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The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has announced “Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?,” the first exhibition in the museum’s history to focus on live performance art, on view June 20–Aug. 12. Curated by Mark Beasley, the museum’s curator of media and performance art, “Does the body” presents new and recent works by leading performance artists who mix avant-garde gesture with popular culture, expressed through the rigor and dynamism of contemporary dance.
This film and live performance series will bring together five performers who work with dance, music and spoken word—Moriah Evans, Morgan Bassichis, Will Rawls, Jen Rosenblit and Mariana Valencia—to explore ideas of the body and identity. The works will be presented as a series of intimate dance and music performances designed specifically for the Hirshhorn’s circular galleries.
“Does the body” stages the live performances alongside a larger ongoing presentation of moving image documentaries and recorded works that offer an introduction to the work of this contemporary generation of American artists. Each piece is inherently social, inviting visitors connect to the artists and to each other through playfulness, movement, humor, control and liberation. Together, they challenge notions of how people construct identity through pop culture and the histories they tell each other.
“It’s very exciting to present the Hirshhorn’s first exhibition dedicated entirely to performance,” Beasely said. “This is a new generation of American performers who exactingly blend the history of avant-garde music and form with pop culture in order to challenge constructed social relations in order to suggest how we might better ‘dance together.’”
All performances will be free, with tickets required, unless otherwise noted. Evans’ “Be My Muse” will offer advance reservations for members of the public who wish to experience performing with the artist.
Jen Rosenblit, “I’m gonna need another one” (2018)
June 29; 7 p.m.: Hirshhorn Member exclusive preview
June 30; 7 p.m.: Public debut
Rosenblit is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, choreographer and dancer whose work engages bodies, architecture and ideas of desire and autonomy. She will debut “I’m gonna need another one” (2018), a new work in which she inhabits five distinct characters from a wheat farmer to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz through costumes, props and vivid theatrics.
Mariana Valencia, “Album” (2018)
July 12 and 13; 7 p.m.
Valencia, best known for her interest in ethnography, memoir and cross-cultural identity, will perform “Album” (2018), in which she presents her life story as a series of pop-music hits, singing combined with spoken-word monologues and dance. Valencia is a founding member of the No Total reading group, a partner of Artists Space Books and Talks and the co-editor of Movement Research’s Critical Correspondence (2016–17).
Morgan Bassichis, “Me But Also Everybody (Part IV)” (2018)
July 19; 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Bassichis, who performs live comedic stories that explore history and mysticism, will present an intense solo work for piano and voice in the Hirshhorn’s Lerner Room that blends stand-up comedy, music and raw personal therapy. A composer, singer, comedian and cabaret artist, he has performed at Artists Space, Danspace Project, Dixon Place, MoMA PS1, Poetry Project, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum.
Will Rawls, “Cursor 1: Word Lists” (2018)
July 26 and 27; 3 p.m.
Rawls takes the ubiquitous figure of the keyboard cursor as a guideline to investigate his work that encompasses dance, writing, voice and objects. Rawls speculates upon the cursor as a kind of body, describing the ephemeral unit as “a protagonist and an expectant messenger.” A choreographer, writer and performer, Rawls frequently explores the relationship between dance and blackness, ambiguity and abstraction, and is one-half of the performance duo “Dance Gang,” a partnership that emerged from his work as zombie choreographer for the 2007 Will Smith movie I Am Legend.
Moriah Evans, “Be My Muse” (2017)
Aug. 6–10; 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the hour
Choreographer Evans interrogates dance’s complex histories and structure with an excitingly expansive sense of the art form. Every hour for five days in August, Evans will perform a 49-minute cycle that begins by inviting one museum visitor to co-create improvised choreography and then perform with her throughout the museum’s circular galleries. Through each new iteration, Evans seeks to redefine expressions of power, control, submission and authority, while critically examining the concept of a solo artist performance.
About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.