About Performa 15
A Letter from the Director
Looking back to the Renaissance, and forward to a new decade with performance now firmly positioned in museums and within academia as a viable and multi-tiered discipline to engage audiences of contemporary art and media culture, we celebrate a decade of Performa, its influence and impact. We look at the results of our innovative commissioning program that has changed the public view as to what constitutes visual art performance and that has consistently produced new markers in the history of artists’ performance; and we return to some of those artists whose commissioned works over the past decade made it so. In addition, we build on the solid structures within our curatorial pantheon: the Performa Hub, a temporary architectural commission that serves as Performa’s headquarters during the three weeks of the Performa biennial, and that provides a meeting place for visitors and a venue for morning to night programming, exhibitions and screenings; the Performa Institute, that realizes a comprehensive vision for performance education and history, interfacing daily with artists, curators, and the public, with workshops, lessons by artists, process-driven residencies and where ideas being posited by artists in the biennial program across the city are cross referenced and argued; and Pavilions Without Walls, a unique curatorial program that investigates the cultural landscape of a particular country, explored and developed over a two year period with curators, artists and cultural institutions in that country, including visits by our curators to theirs, and a curatorial residency from that country with Performa in New York in the six month lead up to the biennial.
With Performa 15, the Performa biennial will once again be a lively investigative platform across disciplines, exploring not only the visual arts, but also dance, film, radio, sound, and architecture. Subject matter will cover a broad range of topics that does not fit under a single headline: rather, like the pages of an international newspaper, with its sections on metropolitan life or political affairs, cinema, science literature or sports, Performa ranges across cultural sub-sets. Performa also ranges across the city and across curatorial perspectives, for the Performa biennial is the sum of many parts: presented in close collaboration with the Biennial Consortium, a selective network of New York City’s most adventurous cultural institutions, Performa will once again reaffirm New York City as the performance capital of the world.
Welcome to Performa 15!
Founding Director and Curator
Performa 15 takes place November 1 – 22, 2015 at various locations across New York City.
Since 2004, Performa has been a leader in commissioning artists who together shape the next chapter of the multi-century legacy of visual artists working in live performance. Serving as an incubator for artists' projects, Performa encourages new directions for live performance while paying homage to the form's history and making way for its future.
Celebrating ten years since the founding of the Performa biennial in 2005, Performa 15 premieres new works by artists Robin Rhode (South Africa), Pauline Curnier Jardin (France/The Netherlands), Edgar Arceneaux (United States), and Erika Vogt (United States), Performa alums Jérôme Bel (France) and Jesper Just (Denmark), as well as returning artist Francesco Vezzoli (Italy) in special collaboration with dancer David Hallberg (United States), to name a few. This sixth edition brings together a total of more than 30 artists from 12 countries around the world to participate in three weeks of exciting programming including Performa Commissions, Performa Projects, Performa Premieres, Performa Hub, Pavilion Without Walls, and more—breaking down the boundaries between visual art, music, dance, poetry, film, and architecture. For each biennial, Performa pays homage to a bygone era through a historical anchor, such as Futurism and Russian Constructivism, showing the prevalence of live art during earlier periods; this year the historic reference is The Renaissance.
Performa 10 Years
Performa, an entirely new kind of biennial for visual art and performance, was launched in New York City ten years ago, in 2005. It would be different from other biennials, its mission to focus on the importance of live performance by visual artists throughout the history of 20th Century art, to bring performance from the sidelines into the spotlight as it were, as a way of understanding the changing landscape of contemporary art from around the world of the past hundred years. That century had been nothing less than multi-disciplinary; avant-garde artists since the early 1900s had broken new ground in filmmaking, bookmaking, poetry, choreography, performances, installations and actions of all sorts, and these in turn would shape the direction of painting and sculpture in the decades following. Performa was established to reveal a neglected history and to make it public in the most vibrant, innovative and highly visible ways.
Performa would not simply present an overarching survey of performance every two years, but rather would instigate new possibilities for a form perfectly poised to translate the media-saturated world of the new century. For a public not yet realizing how much they would crave active engagement as complement and antidote to lives lived online, the Performa Commission would both captivate and be the engine driving the overall vision of Performa. It would also be a means for showing off artists’ imagination at their most innovative
and experimental, outside of art market forces. Providing unparalleled support, financial and curatorial as well as production expertise and dramaturgy, Performa invited artists, many of whom had not made performance before, to think differently: in this new idiom they would add time and ‘the live’ as ingredients to their work and they would experience the unfolding of untried ideas in the presence of an audience. Encouraged to think boldly and ambitiously, each Performa Commission would be assigned a venue, both frame and container, appropriate to its content and atmosphere; tantamount to a solo exhibition, each commission used the city as urban staging ground, discovering with each work a new neighborhood.
Unlike other biennials, whose administration selects a new artistic director for each edition, Performa has an ongoing team of curators, art historians, researchers, and producers, which has, over the decade, accrued specialized knowledge about performance, its place in art history, its contemporary forms, across continents and around the globe. In other words, each Performa biennial is an extension of the last, an accumulation of scholarship and expertise built on the one before. Even as we prepare for the current biennial, long-term research is in motion for a future one. The Performa biennial is always in process.
Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. Since launching New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05, in 2005, the organization has solidified its identity as a commissioning and producing entity. As a “museum without walls,” Performa provides important art historical heft to the field by showing the development of live art in all its forms from many different cultural perspectives reaching back to the Renaissance. The Performa Biennial is celebrated world wide as the first biennial to give specialized attention to this remarkable history, transforming the city of New York into the ‘world capital of artists’ performance’ every other November. Performa attracts a national and international audience of more than 200,000 and receives more than 5,000,000 website hits during its three week run. In the last decade Performa has presented 592 performances, worked with 732 artists, and toured commissioned performances in 17 countries around the world.