7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art , Toronto ,Canada

October 2012

Title : Vulnerable

Be here now

There are several common trends and threads being employed by many artists in the current ‘performance festival’ format and genre. Surprisingly artists, offered free reign to present themselves in any way they wish, usually choose a formal gallery setting and time slot of about 30 minutes to parade their dog-and-pony show to a supportive audience. This is a convenient invention, both to the artist and the over-extended, dedicated festival impresarios, organizers, support crew and volunteers – that is perhaps diametrically opposed to the often referenced historical performance legends, which, as the story goes, perhaps lasted from a few brief seconds to a year or more in duration and took place mostly in non-negotiable contexts. Indeed, according to Robert Filliou, an action might last a lifetime.

Although there are still (thankfully) no rules of engagement, there are certain tropes that we see increasingly being employed. One strategy is to invite participation (participatory art?) from hapless audience attendees, to somehow physically engage and become conspirator to the artist’s intention and devise. This is a slippery slope. If the attempt becomes superficial, forced or even slightly tense, it is doomed to fail.

Vulnerable, life is like an egg, Nopowan Sirivejkul (photo by Henry Chan)

Last night, we were blessed with another version of how to work with people, through Nopawan Sirivejkut. This artist’s performative engagement hinges entirely on who she is and how she navigates her own private life. Nopawan functions in her sphere in Bangkok and Thailand as a kind of grounded earth-mother to a cast of wild and crazy Thai militants, radicals and artists. She is the glue that binds the Asiatopia festival. In that role, she endlessly gives her love, support and guidance to Asiatopia’s extended family.

For her 7A*11D opportunity, Napowan started slowly, walking around her zone to finally possess it. She placed three strips of red cloth on the floor and then held high an oversize wine glass, which she then also placed on the floor. She stretched the first red strip between her extended hands, facing into the corner, demonstrating its elastic, translucent nature..

Then came the eggs. Rolls the first across the floor. Throws the second against the gallery wall. Rolls the third into the audience. Places the next in the glass and drops thick red paint over it. She holds up the glass and swirls the viscose red paint around until the egg and glass interior are coated, then gifts it to someone sitting.

She chooses someone to join her to put the next mesh strip over their hand and her hand to stretch. Ftttt. The cloth extends to limit then collapses. She places another egg into the third cloth and engages a volunteer in the dangerous game of rolling an egg between their hands in the cloth tube. Eventually the egg falls. Splat.

Napowan next takes a length of red thread from a spool and offers one end to someone to put in their mouth. She puts the other end in hers, then, like Lady and the Tramp, they mutually chew towards a kiss.

She selects two very different men and poses them about eight feet apart, then stretches many layers  of thread from the spool around them. Holding the stalk of a white Lily in her mouth, she walks between them, breaking the threads.

Nopawan’s gentle, centred presence, her humanistic connection to the people she is addressing, her ability to slow us down, illuminates.

I am again tasked to search a deeper meaning, an intention, an essence to the action. What, beyond some simple props and gestures is she describing? The Thai aesthetic code is so different than mine. The minimalism, elegance and symbols confound me (as has much of my experience in Thailand). What remains is Nopawan’s simple gestures, her playfulness in negotiating her intent and territory with others and her humanistic generosity to her public. Perhaps that is enough.


Posted by  on October 28, 2012 at 1:19 am
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Undisclosed Territory #6 ,Surakarta / Solo; Indonesia

August 2012

Title : Fragile

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ASIATOPIA International Performance Art Festival

ASIATOPIA International Performance Art Festival 2011

after i’m back from FOI . Sigapore I went to Chaing mai Northen of Thailand

at that time Bangkok was Floods

Communicating ideas and emotions through performance can be complicated. Asiatopia 13 was saturated with a breadth of imagery, abstract, ephemeral and personal in nature—sometimes exhausting to take in. I viewed the work through the prism and problematics of critique. For the artists, I imagine their critiques are of ideas, the self, the law and bureaucracy. In some cultures it is difficult or impossible to question authority let alone one’s own autonomy. However, performance allows a retreat into the poetics of a symbolic language which transcends both words and borders. This can reveal an artist’s inner anxieties communicated as performance, albeit in only one direction, from the artist to the audience. The artist can also seek to unravel their own performance language.

Nopawan Sirivejkul throws marbles at the start of her piece signifying that she’s playing with her life. She’s surprised when I later explain that in English “losing your marbles” is akin to becoming mentally unhinged. This highlighted the idea of performance as culturally coded and always at risk of being lost in translation.

Suan Buak Haad Park was brimming with a vibrant life of its own, people enjoying Chiang Mai’s temperate climate: running, walking dogs and doing other parky things. Having the festival in a park made it a public event capturing a diverse audience who at times were unaware of what was actually happening, though the artists and the details of the event were announced in Thai and English. The public were truly engaged by the works presented in a country where, as elsewhere, sound financial support is scarce for performance art while traditional art forms are favoured. Artists in Asiatopia 13 largely self-funded their participation with some having additional support from their respective countries.

by ; Yiorgos Zafiriou

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