People who have created or presented work at Ponderosa have often been inspired by the potential of this place — and, in particular, quite a few of them have been inspired by the possibility to create chaotic scenes of absurd complication, turmoil, destruction, and mayhem, turning things inside-out, leaving trails in their wake, soaking or destroying things in the process.
And... the time has come, folks! Yes, the moment has arrived for us to take a historical survey of some of the most renowned, legendary, and mythical artistically-motivated messes and mayhem created and witnessed at Ponderosa, over the course of the last decade-plus.
Let’s take a look.
From Tropical Escape, by Csaba Molnár and Márcio Canabarro (11. July 2015)
Some of the most memorable messes have, of course, happened as part of performances in the main Kuhstahl studio.
Of those, one of the most complex and fascinating was Csaba Molnár and Márcio Canabarro’s performance, in the summer of 2015, of their work Tropical Escape. This piece, which was subsequently presented in both Berlin and Budapest, involved blow-up giant ghosts, exploding balloons, paint, fruit, fireworks, a mid-performance lecture on the Guerrilla Girls, flour, hula-hoops, and much more. Take a look at more here.
Another particularly manic moment in the Kuhstahl studio was the performance by Kajanne Pepper in July 2014 — unforgettably combining drag, dance, lip-syncing, plastic, and bursts of paint that slowly transformed from unexpected to uncannily transfixing. See more here.
One approach to making a mess is to create it as an improvised composition, to create it slowly and deliberately, and to create it from the items that are already in the room — items that might otherwise stay hidden, out of view. In 2017, Joy Mariama Smith and the Color Block group performed the piece Brown Things, in the Kuhstahl, starting from an empty stage and slowly filling it with, well, brown things. Shoes, carpets, bottles, clothes, rugs, chairs, bricks — all kinds of brown things.
One reading of the piece is as a real and a metaphorical bringing-to-light. The ‘mess’ was a jumble of things. However, it was also a careful display of items — and, by metaphorical implication, of people, bodies, lives, stories — that otherwise often exist only in the margins. As the piece unfolded — with its mantra-like invocation of the simple phrase, “brown things, brown things, brown things” and rhyming variations — the stage filled with brown things, presented by artists of colour, steadily building a tableau of found objects, transforming the space. See more about Color Block here.
Another Kuhstahl work was a piece that was presented as part of the annual performance marathon, by Alex Crow, Aga Pedziwiatr, Katelyn McCulloch, Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín, Hannah Wasiliewski, and Monika Smekot, in August 2014. From a starting point of all the participants standing in bowls of water, the piece worked through several steps, involving emptying water on the ground, and on each other, slowly but steadily soaking everyone involved. Take a look at more here.
CREAPS Dinner (21. July 2014) — video by Chani Bockwinkel
Many messes have been food-related. Of these, one of the most eventful was the CREAPS dinner in 2014, where the CREAPS group of resident artists had a fairly extraordinary meal. Chani Bockwinkel’s video gives some idea of what was involved — you can also take a look here at how some of the participants looked like before it all began...
Another food-related work was Max Wirsing’s piece as part of the P.O.R.C.H. Performance Module in 2010. Over the course of the performance, a wheelbarrow filled with loaves of bread was slowly reimagined as an absurdist costume, together with gaffa tape and ripped magazine covers — all of it outdoors in the summer-evening sunshine. More photos here.
Not all messes are chaotic — some happen as a result of the patient and determined carrying-through of a defined process. Such as, for example, taking the shoes that you have worn all summer long, and shredding them into tiny pieces, as Kata Kovács did at the end of the summer in 2014. See more here.
In 2014, as part of the performances that accompanied the P.O.R.C.H. performance module, Celine McBride presented a piece that began outdoors, and that slowly brought the audience indoors, crawling, to witness a finale involving mud, flowers, and soap, in a darkened Milk Garden studio. See more here.
Stolzenhagen Princes No. 3 — video by Anne-Sophie Malmberg
In 2009, Anne-Sophie Malmberg made a series of short videos, Stolzenhagen Princes, in which a group of Stolzenhagen men undertook some fine-n-manly tasks, like picnics and naps. The third of these saw our titular princely heroes running naked down the hill into the canal, flapping paper wings on their way, as they flew towards the water. This was possibly the first mess that had to be fished out of the water in order to be cleaned up afterwards...
Be sure to also take a look at Stolzenhagen Princes No. 1 and No. 2, as well!
From Strip Trees, by Shelley Etkin and Sara Anjo (23. August 2014)
In August 2014, Shelley Etkin and Sara Anjo presented the first version of their collaborative work Strip Trees at Ponderosa. The piece is described as “a performative protest, in constant (d)evolution, re-composing in multiple forms.”
Strip Trees is further contextualised as a work that “plays with a perversion of the relationship between two ‘she-trees’. Through physical, written, and vocal states work, a metamorphosis occurs. Working with a decompositional approach, Strip Trees deals with questions of consumption.”
The work was certainly working with a decompositional approach when it was shown here, leaving the room strewn with discarded leaves and branches, along with pages of text typed on a typewriter during the piece. Take a look at more here.
One of the most amazing and committed performances that occurred here was presented by Mariana Medellin-Meinke in 2012. She wanted to create a scene that presented an imaginary superhero crashing head-first into the ground, cape flying out behind them, legs in the air. However, the scene was not just a still image, and it also integrated piles of earth, a pair of blinking-light ‘eyes’, and accompanying live noise-guitar soundtrack by Mangrove Kipling. All presented in the garden, at night.
In 2010, as part of the performance marathon, there was a TV cooking show in the kitchen — complete with cardboard cameras, a mop as a boom mic, and manic show hosts zipping from one feature to the next, which included all sorts of special guests, cooking chaos, and unexpected messes. It including this moment, when, during a break for ‘advertisements’, one of the spots demonstrated just how useful their brand of olive oil is — especially when used as a way to soak yourself in oil from head to toe, as part of a healthy hygiene regimen. See more of the madness here.
In June 2014, Sura Hertzberg and Darcy Wallace staged a performance in the garden, as part of P.O.R.C.H., that was a series of one-on-one encounters — a blessing ritual of sorts — involving flowers, water, baths over fire pits, candles, shrouded characters beckoning, and more, as the sun slowly set behind the trees. Take a look at more here.
Signe Holtsmark and Sandra Wieser presented a performance in June 2014 in which two montrous, masked apparitions went through a surreal baking process, throwing together flour and milk, smashing eggs, dropping utensils. All the while, the mysterious characters whispered and sang in the half-light. See more here.
In 2015, there was an outdoor post-apocalyptic drag fashion show. Because of course there was. Take a look here to survey the smouldering wreckage of the nightmarish-yet-stylish collapse of the existing order of all social relations in the aftermath of unspecified catastrophes. Fun!
Aurora Prelevic presented a piece in the summer of 2015, as part of P.O.R.C.H., in which she slowly covered the floor with seeds. Throwing them, spitting them, rolling in them — all in total silence. Take a look at more here.
And, finally... this wasn’t a performance, exactly — it was a photoshoot, by Agnė, Jade, Susu, and Micheál. In part, it involved shaving Susu’s head and sprinkling powdered coconut on it — all in the name of getting the perfect shot. See more of it all here.
And, apart from everything that’s shown here, there are also the ones that we can’t show you. Not everything can be put online — nor should it. Plenty of crazy stuff has happened that can’t be linked to or embedded — mud-wrestling, peeing, naked everything, jumping into walls, all kinds of things. But, if you’re curious, ask us about them.
And, of course, there are also the ones that got away, or that were never intended to leave traces in the first place. These exist only in people’s memories and recollections, and there they will remain.
We’re sure that there will be more messes coming up this summer. Maybe you’d like to be one of the participants or creators of some future mess that no-one has witnessed yet. Make it happen! Take a look at the full program, and get yourself out here soon. ?
The Ponderosa Blog is an ongoing experiment in putting one foot in front of the other, and one word after another, to transfer ideas in ones and zeroes to minds around the world and beyond. A rumble from a ruined speaker to maybe bring the gov’t. down, one sorry heart at a time. xo