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Body performances - Art

From: Author: Date:2008-05-11 Click:

Body performances

A performance artist dares to test the boundaries of her own body, as she puts it under duress with butter, liver, rabbits and elastic straps.
 THERE is something odd about watching a woman dancing about on butter ... And failing over. It is also equally unnerving to watch her being dragged along the road by a horse-drawn carriage, And it's just plain squeamish to watch her decked out in a beautiful red dress, caressing an enormous piece of cow's liver.


    And this is art?
    Germany-based Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo, who will hold a video exhibition of her performance art in Kuala Lumpur,explores the fine line that separates our body and the world around us, looking at the different, alternating scenes that arise out of minute changes in our movement.

    Her performance art displays seemingly redundant, though highly intense and subtle actions, such as lying in a large aquarium with live rabbits ("Perception of Patterns in Timeless Performance"), dancing on butter ("Exergie - butter dance") or being strapped down by large elastic straps ("Boundaries that Lie"). Through her body, Suryodarmo herself becomes the art.

   And you can't help but notice Suryodarmo- the positions she puts herself in seem pre carious, difficult or downright gross. She's not afraid to get dirty, hurt, tired. And while you may expect performance arc sts to he lithe blithe figures, Suryodarmo is a bigger girl ' who not only knows her body well, but clearly loves every inch of it; she wouldn't put quite so much out on a limb, if she didn't.

   Every one of her works is meticulously planned out - the materials she uses, the surroundings, the way her props are hung, even her outfit and hair. Like the subtleties in her movements, every tiny element of her works draws on the delicate and very fluid relationship between body, objects and the environment.

   Moving away from traditional static mediums, performance art tries to engage movement as a means of expression. As Suryodarmo further elaborates, "Representing the body in a performance work is not just using the body as the main medium of the artwork, but to reach the embodiment of...physical awareness."

  The use of her body as an artistic medium seems perhaps a slightly unusual, if perverse one, but she explains that, "It is a container, the storage space, that contains history, (the) path of the individual. The way I live. the way my body is, is the most honest medium that presents my thoughts, my ideas."

  In excluding the conscious use of narrative structures, she explains that. "Talking about politics, society or psychology makes no sense to me if the nerves are not able to digest the information."

   Indeed, while performance art is usually associated with political statements and often regarded as offensive,Snryodarmo's works carry a sense of humoor and genuine appreciation for the body and environment that shows art for what it really is: personal expression and the freedom to enjoy it.

   What arises out of her arc, is instead, very personal explorations of how emotions may be translated, suffered and overcome. Her opening performance here in Malaysia, entitled "1 Love You," features her "trapped" under an extremely heavy piece of glass, under which she moves and shifts into various poses for three hours.

  This she explains as a reflection of the uncertainties that come out of aligning (or restricting) ourselves with collective identification, and how our relationships with others are developed out of this socio-culturaL historical background that we fix ourselves to.

  Through her personal questioning of what it means to really say "1 love you" to someone, Suryodarmo studies how much of our individual emotions towards each other may actually be pressed down - like the hard weight of glass - by larger social expectations and experiences.

   Actually, almost all her works are largely centred on a type of struggle. Being bound by large elastic straps, while she stands vertically with her arms outstretched in "Boundaries that Lie", for example, cannot be comfortable after more than 10 minutes. Nor can being dragged along the road, in "The Ballad of Treasures". And dancing on butter in your high heels? Well, you know that would bring about nothing but pain.

  This is not necessarily a negative thing though. At the very centre of every one of these "struggles"we see theout standing
presence of Suryodarmo herself. She reminds us that, after all, we are each in control of how much we feel and experience; and how much we enjoy or suffer in that experience.

  Every movement matters, and every part of your body has a say. And, as she strongly portrays in her works, so do you.



In "I Love You', Suryodarmo shifts into various poses under haevy glass, a reflection of emotions being pressed down by larger social expectations and experiences

Sliding around in butter in "Exergie - butter dance".


Live rabbits feature in' Perception of Patterns in Timeless Performance'.

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