Turner Prize 2019 Nominee | Tai Shani | Turner Contemporary

Turner Prize 2019 Nominee | Tai Shani | Turner Contemporary


At the beginning of a lot of my projects there’s often a scene in a film or a song or an experience that has a type of tone to it that I’m interested in finding a way to reconstruct in my practice. And then there’s certain questions that I’ve been interested in. Questions around feminism, about otherness about these superstructures within which we live and to think about them as malleable and open to change as opposed to natural. The project that I am presenting as the nomination is called DC Semiramis. And it’s a project that I’ve worked on for almost five years now which is a very loose and expanded adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s 1405 book called The Book of The City of Ladies which was a book that she wrote within which she kind of built allegorical city for notable women,
historical and mythological. So their bodies were the material of the city, and also it was a place for them. So it was quite an interesting thing to take
something that was from so far in the past and it having a concept that I was familiar with in future thinking and world-making and bringing those together. I created 12 characters over the course of four years to inhabit this city. So it’s a city that exists in time and not in space so it’s durational and the characters themselves a lot of them span these impossible spans from a Neanderthal to a piece of software the collapse of time. These characters each have monologues that are
quite erotic and graphic, quite verbose, I guess. And these monologues are the backbone of the projects. In the past, they’ve existed as films or installations. Here it will be an installation with a film and alongside that will be the live performances as well. There are three characters in my expanded
psychedelic adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s book that are drawn more directly from historical figures not specifically one character, but let’s say historical phenomena where women were able to find a platform to self-realisation, public life, expression and to accrue agency and power. I’m interested how historically, women have had access to these very public stages through this kind of backdoor of the supernatural. When I think of these installations, I think of them as sites as opposed to sets which means that they’re autonomous and they can exist without this activation of bodies being in there but they can also facilitate or contain bodies as well. I thought a lot about what this place should visually be. I didn’t want to use the materials of patriarchy in a way. It’s not my job, I guess, as an artist to resolve the engineering of what a post-patriarchal city can be like I thought, I just want to kind of propose it as a space to think in. When I call it a City of Women, for me, this is a city for anyone that wants to define themselves as such. It’s not a biological city in any way. It’s just a city that is for anyone that wants to live
outside a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. I’m not interested in women. I’m interested in femininity and what can be salvaged from a history of femininity to think about ways out of where we are now which I think is reaching some kind of a head.

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