Video still showing a hollow in the ground shaped like a human silhouette with outstretched arms. It is filled with red liquid.

From Earth to Ink: How Performance Artists Use Their Bodies in Their Work

Performance art is an art form that makes use of time and the human body (or bodies) to express a feeling or idea. Works of performance art can be carried out almost anywhere by anyone, can be public or private, and can rely on scripted or unscripted actions.

While all forms of performance art involve bodies in one way or another, some performance artists draw particular attention to their own bodies. A loose movement of body-related performance art emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, pioneered by artists who placed their own bodies at the forefront of their art.

One of the artists who experimented with this type of art during this period was Ana Mendieta. She is best known for her ‘earth-body’ works, in which she focuses on a connection between her body and the earth. Right now, you can see a selection of Mendieta’s body performance pieces at Five Artists: Sites Encountered in the M+ Pavilion.

Groups of three of four people sit on chairs in small circles, talking to each other. The groups are set up in a booth with the M+ logo in the corner.

Human Library: What did Visitors Ask M+ Staff?

During Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, M+ organised a human library, where staff members acted as ‘books’ that could be borrowed by the public for short conversations. Anyone passing by could submit questions for staff to answer during these exchanges.

Here are the five most asked visitor questions, along with responses from five different human books:

1. What skills are required for your work? How did you develop them?

Film still showing a person in a red martial arts outfit swinging a sword through the air. They are in front of a large red fabric backdrop with black Chinese characters across it.

Reading Between the Lines with Wu Tsang

Filmed on a junk boat off the coast of Hong Kong island, Wu Tsang’s Duilian (2016) reinterprets the life of Chinese poet and feminist martyr Qiu Jin (1875–1907). Qiu Jin was executed for revolting against the Qing Dynasty government in China. The film centres on her intimate relationship with the female calligrapher and publisher Wu Zhiying (1867–1936).

Duilian is an acquisition-in-progress for M+, and is one of the many works in which the artist, filmmaker, and 2018 MacArthur Fellowship recipient Wu Tsang explores hidden histories, community-building, and new possibilities for performance and translation. Below, Ulanda Blair, M+ Curator, Moving Image, chats with Wu about her multifaceted practice, the influence of Charles Atlas, and the story behind Duilian.

Wu will present both Duilian and Into a Space of Love (2018) during The Hidden Pulse. This five-day moving image programme, running from 29 May to 2 June, is co-presented by M+ and the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid LIVE, an annual contemporary music festival at the Sydney Opera House. Wu will also introduce Charles Atlas’s films From an Island Summer (1983–84) and Hail the New Puritan (1986) during the programme.

Ulanda: How do you describe your practice to those who are unfamiliar with your work?