Lives and works in United States of America
John lives and works in NYC. He studied painting at Syracuse University, School of Visual Arts (NYC), LLOTJA (Barcelona) and Tibet House (NYC). From his painting background Bonafede incorporates formal compositional elements into his performance art practice. His work also includes a unique form of street printmaking called chemography. Having studied for years with a Tibetan master Tangkha painter, he helped start a non-profit organization helping nomadic poor children in East Tibet (tibetanbridge.org), which continually influences his work. John co-founded, produced and performed in monthly variety shows in a Midtown Manhattan loft for eight years, bringing his performance art to the fore. He enjoys performing in alternative art spaces as well as established institutions such as MoMA ,NYC (performing for three months in Marina Abramovic: Artist Is Present). Bonafede’s performance art ranges from the socio-political commentary to testing the physical limits of his body. The performances often challenge accepted formal notions of line, forms or painting and sculptural mediums. Video documentation is taken as an additional art medium for his performances to be viewed in. His career as a Production Designer and Art Director bear direct influence on his videos. His storyboards are those of a draftsman with years of experience writing/ illustrating graphic novels. Designing the sets and costumes is part of his process. Durational and installation-oriented performances often appear, reflecting his love for special design.
This performance took place at English Kills Gallery in 2010 during SITE Fest in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Bonafede intersperses images from his time in Tibet with the ritualized writing of the Tibetan alphabet being dictated to him by a Tibetan refugee, Lhumdup, in traditional attire. The prayer wheel that Lhumdup spins reminds us that the Sutra that is coiled within the wheel and the language written and spoken in Tibet are interwoven aspects of the culture. Soon the chalk alphabet transcribed on the gallery floor catches the attention of dancer Juri Onuki who attempts to erase the language with her hard bristle brush shoes. As her dance of erasure quickens so does the transcribing of the Tibetan alphabet. Latzho is forced to move out of his comfortable chair and cuts through the gallery audience (see Tibetan refugees). As Bonafede follows, he tries to write faster while Onuki’s dance grows to a feverish pitch. The interspersed video from the Kham region of Tibet mimics this traditional culture in jeopardy of being consumed by globalization and modernization. Details from images of the Buddha (Tibetan Tangkha style) get drawn and erased as well as the line through the gallery reaches its final destination, a rear door exit.
This performance is dedicated to the amazing Tibetan folks, and to all traditional cultures who continue to try to improve their lives and culture under very frustrating conditions. Special thanks go to Sonam – my Tibetan language teacher, Chloe Bass – SITE Festival Organizer, Scott Herriot – Camera, Ira Hardy – Camera and Editing and Samten Dakpa – Co-Founder of Tibetanbridge.org. Additional video footage from Tibet by John Bonafede