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Jun '06

PSi #12 Attendee Blog, “Day One”

Thursday, 15 June, 2006

This morning I had breakfast and while I was finishing my tea, Mathew Goulish and Lin Hixson came in for breakfast and so I took the opportunity to visit with them. They were joined by Myron and Carol. We had a nice conversation and I learned that Goat Island is working on a new piece and that they will be touring in Germany later this year.

After breakfast I had some time to review which panels I would be attending and then it was off to the opening plenary. The Red Ladies performed a call to conference in which they mingled in the square outside the People’s Palace. They must have caused a bit of a stir with the unsuspecting security officers, because I saw an officer
speaking to an otherwise stoically silent Red Lady and she was gesturing towards the People’s Palace as if to say, “it’s okay, I’m just a performer.” He seemed to be satisfied with whatever she said to him because it wasn’t a very long conversation and he let her and her cohorts carry on.

The Red Ladies then assembled on stage inside the great hall of the People’s Palace. They proceeded to sing parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was beautifully arranged and very moving. Lois Weaver (Conference Director) and Adrian Heathfield (President of PSi) gave a very welcoming opening speech which was followed by an informative talk by Adrian Smith (Principal of Queen Mary, University of London). He then introduced Irene Kahn (Secretary General of Amnesty International) who presented a powerful presentation on her organizations’ current main focus and how it specifically relates to Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which classes art as a human right just like any other (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html). The opening plenary ended with Bobby Baker introducing her durational performance piece and then performing “Ballistic Buns” for a well entertained audience.

I then choose to attend a discussion in the Manifesto room on the place of performance in enhancing international exchanges and dialogues with Ali Zaidi (of motiroti), Miriam Quindani, Gabrielle Salgado and Guillermo Gomez-Peña.

Ali spoke on connectivity, looking at differences and engaging with people. He also touched on how some of his work deals with who we are, what people think of us and what we think people think of us. Specific projects he used to illustrate these points were the Rainbow of Wishes which was part of the Queen’s Jubilee, his work with call center employees, and new work that illustrates similarities of people from all over the world. Motiroti’s new work, priceless, will debut 11 August, 2006 at 9pm (Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London –for details, please see motiroti.com).

Miriam then discussed her work in Rio de Janeiro that centered around the favelas, or shantytowns that surround the main city. She has done extensive work with MV Bill, a very popular hip-hop artist and youth, both from this area. Over a period of time, MV Bill filmed all of his shows and 16 young men became the focal point of a documentary. The young fans also engage in very adult and very violent occupations of being armed soldiers for the drug trade. Tragically by the time the documentary was published, only one was still alive (The Guardian notes that they are now all deceased – http://arts.guardian.co.uk/filmandmusic/story/0,,1684722,00.html). Miriam ended with making the point that this documentary managed to be by the people involved, not just about the people.

Guillermo and Gabrielle shared a blog of theirs in which they discussed the politics of transnational networking. They debated ideas of inclusion and exclusion based on geographic location, what is allowed, and what is seasonably fashionable in the “international” art community. Guillermo reiterated that Pocha Nostra is dedicated to the decentralization of art and audiences that are more diverse than artists, intellectuals and students (please see http://www.pochanostra.com/dialogues/ for more details).

After a quick lunch, it was on to the next panel. I happened to wander into the wrong room, but was fortunate enough to be able to hear two papers in a very intimate atmosphere of an audience of only three. Myron Beasley presented a paper on the ritual of food, specifically as it pertains to the Candomble tradition. He raised questions of food and resistance, and how preparing serves as a means of resistance. Piia Mustamaki offered a paper on the Venus Hottentot, in particular a critical analysis of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus.

The next panel was Travel Performance and Site, chaired by Laurie Beth Clark. Camila Jalving presented “The Work of Emily Jacir”. The work is focused on people who cannot return home or who cannot go back to visit their parents’ home and how the artist offers to go there and do things on behalf of the person left behind. Silvija Jestrovic then presented her paper on the rituals of decontamination. She raised interesting points on how art can be used as a means by which a society is able to reclaim a space or even it’s own identity.

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