“I was never a performer. A performer is that kind of shallow modern guy, who puts a scotch tape on his ears, paints his face like a decadent lamb and makes pantomimic with a few ugly dancers. A performer can also be a kind of fake artist that breaks an old vase and pretending to be a transgressor (when in fact is a product of the prevailing conformism, and only can bother to a few old members of a committee). A performer (with some rare exception, is a mediocre actor playing the role of an avant-garde artist). I think the word actionist is more precisely to describe my attitude. I was always a man in motion, because I am just a living being, but I was never an actor. I am not acting for spectators. I am walking to the unknown, expressing for nobody things that I myself was unaware before their expression. I am made of the verbs from my nature: I am not a member of the club.”
-Gustavo Charif, extract from a reply to a question from the audience, during his talk at the Balai Seni Visual Negara (National Visual Arts Gallery of Malaysia), 2013.-
Many events in Charif’s life could be considered live art or “actions”.
That was the spirit, in some way, when he made a pilgrimage with numerous believers to Basilica of Our Lady of Luján. Or when attends Theosophical Society’s sessions but, at the same time, to meetings of the Trotskyist party. Or, even, when he made a series of interventions on some Old Masters (Poussin, Rembrandt and Zurbarán among others).
We may also see an art action when, around 1985, he destroyed thirty books written before 1980, and when wrote under the pseudonyms of Melissa Larta, Césare Cartago and Emmanuelle Vaere as if he were respectively a young Rumanian poet, a mature Italian pornographer and a middle-aged Dutch experimental novelist. Or when in 1999 starts a parallel life as Victorio Lenz, and when collaborates in different projects as a “hidden musician” under different names.
Beyond this, we can further distinguish among the events of his life some specific live art actions.
In November, he institutes the prize Charif pintado de oro (Charif painted in gold). The prize-giving ceremony is held at the door of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) to León Ferrari (career), Alfredo Benavidez Bedoya (engraving), Ricardo Longhini (sculptor), Enrique César Lerena de la Serna ‘Ithacar Jalí’ (sciences), Claudio Caldini (filmmaker), Roberto Bertero (painter) and Daniel Alva (friend). Charif also awards his couple in those days, dancer and choreographer Vanina Serra (woman) and one of his lovers, Muriel (lover).
He founds a religion that does not accept followers, and writes a series of precepts that, being an indecipherable writing, he himself is unable to follow. This writing was sent, via fax and e-mail, to 99 intellectuals from different countries.
He prints a false cover of Le Figaro magazine that distributes through all Paris announcing his “invasion to conquest the barbarian French people”. There Gustavo Charif meets Alejandro Jodorowsky who invites him to a public dialogue about his works and his future -with the help of tarot- at Le père tranquille.
In July Charif publishes the Manifiesto Encarnado (Incarnated Manifesto) in the catalogue-book Alquimia Profana (Profane Alchemy, Nexos, Bs. As.-New York) that came with the big individual exhibition at Daniel Maman Fine Arts and that was visited by 5,000 people. For the opening he organizes an impressive procession with hundreds of personalities (poets, scientists, chess players) that follow the instruction of inventing their own personal religion and dress according with it. They started from Macedonio Fernandez’s house where he lived with his son (the remembered Adolfo de Obieta, friend of Charif and recently lost) ending at the gallery with the canonization of Arrabal as San Fando.
Video with some images from Daniel Maman Fine Arts (procession, opening exhibition, conference): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvXsD7H2T-Y.
Conference-action in Paris with Arrabal presenting Mishima’s film Yûkoku (aka The Rite of Love and Death).
Series of photographic interventions with Aoi, a young Japanese friend, at the FIAC (International Fair of Contemporary Art, París): AstroBoy.
On December 15th Charif canonizes Luce Moreau Arrabal at the front door on Notre-Dame, giving her the title of Saint Lis in front of 2,000 people like the president of the Republic of Frioul, the Collège de ‘Pataphysique, the Dream Team Cinématographique, Adjani, Antoine, Aoi, Krist B, Marc Brenner, Jean-Marc and Carla Debenedetti, Albert Delpy, Ante Glibota, Maxime Godard, Harold, Laurence Imbert, Grégoire Lacroix, Léo Bernard Léonard, Gabriel Matzneff, Olivier O. Olivier, Anita Seawright, Christophe Stycinski, Michel Talheimer, and a group of “incarnated artists, Italian alchemists, people of arts, insects, Japanese students, French editors, Brazilian attorneys, young collectors, chess players, scientists and mystic policemen”.
He is invited by the magazine Ramona to make an intervention on a cover, in a collective exhibition organized by the same magazine. Because the magazine represented pretty well what that Charif sees as “the big swindle of the contemporary art”, he sends Pequeño ataúd (Little Coffin), a parody of the magazine inside a funeral box, where he changes, for example, the motto “visual arts magazine” (“revista de artes visuales”, in Spanish) by “magazine of wordiness without vision” (revista de palabrería sin visión).
Charif creates some fictional characters, most of them musicians with different MySpace accounts, each one with a personal biography, pictures and tunes. Two of them are Chico Trompo (a jazz pianist who “died on 1945”) and Tita Puch (parody of Marilyn Manson but in Argentinian style, the name is a combination with the actress Tita Merello and the killer Robledo Puch).
On last years, Charif was walked away from public life more and more. When some years ago, during a conference, somebody asked him about his next live action, he answered: “I don’t know… enter the silence, maybe”.