Nude Australian Artist Trio Looks to Generous Berliners to Survive 10-Day Public Performance

Nude Australian Artist Trio Looks to Generous Berliners to Survive 10-Day Public Performance
(From Left) Kat Henry, Penny Harpham, William McBride at Platoon Kunsthalle, Berlin
(Courtesy Platoon Kunsthalle, Berlin)

BERLIN — A trio of Australian performance artists moved into a 30 square meter (323 square foot) patch of dirt outside Berlin’s newly relocated Platoon Kunsthalle on Sunday for a period of ten days equipped with nothing but their naked bodies. Called “Deliverance: Art Stripped Bare,” the project sets the three artists — Kat Henry, Penny Harpham, and William McBride — inside their imaginary cell for 240 hours straight, only leaving to use the bathroom, the path to which is marked by a dotted line. Their ability to survive, never mind clothe themselves, lies solely in the hands of the people of Berlin, who have been asked to bring whatever they can for the artists’ nourishment, comfort, or whimsy.

“For the first five minutes no one was doing anything, just looking at us and smoking cigarettes,” Harpham says of their very nude introduction to performance art complacence Berlin. Their first donation was a fire engine red valise, which Harpham nabbed quickly to cover up her nether regions. Within ten minutes or so the group was fully clothed and began to amass what, two days later, amounted to a considerable haul.

“There’s always booze, nicotine, and bread,” Harpham told ARTINFO Germany, “strangely, bananas too, but I won’t eat the bloody things.” In typical Berlin fashion, the patch of dirt has turned into a pop-up party spot, with well over 50 revelers in various stages of drunkenness congregating outside of the Kunsthalle on Monday night. More practical nourishment abounds as well. There are Ikea bags full of food and a stockpile of water bottles. A sign in one corner asks passersby by to avoid turning the artists' new home into a toilet for their dogs, and a tent adds to the emerging red theme. Henry also jokes about an older gentleman who brings them tea and breakfast each morning in a strange trade for being able to train his telephoto lens on them throughout the rest of the day from his apartment across the street.

Regardless of usability, the trio has to keep the gifts within their performance area for the entirety of the piece. Thus far, the strangest offerings have been a set of squirt guns and a sex toy, which according to Henry and Harpham, don’t match the creative gifting that previous editions of the piece have garnered. “A band set up and played a gig in the space one night in Adelaide,” where they performed “Deliverance” during the city’s Fringe Festival, says Harpham. “In Brisbane, a woman gave us her breasts to hold for the full 40 hour trial run of the piece,” Henry adds.

The group ended up in Berlin through a residency at the Center for Arts and Urbanistics but plans to continue the piece in further international locations in the future. Asked how they would adapt it to locations like New York where laws aren’t so forgiving to public nudity or incineration of trash (their main means of cleaning house), Henry responds, “I don’t think we would change anything. It’s a piece that can’t fail, really. If it got interrupted by police or otherwise two minutes in, that would just be that version of 'Deliverance,' which reflects that city.”

Deliverance is on view 24 hours per day outside of Platoon Kunsthalle’s new location off of Berlin’s Rosa Luxemburg Platz until August 25 at 6pm.

This article also appears on ARTINFO Germany.