RoseLee Goldberg — Curating

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RoseLee Goldberg

RoseLee Goldberg, an art historian, author, critic, and curator, is the founding director of Performa, a multidisciplinary organization for the development and presentation of visual art performance.

Curating: now that many museums around the world, whether classical or contemporary—from the Musée du Louvre in Paris to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Tate Modern in London—have established or are in the process of establishing departments of performance art; are hiring curators to lead those departments; are organizing exhibitions, events, and colloquiums around performance material; and are arranging archives to conserve and protect it for the future, it is clear that there is a need for a new kind of curator to fill these positions. For curating performance demands a level of knowledge and expertise across numerous disciplines that is entirely new to the traditional role of curator, and people with those skills are still few and far between. Since the history of performance art is rarely taught as integral to the history of twentieth-century art, a new generation of curators has yet to be educated. We need to build the extensive reference bank of material necessary for curating, producing, and critiquing both contemporary and historical performance by visual artists.

Indeed, the multitiered background required for the analysis of such work includes a broad knowledge of the history of the avant-garde in theater, dance, film, music, architecture, and design as well as a profound knowledge of the history of art itself. Curating an exhibition on Russian Constructivism, for example, necessitates a knowledge of Russian theater, dance, film, architecture, and politics of the years prior to and after the revolution of 1917, in order to trace the roles that each of these histories played in shaping the comprehensive material that falls under “Russian Constructivism.” Similarly, contemporary exhibitions on the Bauhaus, which typically focus on design and architecture, underrepresent its cross-disciplinary nature. It was also notably the first art and architecture school to have a performance space—directed initially by Lothar Schreyer and then by Oskar Schlemmer, himself a dancer, painter, and sculptor—and to offer theater arts in its course prospectus. Curating exhibitions on twentieth- and twenty-first-century art from now on will require the participation of specialized curators from the new performance art departments to fully realize the scope of ideas, influences, and innovative practices within any particular time frame.

The new curators in performance departments will thus be prepared to incorporate new music, dance, and theater into exhibition programs that are increasingly multidisciplinary. Producing this work in a museum context, however, calls for additional skills over and above the ones associated with the trained curator of visual art; producers need skills honed while working in the performing arts rather than in art museums. The curator-producer must prepare budgets, tech riders, and rehearsal schedules and facilitate sound systems, lighting boards, and greenrooms. The curator involved in producing live performance by visual artists must understand and anticipate the needs of artists working live, which are quite different from those of artists who produce static objects. The traditional curator frames, hangs, and labels work with an eye to visual composition within an exhibition space or a series of linked spaces, articulating the unfolding story of an artist’s work. Meanwhile the curator working with visual artists making live performance must also have an appreciation of time and timing; understand how a work will arc from one moment to the next; know where to position audiences, whether seated or standing, in rows or circles, for optimum experiential effect; and, no less, choose the optimum exit at the conclusion of a work in such a way that the atmosphere and conceptual underpinning of a performance remain with the viewer long after it is over.

Just as a visual art curator will spend long months getting to know an artist and his or her preferences and viewpoints and will incorporate such information into decisions that determine the shape of an exhibition, so too the intricacies of the personal temperament and intentions of the artist working live need to be intimately understood by the curator-producer. An aspect of the dramaturge—an informed adviser with knowledge of the field, who provides overview and context, historical references, criticism, or other commentary—may well fall into the realm of the curator-producer if the artist requires such support. This is often the case with commissions, which involve the curator-producer working in tandem with the artist over an extended period of time, from conception to opening night. Even so, art historical knowledge is essential to the new curator-producer of twenty-first-century performance and media departments.

The curator-producer provides both guidance and interpretation in bringing the artist’s work to the public, along with technical and practical skills to realize the artist’s ideas to the fullest. As both art historian and producer, the curator-producer explains the relevance of the live work within the trajectory of art history as well as its positioning in the oeuvre of the artist, which are important ongoing considerations for artists who look to the ideal curator as both mediator and champion of their work. With such a complex overview of contemporary culture and history, the curator of the future will indeed be a fascinating hybrid: an art historian, producer, tech-savvy intellectual, and innovative thinker who can work closely with artists in a number of different mediums, who can situate the work in a historical continuum, and who can draw on visual intelligence and practical training to create accessible and insightful platforms for audiences across the globe.


For Further Reference

“Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979,” curated by Paul Schimmel, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998.

“A Little Bit of History Repeated,” curated by Jens Hoffmann, Kunst-Werke, Berlin, 2001.

“A Short History of Performance,” Part 1, curated by Iwona Blazwick, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2002.

Marina Abramović, “Seven Easy Pieces,” curated by Nancy Spector, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2005. Presented as part of the first Performa biennial, Performa 05.

The Performa Biennial, New York, established in 2005, and presented every other year since 2005. Founding director: RoseLee Goldberg.

“Il Tempo del Postino,” curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno, first presented at the Manchester Opera House, 2007, commissioned by the Manchester International Festival.

“The World as a Stage,” curated by Catherine Wood and Jessica Morgan, Tate Modern, London, 2007–8.

“100 Years,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg and Klaus Biesenbach with Jenny Schlenzka, 2009. Venues: Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf; MoMA / PS1, New York; and The Garage Center, Moscow.

“Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present,” organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010.

“Move: Choreographing You,” curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Hayward Gallery, London, 2010–11.

“Performance Now,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg, 2012. Venues: Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City Art Institute, MO; Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, Moscow; Middlebury College Museum of Art, VT; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE; Kraków Theatrical Reminiscences, Poland; QUT Art Museum, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

“Le Mouvement: Performing the City,” curated by Gianni Jetzer and Chris Sharp, 2014, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.

See Also

Collecting — RoseLee Goldberg

Installation — Judy Hussie-Taylor

Composition — Lucinda Childs

“Performance Now,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg. Installation view, Kraków Theatrical Reminiscences, Poland, 2014. Photo: Michal Ramus. Courtesy of Independent Curators International (ICI).

Ragnar Kjartansson, Bliss, 2011. Twelve-hour performance, Abrons Art Center, New York, during Performa 11. Performers: Ragnar Kjartansson, 9 singers, and a 14-piece orchestra. Conductor: David Thor Jonsson. © Ragnar Kjartansson. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik. Photo © Paula Court.

Boris Charmatz teaching Flip Book to members of the public (including Yvonne Rainer, center) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2013, re-creating images from David Vaughan’s 1997 book Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years. Part of “Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures.” Photo: Murph Henderson.

Paul Chan, Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, 2007. Photo: Frank Aymami. Courtesy of Creative Time.

Andrea Fraser, Projection, 2008. Still from a 2-channel HD video projection installation. © Andrea Fraser. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler.

David Levine, Bystanders, 2015. Installation view, Gallery TPW, Toronto. Performer: William Ellis. Photo: Guntar Kravis.

VALIE EXPORT, TAPP und TASTKINO (Tap and touch cinema), 1968. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bildrecht, Vienna. Photo © Werner Schulz.

My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade), Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater, 2010. Courtesy of Alexandro Segade.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Miguel Gutierrez and Tarek Halaby in Gutierrez's Last Meadow, 2009. Dance Theater Workshop, New York, September 2009. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Mac Wellman, Muazzez, 2014. Performer: Steve Mellor. Chocolate Factory Theater, Queens, New York (a co-presentation with PS 122). Photo: Brian Rogers.

Janine Antoni, Yours Truly, 2010. Ink on paper, 5 7/8 x 8 1/2”. © Janine Antoni. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Yvonne Rainer, score for “Trio B: Running,” from The Mind Is a Muscle, 1966–68. Graphite and ink on paper, 8 5/16 x 7 5/16". The Getty Research Institute. © Yvonne Rainer.

Susan Leigh Foster, The Ballerina’s Phallic Pointe, 2011, a performed lecture in the series Susan Foster! Susan Foster! Three Performed Lectures, produced by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and performed at the Philadelphia Live Arts Studio, 2011. Photo: Jorge Cousineau.

Opening performance of the exhibition “Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2008. Brown improvises movements across a large piece of paper on the Medtronic Gallery floor, holding charcoal and pastel between her fingers and toes, drawing extemporarily. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Allora & Calzadilla, Sediments Sentiments (Figures of Speech), 2007. Mixed-media installation with live performance and pre-recorded sound track, dimensions variable. © Allora & Calzadilla. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Martha Rosler, Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Lucinda Childs, Pastime (1963), 2012, performed by Childs at Danspace as part of Platform 2012: "Judson Now." Photo © Ian Douglas.

Siobhan Davies and Helka Kaski, Manual, 2013. Photo © Alan Dimmick. Courtesy of Glasgow Life.

“Performance Now,” curated by RoseLee Goldberg. Installation view, Kraków Theatrical Reminiscences, Poland, 2014. Photo: Michal Ramus. Courtesy of Independent Curators International (ICI).

Steve Paxton, Intravenous Lecture (1970), 2012. Performed by Stephen Petronio with Nicholas Sciscione. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Dance Works I: Merce Cunningham—Robert Raschenberg,” curated by Darsie Alexander at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011. Photo: Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Chief Dalcour and the Serenity Peace Birds in “Public Practice: An Anti-Violence Community Ceremony,” curated by Delaney Martin and Claire Tancons for New Orleans Airlift, October 25, 2014. Photo: Josh Brasted.

Ain Gordon and David Gordon, The Family Business, premiered 1993. Performers: David Gordon, Ain Gordon, Valda Setterfield. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

Hotel Modern, Kamp, 2005. Photo: Herman Helle.

Janine Antoni, Anna Halprin, and Stephen Petronio, Rope Dance, 2015. Photo © Hugo Glendinning. Courtesy of the artists and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia.

Sarah Michelson, Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, 2012 Whitney Biennial, February 26, 2012. Photo © Paula Court. Performers: Eleanor Hullihan and Nicole Mannarino.

Ralph Lemon, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, 2009. Archival print from original film. © Ralph Lemon.

Pope.L, The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street (Whitney version), 2001. © Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Photo: Lydia Grey.

Iannis Xenakis, Terretektorh, Distribution of Musicians, 1965. Collection famille Xenakis. Courtesy of the Iannis Xenakis Archives. © Iannis Xenakis.

Lisa Bielawa, Chance Encounter, premiered 2007. Co-conceived with Susan Narucki. Photo: Corey Brennan, 2010, Rome.

Claudia La Rocco, 173-177 [or, Facebook Is Inescapable], 2013. Headlands Center for the Arts. Courtesy of José Carlos Teixeira.

Pina Bausch and the Tanztheater Wuppertal, Palermo, Palermo, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1991. Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.

Tomás Saraceno, Observatory, Air-Port-City, 2008. In “Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture,” curated by Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Gallery, London. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Christian Marclay, Chalkboard, 2010, paint and chalk, 210 x 1,045 inches. Installation view, “Christian Marclay: Festival,” 2010, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Collection of the artist; courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Christian Marclay.

Steven Schick at the “Peacock” in the Paul Dresher Ensemble Production of Schick Machine, 2009, by Paul Dresher, Steven Schick, and Rinde Eckert. Mondavi Center, UC Davis, Davis, CA. Photo: Cheung Chi Wai.

Ralph Lemon in An All Day Event: The End, part of Platform 2012: “Parallels.” Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Installation view, “Allison Smith: Rudiments of Fife & Drum,” The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT. Photo: Chad Kleitsch. Courtesy of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Meredith Monk, Shards (1969–73), 2012. Part of Platform 2012: “Judson Now,” curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace, New York. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Berlin, Bonanza, 2006. A documentary project focusing on Bonanza, Colorado, population 7. © Berlin. berlinberlin.be.

Gob Squad, Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), 2007. Photo © David Baltzer / bildbuehne.de / Agentur Zenit Berlin.

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole in Space, 1980. On screens in front of Lincoln Center and The Broadway department store in Los Angeles, passersby could see and talk to their counterparts on the opposite coast, and many “reunions” were quickly set up, in this early example of video conferencing. Courtesy of the Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway Archives.

Hans Haacke, News, 1969/2005. Installation view, “State of the Union,” Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2005. © Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Pauline Oliveros, circa 1967. Courtesy of the CCM Archive, Mills College, Oakland, CA.

The Builders Association, Elements of Oz, 2015. Photo: Gennadi Novash. Courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair State University.

Ain Gordon, A Disaster Begins, 2009. Veanne Cox. Here Arts Center, New York. Photo: Jason Gardner. Courtesy of the photographer and Pick Up Performance Co(s).

The Wooster Group, BRACE UP!, 1991. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte. Anna Köhler (on monitor) and Willem Dafoe. Photo © Mary Gearhart.

Joanna Haigood and Charles Trapolin, The Monkey and the Devil, performance installation, 2011. Performers: Matthew Wickett, Sean Grimm, Jodi Lomask. Photo: Walter Kitundu.

Jarbas Lopes, Demolition Now, in “SPRING,” curated by Claire Tancons for the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, 2008. Photo: Akiko Ota.

Lisa Bielawa, Crissy Broadcast (part of Airfield Broadcasts), San Francisco, 2013. Photo: James Block.

Erwin Wurm, One Minute Sculpture, 1997/2005. © Erwin Wurm. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

Wu Tsang with Alexandro Segade, Mishima in Mexico, 2012. Color HD video, 14:32 minutes. Courtesy of the artists, Clifton Benevento (New York), Michael Benevento (Los Angeles), and Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin).

Young Jean Lee, Untitled Feminist Show, 2012. Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, 2012. Hilary Clark, Regina Rocke, and Katy Pyle. Photo: Julieta Cervantes.

Romeo Castellucci, On the Concept of the Face Regarding the Son of God, 2010. Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, 2013. Photo: Kevin Monko.

Jérôme Bel, Le dernier spectacle (The last performance), 1998. Photo: Herman Sorgeloos.

Troubleyn / Jan Fabre, Mount Olympus, 2015. Performance lasts 24 hours. Photo © Wonge Bergmann for Troubleyn / Jan Fabre.

Siobhan Davies Studios, Roof Studio, London. Photo: Peter Cook.

Emily Roysdon, Sense and Sense (a project with MPA), Sergels torg, Stockholm, Sweden, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

David Lang’s home studio. Photo © Jorge Colombo.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964 (replica of 1913 original). Wheel and painted wood. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of the Galleria Schwarz d’Arte, Milan, 1964. © Succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2016.

Historical interpreters from Freetown Living History Museum, as part of Allison Smith’s 2008 project The Donkey, The Jackass, and The Mule, with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo: Allison Smith and Michelle Pemberton.

Rimini Protokoll, Situation Rooms, 2013. Photo © Ruhrtriennale / Jörg Baumann.

Jeanine Oleson and Ellen Lesperance, We Like New York and New York Likes Us, 2004. A “wry look back” at Joseph Beuys’s performance with a coyote, I Like America and America Likes Me, René Block Gallery, New York, 1974. Courtesy of the artists.

Christine Hill, Volksboutique Organizational Ventures, 2001. Mixed-media installation, Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Andrea Fraser, Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989. Performance. Performance documentation: Kelly & Massa Photography. Courtesy of the artist. © Andrea Fraser.

Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects, Chicago, 2012. © Theaster Gates. Photo © Sara Pooley. Courtesy of White Cube.

John Cage, two pages from 4'33" (original version, in proportional notation), 1952/1953. Ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2" each sheet. Acquired by The Museum of Modern Art through the generosity of Henry Kravis in honor of Marie-Josée Kravis. © 1993 Henmar Press Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of C. F. Peters Corporation. Photo © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Yoko Ono, Painting For The Wind, summer 1961. First published in Yoko Ono: Grapefruit (Tokyo: Wunternaum Press, July 4, 1964). © Yoko Ono.

Rosemary Lee, Square Dances, 2011, commissioned by Dance Umbrella. Square Dances took place in four central London squares throughout a day, with different casts in each: 10 children in Woburn Square, 100 women in Gordon Square, 35 men in Brunswick Gardens, 25 dance students in Queen Square. Each performance involved bells, ranging from a huge church bell that struck every minute; to a handmade musical instrument using bells within its barrel structure, created and composed by Terry Mann; to tiny hand bells for the dancers. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

Joanna Haigood and Wayne Campbell, Ghost Architecture, 2004. An aerial dance installation centering on the architectural and social history of the site. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco.

Ann Hamilton, the event of a thread, 2012–13. Park Avenue Armory, New York. Curated by Kristy Edmunds. Photo © Ian Douglas.

Robert Wilson and Marina Abramović, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, premiered 2011. Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2013. Foreground: Willem Dafoe. Photo: Joan Marcus. Courtesy of Park Avenue Armory.

Richard Maxwell, Neutral Hero, 2012. The Kitchen, New York. From left: Janet Coleman, Bob Feldman, Lakpa Bhutia, Andie Springer, Jean Ann Garrish. Photo © Paula Court.

Ann Liv Young, The Bagwell in Me, 2008. Photo: Scott Newman, Revel in New York.

Xavier Le Roy, “Retrospective,” 2012–. Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 2012. Photo: Lluís Bover. © Fundació Antoni Tàpies.

Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981. Photo: Peter Hujar. The Peter Hujar Archive. Courtesy of Pace MacGill and Fraenkel Galleries.

David Levine, Habit, 2012. Installation view, Luminato Festival, Toronto, 2011. Photo: David Levine.

Rimini Protokoll, 100% Yogyakarta, 2015. Teater Garasi, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. © Goethe-Institut Indonesien / KDIP Viscom.

Bebe Miller Company, A History, 2012. Angie Hauser and Darrell Jones. Photo: Michael Mazzola.