Theatrical and staged elements have been a key feature of visual art throughout the 20th century. Movements like Futurism, Dada, and Bauhaus employed theater, dance, music, and poetry with live or broadcast performances to engage with audiences. In the 1960s and 1970s, performance gained renewed momentum when artists conceived of Happenings, Fluxus, "actions," experimental dance, and site-specific interventions.
Throughout its history MoMA has been host to many artworks involving live and performative elements, from Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York (1960) to Francis Alÿs’s The Modern Procession (2002). Others were unsolicited and sometimes subversive artist actions, like Yayoi Kusama’s Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead at MoMA (1969) or Guerrilla Art Action Group’s Blood Bath (1969). While most of these activities previously took place at the periphery of MoMA's exhibition program, the 2008 addition of "and Performance Art" to what was then called the Department of Media introduced performance art as a central component in the Museum's programming. Read more
In recent years performance art (in an expansive sense) has been embraced by many major museums and become a new focus of their programs. During this current resurgence of performance art, one could argue that the medium faces a dilemma, particularly as it re-emerges within new contexts and under very different conditions. Once conceived as a critique of the traditional static art object, created by one artist and eventually turned into a commodity, this genre has entered into the arena of event culture, confronted with a much larger and more diverse audience.
How do institutions and audiences engage with these formerly emancipatory and transgressive movements as they seek new methods and channels for art? How do younger generations of artists respond to this legacy? How can MoMA help direct performance art’s transition from the margins to the center of contemporary art discourse—and the space of the museum—in such a way that surpasses spectacle and preserves the critical character of these works? And how do artists negotiate the tension between the original live performance and its representation in films, photographs, videos, or other media? What kinds of transformations are necessary to create meaningful programs for performance art—a medium that is experimental by nature, often multi-authored, collectively realized, interdisciplinary, and interactive?
In light of these many open questions, MoMA's Performance Program has great potential. As an institution with international reach, MoMA can bring this process-oriented art to a broad audience and open the Museum up to new art at a time when this art is still in the making.
MoMA’s Department of Media and Performance Art seeks to emphasize its engagement with both the theory and practice of performance and to reflect its shifting parameters and modes of production and presentation. Landmark performances from the past will be revisited, and in doing so will be reactivated and redefined. Moreover, to establish what we refer to as “a dialogue between the present and the past,” MoMA will commission new artworks and actively generate new projects for this context.
Performances will take place in and around the Museum, utilizing public space for its diverse manifestations. In accordance with the interdisciplinary nature of the art forms in question, projects will be also organized across other departments of the Museum, as well as in collaboration with outside individuals and institutions. In addition to performances, the program will include a range of lectures and debates.
James Lee Byars
Trajal Harrell: In one step are a thousand animals
Charles Gaines: Manifestos 2
Simone Forti and Charlemagne Palestine: illlummminnnatttionnnsssss!!!!!!!
Eszter Salamon: Dance for Nothing
Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures
Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past
Some sweet day
Meta-Monumental Garage Sale
Words in the World
Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp. 002954–003064: A Public Reading
Grand Openings Return of the Blogs
Performance 15: On Line/Xavier Le Roy
Performance 14: On Line/Ralph Lemon
Performance 13: On Line/Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
Performance 12: On Line/Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci
Performance 11: On Line/Trisha Brown Dance Company
Performance 10: Alison Knowles
Performance 9: Allora & Calzadilla
Performance 8: William Kentridge: I am not me, the horse is not mine
Performance 7: Mirage by Joan Jonas
Performance 6: Fischerspooner
Performance 5: Mark Leckey
Performance 4: Roman Ondák
Performance 3: Trio A by Yvonne Rainer
Performance 2: Simone Forti
Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh
The Performance Program is organized by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator; Ana Janevski, Associate Curator; and Thomas J. Lax, Associate Curator; with Martha Joseph, Curatorial Assistant; and Giampaolo Bianconi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art.
The Performance Program is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.
Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine
In conjunction with the exhibition One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North, Brooklyn-based artist Steffani Jemison (American, b. 1981) presents her new multipart commission Promise Machine.
As a part of this commission, Jemison presents her first musical collaboration at the Museum on June 25th and 27th. Jemison's libretto is inspired by conversations with members of Harlem-based community organizations about black American literary and political visions of an ideal society. The performance is structure as a processional during which the performers address specific works in MoMA's collection including selections from Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series.
Beginning in the 5th Floor Painting and Sculpture Permanent Collection galleries, the performers will move down through the 4th floor galleries and into the Jacob Lawrence exhibition itself.
The Annual Performance Symposium at MoMA: How Are We Performing Today?
How Are We Performing Today? examines the shifting conditions and rising popularity of performance-related art, and its evolving—and frequently ambivalent—relationship to the museum. Drawing on the double meaning of “performance” as both a live element in the arts and a benchmark for economic productivity, the conference seeks to understand the character and consequences of new performance formats and strategies used by artists, curators, and institutions. Moreover, it explores how performance is tied to the experience economy—in which memory itself is a product—and how it is framed institutionally. The program of prominent scholars, artists, and curators addresses questions including: Where and under what conditions does performance art emerge today? How can artists and institutions address performance’s migration from the margin to the center of contemporary art discourse? What kinds of transformations or conditions might be necessary to create a meaningful or critically engaged performance art program within the museum?
Through this conference, MoMA’s Department of Media and Performance Art seeks to deepen its engagement with the theory and practice of performance-related art and with the public discourse about it—reflecting on the medium’s changing parameters, modes of production, and presentation.
INTRODUCTION by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA
Judith Butler, Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley
Shannon Jackson, Professor in the Arts and Humanities, University of California, Berkeley
Discussion moderated by Sabine Breitwieser
SESSION 1: THE PLACES OF PERFORMANCE
Rachel Haidu, Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester
Andrea Fraser, artist and Professor for New Genres, University of California, Los Angeles
Discussion moderated by Johanna Burton, Director, graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
INTRODUCTION by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA
SESSION 2: NEW FORMATS
Pierre Bal-Blanc, Director, CAC Brétigny, Paris, France
Boris Charmatz, Director, Rennes and Brittany National Choreographic Centre (Musée de la Danse)
Tim Griffin, Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen, New York
Stephanie Rosenthal, Chief Curator, Hayward Gallery, London
Discussion moderated by Ana Janevski, Associate Curator of Performance, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA
SESSION 3: NEW ARTISTIC PRACTICES
Jutta Koether, artist, writer, and Professor, Hochschule für bildende Künste (HfbK), Hamburg
Jay Sanders, Curator of Performance, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Simon Leung, artist and Professor of Art, University of California, Irvine
Emily Roysdon, artist and writer
Discussion moderated by Claire Bishop, Associate Professor in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center, New York
ARCHIVAL CASE STUDIES
Jonathan Lill, Project Archivist, MoMA; Michelle Elligott, Archivist, MoMA; and David Senior, Bibliographer, MoMA
How are we performing today? is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.
20 Dancers for the XX Century
20 Dancers for the XX Century (2012/2013) presents a living archive. Twenty performers from different generations perform, recall, appropriate, and transmit acclaimed yet forgotten solo works of the last century that were originally conceived or performed by some of the most significant modernist and postmodernist dancers, choreographers, and performance artists. Each performer presents his or her own museum, where the body is the ultimate space for the dance museum. Hence there is neither a stage nor a demarcation of performance space. Rather, the performers circulate freely between the Museum’s Marron Atrium, the Museum galleries, and other public spaces.
Cast: Magali Caillet-Gajan, Ashley Chen, Jim Fletcher, Brennan Gerard, Trajal Harrell, Burr Johnson, Lénio Kaklea, Catherine Legrand, Morgan Lugo, Richard Move, Mani A. Mungai, Banu Ogan, Leiomy Prodigy, Christopher Roman, Shelley Senter, Valda Setterfield, Gus Solomons, John Sorensen-Jolink, Meg Stuart, and Adam Weinert
Levée des conflits extended/Suspension of Conflicts Extended
Choreographed by Charmatz in 2010, this work is comprised of 25 movements performed continuously by 24 dancers. The gestures circulate from body to body, with at least one movement left "undanced" at any given moment. Through many singular actions, tensions are teased out between stillness and movement, living body and sculptural object, choreographic authorship and embodied collectivity. For the first time at MoMA, the work will be presented as it was originally intended: as a durational piece. Extended during Museum opening hours, the piece is conceived as a hybrid form of choreographic exhibition and installation.
Cast: Or Avishai, Matthieu Barbin, Eleanor Bauer, Magali Caillet-Gajan, Ashley Chen, Carlye Eckert, Kerem Gelembek, Gaspard Guilbert, Christophe Ives, Taoufiq Izeddiou, Dominique Jégou, Lénio Kaklea, Jurij Konjar, Élise Ladoué, Stéphanie Landauer, Catherine Legrand, Filipe Lourenço, Naiara Mendioroz, Thierry Micouin, Alex Mugler, Andreas Albert Müller, Mani A. Mungai, Banu Ogan, Elise Olhandeguy, Qudus Onikeku, Felix Ott, Annabelle Pulcini, and John Sorensen-Jolink. Sound Designer: Olivier Renouf
Flip Book (2008/2013) revisits David Vaughan's 1997 book Fifty Years, which charts Merce Cunningham's choreography over half a century. In the past, Charmatz invited different groups of dancers—from ex-members of Cunningham's company to amateur practitioners—to learn and perform Vaughan's images as a sped-up version of Cunningham's language, exploring contemporary movement, its reliance on information, and its complex histories. Inherent in this piece is an interest in documentation, archives, and scores, which is extremely relevant to today’s performance landscape. For the MoMA edition, six dancers—including one ex-Cunningham dancer—start at 12:00 p.m. to warm up and rehearse in the Marron Atrium, interacting with the audience and performing the piece at 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.
Cast: Boris Charmatz, Ashley Chen, Raphaëlle Delaunay, Christophe Ives, Lénio Kaklea, Mani A.Mungai, and Valda Setterfield. Sound designer: Olivier Renouf. Lighting Designer: Mael Iger
Flip Book Performance Response: Boris Charmatz, Valda Setterfield, and Claire Bishop
Please join Boris Charmatz; Valda Setterfield; and Claire Bishop, Professor, PhD Program in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, for a response in the Marron Atrium. The conversation is led by Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art.
Eszter Salamon: Dance for Nothing
“I had a problem with insomnia so I thought I should empty my head.
Then I thought I should maybe start by emptying my dance
and then later on empty my head..."
Thus begins Eszter Salamon's Dance for Nothing, a performance that uses John Cage's extraordinary experimental work Lecture on Nothing (c. 1949–50) as a spoken, rhythmic score.
Lecture on Nothing, a prose work, was composed on the page like a piece of music, replete with moments of pause, repetition, and a complex time scheme. Salamon recites a text, her movements becoming a parallel action, introducing different—and perhaps more contemporary—moods and temporalities. Over the course of the piece, Cage's words and Salamon's gestures intersect and diverge, depending on the connotative juxtapositions, along with each viewer's predispositions and reaction. The two elements are meant to be interpreted independently, as Salamon explains: "The dance should be autonomous and never become an illustration or a commentary on the text."
MoMA's presentation of Dance for Nothing—in its U.S. premiere—is organized in conjunction with the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage's 4'33", which centers around MoMA’s recent acquisition of 4'33", Cage’s groundbreaking “silent” score. This work represented a groundbreaking revolutionary gesture, introducing chance procedures and subverting the conventions of music—and of art in general. 4'33" remains a major influence on contemporary art practice and theory.
Eszter Salamon is a Paris- and Berlin-based choreographer, dancer, and performer whose work has been presented internationally. She has created a great number of remarkable solo works, including What a Body You Have, Honey and Giszelle (both 2001), in collaboration with Xavier Le Roy; Reproduction (2004), a piece for eight dancers; Magyar Tàncok (2005), with Hungarian folk dancers and musicians; Nvsbl (2006) and AND THEN (2007), a film-choreography in collaboration with Bojana Cvejić; Dance #1/Driftworks (2008), in collaboration with Christine De Smedt; Dance for Nothing (2010); and, with B. Cvejić, C. Dambrain, and Terre Thaemlitz, TALES OF THE BODILESS (2011). In 2012, she premiered her solo documentary performance Melodrama at the Berlin Documentary Forum.
Fred Moten with Kevin Beasley: On Value, Poetry, and the Turntable
As part of Ralph Lemon's Artist's Research residency, Fred Moten and Kevin Beasley discuss value, poetry, and the turntable.
This event is invitation only, but we are very pleased to present a live stream, allowing offsite friends and colleagues to participate in the conversation.
Simone Forti and Charlemagne Palestine: illlummminnnatttionnnsssss!!!!!!!
Simone Forti and Charlemagne Palestine met at the California Institute of the Arts in 1970, when they were asked to arrange a concert for the Indian musician Pandin Pran Nath. They started improvisation sessions together in a large music hall that they called The Temple. Forti described their collaboration in her 1974 book Handbook in Motion: “The aspect of Charlemagne’s music that most inspired my imagination was his melodies. Sometimes their texture of repetitions and evolving variations are so close that the term melody doesn’t seem to apply…. What most determined our format was Charlemagne’s way of letting the elements in the music develop only very gradually.”
These sessions led to the first performance of Illuminations in 1971, which consisted of Palestine playing a composition for piano while Forti performed improvised movement. The sound was recorded on three LPs. Performing in a shared space, Forti and Palestine create a dynamic interplay of sound and movement. The work engages with questions concerning balance, geometry, refined pitch, and the nature of collaboration.
The Museum of Modern Art is thrilled to restage this important work, which has not been performed in New York since 1975. Working under the altered title illlummminnnatttionnnsssss!!!!!!!, Forti and Palestine have provided a unique opportunity to witness a collaboration between two legendary figures. The performance is presented while both artists have works on view in MoMA's Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador of the New exhibition.
Simone Forti is a Los Angeles–based dancer, choreographer, artist, and writer; a pioneer in the history of movement improvisation; and a key figure in postmodern dance and Minimal art. She has created a great number of remarkable works, including Scramble (1960), See Saw (1960), Slant Board (1961), Hangers (1961), Huddle (1961), Platforms (1961), From Instructions (1961), Face Tunes (1968), Bottom (1967), Zoo Mantras (1967), Fallers (1968), and Striding Crawling (1977). Forti’s work has been exhibited at the São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; among others.
Charlemagne Palestine is a Belgium-based Minimalist composer, performer, and visual artist. He has created a significant body of work, including over 20 solo albums and performances. Palestine’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Kunsthalle, Basel; Long Beach Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Documenta 8, Kassel; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Art Institute of Chicago; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; and Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal; among others. Palestine is a participating artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
The Mile-Long Paper Walk (1965/2014)
Byars gave this paper work to the museum in 1966. It has been performed only once, at the Carnegie Museum of Art on October 25, 1965, where it was activated by dancer and choreographer Lucinda Childs, a key figure of postmodern dance. Childs dressed in a white feathered costume supposedly composed of "one million ostrich feathers," and slowly unfolded sections of riveted paper. On August 17, the piece will be performed by Katie Dorn, a current member of the Lucinda Childs Dance Company, with instruction from Childs. On September 7, the piece will be performed by the renowned Berlin-based artist and dancer, Jimmy Robert. (The original work is on view at MoMA PS1; an exhibition copy of the work has been created for use in this performance.) (Collection The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of the artist)
Trajal Harrell’s project In one step are a thousand animals begins in September with The Practice, in which he will offer insights into his working methods, inviting participation from internationally renowned musicians, composers, DJs, singers, and dancers. He will make the working process visible to spectators over two days in three two-hour sessions.
James Lee Byars: Four in a Dress (1967/2014)
Many of Byars's early "plural garments" arose from the artist's collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Craft and the Architectural League of New York, for which he created his largest plural or communal garment, the Dress for 500, a vibrant pink expanse of fabric with 500 cut holes fit for people's heads. The dress was meant to be worn collectively, as is Four in a Dress. Wearing it, he asked, "Are we one or four?" (An exhibition copy is used for this performance.) (Michael Werner Gallery, The Estate of James Lee Byars)
James Lee Byars: The Perfect Kiss (1975)
Byars referred to this fleeting performance as being "a prayer a poem and a play [. . .] a mystical expression of my appreciation of the world." (Colleción Jumex)
James Lee Byars: Dress for Two (1969)
This work was created in 1969 during a yearlong residency in Antwerp that culminated in Byars's first European solo exhibition, at Wide White Space Gallery in Antwerp. Two performers face each other while dressed in a shared red silk dress, connected by a long hat for two people and a red silk mask. (Collection Anny de Decker)
James Lee Byars: Ten in a Hat (c. 1969/2012)
Ten individuals wear this collective garment made of 10 interconnected fabric hats. (An exhibition copy is used for this performance.) (Michael Werner Gallery, The Estate of James Lee Byars)
Charles Gaines: Manifestos 2
MoMA is pleased to premiere the live performance of Charles Gaines’s Manifestos 2 (2013), in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem." A pioneer of Conceptual art, the Los Angeles–based artist has translated language from four influential speeches or manifestos into musical notation, arranged by Los Angeles composer and Opera Povera director Sean Griffin. Using a rule-based system translating each letter into its corresponding musical note (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) and treating each letter without a correlating note as a silent musical rest, Gaines has established a relationship between the structures of language and music; Manifestos 2 explores how the emotive properties of music affect the content of the manifestos and their interpretation. For the performance, Griffin will conduct a nine-piece ensemble, bringing the scores to life. The performance is followed by a conversation with Gaines and Griffin; Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art; and Naima J. Keith, Assistant Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Trajal Harrell, Eiko Otake, and Sam Miller in Conversation
For this second program in his two-year residency In one step are a thousand animals, Trajal Harrell engages in a conversation with Eiko Otake, Japanese choreographer and dancer, who works primarily with her partner Koma. Both Eiko and Koma have studied with Kazu Ohno and Hijikata, and moved to New York in the 70s, developing their own choreographic practice. Trajal Harrell and Eiko & Koma were part of the performance series Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, in connection with the 2012 MoMA exhibition Tokyo: The New Avant-Garde 1945–1970. Eiko & Koma participated with The Caravan Project, while Trajal Harrell presented the performance Used Abused and Hung Out to Dry, his first investigation of Hijikata's work and the aesthetic possibilities of butoh. Together with Sam Miller, the President of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Harrell and Otake, in their first public conversation, will talk about the artistic legacy of avant-garde dance forms in 1960s Tokyo, Eiko’s integral participation in that scene, Harrell’s research on butoh, and the parallel aesthetic threads in their work.