Co-presented with PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art (MIT Press).

In a startling turn in the visual arts, which once used the word “theater” to describe what art was not, visual artists and visual arts institutions and programmers are embracing theater as the vanguard. The 2012 Whitney Biennial is devoting an entire floor to performance and putting on a play. Theater director Richard Maxwell has conducted an ongoing theater rehearsal as part of the Biennial. Biennial participant Tom Thayer uses puppets and stage sets. The most recent Performa Biennial in 2011 featured numerous works of theater: a play by Elmgreen and Dragset based loosely on Samuel Beckett’s work; Simon Fujiwara’s play performed on a turntable stage in a proscenium theater; James Franco and Laurel Nakadate’s performance based on one of Tennessee Williams’s plays; Gerard Byrne’s theatrical auditions; and others. In 2011, the Guggenheim museum presented a play for the first time—La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler. Some artists have always defied the conventional art world animosity toward things labeled as “theater.” But now performance and the visual arts in general have dropped this animosity and turned to theater as a source of ideas, practices, adaptable texts, points of reference, and philosophy. Artists are also turning to theater as process, using parts of theater or the rehearsal process to arrive at photographs or videos or objects. For them, theater is something through which they pass on their way to making art.

Paul David Young won the Kennedy Center’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and was a finalist for the Kendeda Fellowship. He has been produced at MoMA P.S.1, Marlborough Gallery, the Living Theatre, Lion Theatre, LMAKprojects, apexart, Kraine Theater, the Red Room, and in Iceland at the Kaffileikhusid in Reykjavik. He was the Kerr Fellow at the Millay Colony, the Pearlman Fellow at Djerassi, and a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. He graduated from Yale College, Columbia Law School, and the New School for Drama. His play In the Summer Pavilion premiered in 2011 and will also be produced at 59E59 Street Theaters, October 8 to November 4, 2012. He is a contributing editor at PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art. His translation, with Carl Weber, of Heiner Müller’s Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome will be published in 2012. He writes for Art in America, recently covering the 2011 Performa Biennial, APAP, Pacific Standard Time, the Armory Show, and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. In 2013, PAJ will publish a volume of his panels and interviews with visual artists about their use of theater, entitled Turning Theater into Art.

Banner image:
Michael Smith in Bill Loman, Master Salesman, at The Kitchen, 1983. Photo: Kevin Noble

Saturday, June 2, 2012 | 3:00 PM

Events at the New Museum

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