For Immediate Release








November 1–20, 2011 in New York City

New York, NY April 15, 2011— Performa is pleased to announce the first Performa Commissions for Performa 11, the upcoming visual art performance biennial, this November 1–20, 2011, in New York City. Among the acclaimed artists who have received these prestigious awards and who will create new work for the biennial are Shirin Neshat, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ragnar Kjartansson, iona rozeal brown, and Guy Maddin. The centerpiece of Performa’s biennials is its internationally renowned Performa Commissions program. Initiated by Performa Founding Director and Curator RoseLee Goldberg in 2005 to create new performances for the twenty-first century, the Performa Commission invites artists—many of whom have not worked live before—to create exciting and engaging new work specifically for the biennial.

“Performa invites artists to take their work in entirely new directions,” Goldberg explains, “and in each case, the results have been riveting. The Performa Commissions have had a great impact on contemporary art and have also generated enormous interest in performance art around the globe.”

The Performa Commission provides unparalleled support for artists at all levels of development and production, and presents the final work in the context of a world-class biennial. Performa’s curators spend many months with each artist to help develop visionary projects that are artistically innovative and emotionally and intellectually compelling. Each Performa Commission creates an extraordinary live experience that engages the viewer and allows for a strong connection between artists and audiences.

“The Performa Commissions create a completely new idea of what it means to experience art,” states Goldberg. “They give the viewer time to absorb an artist’s ideas, and give the artist time to express richly layered content. For many artists, their Performa Commissions were their first major projects and they have subsequently gone on to build new work based on the ideas explored in Performa. I am thrilled to be working with such a talented group of artists for Performa 11 and to watch each project close up, as it develops from concept to final production.”

To date, Performa has awarded twenty-four Performa Commissions with several Commissions touring internationally following their New York premieres. Beginning with the first Performa 05 Commissions by artists Jesper Just and Francis Alÿs, Performa has gone on to present Commissions by a wide range of artists including Isaac Julien (Performa 07); Nathalie Djurberg (Performa 07); Japanther (Performa 07); Sanford Biggers (Performa 07); Kelley Nipper (Performa 07); Adam Pendleton (Performa 07); Yvonne Rainer (Performa 07); Francesco Vezzoli (Performa 07); Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Performa 09); Omer Fast (Performa 09); Mike Kelley (Performa 09); Candice Breitz (Performa 09); Arto Lindsay (Performa 09); Yeondoo Jung (Performa 09); and Wangechi Mutu (Performa 09), among others.

Along with the Performa Commissions, Performa presents a series of Performa Premieres, which in 2009 included a remarkable live work by William Kentridge, and a host of other new work that will be shown during the biennial by over 100 international artists. In early summer 2011, it will announce additional Performa Commissions and Premieres as well as programs from the Performa Consortium. With Performa 05, Performa established an entirely new collaborative model for a biennial, working with more than 40 cultural partners and over 25 curators. For Performa 11, Performa will once again collaborate with local arts and cultural organizations to bring the best programs to New York City.


To mark the tenth anniversary since RoseLee Goldberg commissioned Shirin Neshat (b. 1957, Qazvin, Iran) to create her first live work, Logic of the Birds in 2001, the artist will present Overruled (working title), a new performance for Performa 11. Neshat’s Performa Commission will present live actors and projections in a riveting courtroom scene based on an earlier film by the artist, The Last Word (2003). The production will feature performances by Mohsen Namjoo, one of the most celebrated Iranian musicians living today, and Suheir Hammad, acclaimed New York-based Palestinian poet and performer.

The artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, consisting of Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961, Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (b. 1969, Trondeim, Norway), will present a theatrical performance titled Happy Days in the Art World that draws references from Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days (1961) and Sarah Thornton’s book Seven Days in the Art World (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008). The production will take place in the tradition of Beckett’s absurdist theater with a traditional proscenium stage with sets designed by the artists. Happy Days in the Art World will feature actors as well as a cameo by the artists, and will expand on the duo’s ironic take on contemporary art and the art world’s intrigue with celebrity.

For Performa 11, Ragnar Kjartansson (b. 1976, Reykjavík, Iceland) will present a new live work titled Bliss (working title), a six-hour long performance which will repeat the delirious final aria of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. Kjartansson’s performance will replicate the lavishness of traditional opera with full orchestra, five opera singers, elaborate scenery, and period costumes. The artist himself will also sing. Bliss will continuously replay the two-minute musical, visual, and narrative pinnacle of the opera, approaching a euphoric state for performers and listeners alike.

iona rozeal brown (b. 1966, Washington, DC) will extend the aesthetics and content of her paintings in her first work of live performance, battle of yestermorrow. In homage to the “onnagata” of Japanese Kabuki theater, the story will revolve around an epic battle between a princess and the guardians of her family’s gravesite. brown's wide ranging influences include myth-based genres like Kabuki and Noh theater, as well as ‘vogueing’ made famous in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. With performances by vogueing legend Benny Ninja with Javier Ninja, and an original sound score by brown.

Filmmaker and artist Guy Maddin (b. 1956, Winnipeg, Canada) will present Tales from the Gimli Hospital: Reframed, a live re-imagining of his 1988 feature film of the same name. Tales from the Gimli Hospital tells the dreamlike story of the jealousy and madness that develops between two men sharing a hospital room in a remote Canadian village. This performance will literally reframe the film, adding new video projections on both sides of the original. A new score by composer Matthew Patton—featuring live foley sound effects by the Aono Jikken Ensemble and an all-female Icelandic ensemble (including members of Mum and Sigur Ros)—will be presented through an innovative, three-dimensional sound system specially created for the performance.


Major support for Performa 11 has been provided by Toby Devan Lewis, Lambent Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support provided by The David and Elaine Potter Foundation, The Dedalus Foundation, MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, FUSED: French U.S. Exchange in Dance, a program of the National Dance Project/New England Foundation for the Arts and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, with lead funding from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the French American Cultural Exchange, and the Florence Gould Foundation, the Danish Arts Council, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and the Performa Board of Directors, Performa Producers Circle, and the Performa Visionaries.


Performa, a non-profit multidisciplinary arts organization established by RoseLee Goldberg in 2004, is 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. In 2005, Performa launched New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05, followed by Performa 07 (2007), and Performa 09 (2009). In 2011, Performa will present its fourth biennial, Performa 11 (November 1–20, 2011). For more information, visit

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