Zurich University of the Arts
Performance/HD Video, 16:9, 17 min
Surrogate is a performance in which the two participants Fiona Könz and Gregor Vogel intend to replace each other in every aspect of their lives. Each one takes control of the other one’s work, social life and artistic practice and tries to imitate his/her habits and character as accurately as possible. Whereas personal belongings (e.g. wallets, phones, clothes) and information (e.g. directions, passwords, tasks) can easily be physically transferred, the exchange of certain skills, thoughts, intuition or physical characteristics is more difficult and sometimes impossible to accomplish. By the participants’ ability to adopt a feature or aspect of their counterpart’s life and them sometimes failing to do so, Surrogate implies the question to which extent such a transgression can be achieved. During the performance, the way in which the individual is perceived and approached by its environment has shown to be particularly hard to change. During the three months in which the performance was prepared, the participants shared thoughts and wrote down important information about themselves in a diary, which was exchanged at the start of the performance. Amongst a variety of other media the performance is documented in a 17-minute video, in which we see both artists performing in their respective roles. Alternating, the viewer sees Gregor Vogel (as Fiona Könz) playing the piano – an instrument that he never learned and is not able to play in a classical way – in her studio and Fiona Könz (as Gregor Vogel) talking to one of his friends on the phone and telling her thoughts to herself and the camera. When executed for the first time in May 2017, the performance was stopped after two days because the participants encountered boundaries they were not willing or able to cross. The error that is produced by Surrogate mostly stems from the fact that the performance is not seen as such from the start. By most people – other than the two performers – who were affected, it is conceived as a part of everyday life rather than a performance art piece. The performers never actually declaring it artistic work leads to another error in the understanding of it. The two artists try to adopt as much as possible from the other one’s behavior, thinking and characteristics. The difficulty of achieving a complete transgression leads to a lot of things being executed improperly or incorrectly. Understanding these anomalies as alternatives to the usual rather than alternatives to the right enables the viewer to reflect on the general idea of intuition and habits. Errors occurred for example as the two participants could not exchange memories and had to execute certain tasks with the little or no knowledge they had. The performance provides insight in how there seems to be a focus on processes rather than products when it comes to the characteristics of identity. To perceive a process like going to bed, preparing a meal or smoking a cigarette as authentically imitated, the „how“ seems to be more crucial to the process than the „what“. In the interaction with people, the use of digital, text based communication has often lead to a discrepancy between expectation and reality when meeting with a person. When interacting via text messages, it is relatively easy for a person to mask his/her identity, but when it comes to a personal meeting, the exchange of roles becomes apparent (even though the performer will always try to impersonate the other). By attempting to take control of each other’s life without any restriction, the performers reveal notions about the acceptance of error in variable surroundings. While peers might be able to accept or even anticipate the occurrence, a complete transgression of identity in a field where its identification is crucial (passport/access card) is unthinkable. Surrogate places emphasis on the recognition of areas in which the individual is likely to produce errors and on whether or not the individual and his/her environment are able to perceive them as errors. By filming themselves in situations in which they are always (at least physically) alone by themselves, both participants offer an insight into the effects the performance has on each of them. The displayed reactions reach from comfort in the role of the other to dissatisfaction because of the disability to act as the other, to terror and extreme discomfort as a consequence of feeling the loss of one’s own identity. The spoken language in the video is Swiss German with English subtitles. Ideally it is playing in a loop on a screen with headphones. A short text gives the circumstances in which the video has been shot. processes or habits make it hard or (in the given timeframe) impossible to accept the activity as daily or even mundane, the absence of a meta-level or description prohibits the work from being perceived as such. The two artists try to adopt as much as possible from the other one’s behavior, thinking and characteristics. The difficulty of achieving a complete transgression leads to a lot of things being executed improperly or incorrectly. Understanding these anomalies as alternatives to the usual rather than alternatives to the right enables the viewer to reflect on the general idea of intuition and habits.