If you like storytelling, especially the kind that deals with rarely acknowledged personalities and forgotten authors, historical manuscripts and manifestos, all taking place within an expanded indefinite time; then you might be inclined to like Tai Shani’s performances.
Perhaps you might remember Shani’s contribution to the ground-breaking Barbican show On Surrealism (2010), where she staged Last Night I Dreamt I was Venus from Beyond the Mirrors, working around Salvador Dali’s project Dream of Venus Pavilion for the 1939 World Fair. Shani incorporated archival materials of the pavilion while telling the story of a young actress, Mona Horne, whose ambition drove her to Dali, hoping to have a leading role in the pavilion but only performing a small irrelevant part. Horne was lying naked on a bed for the exhibition, an object rather than a subject, presented like a trophy to male spectatorship.
Undeniably Tai Shani’s work deals with issues of feminism, situating themes in a daring interplay between past, present and future. For example, Shani draws from The Book of the City of Ladies, written by Italian-French medical author Christine de Pizan in 1405 as an early proto-feminist example describing a city without men, that Shani imagined links to present and possible future scenarios.
If these examples still haven’t fulfilled your curiosity, then it might be the way in which Tai Shani works building ephemeral performances with disposable props and sets – spectatorship as a unique event. This particular way of making art presents the challenge of works that might be difficult to collect, either privately and institutionally. However Shani also makes sculptures – small, unique, delicate and surrealist – that are often swapped between a circle of artists, rather than made to exhibit, and these might complement the ephemerality of her performances.
Shani’s presentations and performances include Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2016); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2015); Southbank Centre, London (2014-15); And Of The Brimming Freeze Frame, The Arnolfini, Bristol (2013); Anti-Antigone End time, FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais and Loop Festival, Barcelona (2011); Music as Medium, Tate Shots commission, Tate Britain (2011). Recent group exhibitions include: Revolver, Matt’s Gallery, London (2012); WE ARE THE TIME, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam (2012); and Les Fleurs du Mal – New Art from London, AWANGARDA Wroclaw, Poland (2012). She is also a permanent resident at Gasworks, London.
Her next performance will be on 24 June 2016 at Tate Britain, entitled Tai Shani: Moans of approaching Death from unsatisfied Desire and other physical manifestations of Lovesickness