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Friday, May 12, 2017

Performance Biennale set for sterling second edition

Antihomenaje Dada
Antihomenaje Dada
Antihomenaje Dada
By Silvia Rottenberg
For The Herald

Human rights will be at forefront of BA event, say organisers who seek to create a ‘platform for reflection’

After the success of the 2015 Performance Biennale, the second edition starts tomorrow, running Saturday, May 13 until Wednesday, June 7.

It will be hard to live up to the expectations after BP15 brought Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson and Sophie Calle to Argentina, to just name a few prominent artists that were here two years ago for the event. Even though BP17 has less canonic names, the curators are confident that the public will be drawn into the different worlds the artists propose to create in the 55 projects all scattered throughout the city.

“It’s not about the names, it’s about how interesting the artists are,” says Performance Biennale’s director, Graciela Casabe. “And trust me, it will be fascinating!”

Still, important artists such as William Kentridge, Santiago Sierra and Coco Fusco are amongst the more than 100 artists participating who will be showing, performing and talking at venues including the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Recoleta Cultural Centre and the Paco Urondo Cultural Centre.

Fusco, a Cuban-US artist, who tackles issues of identity and gender, not shunning the political, is part of the academic programme: an important integrated aspect of BP17.

“(The) production of art goes hand in hand with the knowledge of art and artistic practice. There is not only a dialogue going on between performance and education; its practice flows into teaching and vice versa,” says Susana Tambutti, who is responsible for the academic programme.

“Tackling human rights may be something that is a recurrent theme in this year’s Performance Biennale,” says Maricel Alvarez, who curated the international part of BP17, “even though we didn’t start from a curatorial concept. We made a conscious choice not to do so, but rather select artists we were interested in, to show a plurality of discourses, which coincides what performance is about: heterogeneity, volatility, unclassifiable — and not restricted by a corset, either conceptually or formally.”

Tambutti added that the show “has to do with the deconstruction of representation, which was necessary after Abramovic(’s appearance) in the last edition.”

Performance in itself embodies “deconstruction,” as it crosses and therefore abolishes the borders of different artistic disciplines, such as theatre, dance and visual arts.

“Performance de-purifies the arts,” Tambutti reinforced, saying it “deals with society.”

To confront and reflect

South African artist William Kentridge, with both his installation Notes towards a Model Opera (at the National Museum of Fine Arts) and his performance show Refuse the Hour (at the Coliseo Theatre, tickets need to be bought in advance for this) backs up Tambutti’s notion of the interdisciplinary break from standard art fields merged with a social concern.

In his operatic installation — shown on screens, music, dance, with images and text — Kentridge takes the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a starting-point with its suggestion of there being a “right” and “wrong” in culture. Refuse the hour is a performance by the artist, in which he deals with time, history and colonialism.

Santiago Sierra, meanwhile, will confront us with a reading of all the victims of the war in Syria since 2011. Giving all the people, who either died by bombing or drowning in their escape to Europe, a name will impact on the way one regards this war as something that’s going on “far away.”

The Argentine collective Etcetera also wants to involve the audience and will invite people to sign a petition at PROA to be sent to the pope. They are following up on an earlier correspondence between artist Leon Ferrari and Pope John Paul II (which Ferrari followed up with Pope Francis, up until shortly before the artist passed away) asking to abolish the concept of hell. Apparently the Argentine pope responded him that hell is not to be considered literally. Etcetera wants this to be openly proclaimed — with your help.

The young Danish artist Christian Falsnaes also needs visitors to respond to his imagery, if his performance is to be powerful and

succeed.

“To be honest, I was a little scared of his work,” admits Maricel Alvarez, “He has the capacity to really confront you. Just look at his earlier work, you’ll see what I mean.”

Alvarez is referring to Falsnaes’ already created works — as almost all of the projects presented in the Biennale are new.

BP director, Casabe explains: “There were two things I had clear in my mind: artists need to be able to create something new, and, the Biennale has to be a platform for reflection.” Alvarez, smiling, adds that if you don’t know the end result, it can also be risky. She says sh is actually looking forward to being surprised by the projects that are not definitive yet and where the audience participation shapes the outcome.

“Not knowing makes the works investigative: and that’s how I’d like to see the Performance Biennale, as a place of investigation.”

Art and education

In that perspective, the practice of art and education really seem to be intertwined.

“There is a formal and an informal way of teaching,” explains Tambutti, “and I believe that the division which is dissolving in the arts will dissolve in academia as well that we can look at certain issues such as gender or politics and discuss it for instance in terms of the bodily: deconstructing the academic fields.

“Yes, it was hard to get two universities involved in this project, especially in these times of crisis, but I am very proud that both the UNA (National University of Arts) and the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) welcome this different way of looking, not only at arts, society, but also at education itself.”

The academic line-up is equally as promising as the artistic, with experienced artists and investigators, featuring such luminaries as Marcela A. Fuentes, a professor of Performative Studies at Northwestern University who explores how artists and activists create disruptive events in the Americas. Also present will be Joseph Danan, who teaches at the Sorbonne University in Paris; he will discuss the role of text in contemporary theatre and performance. The deans from the participating Buenos Aires universities will also participate and discuss the boundaries of their institutions — this discussion could possibly be seen as a performance in itself.

Performance as a disruptive art form was supposedly born in the 1960s.Visual artists wanted to break with the confinements of the museum-space. Disruptive behaviour was emblematic of that era. But it wasn’t new. Groups of artists already found each other in breaking with their cultural forefathers in the European Avant Garde.

Anti-homage Dada (101st year of Cabaret Voltaire) is part of the BP17 programme too and invites young artists (up to 32) to take up the notion of Dada. Inherent to Dada is that it’s going against logic, against the establishment and, yes, against disciplines. Writers, poets and visual artists joined Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 to discuss the situation Europe was in, in the midst of World War I. The context today is different, of course, but still a sense of urgency exists.

The Performance Biennale, joining together over 100 artists, proves this. Graciela Casabe sensed it in the air in 2015: “I just felt it. And saw it happening: artists loosening up on boundaries and going beyond it. I wanted to bring them together, and initiated the Performance Biennale.” The second edition is now on its way — and as with the first — it promises to tackle society at large, providing an open-minded audience with new and fresh takes on it.

When and where

For more information or to reserve tickets, visit http://bienalbp.org/bp17/

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