Tsendpurev Tsegmid is a Mongolian artist living in the UK, who investigates issues of heritage and identity from the perspective of her own cultural re-location. Originally trained in the discipline of traditional Mongolian painting, Tsendpurev now works in a contemporary art context. She uses photography and performance, combining both practices in such a way that her work is difficult to categorise. In some cases the camera simply documents a performance; in others the performative event is staged in order to construct a photograph as the final artwork.
Tsendpurev uses clothing and costume to take on different identities and to explore the issue of geographical and cultural displacement. In her ongoing project Packing/Unpacking, Tsendpurev wears her mother’s ‘deel’ (traditional embroidered garment) in the context of both Mongolian and Yorkshire landscapes. Although geographically separated from her family living thousands of miles away, she is tied by her feelings of love and kinship. This is expressed by wearing her mother’s clothing (like an ‘embrace’) or dressing in a police uniform as a reference to her father’s professional life, during the Communist regime of his country. The camera provides a way of examining these acts of identification and emulation, and the multiple meanings that are produced once they are framed within a Western context.
Familial narratives are also woven into a research project that investigates the guarding of frontiers and the preservation of territories. Tsendpurev examines the meaning of her country’s borders from the perspective of one who has flown over and beyond them. Living in a globalised culture but still maintaining an attachment to her homeland, she questions the use of the term ‘nomad’ for the millions of people around the world who live in voluntary exile rather than following the patterns and paths inscribed by previous generations.
Assuming an alter ego for the series Queen, Tsendpurev displays the sense of pride located in her Mongolian heritage. The warlike prowesses of the country’s leaders, and the history of the Mongol Empire, provide a focus for national feeling. However, there is also a sense of irony in the mode of dressing up used to create The Queen. The clothing is purchased from shops in Mongolia and the UK, produced by multinational retail companies in a global industry that indiscriminately fuses styles and fashions. From this available mix Tsendpurev chooses to create the identity of a female warrior leader, as a re-enactment of ancestral power and authority. The Queen adopts ceremonial poses using the sword as her most potent accessory. However, she also reveals a self-reflective uncertainty as she faces the camera. Queen has been performed in different locations, including the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, where it was an intervention in the museum’s space of preservation, raising contemporary issues of conflicting identity.
written by Juliet MacDonald