The Performative Portraits group began life as a generator of artist Zhanna Bobrakova in response to the Tate collection. As a member of BP Art Exchange’s Global Art Space, Bobrakova was part of a group of Central St Martins MA students collaborating with peers in Bangalore, India. Each instigated different activities for the BP Art Exchange platform to inspire and create activity on the site and further their own artistic practice.
For BP Art Exchange Bobrakova replicated old masters portraits employing everyday materials (newspapers, plastic bags, table cloth, etc). Within Tate’s collection she identified certain features and details to use in her portraits which were recognizable as classical portraiture. Bobrakova is interested in how ideas spread using a network. She was interested in how her generator could spread like an internet meme or seductive virus moving from person to person and involving the BP Art Exchange community in a digital carnival.
Snehal Kanodia from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore was intrigued by Bobrakova’s generator and in 2014 Kanodia took the performative portraits idea to Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India. During the set up and installation stage Kanodia chose to frame the unseen workers of the biennale in staged portraits on the biennale site in the gallery spaces they were working in. Kanodia covers their faces with material that either belonged to them or was found in the gallery, to make the subjects appear unseen.
The Performative Portraits generator is spreading and morphing in new ways. In April 2015 BP Art Exchange introduced the generator in Mexico where artist Marysa Dowling worked with people to create portraits on an extension of this idea, exploring the idea of reveal/conceal to create a series of performative portraits. Each told a story about the subject using the local neighbourhood or gallery space as a location. BP Art Exchange worked with participants through existing and new reciprocal partnerships with Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey (MARCO), the Cultural Centre and Marimba School in San Cristobal de las Casas, Museo de Café and the University Tec de Monterrey in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.
The generator is now taking on its own life and in June 2015 was taken on by Mexican artist Ruth Rodriguez. She is working with young women in a female detention centre in Monterrey, creating their own performative portraits on the theme of Conceal/Reveal. Do create your own to add to the group.