Performa Picks: First Two Weeks

by Whitney Kimball on October 28, 2011 · 1 comment Events

Photo from Rashaad Newsome's "Five"

The Performa Biennial, a city-wide series of performances commissioned by the Performa Institute, returns this year with a line-up that is chock-full of private and public performance, song and dance, classes, lectures, experimental comedy, and a rap joust. Among Performa 11’s themes are language, politics, sculpture, Russian Constructivism, and Fluxus. The schedule, which runs from November 1st-20th, includes a hefty handful of reputed performance artists, choreographers, and comedians, so you’ll want to start booking those tickets now; for that reason, dear readers, we did the legwork and made a list of picks for you. Here are the events we recommend for this week and next.


Marlborough Chelsea. Wednesday, November 2, 6:00 pm — 8:00 pm. Free.

Show up early for Rashaad Newsome’s so-called “rap joust,” as Marlborough Chelsea’s ongoing efforts to appear hip and relevant appear to be gathering steam.

Choreographer/filmmaker/DJ/artist Newsome is best-known for experimental beats, image, and performance mixes of rap, hiphop, and spoken hood-lingo orchestra. Five, his performance at the 2010 Whitney Biennial, was a bunch of bouncing, swirling, nightclub-attired bodies, to a male opera singer, traditional orchestra instruments, rap, and a heavy beat. We’re hoping this will be just as crazy. The joust is an open tournament; contenders will compete for a cash prize and inclusion on Newsome’s mixtape Swag Vol. 2.

Rimma Gerlovina, Valeriy Gerlovin, Mirror Game, 1977-81


Performa Hub, 233 Mott Street. Wednesday, November 2nd, 5:00 pm — 8:00 pm. Free.

A recent trip to Ostalgia, an outstanding New Museum exhibition of fifty Eastern European artists we had never heard of, reminded AFC that there’s a hell of a lot we don’t know about Russian art. (In my research, though, I came across this re-enactment of Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1913 avant-garde ballet “The Rite of Spring,” for which I will drop everything to watch.) What with its size, economic disparity, and long history of political fucked up-edness, we can only assume that what’s made it into American art history books is a measly sliver of modern and contemporary Russian art. Performa and curator Yulia Aksenova promises not only to review the early development of Russian performance art and its rise in the 1960’s, but also to show us some underground movements and their purveyors.

Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion


Danspace Project, 131 East 10th Street. Thursday, November 3rd, 7:00 pm — 8:00 pm. $18 / $12 Danspace Members.

Danspace Project, 131 East 10th Street. Thursday, November 3rd, 9:00 pm — 10:00 pm. $18 / $12 Danspace Members.

Choreographer Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion will be performing two pieces on Thursday night. First, at 7 PM, a two-part performance translation of John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, titled Cheap Lecture and The Cow Piece. If you don’t know what it is, we won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say if you like John Cage, and if you’re partial to dry British wit, then this is your cup of tea. By that logic, you’ll also want to see their performance Both Sitting Duet, a duet series of physical movements literally performed from seats, at 9 PM.

Hennessey Youngman as "The Pharao" Hennessey, a.k.a "Mr. Museums"


Ha! Comedy Club, 163 West 46 Street. Three Sundays, November 6th, 13th, and 20th, 9:00 pm — 10:30 pm. $20.

Performa Ha!, which will be repeated over three consecutive Sundays, includes a line-up of artists, comedians, and musicians who do stand-up as conceptual art and conceptual art as stand-up. Surprise, surprise: almost all of them are dudes. I recently attended a New Museum performance of all-female art comedians, and though it admittedly came with a few hackneyed vagina jokes and a couple severely awkward moments (at one point, the audience was asked to pass around a handful of fresh-cut pubic hair), there was a balance of challenging and genuinely funny performance, delivered by women, a handful of which have fairly well-established conceptual art-comedy careers. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a few of those women included here?

Be that as it may, many of those chosen in Performa Ha! are notable characters: Hennessy Youngman’s now-famous Ali-G-esque critique of pretentious art theory “ART THOUGHTZ” is pretty insightful, and we at AFC are big fans of performer Michael Smith’s notoriously difficult character Baby Ikki. We also like his prints. This list also includes Reggie Watts, Dina Seiden, Lumberob, Bedwyr Williams, Club Nutz and House Band Title TK.


Performa Hub, 233 Mott Street. Thursday, November 10th, 3:00 pm — 4:00 pm. $10 / $8 Students.

Star Wars and the Rhetoric of Power is a lecture in which artist John Powers presents Star Wars as a an artifact of its time: America rebelling against its own imperialism, urbanism, and “racist and sexist paternalism,” symbolized by “mute abstract art.” It’s a fitting topic for Powers, who many of you may know from his blog, Star Wars Modern; his sculptural work is often comprised of multitudes of stark, interlocking blocks that evoke the evil empire and modern apartment complexes in equal measure.

I suspect Powers’s theory won’t be a difficult one to prove, but it’s an idea worth investigating; such science fiction and fantasy stories are able to raise topics that are otherwise taboo in Hollywood. The sentiment, which still resonates deeply with so many people, goes far beyond the lightsabers and stormtrooper outfits.


Museum of the Moving Image, 3601 35th Avenue. Thursday, November 10th, and Friday, November 11th, 8:00 pm — 9:30 pm. $30.

Persona Performa is a performed exploration of cinema, inspired by Ingmar Berman’s 1966 film Persona.Twenty-four amateur actors represent a film frame a piece as they act out Ming Wong’s choreography through the Museum of Moving Image. The windows of the museum will represent a camera, as they will act as framing devices through which viewers watch actors move throughout the space. The fact that live performance is naturally opposed to film structures, as well as an extension of Wong’s exploration of the self through 24 frames, should make for an interesting piece.


The Performing Garage, 33 Wooster Street. Saturday, November 12th and Sunday, November 13th, 9:00 pm — 10:00 pm. $25.

Turns out there is a female stand-up after all — sort of. Grace Zabriskie, an actor better known for her role in Twin Peaks and HBO’s Big Love, will perform stand-up under the direction of Michael Portnoy an experimental artist/comedian known for ripping off his shirt and raving when hired to be a background nodder at a somber Bob Dylan Grammys performance. As far as we can tell, Zabriskie has no stand-up history, but comedy commentary is familiar territory for Portnoy; in 2010, he staged an experimental comedy club workshop for local women (near the Taipei Biennial) to develop acts drawing heavily from 70’s female comedy. This year, he made Script Opposition in Late-Model Carrot Jokes, an exploration of “carrot joke” humor; jokes that oppose underlying joke structures in favor of inconsistencies and holes in joke logic. I have no idea what to expect, and I suspect that’s good.


Shot from performance of Liz Magic Laser's "I Feel Your Pain"


The SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street. Sunday, November 13th and Monday, November 14th, 8:00 pm — 9:00 pm. Free with reservation.

Liz Magic Laser’s I Feel You Pain will restage our recent political contests in an examination of how emotion is used to mimic authenticity in American politics. Eight actors will perform in a movie theater onstage and amongst the audience, tracing a romantic relationship in altered real-life political interviews and press conferences with, for instance, Sarah Palin an Glenn Beck. Live film of the actors will be projected on screen throughout the performance, while Laser chooses angles for the audience to see. If it’s anything like her other works- Chase, for one, a staging of Bertolt Brecht’s 1926 play Man equals Man in ATM vestibules- it’ll be witty and hilarious.

{ 1 comment }

Anonymous October 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Let’s just hope Grace’s set manages to be as hilarious as

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: