Black Surrealism in Dakar, Fort-de-France, Havana, Johannesburg, New York City, Paris, Port-au-Prince 1932–2013
Presented by The Performa Institute
Friday, February 8, 1–5:30pm
Saturday, February 9, 1–5:30pm
Special breakfast film program
Saturday, February 9, 10am–noon
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Einstein Auditorium, Barney Building, 34 Stuyvesant Street, New York
Free admission with reservation: rsvp [at] performa-arts.org
Performa is pleased to announce Get Ready for the Marvelous: Black Surrealism in Dakar, Fort-de-France, Havana, Johannesburg, New York City, Paris, Port-au-Prince, 1932–2013, a groundbreaking conference exploring historical Surrealism in the African Diaspora and its relevance to contemporary art. The conference will elaborate on the international black artists who were involved in Surrealism, engaging with it as an ideology, artistic movement, and a state of mind—a way of being in the world—and their influence on contemporary art and culture throughout the African Diaspora.
The conference is the launch of Performa’s curatorial and program planning for the Performa 13 biennial’s historical anchor of Surrealism. Performa will present Performa 13, its landmark fifth biennial, November 1–24, 2013.
The context-setting keynote address titled “Blues People and the Poetic Sprit: Recovering Surrealism’s Revolutionary Politics” will be given by Robin D.G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History, University of California Los Angeles, and co-editor of Black, Brown, and Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora, with Franklin Rosemont. Participants include Awam Ampka, Associate Professor of Drama at Tisch School of the Arts and Director of Africana Studies at New York University; Isolde Brielmaier, Chief Curator, Savannah College of Art and Design; Barbara Browning, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University; artist Simone Leigh; Gabi Ngcobo, Curator and Founder, Center for Historical Reenactments, Johannesburg; Tavia Nyong’o, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, New York University; artist Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. ‘DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid’; artist Wangechi Mutu; artist Adam Pendleton; Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator, Museum of Art and Design; Greg Tate, Visiting Professor of Africana Studies, Brown University, musician with the Black Rock Coalition and Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, cultural critic, and record producer; and director, producer, writer, actor, composer, and editor Melvin Van Peebles.
The two-day convening will traverse a medley of dynamic, interrelated themes, including the art of Wifredo Lam; the poetics and politics of Negritude poets Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor; the intersection of dance and ethnography in the work of Maya Deren and Katherine Dunham; theater and politics during the period of decolonization in West Africa; Afro-Futurism and black science fiction; élan vital and black performance; and contemporary art-making and curatorial approaches to Black Surrealism. Adam Pendleton will present a new performance piece, inspired by and in honor of award-winning playwright Adrienne Kennedy.
The conference will be complemented by a remarkable film program, featuring Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1985), a documentary about dance and possession in Haitian Vodoun compiled from footage Deren shot on the island between 1947 and 1954; William Greave’s The First World Festival of Negro Arts (1967), the official documentary film of the 1966 festival held in Dakar, Senegal, which over 2,000 writers, artists, and performers from throughout the African Diaspora attended, including Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Alvin Ailey, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire, and dignitaries from 30 countries; and Gilles Elie-dit-Cosaque’s Zétwal (2008), a documentary that tells the story of local Martinican legend Robert Saint‐Rose’s attempt to propel himself to outer space, through the poetry of Aimé Césaire.
The conference title is inspired by Suzanne Césaire’s poetic description “Surrealism is permanent readiness for the Marvelous.” It is also informed by Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci’s The Prison Notebooks, in which he wrote, “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.” Accordingly, the conference proceedings will illuminate the complex heterogeneity of historical Surrealism, its circuits of artistic and political exchange in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States, and its accumulations as manifested in interdisciplinary art created in relation to ideas of the sublime, the miraculous, the supernatural, the surprising, and the wondrous as expressed in political and socially oriented works by black contemporary artists.
Get Ready for the Marvelous is organized by Adrienne Edwards, Associate Curator, Performa Institute and Ph.D. Candidate, Performance Studies, New York University.
The daily conference schedule is available here.
About the Performa Institute
The Performa Institute is a year-round think tank that fosters learning, critical discourse, and deeper engagement in performance by directly supporting its scholarly investigation. The Performa Institute showcases a range of in-depth programs for the presentation and exploration of ideas and the exchange of research and knowledge, with a focus on the study of history and on forging a new intellectual culture surrounding contemporary art. It asks artists, curators, writers, and scholars to function as educators across disciplines to explore innovative visions for the future of art and ideas in New York City and around the world. The Performa Institute was launched on the occasion of the Performa 11 biennial (2011), during which it presented over 50 artist-led classes and workshops.
The Performa Institute is made possible thanks to lead support from the Lambent Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Ford Foundation with additional contributions from Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions.
Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading international organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live visual art performance in the history of the twentieth century and to generating new directions for the twenty-first century, engaging artists and audiences through experimentation, innovation and collaboration. Performa’s unique commissioning, touring, and year-round education programs, involving all disciplines, forge a new course for contemporary art and culture and culminate in the Performa biennial every other November.
Job Piston, job [at] performa-arts.org / T + 1 212 366 5700