Culture Court

Culture Court – A Performance Art Project at National Gallery of Victoria International, Australia

Artist: Shigeyuki Kihara

Title of performance: Culture Court

Performance duration: 60 min

Medium: Live performance featuring musical instruments and dance

Culture Court is a new performance art project I staged most recently at the 17th & 18th Century Gallery of the National Gallery of Victoria International (NGV International) based in Melbourne, Australia, and held during my residency with Multicultural Arts Victoria. The Culture Court performance alludes to a ‘human jukebox’ examining the relationship between art, performance and capitalism and the extent to which society ‘values’ culture.

The Culture Court Melbourne performance featured cultural performers from Indonesia, Kiribati Islands, Australia and South Sudan where the performers are specifically instructed to perform briefly and only when money is placed inside the bowl located in front of each performer. At all other times, the performer stands in silence inside the gallery space. At first, the audience enjoys the lively performance(s) by performers of their choice. It is during the performer’s silence that the audience begins to question their own actions as to whether they are contributing to the exploitation of the performer through the measure of their financial contribution. The Culture Court performance shifts the focus from the cultural performers to the audience where the act of placing money in the performer’s bowl becomes a spectacle on its own.

The cultural performers also appear to be busking – a practice associated with ‘low culture’ performance on the street (which also happens to be an active scene in Melbourne), while in Culture Court they are performing in an arts institution known as ‘high culture’, where through the deliberate ‘collapse’ of the social hierarchy exposes a myriad of discussions surrounding the commodification of ‘culture’.

To view documentary stills from the Culture Court performance held at National Gallery of Victoria International, please visit:

I am open to discussion regarding the re-staging of Culture Court internationally, and seeking expressions of interest from those who are keen to partner in staging this dynamic, contemporary art project that strongly favours community participation and audience engagement.

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