The Berlin-based artist Simon Fujiwara is known for his fictive autobiographical performances, installations, and lectures. He was the recipient of the 2010 Cartier Award and participated in the Fifty-Third Venice Biennale. His latest production, a Performa 11 commission titled The Boy Who Cried Wolf, premieres at Abrons Arts Center in New York on November 9 and 10.
THIS IS MY FIRST WORK FOR A THEATRICAL STAGE. Three short performances will be presented on a revolving stage, each with its own set. The first act is “The Mirror Stage,” and it is set in my hometown museum, the Tate St. Ives. It is a so-called coming-out story, in which an AbEx painting by Patrick Heron supposedly turns me gay. From theories about abstraction as the dissolution of figuration, to the use of the painting as a pattern for IKEA, the entire, absurd story is told to an eleven-year-old boy. The New York–based kid plays me at the age that I had this sexual epiphany but also plays himself, a child actor, asking questions about his own role in the story.
Act two, titled “Welcome to the Hotel Munber,” is set in a loose reconstruction of the bar my parents owned in 1970s Franco Spain, in which the story of a failed attempt to write an erotic novel based on my parents’ lives is told. Oscillating between erotic fiction readings and cool analysis of those readings, the story will be serenaded by a Spanish guitarist becoming, at times, like musical poetry.
The final part is new and was written specifically for New York. The title is “Proposal for a Wedding,” and it’s based on my last visit to the city, in 2010, when I came here to look for new material for this final act. I found nothing until my last night, when I got into a cab to visit some friends; I sat on something uncomfortable and discovered a camera. My first instinct? To tell the driver. Second? To see what was on this camera. The photos were a confusing collage of a number of weddings that the couple who presumably owned the camera had attended over the summer, and ended with their honeymoon-like holiday, starting in Paris, with photos of them in front of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and then finally in New York, which is probably the day leading up to the moment they lost the camera in the taxi. They have pictures of themselves in Grand Central, Times Square, and at a hockey match. The subject matter of the images is banal, the weddings visually repetitive, yet there are subtle differences among them; one couple has a wedding cake made out of a pile of cheese, while another has canapés presented on slate rather than on silver trays.
For this new work I’ve hired my best friend from high school, who is an actor named Phineas Pett, to play himself as the part of my best man in a farcical drama in which we attempt to restage all of the weddings from the camera onstage. Phineas begins by introducing the story : “I have no idea what I’m doing in New York, but Simon told me about this proposal he has for a piece about a wedding, and he said he needed a best man for it, so I’ve been brought over . . . ” In some ways it is an anthropological case study of these poor people’s lives that I’m showing on a giant screen. That in and of itself has its own moral implications about privacy. On the one hand, the photos are very intimate, because it’s material from another person’s life, but on the other hand, I feel comfortable using them because these people never take photos in which anything is actually intimate. This discussion is played out between Phineas and me until the climax, when I discover that perhaps I’m not as different from the happy couple in the camera as I would like to think I am.