Admission is free, pay with your sanity; wear your own clothes, prepare to get naked. This about sums up Oreet Ashery’s latest project. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect upon arriving at this provocative Israeli artist’s performance at Goldsmiths College last week and I’m not sure I’m any the wiser now.
As hoards of students piled out for a fire alarm, I assumed this to be the first of many elaborate pranks by the ‘Party for Freedom’ performers, who are available to book throughout the run of their itinerant exhibition.
Once inside Room 309 – a small lecture room populated by an expectant audience – seven people burst through the doors and proceeded to inform us about the logistics of the evening and that we could join in at any time.
Apparently never knowing the types of venues they’re invited to, they quickly adapted to the room’s awkward layout. I was handed a torch and advised to use it for anything I felt required being lit and the party finally got underway. Against a video akin to ’60s and ’70s experimental films, we were greeted to a 60-minute expression of free will – or perhaps that should be free willies.
Did I mention they get their kit off? Climbing over the audience, using numerous props and acting out scenarios echoed in the backdrop, they writhed away (although it didn’t feel like I was at the same party they were). But then the title of the piece is misleading, taking its name from a right-wing political party in Holland. Ashery’s vision is the polar opposite of its namesake, a revolutionary riposte to the bigoted and racist ideals of an anti-immigration corner of Dutch society.
Despite these political leanings, Ashery giggled in the front row at her protégés’ actions, which ended with the fire alarm going off again after one of them lit a small ritualistic fire. This type of pseudo-punk, interactive performance art has become more established since its origins in the ’70s New York live art scene. And although I was entertained, and not entirely sure if I should have laughed when I did, for all my liberalism it was just a bit much for a Thursday night to have so many people’s junk up in my face.