Some speak their minds in words while others do so in the form of art. But New York based performance artist Nadja Verena Marcin goes above and beyond. Literally.
Two weeks ago, Marcin boarded a tiny 1979 Rockwell Commander airplane above Tampa Bay. Soon after take off, the pilot of the plane, Howard Chipman, let the plane fall towards the ocean. For Marcin and the three others on board, this was all part of the plan.
The goal was to reach zero gravity. As the plane dropped, Marcin floated inside, reciting quotes from German philosopher Nietzsche's "God is dead" text.
It was all to create a stunning piece of performance art that marries art and science, titled Zero Gravity. To Marcin, zero gravity is "a beautiful state of mind. It's thoughts without judgement, it's utopia, it's being inside of longing, dream, and desire."
"In our Western society there is a gap between body and mind that we need to learn how to bridge," said Marcin. Her physical state of floating juxtaposes the intellectual state of her mind as she quotes Nietzsche, and the gap is filled.
"I intend to create consciousness and meaning on a metaphorical level; in other words, a work of art. By confronting the audience with this experience, I want to share it with them as though they are in the state of zero gravity," she explained. The video of Marcin's performance is as close as most of us will ever get to the state of weightlessness. But why quote Nietzsche? Reciting "God is dead" sounds dark, and some might wonder whether the artist believes in Atheism. But that's not quite the story.
Nietzsche wrote the text in 1882, far before humans traveled to space or experienced zero gravity, yet his descriptions, Marcin says, seem to allude to it. "Later he even writes, 'I have come too early. My time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of me,'" said Marcin. With that, she was struck.
She believes the text -- "What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward in any direction? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?" -- serves as the perfect metaphor for our time, a time in which we are trying to achieve balance and grasp on to belief. "I wanted to set his words free from being an Atheist statement. I am interested in the deep emotional quality of the text, the respect for life, and the pride that goes along with it. I think the text is meant to awaken those who don't have belief, who are lost, who lack orientation, and who are already dead," said Marcin.
When asked if she was at all concerned with the risks tied to her performance, she said, "I am not afraid once I make an active decision. I am actually more afraid of life, because life is confusing and criminal. It doesn't always wait for your decisions."
To prepare for the stunt, Marcin ran as fast as possible on the treadmill while focusing on the text on a small piece of paper. "I suppose after that nothing is as sickening as that," she said.
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Through her artwork, Marcin explores "human behavior, elemental emotions, and physiological reactions through role-play and confrontation works that engage the audience." It's not the first time Marcin's work takes daring to another level. At the Fischer Landau collection in New York, she balanced on a 10-foot high wooden construction as she read from an écriture automatique, writing done in a subconscious state. "I never rehearsed balancing in that height. It was scary as hell and that tension became part of the experience of the audience who slowly collected in the middle of the street creating a temporary piazza," Marcin said.
Marcin hopes to bring her audience to a new level of consciousness. Besides that, she hopes to get art and astronaut wings out of this utopian experience.
Though Marcin is partnered with 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel in New York, the video of her performance will be featured at Coup de Ville 2013 in Sint Niklaas, Belgium. Her Zero Gravity project is sponsored by Aurora Aerospace pilot Howard Chipman and WARP, a non-profit arts organization, and was curated by Stef Van Bellinge.