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Engaging with M Lohrum on her performative drawing practice

STIR discovers London-based artist M Lohrum's fascinating multidisciplinary practice that sits in the middle of drawing and performance.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Sep 02, 2023

Madeleine Lohrum Strancari, better known as M. Lohrum, creates work that exists within a middle-ground between performance art, drawing, video art and art installation. While she does explicitly identify herself as a performance artist, there are strong aspects of illustration and audience involvement within her work as well. Eschewing the wider ambit of performance practices, she tells STIR: "I like to define myself as a practitioner of performative drawing because I see what I do as an exploration of drawing as a result of performative processes, wherein I focus on the act of drawing and the role that the body plays in that action, rather than pursuing a pre-determined final image.” The artist’s creative process is based on a form of dance that positions itself between intuition and reason. She works with tracing, and focuses on both individual and collective experiences, and what is controlled and what is accidental. In her words, “The body, its movement, its trace, spontaneity, and chance are key factors within my work.”

‘Rond de Jambe’, 2019 | M. Lohrum | STIRworld
Rond de Jambe, 2019 Image: Rafael Arocha, Courtesy of M. Lohrum

The visual artist discusses the participatory aspects of her work, telling STIR: "Participative performances are also a very important part of my work, in which I involve other people in my creative process. For them, I design a set of rules for the performance, but it is others who make the drawing by tracing their performance while working as a team. These people do not necessarily have to be artists or have any previous experience in drawing or performance. I try to make these works inclusive and allow anyone to participate. I believe that drawing belongs to all of us and I try to create a community around it.”

Before this White: Distant Echoes, 2019 Video: Tatiana Ramos, Courtesy of M. Lohrum

With regards to the meaning behind her visual art, the artist would much prefer to let her pieces speak for themselves and to allow all parties involved to draw their own conclusions. "But since you ask me," she says, “I will give you my personal opinion. I believe that my work is a form of drawing that reflects on and tries to challenge, the meaning of the very concept of drawing, and in this sense, we could say that it is a self-referential practice.” However, she also identifies that her craft has certain readings underlying it that pertain to political and social art. In fact, the artist believes that any art that places the body at the centre of the work is, by definition, political art. But also, as it is a process-oriented and process-governed practice, this approach also carries the message that there is no single way of doing things, that it is not necessary to be imposing or hierarchical, and that a final result can be arrived at through consensus and dialogue. "In this case," she adds, "a dialogue between myself and my work, as my process is a kind of give-and-take between the two."

Braiding Together, 2023 Video: Yon Bengoechea, Courtesy of M. Lohrum

Political underpinnings do not merely find their way into the performative aspects of the artist’s work, but the participative aspects as well. She says, “My participative works also have a clear political message. I believe they act as a manifesto against the individualistic attitude that dominates our society, and instead emphasise values such as collectivism and collaboration, which I consider much more positive and productive.” Themes of Zen meditation and spiritualism have found their way within her art, and as she undertakes her creative process, she immerses herself fully at the moment, and pays full attention to the present; to her body and her emotions. Each member of the performance is also directed to do so. "In fact," she explains, "this is a comment I often receive from my participants when I ask them for feedback on their experience participating in these works. In a world where we are always in a hurry and stressed, worried about the future or the past, I think this is a very positive aspect.”

Making of 6 Feet, 2021 Video: Mila Garsós, Courtesy of M. Lohrum

M. Lohrum was born in the Canary Islands, where she pursued a fine art education at the University of La Laguna in 2013, achieving the Premio Extraordinario de Fin de Carrera, a prize awarded to the most outstanding graduate in Fine Arts. She would go on to study a Masters in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2017, where she would begin developing her current practice in performative drawing. She is currently studying for a PhD at the University of La Laguna, and lives and works between Tenerife and London. Discussing the influences behind her artistic practice, she tells STIR: “My work draws from many different sources. I am very interested in performance art, minimalism and abstract expressionism, among others. As for the artists I like, they are also many and varied, for example, William Kentridge, Carolee Scheemann, Jackson Pollock, Robert Morris, Yoko Ono, John Cage, Richard Serra, Trisha Brown, Rosemarie Castoro, Francis Alÿs, William Anastasi, Ana Mendieta, El Grupo Gutai, or the Fluxus group, to name a few.” In addition to these influences, which she came to discover over time during her training as an artist, she has shown interest in drawing, group activities, dance, rhythm, yoga, and meditation from a very early age, all of which have also had a significant influence in shaping her work as it stands today.

Portrait of M. Lohrum, 2023 | M. Lohrum | STIRworld
Portrait of M. Lohrum, 2023 Image: Rafael Arocha, Courtesy of M. Lohrum

Owing to the open-ended approach of the artist’s work, it is difficult to determine where her practice may go in the future. There are certainly several options available to her, however allowing the process to guide her towards her destination sits at the very heart of her craft, and she is quite confident that it will remain so. “It is a methodology that I feel comfortable with,” she explains, “that satisfies me intellectually, emotionally and aesthetically. I like to surprise myself every day with the outcome of my work, so I am open to wherever my creative process can take me. Actually, the most interesting thing for me is the process; the journey. And I am sure that, wherever it takes me, I will enjoy the journey and learn from it.” This much is certain, however: her work will undoubtedly continue to draw in enthusiasts of various art disciplines and bind them together within her own participatory arts practice.

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