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Ezzam Rahman (Singapore), Cede, Future Of Imagination 9, Singapore. Photo by Jason Lim
Ezzam Rahman (Singapore)
Future of Imagination 9, Singapore
September 5, 2014
by Jennie Klein

Using little more than a bucket of talcum powder and a card, Ezzam Rahman created a compelling performance that tested the limits of what is, and is not, possible for the human body. Rahman’s piece raises issues about what constitutes endurance art and what it means to push the body to its physical and psychic limits.

The performance because with Rahman, garbed in white, moving in a circle around the bucket of powder. This was itself an exercise in the endurance of both audience and performer, as Rahman first walked and then stomped in the same circular path for quite a long time. As he moved, his body began to show signs of fatigue, especially as he slammed his bare feet so hard on the floor that the entire building seemed to vibrate with his movement.

After a pause, during which a visibly winded Rahman stood with his back to the audience, the action resumed. Rahman took the bucket, which was mounted on wheels, to one end of the room and, using the plastic card, began creating lines of powder, three in all, that stretched the entire length of the room. Once these lines were completed, Rahman, lying on his side, scooted along each line while exhaling through his nose in order to blow destroy his earlier work. This part of the piece was by far the most difficult for Rahman, who was visibly overcome on several occasions and was forced to stop, wipe his face, and catch his breath. The cloying odor of talcum powder mixed with the acrid odor of perspiration. Cede concluded with Rahman scooping up what remained of the talcum powder and dropping it on the floor. By this time, the space was covered with the powder and a cloud of powder hovered in the air and almost seemed to steam. The effect was heightened by the spotlight, which called attention to the particles.

With the lines of powder that were initially made with the use of a plastic credit(?) card, the reference to drugs such as cocaine and heroin seem inevitable. And yet, the overall affective qualities of the piece had less to do with mind-altering drugs than it did with extreme physical duress. The piece was exhausting. The audience members were often overcome by the odor and forced to exit the space for a time. Rahman’s background is that of an installation artist, and Cede showed the process—and work—of creating an installation of powder. The relics of the piece, which were mopped up shortly after the conclusion of the performance, included the remains of Rahman’s footprints as he exited, the broken and blown lines, the heaps of powder with gently “steamed” in the spotlight, and the traces of the circular path that Rahman initially tread at the onset. The result, was a haunting, the ghosts (which area also supposed to be white) of Rahman’s actions.