Golden Lion winner Faust, by the German artist Anne Imhof, was the main event of the 57th Venice Biennale, in 2017. Imhof placed a one-meter-high glass floor inside of the German Pavilion and put a fence around it. She then placed inside the space between the pavilion four young Doberman pinschers, two on each side, hereby interacting with the brutal architecture of the Pavilion.

The performance

In this space, a five-hour-long performance went on throughout almost the entire seven months of the exhibition. The performers; young, androgynous-looking, in sports gear, reminiscent of Berlin hipsterism and Berghain club culture, moved under and on the floor. They climbed on the fence, performed a series of seemingly spontaneous, yet thoroughly calculated movements. They included wrestling, caressing, pressing the audience from one side of the space to the other by marching through them. Finally, they exposed themselves in still positions, spray-painted the walls, sprayed water, started small fires, and played music. 

Behind the scenes

Anne Imhof ould only reach the spontaneous discipline of this performance through a close team of performers, thinking along with the work. They included Billy Bultheel, composer and choreographer, and Eliza Douglas, the artist’s muse. To Imhof, it is important that the performers are not performing a concentrated version of themselves. She has thus surrounded her with a dense group of performing musicians, fellow artists, and dancers. 

Despite Faust being only performed inside of the German pavilion – this location being best fitting to the work – Anne Imhof has continued making further exhibitions with this group of people.