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Bindi, headlines, jug of water and art

A select audience gathered in the backyard of Studio21 to watch Belgian performance artiste Béatrice Didier in action last Friday.

Dressed in white, Didier began her performance by painting a big red bindi on her forehead. Next, she tied a belt round her waist and started stuffing newspapers inside her kurti. A large tumbler of water was kept in front of her and she splashed water from it on her face vigorously. Didier ended her performance by reading some headlines from newspapers scattered around her.

“My act is about information explosion that we face all around. I was inspired to do this after the Delhi gang rape and the media coverage of the gruesome incident. Sometimes we are exposed to too much information, such that it almost causes indigestion,” she said after her short performance.

In the city till January 29, she is touring in association with Wallonie Bruxelles International. This was Didier’s second performance in Calcutta this time.

“I usually react to a space spontaneously. I may decide from before how to start an act, but I don’t plan its duration or how to end it. A lot depends on the audience reaction,” Didier said.

The 41-year-old artiste had studied theatre at Conservatoire de Bruxelles from 1988 to 1994 and also acted in some contemporary theatre companies before she realised that her true calling was performance art. Meeting stalwarts like Monica Klingler and Boris Nieslony strengthened her resolution to shift the genre.

“I left theatre as I thought the relation between the actor and the audience was very boring there. I wanted to create some scenes myself and express them my way,” Didier told the audience after the act.

She also shared that she had performed the water and newspaper sequence a year ago, but her act then and now were very different. Reading out the headlines, for instance, was impromptu.

“Most of the time there is also no message behind my performance. It is just a reaction to what is happening in my life or around me. Performance art is often abstract,” she added.

Explaining her choice of form, Didier said: “I wanted to produce art that cannot be reproduced later or commercialised.”