The official postcard image for Maximum Perception (click to enlarge)

The official postcard image for Maximum Perception (click to enlarge)

This weekend, Bushwick’s English Kills art gallery hosts the second Maximum Perception Performance Festival, which is curated by Peter Dobill and Phoenix Lights.

Over 20 performances during two nights (Friday and Saturday, 7pm-midnight) will feature national and international performance artists.

The event is critical of the recently concluded Performa performing arts festival in New York, and the press release declares that the English Kills events will be “a counterpoint to the fiscally bloated, dilettante-based spectacle that has consumed the image of performance art in New York City.”

Excited by what I saw last year during the first year of the festival, I will be liveblogging Saturday’s performances starting at 7 pm EST here on Hyperallergic.

I spoke to Peter Dobill about the importance of Maximum Perception.

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James Kalm interviewing curator Peter Dohill at the first 'Maximum Perception' festival last year at English Kills

James Kalm interviewing curator Peter Dohill at the first ‘Maximum Perception’ festival last year at English Kills in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Hrag Vartanian: Is this the antidote to Performa?

Peter Dobill: To quote Performa’s website:

The centerpiece of the Performa 09 biennial is its internationally renowned Performa Commissions program. Initiated by Performa Director RoseLee Goldberg to create new performances for the 21st century, the Performa Commission invites artists — many of whom have not worked ‘live’ before — to create new work especially for the biennial. “I wanted to encourage artists to write the next chapter of live art,” Goldberg says, “to take us in a direction never seen before.”

The Maximum Perception Performance Festival believes in the power and vision of performance artists to transform performance art itself. We will showcase top tier emerging performance artists, with established practices, presenting new works in a free exhibition open to the public.

HV: What’s wrong with Performa and the way it portrays performance art?

PD: By shifting focus to “break down boundaries between visual art, music, dance, poetry, fashion, architecture, film, television, radio, graphic design, and the culinary arts,” and by commissioning artists whom have not worked live before, Performa loses its focus on the dynamic practices that make up performance art itself. Charging prohibitive fees to attend spectacle based events (see Francesco Vezzoli, 2007) doesn’t widen the dialogue of performance art practice to a general public.

One cannot ignore the thousands of established artists around the world who spend years developing new directions within performance art and its practice. Performa’s responsibility should be presenting performance art; its breadth, diversity and history … not worrying about culinary arts and graphic design.

Shouldn’t the largest funded performance art event in the world showcase the work of the best established and emerging performance artists in the world ?

HV: Why did you broaden the scope of the festival to embrace national and international artists?

PD: Maximum Perception started as a survey last year of contemporary Brooklyn performance art. In transforming this into a yearly festival at English Kills Art Gallery, we wanted to broaden the scope to include artists we believe in from other parts of the world. We hope to expand more upon this in the future.

HV: Now that MoMA is collecting performance art, do you think it has lost some of its edge?

PD: Performance art as a live event can never lose its edge, its an ephemeral action swallowed whole by time at its creation, never able to return. Live performance is the anti-object even as it is videotaped, photographed, and reported about. Collecting performance art objects, artifacts and media and presenting these in exhibitions to the public only serves to spread its history, its practice and inspire future generations to become performance artists.

HV: What do you consider the highlights of this weekend’s festival?

PD: Each night will have surprises, even to its organizers . . .

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Saturday night’s line up includes performances by:

Marni Kotak
Nate Hill
Mark Stafford
Ryan Brown
Philip Fryer
Sandrine Schaefer
Jodie Lyn Kee Chow and Zachary Fabri
Lech Szporer
Holly Faurot and Sarah H. Paulson
Naoki Iwakawa

Ongoing throughout the night: Danielle Freakley/The Quote Generator

For Friday night performers and more information, visit

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

8 replies on “Brooklyn’s Answer to Performa Begins Friday”

  1. Danielle Freakley/Quote Generator, which is performing on opening night of Maximum Perception, was performed last month as part of Performa 09….just sayin’.

  2. while i’m sure this will be a great event, the words coming out of peter dohill’s mouth seem like typical brooklynite hipster faux-radical nonsense. different to be different; to have some kind of stance. performa is fantastic, and to say that they fail to broaden the public’s access to performance art because of prohibitive prices is a strawman argument. like anyone except a bunch of bloggers will even go to english kills for this.

  3. Hey Jack,
    I think Peter has proven himself to be very dedicated to performance art. His views of the field obviously don’t synch with Performa’s. I think it’s great that he’s creating a local movement and educated people about performance in a different way from Performa. I think Performa is more interested in a generalist approach, and frankly I think we need both. And trust me, it won’t only be bloggers at English Kills this weekend … there’s a big local audience for this stuff.

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