Urban Manoeuvres

Performa is considering itself as a “museum without walls”, exploring the history and future of live performance. Since its advent in 2004 by art historian RoseLee Goldberg, it has gone on to work with more than 700 artists and toured commissions across 20 countries. New York hosts the seventh edition of the Performa Biennial this November. Having succeeded in presenting the country’s first performance-based annual festival, the organisation has turned its attention towards increasing cross-disciplinary avenues. This year’s collaboration, entitled Circulations, brings together architects, artists, curators and theorists alongside its performers to consider the difficulties of urban life. Through live works and ongoing projects, the boundaries between construction and movement are broken down and alternative perceptions are offered.

The city is an integral part of the programmes as it provides the foundation on which the participants can interact. Commissioned works reveal the industry to be more than a product of the built environment. One ambitious development, for example, finally instigates The Environment-Bubble, the blue-prints for which were first proposed by François Dallegret in 1965. The Bubble, having been an enhancement of the ecological construction theories of Reyner Banham, became an infamous source of conceptual inspiration. Though these plans had never come into fruition, they proceeded generations by challenging the distinction between public and private. The envisioned large-occupancy, temporary space is now turned into an interactive site through a programme curated by American architect, François Perrin, and LA-based choreographer, Dimitri Chamblas.

Performa is committed to exposing how performance is a radical means of reassessing the use and aesthetics of architecture. There is a pervasive relationship between the work and the environment within which it is played out. By implementing an international gaze, the exhibited creations play with the conventions of traditional performance. Japanese-born dance Eiko Otake’s delicately crafted arrangements focus on a shared vulnerability. Her slow inflections gesture towards the economy of time that is greater than the individual. By using her own figure as her medium, the exhibitionist manoeuvres through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, interrogating the facets of the space as she goes.

The selected pieces investigate the relationship between movement and stagnation, history and modernity, and spatial freedom and objective boundaries. By offering an imaginative engagement with the agendas of both performance and architecture the event continues to establish a critical benchmark for its featured artists.

Performa 17 biennial runs 1-19 November, in various venues throughout New York. For more information: www.performa-arts.org

1. Alex Schweder & Ward Shelley, ReActor, OMI International Arts Center, 2016, Photo by Richard Barne.