Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane
6 December 2014 – 1 March 2015
Recent QUT graduates Clark Beaumont find themselves again in the company of international superstars Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Santiago Sierra and Marina Abramović in Performance Now, curated by RoseLee Goldberg. The rockface prop on which their opening night performance Reenactment of The Time Nicole Saved Sarah (2014) took place greets visitors in the museum foyer. The other work in the exhibition that extends beyond the screen is Christian Jankowski's Rooftop Routine (2008), featuring 20 hula hoops scattered in front of a projection of a young woman demonstrating hula hooping techniques to participants on adjacent rooftops. The didactic for Performance Now notes the importance of objects and installations to contemporary performance, so it is surprising that the exhibition has so little physical presence beyond the video and projection screen.
Appealing to the realism of performance over the fantasy of theatre, the staging of these contemporary performance works tends to be quite minimal. Jérôme Bel captures the French ballerina Veronique Doisneau reflecting upon her career on an empty stage and in Stealing Beauty (2007) Guy Ben-Ner discusses with his family the historical relationship between private property and familial bonds within the showroom domestic settings of IKEA. The majority of videos in the exhibition employ the most basic camera techniques to record live performances, as in Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano No.2 (2008) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; or simple acts, such as Jesper Just’s No Man is an Island (2002) where in slow motion an awkward but enthusiastic middle-aged man dances in a square - to the amusement of onlookers – while a young man watches him and weeps. Performances captured on camera include the street fighting demonstration video Situations (2011) by Claire Fontaine, and Nandipha Mntambo performing the choreography of a bullfighter in an empty arena for Ukungenisa (2008). Goldberg’s interests lie in 'live performance’ and this is reflected not only in her choice of performances but also the way in which these performances are recorded. Simple cinematography and little post-production privileges the performer over the possibilities of the medium of video.
The exhibition covers a vast breadth of practice from the melodrama of Kalup Linzy and Ryan Trecartin to the politics of Yael Bartana and Regina Jose Galindo. But with the vast majority of artists in the exhibition residing in North America and Europe, I am left wondering whether this exhibition is – as it claims to be – representative of the ‘vast repository of new performance from around the world made since 2000’.
Ellie Buttrose is Associate Curator of International Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art.