Ivan Cheng

„Parataxis – ...” April 24 - May 12

Parataxis – sidling under eaves, spread the copycat not the origin, preen for chokehold; the bloodsucker’s coming, so-so global morass, three-pack of microwaveable lava cakes, the obscene and overt as markers of repression, in-store celebrity hands you a scrunchie, actually horrific ways of describing the body, little mice and blossoming (bouillon cubes in the supermarket aisle, the deluded exuding of sexual energy for the purpose of making out with...)

an exhibition by Ivan Cheng
featuring cookie box by Spazio Cura
cookies by Julius Pristauz
Confidences / Baseline by Ivan Cheng (TLTRPreß, 2021)
book design by Sabo Day
book cover by Özgür Kar
back cover photography by Nikola Lamburov
exhibition text by Marie Claudette

This exhibition hinges on guileless play - equating the consumption of a butter cookie to the cookies saved in an internet browser. Accepting or denying this, Cheng proposes a situation where the procedures of hosting, storage, access, and legibility become implicated in a game of language that suggests pleasure and desire as much as repression.

A visitor to OoO is invited to take a cookie prepared by the curator, lean on the custom made cookie box, and thus read a paperback vampire novel that the artist wrote for the scenario. The novel, titled “Confidences / Baseline”, is the first in a series that ‘fetishes nightclubs on the basis of their inaccessibility’.

Unlike the highly rhythmic and elliptical language of his performance writing, “Baseline” is largely written in lucid, accessible prose. Cheng claims that the closet-like space of OoO anchored his intention to write a world in which the act of coming out of a closet is met with intense nonchalance. Indeed, no revelation is met with wonder, including the integration of vampires, whose given relationship to space, light, and time complicates their interactions with the ephemerality of performance. Speculating on a deluded notion of audiences for contemporary theatre, “Baseline” draws on his reflections of writing for reading rather than speaking. Later volumes will focus on the largely inexpressible experiences of pleasure driven nightlife – including oral histories from club owners, bookers, and promoters.

This recent turn to novelistic writing comes from restrictions to public events over the last year. Cheng’s first novel “Ferrara Deux (faits divers)” (2020) was premised on finding an appropriate method of presenting his performance texts from the previous years. He did this by reconfiguring fragments of his own performance texts from the last few years into an approximation of a murder mystery novel - a street musician is found chopped into vacuum sealed bags in the refrigerator of Carbone, a popular Italian-American restaurant. “Baseline” appropriates the vampire genre in a similar way - like a populist crutch. The vampire in cultural imaginary is thus used as infrastructure – a universe in which a theatre Cheng desires could occur. Dialogues veer into monologue, speech is candid but affected, and the text is plagued by an insistent transparency of artifice or device, all written for a perverse situation of a police riot van converted into a street theatre, funded by Patrice, the vampire owner of a gay bar called Jabberz who still thinks of theatre as morality play. A novelistic version of metatheatre.

The book’s design, by Sabo Day, is minimal in decoration while referencing pulp literature, and is scaled to fit on the cookie box. A drawing by Özgür Kar forms the cover of the paperback. This drawing comes from a series commissioned from artists like Kar, Spencer Lai, Mire Lee, Magdalena Mitterhofer, Dominic Rich, Yashi, with the request that these peers and collaborators draw Cheng’s body in their hand based on character outlines from the in-progress book. This was proposed as a performative gesture to accompany an excerpt published for Zurich Moves, a performance festival that will celebrate its 10th edition by publishing a magazine.

The cookie box was proposed to put the reader in the suggestion of a browser, as well as react to the invitation to show in Vienna, with its historical coffee culture and customs of visitation. Discussions around hospitality as hostility, public and private, the vampire’s coffin in public imaginary, as well as metaphoric/poetic containers and closets led to Spazio Cura’s design and execution of the accessibility rail-like cookie box. The cookie box simultaneously acts as display and “furniture” to situate the reader in the space.

“Parataxis – …”has the ambition to be read as a series of orientations around language in space, a dance of manners around frameworks for invisibility and making public. Consistent with other major works of the artist, it confidently casts those around him out of their usual roles into others in a delicate balance of trust and a suspension of disbelief that marks performativity for him. Whether the exhibition proposes itself as a proxy for the performance spaces he usually commands is moot – Cheng insists with utopic optimism that every space is one available to ambivalent or invested reading.