Asian artists bring cross-disciplinary work to New York’s Performa 11

PERFORMANCE ART NEW YORK BIENNIAL

Performa 11, a performance art biennial to be held in New York from 1 to 21 November 2011, offers audiences a chance to witness some of the most innovative cross-disciplinary work by top international contemporary artists, including a few from the Asian region.

A number of acclaimed Asian artists have been commissioned for the biennale including Shoja Azari (Iranian), Shirin Neshat (Iranian), Tarek Atoui (Lebanese), Asli Çavuşoğlu (Turkish), Ming Wong (Singaporean) and Zhou Xiaohu (Chinese). Each has put together projects that include an amalgamation of multimedia art, installations, performance, theatre, music and films.

Shirin Neshat, “Rapture Series”, 1999, Gelatin silver print,44 x 68 1/4 inches. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, “Rapture Series”, 1999, gelatin silver print, 44 x 68 1/4 inches. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Tooba’, 2002, Production Still. Copyright Shirin Neshat.Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Tooba’, 2002, production still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Performance and sound art from the Middle East

As part of their commissions for Performa 11, both Shirin Neshat and Tarek Atoui were asked to build on their extensive bodies of work to create live performances, explain organisers.

Shirin Neshat’s Overruled

Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat’s Overruled, a new multimedia performance piece that features live actors, musicians and projections, is based on two of her existing works, the projection installation Turbulent (1998) and The Word (2003).

According to NY Daily News, The Word features a group of men who interrogate an anonymous female character, “a Muslim woman,” for spreading “subversive words” and corrupting society. In response, the woman quotes lines written by the late Forugh Farrokhzad, a controversial female Iranian poet.

Turbulent features two screens, the article continues, each depicting a stage: one with a man facing an audience of only men and a second with a woman whose back is turned towards rows of empty seats. The man sings a traditional Persian song and the woman improvises using her voice, acting as a metaphor for the distinction between what society allows each gender to express.

For her new piece for Performa 11, Neshat plans to use the interrogative structure of The Word as well as the spatial separation that Turbulent employs to emphasise gender difference. Collaborators include the highly acclaimed artist and filmmaker, Shoja Azari, Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist, and Iranian musician Mohsen Namjoo, a vocalist, composer and a sitar player who was dubbed “the Bob Dylan of Iran” by The New York Times.

Shirin Neshat, ‘The Last Word’, 2003, Production Still. Copyright Shirin Neshat.Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York.

Shirin Neshat, ‘The Last Word’, 2003, production still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York.

Neshat works primarily in photography, video installation and short films, and her creations typically deal with the alienation of women in repressive Muslim societies. Work by the artist was included in the 1995 Venice Biennial, 1995 and 1997 Istanbul Biennials and the 1996 Sydney Biennial, and has been featured in group and solo exhibitions across the United States, Europe, in South Africa, and Japan.

Speaking in an interview with Shadi Sheybani in Michigan Quarterly Review, Neshat points out that today much of contemporary art is cross-disciplinary. “Defined fields are vanishing as artists break the boundaries from one field to the next, borrowing from here and there to arrive at their visions,” she says.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Fervor’, 2000,Production Still. Copyright Shirin Neshat.Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Shirin Neshat, ‘Fervor’, 2000, production still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Women Without Men’, 2009, Feature Film Still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Women Without Men’, 2009, feature film still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Women Without Men’, 2009 , Feature Film Still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Shirin Neshat, ‘Women Without Men’, 2009 , feature film still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Image courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Tarek Atoui’s Visiting Tarab

Lebanese electro-acoustic musician Tarek Atoui, along with another ten artists from New York, will bring audiences his piece Visiting Tarab, produced in collaboration with The Sharjah Art Foundation. “The word tarab … refers to an older repertoire, which is rooted in the pre-World War I musical practice of Egypt and the East-Mediterranean Arab world, and is directly associated with emotional evocation,” says the information on Atoui’s website.

 Tarek Atoui performing Un-drum 1: strategies of surviving noise produced by the Sharjah Biennial 9. Photo by Alfredo Rubio.

Tarek Atoui performing 'Un-drum 1: strategies of surviving noise', produced for the Sharjah Biennial 9. Photo by Alfredo Rubio.

Contemporary Asian art: Turkey, Singapore, China

Asli Çavuşoğlu, Ming Wong and Zhou Xiaohu have each taken a unique approach to their biennial commissions and their performances will see the involvement of professions as diverse as fortune-telling and teaching English.

Asli Çavuşoğlu tells fortunes

Turkey’s Asli Çavuşoğlu’s contribution to Performa 11 ushers in a revival of the age-old practice of fortune telling, as it was employed in the ancient civilisations of Assyria, Babylon and Greece. Entitled If the fortuneteller’s words dash against the facade, Çavuşoğlu explains that her project “is a free adaptation or interpretation of the … practice of ‘fortune telling through buildings’. … The fortune teller would interpret the general structure of the building including its columns, facade and the ornaments carved on it.”

Turkish artist Asli Cavusoglu is working on a performance entitled ‘If the fortuneteller’s words dash against the facade…’Image courtesy Gallery NON.

Turkish artist Asli Çavuşoğlu working on a performance entitled ‘If the fortuneteller’s words dash against the facade’ for New York-based Performa 11. Image courtesy Gallery NON.

Çavuşoğlu will invite three New Yorkers to interpret the future through three pre-selected buildings in New York City: Grand Central Station, Hearts Tower and the Aztec Theatre in Old Elks Lodge. She says,

The selected interpreters will be free to create the rules of the fortune telling through the use of (potentially disputable) sources and through the framework of their personal perspectives.

According to Istanbul-based Gallery NON, “Much of Çavuşoğlu’s work stems from experimental narrative exercises working around mechanisms of erasure, repetition, replication and narrative display.”

Ming Wong, ‘Kontakthope’, 2010, video still. Courtesy the artist.

Ming Wong, ‘Kontakthope’, 2010, video still. Image courtesy the artist.

Ming Wong’s living filmstrip

Singaporean artist Ming Wong has put together a live multimedia performance of choreographed actions, drawing from his research of famous actresses in filmstrips dating back to the inception of cinema. Wong will invite 24 actors of different ages, ethnicities and nationalities to recreate a single frame of a living filmstrip.

According to the organisers, the project’s focus on film and cross-cultural identification is informed by Astoria, Queens, which has been the home to various film studios and multi-generational immigrant populations over the years.

Zhou Xiaohu’s Crazy English

Crazy English, a performance by Chinese artist Zhou Xiaohu, is built on an unconventional method of teaching English to Chinese people that was made popular by language teacher Li Yang. For the project, Xiaohu will invite Li Yang to New York City and ask him to teach English to New York residents using his Crazy English method.

The artist aims to explore the various concerns he has with Chinese social behaviour, particularly those people that misinterpret and mistranslate Western marketing concepts and tools.

Performa 11: Behind the scenes

Performa, a non-profit multidisciplinary arts organisation established by RoseLee Goldberg in 2004, is dedicated to exploring the role of live performance in the history of twentieth century art and encouraging new directions in performance in the twenty-first century. In 2005, the organisation launched its first biennial, Performa 05.

The 2011 edition of Performa is curated by Goldberg and a team of curators and producers, including Defne Ayas, Mark Beasley, Esa Nickle, Dougal Phillips, and Lana Wilson, and more than 25 curators from the Performa Consortium.

According to Goldberg, “Performa 11 will ignite New York City with energy and ideas, acting as a vital ‘think tank’ linking minds across the five boroughs and bringing audiences together for brilliant new performances in all disciplines.”

Performa 11 will be held at over 80 venues throughout New York City from November 1 to November 21, 2011.

DP/KN/HH

 

Related Topics: biennials, crossover exhibitions, museums

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on Asian artists in international biennials


Comments

Asian artists bring cross-disciplinary work to New York’s Performa 11 — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Middle Eastern and Asian artists at Performa 11 in New York November 1-21

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.