"Almost on its own, in its first iteration in November 2005, PERFORMA willed the category of performance back into vibrant being in New York, a city that had become somewhat sleepy when it came to this kind of art." -Hal Foster
“[Performa is now] high up in the sky as one of the major contemporary art events to look forward to.” -Francesco Bonami
As we approach the 10 year anniversary of Performa, we will reflect on the incredibly history and legacy of the organization, starting with Performa 05 and Performa 07. Writing for the 2005 Performa Biennial catalog, Founder and Director RoseLee Goldberg writes, "The fact that performance is regularly a sideshow at biennials, and that its enormous influence in the history of twentieth-century art is still so little understood, let to the decision to create a biennial dedicate to the form. One hundred years of radical propositions that have infected, disrupted, and changed thoughts about the meaning of art in the minds of artists and their audiences, and that helped shape a century of modern art, had to be confronted head on."
In fact, the seeds of the biennial were planted much earlier in 2001 when Goldberg asked the artist Shirin Neshat to "envisage her performers on screen stepping down from the walls into a live performance space," out of her own desire to see the incredible work of visual artists of that period who used media in stunning and seductive ways. The result was Logic of the Birds which premiered the following year at the Lincoln Center Festival.
Shirin Neshat with Sussan Deyhim, Logic of the Birds, 2001. Performance view.
To address the changing climate of the visual art world, Goldberg had already begun organizing a series of ongoing panels in 2003 at NYU Steinhardt to address the multiple issues surrounding performance, its relationship to art institutions, to the marketplace, and to the world of ideas. The discussion further reinforced the nessesity of PERFORMA's stated mission: to expose the full impact on art history of live performance by artists over the past century.
RoseLee Goldberg, Chrissie Iles, Joan Jonas, and Robert Storr at Not For Sale - Curating, Conserving, and Collecting Ephemeral Art, 2004. Photo courtesy of Performa.
PERFORMA 05 opened with Jesper Just's opera True Love Is Yet to Come, an extraordinary half-hour work by Just who was then a young video maker from Copenhagen who had never made a live performance before, nor indeed any film longer than eight minutes.
Below are some highlights from Performa 05.
Jesper Just, True Love is Yet to Come, 2005. Performance view (Baard Owe).
Clifford Owens, Studio Visits: Studio Museum in Harlem, 2005. Performance view (with Joan Jonas).
Marina Abramović, Seven Easy Pieces, 2005. Performance view (Abramović performing Joseph Bueys's How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965), November 13, 2005.
Tamy Ben-Tor, Exotica, the Rat and the Liberal, 2005. Performance view (Ben-tor as Exotica).
Francis Alys, Rehearsal II, 2005. Performance view.
Laurie Simmons, The Music of Regret, 2005. Film still: Act Three.
Coco Fusco, A Room of One's Own, 2005. Performance view.
Christin Marclay, Screen Play, 2005. Performance view (Zeena Parkins and Min Xiao-Fen).