Fresh Performance Chapter 1: Defining Performance

FRESH MILK in collaboration with Damali Abrams presents Chapter 1 in the Fresh Performance Project: Defining Performance

Fresh Performance is an experimental documentary that I am working on through a seven-month off-site residency with Fresh Milk. Each month I will interview one artist in New York City and one in the Caribbean concerning different aspects of performance in their respective practices and post the videos online. I will then edit them all into a full-length documentary. My intention is that as artists we can connect with and learn from each other through our work. In my own practice, I use my art as my therapy, my school, my playground and also my surrogate when I need to communicate things that I do not know how to communicate otherwise. Through this project I am studying performance via conversations with a group of exceptional contemporary artists. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with Fresh Milk and all of these talented makers.

Art itself is a nebulous concept that eludes definition. Performance art is that much more precarious. I am drawn to performance because it can encapsulate just about anything else from any medium or discipline. It seems to be somewhat lawless and anarchic. But that is my own personal definition. In chapter one of Fresh Performance, artists Sandra Vivas, originally from Venezuela, currently living in Dominica, and Nyugen E. Smith from Jersey City, share their own definitions.

I met with Nyugen at 59th and Columbus in New York City on a very chilly early Spring day. It was far windier than expected and we scouted around for a location that would not provide too many audio challenges.  We tried inside of a mall, a hotel lobby and finally Nyugen suggested a tunnel at Central Park. It turned out to be perfect.

Sandra Vivas and I met on Google Hangout. Despite many technical difficulties, she and I had a very warm conversation. It was more like speaking with a friend I had known for years rather than someone I was meeting for the first time online. Sandra shared that while she enjoys living in Dominica, she feels very isolated creatively and has not done any performance art there.

This project is a work-in-progress and as stated above, Fresh Performance is intended to remain an open discussion so please feel free to share any questions, comments and critiques.

Damali Abrams

About Nyugen Smith:

With a fearless approach, multi-media artist Nyugen Smith embraces the role of cultural informer and champion of social justice. Drawing heavily on his West Indian heritage, Smith is interested in raising consciousness of past and present political struggles through his work which consists of sculpture, installation, video and performance. Growing up in Trinidad, Smith was profoundly influenced by the conflation of African cultural practices and the residue of British colonial rule encountered in his daily life on the island. Responding to this unique cultural environment, Smith’s art is a reaction to imperialist practices of oppression, violence and ideological misnomers.

About Sandra Vivas:

Sandra Vivas was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1969 and is currently living in Dominica West. Sandra has developed a body of work that has performance as a permanent thread through her paintings and videos. Irony and humour play a fundamental role in her work and she is considered a feminist performance pioneer in Venezuela. From 1997-2008, Sandra taught at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, in the Undergrad and Graduate Programs of the Escuela de Artes, teaching Contemporary Art History. Sandra studied painting and ballet and has a Bachelors Degree in Art History from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and a Masters Degree in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute, California, USA.

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