New: A video documenting Sep. 29th performance!
The previous news…
Indian artist Nikhil Chopra will embark on his most recent performance work, the signature “Yog Raj Chitrakar” series at Sydney’s Carriageworks from September 28th till 30th. The artist’s premiere show in the southern hemisphere was commissioned by Carriageworks to develop site-specific work in response to Carriageworks’ industrial history and architecture.
In this three-day endurance work, Chopra will inhabit himself in a self devised fictional character, a Victorian-era draughtsman, Yog Raj Chitrakar, named after his grandfather Yog Raj Chopra. He will draw, wash, shave, eat, rest and even cook for an 18-guest dinner party with fresh produce that he is going to buy from the Saturday Eveleigh market himself. He said he will get himself gradually blackened through the process of charcoal drawing on five three-metre-high white boards. There are wheels underneath the boards, so he can move the mural-size drawing around the space himself. He will interact with the audience but without saying a word. On the Saturday morning, he will shop in the onsite Eveleigh market next to the performance space for fresh produce and prepare a dinner for 18 people and invite willing audience to join. Before the dinner, he will wash and shave, apply makeup and dress up, through which he will transform himself into a totally different persona to welcome the guests. But as the time we talked, the artist was still undecided whether he should remain silent or break out to have a conversation with the audience.
On the question of concepts of the work, Chopra explained, “There are so many concepts (I want to explore in this work). There are concepts and then concepts within concepts. One of the concepts is I want to suspend the audience in between fiction and reality, in between the past and the present, in between what is live and what is recorded, in between theatre and painting, in between performance art, endurance and theatre. I guess what I am interested is creating undefinable space that you can’t quite say exactly what it is. But what you are experiencing is very real.”
Chopra says he is interested in “evoking someone’s memory of a time and a place”. He thinks that history is not as interesting as memory, because memory is “fluid” and changeable like clay, while history seems to be dogmatic, written and linear. “History is written memory and then it becomes memory, it becomes the truth… It’s interesting to see what images do… because we are so visual as creatures that memories are so triggered off when we see something. So I am really interested in tapping or evoking people’s memories and associations with the work.”
“The work is often addressing the site, (which is about) where I am. And it’s also addressing who I am,” says the artist. The reference to Carriageworks is throughout the work. A sack of coal is used to imply the rail yard and industrial past, but it is also the medium for the artist to draw and the colour he is going to change himself into. The dinner party is said to be a feast of an Indian chicken dish with local produce sourced directly from the onsite market in Carriageworks. Beatrice Gralton, the visual art curator of Carriageworks says Chopra responds very much to “the working nature of the building… even down to having the walls on wheels.”
Gralton remembers the first time she saw the Chopra’s work or the remains of his performance in New York 2009, she was instantly drawn to it. She was interested because Chopra work transverse disciplines and his work would “make perfect sets in space like Carriageworks which is really multi-disciplinary.” “It’s all about working with artists who respond to our space (and) it is very important for Australian artists and art world to be connected with arts and artists in Asia Pacific.”
Chopra’s practice traverses drawing, photography, filmmaking, sculpture, installation and live performance. His performance-based work often draws on personal history and references collective memory. His performance work has been shown extensively including “Indian Highway” at the Serpentine Gallery (2008–09), “Making Worlds” at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), the Manchester International Festival (2009), New Museum of Contemporary Art in NY (2009) and MCA Chicago (2010). The artist’s recent film work Man Eats Rock has been shown at the Artsonje Center in Seoul, the Today Art Museum in Beijing and the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou(2011). He is a member of Khoj International Artists Association and the inaugural recipient of the Asialink Roving Residency 2012 of Australia. He is currently based in Mumbai and Goa, India.
Carriageworks was built as part of Eveleigh Rail Yards between 1880 and 1889 and has beared witness the history of Australia’s major rail development since the late 19th century before it was closed down in 1988. Since 2002 when the NSW Ministry for the Arts bought this place, Carriageworks has evolved into an art organisation that present cross-disciplinary works and served as a creative precinct for artists and the neighbouring community.