E. Jane, Naudline Pierre, and Elliot Reed in conversation with Malik Gaines, Tavia Nyong’o, and Brittnay L. Proctor Presented by NYU Tisch Department of Performance Studies and the DTAPS Working Group as part of their Performance Now series.

In December, after being postponed due to Covid, the Studio Museum of Harlem’s Artists-in-Residence for 2019-20 at last opened their group exhibition This Longing Vessel at MoMA PS1. As two of the residents make performance central to their work — the third is a painter — this invites a set of questions which, present before the pandemic, are more urgent since. Before they were simple, even old-fashioned: how does an arts institution support performance, whether that is present and embodied, as in Elliot Reed’s, or mediated, as in E. Jane’s? How do other institutions — like the university, grants, and residencies — also support performance? And a corollary, given the trio in this cohort: how does working alongside artists who center performance and embodiment enrich Naudline Pierre’s own visual and painting practice? And then, given the show, originally scheduled for May 2020, had to be reimagined: How did the pandemic and its constraints change or pull these questions taut? What is the place in being displaced? Even: how might addressing questions around performance suggest how to stage and support the work and lives of artists and the whole of us in whatever will be next? These questions will orient a discussion between the three artists and another trio of delegates from the university and field of performance studies. Their conversation, swirling around the presence and absence of performance, the presence and absence of Black bodies, and performance before, after, and through this pandemic, might enable the walls of these various institutions to press against each other, and perhaps, for a little while, feel support, porosity, or a mutual wobble.

NOTE: The MoMA PS1 show closes on March 14.

Curatorial Essay by Legacy Russell, Associate Curator, Exhibitions, The Studio Museum in Harlem

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E. Jane is an interdisciplinary artist and musician based in Brooklyn, New York. Inspired by Black liberation and womanist praxis, their work incorporates digital images, video, text, performance, sculpture, installation, and sound design. E. Jane’s work explores safety and futurity as it relates to Black femmes, as well as how Black femmes navigate/negotiate space in popular culture and networked media. Since 2015, Jane has been developing the performance persona MHYSA, an underground popstar for the cyber resistance. MHYSA operates in Jane’s Lavendra/Recovery (2015-)–an iterative multimedia installation–and out in the world. Her new album NEVAEH came out in February 2020 on Hyperdub records in London. E. Jane received their MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 and a BA in Art History with minors in English and Philosophy from Marymount Manhattan College in New York in 2012. They were a 2016 recipient of the Wynn Newhouse Award, a 2019-2020 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and are currently a Harvard College Fellow in New Media as a part of SCRAAATCH.

Naudline Pierre lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She creates works that explore a mysterious alternate universe full of characters that often interact with each other in tender ways. Pierre holds an MFA from the New York Academy of Art and a BFA from Andrews University. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Armory Show, New York; Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles; Perrotin, Seoul; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Nicodim Gallery, Bucharest among others. Pierre’s works are in the permanent collection of the Pérez Art Museum Miami; CC Foundation in Shanghai; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art; The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; and The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City. Pierre was a 2019–2020 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. The works produced at the residency will be on view at MoMA PS1 as part of the exhibition This Longing Vessel: Studio Museum Artist in Residence 2019–20 from December 10, 2020 through March 14, 2021.

Elliot Reed is a performance artist and director based in New York. Working in realtime, Elliot creates solos, ensemble performances and video centering the live subject. His projects exist between people, leveraging candid interaction amongst performers and audience. Utilizing a choreographic lens, Elliot assembles bodies, movement prompts and narrative within exhibition space. As viewers move through his work, the narrative arc moves through them, unfurling itself in actual time. Elliot is a 2019 danceWEB scholar, 2019-20 Artist In Residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and recipient of the 2019 Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant. Exhibitions include a commission with JACK Quartet (2020), MoMA PS1 (2020), The Getty Museum (2018), The Hammer Museum (2016), The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (2018), The Broad (2017), University of Southern California (2016), and performances at MoonStep Tokyo (2017), MNSKTM Osaka (2017), VFD London (2017), and MOOI Collective Mexico City (2017).

Malik Gaines is an artist and writer based in New York. He has performed and exhibited since 2000 with the group My Barbarian and works in other collaborations and solo. Recent pieces include Star Choir, written with Alexandro Segade and presented at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. He is the author of Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (NYU Press, 2017). Gaines is associate professor of Performance Studies at NYU Tisch.

Tavia Nyong’o is the newly appointed William Lampson Professor of Theater and Performance Studies, Professor of American Studies, and Professor of African American Studies. Before coming to Yale he was acting chair and associate professor of performance studies at New York University. His books include: The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (U Minnesota, 2009), which won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African American theatre and performance studies, and Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (NYU Press, 2018). Nyong’o co-edits the journal Social Text, published by Duke University Press, with David Sartorius (U Maryland). Nyong’o is co-series editor of the Sexual Cultures book series at New York University Press, with Ann Pellegrini (NYU) and Joshua Chambers-Letson (Northwestern). He is currently at work on a historical study of nonbinary gender in Black performance as well as a critical essay on negativity, collapse, and the apocalyptic in contemporary Black art and theory.

Brittnay L. Proctor received her PhD in African American Studies from Northwestern University and is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California—Irvine. Her research interests include: Black Studies; black popular music, Gender and Sexuality Studies, black feminist theory, sound studies, visual culture, and performance. Her work has been published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, The Journal of Popular Culture, American Literature, Sounding Out!, Feminist Formations, Hyped on Melancholy, and Board of Photography. She is currently completing a book manuscript about Minnie Riperton’s debut album Come to My Garden (1970) for Bloomsbury Press: 33 1/3 Series.

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Studio AIR Photos by Myles Loftin.