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A “Coup d’Oeil” Behind the Scenes
Text by Aurélie Coulon as told to Melanie Picard
Have you ever seen a man sweat blue?
swissnex San Francisco just said goodbye to Swiss performance artist Yann Marussich. He went back to his hometown of Geneva, after successfully touring California with his performance, Bleu Remix. swissnexSF’s Head of Life Sciences Aurélie Coulon shares her insights from two weeks with Marussich to answer questions you may have about this impressive performance.
Attending Bleu Remix
After a short wait behind a heavy curtain, you are told to enter a room. It’s dark and mostly empty except for a glass cage in the center of the room. In the cage, Marussich is sitting completely still and almost naked. Through the speakers in the room, you hear the resonance of profound and low vibrations recorded by clinicians from inside his body.
It’s difficult to recognize the face of the nice man we all met in the swissnex lobby. His body is motionless, and he stares straight ahead. “From far off, he looks like a cold wax sculpture, but when you get closer, he becomes a living man of flesh and blood,” said Julia Kuhn, Communications Manager at swissnex San Francisco, when she attended the performance.
And then, the core of the performance slowly begins. First, a blue teardrop leaves his eye, then a trickle of blue liquid runs down from his nose and mouth to his chin. Time passes, and myriad tiny blue spots appear everywhere on his skin. Blue liquid seeps hundreds of pores, revealing the skin as you never saw it before.
Bleu Remix: creation process
Marussich conceived this performance in 2007. It involved a two-year collaboration with a doctor and a chemist to determine how he could safely prepare his body to exude the blue liquid. We all wonder what this liquid could be, but we will never know, as it is Marussich’s fiercely kept secret. If people ask, he smiles and jokes that he ate Smurfs before the show.
But Blue remix is not just about ingesting blue liquid. It’s also about body control in extreme conditions. Have you ever tried to stay still without blinking your eyes for an entire hour? And, did you ever do it in a glass cage that heats up to 155°F (68°C)? This is not an exercise for amateurs.
Behind the poetic spectacle of a person’s skin slowly turning blue is a long preparation process. Marussich spends more than four hours before each performance preparing his body and his mind by practicing qigong, a traditional Chinese exercise with roots in Eastern medicine, martial arts, and meditation.
Why expose his body to such extreme situations?
Marussich is a former dancer and choreographer. Disappointed with the dance scene, he created a disruptive performance in which he stood still in front of the audience with a soundtrack of him revealing his feelings about dancing. He was amazed by the intense reactions of his audience, who were silent at the end of the performance. He could even see tears on their cheeks. He thought, how interesting that a dancer could communicate emotion without moving.
From this moment, he sought ways to create movement through immobility and use this approach to connect with the audience. For his first performance, he was lying with his stomach on a pole leaving him unable to eat for days. After this painful first experience, Marussich understood he had to go through a long and serious preparative process for each of his performances.
“I don’t acknowledge the pain,” Marussich once said. At a talk he gave at the Performance Art Institute during his California tour, a participant asked if he did rehearsals. “No, I never try the performance beforehand. I create the setting, I imagine my body being in this situation for hours, and once I feel ready, I share my first-ever performance directly with the public.”
And why “blue,” one could ask? “The blue color is not natural for our body,” explains Marussich. “You will find it only on a dead corpse. Moreover, blue has been considered for a long time as the color associated to the Devil before being used to paint the Virgin during the Renaissance.” The color blue is a nod to those who inspire Marussich: “For me, it is also an homage to Yves Klein, an artist I profoundly admire.”
More than a bio-art performance, the artist offers his body poetry through an organic and sonorous experience where skin is the center of our focus—what an inspiring way to kick off our skin series. Stay tuned for more events about the skin, our fantastic living envelope.