Commissions from Performa’s Archives 
6 September 2017 – 4 March 2018
Pat Matthews Gallery (Gallery 4)
Free Entry

A new display opening at the Whitechapel Gallery this September presents significant documentary recordings from the archives of New York based art organisation Performa.

Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is dedicated to commissioning and presenting performance art, and exploring its critical role throughout art history. Since 2005 the biennial has commissioned more than 64 new works, presented over 450 artists, and collaborated with numerous curators and institutions to stage cross-disciplinary events involving dance, film, music, architecture and food across New York City including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Bronx Museum, Participant Inc, the Kitchen New York, and Times Square.

Screening footage of over 20 selected commissions that debuted as part of the Performa biennial, this display exhibits significant performance works from the past decade and examines the impact that the organisation has had on the development of live art over the past twelve years. Working closely with artists across mediums, each commission is the product of research and experimentation developed in tandem with Performa’s team of curators to challenge artists to create live performance, often for the first time.

Highlights of the display include Yvonne Rainer’s RoS Indexical (2007), a reworking of Igor Stravinsky’s renowned ballet The Rite of Spring; Mike Kelley’s Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus (2009), referencing the bizarre theatrics of high school revelry; Elmgreen and Dragset’s institutional-critique play entitled Happy Days in the Art World (2011); Ragnar Kjartansson’s twelve hour long performance Bliss (2011); and Oscar Murillo’s Lucky Dip from the most recent biennial in 2015, which critically investigates the development of international trade.

The display also raises questions concerning the preservation of ephemeral arts and how such events are archived and then experienced by audiences retrospectively.

Also on view will be commissions by

Also on view will be commissions by Edgar Arceneaux, Jérôme Bel, Sanford Biggers, Candice Breitz, iona rozeal brown, Omer Fast, David Hallberg, Christian Jankowski, Isaac Julien, Jesper Just, Wyatt Kahn, Jon Kessler, Arto Lindsay, Liz Magic Laser, Russell Maliphant, Kelly Nipper, Adam Pendleton, Raqs Media Collective, Robin Rhode, Mika Rottenberg, Francesco Vezzoli, and Tori Wrånes.

RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Curator of Performa said: “Performa Commissions have created an entirely new chapter in the history of artists’ performance — their long gestation, working with curatorial and production teams, and financial support, has resulted in work that changes how people think of performance art. Furthermore, our films and recordings are made in such a way that their inventiveness and strong visual components can be enjoyed long into the future, for those who were there but also for those seeing it for the first time. These resources allow us to study the material in great detail through repeated viewings, extending and expanding the experience of the original performance.”

Notes to Editors

Archive Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery
The Whitechapel Gallery presents a dedicated programme of exhibitions curated from archives twice a year in Gallery 4, bringing them to life as a curatorial resource through rare films, photographs, artefacts and documents. Past displays have explored diversity in European art organisations through a commission by the Guerilla Girls exhibited 2016-17, and previously in 2015-16, examined the creative output and idealistic ambitions for world peace of progressive English organisation The Kibbo Kift Kindred (1920-1932). The Gallery also plays host to guest archive displays, which have included a major survey in 2012-13 of the groundbreaking 1960’s publication Aspen Magazine (1965-1971) and Sculptors’ Papers from the Henry Moore Institute Archive in 2014-15.

Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. Since launching New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05, in 2005, the organization has solidified its identity as a commissioning and producing entity. As a “museum without walls,” Performa provides important art historical heft to the field by showing the development of live art in all its forms from many different cultural perspectives reaching back to the Renaissance. The Performa Biennial is celebrated worldwide as the first biennial to give specialized attention to this remarkable history, transforming the city of New York into the “world capital of artists’ performance” every other November. Performa attracts a national and international audience of more than 200,000 and more than five million website hits during its three-week run. In the last decade, Performa has presented nearly 600 performances, worked with more than 700 artists, and toured commissioned performances in nearly 20 countries around the world. Performa 17, New York City Biennial, will be open at venues across the city 1 – 19 November 2017.

RoseLee Goldberg
RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Curator of Performa, is an art historian, critic, and curator whose book Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present, first published in 1979, pioneered the study of performance art. Former Director of the Royal College of Art Gallery in London and Curator at The Kitchen in New York, she is also the author of Performance: Live Art Since 1960 (1998) and Laurie Anderson (2000), and is a frequent contributor to Artforum and other publications. Recent awards and grants include two awards from the International Association of Art Critics (2011), the Agnes Gund Curatorial Award from Independent Curators International (2010), Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Warhol Foundation (2008), and Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Government (2006). She was presented the Yoko Ono Courage Award for the Arts in the fall of 2016. In 2004, she founded Performa, a non-profit arts organization committed to the research, development, and presentation of performance by visual artists from around the world. She launched New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05 in 2005 and will be launching the seventh biennial, Performa 17 in November 2017. Goldberg is a professor, since 1987, at New York University and is a frequent visiting lecturer at Yale, Brown, Princeton, and Columbia University as well as other major educational and cultural institutions.

List of artists
Edgar Arceneaux, Jérôme Bel, Sanford Biggers, Candice Breitz, iona rozeal brown, Elmgreen and Dragset, Omer Fast, David Hallberg, Christian Jankowski, Isaac Julien, Jesper Just, Wyatt Kahn, Mike Kelley, Jon Kessler, Ragnar Kjartansson, Arto Lindsay, Liz Magic Laser, Russell Maliphant, Oscar Murillo, Kelly Nipper, Adam Pendleton, Yvonne Rainer, Raqs Media Collective, Robin Rhode, Mika Rottenberg, Francesco Vezzoli, Tori Wrånes.

The display has been co-curated by Nayia Yiakoumaki, Curator Archive Gallery at the Whitechapel Gallery and Candy Stobbs, Assistant Curator Archive Gallery at the Whitechapel Gallery assisted by Isabella Lenzi and Celine Roblin-Robson.

To accompany the exhibition, RoseLee Goldberg will be giving a talk Big Ideas: RoseLee Goldberg on 5 October at 7pm (£9.50/£7.50 concs).

Visitor Information

Admission: Free
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm; Thursdays, 11am – 9pm
Screenings in the Archive Gallery start at 11.10am everyday
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