ALL THE TEA IN CHINA: a series of digital conversations on an encounter with Marta Jovanović and PerformanceHUB in Belgrade.
By Burong (曾不容)
With huge thanks to (in alphabetical order) Franko B (UK/Italy), Alejandro Chellet (Mexico), Richard Dedomenici (UK), Miao Jiaxin (China/US), and VestAndPage (German/Italy).
As a live art practitioner-researcher and former apprentice producer of PerformanceHUB, I interviewed live artists based in the UK, Europe, the US and Mexico, and invited them to send recordings of their personal encounter with Marta Jovanović and PerformanceHUB, a performance art education programme founded by Jovanović in collaboration with Milica Pekić and G12 Hub in Belgrade.
Growing up in China, I did not have much chance to know more about Serbia until 2016 when I studied at the University of Arts in Belgrade. I was introduced by my tutor to work with artist Marta Jovanović, who just moved back to Belgrade from New York City and was at the early stage of establishing a new performance art education programme called PerformanceHUB.
Running an education programme by independent artists is never easy and requires tremendous amount of time and energy. However, Marta managed to make it happen. Apart from a variety of live art events, she also invited renowned live artists to come to Belgrade and work with PerformanceHUB’s students, which generated further collaborations in different parts of the world. Previous mentors include Alejandro Chellet, Franko B, Miao Jiaxin, and VestAndPage. Before knowing Marta, some of them never visited Serbia or had not returned to Serbia for a long time. For me, their encounter with Marta and PerformanceHUB through artists’ connection documented how the artists build trust with each other and how they cross cultural borders and borders between countries to meet in Belgrade and to make things happen.
In 2018, on the three-year anniversary of the establishment, Orion Art published the book titled PerformanceHUB (PDF available here) which included a sizeable body of work including workshops, performance, graduate showcases, an artist residency and many events led by PerformanceHUB. Always wanting to reflect on my encounter with Live Art scene in Belgrade, I felt this was the time to interview some of the artists who have come across Marta by her practice (Alejandro Chellet, Miao Jiaxin, VestAndPage), or PerformanceHUB (Franko B), or live art festivals in Belgrade (Richard Dedomenici).
The artists mentioned above have common interests in performing different notions of borders. This project particularly engages with: Alejandro Chellet’s new projects exploring borders of love and other human capacities; Franko B’s approach to cross art disciplines, Miao Jiaxin’s shift from conceptual art to political art; VestAndPage’s concept of co-creation and migrating towards others; and Richard Dedomenici’s strategies to adapt Death of Social Housing to different context. Undoubtedly, issues around “borders” appear to be important in their work, but my initial purpose to invite these artists to talk about their encounter with Live Art scene in Belgrade is to research how artists’ connections can become a method to cross borders and make changes happen.
Therefore, “border” is set to be crossed and challenged by live art practice and research in this one-to-one conversation project. I started with the curiosity of how many borders we need to cross to meet each other. I was also curious about what kind of boundaries we have not managed to cross. As Alejandro Chellet said in the Skype call, it would be more helpful if the artists who contributed to this project could sit together and exchange ideas through direct person-to-person contact. It is yet to happen.
This is why “All the tea in China” becomes the title of the project. It is an English phrase meaning that which is of uncountable value or at any price. I would not give up this project, not for all the tea in China (lol). From the first phone call to Franko B on March 30th to May 31st when I received the last recording from Alejandro Chellet after his intense travels, this project involved a lot of trust, efforts and energy from the artists: a heartfelt thank you for all your generous support to make this project become real.
BURONG’S CONVERSATIONS WITH FRANKO B, RICHARD DEDOMENICI, ALEJANDRO CHELLET, VESTANDPAGE, MIAO JIAXIN.
All the Tea in China SoundCloud channel: https://soundcloud.com/burongz/sets/all-the-tea-in-china
1. March 30th 2019, London (phone call)
2. May 17th 2019, Toynbee Studios, London
G12HUB and PerformanceHUB are delighted to present TIME, SPACE, NOTHING.
A 9 days intensive/full immersion workshop with Franko B in Belgrade, Serbia from August 24 to September 1, 2017. This workshop is structured with exercises, dialogues and presentations to try to help the participants to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Workshop is free for participants. Travel expenses are not covered.
– No mobile phones or contact with the outside world for the period of the workshop till 2 days before the end of the workshop.
– Food only vegetarian (and vegan options if desired).
– No smoking.
Franko B (b. Milan 1960) is a contemporary artist whose practice spans across drawing, installation, performance and sculpture. Over the years he has built up a diverse and sizable body of work and has gained international acclaim for his contribution to contemporary art.
Franko B’s A Monument exhibition additional readings: Franko_B Text A_Monument Exhibition_2018
1. April 4th 2019, Brooklyn (skype)
2. May 31st 2019, Mexico City (recording)
Alejandro Chellet is a multidisciplinary artist, social practitioner in cultural and permacultural networks in Upstate/NYC/CDMX. Primarily uses waste, public space, architecture and performance: addressing: the misplaced principles of coexistence, the loss of connection with Nature cycles in the political and environmental context of urban societies.
Alejandro Chellet had his one-month artist residency in Belgrade in summer 2016, during which he led a three-day workshop at Italian Culture Centre.
Light, Darkness and The Surprise performance by Alejandro Chellet & Lola Lustosa at Materic in Barcelona, Spain. Photos by Paco Justicia Cazorla. March 2019.
April 30th 2019, Raven Row, London
Richard DeDomenici makes urban-absurdist interventions that strive to create the kind of uncertainty that leads to possibility.
He’s the inventor of the Carry-Ok wearable karaoke system, crochéted crypto-currency Knitcoin, office chair sport The Swivelympics, and radical Eurovision tribute Fux Bizz.
He’s performed in 30 countries and this year plans to unveil his most ambitious commission yet for the Radical Independent Art Fund.
Richard’s first visit to Belgrade was in November 2016 to present Death of Social Housing at the “Extravagant Bodies” triennial art festival where Marta premiered her work The Beauty of Tight Binding on the same year. He plans to redux the film 3 Days to Kill shoot at Hotel Jugoslaviya. The Redux Project is a popular project which is participatory, site-specific and scalable.
The performance history of The Death of Social Housing (up to now):
Video from the Redux Project plan (extract from 3 Days to Kill)
May 11st 2019, Brooklyn (recording)
Miao Jiaxin. Beginning in Shanghai, where his photography works expressed the universal theme of urban angst, Miao then immigrated to New York, expanding his view of urban streets towards a more conceptual public stage. Miao’s works often express the ambivalent and sometimes antagonistic tension that always exists between the individual and governing or cultural authorities, questioning assumptions about power in relation to identity politics. He posits the artist’s nature as one who transgresses boundaries, challenges consensus, and stays distance from authorities.
Miao Jiaxin met Marta in NYC during his project Jail’s Seeking Prisoners in which Marta stayed in his cage/prison for one night with her little dog Untitled. After Marta moved back to Belgrade in 2015, Miao came to visit Marta in Belgrade and worked with PerformanceHUB students in 2016 and 2017. He is the first tutor of PerformanceHUB.
April 9-15 2019, Scheuerberg, Germany (recording)
VestandPage. Verena Stenke (b. 1981) and Andrea Pagnes (b. 1962) have been working together since 2006 as VestAndPage and gained international recognition in the fields of performance art, performance-based film, writing, publishing and with temporary artistic community projects. Since over a decade, VestAndPage have been exploring performance art as a phenomenon through their collaborative creative practice, as well as through theoretical artistic research and curatorial projects. Their works – a celebration of life – have been presented in museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas and a variety of sites worldwide. Their writings have been extensively published and translated for international readers.
They met with Marta in Venice in June 2013 when three of them had been invited to participate at Venice Agendas 13. In June 2016, Marta invited them to Belgrade to their movie trilogy sin∞fin and hold a three-day workshop. In November 2017 they went back to Belgrade to begin the co-creation process with local artists (including some of the PerformanceHUB alumni) that would have led to a new collective performance opera by VestAndPage, under the title “After the Fear (HOME III)” as part of their performance circle HOME.
Special thanks to artist Marta Jovanović and Nikolina Janković – architect, producer and cultural project coordinator; production assistant at Gallery 12HUB (Facebook: G12Hub, Twitter: @G12HUB, Vimeo: g12hub) who help me to get in touch with the artists and provide me with visual materials for the project. And also to Garry Scott James who helped with the editing and allowed me to use his music.
ALL THE TEA IN CHINA By Burong (曾不容) is a performingborders | LIVE 2019 writing commission supported by the Live Art Development Agency.
Burong (曾不容) is a Beijing/Brighton based live art practitioner-researcher and theatre-maker. Her work deals with the politics of intimacy, gut feelings and posthuman aesthetics. She has exhibited and performed in the Pratt Gallery (Manhattan), PSA (Shanghai), PerformanceHUB (Belgrade), Royal Festival Hall (London), The Yard Theatre (London) and various Chinese theatre venues. Currently, Burong is undertaking doctoral research on feminist resistance in live art practices since the 1990s. In particular, her PhD project investigates how materials we think of as ‘sticky’ and viscous broaden the scope of thinking on embodiment, otherness, gender and body politics and generate new ways of conceptualising interrelationality and spectatorship. Her co-authored book The Happening of the Contemporary Performance Art and a series of interviews with UK based live artists and curators have been published in China. She also writes books for children.
performingborders | LIVE is a programme of events and new commissions focusing on the exploration of artistic practices happening within the UK live art sector around notions of cultural, juridical, racial, gendered, class, physical and everyday borders. Curated by Alessandra Cianetti and Xavier de Sousa.
Presented by performingborders and Foreign Actions Productions in collaboration with Live Art Development Agency (London, UK), Contact Theatre (Manchester, UK), Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (Brighton, UK), Artsadmin (London, UK), Deptford Lounge (London, UK), Beyond the Wall/Más Allá del Mur Festival (Nogales, US/Mexico), and the Centre for The Study of Sexual Dissidence (University of Sussex, UK). Supported by the Arts Council England.