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LAUREL NAKADATE

Interview by Michael Bullock

Portrait by Sarah Trigg

Published in Weekly Modern

For years performance art has been the troubled forgotten stepchild of the New York art world. The reasons were obvious galleries didn’t know how to sell it and museums couldn’t figure out how to show it. However for the last five years a handful of forces have quietly come together to change these notions setting the stage to make performance art the most celebrated form of the new decade. This shift has two major champions: Roselee Goldberg and Klaus Biesenbach.

Roselee Goldberg literary wrote the textbook on the subject, Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. First published in 1979 and now in its third edition. In 2004 Goldberg went on to found PERFORMA, a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts organization for the "research, development, and presentation of 21st Century visual art performance". In 2005] Performa launched the first ever Performance Art Biennial, a three-week long international showcase of emerging and established artist. The Biennial transformed all of New York City into one giant stage and instantly filled a missing gap in the structure of the art world. From the start it was a run away success nearly doubling in size in 2007 and 2009.

Klaus Biesenbach became the director of PS1 in 2009 as well as the Chief Curator at Large for MoMA. Biesenbach quickly made his mark by making performance a focal point of his programming. In 2010 he organized the ground breaking retrospective of his long time friend performance artist Marina Abramović. Half a million people visited the Abramovic retrospective, “The Artist Is Present,” making it not just a success for performance art but one of the most well-attended shows in the history of the museum. Charlie Finch of Artnet wrote” It was the first exhibition of performance art to have an impact on the cultural world at large”. Biesenbach has used his post at PS1 to foster the next generation of Abramovic’s. One artist featured here went as far as to say that this very portfolio was a showcase of Klaus’s children.

Goldberg and Biesenbach’s influence have ushered in a new wave of talent that has brought performance art up to date while making it there own. There work has delighted curators, art lovers and even the general public thanks to a new level of on-line accessibility. Here Modern Weekly introduces the scene brightest new stars: Hanah Bin, Ryan McNamara, Yemenwed, Kalup Linzy, Laurel Nakadate and Liz Magic Laser. Each artist explain how they came to be performance artist, why they make what they make and why how they feel about performance arts epic renaissance.

Why were you drawn to performance art as a medium?

I started off making photographs. I knew I could depend on myself to show up for the shot, and I was interested in the ways that small knew that small dramas in my personal life could bump up against the problems of the greater world. In an attempt to create narratives with strangers I became a performance artist, so it sort of happened by accident

So the photography became limiting?

Yeah, and I think that I started using myself in my work not even thinking I was a performance artist and ten years later I realized, oh right, I'm a performance artists: these things I do on camera are performances.

But you don't them in front of a live audience, they're all captured on video.

True, they're all personal, private performances. You know that crying for a year video? I did that alone. It was a performance and I treated it as a performance – it was a daily ritual that I had to take pride in, but it wasn’t for public until the photos were made.

How did you go about getting yourself to cry?

Various means. Sometimes it would be as simple as thinking about a lost childhood pet, or thinking about a friend that isn't around any more, to playing pop music or love songs that are really sad. You know how there are certain songs where you can just hear three bars and you start weeping?

What was a song that was a good trigger for you?

Mexican Blue by Jolie Holland.

So who were your most important influence both performance artist but also in general?

I've always been really inspired by Chris Burden's work and performance artist who pushed themselves through some sort of endurance work. I was also really inspired by Diane Arbus, the photographer because she went out into the world and made pictures of strangers and imagined worlds on film that she perhaps was not exposed to growing up, she was brave in that way. In some ways I feel like i'm always looking to her as a model of an artist who I really admire for her bravery.

What is it about endurance that you're attracted to?

Anytime I think you body is pushed to a limit, whether it's totally physically or physically and emotional interesting things happen. I learned so much from crying everyday last year. It's an incredible thing when you have to force yourself to cry everyday of the year. You learn a lot about yourself and about triggers and about spending time alone and about the commitment to making pictures everyday and the commitment to making a performance whether or not anyone thinks it's valuable or futile.

Did it do anything negative to you psychologically to make yourself cry everyday?

No. I think it was cathartic on some level and I think there is a lot of people who cry everyday. I'm not alone in that. Since I did the performance, and now made it public, so many people have come up to me and say 'you know what I cry all the time too.' I think it's incredible that the performance could allow friends and strangers to start a dialogue about sadness, because sadness is such a taboo topic.

So your piece outed criers? (laughs)

Yeah, it's kind of amazing that that happened that way. I kind of love it.


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