If you happened to have ventured into King's College this Wednesday in the early hours of the afternoon, you would have been confronted by a series of people standing on individual plinths in the centre of Front Court, all veiled in a thin cream fabric. Silent, unmoving and strongly silhouetted, these figures brought to mind giant chess pieces dotted asymmetrically around the court, or even conjured up images of Muslim women dressed in burqas. The piece, called Monument to the Invisibles, thus revolves around notions of anonymity and empowerment, as the title suggests.

This was the work of Regina José Galindo, Cambridge's current artist in residence whose video documentation Tierra (2013) is currently on show in Kettle's Yard new exhibition: Actions. In addition to this display, she's had two performance pieces in Cambridge this week, Hide and Seek and Monument to the Invisibles. Firmly locating herself within the tradition of performance art, Galindo prepared both pieces for their respective spaces: the former taking place in an underused attic room in Jim Ede's house. This comprised of Galindo lying down on a floor directly above the viewer, with only a hole linking her to her audience. For a period of three hours, she hung her long black hair through this gap. Amy Tobin described this as an act of "mute" presence, emphasising how Galindo wants the audience to take away their own subjective interpretation. Autonomy lies with the viewer instead: a notion that is commendable in many ways, but inadequate in others. Other audience members commented on the uncanny, almost haunting effect; Galindo could be heard breathing above them although she was not to be seen.

"Placed on plinths - metaphorically and physically - the performers yield considerable power over their audience"

Monument to the Invisibles, too, harnesses this notion of muteness as the performance artist and her collaborators (in actual fact, students of the university) incorporate their own bodies to create a kind of living presence in the work. Galindo briefly summarises the objective of the piece performed: "Those forgotten/those that do not matter/those that do not count./Those who despite their greatness they are still small/in the eyes of giants."

I find performance art generally baffling. The term conjures up bizarre non-compos mentis installation pieces conceived and carried out by individuals who explore extreme spirituality in their art, but often pepper it with strong elements of pretention. Oddly, despite its fundamental use of the human body - the thing we should be the most familiar with - performance art is conventionally misunderstood, lambasted as nonsensical and too abstract for our liking. It's invariably linked to celebrity personalities like Marina Abramović, a Serbian performance artist who continually stuns her audiences with her endurance and pain-inflicting pieces such as Rhythm O and, more famously, The Artist is Present.


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Whilst Galindo's piece at Kettle's Yard seems a bit more opaque and elusive (explanations of Galindo's work are very tentative; meanings are generally evaded), Monument to the Invisibles clearly has an underlying purpose, and it's refreshing to see such a creative act taking place in one of the most quintessential Cambridge colleges. As Galindo's own words impart, the individuals who display themselves subvert and somewhat defy conventional authority. Placed on plinths - both metaphorically and physically - in a space which is ordinarily forbidden, the performers yield considerable power over their audience, and, as the Kettle's Yard pamphlet argues, this "prompts us to ask who and what should we commemorate in our streets and institutions". Their presence is palpable, too. In the front few individuals, I can make out the vague outlines of a face, but it is still fairly indiscernible. The power, therefore, also lies in the performers having the sealed veil of protection: they cannot be seen, but they see us

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