Zarmeené Shah (Curator/Writer):
The performance work, Bucking and Laundering situates the artist in a major global metropolis, his dapper appearance countering preconceived notions of the artistic persona, as he attempts to stuff his mouth with a stack of dollar bills, slowly at first and then forcibly as his body attempts to reject the material, gagging, coughing, but persevering nonetheless. As such, the work comes to locate itself, amongst other things, squarely within an aesthetics of endurance, like much of the performance art of the 1970s.
With its tongue-in-cheek play on words and inherent dark humor, it is perhaps the barefaced blatancy of this work in which its power lies. Where the body of the artist is brought into play, a two-pronged impact occurs: first, that which is immediate, where the present and physical, enduring body engages the audience in a reactive response mechanism that quickly transforms a comic horror into something much less palatable and much more painful and shocking as the performance continues. The immediate narrative of the institution is also present, speaking of art and capitalism, consumerism and culture, manifest even in the ‘laundering’ of the regurgitated bills, and the validating symbol of the signature/seal that legitimize the work of art. The second (impact) is further reaching: the body, as it situates itself in a global socio-politics, speaks of power and domination, economic forces and mechanisms of control. While neo/post-colonial concerns of imperialism, power and subjugation may seem like obvious tropes, the dialogue that this works creates can neither ignore their relevance, nor confine itself to them. Uncontained by localized assignations, this is a larger work, speaking not only of a kind of neocolonialism but also of consumer capitalism, and the dysfunctions inherent in global economics and modern states.
Photography by Zain Wimberly | Performance assistant: Amant Grewal
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art: 48 Hr Incident