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Shifting Sands, Shifting Hands

Curated by Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore And Jana Prepeluh

“Now, as I do this; now, as the light here goes out, for instance.What is the now? Is the now at my disposal? Am I the now? Is every other person the now?Then time would indeed be I myself, And every other person would be time.And in our being with one another we would be time –– everyone and no one.Am I the now? Or only the one who is saying this?”Heidegger

The notion of the now in the discussion of time and duration (that it takes to create a work of art) can be formulated as the work being in the constant state of becoming. This idea, of the Becoming, where the work of art emerges in the Live and lived moment, and not as an object transported in the artist’s studio or on the gallery walls (or on pedestals), handled such that its aura is kept intact. Here-in lies the potential of an intense energy exchange between the viewer and the performer. The idea is delivered and communicated as a sensory effect, a feeling, a mark made, all lending to the aura of the work and the lingering feeling that the spectator is left with. While the reigns of time are pulled by the performer, the audience willingly participates in its completion, suspended in the spectacle of disbelief, seeing it through to its finale. Theatre has already broken the fourth-wall for visual artists working with performance and has entered the arena of multidisciplinarity with the visual arts. Anxious scripts and disjointed texts express the schizophrenia and absurdity of rituals and banalities of contemporary life. For an artist working with performance or live art practices, time and duration become the central material engagement. The title of this program, Shifting Sands, Sifting Hands, relates to the above idea of everything being in a constant state of becoming, in the slippage(s) of time through movement or stillness, of the body in the recognition of death present in every moment as it passes. The second parallel material engagement of performance art is the body. Performance art is of the body and from the body. The body is always dealt with in a performance, even in the absence of the artist, or in the absence of a watching viewer. Performance art is transformative; it evokes, or wants to represent a state of flux, conflict, catharsis, within the arrangements of time and space. It is ephemeral, transient, and at times transcendental. One deals at times with the residue of the performance as a composition; the residual effects that in the end hold the visual gestalt of the work together even after the event. Thirdly, the relationship of performance to æsthetics can be established, as it questions notions of beauty -a key entry into the language of live art. Here we can begin to bring the visual aesthetic of a performance and its residue into the framework of visual art practices, and relate it to the histories of painting and photography or sculpture and installation, and hold on to the viewing models of art ascribed to rarified white cube gallery spaces. While engagement with performance art can be entered from the academy by drawing relationships to tribal ritual, cultural practices and identity debates, performance art is an integral part of visual art. Performance work from the 1960s- 1980s has etched itself into art history. Major museums present retrospectives of the life’s work of pioneers of performance, while discussing how performance can be part of permanent collections.

We want to rethink the critique of the institution and of an object oriented art world that practitioners of performance art have engaged with.

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