Performa 13, New York

New York City is transformed into the performance capital of the world as the biennial Performa returns for its fifth edition from 1- 24 November. The only such event dedicated to commissioning, presenting and exploring new visual art performance, 2013 sees more than 100 separate shows presented at over 40 venues with a consortium of over 50 arts institutions and curators. Celebrating the creative vitality of the city, the biennial both encompasses and aims to break down the boundaries between visual art, music, dance, poetry, fashion, architecture, graphic design and the culinary arts.

Taking centre stage every year is the event’s internationally renowned Commissions programme which supports visual artists stepping into the performance world, many of them for the first time in their careers. Among the new commissions involved in this year’s programme are Subodh Gupta’s celebratory feast piece, Pawel Althamer’s decadent bar-based statement on the Polish Communist era, Marianne Vitale’s mythical saloon-weather station-brothel and a story-ballet about the internet from Ryan McNamara. Binding these new projects and the events of the biennial as a whole together is the theme of Surrealism and the ways in which the liberation of the psyche, poetry and an engagement with politics can manifest itself in modern and contemporary art. The voice, therefore, especially becomes sticky with significance as the biennial performers investigate the disembodied voice, sound and song and the language of persuasion, coercion, seduction and violence.

Adding another dimension to Performa 13 is the new Pavilion Without Walls programme, which interrogates the significance of art performance historically as well as digging into the nature of live performance in different countries. Modeled on the idea of the Venice Bienniale’s pavilions, which were created to forge strong partnerships between New York and countries around this world, this initiative too encourages Performa to foster deeper levels of cultural and artistic exchange globally, expanding the Performa’s ethos to develop a new course for contemporary art and culture.

Performa 13, 1-24 November, various venues in New York City.

1. Ryan McNamara, courtesy of the artist.