The Beloved Boy Behind Chokra

By Societe Perrier DXB

Armed with a voice and a talent to project it, Beloved Boy Chokra, is all revved up to take his form of artistic expression to shores unvisited and minds untouched. The landscape of Chokra’s art places him right at the epicentre of the Middle Eastern art movement led by a handful of individuals hoping to break down barriers that appear to be in the way of the free thinkers of the region. The creative push these young artists are providing is ground-breaking at the very least and we’re in conversation with one such free-thinker, performance artist, CHOKRA.

The intrigue begins with your name. Tell us more about how you came up with it?
CHOKRA (Conscious Hoarding Of Kinetic Rage Associated) is a programmable system of hyper-sensory performance art. As an encapsulation of the automatic form, CHOKRA attracts in its absolute potential a plethora of identity polemics and cultural considerations that often blur regulated concepts. As my name it signifies an acceleration of kinetic operatives that ushers in new times with a celebratory and intensified awakening of new consciousness.

What inspired you to express yourself in the mediums you currently embrace?
It truly began in 2005 when I had to leave the United Arab Emirates for New York to pursue my artistic path of art and technology and to establish a career beyond the confines of “regional” art making and the “c-print”. I was very drawn to the concept of urgency in live performance where my life often appears to be a production of such outcome, most of which I am still trying to decipher.

I often use the term “performance operative” as a motivation in my work where the potentialities of performance and code create a symbiotic processing of gestural and computational art in a poetic occurrence. The cultural impetus in my performance work thus intensifies with multi-lingual programming of custom script in algorithmic animations, multi-channel electronic sound and poetic rap rhymes in Arabic, Urdu and English verses. The act of painting is also updated in my work with a ceremonial progression of Khaleeji (Arabian Gulf) attire and a hyper-sensory propagation of aromatic oils, surrealistic visuals, neon pyromania, flares, brilliant hues in exploding pigment, crushed gold and a participation of somatic consequence.

The mediums in my work embraces the varied potentials of cultural expression in an engulfing configuration most suggestive of the United Arab Emirates.

As an artist of the UAE, have you had any hurdles in performing locally within the country?
Yes, like most artists pushing boundaries there are challenges in showing your work publicly in your country. I often get confused since the handheld pyrotechnics, gun powder diffusions, chili powder spectacles and tear gas are not as provocative here as is wearing a pair of gorgeous super high platforms.

I understand that the proximities of my work to nonspecific transnational or transgender classifications invite concerns of the established coda of modesty in my country and I accept the challenges it may cause. My work is unapologetic, provocative and does not conform to the expected genre of art making that cultural authorities are used to representing in the Emirates. I do, however; hope that this transforms and that my work situates the change bringing to light the self-sufficiency we have as artists and the unlimited possibilities that channel by the sheer power of our individual work. I believe we must support and introduce newer forms of art making here and challenge expected narratives with non-imitative and original work despite all consequences.

Perhaps. an example that best summarizes the consideration of my work of recent in my country is the premature shutdown of my performance work Haal Al-Mtsaalh at the Sikka Art Fair in Dubai last year by the cultural authorities. Interestingly this led to the completion of the work at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) PS1, New York making it the first significant representation of an artist from the United Arab Emirates at the prestigious venue.

What are the reactions of audiences in the West when attending your shows?
I definitely seek to collapse the directional narratives or polarized trajectories of East and West in my work. I understand that when I perform overseas I often have to address the “symptom of foreign intrigue” created by incompetent art practitioners who view the Middle East as a concept and perpetuate outdated terms as diasporas to validate the art practice within a “regional” clique. It is with circumstance that my work initiates a purifying process that enables in theatrical intensity the effective removal of such “transnational catastrophe” and its associative validations of “regional” networks.

I refuse for my work to be classified under any form of polarized subscription and my followers not only understand it but also embrace it. The reactions to my work from my audiences ranges from heightened joy and happiness in celebration towards hysteria as induced by the pigment explosions. Urgent voguing, dancing, screaming, lip-synching, social media photo shoots and make out sessions of intensity are most sought out in my performances. I unashamedly share an intense and profound love for my audience and incessantly express it with adorning them with all my love including Khaleeji oud, rose petals, gold and scented pigment. It is no coincidence that every platform to follow my work is titled with honest proclamation “chokralovesyou.”

What is your 2013 calendar looking like and are there any specific shows you’re particularly looking forward to?
2013, is a very exciting year ahead, I shall be releasing my experimental performance art film Zahrat Al Qiyamah directed by extraordinary New York based film artist Bong Warra, The work is my most ambitious project to date featuring unique collaborations with the legendary Mercura NYC, visionary make up by Michelle Webb and Couture Faces, and production support from Ailine Fernandes. The project was shot during Hurricane Sandy in New York and features an intensifying ritual of performance art produced in the accelerated frameworks of emergency.

Also, upcoming shows for the month of February include Videobomb at Signal Gallery, New York and Magmart VIII at Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, Italy.

You’re an active member of the local art scene; any pointers as to who you pick as the next breakout artist?
There are so many artists I admire locally but I am still to meet the next breakout generation of artists pushing boundaries of art making. I hope I do not have to wait too long.