“Your serotonin levels are rising, your neuropathways are opening up,” said the massage therapist as I lay face down on the table in Christian Jankowski‘s installation at Art Basel Miami Beach. A video, playing on a screen positioned on the floor for my viewing, showed Japanese massage masters performing their techniques on various public sculptures—a work that was also Jankowski’s contribution to the 2017 Yokohama Triennial, where viewers watched from massage chairs. My Miami massage was taking place at the booth of joségarcía gallery (of Mexico City and Mérida).
“Stop resisting, honey,” the masseur said as he folded my legs and flung my arms over my head before a growing crowd. Fairgoers, beware: The relaxation of the massage was probably cancelled out by the unnerving feeling of having a live audience observe these bodily contortions—and by the masseur’s habit of speaking to me in the third person (“now she’s breathing, now she’s relaxing”).
But the Swiss curator who had gone before me had sat up from her massage wide-eyed and whispered, convincingly, “It’s a journey.”
Jankowski had also been encouraging: “You must try it,” he told me. “It’s an experience.”
“I found him online,” he said of the masseur, a Miami-based specialist in the tui na style. “He had the best website.” Jankowski has long taken an interest in various trades and forms of labor; in 2016, when he curated Manifesta 11, the roving European contemporary art biennial, he invited 30 international artists to collaborate with professionals from doctors to firefighters and sewage workers.
The Miami masseur may not be a Japanese master, but he was very good.
After he had cracked his way up my spine and my neck, I was told my journey was complete.
When I sat up, Jankowski already had his shoes off and was waiting for his turn. “I just came off a flight from Europe,” he explained.
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