Thursday, 7 January 2016

Beauty: Performance Art

Paid my first visit to the National Gallery on New Year's Eve with Shiyin, and I could only contend that I was absolutely INTRIGUED by the myriad of exhibits on display and the grandeur of the architecture. That visit did however raise my interest in performance art, which on your first encounter could be so wildly bizarre, yet strangely enigmatic.

This piece is called The Journey of A Yellow Man No. 11: Multiculturalism, by a local performance artist, Lee Wen. Essentially, Lee had created a persona that is, the Yellow Man by painting himself yellow and dressing in yellow overalls - an emphasis on his identity as a Chinese man in Singapore. I made a mental note to read up more about his art, because at that point my mind was rather boggled, I was trying to draw parallels between the title and the performance itself. It makes so much sense now that I understand a little more about the Yellow Man persona. I'm by no means adequate at all at interpreting art hahaha but just thought I wanted to share my little burst of an epiphany (of sorts!) and rush of appreciation for this form of art, which definitely deserves more valuation and recognition. 

So he assumes a cradled position in the tiny, constrained tub as would a foetus in a mother's womb. And this is supposed to represent the sensation of getting trapped - within the confines of societal stereotypes, expectations. Social bondage. A feeling of restriction, getting constrained, and then you would see that he rises to the surface for deep, mouthfuls of air in intervals of 10 seconds. Finally he washes the yellow paint off his body, to rid himself from the limits of those expectations, and embracing his true identity. A rebirth of a man. 

What actually compelled me to write this was that in the process of figuring the Yellow Man out, I chanced upon a post online featuring this same piece of work. But the comments from the public were really upsetting because people were firing disparaging remarks just so they couldn't appreciate it. That's not very nice is it? I think one of the worst things to you could do to an artist is to downplay his/her efforts. 

Exploring the perspective of the Yellow Man and performance art reminded me of Marina Abramovic, whose works were introduced to me by a friend. As I watched this particular video for a second time, it's more stirring now than ever before. It's quite inspiring how one could dedicate themselves wholly to something to the extent where you are willing to open yourself fully; spiritually, emotionally and physically to an audience. Do, please please give this video a watch. 

Two former lovers reunited in a work of art, the same way that they chose to part. (When they ended their relationship, each walked from one end of the Great Wall of China, 25000km until they met in the middle to bid their final farewell, to close their long journey together) This is when Ulay made a surprise appearance during the opening of Marina Abramovic's piece called, The Artist is Present, years after they ended their relationship. The rawness of every physical emotion that is exchanged across that table is so compelling. 

Hats off really, to performance artists for making the things we don't think twice about, apparent to us all. 

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