On 10 April, Thais di Marco took over Nineties Lab, the online platform created by Nineties Productions theatre collective with Over ‘t IJ, Feikes Huis, Likeminds and Performance Technology Lab. For Nineties Lab, artists work for one week in the studio created in a warehouse on the NDSM terrain, and present the results in a livestream. Prior to her live performance Di Marco invited viewers to follow her on Instagram (@t.e.r.r.a.k.o.t.a), stretching the experience, which already includes various chatrooms before and after the show, even further.

On @t.e.r.r.a.k.o.t.a we meet Jessica, daughter of a rich farm owner and a famous gallerist. She loves contemporary art and hates inequality. She believes she can use her fame to do good in the world. “I love contemporary art, although I’ve never done it before!”. The profile’s latest posts are a mix of selfies and staged pictures with pop colours and poses, inspirational quotes, videos paired with a ton of the outdated hashtag fashion, hash-tagging a multitude of institutions, TV channels, as well as self-deprecating titles such as #influencer, #comedian, #artistsofinstagram, #contemporaryart, #opencallforartists, etc. The references are abundant, the sarcastic tone is set, I enter the live performance expecting to be challenged.

Di Marco welcomes her audience and invites us to react in the chat box available in the corner of our screen. She appears to be in a green room, since the dreamy background she is in, glitches. When another performer joins by video call from Rio de Janeiro, and begins a tutorial on how to twerk, Di Marco asks production to switch backgrounds, and suddenly she appears in a typically Amsterdam environment with old brick houses, to make it “more Amsterdam-Rio de Janeiro”. But despite the invitation to the audience to join in, the interaction reminds me of the live-streaming platform for gamers Twitch, where you can watch other people play video games. The scene seems to be some sort of inner joke between the two performers.

The performance happening in the chatbox is also one to pay attention to. Di Marco either has a lot of good friends who play along, or a very cooperative audience or perhaps, some accomplices that stir the conversations in the right direction. The chat debates poverty being a choice, with even a special appearance by “Paris Hilton” emblematically writing “Stop being poor”, and whether Sao Paulo is better or Rio de Janeiro. It’s all a chaotic mix of trending subjects.

photos: Anne Harbers

Jessica makes her appearance, Di Marco’s blond American persona, explaining the meaning of “neo” in “neoliberalism”, which incites the chatbox to go on about that, too. All through the piece, Di Marco refers to her followers and how much she loves them, and visible on the screen, the number of viewers increases at light speed. The performance is also being streamed live for free on Instagram.

Neoliberalism, the art market, curators, funding, neoliberal mythology, neoliberal feminism, fame, capitalism in the arts, art speculation; the terms are thrown here and there, without ever reaching any kind of insightful discussion.
I am always on board with a good dose of sarcasm and commenting on matters through satire, but I am not sure if gimmicking the way an influencer would address frictions online is an insightful statement, or if it isn’t just a superficial rant repeating commonplace complaints.

The overall lack of craft in the discourse and in the performance itself makes me wonder if that, too, is a way to say #FUCKTHEARTMARKET. Nineties Lab is a laboratory, and the piece may still be in development. I am cheering for it to become more concrete and substantial, because the oppressive, hierarchical system in place within the art world should be called into question.

Nineties Lab for live online arts