Preparing for "Not a Rehearsal"
El Museo De Los Sures, Brooklyn, NYC, April 5, 2017
By Polina Riabova
On Wednesday, April 5th, I attended a movement, text, sound and action-based feminist performance event while going through what I can only refer to as a minor breakdown.
Prior to leaving for Not A Rehearsal (curated by Jean Carla Rodea and Kathie Halfin) at El Museo De Los Sures (NYC) I had written a dramatic Facebook status about the TV show Girls, which somehow resulted in me missing the first performance of the evening by artist Sierra Ortega, “I scream the body electric." I was told by audience members who experienced the piece that Ortega described her problems that day (such as subway delays making her late - hi, yes, me too) then proceeded to record and loop the audio, in between takes of which she shrieked. I entered the space fuming at myself for the unprofessionalism inherent in prioritizing a Facebook status over a paid writing gig. Ironically, in not seeing Ortega’s work I made what I understood of it the essence of my reality. For the next 2 hours or so all my problems were looping inside my head and in-between them, I too, shrieked.
Performance participants sought, Governor’s Island, NY, June 3-4
Participants needed to take part in a participatory weekend public performance project SLOW DANCE by artist Katya Grokhovsky for DREAM BIGGER : NYC Figment Festival on Governor's Island!
Saturday and Sunday 3rd and 4th of June 2017, 3-6pm
DREAM BIGGER: Figment NYC
*Video of previous version of the project for reference below, no dance training needed, just desire to slow dance, connect and talk to people. You can do any part or all of the set time, with breaks as needed.
Murakami Saburo, Passing Through, 1956. Performance views, 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo, ca. October 11–17, 1956. Photo: Otsuji Seiko Collection, Musashino Art University Museum & Library, Tokyo. © Otsuji Seiko and Murakami Makiko. Courtesy Musashino Art University Museum & Library. Photo: Otsuji Kiyoji.
Summer Performance Art Show at Fergus McCaffrey
By Ian Deleón
“Ruins unexpectedly welcome us with warmth and friendliness; they speak to us through their beautiful cracks and rubble”.1
For six weeks this summer, Fergus McCaffrey gallery in Chelsea, NYC will present a unique program of more than twenty-five live performances by internationally acclaimed and emerging artists Máiréad Delaney, Hee Ran Lee, Daniel Neumann, Clifford Owens, Nigel Rolfe, and Liping Ting.
It is with great pleasure that we jump back into one of the founding components of this site, the Artist Feature! Multi-media artist, Trevor Amery, joined the #AliveAtSatellite programming during Miami Art Week at Satellite Art Show. His performance initiated with the cross-country journey from California (where he is completing his MFA at UC San Diego) to Miami Beach, Florida. In our interview we discuss the importance of community within Amery's practice and he recalls the terrifying capsize experience while performing Baidarka. - Quinn Dukes
You may have noticed a new name for the Performance Is Alive correspondence team when we published "ARTISTS IN HOPE: A SOFT POLITICAL DISSENT" by Polina Riabova. I first met Riabova at one of Fritz Donnelly's infamous performance events at BIZARRE Bushwick. We spoke casually about the Brooklyn performance community as live performers slung chocolate sauce all over themselves, the venue and anyone in their path (you know, normal performance stuff.) Months later we picked up our conversation at Grace Exhibition Space where Riabova expressed an interest in writing about performance. Intrigued by her poetic approach and fresh immersion into performance art, I found Riabova to be an apt addition to the site. In our interview, Riabova explains her relationship to writing, immigration and highlights a few standout performance pieces. - Quinn Dukes
Boxing with Szilard Gaspar
Zorzini Gallery at Volta Art Fair, NYC, March 1, 2017
By Alexandra Hammond
As a steady stream of people breezed through the long corridors of the Volta Art fair at Pier 90, concentration gathered at booth F01, occupied by Zorzini Gallery of Bucharest, Romania. A slender young man, Romanian artist Szilard Gaspar, with the face of a saint from a Spanish Golden Age painting, arrived in the booth, seated himself and began changing his shoes and taping his hands. His preparations were executed with the specificity of a trained athlete.
The intimacy of these actions was heightened by the art fair setting, where everyone’s gaze is trained to the external world of images, objects, opportunities for social networking, sales. The spectacle of the person changing from one activity to another, dressing and undressing, took on the importance that Mr. Rogers so aptly demonstrated in his children's show, where the ritual of the daily change of clothes, from outdoor jacket to cardigan, dress shoes to sneakers became a stabilizing routine and a marker of a boundary from one place and one kind of activity to the next. It was not so much a necessity, that the new activity could not be performed or inhabited without the wardrobe change, as a decision to enter a new mode of operation.
Maybe it's the warmer weather, maybe it's the temporary escapism but we are really looking forward to New York Armory Week. Several art fairs have upped their performance art programming and some, well, we just can't seem to get any information from... thus is art week. So here it is, our top NY Armory Week 2017 performance art picks. Hope to see you around!
The evening begins with Nora Stephens introducing herself and her onstage compatriots (Cecilie Beck, Eli Tamondong and Naomi Elena Ramirez) by read-singing from a sheet. Stephens credits a previous work for bringing the collaborators’ together, earnestly looking up from page to audience. “Welcome to our show,” the performers’ harmonize warmly, arms extended in greeting while colorful, glittery outfits sparkle as they move about. They come together in the center of the room and hold flower-like positions. Silently - slowly - the flowers wilt. Within minutes they are in a heap on the floor and begin to transform and undulate as the human bodies roll backwards into the space.
It was Friday night in the East Village and I decided to give Colby Cannon Welsh’s performance, "Millennials," a shot. I was not previously exposed to Welsh’s work but his flashy email invitation and direct invite caught my attention.
Upon arrival, I was herded into the brown brick lobby of the historic NYC Public Bath Building, now known as Bathhouse Studios. Two women holding iPads asked the crowd who wanted to give their phone numbers as a way to participate in the performance. They entered our anonymous digits into a Google form and later handed us a small piece of paper with instructions to leave our ringers on and place the call on speaker upon answering.
We are back to the business of sharing our top performance event pics with you! Get ready... the artists presenting performances this month are the type of thoughtful and inquisitive artists that we love to support. See you in the live performance realm...
- Quinn Dukes
Performing our Reality / Dreaming our Escape - Notes from Satellite 2.0
Alexandra Hammond for Performance is Alive
It’s just before the opening of Satellite 2.0 and the Parisian hotel in Miami Beach is as ready as it will ever be. Each room has been cleared of furnishings and occupied by a gallery, curatorial project, artist collective or publication. Many have been transformed beyond recognition while others, including our booth for Performance is Alive, revel in the dingy tones of cream and pale-peach paint, making use of the vaguely sordid yet standardized markers of the hotel’s architecture of transience: dated carpeting, wall-mounted televisions and lamps.
We have covered the linty carpet with an uncanny layer of adhesive plastic rug-guard topped with beige drop cloths. Artist, Curator and Performance is Alive founder Quinn Dukes has been performing and managing performance events for years and knows that “performers get messy”. She is keen to support the artists and tend to the realization of their works as much as possible under the constraints of a nonexistent budget and the hotel setting. The only rule: no fire.
After a day and a half of nearly round-the-clock preparation (more for many of the elaborate booths) the Satellite Art fair feels like a possible setting for a Borges story: a world within the world, with its own sense of time and cultural mores.
The lobby is now equipped with a giant cereal bowl, titled F+++ Off, fashioned from a modified Doughboy pool and filled with enlarged Captain Crunch pieces sculpted out of foam. A bubble-bath fountain shaped like a giant milk carton pours down from above. Its creators, Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw don bathing suits and float in doughnut-styled inner tubes from time the fair opens until it closes each day. They take their job seriously, just like the exotic car rental agency that normally shares the lobby of the Parisian and continues its usual business throughout the fair, tending to and lending out a small stable of Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces that are parked out front.
Curator Jesse Firestone (creator of the Soothing Center and an organizer of the fair along with Founder Brian Whiteley) stops into our booth for Performance is Alive. Jessie, Quinn and I joke that if we had to stay at the Parisian forever, we would survive and make our own world. Like the Eagles’ Hotel California, but with more exuberance and less downfall.
The fantasy of the self-sustaining art-pod was particularly poignant in the days immediately following the presidential election. The final dissolution of the myth of American exceptionalism calls for action, and the temporary world-building represented by repurposing a hotel for a few days of art viewing (even as it participates in the commercial crush of Miami art week), can be seen as a utopic gesture, perhaps even an act of love towards a world that has revealed itself as a more troubled place than we had imagined.
Nestled on the second of three floors of this most wacky and artist-powered of the Miami art fairs, Performance is Alive’s room 15 was poised to be occupied by the first of its politically-charged performances. Artists addressed the interconnected subjects of landscape and environmental destruction, race, gender, consumer capitalism, labor, violence and eroticism. In short, the range of issues that arise when the medium is the ever-political, ever-present body.
Earlier this year, I had the great honor of participating in a residency coordinated by the Feminist Art Group and IV Soldiers Gallery in Rosekill, NY. During that residency, I collaborated, cooked, performed, cleaned, chopped fire wood, tended to a fire for 12 hours and shared the most profound moments and memories of my artistic career with members of the Feminist Art Group. Fellow participants, Lorene Bouboushian and Kaia Gilje presented a daring and physically challenging performance across an overgrown field at Rosekill. Contained within giant plastic water containers, Bouboushian and Gilje yelled towards eachother, using sound as the only directional tool. The scale and physical intensity of the piece was so wonderfully bizarre and unlike other performances that I had witnessed ... anywhere!
Bouboushian is presenting a new project this week entitled, extent of explosive lament at The Exponential Festival based in various locations across Brooklyn, NY. I can't wait to experience Bouboushian's latest performance dimensions and invite you to experience this work first hand. Full details below. - Quinn Dukes
#AliveAtSatellite - Performance IS Alive PRESENTS 4 DAYS OF PROGRAMMING AT SATELLITE ART SHOW, MIAMI ART WEEK
We have been hard at work reviewing hundreds of performance proposals from incredible performance artists across the globe for #AliveAtSatellite, Performance Is Alive's non-stop programming at SATELLITE ART SHOW during Miami Art Week 2016. We are incredibly delighted to present these daring projects from an amazing group of artists. Throughout the fair’s duration multi-media performance artists confront a myriad of contemporary issues such as body politics, race, economic inequality, climate change and intimacy in the digital age. Over twenty short form, durational and video based performance works will be presented throughout SATELLITE 2.0. We hope to see you in Miami but if you can't join us on the beach, stay tuned for live stream details! - Quinn Dukes + Alexandra Hammond
SATELLITE ART SHOW // The Parisian Hotel, 1510 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139
PRESS PREVIEW: December 1st: 12 – 3 pm
December 1st: 3 pm – 10 pm
December 2nd: 12 pm – 10 pm
December 3rd: 12 pm – 10 pm
December 4th: 12 pm – 6 pm
Confirmed artists include: Agrofemme and Ian DeLeon (NYC), Thomas Albrecht (NY), Trevor Amery (CA), Joseph Bigley (NC), Monica Jahan Bose (DC), Hector Canonge (NYC), Alberto Checa (FL), Dominique Duroseau (NYC), Ayana Evans (NYC), Sean Fader (NYC), Whit Forrester (Chicago), Vanessa Dion Fletcher (Chicago), Philip Fryer (Boston), Elan Jurado (NYC), Olga Kozmanidze (Moscow, RUS), Jenna Maurice (TN/CO), Sergio Mora (FL), Violet Overn and Emma Sulkowicz, Miriam Parker in collaboration with Christina Smiros and Jo Wood-Brown (NYC), Sarah H. Paulson (NY), Miles Pflanz (NYC), Selma Selman (Bosnia/Herzegovina) Alexandra Sullivan (NYC), Marcela Torres and Chase Calloway, J.R. Uretsky (RI)
It is always exciting to see previously featured artists continue their practice with riveting new works. Mette LouLou Von Kohl performs tonight in conjunction with Submerge 2016: Will You? at Brooklyn Arts Exchange. I hope you will support the efforts of the Helix Queer Performance Network tonight! Full details below. - Quinn Dukes
November 6 - 13, 2016
Tickets: $16, $10, $5 (pay what you will)
Featuring performances by Taja Lindley, marikiscrycry/Malik Nashad Sharpe, Mette LouLou von Kohl, coda wei, Mieke D, Katherine Marie and Salome Asega, a reading of "Permitted" by Kirya Traber, a pop-up installation and performance by the Free Black Women's Library, and Femmepremacy - a party crafted by Shayna Janelle
"I want to celebrate black femmes," writes Submerge curator Naimonu James. "I want to sit next to someone who looks like me and talk about displacement and this constant yearning we seem to have, those of us committed to the work of loving ourselves and taking care of people." For the Helix Queer Performance Network's third Submerge festival-an annual celebration of queer and trans artists of color-James has assembled an electric program of performance, theater, video, dance and installation at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange. While the featured performers embody a spectrum of identities, this year's festival, titled "will you?," centers black femme artists, black femme politics and black femme space. Toward that goal of creating space, "will you?" will also feature an installation and performance by the Free Black Women's Library, and will co-present event producer Shayna Janelle's "Femmepremacy" party at Minka Brooklyn. Exploring home, safety, sameness and difference, James' "will you?" asks:
"will you be able to access self-love just a bit easier? will you remember to light that candle and thank your ancestors? will you turn toward your lover one more time? will you finally turn toward yourself? will you refuse that white man? His money? His power? (Lord.) will you start doing some of your own work and taking care of your own mess? will you?"
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday, November 11
8pm: marikiscrycry/Malik Nashad Sharpe, Mette LouLou von Kohl & Salome Asega
Saturday, November 12
8pm: coda wei, Mieke D, Katherine Marie & Salome Asega
11pm: Femmepremacy (off-site at Minka Brooklyn, ticketed separately)
Sunday, November 13
Noon - 4pm: Free Black Women's Library, open to public (free of charge)
6pm: A reading of "Permitted" by Kirya Traber
Stage Managed by Angelica Rivera // SUBMERGE is funded in large part by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
will you? celebrates Black femme magic and the spectacular. Over four days, 16 artists co-create space for healing, transformation, feels, joy, the divine feminine and much, much more. Artists across different identities have gathered not only share their own work but also to create new ways of developing their crafts. I am appreciative to have been involved in supporting many different works with many different people. will you? is imbued with Black femme subjectivities, politics and perspectives, and I feel this energetic quality has nourished them as it has nourished me in my own life.
will you? opens with a one-woman show by Taja Lindley, who is glorious and takes an entire night of the festival to herself, fitting for a performer who takes my breath away. A week later on November 11th, Malik Nashad Sharpe/marikiscrycry and Mette Loulou von Kohl each present solo work that deals at the intersections of identity, self, community and other. That same night,Salome Asega presents an alternate world for the audience to immerse themselves in, a world I do not think the festival could do without. After my first conversation with Malik, in which we both danced around each other's queerness (the challenge of curating a queer performance festival and not wanting to ask "are you queer?" to someone you've never met before!) but were able to talk Black joy, Blackness, movement, among other things. I was intrigued first by the conversation and was swooning by the time I got through Malik's vimeo profile.
I met LouLou when I got the chance to stage manage her work at La MaMa's Squirts, and knew immediately she was destined to be important to many, many people. Palestine is not heard enough, seen enough or thought about enough and Loulou's devotion to remedying that erasure is exceptional. Squirts was also where I met Mieke D, who performs a deliciously cringeworthy piece on displacement and queer apathy the next night on November 12th. That night, we party.Femmepremacy will takeover Minka Brooklyn after a full night of performance at BAX, and I expect to dance with all the cute femmes. No one creates space like Shayna Janelle can, and she makes it so folks can get their life as safely as possible. Before the party coda wei performs an experimental work, and just afterwards, I try my hand at directing the work of Katherine Mariewhile Chahney Hinds and Malik Nashad Sharpe bring it to life in strange and beautiful ways. On a recent job interview I was asked, "Who's a great thinker you know?" and "coda wei" was the only response that made sense. They blow my mind, and this audience is fortunate to be in their presence for 20 minutes. Katherine and I went to school together, and I am so glad we got the chance to reconnect and honor each other the way two Black femmes should. Katherine is brilliant and her work is deeply challenging to me, it will make people pause and that is what I like best about it. Sunday November 13th, the archive is celebrated. At noon the Free Black Women's Library will open free to the public for people to lounge, read, and trade books. There will be a special performance while the library is up as well. Just after, the festival concludes with a reading of "Permitted" a play written by Kirya Traber whose awareness of the archive is rare and her ability to craft contemporary works with it extraordinary.
will you be able to access self-love just a bit easier? will you remember to light that candle and thank your ancestors? will you turn toward your lover one more time? will you finally turn toward yourself? will you refuse that white man? His money? His power? (Lord.) will you start doing some of your own work and taking care of your own mess? will you?
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Naimonu James is a curator, writer & digital strategist with visions of a 4th house made of wood. They have curated shows at Dixon Place, The Charles Hamilton Institute for Race and Justice, and Harvard College, where they graduated from in 2014. They have been on the production team of several Helix Queer Performance Network productions over the past two years.
Over the past 6 years, I've witnessed the ebb and flow New York's performance art community. Many performance artists who presented work in 2010 have left the discipline entirely due to high living costs and low (to no) performance honorariums. Fortunately, several performance artists have evolved their practice and successfully developed their careers through exhibitions, grants and awards. Multi-media artist, NYUGEN SMITH (NJ), is one such example and has established himself as a staple within the New York performance community.
Smith was the first performance artist to cross my invisible "this-is-a-safe-distance-from-a-messy-performer" boundary. Adorned in a white wig and blue petticoat, Smith gnawed on sugar cane inches away from my face. Cane juice dripped freely while puffs of white baby powder flew around Vaudeville Park (Brooklyn, NY). The layered scent of cane juice and baby powder paired with Smith's unwavering gaze diluted the performer/viewer "stage." This experience changed my approach toward viewing. I'll never forget it!
In our latest Artist Feature, Smith discusses intercepting boundaries while exploring the role of performer and viewer as director. Enjoy! - Quinn Dukes
QUINN DUKES: Can you talk about your practice as a multimedia artist? Does one medium influence the other?
NYUGEN SMITH: For me, working with various media allows for more opportunities to play. As ideas are generated, I go to the medium that I feel will allow me to communicate most effectively at that moment, for that particular project. I often speak about this fluidity in terms of spoken language-sometimes one needs to use another language to get closest to saying what needs to be said. It also comes from the the need to be able to make at any moment.
One medium does influence the other in my practice. On a subconscious level, choices and actions are primarily made and cannot be separated from the sum of my experiences. On a conscious level, what is learned from, experienced, through one medium is intentionally utilized during the creative process. I ask myself, for example, how does what I know about lighting for on camera video performance inform lighting choices for live action? What have I learned from collage that can be useful in drawing and performance?
QD: Do you often use your sculptural and/or collage objects within your performances?
NS: Yes, I often include and use some of my sculptural objects in my performances. I often find that they reveal new meaning when activated in thin this way.
QD: You are in the final stages of your MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, how has your work evolved from this experience?
NS: So much can be said about the impact of my MFA studies at SAIC on the evolution of my practice. I definitely read a whole lot more. Assigned readings have led me to writers, thinkers, artists and others who have interesting things to say and ask important questions.
QD: Who are some of these authors?
NS: Authors such as Fred Moten, Malidoma Patrice Somé, André Schwarz-Bart, Robert Farris Thompson, Claudia Rankine, and Walter Benjamin, have been impactful.
I read slowly, so teaching full-time in a high school and maintaining an active studio practice often left me with little time to read a lot. Since I began grad school, I slowed down on the amount of objects I have produced. The amount of reading and writing required for my courses naturally shifted me to spending more time with my head in the books than in the studio. The amount of performance work I have done has increased significantly during this period. It was a welcomed transition and I truly enjoyed it. Certain texts caused me to think about my work on other levels and also strengthened my ability to speak about my work within other contexts. My professors, studio mentors and classmates have also been inspirational and influential to my practice through their formal and informal critiques, suggested readings, art practices, and their writings.
QD: What led to an increase in performance?
NS: Being a part of Social Health Performance Club has played a significant role in increasing the visibility of my Performance work and has subsequently led to more requests and opportunities. During this time of study- being in my head more, has definitely strengthened the way I have developed in this art form.
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago nominated me for the 2016 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship and I was one of nine artists to receive this national award. The fellowship will provide me with support to make my transition to working on my art full-time.
QD: So, this is why you decided to leave your teaching position?
NS: Yes. It was my dream, as with many artists, to be able to rise each day and tend to the business of their art practice. So, to honor this gift, to give it all that it requires of me, to make the most of this opportunity, stepping out of the classroom was necessary.
QD: Your performance at Gallery Sensei (NYC) in May 2016, relied heavily on audience participation and audience member as performer. Can you discuss your intentions for participation in this particular work?
NS: I'm glad to know that "audience member as performer" was evident. I am interested in developing some ideas where I am not a participant, but the director. The work at Gallery Sensei, was the second work where I experimented with "directing" as performance. The first was a work titled, iambic pentameter, made during an edition of Tif Robinette and Ian Deleón's PULSAR in Brooklyn, NY. That work was developed after reading Fred Moten's Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester's Scream and reflecting on "(b)etween looking, being looked at, spectacle and spectatorship, enjoyment and being enjoyed..." This Moten text was shared with my by my studio mentor, Steffani Jemison after conversation and review of a previous performance. So, with this Moten text and directing - all swirling in my head, I developed the work presented at PULSAR and Gallery Sensei.
My intentions for the participation were manifold. I am interested in what happens when an audience member - who volunteers to participate - is given a task to perform without any verbal or written instructions. I am directing the action involved in the task, however, essentially the volunteer cum performer can essentially take it in another direction if she/he chooses and. This can potentially shift the work dramatically and that becomes part of the permanent record of the piece.
It's also about memory. How does the audience participation affect how I remember the work and how it is remembered by the audience?
In the beginning of the performance I had them place a rope around themselves in the back room and drew everyone in very close- with me in the center before I blew the conch shell and drank a glass of wine. How did this action of bringing the group together in the beginning so closely affect their willingness to participate and empathize with those who volunteered during the rest of the performance?
QD: Your last performance was void of any verbal communication yet incredibly directive. Has this method of guidance ever led to audience misinterpretation?
NS: I'm not sure if there was any misinterpretation by the audience. I don't know how to measure this. There have been times when the participant did not understand my direction in the performance and did something other than what I intended for them to do. One thing that I have always stressed with my students is that there is always a way to use whatever it is that doesn't go as planned. Sometimes they can be used immediately and other times, just save them because they can be useful later. So, as these moments occur during the performance, I allow them to inform how the works develop. For example, during the performance at Gallery Sensei, the artist Ayana Evans volunteered to participate. I gave her the task of twirling an umbrella while holding it over her head. I intended to have three volunteers seated on the bench, but when I signaled to her (by licking my finger and drawing an invisible X) to sit on the bench, she stood on it. It immediately reminded me of something else I wanted to experiment with, a choir as part of a performance. So I signaled to the other volunteer to stand on the bench also and I began to conduct the two person choir. It was totally unexpected and was a beautiful transition to the part of the performance that followed.
QD: Where does your interest in a performative choir stem from?
NS: I just love the way the voice can move the mind, body and spirit. In my life I have spent a significant amount of time in Spiritual Baptist Churches in Trinidad, Catholic and Black and churches of different faiths the U. S. So I have experienced the performative act of using the voice for most of my life. I am interested in what voices working together can produce.
QD: Your recent writings are like stream of consciousness word mappings tying together tangents of learned and lived histories. What is your intent with the performance writings?
NS: In relation to my writings about my performances, then yes, I do look at these writings as a poetic written extension of the performances. In regards to my writing related to my photographs, social media posts, I see this writing as poetry. This is another way that my Grad program has had an impact on my work. Writing is central to our program. The poetics not only of language but in all that I make as an artist is important to me. I have had the honor and privilege of studying with, learning from, reading and collaborating with some brilliant artists/writers such as Sandrine Schaefer, Cheryl Pope, Julian Gato, Alissa Chanin in the last two years and this has had a huge impact on my writing style. For the majority of visiting artists in my MFA program including Glenn Ligon, Eileen Myles, Yvonne Rainer, Allejandro Sesarco, Lynn Tillman, writing is their medium or included as an important part of their practice. From 1994-2001, I wrote, recorded and performed spoken word poetry and rap music. So even before I devoted myself to the visual arts, writing poetry was a part of me.
So much can be said by not saying much at all. When writing creatively, I think about using words sparingly. Language can be used to include and exclude. To open and to close. I think about opening my writing. Leaving room for breathing in what is being said, what is being implied, and what can be derived from the sum of absence and presence in my writing.
QD: Do you have performance art mentors?
NS: I don't have any performance art mentors per se. However, some people and institutions that have had an impact on my performance work recently are, Grace Exhibition Space (I've learned so much from the extensive list of brilliant artists who have made and continue to make performances here and are part of GES' projects), Hector Canonge, Sandrine Schaefer, Ian Deleón and Tif Robinette, Cheryl Pope, Clifford Owens, yon Tande, Steffani Jemison, Denenge Akpem, and Marilyn Arsem. There are others who I don't know personally and have never had a conversation with, but research their work to learn.
QD: What do you think about the contemporary performance art community in Brooklyn versus Chicago?
NS: I don't know the performance art community in Chicago. Since I have only spent a relatively short time there, I have not had the opportunity to truly become a part of that community there. There are some wonderful artists there that I know who are making great performance work. I've been in exhibitions with and have begun having conversations about working with performance artists from Chicago in the future.
The community in Brooklyn is one that has encouraged and supported my growth as an artist who also works in performance. I have found that the community is thriving, growing and despite lack of critical reviews, limited inclusion in the programming and conversation surrounding performance at major institutions in NYC, the work continues. Thanks to platforms such as Performance is Alive, Incident magazine, PULSAR's Trouble Performing Podcast, Grace Exhibition Space, LiVEART.US (at the Queens Museum), artists who make performances in Brooklyn and surround area have spaces for to make work, have conversation, critical dialog, and build community.
QD: What is next for you? Any upcoming exhibitions or performances to note?
NS: A couple upcoming projects are confirmed:
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
MFA Thesis exhibition
thru July 31st
Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., 7th floor
Yet to be titled Solo exhibition at
Walsh Gallery at Seton Hall University
Tuesday, September 6th – Friday, October 14th
400 S. Orange Ave
South Orange NJ.
October, Art in Odd Places 2016: RACE.
Think High a Collaborative work with Thomas Powers
More info to come: http://www.artinoddplaces.org/
Updates can be accessed on my website: http://www.nyugensmith.com/#!exhibits/yxir1
ABOUT nyugen smith
Drawing heavily on his West Indian heritage, Nyugen is committed to raising the consciousness of past and present political struggles through his practice which consists of sculpture, installation, video and performance. He is influenced by the conflation of African cultural practices and the residue of European colonial rule in the region. Responding to the legacy of this particular environment, Nyugen’s work considers imperialist practices of oppression, violence and ideological misnomers. While exposing audiences to concealed narratives that distort reality, he destabilizes constructed frameworks from which this conversation is often held.
By Quinn Dukes
PULSAR is the performance programming brainchild of Ian DeLeón and Tif Robinette (Agrofemme). Monthly PULSAR events run out of a black box space adjacent to the Catland Bookstore on Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
The spirit and bounty of performance art in Brooklyn is explosive right now. I have been invited to more events in the past month than all of 2010 combined. It’s staggering, wonderful and allows for experimentation. Performance artists present their work on rooftops, restaurants, lofts, galleries… you name it. These events are often followed by late night parties, occasional fires and electoral candidate bash sessions. What does not seem to be following the same path of enthusiasm however is the shared dialogue, critique and conversation about the performances. All too often, an artist performs, a 5-10 minute break happens and then we (the audience) are thrust into the narratives of a new artist. This practice is not at all uncommon. Live music venues stack the bill, as do comedy shows… but I wonder, how does the abundance of viewership without analysis or conversation alter the effectiveness or memory/remembrance of the work? If the performance reaches me on an emotional and/or visceral level- I am more likely to recall it - but this is merely a function of our neurological mapping. (Richard Sieb, “The Emergence of Emotions,” Activitas Nervosa Superior, 2013)
Initiated in February 2016, PULSAR was birthed out of an interest to integrate live artists - linking practitioners of sound, dance, experimental theatre, choreography, performance and beyond. Curators DeLeón and Robinette seek to initiate conversations about the performances presented at PULSAR and the place of performance within our current socio-political environment. In collaboration with INCIDENT Magazine’s David LaGaccia, DeLeón and Robinette began publishing a podcast to share (and archive) discussions related to PULSAR performance programming.
On the evening of May 20th, my first PULSAR experience began from across the street of the venue. I watched as a woman dressed in a Victorian white costume presented an offering to passersby. As I drew closer, performance artist Charmaine Wheatley asked me, "Do you want to take a bite." I looked down at the object presented on a silver platter and was informed that it was a dark chocolate mold of her ass.
The curatorial team has launched an Open Call for performance works to premier on the islands on JULY 16th and AUGUST 13th. The application deadline is JUNE 3rd. More details below. APPLY! - QUINN DUKES
We are seeking proposals for site-specific performance art work that responds to the history and natural environment of each island.
This public space in the Boston harbor invites artists to think about their work in a public destination which includes families, tourists and Bostonians. Being conscious and considerate of this audience is a must.
- On July 16 the Spectacle Island OUTSIDE/INSIDE event will happen - all work will happen OUTSIDE.
- On August 13 the Georges Island OUTSIDE/INSIDE event will happen - INSIDE - all work will happen INSIDE the fort barracks.
- Each event will be from 12noon - 5pm."
Arahmaiani and Ayana Evans in performance during 21st Century Suffragettes at Grace Exhibition Space.
The term “suffragette” was coined in 1903 by London journalist Charles Hands to mock and ridicule members of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK. Long since reified, curator Jill McDermid uses the term to conceptualize a contemporary “suffragette” in her Spring performance art series at Grace Exhibition Space and Rosekill Farm, 21st Century Suffragettes. The right to vote is analogized here by a right to perform, to speak, to present viewpoints and personal histories, to effect change regarding the positions and situations of women around the world.
Performing on Friday, April 29 at Grace’s famed second-floor loft on Broadway, neither Arahmaiani Feisal (who goes only by Arahmaiani) and Ayana Evans claim to represent all women, or put forward any specific changes to legislature. Instead, their feminist activism is personal, social, and rooted in the political contexts of their embodied lives.
Arahmaiani appears initially without costume, without need for a signifying white dress favored by late Edwardian-era European suffragettes and previous performance artists in this series alike. She wears jeans and clogs and walks into the center of the performance space carrying a white candle and meditation bells. Matter-of-factly, she describes her history of persecution and political censorship in and forced expatriation from her home country of Indonesia.
She begins by stating simply that she will ask audience members to perform. Because, she says, “in 1983 I was forced to leave my home after being arrested by the military…”
As a woman with mixed religious background and as a columnist, artist, and human rights activist, criticism and challenge to fundamentalist Islamist military regimes in Indonesia and Malaysia have left Arahmaiani under attack throughout most of her adult life. She has received death threats (to “drink her blood”) due to her art works "Ëtalase" and "Lingga-Yoni" and her columns and writing about LGBT issues and Buddhism in the newspapers Suara Merdeka ("Voice of Independence") and Kompas have endangered herself and other members of all-women artist groups. Arahmaini has escaped to Sydney, Perth, and Singapore, each time she is attacked refusing to stop criticizing the politicians and corporations that, Arahmaini writes, are usually supporting radical Islamists, using fear and terror to distract people attention from the “real serious problems politically and economically.”
Arahmaiani references “morality police” (shariah law enforcers) near the end of her speech and we are reminded of the 2013 proclamation in Lhokseumawe that women must sit side-saddle on motorbikes, since straddling is “sexually suggestive,” “unfeminine” and “un-Islamic.” In this light, Arahmaiani’s casual and “masculine” performance garb make sense and appears to be far more political than it may seem to Western women; instead of bloomers and short-brim round late Edwardian hat, Arahmaiani presents herself partially through her lack of a headscarf, her bare forearms, her powerful gaze coolly pouring into the eyes of the audience members sitting, crouching, and standing in a semi-circle around her.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016
MADISON YOUNG | 21st Suffragettes at Grace Exhibition Space
840 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York
9pm Door, 9:30 Performance
Madison Young (CA) is an author, filmmaker, and body based performance artist dedicated to creating space for radical love. Young’s work spans from documenting our sexual culture in her 44 Internationally screened and award-winning feminist erotic films to curating over 500 performance art and visual art exhibitions through out the country in the past decade including exhibitions at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Highways Theater in Santa Monica, and The Body Archive in New York City.
AnarkoArtLab, NYC Anarchist Art Festival
Judson Memorial Church | 55 Washington Sq S, New York, New York 10012
AnarkoArtLab in celebrating the 10th year of the NYC Anarchist Art Festival, to be held in conjunction with the 10th NYC Anarchist Book Fair and Film Festival, at the Judson Memorial Church, in Manhattan, NYC. This year’s Anarchist Arts Festival concept is OUTLAW ART.
SATURDAY, APRIL 16, 2016
Queens Museum | New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, New York
LiVEART.US features works where the body, as main instrument for artistic creation and expression, is the catalyst for sensorial experiences, cultural interpretation, and critical reflection. This month’s artists have been invited to participate in the program with new works that explore Corporeal Boundaries in their relation with circumscribed familiar and remote geographies. Participating Artists: Lital Dotan (Israel), Joseph Ravens (United States), Kuldeep Singh (India), Alejandro Chêllet (Mexico), Nao Nishihara (Japan), and Kledia Spiro (Albania). Organized and curated by Hector Canonge.
PREACH R. SUN
THE WAKE: Reclamation of the Black Fist | VIDEO PREMIERE
On February 19th in Detroit at the site of the Joe Louis fist Preach R. Sun performed my latest guerrilla action. The action, entitled THE WAKE: Reclamation of the Black Fist, is the first action in the current phase/series of the ONE-MAN project, Amerikkkan Spirits [Minor Acts]. This Saturday he will be posting the video of this action on this Facebook event page.
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2016
PULSAR & INCIDENT MAGAZINE PRESENT: Trouble Performing
A performance art podcast & potluck
1717 Broadway, 2nd floor, Brooklyn, NY
Join PULSAR & INCIDENT MAGAZINE for their 3rd monthly podcast discussion of performance art followed by a potluck.
Following Emily Oliveira’s performance, I spoke with fellow audience member and feminist artist powerhouse, Katya Grokhovsky about Oliveira’s piece. We mutually agreed on its success. The following day, a VERY heated online Facebook discussion began between several audience members about Oliveira’s work. Albeit somewhat difficult for me to negate individual names here - I have decided that since the online post/conversation was initiated with some anonymity (and has thus since been deleted) – I will keep individual names out of this post. But I will say, that the dissatisfaction and frustration toward Oliveira’s work stemmed mostly from male audience members. Several prominent performance art leaders within the Brooklyn community were polarized on the work. I thought to myself, WHOA! – I can’t believe I am reading such drastically different critiques on a work that I deemed so successful! Oliveira’s performance hit several nerves. So much so that a divide grew between Brooklyn’s intimate performance art community. Which, in my mind, really means something. Yes, critical dialog in performance art is much needed and the only thing missing in this discussion was the perspective of the artist. So... I reached out to Oliveira and offered an opportunity for her to discuss her intentions and respond to the FB critique. Since Performance Is Alive is devoted to sharing the words of the artist - I am delighted to share Emily Oliveira’s voice with you here. - QUINN DUKES
CURATORIAL RECAP: THOMAS ALBRECHT, BUTCH MERIGONI + ALICE VOGLER AT FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS BENEFIT
BUTCH MERIGONI >> All Of It (Part 2)
ALICE VOGLER >> Disappearance
March 15, 2016, 7-10pm
155 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
Curated by Quinn Dukes, Founder of Performance Is Alive
CURATOR’S STATEMENT // The artist selection for Taste of Sight was determined following a deeply candid conversation with a small group of Stargardt’s survivors. The group shared stories about their initial diagnosis, the challenges of living within a visually-centric generation and above all, identifying beyond their disease - not as their disease. As an extension of this conversation, the performance artists presenting work at Taste for Sight explore elements of meditation, strength and emergence within their artistic practice. – Quinn Dukes
ARTISTS // Thomas Albrecht (New Paltz, NY), Butch Merigoni (Brooklyn, NY), Alice Vogler (Boston, MA)
Foundation Fighting Blindness MISSION STATEMENT // The urgent mission of the Foundation Fighting Blindness is to drive the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases. www.blindness.org
The presentation of performance art exhibitions can be incredibly challenging, especially without the presence of the live performer. I thought this was an excellent opportunity to hear directly from Whiteley about his performance interventions and am wildly excited to share our conversation with you. Ghoulish Gestures runs thru Tuesday, March 1st so if you are in or near Wynwood, Florida take the time to witness this wonderfully outrageous exhibition. (Bakehouse, Swenson Gallery, 561 NW 32nd St, Miami, FL 33127) - Quinn
QUINN DUKES: How do you bridge the gap between those who see your "absurdist" and "disrespectful" behavior as promoted via reporting with the true intention of the work? Do you think the individuals who respond with such incredible disdain later find the connection between the anonymous clown and you, Brian Whiteley the artist? Does this matter?
BRIAN WHITELEY: I have no desire to bridge the gap between the public’s opinion and the motivation behind the work. For me, the beauty with this style of performance is that it lives on in a mythical form. The average person who reads the paper and watches the news is suddenly confronted with the idea that there are clowns haunting the local cemetery, or that Sasquatch may be in one of our parks. To me that is the best thing about the work. Few people connect the dots, and when they finally do they are typically thrilled to have found out the mystery. I like to think that no matter the response, the fact that someone had a moment to pause and reflect on something other than the daily grind, that I provided him or her with a moment of intrigue.
QD: What led you to creating work within the crux of media hype and translation?
BW: The origin of this work began several years ago when I was heavily into performing as Bigfoot. I would capture myself on video skulking through the woods, then send the footage into "professionals" (under a pseudonym) for their review. I'd conduct interviews with the crypto experts and learn as much as I could about their beliefs. I had dozens of conversations, people claiming that Bigfoot was a product of a fallen angel mating with a beast, people claiming that Bigfoot could turn himself invisible to avoid detection, people claiming that they knew other people living with Bigfoot, people claiming Bigfoot abducted them, etc. I would use these conversations as inspiration in my own studio practice where I dressed like Bigfoot and created art around the themes the experts disclosed.
At a certain point I thought it was important that I speak with some Bigfoot hoaxers too, so I began reaching out to them as well. One hoaxer in particular still stands out, a mister Rick Dyer. Rick Dyer famously toured a fake Bigfoot body he created throughout the United States, stopping at various festivals and charging people money to see the corpse. He told me that he would make over $20,000 per stop. He consistently had huge lines at each festival; people were dying to see proof of Bigfoot's existence. Rick Dyer based his entire carnival sideshow on a similar stunt pulled in 1968 by a fellow named Frank Hansen. Hansen also toured a creature around the country to wide acclaim. Hansen’s gimmick involved a fake body in a block of ice that he called “The Iceman”. The intrigue was so great that the Smithsonian Institution even expressed interest in acquiring it. Inevitably, when it came time to let real scientists examine the remains both Dyer and Hansen had to concede the truth of the hoax. When pushed on why he hoaxed, Mr. Dyer explained to me the there is an inherent thirst for truth of otherworldly existence. This was a pivotal statement for me.
Fast forward a few years, I am now also heavily invested in all things clowns. Why Clowns? I went to clowning school around the age of 12 and it has had a major lingering effect on me. Anyways, I started doing the cemetery clown performances on a whim, basically because Greenwood cemetery was close to my art studio. Passing it one day, I thought to myself, I wonder what a clown would do in a cemetery? The very next day I went inside with a book bag stuffed with a clown suit. I changed into character behind a mausoleum and then had someone film me strolling through the headstones with balloons in my hand. The footage was great, and I thought, I should send this in to someone for review. There aren't really professionals on this sort of sighting, so I sent it to the South Slope News (a small news outlet in Brooklyn) they ran a piece on my clown performance....and then the NY Daily News, Brooklyn Mag, Village Voice, NY Mag, Huffington Post, Gothamist, Pix 11, News 12, etc . all picked it up. NPR did an exclusive on the creepy clown pandemic and listed my clown persona on the list. The coverage was extensive. My mind was blown. The comments online provided me with plenty of fuel for my studio practice, where like Bigfoot, I would dress as a clown while I made the work.
In the summer of 2015 my "Chicago Cemetery Clown" piece debuted on CBS prime time news. The viewership was the most to date.
BW: There are a number of artists that I am inspired by, Paul McCarthy is definitely one. I similarly have a disdain for painting, love performance art and provoking both the public and the art crowd. I mean his “Christmas Tree” piece in Paris got him punched in the face, so yeah I have a lot of respect for that man. In terms of thematic elements, the clown can be easily connected to Paul McCarthy and many other artists. I see the clown and Bigfoot as universal tools for artistic exploration, vehicles of escape from the self. All that being said, I believe my work is different in that my goals lie in calculated and elaborately planned out performative attacks on the media and the public, existing mainly outside the art arena. Additionally, I source almost all of my content from paranormal experts and professional hoaxers, not by visiting museums or studying contemporary artists. While I revere many artists, I try not to be influenced by them, I find it a lot more fascinating talking to real people with unique perspectives. I have never been inspired by looking at a triangle on canvas.
QD: To confirm, there is no live performance happening within Ghoulish Gesture correct?
BW: No live performances, just documentation of the performances.
QD: How does it feel to present performance artifacts and video void of live actions?
BW: The fact that there is no live performance does not make this any less of a statement on performance, methodology, and the art of creation. It actually strangely helps to elevate the performances into a higher echelon, celebrating the acts. Plus, there are plenty of performance remnants present.
In regards to the sculptures specifically, for this exhibit using fabric from my clown suits that I performed in at the cemeteries creates them all. They are inspired by murderabilia created by the likes of serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy who famously painted clowns while on death row. Ed Gein was also an inspiration, he notoriously used human body parts to make furniture and clothes, like his belt made out of human nipples. They are the artifact of the crime, and in my case, artifacts of the performance. The idea being that you are inescapably confronted by the performance, it lives on and on in new and unique forms. I additionally imbued them with as much human attributes, especially elements of sexuality to them, each one with a glory hole. It suggests that these costumes are primed and ready for someone to climb inside, to perform their own subversive actions. To have the performances live again. They are a vehicle for anonymity.
QD: Does social media act as another "performer" within your work?
BW: Absolutely, the sheer volume of interest, comments, shares, is of vast importance to the work. People are unknowingly helping to publicize performance art. This is great because social media typically serves as a platform for people to celebrate themselves and stalk former lovers. Without social media, and news outlets need for advertising revenue, there would probably be an editor making sure Bigfoot or clowns were not covered. It is a game changer for all artists, and I suggest finding your own way to manipulate it.
Join the revolution of outsider practices; painting is dead, for real.
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Brian Whiteley is a Brooklyn based artist who explores phobia, paranormal experience, the occult and religious phenomena through research, performance, and visual art practice. Most recently he has focused on hijacking the media-machine through absurd and anonymous, public performances. His practice capitalizes on our obsession with the unreal, the uncanny and our apparent, underlying need for these strange fascinations to be actualized. You may have inadvertently seen one of his performances as creepy clowns or bigfoots on the news, which garnered millions of views on the internet and were featured in hundreds of press articles (CBS News, Daily Mail UK, Huffington Post, Brooklyn Mag, Gothamist, Chicagoist, AOL News, NY Daily News, NPR, etc.).
Brian Whiteley earned a Masters in Fine Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York and is represented by the Christopher Stout Gallery, New York. Whiteley's clown alter ego "Flap Jack" is featured in NPR as one of the top ten scariest clowns.