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Remarks: Performa 09

Roselee Goldberg, founder and director of Performa, maps out the origins, current programme, and future of the biennial of performance in New York City

Remarks: Performa 09

“For the first time we are covering all the arts—Performa 09 will be a truly multi–disciplinary biennial—this is something never done anywhere else before. Our commissions and programming includes not only visual art, but also music, dance, poetry, food, fashion, architecture, film, televisions, radio, graphic design and newspapers. And this year we present more events than ever—over 110 in three weeks. And we’ll be working with more than 80 venues across the city. Special this year too is that we’re making the 100thanniversary of the publication of the Futurist Manifesto in 1909.

This year Performa Commissions include extraordinary new works by Guy Ben–Ner, Candice Breitz, Omer Fast, Dominique Gonzalez–Foerster, Mike Kelley, Arto Lindsay, Wangechi Mutu, Christian Tomaszewski, and Yeondoo Jung. We also have two multi–artist Performa Commissions, one for music—19 composers between San Francisco and New York for 16 noise instruments—and one for film—commissions from 11 filmmakers to recreate a lost futurist film.  We also have an incredible series in our Performa Premieres programme of work by Keren Cytter, Tacita Dean, Alicia Framis, Loris Greaud, William Kentridge, and Joan Jonas. Performa Commissions are created and produced from scratch with the artists, especially for Performa and New York City; the premieres are works that are not strictly commissions since they were in progress before the invitation to participate in Performa, yet they have a special connection to the programme and are being presented for the first time.

 We have a very string educational programme too that includes exciting panel discussions and presentations at all the major city universities (NYU, Columbia, Cooper Union, Hunter) and an important historical exhibition at PSI organised with MoMA, PSI, Performa and the Julia Stoschek Foundation in Dusseldorf.

I founded Performa in 2004 because I was tired of performance art being treated as a side show, an after-thought, by museums, curators, art historians and critics, and at biennials and art fairs around the world, when it is so central to the history of 20thcentury art. After writing several books (the first in 1979), teaching at NYU and internationally, and curating various museum series on performance, I thought it was time to establish an organisation that would make this material available to a larger public, provide a context for its history, and in essence become the ‘performance art’ department of contemporary art museums. I established a biennial to bring this remarkable history to life and to write the next chapter of performance for the 21stcentury, by commissioning entirely new work.

 We are developing brand new concepts about the city of the future, growing cross-disciplinary intellectual communities and putting into practice the ideas of culture as a kind of active urbanism. We will continue with our satellite projects in Shanghai in 2006, will be initiating projects in other cities, including Moscow, and are working on some extraordinary programmes for Performa 2011 that go into early production in 2010.”

Performa 09: the third biennial of performance in NYC 1-22 November