RoseLee Goldberg

  • Jérôme Bel

    “No to spectacle no to virtuosity . . . no to seduction of spectator”—Jérôme Bel takes as a given the commandments of radical dance in America laid down by Yvonne Rainer in her notes for the 1965 Parts of Some Sextets. He is part of a tide of French choreography built on such refutation and which has been assessing and reassessing the meaning of these dictates over the past decade—a period that has seen spectacle, virtuosity, and seduction reinforced as aesthetic norms.

    At the Dance Theater Workshop, Bel responded in the only way he could to such superficial gloss; he had us sit in the dark for

  • Robin Rhode

    Robin Rhode, a young South African artist who seemed to be everywhere in New York last month, has such a light touch that fears of overexposure may be safely set aside. His performances, which have the makebelieve quality of mime, are so quickly executed as to be over almost before they begin, leaving only mental afterimages of fleeting gestures. A few chalk and charcoal drawings made on the run extend the life of these now-you-see-’em-now-you-don’t actions. Yet sensations linger. When he drew a life-size image of a car on a large, white cardboard box in the center of the main gallery at the

  • Catherine Sullivan

    Catherine Sullivan is in the process of creating an exciting body of work that dissects the meaning of the word “to perform.” Operating separately in both video and live performance, she creates paired installations and theater works that share source material and performers but emphasize the nature of different acting styles within each respective medium in fascinating new ways. That she achieves such a high level of sophistication in both mediums makes her work all the more consequential.

    As a former actor herself, Sullivan is as versed in the methods of directors Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Kazan,

  • RoseLee Goldberg on historicizing performance

    IMAGINE STARTING OUT as a painter and having no recourse to twentieth-century paintings: no Matisse, no Pollock, no Guston. Now, imagine starting out as an artist who thinks of sound, space, movement, and the body as raw material and who lacks access to the works of Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, or Joan Jonas. It’s unimaginable for the artist who works in paint but standard for the artist who works in performance.

    But is this necessarily so? Is this disconnect from history an inevitable component of performance, because the practice is by nature ephemeral? Or is something else at issue—lack of access

  • Tim Etchells

    While not exactly a school or a genre per se, the lecture-performance has a history all its own that is just beginning to be examined for its own merits. Recent practitioners in the art context range from Andrea Fraser to Walid Raad; earlier iterations include Robert Morris’s 21.3.1964, in which the artist lip-synched to a projection of Erwin Panofsky delivering his lectures on Studies in Iconology; Bernar Venet’s invitations (1967–71) to experts to present lectures in a range of subjects to accompany his own painted scientific diagrams; and Joseph Beuys’s famously engaging lecture-actions.

  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

    In the old days, when Alan Suicide played CBGB’s and Nan Goldin showed slides at the Mudd Club and Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane performed at the Kitchen on Broome Street, the downtown dance scene and the art world/music scene were part of the same geography. Visual artists, performers, choreographers, and musicians made up one another’s audiences; each group saw in the others’ work reflections of its own conceptual strategies and found inspiration in the way high art, low culture, and punk music were a part of everyone’s special blend. By the mid-’80s, however, doors slammed shut on

  • Sarah Michelson

    Choreographer Sarah Michelson transforms performance spaces in the most extraordinary ways. For Part I of Shadowmann at the Kitchen, she spun the large black-box theater around so that the traditional arrangement of audience and performance was reversed. Bleachers were set up onstage, and the tall entrance doors provided the back wall. At the beginning of the performance, lights went up instead of down, the doors to the Kitchen swung open instead of shut, and all the way, across the street, two spotlit dancers in bright yellow tunics walked in unison down three steps of the building opposite

  • Marina Abramović

    Marina Abramović’s The House with the Ocean View, 2002, may well be one of the most important live artworks of the decade, but not for obvious reasons. Not only because the artist produced an elegant work that continues themes from a thirty-year career that has included performances of extreme endurance. Nor because she connected with her audience at a time when intimacy between artist and viewer is rare in immaculate Chelsea galleries. But because House is a work of pure theater. Without a single word, and with a minimum of means, Abramović created a deeply existential drama on the nature of

  • Wooster Group

    With the ferocity of kung fu fighters, Theramenes (Scott Shepherd) and Hippolytus (Ari Fliakos) faced off from opposite ends of the low platform that was the stage of To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre), the Wooster Group’s brilliant adaptation of Racine’s seventeenth-century drama of obsessive infatuation, rewritten for the troupe by Paul Schmidt in 1993. But rather than throw kicks at each other’s heads, the men began to play: The shape of their athletic and elegant performance was determined by the powerful thrust it took for each to whip a “birdie” (as in badminton) at lightning speed through the

  • Zhang Huan

    While Zhang Huan was an art student in Beijing in the early ’90s, his art history professor taught him about “Rubens’s red,” “the most powerful red in the history of art.” Later, when Zhang himself was teaching, he passed along his teacher's formulation, adding that Rubens’s red is, in fact, multilayered. By contrast, he explained, “Chinese red is flat.” Zhang’s sensitivity to the nuances of painting may be surprising, given that he is known for performances that he documents in photographs. But the story indicates his acute awareness of the different approaches to representation in the history

  • Christian Marclay

    If one could make a diagram of the way Christian Marclay thinks, it might look something like the family tree of the royals, with crossing arrows linking cousins and in-laws: Fluxus here, Brancusi there, Duchamp, punk, John Cage, noise music, hip-hop, Vito Acconci, Structuralist film, and much, much more. Marclay is constantly sampling from all over the place to create a seamless and original combination of material that conjures up art, film, and music history, both distant and recent, as well as current events. Add a reliance on visual stimuli and an irrepressible sense of rhythm and you get

  • Merce Cunningham

    It should come as no surprise that Merce Cunningham’s drawings demonstrate an extraordinary talent for catching the tiniest ripple of a muscle, or that his hand so deftly manipulates the shapes of moving objects on a plain white surface. Yet his collection of pencil and pen drawings, more than twenty of which were exhibited here alongside his better-known dance notations, does manage to surprise. Confident with his tools, Cunningham builds full-blown three-dimensional forms as fully with colored-pencil cross-hatching as with a single continuous he in ballpoint pen. When he colors white paper

  • Meg Stuart

    In her latest solo performance, choreographer Meg Stuart gives new meaning to the phrase “body language.” Not the leg-crossing, tie-straightening, behavioral kind that we might find in Pina Bausch’s dramatically staged battles of the sexes in the ’80s, nor even the speeded-up eloquence of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s brutally beautiful body phrasing of ’90s Gen Xers in Europe. Rather, Stuart’s Soft Wear [first draft], 2000, only fourteen minutes long, is body language for the Internet crowd, for those who prefer morphing to metaphor, multitasking to single-channel vision, and flickering pictures

  • Meredith Monk

    Meredith Monk’s performances have always been richly metaphorical collages of live and projected imagery, moving bodies, and powerful voices. Magic Frequencies, 1999, is a far more painterly work of visual theater. With its layers of transparent and opaque scrims between which the performers gracefully move, this latest production shows Monk in newly elegant form.

    Her fresh approach is the product of two years spent on entirely different projects in previously uncharted territories. As part of “Art Performs Life,” a 1998 show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Monk presented her three-decade-long

  • Jan Lauwers and Needcompany

    Morning Song, a 100-minute work directed by Jan Lauwers for his multilingual troupe Needcompany, is a pristine theatrical depiction of the present tense. His aesthetic of “now,” however, does not contain a single reference to virtual reality, nor is there any use of high-tech media; rather, Lauwers’s inherent intelligence is about the nature of the stage itself, which he uses to construct a layered space where everyday late-’90s conversation (sex, food, and politics predominate), music, and movement all circulate and bombard one another like currents of air. But this piece is not abstractly

  • Sapphire

    Occasionally a collaboration turns out so well that one can only marvel at the sum of its parts. Curator Carl Hancock Rux’s invitation to stage director Jaye Austin Williams to realize an evening celebrating the poet Sapphire’s most recent collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), was an act of prescient imagination, given that Austin Williams, in turn, appointed musician-composer Kwame Brandt Pierce, lighting designer Chris Weston, and stage manager Passion. Together they created a poetry reading of startling elegance—not words one usually associates with the form.


  • Merce Cunningham

    Merce Cunningham’s extraordinary career is virtually inseparable from innovation in American dance, music, and art over the past half century. Among the first to use “chance procedures” as the basis for choreography, he freed dance movement from slavish adherence to the score. This show (which evolved out of Aperture’s Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years [1997]) was organized by Germano Celant, who has been remarkably resourceful in tackling the inevitable difficulties of exhibiting ephemeral art. Choreographic notation, musical scores, costumes, stage sets, and a full video archive of Cunningham

  • Robert Wilson

    Loosely based on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Robert Wilson and Lou Reed’s romantic Time Rocker tells the story of the wayward Dr. Procopious, who takes off on a journey from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century and back again pursued by the young lovers Nick and Priscilla. Constructed of thirty pristine scenes with original music, it is a remarkable demonstration of the power of sound to imprint pictures in the mind, and for pictures to be truly heard. Indeed, the aftereffects of this production may well be its true measure; an instant classic by Reed, “Turning Time Around,” keeps the

  • Merce Cunningham

    Performance pioneer Oskar Schlemmer had a theory about what he called the stereometry of space, or “felt volume.” Using the concept to describe what it was like for a dancer to move through space, he held that the very slightest movements cause a chain reaction of shifting particles (or performers) throughout a given volume; an understanding of stereometry on the part of dancers should result in more strongly defined body shapes and visual pictures. Schlemmer’s trope might explain how Merce Cunningham’s dancers manage to animate the entire space of the stage. With his breathtaking Scenario,

  • Claude Wampler

    One of the more interesting performances this season was Claude Wampler’s Blanket, The Surface of Her, not only because this thirty-one-year-old artist comes to the stage with training in numerous performance techniques—ballet, Butoh, opera, acting—but also because she knows obsessively well the work of her peers in contemporary art. The result was a polished, ninety-minute work that is truly of the moment in the way it captures the aesthetic mood of the present, particularly its high-fashion photographic quality and its languorous sexuality.

    The concept behind Blanket began with a device that