Tai Shani’s performance work creates immersive universes which simultaneously destabilize and draw attention to the structural conventions of storytelling. Richly sumptuous and sensual, her set design and aesthetic approach holds audiences in a sensual allure, while exposing them systemically to visual and audio subversions. A performer narrating on a microphone is, by a blip in the audio, revealed to be a lip- synching exercise over a recorded track. Narrators assert their names and then just as quickly retract them as mere ‘stage names.’ Every word and gesture that is introduced into the performance space is compromised, keeping the audience in a consistent awareness of the theatre’s theatricality and preventing a suspension of disbelief.
For Open Heart Surgery, Shani will stage a performance that seeks to test the boundary between the solitary, internal experience of read literature and the public experience of performed literature in relation to the imagination, taste and tolerance. The 7 Darknesses: A Very Gothic Reading will be the source for a dramatic performance of the artist’s explicitly violent and graphic text De Sadian. The reading will be accompanied by a live score by Chloe Herington (V A L V E).
Explaining the origins of the project, she notes: “Chuck Palahniuk’s short story Guts became notorious for the reports of people fainting or vomiting at public readings. When I finally was in a position to read it myself, I was disappointed: the reading was within the confines of my head; I was alone and could stop when I wanted to and disassociate. But in a public environment amongst an audience, I could imagine how this reading could be a very affective experience.”
“Alongside the theatrics of the public reading, the hysteria surrounding it was creating an anxious anticipation in those attending, and a desire to be overwhelmed, disturbed and repulsed, even in an age where sensibilities have been exhausted by the excesses of television and cinema.”
Tai Shani, born 1976, is a British artist based in London. Solo shows include ‘Anti-Antigone End time,’ Loop Video Festival, Barcelona (2011), ‘Last night I dreamt I was Venus…’ Barbican, London (2010) and ‘Empire and Daughter Isotope Skipe Island,’ the Arnolfini, Bristol (2009). Recent group exhibitions include Headless/Senseless at Matt’s Gallery (2012), Gerrit Rietveld Academy (2012) and A W A N G A R D A, Warsaw, Poland (2012). Shani has participated in several residencies including HOMESESSION, Barcelona and Gasworks, London.