Moussa Sarr in Sydney, Australia

It is with great pleasure that Videospread annouces the launch of Moussa Sarr’s program Versus in Sydney at University of New South Wales during O Week from 20th to 24th February and during the launch of Liverpool’s new giant screen on 21st February.

 “The body is the physical agent of the structures of everyday experience. It is the producer of dreams, the transmitter and receiver of cultural messages, a creature of habits, a desiring machine, a repository of memories, an actor in the theater of power, a tissue of affects and feelings. Because the body is at the boundary between biology and society, between drives and discourse, between the sexual and its categorization in terms of power, biography and history, it is the site par excellence for transgressing the constraints of meaning or what social discourse prescribes as normal.”

Nelly Richard-Quote from The Art Story – Performance Art, page 1.

Moussa Sarr says of his own work: ‘I regularly play with my image; it is about becoming the picture to put an end to clichés.’ As a performance and video artist his work questions the intrinsic notions of human nature often through his impersonation of characters from the animal kingdom. His body forms the content of his work. The focus and engagement with the audience in its entirety is all about him – his body, his face, his attitude – but in exploring and questioning his identity there is a global and communal resonance. The issues he is communicating through his own image connect with every person displaced from their origins and trying to acclimatise in a different country, through language, rituals and customs.

Setting aside the humour and satire in Sarr’s work, his practice is rooted in art history and performance art by using his physical presence to communicate cultural and political messages, captured on film, directly to camera.  His work lies somewhere between performance art and photographic self-portraiture. As performance art, it is theatrical, choreographed, narrative-based, staged, provocative, challenging and thought-provoking. In terms of self-portraiture the self is insistently objectified – the process of identification is exaggerated and cannot be overlooked. The existence of these performances in short films which can continually repeat in the gallery space gives emphasis to the issues he is raising without allowing the audience to discount his direct and confrontational stance. Unlike artists before him who used their self-image as canvas, for example, Hannah Wilke, Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing, Sarr does nothing to disguise or manipulate his physical appearance. Instead, the accuracy with which he mimics his cast of animal characters allows him to dispense with elaborate costumes, make-up and props, yet he chooses his wardrobe carefully for each performance, adding slight and subtle hints to his message.

Moussa Sarr plays with stereotypes and challenges clichés but the core of his practice is rooted the history of performance art which has traditionally been used to challenge the conventions of established art forms. Sarr uses his performances to challenge discrimination, social and power structures and question how we perceive and respond to each other as human beings. The fact that his work exists in film format and is not as such ‘live art’ goes further to reinforce the messages he is communicating. He is an extraordinary actor and impersonator. Experiencing his installations will make you leave unnerved and questioning, but with a smile on your face, because his tone is never authoritative, it remains playful and self-derisive.

Sanna Moore, September 2015