Open Call
Write | art | connect 7

Body as Site: Performance Art and its Many Meanings


The body is a charged site, capable of making meaning through a variety of acts, gestures, and significations. Its language exceeds—even challenges—speech and conventional vocabularies, opening up newer and more radical avenues of expression, across traditional art forms and experimental movement practices. A mass of muscle memory and a receptacle of unspeakable violence and grief, a node of power and jouissance, the body is a shape-shifter constantly adapting to diverse contexts and spaces and yielding fresh possibilities of assertion and engagement.

The discipline of performance art has had a unique relationship with the anti-denotative and fluid potential of the body. While Rummana Hussain’s ‘Is It What You Think?’ (1998) and Marina Abramovic’s ‘Rhythm 0’ (1994) staged the vulnerabilities of a woman’s body and interrogated the violent gaze inflicted on it, in Inder Salim’s provocative ‘Dialogue With Power Plant, Shrill Across A Dead River’, his amputated finger figured as a bridge between himself and the degenerating Yamuna, pitching physical pain as a channel of communication between the human subject and Nature. Amol Patil’s ‘Take the City’ invited sweepers from Dalit communities to join a procession through the India Art Fair grounds in 2019, blowing bubbles and pushing viewers to challenge social hierarchies, and Taiwanese artist Tehching Hsieh lived on the streets of New York avoiding shelter for a year, for one of his One Year Performances, probing the destinies of indigent bodies in a capitalist society fraught with inequality. Across these interventions and others, performance art has both baffled the public and inaugurated new frontiers for the definition of creative practice.

How does the performing body interact with and transform public spaces, even as it leaves no residue? How does the ephemerality of performance art empower resistant voices against repressive dispensations? How do such works allow for creative frictions and collisions that destabilise forms of social and spatial segregation?

At Serendipity Arts too over the years, we have featured a range of projects that engage with the powerful semiotics of the body, from ‘The Ground Beneath My Feet’, a performance work by HH Art Spaces and Asia Art Archive showcased in 2017, to Preethi Atreya’s ‘Lost Wax Project’ showcased in 2018.

For the seventh edition of Write | Art | Connect, seeking to continue that engagement, we are pleased to invite abstracts on research and experiences related to works of performance art, still somewhat nascent in the subcontinent, that propose to explore the integral role that the body plays in shaping our understanding of the world around us.

Please submit brief outlines of no more than 200 words for a proposed essay to [email protected] with the subject line “body as site – pitch” latest by May 5, 2024.

  • Final selection of proposals will be made by May 15, 2024.
  • If your abstract is selected, we would require an essay of no more than 1200 words.
  • We would encourage you to include images, audio, or video links with your essay.
  • Kindly do clear the necessary permissions if and where required.
  • We will offer a fee of INR 6,000/- for your essay.