Artist duo Prinz Gholam—consisting of Wolfgang Prinz (born in Germany in 1969) and Michel Gholam (born in Lebanon in 1963)—created several performances as part of the exhibition “Dancing with Myself”, which took place on October 13 and 14, 2018, at Punta della Dogana.
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<span class="alinea"></span>For close to two decades now, Prinz Gholam have been compiling a library of gestures they have borrowed from our shared cultural capital. During their public performances, they use these gestures that have been ignored by the history of art, banned by morality, or subject to copyright laws, giving them a new life by sharing them with everyone. How could you assign a graceful movement or gesture to an author, an owner, or an artist, when that movement in fact belongs to an entire historical and social environment that is far more wide-ranging than an author’s family unit, a collector’s accumulation of goods, or an current doctrine? Thwarting acquisitiveness, Prinz Gholam disseminate postures in the hopes that everyone will adopt them: their body of work is not a collection, but a contamination of behaviors.
<span class="alinea"></span>As a couple, Prinz and Gholam have had to confront the fact that heterosexuality is not only considered the norm in western society, but is really the fundamental characteristic of public space. Although laws and attitudes have evolved, people of the same gender aren’t yet free to express affection openly in public, outside of a few reserved (ghettoized) neighborhoods or during a few specialized (spectacularized) events. Within the realm of art—no less subject to norms and canons, but in another direction, meaning that it usually presents that which <i>differs</i> from the norm—they chose to make stigmatization the subject of their work. Perhaps they were instructed, as children, not to behave in such an affected way—that slight has now become the object of their investigation.
<span class="alinea"></span>As we’ve been told by Jean-Paul Sartre, later by Judith Butler, insults are always a quotation: a repetition of words that have already been said and heard elsewhere, on other occasions. Philosopher Didier Eribon speaks of the “social verdict” that exists prior to the actual event of the insult and connects its two parties—the person doing the insulting, and the person who is insulted. Each insult has an external, prior existence; depending on who speaks it, an insult is a dispossession, a lack of reasoning. For a queer person, presence (and survival) in public space often consists in averting people’s gazes or in seeking out allies. By renaming themselves Prinz Gholam, the artists transform shame into pride. They share their strategy for resisting conformity by aligning themselves with a long history of artists who, like them, have had to submit to the weight of their cultural heritage, to the pressures of originality and domestication.
<span class="alinea"></span>Prinz Gholam subvert the power of stigmatization in the ennobling sphere of the art system. They offer their spectators an archeology of “gestures” through which exclusion and ostracization have been established and enforced. They negate differences in age, gender, or race, by adopting indiscriminately the postures of a virgin, a child, an old man, or a woman of color. For Jean Genet, according to Sartre, “reading isn’t an end but a means”; for Prinz Gholam, the spectator is not an interlocutor but a witness. Like Genet in <i>The Thief’s Journal</i>, Prinz Gholam champion the named objects, not those who name them. In their performances, the body is disorganized, becomes a landscape, an assemblage, an articulation, a junction, a liaison, an adjustment, a touch, an embrace, a caress, a pressure, a contact, a support, an inflection. They do not mutilate the body but transform it to adapt it to new roles. Prinz Gholam present the anarchy of the body in which hierarchies, geographies, denominations, organicity, devolve.