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andrea geyer

Time Tenderness. 2015. performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art. May 13-18, 2015.

photocredit: Filip Wolak
Performance Whitney Museum of American Art, May 13-18th, 2015

Time Tenderness was commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art New York, to celebrate the museum’s history, its founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and its founding director Juliana Force. It took place daily, from May 12 to 18, in twelve galleries of America Is Hard to See, the inaugural exhibition for the museum’s new building, which featured works from the museum’s collection hung in chronological and thematic configurations. Time Tenderness, was Geyer’s response to the museum’s new building, collection, and history, with particular focus on Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s legacy of fostering art and culture as means of establishing national identity. Moving through the museum, the performers shared space with the exhibition’s viewers relating to specific works or sections of the exhibition. The actor wore a blue, flat-front suit reminiscent of that of a tour guide; each dancer wore an outfit created after clothing worn by the museum’s founder. Geyer created twelve speeches and four poems for the actor, a movement score for a duet and three solos for the dancers, and a song for the full group, including four distinct lyrics for each floor of the exhibition. The actor and dancers addressed the museum audience both directly and indirectly. The performance was unannounced and discreetly began when performers entered a gallery. After finding their positions, they distinguished themselves by shouting the first names of women artists, queer artists, and artists of color whose works were installed in the gallery in which they were standing. The actor launched into a short, scripted speech based on a variety of sources, including texts by Whitney and her granddaughter Flora Miller Biddle, excerpts by the artists Nancy Prophet, poems by Florine Stettheimer, writings by cultural theorists, newspaper articles, and Michelle Obamas speech dedicating the new building, which had been delivered a few weeks prior. During the speech, the dancers performed the duet. Once the speech concluded, each dancer proceeded on her own, performing the solos, using movement to connect the meaning and histories of exhibited works to the lived experience of the exhibition’s viewers. As they danced, the actor attempted to speak with the dancers, addressing them with a poem-like list of words and expressions while striving to avoid bumping into the dancing bodies: “she smiles at the struggle / mobilizing form / color / against darkness /patchworks / pathways / alleys / desire at her side / eyes reflect” and “collecting / she / selecting / we / a promise / culture, she said / enthusiastic pride / fine-boned determination / a vision still unknown / a promise / a nation.” The dancers hardly reacted to this linguistic intervention into their movement. The actor and dancers concluded by singing a short, melodic protest-like song, ending in the chorus, “No darkness stops listening / revolutions in sight / No wind shuts eyes open / stops minds in mid-flight / No hiding of power / In bodies with scars / revealing us time in preset at last.” At the end of the song, the three performers left the room on separate paths to reconnect somewhere else in the museum for another vignette.

Commissioned for the inauguration of the Whitney Museums of American Art’s new building and performed in the exhibition: “America is Hard to See” the work, Time Tenderness utilizes the potent moment of the inauguration of the new building as a site with and without history. The performance is aimed to open up the institution’s past, present and potent future with the implication of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s visionary belief that any country needs culture and art to recognize and foster its own identity.

Performers: Omagbitse Omagbemi, Lily Gold, Jess Barbagallo
Choreography: Andrea Geyer
Song: Lauren Denitzio
Lyrics: Andrea Geyer

Excerpts from performance script
Excerpt of poems
Lyrics and audio recording of song
Additional performance stills

Sources include:
Avis Berman, Rebels on Eigth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Atheneum, 1990.
Flora Biddle, excerpts from dedication speech of the Whitney Museum of American Art, April 30th, 2015
Wendy Brown, Politics Out of History. Princeton University Press, 2001.
B.H. Friedman, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: A Biography. Doubleday, 1978.
Fred Moten, Hand Up To Your Ear, from Protocols for the Sound of Freedom by Ultra-red, for the performance Ultra Red: What is the Sound of Freedom, The Whitney Museum, 2012.
Michelle Obama, excerpts from dedication speech for the Whitney Museum of American Art, April 30th, 2015
Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Diary, Paris. Brown University Library, Center for Digital Scholarship, 1922.
De W.C. Ward, Poor Little Rich Girl and Her Art; Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney's Struggles to Be Taken Seriously as a Sculptor Without Having Starved in a Garret, The New York Times, November 9, 1919.
Ian White
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, The End of America’s Apprenticeship in Art, published in Arts and Decoration, 1920.