I had been waiting for this interview with Rose Lee Goldberg for months. I climbed into the small elevator and anxiously waited for my arrival to the offices of Performa. Rose Lee is one of the sweetest people in the world and we have had an on going relationship for years now but interviews always make me sweat a little. I had to wait a minute in the other room while Rose Lee finished up some business. The nerves, the sweat, it never seems to stop with me. I had been trying to think of extremely intelligent questions to ask her but they all seemed too contrived. I had decided that it would be easier to just wing it and “shoot from the hip” as they say.
RoseLee sat across from me with her typical poise waiting for my first question to drop. I pulled out my voice recorder and tested it once, feeling extremely unprepared. I had just bought this thing, a small Olympus digital recorder and I was nervous that it might not work or that I might not know how to work it. My first question dropped out of my mouth like a monotone schoolteacher.
Brendan Wilcox-“What are we getting for Performa in the fall.”
RoseLee Goldberg-“ What Performa has very quickly become is a city wide biennial, which has never happened in New York city, and I find this all very exiting…I think also that it is a biennial that deals with a lot of different kinds of material and we have a lot of venues signing up. Where the program is leading is also very exciting…”
RoseLee went on to tell me how this time around they created 10 different commissions some of which I was able to see. I caught Djurberg and her Claymation movie featuring homeless kids fighting stray dogs for food. In front of the movie Djurberg and her cohorts made sounds to go along with mayhem on the screen with various household objects and other homemade instruments. I was impressed by the juxtaposition of the people playing in front of the movie and what was happening on the screen. Various New York luminaries were there including David Byrne of the Talking Heads, the 80’s art rock band.
Rose Lee Goldberg- “ The whole point of a commission, I just want to explain the commissions because I think that they are something very, very exciting to think about is that we try to present new work and I think that 99% of what we saw last time we had never seen either. The idea that we will always be in great risk to whatever we show is very important to the way that we look at the work that we look at.”
RoseLee encourages artists that might never have worked in a different medium to try something new, to make a performance piece even if they are not necessarily performance artists. Commissions are a way for these artists to achieve this and Performa 2007 had ten commissions as opposed to only three in 2005.
RoseLee Goldberg-“ One of the reasons that I started Performa was that I really wanted to slow time down. What I mean by that is going to Venice Biennale, going to Documenta, going to all these different festivals and fairs where there’s almost like there’s a starters gun and you have to race to get to see everything, I mean people ask me “What did you think?” and really I didn’t think anything, I just raced through it. So for me the idea of starting Performa was to stop time, to give each piece a very dedicated amount of time, I mean this sort of need to put everyone in a room and sort of lock the door and say, “Pay attention”…
This is truly what makes Performa so magical and interesting in my opinion, it is like going to a movie, you do not want to miss a single second of the piece because you might miss the whole plot. I felt this way especially while watching the Performa finale where I took a seat front row center and sat in total rapture for hours, sipping scotch slowly in the grand Hudson Theater with my buddy Thomas McDonnell. I was especially intrigued and amused by HK119, an amazing group that fused electronic “electro clash” as my good friend Larry Tee dubbed it in 2001 (ala Fischer Spooner…the best thing since them, perhaps even better) with modern dance and theatrical hysteria. HK119 was clearly the hit as RoseLee and all of us doted upon them at the close of the night. They were the one group that I had to personally thank, and I thoroughly enjoyed the free Grolche beer and conversation that got from the female dancer. HK119 is like a modern dance version of Blade Runner. (Apparently HK119 will be making another appearance in New York City in a month or so…so make sure to catch them. Be there or be square.)
RoseLee Goldberg-“ I think there is a very healthy art world and market but the conversation has become so much about finances and that’s fine and healthy and whatever but I just think that what we are needing and what everyone is hungry for is a real conversation about content. What does it mean and what does it mean to be an artist and a conversation that’s not just about the price, the price of eggs.”
This kind of thought process and attitude is what I appreciate so much about RoseLee and her Biennale. It has and will become one of the most important two weeks in the art world. It is a place and time for people that share a true love of art and life to come together and happen. There is a spirit of community at Performa that I have never felt at any opening or art fair, it has a sense of moment and live satisfaction that cannot be bought or sold. RoseLee has, through her love art made something new, something different and extraordinary.