You and your past: My name is CHOKRA, I am a performance and music artist from the United Arab Emirates based in New York. The origins of the varied disciplines in my work including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, language, music and new media have built over time aligning my interests with live practices to create a new language of art. I began painting since three years of age and I view every aspect of my being to constitute art as a way of life.
Pop-esque performance, the light, rhythmic sound and costume: The theatrical build in my work with light, rhythms, sound, costume and exploding pigments in brilliant hues is to engulf my audiences in multi-sensory imaginings and powerful spiritual interventions. I approach the live spectacle as a catalyst for enlightenment that uplifts and propels audiences to consider art as an active experience. Locating pop in my work is not necessarily a key motivation, since the focus of my pieces is to put forth an authentic expression that shifts from celebrity to celebration.
Medium: Every conscious gesture constitutes the performative in a unique command. There is a precise quality to it, where the medium of performance informs the practices it translates into, resonating an immediacy that is infinite in potential. My musical performances are self-generating mediums that update and revitalize conventional artistic practices in a myriad of forms.
I self-produce and develop each element in my work with close detail to build a coherent and immersive experience for my audiences. From multi-lingual poetics on techno beats, aromatic pigments from crushed flowers, video on temporal screens, gender-bending ceremonial attire folding into sculptures, to even the percussions of metal utensils sounding like temple bells, my work’s unorthodox consideration of various traditional mediums is conceptual where ideas take precedence over materiality.
Experiences/life: I am motivated by following the path of joy in my work, where I view every experience as formative to my development as an artist. The challenging situations in turn have accelerated my art to reach new heights building a strength in my voice that transcends all limitations.
The shutdown of my musical performances by cultural authorities in Dubai is one such example, where the disenfranchised stance concerning the representation of my art in my country has now garnered the support for my pieces at numerous prestigious museums all over the world. As a result, I was able to complete my performances at MoMA, making it the first ever significant representation of an artist from the United Arab Emirates.
I view this experience as a poignant reminder of the innate power that resides in our work as artists and the responsibility we share in shaping consciousness despite the circumstances.
Spend your day/process: I begin each day with a joyful affirmation of gratitude by preparing a mindful space for creating. I delve into my work by reviewing my musical compositions on headphones to gradually drift into visualizing a live experience. I then move on to updating all details behind emerging works in progress by organizing technical riders and schedules to include possibilities for new ideas.
If I plan to film or photograph my performances that day, I spend my time in preparation gathering materials with joyous anticipation. Maintaining an optimistic approach with minimal resistance is intrinsic to the flow of creating art, where I often experiment with several components simultaneously while following my impulses to build an integrated work. I have only recently started to appreciate the self-sufficiency of being a working artist and developing a discipline that retains my focus.
Narrative, viewer: My pieces emerge from a futuristic re-imagining of the human condition that invite audiences to explore heightened states of awareness. I am interested in the poetics of identity including its cosmetic applications concerning narratives of nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, human/non-human or psychological states.
Equality in all its forms is a unifying theme in my work. This is perhaps evident in the performance of Zawaj Al Khaleej (Gulf Marriage) - a queer marriage ritual conducted in Arabian Gulf customs situating love and kinship as powerful interventions for political purposes. My performance and music works purposefully amplify acceptance as a complimentary consciousness to future worlds.
Art heroes/heroines: The language of my work is routed in multi-cultural traditions, linguistics and experiences that move beyond personal narratives to invite a larger sociopolitical dialogue that speaks to the world we live in. Emulating pre-existing frameworks established by prior artists in different circumstances appear contrary to progressing a new art form. I am influenced by materiality, color, texture, sound and language as sensorial realities that breathe an existence of its own.
Publishing date of this interview 12/01/16