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Posts Tagged ‘Asian performance art’

Unapologetically political Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein discusses her country and her art: Asia Art Archive interview

Posted by artradar on June 29, 2010


MYANMAR ART BURMESE ART ASIA ART ARCHIVE ARTIST INTERVIEW

After growing up under Myanmar‘s military junta, Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein‘s works is unapologetically political. In a recent interview with Asia Art Archive the artist speaks about the connection between her art and the politics in Myanmar as well as her hopes for the future of Burmese art.

Although she received several art awards as a child, Thein did not pursue art as a career until after graduating university with a law degree in 1994.  Thein became interested in performace art in the late 1990’s and began to create her own works with encouragement from more experienced performance artists.

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition.

In 2004, Thein took part in the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) which she credits as opening the door for her involvement in the performance art community. During the interview with Asia Art Archive she does not hesitate to humbly thank her mentors for such opportunities.

“I did my very first street performance in Tokyo – and I still thank Seiji Shimoda and Aye Ko for giving me this great opportunity… Seiji Shimoda and NIPAF have played an important role in engaging Asian and international artists, to work together and create more networks. This was how I got the chance to network and make contacts with many Asian and western artists”

From this point, her career as a performance artist took off. She participated in several other major art festivals such as Open in Beijing in 2007. In addition to performance, Thein maintained an interest in several other mediums ranging from painting to installation.

Regardless of the medium she chooses, the political nature of her work remains a constant. At times, Thein even feels limited by her drive to reflect on the current climate in her homeland.

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event, May 15, 2010

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event in May 2010.

“Whenever I try to create something, it just appears in my mind as relating to my country’s current situation – my friends who are still in prison, and the people in Burma… I cannot get away from this issue, even today. I don’t know how to change the subject to create something else. That is my own problem, and the conflict within me”

The politcally minded Thein also elaborates on her struggles with automatic self-censorship even when working outside of Myanmar. For those artists who grew up in Myanmar and now have the chance to work abroad, concern for friends and family back home affects the kind of art they create. Fear of retaliation against loved ones living in Myanmar leads Thein to think carefully about what kind of art she she displays in public in any location.

Chaw Ei Thein, MEs, Performance, 2003

Chaw Ei Thein in a 2003 performance piece.

” I am a Burmese artist living under a military junta, I am used to being limited with what I can and cannot create inside Burma… There is a problem now whenever I want to create something: I have controlled myself already, automatically. …These “fears” and “worries” control me even when I am creating art outside of Burma.”

Being faced with the task of connecting the creative and political aspects of her art, Thein has developed ways to show subtle but powerful connections between the two. Though the artist worries that some of these connections may be lost on Western audiences, the conditions in Mayanmar are on her mind daily and show up in her art just as often.

“How can I help do something for the people who cannot speak out about what is happening in my country? I cannot escape these thoughts – that is why all of my paintings and performances are mostly about this.”

It is clear that the artist also has a passion for art education, a field that she feels is underdeveloped in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. In addition to preparing for upcoming shows, including a collaborative show with Htein Lin in November, Thein’s current activities include readying her second children’s’ book on art.

When asked by Asia Art Archive what she would improve in Myanmar’s art scene Thein’s answers reflect her desire to bring art to the people.

“Most people think about having art activities in cities like Rangoon (Yangon). I am more interested in doing it in other regions and places. It could be anywhere…”

Chaw Ei Thein, HeShe I, Acrylic on Paper, 2007

Chaw Ei Thein, 'HeShe I', acrylic on paper, 2007.

Even with all of this, Thein doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is constantly moving from city to city, still unsure of where to settle down and seemingly not too anxious to make this decision. For her, art is not about formality or rules, it is simply about making the art that she wants to create.  Whether people applaud her or not, she continues to create powerful and moving pieces on her own terms.

Read the full article on Asia Art Archive

EH/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artistsperformance art, political artactivist art

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Posted in Collage, Human Body, Installation, Myanmar/Burmese, Oil, Painting, Performance, Political, Prison, Public art, Sculpture, Social, Southeast Asian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Japanese artist Tatsumi Orimoto’s performance Finger Dolls in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on January 23, 2009


tatsumiorimoto_breadmansonalzheimarmama_sm

Tatsumi Orimoto Breadman son + Alzheimer Mama 1996

JAPANESE PERFORMANCE ART REVIEW

Inside a cramped art space off a small side road at the wrong end of  Hong Kong’s gallery street Hollywood Road, the great performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto bows, his chin-length grizzled hair falling forward. “That’s it” he laughs as he straightens up. “It is four o’clock….my medicine time”. On cue a gallery assistant brings the artist a beer and a stool to sit on as the handful of viewers applaud, laugh and jostle closer to claim his offer of an autograph on a free ‘Breadman’ poster.

Tatsumi Orimoto, also known as  ‘Breadman’ for his world-famous performances in which he wears French baguettes twined to his face, has just completed his half hour performance piece ‘Finger Dolls’ and a lecture. The latter turns out to be a recount of his life’s work salted with comical asides and has been described by Para/Site Art Space’s new curator, Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as a ‘performance in itelf’. Spaniard Alvaro brings Orimoto to Hong Kong as part of an overall plan for his new role described to Time Out writer Claire Morin. “I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”  Arimoto’s quirky performance and engaging lecture are two sure steps towards that vision.

Tatsumi Orimoto Finger Dolls Hong Kong 2008

Tatsumi Orimoto Finger Dolls Hong Kong 2008

Short in stature and dressed in a strange semi-formal ensemble of green tie and waistcoat, Orimoto begins the Finger Dolls piece by wheeling an old bag across the floor and then slowly and deliberately opening and removing from it crumpled plastic carrier bags bearing the names of Japanese stores. These in turn are opened and small grubby dolls – mostly babies – are taken out and either hung around his neck or laid carefully in a semi-circle around him on the floor. The deliberate repetition of movements is puzzling: why this heaviness?  But then we notice one of the dolls has been given a cane and marked with pen-made facial wrinkles, a clue to the meaning behind this work. As Orimoto explains later in his lecture, “They are all Mama” .

Sixty- two year old Orimoto feels a special duty to care for his mother because of the part she has played in his long hard road to art success. Although he  is now a leading name in the global performance art scene, having performed with legendary video artist Nam June Paik and received spectacular reviews at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, this was not always the case.

The Bread Man was born in Kawasaki outside Tokyo to a working class, poor family and began drawing when he was ten. While his mother encouraged him, buying supplies and the latest art magazines for him, his father  a heavy drinker disapproved. As a teenager he began painting with oils which made his father fly into ‘ugly’ rages because he did not like the smell. Dealing with these experiences caused Orimoto to develop a resilience which enabled him to carry on in the face of prolonged rejection by the art establishment later in his life. “Even after I was asked to perform for the Queen of Spain, the Japanese establishment still didn’t want me” Orimoto grins to his Hong Kong audience, ” I don’t care. I call myself International Orimoto”.

But everyone needs a supporter according to Orimoto. “For me my Mama is like Van Gogh’s brother Theodore”.  When he applied to the most-respected art university in Japan, the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music  he was rejected year after year. His father pressed him to get a job but his mother supported his move to New York in the 1960s where he discovered performance art – “there was no performance art in Japan, ah I am so lucky, I saw the early peformance art in New York, I saw people like Joseph Beuys. Soho was exciting, artists came from around the world”.

Helping him financially she worked until she was 75 years old and supported him again when he set out to travel around dozens of countries where he held impromptu performances in unexpected places.  “Art is not only white space gallery, it is also public places, railways stations and restaurants. It is a very important thing”.

Later in his Finger Dolls piece he carefully produces from yet another old bag  a used box and from this, ponderously, in the manner of the elderly he brings forth bizarre mini-heads sculpted from papier mache and odds and ends. Each is individually crafted with its own quirky features (lurid pink eyes , green bobble hair) and treated with tenderness and the special focus only a ‘Mama’ can give.  Cautiously, protectively each puppet is laid on the ground before being donned on Orimoto’s stubby fingers and displayed to the audience during a purposeful unhurried walk around the room. As the piece develops we are increasingly aware of allusions to maternal and filial love and finally we are left in no doubt when Orimoto, rhymically slowly expels the word ‘Mama’ in a series of gravelly gasps.

Today his mother is a source of inspiration for his art and occasionally a participant in his performances. When his mother developed Alzheimer’s disease Orimoto knew that, as a man without wife and children, he had a duty to return home and care for his mother but this was not an easy step: he felt ambivalent and he worried that he would have to give up his art. But with characteristic creativity and perseverance he has turned this setback to advantage and she has evolved into his muse.

Is the work Finger Dolls about the love of a mother for her child or the filial duty of love and care owed to a mother? Is Orimoto playing the part of a mother or a son? At times the roles seem interchangeable. He is a mother who carries his creations wrapped about his neck and he plays a son who calls for his mother but in an ancient crackly voice.  In turn-and-turn-about fashion, he is now the older and now the younger, the mother and the son all in one. What does his art mean? What is it telling us? Perhaps it does not matter why or what his art is saying. As Monty diPietro says in his review of Orimoto’s first ever museum show in Japan at Hara Museum in 2000 when he was finally given deserved recognition, what matters is the effect Orimoto has on the people who watch him perform.  With a satisfying blend of drama and substance Orimoto’s puzzling, eerie performance work thoroughly engages his Hon g Kong audience –  and thankfully the art establishment now too .

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Related categories: performance art, Japanese artists, reports from Hong Kong, reports from Japan

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