Franko B born 1960 I Miss You 2003

I Miss You was a performance by the Italian-born, UK-based artist Franko B, which formed part of Live Culture, a programme of performance-focused events that took place at Tate Modern from the 27 to 30 March 2003. I Miss You was staged in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as the culmination of the programme. For the work, the ground floor of the Turbine Hall was transformed into a catwalk-style runway, with a long stretch of white fabric, illuminated by strobe lights which skirted its parameter, running through the length of the space. The audience watched the performance from either side of the runway and, as with a typical fashion catwalk show, photographers were placed at the end to snap the performer, stoically striding from one end of the walkway to the other. The body on display, however, was not the slim body of a supermodel, but the completely nude, bald, stocky, and eventually bleeding body of Franco B, who was covered from head to toe in a white paint, which blotted out the marks of his heavily tattooed skin. As the performance progressed blood flowed down the artist’s body from a cannula inserted in the elbow crease of each arm. Eventually the blood dripped onto the white sheet below, so that the length of the runway soon became blood-speckled and a larger pool of red developed at either end, where the artist would pause for a few moments each time he completed a lap of the catwalk before turning to walk in the other direction.

I Miss You was performed in silence, with only the sounds of the paparazzi’s camera flashes audible. The simplicity of the performance magnified the attention paid to Franko B’s body, from his heaving chest to the bounce of his exposed genitals, the creasing of his paint-encrusted skin to the subtle clenching of his fists to increase blood flow. According to first-hand accounts the challenging nature of I Miss You left many audience members in tears, with writer and critic Jennifer Doyle noting that the work engaged ‘the radical intimacy that sometimes attends to live art, which cannot be fully read without an account of its appeal to its audience and the invitation to experience it as, on some level, about our investment in the artist’.1 Indeed, though separated from Franko B by the border of the catwalk, the close proximity of the audience to the performer undoubtedly produced a connection which, while voyeuristic, was also highly empathetic. While assuming the likeness of a sterile and highly controlled catwalk show, Franco B – naked and pierced – provided a rare confrontation with the human body enduring pain.

Speaking of the use of this own body in his work, Franko B has said that it is the site of representation for the ‘the sacred, the beautiful, the untouchable, the unspeakable, and for the pain, the loss, the shame, the power and the fears of the human condition’.2 The action of the work could be read against the title as an evocation of the pain of loss. While this might provoke a biographical reading relating to Franko B’s personal experience of being an orphan, an immigrant and a queer man, I Miss You also offers a representation of what it is to be human, flesh and blood.

Live Culture was supported by Arts Council England, Live Art Development Agency, The Felix Trust for Art and The Henry Moore Foundation. The programme was intended to provide an opportunity for audiences to engage with the shifting nature of live art practice in relation to the visual arts. Bringing together artists, theorists and curators, Live Culture explored the shifting nature of live art practice in relation to the visual arts and examined the expansion of performance art through a series of live events. In particular, the programme explored the role of performance in relation to cultural change and highlighted the ways in which the term live art encompassed an array of contemporary practices that employed performance as a generative force to play with truth and pretence, and to break apart traditional representational codes.

Clare Gormley
October 2015