Jimmy Robert, Imitation of Lives (2017), Rehearsal View. Courtesy of the artist, Performa, and The Glass House
Jimmy Robert, Imitation of Lives (2017), Rehearsal View. Courtesy of the artist, Performa, and The Glass House
We Know How To Order, by Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah
We Know How To Order, by Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah
Eiko in 30th St Station Entrance photo by William Johnston
Eiko in 30th St Station Entrance photo by William Johnston

Circulations

Architecture and performance seem to have little in common: one is meant to stand firm, while the other is usually fleeting. But beyond the surface differences, architecture and performance share a core concern: how bodies negotiate spaces, and how space is designed for moving bodies.

Circulations, Performa 17’s architecture and performance program, unfolds as a multilayered platform of commissioned site-specific live performances, architectural experiments, a symposium, and a publication. It proposes that performance can serve as a radical tool to rethink the discipline of architecture, and to allow architecture to intercede in critical present-day debates. By confronting the built environment with human bodies, human activities, and human memories, Circulations aims to offer a new, broader definition for architecture, extending beyond bricks and mortar and into social and political life.

Circulations is informed by a long tradition of radical thinking about architecture in the 20th century. The Futurists championed movement as a means to activate the city, while the professors of the Bauhaus were pioneers of using performance to examine space. In the UK in the 1960s, the idiosyncratic Cedric Price and Archigram turned their backs on permanent buildings to imagine ephemeral architectural “events.” New York, too, was a crucial hub for these questions: consider Trisha Brown's Man Walking Down the Side of a Building (1970), Gordon Matta-Clark’s seminal exhibition “anarchitecture” (1974), Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio’s experiments at La Mama theater (mid 1980s), and Vito Acconci opening his own architecture studio in 1988.

More recently, the dramatic drop in new building commissions after the financial crisis of 2008 gave a new prominence to architects who sought ways to work without having to "build." The last decade has seen a surge in nimble, socially engaged endeavors, as well as projects that examine the built environment's relationship to labor, security, race, migration, mobility, environment, and modes of public assembly. For Performa 17, Circulations offers an extensive survey of this recent trend, while positioning such use of performance and ephemeral architectural actions within a contemporary globalized, digitalized world where architecture exceeds the limits of the built environment.

Circulations will be completed by Bodyspacemotionthings, a groundbreaking new publication, to be published in 2018, that gathers together works by architects who challenge the limits of their discipline by incorporating actions, happenings, and staged situations into their practice. An amplification of the biennial’s curatorial program, this new publication will compile historical and contemporary examples of architects and collectives working with performance, among them Ant Farm, Didier Faustino, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, EXYZT, Haus-Rucker-Co, Grupo TOMA, Andrés Jaque, Francis Kéré, Mil M2, OMA/Rem Koolhaas, Raumlabor, Bryony Roberts, and Alex Schweder & Ward Shelley. Bodyspacemotionthings is co-edited by Charles Aubin and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco.