The irony of a live art exhibition like Arcade being held at an old power station is not lost on me. Socio-political analysis is my unforgiving mistress. So standing at the entry of this aged factory I immediately pondered the favouring and perpetuation of a mainstream masculine identity by the country’s energy complex. But once inside, the eight performing artists inhabiting different spaces, literally, rip to shreds any and all normative gender identities.
Arcade is a moving live-art platform launched by renowned performance artist Gavin Krastin. Krastin is basically using his already established name to give up-and-coming live-artists a stage and a following to play out their body-based acts. The curation of the pop-up exhibition is based on the agenda of Krastin’s work; the permeability and politics of the body’s representation, limitations, and operation in alternative, layered spaces.
The spatial setup allows for each viewer to choose their own adventure. The performances happen simultaneously, inviting one to enter and exit as pleased. Much like our capitalistic structure of the country, I opted to start my experience at the top and trickle down from there.
In synopsis, each piece had a common thread; the incorporation of politics with bodies. There were three works that left their indelible disruptive mark on me.
Meghan Harris’ The Terrible Needs to Eat was my first encounter. She billowed across a floor of pebbles in pointe shoes. Rising up and crashing down on the hard stony stage, stirring up a consuming cloud of dust. As a trained ballet dancer, Harris’ movements break away from the machine-like maneuvering demanded by the professional ballet scene. She flails with a loose sense of control but her pain is clear. The pressurised morphing of ballet dancers into an effortlessness and flawlessness performance is buttressed and haunted by hardships- eating disorders, extreme physical exhaustion, and insecurity.
Verlore Gehuime is a performance of death, created by Ashwin May and in collaboration with the cast. Three vulnerable and barely clad bodies appearing to be in slumber writhe into different forms. Their positions question what shape death comes in. A women draped in black lingers in the back playing an Uhadi bow, making every move a ritualistic one. Our bodies store memory and it emits itself through action.
Tazme Pillay places us right in the seat of bodily consumption in his piece Dancing with Mary. I enter the room, a replica of a red light, gay bathhouse – A common meeting point for sexual exchanges between gay men. A leather-bound bodyguard leads me to my seat, a single chair on a platform. Pillay dressed in female drag stands before me and begins to seductively sway to I Like by John Ireland. He performs a sexual offering that exposes both the objectification and abjectification of femme-bodied queers. In a ritualistic move of desperate surrender, he washes my feet. The all-immersive experience left me weeping.
Meandering through the maze of these transdisciplinary artists shouts of Krastin’s style of unveiling the curiosities and complexities of presentation and representation norms. Individually, each performance directly confronts the displacement of bodies that challenge the hegemony. Collectively, the exhibition agitates and satiates every sensory function. Krastin is providing opportunities to artists that place their bodies on the frontline of queering and dismantling discourses. It’s a game of invasion and confrontation.