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My Barbarian, Voyage of the White Widow (detail), 2007

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Performance Art
October 31-November 13, 2007

With the return of PERFORMA, performance art comes alive throughout New York in a monthlong series of multimedia productions, experimental dances, solo acts, rock operas, and performance-based films. We interview Chinese artist Zhang Huan, known for his physically strenuous performances, and we spotlight American provocateur Sanford Biggers, who reinterprets early 20th-century minstrel shows for a PERFORMA 07 commission. We look at the early work of Trisha Brown, an avant-garde dance pioneer, for our media pick, and we review standout exhibitions around the globe including Francis Alÿs in Los Angeles and Nobuyoshi Araki in Milan.








Hirst's Shark Arrives at Met
(New York Times, October 16)
Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 13-foot-long shark preserved in 4,360 gallons of formaldehyde, has taken up residence in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after six weeks of installation work. Owned by hedge-fund titan Steven A. Cohen, who purchased the 1991 piece for $8 million, the sea creature will terrify visitors to the museum for the next three years. Hirst had to replace the original shark last year because it had begun to rot. In a related story, the artist has been busy repairing another of his works, Mother and Child, Divided, an installation of a bisected cow and calf in four formaldehyde tanks housed in the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, due to a tank leak.

Art House Is a Border Haven
(We Make Money Not Art, October 16)
Robert Ransick recently completed a six-month residency at Eyebeam, building Casa Segura in the southern Arizona desert. As its title suggests, the structure is intended as a "safe house" for migrants crossing the border, where they can find food and shelter in the solar-powered domicile. The house also features a touch screen for visitors to relate something about their lives in the form of a message or pictogram, which is then uploaded to the work's bilingual website. In an interview, Ransick said that he hoped that the building would serve to help mediate tensions between the various social and political groups contesting and controlling the border between the US and Mexico.

Art Market Faces Tests
(Economist.com, October 20)
Will the bubble burst or continue to expand? All signs indicate the former. Collectors have taken reports from the recent London auctions, where several important works failed to sell or make presale estimates, as a warning. But if buyers may be trying to curb spending habits when it comes to Damien Hirst or Andy Warhol, demand for Chinese contemporary art continues to soar. Some analysts point to a weakening global market economy as one sign that the art-market boom may come to an end, noting that Sotheby's has doubled its guarantees for its upcoming New York auctions. Meanwhile, art investor extraordinaire Eli Broad added his two cents to the market debate, saying, "There's no question in my mind that it's peaked."

Graf Artist Says Chapmans Stole Idea
(Independent, October 15)
London graffiti artist D*Face has accused artist brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman of taking his idea. The Chapmans have attracted attention at the Frieze Art Fair by marking up images of Queen Elizabeth on patrons' £10 and £20 notes with skulls. D*Face noted that he had printed and hand drawn likenesses of the Queen having her head chopped off or being hung on currency several years ago — and that the results had been on posters displayed close to the Chapmans' studio. Jake Chapman defended his and his brother's work, saying, "Drawing on money is as original as graffiti and that is as old as the Caves of Lascaux. It's not a great revelation to draw on money."





Tate visitors falling through Doris Salcedo's crack more »

Anselm Kiefer leaves his mark on the Louvre more »

Dye in Trevi Fountain praised as art more »

Robert Irwin's light art can be heavy more »

A look at the Turner shortlist more »

Shutterbug starts blog, gets to curate a gallery show more »

Lawrence Weiner turns a phrase more »

Inside 12 of the world's greatest buildings more »

Dumpster diving for great art more »

Zaha Hadid's Chanel project is a moveable art space more »

Critic asks Raymond Pettibon to drop the futility more »

Art-fraud films in review more »

Using a sledgehammer instead of a brush more »

Leo Castelli archives going to Smithsonian more »

Emory Douglas' Black Panther art on display more »

New York magazine highlights design revolutionaries more »

Chris Ofili's new show does decorative without the dung more »

Controversial advertising maven Oliviero Toscani profiled more »

Aleksandra Mir's Newsroom papers NYC more »

Lari Pittman, reconsidered more »

Venice Biennale hands out Golden Lions more »

A look at Kara Walker's Whitney retrospective more »

Artists take on toys more »

Banksy works deemed vandalism, will be painted over more »

James Turrell makes light of art, literally more »

Art dealer Ileana Sonnabend dies at 92 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.



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[ PERFORMA 07 ]


     

Daria Martin / Xu Zhen / Darren O'Donnell / Isaac Julien

From the Bronx to Brooklyn, the second PERFORMA biennial inundates New York with four weeks of performance art events by more than 90 artists, touching down at 50-odd institutions, both established and emerging. Organized by performance art guru RoseLee Goldberg, PERFORMA 07 promises to restore a salient aspect of New York's artistic legacy with a major retrospective of Allan Kaprow, various panel discussions, "late-night get-togethers" at select bars, PERFORMA TV streaming on the Internet, PERFORMA Radio, and even historical re-enactments by Eva and Franco Mattes in the virtual realm of Second Life.

Ten commissioned works anchor the biennial, including an ambitious project by Italian provocateur Francesco Vezzoli, whose one-night, star-studded restaging of Luigi Pirandello's 1917 play Right You Are (If You Think You Are) in the Guggenheim's rotunda kicked off the festival. As with PERFORMA 05, the projected image is important to many artists' work; Daria Martin builds her structuralist film Harpstrings and Lava from improvisational sessions with harpist Zeena Parkins and dancer Nina Fog, while Nathalie Djurberg's new claymation film, performed with live accompaniment, depicts the grisly story of children fending off angry canines.

Dance also plays a central role in many of the commissioned works, including Kelly Nipper's Floyd on the Floor — a hurricane-inspired work with a gigantic parachute — at the legendary Judson Church. In the atrium of 590 Madison Avenue, Mexican artist Carlos Amorales' 400-piece wooden platform, Spider Web Negative (stage), resonates with subsonic frequencies as a feral-costumed Galia Eibenschutz interacts with the sculpture and viewers. At the Hudson Theater, conceptual-dance pioneer-turned-heady filmmaker Yvonne Rainer draws inspiration for RoS Indexical from Stravinsky and Nijinsky's 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring. London-born filmmaker Isaac Julien enlists choreographer Russell Maliphant's troupe to transform three of his multichannel epics — True North, Fantôme Afrique, and Small Boats — into a live performance at BAM.

In a multisensory extravaganza at Performance Space 122, Brooklyn noise-rock band Japanther present a wry rock opera with a set designed by Dan Graham and frenetic dance by Robbinschilds. Sanford Biggers explores the complex legacy of early 20th-century minstrel shows in his multimedia, multi-performer work The Somethin' Suite at the Box, and Adam Pendleton presents an experimental sermon, created with playwright Larry Kramer and poets Paolo Javier and Leslie Scalapino, for the music and spoken-word event The Revival at the Stephan Weiss Studio.

PERFORMA 07 also hosts Beijing-based arts organization Long March Project, which sponsors its own range of events, including The Thunderstorm Is Slowly Approaching by artist Qiu Zhijie, featuring multimedia works and a dragon dance, a series of panels at Harlem's Studio Museum, and conceptualist Xu Zhen's performance In Just a Blink of an Eye at James Cohan Gallery. (HGM)

PERFORMA continues in New York City through November 20. PERFORMA Radio broadcasts on WFMU 91.5, while PERFORMA TV streams live online for the duration of the biennial.



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Sheng Qi: History in Black and Red
Beijing

Red Gate Gallery
Now through November 11

  Distraught over the Tiananmen Square massacre, photographer and painter Sheng Qi chopped off his finger, buried it in a flowerpot, and fled the country. After living in self-imposed exile in London, Sheng returned to Beijing, where he's now a leading painter, still sorting through China's recent history. At Red Gate Gallery, Sheng exhibits nearly 30 new paintings, rendered in dripping black-and-white acrylic, some heavily tinted in deep reds. The diptych Girl Scout — two nearly identical canvases, one red-hued and one in black-and-white — depicts an army of rifle-wielding girls cheering triumphantly. Mass gatherings, military parades, traffic jams, and scores of commuters on bicycles are depicted in similar canvases, as Sheng conflates momentous historical events with scenes of daily life in China. (HGM)





Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal
Los Angeles

Hammer Museum
Now through February 10

  "Sometimes making something leads to nothing" is Belgium-born, Mexico City-based artist Francis Alÿs' mantra, and it guides the works included in his first comprehensive museum exhibition. Alÿs' video installations are supported by drawings, paintings, and smaller video displays, which serve as preparations for the artist's quixotic endeavors. The humorously frustrating video Ensayo I (The Rehearsal) depicts a red Volkswagen repeatedly attempting to climb a steep hill as the soundtrack of a triumphant band trails off each time the car rolls back down. For When Faith Moves Mountains, Alÿs corralled 500 volunteers into moving a 1,600-foot Peruvian sand dune about four inches. In Rehearsal II, a video of a continually aborted strip tease, Alÿs implies that the success of a thing lies in the effort, not the end result. (AT)





Tomory Dodge
London

Alison Jacques Gallery
Now through November 10

  With six large paintings and a series of smaller canvases and watercolors, LA-based abstractionist Tomory Dodge makes his solo European debut. Dodge positions geometric clusters over muted backgrounds and tops off surfaces with clashing slathers of paint. Expanse has a hazy, Monet-like palette broken up by luminescent, sharp-edged ovals and primary-color drips. The nearly six-foot-tall Tango Delta Oscar Seven tumbles over the viewer, as Dodge muscles the variegated colors into crisscrossing lines and 3-D splatters, like a '50s action painter. In the smaller Helicopter, a black canvas elegantly fades into turquoise; from this void spring pinpoints of color and a column of probing white light. Dodge's abstractions evoke Los Angeles subjects, but he favors fantasy over formula. (LM)





Suzanne Opton
Lausanne

Musée de l'Elysée
Now through November 4

  Suzanne Opton's photographic portraits capture the serene, sometimes pensive gazes of American soldiers who have recently returned from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Created in a temporary studio at Fort Drum in northern New York State, the large-format images belie their subjects' recent experiences, focusing entirely on the faces of young men and women while they're lying down. The angle gives the soldiers a sense of vulnerability, which, in some, resembles a lover's tender gaze. In Soldier: Birkholz, 353 Days in Iraq, 205 Days in Afghanistan, resignation registers on a young man's face as he lays his head down, exposing his neck as if ready for the executioner's sword. The juxtaposition of the images' absolute calm and war's violence gives these portraits immense power. (JC)





Nobuyoshi Araki
Milan

Studio Guenzani
Now through November 16

  Prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki is known for his lustful photographs of women tied up with kinbaku bondage techniques. At Milan's Studio Guenzani, Araki's new mixed-media black-and-white diptychs juxtapose bound women with still-lifes or cityscapes, with smears of paint applied to the prints drawing out relationships between the images. In one untitled work, multicolored polka dots augment a model peeking into an open window — breasts perched on the windowsill — while opposite, Araki presents lilies in a vase. In another diptych, a lurid, red streak connects a whimsical cloudscape to a robed woman with fleshy splashes bursting from her crotch. Piquant undercurrents charge the works, as Araki's spontaneous interventions remind us that photography is just a small step behind lived experience. (AM)



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[ Sanford Biggers ]



Sanford Biggers

A conceptual artist with a background in music, Sanford Biggers moves seamlessly between sculpture, installation, performance, and video, offering meditations on global cultural exchanges. He often explores the cross-fertilization of African-American and Japanese cultures, best-illustrated in works such as his "rice drawing" entitled Black Belt Jones. With a keen eye for seductive, loaded materials — melting boom boxes, feather outerwear, and mandalas for break dancing — Biggers' aesthetic reverence for the mundane is as Duchampian as it is Zen. Biggers shares conceptual interests with David Ellis (a sometimes collaborator) and Juan Capistran, who both infuse hip-hop sensibilities into high art, commenting on the commercial appropriation of a subculture.

After growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Biggers spent time in Japan and Italy before settling in New York. His participation in the Clockwork 2000 group show at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, the Freestyle show at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2001, and the 2002 Whitney Biennial plunged the artist into the New York scene. With projects from Beijing to London to Budapest under his belt, Biggers is now staging a three-part performance piece for PERFORMA 07. The Somethin' Suite is a contemporary hip-hop take on American minstrel shows, which turns a critical yet sympathetic eye toward the entertainment industry. Like Rebirth of a Nation by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Kara Walker's cyclorama works, Biggers' project explores an archaic form of American popular entertainment to expose how the stereotypes it perpetuated persist in today's pop culture. (NB)

Sanford Biggers' The Somethin' Suite shows at the Box in New York on November 12 at 8 and 10pm.



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[ Zhang Huan ]


     

Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan is one of the most important artists of his generation in China. From 1993 to 2005, he created compelling performance works that confronted authority and tested his endurance; since then, he has explored printmaking, painting and illustration, installation, and sculpture. Artkrush editor Paul Laster recently sat down with Zhang at his retrospective exhibition Altered States, at New York's Asia Society and Museum, to discuss his concepts of performance art and his sudden turn toward working in a variety of other media.
AK: Why did you choose to use your body as a vehicle for your art?

ZH: Unlike other mediums, the body is capable of direct feeling; it's sentient. Before I used my body in my work, my work lacked a certain vital consciousness. When I finished a performance using my body, I was always gratified by that immediate experience.

AK: What went through your mind during your performance piece 12 Square Meters, when you sat in a public toilet for one hour, covered in honey and fish oil?

ZH: During the performance, I wanted to transcend the environment. Flies were buzzing around my head and landing on my body, but I tried to forget the discomfort. Afterwards, I actually felt very calm.

AK: In a 2005 interview with THEME magazine, you talked about the inviability of performance art in China, joking that "2,000 performance artists means 1,998 more homeless people." What was your own early experience like, being a poor artist living in a rundown area of Beijing?

ZH: I didn't really feel poor. Although I often borrowed money from friends, I was never destitute. I was wealthy in so many other ways.

AK: What provoked you to name the area that you lived in "Beijing East Village"?

keep reading the interview »


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  Trisha Brown: Early Works 1966-1979
Babette Mangolte, Jonathan Demme, Klaus Kertess, et al.
ARTPIX Notebooks

One of the co-founders of the experimental Judson Dance Theater, Trisha Brown's innovative, postmodern choreography has sent her dancers walking across the walls of the Whitney Museum of American Art and spiraling down columns at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. This DVD compiles some of Brown's seminal pieces, presenting 18 structural works that relate to the minimalist art and music movements of the times. Man Walking Down the Side of a Building shows a figure descending over the facade of a classic SoHo building while a crowd of bohemians watches from an alleyway. Floor of the Forest, which was recreated for documenta 12, offers a jungle gym of dancers harnessed by clothing suspended on ropes. Roof and Fire Piece dynamically captures the flickering movement of red-clad dancers spreading across SoHo and Tribeca rooftops. Every performance documented on the two-and-a-half-hour disc is mesmerizing, and Brown's interview with curator and scholar Klaus Kertess, on disc two, provides historical insight into her work. (PL)

Trisha Brown Dance Company begins its 2008 season at New York's Joyce Theater in February, and Minneapolis' Walker Art Center premieres Year of Trisha, a survey show encompassing more than 40 years of work, in April 2008.



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Cover Art
My Barbarian
Voyage of the White Widow, 2007
Performance still
Courtesy PERFORMA, New York
Photo: Scoli Acosta
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