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Footfall – JocJonJosch in London, 2017

15 Feb 2017

Upon entering the back room of Laure Genillard gallery, I found a dazzling line-up of veteran art performers at rest upon the sofa before me. Chas, Clifford, Cy, Paula – I had participated in many a nude artistic action with these fine folk over the years. On this occasion we had gathered to be part of the third and final ‘Footfall’ installation by JocJonJosch, in central London.

We were joined by Chris, who together with Cy and me had been a part of Footfall seven weeks before, plus another Chris who was in Sion for Ouroboros three years earlier, and finally a brother of one the artists’ wives. Thus, eight of us would perform, but to do so we needed to undress and get covered in mud. First Paula, then the rest us, crossed to the upper gallery, stripped and stepped into its pile of wet earth.


We were due to begin the performance at 6:30pm, but first there was to be a talk by Jo Melvin, the exhibition’s curator, in the gallery downstairs. The challenge for us was to stay silent as we applied handfuls of filth to our own bodies, and the hard-to-reach places of our friends. Once completely covered, without further ado or prompting, we started automatically to trample around in the muddy mass.

After applauding the curator, our audience ascended stairs to watch in silence as we paced about in dirt. We paid no attention, but simply continued our monotonous toil. Whilst the action was meant to be identical for us all, in practice some idiosyncratic styles emerged: Chas was the sweeper, using a foot to push earth from the edges to the centre; Clifford was our gardener, continually picking small stones from underfoot.


Cy became the artist in our midst, making ever more complex swirls and ridges in the mud, only for the rest of us to obliterate them with aimless treading; meanwhile Paula was the dancer whose personal footfalls echoed a samba-style repetition. None of the three artists of JocJonJosch were taking part – a temporary reprieve for Joschi, whose turn it was, so his time would come a fortnight later in Switzerland.

The performance was intended to last two hours, although in practice I believe it may have been cut short to an hour and a half. It was tiring work nonetheless. Afterwards, all eight of us took turns to wash ourselves in the gallery’s two showers, and duly left behind disgraceful scenes of flooded devastation, yet there was no subtle alternative. When dressed, we joined the after-show party for pizza, banter and wine.


It may seem insane to most onlookers and readers – why volunteer for something like this? Although I am undeniably a nude art specialist, I’m also fully appreciative of the artistic integrity and practice of JocJonJosch; its intensity, curiosity and camaraderie. When the gallery closed, we continued the latter nearby at Bradley’s Spanish Bar. Esther joined us; in two weeks we would both join Joschi in the mud at Martigny


From → Art

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