Performa 17 Announces Lineup of Participating Artists

This year's edition is all about Dada and Africa.

William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, the Horse Is Not Mine, a Performa Premiere, 2009. Photo by Paula Court, Courtesy of Performa.

Performa 17 has announced it will stage an homage to Dada, the movement that paved the way for the legitimization of performance as an art form.

The star-studded lineup for the performance art biennial will include commissioned performances by Yto Barrada, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran, Zanele Muholi, Wangechi Mutu, and others. The historical anchor of Dada within the context of today’s highly charged contemporary sociopolitical climate is just one potential jumping off point for their work.

Dada, of course, emerged against the backdrop of World War I in 1916 in neutral Switzerland as artists seeking refuge from the war responded to the turmoil around them. The movement developed a radical, avant-garde approach to art making that manifested itself in highly subversive and rebellious projects, often taking the shape of live performance.

“Performa provides an extraordinary platform for showing the important role of art in society,” Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg said. “Through live performance we touch people directly, change their minds, introduce them viscerally to the complicated emotional and aesthetic expressions of artists responding to the world that we inhabit.”

Wangechi Mutu Throw (2016). Photo: courtesy of Performa.

The title “100 Degrees Above Dada” references the 101 year anniversary of the movement and the seminal 1961 exhibition “40° au-dessus de Dada” (40 Degrees Above Dada), organized by the French critic Pierre Restany.

This year’s Performa offerings also feature a strong cross-continental dialogue between Africa and the West. “For the past 18 months we have examined how artists in several cities on the African continent—Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dakar—consider performance as an extension of their creativity in multiple disciplines—music, dance, film, image-making, and how each artist takes us into distinct histories and sensibilities,” Goldberg explained.

In addition to the commissioned artists, Performa announced the launch of the Performa Commissioning Council, which has been established to provide financial support to participating artists. Comparing itself to a museum acquisition committee, the council promises patrons exclusive insights into the artists’ creative process by providing intimate access to Performa participants and curators.

The biennial takes place over a three week period, November 1–19, at various venues around New York.

Here is the list of the first round of commissioned artists for Performa 17:

Yto Barrada (France)
William Kentridge (South Africa)
Tarik Kiswanson (Sweden/Palestine)
Kemang Wa Lehulere (South Africa)
Julie Mehretu (Ethiopia) and Jason Moran (US)
Zanele Muholi (South Africa)
Wangechi Mutu (Kenya)
Kelly Nipper (US)
Jimmy Robert (Guadeloupe)
Tracey Rose (South Africa)


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