Archive Performance (phantom cigarette) (2017)

March 10 – April 7
Q18 / Quartier am Hafen, Cologne
at the invitation of Jari Ortwig

phantom cigarette


by Ivan Cheng

w/ camera Stefan Ramírez Pérez


The exhibition series 2017 at Q18 is characterized by the performative. The theme is illuminated by different perspectives and artistic approaches in four events, including an additional program. Process, experiment and collaboration are the cornerstones of the curatorial work in 2017, in which the exhibition space Q18 provides the framework for various snapshots of a continuous research on the complex format „performance” and makes it accessible to the public.

The first exhibition Archive Performance (phantom cigarette) was an approximation to the concept of performance in general and to the archiving of performance in the specifics. Initial point is the “Performance Art Archive”, which was established in 1981 under the name “Schwarze Lade / The Black Kit” as an “organic growing bank of ideas” (, and which since that time houses several magazines, books as well as video and audio recordings of international performance art. The archive is directed and constantly expanded by Boris Nieslony, whose diagrammatically oriented exploration of the „performative“ was reflected in a monumental floor diagram within the exhibition, A complex contextual and yet subjective approximation to the term of performance, with semantic and scientific links, transported the archive structure as a graphic element into the exhibition space. With its terms and key words, the graphic became an informative pulser around the subject. In addition, as a “choreographic” notation, the diagram directed the movement of the reading audience vertically and horizontally through the space.

With a video performance of Ivan Cheng, which was filmed by Stefan Ramírez Pérez directly in the performance archive, an individual archive encountered the other. In his “bad readings” the young performer, author and curator from Australia samples more intuitively than systematically, text fragments of various sources and contexts and let them emerge primarily in language. Curious props, costumes, settings, but also sparingly-concentrated movements, gestures, mimics, as well as “vocal” excursions, places emphases, which merely seem to complement the spoken words in a logical way, but actually don't follow any narrative or thematic line. The deconstruction of all contexts by Cheng’s “textdropping” leads to a less scientific rather than lyrical, personal and fictional reinterpretation of the original literature.

The body as a natural repository of collective knowledge and individual experience, “which is constantly expanding and reproducing itself“ (, is opposed to the classical concept of an archive as a place where concrete knowledge is preserved in its physical or digital form. Especially in terms of the performance as the transitory, immaterial form of art production par excellence, questions about the sense and legitimation of its documentation and archiving, but also its necessity are omnipresent.

But the apparent dialectic of performance and the archival, as well as the impossibility of objectivity and completeness of an archive, and even the excessive demand of the audience by the semantic density of the text fragments within Cheng's performance – all this within the exhibition appears in its artistic-poetic quality rather then as critical notation.

A live performance of Ivan Cheng in the opening night transferred the conceptual approach of the project to the direct, physically experienceable.

HD video projected across ceiling and viewable on monitor

Opening performance

opening and installation photographs Alessandro de Matteis