Traps

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Huisi He, Traps (2016). Performance, Panoply Performance Laboratory, New York.
Photo: Courtesy of Huisi He

By Huisi He

“I showed up in New York City. I will be famous and rich. All my dreams will come true. The whole world will see my performance. I will buy a house with garden, and my dog will play in it. I will have a gallery. This is the line from my performance Traps (2016) at Panoply Performance Laboratory in Brooklyn, New York. I was prepared for New York City the moment I got my Master of Fine Arts in studio art. I believed the city would promise me the brightest future with money and fame. A few months later however, I got a significant amount of credit card debt.

I did the performance Traps in February 2016, seven months after I moved to New York City. It took me a whole night to figure out the line, six sentences, for the performance. I felt the city already took away my power of having dreams, so I had to make something up in a self-mockery way. “The performance would embarrass me. And it already did.” I told myself at the night.

I closed my eyes and stood backward to the audience, waiting for them to set up mousetraps. Meanwhile, another group of audience was planning on how to read the line out of loud. There were six dreams in the line, and each sentence was paired with a certain dance movement, which they didn’t know yet. But they would figure it out after a short time of observation.

This performance was a compressed version of my life in New York City in a sense of satire: I was the performer, but I had no control of my performance. I felt insecure, vulnerable and fragile while waiting for my show to begin. When an audience read: “ I showed up in New York City.” I immediately got my pretentious smile and responded with the movement coordinated to it. “I will be famous and rich.” “I will have a gallery.” … I was mechanically following the line and repeating my six movements, moving forward, backward, left and right, lying down and circling. I was in great fear of stepping on mousetraps, but I enjoyed a tiny break in the interval between each step.

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Huisi He, Fading Away, (2012). Smalls Gallery, Florida.
Photo: Courtesy of Huisi He

My dreams and confidence put me at risk. And the endless feeling of insecurity made me think why I left China and came to the United States? After careful consideration, I only got one reason that I tried to be far away from my family, especially from my grandfather. I wanted to pursue a life that I did not have to view myself through others’ glass lenses. It was four years ago that I did my first performance Fading Away. The performance took place at Smalls Gallery in Tallahassee, Florida, my professor Cynthia Hollis’s backyard.

I hung nine pillowcases with portraits of my grandfather on a cloth line between two bamboo trees. I adopted Chinese ink to paint a portrait of my grandfather on each pillowcase, varying from unrecognizable abstract to recognizable representative images. During the performance, I was washing each pillowcase in a small iron bathtub. While the water turned darker each time, the portraits of my grandfather remained. I drew a conclusion from this performance that there was no way to change or escape from my past.

“Snap, snap, snap…” Mousetraps were exploding around me, crushing my beautiful images of future and dragging me back to the reality of restlessness and panic. I found no way out, and the future was like a pile of puzzles in a maze without entrances and exits. “The whole world will see my performance. All my dreams will come true…” The audience began to sing my dreams loud in a fast pace, leaving me no time to respond, so I just stood still and panicked inside.

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Huisi He, Living in My Mother’s Expectation (2013). Working Method Contemporary, Florida.
Photo: Courtesy of Huisi He

Life keeps moving on, no matter you digested your past or not. When I was in China, I constantly had been told what to do and how to feel, respond and act. In 2013, I did a performance Living in My Mother’s Expectation at Working Method Contemporary, Tallahassee, Florida. I stood spiritlessly in a one-foot high two-feet wide square white pedestal. And the only light source was a dim light bulb several inches above my head, rendering a depressing atmosphere. I began to bend and twist my body when the background sound was playing. It was a voice of a middle-aged Chinese woman, who was gradually raising the tone of her voice because she got angrier each time when she was comparing me to her peers’ daughters. Simultaneously, my body was responding to her voice, and it was getting more and more twisted. I was struggling with balance on the limited surface of the pedestal. Eventually, I realized the restraint of the small stage, but I was psychologically powerless to escape from it.

I had been feeling I was incapable of controlling my life until my cultural rebellions made me leave China to the United States in 2007. I always believe that art chose me when I tried to find freedom of expression. In the past years of my art practice, making art has been a healing process for me to let go the negativity of my experience in China. The only way to achieve the result was to face my past honestly and express what I felt at the time.  Therefore, my works reveal what I have been through in my life. From my living experience in China to the experience of survival as an artist in New York City, my artworks represent my life moments.

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Huisi He, Invisible Line (2015). PS 69 Jackson Heights, New York.
Photo: Courtesy of Huisi He

Now I am a New York-based performance artist, and the new scenario comes with other struggles in life. In November 2015, Invisible Line, a performance for the opening night of ITINERANT Performance Art Festival in New York, illustrated the frustrations I encountered after I spent four months here. There was also a line in the performance: “I am standing on my paintings; I am standing on the effort I made in the past; I am standing on my dreams. However, I feel insecure, unstable and fragile. What will happen next? Will my dreams collapse? Will all my effort be in vain? I don’t know. But I won’t stop trying; I won’t stop pushing my boundary; I won’t stop challenging my limits.”

I was standing on an unstable pedestal, a pile of my oil paintings. Based on where I stood, I tried to reach as far as possible by drawing charcoal lines. I put my feet on the pedestal and hands on the floor by using my core strength to coordinate. In this performance, the circles of charcoal drawing were mostly invisible, only fragments of the charcoal mark metaphorizing most of my effort were invisible to people.

“I will be famous and rich…” Their sharp voice broke the stillness of my body and intruded into my blank mind. My body voluntarily responded to their voice, and it drew my mind back to the performance scene. “It was endless.” I thought: “The beautiful words of my dreams, wrapped up self-doubt and hatred, were just lies.” But it ended when the time was up.The end of this performance did not end my struggles in life. It did end, however, some portion of my anxiety.

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PULSAR’S Trouble Performing Podcast Episode 2

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Photo: Courtesy of PULSAR

By David LaGaccia

We’re back with episode two of PULSAR‘s Trouble Performing podcast, a salon talk series focused on discussing issues is performance and live art, hosted by INCIDENT Magazine.

Recorded on Sunday April 17th, in this episode we have a larger group gathered in performance art supporter and patron extraordinaire Ming Lui’s loft to talk about recent performances by Madison Young at Grace Exhibition Space, entertainment and performance, nudity and its uses in performance, Máiréad Delaney and Rae Goodwin’s collaborative durational performance at Panoply Performance Laboratory, the idea of spectacle in performance and more! We battle passing trains and blaring sirens, but still our voices will be heard!

This episode features an all-star list of local and visiting artists from a variety of performance backgrounds including André Éric Létourneau (from Montreal), Hannes Paldrok and Danny Gonzalez (of Non Grata), Máiréad Delaney (from Vermont), Esther Neff and Kaia Gilje (of Panoply Performance Laboratory) Jill McDermid and Erik Hokanson (of Grace Exhibition Space), Ernest Goodmaw, Hilary Sand, Rae Goodwin, Ming Lui, Olivia Coffey, Mitchell Murdock, Ian Deleón and Tif Robinette (of PULSAR), Amy Mathis and Mike Berlant (of Wild Torus), Huisi He and yours truly.

For previous episodes, refer to here at INCIDENT, or visit our SoundCloud page where every episode is free to stream, download and take on the go.

Also, be sure to catch PULSAR’s next event, NO TIME FOR NOSTALGIA, April 22nd, at 987 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Without further ado, PULSAR’s Trouble Performing podcast episode two.

Intro music: Jimmy Eat World – Sweetens from Bleed American (2001)

 

 

7 Minutes in Heaven at PULSAR on FRI, 2/12

By Laura Blüer

This Friday, February 12, 2016 marks the inaugural evening of performances at PULSAR, a new venue in Brooklyn for body-based art, which will be holding events every month out of the black box space at Catland Books in Bushwick.

PULSAR was conceptualized by collaborators Tif Robinette (aka AGROFEMME) and Ian Deleón, who felt that Brooklyn is in need of more spaces that regularly host performance art. That is to say that Robinette and Deleón are acutely aware that as with any art community, fresh spaces and ambitious curatorial initiatives greatly aid in performance artists’ production of new works and in the birth of new collaborations and connections. In a conversation with Deleón, we discussed his and Robinette’s vision for PULSAR as one that prioritizes pushing artists’ comfort zones by instigating curated collaborations and the merging of artists and audiences of the various distinct genres of embodied art that comprise the medium of performance.

Deleón emphasized his and Robinette’s vision to proactively curate performance events by provoking collaborations between artists who may have never met each other and who perhaps view their work as being of a completely different discipline. Deleón pointed out that artists who self-identify as dancers, performers, or stage actors all employ varying degrees of complementary aesthetic, technical, thematic, and conceptual aspects in their work, yet there seems to be little traceable overlap between these rich spheres in their live manifestations or in those who attend them. The curators hope to inspire a more sustained dialogue between the abundant micro communities of performance in New York City by creating this innovative trans-disciplinary forum and by encouraging artists to create within a different framework than that which they may be accustomed to.

Deleón remarked that one weakness of the Brooklyn performance art community, in spite of its prolificness, is that so much incredible work is produced every day and there are few ongoing archival initiatives, except on a more individual basis (such as on artists’ own websites) and in the case of platforms like Hyperallergic, for example, which is one of the few that covers some Brooklyn performance events. Even so, the vast majority of writing on local performance art is Manhattan-centric. Further, most does not delve as deeply as it could into critical analyses of the work. Or, it fixates on artists’ intent rather than the lasting effect of performance and the political and aesthetic implications of action art within the context it was presented. While there is certainly no formula for writing about performance art, there is a general consensus that artists, curators, and audience should all be paying more attention to the nuances of curatorial lineups and the work itself. Ideally, there would be much more commentary and critique generated about performance art, attempts on multiple levels to understand the origins of a given piece and to interpret it through a myriad of lenses. An approach to writing about, analyzing, and documenting performance in this way is more productive in the long run for both artists and the medium—rather than the popular style of blog posts, articles, and reviews that are rooted in self-promotion, marketing, or spectacle itself. One way that Deleón and Robinette hope to maintain fire from the sparks of pivotal live moments at PULSAR is to push for documentation, interactive analysis, and ephemeral dialogues in the aftermath of each event. They hope that by prompting these continuous post-performance reflections, artists will receive more feedback, which in turn leads to growth in their work.

This Friday’s performance lineup is INCENDIARY, featuring 7-minute pieces by Ayana Evans, Édgar J Ulloa Luján, Erik HokansonGeraldo Mercado, Jessi T Walsh, Jill McDermid, Joiri Minaya, Panoply Lab. The details about the venue, time and entrance are below. See you at PULSAR to inaugurate a progressive experiment in performance art!

7 MINUTES IN HEAVEN
Friday, February 12, 2016
8 pm
PULSAR
987 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Morgan Ave L train
$10 @ door
RSVP on Facebook

THE ARTISTS