Panel discussion about trajectories and possibilities of contemporary performance art from China

with Zhou Bin and Petra Pölzl

Saturday, 22th November 2014, 5 pm

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary | Richardstr. 20 | 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

© Zhou Bin, Trail of the Inspect (2010)

Since the late 1980s performance art started to flourish in China as one of the most avant-gardist and challenging art forms. In the course of the last three decades body/live art, as well as other time-based artistic practices, conquer the spotlight, attracting the interest of the Western art world, and contributing to initiate an international debate about contemporary visual arts and culture from China. The large interest that European countries have towards China’s contemporary art, and performance art in particular is well demonstrated by the many exhibitions organized by major institutions in the past years. Nevertheless this fascination often does not correspond to a concrete understanding of the true peculiarities of performative practices developed by artists, both in China and abroad.

The panel discussion Poetics Of The Body, organized in the framework of Present Tense Series, has the purpose to open up a productive and meaningful conversation about the current state of performance art in/from China, about its position within the present international art scene and its future perspectives, referring to the history of this art form in the country, and underlining the original traits characterizing the most recent outcomes of Chinese performance art. In order to attempt this aim, we invited performance artist Zhou Bin, from Chengdu (China), one of the most prolific and best-known performance artists and performance art theorists from the area, to take part to the panel together with Petra Pölzl, researcher on Performance Art in China.

The talk will have a fluid and open structure: screenings of Zhou’s past works’ video documentation will function as a starting point to open up the conversation between the speakers and the audience, which is strongly encouraged to participate with questions and comments since the beginning of the discussion.

In the course of this event documentations of past performances from the series The Aftermath of Shock Art, curated by Petra Pölzl, will be presented.
Featuring artists are: Li Binyuan, Sazi, Liu Chengrui, Alessandro Rolandi, Dong Jingling, Huang Xiang, Lui Wenchao and Xing Xin.


Zhou Bin (b. in Xi’an, China, 1970) is a prolific artist, with nearly one hundred pieces of performance art, installation, and video works; he has been doing art works and joined residency programs in Korea, Singapore, Holland, England, USA, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia, Pakistan and Israel. He believes that a performing artist needs daily training and practice while always perceiving the environment with body and heart. Thus merging art into life. His opinion of aligning “performing art and physical/spiritual practice” has gained wide publicity and recognition. He has been invited to present performing art courses in Sichuan Fine Art Institute and The Art Institute of Sichuan University since May 2012. The artist also works in collaborative projects. In 2007 he opened UP-ON Live Art Space for the specific purpose of promoting live art. In 2008, Zhou Bin curated the first UP-ON International Live Art Festival, inviting over 40 artists from all over the world to perform and exchange ideas on live art. In 2009, Zhou Bin began producing Celebration—1/6 Comment on Freedom, a multi-media, multi-artists on-going and touring live art happening.
Lately, Zhou Bin is meditating and developing performance art theory. He believes that Chinese performance art must transcend the limits of the individual body, and must also make a contribution to international performance art discourse.

Petra Pölzl is a Ph.D. candidate, independent curator and researcher, working in Austria, Germany and China. Petra studied Chinese Studies, Chinese language and Theatre Studies in Vienna, Beijing and Berlin and holds a Master degree from the Free University of Berlin. At present she is working on her Ph.D. thesis; in her research she is focusing on the artistic and political strategies applied in Performance Art in China. She will be part of the Festival Programming Team for steirischer herbst 2015 (Graz).

PRESENT TENSE SERIES is SAVVY Contemporary's performance programme for 2014, intended to investigate practices and theories of contemporary performance art through a series of live performances, artist talks and screening, with the final aim to open up a meaningful discussion about this particular field of artistic production, which eschew any codification and possible classification. The PRESENT TENSE SERIES brings together some of the most interesting performance artists from five continents, in order to involve them in an open dialogue, in the context of which the gallery will serve as a catalyst of energies and ideas.

PRESENT TENSE SERIES VI is supported by:

Started in 2011 by the NGO European Alternatives, Transnational Dialogues facilitates artists, creatives, professionals, intellectuals and writers from different continents to come together for a series of exchanges and co-productions in both physical form and online. The platform promotes sharing of information, networking, and conceptual collaboration between individuals and organisations working in a variety of disciplines, and offers a trampoline for future collaborations and initiatives. More information at



About honesty, prejudice, violence, the fiction and the truth

Saturday, 11th October 2014, 6pm

Live Performances and Artist Talk

Artist: Omar Ghayatt

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary | Richardstr. 20 | 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

© Mariusz Marchewa Marchlewicz

“Excuse me, all of you! Why are you so anxious to destroy in the name of a vulgar, commonplace sense of truth, this reality which comes to birth attracted and formed by the magic of the stage itself, which has indeed more right to live here than you, since it is much truer than you?”

Luigi Pirandello 1

Omar Ghayatt is a performance artist, a theatre director and an avid researcher of the possibilities of performativity, whose work stems from a punctual analysis of the mechanism constituting the basis of our social living. Ghayatt’s artistic production is focused on visuality, here to be meant as investigation of the power of images, which are not intended as mere results of composition strategies, but as something the staged actions evoke in spectators’ minds, without directly showing it. In most of his performative interventions Ghayatt uses body’s movement, noise, music and spoken word as keen instruments, harmonized one to the other as members of an orchestra, in order to visually symbolize his peculiar understanding of a specific aspect of life.

The images giving body to Ghayatt’s performances have the capability to sound out certain inner characteristics of artist’s individual relation with the external world, as geo-political environment, but also as intimate, sentimental space. Ghayatt’s projects are characterized by the use of a precise personal prospective, since the main source of the artist’s performative experimentation is his private history of young Egyptian man immigrating to a rich European country, facing everyday stereotypes, misunderstandings and poor prejudices characterizing the life of every migrant. The intimacy, delicacy and irony with which Ghayatt touches difficult topics, of such high political relevance, have the power to stimulate a stronger engagement of the audience. Attending to Ghayatt’s performances spectators naturally familiarize with experiences that, in most of the cases, didn’t touch them personally, elaborating a larger sense of proximity and awareness of the issues the piece aims to explore and put into discussion.

Ghayatt prefers evocation to representation, even, or maybe particularly, when his performances take place on a theatre’s stage. In one of his latest theatrical pieces, Violence Lointaine/Distant Violence (ideated in collaboration with French musician Maxime Denuc and Congolese choreographer DeLaVallet Bidiefono, during a period of residency in Brazzaville, Congo) the artist explores the topic of violence, without showing any kind of violent act. In this performance violence surrounds the performers and their actions as a far echo, being present on the stage as violence is actually present in the lives of people indirectly witnessing others’ pain and sorrow, while staying in remote, safe places. This kind of distant violence is manifest and undeniably real, yet blurry and intangible, and its evidence is easy to be forgotten, for distracted spectators. The theatre works here as a vehicle to convert remoteness and ignorance into closeness and consciousness.

With works like Violence Lointaine (2014), or If I weren’t Egyptian (2011) Ghayatt seems to follow the path opened by Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, embracing the idea that theatre in not representation, instead, as Derrida states: “[Theatre] is life itself, in the extent to which life is not representable. … Artaud wants to have done with the imitative concept of art. … Theatrical art should be primordial and privileged site of this destruction of imitation”2 . The two discourses Ghayatt develops, the one taking place in art galleries and performance art festivals, and the other happening in theatres, are just two sides of this same creative intention: the artist does not want to draw a separation line between visual arts and performing arts, and not even between fiction and reality. All Ghayatt’s works have the potential to unveil truths normally hidden behind social conventions, which disappear as soon as the action is presented in the context of a performative apparatus. The stage (either real or metaphorical) is the place allowing this maximization of honesty, of truthfulness, able to cast new lights on less obvious features of common reality, as well as on the dynamics of human behaviours and convictions.

On Saturday, 11th October 2014, within the framework of Present Tense Series, performance art program of SAVVY Contemporary for the year 2014, Omar Ghayatt will present his internationally renowned interaction performance piece The Casting; this performance is a real casting arranged among the spectators and the artist to fulfil several roles, in order to stage a short theatrical representation of a love quadrangle. In this scenario Ghayatt covers the double-role of director and actor.
The performance aims at testing the participants, and their inclinations towards aggressive behaviours under the influence of emotions associated with the acted scene. The Casting is a more subtle investigation of the theme human violence, a topic widely inspected by Ghayatt in his latest works in theatre. In the course of the action the spectators/actors are pushed to their limits, forced to experiment with their own social attitude, to deal with their most hidden mental barriers and prejudices. Covered by the role of the actor the spectator is free to disclose his/her secret nature, to be “more real than reality”, as the artist states.

Together with The Casting an additional, one-on-one performative intervention, exclusively conceived for SAVVY Contemporary, will be presented.

During the same evening the audience will also have the chance to attend an artist talk, in the context of which Omar Ghayatt will speak about his work in the field of performance art, and will discuss his artistic experimentations with post-dramatic theatre.

1 Pirandello, L, Six Characters in Search of an Author, tr. Edward Storer, 1922
2 Derrida, J, Thévenin, P, The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud, tr. Mary Ann Caws. Cambridge,MA: MIT Press, 1998


Omar Ghayatt was born in Cairo in 1976; in 1998 he received his B.A. in Arts and Education. An early interest in drama, combined with a strong sense for the visual, led him to develop his own characteristic blend of performance art, visual theatre, and scenography.
In 2003 he received the first state prize ever awarded in Egypt for performance art. The following years, he performed in various countries such as France, Bosnia, Turkey, Korea and Poland. Alongside his travels, he organized a long-term project in Egypt, Sabeel Cairo, with the aim to promote performance art in the area.
In 2007, Ghayatt travelled to theatre Schlachthaus Bern as an artist in residence of “Pro Helvetia”. In March 2008, he initiated the project “Made in Paradise”, in collaboration with the Swiss artists Yan Duyvendak and Nicole Borgeat.
In 2009 Ghayatt obtained his Master of Scenography from the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste Zhdk, and in 2010 received a studio in the “PROGR” centre for culture production as a grant from the city of Bern.
In 2011 the artist ideated If I Weren’t Egyptian, a visual theatre project based on a text by Alaa Al Aswani. Ghayatt latest project is Violence Lointaine, a dance / performance piece, developed in collaboration with the Congolese choreographer DeLaVallet Bidiefono, and the French sound artist Maxime Denuc.

For more information please visit:

Kindly supported by:


BBB JOHANNES DEIMLING. A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss.

About wander, research, doubt, the teacher and the learner

Friday, April 25, 2014, 7pm

Live Performances and Screening

Saturday, April 26, 2014, 7pm

Artist Talk with BBB Johannes Deimling: “There's no smoke without fire”

Artists: BBB Johannes Deimling and Lotte Kaiser, Corentin JPM Leven

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary I Richardstr. 20 I 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

© Monika Sobczak

“That wish to enter into an elusive element which had urged Cosimo into the trees, was still working now inside him unsatisfied, making him long for a more intimate link, a relationship which would bind him to each leaf and twig and feather and flutter.”
Italo Calvino 1

Since late 1980s German artist BBB Johannes Deimling has been working in the multifaceted field of performance art, elaborating a peculiar and very recognizable manner to treat this artistic non-medium. The performance art pieces of Deimling have been called agierte Bilder, literally “acted images”, making clear reference to the visual potential of his work. The performances Deimling ideated since the beginning of his long and fruitful artistic career are all characterized by a wise use of the material, a large attention to the visual impact, and an almost paradoxical limitation of gestures, echoed by his motto: “It is not the action that makes the performance”. BBB Johannes Deimling is also well known for being a performance art teacher, working in independent and public institutions; the topic of researching, learning and sharing is constantly at the bases of his artistic practice, and the visual performances cycle A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss is not an exception.

The English proverb “A rolling stone gathers no moss” can have both a positive or a negative acceptation, on one hand being in a constant state of movement means to keep on evolving, changing without letting time impose its traces, on the other to be a perpetual wanderer implies do not have the capacity to settle down some necessary roots. BBB Johannes Deimling accepts both the meanings of this sentence, and sum-up them in a third option: to be involved in a constant movement does not mean to not have roots, rather to spread those roots everywhere. Becoming aware of the distance, as well as of the proximity with the objects of the world, the artist opens his practice to infinite possibilities, making his gestures an active part in the flux of the elements, and a vehicle of change.

In the performances composing this cycle Deimling creates visual moments that are connected one to the other by a system of subtle relations, which develop a composite collage of imaginative actions. The performance pieces are the sum of several figurative constructions, shaped by the interaction of artist’s movement with the objects, with their forms and colours, but also with their inner, symbolic meanings. BBB Johannes Deimling elects the metaphorical language of poetry as the favourite idiom of his performance practice: the objects that the artist chooses have the capacity to create a clear sense of beauty, while expressing, or suggesting, something more behind the simple optical gratification. Roses, soap bubbles, marbles and wooden chairs are some among the recurrent objects the artist uses in the series A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss; all of these tools can encourage certain basilar feelings in the audience, if the rose suggests both beauty and ephemerality the chairs inspire stability and familiarity, to make an example. The physical intervention of the performer on the material, his interaction and play with his instruments, has the power to give a different form to the spontaneous sensations and interpretations of the spectators, overturning their perception of common elements from plain everyday life.

The performative actions of A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss recall the concept of motion as change, as described by Aristotle in his Physics; the ancient Greek philosopher talks about movement as actuality of potentiality 2, stating that the essence of change, and its reason, is always to be found inside the element that changes. To explain this concept Aristotle uses two examples, the case of the teacher and the learner and the one of the clay and the pot. In the learner and the clay there is a full potentiality, translatable into actuality through engagement into movement, which means transformation. The teacher only stimulates a revolution that is already in the learner, as the clay has always contained the possibility of the pot.
BBB Johannes Deimling seems to embrace this same notion of inducement to movement/change, both when he works with objects, as in the case of his performative interventions, and when he interacts with his students. Deimling is aware that cannot be possible to define a clear distinction between the subject and the object of an action, the move and its result, the cause and the consequence, and there is no such thing as passivity in art or teaching.

1 Calvino, I., The Baron in the Trees, translated by Archibald Colquhoun, New York, London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1977. Original version: Luigi Einaudi Editore, Torino 1957.
2 See Kosman, L. A., “Aristotle’s Definition of Motion”, in Phronesis, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1969), pp. 40-62

On Friday, April 25, within the frame of Present Tense Series, the performance art program of SAVVY Contemporary for 2014, BBB Johannes Deimling will present the 8th chapter of his performance cycle A Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss (2013-…), performing in collaboration with Lotte Kaiser (b.1999). During the same night the audience will get a chance to witness another performance piece, by Corentin JPM Leven (b.1993), one of BBB Johannes Deimling students from Norway Theatre Academy.

On Saturday, April 26, BBB Johannes Deimling will lead an artist talk on the topic teaching performance art, entitled “There’s no smoke without fire”.


BBB Johannes Deimling’s (1969 in Andernach, Germany) artistic practice encompasses performance art, action art, video, installation, drawing and music. Since 1988 Deimling has traded on everyday objects to create living images that would reflect a society full of contradictions, sentimentality, stupidity, creativity and cooperation. Searching for and finding ideas and suggestions in the banalities of daily life, Deimling transforms topics such as patience, will, war, religion or transportation into physical and poetic images. His ephemeral work has been on show in Europe, Israel, Canada, South America and Cuba, including the ICA in London, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Kiasma I museum for contemporary art in Helsinki, Center for contemporary art in Tel Aviv, Art Hall in Tallinn, Cornerhouse Gallery in Manchester, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein. Deimling participated in several international Performance Art Festivals, such as Interakcje in Poland, 7a11d in Canada, Bone in Switzerland, AccionMAD in Spain, Venice International Performance Art Week in Italy.

Since 1998, Deimling has been actively lecturing and teaching on performance art at various academic institutions, including the F+F, school for art and media design in Zürich, Switzerland; the Estonian Art Academy in Tallinn, Estonia; the Akademi for Szenekunst in Fredrikstad, Norway, and the TU Dresden in Germany. Since 2012, he is Associate Professor for Performance Art at NTA – Norwegian Theatre Academy at the Østfold University College. In 2008 he founded PAS-Performance Art Studies, a workshop project for international art students and young artists, hold in Canada, Germany, Israel, Serbia, France, Poland, Norway, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Cyprus, Netherlands and Estonia.

For more information please visit:

Lotte Kaiser (b. 1999) discovered performance art during a PAS youth studies with BBB Johannes Deimling, later she matured a strong interest in this art form as an ideal tool for teenagers to express what is not expressible through words. Lotte has presented her works already in several art spaces, among others at Grimmuseum, Berlin. This is the first time Lotte performs together with BBB Johannes Deimling as part of the performance A Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss.
For further information about previous performances by Lotte Kaiser (tutored by BBB Johannes Deimling) please visit:

Corentin JPM Leven (b. 1993) is a student at the Norwegian Theatre Academy (NTA) in Fredrikstad, Norway, tutored by BBB Johannes Deimling. Corentin is currently studying scenography, and has a background in literature and philosophy. His work, as young performance artist, relates to the concepts of absurdity, kitsch and impossibility of expression.

Kindly supported by:



About transformation, strength, affection, the mother and the child

Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 7 pm

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary I Richardstr.20 I 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

© Willan Octave-Emile

“The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred “Yes.” For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred “Yes” is needed: the spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers his own world.”
Friedrich Nietzsche 1

On Wednesday, March 26, within the frame of Present Tense Series, Nathalie Mba Bikoro will present the second part of the performance installation “Pietà; The Hammer, Mother & Child”. Divided into two phases, the performance piece is the result of Bikoro’s investigation of maternity as a catalyst of intensity, which summarizes the main traits of life, focusing on its paradoxical aspects. Bikoro’s narrative depicts the act of giving birth as a personal, arduous journey of transformation, which comes to be representative of human strength as a capacity to unflinchingly accept life in all its painful and joyful facets.

Similar to Michelangelo’s masterpiece that inspires the title of this performance, Bikoro’s apparently violent act of hitting the stone does not produce a destructive effect: the hammer does not destroy, but it rather releases a secret life incarcerated in the stone. The material, the white rock, undergoes transfiguration, but it doesn not evolve into something absolutely different. Instead, what the viewer witnesses is a metamorphosis that becomes possible only through a measured mixture of variation and continuity. Nothing comes from nothing: in the same way that the origins can always be traced in the final product, any kind of historical progress, personal or collective, stems from an organic dialogue between the old and the new, between past and present. According to Benjamin, “history is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now [Jetztzeit]” . 2

In this context, the extreme, radical mutation symbolized by birth, a “no-being” that becomes “being”, is used as a premise for artistic and conceptual investigation. Bikoro elaborates an intimate system of correspondences between herself (creator, both as mother and artist), the new-born (a vivid manifestation of life at its most), and the stone, an inanimate object shaped by creative intentions (the son of art and imagination). The performative gesture closes the symbolic circle of the elements, gives them unity, and sets the entire process to action. The act of change is a state of constant movement, although this flux is always inherent to each singular instance, and in this sense eternally fixed. This is the reason why once we encounter death in life, we are unable to distinguish between the two: same as the love for the present moment always implies a memory about the things passed, presence is nothing without absence. After all, the concept of resurrection is essentially nothing else, but a declaration of awareness of the ultimate unity of these two opposites. This in mind, the title of the performance “Pietà” sounds almost ironical, since it intentionally makes the viewer think of mourning and grief, although the default theme of the artwork is birth and new life.

Life derives its forms from experiences (the figure of the mother) as well as from expectations (the stone and the child). Death and birth are both liminal moments, which elucidate the coexistence of temporalities in a man’s lifetime. This blurry edge between living and not-(yet)-living is a perfect place for creation, since it is open to possibility and novelty, which Bikoro’s artistic intervention intends to represent.

1. Nietzsche, F, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Random House 1954
2. Benjamin, W, On the Concept of History, translated by Dennis Redmond, original German version Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag (1974)


Nathalie Mba Bikoro (b. 1985 in Libreville, Gabon) is an interdisciplinary artist, whose artwork aims to bring together communities by collecting fractured narratives for the sake of social change through identity, memory, dialogue, history and multilingualism. Her personal experiences facilitated her sensibility to cross-interculturalism and languages, which she explores to deconstruct and re-construct mythologies of both past and present. In her artistic practice the narratives examine the eternal returns of historical and visual stereotypes throughout art history, and the ways they influence current societies and interactions. The ultimate purpose is not to resolve the colonial contexts, but rather expose fragile nuances of the political, in order to foster the legacy of celebrating the multiplicity of voices and cultural identities, as well as challenging conceptions of origin, authenticity and ritual.

Bikoro participated in numerous international exhibitions and festivals, among others Perpendicular Brazil (2011), African Heritage London (2010) and Museum Africa Johannesburg South Africa (2011), EPAF11 Warsaw Poland (2011) and Dak’Art Biennale 10th edition (2012). Nathalie Bikoro is a practicing curator for Contemporary Visual Arts, and an Associate Lecturer (Greenwich University London, South Bank University London and Richmond Adult College).

For more information please visit:



About time, memories, places, the act and the image

Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 7pm

Artist Talk

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary I Richardstr.20 I 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

Jill Orr, The Promised Land, Photographer: Christina Simons for Jill Orr. Jill Orr ©

“Memory is not in us; it is we who move in a Being-memory, a world memory. In short, the past appears as the most general form of an already-there, a pre-existence in general, which our recollections presuppose, even our first recollection if there was one, and which our perceptions, even the first, make use of.”
Gilles Deleuze 1

Since the late 1970s, Australian artist Jill Orr has explored topics related to the definition of identity, the clash Culture/Nature, and the intimate bond between personal stories and the History, including the constant intersection of pasts, presents and futures which originates from it. Orr’s manifold artistic practice aims at creating a unity of action and stasis, which culminates in a performative image crystallising the creative process into a singular, visual instant.

In Jill Orr’s artwork the awareness of the body and its positioning in the physical world comes together with an attempt to define the self, which is a wander with no landing point, a continuous flux. In her environmental art pieces, Orr addresses the concepts of presence and belonging: who am I? Where do I come from? Is there something for/of me here? The artist transforms her (female) body in a battleground, emphasising an intimate connection with her home country, a troubled land where the opposites meet and melt together, a place of precarious identities.

Orr has often used her artistic practice to explore historical landscapes, sites of memory where the subject moves like in a cognizant day-dream. Her performative pieces convey in one moment—the moment of the act—all the layers of Australian history: the geological history of the territory, Aboriginal history, colonial history, and immigration history. Different temporalities leave a sediment in this single instant, in this act/image, which is both contemporary and historical. Orr does not intend to represent the history, or re-enact it in a fictional way, she rather wants to give a poetic interpretation of time itself, as a confusion of temporalities, a vortex capable of bringing together what has been with what will be or already is. The body of the artist seems to incorporate echoes of far-away myths and memories of a common past, which do not belong to the artist only, but pre-exist her, giving shape to the world as we all know it. Recalling antique impersonal memories and conjectures of the past, and dealing with trans-generational hauntings, the artist’s gestures narrate the present and always refer to the factual reality, which can be touched and experienced directly, vividly and at any time.

We Make the Image Together is a new performance piece conceived by Jill Orr. According to the artist, “this trilogy of performance images is evocative of Pagan rites, that gradually bare the body with a haunting present that does not go away. Humanity creates images that are transmitted collectively influencing consequent actions that follow. Some actions are positive, some are negative, it depends on the perception of meaning. Both image and action, artist and audience are interdependent.”

On Thursday, February 6, within the frame of Present Tense Series, the performance art program of SAVVY Contemporary for 2014, Jill Orr will present a brand-new live performance We Make the Image Together.
Sound: Steve Bell

On Friday, February 7, SAVVY Contemporary invites you to an artist talk with Jill Orr. The artist will highlight her thirty-six years long artistic career and introduce Berlin audience to the specifics of contemporary performance art from Australia.


Jill Orr (b. 1952) is an Australian performance artist and researcher, based in Melbourne.

Her performances, videos, installations and photography explore the body and its positioning within social, political and environmental contexts. In her artistic practice, Orr confronts the interplay of balance and discord in the relationship of the human spirit, art and nature. Orr’s early iconic work Bleeding Trees (1979) has led to such commissions as Marriage of the Bride to Art, Raising the Spirits, Exhume the Grave, Hunger, The Myer Windows, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Goya and Ash.

Orr has participated in numerous international exhibitions and festivals in Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Antwerp New York, Toronto, Quebec City, Graz, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Venice. Her works are included in major public collections, inter alia the National Gallery of Australia, Redgate Gallery Beijing, the National Gallery of Victoria, The Graeme Gibson collection, the Monash Gallery of Art and Griffith Artworks. Her works are part of private collections in Australia, Holland, England, France, the United States, China and Belgium. Jill Orr is represented by Jenny Port Gallery.

1 Deleuze, G, Cinema II: The Time-Image, London: Athlone Press, 1989



About participation, collaboration, dependency, the performer and the other

Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 7pm

Performances: Points and Lines, Internet, Flow

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 7pm

Artist Talk "Performance Art and the Practice of Collaboration"

Curator: Chiara Cartuccia

SAVVY Contemporary I Richardstr.20 I 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

©Alexander Newton

“The self is a sub-jectum: it is under the weight of the universe ... the unity of the universe is not what my gaze embraces in its unity of apperception, but what is incumbent upon me from all sides, regards me, is my affair” Emmanuel Levinas1

Yingmei Duan has broadly investigated the concepts of dependency and freedom, using as a starting point the little, voluntary slavery that collaborative work implies. In this respect, the reciprocal limitation of desires and intentions, which two (or more) creative subjects would impose one upon another during the execution of a co-operative work, might reveal itself to be a tool to reach a bigger pleasure and a greater freedom—both from the aesthetic and ethic points of view.

This is due to the fact that only honestly facing others and communicating with them, the artist can constitute herself as a social subject or, as the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas defines it, a subject that actually is for-the-other. The otherness in this sense has to be intended as the very source of the self-awareness of an individual, since the consciousness of one’s subjectivity always stems from confrontation with an extraneous object/subject. Paying attention to others, creating a constant condition of proximity to them and opening up a dialogue allows the artist to define her position in this world as well as the socio-political possibilities of her artistic practice.

In the course of her artistic career, Yingmei Duan produced a large number of participative works, involving a vast and heterogeneous audience of children and adults, women and men in her creative research. In most of her performances, either when she works in collaboration with another creative subject, or when she interacts with more or less unaware spectators, Duan attempts to give life to an expanded subject, elaborating a conceptual unity and, eventually, a total confusion between the artist and the audience, erasing any role distinction. Duan’s approach to performance very closely recalls Umberto Eco’s words about the theatrical performance: “[T]he elementary mechanisms of human interaction and the elementary mechanisms of dramatic fiction are the same... This finally explains why aesthetics and criticism have always suspected that theatrical performances were instances of everyday life. It is not theatre that is able to imitate life; it is social life that is designed as a continuous performance and, because of this, there is a link between theatre and life”2.

The body of the performance artist, her gestures, voice and gazes foster communication and exchange between singularities, the Self and the Other, the artist and her audience, and between the members of the audience themselves. If everything works in the right way the artist will find, in the middle of the action, a moment to stand still, enjoying the condition of conscious spectator she built up for herself and all the participants to the performance event. In her performances Yingmei Duan operates in such a way to conquer the full normalization of the artistic act, bringing the artworks she conceives and performs on the very same level of the casual actions that take place in everyday life, and saving for herself, as artist, the position of one among the others who are under the weight of the universe.

On Friday, January 24, within the frame of Present Tense Series, the performance art program of SAVVY Contemporary for 2014, Yingmei Duan will present two site-specific, participatory performances, focused on the concepts of communication, interrelation, networking and sharing. The artist will involve the audience into an active, physical and conceptual dialog, and the usage of her body and voice as well as the bodies and voices of spectators as creative tools.

On Saturday, January 25, Duan will lead a lecture on “Performance Art and the Practice of Collaboration”. Presenting some of her collaborative projects, Duan will expand on the pivotal role of collaborations in her artistic practice and research.


Yingmei Duan was born in 1969 in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province in Northern China. She currently lives and works in Braunschweig, Germany.

Duan was part of the Chinese avant-garde and used to live in the art district of Beijing’s East Village in the 1990s. In 1995 she participated in the performance To add one meter to an anonymous mountain, considered to be one of the classics of Chinese modern art. Under the influence of Marina Abramovic?, her fellow-student at the HBK Braunschweig in Germany between 2000 and 2004, she continued with performance art as a principal medium of her artwork. In 2005, she started a collaboration with the filmmaker and action artist Christoph Schlingensief.

Duan’s performances are part of many major international exhibitions, among which are: 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014), ’24 SPACES- A Cacophony’, Malmo? Konsthall (2013), ‘Art of Change: New Directions from China’, Hayward Gallery, London (2012); ‘Non-Aligned’, Marina Abramovic? Institute West, San Francisco (2010); Manchester International Festival (2009); ‘re.act.feminism- performance art of the 1960s and 70s today’, Kunsthaus Erfurt (2009), City of Women International Festival of Contemporary Arts, Llujbana (2009), and Akademie der Ku?nste, Berlin (2008); 6th DaDao Live Art Festival, China (2008), and 52nd Venice Biennale (2007).

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1. Levinas, E, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1981, p.140
2. Eco, U, “Semiotics of Theatrical Performance”, in The Drama Review TDR 21, 1 (1977), p. 113.