Performa 09: Visual Art Performance in NYC

Performa, a biennial of new visual art performance, returns to New York for its third edition at venues throughout the city for three weeks in November. Eleven new commissions and six New York premieres are featured in the three-week program, while the biennial kicks off with a unique food event that’s billed as an installation-cum-happening. Blurring the boundaries between visual art, music, dance, and other media, more than 150 international artists are participating in more than110 events at an array of public and private sites.

Commission standouts include Mike Kelley’s performances based on high-school yearbook photos of extra-curricular activities; Candice Breitz‘s presentation of identical twins improvising the same script on duplicate sets; Arto Lindsay‘s multidisciplinary parade down a city street with more than 50 dancers and performers using cell phones as musical instruments; Yeondoo Jung‘s mix of a live magic show with a cinematic interpretation of it; and Christian Tomaszewski‘s construction of a giant space-suit sculpture that houses a fashion show inspired by the Soviet space program and sci-fi films.

Yeondoo Jung, Cinemagician, 2009, Courtesy Performa, the Yokohama Festival for Video and Social Technology, and Kukje Gallery
Yeondoo Jung, Cinemagician, 2009, Courtesy Performa, the Yokohama Festival for Video and Social Technology, and Kukje Gallery

The premiere program brings Keren Cytter‘s theatrical production about a man and a woman who are transformed into the opposite sex; Tacita Dean‘s feature film of choreographer Merce Cunningham and his company of dancers rehearsing in an abandoned automobile factory; Loris Greaud‘s staging of a fireworks display in Abu Dhabi via a video on the MTV screen in Times Square; and recent works by Alica Framis, William Kentridge, and Joan Jonas, which come to the city for the first time.

Among other Performa highlights are Fischerspooner‘s pop spectacle, combining music, theatre, and dance that can be viewed in the round at MoMA, and Brody Condon’s performance/installation mixing William Gibson cyberpunk novel Neuromancer with Bauhaus-inspired sculptural props and Gamelan music at the New Museum. Meanwhile, in another merging of art and illusion, artist Glenn Kaino and magician Ryan Majestic transform the Slipper Room into an experimental laboratory for probing our understanding of reality.

Christian Tomaszewski, Sketch for Mother Earth Sister Moon, 2009, based on Niki de Saint Phalle’s Hon-en Katedral (She-a Cathedral), 1966, Courtesy Performa
Christian Tomaszewski, Sketch for Mother Earth Sister Moon, 2009, based on Niki de Saint Phalle's Hon-en Katedral (She-a Cathedral), 1966, Courtesy Performa

With its mission to encourage new directions in performance and a desire to activate the whole city, Performa showed us in 2005 and 2007 that the avant-garde is alive, well, and growing evermore exciting. This year, Performa hopes to “demonstrate that there is no such thing as an intellectual or creative recession,” and it has the talent, commitment, and resources to do it.

Candice Breitz, Twins compilation, Courtesy the artist and Performa

Candice Breitz, Twins compilation, Courtesy the artist and Performa

Guy Ben-Ner, Untitled, 2009, Video still, Courtesy the artist and Performa
Guy Ben-Ner, Untitled, 2009, Video still, Courtesy the artist and Performa
Arto Lindsay, IAMAMAN, 2008, Performance still courtesy of Performa
Arto Lindsay, IAMAMAN, 2008, Performance still courtesy of Performa
Keren Cytter, The Secret Diaries of Linda Schultz, 2009, Courtesy Performa
Keren Cytter, The Secret Diaries of Linda Schultz, 2009, Courtesy Performa
Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32 (Horse Dance of the False Virgin), 2005, Courtesy the artist and Performa
Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32 (Horse Dance of the False Virgin), 2005, Courtesy the artist and Performa
Omer Fast, The Casting, 2008, Production still, Courtesy Performa
Omer Fast, The Casting, 2008, Production still, Courtesy Performa
William Kentridge, I Am Not Me the Horse is Not Mine, 2008, Performance Still, Courtesy the artist and Performa
William Kentridge, I Am Not Me the Horse Is Not Mine, 2008, Performance Still, Courtesy the artist and Performa