Apostlahästarna (per pedes apostolorum) is the title of the six-hour performance, with which the Swedish artist Anna Berndtson took part in the one-day exhibition The Artist is an Explorer, curated by Marina Abramovic at Fondation Beyeler in Riehen (Basel, Switzerland). In this interview, Anna Berndtson talks about this specific piece and her work in genereal.
Anna Berndtson: Apostlahästarna (per pedes apostolorum). Performance at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen (Basel, Switzerland). Interview with Anna Berndtson, September 20, 2014.
“Apostlahästarna” is an idiomatic Swedish word meaning “to use Shank’s pony”, in other words to travel by foot. The Latin phrase Per pedes apostolorum means “by the feet of the apostles.” During this six-hour performance, Anna Berndtson walks very slowly around the venue, with her own blind stick leading her on.
“Walking, to me, is the most essential mode of transport. Earlier this year I
was in an accident, when a coach drove over both my feet. It made me realize
just how much I depend on the fact that I can get up and walk wherever I want
to at any time. Thankfully the accident only left my feet bruised and sore.”
“The exercise of walking slowly has always been one of my favorites, but also one that I like least. Although the constant slow movement forwards in a flowing way gives me a sense of calm, I mostly found it frustrating because I struggled with my balance. So it was a fantastic experience when I visited Marina Abramović’s exhibition “512 Hours” at the Serpentine Gallery in London (2014) and discovered the exercise anew through walking with my blind stick.”
“Using an exercise to create a performance is not uncommon. It is, however, important to realize the difference between the two. In this performance I create an image as I slowly walk back and forth with the blind stick leading me on. With my extremely limited sight, the blind stick helps me keep my balance. Leaving me to concentrate on the walking as such and on the forward movement. I can focus on my presence in the space and with the public.”
Anna Berndtson (1972, Sweden) is a Swedish performance artist working foremost with Long Duration Live Performance. The foundation of her practice is the presence of both the artist and the public. Her body and her own perception are placed in the center of the work and the reduction of the visual image is fundamental in her performances, videos and photographs.
In Long Duration Live Performance duration and time are important. Anna sets herself the challenge to keep an image present over several hours or even over several days. The sustained long duration can simultaneously be perceived as both exciting and boring, both eventful and monotonous. The mission to stimulate the public, capture their attention and keep it, is reflected in the endurance of the artist, who simultaneously works on maintaining her position, her presence and the concentration on what is performed.