Performa announces the first round of Performa Commissions to premiere during Performa 15.

Performa 15

1 – 22 November, 2015

Performa 15 will premiere new work by artists Robin Rhode (South Africa) and Pauline Curnier Jardin (France), and 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).

Performa’s Curatorial Team for Performa 15, led by RoseLee Goldberg, includes Performa curators Adrienne Edwards, Mark Beasley and Associate Curator Charles Aubin, as well as curators from a consortium of cultural institutions, and is produced by Esa Nickle.


“I am thrilled to kick off our 10th anniversary with a remarkable collaboration by two extraordinary artists in their respective fields, David Hallberg and Francesco Vezzoli, who pay tribute to the Renaissance and to centuries of artists creating live performances,” said RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Curator of Performa. “Their exuberant and exquisite examination of performance in a by-gone area brings to our contemporary 21st century world, a new understanding of the role of the artist in the power and politics of the past, whose visionary experiments went way beyond the great halls and picture galleries of palaces and cathedrals to the streets and squares of daily life, transforming the imagination of the public with their ephemeral works of wonder.”    

Performa 15 will once again fan out across the city of New York for three action-packed weeks, providing an entirely new approach to the urban setting as staging ground for art and culture.   Working in collaboration with some of the city’s most adventurous cultural institutions, and discovering venues or repurposing them to frame the original material of each of the Performa artists in the biennial, the city becomes the ‘performance capital of the world’, building on New York’s remarkable history since the 1960s, and especially the phenomenon of ‘downtown,’ as a magnet for avant-garde artists from across disciplines and around the world.

Performa 15 will feature an ambitious new work by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli in collaboration with American classical ballet dancer David Hallberg, principle dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet and American Ballet Theater. This new work follows Vezzoli’s unforgettable first live performance, Right You Are (If You Think You Are), a Performa 07 Commissionthat filled the entire Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, from its copolla to its theater below stairs, to much critical acclaim.

Continuing with Performa’s longstanding exploration of “Dance After Choreography,” a seminal and game changing series on contemporary dance and visual art which was a major research theme of Performa 07 and inspired a series of important and ongoing dance programs in major museums in the city, through both commissioned work and Performa Institute symposiums such as the 2011 Why Dance in the Art World?, Performa 15 will welcome the return of acclaimed French choreographer Jérôme Bel with Ballet (New York). Presented in three separate spaces across the city, including a theater, dance studio and gallery, Bel will work with a community of 15 New York-based performers of various ages and backgrounds, gathered through an open call, who will respond to a series of tasks designed by Bel. Ballet (New York) toes the fine line between the banal and the theatrical, as the ensemble cast of trained and untrained performers negotiates their relationship to each other and the audience. The production will be Bel’s first performance devised for the white cube gallery space. Jérôme Bel’s Ballet (New York) is co-commissioned by Performa and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Performa 15 will also see the return of performance to the streets, utilizing both obscure and iconic locations within the urban landscape of New York City as impromptu stages for performance. Following Arto Lindsay’s large-scale parade through Time Square in his Performa 09 Commission, South African artist Robin Rhode will utilize the iconic location as a public stage in a drastically new way. For the Performa 15, Robin Rhode will reimagine Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg’s Erwartung (Expectation), an atonal opera about love, loss, and longing that for Rhode resonates with the experiences of South African women waiting for their absent husbands, far from home, working in the city. Composed in 1909, Erwartung takes the unusual form of a one-act monodrama for a solo soprano, accompanied by a large orchestra. Rhode’s Performa 15 Commission of Erwartung: A Street Opera will be sung by the renowned French soprano Carole Sidney Louis. Through a sparse set created from reclaimed doors from South African homes, Rhode distills the cacophony of Times Square into an evocative domestic space, inhabited only by the soprano and a man whom we never hear.

Drawing upon another New York City landmark, One World Trade Center, Jesper Just will return to create a new installation and live performance on the occasion of Performa 15, ten years since his first commission for Performa 05. The film elements will center around three-cross generational female figures and their relationship to urban space and their bodies and will trace the journeys and interactions of the three characters—a child with a mild disability, the character of The Young Girl (a representation of the idealization of youth and femininity in popular culture), and a Middle-Aged Woman.

One World Trade Center itself will appear centrally in the video work, serving as a mediator for the characters, while its prominence on screen will establish it as a character itself. The performance, centering on an orchestra composed of children performing Beethoven, will be accompanied by an installation of a set and films behind the performers, mixing live and recorded elements. The moment spectators exit the elevator, they will enter an installation space that transports them from the urban setting into a mountainous landscape, constructed around the projection screens and serving as a stage for the symphony. Poetic and sublime, the installation’s aesthetic will evoke the atmosphere of Caspar David Friedrich’s Romantic paintings, a vast departure from the downtown surroundings.

Performa Commissions have also investigated time and duration, calling attention to the ephemeral quality of performance in different capacities from the 12-hour Bliss performance by Ragnar Kjartansson for Performa 11 to the one-night-only Fecunditas by Jennifer Rubellwhich celebrated Performa’s 10th anniversary as an organization in November 2014 with a tribute to the Renaissance, a theme that continues as a point of inspiration for artists of Performa 15.

Continuing with the Renaissance as a point of inspiration spanning Performa’s 10th anniversary as an institution in 2014 and ten years since the biennial’s inception in 2005 this November will be The Revivification Houseby French artist Pauline Curnier Jardin. For her Performa Commission, Jardin will present a weeklong immersive theatrical event that will pay tribute to sixteenth century pageantries. Drawing from sources as diverse as black magic, witches, camp, voguing, and the animal kingdom, The Revivification House will utilize Curnier Jardin’s unique sensibility and an abundance of pop-cultural references to explore rituals in the Renaissance.

Image: Francesco Vezzoli, Right You Are If You Think You Are, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court.-Courtesy of Performa The Solomon-R. Guggenheim Museum and Gagosian Gallery (1).

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