Asian artists on the world stage at New York’s Performa 13

Asian artists participating in this year’s live performance art biennial in New York present dynamic works including video, installations, opera and a culinary performance.

New York’s only biennial dedicated to new visual art performance returns for its fifth iteration from 1 to 24 November 2013. Conceptualised by the New York-based organisation Performa as a “museum without walls”, the event takes place at more than forty venues across the city, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Grand Central Station, and features over a hundred performances.

Einat Amir, ‘Our Best Intentions’, 2013. Photograph by Dan Haimovich.

Einat Amir, ‘Our Best Intentions’, 2013. Photograph by Dan Haimovich.

Jason Farago on BBC Culture described Performa as

… a massive biennial of performance art that spreads across the city and turns New York into the worldwide hub of live art. At a moment when performance feels like the most dynamic sector of contemporary art, this already impressive biennial now qualifies as a major international event.

Apart from commissioning artists from across the world and premiering a number of works that have not been seen in New York City before, 2013 also sees the introduction of the project “Pavilions without Walls”. This venture aims to support international artists in a format similar to the pavilions at the Venice Biennale, but without built structures. Performa 13’s pavilions will be dedicated to Norway and Poland.

In the press release, Sissel Breie, the Consul General of Norway in New York, said,

The Norwegian Consulate has worked with Performa for several years and has always been impressed by the unique artworks they present and commission. And the way the biennial transforms the city into a stage for exploring new ideas while challenging the boundaries between art, culture and politics.

One of the major themes being explored at the 2013 edition is “citizenship”, described by Performa’s Founding Director and Curator, RoseLee Goldberg, as confronting “our sense of humanity, of community, and what it means to be a citizen in our 21st century world of immigrant nations.” Another theme is “the voice” as an instrument and platform for desire, persuasion and coercion. The historical link that ties the programme together is the art movement of Surrealism and its legacy.

Asia at Performa 13

Asian artists commissioned for Performa 13 are Subodh Gupta and Raqs Media Collective, both from India, who have created and are presenting new works. Also premiering in New York is a performance event by Israeli artist Einat Amir.

Art Radar introduces some of the Asian artists who will be presenting their work in New York.

Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta (b. 1964, India) is a Delhi-based artist whose work encompasses painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation and performance. His installations often incorporate items that are commonly seen in India, such as pots and pans, bicycles and milk pails, as in his sculpture Line of Control (2008) – an enormous mushroom cloud made up of pots and pans – which was shown at the Tate Triennial at Tate Britain in 2009. Many of his paintings also explore gustatory themes, such as airborne kitchen utensils in the series “Still Steal Steel” (2008) and leftovers of satisfactory meals in a series that serves as a food diary, titled “Note to Self” (2013).

Subodh Gupta, ‘Celebration’ feast and installation, 2013. Photograph by Job Piston. Image courtesy Performa.

Subodh Gupta, ‘Celebration’, feast and installation at Old Bowery Station, 2013. Photograph by Job Piston. Image courtesy Performa.

Gupta brings an added dimension to his love for food at Performa 13 – the inherent aspect of cooking as performance. Commissioned with a budget of USD90,000, the work consists of a colossal chandelier of stainless steel utensils and lunchboxes at Old Bowery Station, where the artist will prepare a feast inspired by homely Indian food for nine days in an event called Celebration. In an interview with ArtInfo, Gupta explained that he had combined several concepts, including that of the roadside langar of India, which is driven by the idea of feeding the community without discrimination. He will also present an artist class titled “Food as Performance: the Curious Case of the Indian Kitchen”.

Raqs Media Collective

The Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective comprises the trio Jeebesh Bagchi (b. 1965), Monica Narula (b. 1969) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (b. 1968). Initially making a name for themselves in the genre of documentary film, they soon branched out into contemporary art with installations and collaborations that have been shown at the Venice Biennale (2003, 2005), Palais des Beaux Arts (Brussels) and Istanbul Biennial (2007) among others. The Collective has been commissioned at Performa 13 to present a “celebratory performance” titled The Last International, combining performance with sculpture, archival documents, film and music exploring New York’s history as a melting pot for people from all over the world.

Raqs Media Collective, detail from ‘The Last International’, 2013. Image courtesy Raqs Media Collective.

Raqs Media Collective, detail from ‘The Last International’, 2013. Image courtesy Raqs Media Collective.

Einat Amir

Einat Amir (b. 1979, Jerusalem) is interested in the thin line between reality and fiction. Her video and performance work has been widely exhibited, including at the MoMA and Performa 09. According to her profile on the Petach Tikva Museum website, in recent years, her work has “revolved around the production of laboratory conditions for the study of behaviour and culture.” At Performa 13, she premieres a new collaborative participatory performance piece, Our Best Intentions, with moderators and volunteers taking on assigned roles within a home-like setting, but without cameras or an audience. It combines the personal element of psychotherapy and authentic participation through narration of personal experiences with the performative elements of theatre and art, exploring the possibility that the two are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. Amir lives and works in Tel Aviv.

Einat Amir, ‘Our Best Intentions’, 2013, performance and video installation, still images from video – full HD. Image courtesy the artist.

Einat Amir, ‘Our Best Intentions’, 2013, performance and video installation, still images from video, full HD. Image courtesy the artist.

Tamar Ettun

Born in Jerusalem and based in Brooklyn, Tamar Ettun is a multimedia artist. According to the artist statement on her website, her work

… deals with conflict, stress and the desire for balance and movement in everyday life through stretching the physical limits of the body in combination with unanimated materials. I create absurd and desperate situations in which the performers and I attempt to accomplish tasks while negotiating the physical presence of ourselves and our surroundings.

For Performa 13, Ettun will participate in a storytelling tour and performance about animals in the city called We Live with Animals. Her video for this depicts 24 hours of the road from the point of view of roadkill, videotaped in Brooklyn over 24 consecutive days. In an email to Art Radar, she said that she was interested in “how time passes through the eyes of a roadkill, both the hours of the day, and the days of the month, while having a contrast in the movement of time, forward and backwards.”

Tamar Ettun, ‘Roadkill Point of View’, 2013, video still. Image courtesy the artist.

Tamar Ettun, ‘Roadkill Point of View’, 2013, video still. Image courtesy the artist.

Dani Gal

Dani Gal (b. 1975, Jerusalem) is a video artist based in Berlin. He is interested in the representation of historical issues and the production of meaning in conventional documentaries. His work addresses ideological and ethical aspects in the selection and interpretation of historical ‘facts’. His 2011 film, Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) was commissioned for the 54th Venice Biennale, and is based on an interview with a Holocaust survivor designated to dispose of the remains of a Nazi war criminal. At Performa 13, he combines photography and performance in a piece called Failed to Bind, which places current affairs photographs from the 1970s onwards alongside a commentary from artist interviews during the same time, creating questions about context and interpretation.

Jennifer Wen Ma

Born in 1973 in Beijing, Jennifer Wen Ma is an interdisciplinary media practitioner whose credits include being the Chief Designer for visual and special effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, for which she won an Emmy. At Performa 13, she collaborates with several artists on Paradise Interrupted, a Kunqu opera which is currently a work-in-progress presented as an artist residency. Initially, Ma invites artists and audience members to assist in the creation of a paper garden stage set. The programme is enhanced through a performance by Chinese opera singer Qian Yi, with composer Huang Ruo (b. 1976, China), China’s first female lighting designer Xiao Lihe, and creative director Guillermo Acevedo. A panel discussion on the voice and female protagonists in the opera is also a part of the event.

Jennifer Wen Ma, ‘Paradise Interrupted’ workshop, 2013, Performa Institute. Digital rendering courtesy the artist.

Jennifer Wen Ma, ‘Paradise Interrupted’, workshop, 2013, Performa Institute. Digital rendering courtesy the artist.

Ahmet Öğüt

Ahmet Öğüt (b. 1981) is a Turkish conceptual artist who works with various media and has exhibited across the world, including representing Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale. According to his page on the Delfina Foundation website, he is known for his “subtle references to complex topics including religion, social and rural customs, and the spectre of war, often offset by an edge of humour.” He is a founding member of The Silent University, a platform for sharing knowledge by and for refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants – those who have been silenced through systemic oppression and failure – founded in London in 2012, which he will be speaking about at Performa 13. The aim of the project “is to challenge the idea of silence as a passive state, and explore its powerful potential through performance, writing, and group reflection.” Öğüt lives and works in Istanbul, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Ahmet Öğüt, Silent University event at Performa 13, ‘Define and Use: Silent University Student ID Card’. Image courtesy the artist.

Ahmet Öğüt, Silent University event at Performa 13, ‘Define and Use: Silent University Student ID Card’. Image courtesy the artist.

Aki Sasamoto

Aki Sasamoto is a Japanese artist whose work has been exhibited at performing as well as visual art venues. Art in America described her work as relating to the Japanese postwar movements Gutai and Mono-ha:

In Gutai, artists did not so much change materials as bring them to life, often through physical interaction with them. From this perspective, Sasamoto’s everyday items are reborn with alternative uses and new realities. Mono-ha’s emphasis on dialogue between natural and man-made materials can also be found in various aspects of Sasamoto’s practice.

Sasamoto is the co-founder of arts organisation Culture Push and lives in New York. She will speak at a storytelling event titled We Live with Animals at Performa 13.

Lynn Loo

Born in Singapore in 1975, Lynn Loo is a London-based filmmaker. Her early films have been shown at many festivals. She later began to experiment with expanded cinema and projections that have different spatial and temporal relationships. She has been collaborating with British filmmaker Guy Sherwin since 2005, and their multi-projections of expanded cinema have been shown at various galleries and festivals in the UK, Madrid, Vienna and Seoul. Some of Lynn’s films are in the Asian Film Archive collection in Singapore, and she is also a conservation specialist at the British Film Institute’s Film and Television Archive.

At Performa 13, she collaborates with Sherwin and Malcolm de Grice (both of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op) in a new performance called Man with a Projector employing “multiple screen projections, live filmmaking, performances and installations” according to the website.

Lynn Loo in collaboration with Guy Sherwin, ‘Vowels and Consonants’, 2005, 6 x 16mm film projectors, optical sound and photo-resistor microphones (based on the performance at Performa 13). Image courtesy the artist.

Lynn Loo in collaboration with Guy Sherwin, ‘Vowels and Consonants’, 2005, 6 x 16mm film projectors, optical sound and photo-resistor microphones (based on the performance at Performa 13). Image courtesy the artist.

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Korakrit Arunanondchai (b. 1986, Bangkok) is a Thai artist whose work is often collaborative and spans multiple genres, combining video, installation, performance and music, among other things. He has created paintings using denim, bleach and fire in his 2013 exhibition “Painting with History in a Room Filled with Men with Funny Names” at C L E A R I N G gallery in New York.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, ‘2556’ with Jesus Benavente, video still. Image courtesy C L E A R I N G New York/Brussels and Carlos/Ishikawa London

Korakrit Arunanondchai, ‘2556’ with Jesus Benavente, video still. Image courtesy C L E A R I N G New York/Brussels and Carlos/Ishikawa London.

He graduated from Columbia’s MFA programme in 2012, and his work at Performa 13 – a live installation of his film 2556 – is being presented as an After Hours event dedicated to emerging artists.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: Asian artists, lists, overviews, performance art, video art, art and foodbiennials, events in New York

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