Dedicated to live performances, Performa Biennial takes place until 19 November 2017 throughout New York City.
Exploring the role of performance art in 20th century art history, Art Radar looks at key highlights from this year’s edition of Performa Biennial.
With 21 commissions by artists from over 11 different countries, Performa 17 presents a month-long series of projects, performances and events selected by a curatorial team. Led by founder and chief curator RoseLee Goldberg, this year’s edition of Performa promotes a self-reflective dialogue, with a curatorial narrative that places the focus on urban centres and the role of the arts within communities. Boasting a multi-cultural, diverse line up of artists, this year’s edition features relatively strong representation from the countries of South Africa, Estonia and the United States.
Art Radar takes a look at 5 highlights of Performa 17 happening during the final week of the Biennial.
1. Eiko Otake, A Body in Places — 14 November at The Met Cloisters
With post-nuclear Fukishima as her reference point, Japanese-born award-winning choreographer and dancer Eiko Otake is presenting A Body in Places across three consecutive Sundays at all three locations of The Metropolitan Museum across New York: The Cloisters, The Breuer and The Met Fifth Avenue. Otake’s performance art has continued to break ground over her fifty-year career; some of her best-known performance works include Night Tide (1984), presented with her long-term partner Koma, which contemplated notions of physical geographies and connectedness through their bodily movements.
This project is presented as part of an ongoing solo project that Otake has embarked on since 2014. Exploring bodies in spaces and places, previous iterations of her project have included the 12-hour durational performance of the same name in Philadelphia’s 30th Street station. Utilising a durational movement and video installation, Otake’s work challenges traditional conceptions of time, movement and vulnerabilities.
2. Wangechi Mutu, Banana Stroke — 14 November at The Metropolitan Museum, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
New York and Nairobi-based artist Wangechi Mutu‘s new work is an “outgrowth” of a live, multimedia performance drawing on both macro- and micro-politics, and considers aspects of international legislature and its consequences to the public depictions and details of the lives of women in her native Kenya.
She uses paper that has been dyed, fermented or saturated to create abstract paintings in an immersive environment which becomes both artwork and its stage. Mutu explores the objectification of the black female body within popular culture, and uses various sources for her portraits, collages, performances and animations, such as medical textbooks on tropical disease. The site-specific action painting performance merges images of the Kenyan landscape with those of her own artistic process, thus juxtaposing the warm intimacy of home with the colder, public arena of the museum designed for encounters and spectacle.
3. Anu Vahtra’s Open House Closing. A Walk — 15 to 17 November 15 at the Performa 17 Biennial Hub
Anu Vahtra’s project takes visitors around emptied out stores and spaces around Soho. Taking reference from the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, Vahtra’s project Open House Closing. A Walk is meant as a means of examining the subject of “post-gentrification”. The project centers around various site-specific installations, in keeping with her own artistic practice, which often takes a site-specific, space-oriented approach to art and art-making.
Vahtra’s project was supported by the Performa Commissioning Fund, as well as the Estonian Ministry of Culture and Estonian Contemporary Art Development Centre. This year’s edition of Performa 17 also includes the project Estonian Pavilion Without Walls, which features some of the pioneering artists of the Estonian contemporary art landscape, including artists Flo Kasearu, and Kris Lemsalu alongside Anu Vahtra.
4. Yto Barrada’s Tree Identification for Beginners — 17 to 19 November at the Connelly Theater
Screenings of Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada‘s film Tree Identification for Beginners will be screened at the Connelly Theatre. The award-winning artist, who was nominated for the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2016 and the recipient of the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2015, is known for her photography, film, sculpture, prints and installation works which explore specific situations and societal landscapes of her hometown, Tangier.
In this particular film, Barrada delves into her personal family history, exploring narrative interviews with her family members whilst sifting through archives of reports, journals and textiles. Focusing on the year 1966, where the artist’s mother was one of fifty “Young African Leaders” invited to participate in a State Department-sponsored propaganda tour of the United States, Barrada’s film explores the larger themes of ethnography, education and history. Aiming to revisit the revolutionary potential of the Pan-African, Tricontinental, Black Power and anti-Vietnam war movements, Barrada’s film explores socio-political issues from personal and historical perspectives.
5. Kelly Nipper’s Experimental Physiology
Part of a three-year collaboration between The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University and Performa, American artist Kelly Nipper’s commissioned performance is presented at this year’s Performa 17. Nipper’s Experimental Physiology is the result of extensive collaboration; the project involved a team of Brown students, the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT, dancer Marissa Ruazol and a Laban Movement Analyst, the larger project draws on photography, architecture, performance and scientific inquiry.
Nipper will present Terra Mecanique at Performa 17, a live performance with an installation for five performance in a rapid liquid printing laboratory. Exploring Laban movement systems, as well as photographic mechanisms and 3D printing, the work explores the intersections between machines, dance and human bodily movement.
6. Nicholas Hlobo’s Umbhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower. November 18 – November 19, at Harlem Parish
An expansion on the original four-part performative installation of the same name, Hlobo’s performance work at Performa 17 examines the histories of domestic interiors whilst also providing a commentary on gender roles that have shaped societal roles, the division of labor, and the ways we think about domesticity in the world today. The South African artist is known for creating his intricate works using materials such as ribbon, leather and wood, often exploring the very materiality of the works themselves and their associated notions. Working within the context of his South African heritage, Hlobo’s Umbhovuzo is part of a performative installation that saw its first iteration at his 2016 exhibition Sewing Saw, presented at Stevenson in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Performa 17 Grand Finale will take place on Sunday 19 November and celebrates the closing of the Biennial, with the presentation of The Malcolm McLaren Award in honour of the late artist and visionary for whom the award is named. The prize is awarded to an artist whose contribution to the biennial demonstrates a “risk-taking and irreverent spirit”, praising the most innovative and thought-provoking performance.
- Research as Practice, Exhibition as Inquiry, Archive as Verb: Hammad Nasar at Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2017 – November 2017 – participating in Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2017, the London-based curator, writer and researcher presented a run-down of his recent projects
- Sharjah Biennial 13 concluding programme in Beirut – October 2017 – the Sharjah Biennial concludes its 13th edition in Beirut with two programmes that bravely tackle the issues of today
- Highlights from Asia Contemporary Art Week 2017 in New York– October 2017 – Asia Contemporary Art Week pulls together some of New York’s biggest museums, galleries and institutions to shine the spotlight on the visual arts in Asia
- Preview: 5 highlights not to miss at 1:54 African Art Fair London 2017 – October 2017 – London’s leading international art fair dedicated to the contemporary art production from Africa and its diaspora returns from 5-8 October for its fifth edition
- “BODY/PLAY/POLITICS”: Asian and African artists at Yokohama Museum of Art – November 2016 – African and Asian artists explore notions of “the body” at the Yokohama Museum of Art
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