Magazine article Artforum International

"Body Luggage": Kunsthaus Graz

Magazine article Artforum International

"Body Luggage": Kunsthaus Graz

Article excerpt

Anyone annoyed by Ai Weiwei's photographic impression of a drowned Syrian child refugee could find tremendous hope in "Body Luggage: Migration of Gestures," mounted as part of the Steirischer Herbst, an annual festival of dance, theater, art, and music in Graz. Here, art-historical tropes of continuity and mutation propagated by Alois Riegl and Aby Warburg politicized an international gathering of migration-themed, performance-centric commissions, which deftly invited one to rethink classical notions of innovation and originality. Indeed, many of the works explored ways in which artists and art practices survive displacement by becoming mobile containers of a kind--just as dispossessed migrants retain their body language even in new, unstable surroundings. The show included several pieces alluding to Ausdruckstanz, Germany and Austria's Expressionist dance scene of the 1920s, and tethered to the key figure of dancer Hilde Holger, whose archive of peregrinations in Bombay in the 1930s and '40s provided curator Zasha Colah and associate curator Birgit Pelzmann with what Colah has called "a kind of blueprint" from which to work.

Gernot Wieland's Thievery and Songs, 2016, a portmanteau of watercolor, clay animation, found images, potato prints, and staged performance shot on Super 8 film, embeds Holger into a narrative featuring a therapy session, a discussion about nasa, and the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "The Town Musicians of Bremen." Nested deeper is the chronicle of the artist's grandaunt being sold as a child under Nazi oppression during World War II. Descriptive first-person subtitles exuding nostalgia, pain, and astonishment let the fragments speak across varied media, as if in proxy for the consciousness of a migrant traversing varied terrains.

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe's Spirit Vitrines (Memoirs of a Shan Exile), 2016, showcases hundreds of earth-colored amulets made of clay, wax, soap, mud, rice paper, felt, fiber, pigment, water, oil, and spice. Designed to be worn and shaped like figurative statuettes, the amulets were arrayed in a long vitrine to evoke an exodus of exhausted souls, some accompanied by excerpts from investigative reports and short passages from Yawnghwe's father's diaries, among other texts, that served to reveal the artist's political pedigree. The fact that Yawnghwe's grandfather, Burma's first elected president, was assassinated during a military coup in 1962 for contesting the exclusion of the country's Shan ethnic minority from Burma's national fabric, and that the artist himself was born in an exiled-Shan forest camp within a remote region of Burma, nonetheless unfold only metaphorically in the pulsing tension between each amulet's diminutive size and the vast community to which it belongs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.