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40+ Young Performance Artists Take Over the MoMA

The tenth edition of India Salvor Menuez's Booklub storms the Museum of Modern Art.
March 2, 2016, 8:45pm
Viva Soudan, Bailey Nolan, Claire Christerson, Alon Sicherman, Jack Shannon, and India Menuez. Photo: Olimpia Dior

The flavor of youth is a particularly fleeting one, which is why, as a young critic, I am particularly wary of the captured "lightning in a bottle," efforts of Ryan McGinley, Larry Clark, and, albeit more transparently, Richard Kern. We respresent ourselves and each other best at eye-level, our perspectives distorted neither by having to look up at our heroes, nor down into their lenses. This is why I like the Booklub series: on February 18, at the MoMA's Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 show, over 40 young performers took to the space in front of Lele Saveri'sNewsstand and held an 8-hour-straight performance art showcase by us, for us, first.

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Ten editions into the anything-goes event, Booklub's founder, artist India Salvor Menuez, is resolute: "Yesterday was crazy, a true marathon of sorts, I don't think I at all realized how tight I made the schedule. People were performing at The Newsstand installation from the moment the doors opened at 10:30—starting with Claire Christerson accompanied by Colin Self and Signe Pierce—till our last performer Sara Grace Powell wrapped up her piece a couple minutes after the museum had technically closed; I later was told that when security threatened to cut her off at 5:30 on the dot, one of the day's coordinators from MoMA told him 'she is performing a piece about institutional critique, you can't.'" This is the ethos of such a spectacle, which belies the true success of such a DIY effort: if you build it, not only will they come, they'll stay.

Ruby McCollister as W. Osiris. Photo: Olimpia Dior

"Booklub is a platform for artists to share their performance work. I started it at The Newsstand 3 years ago when it was at the Lorimer L train stop. It was just a happening I kept putting together," Menuez explains. "I had all these friends with ideas for work they wanted to perform but no context to perform it. The thing about performance is that you can't just make it alone, so fostering a community to me meant the inherent production of new work."

Ruby McCollister, Lele Saveri (since it's nice to put a face to the name) and (then) Sara Grace Powell as Kelsea Wollffllotterr. Photo: Olimpia Dior

Performances ranged from the ecological, like the Bellport, New York-based collective Auto Body's literal performance of Long Island environmental life, which even included construction paper cutouts of animals, to the deeply heartfelt, like the back-to-back confessionals of Alexandra Marzella, who recited poems to a distant lover, and Jo Rosenthal, who, to an audience of many, exposed intimate personal letters to friends and family, myself included. Giovanna Olmos was compelling as ever, with another successful How to Sell a Digital Painting performance (Olmos actually sold a work for nearly $30 during her time slot), and Sara Grace Powell treated audiences to a nightmarish vision of a completely-commodified future via her Hello Kitty-meets-Johnny Mnemonic character, imposter art consultant Kelsea Wollffllotterr.

Leah Hennessey and Emily Allan. Photo: Olimpia Dior

L: Alexander Iezzi and a friend. R: Jo Rosenthal. Photos: Olimpia Dior

"There was such a good energy in the room all day. The museum was amazingly accommodating of the madness, for having so many rules, it was fun to see their openness to breaking a few," Menuez says. "As I expected, the work was really wide ranging, and it was fun to see the parallels between different artists. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people stayed all day and at the end of it I just feel so proud of everyone who performed; so many special pals inspiring me with their bravery—it's not easy!"

A museum visitor performing during the Open Mic. Photo: Olimpia Dior

That difficulty was evident at the afterparty that followed, at East Village haunt, Elvis Guesthouse—despite a rousing set from producer and DJ Ross Menuez, the kids were pooped. But if their willingness to keep going is any indication, stay tuned for the future of Booklub. It might not look, or sound, or even smell the way you'd expect it to—especially having seen some of its stars in vampiric fashion rag editorials—but that's a good thing. In a world that increasingly appears to be owned by everyone else, we're giving each other, for free, our greatest asset: our fullest attention.

Four Fours - a piece by Hannah Gross, Timothy Scott and Nicolas Norena. Photo: Olimpia Dior

Four Fours - a piece by Hannah Gross, Timothy Scott, and Nicolas Norena. Photo: Olimpia Dior

Bailey Nolan of BUOY. Photo: Olimpia Dior

A museum visitor, Viva Soudan, Bailey Nolan, Claire Christerson, India Menuez, a museum visitor, and Rowan Oliver. Photo: Olimpia Dior

Booklub 10 took place on February 18 at the Museum of Modern Art. Click here to learn more about the artist India Salvor Menuez.

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