Greenpoint Gazette

Performance Art Spaces Grow in Brooklyn

BY Khristina Narizhnaya

When performance artist Jill McDermid first arrived in New York City 10 years ago, she was disappointed to find a shortage of venues where performance artists can express themselves. She decided to take matters into her own hands and in September 2006 McDermid opened her own performance art space, Grace Space, in Bushwick. However she still wanted to solidify the ephemeral nature of performance art. Friday night McDermid finally got the opportunity to do that with the opening of the Grace Space annex, a space dedicated to the preservation and documentation of performance art.

McDermid has been looking for a space for a long time, but with no luck. Finally fortune decided to throw her a bone. A few weeks ago, McDermid’s friends who run Williamsburg’s Front Room Gallery on Roebling Street informed her that there is an adjoining space that is available for rent. McDermid couldn’t pass up the opportunity and jumped on the offer right away. Not only was the rent affordable, but the space was connected to an established gallery, which will surely increase foot traffic.

The space was covered in a fresh coat of paint and the floors were re-lacquered. On Friday the new Grace Space Gallery opened with an exhibition of work by the Non Grata Group, a performance art collective based in Estonia. Photographs of the group’s performances spanning several years feature androgynous creatures with bunny ears in a swimming pool, in front of a blackboard dissecting different spheres of culture, and at what seems like a party, with balloons made of condoms hanging down from the ceiling and covered with milk. Another series of photographs captures Non Grata’s tour across America. A photograph features a woman in lingerie with meat fastened to her body, a commentary on the treatment of women as meat. Another image shows a shirtless man in a football helmet. The football helmet hangs near the photograph. In another photograph, a man crouches on the ground against a backdrop of Korean police-shields. A stuffed chicken sits at the gallery’s desk instead of the director.

With the opening of the annex McDermid can concentrate on the promotion and sale of performance art by exhibiting photographs, prints, video and artifacts that remain after a performance art piece is over. She said performance art would also take place in the annex, but only the less messy pieces, to avoid damaging the artwork inside. Performance art usually gets “pretty messy,” McDermid said.

McDermid, who has been trying to promote performance art for about 10 years, is extremely excited to have the space, despite the less than ideal economic climate.

“Economies go up and down, but I’m in it for the long haul,” said McDermid. “It may be irrational, but it’s a passion.”

“And passion isn’t always rational,” added McDermid.

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