The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and Asia Art Archive in India proudly co-hosted the first chapter of MEMORY ACTS: a series of situated readings from the fugitive, disparate and embodied archives of Performance Art with performance artist Manmeet Devgun on November 24, 2017 at 5:30 pm. The event was held at our new space in the FICA Reading Room at S-17, Khirki Extension where we are currently sharing space with Gati Dance Forum.
Drawing inspiration from Griselda Pollock's thesis on a Virtual Feminist Museum, the series aspired ‘to look back with difference’ and test the complex workings of memory, time, space and the archive. Moderated by Sabih Ahmed, the session saw Manmeet pick up from a photographic still of Mona Hatoum's 1985 performance that consisted of the artist walking barefoot through the streets of Brixton for nearly an hour, while dragging around her ankles a pair of Doc Marten boots, usually worn by both police and skinheads. She discussed its serendipitous overlaps with her own work and subsequently veered it towards a broader discussion about the strength that the female body could possibly channel under duress. The discussion also included an intensive debate about the ephemerality of performance art and the issues that its archival through photographic/videographic documentation entails.
Memory Acts has been conceived as an experiment where female artists are invited to remember, revisit, annotate, and interpret a work of performance art made by another artist that has inspired them, moved them, or left an imprint on their imagination. Each session of Memory Acts would bring together an enactment of the vocabularies, performative gestures and the multiple ways by which performance art can be recalled. There shall therefore be more Memory Acts sessions to follow in the coming months with inspiring female performance artists as they attempt to navigate the energy that constitutes this art form. The series is an opportunity to ask, what are the forms of archives that performance art invites us to imagine?
Memory Acts is a continuation of the year-long collaboration between AAA in India and FICA dedicated to revisiting the history of performance art in India. The programme extends from the multiple initiatives by FICA and AAA in India dedicated to Performance Art.
Manmeet Devgun is a Delhi-based performance and lens based artist. She has exhibited her work as part of numerous group shows across Delhi, and also shown as part of shows in Vienna, Berlin, and Madrid among other places. She did a solo project, ‘I dont' need your help’ ,Abadi Art Space( 2011) ,Delhi. Her work as a performance artist is closely linked to her own life and life-situations, often foregrounding key feminist concerns. She has performed as part of Khoj Live 2008; Regional Arts and Performance Events (R.A.P.E.) Guwahati, 2012; KNMA, 2012; School of Art and Aesthetics-JNU, 2013; Live Art Lab, Bangalore, 2014; Illicit Bodies,Bengluru,2014; and Kolkata International Performance Arts Festival, 2014 & 15; Der Langest Tag, Zurich 2015. She was also on the 2012 shortlist for the prestigious Skoda Prize. She is the recipient of Pro Helvetia Research Residency 2015. 2016:Dhaka Art Summit, Co-curator KIPAF;2017 Festival of stories,Bengluru. JNU, School of Arts & Aesthetics.
Sabih Ahmed is a Researcher at Asia Art Archive (AAA). He has led various research initiatives pertaining to modern and contemporary art in India that include digitisation projects of artist archives, creating digital bibliographies of vernacular art writing, and organising conferences and workshops. In 2016, Ahmed worked as a member of the Curatorial Collegiate of the 11th Shanghai Biennale curated by Raqs Media Collective. He is based in New Delhi, where he has been a Visiting Faculty in Ambedkar University's School of Culture and Creative Expression.
Asia Art Archive (AAA) is an independent non-profit organisation initiated in 2000 in response to the urgent need to document and make accessible the multiple recent histories of art in the region. With one of the most valuable collections of material on art freely available from its website and onsite library, AAA builds tools and communities to collectively expand knowledge through research, residency, and educational programmes. AAA in India (AAA in I) was established in 2013 reflecting the organisation’s widening scope of activities in India. With an on-site digital collection housed in New Delhi in a space that is open to visitors, AAA in I organises a range of projects, workshops, and programmes with a mission to build archives and instigate dialogue and critical thinking around contemporary art from India.