Janine Antoni and Stephen Petronio

Swallow, 2016

Glass, gold, pearl, swallowed hand-woven cloth, tatted pedestal covering, silkscreened wool, moths, conversation chairs, speakers, and audio of ten witnesses including The Poet, The Mole, The Framer, The Mender, The Defender, The Healer, The Mother and Twins, and The Listener

Dimensions variable

In collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA

The installation bears the stories, relics, and traces of a singular act by Janine Antoni and Stephen Petronio. In November 2015, Antoni and Petronio simultaneously swallowed a 10-foot long piece of fabric gauze that had been specially hand-woven at The Fabric Workshop and Museum. 

The action tethered the artists together from the gut in a visceral type of communion. A gold-plated sculptural reliquary that borrows its form from the organs of the body related to the act of swallowing contains the cloth. At the reliquary’s top, a magnifying glass takes the shape of the epiglottis where Antoni and Petronio’s mouth’s met. 

Ten people witnessed the performance. Each witness was chosen for their specific profession, and given an allegorical title: The Poet, The Mother and Her Twins, The Healer, The Mender,The Framer, The Defender, The Mole, and The Listener. The titles allude to their expertise; for example, a couples therapist was invited to be The Listener, a photographer was invited to be The Framer, a lawyer was invited to be The Defender. 

The audio of the witnesses' recollection is presented in the same room as the sculptural reliquary and a single photograph of the act, which was printed on wool and in the process of being consumed of moths. The viewers are invited to sit on conjoined chairs, listening to the recorded testimonies and contemplate the objects.