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Performance Space New York Announces 'Octopus,' A Series Of Guest-Curated Performances


After having recently announced a reading series organized by Sarah Schulman and an Associate Artist program, Performance Space New York continues to explore new ways of shaping its organizational structure around the creative desires of artists with Octopus, a new artist-curated series of performances (December 2018-June 2019). Occurring simultaneously but independent from the Spring season's the No Series (January-May 2019) and Schulman's First Mondays: Reading of New Works in Progress (now-May 2019), Octopus gives select artists the autonomy to bring together performers on their radar, working in any number of disciplines, for evening-length programs.

Performance Space New York Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka says, "The idea is that I, as the artistic director, should not be the only person with a say in who participates within our space. With Octopus, we invite different artists and curators to operate like independent arms, reaching out to artists and performers and engaging ideas Performance Space might not be aware of."

The only criteria for Octopus are that each curator gets to organize one evening of several performances by different artists-which can also include music or film or completely interdisciplinary works. Octopus expands Performance Space New York's opportunities for emerging artists and continues the institution's experimental legacy, creating space for the exploration of ideas free of expectations of perfection.

Octopus begins with Inverted Jester (December 8), an evening organized by Performance Space New York Associate Artist Gillian Walsh, whom Schlenzka has described as "one of the most interesting young dance makers," and whose own work often bends perceptions of time as it critiques dance tradition and expectations for dancing bodies. Walsh brings together Sophia Cleary (an interdisciplinary artist working with jokes, video, dance, music, and more), dancer/performer Davon Rainey, artist/comedian Lorelei Ramirez, and Cherry Iocovozzi and Silver Cousler.

The Ethyl Eichelberger Committee-a group established in 2005 by Performance Space 122 and devoted to the legacy of legendary drag performer, experimental theater artist, and maker-of-Performance-Space-122-history Ethyl Eichelberger-curates the second Octopus event, A Very Ethyl Eichelberger Evening (February 23). The evening includes performances by Velvet Crayon, the "one manned, koala-based; performance, art, & music making persona of Erik Paluszak"; experimental drag performer Chris Harris / Chris of Hur; Kemar Jewel, who since 2010 has risen from an emerging figure in Philadelphia's LGBT community, to a viral video sensation with "Voguing Train," to a director/choreographer/QPOC advocate working internationally; and Morgan Weidinger, a musician who disrupts the customary of what we do with a violin, guitar, and human voice.

On March 23, multidisciplinary artist Richard Kennedy, "a mainstay of New York's queer nightlife scene, filling his work with both theatrical virtuosity and principles of non-hierarchical social organizing" (ARTnews) presents the next Octopus evening, Seent. For the event, Kennedy has considered "Octopus' multiple brains and how this hyper intelligence is parallel to queer existence... While people who color in the lines can follow without thought, queers must use all information available to navigate and thrive in a world that rejects them." The evening of performance features four of Kennedy's favorite NYC-based artists, including actor/performer Xander Gaines; Pauli Cakes, a multidisciplinary artist "whose performance art often explores sexuality in surrealistic overstatements of femme hyperbole and unabashed gaudiness" (Paper); multimedia installation and performance artist Keijuan Thomas; and Lu Yim, an interdisciplinary artist working collaboratively in dance, performance, and video, and a co-founder of the Physical Education (PE) collective.

"...At dawn, sit at the Feet of Action. At noon, be at the Hand of Might. At eventide, be so big, that sky will learn Sky." (Alice Coltrane). Concluding Octopus 2018-2019 on June 1 is Mami Wata, an evening of films and performances celebrating experimental directors, organized by acclaimed stage director Charlotte Brathwaite, whichinvites audiences to enter into the universe of the poetic, the celestial, the divine and the ethereal through consciousness rising film and music. The event will feature work by Brathwaite and fellow director Cauleen Smith, composer/performer Justin Hicks, singer Jadele McPherson, visual artist Abigail DeVille, performers Okwui Okpokwasili, Paul Pryce and others. A full list of involved performers will soon be announced at

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