SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 31, 2016)—Following its transformative expansion, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announces the new Performance in Progress series, launching this fall. Continuing its dedication to emerging contemporary artists, and building on a legacy of engagement with performance initiated in the 1960s, SFMOMA commissions local, national and international artists to develop groundbreaking live work through this newly instated series. Through Performance in Progress, the museum invites artists and audiences alike to explore the artistic process and participate in the creation of new work. Artists included in the inaugural year are Desirée Holman, Naomi Rincón Gallardo and Jacolby Satterwhite.
Performance in Progress artists have public site visits at SFMOMA in the fall and return to the museum in the spring to premiere their new work. The wide range of complementary programing offered through the series includes open rehearsals and previews of works in progress, as well as talks, panel discussions and community mixers with the artists. Offering unique behind-the-scenes access, Performance in Progress provides insight into the dynamic processes of developing performance-based work.
“Performance in Progress presents artists developing live work via key issues in contemporary and Bay Area culture: queer identities, communities in the diaspora and popular forms (from commerce and entertainment to memoir and religion) reworked as engines for social and aesthetic experiment,” said Frank Smigiel, associate curator of performance and film at SFMOMA. “It’s work through life, in the here and the now.”
Each of the artists included in the inaugural year—Holman, Rincón Gallardo and Satterwhite—draw on the look and story arcs of science fiction and fantasy to create alternative futures. Rather than employ blockbuster superheroes and starships, the artists populate their imagined spaces with personal stories, heroes and locales. A cappella recordings from Satterwhite’s mother, Patricia, are remade for an immersive, dance floor–like universe; the assassinated Mixtec activist Alberta “Bety” Cariño’s transformative journey through the underworld is illuminated in Rincón Gallardo’s work; and the true believers of Northern California mysticism passing civilization on to a new human race is explored in Holman’s project. Through their fictional worlds, the artists offer epic possibilities for the real world.
Throughout the Performance in Progress series, the inaugural artists explore the interplay between the projected image and the live encounter. Each work exists as a piece of expanded cinema or installation-based performance, using SFMOMA’s Gina and Stuart Peterson White Box gallery as a stage. In the resulting work, future fantasies of popular film meet a vocabulary drawn from visual art, movement and music. Referencing concert films and concept albums, songs punctuate plot points in Performance in Progress work, often driving the work itself. Using the harmonic echoes, repetitions and deep feeling found in rock music clubs or on dance floors, each artist builds his or her own utopian vision from multiple parts. After preview weekends in fall 2016, the three inaugural Performance in Progress artists will debut their work at SFMOMA during a festival-like weekend March 16 through 19, 2017.
Preview weekend September 8–11, 2016
Oakland-based artist Desirée Holman uses rehearsals, costumes and props to present complex social groups, often in a state of change. As part of the inaugural year of Performance in Progress, Holman will present Sophont in Action, a video and performance piece exploring theosophy, E.T. sightings, New Age mysticism and California utopias. Through three fictitious character types—elder Time Travelers, adult Ecstatic Dancers and young Indigo Children—Sophont in Action presents a mysterious society enacting rituals of transmission and initiation. White-haired elders, androgynous adults and multi-raced Indigos balance, uphold and share each other’s weight, passing knowledge and presenting possibilities for the future. Begun as a live procession marking SFMOMA’s 2013 building closure and the launch of the museum’s On the Go program, Sophont in Action returns to the expanded museum after iterations at di Rosa in Napa and Black Cube in Denver.
Pointing to the Indigo Children as emblems of a utopian future, Holman draws on the long history of science fiction as a place where anxieties in the present can be resolved in distant universes and alternative times. During her preview weekend at SFMOMA from September 8 through 11, Holman will host open rehearsals and cast workshops, encouraging discussions around nontraditional religions, experimental living models and the racial fantasies inherent in recent science fictions, including Sophont in Action. The preview weekend offers opportunities to weigh these issues with the artist and her cast. SFMOMA will also host screenings of Holman’s complete video works, including the original Sophont (2015), Heterotopias (2011), Reborn (2009), The Magic Window (2007) and Troglodyte (2005).
Preview weekend September 29–October 2, 2016
Deeply interested in radical histories and speculative fictions, Mexico City–based artist Naomi Rincón Gallardo works across performance and video to investigate utopian possibilities and belief. Her often music-based narratives draw on countercultural forms like punk, DIY aesthetics and queer identities to reframe touchstones in Mexican and Mesoamerican politics. As both an artist and an educator, Rincón Gallardo foregrounds research tools from feminist theory and radical theater to imagine new types of social engagement, encounter and play.
For Performance in Progress at SFMOMA, Rincón Gallardo will present The Formaldehyde Trip, a new performance and video work that weaves together pre-Columbian cosmologies, lesbian activism and theory and indigenous women’s struggles for their land. Part of her PhD in Practice at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, this new commission imagines the murdered Mixtec activist Alberta “Bety” Cariño in her journey through a mythological underworld, as she encounters warriors, animal guardians and deities like the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauhqui and god of the dead Mictlantecuhtli.
The Formaldehyde Trip, co-curated with Galería de la Raza, marks the continuation of a long line of collaborations between the two institutions. Four song sequences from The Formaldehyde Trip were filmed at the Galería, and a queer Latina community was gathered to play key on- and behind-screen roles for the piece. The history of collaboration between the institutions is also illustrated in Remezcla Gráfica / Graphic Remix, on view in SFMOMA’s Koret Education Center from September 3, 2016 through January 8, 2017.
Rincón Gallardo’s preview weekend at SFMOMA, held September 29 through October 2, will offer opportunities to meet the artist, Galería staff and The Formaldehyde Trip cast and crew. SFMOMA will also present the artist’s long-form video works Odisea Ocotepec (Ocotepec Odyssey), 2014 and Utopias Pirata (Bootleg Utopias), 2012.
Preview weekend November 17–20, 2016
New York–based artist Jacolby Satterwhite draws on his background in painting, his mother’s drawing practice and the possibilities of 3D animation to create lush dream worlds. For SFMOMA’s Performance in Progress commission, Satterwhite and musician Nick Weiss (Teengirl Fantasy) will create the visual album, En Plein Air: Music of Objective Romance, deeply inspired by the studio practice of Satterwhite’s mother, Patricia. In the late 1990s, Patricia Satterwhite recorded over 155 a cappella songs on cassette tapes, blending distinct musical genres like new age, R&B, country, gospel and folk. While the lyrics and melodies of the original recordings are maintained, the tracks in En Plein Air incorporate elements of electronic house, noise and deconstructed club music. In the newly scored video, songs like “Healing in My House” become complex artistic explorations—Satterwhite matches his poses to his mother’s vocals, while live-action club scenes are juxtaposed with characters in a fantastical world.
Inspired by Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto’s action adventure musical film, Interstella 5555, En Plein Air uses the visual album form to build a narrative arc. Satterwhite also expands this cinematic framework by deploying his on-screen characters in a virtual reality (VR) performance. The artist pulls himself out of the VR scene to DJ an ever-changing, real-time remix. During the artist’s preview weekend at SFMOMA from November 17 through 20, the museum will debut excerpts of this VR piece, and will host screenings of Satterwhite’s video works Reifying Desire 1–6 (2012–14) and The Matriarch’s Rhapsody (2012).