Performance artist Raki Malhorta, who will be performing Sunday October 17th.
Photo: Provided by Esther Neff

By David LaGaccia

Panoply Performance Laboratory is celebrating the five-year anniversary of its performance art series, PERFORMANCY FORUM with a month long conference called PERFORMANCY FORUM QUINQUENNIAL. The conference, which begins this Thursday at 6 P.M. with talks and performances, will take place from October 8th through October 25th, and will feature over sixty artists over three weekends worth of shows and talks held at two Brooklyn based galleries, Panoply Performance Laboratory and Grace Exhibition Space.

Individual events such as Tatyana Tennenbaum’s The Work and the Self (Oct. 25), Ian Deleon and AGROFEMME’s Incorruptible Flesh (Oct. 23), and Leili Huzaibah’s curation of Chaw Ei Thein, Shizu Homma, Helen Hawley, and Nooshin Rostami (Oct. 24), will occur as a part of the conference. According to the release, some of the goals of the conference will be to perform “discussion, auto-ethnography, debate, and diversion, constantly in flux, action, and presence, as driven by the artistic, theoretical, and ideological intentions of performance artists.”

The title of the conference takes its name from PERFORMANCY FORUM, a performance series that has for the past five years has been organized by Esther Neff at Panoply Performance Laboratory and other spaces throughout its history. The series has been a venue for critical discourse of performance art, featuring curated performances followed by discussions that allow both artists and viewers to share their insights on the discipline, talking about what they saw and what they experienced that evening.

Neff explains that the series began in 2009 while she lived at an art collective called Surreal Estate. “At Surreal Estate, Brian (McCorkle) and I helped build out and manage the massive ground-floor garage as a performance space,” wrote Neff in an email. “Hector Canonge was the first performer, in January 2009. Anya Liftig, Kikuko Tanaka, Alejandro Acierto, Chin Chih Yang, Mariana Valencia, Allison Ward, and Ivy Castellanos (a fellow SE resident) were initial participants. At that point it was a framed as monthly gathering for performance artists to share projects-in-process and to discuss practices but it was hard enough just to put the shows together.”


Marcelline Mandeng who will be performing Sunday October 18th.
Photo: Provided by Esther Neff

Written in an abstract for the conference, she further states that since moving to 104 Meserole street in 2012, at her current space Panoply Performance Laboratory, the series then began to develop from being just a showcase for performance art, to more, “theoretical and dialogic territory as an alternative to both academic and artworld framings of performance art(s).”

“I’m truly curious about what will happen to performance artists now that ‘artworlds’ accept works as viable commodities,” she stated, “and hope that PERFORMANCY FORUM can always be a counter-option for those  artists who are intentionally and formally resistant to the capitalization of their bodies and voices.”

In performance, it’s the art, the action of the performer’s body that is the discourse. Performance, as an art form, is practiced by many different artists, performers—persons from different practices, disciplines and backgrounds (both cultural and artistic), yet all can say to create work in this undefined art form of performance art. Every performance is a contribution to the definition of performance, where the actions, not necessarily the words spoken afterwards that shape the art form. Events like PERFORMANCY FORUM provide the framework for these actions and ideas to be developed.

The framework of the conference can be seen as a larger version of the PERFORMANCY FORUM series. A majority of the artists featured have a connection with the series showcasing their work in previous installments. Many of these artists have a range of backgrounds such as music (Matthew Gantt, Butch Merigoni Valerie Kuehne), dance (Alex Romania, Kaia Gilje), and disciplines that blend between mediums (Ivy Castellanos, Jon Konkol, Hiroshi Shafer), will be present throughout the conference.


David Ian Griess performing at Panoply Performance Laboratory in 2014.
Photo: Provided by Esther Neff

“There is a certain non-competitivity, mutualism, and respect for cultural differences and experiences,” wrote Neff in an email. “There is a sensitivity to situation, all pores open to the breathing of many bodies. I see PERFORMANCY FORUM and this conference as a way of practicing, demonstrating, and planning how we can intentionally come together, how we can create (or reject) experiences as ‘communications.’ I like to steal Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s word ‘undercommons’ as a ‘relation not a place’ to describe a more performative and ideologically-driven coming-together.”

“I hope participants in PERFORMANCY FORUM QUINQUENNIAL will find strength not as components within a homogenous, unified front, but within temporary, flexible moments of living, activating, and thinking ways of being and seeing within forms of social process. By organizing and performing (outside of institutional schemas and expectations for “community-building”) we train ourselves practically to build our own world(s).”

PERFORMANCY FORUM QUINQUENNIAL will being this Thursday, October 8th with an opening party with performances. The start time will be at 6 PM at Grace Exhibition Space. For a full listing of featured artists and events, please refer to the QUINQUENNIAL website.