About Performa 17
A Letter from the Director
Since its inception, Performa has been a leader in commissioning artists whose work has collectively shaped a new chapter in the multi-century legacy of visual artists working in live performance. For Performa 17, our team of curators, research fellows, and producers have spent almost two years, since the last biennial, investigating a range of critical subject matters, in particular the use of live performance as central to artistic practice in African art and culture, the intersection of architecture and performance, and the hundred-year legacy of Dada.
Performa curators have visited Dakar, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Tangier, Johannesburg and Cape Town as part of our research process, examining how artists in these disparate cities consider performance as an extension of their creativity in multiple disciplines—visual art, music, dance, film, poetry, photography—and how each artist introduces us to distinct histories and sensibilities. The resulting commissions and scholarship examine immediate and critical concerns confronting our urban centers, the shifting political and cultural currents of our turbulent world, and ultimately the role of the arts and of artists in articulating the complex sociopolitical context informing contemporary art today. Each Performa Commission is conceived to engage audiences in significantly understanding and absorbing these many different aesthetics, values, cultures, and climates.
Performance and architecture have long been a focus of Performa, which has conspicuously taken the position to cross-pollinate the conceptual and actual underpinning of visual art and architectural vocabularies. For Performa 17, choreographers, architects, and performers create works that not only illustrate but also define new viewpoints for reading architecture, its spaces, and experiential substances, while utilizing existing plazas and buildings as frames and mirrors for action. Alongside these polemic inquires, and the programming they have produced, Performa, as with every biennial, selects a particular “historical anchor” to both build on our extensive archives, but also to provide reference and springboard for contemporary artists. This year, the powerful and disruptive Dada movement of a century ago continues to inspire and inform artists around the globe.
The Performa Biennial provides an extraordinary and very public platform for showing the essential role of art in society. Through live performance we touch people directly, change their minds, and introduce them viscerally to the complicated emotional and aesthetic expressions of artists responding to the world in which we live today.
Welcome to Performa 17!
Founding Director and Chief Curator
Performa 17 takes place November 1 – 19, 2017 at various locations across New York City.
Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. Since launching New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05, in 2005, the organization has solidified its identity as a commissioning and producing entity. 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. Celebrated worldwide as the first biennial to give special attention to this remarkable history, the Performa Biennial transforms the city of New York into the “world capital of artists’ performance” every other November, attracting a national and international audience of more than 200,000 and garnering more than five million website hits during its three-week run. In the last decade, Performa has presented nearly 600 performances, worked with more than 700 artists, and toured commissioned performances in nearly 20 countries around the world.
The Performa curatorial team is led by Chief Curator RoseLee Goldberg, and includes Performa Curators Adrienne Edwards and Charles Aubin, with contributions from Job Piston (Special Projects), Lydia Brawner (Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow), Jens Hoffman (Curator), and Performa Consortium curators. Performa 17 is produced by Esa Nickle and Maaike Gouwenberg.