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Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.

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10/28/07 04:22:46 pm

Line outside the museum

Anita Ekbert, Cate Blanchett with mirrow, & Dianne Weist

Abigail Breslin and Cate Blanchett


Cast in the Rotunda

PERFORMA07 kicked off last night, with a performance by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli at the Guggenheim Museum, a re-staging of Pirandello??s ???Right You Are (If You Think You Are) (1917),"with the appearance of Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Ellen Burstyn, Peter Sarsgaard. 25 more wondrous days ahead!


10/28/07 03:59:30 pm
Rooftop Search continues for Christian Jankowski's upcoming performance!

Looking for Rooftops

See you all there on November 3, 10 am at Jankowski's studio at 141 Division Street! More on the project


10/28/07 02:17:33 pm
???It Has Truly Been a Great Success....??

Anita Ekbert, Cate Blanchett, & Dianne Weist. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Gagosian Gallery.

Francesco Vezzolli Right You Are ( If You Think you Are) by Luigi Pirandello, 1917. A Performa 07 Commission produced by the Gagosian Gallery in collaboration with Performa and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

???It has truly been a great success. Not for the applause, but for the astonishment, the bafflement, the exasperation and the dismay I caused the audience. You don??t know how much I enjoyed it!?? (Luigi Pirandello in a letter after the premiere of Right You Are (If You Think You Are) 1917, quoted by Francesco Vezzoli in 2007)

Performa 07 launched on Saturday the 27th with its one night only performance commission of Francesco Vezzoli's adaptation of Luigi Pirandello's 1917 play 'Right You Are (If You Think You Are)' at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum. It was Vezzoli's first ever live performance and it launched amid long waits and even longer queues containing famous artists, major and minor celebrities and increasingly restless arty types.

The bill of actors for this one night performance included a star studded line up: Cate Blanchett, Abigail Breslin, Ellen Burstyn, Anita Ekberg Marcus Carl Franklin, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, David Strathairn, Elaine Stritch and Dianne Wiest. All these A-listers were here to do justice to Vezzoli's vision of Pirandello's play, which was originally conceived as a tale of the impossibility of objective truth, centred around the central (mostly absent) character of 'Signora Ponza', that Vezzoli has turned into a parable of the modern day cult of celebrity, incorporating superb Galliano and Prada designed outfits and casting Cate Blanchett as the elusive Signora Ponza.

A small proportion of the audience (myself included) dutifully did their time in the queue outside and were allocated one of the green, red or gold tickets only to find themselves relegated to a screening room; a space in which 12 foot high video screens showcased the lucky audience for the ???real?? performance of Right You Are (If You Think You Are) that was happening far away at the other side of the Guggenheim. At first I was outraged that I had been duped; demoted to non-live, and hence cheap, seats and relegated to sit with the lower classes. However, when Cate Blanchett entered stage right and took a seat with her back to us facing the screens, everything suddenly fell into place. Cate??s presence was confirmation that something live was happening in our space, moreover it was something expensive and famous; we were in the right place at the right time.

It is entirely fitting within Vezzoli's rumination on celebrities and celebrity culture that the realisation that I was an important witness to a live (celebrity) performance changed my mind about our ???cheap?? seats and convinced me to stay for the duration of Right You Are (If You Think You Are). In fact, the manipulation of the audience and their ego is integral to the work; the class distinction in the tickets and seating toys with our delicate sense of self and what results is the audience's - eagerly anticipated by Vezzoli ?? ???bafflement, exasperation and dismay??. In addition, the physical split in the performance areas created a hall of mirrors in which we saw a performance unfolding within a performance; those in the screening room watched Cate watch the screen, upon which was the audience watching Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and co. In this way, Vezzoli used the audience as test site with which to explore one of the central themes of Right You Are (If You Think You Are), that of a distinctly contemporary, relational identity in which gazing upon, and gossiping about, someone else, be they celebrity or not, actually secures both their and your existence in the world. The moral of Vezzoli??s story is that gossip is truth, or as objective as the truth, and you are who you gossip about or watch. Moreover, if you don??t watch, or aren??t gossiped about or gazed upon, you don??t exist in contemporary culture.

Similar to Vezzoli??s 2005 presentation of ???Caligula?? at the Venice Biennale, both Right You Are (If You Think You Are) and its audience were star studded, dripped in gold and traded on a shameless and unapologetic display of voyeurism. This sickly over-saturated glamour is at once Vezzoli??s (art) world and his very subject matter. With it, Vezzoli expertly manipulates fame and its trappings to create a performance that is both a sincere tribute to, whilst providing a critique of, today??s celebrity culture and the surface interaction it necessitates. This unambiguous double edge means that, as audience, whether you were baffled, dismayed and exasperated or not, as Vezzoli after Pirandello says, it was ???A Truly Great Success.??

Rachel Lois Clapham

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