dance with bentham

“Dance with Bentham” is a long-term project by Slovenian artist Nika Ham who has been working on it since 2015. She uses surveillance systems of museums and other public spaces to document her short performances.

Nika Ham refers to the book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault who addressed the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and his Panopticon. “I know I am being observed and I want the observer to know that”, she writes. The project deals with the relationship between the artist vs. institution, body vs. space, observing vs. being observed, private vs. public.

Dance with Bentham / Albertina

Albertina Museum, Vienna. 2018. Security cameras. 1280×960. 5′ 50″ © Nika Ham

“In Albertina Museum, I wanted to recreate the characters / symbols used by the artist on display, Keith Haring. His characters are simple child-like figures with no faces. In the first performance, I dressed myself in a white suit and a gas mask and tried to recreate the compositions of the characters in the paintings moving across the exhibition space. In the second performance, I dressed myself in a black coat and a gas mask and moved across the space as a content viewer or a ghost observer”.

Dance with Bentham / OG2

Salzburg Museum, Salzburg. 2019. Security cameras. 646×476. 3′ 38″. Music: Slick Grief. Chapter V Instrumental Extended. 2019 © Nika Ham

OG2 is happening at Salzburg Museum. It is a video consisting of short repetitive dance moves that are performed across the exhibition space. With the pink raincoat (Salzburg = rain) I become an obvious intruder next to the historical artefacts of the city of Salzburg. With the added music track – it is a dance show for the surveillant in an unconventional setting”.

Dance with Bentham / Treature Music Video

Urban Nation Museum, Berlin. 2019. Security cameras. 1920×1080. 4′ 20″ © Nika Ham

“For the project at Urban Nation residency I connected with Berlin based musician and urban explorer junk-E-cat in order to make a music video for his track called Treature. We used the Urban Nation Museum as performance space using just the existing surveillance cameras to capture the action – the same technique I am using in my long-term project Squat. From the raw we footage we will create a selection of moving images and stop-motion sequences. All the actions are funny, weird, whimsical featuring four characters in an unconventional setting.”