Arthall’s statement on “Symposium. In vino veritas”

We were approached by Óscar Nieto, a Spanish artist who was visiting Gozo at the time. He had the idea of a performance art “Symposium. In vino veritas”,  and thought that our gallery, known for challenging exhibitions, would be a perfect place for it. His performance was simply to put himself naked on a table with a buffet, just like a dish among the others. In fact, it wasn’t that simple at all.  He didn’t know how the invited guests would react. Would they touch him? Be angry at him? Ignore him? Óscar was determined not to respond to anything. After four hours on top of the table without moving and with the eyes open, he was completely exhausted.

The guests were an active part of the performance, since their reactions and interactions were the point of it. They didn’t know what to expect, just that they were invited to a particular banquet at an art gallery. The shock was obvious. Some were curious and tried to approach him, others pretended not to see him or considered not to take part in the event, someone burst out laughing. As the night went on, the participants got used to the man on the table, became comfortable and even brought out a guitar to play music. Some of them covered the body of the artist, first with flowers and later with a scarf and a jacket to keep him warm. Others started to touch him and seek for a response. The artist remained quiet all night.

Did the artist become an object, something we could use during that night? Are we becoming consumable ourselves? Where were the limits? Is nudity, in general, disturbing and offensive? Was this art?

Many questions arose after the performance. It has to be clarified that:

-The guests accepted the challenge of the unexpected.

-The event took place behind closed doors.

-The guests could leave at any time.

-There were no directives or rules about what to do or how to behave.

This was an experiment for us too and we are grateful towards the artist Óscar Nieto for his courage to use himself and his body in order to provoke emotions, thoughts and possibly discomfort in some of the guests. Art has the power to question what is given to us as “normal”, making us reflect about the human condition, our potentialities and limitations. We believe that this performance was an excellent fulfilment of this definition, since people left the event with more questions than confirmations. And yes, we believe that this type of performances, that has been around at least since the 70’s, are art. In fact, one of the inspirations for our artist was Marina Abramović, together with the philosophical ideas of George Bataille. This performance was not an imposition but an opportunity. As we say: LET ART FIND YOU.

Gozo, 17 July 2022