Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mastering Ritual/ Ceremony/ Performance

This post has been long overdue. I apologize, but I felt I had to take time to think about some of the things that were happening in art locally. For the first time in a long time you could hear people talking about an art event. The event was the opening of the new space at Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) as marked by the show Mastering Slavery. The show occurs in parts with one segment at The National Gallery and another at The Museums Division at IOJ and their newly renovated temporary exhibition space at the bottom of East Street. The opening event began with a lecture at IOJ and then guests were led around to the new spaces to see the work of local artists who had made a work to loosely commemorate the abolition of the Slave Trade. The whole event has been heard in whispers and is mostly remembered for the performance of a work by Christoper Irons. Irons an artist generally known for his shock factor did a performance and installation which has been called everything from animal sacrifice to kumina ceremony to performance art.





Irons was dressed as what I felt was a kind of shaman or mystic man in the manner reminiscent of Kapo or Joseph Beuys. Irons set up the space using drawings on the wall of the rustic ex-furniture factory, chicken pan grills, chicken carcasses, welded iron and programmes from his grandmothers funeral among other bits. The morning of the exhibition something like 13 chickens Irons raises himself, were led into the space and presented with a bakery style cake. The cake was of some age as I remember it from his work in the JCDC Festival. The chickens seemed to sense something in their present future as they all herded together and sat nestled and still until the performance. I left after that but I have heard many interpretations and explanations of the performance. If you were there and wish to describe your experience please post a comment.

The piece follows on another performance with the sacrifice of chickens done in Trinidad. To see a video of this performance on YouTube please visit this link:http://youtube.com/watch?v=u-zO9w91myc

I have to ask these questions however, if performance art happens abroad, should it happen here. Is it hypocrisy or censorship to allow some kinds of performance and not others? Does the killing of animals go over in Jamaica as art? Is there difficulty in absorbing a work that speaks about ritual without being reverent?
On the other hand I want to mention Khepera Oluyia Hatsheptwa’s work now on show at Mutual Gallery, which interestingly reminded me a lot of Christopher Irons’ work. The work is an installation in the middle of the gallery called ‘AmenRa’ and though evoking the human presence and culture of ritual and ceremony from our heritage uses objects. What do you think of the two works compared side by side as addressing ritual and ceremony?



Over at the National Gallery shortly after was one of the best openings I have been to in a while. The performances from Amina Blackwood-Meeks, Jesse Ripole Dancers and the Rasta Nation were really engaging.


The show had a large enough crowd and showed diversity of work from Renee Cox’s re-interpreted Last Supper to Marvin Bartley’s digital imagery to Charles Campbell’s really poetic paintings and Christopher Clare’s images. It is a very pleasing show which is almost overwhelming in its offerings and hope that you take the opportunity to experience it.

Keith Morrison, curator of the upcoming Curator’s Eye III at the National Gallery, today announced his exhibition theme. Coincidentally or not so much, it is ‘Ceremony, Ritual, Celebration ’. He invites all interested arts practitioners to think about and submit proposals for work to him in January when he next visits the island. Collaboration and cross-disciplinary work is encouraged. The idea is that the show has performance, multimedia, sculpture, paintings etc. that is ongoing and occurring at different times in during the exhibition. It is a very exciting time for art and artists so remember no to miss out.

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3 comments :

  1. It is hard for me personally to understand the value of using an animals a live one thta is for that purpose. Quite recently A Costo Rican Artist used a dog that he had children help him catch from off the street for an exhibit. It has been said that he should be representing his country in the upcoming Venice Biennal. http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/515412

    But at the end of all I can uinderstand the value of a statement. But it has to go past the surface. I believe these works seem to be just about the shock of it all . And the art world is riding high on that Hirst is the King of conteporary shock, even when he decided to do mundade traditional painting about 2 or so years ago that was a shock !
    While I am all for excitment, when I get off the high I would like to be left with somethingelse. If the animal is truly significant to the project then I can apreciate that ......

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  2. The Substation in Singapore has posted its stance on using animals in art following the slaughter of an animal for a video by Simon Birch, a Singapore-based artist. This type of stance or policy may or may not be useful for our own local institutions and curators. The link to the article is http://www.substation.org/mag/features/a-statement-about-the-use-of-animals-in-art.html

    An excerpt from the article by Audrey Wong follows:
    The issue of using animals in art was in the news, once again — specifically, the actual slaughter of a pig depicted in a video installation recently seen in Singapore (the work was by vegetarian artist Simon Birch, was exhibited at NAFA, and held in conjunction with the 2007 Singapore Arts Festival).1
    Despite the artist’s claims that the video was intended to make a point about cruelty in the world today and about the way that humans treat animals — including the slaughter of animals for food — many other artists question the ethics of actually killing an animal for the video. Some artists have said, “there are more creative ways of making the same point”, and rightly so.

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