Performance Art Comes to a Cincinnati Grocery

Heine Avdal is making a short trip from Belgium to Cincinnati on Feb. 21 and 22 just to visit the Whole Foods Market in Rookwood Commons.

Feb 11, 2015 at 2:54 pm
click to enlarge Borrowed Landscape
Borrowed Landscape

Heine Avdal is making a short trip from Belgium to Cincinnati on Feb. 21 and 22 just to visit the Whole Foods Market in Rookwood Commons. It’s sandwiched between theatrical performances that he and his artistic organization fieldworks will be doing in Budapest and Oslo.

So why exactly is he coming here to go to Whole Foods? It isn’t just because he needs goat milk or edible flowers. It will be the site of the U.S. premiere — and only U.S. event to date — of a site-specific performance art piece called Borrowed Landscape, which he has been performing in Europe. He is being sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Center as part of its international-oriented Performances series and will occur from 2-4 p.m. on both Feb. 21 and 22. Admission is free and you can come and go anytime within the two-hour window.

Working with a collaborator and sound artist from fieldworks, as well as the Cincinnati-based movement/dance company Pones Inc., Avdal is out to transform the way we think about art — and groceries.

The CAC and the artists don’t want to give away too much in advance because the performance is meant to have an element of surprise. But it will make use of the entire store while people shop.

While there will be sound/music, only the performers and others who want to hear it will do so through headphones.

Those who come specifically for Borrowed Landscape may move around with the performers, but will strictly be spectators and not active participants in the work’s creation.

Avdal, a Norwegian, is a trained dancer who collaborates on projects with his wife Yukiko Shinozaki (who will not be coming to Cincinnati). Avdal serves as the performance’s director; some of what occurs is improvised.

Drew Klein, the CAC’s performance curator, says he had no problem getting Whole Foods to participate.

“Whole Foods should have an arts-savvy group who will eat this up,” Klein says.

“The starting point of the project was to blend our performance into our daily life, to insert poetry into those spaces that define our personal and professional lives,” Avdal says in an email (edited for clarity) to CityBeat from Belgium.

“Before performing in supermarkets in Europe, we performed in a ‘showroom house’ and an entrance hall of an office building in Japan. After that experience we chose the supermarket because this is a place everyone knows and is familiar with. It is so connected to our daily life.”

“Making a performance in such a space creates a lot of hybrid realities,” he continues. “It invites not only the real audience, but also the ‘accidental’ audience (shoppers) to take a step back and look again, to interact with and experience these ordinary spaces differently.

“This alluring performance reveals our routines, makes us conscious of how the spaces we use every day are constructed, and of how we move and are made to move through them,” he says.

“The performance aims to highlight the unique reality that is the supermarket, to expose some of the rules and codes according to which it operates, and to put into question our personal shopping habits as well as the larger forces that shape our everyday behavior and experiences.”

The CAC’s Klein saw Borrowed Landscape in action at last year’s Black Box Teater Festival in Oslo.

“I loved it — it was so subtle, funny and impactful that I carried it all the way back to Cincinnati,” he says. “A supermarket is a place that people see as mundane — going there is often a chore. But this encourages people to pay attention to their interactions there and not take the space for granted.”

He was also impressed with how the performance meshed with shoppers. “For those who only wanted to get their groceries for the night, there was nothing to interrupt them,” Klein says.

At the Oslo festival, Klein was also impressed with another site-specific performance piece called Night Tripper, by Norwegian artists Ingri Fiksdal, Ingvild Langgard/Phaedra & Signe Becker.

He is bringing the U.S. premiere of that to Cincinnati on April 24-25.

That performance, which involves a collaboration between dancers, musicians, a local choir and installation artworks, takes the audience into a forest at twilight to ponder unusual ideas about nature as the night evolves.

Klein is still looking for a park for this site-related work, as he wants one that isn’t too hilly or too far from the central city, but grows dark.

For more information, visit

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]