From Renaissance Dance to Modernist Opera: 10 Shows Not to Miss At Performa 2015

Jesper Just, True Love is Yet to Come, 2005. A Performa Commission. Courtesy of Performa. Photo by Paula Court.

10 Shows Not to Miss At Performa 2015

The biennial dedicated to live performance, Performa celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. For the next three weeks, from November 1 - 22, New York performance art spaces, galleries, historical venues and public squares will host a variety of works at the intersection of live performance and visual art: video performances, theatre, dance, music, sound, poetry, opera, installation. For Performa 15, new commissions, performances, and installations will engage with themes of history (particularly the Renaissance, this year's "historical anchor"), geography (this year's featured country is Australia), geometry, media, politics, spectator dynamics, and more. There will be Renaissance court dancing, singing tableaux vivants, and modernist opera in Times Square. Out of these many events, here are some of the performances best witnessed live and in person. The complete calendar can be found here.

David Hallberg and Francesco Vezzoli, 2015. Courtesy of LUomo Vogue, Conde Nast Italia. Photo by Francesco Vezzoli.

Fortuna Desperata

Sunday, Nov 1, 8pm & 9:30pm

St. Bart's Church, 325 Park Ave

In the premiere opening-night performance of the Performa 15 biennial, artist Francesco Vezzoli works with David Hallberg, Principal Dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet and American Theatre, in a performance that investigates the earliest roots of ballet, in the court dances of the Italian Renaissance. The performance will incorporate Renaissance ideals of symmetry and proportion, around a specially designed geometric floor pattern within the grand surroundings of historic St. Bart's Church. The two performances form part of Performa's benefit gala, with ticket prices ranging from $250 for the performance only, to $2,500 for the full dinner and reception program.


Heather Phillipson, Installation view of sub-fusc love-feast at Dundee Contemporary Arts, UK, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ruth Clark.


Nov 3 - 22; Opening Tuesday, Nov 3, 6-8pm

A+E Studios, 160 West Broadway

The British artist and poet Heather Phillipson, known for her over-the-top installations and deadpan voiceovers, presents an installation of six videos episodically recounting random thoughts and existential ennui sparked by a visit to a department store. The video installation, which takes the form of a fantasy retail landscape with sections like Hosiery, Underwear, and Special Offers, first premiered at the Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier this year in a defunct department store. On November 2 at 1pm, Phillipson will appear at Performa Hub in a conversation with Mark Beasley about the role of language and poetry in her work. Entry is free to both the installation and the talk.


Pauline Curnier Jardin, still from The Lady Weather Speakerine in Keys To Our Heart, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and PSM Gallery, Berlin.

The Resurrection Plot

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Nov 4-6, 8-9pm

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer St., Brooklyn

Amsterdam-based French artist Pauline Curnier Jardin draws together disparate cultural referents, crossing eras and geographies with the ease of an internet search engine. In a tribute to Renaissance "misfits" like painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, ceramicist Bernard Palissy, and writer François Rabelais, Curnier Jardin's performance takes the form of singing tableaux vivants, in a humorous and eccentric "journey through the Renaissance." Tickets for the first performance are $40, with a cocktail reception with food and music to follow; tickets for subsequent performances are $10-$20.


Robin Rhode, Erwartung, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by S. Borisov.

Arnold Schönberg's Erwartung - A Performance by Robin Rhode

Saturday and Sunday, Nov 7-8, 4:30-5:30pm

Times Square

Schönberg's atonal one-act opera Erwartung expresses the anguish and anxiety of a (perhaps mad) woman wandering alone in a dark wood, searching desperately for her absent lover. South African artist Robin Rhode--with conductor Arturo Tamayo and orchestral ensemble Wet Ink, soprano Carole Sidney, and actor Moses Leo--transposes this lonely narrative to the crowded cacophony of Times Square, and draws parallels to the plight of South African women separated from their husbands by the trauma of racial politics and migrant labor. The performance in Times Square is free.


Zheng Mahler, The Bull, 2014. Courtesy of the artists.

New York Post- et Préfiguratif (Before and After New York)

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Nov 12-14, 8-9pm

Performa Hub, 47 Walker St.

Hong Kong-based duo Zheng Mahler (artist Royce Ng and anthropologist Daisy Bisenieks) stage a multi-media performance as a conversation between the characters of a Somali businessman and a Chinese opera singer, played by Irungu Mutu and Kuang-Yu Fong. Reflecting themes of global economies, migration, and Western modernity through the lens of Africa and Asia, it promises to be one of the more substantial, content-rich performances. Tickets are available for $20-$25.


Juliana Huxtable, There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed

Friday and Saturday, Nov 13-14, 7pm


Transgender performance artist, writer, DJ, and poster child of the recent New Museum Triennial, Juliana Huxtable takes audiences down the clickhole of "cyberspace as a twilight zone" with varied human and digital characters. After Ryan McNamara's previous Performa commission Meem, a story ballet about the internet, it will be interesting to see how Huxtable's interpretation of the hidden corners of human experience on the Web will add to what may be a growing genre of performance art inspired by virtual media and the social interconnectedness of the internet age. Tickets are available for $8-$12.


Jesper Just, True Love is Yet to Come, 2005. A Performa Commission. Courtesy of Performa. Photo by Paula Court.


Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Nov 13-15, 4:30-5:30pm

Venue and ticket price to be announced

On the 10th anniversary of Jesper Just's performance that inaugurated the very first Performa biennial, the Danish artist and Performa favorite returns with a new commission, in collaboration with Danish artist and designer FOS, that challenges theatre, mass media, spectatorship, and the passive role of the audience. The installation and performance plays with the opposition of public and private space, and "toes the boundaries between those who act and those who look." This will not be a performance to simply sit and watch.


Justene Williams, The Joy of Life After Matisse/Madonna/Marcel, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Australia.

The Curtain Breathed Deeply

Monday through Sunday, Nov 16-22, 12-6pm

Performa Hub, 47 Walker St.

Australian artist Justene Williams' installation blends ritualistic practices, art history, and pop culture in an immersive, enveloping environment of video performance, featuring digital collage, handmade sets, costumes, sound, and sculptural elements. First exhibited at Artspace, Sydney, in 2014, The Curtain Breathed Deeply is an eerie, unsettling, primal hypnofantasy of wild color, pattern, and texture, with a pounding, rattling, soundtrack. Free entry.


Agatha Gothe-Snape, Rhetorical Chorus preparatory Powerpoint slides, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Performance Space, Australia.

Rhetorical Chorus (LW)

Wednesday, Nov 18, 8-9pm

New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 W 64th St.

Australian artist and wordsmith Agatha Gothe-Snape presents an improvised choral performance and PowerPoint presentation built out of the artist's close observations of the incidental hand gestures and text works of conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. Using a form of byzantine musical notation system of hand gestures, cheironomia, Gothe-Snape has translated Weiner's gestural and textual lexicon into a score. On November 19, 1-2pm, at Performa Hub, Gothe-Snape will divulge her research methods in an artist class. Tickets to the performance are available for $20-$25; the artist class is free to attend.


Edgar Arceneaux, Until, Until, Until..., 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

Until, Until, Until...

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Nov 20-22, 7-8pm

3-LD, 80 Greenwich St.

Edgar Arcenaux's first live work, Until, Until, Until..., draws upon the controversial, misunderstood blackface performance of Broadway actor Ben Vereen at Ronald Reagan's 1981 inaugural celebration. Intended as an homage to black vaudeville entertainer Bert Williams and a protest to the conditions under which he was forced to perform, Vereen's performance was censored for the television audience, leaving only the blackface buffoon routine and omitting the critical denouement of the performance. Arcenaux's performance immerses the audience in the scenery of the presidential celebration, questioning the narrative of history, collective memory, and cultural critique. Tickets are available for $25-$30.


--Natalie Hegert