Our activities and programming last year included a public conversation about the newly discovered Julius Eastman’s Symphony No. II. The Faithful Friend (1983), continuing to manager Yvonne Rainer’s dance company, which presented seminal early works at MoMA as a part of the extraordinary exhibition, Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done, a presentation of the Performa Orchestra of Noise Intoners at Cornell University, a tribute to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude at our annual gala, the exhibition Commissions from Performa’s Archives at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the publication of my latest book from Thames & Hudson Performance Now.
We have also been hard at work on a new website, designed by Special---Offer, that will launch in mid-January, 2019. The new site will feature “Performa Reports,” a new strand of our popular online Performa Magazine; and “Radical Broadcast,” a video channel that will stream live and archival Performa programs and special video exhibitions. Additionally, we completed a prototype website for future access to the vast Performa Archives, housed at NYU Fales Library funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Onward to 2019!
We are pleased to announce the dates of the Performa 19 Biennial, which will run from November 1-24, 2019 at venues throughout New York City. Please save the date, and stay in touch as we announce the exciting commissions and special productions for Performa 19 by emerging and established artists from around the world.
We continue to lead the field in the study and commissioning of live performance, highlighting its history and producing new live work that reflects the profound humanism at the heart of the artists with whom we work. We would be thrilled to have your continued support of Performa. Thank you for playing a pivotal role in shaping our exciting programming with a 100% tax-deductible donation.
Every gift, no matter the size, is significant support of Performa artists and the organization. As a special treat, if you become a member at any level in 2019, you will be granted exclusive access to preview the prototype of our archives website!
On behalf of the Performa Board of Directors, staff, and our family of artists, thank you for your incredible generosity!
Caption ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.
Last week, Dorit Chrysler gave an intimate performance for Performa friends and supporters in New York at the Standard, East Village. The Standard Culture caught up with her backstage.
[Photo @ The Standard, East Village.
One might wonder just how, without ever touching her instrument, the ethereal Dorit Chrysler can make such beautiful sounds. She plays an early 20th-century electric device called the theremin which, after a fit of Googling, we are still at a loss to fully explain. Something to do with electromagnetic fields and etherwaves, but more on that later.
We had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Ms. Dorit when she performed this past week at The Standard, East Village. Chrysler’s eclectic musical career includes a vocal début at the age of 7 at an Austrian opera house, a rock band at the age of 13, side-by-side billing with Marilyn Manson, musical collaborations with the likes of Neon Indians, and, most recently, a more classical turn towards the mysterious theramin. We sat down with her after sound check to learn more about this fascinating instrument.
Standard Culture: The theremin is still very under the radar. How did you discover it? Dorit Chrysler: I was introduced to the theremin at a friend’s house. Because it is still fairly obscure there are no set rules when approaching it, so I thought that it opened a lot of interesting venues. I was really just being creative and experimenting. There were really no limits to what I could try to do so it was very appealing.
How long ago was that?
Eight years ago. It takes a while to get somewhere with it.
You had been a musician for many years prior to that…
Yes! I had a rock band for many years. I was playing guitar and singing and really felt kind of limited and I also thought if I pick up the theremin, ya know, even at age 70 you can stand on the stage and maybe bend towards a more classical repertoire. But there are so many different angles that you can take. It didn’t limit me to any genre or style. I thought it was really interesting.
How did the music world react to your new act?
Well, it causes a tension. Just like it did when it was invented in the early 20s. It still has such an unusual and spectacular way of playing it. You have your hands in the air and don’t touch it. So, it causes a tension. Which can be good or bad. But some people that know it are pretty opinionated. They’ve heard it sound really dismal or make noise. So they kind of disregard it as a serious instrument. In a way I try to incorporate it as one of many aspects into my musical work, but I also feel obliged to pay tribute to the instrument and show a little bit what it can do so that people give it the respect that it deserves.
When you are playing the instrument does it have anything to do with energy kinesiology?
It’s very physical. I mean, one wonders. It’s an electromagnetic field and it’s just very physical and very internal. Like the voice. Every motion of yours, even the tiniest motion, translate into sounds. So if you’re nervous, or you have a bad day, or if you’re happy you can hear it. So in that sense it is a very spiritual instrument and it’s really almost like dancing. It’s very much about body control. All the parts of my body translate into sound for the theremin. It’s an extension.
Débussy’s Clair de Lune, transformed on the theremin.
Let’s talk about the experimental side of your music… Do you find that it’s more supported in Europe versus New York or L.A.?
That’s a really interesting question. I am always surprised that I find people working with the theremin in the most remote, odd places in the world. I find Scandinavia is very eclectic and down with the sound, but is more minimal and almost too dense for them. New York of course is a great city. They’ve seen it all. The inventor Léon Theremin was living in New York in the 20s. He was the toast of the town. So actually New York has a strong history with the theremin. I’m also the cofounder of the New York Theremin Society.
What are the messages or themes that you are trying to share with your music?
Autonomy. Autonomy! Liberty and openness. Explore fearlessly and be creative. Whatever makes people excited is fine with me.
This interview first appeared in The Standard Culture on March 21, 2013. The complete piece is available here.
Performa Magazine is a unique online magazine dedicated to contemporary performance across disciplines. A lively source for both historical and contemporary material, it features documentation, short essays, interviews, video, and audio exploring the Performa biennial and beyond.