DEBORAH KELLY – Tank Man Tango: A Tiananmen Memorial

Video, 5′,
28 color photographs, 15×20

Deborah Kelly’s work Tank Man Tango: A Tiananmen Memorial through participatory formats opens up new fields of commemorative practices and with its bottom-up approach relies on the thesis which claims that once a memory has been granted the form of a monument, it liberates us from the obligation to remember to a certain extent.  It is based on performance in the city’s public space, consists of an hour of contemporary dance, with its choreography created according to the steps of an unknown man who stood in front of a line of tanks, holding two plastic bags in his hands, during the uprising in Beijing’s Square of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) in 1989. The artist interpreted the relationship between the body and movement dynamics of the Unknown Rebel towards the line of tanks as a dance – tango, and developed a choreography based on it, which is performed with the participation of anyone interested in partaking, at various squares in the world and on the anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Deborah Kelly (1962, AU) is a Sydney-based artist whose works have been shown in streets, skies and galleries around Australia, in the Singapore and Venice Biennales, and elsewhere. Her collaborative artwork with Tina Fiveash, Hey, hetero! has been shown in public sites from Sydney to Glasgow and won the 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras visual art award. She is a founding member of the art gang, which has been making public work around race, nation, borders and history since 2001. Her cross-media work considering the rise of religiosity in the public sphere, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, included public service announcement videos in train stations and projections onto clouds over Sydney Harbour. The participatory memorial she devised for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tank Man Tango, was performed in 20 cities on 4 June 2009. Kelly’s collage-based artworks have been shown in galleries in Australia, Germany, Russia, Korea, France, Brazil, Croatia, the US and Indonesia. Her most recent major work is a suite of 37 portraits of immaculately conceived families modelled on Renaissance Holy Family paintings. Kelly’s work won the 2012 Albury Art Prize, the 2009 Fisher’s Ghost Award, and the 2009 Screengrab International New Media Art Award. Artspace will publish a monograph about her work at the end of 2012. Deborah Kelly is represented by Gallery Barry Keldoulis: