The Critical Matter of Performance

16.02.2017 – 18.02.2017 / 11:00 a.m. – 06:00 p.m.
New Museum Theatre235 Bowery New York, NY 10002, US
Colloquium and think tank

The Critical Matter of Performance

In the spirit of current calls for a general strike against the current administration on February 17, we conceive of this event as a day of critical and necessary reflection and planning. We offer this as a generative platform for thinkers and artists who have been involved in or aligned with activism, and hope it is a crucial contribution to “no business as usual.”’

We will hold space in the New Museum’s lobby from 1:30–2:30 p.m., where museum visitors will be invited to take the mic and share their own responses to the call of a general strike.

The New Museum, in partnership with the NYU Center for the Humanities and the Sense of Performance Project at Yale University, presents the inaugural New Museum Colloquium from February 16 to 18, 2017. Entitled “The Critical Matter of Performance,” this three-day think tank will convene historians and theorists of performance, dance, and visual art, as well as choreographers, theater artists, visual artists, and performers to explore the relationship of criticism to live art through multiple registers—across time, space, bodies, politics, and institutions. Organized by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Tavia Nyong’o, Johanna Burton, and the New Museum’s Department of Education and Public Engagement, the colloquium will feature presentations and discussions with keynote presenters including Rizvana Bradley, Tania Bruguera, Malik Gaines, Jack Halberstam, Jenn Joy, Thomas J. Lax, Simone Leigh, and Wu Tsang, with special guest speaker Robert Longo.

The format of the colloquium brings together keynote presenters with a focus group of ten to fifteen emerging scholars and critically engaged performing artists (chosen through an application process administered by the organizers and in consultation with the presenters). Public sessions complement a number of closed-door discussions. The public sessions include a “long table” conversation with audience and participants, moderated by the organizers; a series of “duets” in which two presenters are asked to consider the same topic from their different professional or disciplinary perspectives and to respond to each other in dialogue with the audience; and an off-site reading with participants from the colloquium.

In a time of political extremes and unthinkable circumstances, it is more imperative than ever to question the relationship between bodies, actions, critical thought, and institutions. Throughout the colloquium, participants will consider criticism—in its various forms, formats, and temporalities—as a contingent material of performance culture. To both record and disseminate critical responses born from the colloquium, written reflections from keynote presenters and focus group participants will be collected as material for a related publication. 


Thursday February 16

Screening & Long Table

7 PM: Screenings by Tania Bruguera, Malik Gaines, Simone Leigh, and Wu Tsang
7:45 PM: Long Table (led by Johanna Burton, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Tavia Nyong’o)

Friday February 17


11–11:30 AM: Arrival and Welcome 
11:30 AM–1:30 PM: Duets, Part 1
“Haptics” with Rizvana Bradley and Simone Leigh 
“Political Gestures” with Tania Bruguera and Jack Halberstam

1:30–2:30 PM: Break


2:30–3 PM: “The Unthinkable,” a mid-program review and conversation (led by Johanna Burton, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Tavia Nyong’o, with special guest speaker Robert Longo)
3-5 PM: Duets, Part 2
“Choreographies” with Jenn Joy and Wu Tsang
“Archives and History” with Malik Gaines and Thomas J. Lax
5–5:30 PM: Wrap-Up/ Discussion Session

Saturday February 18

7 PM: “Adult Contemporary”: Off-site readings by participants (La Mama La Galleria, 47 Great Jones St.)

About New Museum Colloquiums

New Museum Colloquiums are an outgrowth of the New Museum Seminars program that ran from 2013–2016 and provided a weekly platform for post-graduate level inquiry in a peer-led, seminar-style setting. The new think tank format seeks to produce a space that can support a similar level of inquiry in a more immersive and concentrated period of time, with public and private sessions operating in close dialogue.