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The Artist is Arm Wrestling



For the 2014 FNB Jo’burg Art Fair, I challenged artists, security guards, curators, cleaners, volunteers, organizers and members of the general public to a test of strength, as she took on all-comers in the ancient discipline of arm wrestling for four days, four hours per day.

‘The Artist is Arm Wrestling’ explores how rules paradoxically encourage play, and reveal true character. How and why do we compete, and for what? Do we follow the rules or change them? How do we perform strength, weakness, power, winning and/or losing? 

“The Artist is Arm Wrestling” is also a playful re-imagining of the Marina Abramović work “The Artist is Present” (2010) – a 736-hour and 30-minute performance piece during which the artist sat immobile in MOMA’s atrium while members of the public were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. Some participants wept, others fled, whilst others stood their ground and held her gaze.

The work is a continuation of two performance cycles: “Anthea Moys vs The City of Grahamstown” and “Anthea Moys vs The City of Geneva”, and also represents the continuation of my long-standing engagement with participatory performance practice in contemporary art, and my interest in play, risk, and failure. The work also extended to take on political parties in the lead up to the elections in 2014. Below I can be seen arm wrestling someone from the DA and someone from COPE. The performances were facilitated and refereed by Master of Ceremonies and Head Judge, Gerard Bester.

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