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Founded in 2004 by RoseLee Goldberg, art initiative Performa is a leader in exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of art and encouraging new directions in performance. Part of the organisation’s mission is to present a biennial of visual art performance in New York highlighting their explorations. As a “museum without walls”, Performa contributes important art historical heft to the field by showing the development of live art in all its forms from many different cultural perspectives, reaching back to the Renaissance. Attracting a national and international audience of more than 50,000 for three-weeks of live performances, Performa has presented seven international biennials to date. Performa 19, the eighth edition of the event, will take place from 1–24 November 2019, at locations throughout NYC. 

The first announced commissions 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. 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 inflections of Stravinsky, Balanchine and comic book characters. British-born, Copenhagen-based artist Ed Atkins’ first 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.

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.”

Feature image: Samson Young, sketch for Performa 19 Commission, 2019. Courtesy the Artist and Performa.

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