Soren Dahlgaard (Denmark)

Soren Dahlgaard (Dania)


The time when the Dough Warrior turned into a landscape of himself

Aya Kinoshita

When Dough Warrior first appeared on stage, there was tension and uncertainty among the audience - the audience did not know whether they should laugh or be scared to see him. It didn't have any obvious weapons, but it was carefully armored with perfectly matched… baguettes. From head to toe. He was the first to confront himself with the three-sided structure of a green hedge with buckets full of colorful paints. The audience formed their eyes as if they were reading. "Stay away! Stay away! And watch out for flying paints! "

It was during one of the usual Danish summer afternoons at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary, where Søren Dahlgaard was invited to present "Dough Warrior's Landscape Painting (2008)".

Dahlgaard's face, obscured by baguettes, was invisible to viewers, but their reaction was unexpectedly good. They watched with thrills of excitement as he suddenly put his baguette hand into the paint. This well-baked armor was perfectly suited to its shape, as opposed to the sticky, so to say, pasty texture of the paint. Dahlgaard, according to the choreography, made a few sweeping blows against the hedge, creating a clear line between the limiting armor and the peeling paint. Such bodily constraints may resemble Paul McCarthy's "The Painter", as well as the exaggerated features of his dark-comic character. McCarthy puts on a large, round nose, large enough to outshine the view, along with oversized hands ending with soft dangling fingers that forced his clumsy movements. However, there were distinct differences between Dahlgaard's and McCarthy's performance, which is based on a teasing verbal accompaniment. The flooding avalanche of profanity in McCarthy's work increases its disturbing effect. On the other hand, silencing the Dahlgaard leaves less room to objectify the Dough Warrior. This allows viewers to see more detail and also increases the chance of subjective identification with him.

Tension among the audience was eased as viewers realized that the Warrior had no intention of being aggressive towards them. Though he hit and scratched the hedges, he rubbed and poured paint over his body as he slid over the hedge walls. As he splashed the paint on his head, the audience was breathtaking with a sense of identification, laughing with palpable joy while the paint softened the baguettes, gradually liberating him from his armor.

Dahlgaard appeared in three rounds, all lasting about twenty minutes. Each of them was a carefully planned improvisation performed in a quick and continuous series of actions. “I choose colors like a painter,” said Dahlgaard, “paying attention that they together compose a painting with eye-catching detail; however, I don't see much, and I don't have much time to make a decision. It's very quick to paint and plan at the same time. I provoke a picture - just like you paint. "

It is a fight up close. Dahlgaard's reflective actions are not clear in the video work "Warrior paints in the studio (2007)", where he retreats to reflect on the next blow. In a live performance, it is not that he is just struggling with the "image", but also struggling with the state between awareness and unconsciousness. In order to explore this idea further, I would like to briefly tell you about two artists from Japan who created several representative works, focusing on the "action" of painting.

Kazuo Shiraga (1924 - 2008) is known as an outstanding member of the Gutai Art Association (1954 - 1972), associated with action painting and Tashism. He tried to deny the composition and ignore the meaning of color by sliding his feet over the painting while rocking on a rope attached to the ceiling. He was not interested in painting on canvas, because for him the work was an action in itself. Working on paper, he threw away his paintings after each exhibition.

It was exactly the same with Ushio Shinohara. Shinohara (1932 -) was born one generation after Shiraga and was associated with the neo-dada movement. One of his signed works is boxing painting. She explains, “I'm doing my boxing painting right to left, bam bam. I don't think at all about the composition or the nuances of image manipulation. The speed of hitting fists with boxing gloves on both hands, with the paint on them, must coincide with the speed of thinking. Consequently, thinking becomes very limited. The hands are faster. So my hands guide my thoughts, not the other way around. " Shiraga put it this way, “Since the job can be finished so quickly, it's hard to stop. It is like a sukiyaki. Not very good if you cook too much. " It is likely that he shares this sense of conflict in his live appearances.

It is interesting that Shiraga and Shinohara finally started working on the canvas, they had not left a vivid picture in their earlier work as a result of the challenge and explored the concept of creating art. Dahlgaard struggles with "the image", albeit not in the same sense as Shiraga and Shinohara. In his landscape, he avoids canvas, creating landscapes on three-dimensional plastic hedges, embedding artificial ones inside the natural one.

By the time the Warrior disappeared into the huge tree behind his performance, the audience witnessed not only the painting on the hedge, but also that the baguettes were like brushes when finished and the Warrior still himself. Almost stripped of its soft baguettes, the Warrior was now re-dressed, this time with different shades of paint on his body. In fact, the Dough Warrior was supposed to turn into a landscape of himself, to combine the media of painting and sculpture.

However, he was not the only artist to transform so much. The anthropologist Victor Turner posits that cultural action, in other words, social drama, consists of four phases: violation, crisis, redress, and reintegration or schism, a process of transformation that engages Dahlgaard's public. The appearance of the Dough Warrior was a kind of violation of the norm, while the act of painting represented a crisis of the concept itself. At the end of the performance, redress from the conventional and unconventional was prepared, allowing the audience to reintegrate the latter or exclude it.

In the tranquil relaxation area of the park, several baguettes are scattered across the grass in front of the hedge, which was no longer a shy component of the landscape, but part of the Dough Warrior's canvas. Dahlgaard has created a multi-layered landscape where even the tiniest leaf contains a mesmerizing micro-world.


Posted on

8 May 2011