project image
Benjamin Gages

first performed on June 27, 2020
City of Gold
performed once in 2020


Essen, Germany


After six months without making any performance work, I was invited to present a live performance at an art space in my hometown. To ensure the audience was safe, we positioned them outside the window while I performed inside.

The art space actually has two big front windows. So, while I was using one for the performance, the other was used to project an earlier video work. In the video, a boy tries to surf on an air mattress in the Mediterranean Sea; this gentle fight with the sea and the mattress generates an experience of imbalance.

My concepts for the performance circled around the sea, failing, falling but trying again, not giving up.

The space behind the window became a kind of stage during the performance. I started by raising the blinds like a curtain. I was inside a huge plastic bag, invisible. After a while I started to move, roll and carefully crawl from the bag. This is how I entered the “stage” to echo a similar gentle fight with the bag, like the boy in the sea.

Later in the performance, I marked my face with a black charcoal marker and wrote this sentence on the window:

And then, the best.

Better than anything,

because it’s real.

I wrote backwards so the audience could read it, highlighting this connection point between us: the weird situation of having an experience together, but remaining separated. Though isolated and distanced for many months, we could share in the knowledge that there is only this moment, and really no better moment.

At the end of the performance, the sun was reflecting from the neighboring window exactly at the spot where I was pouring endless water out of a watering can while Charles Trenet’s song “La Mer,” interpreted by Liselotte Malkowsky in German, was playing. The melody and its lyrics affect a feeling of sweetness, longing and dreaminess. The performance concludes with this bittersweet ending – back to the reality of our ongoing distancing, needing to stay safe while longing for connection with friends and families again.