"perform(art)ive" by 12G

Twelve Gates Arts is proud to present perform(art)ive, a new performance art festival in the city of Philadelphia. Slated for October 25th, 2015, the festival will feature a dynamic ensemble of artists whose work will illuminate the South Asian-diasporic experience as well as the medium of performance art itself. The physical presence of the artists in the space and the effect that has on the viewer makes for an unforgettable and inspiring experience. 

Twelve Gates Arts is proud to present perform(art)ive, a new performance art festival in the city of Philadelphia. Slated for October 25th, 2015, the festival will feature a dynamic ensemble of artists whose work will illuminate the South Asiandiasporic experience as well as the medium of performance art itself. The physical presence of the artists in the space and the effect that has on the viewer makes for an unforgettable and inspiring experience.

Works of art on film have often served as backdrops to or as overlays on live bodies performing. New movements within performance art have been created throughout the 20th and 21st centuries whenever artists have created art traversing various mediums of art, addressing and exploring critical and emerging junctures in the contested history of the human condition (e.g., Shirin Neshat’s "Logic of the Birds" was performed in October 2001, one month after the tragic September 11 attacks, an event that created a new chapter in performance art history; Neshat's live performance consisted of film projection, live performance, and poetry recitations depicting Fariduddin Attar's 12th century epic poem "The Conference of the Birds" in contemporary contexts).

We are very excited to announce the following artists whose works will be featured in Twelve Gates’ inaugural performance festival (in addition to several Philadelphiabased artists who will be joining us):

• Pakistani-born artist of international acclaim, Shahzia Sikander, whose pioneering process-based work uses diverse experimental media to examine the forces at stake in contested cultural and political histories.

• Bangladeshi-American artist, Monica Jahan Bose, whose work addresses diverse topics ranging from gender and sexuality to climate change.

• Indian artist, lawyer and academic, Sumit Baudh, whose work aims to explore thought, language, body and performance and concepts related to identity (e.g., Dalit, queer, gender).

• Manchester, England-based visual artist and writer, Qasim Riza Shaheen, who works across performance, installation, film, photography, often with the audience as participants, and whose work explores various ways of sharing memories and enters the fragile architecture of the space between people.

Although their works range widely in terms of themes and modes of presentation, an emerging theme in the works these artists propose to present at perform(art)ive is one of transgression and control – how bodies, whether human or geographic, and emotions, identities, places (including, nature itself), and the representations thereof are controlled and transgressed upon, as well as the tensions inherent in such representations (including the artist’s own act of artistic representation).

 Shahzia Sikander’s process is motivated by her interest to provoke a more inclusive dialogue surrounding the history of cultural and political boundaries; one that regards human experience as instrumental information to the narrative. The dislocation of objects and forms enables the transformation of meaning and is the crux of her practice, which extends beyond the limited format of Indo-Persian miniature painting to include mural, installation, animation, video and performance. Shahzia Sikander’s "Parallax" (2013-15) and "Gold Oasis" (2015) are de- and reconstructions of her own paintings in the animated forms of symbols and codes embedded therein. The video works explore the shifting terrains of meaning, narrative, and history. As such, “Parallax”, performed with the animation’s composer, Du Yun and the three contributing poets involves multiple sonic levels performed live via poetry recitation, singing, and music, creating a disruption to the division between performers and audience, insiders and outsiders, all of which converge to find separate but equal meanings in the symbolisms that emerge.

"Gold Oasis" is an exercise in contemporaneity illustrated by the swirling, circling and clustering of the deconstructed Gopi hair silhouettes, a form culled from the heads of the female consorts of the Hindu god Krishna. By isolating the hair from its associated female figure, Sikander emphasizes its ability to cultivate new associations. The artist examines historical miniature paintings to locate forms that may contain potential to exist in new ways. By multiplying the Gopi hair silhouette into millions and setting each hair form onto its own movement path, she not only suspends the associated narrative but also activates multiple meanings simultaneously. Both the animation and its musical accompaniment, “Africa Must Wake Up” by Nas (Nasir Jones) and Damian Marley, invite viewers to reimagine historical content and entrenched symbols, and challenge and re-examine our histories.

Qasim Riza Shaheen will be presenting a new version of his critically acclaimed performance piece “Misplaced Memoirs” at perform(art)ive. The memoirs are random musings of a person approaching 40 and looking for love, and like Shaheen’s other work, is autobiographical. Switching roles between characters, Shaheen plays with normative expected behaviors for men and women, highlighting while at the same time subverting both traditionally feminine and masculine characteristics. At once he is a “queer performance artist” resisting his “heteronormative tendencies” of falling in love with a “warrior princess” eventually beginning “to grow a moustache with handlebars to impress her”, a Portuguese basketball player character named Xavier Leroy Frasier with “thick skin and hard abs” and “I, Qasim Riza Shaheen” hoping for acceptance from his “female counterparts” and “intrinsically queer figure.” “Masculine” men and “feminine” women help create the fluidity of gender and gender-related expectations in Shaheen’s Memoirs. Originally started as an online diary, the written word of Misplaced Memoirs eventually and inevitably recreates itself as performance that dynamically changes with the venue and the passage of time. The Manchester 2012 version involved a complex performance that played on of the notion of the “gaze” at multiple levels, that of the audience in a one-on-one burlesqueish act, that of the performer staring back at the audience, and the voyeuristic gaze of the indirect participants watching video documentation of the performance. The cross-cultural performativity of the text lends itself to finding common grounds in a universalist queer identity. Lines of control are challenged in Shaheen’s work which constantly deconstructs gender hierarchies, highlights racially-tinted male gaze, and power dynamics between the seductive performer and the willing viewer. Expect a new exciting version of Misplaced Memoirs at perform(art)ive!

Sumit Baudh has been described as “a contrary human of courageous proportions”. He draws upon his work as a lawyer, his play as a runner and his inner life as a chanter in order to express his personal thoughts through contemporary art. Baudh’s photo performance in collaboration with Jose Abad, Yo no soy el /I am not him “aims to explore thought, language, body and performance, and concepts related to identity. It searches a self – through denial. Denial here (I am not /yo no) is a tool for unwrapping, undressing and looking at oneself. Yo no soy el /I am not him was developed into performance in 2012” and will be presented at perform(art)ive. According to Baudh himself “The body is a remarkably adaptible external form [and my works of performance art] change form with the change of bodies and persons.” Like Shaheen, Baudh’s performances blend “performer, performance and viewers into a single frame (the mirror), blurring the line between self and others”.

 Monica Jahan Bose’s paintings, works on paper, performances and installations are symbolic narratives. A Bangladeshi and an American, an artist, lawyer, mother, and activist on women's issues and the environment, Bose defies easy categorization as an artist as she moves strategically across media to address complex issues and engage diverse audiences. Through the lens of her multi-faceted identity, Bose’s work addresses gender, women's literacy and sexuality, and climate change. The sari blouse and sari—traditional women’s clothing across parts of South Asia, and in particular, Bangladesh—are recurring symbols in Bose’s work, standing-in for herself, the female body, and women's place in the world. Other recurring symbols are “water,” which speaks to climate change and its destruction of lives and heritage, an urgent global issue that is keenly felt and violently experienced by the inhabitants of the low-lying flood plains of Bangladesh. Bose’s artistic oeuvre embodies the notion of how the personal can not only be political but can transcend to the mythical, and thus act as a powerfully transformative vehicle for lasting social change.

“perform(art)ive” by 12G will be presented as a project within the larger program of the 10th edition of Asia Contemporary Art Week (ACAW). ACAW is a dynamic citywide platform that connects leading New York and Asia-based museums and galleries to present cutting-edge exhibitions, innovative projects, and provocative dialogues. In addition to “perform(art)ive to be held on October 25, 2015, join us for numerous exhibitions, receptions, performances, screenings, and other evening festivities: October 28 – November 8, 2015, alongside two ACAW signature programs: Lee Mingwei’s Sonic Blossom performance-exhibition presented at Metropolitan Museum of Art, (Oct 30-Nov 8) and FIELD MEETING Take 3: Thinking Performance- A major two-day art forum conceived as a studio visit on a communal scale! With over 30 outstanding artists, curators, and institutional leaders exploring Performance in its numerous forms dimensions and readings as a medium, and as an intrinsic part of the artistic process. (Sat Oct 31 & Sun Nov 1, 2015)

We would also like to acknowledge our community partners in helping make this festival a reality: the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University, the South Asia Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Asia Contemporary Art Week 2015, Leeway Foundation, BlackStar Film Festival and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

We are very excited to announce the following artists whose works will be featured in Twelve Gates' inaugural performance festival (in addition to several Philadelphia-based artists who will be joining us): 

Pakistani-born artist of international acclaim, Shahzia Sikander, whose pioneering process-based work uses diverse experimental media to examine the forces at stake in contested cultural and political histories.
Bangladeshi-American artist, Monica Jahan Bose, whose work addresses diverse topics ranging from gender and sexuality to climate change.
Indian artist, lawyer and academic, Sumit Baudh, whose work aims to explore thought, language, body and performance and concepts related to identity (e.g., Dalit, queer, gender).
Manchester, England-based visual artist and writer, Qasim Riza Shaheen, who works across performance, installation, film, photography, often with the audience as participants, and whose work explores various ways of sharing memories and enters the fragile architecture of the space between people.

Although their works range widely in terms of themes and modes of presentation, an emerging theme in the works these artists propose to present at perform(art)ive is one of transgression and control - how bodies, whether human or geographic, and emotions, identities, places (including, nature itself), and the representations thereof are controlled and transgressed upon, as well as the tensions inherent in such representations (including the artist's own act of artistic representation).