About Performance Now


Curated by RoseLee Goldberg

Performance Now is a selection of works by 19 artists from a vast repository of new performance from around the world made since 2000, a period that has witnessed an exponential increase in the number of artists using live performance as one medium among many for expressing their ideas. A century after the Italian Futurists insisted on a more direct engagement with their audiences and solicited artists of every discipline—dance, film, theater, music, architecture, and design—to join their cause, performance by visual artists has become central to our understanding of the development of contemporary art ideas and sensibilities.

Each of the works in the exhibition was first a performance, which was then transformed by the artist into a ‘solid’ more permanent form, whether in video, film, installation or photography. Each is an intact and self-contained art work that reveals the particular mind-set and aesthetic language of the artist, and conveys, in greater detail and, in some cases, with more viewpoints than could possibly be observed in real life, the actual sequence of events as well as the props, costumes and underlying structure of the performance. The works indicate a rethinking of material by the artists in the process of converting the original live work to lasting form.

As becomes clear from the exhibition, repeat viewing is another benefit of the more permanent iteration of the original performance, for it is in the second, third or even fourth viewing, that the conceptual underpinnings of each project come more vividly to the surface. It is through multiple viewings that the images constructed during the live event become indelibly lodged in the brain. The framing and composition, rhythm and pacing that went into creating the work in the exhibition further enhance our understanding of the artists’ intentions, intellectual as well as aesthetic. For the artist, the process of editing—indeed viewing over and over—no doubt gives the work its fullest meaning, and what we see in the exhibition is the artist’s final sign off, the end result of an extended process of research, execution, re-evaluation, and re-making.

Performance Now is an indication of the extent to which visual artists use performance as part of their creative process, how that process produces objects, installations, video, or photography, and how these mediums have been enlivened by the demands of recording performance in innovative ways. With performance art departments now established in many major museums throughout the world, and performance recognized as one of the most significant artistic forms of the 21st century, this exhibition provides a window onto these important developments.

Performance Now is a series of ongoing exhibitions designed to introduce some of the most exciting projects of performance from 2000 to the present and to generate discussion about the history of performance art. The material is selected from a publication of the same name,

Performance Now, by RoseLee Goldberg, to be published by Thames and Hudson in 2014.

Performance Now is a traveling exhibition co-organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, and Performa, New York. The exhibition and tour are made possible, in part, by grants from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the ICI Board of Trustees; and donors to ICI’s Access Fund.

At Wesleyan, Performance Now is presented by the Center for the Arts and co-sponsored by the Department of Art and Art History and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance.