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Jessie Gold and Sam Gordon in conversation with Alyssa Gersony
The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) held the second edition of its art fair – NADA New York – May 10th through May 12th at Pier 36, Basketball City, showcasing over 70 international visual art galleries, representing 13 countries. This year, amidst the traditional art fair model, NADA also hosted Contemporary Dancing under the curation and organization of Sam Gordon and Jessie Gold (of Cafe Dancer). Forty-three artists* performed in and around the spaces of Basketball City during the weekend-long event. The following conversation with Sam and Jessie looks at their motivation for bringing dance to NADA and considers the event in relation to ongoing discourse (e.g. TDR’s Winter 2012 issue Precarity and Performance, Andy Horwitz’s article “The Economics of Ephemerality,” Culturebot.org and Invisible Dog’s collaborative initiation of the Brooklyn Commune, performers’ responses to labor practices in Marina Ambramovic’s The Artist is Present at MOMA, the efforts of W.A.G.E., etc.) surrounding the political economy of performance.
*AUNTS with Larissa Valez-Jackson, Maggie Bennet, Jen Rosenblit, Marianna Valencia, Stacy Grossfield; Brittany Bailey with live musical arrangement by Bryce Hackford; Megha Barbabas; Biba Bell with Tyler Ashley and Nicole Daunic; Rebecca Brooks with Ursula Eagly, Bessie McDonough-Thayer, and Emily Wexler; Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen; Walter Dundervill with Tyler Ashley, Benjamin Asriel, Rebecca Brooks, Megan Byrne, Jennifer Kjos, Kevin Lovelady, Athena Malloy, Sarah Perron, and Enrico Wey; Stanley Love Performance Group with Lauri Hogan, Lella Zimbel, Shizu Homma, John Bellecki, Stephanie Dixon, Vanessa Walters, Ivy Elrod, Jonathon Love, Adam Dugas, Ashley Steele; Michael Mahalchick; Cassie Mey; robbinschilds; Jealous Orgasm; Flora Weigmann; and Greg Zuccolo.
Interview Date: May 12, 2013
Alyssa Gersony: How did dance end up becoming a part of NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance)?
Sam Gordon: NADA has included many kinds of performance at previous fairs. In Hudson, New York they hosted Michael Mahalchick’s Very Erotic Dancing and in Miami, Flora Wiegmann danced at the Deauville Hotel where NADA takes place. This year in their new home at Basketball City on the lower, lower east side, they were looking for someone to host a possible beer garden outside on the water. Cafe Dancer seemed like the perfect fit. I reached out to Heather Hubbs, the director of NADA, and we began a conversation with Jessie about what could be possible. Jessie and I both thought it would be a perfect opportunity and space for dance. As we began to program the performances, it grew into a kind of symposium on dancers performing within the art world. So we just fit this performance program into what was already happening at NADA, carving out some space for dance.
As we were working on the project there was a symposium at the Hammer called Dancing in the Art World, which discussed many of the same ideas revolving around this program. I’ve been fascinated by the way the art world has fallen in love with dance again in the last five to ten years. The art world is trying to figure out where there are still possibilities to explore things that can happen. When you walk into a fair and see people performing, there is a frisson; something happens with your body that doesn’t always happen with art.
Working on this project has been great because I’ve learned so much more about dancing and how dancers are linked — similar to that great map piece by Lance Gries made of fifty performers and how they are connected. I’m a visual artist, and I would say most visual artists don’t think about dance very much; they are busy with their own practice. As an outsider it’s been fun exploring this world, which while parallel with the art world, has less money, less attention, and less interest. It’s an even smaller world, like poetry. I looked up the definition of symposium — you think you know what something means though there is always more to learn. Symposium is actually from the Greek, meaningdrinking party. Dancing and drinking makes perfect sense for Cafe Dancer and NADA.
Alyssa: Can you talk more about the actual driving force? Why dance in this context? Was it your interest and your desire to bring it here, or was there interest from NADA as well?
Sam: They were looking for programming. They’ve always invited artists, they’ve always done interesting things, though they were not thinking specifically about dance. Being interested in dance, I found someone who is a dancer and knows that world more than me. Once we connected, it became clear to NADA that this could be really cool and we could actually pull it off.
Alyssa: I’m curious about the fees, the money. Is NADA paying for any of the dancers?
Jessie Gold: NADA lent Cafe Dancer their support, though they did not have the budget to supply stipends for all the dancers. We’ve been trying to get funding in so many different ways.
Sam: That’s a huge problem for all artists. You don’t want to get paid with just exposure. You want a fee. This fair is a nonprofit and this year, in their new home at Basketball City, they already had a lot to figure out. We did apply for an emergency grant from the Foundation of the Contemporary Arts, which we didn’t get. Then we tried Kickstarter and a few artists and gallerists supported us, but we didn’t make it far enough, so that didn’t happen either.
This weekend we’ve been hosting a salon at Cafe Dancer. We have a really great group of artists who have given their work to help support us. The list is actually amazing. Sales are pending, though we will have the work for a month. We’re hoping we’ll get some funds to at least pay the principal dancers we are working with, but it’s a struggle. Though we informed our performers from the beginning about our struggle to fund them, they still amazingly all showed up. Another way we plan to compensate people is by sharing all the raw footage we shot with them. Some great photographers covered the performances. Over the next few months, we are going to work a video covering the entire event, which we will also share with them. A lot of it has been trading and helping each other, but when it comes to actual money, that has been an issue.
Alyssa: What would both of you say has been the most successful component of this event?
Jessie: Bringing dance to a bigger audience and to a bigger venue. Dance can be transportable, especially for a venue like this with the particular audience it gathers. It would be nice to have more crossover like this, to build the dance community. So many people have never seen Walter Dundervill’s work, AUNTS, or many of the other artists performing here. It will only generate more response for everybody. Dance should be everywhere; it should be happening all the time; it should just be available to people. Living in New York for almost twenty years as a dancer, I’ve worked with artists and musicians through many collaborations, but it’s the one thing that has never come full circle. Unlike all traffic the art world garners, it gets limited within the dance world. So, providing a bigger audience for dance in ways like this is a good thing.
Sam: You were using the word available, and here it was so available for people. There was a lot of awe and wonder; people were pulled to it, they wanted to look and interact. When you are walking through any art fair, there is so much art to take in at once, so many white booths — there can be a sameness or uniformity that creeps in. It can become hard as a viewer to keep looking. These performances were ruptures that were happening in real time in the space. For instance, I collaborated with Rebecca Brooks to create disruptions and pathways winding through the expanse of space. When there were kids around, they would also start to dance and wanted to interact.
Alyssa: Is that something you thought might happen in terms of the encounter between the dance and the art? Or did you have a different idea of how those things might be in relation to one another?
Jessie: I think for the most part it worked very well. It changed how people moved through the space because there was a different energy that was being filtered through the space.
Sam: The air was changed.
Jessie: It made people look at art differently, and look at dance differently. There was a back and forth tension between the objects and performances. In visual art there is a value imbued onto the art object and then it’s sold; whereas with dance, there isn’t an object — it’s performance, it’s ephemeral, it’s this whole other medium that has a value, but it doesn’t have a sticker you can put on the wall that says “sold”. It doesn’t even go on the wall. Putting the performance inside of a booth or next to someone’s sculpture enlivened everything, which was something I think we knew would happen.
Sam: And, that is exactly what is happening at Cafe Dancer. At the bar they work with all kinds of artists — there are pieces made specifically for the space, they have performances, a great list of musicians that play live music and DJ, and art hanging on the wall. That environment is what we wanted to bring here.
Alyssa: Do you have any closing thoughts? Anything you want to add in regards to what you’ve talked about?
Jessie: I want more dance. I want dancers to be paid for their time, I want stipends to be provided, and I want dance to be seen, to have a presence.
Alyssa: Were there any inquires about buying the dance? Did anybody ask if they could purchase a performance?
Jessie: Not yet.
Sam: That has begun elsewhere. Performances have been collected. Performa had a symposium last September called Why dance in the art world? which examined these same questions. Why is this important for art? Why is the art world fascinated with it? Is it collectible? Can you own it? Those are questions that we don’t have the answers to. In this environment people didn’t really bring that up, but this program was trying to figure some of that out. We hope that we can do this again, maybe a bigger version. That’s our hope for the future.
Alyssa: Thank you so much.
Sam Gordon‘s work includes painting, drawing, photography and video. Solo exhibitions of Gordon’s work have been shown with Feature Inc., New York, NY, Ratio 3, San Francisco, CA, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles, CA and Kevin Bruk Gallery, Miami, FL. His work is included in the collections of the Museum Of Modern Art, New York and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, and has been exhibited at international venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UK; Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN; Marella Arte Contemporanea, Milan, IT; Kunsthaus, Hamburg, DE; The Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; and P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art, Long Island City, NY. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, and holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Recently Gordon has also been curating exhibitions and collaborating with artists on a number of different projects.
Jessie Gold’s work intersects the avenues of dance, music, experimental image making and performance. Working both as an individual artist and a dancer, Gold has had the pleasure to work with Frank Benson, Caitlin Cook, Naomi Fisher, Justine Lynch, Nancy Garcia, Maria Hassabi, Paige Martin, Robert Melee, and Paulina Olowska. She is also a founding member of the dance/art/music collective SKINT. With all of these endeavors, she has produced boundary crossing performance works that have been presented in art galleries, museums, bars, and on the stage in venues ranging from The Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts) (NY), the Kitchen (NY), Greene Naftali Gallery (NY), MOCA (Miami), Bas Fisher Invitational (Miami), MOMA (NY) and various European Dance Festivals.
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