:: Article

Al Paldrok Non Grata

Interview by Jana Astanov.

The biggest problem in the contemporary world is self censoring on an individual level – people do not believe in the possibilities of their own choices and dreams.

One of the most important characteristic features of a performance artist is the ability to control the performative process. To be ready to improvise and guide the processes in an unexpected situations.

Lots of people and researchers consider Non Grata as a political group. To me it is kind of surprising. Art can be a powerful tool – a synthesis of all life forms and disciplines – social structures, history, personal feelings, nationalism, our physical and mental needs, written and unwritten contracts, anthropology, geography, philosophy, sounds, smells, desires and in our actions we try to use all of them or as many we can.

Al Paldrok: With his NON GRATA/Diverse Universe International School of Performing Arts headquartered in Estonia, Al Paldrok aka Anonymous Boh, via non-stop world tours, performances, exhibitions, and publications, has created one of the most representative, significant, timely and transformative art movements in all of history. As Ring Master, Al Paldrok has become the Wild Bill Hickok, the P.T. Barnum, the Alfred Jarry, the Tristan Tzara, the Ezra Pound, the Orson Welles of our Era. We have entered The Apocalypse, The Storm. Al Paldrok, implementing all The Arts via NON GRATA’S Diverse Universe global performances, reveals to us not only where we presently stand in TheStorm but he also conjures visions of our soon to be realized post-apocalyptic absurdly playfully tormented kaleidoscopic landscapes.” Ron Whitehead, outlaw poet

With more than 500 members during the last 15 years from all over the world, the main characteristics of NON GRATA are anonymity in group work, ignorance of the local art world and mass media. Performing in Asia, Europe, South and North America with street actions, chaotic space and context specific performances and long lasting ghetto marathons…and they are still going.

3:AM: How did it all start? What made you a performance artist?

Anonymous Boh: Art is an on going experimental process. As with alchemy, the goal was to make gold out of stone – and during this process, side products were discovered – medicine, explosives, chemicals, paints, tools, technologies, machinery. It’s the same in art –art objects produced during this process are just side products. What really changes the world is a worldwide creative, experimental process.

3:AM: What influenced you in the choice of performance as a way of expression?

AB: Artists own body can be a performance instrument, however, today its importance gradually decreases – there are robots, electronic and mechanical devices, automobiles, crowds of people – that all can be remotely directed. One’s own body is definitely the most available means. One can direct a performance totally separate from one’s body, using only one’s brain. To create a non-carnal space, a virtual performance or global catastrophe where performative activities start functioning on their own, disconnected from body. As brain is still a material part of one’s body, a thought originating from there is already a compromise between an idea and materialized reality. The real world is, as we all know, imperfect. Within the compromise between the spiritual and real, the carnal side finally determines, as it acts as a filter or stirrer of the channelized idea. Filters and stirrers are widely used in all kinds of technical activities precisely as the factors that distort the original signals and raise the quality. Carnal filter in co-operation with the surrounding real absurd theatre at its best will result is a creation of a reality shift which, in turn, will bring about a new mental dimension that will, on the meta-level, initiate new processes. Therefore, the initial idea being thrown into the mundane reality is rather in a secondary role, it is more of a trigger.

3:AM: What are the themes that you explore?

AB: Our performances are mostly context- and location specific. We make no plans prior to our arrival to the place and we do not provide generally pre-required work descriptions. Everything is being decided on the spot where we are going to perform or the performance space is being chosen due to the inspiration drawn from the actual place. Local cultural background, history, stereotypes, nature, people, politics, personal experiences are all being involved and blended together. They’ll form a mini model of a concrete society and, with its different levels, it starts to serve as a background for a concrete idea or it’ll behave as an art work in itself.

Lots of people and researchers consider Non Grata as a political group. To me it is kind of surprising. Art can be a powerful tool – a synthesis of all life forms and disciplines – social structures, history, personal feelings, nationalism, our physical and mental needs, written and unwritten contracts, anthropology, geography, philosophy, sounds, smells, desires and in our actions we try to use all of them or as many we can. Politics is part of life, so it is one of the components; it is always there like all the rest but nothing more. A political fight is only one way of changing the world and I must say it is quite a narrow one. People have closed their ears to politics, so you have to find more effective and universal triggers to activate the process.

Vast majority of performances are interactive and in whatever crazy situations one can expect anything: from verbal disturbances to direct physical attack by the audience, unexpected spatial configurations, interference by the police, fire brigade, ambulance etc. One of the most important characteristic features of a performance artist is the ability to control the performative process. To be ready to improvise and guide the processes in an unexpected situations.

3:AM: How important is the collaborative process in your practice?

AB: 100%. When performing in different parts of the world, I personally like to engage some local characters who might be the representatives of quite different professions: chefs, militarists, scientists, robot engineers, dancers, musicians, circus acrobats, people of different races, linguistic backgrounds, sexual orientations etc. The action is still planned to the degree that your personal part is rather clear and the role applied to the others has to do with what are their orientation and what is it that they can do. How and in which manner they actually do it is up for them to decide. What differentiates a performance from a theatre is that everything happens for real, with no prior rehearsal, and therefore, it is best if a person performs one’s everyday tasks. It is up to me to melt it into one whole and to provide it with an ideological background.

I select the places where to perform according to what inspire my creativity. The people, with whom you, at a given time, want to do something together, also have a large role. Sometimes it can be art meccas such as New York, London or Paris, sometimes the limited vastness of the US, Southern-American ghettos, performance festivals in Asia or Scandinavia. We get a lot of invitations, however, we can’t and don’t even what to go just anywhere and everywhere. We have the chance to choose according to what’s appealing. The world is an experimental space and art is a creational process in a perpetual move.

3:AM: What are you working on currently?

AB: Questioning everything is our main philosophy and it is also the difference between art and entertainment. Of course, I have grown up in one authoritarian regime and also seen its fall. In these systems your reality is twisted. Everybody knows that there is real life, which they live with their friends and families and then there is another one, the official artificial reality, in which you take part outside of the home. This experience has probably given me this attitude, to always be sceptical about surface issues.

The value of art is in offering non traditional strategies which one can put to use in everyday life. An artist attempts to improve the world. The aim of Non Grata was and still is, to create an atmosphere in which people feel free to ask themselves and others, “What is it that I really think? What is it that I really want?”

I do not even see it as resistance, actually I am here to help society in every way I can. If a patient is scared because of their treatment and tries to stop their operation, you just have to do it against their will.

The biggest problem in the contemporary world is self censoring on an individual level – people do not believe in the possibilities of their own choices and dreams.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Jana Astanov is a multidisciplinary artist currently living in New York. Her work includes photography, poetry, performance and new media. She started experimenting with writing poems in English in 2012, and since then has compiled three collections: Antidivine, Northern Grimoire and Sublunar.

Jana Astanov is on Twitter

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, June 11th, 2017.