Power Failure was the final installment of the Orient Express: Family Business series, implemented at Kim? Center for Contemporary Art in Riga. It comprised an exhibition that showed the Orient Express video, a new mutation of the installation, as well as the performance, Power Failure. On the basis of this performance, a looping short film script (of the same name) was developed and shot in the set.
Both the Power Failure installation and performance were adapted to the local context. Based on a research into immigrant family restaurants in Riga, architectural elements and colors were added and shifted. The performance took its starting point from answers derived from a questionnaire (comprised of the same questions as previously used in the performance Orient Express Yourself) sent to female workers of local immigrant family restaurants. One of the answers detailed an account of a working stasis because of a power failure that could not be fixed due to a language breakdown between the employee and the electrician.
The performance, Power Failure, takes this incident as its starting point and showcases three Russian immigrant women spending time in the restaurant on their own terms. As the performance (and film) progresses, it slowly becomes clear that the women may well have invented this “power failure” so as to regain control over their own time and thoughts.
Simultaneously, Power Failure explores the power dynamics between the three women themselves, through the performance structure, which is based on looping interdependent actions between the performers that continually support or interrupt one another. For example, when one performer plays dead as a mean joke, the two other must take her call for attention seriously and drop their own interests. When another performer utilizes the “special offers” announcement microphone for deliberating her own musings, the other two performers interrupt what they are doing to supply a synchronized background choreography of stretching chewing gum to adorn the other scene. The chewing gum itself represents a process that frustrates consumption; as a material it is not something one can consume but is rather eventually ejected. As in Orient Express Yourself, the dynamics between the women parallel the economy of a business to a relational one and suggest that while power structures between people (especially within families) are unavoidable, to re-enact the family structure with one another is to agree to be the ones who play games with one another.
The Power Failure performance lasted 3 hours and was performed 6 times over the course of the exhibition. It consisted of alterations of different looping scenes, following a system of controlled spontaneity. The performance was accompanied by a live musician who dramatized the different scenes with appropriate music on a 1980s synthesizer. The audience could enter and exit the scene freely, watching it from benches placed at the edges of the installation.
Kim? Contemporary Art Center, Riga, LV
Duration: 3 hours, Audience could enter and exit freely
Restaurant Workers: Dace Bartush, Kristine Kreiss, Ludmila
Synth Musician: Kaspars Groshevs