To kickstart the event, we were invited to the opening of the House of Challenging Orders, which I was told on the taxi ride there was being held in a condemned 1970s office building. Upon arrival, the theme of challenge was clear. As Punkenhofer further confirmed, the building now housing an array of contemporary artists was to be torn down a week from now, already showing signs of detriment with holes indented around the walls of the three floors. Not only was this space challenging the idea of ‘the white cube,’ a preconceived and socially-accepted art exhibition or gallery setting, it also meant the artists were given total freedom to express their creativity in their ‘office.’ Engravings and writing on the walls, splattered paint on the floors and even bacteria-growing in one room, the artists evidently were shown the green flag to showcase their work to its fullest extent, a privilege not offered by conventional art spaces.
Receiving an immersive tour by Hartmann, who showed us the works of the Guerrilla Girls – a feminist art group which exposes the place, or rather the exclusion, of female artists in the art world plastered and projected across several floors, and Christiane Peschek’s Boys Like Me, a series of self-portraits printed of polar fleece questioning fixed ideas of identity, we run into several artists still tirelessly working on their projects, rushing to complete them before the official start of the night.
Around 7:30 pm officially kickstarts the event, with speeches made by the director and co-curator, seamlessly preceding the first performance of the night by Roberta Lima. A fully nude model appears, as if she had always been there, before kneeling in front of the crowd of attendees and applying red and black paint all over her body. She then stands up and walks through the building, whilst leaving traces of the paint on the plastered walls, and into Lima’s dedicated artist space which holds her Céu e Terra installation, featuring a suspended cloth, cables and strands of wheat hanging through the ceiling, all stained with red and black paint. The crowd follows the model into the room, watching her with various expressions of shock, discomfort, astonishment, amazement and even confusion while she exerts different poses in the centre of the room. After a long moment of silence and standstill, a moment in which most of us were questioning the proper etiquette of performance art, a swift “thank you” signals the crowd the performance is over.