TANK MAN TANGO:
A TIANANMEN MEMORIAL 4/6/09
Tank Man Tango is a momentary monument to the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989, a memorial made of dancing bodies in cities around the world.
I commissioned choreographer Jane McKernan to devise a dance based on the movements of the man who defied the tanks after the massacre of the Tiananmen Square protesters on 4 June 1989. Performance artist Teik-Kim Pok demonstrated the steps in a stand-alone video artwork which is also a teaching text, filmed and edited by artist Sumugan Sivanesan. On the soundtrack is a poetic, political text by writer May Ee Wong in English, Cantonese, German and Mandarin versions. With dramaturgy and co-production by Fiona Winning.
The introductory and instructional video works in four languages were disseminated via Youtube. The videos invite members of the public to dance the Tank Man Tango together, to create a distributed worldwide (dance) movement in local squares or galleries. The performance became an ephemeral memorial, reinstating the Tank Man into public remembering with the actions of bodies in collective movement.
Memorial participants around the world were invited to document their actions toward a lasting archive against amnesia. Traces and evidence remain on youtube and in various online fora.
The project marks time, and actively remembers courage in Beijing. It offers a way for people to make and to be a memorial– and so to colour the ambiguity of the moment, when the historical instant is alive again in all its irreducibility.
The Tank Man Tango Tiananmen Memorial took place on 4 June 2009 in Bristol, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Warrnambool, Tucson, Daylesford, Hobart, Leipzig, Weimar, Bielefeld, Erfurt, Singapore, Mexico City, Melbourne, St Catharines, Regina, Philadelphia, Auckland, Dunkerque, Barcelona, Belgrade, Athens, Richmond Virginia, and in Brussels.
Tank Man Tango won the Screengrab International New Media Award 2009 and the Fisher’s Ghost Art Award. It was shortlisted for the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest (London) the IDILL Dance on Screen Award (Brussels) and the ReelDance Award 2010 (Au/NZ). Tank Man Tango was curated by Klaus Biesenbach into the exhibition Zero Tolerance at MOMA PS1 in New York City, 2015, and Basel Miami, 2015, and many others.
Tank Man Tango is an independent, unfunded artwork.