Review – Katya Grokhovsky is a “Bad Bad Bad Woman”

Katya Grokhovsky, Bad Bad Bad Woman (2018). LiVEArt.US, Performing Accumulations. Queens Museum.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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, The Land is a Pain Body (2018). LiVEArt.US, Performing Accumulations. Queens Museum.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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.

 

Kaia Gilje, Untitled (2018). LiveArt.US, Performing Accumulations. Queens Museum.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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.

Katya Grokhovsky, Bad Bad Bad Woman (2018). LiveArt.US, Performing Accumulations. Queens Museum.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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.

Katya Grokhovsky, Bad Bad Bad Woman (2018). LiveArt.US, Performing Accumulations. Queens Museum.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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.

From left to right: Katya Grokhovsky, Hector Canonge, Lorene Bouboushian, and Kaia Gilje speaking after their performances.
Photo: Kim Doan Quoc

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Live Art’s New Home at the Queens Museum

Front view of the Queens Museum.Photo: © David Sundberg/Esto

Front view of the Queens Museum.
Photo: © David Sundberg/Esto

By David LaGaccia

Flushing still holds the New York dream of immigrants passing through and establishing their lives in the city. It is an odd place where at the park is the Queens Museum, the magnificent Arthur Ashe tennis stadium, the Mets Citi Field, and remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair with the giant Unisphere in the shape of the Earth, and observation towers still standing after 52 years. Outside in the surrounding street corners is a panoply of cultures that include Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Sri Lankans, Malaysians, and Colombians and Salvadorans, all making up the community of one neighborhood in New York.

The Queens Museum is now hosting a new bi-monthly series devoted to live performance called LiVEART.US. Performance art has long had a larger international audience than in the United States, where it is more established as a fine art and discipline, so this gives New Yorkers the rare opportunity to see live art from both local and international artists at a museum setting.

The series is organized and curated by New York-based and globetrotting artist Hector Canonge. Although in recent years his work has moved more towards performance,”moving away from technology, being more focused on my body, but still working with materials,” he calls himself an interdisciplinary artist with academic training in new media arts, cinematography, and film studies, but said that performance art “informs” his work.

“Performance art comes in 2009,” he said, “when I started exploring the relation of the body with installation art and technology, so on the one hand there’s the technology, and on the other there was the installations I was creating with technology, and in one particular project called Schema Corporeal in 2009, I start with what people can define as performance art. I still didn’t believe it, I’m still not sure. I was like, performance art, what is that?”

Artist and curator Hector Canonge.Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

Artist and LiVEART.US curator Hector Canonge.
Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

Since then Canonge has become a prominent figure in the local and international performance community, participating in and organizing shows, festivals, launching PERFORMEANDO, a Hispancic and Latin centered performance series. His installation work was centered around technology and the body, and explored themes around what he calls “immigrant narratives”. While not exclusivly the focus of his work, he said he thinks it comes with his life experience.

“I don’t think I do it many times consciously, but I started exploring this idea of the immigrant experience because I have never felt as such,” said Canonge. “I was always from the place I was at the moment. For me it was interesting to explore that topic of migration, but of course you can say it relates to my own story. We’re all migrants anyway. One way or another we all come from different places, especially if you’re from New York. It’s about the human experience. Forget about the word migrant; it’s about the human experience, the human experience of displacement.”

Born in Argentina, Canonge considers New York home having grown up and spent some of what he called his “formative years” in New York City. He has traveled extensively since 2012 for what he said to “find myself and my connection to Latin America.“ Aside from a suitcase and a carryon, Canonge got rid of most of his possessions, “I had nothing. I got rid of everything, everything.” “My return to South America was entering the heart of the continent.” During this time he reconnected with family he hadn’t seen since he was a child, worked on projects, and even became a guest curator for the Centro Cultural Santa Cruz in Bolivia for nine months; he later went throughout Europe to work and travel, and briefly returned to the States in 2013, and traveled back to Europe, and finally came back to the United States in 2015.

“It was liberating at first, for many months I would say,” said Canonge. “Then there was the need again to feel at home, and this is home. New York is home. But I had to go through that process of getting out, uprooted and trying to find where do I stay.”

Much of the recent ITINERANT International Performance Art Festival and LiVEART.US at the museum was informed by Canonge’s need to connect and wanting to create a sense of community in performance.

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Artist Kuldeep Singh from India, who will be performing this Saturday in LiVEART.US’s next event.
Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

“There is a need in me to have a sense of community, and this sense of community I can build it around what people would call, ‘curatorial enterprises,’” said Canonge. “For me it’s coming together and gathering artists around specific topics I want to explore.”

The series so far has embraced the term “live art” in presenting work that is not just performance art specifically, but has also included music and dance work as well. During the first show, artists like cellist Jacob Cohen played in the same show as Martha Wilson, South Korean performance artist Heeran Lee, and Irina Baldini, Dierck Roosen, and Erke Roosen who featured more dance-based work. Museums like MoMA often rely on star power to draw in crowds to sell performance, Marina Abramović, Tilda Swinton, Jay-Z, or any other celebrity looking to add artistic cachet to their brand, and an institution looking to make ticket sales off of it. Emphasizing “content and context”, the series picks artists that clash, contrasting the different styles, methods and practices of live art from different cultural backgrounds, as well as giving younger artists like Bobby English Jr an opportunity to present work in a museum setting with more established performers like Martha Wilson.

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Artist, curator and gallerist Joseph Ravens who will be performing at the next event has become an established figure in the international performance art community.
Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

“It’s important to give various manifestations of live art especially in an institution that where the public are not necessarily going to be performance art buffs or fans, you may have people there that have never seen performance,” said Canonge. “So how do you introduce this discipline of performance art to audiences that are not familiar with it? It has to be done with care, and showing all of these manifestations, multi-facets of performance art. Everyone has their own style.”

Prerana Reddy, the director of public programs at the Queens Museum talked about some of the challenges in presenting performance work in a public institution while giving artists the opportunity to create work. Questions included what materials are restricted to use, like fire, figuring out ways on how to present work that isn’t necessarily family friendly, to practical challenges of providing a space that does not filter noise from other exhibitions.

“It’s a combination with me about what works with the space, what are the opportunities in terms of tying it to other exhibition content, and working with the curator and the artist to have as much freedom that they can get to experiment and create,” said Reddy. “For our museum, I think we’ve had a generally open attitude towards various performance mediums.”

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Artist Kledia Spiro who will be performing this Saturday.
Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

The performance series at the Queens Museum has come out of a longstanding relationship with Canonge that dates back to 2004. After being represented in the Museum’s biennial, Canonge has worked on programs including CINEMAROSA, a LBGT film series beginning in 2005, TALKaCTIVE, an ongoing talk series where artists present their work, the Itinerant Performance Festival, which the museum played host to several events last year, and now LiVEART.US.

“My relation with the Queens Museum is it’s my home base,” said Canonge. “The Queens Museum was the first institution that featured my work at the biennial in 2004, as a new media artist they found me with a project called Ciudad Transmobile. They’ve nurtured me and I’ve nurtured my work there.”

“For us, I know how hard Hector works to develop these relationships,” said Reddy. “He’s not just at the Queens Museum, he’s curating series’ throughout the city, he has a lot of relationships with performance spaces and galleries, and just for me it’s a pleasure to able to give the museum space to someone who cares about building the arts community, especially for international artists and immigrant artists who sometimes need a helping hand in the beginning of their careers in New York.”

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Japanese artist Nao Nishihara who will perform this Saturday at the Queens Museum.
Photo: Courtesy of Hector Canonge

Performance art is a unique medium where artists from all around the globe participate in this thing called the performance art community while having what may not be a common language of speech or culture, but a common form of expression; performance does not need words to connect to another, using the language of the body regardless if you’re from the United States, Finland, China, Brazil, England or Mexico, all making up the community of one art form.

LiVEART.US continues this Saturday, April 16th from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM at the Queens Museum with works by artists Lital Dotan (Israel), Joseph Ravens (United States), Kuldeep Singh (India), Nao Nishihara (Japan), Kledia Spiro (Albania), and Alejandro Chêllet (Mexico).