Nikhil Chopra performed Coal on Cotton as part of MIF13. His work Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing VIII was part of Marina Abramović Presents... at MIF09. For more details, please visit the event page by following the link in the left hand panel.
Nikhil Chopra's work draws on personal and collective cultural history to examine questions of identity, the role of autobiography and the politics of posing and self-portraiture. The artist also addresses the process of transformation as it is consciously and physically experienced and represented through his performative practice. The characters within his performances are semi-autobiographical. Dressed variously in nineteenth century top hats, tailcoats, crinoline dresses, and twentieth century skin-tight body suits and flapper dresses, the characters haunt the streets, busy market squares, train stations, parks and the confines of art galleries and other buildings. Sometimes a performance in a gallery spills over onto the streets when Chopra's character decides to go for a walk. Audiences follow him on these journeys or meet him at venues to watch him drawing or resting, the audience participating in the exercise of locating the performance in the city.
The artist uses theatrical props to create the impression of a 'still life' painting. Each performance unfolds in long-durational ‘happenings’, carried out over the course of one-day or several, in slow, deliberate and ritualized movements. Everyday actions like washing, eating, shaving, sleeping and dressing form the script of the performance, the central and only character of which is often seen making a large drawing on canvas of urban vistas seen in his immediate environment. Each action or pause is pregnant with the anticipation that a transformation will take place – for example, when the bearded man picks up a razor to shave off only part of his beard or to tonsure his head. The act of shaving the head as a ritual is often associated with the death of immediate family. It is a symbolic, spiritual act of catharsis that suggests the shedding of the ego. Nikhil Chopra's performances may be seen as a form of storytelling that intermingles family histories, personal narrative and everyday life.