Nikhil Chopra: Performance of Rouge 2019 and conversation with Catherine Wood

Annie Jael Kwan reflects on this two-part event: a playful performance by the artist Nikhil Chopra of his durational live action work Rouge 2019, in which he draws a large landscape on a gallery wall in red lipstick; and a conversation between the artist and Catherine Wood, Senior Curator of International Art (Performance) at Tate. They discuss some of the ideas behind Rouge, including containment and colonial land ownership, as well as Chopra’s practice more broadly. The event was organised by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational and Kettle’s Yard, and took place at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, on 3 December 2019.

Nikhil Chopra performing his durational live action drawing Rouge 2019 at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, on 3 December 2019
Photo: Neena Percy

The conditions in which art is produced are always affected by different histories. Within this context, can transgressive playfulness rattle the cage? As a curator of Asian contemporary and live art, I am fascinated by how live performance can interrogate the workings of power, race and representation; how it can challenge embedded structures of power within institutions; and how it can reconfigure ideas of co-existence. These questions are made more pertinent in the UK by Brexit and the Home Office’s Hostile Environment policy – the system of administrative and legislative procedures designed to make it as difficult as possible for migrants to settle and live in the country.

The exhibition Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan ran at Kettle’s Yard from 12 November 2019 – 2 February 2019; it was curated by Devika Singh, Curator of International Art at Tate, and Amy Tobin, Curator of Exhibitions, Events and Research at Kettle’s Yard. It examined the complex geopolitical contexts where the implications of the events of the 1947 Partition of India and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 continue to reverberate. The multidisciplinary works that were exhibited explored themes of home and dislocation – even as millions of people continue to be displaced across South Asia and beyond. Nikhil Chopra’s cage installation La Perla Negra: Plaza di Armas 2015 (fig.2), is featured in the gallery right next to where his performance took place. This cage is a performance remnant from when the artist embodied the persona of ‘La Perla Negra’ (a vernacular colloquial term of Black exceptionalism) for a durational drawing session of over sixty hours before being freed from the cage.

Nikhil Chopra performing in La Perla Negra: Plaza di Armas 2015, installed in the exhibition Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, on 3 December 2019
Photo: Neena Percy

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