New York, NY, January 9, 2012 – Performa
is pleased to announce Get Ready for the Marvelous: Black Surrealism in Dakar, Fort de France, Havana, Johannesburg, New York City, Paris, Port au Prince, 1932-2013
, a groundbreaking conference exploring historical Surrealism in the African Diaspora and its relevance to contemporary art. The conference is a platform to elaborate on the group of international black artists who were directly or tangentially involved in Surrealism, engaging with it as an ideology, artistic movement, and a state of mind—a way of being in the world—and their influence on contemporary art and culture throughout the African Diaspora.
The context-setting keynote address titled "Blues People and the Poetic Sprit: Recovering Surrealism's Revolutionary Politics" will be given by Robin D.G. Kelley
, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, University of California Los Angeles, and co-editor of Black, Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora
with Franklin Rosemont. Participants include Awam Ampka
, Associate Professor of Africana Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University; Isolde Brielmaier
, Chief Curator, Savannah College of Art and Design; Barbara Browning
, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University; artist Simone Leigh
; Gabi Ngcobo
, Curator and Founder, Center for Historical Reenactments, Johannesburg; Tavia Nyong’o
, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University; artist Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. ‘DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid’
; artist Wangechi Mutu
; artist Adam Pendleton
; Lowery Stokes Sims
, Curator, Museum of Art and Design; and Greg Tate
, Visiting Professor of Africana Studies, Brown University, musician with the Black Rock Coalition and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, cultural critic, and record producer.
The two-day convening will traverse a medley of dynamic, interrelated themes, including the art of Wifredo Lam; the poetics and politics of Negritude poets Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor; the intersection of dance and ethnography in the work of Maya Deren and Katherine Dunham; theater and politics during the period of decolonization in West Africa; Afro-Futurism and black science fiction; élan vital and black performance; and contemporary art-making and curatorial approaches to Black Surrealism. Adam Pendleton will present a new performance piece, inspired by and in honor of award-winning playwright Adrienne Kennedy
The conference will be complemented by a remarkable film program comprised of a suite of historical and contemporary documentaries, featuring Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti
(1985), a documentary film about dance and possession in Haitian Vodoun compiled from footage Deren shot during her fieldwork on the island between 1947 and 1954; William Greave’s The First World Festival of Negro Arts
(1967), the official documentary film of the 1966 festival held in Dakar, Senegal, which over 2,000 writers, artists, and performers from throughout the African Diaspora attended, including Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Alvin Ailey, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire, and other artists, performers, and dignitaries from 30 countries; and Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque’s Zétwal
(2008), a documentary film that tells the story of local Martinican legend Robert SaintâRose’s attempt to propel himself to outer space, through the poetry of Aimé Césaire.
The conference title is inspired by Suzanne Césaire’s poetic description “Surrealism is permanent readiness for the Marvelous.” It is also informed by Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci’s The Prison Notebooks,
in which he wrote, “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.” Accordingly, the conference proceedings will illuminate the complex heterogeneity of historical Surrealism, its circuits of artistic and political exchange in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States, and its accumulations as manifested in interdisciplinary art created in relation to ideas of the sublime, the miraculous, the supernatural, the surprising, and the wondrous as expressed in political and socially oriented works by black contemporary artists.
Get Ready for the Marvelous
is organized by Adrienne Edwards, Associate Curator, Performa Institute and Ph.D. Candidate, Performance Studies, New York University.
ABOUT PERFORMA 13 AND BLACK SURREALISM
Since its inception in Paris in the mid-1920s, Surrealism spread out over a number of years to incorporate a range of cultural figures and was a truly transdisciplinary movement, including painting, sculpture, poetry, prose, film, theater, dance, and music. It expanded geographically to New York City, Latin America, and the African Diaspora. Despite “the vast critical literature on surrealism,” as Robin D.G. Kelley and Franklin Rosemont note in their introduction to Black, Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora
, “all but a few black Surrealists have been invisible…Occasional token mentions aside, people of color – and more particularly those from Africa or the Diaspora – have been excluded from most of the so-called standard works on the subject.” With this in mind, the aim of the conference is to explicate and trace black artists’ involvement in Surrealism, and their impact on those creating art today to gain a fuller understanding of Surrealism in all its complexity as part of our curatorial and program planning for the Performa 13 biennial’s historical anchor of Surrealism.
ABOUT THE PERFORMA INSTITUTE
The Performa Institute is a year-round think tank that fosters learning, critical discourse, and deeper engagement in performance by directly supporting its scholarly investigation. The Performa Institute showcases a range of in-depth programs for the presentation and exploration of ideas and the exchange of research and knowledge, with a focus on the study of history and on forging a new intellectual culture surrounding contemporary art. It asks artists, curators, writers, and scholars to function as educators across disciplines to explore innovative visions for the future of art and ideas in New York City and around the world. The Performa Institute was launched on the occasion of the Performa 11 biennial (2011), during which it presented over 50 artist-led classes and workshops.
The Performa Institute is made possible thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Lambent Foundation for Tides Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions.
Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading international organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live visual art performance in the history of the twentieth century and to generating new directions for the twenty-first century, engaging artists and audiences through experimentation, innovation and collaboration. Performa’s unique commissioning, touring, and year-round education programs, involving all disciplines, forge a new course for contemporary art and culture and culminate in the Performa biennial every other November. In 2005, Performa launched the first-ever biennial dedicated to visual art performance, Performa 05, which was then followed by Performa 07 (2007), Performa 09 (2009), and Performa 11 (2011). Performa will present its fifth biennial, Performa 13, November 1-24, 2013.
For more information, visit www.performa-arts.org.
trained as a play director/playwright/actor/scholar and filmmaker in Nigeria (Obafemi Awolowo University and Ahmadu Bello University) and Britain (University of Bristol). He is an Associate Professor of Drama at Tisch School of the Arts and Director of Africana Studies at New York University and author of Theatre and Postcolonial Desires
, (Routledge, 2003) and the forthcoming Postcolonial Drama
. He is the director of the documentary films Winds Against Our Souls, Its All About Downtown, National Images and Transnational Desires
, A Very, Very Brief Story of Nollywood
and the Nigerian feature film Wazobia!
written by Tess Onwueme. He is co-founder and co-curator of the Real Life Pan-African Documentary Festival in Ghana. Amkpa is also author of the musical plays Not In My Season of Songs
, Rebecca in 4 Stanzas,
and Running Away My Angel.
He has co-curated photography exhibitions on African bodies in Europe, the US, and Africa. He is the curator of the exhibition “Africa: See You, See Me,” which has traveled to Lisbon, Florence, Rome, Lagos, Dakar, Beijing, and Macau. Amkpa has written several articles on Africa and its diasporas, modernisms in theatre, postcolonial theatre, and Black Atlantic films.
is Chief Curator of Exhibitions at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where she oversees the curatorial staff that organizes exhibitions at the SCAD Museum of Art and SCAD's galleries worldwide. While at SCAD, Isolde has curated exhibitions with several noted artists including Dario Escobar, Bharti Kher, Richard Mosse, Angel Otero, Ivan Navarro, Jack Whitten, and Fred Wilson. Prior to joining SCAD, Isolde was an independent curator and writer and served as Visiting Assistant Professor at Vassar College and Guest Professor at New York University and Columbia University/Barnard College. In 2011, she curated "Stargazers: Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation with 21 Contemporary Artists," at the Bronx Museum of Art. Since 2005, she has curated exhibitions with artists such as Kader Attia, Ellen Gallagher, Wangechi Mutu, and Mickalene Thomas, to name a few. Isolde has authored many essays, reviews and books, including most recently "Nan Goldin: Scopiphilia" (Art in America
, February 2012), "Jose Parla: Painting and Performing the Past and the Present" (2011), as well as photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa's first monograph (2010). Isolde is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships from institutions including the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. She holds a PhD from Columbia University.
teaches in the department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is the author of the academic books Samba: Resistance in Motion
and Infectious Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the Spread of African Culture.
She is also the author of the ficto-critical novels Who Is Mr. Waxman?, The Correspondence Artist,
and I'm Trying to Reach You.
Some of her chamber choreographies can be viewed at http://youtube.com/ahnethermostfun
and her ukulele covers can be heard at http://soundcloud.com/barbarabrowning
Robin D. G. Kelley
is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA. His books include the prize-winning Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
(Free Press, 2009); Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression
(University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class
(The Free Press, 1994); Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America
(Beacon Press, 1997), selected as one of the top ten books of 1998 by the Village Voice; Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor’s Last Century
, written collaboratively with Dana Frank and Howard Zinn (Beacon 2001); and Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
(Beacon Press, 2002). He also edited (with Franklin Rosemont) Black, Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the African Diaspora
(University of Texas Press, 2009), recipient of an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and (with Earl Lewis) To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans
(Oxford University Press, 2000), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title and a History Book Club Selection. His most recent book is Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times
(Harvard University Press, 2012).
creates sculpture, videos, and installations informed by her interest in African art, ethnographic research, feminism, and performance. She is a 2012 Creative Capital Grantee and a recipient of the LMCC Michael Richards award 2012. Leigh has been awarded residencies other awards including the 2011 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant; artist-in-residence programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2010–11, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program, the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace program, the Art Matters research grant, and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for sculpture. Leigh was a facilitator of the 2012 International Art Programme at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include solos shows at the Kitchen and Tilton Gallery in New York City; and group exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, SculptureCenter in New York, Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, L’Appartement22 in Rabbat, Morocco, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.
Paul D. Miller
, also known as “DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid,” his stage name and self-constructed persona, is an experimental and electronic hip-hop musician, conceptual artist, and writer. DJ Spooky is known for his electronic experimentations in music known as both “illbient” and “trip hop.” His first album, Dead Dreamer
, was released in 1996, and he has since released over a dozen albums. DJ Spooky’s artwork employs a wide array of digital music and multimedia to create a form of postmodern sculpture. His ideas of digital media art are centered in the DJ as the generalized, post-subjective auteur of postmodern media. The idea of the mix is central to his work and his entire aesthetic, in which disparate connections are made between different times, cultures, and styles, through which something new can emerge. He has a heterogeneous oeuvre that creates unexpected bridges, linking the art gallery to the dance club to the concert hall. He was the first editor of Artbyte: The Magazine of Digital Arts
and his writing has been published in The Source, The Village Voice, Artforum, Paper Magazine,
and many other magazines and journals. He is the author of the acclaimed Rhythm Science
(2004) and editor of Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture
(2008). Paul D. Miller's artistic work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and galleries, including the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), Vienna Kunsthalle, the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), and the Venice Biennale for Architecture (2000). He is also a professor of Music Mediated Art at the European Graduate School.
is a Kenyan-born artist who creates, lives, and works in Brooklyn. Her work is an active personal critique that engages the complexities of the daily issues, situations, and environments that affect some of the most disempowered beings of our planet. Her elegantly horrific figures lurk in a hybrid world, trapped between consciousness and unconsciousness, silences and noises, life and death, the real and unreal. They assert their vulnerability while simultaneously revealing the potency of regeneration and power within. Mutu was the recipient of Deutsche Bank’s first Artist of the Year award (2010). She has exhibited at major institutions including recent solo shows at Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art; Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Miami Art Museum.
Gabi Ngcobo is an independent curator and the founder of the Johannesburg-based independent collective project the Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR) 2010-2012. She holds a Masters degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and is a faculty member at the Wits School of Arts, University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg. Ngcobo’s curatorial projects include “DON’T/PANIC” at the Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa; “Rope-a-dope: To Win a Losing War” at Cabinet, New York; “Second Coming,” a curatorial collaboration at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; and “Just How Cold Was It?” at 6-8 Months project space, New York. At CHR she curated “PASS-AGES: references & footnotes” at the old Pass Office and an ongoing project titled “Xenoglossia,” a research project.
is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University, where he writes, researches, and teaches critical black studies, queer studies, cultural theory, and cultural history. His first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory
(Minnesota, 2009), won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African-American theatre and performance studies. Nyong’o has published articles on punk, disco, viral media, the African diaspora, film, and performance art in publications such as Radical History Review, Criticism
, TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies
, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory
, Women Studies Quarterly
, The Nation
, and n+1
. He is co-editor of the journal Social Text
is a conceptual artist known for his multi-disciplinary work, including painting, publishing, photographic collage, video, and performance. He is particularly interested in looking at language, in both the figurative and literal senses, and the re-contextualization of history through appropriated imagery in order to imagine alternative narratives. Pendleton’s work was most recently featured in La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012), where his video installation BAND
was presented following its premiere at the Kitchen, New York (2010). He received a Performa Commission presented during the Performa 07 biennial for his performance The Revival
. Pendleton has been included in major exhibitions worldwide, including Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language
, MoMA, New York (2012); Greater New York
, MoMA PS1, New York (2010); The Generational: Younger Than Jesus
, New Museum, New York (2010); Manifesta 7, Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy (2008), and Manifesto Marathon
, The Serpentine Gallery, London (2008). Pendleton’s first solo museum exhibition will be presented at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis in 2014.
Lowery Stokes Sims
is a curator at the Museum of Arts and Design. She was on the education and curatorial staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to1999, where she curated over 30 exhibitions. Sims then served as Executive Director, President, and Adjunct Curator for the permanent collection at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2000 to 2007. A specialist in modern and contemporary art, Sims is known for her particular expertise in the work of African, Latino, Native and Asian- American artists. At MAD Sims has co-curated “Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary” (2008) and “Dead or Alive: Artists Respond to Nature” (2010). She also conceived and co-curated “The Global Africa Project” (2010-11) and curated the upcoming exhibition “Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design.” which will open at MAD in 2013. Sims has lectured and guest-curated exhibitions nationally and internationally. She was Visiting Professor at Queens College and Hunter College in New York City (2005, 2006), a fellow at the Clark Art Institute and Visiting Scholar in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota in 2007. Sims also served on the selection jury for the World Trade Center memorial in 2003-2004 and as president and co-president of ArtTable, Inc. from 2009 to 2012. She also sits on the boards of the Tiffany Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation and Art Matters, Inc.
is a cultural critic, musician, lecturer, and record producer. He is currently Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, where he leads a course titled “The History of AfroFuturism and Black Science Fiction.” He has also taught in Yale's graduate art department and as a Louis Armstrong Fellowship Professor at Columbia University's Jazz Studies Center. Tate was a staff writer with the Village Voice
from 1987 to 2003. His writings on culture and politics have also been published in The New York Times, Artforum, Rolling Stone, Vibe,
and The Wire,
among others. The Source
recently named him one of the “Godfathers of Hip-Hop Journalism.” Tate has contributed numerous essays to museum and gallery publications, including NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith,
Menil Collection (2008); Alien Nation
, ICA London (2007); Black Light/White Noise
, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2007); Coral Cities: Ellen Gallagher
, Tate Liverpool (2007); and Jean-Michel Basquiat
, Whitney Museum of American Art (1994). His books include Everything but the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black