Performa 17 commissions will investigate Dada's history of performance

This year's projects include work by William Kentridge and a collaboration between Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran


Organisers of the seventh edition of the Performa biennial in New York have released an initial list of commissioned artists. This iteration of the show, which is on from 1-19 November, responds to the history of the Dada movement, which was “more performance than object-making,” says RoseLee Goldberg, the founding director and chief curator of the organisation.

The ten artists announced include William Kentridge, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Zanele Muholi, Tracey Rose, all from South Africa; the American, Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu, who will work on a project with the American jazz pianist Jason Moran; the French artist Jimmy Robert and Wangechi Mutu from Kenya.

The diverse roster aims to show that “the experimentation and invention that came out of Dada had a huge impact on artists across a broad cross-section of disciplines and geographies,” Goldberg says.

The historical section of the biennial is titled 100 Degrees Above Dada after the 1961 exhibition 40° au-dessus de Dada, which was organised by the late French art critic Pierre Restany. Conceptually, Performa will examine some of the socio-political implications of the movement, such as fetishism of other cultures and gender imbalance in the art world.

The Dadaist’s “had a fascination with the ‘primitive’ and ‘exotic’, and many women involved in Dada used radical dance as an entry-point into the avant-garde.” Goldberg says. “Now, more than ever, we are very conscious of addressing the issues that drive a work."