Art Basel 2017

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Marvin Gaye Chetwynd in the Science Lab in Basel

An excerpt of Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s The Green Room & The Science Lab, 2017, in Basel today. ARTNEWS

God bless Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.

This evening the London-based artist brought her ramshackle theatrical magic to Art Basel for a roughly 20-minute performance called The Green Room & The Science Lab (2017) that added a much-needed dose of anarchic levity to these big-money proceedings. Actors in skintight green suits writhed about and held stuffed-animal cats, making them dance about and leap atop a sleeping woman wearing a leopard-print outfit, who then joined in the mayhem. It was in the 80s in Basel, and it was the second performance of the day, and yet they seemed unstoppable. There are shows to come. Chetwynd’s team will perform the piece every day, twice a day, at 2 and 6 p.m. through Saturday, with a special performance called—wait for it—The Panther Ejaculates that final night at 8 p.m.

Chetwynd has covered the walls of a small ground floor space at Rheinsprung 12 with a painting on paper of the periodic table on one side—the science lab—and giant prints of animals on the other—the green room. The action moves between the sections, the actors gamely pushing carrying props and pushing set pieces. “We’re going to do the play over here now,” a green-masked actor politely told an audience member, breaking character for a moment to clear the way, “and then we’re going to go back over there.”

Indeed, after the leopard-printed performer came alive, dancing to Megadeth and other music—and grinding up on more than one audience member rather aggressively—the action shifted over to the science lab. A mad scientist with a proclivity for flashing ass to the audience worked with smoking dry ice as young men in lab suits hopped about, engaging in a vaguely sadomasochistic ritual that involved slapping and kissing one man’s outstretched hand. Every once in a while, the leopard character would appear and point a giant eyeball at the scientist, causing him to shake wildly. Later the leopard pointed it at three men, who collapsed on the floor, one tearing part of the periodic table off the wall. Also, one of the green actors screamed repeatedly, which drew big laughs from the audience.

Eventually the action headed back to the green screen, and there was more antic dancing. The youngest member of the troupe—a boy who looked to be about four or five who was also dressed in green—joined in on occasion (another actor gave him instructions), but he often stood off to the side, looking a little bit baffled by the whole display.

Suddenly the music stopped and everyone stood in stunned silence for just a moment. One of the green people announced that the performance was over.

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