Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Well-Marketed Orgy: Performa 11, Including Fluxus Weekend

A Personal Selection of Highlights of Performa 11 in artcritical’s TIPS series

Tarek Atoui, Visiting Tarab, 2011. A Performa Commission. Photo: Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa
Tarek Atoui, Visiting Tarab, 2011. A Performa Commission. Photo: Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa

The Fluxus Weekend probably would have been enough. (Highlights from this tightly focused, historically themed mini-festival within Performa11 include a brand new film by Jonas Mekas called Fluxus Cabaret, complied from archival footage of Fluxus-related performances, and a day with Alison Knowles, founding member of the movement, who will perform with collaborators amid a sound installation in an empty storefront space.) But Performa has never been about “enough” or “tightly focused” — the biennial in its entirety is a well-marketed orgy of cross-disciplinary performances that have in common certain calendar dates, New York City, and an institutional stamp of approval. That said, the sense of urgency Performa creates around live or time-based work in “visual art, music, dance, poetry, fashion, architecture, graphic design, and the culinary arts” can be exciting —it just takes a bit of planning.

In past years I ventured out to more Performa shows than I could really fully engage with wholeheartedly because I believed that this biennial might possibly present a coherent vision of international contemporary performance as a whole. Actually, the fact that there is no cohesive whole in the art world, let alone across all these disparate disciplines, means that self-segregation persists despite, or perhaps because of, attempts at inclusiveness. Instead of a wide view of performance trends, the real value in a festival of this size is the opportunity to see shows that might not have come into existence were it not for Performa funding, and a marketing machine that benefits smaller works that would have been happening, more quietly, anyway. More precise editing and a more focused curatorial vision could conceivably cross boundaries between the aforementioned disciplines to make select contemporary trends across say food, architecture and visual art visible, but you can’t have it both ways, and director RoseLee Goldberg is truly attempting to create and to write the definitive history of performance. The result is New York time based art and performance on steroids.

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler, SEVEN, 2011. A Performa Commission. Photo: Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa.
Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler, SEVEN, 2011. A Performa Commission. Photo: Paula Court. Courtesy of Performa.

As if this weren’t enough, even with all this inclusiveness, each week of the biennial there are important shows to see that don’t fall under the Performa11 heading, such as Maria Hassabi’s SHOW at The Kitchen, Reusuable Parts/Endless Love by Ryan Kelly and Brennan Gerard at Danspace, and John Jasperse’s Canyon at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. There are various reasons why these particular pieces didn’t get included in Performa this time around, some of them more political than others, but it’s worth noting that there is really nothing differentiating the actual experience of these works from Performa11. Two years ago, the audience at Tere O’Connor’s non-Performa09 related Wrought Iron Fog at New York Live Arts (then still called Dance Theater Workshop) was the same audience that was out every night at Performa09 events. The borders of this festival are particularly porous.

As I mentioned, Fluxus is an historical reference point for the biennial, but so is Russian Constructivism. The stated overarching curatorial themes, which are supposedly intertwined with the historical themes, are “Language, Translation and Misinformation; The Voice; The Politics of Speech; and the Animation of Modern Sculpture.” These are all fascinating, and extremely large topics and one can only hope that they will play out in clear and interesting ways in many of the pieces on view. The performances range from Commissions, which are the most “Performa” of the works since the institution funds them and the biennial is the impetus for their creation, to Premiers (first showings of experimental works), Projects (everything else performed live), Long Term Exhibitions, and the Film Program. There’s also the Fluxus Weekend, Performa Comedy, Performa Radio, Performa TV, Performa Magazine, and Performa After Hours.

I wish there was also a Performa11 app for my phone. In lieu of that, I’ve handmade a short list of the shows for the second half of the three week biennial that I’ll be seeing or that I would be seeing if I could be in two or three places at once. See the full listing of shows at Performa’s website, where you can sort your choices by interest, day, time, neighborhood, and price.

Maria Petschnig see-saw, seen-sawn

  • Thursday, November 10, 7:30 pm — 8:30 pm

Austrian Cultural Forum, Free

Jack Ferver with Michelle Mola Me, Michelle

  • Thursday, November 10, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm, Friday, November 11, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm, Saturday, November 12, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm

Museum of Arts and Design
$18 / $15 MAD members and students

Ragnar Kjartansson and Davíd ?ór Jónsson Artist Class: On Music and Forgiveness

  • Friday, November 11, 3:00 pm — 4:00 pm

Performa Hub
$10 / 8 Student

Shirin Neshat OverRuled

  • Friday, November 11, 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm
  • Saturday, November 12, 5:00 pm — 6:30 pm
  • Saturday, November 12, 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm

Cedar Lake, $35 General, $35 to $100 Opening Night

Jonas Mekas Fluxus Cabaret

  • Saturday, November 12, 6:00 pm — 7:30 pm

Anthology Film Archives, Tickets $9 / $7 students/seniors / $6 AFA Members

Alison Knowles in collaboration with Jessica Higgins and Joshua Selman Beans All Day

  • Saturday, November 12, 12:00 pm — 6:00 pm

Forever & Today, Inc. storefront space, Free

Trajal Harrell Antigone Jr.

  • Sunday, November 13, 6:00 pm — 7:29 pm
  • Sunday, November 13, 7:30 pm — 9:00 pm

Third Streaming, $11

Liz Magic Laser I Feel Your Pain

  • Sunday, November 13, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm
  • Monday, November 14, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm

The SVA Theatre, Free with reservation

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler SEVEN

  • Thursday, November 3- November 19th, various days (see Performa Calendar) , 6:00 pm — 8:00 pm

Nicole Klagsbrun Project Space, Free.

Proposed curriculum on contemporary art and performance: Dennis Oppenheim and the art of survival, Day 17

  • Thursday, November 17, 1:00 pm — 6:00 pm

Performa Hub, Free with reservation

Pablo Helguera The Well-Tempered Exposition, Book One, Part II

  • Friday, November 18, 7:00 pm — 8:00 pm

Location One

Robert Ashley That Morning Thing

  • Saturday, November 19, 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm, Sunday, November 20, 3:00 pm — 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm, Monday, November 21, 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm

The Kitchen, $30

Tyler Ashley, Half-Mythical, Half-Legendary Americanism, 2011. A Performa Project. Photo: Elizabeth Proitsis. Courtesy of Performa.
click to enlarge