Performance

  • Il Tempo del Postino

    For a joint commission between the Manchester International Festival and the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist and artist Philippe Parreno orchestrated a series of performances by artists, which premiered last July at the Opera House in Manchester, UK. Artforum asked two of its regular contributors to give their impressions of the works presented onstage.

    MARTIN HERBERT

    FOR “IL TEMPO DEL POSTINO (The Time of the Postman), which took place on three evenings this past July in Manchester, curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno offered contemporary artists not previously

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  • Freelance Stenographer

    SINCE THE START of its media restoration project, The Kitchen has evolved from an artists’ collective and nonprofit performance space into a vast archive of some five thousand videotapes, five hundred audiotapes, and more recent material captured on digital video. As a home for various distribution mechanisms and artistic practices, The Kitchen seemed a perfect site for the dispersion strategies of Seth Price and Kelley Walker, in Freelance Stenographer, 2007, their first collaborative project. After all, here was not just a particular set of artworks to reproduce and redistribute but a mechanism—in

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  • Wieder und Wider

    IF YOU VISITED Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (MUMOK) in the middle of the second week of the exhibition “Wieder und Wider: Performance Appropriated” this past winter, you would have encountered seven slide projectors arranged in a row, of which three were running through a continuous cycle of images, and four were not yet operational. The projections were part of Sharon Hayes’s In the Near Future—Vienna, 2006, for which Hayes was staging seven “actions” at various locations in the Austrian capital over the course of a week, holding signs for causes specific to the city’s history

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  • Liza With a “Z”

    YES IS LIZA’S first word in Liza With a “Z”: A Concert for Television. In her dressing room during the brief opening credits, she laughs, and, after her indelible silhouette punctuates ruby backlighting—“Ladies and gentlemen, Liza Minnelli”—she whirls into motion, cruises downstage, tosses her white fedora to the wings, stows her snow-fur boa with some lucky dresser in the pit, and giggles into the mic. But her first word is yes.

    It becomes an admonition to anyone who’s listening to “say yes”: Yes to the world of “brilliance, bisexuality, and betrayal” she was born into—yes to Hollywood; yes to

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  • Marina Abramovic

    SITTING SQUARELY BETWEEN Jack Nicholson’s five and Bartók’s ten, Marina Abramovic’s Seven Easy Pieces occasioned a week of nightly pilgrimages to New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum last November. There she presented a different performance each evening, beginning at 5 PM and culminating at midnight. Yet the performances, save for the final two, weren’t actually her own—at least, not in the conventional sense. Rather, the artist had chosen five works from the 1960s and ’70s that she deemed pivotal (and for which she pointedly obtained permissions and agreed to pay copyright fees). These

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  • T:BA:05

    FOR TEN DAYS every September since 2003, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) turns Oregon’s largest city into a temporary international performance hub, casting local artists alongside better-known global acts in a drama that normally plays out at a round-robin of bigger festivals around the world: Buenos Aires, Melbourne, New York, and beyond. Disused industrial sheds become a nightclub and cafeteria; a crude theater-in-the-round is hewn from a now-defunct press; conventional theaters participate too, hosting shows night after night; tram lines fill with

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  • the Festival d’Avignon

    IT WAS ONLY DURING the brief rendition of a 1977 performance piece by Marina Abramović, in which five couples sat and slapped each other’s faces faster and harder over several minutes, that I began to understand the state of contemporary theater.

    I was in Avignon for the annual theater festival, which has been held there each summer since 1947 and remains ground zero for the European theater world. The identity crisis under which theater strains, or so its critics say, was in ample evidence. Audiences booed, cursed, and awarded rapturous ovations for the twenty-three works presented, with opinions

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  • Matt Saunders on Jonathan Meese’s Mother Parsifal

    AT THE END of John Boorman’s 1974 cult film Zardoz, Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling sit in a cave and age quickly through the rest of their lives while Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony booms. The cuts move with the music, so each new phrase of orchestral high Kultur seems to bury them deeper under campy pancake and latex. As pretentious tableau, it pits lifetime against geological time, and as eccentric comedy, it transforms the two sex symbols into Pirate’s Cove theme-park skeletons. From Jonathan Meese, I expected something of the same.

    Jonathan Meese Is Mother Parsifal set the young artist

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  • Tracy + the Plastics

    IT WAS UNCLEAR just when the show officially started. Nikki was the first band member to arrive. While the audience got settled, she was busy alternately drinking from a teacup and attempting the apparently vexing art of getting both arms into her jacket. Eventually Tracy and Cola showed up, visibly peeved and wanting to know why Nikki had missed band practice earlier in the day. She’d been practicing, Nikki replied a little haughtily: busy “practicing drinking tea like a lesbian,” “practicing putting on my coat like a lesbian,” “practicing standing next to a stranger like a lesbian.” The list

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  • Christoph Schlingensief

    “TO LET ONESELF BE EATEN is one method. The other is to rot away and thereby give birth to new worms. For the moment I tend toward the first method,” an exalted Christoph Schlingensief, German theater’s most eminent provocateur, told me last July, just a few weeks before the premiere of his production of Parsifal. I was inclined to agree. From a metaphysical point of view he had the biggest job in the business: The opera festival that opens every summer in the small Bavarian town of Bayreuth was originally financed in 1876 by oddball King Ludwig II and given the philosophical blessing of none

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  • Jonathan Gilmore on William Kentridge’s Ritorno d’Ulisse

    ALTHOUGH IT STANDS as a paradigm of a Gesamtkunstwerk, opera has largely relegated the visual arts to only a subsidiary role: as costume, scene, and setting, both literal and figurative background to the expressive voice. In William Kentridge’s multimedia production of Monteverdi’s 1640 masterwork Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (which premiered in New York in March), this hierarchy is undone. For here, as in several other theater productions he has directed (Ubu and the Truth Commission, 1997; Woyzeck on the Highveld, 1992; Faustus in Africa!, 1995; Zeno at 4 a.m., 2001), Kentridge does not so much clothe

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  • Bob Nickas on Leigh Bowery

    “IT WAS A BIT LIKE GOING to the zoo and watching Guy the Gorilla in drag.” That’s how Cerith Wyn Evans recalls Leigh Bowery’s weeklong London performance at Anthony d’Offay Gallery in 1988. Bowery, each day in a different costume of his own design, appeared behind a one-way mirror, with an Empire divan on which to perch, pose, or recline. Visitors saw him, but he saw only himself, performed for his own reflection. Footage of the event figures prominently in The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002), Charles Atlas’s recently unveiled documentary, and the spooky, otherworldly spell that Bowery casts is

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