Photo by Paula Court
Photo by Paula Court
November 13th, 2011 · Performa 11 Staff

Laurel Nakadate on Riding a Unicycle and her Collaboration with James Franco

James Franco and Laurel Nakadate

Laurel Nakadate is a photographer, video artist and filmmaker. Her work has been exhibited at PS1 MoMA, New York; Yerba Buena, San Francisco; The Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Reina Sofia, Madrid, and is in many public and private collections including the Yale University Art Gallery, the Saatchi Collection and the Museum of Modern Art. For Performa 11, Laurel Nakadate and James Franco will create a three-part project based on Tennessee Williams’s famous play The Glass Menagerie (1944). We caught up with Nakadate to find out what to expect from this first- time collaboration.

Performa Magazine: Where do you live?  

Laurel Nakadate: New York City.

What is your occupation? 


Lucky Tiger #181, 2009. Ink on chromogenic color print.

What’s the most memorable performance you've ever seen?  

Rickie Lee Jones. 

If you could change one thing about your country right now, what would it be? 

There would be more sharing.

Where do you draw your biggest inspiration? 

From gravity. It's hilarious and it always wins. 

What was the first performance you staged? 

A performance art garage sale outside my childhood home in Iowa. 

What is your responsibility as an artist? 

To raise questions and attempt to answer them. 


What is your first love? 

Running.  More specifically, the 200 meter dash and the 5k.  

What were you trained as? 

As a child, I took clown lessons and studied ballet. As an adult, I trained to be a photographer. 

What is your starting point? 

Imagining how it might go. 

What is your greatest extravagance? 

The sleeper car on Amtrak. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Making new work. 

What is your favorite place for solitude? 

That is a secret. 

What is ambition?  

An endless pull toward the orbit of a planet called Investigation. 

Name one of your favorite historical artists and why.

Henry Darger, because he didn't look up.  

What hidden details should we know about you? 

I can ride a unicycle. 

How would you define artistic genius? Or artistic intelligence? 

A fine line between this world and the next. 

What's the best piece of writing you have encountered about your work and how has it expanded your perception of your own creations? 

I will always be grateful for the words that Jerry Saltz has written about my work. He first saw my work when I was 19 or so and I will never forget the seriousness with which he took me, and the time he devoted to looking. 

What can we expect from your Performa 11 performance? 

James Franco and I will be there; everything else is up for grabs. 

End of article