project image
Polina Riabova

first performed on November 5, 2016
Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn, NY
performed once in 2016


Brooklyn, NY


“Core Strength Ritual” was a performance that bookended a year of making meta-textual performance art, i.e., performances about performances. It was my last performance in 2016, and was made as a companion to “Lipstick Piece,” a work that I performed at the same venue in January 2016. I began by addressing the audience directly and stating my intentions for the piece—“a performance about making performances.” I threw myself across the room, an action that I have performed dozens of times previously at Panoply Performance Laboratory. I often employ mantras in my work; in “Core Strength Ritual,” I directly engaged with, and antagonized, members of the audience: I laid my body on top of theirs, made them pick me up, and even wrapped my legs around someone and forced them to hold me in the air while I did sit-ups. Then, placing a potted plant on my head, I announced:

“This is a performance called “A Plant on My Head.” I made it up just now. You think there’s a plant on his head. But. There’s more to it.”

I went over the mental procedure of developing a performance on the spot, using the idea of balancing a potted plant on my head as a metaphor. I attempted to walk around the room while making sure the plant didn’t fall off my head. There was a thin string keeping it on and one false move would have made it fall… I had an audience member water the plant using a watering can, soaking me and making the plant tumble down. I then retrieved a box cutter out of the corner of the room and announced:

“This is a performance called ‘Knife.’ It is about anticipation.”

I placed the box cutter up to my arm and used enough pressure for the blade to leave an indentation in my skin. The audience waited for the moment that I sliced myself open, but it never came. Only the threat was real. I tossed the knife. Then, in reference to a past work, I attempted to hold a difficult yoga pose for a long time. I had an audience member time this. I had a hard time doing this and began to convulse; the performance ended when an audience member walked forward and lovingly sat on my chest, putting a stop to my twitching.