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Living in the moment, pushing boundaries

Updated: 2018-02-06 09:32:57

( China Daily )

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"Sometimes they think I am insane or simply a fool. But I have to be confident and concentrate on my work," says Dublin-based Rolfe, who is a professor at the Royal College of Art in London.

The artist explains that he gains strong emotional power from his performances. He often enters a meditative state where he forgets about everything else other than his art. One of his longest shows lasted nine consecutive nights.

Having practiced performance art for nearly half a century, Rolfe has faced many challenging situations, some of which have even proved life-threatening. On one occasion he fractured his spine, nearly leading to permanent paralysis. After suffering from broken ribs, Rolfe would often bind his chest to make his endurance of the pain as part of the performance.

After he injured his back, he performed several pieces about falling over, which could have led to severe, if not fatal, consequences if he hadn't executed them correctly.

"I have to take risks and try new challenges. The most dangerous things are usually unseen, such as the bacteria that carry diseases," he says.

So far, Rolfe has taken his performance art shows to more than 40 countries across the world. He produces about 20 art pieces every year, as much of his time is taken up by teaching.

As one of the few performing artists to still practice the art at an elderly stage, he admits that he won't do many of the things he used to in the past just to avoid injury. But he still enjoys the process of performing.

He loves to use colored flour, which brings back childhood memories of helping his mother make desserts in his hometown on the Isle of Wight in England. He loves the phrase from the Bible that says: "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

"It's about life and death, and transformation," Rolfe says.

Talking about his near half-century in performance art, Stampe says that Rolfe's works have always been about "right now", and so every time he performs, he is marking a turning point during a period of uncertainty.

And it has been these uncertainties that have driven Rolfe to continue performing throughout his life.

If you go

10 am-5:30 pm, through Feb 25. Red Brick Art Museum, Shunbai Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing. 010-84576669.

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