Performance Space New York Announces THE POSTHUMAN SERIES
Performance Space New York announces the Posthuman Series, its second themed season of performances and events, beginning Fall 2018. Following the conclusion of its East Village Series, which looked inward to contemplate the past, present and future of Performance Space New York and its immediate neighborhood, Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka now gathers artists who've taken an active approach to addressing nothing smaller than the morphing state of "humanity." Inspired by thinkers like Donna Haraway ("A Cyborg Manifesto") and Rosi Braidotti (The Posthuman), the Posthuman Series continues the legacy of Performance Space New York to defy categorization and broaden the meaning of "performance," through works that simultaneously seek to question and expand the very definition of "human."
The series includes performances from Annie Dorsen, Mette Ingvartsen, Underground Resistance, keyon gaskin and sidony o'neal, Ron Athey, and more; a group exhibition with Sondra Perry, American Artist, Caitlin Cherry, and Nora N. Khan; a special appearance by Donna Haraway; and a performative conference, The Permeable Stage - Reimagining the Social, organized by Ingvartsen, featuring Carolee Schneemann, Che Gossett, Isabel Lewis,Patricia T. Clough, and Annie Dorsen, among others. Dorsenreturns to Performance Space New York as the recipient of the 2018 Spalding Gray Award-with which she presents a large-scale new performance.
The idea of the "posthuman" works as a corrective to Humanism-which Posthuman theorists often critique as a white, male, and individualism-oriented school of thought that sets its idea of "humanity" and "human" consciousness apart from and above all else. The potential impacts of climate change on human populations demonstrate the very absurdity of considering "human" as separate from "nature." And as technology blurs the boundaries between the individual, the collective, and the artificial, the idea of a fixed "human condition" or human "self" continues to lose its logic. Are you really more in charge of your communication than the algorithms and language programs in your smartphone? Is the artificial organ that keeps you alive not a part of your body?
The Posthuman Series questions how separate we truly are from anything else on the planet. It reconsiders distinctions that compel humans with power to exploit anything-and anyone-against which they decide to distinguish themselves in order to feel more "human." The alternatives to the narrow visions of what make us human can, as the works in the Posthuman Series reveal, be beautiful, shocking, challenging, and inspiring.
Jenny Schlenzka says, "Until I read Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto as an undergrad, the idea of technology and humans merging always seemed dystopian. Haraway was the first one who said, 'yes it's alarming, but it's also our only chance to change this idea of the human that's been so oppressive for many centuries.' Instead of seeing the human separated from the world, she says everything is entangled, and nothing can exist on its own-we should picture the world as 'compost' instead. In this sense the series is a bit of a critique of theater, which can be very anthropocentric. Theater traditionally surrounds the question, 'who am I?' and we are told to go to experience our own humanity when watching a play. This series is rather programmed for freaks, for those of us who go to Broadway and feel alienated."
The Posthuman Series encompasses a diversity of perspectives and practices within the umbrella of its title. Performance Space New York looks toward Donna Haraway, whose theory provided foundational concepts for the series, with a screening of Fabrizio Terranova's 2016 documentary Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival(2016), and the book launch of Haraway's latest publication, Making Kin Not Population (October 21).
In A Wild Ass Beyond: ApocalypseRN, the group exhibition on display throughout the majority of the series (October 19-December 16), American Artist, Caitlin Cherry, Nora N. Khan, and Sondra Perry create a vision of post-doomsday life for those who American society has, throughout its existence, kept in survival mode. The group writes, "we claim a gorgeous, baroque maximalism, a future that sounds, looks, and feels like our innermost thoughts."
Danish choreographer and dancer Mette Ingvartsen continues her Red Pieces series, breaking down the public and private in the exploration of the sexuality within and beyond the body, with 21 Pornographies, co-presented as part of French Institute Alliance Française's Crossing the Line Festival (October 3-5). She'll also host another iteration of her conference, The Permeable Stage, which reimagines the social by including non-humans into the way we think about notions of living together (October 7).
On October 20, Underground Resistance-the"Detroit collective that for [three decades] has been focused on future-minded techno with urgent motivations" (The New York Times) for uplifting poor and working class black communities in Detroit-comes to Performance Space New York for music and discussion.
Portland-based performance artist keyon gaskin, whose work "critiques the racialized and gendered power structures that underpin the contemporary art system" (Art in America), teams with sidony o'neal for DEAD THOROUGHBRED, which addresses the privileged perspective of Posthumanism-that of existing within a system that grants you the status of "human" in the first place (October 26-27).
Ron Athey's quest for the transcendent and sublime through pain and body mutilation was stigmatized and brought to the heart of the culture war by the U.S. government in the 1990s (leading to his relative exile from U.S. arts venues until the mid-2000s). For the Posthuman Series, Athey presents Acephalous Monster, a new work based on Acéphale (headless), a secret society formed by Georges Bataille (November 14-17). The work continues Athey's reinvention of ritual to merge the human with the sacred-a counterpoint to the spiritual lack within contemporary individualist ideals.
Director Annie Dorsen's most prominent works have incorporated small ensemble casts in the delivery of algorithm-generated texts. Over the years, as she has continued to mine the potentials of this unconventional and automatized form of theater-making, a vision for a 30-person production-blowing up her consciousness-hybridizing ideas to massive proportions-emerged. The Spalding Gray Award (presented by the Spalding Gray National Consortium, which includes Gray's widow Kathleen Russo; Performance Space New York; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; On the Boards in Seattle, and Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio) will fund this unprecedented project from Dorsen, titled The Slow Room. The $20,000 commission accompanying the honor will help realize the performance in Performance Space New York's Posthuman Series, and within each other organization in the Spalding Gray National Consortium.
Dorsen, who joins the ranks of past Spalding Gray Award recipients including Tim Etchells, Young Jean Lee, Richard Maxwell, Rabih Mroué, National Theater of the United States of America, Radiohole, and Heather Woodbury, says, "My first experience of Spalding's work was as a 14-year-old seeing Swimming to Cambodia with my mother, when the film came out in 1987. It was an intimate, adventurous, thrilling tsunami of language, and it changed my notion of what theater could be. For my new piece, I've been reading Hannah Arendt, in particular what she writes about a culture in which language is corrupted by lies - lies told to create confusion, to distract, to distort, to destabilize, to pollute the public discourse. And her great insight (one of them) is that in such a culture not only do our public institutions suffer-but even as individuals, even within the privacy of our own minds, we bit by bit lose our capacity for self-reflection, for critical thinking, for imagination. As I try to make sense of what's happening to our country, it seems an urgent mission to keep re-invigorating our language with meaning, to keep our language alive and complex and worthy. So that our imaginations stay alive and complex and worthy as well. Spalding Gray was one of the great truth-tellers of our time, and I take this honor as a spur and a challenge.
The Slow Room
September 27- 28 | 7pm
September 29 | 2pm, 7pm
World Premiere | 100 minutes
Few artists have taken the idea of technological theater further than Annie Dorsen. Whereas most productions that address the digitization of everyday life stop at the inclusion of, say, video and computer-generated imagery, Dorsen hands the very act of creating a play over to algorithmic processes. The result of "collaborating with algorithms as full creative partners," as Dorsen puts it, is its own theatrical form that she has termed algorithmic theater. It shatters our notion that a play's value lies in how aptly it reflects our humanity back to us and reveals the dramaturgical potential at the heart of the digital code. For her new work, The Slow Room, Dorsen uses more traditional theatrical means to explore the uncertain space where the virtual meets the embodied.
Post-show talk on Friday, September 28.
Commissioned by the Spalding Gray National Consortium and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
October 3-5 | 7pm
US Premiere | 70 minutes
Sex is everywhere. Once shunned from the public sphere, the pornographic now saturates advertisements, language, and design. For almost a decade the Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen has created a body of work that explores an all-pervasive sexuality, changing how we relate to ourselves and to each other. With 21 Pornographies, the latest solo in the series, the artist performs a densely edited procession of references widely ranging from de Sade to 1970s Danish porn and sexualized torture in war. Drawing connections between sex, power, politics, and crime, Ingvartsen takes the audience on an associative tour de force that is equally stimulating, disturbing, cheerful, and sensuous.
Post-show talk on Thursday, October 4.
Co-presented with the Crossing the Line Festival.
The Permeable Stage - Reimagining the Social
October 7 | 1-9pm
With contributions from Patricia T. Clough, Annie Dorsen, Che Gossett, Mette Ingvartsen, Romuald Karmakar, Isabel Lewis, and Carolee Schneemann
In her tireless quest to reconcile thinking, dancing, and feeling, Mette Ingvartsen makes performances that stimulate the intellect and organizes conferences that appeal to the senses. For The Permeable Stage she invites artists, theorists, filmmakers, and activists to enter into an interdisciplinary dialogue about new relationships between humans, technologies, things, animals, plants, and other matters. The focus of the day is on how to reimagine the social, by including non-humans into the way we think about collective structures and how we live together on this planet. The public is invited to experience how the different contributions resonate with one another and to participate in turning the theater into a space for discussion, sensorial occasions, and imaginative exchanges.
A detailed schedule will be available at PerformanceSpaceNewYork.org closer to the conference.
American Artist, Caitlin Cherry, Nora N. Khan, and Sondra Perry
A Wild Ass Beyond: ApocalypseRN
October 19 - December 16
"Everyone contains a history of contamination; purity is not an option."
In the event of disaster, we, the people who have always been surviving, will simply continue to survive. We have learned skills you wouldn't believe, enduring under police states. We refine trauma into gold and use exile as jet propellant.
Yet we lack a vision of our lives past survival. What will we do when we head "back to the land" that was never ours? We do not see ourselves in the paranoiac manuals of preppers, in minimalist lifestyle retreats, in the nativist isolationism of militiamen.
We do not want to repeat these dreams of being the center, forever tyrants over little kingdoms. In this beyond, we will contaminate one another. We first learn from the past, building lookouts to keep our homes from burning.
We then seek an unruly communion. New languages, icons, guides, rituals, spun and fired beneath a twilight canopy of fungi. We claim a gorgeous, baroque maximalism, a future that sounds, looks, and feels like our innermost thoughts.
 Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 31.
[MUSIC AND TALK]
October 20 | 7 pm
For the last thirty years the Detroit label, Underground Resistance (UR), has been producing techno music aiming at "electrifying the inner city with hi-tech, sci-fi thoughts." Equipped with radical politics UR's collective practice aligns itself with the African American working class experience combating the so-called "programming" by mediocre mainstream music and public institutions. Simultaneously, a complex mythology invents a sonic future beyond fixed identities which cannot be racialized and stereotyped anymore. The idea of man and technology merging appears all over the UR universe - machines are being manipulated and experimented with to create the distinct extraterrestrial UR sound and explore humans' potential to make and remake themselves.
The program includes music and talks. A detailed schedule will be available at PerformanceSpaceNewYork.org closer to the event.
[FILM SCREENING AND BOOK LAUNCH]
Story Telling for Earthly Survival
October 21 | 4 pm
Organized by Fabrizio Terranova with a special appearance by Donna Haraway.
Since her groundbreaking The Cyborg Manifesto (1984) Donna Haraway has been the preeminent scholar on rethinking relations between humans and technologyas well as humans and animals. Her joyful and life-affirming multispecies feminism rejects any form of human exceptionalism and instead recognizes the entanglement and interrelatedness of all life forms. Neither giving in to apocalyptic end of the world scenarios nor the temptation of a magical technology fix, Haraway addresses the big ecological challenges of our time by mobilizing new practices of making kin across species and inventing new stories that allow us to imagine a more livable future.
The afternoon commences with a screening of Fabrizio Terranova's feature-length film, Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival (2017), an intimate portrait of Haraway as a captivating thinker and enthusiastic storyteller. It is followed by a book launch of her latest publication, Making Kin Not Population (2018), an anthology of essays calling for new practices of making kin beyond biological family structures in the face of unsustainable overpopulation.
keyon gaskin & sidony o'neal
October 26-27 |7pm
DEAD THOROUGHBRED is a collaboration that includes at least keyon gaskin and sidony o'neal. DEAD THOROUGHBRED feels ambivalent about the posthuman future. Rather than the post-human, DEAD THOROUGHBRED feels the ante-human (ante = before in Latin), i.e. the dead and other non-human living and non-living forms. DEAD THOROUGHBRED resists the centrality given to living human consciousness, but acknowledges the inherent exclusion and limitations of posthuman theory. DEAD THOROUGHBRED's presentation in the Posthuman Series embraces death and hopelessness as a critical antithesis to their interest in posthuman ideas of enhanced living, futurity, and occult possibility.
November 14-17 | 7pm
Best known for his boundary-pushing body mutilations, Ron Athey has been pursuing the transcendent and sublime for more than three decades. After the Death of God (famously proclaimed by the philosopher Nietzsche who anticipated the end of religion in Western society), Athey considers it one of the artist's roles to invent new forms of ritual and celebration, to conjure the sacred as an antidote to the empty individualism of contemporary life. For his new work, Acephalous Monster, Athey turns to the Acéphale, the figure of the headless man, which inspired George Bataille's secret society of the same name to combat nihilism and fascism before the Second World War in France. The headless or beheaded man is a powerful symbol of radical transformation, the driving force of all of Athey's performances pushing towards the merging of humans and gods.
About the Spalding Gray Award
The Spalding Gray Award is presented by the Spalding Gray National Consortium, which includes Gray's widow Kathleen Russo; Performance Space New York; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; On the Boards in Seattle, and Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio. The award supports gifted writers/performers who fully realize all aspects of Spalding's legacy, who are fearless innovators of theatrical form, who reach into daily experience and create resonant, transcendent work that makes us all bigger, wider, wiser and, somehow, more than we were when we entered the theater.
About Performance Space New York
Founded as Performance Space 122, in 1980, from an explosion of radical self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars, Performance Space New York is the birthplace of contemporary performance as it is known today. The early acts that defined the organization's unique role in New York cultural history asserted themselves as living, fleeting, and crucially affordable alternatives to mainstream art and culture of the 1980s and early 90s. Emboldened by the inclusive haven of a tight knit group of artists, performers like Penny Arcade, Ron Athey, Ethyl Eichelberger, Karen Finley, Spalding Gray, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Holly Hughes, John Kelly, John Leguizamo, Tim Miller, and Carmelita Tropicana, among many others, engaged in radical experimentation and created hybrid works that existed somewhere between dance, theater, poetry, ritual, film, technology and music.
With the renovation and reimagining of its original abandoned public-school building in the East Village completed, Performance Space New York is entering a new, bracing chapter. Under the leadership of recently appointed Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka, and with state-of-the-art, column-free, high-ceilinged performance spaces, the organization is poised to make a case for the cultural vitality and relevance of performance for the 21st century. Schlenzka brings the idea of themed series to Performance Space New York. As part of a larger multidimensional whole, individual works are juxtaposed to evoke further meaning and push audiences to engage with our contemporary world in illuminating ways.
Returning to a rapidly changing neighborhood during a time marked by divisive and oppressive politics, Performance Space New York builds on its own traditions of integration, political involvement and vehement interdisciplinarity, embodied by artists like niv Acosta, Big Dance Theater, Annie Dorsen, Elevator Repair Service, Tim Etchells, Maria Hassabi, Emily Johnson, Young Jean Lee, Taylor Mac, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Michelson, Rabih Mroué, Okwui Okpokwasili, Reggie Watts, and Adrienne Truscott.
Performance Space New York's lasting presence from the pre-gentrification East Village neighborhood fervently aims to create an open environment for artists and audiences, and thus foster community through performance and discourse-to be a countering force to the often-exclusionary nature of urban development.