My Highlights from Moving Image New York 2014
I’d like to highlight the work of two artists, Nikhil Chopra (in collaboration with Munir Kabani) and Jhafis Quintero. Although Chopra and Quintero take very different subject matter as their points of departure, there are nevertheless significant commonalities in their use of the body as the primary site of investigation and of performance as a means of transgressing the boundaries between autobiography and broader topics of historical and social relevance. While both artists work in a variety of media ranging from drawing to performance and video, they share an affinity with the direct experience of the performing body as a means of exploring issues of time, duration and endurance.
In Man Eats Rock (a collaboration with Munir Kabani), Chopra explores the themes of representation, portraiture and notions of civility versus barbarity. Unlike many of Chopra's solo performances which can last for several days, are largely improvised, and may spill out of the gallery into the public space, Man Eats Rock comprises several sets of performers and is staged specifically for the camera. Engaging issues of colonialism, identity, exoticism and transformation, Man Eats Rock reflects not so much on the individual body but rather on various social strata and their rituals as a veiled platform to discuss ongoing topics in post-colonial discourse and questions of representation. If Chopra’s performances often entail a temporal duration that tests the limits of both the artist and the audience, Man Eats Rock is set in a kind of never-never land where time seems suspended only to confound the historical divisions separating the dawn of civilization and the contemporary moment.
The video works of Jhafis Quintero muse on the tensions between the individual, notions of isolation, and the need for social interaction and communication. Captured on video, Quintero’s works are largely performative and often based on his personal experience of incarceration. His works engage the viewer on an almost visceral level as we confront our own fears of death or harm via his extenuated, if sometimes minimal, movements through space and time. Repetitive movements of the body convey a sense of endlessness, a mounting feeling of desolation or despair, which gives way to a transcendent acceptance of the human condition. In Sweet Powder, the artist stands in an unidentifiable cement chamber listening to a voice which seems to come from far away, and whose words we cannot discern. In an apparent attempt to transcribe the meaning or to offer a symbolic response, the lone figure draws signs in dust upon a sheet of glass, poignantly underscoring the desire for human communication and the universal experience of isolation when faced with one's own prisons. Posing the question of one’s mental and physical limits and how we can exist when time becomes a vacuum, Quintero asks what one needs to survive and how one's own body can be used as a tool for survival.