SAFE HAVEN – FROM THE PAST TO NOWHERE
Performance by John Herman, 19th July 2021
Photo documentary: Matthias Drobeck
Wayward interactions with a normative world are often detrimental to the protagonists. From the cradle to the grave, they are subjected to a plethora of mechanisms used to exercise interests and violence, depending on the respective political and economic systems in place. A life outside the norm is often seen as socially incompatible. The docile desire for such a life is accepted, while the zeitgeist of the capitalist lifestyle wallows in conformity and worships the monetization of all spheres of life.
Art is one of the few sanctuaries in which alternative forms of life are tolerated or encouraged, whereby the contradictory confrontation between individual and social needs is as old as the search for alternatives itself.
A sanctuary quickly becomes existential. The sanctuary serves as a “sacred” space that enables individual localisation in the highly charged relationship between past and present. The SAFE HAVEN is a place of return and individual redemption.
In the performance SAFE HAVEN, John Herman examines the need for and the loss of sanctuaries. He uses a performative space that sheltered him from domestic violence in his childhood and then later, in his military activities, guaranteed his very survival.
BLOOD ON MY SHOULDERS
A performative reflection on the unaesthetic aesthetics of being
Performance by John Herman, 5th March 2021
Documented by Matthias Drobeck
Hosted by PerfocraZE International Artist Residency (pIAR)
Long before the emergence of monotheistic religions, blood was considered to be a medium of vitality often equated with life or even the soul. Innumerable blood cults arose, which attached an expiatory and purifying significance to the shedding of blood by those outside the tribe. In contrast, the shedding of a neighbour’s blood was widely frowned upon and socially sanctioned.
Even in the later materialistic ideologies of the 19th and 20th century, the archaic purification rituals persisted – only romantically transfigured or justified by the supposed superiority of one’s own kind – the interpretations of which even today repeatedly crack the mask of western civilizations.
Based on his extreme experiences in various armed conflicts, in which he participated as a volunteer soldier alongside liberation movements in Africa and the Middle East, John Herman deals with those archaic rituals, their contemporary manifestations and the resulting victim-perpetrator-victim relationships in the performance “BLOOD ON MY SHOULDERS”.
Using the stylistic medium of digital voyeuristic confrontation, the Cologne-based artist and arts activist challenges the supposed luxury of individual-social indolence in the face of local or global events and leaves it to the digital audience to find performative answers to questions about individual responsibilities in the charged relationship between micro-, meso- and macro-levels.
T H R E E S O M E
By Vabene Elikem Fiatsi, Thaís De Almeida Prado & John Herman
T H R E E S O M E is a collaborative performance project developed between John Herman (Cologne, Germany) Thaís Almeida Prado (São Paulo, Brazil) and Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi aka crazinisT artisT (Kumasi, Ghana).
It is a digital performance video created by the three artists – three nationalities, three bodies, three languages, three souls, three spirits – while merging their own stories into multiple layers amidst all complexities. This video is to reimagine a common place, intimate bodies, and a safe community where all humans converge and experience unconditional love.
It explores and investigates the complexities of racial borders, gender fluidity and sexual taboos through which the artists aim at interrogating and demystifying the conceptions and notions of perfect and imperfect bodies. In other words it is an attempt to dismantle masculinity and femininity as standards for recategorization and definitions for several bodies that exist beyond our imaginations. In fact T H R E E S O M E is an intimate dialogue that seeks to decategorize the bodies making ways for indefinite self proclamations and reenvisioning alternative bodies.
“We are bodies, we are souls, we are spirits, we are humans” proclaimed by the artists as a protest to challenge the heteronormative system and patriarchal structures that violates human rights, freedom and justice.
T H R E E S O M E is a digital collaboration with DI2ª – a virtual occupation that takes place weekly on the YouTube channel PINK UMBRELLAS ART RESIDENCY created by the duo MXM.
PHOENix – “Are we there yet?”
artistic research on / with / in transition
Episode N°1 – Resilience
“Are we there yet?” – artistic research on / with / in transition – is a series of 9 videos, over 9 months, curated by Nora Wagner in the framework of Transition Days.
The video performance “PHOENix”, by John Herman, is about resistance and resilience, the will to survive and the desire for salvation. The video was screened from 07th September until 29th September at neimënster (Luxembourg) in a specially prepared installation inside Salle de greffe.
What if wars, crises, economic upheavals or other extreme events had different effects on the everyday realities of human life that could take on existential or traumatic dimensions depending on the socio-economic environment?
What if the neoliberal hunger for exponential growth reached its limits, if uncontrollable dynamics such as climate change or pandemics determined the course of history? If Nietzschean ideals like that of a resilient homo economicus became the order of the day? If self-optimisation, resistance to crisis and resilience presented themselves as the answer to the crises in the global system of limitless value creation? What if the ultimate individual adaptation became the comfort zone of dystopian capital, accompanied by the voluntary abandonment of civil liberties, propagated by populist political movements, and thus increasingly assumed the form of a threat to existing democratic systems? What then?
Would it be possible to stop such a gradual process? Could individual demands and the search for answers impact such all-encompassing processes?
John Herman probes these and other questions in his performative works, aware that our own vulnerability can open up space for a change in supposedly entrenched realities. Using forced irritation and reduced stimuli, the performance artist living in Cologne invites us to individually confront the situationist approach of subversive overtones.
With the PHOEnix performance, John Herman and multidisciplinary artist Nora Wagner come together, well aware of the strong impact of artistic intervention, to bring to life these overtones.
PHOEnix, artistic performance, 13 mins.
John Herman feat. Nora Wagner, photo credit: Kim Al Ouardi
HOMO CONSUMENS – ON THE WAY TO GOLGOTHA
A PERFORMANCE ART INTERVENTION BY JOHN HERMAN
IN TIMES OF COVID-19
INSPIRED BY ERICH FROMM
COLOGNE, 6TH JULY 2020
Body Painting: Xandra Xandra Herdieckerhoff
Photo Documentation: Matthias Drobeck
Video Documentation: Gerhard Schick
Video Cut & Edit: John Herman
Live Stream Documentation: Thomas Reul
Supporter Team: Hasan Hüseyin Deveci, Selina Bonelli, Ilhelm Merabeth, Gitta Roser, Linda Müller
„Homo Consumens is the man whose main goal is not primarily to own things, but to consume more and more, and thus to compensate for his inner vacuity, passivity, loneliness and anxiety. In a society characterized by giant enterprises and giant industrial, governmental and labor bureaucracies, the individual, who has no control over his circumstances of work, feels impotent, lonely, bored, and anxious. At the same time, the need for profit of the big consumer industries, through the medium of advertising, transforms him into a voracious man, an eternal suckling who wants to consume more and more and for whom everything becomes an article of consumption – cigarettes, liquor, sex, movies, television, travel and even education, books and lectures. New artificial needs are created and man’s tastes are manipulated. (The character of homo consumens in its more extreme forms is a well known psycho-pathological phenomenon. It is to be found in many cases of depressed or anxious persons who escape into overeating, overbuying, or alcoholism to compensate for the hidden depression and anxiety.) The greed for consumption, an extreme form of what Freud called the “oral-receptive character,” is becoming the dominant psychic force in present-day industrialized society. Homo consumens is under the illusion of happiness, while unconsciously he suffers from his boredom and passivity. The more power he has over machines, the more powerless he becomes as a human being; the more he consumes, the more he becomes a slave to the ever increasing needs which the industrial system creates and manipulates. He mistakes thrill and excitement for joy and happiness and material comfort for aliveness; satisfied greed becomes the meaning of life, striving for it a new religion. The freedom to consume becomes the essence of human freedom.”
RITUALS OF TRANSITION
(online) art performance by John Herman
3th July 2020, Barnes Crossing, Cologne
In many cultures, hair symbolizes spiritual and sexual power. A hairstyle can often be synonymous with individual freedom or even a sign of belonging to a group. Equally, the erasure of this symbolism may serve as punishment, cleansing, or even a new positioning. Such rituals lead to others that are intended to open the way for a transition from the status quo to a new level. The performative power of the ritual thus becomes an allegory of life, survival and death.
Based on the preparations for his HOMO CONSUMENS performance, John Herman addresses rites of passage that, similar to art, create a shift to another reality in RITUALS OF TRANSITION.
The boundaries between the private and public are thereby blurred as the private is made public and the public private in a meditative experiment.
TABLE OF NEGOTIATION
Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi & John Herman
CHALE WOTE STREET ART FESTIVAL, 25th August 2019, Accra-Jamestown
Represented by Perforcraze International Artist residency (pIAR) Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] and John Herman’s collaboration explores the notion of imperfections, ‘sick-cursed bodies’ and bodies labeled as disable and taboos in relation to those patriarchal structures that seek to validate our being. The duo inserts their bodies in the vitruvian geometries as symbols of disruption, failure, contamination and incomplete beings struggling to survive, reaching seemingly structures that controls their narratives and those that idealised our collective sense of belonging and becoming. Both artists seemed enveloped in shame, rejections and inferiority while negotiating for their own placement within such elements and spaces that do not necessarily make provisions for their existence. crazinisT and John Herman investigate how imperfect bodies emerge in relation to idealised “man” to which our [being] is geometrically placed and defined by the [lacks] the refineries that reproduce masculinity, femininity, queerness and “weirdness” and potency.
ɔsaNTI – MEETING KUMASI
Art Performance by John Herman
9th August 2019 – Kumasi Ghana
Kumasi is the former capital of the Ashanti Empire, which persisted from the late 17th century until the middle of the 20th century and since 1957 has been part of a state union with Ghana under the name Ashanti Region. John Herman tookes his first stay in Kumasi as an opportunity to interactively explore the public space there – a historical construct of social, economic and political processes – and its visual structure with a body-focussed performance. The personal attempt to understand urban space and its people inevitably leads to an examination of past and modern slavery, the consequences of colonialism and globalisation. The performance artist is not free in his actions but, like everyone, carries heavy responsibility for the direct and indirect consequences of historical construction. The performance ɔsaNTI (Because of War) symbolizes the very individual path of everyone to their personal Golgotha and the desire for salvation. | “ADEAKYEABIA ENUBUEKE (ANOTHER DAY HAS COME) by perforcraZe International Artist Residency – (pIAR), Kumasi/Ghana
f a k e NEW(s) 2.0 or the Suicide of Western Culture
Art Performance by Hasan Hüseyin Deveci & John Herman
Photo Documentary: Matthias Drobeck
TIME FOR OUTRAGE FESTIVAL 2019, 04 th July 2019, Venue: K101 Bunker, Cologne-Germany
The term “fake news” has gained popularity since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s presumed meddling in the campaign. According to the German government, “troll armies” and “fake news” on social media are a threat to democracy. They are perceived as an external threat — an enemy from cyberspace.
It is often forgotten that opinion campaigns have always been part of the repertoire of political, economic and military conflicts. Social media are just another field, in which the dynamics of political suggestion and autosuggestion are particularly effective.
The art performance “fakeNEW(s) 2.0” may reflect this phenomenon in its name, but actually seeks to illuminate the actions of individuals in this context and encourage self-reflection on the desire to engage in gossip, slander and prejudice.
In this performance, visual artist Hasan Hüseyin Deveci and performance artist John Herman worked with materials including newspaper, paint, canvas and glue. The performance ended after 1 hour.
‘fragmentari A 2019’
Performance: John Herman
Photo Documentary: Matthias Drobeck
Cologne, 6th February 2019
The photo-installative performance ‚fragmentari A 2019’ explored the multiple fragmented and contradictionary inner-identities of the single individual and their historical, economic and social context.
While struggling with tight shackles, I attempted to make the invisible conflict between the inner- and outer-sphere visible and questioned its each impact and oneness as a surreal state of mind.
I worked with materials like bandages and a ripped mask. The performance ended after 1 hour.
T H E A R T I S T I S A N I N S T R U M E N T
WAR ON CANVAS
24th May 2018, Cologne
by Hasan Hüseyin Deveci & John Herman
Photo Documentary: Matthias Drobeck
What connects artists and warriors? What do war and art have in common? How can inherently destructive processes be transformed into prosperity and construction through creative expression?
In a collaborative art performance, Hasan Hüseyin Deveci and John Herman intend to explore these questions and others in order to challenge the established boundaries between performance art and fine art. In this provocative piece, the studio artist (Hasan Hüseyin Deveci) and the performance artist (John Herman) search for a common ground between these creative practices, and in effect they bring to light the contractionary relationship between permanence and ephemerality in art.
The body of a war veteran becomes an instrument of art as John Herman gives himself to the hands of Hasan Hüseyin Deveci. Hasan Hüseyin Deveci then implements this body into his art work, creating new structures and expressing new potentials with this organic material. In the process, the two transform the soldier’s body—a tool of destruction and power—using an emergent constructive context. This interaction between organic material, movement, and colour intends to open a new space, where normally hidden processes of transformation are made visible, inspiring individual reflection on the complexity of processes of transition themselves.
The artists worked with materials like ripped canvas stripes, canvas, paper, card, acrylic paint and textile. The performance ended after 1 hour.
Audio feature about the performance “War on Canvas” by Cornelia Wegerhoff on Deutschlandfunk Broadcast (German language)
M A K I N‘ H I S T O R Y 2.0
31th Jan 2018, Cologne
by John Herman
documented by Matthias Drobeck
The performance ‚Makin’ History 2.0’ explored the multiple social-cultural ties between the single individual and history as a concept of social construction. While hopelessly pushing, pulling and lifting wooden cubes, I attempted to make the invisible circle of individual deeds visible and question its limited impact on the ‚surreal‘ perception of history as an act of social construction and its descructive patriarchal, sexist and capitalist backgrounds. I worked with materials like wooden cubes with a weight of 35 kilos each, oil, ashes and wore only a jockstrap. The performance ended after 2 hours.
crazinisT artisT [Vabene Elikem Fiatsi] & John Herman
CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival 2017 ‘WATA MATA’
19th August 2017, James Fort Prison, Accra, Ghana
Photo Documentary: Regina Sebald & Alissa Jordan
This performance explores human vulnerability, death, life struggles, failures, the-will-to-survive and the aesthetics to human BONDS… While searching hopelessly in the mud and bones for everything but nothing, we attempt to reexamine the human sense of incompleteness and otherness. We both struggle our way out onto the street after several hours of failures in the prison- mud, walking, falling, crawling and dragging ourselves to a distance of 700m where the performance ended lasting for about 3 hours sustaining bruises and cuts all over our bodies.
„You are water. I’m water. We’re all water in different containers. That’s why it’s so easy to meet. Someday we’ll evaporate together.“ – Yoko Ono
crazinisT artisT [Vabene Elikem Fiatsi] & John Herman
CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival 2017
James Fort Prison,
(Camera: Alissa Jordan, Edit: John Herman)
THE PUPPETS OF POWER
Art Performance by John Herman
Photo Documentary by Matthias Drobeck
The performance explores the multiple social-cultural ties between the single individual and power as a concept of psychological control and its destructive impacts on political economy, social structures, culture, art, aesthetics and sexuality. The interaction between the human body and technical tools, like a weapon or a prosthesis, were employed to make the invisible visible.
WAR & PEACE
Duo-Performance by Solmaz Vakilpour and John Herman
War Child meets Ex-Soldier and War Veteran – A Story about Guilt and Forgiveness
Photo Documentary: Herand Müller-Scholtes
„No problem is solved on the logical level in which it exists.
When, on a meta level, we comprehend war or violence as one form of communication, the imagination transcends destructive interaction and empowers an integrative level of constructive dialogue intent on achieving reconciliation and concluding with honorable peace. Another World is possible.“
(..) „“Hic bir problem iliskili bulunduğu bağlam dısında mantıksal çözülemez.
Savaş ve şiddeti bir iletişim şekli olarak anladığımızda/gördüğümüzde, yıkıcı bir etkileşimden yapıcı bir dialoga gecerek yakışır/değerli bir barişa ulaşma ve dengeyi bulma düşüncesi mümkün olabilir. Başka bir dünya mümkündür.“
(..) „Kein Problem wird in dem logischen Kontext gelöst, in dessen Zusammenhang es existiert. Wenn wir Krieg oder Gewalt als eine Form von Kommunikation begreifen, dann ist die Vorstellung möglich, von der destruktiven Interaktion in einen konstruktiven Dialog zu treten, um einen Ausgleich zu finden und einen würdigen Frieden zu schließen. Eine andere Welt ist möglich.“