Steven Cohen

*1962, Johannesburg, South Africa. Lives and works in Lille, France.

Steven Cohen is a performance artist who stages interventions in the public realm and in gallery/theatre spaces. His work invariably draws attention to that which is marginalised in society, starting with his own identity as a gay, Jewish man. One of his best-known performances is Chandelier (2001/2), in which the artist, dressed in vertiginous heels and an illuminated chandelier tutu, interacted with residents of a squatter camp in Newtown, Johannesburg, as it was in the process of being destroyed; the work exists as both live performance and video documentation of the public intervention.

COHEN Chandelier 4 3

Chandelier / South Africa / 2002 / 16’25 / 4:3

Chandelier was filmed in 2001 during the destruction of a squatter camp in Newtown, Johannesburg, by municipal employees known as Red Ants (after their red overalls). “Artists have always painted the social concerns of their time, and by my moving in a chandelier-tutu through a squatter camp being demolished - and filming it - that’s what I’m doing too, a digital painting of a social reality, half beautifully imagined, half horribly real - where Hollywood glamour meets concentration camp horror. I am trying to shed light on what is seldom seen, by creating amid destruction.” - Steven Cohen