12 Highlights From the Performa 17 Festival That You Should Definitely Make Time to See

Performa 17 is officially underway. Catch work by Barbara Kruger, Zanele Muholi, William Kentridge, and more.

We Know How To Order, by Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah. The Marching Cobras drumline in Harlem, 2014. Courtesy of Carlo Allegri Reuters.
Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, We Know How to Order (2015) Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah.

Performa, New York City’s performance art biennial, doesn’t do anything halfway. Performa’s seventh edition kicked off last night with its annual gala, which this year honored the performance artist Yoko Ono. Although the artist herself was not in attendance, she was well represented through restagings of many of her most important works—so many, in fact, that Performa’s founder, RoseLee Goldberg, admitted she had lost count. “I think there are 14,” she told artnet News. “We don’t do things in small measures.”

Guests were invited to hang their wishes on an Ono Wish Tree, and to bang away on Painting to Hammer a Nail, one of Ono’s instructional pieces. The evening ended with a rousing performance of John Lennon’s 1971 song “Imagine,” for which Ono recently received a songwriting credit.

Musicians reenact a Yoko Ono performance at the Perfoma 17 opening night gala at Harlem Parish. Courtesy of Performa/ photographer Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.

Musicians reenact a Yoko Ono performance at the Perfoma 17 opening night gala at Harlem Parish. Courtesy of Performa/ photographer Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.

It had already been a busy day for the performance art biennial, which earlier unveiled Barbara Kruger‘s Untitled (Skate) at Coleman Skatepark on the Lower East Side. The installation is one of several works the artist is contributing to this year’s event, including a roving bus, High Line billboard, and specially designed MetroCard.

“I said to Barbara, ‘Let’s take New York,'” Goldberg said. “It was a great way to start the day: Freezing cold under the Manhattan Bridge. Her signage is amazing, and there were all these kids skating back and forth.”

Performa 17 events are scheduled across the city until November 19. Here is a list of the performances you can’t miss.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Be Here Now</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Barbara Kruger, Be Here Now. Courtesy of the artist.

1. Barbara Kruger, Untitled (The Drop), November 2, 9, and 16, at the Performa Hub
Performa is offering few clues about what they’ve dubbed Kruger’s first performance ever and “first major project in New York in eight years.” It’s safe to say, however, that it will involve her signature visual style, with white Futura Bold text on a bright red background

427 Broadway; $5; 4 p.m.–8 p.m.

Teju Cole,<em> Black Paper</em>. Courtesy of Performa.

Teju Cole, Black Paper. Courtesy of Performa.

2. Teju Cole, Black PaperNovember 2–4 at BKLYN Studio at City Point
The writer and photographer has penned award-winning essays and shown his work in galleries around the world, but nothing quite compares to the vulnerability of performing in front of a live audience, as artnet News learned recently. If you only make it to one performance this year, let it be Black Paper, a multimedia response to the 2016 election in which Cole will project his photographs and videos onto large scrims accompanied by live readings.

445 Albee Square West, Brooklyn; $25 general admission, $15 student; Thursday, November 2, 7 p.m.; Friday, November 3, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, November 4, 7 p.m. 

Narcissister, <em>Forever Young</eM> (video still). Courtesy of Performa.

Narcissister, Forever Young (video still). Courtesy of Performa.

3. Narcissister, The Body Is a House, November 3–5 at Participant Inc.
The anonymous Narcissister wears a Barbie-like mask to create work about gender, racial identity, and sexuality. Ahead of her first major gallery show, to be held at Participant Inc. in spring 2018, she’ll unveil The Body Is a House, a humor-infused combination of video and live performance featuring pop music and elaborate costumes.

253 East Houston Street, #1; free; 7 p.m.

WIlliam Kentridge, Ursonate. Courtesy of Performa.

WIlliam Kentridge, Ursonate. Courtesy of Performa and photographer Nina Lieska, Repro Pictures.

4. William KentridgeUrsonate, November 5 and 6, at Harlem Parish
As part of Performa’s focus on Dada, the South African artist William Kentridge, in his second Performa commission, has created a new work inspired by Kurt Schwitters‘s 1932 sound poem Ursonate.

258 West 118th Street, $40 general admission, $25 student, 7 p.m.

Jimmy Robert, <i>Imitation of Lives </i>(2017). Rehearsal view, pictured: NIC Kay and Quenton Stuckey. Courtesy of the artist, Performa, and The Glass House.

Jimmy Robert, Imitation of Lives (2017). Rehearsal view, pictured: NIC Kay and Quenton Stuckey. Courtesy of the artist, Performa, and The Glass House.

5. Jimmy Robert, Imitation of Lives, November 3–5, at the Glass House
This venue is farther afield—but it is certainly worth the trek out to Philip Johnson’s iconic New Canaan abode. The visual artist Jimmy Robert has pushed the conventional limits of choreography to encompass a wide range of gestures.

199 Elm Street, New Canaan, Connecticut; $50 general admission, $35 student; Friday, November 3, 4 p.m.; Saturday, November 4, 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 5, 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Zanele Muholi, <em>Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo</em> (2015). Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. © Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi,
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo (2015). Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York. © Zanele Muholi.

6. Zanele Muholi, Masihambisane: On Visual Activism, November 5, 7, 8, and 10, at various locations
Zanele Muholi has turned her powerful photographs of South Africa’s black lesbian community into an interactive public installation. Her Performa events also include conversations with artist Renee Cox and writer Staceyann Chin.

The artist will also perform with South African dancers and singers, as well as DJ BEARCAT in Performa AFTERHOURS at Public Arts, 215 Chrystie Street, on Saturday, November 4, 9 p.m.–11 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster Street; free; Sunday, November 5, 4 p.m.
BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, 2474 Westchester Avenue, Bronx; free with RSVP; Tuesday, November 7, 7 p.m.
Schomburg Center, 515 Malcolm X Blvd; free; Wednesday, November 8, 2 p.m.
Stonewall Inn, 53 Christopher Street; $10; Wednesday, November 8, 9 p.m.
The Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse; free; Friday, November 10, 7 p.m.

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

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

7. Kelly Nipper, Terre Mécanique, November 9–11 at 371 Broadway
As part of Performa’s new three-year partnership with the Brown Arts Initiative at Rhode Island’s Brown University, Kelly Nipper collaborated with MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab to create a unique performance featuring rapid liquid 3-D printing. Five performers will be joined on stage by this new technology, with a print head quickly building new objects inside a translucent dome filled with gel.

371 Broadway, $25 general admission, $15 student; 7 p.m.–8 p.m.

Tracey Emin painting in France (2015). Courtesy of Performa.

Tracey Emin painting in France (2015). Courtesy of Performa.

8. Tracey Emin, November 10, at the Performa 17 Hub
Can an artist interview be art? Tracey Emin will chat with Vincent Fremont, the former head of Andy Warhol’s Factory and current ARTnews SA’s CEO, while painting live in front of an audience. She’ll also be taking questions, so this is your chance to ask the British artist anything—including how things are going in her absurdist marriage to a stone.

427 Broadway; free with limited seating; 6 p.m.–7 p.m. 

Brian Belott. Courtesy of photographer Chris Sanders.

Brian Belott. Courtesy of photographer Chris Sanders.

9. Brian Belott, People Pie Pool, November 10–11 at Abrons Arts Center
Equal parts send-up and homage to comedic performance, Belott’s Performa commission draws on the legacy of Kurt Schwitters and Dadaist absurdist theater, which he has interpreted for a contemporary audience. Viewers will will undoubtedly notice more mainstream influences, like Lenny Bruce and the Marx Brothers.

466 Grand Street, New York; $25 general admission, $15 student; 8:30 p.m. 

Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, <i>We Know How To Order</i> (2015). Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah.

Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team, We Know How To Order (2015). Chicago Architecture Biennial. Photograph by Andrew Bruah.

10. Bryony Roberts, Mabel O. Wilson, and the Marching Cobras of New York, Marching On, November 11 and 12 at Marcus Garvey Park
Professors Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson have been collaborating with the New York-based Marching Cobras to combine historic uses of marching as activism with the stylized choreography of contemporary dance and drumlines.

East 122nd Street and Madison Avenue; free; 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.

Wangechi Mutu,
Banana Stroke (2017), site Specific Action Painting. Courtesy of the artist and photographer Andrew Dru Mungai.

11. Wangechi Mutu, Banana Stroke, November 13–14 at the Metropolitan Museum, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
In a site-specific action painting, artist Wangechi Mutu takes on the tropes and stereotypes of the black female body layered with her experiences both at home in New York and in her native Kenya. Her work uses images from the media combined with imaginative narratives that weave in elements of the supernatural and mysticism.

1000 5th Avenue; free with museum admission; 7 p.m.  

Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran rehearsal picture. Courtesy of Performa, photographer Damien Young.

Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran in rehearsal. Courtesy of Performa, photographer Damien Young.

12. Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran, MASS (Howl, Eon), November 16 at Harlem Parish
Perhaps the most anticipated of this year’s Performa, MASS (Howl, Eon) will be held inside the Harlem church where Julie Mehretu spent much of the past year painting two monumental canvases, now on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran often joined her while she worked, improvising on an electric piano to create music inspired by her brushstrokes. (Mehretu has described the experience as “hearing [her] drawing.”) Now, it’s time to see the fruits of their collaboration.

258 West 118th Street, $40 general admission, $25 student, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Performa 17 takes place at various venues, mostly in New York City, November 1–19, 2017. 


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