for more information
+1 212 366 5700
Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.

Subscribe to RSS feed
11/15/07 04:12:26 pm
???Review: 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing)??

Marc Etlin, Kyle Shepard, No?mie Solomon, and Chelsea Adewunmi performing in Allan Kaprows 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing), 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA, Allan Kaprow Estate, and Hauser & Wirth Zurich / London.

Allan Kaprow 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing) at Deitch Projects, Nov 11.

Deitch Projects, on the Long Island City waterfront, hosted a re-doing of Allan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, one of a handful of archival performances connecting PERFORMA07 with performance's recent past. Kaprow's 1959 happening, reconstituted under the direction of Andr? Lepecki, struck me as tableau vivant, an old theatrical tradition of staging living pictures; the living bodies in the picture produce a tension between the image staged and the rolling, ticking time of the present. Although the program notes indicate that this performance is remade from the notes and scores left by Kaprow (as opposed to a wax museum reincarnation of its every gesture), my curiosity about the piece is dominated by a sense of getting access to a primary document. It's an odd tension and a hard way to view something, and it felt to me like the anxiety was shared by other folks in the audience. Were we going to be in the presence of something great and timeless? Or would we be witnessing a kind of living history?

When happenings were first, well, happening, their value lay in part in existing in a space in which there existed no vocabulary of authority to describe it. Kaprow had to stake out new terms in his writings to describe and justify the new medium of happenings. Paintings are made from paint; happenings are made from events. The assertion of equivalence of visiting a set of events and seeing a painting was a kind of meta-provocation to the audiences at the original happenings, I imagine, exceeding simply the experience of watching. The compositional language of events is now so foundational to performance, theatrical or otherwise, that it took an act of historical imagination for me to feel that same provocation. In the same way that performance art is often described as putting value in creating a performative frame around normal activities, this act of imagination asked me to put a theoretical frame around my habits of viewing. This mental exercise dominated my experience of the work, and I'm not much able to give an account of the piece itself, how it worked, what it did, or what other claims it might have made on my time.

Other people on this blog will describe the piece better. I'll offer instead a set of questions I was left with: Must performance be particularly wedded to the behavioral syntax of its own era? How do we see past anachronism and experience the vitality of the past? What does it mean to reconstruct historical work? Must it be translated into the vocabularies of our time to be not just interesting but moving? I'd also like to point to two groups making performance events that I think joyfully inherit the spirit of Alan Kaprow: AUNTS, who approach curated (and anti-curated) dance performance as a happening, and Nature Theater of Oklahoma, who take almost religiously Kaprow's call to source art materials from the most throwaway parts of everyday life.

Karinne Keithly

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/14/07 11:45:03 pm
Artnet TV features Haircut by Children


Artnet TV by Nicole Davis
Music by Fiery Furnaces
Vol. 1, No. 6
Haircuts by Children by Darren O??Donnell
New York City, Nov. 3, 2007
Sponsored by Performa/Art in General

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/14/07 03:04:26 pm
Interview between Darren O??Donnell and Chen Tamir, New York, Nov 10, 2007.

Darren ODonnell, Haircuts By Children, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA and Art in General.

I recently had a child cut my hair. It was an art project, part of Haircuts by Children, conceived of by Darren O??Donnell, a social practice artist based in Toronto. Organized by Art in General and part of PERFORMA07, it took place over two consecutive Saturdays at 2 in 1 Hair Salon and Hair 2 Stay respectively, both in Chinatown. The children were more like young teenagers and all of them were Asian and spoke broken English. They had been trained for a mere six hours in the art of coiffure. The timid but evidentially excited stylists were packed in with nervous-looking but faithful creative types.

Chen Tamir: Were you anxious about how this was going to come out?

Darren O??Donnell: No, I??ve done it enough times now that it always turns out well. The logistics are always a pain in the ass like everything, but there??s never been any anxiety really.

CT: What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?

DO: I??m trying to engage an atypical social dynamic, to make encounters between people that wouldn??t normally happen. In this case, you wouldn??t ordinarily find a bunch of kids who are three years from China, in New York, hanging out with a bunch of art hipsters. That tends to be the demographic that will come and get their hair cut here. So making a playful encounter between those two, where there??s a bit of risk, not real risk but fashion risk, is something that doesn??t happen. And all my work is about creating atypical social encounters.

CT: You do that in a really specific way. You break down social boundaries by breaking down or invading personal space.

DO: I guess that??s true. It sort of started with this thing called The Talking Creature, a performance in which I would invite the ???audience??? to a public meeting spot. We??d disperse and everybody would try to find somebody to invite back to just hang out with us and talk. That??s how all this stuff started. At the same time there was a Spin-the-Bottle game. It was during SARS, so it was about showing us not to be scared of each other??s saliva, that while Toronto was quarantined we weren??t afraid of being there, and that lead to a series of more erotic kissing performances.
People were just asking me to do that kind of stuff and I wanted to distance myself from it. So I thought I would take it 180 degrees and start some projects with kids. Amazingly, people??s memories are so hilarious. That other stuff just dropped. Nobody even asked me for that [kissing] stuff anymore. All I get asked for now are kids. I love how you can re-invent yourself because people have such short memories.

CT: Or maybe they??re just always looking for new thrills. I wonder, do you do these projects ?? trying to create atypical situations ?? to provoke? Would you consider yourself a provocateur?

DO: People do because there??s an aggressive aspect to it. But for me, I always forget how nervous people are because I??m not. I??ve been doing this for so long that I??m really comfortable. I just did this project as part of Open Engagement, which is a conference that happened in Regina. I got all the conference participants to offer free massages to the students at the First Nations university. And people got kind of pissed off with me because I didn??t give anyone a choice, but of course I gave them a choice. The people that didn??t want to give massages felt the gesture was unkind or something because they felt bad that they didn??t want to give massages. I just had to explain, ???well, don??t feel bad just stick with your decision.??? You don??t want to give a massage, you don??t want to give a massage. Nobody??s going to judge you. You just don??t do it. But people have to go through so much of their own stuff. A lot of this tends to provoke projection. With the kissing, people re-lived junior-high trauma and got mad at me and were just disgusted that I would do Spin-the-Bottle because it was such a difficult thing for them when they were kids. So, step up or step back but take responsibility. It??s not the end of the world. Come on, we??re adults.
There was something I did called Back of the Bus, which was this bus trip up to a York University Art Gallery opening. I invited people stepping onto the bus if they wanted to play a kissing game, and if they did I put them in the back of the bus and we would pull names out of a hat and they??d have to join this growing group of people that were kissing each other. I put the people who didn??t want to play in the front. They had to listen to all this fun going on behind them but they had to take responsibility, ???You don??t want to play a kissing game, you don??t have to play a kissing game, but don??t get chippy!??? We??re trying to reproduce the cool-kid-in-the-back dynamic but in such a way that you were invited to be a cool kid and either you stepped up or you didn??t, but you had to choose. Unlike high-school where there wasn??t an invitation, this wasn??t exclusive. It was open to everybody but you had to take responsibility for your decision. There were a lot of grumpy people sitting up with their arms crossed over their chest just annoyed with all of this debauchery happening in the back.

CT: It kind of reminds me of the Milgram experiment and all these ???unethical??? psychology experiments they did in the 60s.

DO: They??re kind of related to that. There??s another thing I do when I work with university students or youth groups. It??s a project called Out of My League. I send them out to the surrounding area and ask them to approach people they think are out of their league and go up to the person and tell them so and ask if they agree. I would call that training for this kind of work. I get to them to chant over and over, ???It??s good to be rejected??? before they go out. You have to be rejected in order to build up immunity against rejection. This guy that used to run IBM said that in order to increase your success rate you double your failure rate and take more risk. It??s about taking social risks.

CT: What are your thoughts on Relational Aesthetics or other kinds of social practice movements that have come about?

DO: I think they??re great. I would rather them than not. But I side with Claire Bishop. Often they lack antagonism. I prefer to call it ???fruitful antagonism,??? where things can be forgiven. They happen in a performative arena where people are triggered but it??s easily forgiven. There??s whimsy to a lot of Relational stuff and it can be annoying. Like gifting, sweetness, and lovingness. For example, Newmindspace. They have public pillow fights and bubble-blowing events. They??re about a hundred people, but it??s an homogenous group of people; it doesn??t induce discomfort and discomfort is important. It??s analogous to confusion. When you??re learning something new you have to go through a moment of confusion. You can??t learn a new math problem without becoming confused. And you don??t become more socially intelligent without feeling uncomfortable. You have to suffer through discomfort just like you have to suffer through confusion in order to raise your social intelligence. Conceptual intelligence is raised through confusion; social intelligence is raised through discomfort. I??m always trying to create encounters which are slightly uncomfortable and weird for people, but in a way that??s easily forgiven. These kids were shaking this morning, and the adults are nervous too.

CT: I noticed you taking a lot of photographs though. How do you feel about documentation standing-in or surviving after your work that??s so experience and time based?

DO: With something like this, the concept is so simple and obvious, and you experience a lot here in a way that you wouldn??t otherwise. There??s an intimacy that happens, quiet banter. The crush of people is important. I love when there are tons of people and everyone is shoving around each other. I think documentation actually captures a lot in this case because the concept is a no-brainer. And that??s why when we first did it in Toronto we spent a lot of money on ephemera. We made a poster that had lots of didactic information. It was designed by Cecilia Berkovic from Instant Coffee and the intention was to make an art object with this information that people would put on their walls for years as art. So the documentation is partly about that but then it??s partly about my wanting these kids to be stars. I want them to be in an international performance art festival on par with people like Carolee Schneeman and Yoko Ono. And they are.

CT: But it??s not the kids. It??s you. You would be on par with Carolee Schneeman and Yoko Ono.

DO: Of course. But they??re collaborators in the event. Without them I??m nothing. To what extent they know that, I don??t know. But they??re certainly the focus of all the flashes.

CT: You??re soon going to Pakistan. What are you going to be doing there?

DO: It??s a theatre show called Diplomatic Immunity. We go around and shoot video interviews of people on the streets. We ask them about the end of the world, what they think about heaven, describing hell, their fears, what keeps them up at night. Then we have a gossip session on stage. I??m trying to leave theatre behind except I get operating funding from all the councils in Canada to make theatre. I??m trying to make theatre I can stand. I could do a show about children??s rights, or I could give children rights.

Chen Tamir

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/14/07 02:51:05 pm
???Triple Vision??

Isaac Julien and Russell Maliphant, Cast No Shadow, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA and Sadler's Wells.

Isaac Julien and Russell Maliphant Cast No Shadow at BAM Harvey Theater, Nov 8-10.

For their three-part screening at BAM, filmmaker Isaac Julien and choreographer Russell Maliphant joined forces, the result of which could undoubtedly be dubbed the duo??s magnum opus. One of the many PEFORMA commissions, this one left the audience breathless, stunning not only in the subtle beauty that has come to characterize Julien??s filmmaking but in the equal pairing of Maliphant??s expertly staged choreography.

The first film, True North, featured a three-screen projection of the arctic wilderness. Panoramic shots of frozen tundra accompanied three dancers as viewers followed a nameless African woman, played by Vanessa Myrie, on a fictitious journey to the North Pole. Like flowing water turned to snowflakes in a blizzard, the performers twirled, spun, leapt and slid over invisible mountains and ravines. Cloaked in white, Myrie seemed to float amidst their movements while in the films, she traversed the icy topography in a full-length, black coat ?? the estimable yin and yang of a pseudo-Nordic world.

The second screening did not feature dancers, instead, consisting solely of Julien??s three-screen projection, Fant??me Afrique. The film was no less riveting, however, for the absence of live routines were made up for by dancer, Stephen Galloway??s incredibly powerful performance set to a backdrop of desert scenes and the primitive rhythm of beating drums. Visually, the film oscillated between urban shots of Ouagadougou, which, according to the playbill was the center of pan-African cinema, and Africa??s barren desert landscape. A sense of displacement pervaded the work as Myrie again wandered into and out of each frame. In his cinematic choices, Julien seemed to imply that as powerful a hold as contemporary art may have on society (here depicted as filmmaking), ultimately, its force is not potent enough to rival one??s roots. Consistently drawn back to the desert-scapes, the primordial in Fant??me Afrique appears to house where art both ends and begins.

This idea carries through in the artists?? third and most successful collaboration, Small Boats. Here, water serves as the origin of death and rebirth as the audience followed five performers?? quest for asylum spanning two continents. A stage-sized single screen projection of vibrantly colored shipwrecks dominated the performance space while the dancers?? graceful forms slowly materialized behind the increasingly transparent mesh facade. As they enacted various feats of strength and control (rolling down (and up) stairs, the carrying of each other??s limp, voyage-torn bodies) the audience was inevitably reminded of the effects of dislocation, this idea driven home by the jarring juxtaposition of stately 17th century interiors with their tangible but lifeless figures.

In the final scenes, the bodies are shown on a barren stretch of beach, covered in aluminum blankets not far from where vacationing Europeans swim and play. Their figures have been forgotten, lost, yet are plainly visible to those willing to look. Finally, large nets are lowered onto the stage. As the dancers climb the nautical webbing, weaving their limbs lyrically about the structure??s open holes, a screen projection of water rises before them out of the stage floor. As (a la Bill Viola) a torrent of bubbles envelopes the images of the castaways, the projection becomes increasingly opaque, at first diluting the dancers?? writhing forms and finally, ablating them altogether, as they are returned to the watery source from whence their journey began. The stage goes black as a fervent ovation ensued.

Kara Rooney

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/13/07 01:44:21 pm
PERFORMA07 Grand Finale at the Hudson Theater!

An exciting line-up to celebrate the conclusion of PERFORMA07! A night of artist bands and surprise performances on November 20, 9 pm at the
The Hudson Theatre at Millennium Broadway Hotel (145 West, 44th Street) with:

Cynthia Hopkins
Cory Archangel
Nick Hallett
Dynasty Handbag
Brooklyn Double Dutch
Stars Like Fleas
HK119 (from Finland)
Asia Today (Elmgreen Dragset)

DJ Pierce
Baby Bitch T

Special guest stars!


Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/12/07 04:49:12 pm
???Dancing About Architecture??

Isaac Julien and Russell Maliphant, Cast No Shadow, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA and Sadlers Wells.

Isaac Julien & Russell Maliphant Cast No Shadow at BAM Harvey Theater, Nov 8-10.

The quote ???Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,??? variously attributed to Frank Zappa, Steve Martin and Lester Bangs, among others, implies that dancing and architecture have nothing in common, except, maybe, if you are dancing on a piece of architecture. Not so, if you can accept that the body is a structure the dancer shapes. In Cast No Shadow (a PERFORMA07 commission), with video by Isaac Julien and choreography by Russell Maliphant some of the most affecting moments in the first portion of the show, True North, are exactly when one or another of the dancers, normally running and leaping and bending, suddenly flings himself into a rigid shape and is manipulated by is fellow dancers-placed at an angle from the floor, held up and carried like a piece of lumber, propped onto another dancer and so on.

Otherwise, the relationship between the video, the dancers and the audience, is slightly distant. The projected images are absolutely beautiful, in fact, I had forgotten, until I saw this performance, that I had seen a video projection in a gallery (where? I know I was visiting someone, and I remember the space-something more like a house than a white cube) by Julien before. But once I remembered, I remembered very clearly that it was Vagabondia that I had seen and that I stayed where I was to watch while my friends? Family? walked on ahead. I was taken by the installation??s ability to speak to me, despite being a projection; it had a faintly palpable presence. So I know Julien is capable of immediacy.

Honestly, I think it was the distance between the audience and the, I??ll say for here, action that created the barrier. The second projection, Fantome Afrique, would have, I??m sure, knocked me breathless had it taken up more of my field of vision, but from so far away and small, the projection only made me yearn to be closer to it. I will certainly go see Stephen Galloway, the dancer and choreographer in the video, when I have a chance, and I will definitely also go see the video itself, when it is installed in a gallery. The few magic moments when Julien and Maliphant worked together -video and dance- were in the last portion of the performance.

And on to the last piece, Small Boats. It was the longest and the most narrative of them. There was travel and then being in a place. The projection was cast onto a scrim, with the dancers behind, occasionally revealed by backlighting. The first time we see them, the projection is of a ship, and the dancers perform their sudden architectural movements with a constant rocking undercurrent, as if they were on a voyage. The second time they appear in the projection, the one that was most startling, the video is of a desert with people standing still at various places on the dunes when the screen is backlit and the dancers are standing at nearly, but not exactly, the same places. This established, for the, the relationship between image and live performance and made the rest of the piece, carried out largely in something that appears to be an Eastern European palace, more human and real. The distance between performers and audience shrinks or is bridged by the blending of human and man-made. The dance is about the space and the space is beautiful. We travel there too; now distance is cancelled and that thing that the internet cannot do, make our viewing experience a physical experience, is briefly done. Success! Then the performance returns to the ship and we are back in our seats. Finally, it ends. For a few seconds, this collaboration has taken the audience traveling with them. It was a lovely trip.

Vanessa Baish

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/12/07 04:43:26 pm
'Review: International Festival'

On the Town, MGM Pictures, 1949

International Festival, On the Town, 2007.

International Festival On the Town at Storefront for Art and Architecture, Nov 1??20.

???New York, New York it's a wonderful town! / The Bronx is up and the Battery's down! / The people ride in a hole in the ground!??? So begins On the Town, the riotous MGM musical film released in 1949, which follows the amorous adventures of three Navy sailors as they try to find dates and see the city in just 24 hours of leave from their ship.

Paralleling this madcap race is International Festival's attempt to restage the film with their small, hand-held recorder during the three weeks of the Performa Biennial. Swedish duo International Festival (aka Tor Lindstrand and M??rten Sp??ngberg, and herein ???IF??) decided to retain the original soundtrack and dialogue, but do away with actors and instead retrace and film only the locations featured in the movie. Therefore, where in the original we see the three sailors excitedly strut down the Brooklyn bridge, IF's footage is a straight shot of the same location, with tourists milling about. The original movie features New York as a central character, and America's post-war invincibility is apparent in the heroic way the city is presented. In IF's version, the city is the only character, with its present-day throngs of tired commuters and preoccupied pedestrians; the city is cast as a loose collection of places and strangers that offers no narrative thread.

Without the distraction of dance numbers and dazzling dresses, the antiquated interactions (one sailor says to a female cab driver: ???What you doing working? The war's over!") and ???primitive??? grunting songs in the fictional Museum of Anthropological History are set against IF's deadpan shots of a bored, gum-chewing magazine stand attendant, African drums behind glass, or a skeleton on display. It's tempting to read irony into the work??it??s almost too easy with the over-the-top campiness and "Everyone loves the Navy!" optimism of the musical. Making the juxtaposition of the different eras even more jarring is the fact that while filming a scene that takes place on the Empire State building, IF were stopped and interrogated for two hours by security guards??who were very concerned in these post-9/11 times??about why these men were filming the fire escape for so long (in the movie, a song and dance sequence took place there).

But the project is more than an easy puncturing of 1940s values from our enlightened, if cynical, present day. International Festival has over the past several years presented a wide range of projects that are a dynamic hybrid of dance, architecture, and performance. With this background interest, their project acts not only as a premise to see how the city itself can perform, but further, replaces the candied spectacle of action and sublime dancing with the pedestrian movement of the everyday by using??yes??actual New York city pedestrians.

IF??s choice to foreground the city recalls, oddly, artist Allan McCollum's "Surrogate Paintings" of the late 1970s??black squares of varying sizes that acted as surrogates for indiscernible paintings used as background decor. Reversing McCollum??s project, IF??s footage of the city is the ???real??? thing, setting up the fantasy-city portrayed in the 1949 film as a surrogate. Yet the new city scenes also stand in as surrogates for the human drama and spectacle pictured in the original film. In this later version, the city, while realer, is voided of the action we hear occurring??its banality provides us with a blank screen on which to project our own fantasies suggested by the snappy dialogue.

At this point, IF is not finished filming their version and haven??t concluded how they will handle the two dream-sequence scenes, one of which is a recap of the movie within the movie, meaning that they will have to create a reenactment of a reenactment...stay tuned.

Lyra Kilston

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/12/07 04:35:09 pm
???The Multilingual Art and Soul of Adam Pendleton??

Vanesse Thomas, Adam Pendleton, and Renee Neufville in The Revival, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA.

Adam Pendleton The Revival at Stephan Weiss Studios, Nov 1.

Having recently re-assembled 1960s poetry and Civil Rights speeches onto smoke-colored silk-screens, Adam Pendleton has a reputation for handling the visual substance of text. Getting a PERFORMA commission upped the ante by requesting his next project to include a live, durational element, and the 26 year old, black, gay conceptualist upped it again, performing with an ethereal backup choir, two poets and a three-piece band. Diving into poetics and resurfacing with a fist full of politics, art and personal theology, the pure zeal of The Revival roused a crowd of non-believers.

While the audience settled onto simple wooden benches or minimalist, black cube seats, three projections by Charles Sandison showed pixilated white figures slowly blown apart like dandelion petals and reconfiguring as other people. Though the videos stopped when the performance began, they readied the stage for the shape-shifting energy and gusts of fragmented prose to come.

The choir entered through a partition in the audience, announcing a ???new day??? by singing Duke Ellington??s I like the Sunrise and making its way to two staggered rostrums adjoining a piano, bass, and drums. Pendleton followed, reciting the first stanza of the amalgamated monologue and performance underscore, dream of an uncommon language. ???We lived on a small island stone nation, love without color, sound, garlic,??? his voice began evenly.

Throughout the performance, phrases borrowed from cultural figures such as John Ashbery and Jesse Jackson reoccurred in shifting cadence. The mood swelled with tenderness and torridity to address the pain of living in homophobic America and then calmed in a jumble of obscure quotations. Recalling the semiotic challenges of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner (among others) the alternate shortcomings and multiplicities of language were weighed politically. Proving that every word speaks a thousand more, ???Here is your language,??? Pendleton gave us repeatedly, at one point adding, ???mother fucker.???

Definition is rarely an only child and in The Revival, it was born a Gemini, starting sentences that a disparate twin would finish. Spirit, for example, was synonymous with linguistics and with love, introduced through gospel praise and morphing into something vaguely aesthetic. Language gained emancipation through experimental form and it took love with it, delivering a singular message of freedom: in art as in sexuality. Loosely conjoined in a patchwork patois, these ideas were felt, rather than understood.

Half way through, Jena Osman and Liam Gillick mounted the pulpit to read stylistically similar poems referred to as ???Testimonials.??? Awkward guests in the authorless hybrid, they ???testified?? to the monotheistic (albeit multimedia) emphasis of The Revival. Whether one considers the spirit Pendleton spoke of to be secularly aesthetic or guided by God, The Revival showed gospel optimism, rare among evangelical hypocrisy and art world restraint. When soloist Renee Neufville refused to take credit for her beautifully human voice by pointing to the ceiling, her faith was blind, rapturous and unfamiliar to an audience that has seen too much materialism and criticality. This spiritual forcefulness left the audience stirred, baffled and with a strange taste of faith in their mouths hung ajar.

Sophie Landres

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/12/07 11:18:53 am
Check out WPS1- PERFORMA07's radio station!

Art Radio is the official Internet radio station for PERFORMA07. Select events will be recorded and archived on the website, so
check it out!

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
11/12/07 09:34:41 am
???Heavy Metal??

Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye 2005-07

Xu Zhen In the Blink of an Eye at James Cohan Gallery, Nov 7-10.

An uneasy silence hangs in the air as visitors hesitantly traverse the intermediary space between two New York Chinatown migrants. With voyeuristic gestures, they lean closer to the two figures, in an attempt to dispel the dreamlike atmosphere staged by artist Xu Zhen. One can sense the performers breathing, the diminutive pulses of life perceptible in the slight rustle of clothing or a brief flickering of movement that plays across their faces. Yet their bodies linger at inhuman angles ?? crooked, awkward and lumbering ?? deceptively suspended as if frozen in time. Like mannequins, they stare into nothingness, apparently immune to the viewers?? presence. Their expressions are blank, detached; and then one of them blinks, catapulting the onlookers back to reality.

Since his first appearance on the global art scene in 1998, Xu Zhen has worked with the human form, consistently challenging its limitations on both a physical and psychological level. His performance, 6th March (2000), created for the first Shanghai Biennial, consisted of over 100 participants positioned outside of a gallery and disguised as the mentally ill. Their purpose was to follow viewers into the exhibition space, shadowing their movements and reactions to the work on display, effectively limiting ways of viewing by establishing an atmosphere of anxiety and unrest. The same elements are at work in the artist??s most recent piece, In the Blink of an Eye.

Zhen??s latest illusion is achieved by means of industrial strength steel frames that are fitted underneath the actor??s clothes. The redolent symbolism inherent in the use of such a medium seems fitting considering the piece was created in conjunction with the Long-March Project, an artistic undertaking that aims to underscore both the political and cultural struggles encountered by contemporary Chinese and African-American societies. Yet Zhen??s work is also doing something different. By placing his performance outside the realm of human proportions, his work reaches beyond the confines of mere political activism or commentary and into the nebulous zone that typifies the stuff of science-fiction novels. Hovering only a few feet from the ground, Zhen??s subjects are literally immobilized by their state of helplessness. It is this weighted sense of stasis, not the possibility of movement that imbues his work with power.

In the Blink of an Eye is one of many works by Chinese artists that will be performed in conjunction with PEFORMA and the Long-March Project over the course of the weekend.

Kara Rooney

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries
View All

View All
January 1
December 30
December 29
December 28
December 10
December 5
December 2
November 30
November 21
November 20
November 19
November 16
November 15
November 14
November 13
November 12
November 10
November 9
November 8
November 7
November 6
November 5
November 4
November 2
November 1
October 30
October 29
October 28
October 10

>>Looking Back at ???Writing Live: Writers Hub??...
>>Allan Kaprow: 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing) ...
>>Ei Arakawa and Amy Sillman at the Japan Society...
>>Tris Vonna-Michell Tall Tales and Short Stories...
>>Mesostic: Allan Kaprow, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts...
>>Yvonne Rainer: RoS Indexical at the at the Hudson ...
>>Ulla von Brandenburg: La Maison...
>>Evaluation of the PERFORMA07 Biennial...
>>Review: Pablo Bronstein...
>>The Long March...

Previous 10 entries
Next 10 entries