Installations and Interventions: Performance Art at the Neuberger

When a guest visits the Neuberger Museum of Art during its current performance art exhibition, Hard Return: 9 Experiments for This Moment, they will get a completely different experience each time they go. During the nine-part series, nine artists will create unique week-long experiences for one week at a time through May 7. In turn, visitors will be immersed in art that explores the human experience, the pandemic, femininity and more. The art will be constantly evolving throughout the museum unlike a common on-stage performance with set performance times.

Co-Curator Jonah Westerman emphasized the contrast between each performance: “If you really like one, you should come back for the other ones. And even if you don’t really like one, you should come back for other ones because they will be so different.”

Hard Return challenges the traditional sense of how art is viewed, from exploring the potential for life on Mars through opera to developing a talk show that was birthed from the pandemic. Director Tracy Fitzpatrick says: “Many people think of art as a painting or sculpture. In general, I would love for visitors to take away the idea that art is varied and has varied forms.”

The Museum has had a wide array of exhibitions in the past, but according to Fitzpatrick, this exhibition is one of the more “unique” and “complex” that they have organized. Hard Return will integrate people into the art instead of treating them as just viewers.

Jason Rodriguez and Purchase College student performers in Brendan Fernandes’s work for Hard Return: 9 Experiments for this Moment. Photo by Rebecca Ribiero.

The exhibition’s first featured artist, Brendan Fernandes, will develop a dance with vogue expert Jason Rodriguez in response to the Neuberger’s permanent African art collection. The dance project, taking place from February 1-7, will also feature some of the many Purchase students who are involved in the development, promotion and performance of Hard Return. This will not be a cut-and-dry dance performance; it will develop with rehearsals and engage guests with movement workshops over the course of its week-long stay.

The months following Fernandes’s project will include improvisations, installations and immersive environments from additional artists. Alix Pearlstein will conduct improvisational exercises that are relative to a set of objects (Feb.15-19). Daniel Bozhkov will explore the viability of life on other planets through opera (Feb. 22-26). Nao Busmante has created a set of organized set-pieces that explore the history of tools used in gynecology and their effect on femininity (Mar. 8-12). Amber Hawk Swanson will film episodes of The Harmony Show, a talk show developed during the pandemic (Mar. 29-April 2). Emily Coates will present a video installation accompanied by original dance choreography and dialogue (April 5-9). A sculptural installation and dialogue based performance by Autumn Knight will focus on complaining and disappointment (April 12-16). Patty Chang will present a participatory immersive environment that explores intimacy and feeling (April 26-30). The final week will feature a series of “installations and interventions” by Jesus Benaventes, which will include large inflatable sculptures, a party that alternates between celebratory club and crime scene, a mariachi band and more (May 3-7).

Says Westerman: “If art can do anything, it can help us work through [sic] questions – [thinking about our] sense of place and time. That’s what this show is designed to do…What [guests] are going to be anchored to is an experience of the site, of the place, of what it means to be a person in relation to these other people in the room.”

Hard Return will be asking guests to think about what it means to be in a moment, in an environment, in a community and how they exist and interact within those constructs.

About Dan Wood

After receiving his BA in Media Arts, Daniel Wood went back to SHU for his MA in Journalism and Media Production. He has played trumpet in various bands and was surrounded by artists and writers growing up, which led to his interest in writing about various creative topics.