Sunday, November 04, 2007

First impression of PERFORMA07 in NYC.

Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci performance at the Clocktower Gallery was my first PERFORMA07 event. I thought I would toss out some first impressions because in my mind I am as curious on the quality and viability of PERFORMA as a sustainable organization as much as the performances it presents.

Here is a description of the PERFORMA biennial in their own words:

Two years ago, PERFORMA established a new biennial for New York City. With its vast array of new performance by visual artists from around the world, it served to contextualize such cutting edge material and at the same time to build an exciting community of artists and audiences, and a strong basis for educational initiatives as well. The biennial underlined the important influence of artists performance in the history of twentieth century art, and its ongoing significance in the early years of the 21st.

What is at stake to my mind his whether contemporary performance can find and hold more of place with the an audience in the United States, whether it can invigorate and inform the performance artists in the U.S. and maybe bring more of an international performance dialogue stateside. There is certainly a much more supportive atmosphere for performance on both the governmental and audience level overseas. And it is certainly difficult for a performance festival to survive in the United State. This biennial, with the star-power, money and whatnot behind it is the best top down chance for an advance I imagine right now.

I think it is important not to just compare PERFORMA’s offering to what is just going on in New York. It is LA, Chicago, and so on were the trickle down influence of a successful PERORMA will have the most important influence. I saw the first PERFORMA in 2005 influence programming at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which followed the redo’s of the first biennial with a symposium in Chicago on the concept of the redo.


There was this sales pitch that I heard repeated by staff and volunteers: that PERFORMA07 was giving us access into a number of building that we otherwise no be able to enter. I didn’t buy the pitch last night as the as the building seemed unremarkable and made me feel like PERFORMA must be struggling for acceptance based on its core product. The morning’s rooftop performance by Christian Jankowski is in his studio and seems more relevant to that train of thought but I wonder if it is really representative of the whole festival, last nights Marie Cool seemed more like marginalization and the product of a tight budget as it was in a space that PS1 now seems to use for internal programs.

I was unable to attend more than one thing yesterday because events are spaced a good deal apart in the city. This format is feels like a product of economics of putting on this festival more than a conceptual decision. Maybe there would need to be more contextual writing paired with the festival to convince me on this point.

The volunteers and staff were unprepared to house manage the Marie Cool performance but generally friendly and happy to have an audience there.

The PERFORMA07 program/calendar is awfully difficult, vague and confusing. I am finding different prices listed for shows from different sources, unclear show times/lengths, and rather bland descriptions. There website is also difficult to navigate and if you download a PFD of the schedule you find they have reduced it to a one page size which make all the information too small to read if you print it.

The Performance Studies international conference is paralleling PERFORMA this year which it great but I can’t afford it. There are some great free talks on the schedule though. I would hope for a bit more public conversation to digest the content of the festivals.

I am curious if their attempts to create late-night hotspots at different bars will work and actually become interesting locations for discussion. Usually these types get together things seem too be to artificial or subject to vagaries of location and trend to succeed. I suppose it depends if the artists, smart folks and so on actually get interested in participating. I suppose if Rose Lee shows up and holds court and raises some questions it might get interesting. As someone visiting the city and generally an outside on whatever scene exists around PERFORMA I don’t particularly feel I could just show up and get much out of it.

The NYTimes has a blog covering PERFORMA07
. So far I have enjoyed Claudia La Rocco breezy commentary though it is brief. The NYTimes seems to be making an effort to do write-ups on the shows.

I hear mixed things about PERFORMA for others. Lots of people I tell about the shows have no idea the biennial is going on.

So to wrap up the biennial seems like it has decent content and a generally friendly atmosphere but their organizational stuff seems like a mess and I hope they are able to get it together and hang in there.

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