James Westcott
La Galleria dell’ Amore / An act of love which brings embarrassment

Work – Art in Progress, Volume 14, autumn/winter 2005

[...] Doreen Uhlig was the only member of IPG at the gallery who wasn’t starring as a performer herself. Instead, she created a child’s room.
Every single object in the room – the building blocks, the tricycle, the hobby horse, stuffed animals, toy airplane, bedspread, rug, plastic play kitchen set, rubber balls, wooden fruit, the lamp, the wall, the carpet, even the light switches and light fixtures – has been engraved or stickered with the words “Cos’ è l’amore?”
The public is implicitly invited to pick up, turn over, and search every object and surface for the innocent yet taunting question “Cos’ è l’ amore?”
It’s like being plunged into a child’s bad dream, a child who was suddenly and violently been confronted with the question of love. Everywhere she turns, it’s there, and obviously there is no answer. Except perhaps in the way that it’s inescapable, maddening, perhaps even terrifying. There is something of a Shining-like horror to the room.

On the childsized set of the chairs in the centre of the child’s room, a mother and her grown up daughter sit and stare at each other. They speak, but there are long gaps between their words – which sometimes sound like accusations, and sometimes come with laughter. The concept behind this public performance appears for the first time in the video , 2003, in which Uhlig performs together with her grandmother. Two close family members are asked to think of and say 1) things they always say to the other person and 2) things that person always says to them. The exchange is not meant to be a conversation. There doesn’t have to be any link or progression in the slow exchange of... platitudes? Painful remembrances? Habitual complaints? Forgotten affection?
Whereas other performances were almost like a dare – How long can you watch at me before getting embarrassed? – this was a subtle and sympathetic non-event.
What the Umniza system seems to offer is an attentive, non-judgmental revelation of a relationship hidden by years – maybe childhood years – of habit. The language that might normally cover-over rather than communicate feelings is suddenly made clear.