Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

An evening of dance at Zhuhai’s Dream Theater

September 16, 2018
                                                                                                                                              photo:  Hobi Ho


Silent Voices, a solo performance by Ning Xi with choreography by Kevin Polak artistic director of KheN, is a deeply psychological work. Performed at the Dream Theater in Zhuhai, China on Friday, September 14, 2018 the performance is scheduled to appear in Shenzhen and Guangzhou in coming months.[1]

Silent Voices, documents a woman’s journey from a state of anxiety and uncertainty to psychic liberation. As Mr. Polak stated, when discussing how he conceived the work, he said it functions as an assessment of the historical role of women and the presentation of a readjustment of that role.

In his writing regarding the performance he wrote, “I kept lingering into the relationship between Men and Women. Silent Voices is a performance about the unspoken words and worth of Women, their fear to speak out and/or be themselves, which is imprinted in their cell memory for millennia, due to numerous reasons. Just to name a few, monotonous religions, society, men’s fear, laws, opinions, awareness and history.”[2]

When asked about the work’s genesis, the choreographer quoted philosopher William Golding in stating: “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.”


[1] Dalian 10/5-7, Beijing 10/19, Chengdu 10/27, Changde 11/3, Xian 11/10, Kunming 11/19, Guangzhou Dance Festival 11/17-22, Shenzhen 11/30, Nanjing 12/21/2018

[2]  Quoted from Mr. Polak’s article at: https://www.linkedin.com/wukong-web/articleShare/6445805520849825792?trk

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With this Mr. Polak speaks of how the world has turned upside down the roles between men and women. He identifies this work as an attempt to address the imbalance and prescribe a remedy.

On stage, the set was minimally dressed with two folding chairs over which two white fabrics are placed. These function as projection screens hosting the image of water, in this case surf lapping the shore. As Mr. Polak clarified that the structure of the work followed the 5 elements of Chinese philosophy, “water, metal, wood, fire and earth”, this image was meant to articulate the first of these.

The sound track for the performance are songs from the Dutch singers Stef Bos, Maaike Ouboter, Wende Snijders and Irishman, Damian Rice. From Stef Bos we hear, Ik haar gekend I have known her and Damian Rice’s work, Long, long way, which we are told by the choreographer identify the water element and fear.

As the event began, Ning Xi rose from the floor working her way to a microphone placed downstage at its center. She attempted to speak, but could not and from this the dancer moved into her performance. At one point she detached the microphone’s cable and wound it around her body, almost possessed by its form. Her movements became violent spasms as she confronted her entanglement in the cable and at one point sought the aide of a member of the audience to release her.

photo: Zheng Wei Zhuhai TV

These actions were accompanied by a song from Maaike Ouboter, entitled Smoor with lyrics that speak about dispossession and sadness, and we are told by the artistic director are symbolized by the metal element as displayed in the metal of the microphone and its cable.

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Later in the performance from a song by Stef Bos, Niet van deze Wereld we get the lyrics:

Stilte is kracht, Jij bent niet van deze wereld. Jij bent niet van deze tijd. Jij strooit zout in open wonden. En ze zijn je liever kwijt dan rijk, Ze zijn je liever kwijt dan rijk.

The English translation: Silence is Power. You are not from this world. You are not from this time. You sprinkle salt in open wounds. They rather get rid of you then acknowledge you.

Lyrics alluding to the awakening of a woman’s power, and the historic attempts to suppress her, as seen in the performance with the dancer undergoing her transformation by stripping away her shirt to reveal the female form below her tightly fitted leotards.

photos:  Zheng Wei, Zhuhai TV

The artistic director of KheN, in describing the significance of the musical score for this work, wrote the following:

“Going from pinky to thumb, pinky is water = fear (first and second songs Stef Bos, Ik haar gekend and Damian Rice’s, Long, long way)

Then ring finger, sadness metal, microphone cable (Maaike Ouboter, Smoor)

Then middle finger – fire – happiness – but in history, the women that where truly connected to their essence were burned as witches ( Stef Bos, Niet van deze Wereld)

Then index finger – wood- aggression ( Wende Snijders, Laat me)

And as a last conclusion thumb – Earth- love (Maaike Ouboter, Lijmen).”[1]


[1]Excerpt from the author’s correspondence with Kevin Polak regarding the musical score for Silent Voices.

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photo:  Zheng Wei and Liu Jing, Zhuhai TV

The performance, in this manifestation, was illuminated by a single light source, that of the video projector placed downstage of the dancer. From it the field of movement was illuminated and at times Chinese texts were scrolled, providing a poetic counterpoint to the motion on stage.

The performance moved through the five Chinese elements articulated above with projected images of fire, as the dancer mounted one of the chairs, now positioned upstage, with her background illuminated by the video of projected fire.

photo:  Zheng Wei, Zhuhai TV


It was hard not to be moved by the artist and her struggle. Her freedom came at a moment when an image of her hands cupping soil appeared from behind her, forming a heart shaped pattern.

photo:  Ron Rocco

From this the performer once again approached the microphone, but now her voice was liberated, she spoke:

“这是一件让我很痛、很羞耻的事。内心的羞耻感折磨了我很长时间。站出来,说出来,绝不容易。

从何说起?你们又会怎么看待我呢?不愿正视我的疼痛,还是站在一旁,你一言我一语,让我的眼泪渺小到不值得探究。

我是一名女性,我曾经为此感到抱歉。我是一名女性,现在,我为此感到骄傲。”

This is something that was very painful for me and of which I was shameful. The feeling of shame tortured me for a very long time. It was never easy to come forward and talk about it.

Where to start? How would you think of me?

Not willing to look at my pain, or stand on the side talking about this or that and ignore my tears falling down, or to explore any further. I am a woman, I used to feel apologetic about it.

I am a woman, now I feel proud of it.”

In conclusion, the choice of lyrics, stage effects and lighting along with the choreographed movement made this is an extremely well-conceived work coming from an established choreographer of international recognition.

Mr. Polak, who was a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater based in The Hague, has a good knowledge of stage craft, no doubt benefiting from the example of Jirí Kylian the Nederlands Dans Theater’s Artistic Director.

Ning Xi is an accomplished dancer trained in both Asian and western traditions. In China, where Modern Dance and Dance Theater are a novelty, this work is a brilliant beacon signaling the future of dance in China.

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TEDx Zhuhai

May 2, 2017

TEDx Xiangzhou /Introducing My Muse: TEDx Reworked FINAL

TED detail  TED1

Dear friends, for those of you who are interested I have provided above a link to the PDF of my live web broadcast TEDx Xiangzhou talk, presented in Zhuhai, China at the Chengchuan Art Gallery in the Beishan Village, April 22, 2017.

Art Basel Hong Kong’s SZ-GZ Tour March 24, 2017

April 4, 2017
SZ-GZ Art Tour

On the road for the 2017 SZ-GZ Art Tour

One of the highlights of this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong Art Fair was the SZ-GZ Tour to Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The bus picked us up at 9:00 from the Hong Kong Expo site and drove to the Mainland border. After passing through the required Chinese Customs check we headed off to the OCT exhibition spaces (www.ocat.org.cn).

OCT Loft

OCT Loft exhibition space Shenzhen, China

This cultural organization in Shenzhen has been providing a rich diet of cutting edge contemporary art to the Delta region since 2005. Here we viewed a solo exhibition, installation and video work by Simon Denny entitled, Real Mass Entrepreneurship curated by Venus Lau. As a frequent visitor to the OCT Museums I have enjoyed their program, a highlight of which can be seen in this 2016 ‘Land’ Art exhibition, Digging China.

OCT Loft exhibition space

OCT Loft exhibition space’s 2016 exhibition, Digging China

Next after a small bus mishap we were taxied off to our second stop, which was the Shenzhen-Shekou offices of the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation (www.fyfoundation.com) where a wonderful exhibition was prepared by curator Biljana Ciric to go with a great bag lunch.

From Shenzhen we then headed off to the Chinese mega city of Guangzhou, known historically as Canton it is the largest city and capital of Guangdong province. Guangzhou, which is located on the Pearl River is approximately 120 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong, and has an estimated population of over 13 million. Here our first stop was in the delta-lands just outside the city the site of the Mirrored Gardens, hosted by Vitamin Creative Space (www.vitamincreativespace.com).

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

The architecture of ‘Mirrored Gardens’ is designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

the Mirrored Gardens

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

The Mirrored Gardens

Zheng Guogu at Vitamin Creative Space

Zheng Guogu exhibition, The Winding Path to Trueness.

Here we were presented with the work of Zheng Guogu, The Winding Path to Trueness. The architecture and landscaping of this tropical garden designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects is spectacular! Onward to the final stop on this trip, one of my favorite sites in Guangzhou, the Times Museum (www.timesmuseum.org) in the city’s Huangbian district. Here curator Nikita Yingqian Cai guided us through the exhition, The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away, a conceptual show based thematically on the 1988 installation by Russian artist, Ilya Kabakov. Another great show at the Times Museum was the 2013 Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition highlighting the artist’s video work recorded in Guangzhou, China.

Times Museum

Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition at the Times Museum 2013 Guangzhou, China

Times Museum

Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition at the Times Museum 2013 Guangzhou, China

To say the tour was a fantastic glimpse of the contemporary art resources of southern China’s Delta region is an understatement. I look forward to future adventures along these lines, perhaps including some of the other great sites of the region like Shenzhen’s Design Center, as well as locations in Zhuhai and Macau.

Bayerisches Staatsballett II, presented by the Hong Kong Arts Festival at the Lyric Theatre at HKAPA, Hong Kong. February 21, 2017

February 23, 2017

The program presented by the Bayerisches Staatsballett II for the Hong Kong Arts Festival consisted of four parts. The first performance entitled, Allegro Brillante entailed the choreography of George Balanchine performed by soloists Bianca Teixeira and Francesco Leone, set to the music of Piotr Llyich Tchaikovsky.

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This exuberant work is true to Balanchine’s genius and portrays “an expansive Russian romanticism”, according to Maria Tallchief for whom the leading role was crafted.

Jardi Tancat the second of the works presented was a beautifully conceived production with choreography by Spanish born, Nacho Duato, music from Catalonia by Maria del Mar Bonet and lighting design by Nicholas Fischtel. The work, which borrows musically from Catalonian legends, takes visual reference from the daily life of regional farmers.

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Mr. Duato, who had once accompanied Jiri Kylian at the Netherlands Dans Theater in The Hague, retains a modern stylistic approach in this work, using a perimeter of vertical posts of assorted heights to define the stage boundary and provide points at which performers could take pause, as they assume postures reminiscent of Picasso paintings of the Blue Period. This feature gave the work a minimalist visual presence, which balanced wonderfully with the rich flowing movement of the dancer’s costumes.

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A third work entitled, 3 Preludes (Prelude I, Prelude II: Blue Lullaby, Prelude III: Spanish Prelude and Rialto Ripples) choreographed by Richard Siegal was a lively and refreshing dance accompanied by the music of George Gershwin. The lighting design by Christian Kass and costume design by Susanne Stehle provided a sexy, ballroom dance atmosphere for the work, which brought to mind the stage musical, West Side Story. The mix, an energetic ballet featuring three men and a woman was a brilliant combination of movements evoking drama and seductive gesture.

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The final work for the evening was the historically significant Triadic Ballet from Oskar Schlemmer. This Bauhaus era work was choreographically reconstructed by Gerhard Bohner in 1977 and recreated for this staging by Ivan Liška and Colleen Scott. It was produced in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste Berlin and Bayerisches Staatsballett München with Production Manager Bettina Wagner-Bergelt.

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The colorful costumes were constructed 3D structures made with seemingly metallic or ceramic surfaces. They are boldly geometric and captivating in their use of form and reflected light to augment the often-times minimally prescribed choreography. The movement was often very circumscribed consisted of hand and head gestures, spiraling rotations, or leg movements due to the restrictive nature of the costumes. Unfortunately, the music accompaniment to this performance from Hans-Joachim Hespos was neither historically relevant, nor conductive to the whimsical quality of the performance.

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Instead it was often intense and staccato, creating a neurotic and disturbing ambiance not in character with the work presented. The original musical accompaniment, which we are told from the program notes included assorted pieces from Tarenghi, Bossi, Debussy, Haydn, Mozart, Paradies, Galuppi and Handel were not employed due to Gerhard Bohner’s assessment that Schlemmer wished that the music be written by a contemporary composer. A better choice in light of this constraint might have been the work of the musicians Robert Fripp and Brian Eno who at least share a light and sometimes humorous element in their work.

Overall this evening’s performance was memorable. It is a rare balance of elements that weave together to form an enjoyable presentation.

Sehr geehrte Frau Merkel Bundeskanzlerin

December 17, 2015

Sleepless Nights Left Behind

The Sleepless Nights Left Behind, Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte.  Berlin, Deutschland 2007

85x45x40cm Weiss-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.
40x20x37cm Rot-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.

ich wende mich an Sie als ein amerikanischer Künstler, der lange Zeit in New York City lebte und jetzt seit einigen Jahren in der Volksrepublik China arbeitet. Ich habe von 1991 bis 2010 wiederholt in Deutschland gearbeitet und ausgestellt und dort eine Verbindung zum Künstlerhaus Bethanien und der BBK Berlin aufgebaut.

Ich möchte Ihnen mitteilen, dass ich von Ihrer Arbeit für die Menschen in Deutschland sowie von Ihrer aufgeklärten Führungsrolle als zentraler Partner der internationalen Gemeinschaft tief bewegt bin. Ich selbst habe von der Großzügigkeit und Aufgeschlossenheit des deutschen Volkes stark profitiert, als ich zunächst 1991 als Gastkünstler in Berlin weilte und dann in der Stadt von 2006 bis 2009 meinen Wohnsitz hatte. In diesen Jahren lernte ich die Menschen in Berlin und die Tugenden der deutschen Kultur kennen und schätzen. Ihre jüngsten Bemühungen, die Flüchtlinge der Kriege in Syrien, dem Irak und anderen Nationen in Ihrem Land unterzubringen, wirkt beispielhaft und zeigt das großzügige Herz der deutschen Nation. Ich wäre stolz, Deutscher zu sein.

Während meines Aufenthalts in Berlin habe ich im Jahr 2007 ein Kunstwerk, mit dem Titel “The Sleepless Nights Left Behind”, “Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte” angefertigt, das darstellt, welche Qualen und Ängste die nächtliche Realität eines Flüchtlings prägen. Die Befreiung von diesen Ängsten ist das, was Sie und Ihre Regierung sowie die deutschen Menschen zur Zeit mit ihrem Engagement bewerkstelligen.

Ich würde dieses Kunstwerk gerne Ihnen und den Menschen in Deutschland zur Ehre zum Geschenk machen, um die großen Hilfeleistungen, die Sie erbracht haben, zu würdigen.

Zu Ihrer Information füge ich für Sie und Ihre Mitarbeiter hier ein Foto der Skulptur sowie einige Details zu ihren Ausmaßen bei. Ich würde mich sehr freuen, wenn Sie dieses kleine Zeichen meiner Dankbarkeit für Ihre weltweite Führungsrolle entgegennehmen würden.

Die Skulptur befindet sich gegenwärtig in Berlin, wo ich vom 12. bis 22. Januar sein werde. Ich könnte ihre Überführung zu jedem Amt, Platz oder Museum organisieren, das Ihnen geeignet erschiene. Bitte lassen Sie mich wissen, ob Sie von meinem Angebot Gebrauch machen möchten.

Mit bestem Dank und hochachtungsvollem Gruß
Ron Rocco

 

Art Basel /Hong Kong, May 2014

June 23, 2014

Maybe as B.B.King once warned “the thrill is gone”, or perhaps there are other reasons, but this year’s iteration of the Art Basel Fair in Hong Kong has lost some of its shine since its 2013 inception. With 162 exhibitors on two floors, compared to last year’s 245 exhibitors on three, this year’s event felt notably diminished.

Art Basel /Hong Kong 2014, as last year was composed of three sectors:

The Insights sector showcases 47 projects from Asia-Pacific* regional galleries who provide themed, art-historical, or solo exhibitions from the work two or more artists from within the region.

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Delights to be found include these two somber works in sculpture by Jaume Plensa.

The Discoveries sector highlights 27 presenters, introducing the work of one or two emerging artists, with new work, preferably created specifically for the event.

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Finally, the Encounters sector includes 17 large scale, sculpture and installation projects created by principal artists from around the globe, selected by the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and curator of the Sharjah Biennial 11, Yuko Hasegawa.

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Hurting the event more significantly is the fact that a catalog documenting the exhibitors, artists, and the sectors was not distributed as usual. In its place was a publication, A Year 44, which instead documents the 44 year history of the Art Basel milieu across the three sites in Miami, Florida; Basel, Switzerland; and Hong Kong.

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As a result it was not possible to ‘look to the catalog’ to fill in the memory of installations and featured works, overlooked, or noted only in passing. Because of this, I will only present here those works, which I focused on from a small selection of galleries. This selection in no way suggests that there were not other galleries, or artworks worth a mention, it only presents the limits of my endurance and the time frame of my visit.

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Certainly, there were many wonderful pieces from both newer and older, established artists mixed among the booths. It was the discovery of these works that made the visit worth while. A nice example were the two sculptural works from South African artist, William Kentridge I discovered at Marian Goodman’s booth. More familiar with Mr. Kentridge’s films and drawings these works were, for me, new and novel. A treasure uncovered.

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Other items of interest included Gu Wenda, Metamorphosis a composition of Human hair, glue and rope, it is a cleaver play with ancient Chinese and Western calligraphy.

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There were a couple of installations that drew lots of attention, most significant was artist He Xiangyu’s The Death of Marat, 2011 a tongue in cheek reference to the Jacques-Louis David painting of 1793, which documents the murder of French revolutionary writer and critic Jean-Paul Marat. Xiangyu’s installation consists of the life-size corpse of artist, activist Ai WeiWei a cultural figure outspoken in his critique of Chinese politics and vocal on social issues.

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A second installation The Comforter by Patricia Piccinini consists of a wax figure of a young girl of perhaps 12 sitting on the floor of the exhibition hall. Her life-like replication could be mistaken for a living girl, except for the fact that she is cradling in her arms a rather grotesque creature. As one draws closer to the work facial and body hair on the girl herself give a clue that she is also an aberration.

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Other finds were at James Cohan Fine Art with a sculpture by Yinka Shonibare. A legacy piece from 1985 by Jean-Michael Basquiat, which remains today as gritty and contemporary as the day it was painted was presented by KUKJE Gallery. In a nearby gallery, Galerie Side 2 the Basquiat was nicely contrasted with an artwork entitled, Jesrsey by Udomsak Krisanamis.

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Lin Tianmiao had more of her excellent sculptures at Galerie Lelong’s this year. Last year, my 2013 Art Basel review, also to be found in this blog, provided an introduction to her great work. Another new find was Claudio Parmiggiani presented by Meessen de Clercq Galerie. Parmiggiani creates smoke ‘drawings’, which include the skull shown here. The drawings that struck me most from Parmiggiani were a series of bookcases, on view in a catalog of Parmiggiani’s work. The smoke rendered books in these drawings retained a haunted presence, evoking for me Micha Ullman’s memorial to the Nazi book burnings placed at Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany.

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He An could be found at Galerie Daniel Templon with examples of his recycled signage, which bracket the work of Choy Chun Wei, who also works with text on interwoven segments of fabric shown by Wei-Ling Gallery.

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* With a region including Asia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent galleries may originate from countries from Turkey eastward to New Zealand.

Laurie Anderson at the Macau International Music Festival – November 2014

June 21, 2014

Laurie Anderson at the Macau International Music Festival 11/2014

L Anderson

I have followed Ms. Anderson’s work since the premiere of United States in New York in 1981. Her early work a composite mix of media: I remember a film of laundry spinning in the clothes dryer and an audio track from a telephone answering machine, spoke about the banality of modern urban life.  The work she presented here in Macau, The Language of the Future is more reflective, commenting on the nature of memory itself. She begins by putting her magic ability to work weaving a mesh of poetic imagery with a story on the origins of memory.

As she narrates it, the early world is a world with no land, no sea, only sky, but a world filled with birds. The birds must fly endlessly as there is no surface upon which they may alight. The father of one of the birds dies and the avian community is confronted with a delima, what to do with the body. After much deliberation the birds decide that the daughter of the deceased should store her father’s body among the feathers on her head. Because of this gesture memory is born.

Her work in Macau had no video, and few special effects employing only her trademark voice modulations, used to alter the sound of her narrative and an on-screen translation of her text into Chinese and Portuguese. But her work does not suffer from the absence of these elements, on the contrary her ability as a master weaver of tales, perhaps only rivaled by the late Spaulding Grey, is highlighted by this sparse staging. Her stories, extremely autobiographical, or at least presented as such, touch upon early experiences of loss and hardship. One story tells of a diving accident, which if we believe it is true, happens to her as a young girl trying to show off at the swimming pool and ending with her in the hospital with a broken spine coming to terms with a doctor’s admission that she may never walk again.  “He must be crazy” she exclaims, and as we can see his prediction did not come to pass.

Her stories merge on revelation. The revelation that she may not be able to walk is followed by another story concerning the realization that what started as a Zen retreat would end as a lesson in patience as the tranquil landscape was transformed by a campsite full of raucous visitors.

Seeing her here in Macau, where I have been resident in neighboring Zhuhai for the last three years brought a touch of homesickness to this long-time New York City resident. Of course the city has changed radically since the 1980’s and my fond reflections vanished at her mention of the post 9-11 realities of New York. In specific she spoke of the red and orange level security activities outside her windows, which overlook New York’s end of the Holland Tunnel. With that she mentioning that she tries to stay out of town as often as possible, as a result.

This brought to mind an ‘incident’ of my own experience in 2005 at the 59th Street subway station, returning home from an art opening one evening with my wife. As the train pulled into the station armed police officers drew their weapons on a subway car full of riders, panning the seated passengers with their extended weapons. All this was during a search for a missing patrolman, so I was told. It also stirred to mind the ‘Stop and Frisk’ policies of the Bloomberg era and the general transformation of New York City under ex-mayor Rudolph Giuliani into what looked more like what I had witnessed of fascist controlled Madrid during the reign of Francisco Franco, than the city that ex-mayor John Lindsey referred to as ‘Fun City’.

But putting all that aside I must say Anderson’s performance of The Language of the Future reminded me of her magic in weaving poetic imagery with words.

DESH by Akram Khan at the Macau Cultural Center, June 20, 2014

June 21, 2014

Snapshot - 8

DESH a solo performance by dancer/choreographer, Akram Khan with set design by Tim Yip, music by Jocelyn Pook, lighting design by Michael Hulls, and scripted by writer, poet Karthika Nair. Duration: 80 minutes with no interval

“An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” James Baldwin

Identity is a story we assemble from fragments, in the stories we hear from parent and other elders, and in the cultural icons we come to identify with. In DESH, which means ‘homeland’ in Bengali, we see a man in pursuit of those fragments and in this case masterfully weaving them together in a tableau of extreme beauty.

In speaking of the movement seen in DESH Khan says he recognizes and admires the work of his contemporaries like Pina Bausch with her Dance, Theater Wuppertal as well as other Western sources, Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as well as Buster Keaton to name a few, but he goes on to say that for this work he sampled the scenes of his ancestral home Bangladesh. We see the gestures of fishermen, taxi drivers, weavers, beggars and others who he encountered during his 10 day research mission to the shipyards and villages of Bangladesh.

Sledge hammer

Indeed the opening scene, a man hammering the grave of his father with a massive sledge hammer, Khan said was inspired by the 12 year old boys who he saw at Bengali shipyards pummeling massive sheet of steel, in an attempt to flatten them. As he points out the hammering symbolizes frustration. He also referred to a few instances where the Shaolin martial arts find a place in the work brought in during interactions with a movement trainer who practiced these arts.

As Sanjoy Roy, points out in his review of this work, “DESH feels very connected to Khan’s home ground: kathak. Not that it’s a kathak piece; rather, kathak’s mode of presentation – solo episodes in which the performer freely ‘becomes’ different characters and evokes the presence of others through gesture, mime and address – is abundantly present in DESH.*”

Movements

In a word the movements in this performance are convulsive, as Akram Khan himself puts it he has extreme bursts of energy, “You contain, and contain, and then explode on stage,” he said as he explained that he was always better at the 100 meter dash, as opposed to a marathon. But this does not translate into an assemblage of sporadic elements, here the movement is masterfully woven and fluid like the water which Khan claims as an inspiration. “I am fascinated by water inside the earth, it is the core principle of the way I think and move, fluidity within form…” he says in the program notes.

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The stories of origin he weaves on stage are magical, There is a dream-like quest for honey by the son of a poor beekeeper, beautifully illustrated on stage with black and white video animated drawings. The animated exploration continues on a ship, an encounter with a white elephant (considered sacred in many Asian cultures), and a climb high into the trees of a virtual forest. Khan mentioned a reference to Alice in Wonderland when he elected to bring an over-sized white chair onto the set, its use evoking the different perspective and mystery of childhood. In addition, the artist constructs a shadow play at moments behind the chair calling to mind scenes of Asian puppet theater, or the scenes one might encounter as family life takes place behind the stage of a drawn curtain.

The heart touching interaction he has on set with an imaginary small girl, a niece, is a completely fictional interaction as Akram neither has a child, nor a niece, but it shows his extreme mastery and command of his production, clearly an artist with a keen sense of what is needed in the presentation. Through this scene you see as he clearly struggles with the words and stories of his father, which get internalized as fear in the ear of his niece. We see an attempt to find balance in negotiating the questions and duties of a parent figure in the present, while shouldering the burdens of the past.

Elephant encounter

DESH closes with a turbulent scene, an extreme struggle of man and machine, a huge industrial fan placed on set. He is blinded by a violently fluttering cloth which has blown across his face covered his head. At the same time his body is buffeted by the exhaust of the fan. Akram Khan went into great detail describing the origin of this prop, and its use, as he had to argue and justify its presence on the stage with his collaborators. Akram Khan explained that when he found the fan sitting at the back of a theater in Grenoble, France its sheer mass and state of ruin were what attracted him to the device, as he pointed out it was the kind of technology one would find in Bangladesh. He goes on to say, “This performance is a contemporary work and as such any object I use should have multiple meanings. You project memory onto an object.” In this case the fan closely approximated the jet aircraft engine which, as his story tells us his father had to climb into to clean, because he was a small enough man to do so, part of his job as cook for a crew of Pakistani pilots before Bangladesh’s independence. The scene becomes the struggle of a man fighting the winds of change, or the past and clearly overwhelmed by the task.

In an interview following the performance Akram Khan explains that this work, 2 years in the making, is not a memorial to a dead father. In fact he clarifies that his father is still alive and was present for DESH’s (2011) World premiere on 15 Sept 2011, at the Curve Theater, in Leicester London. So although the work is highly autobiographical and emotive it is not driven by the loss of a dead parent, or the guilt associated with it. As Khan explains it is stagecraft where art expands upon life and augments it.

*Sanjoy Roy WRITING ON DANCE
http://sanjoyroy.net/2011/11/akram-khan-desh/

Pipilotti Rist at the Times Museum, Guangzhou through December 8, 2013

November 7, 2013

Guangzhou, a city perhaps less know for its interest in contemporary art, than for its history as old Canton, is the stage for an exhibition curated by Ruijun Shen of German video artist Pipilotti Rist.

Ms. Rist’s exhibition entitled, Gentle Wave in your Eye Fluid is a mix of old and new, with several works created for the location and others like, Open Air, Open My Glade, and Cape Cod Chandelier being older pieces.

Rist

In the lobby of the Times Museum, host for this exhibition, Pipilotti’s 2011 Cape Cod Chandelier, is a collection of underwear encircling the Chandelier illuminated from within and over its surface, functioning as a screen for two video projections in the room. The projected images described by curator Konrad Bitteli as, “a psychedelic vortex: a vertiginous view down an endless tunnel: a view deep into an eye, or down a gullet” may serve as an allusion to the female undergarments as the gateway to the world within a world. A place capable of the most basic creative energy, through birth and the vortex of all male desire. This world within is a recurrent theme found within Ms Rist’s oeuvre and it is often mixed with a pallet of plastic textures, fanciful candy colors, and her impish irreverence. There is always a hint of the erotic in her work, found either in the long stem or phallus like head of a flower, in the cavities she explores with her lens, or the in the flick of her tongue.

When so many “big name” video artists are producing work that looks more and more like a Hollywood production, Rist’s endeavors continue to maintain a cottage industry appearance. For example, in the video and audio installation, Open Air she enlists family and friends to engage in a round of swallowing the universe, or so it seems. Childish perhaps, but truly honest and engaging, this video is characteristic of her prankster aesthetic.

There is a love of nature, flowers, and the outdoors evident in the largest installation of this exhibition entitled, Mercy Mercy. This 12 projector, 75 meter long installation transforms the space through the use of red, green, blue and yellow colored gels, which mask the skylights and windows. This is combined with the vivid colors of her video projections. The combination of these elements creates a joyous, yet meditative space. Ms. Rist’s choice of subject matter which we are told is culled from the rural surroundings of Guangzhou include fields of flowers and crops, men working the earth with hoes, and landscape views all subject to the child-like interventions of Pipilotti’s tongue or hands.

Her work is always honest, simple and refreshing and I would recommend venturing to Guangzhou’s Time Museum to take a look at what she has transformed there.

This exhibition runs through December 8, 2013. The Times Museum is open:
Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 and closed on Monday
Address:Times Museum, Times Rose Garden, Huang Bian Bei Lu, Bai Yun Da Dao, Guangzhou.

Art Basel /Hong Kong May 23-26, 2013

November 7, 2013

It comes as no surprise that Hong Kong should become the third ring in the chain of Art Basel host cities. With the combined economic clout of powerhouse cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Dongguan (China’s third largest export city) and the financial might of Hong Kong itself the base for a large investment market in the Fine Arts is present. Art Basel is all about developing that market.

The fair opens in 2013 with the inclusion of 245 top tier galleries from 36 countries. These are arranged into four formats. The Galleries area highlights 170 galleries from around the world selected on the merit of their programming. An Insights category showcases installations from regional galleries who provide themed or solo artist exhibitions from the work of Asian artists. The Discoveries area highlights 27 presenters, introducing the work of one or two emerging artists. Finally, the Encounters sector includes 17 large scale, sculpture and installation projects created by principal artists from around the globe, selected by the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Yuko Hasegawa.

In the The Discoveries category the work of Benjamin Appel presented by Weingrȕll Gallery of Karlsruhe, Germany was notable. In an artwork reminiscent of Donald Judd’s sculpture, Appel’s installation combines found furniture to create a base for a finely constructed concrete slab. In this way the elements become one monolith. The work is both minimal in reference yet contemporary in its “recycled” nature.

Benjamin Appel
Benjamin Appel

Another interesting artist found in the Discoveries category is Brendan Earley, who could be found at Mother’s Tankstation a gallery from Dublin, Ireland. Again an artist who toys with Minimalism, Earley’s constructions at moments have a Futurist edge. The materials are simple: fluorescent lamps, colored gel, and simple wood or composite structures suffice to modulate a dynamic space.

Brendan Earley
Brendan Earley

One could also find an assortment of Post-Minimalist artists at Art Basel at locations like the Italian Gallery Lorcan O’Neill from Rome, where one could find signature works by artists like Richard Long and Rachael Whiteread.

Richard Long, Rachael Whiteread
Richard Long, Rachael Whiteread

Regionally, the Encounters sector installation by Raqs Media Collective, A Different Gravity from Project 88 in Mumbai, India provides us with an interior composition of elements, a table, mirror, chair, and carpet, which defining a “private” space in the exhibition hall. The three words found displayed on these objects WRONG, TIME, FLYING remain somewhat cryptic, but perhaps allude to a personal space and a desire to remain there.

Raqs Media Collective
Raqs Media Collective

When contemplating the regional at Art Basel Hong Kong it was interesting to see how many galleries were present from India. Project 88 gallery was joined by several others to make a dozen presenters from the region.

Subodh Gupta, Valay Shende
Subodh Gupta, Valay Shende

Sakshi Gallery from Mumbai presented the work of their artist Valay Shende, who created an assortment of impressive garments made from a collection of ball bearings. This was in addition to another work, a Lukas Samaras-like box clustered with portrait beads and other images.

In addition many other artists of Indian origin could be found among the scattering of galleries within the different sectors of the exhibition hall. These included artists like Subodh Gupta showing at Arario Gallery of Seoul, S.Korea, who presented an untitled work, which included a “found traditional boat” along with other objects. From the presence of these artists and galleries it is clear that there is a strong, new voice coming into the global arts dialogue from the Indian sub-continent.

Of course, as one might expect, the great majority of galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong were from Hong Kong and the rest of China. Outnumbered only by the combined presence of exhibitors from the United States and the U.K..

Gao Brothers, Chen Chieh-jen, He Xiangyu
Gao Brothers, Chen Chieh-jen, He Xiangyu

Some of the contributors were the Long March Space in Beijing, which held one of the Encounters spots, with an installation entitled Play (201301) by Madeln Company. Grotto gallery from Hong Kong brought the work of Danny Chin-fai Lee. He Xiangyu, who was shown by White Space gallery of Beijing, created a mock death bed entitled, My Fantasy, which makes a self reflective reference to the embalmed Mao found at rest in Tiananmen Square. The 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong presented several interesting works from the artists of The Propeller Group and the photographic images of Bui Cong Khanh. Other more socially reflective artists included the Gao Brothers who had several works featured by IFA gallery in Shanghai and Chen Chieh-jen who presented a video installation entitled, Friend Watan. This video, a self-reflective attempt to capture the essence of a friend’s past, was showcased by Lin & Lin Gallery from Taipei.

Another contributing artist worth noting is Lin Tianmiao born in Taiyuan, China and working in Beijing. Her silk encrusted bones and other objects have a macabre yet beautiful presence. They were presented by the Lelong Gallery of Paris, France.

Ai Weiwei,  Lin Tianmiao
“Ai Weiwei, Lin Tianmiao

A stunning installation, not part of the Art Basel Hong Kong venue, but held concurrent with it by the Hong Kong based non profit Parasite was Ai Weiwei’s installation, as part of an exhibition entitled, “A Journal of the Plague Year” In this work Weiwei, making reference to recent accidental poisonings from baby formula, placed hundreds of cans of baby milk formula into a pattern profiling the map of China, detailed with different colored regions identifying each province. The reference underlines problems with food supplies in China and the resulting mass descent on Hong Kong to purchase items like baby formula deemed to be safer there.