Café com leite 2

I place white balloons which are filled with coffee around a chair in a circle. My assistants help me distribute cups with sharp nails in them to the audience. Than I sit down on the chair.  I cover the skin of my left foot, my left hand and the left side of my face with dark brown shoe polish and I cover my right side with white „Penaten“- skin cream.
Using long strings, I tie the white balloons to my body and my hair.
My assistants and the audience throw the balloons over a rod, which is hanging above me, so that I am stuck to it. The audience gets the coffee out of the balloons by poking a hole in them with the nail and collecting the coffee in their cups. When the balloons are drained I free myself from the strings and put the black balloons, which are filled with milk and tied with strings to each other, around my neck.  I approach the audience to offer them the milk, dripping from the black balloons.
After that I sit down and mix the black and white creams on my feet, hands and face. This greyish paste I „shave“ off with a sharp knife.

Blackfacing was a racist practice in the “Minstrels Shows” of the 19th century in the USA where the blackfaced actor had the role of the fool, the „freedom“ to do whatever he/she wanted.
Blackfacing is also used today in a misleading way in TV and show business (f.i. Guido Cantz in Happy Day“ SRF mit Röbi Koller, 2016) making fun of black people or, instead of engaging a black actor for a role (2008 imitation of Barack Obama by white comedian Fred Armisen, allegedly because of missing black cast members).
How do we deal with the circumstance that some black women straighten their hair and lighten their skin because of fashion. Is this whitefacing?
Can we work with imitation and usage of elements from “other” cultural characteristics in art without quoting racist practices? Or do artists stick their necks out in order to provoke?
For me, the conscious use of stereotypes and cliches should initiate a debate about racism and prejudices. The diversity of mankind, the extremely unequal circumstances we all live in and the worldwide spread of information through media and the internet are confusing us. How do we behave properly? Conflicting messages guide us through life. What shall we believe, what can we believe, who can we trust and who not?  What nourishes us, what harms us. Do we have our own heritage, do we have a specific culture? To what can we relate? Which tradition, religion, which culture, which environment?
Different cultures can and should enrich and nourish each other and yet maintain their own traditions and identities.
December 2016
BONE 19 Performance Art Festival
neoneoDADAfrica- dislocated forces
Stadtgalerie,  Kunstmuseum and Schlachthaus Theater
Bern, Switzerland

Pics: Va Bene Fiatsi