The Whitney Museum of American Art presents Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980, a groundbreaking look at a vibrant community of artists and the experimental performance art they produced. This exhibition organized by Jay Sanders, the Whitney’s Curator and Curator of Performance, Rituals of Rented Island will be on view from October 31 to February 2014 in the Museum’s third-floor Peter Norton Family Galleries.
The Whitney’s presentation creates an immersive experience that both documents the era and recreates it in part with installations of sets and environments, objects, film and video, photography, drawings, ephemera, and live performance by the following artists: Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Jared Bark, Ericka Beckman, Ralston Farina, Richard Foreman/Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Julia Heyward, Ken Jacobs Apparition Theater of New York, Mike Kelley, Kipper Kids, Jill Kroesen, Sylvia Palacios Whitman, Yvonne Rainer and Babette Mangolte, Stuart Sherman, Theodora Skipitares, Jack Smith, Michael Smith, Squat Theatre, Robert Wilson/Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, and John Zorn/Theatre of Musical Optics.
Built upon the foundation of Fluxus, Happenings, and the Judson Dance Theater, the art scene in Manhattan—particularly SoHo—remained an epicenter for avant-garde performance throughout the 1970s. Experimental theater flourished in venues such as Jack Smith’s two-story Plaster Foundation of Atlantis studio and Robert Wilson’s Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds. Nearby, both The Kitchen (founded in 1971) and Artists Space (which opened in 1973) became seminal venues for an emerging generation of artists whose performances pushed the formal limits of music, theater, and dance. The performances in these spaces were unlike those of the 1960s. Instead of trying to break down the boundaries between art and life, this younger generation reacted to the growing cynicism and disillusionment of the decade.
Their solo and ensemble performance works addressed social, political, and media constructions and were revolutionary in incorporating references to both high- and low-brow entertainment. Moreover, the work produced during this time period provided a necessary footing for the next generation of artists, which coalesced as the vibrant East Village scene of the 1980s and its associated styles of No Wave, New Wave, and Post-Punk.