Performa, the leading organization in commissioning ground-breaking live performance by visual artists, is pleased to announce the first ever on-air Performa Telethon fundraiser, taking place November 18th from 2:00pm to 10:00 pm EST. Standing in for the traditional annual gala, the global Telethon will storm the online airwaves with an unforgettable 8-hour live broadcast from Pace Gallery in New York. In addition to celebrating Performa’s 15th Anniversary and mission, the Telethon will respond to the impact of the pandemic, the current groundswell of activism and action against injustice, and what is likely to be a contentious presidential election season.
The Telethon is heavily inspired by Nam June Paik’s iconic 1984 live broadcast Good Morning Mr. Orwell, which the artist saw as a rebuttal to George Orwell’s dystopian vision of 1984. Reaching an audience of over 25 million viewers worldwide, the transcultural live broadcast extravaganza featured the world’s leading artists in entertaining collages of art and pop culture, including Laurie Anderson with Peter Gabriel, Joseph Beuys, Merce Cunningham, Allen Ginsberg, and Phillip Glass. The Telethon also draws from the epic and extravagantly staged Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon (1966–2010), which is being rebooted this month with comedian host Kevin Hart. The Telethon will also honor Founding Performa Patron Toby Devan Lewis, who has helped make the past 15 years of Performa possible.
Complete with a bank of telephones and operators, a giant tally board of funds pledged, a studio stage for the MC and special guests, balloons, confetti, and the presentation of giant checks, the Performa Telethon will be reminiscent of popular telethons from around the world. In a nod to home shopping networks such as QVC, a suite of six artist editions will be debuted throughout the duration of the broadcast. Only available for purchase on-air, viewers will need to act fast to get one of only 100 of each edition of homewares and usable art by artists Korakrit Arunanondchai, Barbara Kruger, Kia LaBeija, Michèle Lamy, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons. Support Performa by shopping for top tier artists from the comfort of your own home.
Produced in collaboration with E.S.P. TV, the line-up will include live music from special guests, pre-recorded testimonials from Performa commissioned artists and supporters, and newly commissioned live performances from Performa alum, including Derrick Adams & Dave Guy, David Hallberg, Jason Moran, Ragnar Kjartansson, Lang Lang, Yvonne Rainer, Jennifer Rubell, and a special musical performance and remembrance of Nam June Paik by LaurieAnderson. The Telethon broadcast will include glimpses of Performa’s 15-year-history with never before seen video outtakes from the archives – including a recurring segment in which fabulous people such as board members Rashid Johnson and Shirin Neshat recollect their most favorite Performa performance of all time.
In 2019 Performa launched Radical Broadcast, the organization’s online broadcast channel inspired by Nam June Paik’s experiments with television. Radical Broadcast anticipated the future of online programming, bringing documentation of historic performances to new audiences globally and curating museum-quality exhibition programs especially for the Internet. The 8-hour telethon is a natural progression to this already successful digital model and will take place across all of Performa’s media channels: Radical Broadcast, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and partner channels.
The Performa Telethon is supported by Pace Gallery and broadcast live from the 7th floor performance space of Pace’s 540 West 25th Street gallery. The 7th floor space is home to Pace Live, an initiative helmed by Curatorial Director and former Performa curator Mark Beasley that creates a platform for live art experimentation through commissioning and producing new performance and through partnering with leading organizations in the field.
Going boldly where few have gone before, this much-anticipated global event will help raise funds that directly support the artists, musicians, dancers, designers, producers, and crew of the upcoming New York City-wide Performa 21 Biennial, taking place in October 2021.
A full list of participating artists and program schedule will be released at a later date.