Besides these sociopolitical takes on heritage, there were also plenty of tender homages to one’s roots, acknowledging the role of family – especially mothers – in the artists’ legacy. Toukabri’s work featured a striking video of his mother, her long grey hair free-flowing in the wind, while Pauer invited her mother to join her on stage as a dancer. Sophia Süßmilch took it a step further, breastfeeding her own actual mother in one of the many tongue-in-cheek chapters of her work If you think you are a performance artist but you’re really just a meme in which she eviscerated clichés, one artsy stereotype at a time – while Freud was probably turning in his grave.
If these works showed a unique take on the relationship between the maker and the world, two other pieces were especially striking in how they wove the personal with the political, the concrete with the imaginary, walking the line between intimacy and awareness of existing in a global context.
In new skin, Belgian maker Hannah De Meyer masters the art of switching between microscopic and cosmic scales. Her voice is the first thing to enter the space. ‘Hi restless souls, how are you doing tonight?’ she asks, before infusing the empty room with mouthy noises and wild stories, titillating our minds to imagine an entire universe unfolding before our eyes – or rather, within our eardrums. She moves with delicate yet minimal intricacy, sometimes a quirky dinosaur, sometimes flowing seaweed, but always as a support to the voice, almost as if she were her own background dancer. She describes phantasmagoric landscapes with rigorous accuracy, taking us on a tour of an imaginary planet, a fanciful museum, and to the moon. She remembers hypothetical ancestors as well as the infinite love of her own grandfather. She embodies a cosmonaut, and seconds later is a foetus, threading whimsical links between the universe and her mother’s womb. A story about her grandmother’s compassionate plea for her to take a rest meets an imaginary horror scene with limbs floating in a dark cave. This constant alteration of perspectives keeps this minimalist work both vivid and otherworldly. When De Meyer finally spells her desire ‘to be born, as a woman, with a mouth, that goddamn speaks!’ the impact of these words, on top of all those she has carefully accumulated in the last hour, sweeps over us like a wave, and thus new skin manages to be both thoroughly grounded and out of this world.