Sunday, February 26, 2017


Aristophanes at Studio 28, VCA: Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Still from a video by Dadang Christanto. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017

It was interesting to hear Aristophanes in conversation on Wednesday afternoon at Studio 28, the Victorian College of the Arts, part of the AsiaTopa Festival.

Aristophanes, a Taipei-based hip-hop artist, who fuses poetry, electronica and jazz, spoke of her attempts to negotiate the male dominated area in which she has chosen to perform her craft. Amidst a myriad of diverse voices (Chinese as well as Western Rap artists) she continually strives to discover her identity closely linked with her own culture.
It was not surprising that she had struggled with sexual harassment and other difficulties associated with being female as well as being a performance artist. She spoke of an ideal, that of being able to see more females working in the industry. When asked whether singing in Mandarin might alienate English speaking listeners, especially her feminism and political stance evidenced in her lyrics, she explained that music transcends language.

Prior to this event I saw videos and amazing still photographs that documented the work of performance artists in Southeast Asia. Political Acts is at the Arts Center until 21 May and the most compelling image for me was from Dadang Christanto's Tooth Brushing (2017). With his coughing up or spewing forth of crimson matter from his mouth he references the bloody anti-Communist purges in Indonesia during 1965-1966. I was reminded in part by performances by the Australian artist Mike Parr, particularly his 'The Emetics' 1977 and 'Cathartic Action' 1977.

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