Art Radar profiles 6 Kuwaiti performance artists who participated in Per|Form 2014.
In 2014, nonprofit art space Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) in Kuwait held a performance art programme and event. Art Radar profiles 6 of its participants from Kuwait, introducing their practice and their featured performances.
Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) is the only nonprofit contemporary art space in Kuwait. CAP encourages dialogue in contemporary art, and supports and promotes emerging and established artists through a programme of exhibitions, workshops, lectures and other events. It also houses a public arts library, a studio space and holds film screenings.
Per|Form is Kuwait’s first performance art production project, consisting of a two-month programme of extensive research, workshops, coaching and practicing performance, culminating in an event. This year, the event was held on 4 May 2014 and was curated by Amsterdam-based Kuwaiti curator and artist Mo Reda (b. 1977), with the support of other tutors such as Neil van der linden, Co-founder of GULF ART GUIDE, and Hasan Hujairi, a sound artist. The event featured eleven group and individual performances, staged throughout a commercial shopping mall, involving the participation of the audience.
Netherlands-based Reda, of Persian, Russian, Iraqi and Kurdish origins, has also organised other important regional art projects, such as the first public art festival in Bahrain. Entitled “ALWAN 338”, the festival was co-organised with Al Riwaq Art Space and the Artist Leadership Program (Bahrain, 2013) involving 27 local artists of all backgrounds.
In 2014, Reda returned to Kuwait for the first time in twenty years to organise Per|Form. The project introduced performance art as a professional production method. Art Radar profiles six Kuwaiti artists among the ten participants in Per|Form 2014.
Designer, writer and performance artist Dana Aljouder graduated from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, with a BA in Architecture in 2009. In 2008, she had her first solo exhibition, entitled “The Chair” at the Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall, and in 2013 she presented “Kursi” at the Design Terminal in Budapest.
Aljouder worked with OOS on the winebox installations of the Albert Reichmuth showroom in Zurich, and also collaborated with Kuwaiti sound artist Bassem Mansour (also in Per|Form 2014) at the Beirut Art Center show “Exposures” and Altofest Performance Festival in Naples in 2012 and 2013. Ajoulder will soon be publishing the first book of a trilogy: a fantasy fiction novel with her co-writer Nicole Vardi.
At Per|Form, Aljouder produced a performance video entitled BLOCKS, documenting a performance in which she wore ‘blocks’ – rectangular cardboard shapes built and painted by the artist to resemble the blocks she once played with as a child. Aljouder’s practice is primarily influenced by the architectural research pertaining to the building she is working on. BLOCKS is her third performance on this concept. Aljouder told Art Radar about her performance:
Set in the once glorified Fahad Al Salem Street in Kuwait, this is a story about a child who searches to fit into [her] urban environment. With toys, the child attempts to reclaim innocence of places that have forgotten their joy.
Filmmaker Vachan Sharma holds a BSc in Environmental Science and Visual Arts (emphasis in Sculpture) with a minor in Biology from the University of Redlands in California, as well as an MFA in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Sharma won the Best Cinematography Award at the 2013 Shanghai International Film Festival for the Swedish fiction feature Förtroligheten (Reliance). Among his other films is Ve Tool (2004), in which a Kuwaiti film student and an American Gulf War veteran-turned-ceramicist struggle to understand the wounds of war.
At Per|Form, Sharma created a work that defies simple explanation even for the artist. He told Art Radar:
I’m still unsure about the title of my piece but it’s either “Stuck” or “The Valley”. […] It’s hard for me to explain the piece. It changes each time I attempt to understand it. It’s subtle and reflexive.
The work involved the use of a video projector projecting the image of a room and a doorway multiple times. The projection was screened in the same space where it was shot. Sharma was experimenting with the ‘Droste effect’, or mise en abyme, a term used to describe the visual experience of standing between two mirrors and seeing an infinite reproduction of one’s image, or relating to – in Western art history – a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, in a sequence appearing to recur ad infinitum. Sharma says about the work:
I interact with the space, by interacting with projected versions of myself. At first “we” are trapped in our given dimension of the space. In time we find our way out of “the valley”. We find our way out of being “stuck”. It’s an autobiographical piece where I struggle to overcome myself (past choices, past delusions of a possible future). I find myself. I find the light.
Farah S. Haider
Photographer and graphic designer Farah Haider graduated from the Gulf University for Science & Technology with a BA in Visual Communications. An avid collector of Polaroid cameras, Haider began exploring light and shadow as a self-taught photographer at the age of fifteen. Haider creates digital, film and instant work, spanning a variety of genres, from street to conceptual photography. Her main interest lies in documenting powerful, candid moments of urban life. Haider also has a personal photography brand, Aperture 2.0, offering products ranging from postcards to notebooks and t-shirts.
At Per|Form, she created Society Projections, a work in which a bride (the artist) proudly invites people to visit her beautiful home (an empty white room). She describes with excitement how the house is spotless and perfect, with everything from chairs to decoration, featuring a variety of shades of white. Suddenly, she sits down and a projection of the beautiful items that make her so happy begins. Slowly, projections of more things: chores, a husband and children start piling up on top of each other, almost suffocating the space and the bride. Haider explains:
This performance raises the topic of different projections that our local society places on women. There are many common local phrases that show these projections. In this performance, one of these phrases will be highlighted and the artist will respond to this phrase her own way.
The phrase Elmara Mokanha Bayt.ha [a woman’s place is her home] begins to appear on her, and the bride gets up and leaves.
Shemej Kumar introduces himself as “a professional engineer with artistic vision” and holds a BTech in Instrumentation & Control Engineering and a BSc in Physics. Kumar has written and directed several theatre plays and two short films and has won awards for his direction and screenplays.
At Per|Form, Kumar presented Solitude – Love. (The true love of mother on your existence). He says about the concept behind his work:
Loneliness always gives [rise to] memories [which] are sweet when soaked in love. [The] love of [a] mother is eternal and unconditional. How do I express the love of my mother?
The artist, sitting in solitude in the darkened space with a spotlight shining on him, thinks about the love of his mother. Suddenly, he gets up and walks towards a person from the audience, stops and sits in front of him/her and recites a poem about his mother’s love. In the background, music is playing: it is the sound of “Om” chanting, the sound that was made when all of creation came into existence, and therefore referencing the life-giving love of a mother. Kumar explains:
The essence of the universe and all creation, wrapped up in one unimaginable and indescribable aggregate (for lack of a better term), is known as Brahman. The “Om” represents the four divine states of Brahman – metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity).
American-Kuwaiti artist Deena Qabazard holds a BA in Interdisciplinary studies in the arts, focusing on Visual Arts and Sculpture, from The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington. She works with a variety of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture and digital media in combination with other unexpected materials. Qabazard explains the concept behind her practice:
My motive is blurring the lines between what is unsightly, unsettling, in conjunction with what is transcendent and beautiful. My work has become an ongoing experimental play and a cross-cultural examination.
Qabazard investigates her curiosities and fascinations, in an ongoing “experimental play” to find her own – and others’ – “relationship to discomfort, disgust and horror”, as she attempts to challenge our pre-conceived notions of what is disgusting. Much like a scientist, she experiments with substances, everyday objects and neglected household items:
I use these to amalgamate forms, textures, and colors that possess a disfigured humanity. I hope to inspire people to face the realities of our delicate corporeal shells: ones that are prone to decay, atrophy, deformity, and aberrations at any moment in time. It is in this acknowledgement of our temporal flesh that I hope the viewer will gain insight into how beautiful this inherent physical/mental vulnerability to the grotesque actually is.
Qabazard is continually inspired by the ways she can feel her own body, her own discomfort and her own fears: “Maybe our biggest fear is having something in common with that which we are horrified by.”
At Per|Form she presented Internal Landscape, a performance that involved Qabazard covering her own face and letting her body spontaneously dance, convulse, crawl and spiral out of control. As she explains to Art Radar:
The work itself was a natural response to a live and unknown audience. An exploration of freedom and restraint and everything that lies in between.
Audiovisual and installation artist Bassem Mansour creates works inspired by people’s social behaviour and their engagement with daily life within their immediate surroundings. His practice examines the cross-relations between the visual, noise and memory. In his video works – a series of performances and experiments – he tests the limits of repetition and the idea of form. Currently, Mansour is working on an identity web project, GLNU KIRS, to be launched in 2015.
At Per|Form, Mansour presented, for the first time, Pseudo Exclusionist Insemination (2014). According to the artist, radical thought passively duplicates itself through channels of communication. In this context, people’s attempts to reconcile differences of identity and race and to define one’s identity in a global environment are becoming increasingly difficult.
Existing channels of communication, sponsored by the media, are therefore genuinely trying to promote pseudo-identity culture, as the artist explains:
Since the boundary between a localised and globalised identity started to blur, the traditional principle of nationality-colour-religion diverged into a collection of pseudo-identities inspired by populism, elitism, rightness, wrongness, superiority, inferiority, mastery, slavery, literacy, illiteracy, intellectualism and stupidity, in the most ambiguous sense of the term.
The artist re-wrote a set of exclusionist historic quotes and used them as a base to generate a discourse with a communicative audience. The performance reenacted the common scene of debate and propaganda, the way we are accustomed to it in daily political and social life.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin reflects on oppression in Arab society – in pictures – September 2014 – Amin explores the role of Arab women in society and bridges the personal and the political, poignantly reflecting on social maladies and political injustices
- Asia-Pacific’s 7 most shocking performance art pieces – March 2014 – from body mutilation to blood transfusion, performance artists tend to do strange things. Art Radar profiles Asia-Pacific’s 7 most shocking art performances
- Contemporary art in Kuwait in 2012: Top 10 exhibitions, projects – Art Kuwait – January 2013 – to wrap up 2012, online magazine Art Kuwait has compiled a list of the year’s top local exhibitions
- Young non-profit art gallery transforms Kuwaiti cultural landscape – director interview – January 2013 – founded in 2011, Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), the only non-profit art gallery in Kuwait, provides free and progressive arts education to the public
- From a Paris church to Kuwaiti malls: Artistic interventions in public spaces – January 2013 – CAP Kuwait held a screening of Le passage des Chaises, a documentary about Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata’s very public practice
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on performance art from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East