Performance Artists Questioning The Medium

In this brand new series we’re exploring fearlessly authentic art, the kind that can’t and won’t be contained by a frame or canvas.

From bold performances to intricate installations, conceptual video works to large-scale public pieces, we’ll be bringing you the best unconventional artists who’re pushing the boundaries of their medium to create art that is uncompromising in its originality.

Performance art has an ever growing presence in South Africa, where the intrinsically political nature of the form is used by artists to critique and comment on contemporary socio-political issues. Performance art is rooted in temporality, and often exists on the margin of other art practices, incorporating elements of different disciplines such as video, choreography, photography, fashion, drawing or painting.

Performance art can be understood as art that embraces ephemeral, time-based visual and performing arts events that include a human presence and broaden, challenge or question traditional views of the arts. Performance art is rarely easily digested, rather challenges us to engage, question, interrogate the performance and our own assumptions. In the following list we take a look at 6 performance artists pushing the boundaries of the medium and creating radically authentic works.

The Brother Moves On

To define what The Brother Moves On (TBMO) is no simple feat, and is in fact central to the group’s conceptual statement. The collective of multi-disciplinary “brothers” exists as an ever changing entity neither defined by genre nor its members. TBMO describes itself as an “art movement [and] an ever-evolving performance art collective founded by Nkululeko Mthembu and his brother Siyabonga Mthembu”. Using music, performance, storytelling and ritual to evoke powerful South African narratives of blackness, identity, history and mourning, TBMO are as authentic and real as they come.

Follow them on Facebook or see more of their work via goodman-gallery.com.

Images below courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: The Brother Moves On

The Brother Burns the Bullion, 2014.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: The Brother Moves On

The Brother Burns the Bullion, 2014.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: The Brother Moves On

Ubu Never Loved Us, 2016. 

Fearlessly Authentic Art: The Brother Moves On

Ubu Never Loved Us, 2016.

IQhiya

iQhiya is a collective of young black female artists that is taking on the white boys’ club that is the South African art world. “We are the millennial generation of women that choose to define and represent our own narratives”, the group proclaim. The founding principle of the collective is simple – there’s power in numbers. Together, the iQhiya artists are demanding attention and fostering their own space in the industry. While each member of the group works in a different medium, together, they use performance as a powerful means of insert themselves physically into spaces where previously they felt that black women artists were invisible.

Keep up via their Facebook Page.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: iqhiya

The Portrait- The Old Pass Office Museum, 2016. Image by Gerald Machona.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: iqhiya

The Commute part I, 2016. Images courtesy of the collective.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: iqhiya

The Commute part I, 2016. Images courtesy of the collective.

FAKA

Newcomers to the performance art scene, FAKA have quickly garnered a reputation and following for their often provocative work promoting positive black queer identities. Thato Ramaisa (Fela Gucci) and Buyani Duma (Desire Marea) describe their work as the “liberation and representation of the black queer body [and] use performance as a way to humanise queerness and blackness”. Whether collaborating with photographers, in live performances, or through music, the KAFA duo use their bodies and alter egos to present alternative narratives and representations of black queerness that challenge assumptions of gender performativity.

More on their Facebook Page, of follow @felagucci and @desiremarea on Instagram.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: FAKA

For Cakeboy Mazagine. Image by Nick Widmer.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: FAKA

Image by Kristin-Lee Moolman.

Gavin Krastin

There’s nothing polite or subtle about performance artist Gavin Krastin‘s work. His interests lie in the permeability and politics of boundaries – of the body and how it is represented, of theatre conventions, gender, and space – within the larger South African socio-political context. Rather than using performance as a means of escaping the politics of the body, Gavin uses it as a way to occupy and subvert, and challenge notions of presentation and representation.

More at gavinkrastin.com.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Gavin Krastin

Epoxy (2014). Image by Owen Murray.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Gavin Krastin

#omnomnom at the National Arts Festival in Grahamston (2014). Image by Sarah Schafer.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Gavin Krastin

#omnomnom at the National Arts Festival in Grahamston (2014). Image by Sarah Schafer.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Gavin Krastin

Rough Musick (2013). Image by Suzy Bernstein.

Buhlebezwe Siwani

A member of the iQhiya collective, Buhlebezwe Siwani uses her body as a site of protest and power in her work. Her work focuses on cultural traditions and practices, spirituality, and history. As a trained iSangoma, Buhlebezwe’s work incorporates elements of ritual, which through their performance, reclaim agency and identity from a history of colonisation and gender-based violence.

More at buhlebezwesiwani.com.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Buhlebezwe Siwani

Qunusa!Buhle, 2016. Any Given Sunday, Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Buhlebezwe Siwani

iJoowish, 2016. Live Architecture: the 55 Minute Hour. Trubok Factory, Brickfield Junction, 15 Brickfield Rd, Salt River.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: Buhlebezwe Siwani

Zemk’inkomo magwalandini, 2015. Performative installation 45 minutes-hour. Wooden poles, cow skulls and red powder. Michaelis Galleries. All images courtesy of the artist.

Athi-Patra Ruga

Exploring the border-zones between fashion, performance and contemporary art, Athi-Patra Ruga makes work that exposes and subverts the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics. His multi-part Azania saga was born as a response to the death of the “Rainbow nation” and an interrogation of what remains in the ashes. Using fictional characters as avatars, fantastically elaborate costumes and choreographed performances, Athi critiques the myth of a utopian African state by parodying issues such as the feminine construct in the eyes and laws of men as well as superficial markers of nationhood.

More on Facebook or whatiftheworld.com.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: athi-patra-ruga

The Elder of Azania at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (2015). Image by Charles Harry Mackenzie.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: athi-patra-ruga

The Elder of Azania at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (2015). Image by Charles Harry Mackenzie.

Fearlessly Authentic Art: athi-patra-ruga

The Elder of Azania at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (2015). Image by Charles Harry Mackenzie.

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