Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past

Sep 12, 2012–Mar 8, 2013


Trajal Harrell. Used, Abused, and Hung Out to Dry. 2013. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, © 2013 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Department of Media and Performance Art presents a series of performances under the title Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past. Held in collaboration with the exhibitions Performing Histories (1), Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, and Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde, these performances constitute “live” responses to the contexts of the three exhibitions, highlighting various artistic methods of engaging with history.

Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past emphasizes the travel and translation of artistic ideas, forms, and historical motivations. The included works will trace pathways from the early to mid-20th century, from the European heartland of modernism to the Japanese post-war avant-garde, and through MoMA’s own storied institutional history. The swathe of performances in this series share an interest in holding present and past in close proximity—reinterpreting established narratives, reconfiguring contemporary understanding, and imagining different futures.

The series starts on September 12, 2012, with a performance by Andrea Fraser, and continues until spring 2013.

Performing Histories (1) is an exhibition of newly acquired media works in which artists deconstruct, reassemble, and re-perform history, focusing on its ambiguity, and the impact of ideology on both individual and collective consciousness. The series of performances, with works by Andrea Fraser, Simone Forti, and others, relates specifically to artistic re-interpretations of our near history.

Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 traces the development of abstraction as it moved through a network of modern artists, sweeping across nations and across media. The exhibition brings together many of the most influential works in abstraction’s early history to draw a full portrait of these watershed years. The artists Fabian Barba and Kelly Nipper are sourcing their inspiration from ground-breaking dances by seminal modern choreographers, including Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman.

Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde provides a focused look at the extraordinary concentration of creative individuals and practices in Tokyo’s post-war period. The exhibition offers a story of artistic crossings, collaborations, and, at times, conflicts, with the city as an incubator. It introduces the avant-garde experiments that emerged as artists drew on the energy of this rapidly growing and changing metropolis. This series of performances, with works by Ei Arakawa, contact Gonzo, Trajal Harrell, and Eiko & Koma, draws from significant figures and movements in the history of Japanese art and dance, such as Jikken Kobo, Hijikata, and Butoh.

The performance program is organized by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, and Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, with Leora Morinis, Curatorial Assistant, and Jill A. Samuels, Performance Producer, Department of Media and Performance Art.

Performing Histories is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.


  • Press release 4 pages
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  • Press release 4 pages
  • Press release 4 pages
  • Press release 4 pages


Installation images

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