living quarter, 2001
stills from video documentation of performance

Living Quarter is representative of a forty-eight-hour performance in which two women are forced to co-habitate in a living space designed to accommodate the needs of a single individual. The performance explores the limits of collaboration by testing the successes and failures of the women’s interactions. The activities and results are pre-determined staged, yet improvised events. The space is an open wall 100 square foot environment, designated by a monochrome minimalist pallet that consists of various shades of gray. Some of the objects in the set include: 1 single bed, 1 sheet set, 1 pillow, 1 towel, 1 toothbrush, 1 bottle of soap, 1 cup, 6 hard boiled eggs dyed gray, 1 utensil set, 1 brush, 1 mirror, 1 bowl, 1 book, 1 pen, 1 gray notebook, 1 deck of cards, 1 lamp, 1 roll of toilet paper and 1 clock. The two women wear identical gray uniforms for the duration of the performance. The limitations of the space, the sharing of its contents and the time period dictate the performance’s narrative. The result is a progression from a peaceful and shared living environment to one of agitation, tension and argument.

Throughout the performance the women partake in a series of basic daily activities that include eating, resting, grooming and playing. The eating occasions are identical in which the two women share one gray hard-boiled egg with one glass of water. Activities are played as a shared experience, including games of solitaire, reading to one another, and a variety of children’s games. The clock time is manipulated to increase the intensity of the environment. One hour continually repeats itself over and over and the women keep track of the passing hours by marking chalk on the wall. As time passes and the frustration levels between the two women increase their living and playing becomes more aggressive and violent. These episodes take the forms of staged battles such as pillow fights, pushing, shoving, and wrestling. They are performed within the limitations of the environment. In the pillow fight there is only one pillow so it is passed back and forth to accommodate each of the individuals needs. At the end of the 48 hours both women chalk the floor of the living space to seal its environment and the events of the performance. Left behind is the artifact of the space, including its objects, the women’s uniforms and the bed now dressed with two pools of blood. The set is no longer just a living space, but an ambiguously contrived crime scene.

The video is silent to accentuate the movement in the space drawing out each of the actions. Gray is used to represent a contrived neutral space. It dissolves the set and its contents in order to focus on the women’s unique personalities and their interactions in the living quarter.

Living Quarter exists in a variety of formats. It lives as a 48-hour documented performance integral to itself and to the project Tent. It exists as a video, which intimately documents the interactions of the women, not allowing the viewer to be aware of any surrounding elements. And as an installation with the remnants of the performance arranged in a sterile manner, leaving clues to be deciphered by its viewers
all images © Diana Shpungin & Nicole Engelmann 2000-2007