. Many people who got the chance to participate took to promoting a cause close to their heart – including the above scientist who chose to highlight the fact that 2.5 billion people globally don’t have a toilet.”