Stu Herring is persistent on his commitment of being a performance artist. He is trying to express his understanding of existentialism and inspire audiences through his ritualistic performing practice.
Three weeks ago in Newcastle, an annual art exhibition The Late Shows 2014 has attracted a huge public attention. Over 60 venues were opened for artists’ shows and thousands of people were involved at the night. One of the shows was particularly paid attention to. It is Stu Herring’s performance art show called “Brick Vessel”. On The Late Shows evening, which is the last day of his exhibition, Stu built a circular wall around himself with bricks. Until the brick wall entirely cut off him from the audience, Stu creep out through the bottom and stood in front of the audiences. The whole performing process lasted 4 hours. During the whole process of the wall building, Stu Herring was always wearing a suit.
A translation of existentialism
“That is my latest performance. Suit is a symbol of a commercial world. I wanted to express the feeling of the indifference of the commercial world.” With a little blush, Stu put a coy smile on face. Stu has been exploring expressions for his belief of existentialism, challenging the question of life and trying to apply a reason to being since he graduated. “I am trying to translate the ritualistic elements into an non-spiritual western question.”
Although Stu Herring is just 26 years old, he has decided to become an artist earlier in his life. “I know I want to become an artist since I was eight. I did art in college and went to university to study art straight away. I stayed in Holland for about 2 years before I came back for my master degree study in Fine Art.”
He started his practice of performance art in Holland in 2008, where he was inspired intensively by the philosophical thinking of existentialism. “I look at the ritualistic acts as something that can be used as a route to a personal freedom, I have no doubt that the people who follow characteristics of asceticism or abstinence have great spiritual belief. I see these acts as being an enlightenment but more in the context of a major shift in consciousness, not that of the divine. I think that in the belief of the holy men they see this as God or the other-worldly communicating to them.”
“However, I see it as self-awareness and the closer to the self you become through ritual, this allows you to be in the world separated from the constructed pressures of the man-made systems that we have indoctrinated ourselves and others into the collective path, whereas the spiritual man performs an individual journey to help the whole world through the believed collective consciousness. I would hope that my personal journey would enlighten an individual to start their own path.”
“Performing gives me inspiration. Before the performance, I feel like I am going on something new. After the performance, I feel my consciousness changes. It is like a meditation for me.” Stu’s performances borrow ideas from various culture elements such as sadhus, the Hindu holy men of India, the stylites or pillar-saints and the Christian ascetics in the early days of the Byzantine Empire (in modern day Turkey) who lived on pillars, preaching, fasting and praying.
To reflect his thoughts, he often plays with the characteristics of asceticism, the practice of abstinence or restraint. Usually, he puts himself into situations that test the body’s endurance or place restrictions on his movements or are physically isolating. Within these solitary tasks, he finds himself in a mindset that by contrast to his gruelling actions, furthers his personal understanding of freedom.
“I am happy if people get my idea after watching my performance. But I will still be happy if they get their own thoughts which maybe be completely different from my original standpoints.” “Get people inspired, that’s what I want to do.” He shows me a big smile on face.
There is only one thing can change us the most.
“My next performance will be on the top of a pole”, he says, “in this September in Whitley Bay, I will be standing on the top of a pole in the sea, and waiting for the tide rising up.” This is a translation from a ritual of Hindu. “The longest performance on the top of a pole is 75 years. People bring food and water for the person to make sure he can survive.” “I am attracted by this kind of idea that people do strange things because of their thoughts”, he says. “There is something in your brain can change you the most.” “It can make people to use their entire life to reach a unreachable goal.”
There is only one thing that can change us the most, our thoughts. This is the essential idea that Stu Herring wants to explore and present to his audiences in his next show. In this commercial world, it needs courage and persistence to become a performance artist. However, Stu comes up with ideas everyday and has got funding from various art organisations. His performance has been paid attention by some big exhibitions. “I have got lots to go on, the ideas I have had so far is enough for several years.” Obviously, Stu Herring is enjoying his journey very much.