#Kipaf17@PerformanceArt: Celebrating the political act of performing

Posted by Kaahon Desk On April 11, 2017

As a term, ‘Performance Art’ is considered as a niche branch of fine arts and a site of collision for various interdisciplinary media and forms. One of the fallacies of attempting to define performance art is the fact that it always seeks to break out of any restrictive parameters imposed in a definition. It is the generally inclusive nature of Performance Art, which marks it in the domain of fine arts. It deals with body, space, medium and time. The actual performance can be very structured or completely spontaneous, it can take place indoors with a given audience or in an outdoor public place with a continuously shifting audience or in its complete absence. It can be interactive in nature, which demands audience participation, or completely devoid of it. It can be posited by an individual or a group where the idea of duration can similarly be absolutely bound or totally fluid and so on and so forth.

Tracing back the origin of Performance Art, it is largely considered as a Western Cultural (or rather Counter-Cultural) phenomenon of 20th century. Although the term emerged much later, the roots of Performance Art in terms of philosophy, theory, aesthetics, politics and practice can be found in Dadaism, Russian Constructivism and Futurism. According to the information cited in Wikipedia, “…Dada provided a significant progenitor with the unconventional performances of poetry, often at the Cabaret Voltaire, by the likes of Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara. Russian Futurist artists could be identified as precursors of Performance, such as David Burliuk, who painted his face for his actions (1910–20) and Alexander Rodchenko and his wife Varvara Stepanova…”

However it was in the years following the Second World War in the decades of 1950s and ’60s that Performance Art grew in its influence and impact with fresh ideas and concepts along with artistes from various other media and disciplines taking this up as their form of preference. Some of the most recognized works of performance art was witnessed around this time in both Europe as well as USA, majorly as a leftist-socialist reaction to high capitalism. Some of the classic examples would be Yayoi Kusama, with acts such as a naked flag-burning on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1968, Yoko Ono and her Wall piece for orchestra in 1962, etc.

KIPAF or the Kolkata International Performance Art Festival can be traced back to the efforts of artistes essentially from Kolkata and Shantiniketan among other parts of India from diverse backgrounds including Painting, Sculpture, Theatre, Cinema, Dance and Music. Focussing on Kolkata as the base of their work, the collective known as Performers Independent or PI played a significant role in practicing and propagating and even nurturing the germinating strands of Performance Art in the city and even in the sub-continent to an extent. Syed Taufik Riaz talks about the early days and their association with Badal Sarkar’s Third Theatre aesthetics and how certain creative and political differences led them into the domain of what they’d later identify as Performance Art. He also stresses upon the significance of working as a collective within a capitalist system. This sentiment is echoed especially by Rahul and Anirban who also raise their voices against the institutional art practices, mainly galleries. Talking about the idea of Performance in open space, Mome further highlights the fact that performance art is something that is not just KIPAF centric but is practiced across the city round the year.

Syed Taufik Riaz introduces, describes, frames Performance Art intensively

Sumona, Mome, Anirban and Rahul shed their respective lights on Performance Art practices and KIPAF

KIPAF was initiated in 2013. The idea was to raise a platform to facilitate a dialogue among space, art, and politics in the greater cultural context. KIPAF ‘13,’14,‘15 & 16 was attended by artistes from Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, Japan, Israel, Belgium, Italy, UK, Indonesia, Australia, France, Switzerland, USA & various parts of India. Certain differences in opinions resulted in a split within the collective which now function as two separate groups, independent of each other under the same moniker. KIPAF 2017 also witnessed a wide assortment of performances from a diverse group of artistes exploring their own bodies, both familiar and alien spaces and also the boundaries of their own media. As Amitabha Adhikari puts it, it is an exciting moment in terms of the very language of performance art!

Performance Artistes share views on their practices and its bloom through KIPAF

The performances this year have been largely conceived to be addressing contemporary and relevant political issues such as gender identity, violence and environmental concerns. The collective performance by Piya Brar, Kalyani Uday and Rituparna brings forth the sexism and resultant stereotyping and gender violence perpetrated by a patriarchal system which has a thematic resonance in Kalyani’s solo performance too, where her body itself becomes the site of conflicts and violence.

 kipaf17 | Kalyani, Piya Brar, Rituparna

 kipaf17 | Kalyani Uday

Taufiq Riaz’s performance where he drapes himself in a saree and parades himself on the road amid crowd and traffic brings forth the issues of gender identity among other nuances.

 kipaf17 | Syed Taufik Riaz | Near Jadavpur University

The idea of diversity in terms of form, language, space and idea can be found in the performances such as Sunder Lama’s meditation on death in the cemetery marked by its sombre, silent quality or in complete contrast one can look at Amol Akash’s position on environment issues as his bare body painted in green by the surrounding crowd, stands like a monument for the Sunderbans. The collective indoor performance laced with Aopala’s recitation and Manjot Kaur’s flower market performance (accompanied by the sound of a flute) are instances of spatial diversities witnessed in this year’s festival.

 kipaf17 | Sunder Lama | Bhawanipore Cemetery

 kipaf17 | Amol Akash | Near Shahid Minar, Esplanade

 kipaf17 | Aopala | Tent

 kipaf17 | Manjot Kaur | Jagannath Ghat Flower Market

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