Monday, 2 October 2017


Performed on the 20th September 2017 as part of "HAPPY DYSTOPIA / DIE FRÖHLICHE DYSTOPIE" in Ravensburg. Many thanks to the NRVK (Neuer Ravensburger Kunstverein e.V.) and photographer Nikita Anders
[see below for German version]

EXORCISE In times of political crises and societal impotence, there is always a trend towards self-optimization, the implementation of abstract parameters on our bodies, e.g. 'clean eating'. Through the control of our body on the permanent search for structure we try to compensate for this loss of control. What is praised today as a healthy lifestyle was formally an eating disorder.With aerobic records and neon coloured leg warmers we catapult ourselves back into the 80s, a time when everything seemed more light-hearted, because we were children and too stupid to understand national and global conflicts. Or we were not yet born, and imagine a world that was better and more beautiful. 

As Konstantin Stanislavski, with his half-knowledge in neurology, rightly recognized, we are not able to solve a mathematical problem while simultaneously lifting a piano. We therefore seek an absolute repression of reality through continuous self-mortification - we exorcise through exercise.EXORCISE is a durational performance. 8 records are played one after the other for 6 hours (23 minutes per side). In these 6 hours, the performer will continuously perform the guided exercises. 

The spectator is invited to participate in the exercises.
Dagmar Schwitzgebel is a performance artist. Working with a range of performance strategies as sites of political resistance, she challenges expectations of political activism. Her pieces aim to encourage urban dialogue, heal the rift of detrimental otherness, whilst mischievously ignoring capitalist induced virtues of fear and greed. For Dagmar Schwitzgebel activism and performance both seek to mobilize its participants; hence, her work often utilizes mobile modes, and therewith seeks to enable the re-positioning one's attitude to communal and global issues. At the moment she works as part of a collaboration, the Church of Performance.

EXORCISE In Zeiten politischer Krisen und gesellschaftlicher Ohnmacht gibt es immer wieder den Trend der Selbst-Optimierung, das Implementieren abstrakter Parameter auf unsere Körper, wie z.B. dem ‚clean eating’.  Durch die Kontrolle über unseren Körper auf der permanenten Suche nach Struktur versuchen wir diesen Kontrollverlust zu kompensieren. Was heute als gesunder Lebensstil gepriesen wird, war gestern noch Essstörung.

Mit Aerobic-Schallplatten und neonfarbene Stulpen katapultieren wir uns zurück in die 80ger Jahre, eine Zeit, in der wir unbeschwerter waren, weil wir Kinder waren und zu dumm die nationalen und globalen Konflikte zu verstehen. Oder wir waren noch nicht geboren, und fantasieren uns eine Welt herbei, die schöner und besser war.

Wie schon Konstantin Stanislavski mit seinem Halbwissen in Neurologie ganz richtig erkannte, ist der Mensch nicht in der Lage eine Matheaufgabe zu lösen, wenn er dabei ein Klavier hochhebt. Wir streben also eine absolute Verdrängung der Wirklichkeit an durch kontinuierliche Selbstkasteiung, oder, um es mit Anglizismen auszudrücken: Exorcise through exercise.

EXORCISE ist eine durationale Performance. Mit einer Anzahl von 8 Langspielschallplatten, welche nacheinander abgespielt werden, daraus ergeben sich 6 Stunden (pro Seite ca. 23 Minuten). In diesen 6 Stunden wird die Performerin kontinuierlich die angeleiteten Fitness- Übungen machen.

Dem Zuschauer steht frei, an den Übungen teilzunehmen.

Dagmar Schwitzgebel ist eine Performance Künstlerin. Sie hat eine Reihe Strategien entwickelt, um den urbanen Dialog zu fördern. Durch Performance Interventionen schafft sie kommunale Nischen oder soziale Oasen für Ihre Partizipanten. Für Dagmar Schwitzgebel versucht Aktivismus und Performance, Teilnehmer zu mobilisieren; Daher nutzt ihre Arbeit oft mobile Modi und sucht damit eine Neupositionierung der Haltung gegenüber kommunalen und globalen Fragen. Zur Zeit arbeitet sie als Teil einer Kollaboration, der Church of Performance.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Bible Drinking, or 'Building Bridges with Buckfast'. Side Burns at Buzzcut Festival, Glasgow 2017.

         Bible Drinking is a ritual that is practiced by young Christians, e.g. scouts and YMCA members. The activity is traditionally set around a campfire, or at the meeting room of a church hall or youth centre. Participants read to each other from the Bible and whenever the word 'drink', 'wine', 'blood' or 'manna' is spoken, everyone drinks a shot of fortified wine. With this, conventional Christian mottos like perseverance, moderation and integrity are being broken, in order to re-apply them the next morning with a resurrected awareness.

Church of Performance (Plymouth based) is going to highlight the geographic significance between Buckfastleigh (near Plymouth) and Buckfast (fortified wine), which is brewed in Buckfastleigh and primarily exported to Scotland.

The artist-duo undertook an extended research in local hostelries to find that other Christian virtues, such as love, wisdom, faith, hope and courage, can be traced amongst the humans present. These are much needed in current times of international despair. In an aim to 'Build Bridges with Buckfast', Church of Performance will re-enact this ritual in an awkward space somewhere at the Buzzcut Festival. In honour of being accepted, Church of Performance will change their name to ChoP.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Bare Knuckles, Mnt Edgcumbe, March 2017

Bare-knuckle Boxing: Report of the fight
Reporter Gordon Sparks, BBC Radio Devon

It’s 4.20 pm on a wet and windy day, and I’m at the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe, where this bare-knuckle fight is going to take place. The contestants Natalie Raven a.k.a. The Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel a.k.a. Daggers are in great form, and exhibit a patience that is comparable to that of lionesses in a cage. Their spokesperson said earlier this morning that the daily fight against patriarchy prepared the two over the last years, and today they are here to channel this anger in a most exquisite and aesthetic display. The prize money of £500 is to fund the Church of Performance.
4.26 pm. Spectators are gathering closer, nervous and giddy laughter can be heard. Feet shuffling. There are around thirty-five people maybe, not a lot for such an epic event to be honest, but that’s perhaps due to the weather.
I think it is the first open air bare-knuckle fight at Mount Edgcumbe, but you might be surprised to know that Lady Edgcumbe, an eccentric aristocrat who lived here in the 18th century also indulged in illegal gambling. In her case it was Faro, a forbidden card game.
4.30. The fight is about to begin. The contestants walk towards each other in silence. In the centre of the ring, they put their hands against each other and push them towards the sky. Tongues extended. After this little ritual they engage in a whispering dialogue. They are working out the rules, I presume.
That was the gong! Or, to be precise, the chiming of a pair of pot-lids. Hands are clenching around shoulders. Is this a wrestle? No! A big blow from The Raven! It missed Daggers head by a tenth of an inch. Daggers dodging further blows. Ha! The Raven got her opponent by the right ear with the left hand. An ambidexternal skill The Raven has kept secret until now. Daggers squeals as The Raven’s fist corkscrews the ear away from her and brings Daggers to a backwards crouching tumble. Natalie lets go of the ear. Why the hesitation? The gong chimes.
I hear that there is some confusion over the rules. The Raven had not withdrawn out of pity, like many of you might think now. No, both contestants are not allowed to go to the ground. This rule is apparently unclear. Both contestants are quietly talking to each other. Then they take positions. The gong. Headlock from The Raven. Daggers elbows into The Raven’s thigh. Again and again. There is a pause. Daggers’ now clasping round The Ravens’ thigh.
I’ll use this pause to enlighten you about the miscommunication of rules. The rules have been confirmed to me that no blow should be struck when someone has been downed. Not that the going to the ground is a break of rules as such.
Both are still in a knot. The Raven in the more comfortable position it seems, as Daggers’ breath should run out any time soon. Her face has already turned from red to purple. With a big ‘Urghh!’ Daggers collects all her strength and flips The Raven other her shoulder, she does this, using the thigh she had clasped a minute ago as a lever for momentum. The Raven spins in the air and elegantly touches down on the opposite side of the ring. The crowd is roaring, clapping. That was a class A salto mortale, the deadly leap, performed in the most laissez-faire manner. Goodness gracious! The fighters hold the gaze. What a match! Daggers waits for the next move, jumping on the spot. A time to regain some breath. The audience has fallen silent again. The Raven also waits. She is normally not known as the femme-d'attack, but for her determined and intelligent defence, as we all an witness here at the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe.
The gong rings. Oh no! Not now! Break-time. Sandwich. And a lot of good advice from initiated supporters.
4.55 pm. The second round is about to commence. I have a member of the public here, what’s your name? – Dave. – And who are you supporting this afternoon? – I came to support Daggers, but I like The Raven much more. That style, man! She's like a Ninja-goddess! Unfortunately I put all my money on Daggers. – Well, Dave, things can still change. Let’s see who else is here, you, what’s your name? – Linda, why? – Linda, are you enjoying the show? – Yeah, it’s cool, but the sandwiches are all soggy. I don’t think I want to come here again. – So much from the spectators, and now we can see the fight is about to start again. The ring is actually a square that is marked by twigs and the audience is there to act as a, well, a safety net I suppose. I hope nobody gets hurt. After all, we are participating an illegal fight, so there is but a few risks people are taking. Oh, the pans chime. Pod-lids, excuse me.
And there we have it, a new focussed energy, will we see more of the fine grappling techniques that Daggers displayed a year ago in the Cat vs Gimp fight at Tothill Park? No, Daggers goes for the punch. Straight in the face. The Raven continues on the leg work in the hope to regain balance, utters some strange words, that sound like ‘mercury in retrograde’ before she tumbles down into the wet grass. The fight is over. The audience is stunned. Some may be shocked by the bold violence, some may be disappointed about the swift ending. After the final count-down, the gong rings.
                                          Photo: Dawood/Levithian

Was this just a piss-take? After all, the money goes to Church of Performance, and both contestants are members, so really, it did not matter who would win in the end. Daggers is the winner and proudly shows herself to the world, the £500 prize in her hand, but the clapping is dulled. The crowd dissolves quickly, as everybody tries to catch the half past ferry over to the mainland.
The Raven remains unconscious on the floor. What a great performance. Another eventful day to be remembered in the history of Church of Performance. Congratulations from me (It’s my job to say that), back over to the studio now.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Dictionary of Church of Performance

C: Civil Disobedience. "Disobey if you must, but for heaven's sake, behave yourself woman!"
H: Habit. A long, loose garment, worn by a member of a religious order or congregation.
U: Uterus (, mouth of). "A [wo]man is not defiled by what enters [her] mouth, but by what comes out of it" (Matthew, 15:11).
R: Ritual. Turner’s discourse on the "liminal phenomenon" manifests itself in the performing
of rituals, in which one leaves the ordinary structures and enters into a marginal
experience (1977).
C: Cixous, Helene. "Feminism has developed a political language about gender that refuses the fixed and transhistorical definitions of masculinity and femininity in the dominant culture".
H: Holy Spirit. In Christianity the third person of the Trinity; God as spiritually active in the world.

P: Patriarchy (, Fuck the).
E: Eve; eating. Satan, "the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and emancipator of worlds" persuades Eve to taste the fruit of knowledge (Bakunin).
R: Recce (, doing a). Scouting an area or venue for future action or performance
F: Freegan. Cruelty-free, cpitalism subverting, resourceful avoidance of exchange economics.
O: Odour of Sanctity. A specific scent (often compared to flowers) that emanates from the bodies of saints, especially from the wounds of stigmata.
R: Romance. An airborne STI. Symptoms include increased sensibility to sight, sound and taste; decreased vulnerability to sleep deprivation and the elements, which in extreme cases can precipitate a complete re-evaluation of priorities.
M: Mary. "With thy tears of blood, o sorrowful mother, destroy the rule of Satan".
A: Apocalypse (gr.: apokaluptein - uncover, reveal) A revelation of all that has been suppressed and invisible, a rupture that shows things as they really are, forcing us to confront what we have been doing all along.
N: Nature; nude; naked. See also S.I.N = Satan In Nature = woman
C: "Carnality is sleeping // While holiness is weeping".
E: Enterprise. People who get up early in the morning cause poverty, pollution and genocide.

Friday, 28 October 2016

la sainte trinité, Natalie Raven (Church of Performance) Festival Ipswich and Plymouth, 2016



la sainte trinité questions the visual representation of female experience supposed by the Christian faith. Historical images are appropriated, re-staged, reconfigured and re-lived in an attempt to show the realities of female experience, as opposed to the stagnant death of the static art object.
 Link to film:

Thursday, 1 September 2016

La Mort Vivant (2016). Open Space Days, Lames (Austria)

Samstag 21h
La Mort Vivant beschäftigt sich mit der komplexen Beziehung zwischen religiöser Ikonographie und dem weiblichen Körper. „Was zum Munde eingeht, das verunreinigt den Menschen nicht; sondern was zum Munde ausgeht, das verunreinigt den Menschen“ (Matthäus 15:11). Was mag dieser Satz für Frauen bedeuten? Schluckt oder spuckt ein Muttermund? La mort Vivant verbindet Abjekt und Objekt, Sünde und Läuterung, Jungfrau und Hure, Tugend und Vulgärheit.
Church of Performance ist ein in Plymouth ansässiges Küntlerinnenprojekt, das Performance-Riten und -Rituale im weitesten Sinne umsetzt.

Photo: Oleg Moth
Saturday 21h
La Mort Vivant explores the complex relationship between religious iconography and the female body. „ A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it“ (Matthew 15:11). What might this verse mean to women? Does the Mouth of Uterus spit or swallow? La Mort Vivant connects abject and object, sin and catharsis, virgin and whore, virtue and vulgarness.
Church of Performance is an artist led project based in Plymouth, acting out rites and rituals of performance in its broadest sense.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Sackcloth and Ashes (2016). Studio Utopia Theatre, Tempting Failure, London.

Review of our performance by David LaGaccia for Incident Magazine. Photo by Julia Bauer.


Natalie Raven and Dagmar SchwitzgebelSackcloth and Ashes (2016)   

The spectators were asked to sit in one of the four squares at the start of the performance, each separated from the long white fabric, sackcloth that formed a cross; Natalie Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel stood on opposite ends of the vertical line holding up their hands with palms facing out. The two walk towards each other and meet at the cross-section of the cross with their bodies contrasting in physique. Their hands meet in force with their arms raised like a steeple; they both get on their knees, pushing back and forth in opposition.

Schwitzgebel stands up and picks up the fabric cutting a hole in middle and placing it over her head and covering her body like religious robes. In the middle of the cross, a pile of ashes or soot is exposed, reminiscent of ashes normally used to form the cross on the face for Ash Wednesday. Raven picks up another piece of fabric and does same, but it becomes clear that she wears the garment looser, with her feminine body fully exposed. Both go into their actions, defining their identities separately.

Although no specific meaning was discernible from their use of Christian iconography and religious gestures, it was clear that Raven and Schwitzgebel had used this iconography for their own symbolic purposes: carefully considered actions and images of the cross, baptism, religious attire, and prayer could all be seen throughout this performance. Performances dealing with religion as their subject (specifically Christianity), tend to have a moral stance on the issue of belief or non-belief (or institution), but rarely do you see a performance show the artist expressing their own conflicted attitudes, adding their own perspective to the conversation rather than dictating it.

Raven’s actions were more sexual and opposed to the religious beliefs. Her breasts and clitoris were freely exposed for the spectators to see, making gestures in the air that suggested masturbation, slamming her head into the pile of ashes, and spitting it out when it got in her mouth.

Opposing her was Schwitzgebel, who wore the sackcloth draped over her body like a robe covering her female body. Her actions were filled with religious piety and silent prayer, kneeling and forming a cross with the ashes, gently rubbing it on her face and bringing her emotions close to tears. After the performance, one viewer asked me if there was anything personally significant about the ashes: “Was it someone she knew?”, he asked, “or something that was close to her that brought her to the brink of tears?” I couldn’t say.

When the ash pile became smaller and smaller with use until it was gone, the two women stood together on the stage side by side. Raven took a tin pale filled with water, and gently cleaned Schwitzgebel’s ash covered body and face. Schwitzgebel did the same for Raven, gently cleaning her arms and face. The performance began with the two women in opposition and open hostility towards each other, and now they end with an embrace, with the two women becoming one soul.