Spectrum of Peformance(ing) Arts


Oct 30, 2018

Nikima Jagudajev, Louisiana, 2017, performance view, Rockbund Art Musseum

Performance is a spectrum; it’s perception and definition fluctuates as a derivative based upon an individual’s artistic realm. Along with the advancement of art and diverging social contexts, people throughout history have been trying to accurately depict “performance” with various coinages, such as happening art, performance art, action, live art, performing art and body art. Recent years, however, the expansion in contents and concepts embodied in art has surpassed existing modern art categories, forcing art attributes to be defined with “compounded labels”. Such practice reflects the ingrained influence of modernist thinking and imposition of the economic system. Without clearly categorizing art, it is difficult for so to be engaged in dialogues with the public and eventually be commercialized for market consumption. Keeping such in mind, it is worthy to facilitate a discussion on an artist’s experimental process that breaks the shackles of confined limitations imposed by the mechanism.

The social environment in Third World Countries gradually unfastened in the 1980s; cultural movements catalyzed entry of Western art into Asia, including avant-garde art forms of conceptual and performing art. After some time of exploration, artists fused these emerged artistic forms and concepts into existing ways of creation. Receptive atmosphere in the 1990s enabled artistic practitioners in various areas, whether working solo or as a group, to make breakthrough achievements in their respective specialties. The period from the end of the 1990s to the beginning of 2000 culminates as a watershed, where art market mechanisms and international communication were inaugurated. Performance art and the performing arts look to develop themselves through different platforms, such as art galleries, alternative spaces, art markets, performance art or performing arts festivals in China and other parts of the world. These platforms’ respective conditions and limitations in turn transformed the forms and thinking of artistic creations. At this stage, performance art and performing art in the field of visual art were, more often than not, regarded as spectacles, or incidental additions to exhibitions.

Grass Stage, World Factory, 2014, performance view. Courtesy of Grass Stage

Fast forward to the 2010s, when artistic organizations in all scales manifested in China; performance art and performing arts were more frequently seen in art venues as a mean to inspire discussions, especially presented through collaborations with art museums in public education and on-site projects. For example, the Grass Stage Culture Outpost: Social Theatre Forum series of lectures and performances organized by Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in cooperation with playwright Zhao Chuan since 2011, it commenced related discussions on experimental theatre and performances within museums; the Sonic Transmission series of experimental music performances organized through the cooperation with Hong Kong Arts Centre and artist Samson Young in 2012; the long-term survey on performance and sound art, which was presented to the public and conducted through the sub-project of Action Asia and SAVAKA—Asia Experimental Music Currents under Invisible Torrents: the Cultural Forces Reshaping Asia project launched by HUGO BOSS ASIA ART Award 2013; and the Being in Asia performance in collaboration with curator Zhang Yuan in 2015 focusing on permeating the elaborate network of Asian regional culture through body sensations.

Wang Molin, Blacklist Studio, Hermeneutics of Hamlet Machine, 2015, Performance view. Courtesy of Power Station of Art

Apart from public education projects, the Power Station of Art in Shanghai launched the experimental performance project ReActor in 2015, exploring ongoing artistic practices that eclipsed any description offered by the existing vocabulary. Ming Contemporary Art Museum was established in Shanghai in 2015, with a special focus on the study and curation of experimental theatres as well as multimedia exhibitions and performances. Since its establishment, it has presented curated exhibitions such as 30 Years of Experimental Theatre and Silent Stories: Jan Lauwers and produced _AO_AO_ING Performance Season. The annual art project of RAM HIGHLIGHT first launched by RAM in 2016 sets its focus on diversified vocabulary of artistic creation that’s not easily categorized by the current cognitive structure. The curatorial team of RAM HIGHLIGHT hopes to break through existing forms of exhibitions, and considers consciously the multi-pronged relations between art and audience. The above-mentioned examples render a curious phenomenon amongst Chinese museums; an almost simultaneous instigation of researches on or projects about performance art and performing art. The sudden calibration of such art forms with the mainstream culture is vulnerable to potential risks of becoming another spectacle if it is not discussed sufficiently.

Wong Chong, Ghosts 2.0, 2015, performance view. Courtesy of Ming Contemporary Art Museum

Ergao Dance Production Group, Zhang Dianling, New Square Dance: Dancer Square, Shanghai, 2016, performance view. Courtesy of Ming Contemporary Art Museum

The series of lectures of Spectrum of Performance(ing) Arts is designed not to invent a new set of vocabulary or definition, or to inquire “What is Performance?” but rather to advance the exploration of how art in the un-bound state flows and mutates into a spectrum with plentiful connotations and streams possibilities. It looks forward to the confluence and interaction of diverse realms of art, discussions with the artist, curator, researcher and scholar perspectives on issues such as the role of the platform, methods of artistic creation, ways of watching performances, the concept of curating and development of performance art and performing art under the globalization framework, as well as more dialogues in unexpected aspects between the speakers and the audience. 


The plan of the series of lectures as follows:

3 November lecture by:

Katherine Hui-Ling Chou, Professor, English Department of Central University, Taiwan; Playwright, director

17 November round table discussion by:

Hsieh Feng-Rong, Senior curator, Rockbund Art Museum

Yang Zi, Associate researcher, Shanghai Art Institute

Zhang Yuan, Curator, Performance project at Ming Contemporary Art Museum

Zhang Xian, Playwright, director and Social choreographer

30 November lecture by:

Anthony Yung, Senior researcher, Asia Art Archive

1 December lecture by:

Siren Eun Young Jung, Artist of 2019 Venice Biennale: South Korea Pavillion

7 December lecture by:

Kee Hong Low, Head of Artistic Development (Theatre), West Kowloon Cultural District Hong Kong

8 December round table discussion by:

Five Arts Centre (Kuala Lumpur), Grass Stage (Shanghai)

29 December lecture by:

Walter Jen-Hao Hsu, Assistant Professor, Theatre Art Department of Sun Yat-Sen University, Taiwan; Theatre Critic

Further information of each lecture will be posted separately, please follow our wechat or subscribe to our newsletter.


The Spectrum of Performance(ing) Arts is co-organized by the Rockbund Art Museum and independent curator Zoe Zhang Bing and supported by Shanghai Artemis Art Center.

The series of lectures also collaborated with Shanghai Study Center, the University of Hong Kong and iPANDA.

About Shanghai Artemis Art Center (SAAC)

Shanghai Artemis Art Center (SAAC), funded by Anxin Trust Co., Ltd. and approved for registration by Shanghai Bureau of Civil Administration, was established officially on June 6, 2016 as a non-profit art institution.

SAAC aims at promoting the production and development of modern arts, through hosting, supporting and assisting non-profit artistic activities of various forms, including but not limited to art exhibitions, publications, public projects, artistic research, academic discussion, art curating, criticism and writing.

About the Shanghai Study Center, the University of Hong Kong (SSC HKU)

The Faculty of Architecture at The University of Hong Kong established The Shanghai Study Centre in 2008. It is housed in the historical Post Office Building, on Suzhou Creek.

The Study Centre aims to be a place where new ideas emerge about urban development in the fastest urbanizing region in the world. The public program at HKU/SSC invites critics with challenging opinions, architects with provoking viewpoints, planners with innovative solutions and academics with new theories – all with the aim of understanding the current condition in Chinese cities, and to explore beyond today and tomorrow. The goal is to be able to generate new ideas that can contribute to better, more intelligent and more interesting cities and architecture.

About iPANDA

iPANDA is best described as a platform for development action by independent performance artivistis. It is focused on independent performance in China to build up an internal network with the vision of expanding internationally. It is an artists’ collective comprised of independent performance artists, art institutes and platforms from different artistic fields. iPANDA works to consolidate resources to create more possibilities for collaboration and development.

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