Performa is a non-profit arts organization well-known for the Performa Biennial, a festival of performance art that happens every two year in various venues and institutions in New York City. It is the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. This year’s edition has four artistic Dutch components and the curatorial contributions of Defne Ayas.
Known for her text-based works and performances addressing the possibilities of language in a culture oversaturated with information, Nora Turato will present a monologue embodying a multitude of personas exploring the cumulative anxiety borne out of the phenomena of self-optimization. The performance, Cue The Sun, draws from the methodology of wellness gurus, personal development coaching and other self-improvement principles to consider what it means to create a personal ideology of betterment via language, gesture, and performance today—to dissect the effort of transforming one’s self from the inside out, performing one’s self optimal version, and the inner anxiety that is mirrored in the attempt to achieve it. Cue The Sun will be staged in the distinct architecture of the Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side of Manhattan—a humanist space dedicated to ethical relationships, social justice, and democracy. As part of her commission Performa will partner with the Metropolitan Transport Authority Art and Design’s Digital Art Program to present a series of video graphics by Nora Turato—in the form of short pieces of text taken from the performance script, that Turato describes as “signs from the universe”—to appear in the Fulton Center Complex, a commuter hub in Lower Manhattan that connects to 11 subway lines and the World Trade Center PATH station.
The 2023 Biennial Hub will be designed by Israeli/Dutch architect Assaf Kimmel to offer a classroom, meeting point, lounge for regrouping between events and for spontaneous gatherings, information on schedules, ticketing, and directions, volunteers on-site for assistance, a bookshop, and a venue for special events as part of the Performa Institute. The space is staffed and equipped to be able to take advantage of the unpredictable and exhilarating intersection of artists, audiences, international partners, and supporters.
Rana Hamadeh will present Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls? (2013-2015), a cacophonous sonic work which takes the Shiite ceremony of Ashoura, and its current political, military, and legal expressions within the Lebanese/Syrian context, as its field for commentary and research. Since 2016, Hamadeh has been developing an ‘operatic practice’, experimenting with writing and composing, and testing out models for collective thinking and study.
Pages, a duo which is comprised of Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi who established a bilingual magazine – also called Pages – in Farsi and English, will present a reading performance. All of the contributions gathered in their latest publication, whether based on actual experience, fictional, or drawn from archives, deal in one way or another with the question of the stage and produce a contested space of performance that is inevitably linked to the performer’s body.
Defne Ayas is a curator, educator, and publisher in the field of contemporary art and its institutions. Ayas directed and advised many institutions and collaborative platforms across the world, including in China, South Korea, United States, Netherlands, Russia, Lithuania and Italy. She is known for conceiving exhibition and biennale formats within diverse geographies, in each instance composing interdisciplinary frameworks that provide historical anchoring and engagement with local conditions. Until June 2021, Ayas was the Artistic Director of 2021 Gwangju Biennale, together with Natasha Ginwala. She was the director of the Witte de Witte Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2012-2017). She served on many juries including 2019 Venice Biennale International Jury, Prince Claus Awards, and The Eliasson Global Leadership Prize of the Tällberg Foundation. Ayas is currently a Board member of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Rijksakademie (Amsterdam); Tällberg Foundation; The New Centre for Research & Practice, Collectorspace (Istanbul), Sabanci Museum (Istanbul), and Protocinema.