Sanford Biggers: Danpatsu
Sanford Biggers’s multidisciplinary practice integrates video, film, installation, sculpture, drawing, performance, and original music. Often examining issues of cultural difference, his work engages a wide range of themes—including politics, African-American history and culture, Buddhism, and art history—offering new perspectives on established symbols. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Biggers lives and works in New York, where he teaches at Columbia University.
Upon graduating from college in the early 1990s, Biggers taught English in Nagoya, Japan, for two years. There he became deeply interested in East Asian culture, including the practice of Zen Buddhism, which has continued to influence his work. He returned to Japan in 2003 for an artist’s residency, during which he created a series of twelve installations called “Both/And Not Either/Or,” which explores intersections between cultures.
Danpatsu is a single-channel video simultaneously screened on two monitors for MAM's outdoor video program; since 2011, MAM has been one of the only art museums to install video art on its grounds, featuring work by contemporary artists on a rotating basis. Part of Biggers’ “Both/And Not Either/Or” series, this work presents the artist dressed in traditional Japanese robes and seated in a meditation posture in a forest. He is approached by a woman, clad in a kimono, who carefully and ceremoniously cuts off his long dreadlocks: a reference to danpatsu-shiki, the ritual removal of a sumo wrestler's topknot when he retires. The simple yet startling act of the haircut evokes a web of associations surrounding cultural identities, masculinity, and sexuality; while the male topknot holds particular significance in Japan, dreadlocks are likewise meaningful in African-American culture. At once contemplative, disorienting, and thought-provoking, Danpatsu probes the cross-cultural exchange that distinguishes today’s global society.
MAM Art Talks
Thursday, November 20, 7 p.m.
$10 student with ID
Sanford Biggers is an interdisciplinary artist who works in film/video, installation, sculpture, music, and performance. Biggers has achieved international prominence over the last decade with a diverse body of work that explores themes of identity, race, American history, and spirituality, often by blending installation and performance. In Codex, a recent project, Biggers continues to probe these themes through another stylistic departure: painting on historical quilts, many of which were gifts to the artist from descendants of slave owners. An L.A. native, he has lived and worked in New York City since 1999.