The First Exhibition Devoted Entirely to Performance Art Opens in DC


Will Rawls, Cursor: Word Lists, 2018. Courtesy of the artist

‘Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?’ explores the way dance can be used as a revolutionary tool.

Increasingly, the most vibrant museum exhibitions don’t involve masterpieces hung on a wall, or art that’s static at all. Performance has become one of the most lively of mediums, invigorating the staid structures of art fairs the world over and turning the idea of a snoozy stroll through a museum’s halls on its head.

The Hirshhorn museum has seized upon this trend with a landmark exhibition: its first entirely devoted to performance art and, more specifically, devoted to the work of artists who use contemporary dance to mix avant-garde gesture with pop cultural influences. Five performers blending music, spoken word and movement will make the museum’s unique circular galleries their stages, exploring ideas about the body and identity in these intimate spaces.

Mariana Valencia, Album, 2018. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Ian Douglas

The variety of subject matter inspiring the performances is exemplary. Jen Rosenblit, a 2018 Guggenheim fellow, will play five different characters in her I’m gonna need another one; Mariana Valencia’s Album will continue her explorations of ethnography and cross-cultural identity; Morgan Bassichis’ Me But Also Everybody (Part IV) will blend stand-up comedy and intense self-examination in a work for piano and voice; Will Rawls’ Cursor 1: Word Lists finds the artist exploring the role of the computer cursor as a kind of body in and of itself; and Moriah Evans’ Be My Muse will find its creator staying five days in the galleries for a cycle of 49-minute performances exposing her process to the public. For all these works, viewers are intended to be actively engaged – dance partners, of a sort (and it’s all free to museum visitors). June 20 - Aug. 12; Independence Ave. SW at 7th St. SW.