Body Talks: Art and Identity in Modern States

  • Abstract:

    In this paper I would like to explore the intersections between performance art and politics in the postcolonial world. Contemporary artists attend actively to the intellectual discussion of migration, construction of national identity and postcolonialism. Artists explore and implement multiple site-specific medium, experimental concepts and aesthetic languages, and in this way performance art creates new perspectives and methodology to complement social political-oriented approach. Human gesture, including movement of the hands, face, or other parts of the body, is a form of symbolic, non-verbal communication where the visible bodily actions metaphor for certain messages. Gestures are performed and exchanged based on shared, tacitly approved cultural and social norms. Simon Leung, Chinese American born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States at ten, is a contemporary artist and professor of studio art whose works probe into issues including border crossings, territories, the ‘cosmopolitan nomad’, sexuality and gender, many through the medium of psychoanalytic practices and performative gestures of the physical human body. During 1994 and 2010, Leung has produced a series of six ‘Squatting Projects’ In Berlin (1994), New York (1995), Chicago (1997), Vienna (1998), Guangzhou (2008) and Hong Kong (2010), each presenting the performative gesture of squat in different forms and medium (poster, video installation, sculpture, images) tailored to the site-specific and context-specific issues embedded in the interlinked movements and circulation of people, capital, goods and languages. I would like to analyze Leung’s squatting projects where the artist uses squatting gesture as the central figure and site for critical intervention to the fore. Metaphoric and metonymical expressions are embedded in these works where the gesture represented racial signifier and social classifier.