Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Taus Makhacheva and Tigran Geletsyan at Blackburne House as part of Liverpool Biennial

"Blackburne House, located in Liverpool’s vibrant Georgian Quarter, was the home of the first girl’s school in the country. The beautiful Grade II listed building is now a home for women’s education with services including a health spa, nursery and bistro. Blackburne house also hosts conferences and events, ensuring a space in the city for events that champion the voices of local women.

Taus Makhacheva has created a ruin-like sculptural installation that serves as a spa, in collaboration with artist Alexander Kutovoi. The installation incorporates ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) techniques and video. A new range of beauty products has been developed with Tigran Geletsyan from 22|11 Cosmetics for spa treatments. Throughout the Biennial, visitors are invited to book a facial treatment, which will be conducted by a performer and take approximately 30 minutes. In this passive state, the visitor becomes a sculptural subject. During the treatment, stories about artworks that have disappeared throughout the history of art will be told. The work reflects on our contemporary condition, dominated by screens and membranes, anxiety and loss of intimacy."

Visitors are able to be in the space to watch the facial treatments taking place. I arrived shortly after someone had left, so saw the performer clearing up. There were a couple of sculptures that contained a video screen. The audio was that which is spoken by the performer as they give the facial treatment, and so even though there was no treatment taking place during my visit, I was still able to be guided through the stories.

It was only afterwards, when I was talking to the performer, that I realised that this was the case. I had not been aware that the voice on the video was from the performer's perspective. I had also presumed that the person giving the treatment was a trained professional, and my thoughts about the work altered when I found out that performers were being used (there were 2 performers that shared the workload throughout the festival). I felt uneasy about someone 'pretending' to be a therapist.

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