Part of the interdisciplinary organization’s East Village Series.
Performance Space New York’s East Village Series continues with North Philadelphia-based artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s CLUB (May 3-26). The vibrant network of Lower East Side clubs in the 1980s that filled the area with live performance are central to the neighborhood and Performance Space New York’s history—but CLUB is less nostalgia for an irrecoverable era than it is a blueprint for Performance Space New York’s future. McClodden, who will be present during exhibition hours (Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm), is interested in the liminal potential of night clubs, i.e. their ability to temporarily dissolve rules that govern our everyday lives and allow people from different backgrounds to interact more freely. With meticulous research behind the project, she also mimics the structures of labor behind maintaining a club. This performative installation is activated by a dense schedule of sound installations, performances, talks, and dance parties.
As in many Downtown ‘80s clubs, CLUB is membership based. Upon entry, members are plunged midday into a dark, nighttime environment. Each day of programming is different. Dance parties—from Haute Sauce and Kink Out, and a Q+A and exhibition with Papi Juice—underscore the passing relevance of the club as a concrete space in today’s larger scenes of queer, POC, and artist-driven parties, unmoored from the financial burdens of permanence. The budget for CLUB—including McClodden’s artist fee—is itself transparent, demonstrating, as McClodden puts it, “how much it fucking costs to run a club, so we can deal with why clubs do not really exist [anymore] for these communities.” Similarly, McClodden seeks to exhibit the labor of club ownership by being onsite every day as the club owner and manager, visibly reorganizing the space for the varying needs of its interdisciplinary programming—anything from poetry readings, to sound installations, to a kids’ day, to a DJ set and Q + A with New York nightlife legend Justin Strauss.
As an artist and curator, McClodden has centered Blackness and black queer genealogy while examining how the past, present, and future can intersect visually and thematically within time based work. 2017 and 2018 have seen her curating A Recollection + Predicated within Julius Eastman: That Which is Fundamental—the large-scale culmination of three years of research on the black, gay minimalist composer and performer who was active internationally in the 1970s and 80s, but who died homeless at the age of 49, leaving an incomplete but compelling collection of scores and recordings. McClodden has a mutual interest with Performance Space New York—under the vision of recently appointed Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka and the East Village Series—in bearing a keen knowledge of the past without romanticizing it.
McClodden says, “I’m kind of the wild card in the East Village Series, being that I’m an outsider [to New York], and that I’m not performance-based, but rather really research-based. But with Jenny, I am meeting someone who is also in the vulnerable place of coming in as an outsider as well, taking over this institution and being charged with bringing it into the future. We have each other’s backs, because [what I’m doing with the piece] is what she’s trying to do with the entire institution.”
Though she references distinct elements of present and past LES and other Downtown NY clubs—having researched floorplans, collected fliers, and held interviews with individuals from the scene to run her own club out of Performance Space New York—CLUB is no reconstitution. McClodden also draws from her own history, from clubs within the punk scene in Atlanta to queer parties in Philadelphia, to create something new. McClodden was influenced especially by Keith Haring and Club 57 and The Mudd Club’s model as a flexible gallery alternative for ephemeral and performance-based works. (Incidentally, just as Haring—who had his first studio exhibit at Performance Space 122—curated on the fourth floor of the Mudd Club, McClodden’s CLUB is situated on the fourth floor of Performance Space New York’s historic building). In a nod to Haring’s use of the club to display his and his peers’ work, McClodden’s own art and films are key to the immersive experience, as is work by sound/lighting design-based artist and performer Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste and graphic design-based artist Hassan Rahim. The two have been invited to exhibit alongside McClodden for the duration of the exhibition.
Beyond CLUB, the East Village Series, which contemplates the past, present, and future of the art organization and its immediate neighborhood, has featured events and performances such as Welcome to Lenapehoking and Performance Space New York’s longest-running-program, Avant Garde Arama; dance performance by Yve Laris Cohen and screenings of Diamanda Galás and Davide Pepe’s Schrei 27; a month devoted to the legacy and spirit of Kathy Acker; and an extended theatrical runway presentation from counter cultural fashion-oriented project Women’s History Museum. Upcoming events in the series include dance from Sarah Michelson (April 27-May 5), returning to Performance Space New York after a 13-year hiatus; Penny Arcade’s iconic Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!(May 11-19); a skate-park, skate sessions, workshops, and the third annual Anti-Prom (May 25) from feminist art collective BRUJAS (May 25-June 9); a Kiki Ball hosted by the Alliance for Positive Change (June 16); and Chris Cochrane, Dennis Cooper, Ishmael Houston-Jones’ haunting THEM (June 21-30).