Experience Performa 11: Live Performances and Classes

by Tina Orlandini

Thanks to Performa 11, the only biennial dedicated to exhibiting contemporary works of performance art, November in New York City is filled with brilliant performances that combine the aesthetic value of visual art and the brilliance of experimental music, dance, and theater with subtle yet poignant social and political nuances. Although all of the performances deserve to be experienced, there are a few upcoming shows that have been highlighted as “must-see” performances by biennial director RoseLee Goldberg.

Shirin Neshat, an Iranian artist whose work originally inspired Goldberg to develop Performa, collaborates with Iranian musicians, vocalists, and actors to create the production OverRuled. The story touches on issues of contemporary Iranian politics and is set in a court of law in which the audience, imagination, and life are on trial for heresy. As is true for all of Neshat’s artwork, this performance promises to excite your visual and auditory senses, while also speaking to issues of global politics.

iona rozeal brown makes her live performance debut at this year’s biennial, bringing to life her cross-cultural paintings in battle of yestermore. The performance incorporates Japanese theater, which has influenced much of her work, with the dance style known as “vogueing,” performed by its pioneers Benny and Javier Ninja, as well as other hip hop dancers. The performance will also include one of brown’s original scores.

Liz Magic Laser’s Performa 11 multi-media piece, I Feel Your Pain transforms American political commentary into an all-encompassing romantic comedy. The performance includes press conferences with political figures like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Laser herself performs among the eight actors who appear on stage and within the audience.

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler collaborate to create the performance-installation SEVEN at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery. Rottenberg’s surreal videos, juxtaposed with Kessler’s kinetic sculptures, allow visitors to travel across time and space, from the streets of New York City to the African savannahs. Much of Rottenberg’s work speaks to the politics of the female body, while Kessler’s mechanically exposed kinetic sculptures have shifted toward questions of surveillance following 9/11. Together, the efforts of these artists culminate in one visually loaded and content-laden performance, designed to last exactly 37 minutes.

Robert Ashley is known as the pioneer of music-television and has had a tremendous influence on contemporary opera since the 1960s. For Performa, Ashley will exhibit a fresh rendition of his 1968 three-act opera That Morning Thing, which will include seventeen performers and incorporate male and female voices. Followers and critics of Ashley’s work have expressed their eagerness to experience the performance again in a new way.

In addition to the many performances, Performa 11 also offers myriad artist-taught classes, exhibitions, film screenings, and more at the Performa Institute, affectionately referred to as the Hub, at 233 Mott Street. Some of the programs you won’t want to miss include:

Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, 33 Fragments of Russian Performance (on-going exhibition, 3rd floor of Performa Institute)
November 2 – 21, 1:00 – 5:00pm

Mark Beasley (Performa curator) and Nathaniel Mellors (Performa artist), Cockadoodledon’t!!!: On Humor and Language
Monday, November 14, 3:00 – 4:00pm

Dennis Oppenheim, Compression Fern (1970) Screening and Action
Wednesday, November 16, 5:00 – 6:00pm

Guy Maddin (filmmaker and Performa artist), The Power of a Community-Free Cinema
Saturday, November 19, 3:00 – 4:00pm

The Performa team is always looking for enthusiastic students to volunteer and to become a part of this exciting experience. All those interested in getting involved with Performa should contact Marc Arthur (marc[at]performa-arts[dot]org).

Tina Orlandini is a graduate student in Arts Politics at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Watermill Quintet: Uncovering Disciplinary Boundaries

Editor’s Note: This review was written directly following the “Watermill Quintet” performance at the Guggenheim Museum in March 2011. It has been reprinted here in its original form.

Learned contextual expectations are everything, which is why I was so intrigued this spring when I received an email about the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” program through a dance performance listserv. Billed as “a performing-arts series that informs artistic creation through stimulating conversation and performance,” the series purports to integrate the performing and visual arts on an institutional level. Modern and contemporary museums have expanded their jurisdictions, yet in general the performing arts and visual arts worlds still stand as two distinct monoliths. Despite the collapsing of partitions within each realm—between dance, theater, opera, music, etc. in one, and sculpture, painting, installation, performance, etc. in the other—and our confidence in our own open-minded interdisciplinary thinking, the boundaries of each remain fairly impermeable.
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Marina Abramović at the IFA

Editor’s Note: This review was written directly following Marina Abramović’s lecture at the Institute of Fine Arts on March 1, 2011. It has been reprinted here in its original form.

Marina Abramović at the Institute of Fine Arts, March 1, 2011. Video still.
Courtesy the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU.


A long duration is sublime. — Immanuel Kant

Although it is safe to assume that almost everyone who attended Marina Abramović’s recent lecture at the IFA, had seen her in person fairly recently, few, if any, had ever seen her speak: like all of her best-known performances, The Artist is Present (2010) at MoMA was completely wordless. In the very least, Abramović’s IFA lecture proved that the absence of speech in her performances is not due to any lack of ability on the part of the performer. She was lucid, frank, and insightful, managing not only to set her work into intelligent dialogue with a wide range of her contemporaries (Chris Burden, Gilbert and George, etc.), but also to be quite funny and entertaining along the way. By the end of the talk, one really felt to have gotten a good sense of Abramović’s personality. This of course shed a good deal of light on her work, though perhaps not in the direct sort of way that one would expect. Rather, the ease by which her personality came through in speech only threw into relief how little of that personality comes across in her performances. The type of encounter that occurs in the latter is entirely different in nature.

Abramovic’s lecture touched on many issues: the importance of long temporal durations in her work, a conception of the parts of the body as instruments of performance, her own path to becoming a performance artist, and many others. She began by reading a manifesto and went on to show a series of video excerpts of performances, choosing each from a DVD menu screen and discussing them freely, without a transcript or predetermined order. The present essay will not even attempt to map out the territory that she covered; for this, one would be better off simply watching the video recording of the lecture that is available on the IFA’s website. Instead, I would like to reflect on just a few aspects of the lecture that I found particularly helpful in interpreting her work.

Continue reading “Marina Abramović at the IFA”