American artist William Pope.L, on endurance in performance art. He tells the story of Baile, or Ball, the project he created for the 32nd São Paulo Biennial. Based on Pope.L’s research into recent political frictions and social inequalities in Brazil, the theatrical endurance project involves three pairs of professional dancers taking 8 hour shifts to perform 24 hours a day, for four days. They walk and dance along a mapped-out route at the heart of the city.
Festa de Debutante, the traditional coming-out party for young women in Brazil, inspires their costumes. They carry their soundtrack with speakers in a small backpack. Two attendants in white hoodies marked with a black skull and crossbones follow a few steps behind. I join Pope.L to shadow the last hours of the shift that will end at midnight. Together, we trace a path through the urban landscape beneath the night sky.
Sound Editor: Guney Ozsan | Photography courtesy William Pope.L, Bienal São Paulo, Mitchell Innes and Nash Gallery, and Cathy Byrd
From the Biennial website:
Using a variety of supports and formats such as performance, installation, painting, sculpture and drawing since the mid-1970s, Pope.L has made use of humor and irreverence as some of his critical tools. Some of his core research topics are the issue of race in the United States, the reflection of social structures in public spaces and the privileges of certain social groups. For the 32nd Bienal, the artist developed a pedestrian circuit for São Paulo in the performance Baile [Ball] (2016). From September 7 to 10, a group of participants walks through the city, crossing areas marked by deep socioeconomic disparities. The performance dialogues directly with Blink (2011), an action that took place in New Orleans, USA, after Hurricane Katrina. On that occasion, the artist gathered volunteers to push a truck whose rear was used as a screen for the projection of photos of the city, calling attention to the need for collective action after the disaster.