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White wedding
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-02-04 13:37
Performance artist Andreas Guibert paints his skin white, his lips red, crowns himself with flowers, and wraps himself in a white veil. Appearing on the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, he's a work of performance art titled "Shanghai Bride" - symbolizing the China that all countries want to exploit, writes Jenny Hammond.

When you think of art in Shanghai, you automatically imagine exhibitions at Mogashan Road or expats showing work as their response to the city around them. But almost every day brings a new art to the city, making statements and pushing boundaries.

Now as Shanghai is taking its place as a truly international city, even the more unusual art such as performance art can be found, with people starting to appreciate this form of expression.

Performance artist Andreas Guibert is an Argentinean-born expat who has been living here for the past year. He moved here from Canada to leave behind what he described as a "petit bourgeoisie mentality."

He says he is fascinated by the "incredible differences between the people who populate this city. However, I am terrified by their absorption into such rampant capitalism and by the dangers of globalization and the loss of cultural and individual identity."

Guibert's work is characteristically open in making his subject free and purposely ambiguous.

In his performance work "Shanghai Bride," Guibert painted himself white, his lips red. He crowned himself with flowers and wrapped himself in a veil. He carried garish flowers and walked down Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall to the stares of passers-by.

The meaning of the performance art, the near-naked apparition? Guibert says the bride symbolizes today's China that every country is desperate to exploit. A crowd gathered. Some people had their photos taken with "Shanghai Bride."

"Whenever I present a body of work it will be interpreted according to other people's perceptions, according to their personal cultural background, references, moods, and so on," he says.

In that way it is possible to extract more meaning from his work, making it always colored by other people's perceptions.

"I like it that way; I am interested in aesthetics and the way we perceive reality according to our cultural background. So I am fascinated by the response to my work rather than what I want to get across."

Guibert has a rich artistic heritage. "I painted with my Spanish grandmother since I was four years old. My father's mother was a Prussian Wagnerian opera singer. I have uncles that are or were painters, poets, philosophers and inventors, three cousins that are graphic designers, two that are painters and a couple of poets and film makers."

Inspired by his father, an art collector, antique dealer and architect, he says. "When I was two years old I would sit and contemplate his art collection for hours on end. I guess that set me up for life."

However the artist's breakthrough was a performance show at the Contemporary Art Museum in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1984.

"I was inspired by shamans that I encountered during trips to South America, including their practices, dreams and visions."

Now, Guibert belongs to several international collectives and Web-oriented organizations. He does a lot of collaborative work, not only as an artist but also as a teacher, curator and writer of essays about contemporary art practices.

For the past 10 years, he has been working mainly on international Web projects such as Monument du Vide based in Montreal and co-curating for the ID Collective based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, while mentoring and developing training art centers through the Internet.

He is currently working on projects that use Web applications combined with sensor devices, Webcams and video-projections.

As a performance artist, Guibert uses concepts and ideas derived from behavioral psychology, anthropology, semiotics and postmodern and classical philosophy.

"I am interested in the relationship between intuition, the creative process and emotions through the analysis of behavioral changes in the conformation of identity and the construction of a body of work that deals with social issues," he says

To this extent, his performances become a creative lab in which he presents, according to a particular subject matter, conflicts, possible resolutions, smoke screens, elements of punishment and reward, transgressions and ambiguities.

"I do this in order to define an environment that will grant me the possibility of experimenting simultaneously with ideas and the analysis of behavioral patterns," he explains.

When performing, Guibert says he tries to empty himself of thoughts and preconceptions.

"I like to work with what is at hand, in front of me. Open to the world, like a meditation in action or an improvisation, a phenomenological approach.

"I perceive people through the periphery of my eyes but it all becomes a blur, really. I sometimes perceive myself as a puppeteer exerting some force through invisible cords."

Guibert finds inspiration from the solitude of his own thoughts. "I like to walk a lot. During my walks I wonder about art, aesthetics and philosophy," he says.

This wondering generates a mental state, Guibert explains, that is very creative and opens him up to encounters on many different levels of perception.

"The French called this wondering about, "a la derive," and it has been used in the analysis of environmental planning and by numerous philosophers, as a mental process that helps to bring into conscious thoughts that emerge but never reach the surface of our awareness."

Working with those thoughts, like after-images, ghosts or vague memories, the artist finds that there are a lot of ghost-like images in his work.

"I feel mostly with my body and work with my surroundings instead of analyzing people's reactions while I am performing."

"I have been told that performance art is not very popular here yet. But I am aware of the huge potential of the younger generations of artists that live in Shanghai. Their skills and techniques are excellent," he says.

"I think Shanghai is an amazing place to be right now and I believe that China in the next decade will play a definite role in defining our future."
Source:Shanghai Daily 
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