Purification, performance, 2024

In the performance piece titled Purification, Karlo Štefanek initiates the question of the placebo effect, in all of its psychological and physical dimensions. Stripped bare and vulnerable, the artist exposes himself to an array of pills, ranging from vitamins, anti-depressants, pain relievers, sedatives. The accompanying performer Katarina Šekutor is there to provide a stark contrast to this, allowing the audience to observe the relation of her sobriety to Štefanek’s intoxication. The act becomes a close examination of the relationship between the body and mind, a trance-like dance influenced by the surrounding environment, the intuitive selection of the medicine taken, and the influence of the foreign body to one’s own.

The participatory nature of the performance, where the public contributes to the selection of tablets, distinguished and reduced solely to size and colour, introduces an unpredictable element— an element that, in turn, draws the viewers into what is unfolding before them. Spectators become innocent accomplices in a delicate exploration of trust and curiosity, by baring the shared responsibility of witnessing the potential consequences. 

The performance’s conclusion comes as Katarina takes scissors and cuts away Karlo's hair— a symbolic act that manifests as tangible proof of the transformation and serves as grounding, back to the palpable reality. In the aftermath, Purification leaves lingering questions about the enigmatic power of belief, the nature of choice, the interaction between sobriety and the opposite, as well as about the fragility of perception.

Duration: 3 hours and 29 minutes


Upon invitation, each guest is expected to bring a variety of drugs in pill form, emptied from the original bottle into a plastic ziplock bag. The performance starts with Štefanek taking a pill, unaware and oblivious to its nature. The other performer should not take any medication and stay sober throughout the performance. Everything that happens afterward can no longer be instructed.

Performed in Zagreb on January 3, 2024, for friends and invitees.
Photography by Lorena Pisačić.

Copyright © 2024 by Karlo Štefanek
All rights reserved.

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