Four guest artist-performers at the Rencontres d’Arles
It’s not easy to talk about experimental contemporary art in China without taking into account the performance art which – in a way that has no equivalent, except maybe in certain Eastern European countries and Japan – has left its stamp on the entire creative scene. Numerous visual artists known for their painting, photography and installations also use the body in action, although the practice remains culturally marginal. Some performances put their emphasis on physical endurance or ephemerality of gesture without lingering over the aesthetics of movement; others establish a relationship with an audience or an environment; and others still see a photographic record as their ultimate goal. Almost all of them, however, are part of a context in which the body is seen as a direct medium.At once the tool and the form of expression of artists engaging with their time and often suffering has consequences. In the 1990s, when performance art was often considered scandalous, young photographers attempting to keep a record gave rise to what was a movement in its own right in China.
Huang Rui / The No Book
Huang Rui (b. 1952) has been working in the field for twenty years. He sees performance not as a separate or occasional aspect of his artistic trajectory, but as a language as valid as painting, photography and installation. His overtly aesthetic, minimalist pieces are the fruit of an elaborate conceptual project based on transforming gestural and visual form to signs, textual interplay and political and philosophical codes. A distinctive feature of his performances is that they give rise to installations that often live on as aesthetic objects.
Liu Bolin / Camouflage
Liu Bolin (b. 1973) is a relative newcomer to the performance scene. A graduate – in 2001 – of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, Bolin offers performances in which body-play suggests living sculptures. His focus is on the body in its social environment: how does one merge or, on the contrary, emerge from a given sociocultural landscape? He always works in terms of the performance site, taking account of its visual and emotional elements as much as of the social codes detectable there.
Gao Brothers / World Hug Day
Since 2000 the Gao Brothers have been organising collective performances, the first of which – “The Utopia of Hugging For Twenty Minutes” – consisted for its naked or clothed volunteers in taking a stranger in their arms. In the course of these performances the Gao Brothers have taken intriguing photographs which they then decided to exhibit so as to “popularise” this totally unique gambit. Three performances will take place during Opening Week.