Fresh Performance Chapter 3: Performance & Power

FRESH MILK in collaboration with Damali Abrams presents Chapter 3 in the Fresh Performance Project: Performance & Power

Power is a complex notion. There are so many systems of power that seem to control our destinies with so many groups feeling oppressed for various reasons.  In American society, which cultural critic bell hooks describes as ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’, power is held foremost by wealthy straight white men. The quality of the institutions we have access to such as healthcare, education, and employment are dependent upon our ability to appeal to those in power for whatever scraps they choose to share with the rest of us.

Thankfully there are many groups and individuals who continue to insist upon quality of life for all people, as there have been throughout history. Many artists utilize performance as a means to confront these systems and speak truth to power. However I think that Ewan Atkinson and Seyhan Musaoglu‘s work challenges systems of power in more subtle ways.

Ewan Atkinson’s work plays on the Caribbean tradition of masquerade. As in the custom of playing mas, Ewan intends to challenge the viewer to step out from the comfort zones of our day-to-day personas. Though he does not view this as a subversive act, I think that challenging our comfort zones is often a great catalyst for personal and collective transformation. Since Ewan’s use of performance is mostly in performative photographs, he is hesitant to call it performance art. Definitions and classifications can be very slippery as we saw in Chapter One of this documentary, Defining Performance. But for the purposes of The Fresh Performance Project, I am interested in art that includes performance of any kind.

Seyhan Musaoglu’s work explores the radical possibilities of sound art performance. I met Seyhan years ago when we both showed our work at Synthetic Zero events at Bronx Art Space. Later she included my work in SØNiK Fest,  a festival of sound, video, interactive media, and live performance that she curates.

Seyhan and I were scheduled to meet up for her interview during the beginning of the Occupy Gezi protests in Turkey. When she told me that we had to reschedule because she was attending daily solidarity protests outside of the Turkish consulate in midtown Manhattan, I decided to film her at a protest. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to document the performance of the power of the people. Though Seyhan is quick to point out that her art is separate from her activism, her work is rooted in feminism and deconstructing elitist art world ideas. She is also a classically trained guitarist who emphasizes the importance of learning the structure of music before experimenting with creating new sounds or noise art. It was especially exciting to be able to include two examples of Seyhan’s sound art as the soundtrack for this chapter of the documentary.

Damali Abrams

About Seyhan Musaoglu:

Seyhan Musaoglu is a multi-media artist whose work spans the fields of live performance, sound art, film and video, and 2-D media. Drawing inspiration from diverse sources ranging from science fiction imagery, to fashion, to modern dance choreography, her work investigates the gap between sound production and music composition, contemporary feminist theory, and the history of avant-garde filmmaking. She has been performing widely with collaborations celebrated internationally in genres of sound and experimental noise. She is also an innovative independent curator, and is the founder of the sound, new media & peformance festival {SØNiK}Fest. Seyhan holds an MFA from Parsons the New School for Design. Some of the venues her work has been presented at are: The Kitchen (NYC), New York Studio Gallery (NYC), Lit Lounge (NYC), Curta 8 Film Festival (Brazil), and Istanbul’s famed venue, Babylon. To see some of her work:

About Ewan Atkinson:

Ewan Atkinson was born in Barbados in 1975. He received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1998 and is currently pursuing an MA in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.  He has exhibited in regional and international exhibitions of Caribbean contemporary art, including most recently the 2010 Liverpool Biennial, “Wrestling with the image: Caribbean Interventions” at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington DC, and “Infinite Islands” at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.  Atkinson has taught in the BFA program at the Barbados Community College for over a decade. He also works as a freelance illustrator and designer.

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