Performa 11 NYC Biennial of new visual art performance

November 1-20, 2011 in New York City

Performa's fourth visual art performance biennial, Performa 11, taking place November 1–20, 2011, throughout New York City. Performa 11 will feature performances by over 100 contemporary artists, including 10 new Performa Commissions by artists from around the world, as well as Performa Premieres and a host of new works by up-and-coming artists. This year’s biennial will be a thrilling showcase of live culture across all artistic disciplines, taking place at over 80 venues throughout New York City and presented in collaboration with a consortium of over 40 arts and cultural organizations.

Since Performa’s first biennial took New York City by storm in 2005, Performa has succeeded in presenting US first and only live visual art performance biennial. It has become one of the most anticipated art events in the country, having reached an international audience of over 70,000 people. With its biennial, Performa has not only changed the course of performance art history, but it has also caused a ripple effect around the world with museums, organizations, and festivals incorporating performance into their programming. Once again, Performa will present its series of Commissions and Premieres, many by artists who have never worked live before.

RoseLee Goldberg, Performa’s Founding Director and Curator, says, “In just five years, Performa has changed people’s minds about the very nature and meaning of artists’ performance. It has shown it to be an inspiring, profound, and accessible platform for exciting new ideas. Performa gives the public a highly selected but broad overview of performance in different disciplines, and, in just three weeks, viewers can come to understand the most important new developments in contemporary art and culture. It is thrilling to work with Performa artists to realize their extraordinary visions.”

Over its three-week run, the Performa Hub, designed by nOffice, will function as the biennial’s headquarters, offering a venue for special performances, screenings, panel discussions, bookshop, lounge, and a visitor information center. To program this year’s biennial, Performa will draw upon the rich cultural landscape of New York City by partnering with over 40 innovative local arts and cultural organizations. Working with this consortium of presenting partners, the biennial will create a lively dialogue through different disciplines working and thinking together. This collaboration creates an exciting cultural atmosphere; a unique cross-pollination think tank with an exchange of ideas, sharing of resources, and new connections between organizations and arts professionals.

Performa Board of Directors Chair Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn adds, “Performa’s biennial will once again transform the landscape of New York and send a jolt of energy throughout the city. Performa 11 will provide a unique opportunity to see live events in all disciplines of the arts. Whether a modest performance or a large-scale production, there is always a sense that you have to be there.”

Along with presenting new work, Performa also provides a link to the past with historical and research themes focusing on performance history from the twentieth century. This year’s research theme, Language, Translation, and Misinformation will investigate the use of language in the field of performance by visual artists versus that of theater actors. The two historical themes, Russian Constructivism (1913-1940s) and Fluxus (1960s) — which both used language in a visual art context — along with the research theme will act as a point of departure for the work selected for the biennial program.

A central part of Performa’s biennials are its Commissions, which originate exciting new performances by visual artists, many of whom have never worked live before. Performa 11 will present 10 new Performa Commissions by both established and up-and-coming artists. Artists receive unparallel support to realize powerful, intellectually reflective, and artistically innovative works of live performance that vary widely in scale, taking place at venues from a small local bar to a large opera house.
“The Performa Commissions create a completely new idea of what it means to experience art,” states RoseLee Goldberg. “They give the viewer time to absorb an artist’s ideas, and give the artist time to express richly layered content. For many artists, their Performa Commissions were their first major projects and they have subsequently gone on to build new work based on the ideas explored in Performa. I am thrilled to be working with such a talented group of artists for Performa 11 and to watch each project close up, as it develops from concept to final production.”
To date, Performa has awarded twenty-four commissions. Beginning with the first Performa 05 Commissions by artists Jesper Just and Francis Alÿs, Performa has gone on to present Commissions by a wide range of artists including Isaac Julien (Performa 07); Nathalie Djurberg (Performa 07); Japanther (Performa 07); Sanford Biggers (Performa 07); Kelley Nipper (Performa 07); Adam Pendleton (Performa 07); Yvonne Rainer (Performa 07); Francesco Vezzoli (Performa 07); Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Performa 09); Omer Fast (Performa 09); Mike Kelley (Performa 09); Candice Breitz (Performa 09); Arto Lindsay (Performa 09); Yeondoo Jung (Performa 09); and Wangechi Mutu (Performa 09), among others.

To mark the tenth anniversary since RoseLee Goldberg commissioned SHIRIN NESHAT (b. 1957, Qazvin, Iran) to create her first live work, Logic of the Birds in 2001, the artist will present a new performance for Performa 11. Neshat’s Performa Commission will present live actors and projections in a riveting courtroom scene based on an earlier film by the artist, The Last Word (2003). The production features performances by Mohsen Namjoo, one of the most celebrated Iranian musicians living today, and Suheir Hammad, acclaimed New York-based Palestinian poet and performer.

The artist duo ELMGREEN & DRAGSET, consisting of Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961, Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (b. 1969, Trondeim, Norway), will present a theatrical performance titled Happy Days in the Art World that draws references from Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days (1961) and Sarah Thornton’s book Seven Days in the Art World (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008). The production will take place in the tradition of Beckett’s absurdist theater with a traditional proscenium stage with sets designed by the artists. Happy Days in the Art World will feature actors as well as a cameo by the artists, and will expand on the duo’s ironic take on contemporary art and the art world’s intrigue with celebrity.

For Performa 11, RAGNAR KJARTANSSON (b. 1976, Reykjavík, Iceland) will present a new live work titled Bliss, a six-hour long performance which will repeat the delirious final aria of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. Kjartansson’s performance will replicate the lavishness of traditional opera with full orchestra, five opera singers, elaborate scenery, and period costumes. The artist himself will also sing. Bliss will continuously replay the two-minute musical, visual, and narrative pinnacle of the opera, approaching a euphoric state for performers and listeners alike.

IONA ROZEAL BROWN (b. 1966, Washington, DC) will extend the aesthetics and content of her paintings in her first work of live performance, battle of yestermorrow. In homage to the “onnagata” of Japanese Kabuki theater, the story will revolve around an epic battle between a princess and the guardians of her family’s gravesite. brown's wide ranging influences include myth-based genres like Kabuki and Noh theater, as well as ‘vogueing’ made famous in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. With performances by vogueing legend Benny Ninja with Javier Ninja, and an original sound score by brown.

Filmmaker and artist GUY MADDIN (b. 1956, Winnipeg, Canada) will present Tales from the Gimli Hospital: Reframed, a live re-imagining of his 1988 feature film of the same name. Tales from the Gimli Hospital tells the dreamlike story of the jealousy and madness that develops between two men sharing a hospital room in a remote Canadian village. This performance will literally reframe the film, adding new video projections on both sides of the original. A new score by composer Matthew Patton—featuring live foley sound effects by the Aono Jikken Ensemble and an all-female Icelandic ensemble (including members of Mum and Sigur Ros)—will be presented through an innovative, three-dimensional sound system specially created for the performance.

For Performa 11 SIMON FUJIWARA (b. 1982, London, England) will present a multi-part theatrical performance titled The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Weaving together new performance work with excerpts from a number of his previous acclaimed autobiographical performances and installations, Fujiwara will present a single epic narrative in three acts. From the search for a 136-year-old Amazonian explorer, to the secret sexual powers of Abstract Expressionist painting, Fujiwara’s absurd and labyrinthine stories will be brought to the stage with the aid of actors, musicians, and a mobile set.

Artists MIKA ROTTENBERG (b. 1976, Buenos Aires, Argentina) and JON KESSLER (b. 1957, Yonkers, NY) will present 7, an ongoing performance and installation that stretches from the urban landscape of New York to the savannahs of Africa. Mixing Kessler’s kinetic sculptures with Rottenberg’s absurdist videos, 7 will collapse film time and real time to create an intricate laboratory that channels body fluids and colors into a spectacle on the African savannah. Activated by live performers, the resulting video installation playfully addresses themes of spirituality, connection to the land, and the origin of the human species as well as questioning the place of performance, which can serve both as a substitute for spiritual ritual as well as an idiosyncratic spectacle.

Language and its poesy and rhythm are central to FRANCES STARK’s (b. 1967, Newport Beach, CA) engagement with the world. Borrowing words and phrases from novels, poems, and pop songs, she turns them into visual material that evoke the process of writing. Stark’s Performa Commission takes viewers on a semi-autobiographical stroll through the creative chaos of the artist’s life, working closely with a dancer and DJ from New York’s dance hall daggering scene. Written with close attention to the rhythm and pattern of language, Stark’s confessional performances are intimate and inclusive, presenting the facts of her life in a story that rises, falls, and diminishes like the chapters of a book.

MING WONG (b. 1971, Singapore) will take the archetype of the American actress as a point of departure for a new work activating the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Inspired by the multicultural neighborhood of Astoria and its history as a home for major film studios, Wong will create a live multimedia performance of choreographed actions drawing from his research of female stars since cinema’s inception. Twenty-four actors of different ages, genders, ethnicities, and nationalities will participate, with each actor representing a single frame of a living filmstrip that will wind its way through the history of cinema via the architecture of the Museum of the Moving Image.


Performa Premieres program, launched in 2009 with artists including Tacita Dean, William Kentridge, and Joan Jonas, presents exceptional live works. Performa 11 Premieres will include:

ROBERT ASHLEY (b. 1930, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
For his Performa Premiere, Robert Ashley—a pioneer of opera-for-television and mixed media musical theater—will present That Morning Thing (1967), an opera in three acts for men’s and women's speaking voices and eight dancers. The opera premiered at the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1968 and was later presented at the Cross Talk Intermedia Festival in Tokyo, Japan, and the Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, in Oakland, California. Two scenes from the opera—“Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” and “She Was a Visitor”—became legends when they were recorded in the 1970s.

BORIS CHARMATZ (b. 1973, Chambéry, France)
Choreographer Boris Charmatz  will re-conceive his groundbreaking Musée de la Danse (Dancing Museum) to premiere in New York City as part of Performa 11. A radical new way of looking at the history and future of dance through a unique live experience, Musée de la Danse: Expo Zéro is an exhibition comprised of completely empty rooms filled by the gestures, projects, bodies, stories, and dances which visitors will both see and imagine. Equal parts artistic project, institutional platform, and political proposition, Boris Charmatz’s Performa Premiere will have a lasting impact on the dance scene.

PERFORMA's Web site: www.performa-arts.org

Major support for Performa 11 has been provided by Toby Devan Lewis, Lambent Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support provided by The Dedalus Foundation, MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Danish Arts Council, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and the Performa Board of Directors, Performa Producers Circle, and the Performa Visionaries.