Ryan McNamara Takes You Back to School at MoMA PS1

Performers will adopt the roles of teachers, goths, jocks, and cheerleaders.

Ryan McNamara at MoMA PS1 Clam Bake in 2014. ©Patrick McMullan. Courtesy of Paul Bruinooge/PatrickMcMullan.com.

This month, artist Ryan McNamara has developed a timely premise for a one-night-only multimedia and performance program for MoMA PS1. “Back to School” will raise money for the museum’s annual exhibition fund.

As the title suggests, McNamara will repurpose the institution and bring it back to its original function as a school; on Friday, September 23, galleries will be emptied, and will become classrooms once again. Performers will adopt the roles of teachers, goths, jocks, and cheerleaders, so get ready to engage with your best school days—or face your deepest fears.

For those visitors who actually attended school to learn, there’s a program of lectures. For everyone else there’s an open bar, art experiences, and installations throughout the building organized by the likes of Morgan Bassichis, Claire Bishop, Nikki Columbus, FlucT, Jessica Mitrani, Sam Roeck, Justin Strauss, Nelly Furtado, and others. The evening will culminate in an epic dance party in the gymnasium.

MoMA PS1 Lobby. Photo: Martin Seck, courtesy MoMA PS1.

MoMA PS1 Lobby. Photo: Martin Seck, courtesy MoMA PS1.

The benefit builds on MoMA PS1’s reputation as an innovative and multifaceted art institution bringing together performance, music, and conceptual art, while stressing the institution’s origins as a place of learning. Proceeds support MoMA PS1’s programs, and helps the museum maintain its free admission policy for all New York residents.


PAMM Presents Dimensions by Devonte Hynes and Ryan McNamara. Courtesy of Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan.

PAMM Presents Dimensions by Devonte Hynes and Ryan McNamara. Courtesy of Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan.

Attendees take note: McNamara has long been a fan of in your face performances, so this event is not for wallflowers. Earlier this year, McNamara collaborated with nine dancers to create Battleground, which premiered at the Guggenheim in May. There, “audience members act[ed] as witnesses to the three squads’ battle for dominance,” according to the performance page. And last year at Art Basel in Miami Beach, McNamara and musician Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), joined forces for “Dimensions,” which featured a “writhing, booty-shaking performance.”


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