Polish Performance Archive

Description by Filmoteka Muzeum

Perfumer is a performative work by Arti Grabowski that sits within the tradition of critical performance, which originates from body art.

The artist introduces an air of sterility and distance by means of his white ascetic outfit, in which he pursues a daily hygienic routine. This routine acquires a ritual form, and the involved activities become deconstructed in order to challenge the body and open it up to liminal experiences: pain, when a bottle brush is used instead of a toothbrush; airlessness, when the performer covers his entire body with the contents of two bottles of deodorant; nausea, when a tube of toothpaste and a soap bar are consumed.

The senses of the gathered audience are also put to trial. An interaction with the viewers consists here in an encouragement to commiserate with the performer in the suffering that he endures, which is accompanied by the lack of understanding of the purpose of his activities.

By spilling impurities on the floor – remnants of soap and toothpaste – the artist delineates a symbolic border between himself and the audience. Yet, in order to eradicate that division, Grabowski kneels down to wash the feet of those gathered in the gallery, thus entering into a direct physical interaction with them.

The re-enactment of a gesture with strong religious connotations allows the artist to seize the semantics of the gesture – it is a kind of sacrifice. In the final gesture, which ultimately abolishes the distance between the performer and the audience, Grabowski covers his eyes with a white band, akin to a convict before the execution, and drinks the water in which he had washed the feet of the viewers; he then proceeds to smash the container, thus destroying all symbolic borders.