Adam Christensen was born in Great Britain in 1979. They are a London-based artist who make performance, video, fabric and text works, and perform with the music project Ectopia, which was Wysing Arts Centre’s band-in-residence in 2016. They have previously performed and presented their work at David Roberts Art Foundation, Southard Reid, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Hollybush Gardens in London.
Domestic environments can be the brewing ground for some of our most emotionally loaded experiences. In these settings we perform to others, and ourselves, ad-lib versions of virtual scripts about our existence, whether fully aware of such enactments or not. In these unguarded moments, slippages of realness creep in, disrupting our own directions and allowing for the theatre of life to reveal itself in full flux. When Adam Christensen and Keira Fox enter the quasi-futuristic, dystopian settings created by Ben Burgis and Ksenia Pedan, the lines between reality and fiction are blurred through moments of extreme performativity. Here, to be oneself or another is an equally dramatised position. The spaces in which they perform range from a two-bedroom sewer conversion home, to a lavishly destroyed bedroom and a public sorting facility. Each sculptural installation – which Burgis and Pedan produce as a collaborative practice – brings with it a set of possible characters and a new storyline. In the formulated situation, whether as estate agents for Burgis and Pedan’s Victoria Terminal Deepwater Estate Gallery or as two complicit actors in scenes from a physiological thriller in Cloist Gulch (both 2017), Christensen and Fox are cued in their roles by the context and its sculptural elements, which at times function as props. Mic’ed and amplified, the enactments escalate rather quickly, one argument leading to another, each step en route to a convoluted climax. What is most perplexing about Christensen and Fox –and what makes them so mesmerising to watch – is the element of hyper-reality embedded within their performances. Their personalities bleed into their roles as activators of the spaces which they temporarily occupy, leaving audiences unable to decipher what is, or isn’t, within character.
The readings and howling musical renditions that constitute a large part of Christensen’s own practice are equally informed by the environments and settings in which they perform. In darkness with various tones of light and dressed in stunning outfits, more often than not in heels, their powerful vibrato shimmers amid crowds of people. Whether in homes, clubs, galleries or streets, with a few listeners or big audiences, Christensen stages intimate performances that dovetail personal recollections with theatrical deliveries. In their texts, which are always presented by Christensen and seemingly also about them, the anecdotal and quotidian become sites of spectacle where even the most banal of stories transforms into a seducing narrative. Christensen invites such committed engagement from their audience through their use of language, which is often dramatic, even if monotonous in tone, as well as explicit and humorously tragic in content. As is the case during their collaborations with Fox, Christensen’s embodied persona (which I have heard, at times, be referred to as ‘madam’) seems to exist both on and off stage. Here, the threshold between one and the other is looser and blurrier, existing across different places and times. This is perhaps most apparent during their emotionally affective accordion performances, where the heaviness of their voice and the sorrow of their delivery take Christensen, along with anyone listening, somewhere else entirely.