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November 25, 2013
Review: Black Surrealism from Performa 13

Three days of improvisational performances by Derrick Adams came as the bookend to a conference called Get Ready for The Marvelous, organized by Performa's Associate Curator Adrienne Edwards on the topic of black surrealism. The notion that surrealism is not exclusive to Paris, but in fact was always an international movement--spanning across Latin America during the 1930s--was a core idea of this symposium.

The Institution of Me by Derrick Adams, a multidisciplinary New York-based artist, is comprised of music, dance and scripture.  The invitation to the Dionysian nature of the African Diaspora is a common message throughout his piece. Psalm 98:1--O sing unto the Lord a new song--is interpreted in a literal sense by Adams, who uses archival interlocutors, mainstream music, cymbals and his own voice to perk up our ears. However, the verve of paganism is also present throughout Adams’ performance. At one point Adams, wearing a Dashiki, uses a wall of his exhibition space to cast an augmented shadow of himself while dancing. A special moment arises when an interlocutor, who originates from the intergalactic regions of outer-space, explains to a few black youngsters that he is not real just like they are not real. If they were real they would not be fighting for equal rights, he states. The interlocutor concludes that both of them are myths that the white man dreamed long ago. There is a silent moment for the first time and it it emphasized by the passing of seconds. It is the first time in the performance where there is a break or pause to the perpetual whirling of noise and distraction.

This year Performa 13 makes its biennial appearance with one hundred events to celebrate the revolutionary movement of Surrealism lead by André Breton in the 1920s. Performa 13 will also serve to create a dialogue between artists, writers, curators and directors of New York, Poland and Norway. The Norwegian visual artist, composer and singer Tori Wrånes, known for playing the piano while dangerously hanging from a cliff, will work with two New York musicians for a couple of performances, and she will give a few talks about her daredevil art events. As the art world continues to grow into a global village many new voices will be heard; the voice is the performance tool that Performa 13 chose to focus on for this year’s festivities.

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Written by: Ivan Luque
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