Edgar Arceneaux Wins Performa’s Malcolm McLaren Award
Ragnar Kjartansson and Ryan McNamara are the previous winners.
Artist Edgar Arceneaux has won the Malcolm McLaren award, which is presented to a single artist at the end of each Performa biennial. The award was bestowed at the performance art festival’s closing party in New York on Sunday, marking the end of 22 days of performances around the city.
The award is named for the late British musician, impresario, visual artist, performer, and fashion designer who once managed the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols. Presenting the award were punk icon Richard Hell and McLaren’s life partner, Young Kim.
Arceneaux’s Performa commission Until, Until, Until… was his first live work to date. The Los Angeles-based artist is known for his drawings and installations, notably Drawings of Removal, an ongoing project exhibited at the UCLA Hammer Museum in 2003. Five years later, Arceneaux was featured in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and has exhibited work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Kitchen, in New York.
Until, Until, Until… focuses on an infamous 1981 televised performance by Broadway legend Ben Vereen, which was a part of the celebration inaugurating the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Vereen’s performance was a nod to the stage work of Bert Williams, an early vaudeville performer whom WC Fields called “the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest.” Williams is often credited as being America’s first mainstream black entertainer, and performed to white audiences in blackface. Vereen, who was similarly suited up, played for laughs for the first half; however, the network pulled the plug on the final five minutes of his performance, making Vereen’s commentary on the history of segregation and racist stereotypes in performance fall flat.
“Until, Until, Until… turns the mirror onto the audience, yielding an awareness to the inhumanity of the structure that exists in this country that maintains this state of supremacy and inferiority,” Arceneaux said in a statement.
The Malcolm McLaren award was conceived in 2011 by RoseLee Goldberg and curator Mark Beasley and is awarded to “a visual artist who demonstrates a strong potential for this new territory of live performance through an innovative and thought-provoking performance during the biennial.” Previous recipients are Ragnar Kjartansson (in 2011) and Ryan McNamara (in 2013).
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