Performa 19 announces the first set of commissions

Performa, the internationally acclaimed organization dedicated to live performance, is thrilled to announce its first commissions for Performa 19, the eighth edition of the Performa Biennial. Taking place over a period of three weeks, from November 1–24, 2019, at locations throughout New York City, Performa once again celebrates the extraordinary vitality, inventiveness and significance of New York as a leading global performance capital of the world.

Additional Performa Commissions, Performa Institute programs, and collaborative partnerships with a Biennial Consortium of more than 40 cultural institutions — this year influenced by the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, the first art and architecture school to house a theater class – as well as Performa’s Pavilion Without Walls program will be announced in the coming weeks. The full 24-day program will be made public in September.

The first announced commissions for Performa 19, are exciting new works by an array of international artists, each responding to both biographical and societal concerns and immersed in a matrix of new media as a means to articulate a wealth of ideas. Korakrit Arunanondchai,Ed Atkins,Nairy Baghramian, Tarik Kiswanson, Paul Pfeiffer and Samson Young each approach performance from entirely different perspectives; Iran-born, Berlin-based artist Nairy Baghramian will combine her interest in dance and theatre with an exploration of the body in its relation to architecture, everyday objects, sculpture, and gendered roles in domestic spaces; Thailand born, New York-based artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, will create a musical based on the idea of the Ghost Cinema, a post Vietnam war ritual in Thailand where outdoor screenings function as communions between the audience and the spirits; Swedish-Palestinian artist Tarik Kiswanson’s pristine and minimal sculptures will swirl around a cohort of children performing in solos and group tableaux reciting artists’ poetical texts that address questions of borders, diaspora, and interwoven identities. New York-based, Manila-born Paul Pfeiffer, known for his powerful video and photography will combine moving image with live performance to further investigate the ways in which mass media shapes contemporary consciousness, addressing how history is written and performed; while Hong Kong-based composer and visual artist Samson Young reaches back in time to a sixteenth-century Chinese folk myth, to create a surprising experimental musical with inflexions of Stravinsky, Balanchine and comic book characters. British-born, Copenhagen-based artist Ed Atkin’sfirst theatrical work will show him stepping away from his uncanny projections of computer-generated avatars and onto the stage, to play with the boundaries of corporality and real life that he experiments with on screen.

Performa has also commissioned Yvonne Rainer & Emily Coates to reimagine a seminal work from Rainer’s oeuvre, “Parts of Some Sextets” an early work from 1965, reconstructed from notes, diagrams, and photographs now housed in the Getty Archives.

As with all Performa Biennials, commissioned artists will present ambitious new work, some in performance for the first time. Each explores urgent concerns of our rapidly evolving 21stcentury society, shaped by the constantly shifting technological revolution. As the work progresses from concept to premiere, each artist is surrounded by a supportive team of Performa curators and producers, working closely with them to realize their visionary ideas.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919, Performa 19 will examine the Bauhaus’ revolutionary approach to interdisciplinary experimentation. It will look to the intense social and political environment that encouraged the merging of art and life in events designed by the theatre workshop in and around the Bauhaus school; it will examine the opportunities provided for students and faculty to explore the intersections of art, industrial production, and technology, revealed in a prescient exhibition “Art and Technology; The New Unity” organized at the school in 1923; and the Performa Institute will use this detailed exploration of the Bauhaus’s radical approach to education to ask the question, ‘what is the art school of the 21stcentury?’, considering how best to equip young artists with the ethical as well as aesthetic tools needed for our fast-paced future.

Research for each Performa Biennial begins with an examination of a critical moment in art history when performance was a powerful motor driving conceptual and artistic shifts of the time, using the earlier material as a point of departure to explore contemporary art and ideas. Previous history anchors have included Futurism, Russian Constructivism, Dada, Surrealism and the Renaissance.

RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Chief Curator states: “One of Performa’s important roles is to provide critical historical background and context for today’s performances by visual artists. Another is to work closely with commissioned artists over an extended period of time, providing them with the full support of the Performa team at all levels. We are thrilled to be working with artists from more than a dozen different parts of the world, and to be introduced to the cultural and political references that make his or her individual work so essential and compelling to our understanding of the times in which we live.”

The curatorial team for Performa 19 is led by RoseLee Goldberg, Chief Curator and Founding Director, with Kathy Noble, Curator & Manager of Curatorial Affairs, Charles Aubin, Curator, Job Piston, Special Projects Manager, and Victor Wang, Associate Curator. The production of Performa 19 is led by Esa Nickle, Producing Director.

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