A1 – Another attempt of Failure

Gesture of Dirt – Removal or Not

Gestures are human non-verbal mean of communication. A gesture could be seen as an intend, a sign. Certain actions are not so pleasant, they might be considered as unavoidable but necessary, up to each person to follow – not. The absence of gestures leaves sign of intent. The wider context of our gestures might be a space of imagination, or relate to a social life. The repetition of gestures may become absurd – or a failure.


The gesture of taken away dog poop while walking on a path, an intend unpleasant, repetition would be an absurdity in a Sisyphean sense. The signs available indicating intent, and expected, socially agreed actions. Seeing them trigger ideas of gesture. This performative painting will try through repetition to reflect on body movement involved in the intended action of taking away dog poop, and use the disposable and available bags as my painting tool. How it will evolve and how I can sustain it, will possibly lead to knowing – or not, addressing failure and success as part of intent.

Development of work


As part of me previous experiments with alternative painting tools, I was intrigued by the rather incidental and playful repetitive and performative painting that I called Washboard (laundry), a title I gave to the process of performance and my associations with cultural activity related to mostly women homework in the past, and perhaps still today.


Paper, shellac solution, gum solution, plastic sheet, video recording, still camera, light


Rubbing, Rolling, Swiping, Pressing 

Stefan513593 - Part 1 - Exercise 2 - Painting without brush #1 - ground and sheet

Fig. 1: Wasboard (Laundry)

Various aspects intrigued me that I couldn’t conclude on.  Peer discussion and feedback made me aware that I could consider painting as the sum of elements: the material, the tool, the action, the results, and the recording. The moment I add some context, the work becomes more meaningful. I consider this an important element for me. Not to restrict to one specific intention only, as others may come up with different context and meaning, picking out one single element alone, or considering the relationship between elements. Overall, the way it resonates on a personal and subjective level is what drives me forward.


Where to go from here?

Dog Poop Bags (c)2018, SJSchaffeld

Fig. 2: Dog Poop Bags (c)2018, SJSchaffeld

To elaborate and combine it with another idea that crossed for a while: dog poop (shit) bags along a walking path. During my walks i took photographs of the various dog poop bags holder, often attached with or to a waste bin (Fig. 2).

In one of the peer hangouts I showed that idea without knowing what to do with it and others could relate this to my previous Washboard work with the common denominator of dirt, shit (poop). I was hooked and wondered how connotation can move me forward, also considering that on an even wider context some were relating this to the ‘Dirty protest IRA‘ (1978). But would this possibly re-direct me from a more responsive performative act of painting?

Key elements I liked from previous work:

  • Gesture and body movement 
  • Repetition till an end
  • Body awareness of space and time
  • Process as failure or success?
  • Materiality and the solidification of two liquids (shellac and gum solution) into solid ‘dirt, shit’
  • Recording (moving and still images) as part of performative painting

Open question to explore further

  • Relationship of intend (removal of dog shit on the path) and action
  • Meaningfulness of action and/or result
  • Context as restriction or opening up

With that starting point I decided to ‘run’ a repetitive performative painting that embraces more strongly my body movement than my work on ‘One attempt of Failure‘ 

Performative painting Dog Shit 


Large primed paper, shellac solution, gum solution, disposable ‘dog poop’ bags, video recording, still camera, light


Rubbing, Bending, Smearing, Picking


I started with preparing my painting tool (the disposable dog poop (shit) bag), the material (shellac and gum solution), and the support (primed paper from roll on wall and floor – inspired by my Cat Wand works as well as project work done as part of my drawing 1 personal project).

Following my intuition, thinking of the intended gesture of dog poop removal with a disposable bag, I painted repetitive gestural marks on the support – down and up – ground and up. 

The following video sequence shows my third round lasting 5 minutes in fast motion (video length: 1:57min) 

I ‘painted’ in total four rounds, each one lasting approx. 5 min. At the end of each round I was quite exhausted, the body movement was quite an exercise. The break in between gave me time to relax and think through before starting again the Sisyphean repetition as Emma Cocker described it. In between, I was truly asking myself why I am doing that and what I intended to demonstrate, to show. Or was I waiting for something to happen, to change direction?

What happened?

During the process I knew that it became different to my Washboard work, the support was less sturdy,  I was painting more in ‘open space’, and the connection between wall and floor became constantly brittle. Eventually, my forces applied alongside the wet materials broke through the paper, destroyed it, and leaving traces of my performative painting. Those area turned darker. Another aspect, continuously to be felt disruptive and unpleasant were the loosing of the fixtures. My body movement and forces kept the paper moving and vibration until the nails fell down. I refixed, and they fell again – a repetitive action reminding me of Bruce Nauman’s work with the bouncing two balls . I felt exhausted , 5 mins up and down felt enough, but I was eager to repeat, till after four rounds (and forthcoming travels) I stopped and considered the work finished. Was it finished? I felt I wanted it that way, sustaining the action till total destruction (?) not the desired outcome. Or did I demonstrated what I wanted to demonstrated? Perhaps it was just a failure, as I neither completed, not re-directed my attention.

Still images showing three areas (top, center, bottom) that I can discern visually, bodily and action related as areas of variation. 

  • Top view – round 1 to 4 (click on the images to open in larger lightbox view)
  • Center view – round 1 to 4 (click on the images to open in larger lightbox view)
  • Bottom view – round 1 to 4(click on the images to open in larger lightbox view)


The complete painting with my tools, after four rounds 5mins each – divided into three sections, sections I discerned as somehow representing different actions and gestures:

  • Dog Shit Performance (installation, painting, plastic cup, plastic bag, approx. 230 x 70 cm)
Stefan513593 - Assignment1 - Dog Shit - final

Fig. 14: Stefan513593 – Assignment1 – Dog Shit

.. the top view: with my marks left by my upper gesture of rubbing and smearing

  • Dog Shit Performance – Detail (installation, painting, plastic cup, plastic bag, approx. 230 x 70 cm)
Stefan513593 - Assignment1 - Dog Shit top view - final

Fig. 15: Stefan513593 – Assignment1 – Dog Shit – Top view

...the center view: for me the most interesting view as it pictures the transition from my upper gesture (rubbing, smearing) towards my lower gesture (bending, smearing, picking up ‘dirt’) 

  • Dog Shit Performance – Detail (installation, painting, plastic cup, plastic bag, approx. 230 x 70 cm)
Stefan513593 - Assignment1 - Dog Shit center view - final

Fig. 16: Stefan513593 – Assignment1 – Dog Shit – Center view


...the bottom view : with the my tool as object (sculpture? installation?) and marks left by my lower gesture (bending, smearing, picking up ‘dirt’). Clearly visible the marks of force, destruction, torn paper. 

  • Dog Shit Performance – Detail (installation, painting, plastic cup, plastic bag, approx. 230 x 70 cm)
Stefan513593 - Assignment1 - Dog Shit Ground view - final

Fig. 17: Stefan513593 – Assignment1 – Dog Shit- Bottom View


Continuation – moving images #1:

Inspired by the wider contextual associations received from peer feedback, I made a video with music from youtube in context of the events in Maze prison, 1978. (1:23min, with audio)

I posted this video for peer critique on the OCA discuss forum – I reflected on feedback received in a separate blog entry.

Continuation – moving images #2:

considering feedback received and my own reflection on what it was that made this work performative and a failure – a failure. 

  • Performative Painting – A Painterly Failure (1:13 min, audio)



  • Repetition as Sisyphean action: I ‘painted’ four rounds, each 5 mins. Each round lasting enough to feel my exhaustion, and my conscious awareness of not knowing how this could all be related to the intend. This a failure in all respects? I continued with playing with moving images and hoping to get some aspects across to a viewer, posted for peer review and felt better as a door opened to move on.
  • Recording: I posted the question for peers in the OCA discuss forum on how to better record a vertical format, as my performative painting was extending from the top to the bottom, less to the left and right. I felt there was too much space ‚empty‘ (or better messy) that would possibly moves away the focus. Feedback received were quite diverse, from filming as collaborative work, embracing the space available (reference to fresco painters), having an assistant, asking professional help, looking at other artist‘s video recordings, to the idea to install a GoPro on my head (truly fascinating idea, as it brings my movement into moving images)
  • Performative painting asking for public participation: How can performative painting in a studio for myself be meaningful? I have the feeling that only my recordings can transport the essence, but perhaps the final pictures alone can widen the response, and the process itself becomes secondary?
  • I enjoyed the extension of performative painting from an activity of bodily movement towards motion through moving images that can add different layers.


Key learnings:

  • Moving Images can expand performative, time-and space-based painting into new experience, and possibly with new layers of meaning
  • Performative Painting: An open question – requiring public space and direct experience by an audience?
  • Recording: Disruptive versus voyeuristic intervention. The witness of performance? Possibly more than documentation.
  • Body movement: Performative painting as repetitive action make one more aware of the moment, the process of painting, the physical forces and endurance. 
Related Posts
A4 – Contextual Notes
A3 – Self-Evaluation

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