P erformance Space New York has, for nearly 40 years, been an incubator for ephemeral expression. Impermanence has galvanized creativity and experimentation in this space, founded in 1980 from an explosion of radical self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars. Within this organization, multidisciplinary performers have gathered to create living, fleeting hybrid works that exist somewhere in the space between dance, theater, poetry, ritual, film, technology, and music. Since the organization (formerly PS 122) re-launched in 2018 in a retrofitted home, under its new name and the artistic directorship of Jenny Schlenzka, it has made a thrilling case for performance in the 21st century. It has provided a nurturing community and cutting-edge platform for visionaries transcending what we know of art and its ability to reflect on, destabilize, and reimagine given social structures.
In addition to showcasing the potency of transient forms, Performance Space New York has also expanded its definition of “performance” into the realm of the visual arts, engaging artists like Caitlin Cherry, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Bjarne Melgaard, Sarah Ortmeyer, and more in Schlenzka’s first year of programming as Executive Artistic Director. In working with Sotheby’s for a benefit auction, Performance Space New York also draws on a legacy of the art market providing crucial support for less tangible forms – dating back to 1963, when Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and others teamed up in a 70+ artist effort to fund a Broadway season for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and ended up creating the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Performance Space New York mirrors the ethos of that mass collaboration with the “artists for artists” approach of their benefit auction with Sotheby’s. Cecily Brown, Anne Collier, Nicole Eisenman, Elizabeth Peyton, R.H. Quaytman, Ugo Rondinone and Amy Sillman – all artists with an affinity for performance – have donated individual works to benefit Performance Space New York through auction sales or otherwise.