Can Rapid 3-D Printing Boost Performance Art? Performa Teamed Up With MIT Scientists to Find Out

The arts organization launches a three-year partnership with Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) with a co-commissioned work by artist Kelly Nipper.

Kelly Nipper, Untitled (A) (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Performa.
Kelly Nipper, Untitled (A), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Performa.

Performa is going high-tech for the seventh edition of its international performance art biennial. The non-profit arts organization is launching a three-year partnership with the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI), a program founded in 2017 at Brown University to support all things experimental in the arts. To kick off the collaboration, the two organizations have co-commissioned a work by performance and multimedia artist Kelly Nipper. The artwork promises to blend video, photography, architecture, performance, and science together, and will be presented at Performa 17.

Kelly Nipper, Interval A-D (Detail), 2000. This edition work is in the permanent collections at MCA Chicago, Orange County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum in LA, and the Israel Museum. Courtesy of Performa.

Kelly Nipper, Interval A-D (Detail), 2000. This edition work is in the permanent collections at MCA Chicago, Orange County Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum in LA, and the Israel Museum. Courtesy of Performa.

The piece, currently titled Experimental Physiology, will be developed with MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, a cross-disciplinary research program exploring the concept of programmable matter. This research sees scientists attempting to engineer physical matter to be able to change form or function without human intervention—in other words, develop smart materials that can adapt to external forces such as temperature and electricity. (Check out this TED Talk to learn more.)

Kelly Nipper, <em>Shakers and Smoke</em> (2016), video still. Commissioned by Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria. Courtesy of Performa.

Kelly Nipper, Shakers and Smoke (2016), video still. Commissioned by Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria. Courtesy of Performa.

Nipper, who makes work often dealing with the parallels between human experience and technology, will collaborate on the piece with MIT designer and computer scientist, and co-director of Self-Assembly Lab, Skylar Tibbits. As part of an artists’ residency at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University this summer, Nipper will work closely with the Self-Assembly Lab to create a one-of-a-kind performance.

According to Esa Nickle, producing director and international affairs at Performa, the project—which is still a work in progress—will feature two new video works, screen prints, and three photo collages by the artist. The work will also include a live performance, which will incorporate Self Assembly Lab’s rapid liquid 3-D printing technology, where large-scale sculptural works will be printed in real time.

Kelly Nipper, Untitled (B) (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Performa.

Kelly Nipper, Untitled (B) (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Performa.

The artist will also collaborate with Marissa Ruazol— a dancer trained in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis—as well as computer scientists and students from Brown, to create an environment focusing on movement and space. The work will preview at Brown University in early October before premiering at Performa 17 in November.

“This collaboration goes to the heart of what the BAI does: expand on Brown’s legacy of enriching artistic practice by supporting all that is experimental, forward-thinking, and cutting-edge in the arts across departments, among artists, and with eminent partners like Performa,” said BAI faculty director and music professor Butch Rovan in a statement. “We’re delighted to welcome the Performa team to campus this summer and look forward to seeing a new work emerge from Kelly’s artistic process and the Self-Assembly Lab’s gel-based rapid liquid 3-D printing and design aesthetic.”

Kelly Nipper, Tessa Pattern Takes a Picture (2014), Rehearsal Documentation, South London Gallery. Photo credit: Ollie Hammick. Courtesy of Performa

Kelly Nipper, Tessa Pattern Takes a Picture (2014), Rehearsal Documentation, South London Gallery. Photo credit: Ollie Hammick. Courtesy of Performa.

The partnership between Performa and BAI will also involve future art co-commissions and internship opportunities at Performa for Brown University students. The hope is that this exchange between Performa artists and curators, and Brown’s faculty and students will provide valuable learning experiences for both communities, and lead to the production of world-class work from both established and emerging artists and scholars.

Performa 17 will be on view in various venues in New York, November 1‒19, 2017.


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