Over the last 40 years Performance Space has been propelling cultural, theoretical, and political discourse forward. Futurity and world-building connect the interdisciplinary works presented here—works that have dissolved the borders of performance art, dance, theater, music, visual art, poetry and prose, ritual, night life, food, film, and technology, shattering artistic and social norms alike.
Founded in 1980, Performance Space New York (formerly Performance Space 122) became a haven for many queer and radical voices shut out by a repressive, monocultural mainstream and conservative government whose neglect exacerbated the emerging AIDS epidemic’s devastation. Carrying forward the multitudinous visions of these artists who wielded the political momentum of self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars, Performance Space is one of the birthplaces of contemporary performance as it is known today.
As the New York performing arts world has become increasingly institutionalized, and the shortcomings within our industry were further revealed during the ravages and transformations of 2020, our focus has been not just on presenting boundary-breaking work but on restructuring our own organization towards prioritizing equity and access. We seek to build deeper relationships with our artists and communities by creating new access points. Through community councils, annual town halls, guest-curated programs such as Octopus and First Mondays, we welcome the public to actively shape our future and help us hold ourselves accountable. Programs like the revived Open Movement and the new Open Room invite the community in and reclaim the institution as a rare indoor public space in the ever-more expensive East Village.
Our search for new models is an embrace of the unknown—and an acknowledgement of transformation as a process of continuous inquiry, imagination, response, and accountability. Mirroring the spirit of experimentation artists have brought to our spaces across four decades, we strive towards something which does not yet exist. We believe this focus on changing the conditions in which art is made is just as fundamental as the art itself, and only serves to make it more substantial.
02020, the year-long project during which a cohort of salaried artists were invited together with the staff and board to re-vision Performance Space, initiated this transformation, and itself rapidly reshaped to meet artists’ and community members’ needs amidst the early days of the pandemic and uprising for racial justice. 02020 was a new beginning for us, a sharp and needed turn back towards artists to help rethink the institution for the future.
*What else should we say YES to? Share your ideas with us here.
Performance Space New York is situated in Lenapehoking, the land, waters, and air of the Lenape diaspora, a place which has always been, still is, and always will be a center of intersecting Indigenous movements. We acknowledge that our existence, operating on the island of Manahatta, is a consequence of violent histories of settler colonialism bound up with unchecked exclusions, genocide, and erasures of many Indigenous people -ongoing to this day.
This acknowledgement should not function as acceptance or closure, but as a call to commit to reconfigure our notions about ourselves through our work and working practice, here at Performance Space, as we take responsibility to dismantle the ongoing harm perpetuated by settler colonialism.