I can’t take my eyes off you: Eulàlia Rovira and Adrian Schindler
Cover Story, October 2018
Eulàlia Rovira and Adrian Schindler’s new performance One motif says to the other: I can’t take my eyes off you took place on 14th September as part of the Latitudes-curated Cream cheese and pretty ribbons! at Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna, an exhibition that also features the talents of David Bestué, Sean Lynch, and Batia Suter. The exclamatory title of the exhibition (which continues until 13 October as part of the curated_by festival) synthesises two of the satirist Karl Kraus’s similes for what, writing in 1910, he considered the cultural polarity of monotonous functionality on the one hand and frivolous adornment on the other. Kraus lampooned both the sobriety of Germanic culture and the good taste of Romance culture, yet judged an even greater taboo was to be found in Vienna’s dressing up of the former with the latter.
Responding to this false dichotomy of formalism and ‘contentism’, Barcelona-based Eulàlia and Adrian developed a performance that comprised the speaking of memorised texts, the revealing and concealing of ‘tribal’ tattoo-like skin adornments, and the folding and tying of silk scarves. Each scarf bore a variation of the belt and buckle, chain and harness motifs typical of silk square designs by brands such as Hermès, whose origins lie in equestrianism. Tracing an extraordinary historical pattern of exaggerated display and normalised subjugation, the words of the performance wove around the mythologies and testimonies of four individuals. The striking likeness of Maori war leader Te Pēhi Kupe is known from portraits made in the 1820s in England, where he had come to appeal for weapons from George IV. An anonymous woman, once forced to pose for an identity card shot, was one of the thousands of Berber villagers documented in 1960 by the French military photographer Marc Garanger during the Algerian War. The orphaned Olive Oatman was adopted by the Mojave people in 1851 and marked on her chin with blue cactus tattoos in accordance with tribal custom. The heavily tattooed man known as Jeoly, forcibly brought to Europe from present-day North Sulawesi by buccaneer William Dampier in 1691, was exhibited as the ‘painted prince’ in a London tavern. As Eulàlia and Adrian knotted together these singular stories, the compilation of musical covers that they turned on-and-off between each reading began to lodge uninvited in the mind, “You’re just too good to be true, I can’t take my eyes off you...”