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.
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 Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, with Leora Morinis, Curatorial Assistant.
The Performance Program is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.
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.