By Kim Doan Quoc
On the first day of this second winter of April, I visited for the first time the Queens Museum. Passing by baseball cap sellers and the huge Unisphere enthroned in the park, I saw this Sunday the LiVEArt.US performance series, curated by Hector Canonge, at the 2nd floor of the museum. The present edition was about «Performing Accumulations».
I got there in order to see to Katya Grokhovsky’s performance «Bad Bad Bad Woman». Katya is a New York based artist, who was born in Ukraine and grew up in Australia. An artist on the rise, she just closed her personal exhibition «System Failure» at Martin Art Gallery at Muhlenberg College. She is now involved in a semester long residency at the MAD Museum, where she will present a performance called the «Theater of the Mundane» on the 26th of April.
Lorene Bouboushian started the afternoon with her performance «The Land is a Pain Body», a curious work of voice practice. Going from statements about her own body’s aches and memories, she then invited the audience to contribute her body’s history. We built a pile of chairs on her laying body while she was singing out loud to us her feelings and willings. Going back and forth to the performance space, she offered the audience different ways to participate to her act until it stopped being responsive.
Kaia Gilje followed with an «Untitled» series of tasks and manipulations. She linked the inside space of the museum with the outside space of the park. Her performance transformed the large windows of the room into a showcase with a view on the park, making it her stage. In a mysterious and athletic demonstration, her body and gesture became our lens to realize the different scales of the spaces she interacted with.
Katya Grokhovsky finished the performance event with her work «Bad Bad Bad Woman». Starting with her video piece «Bad Woman» projected in the background, the same character she created for the video entered the space. With a mask and leopard dress, she started to cut her clothes repeating untiringly to the audience:
“ I’m a genius. I want to be in history books.”
As she was reciting this mantra, she unwrapped on the ground a large piece of fabric full of female artists names written by hand, collectively created from a former performance of hers, “Name a Female Artist” that she first performed at Soho20 Gallery in 2015. In front of the names of famous artists, Grokhovsky keeps on cutting her clothes, playing with the layers of fabric she had on her body.
Under the mask of the character of the “Bad Woman”, she shaped her costume from a grandma styled leopard blouse to a colorful froufrou leg revealing dress. Along this ceremony, like a re-appropriation of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece where the artist is everything but vulnerable, she placed pieces from her outfit in the space around the artists names. Her stripped body and tatters of her dresses are offerings to female art history (if it has to be one separated from art history, mainly written by men) and maybe a way to a new installation piece.
Katya’s work is strong in that all her pieces make sense together. It seems that one piece is part the ongoing process of a larger scale of work. She says that “Bad Woman”, the character she performs is “alive” and has performed it for a bit more than a year now. She, “Bad Woman”, is alive throughout numerous performances and exhibitions that have happened lately.
On the edge of several mediums, Katya’s characters are art pieces on their own. Taking some from theater, she’s acting them during her performances and video art pieces. Her characters also have a strong visual persona. “Bad Woman” is a mask, a situation and a role-play, on the edge of visual arts, performance and theater.
Talking about bridges between her visual art practice and her performance practice, the artist considers that her visual art work comes from her performances. She explains that her performances are part of her process to create visual installations. Showing the pieces of fabric among the female artists names, she describes the composition as a possible axis of research for a new visual art piece, made from objects created from multiple performance projects.
Grokhovsky’s work is a fine and colorful criticism of patriarchy and consumerism. The piece «Bad Bad Bad Woman» is part of the long term ongoing process of her very rich artwork about the subject, in between an homage to female artists history and the deconstruction of it.
After the performances, during the talk with Hector Canonge and the artists who presented their work, the question of the position of women artists in the art world came in the conversation. I have to underline here how satisfying it was to watch a performance event involving only artists who are women and the subject of the event is not about being a woman.
The conversation about being female in the art world ended on the statement that female artists are often exhibited on the subject on femininity and that an artist without precising their gender is quite often a white man. On the same level than black artists, female artists are enclosed to show art work about their own «minority» when they are very unrepresented considering any other subject, as if they still had to justify why there are here, in the exhibition space.