Slavs and Tatars »Open Mic«, 2018.
Photo by Franzi Kreis

Nora Turato at Pickle Bar: Making Yourself a Difficult Target

June 1, 2022
Text by Jackie Grassmann
Slavs and Tatars »Open Mic«, 2018.

The pop-up Pickle Bar, run by Slavs and Tatars, is the scenery for performances and apéritivo culture during Wiener Festwochen 2022. Reeling between mania and the entrepreneurial self during the opening, Nora Turato presents us the delights and chasms of postmodern talking, just as bitter sweet as ferments.

Finding the place is the right kind of pregaming for this performance. Lots of doorways and courtyards to get confused by until a wall full of pickle nipples signal you’re at the right spot. Sweating, with a low hanging stomach and an annoying phone call still stuck in my ear I note with relief nothing has started. Not late for the party for once. It seems that at Slavs and Tatars’ Pickle Bar, slowness and sociality is an important part of the program. They are a collective based in Berlin that has a permanently running Pickle Bar in the German capital and Vienna is its first travel destination.

Scurrying straight to the bar I grab the glass of the vodka on offer, even though I can feel my gut opening its eyes in fear: the vodka’s been optionally mixed with beetroot or sauerkraut juice (excuse-moi for my less than gourmet proclivities). Close eyes and swallow (voice in head) – flushing down the day. I skip the light snacks offered partly because I am too lazy to assemble a wrap with various fermented toppings myself, partly because I’m a very conservative drinker and believe that, besides nuts, food has no place in a bar. I spot my friends and sit. Alcohol and sweat are dripping. We’re recapitulating our respective days while she enters the room unnoticed. The after-work chatter filling the room is terminated abruptly as heads fling in the direction of a loud announcement: »I opened a business.« Nora Turato repeats that multiple times, a prelude to a tale about – yeah, what exactly? The laws of business? Supply and demand? Make-believe? Artisthood? Allegedly she inherited a protein bar company from her father, perhaps one of the most absurd commodities of our times. The businessman habitus was equally transmitted. It isn’t easy to fill a room entirely with your presence. But here you feel that even to the last corner there is no space left that isn’t Nora Turatoed. It is certainly and sadly not as common for women – but the Turato spirit expands like mist into every gap.

With a self-confidence and precision that resembles the rhetoric of motivational speakers or gurus – slightly oversized choreographed gestures and razor-sharp pronunciation full of well-crafted slurs, slips, trips, and stutters – she takes us on a monologic stroll through different topics, that mimic something that could be summarized as postmodern media talking: a mix of accelerated callousness, righteousness, and paranoia. But who’s talking here really? The plain, seven hundred dollar jeans and the white T-shirt render the body of the artist a sort of blank canvas in two ways: on the one hand she becomes an audio tape echoing the voices and thoughts of other people scattered across social media, on the other she seems a surface for the audience’s projections. Like mine. Like being DJ, music and the turntable at the same time.

Photo by Franzi Kreis

The text she uses consists of other people’s words, nicked from various sources, mainly the internet. She embodies the language so dedicatedly, so determinedly that the impression settles she’s speaking in tongues. On the brink of madness. The giddiness might stem from an inextricable contradiction she presents. On the one hand the performer we see presents herself as a sort of unmarked subject, as a post-genius author playing back other people’s voices, who relinquishes any claim to originality, is possessed, rather than possessing. On the other hand, she radiates dominance and authority, the narration makes its point unambiguously and she appears as very specific someone. Lastly also, because the performer’s corpus is one of a successful artist, that made a name for herself. The simultaneity between fluid identity, yet specificity and the vacancy that holds space for the desire of others is the classic aporia of celebrities; it is maybe the quintessence of the neoliberal media subject per se. What am I being told here? It isn’t as simple as critique in the guise of over-affirmation. There is too much serious critical commentary in the script for that. But it isn’t straight critique either, for it knows its tools way too well, criticizing them while deploying them at the same time. Is she letting me a look behind the scenes? Or is she actually trying to sell something? Am I being played? »I don’t want to get anyone into trouble« the performer assures. But she sure she likes messing us up and turning our heads. Am I falling in love with Nora Turato? The deep examination holes she drills into the sentences she spills kindle my desires that run in different directions. In love for one second and ready to protest in anger in the next, till both evaporates in laughter.

Believing your own stories is the occupational disease of fortune tellers (and maybe of artists as well). Turato seems not to have caught it yet. At the sea’s bottom lies a secret she doesn’t tell us, keeping to herself what’s true and false, ironic or serious, fun or sad. The more I think the more I find myself in a Turato maze that doesn’t have an exit. »But how do you know I am secure with your option?« The performer recites a costumer asking the supplier. Well, »security is«, she lets us know, »making yourself a difficult target«. Tell me, Nora, do I have to be safe from your art work? Maybe here she delivers the key to the dizzying bewitchment of her breathless sentences: stay wary. After all, the pickles at Pickle Bar are also not really fermented. Keep on turning the stone without tapping into the schizophrenia of capitalism. Or like DMX would say: It ain’t what you heard – its’s what you’re hearing – LISTEN!

Pickle Bar was and is also hosting weekly performances during Wiener Festwochen by Selin Davasse, Veronika Merklein & Ela A. Sattler, Mai Ling and Onur Karaoğlu, accompanied by gatherings of the adO/Aptive Reading Group.

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Foto von Marie Haefner

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.