MCGAHEYSVILLE — When Kurt Petz and Petra Linck make art, they aren’t creating a painting or a drawing. As performance artists, they are the art.
The German duo are performing a piece at the White House Gallery in McGaheysville this weekend called “Touch and Hug: Remember 9/11” in honor of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
“In 2001, what happened changed not only this country, but it changed the world,” Linck said. “We felt that this was the time to bring feeling to it.”
The performance artists, both from Munich, Germany, met 45 years ago while they were attending college. They both studied under German painter Günter Fruhtrunk, who helped design the United Nations Security Council’s “Quiet Room.”
Linck began her artistic career as a painter but became a performance artist out of admiration of Petz’s work. Their performance art has been shown across Germany and abroad, including in France, Italy, Egypt and Switzerland, since 1968.
“It is an art form,” she said. “We are the art in it.”
Linck has lived in the Shenandoah Valley for the last 27 years, while Petz visits regularly for three months at a time.
Linck lives in Massanutten and often has to drive into Harrisonburg on U.S. 33. She always passes by the large American flag at the Joe Bowman Chevrolet-Cadillac car dealership that waves brightly in the sky. The flag inspired their idea to perform a 9/11 tribute.
“It was greeting us every time we passed by,” she said. “Slowly, we decided to do a work to contribute to this country.”
The installation at the White House Gallery includes a 9-by-12-foot American flag that stretches across the wall. Two paintings of upside-down life-size figures are displayed on the left and right walls.
During the performance, Linck and Petz stand in front of the flag and cover themselves in white paint that represents the people and first responders who were blanketed in the dust and rubble that erupted when the planes crashed into the North and South towers.
“All the people running away were totally white,” Petz said. “Only the firefighters were running towards it to help. Nobody could see [each other.]”
“Everybody lost their identity in a way,” Linck added.
The performance ends with Petz and Linck embracing each other. Linck said the hug is meant to symbolize hope for the future.
“Everyone is touched by what happened, deeply,” Petz said. “To do it was a little bit emotionally hard.”
They first performed at the White House Gallery in December 2017 under the title “Fake Art” and a video of the “Touch and Hug” performance was shown privately in Munich this past February.
“We had some visitors there who were watching it like five, six, seven times,” Linck said. “They just couldn’t go away from it.”
They hope to one day show it at the 9/11 memorial in New York. Linck also said they want to show it to schoolchildren who are too young to remember the tragedy so it is never forgotten.
Petz and Linck will perform “Touch and Hug: Remember 9/11” on Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. The White House Gallery is located at 9978 McGaheysville Road next to the U.S. post office. The performance is free to attend.