Curating Initiatives & Symposium


Panelist Bios for 2024 Curating Performance Symposium

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | “Sound Art, Noise, Music, Performance” curated by Allen S. Weiss

Panelists: Marcus Gammel, Jay Needham, Sarah Teraha, and Alex Waterman

Panel Description: This panel will address one of the pivotal issues in contemporary musicology and performance theory, by investigating the boundaries between traditional notions of music and the other sonic and performance arts.

Panelist Bios:

Jay Needham is an artist, musician, researcher, writer-editor who utilizes multiple creative platforms to produce his works, many of which have a focus on sound and site-specific field research. His sound art, productions for radio, visual art, performances and installations have appeared at museums, festivals and on the airwaves, worldwide, and are on permanent display in the Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry in The Republic of Panama. Needham is the editor of Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture, published by The University of California Press. He is also a member of the Humanities and Social Science Expert Group with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and a member of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force. He received his MFA from The School of Art at California Institute of the Arts in 1989.

Narrative Half-Life is a continuing series of creative-nonfiction media artworks that co-mingle and complicate family histories as told to me by my grandfather, Lt. Colonel William Sapper, who was a Manhattan Project engineer during the Second World War. In this presentation, I will share recently conserved sound recordings and play excerpts of my work that reveal how inherited memory and personal archives have played a role in my artmaking and scholarship over the course of my career.

Marcus Gammel, born in 1975 in Bremen, studied Musicology, German Literature and Philosophy in Berlin, Paris and New York. He is head of Radio Drama at Deutschlandfunk Kultur, also curating the weekly sound art program „Klangkunst“. 2014 – 2019, he served as coordinator of the EBU Ars Acustica Group. In 2017, he joined Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung as co-curator for the radio program “Every Time A Ear di Soun” by documenta 14 and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. Currently, he is co-curating the program „Listening to the World – 100 Years of Radio“ by Goethe-Institut, Bauhaus Universität Weimar, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, and Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Radio has been an crucial platform for the emergence and development of sound art. Over the past decade however, podcasting has profoundly altered the way we listen to audio. How will this shift affect the production and curation of sound art? Let’s speculate!

Alex Waterman is a composer, performer, scholar,  and archivist, exploring how social bodies can live and interact with one another in more musical ways. He has created a diverse body of works including sound installations, television operas, film and video works, exhibitions, amateur choral works, radio and film scores, and solo performances as a cellist, electronic musician and storyteller. His work has been exhibited at the ICA London, The Kitchen, Miguel Abreu Gallery, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, The Serpentine London, White Columns, the Swiss Institute, Kunstverein Amsterdam, The Rotterdam Film Festival, and the Whitney Museum. Waterman has recorded over thirty records in multiple genres, as a performer, arranger, and producer, and produced five books on musical notation and poetics with the British typographer Will Holder. He has taught at Bard College (MFA program) and the Banff Centre for the Arts, and was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University from 2015-18. He is the archivist at The Kitchen in New York City. 

Alex Waterman will be presenting on the poetics of experimental music notation and performance archives. His creative and scholarly work has centered on the idea that musical ideas, even complex ones, can be scored for any reader regardless of their musical background, and with practice, anyone can live and think in more musical ways. This work finds resonance in his current work as archivist at The Kitchen, where his interest is in new modalities of engagement with performance archives and new ways of performing the archive. 

Sarah Teraha is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History and Music Studies at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris, France). She received her M.A. in Art History with a thesis on the artist and musician Laurie Anderson. Since October 2021, she has been conducting research aimed at reassessing the position of sound in the New York art scene between the early 1970s and the mid-1980s. In this context, her work focuses on the historical and aesthetic transfers between Performance art and Experimental rock, revealing sound at their intersection as a protean medium and as an agent of simultaneous permeability between avant-garde and popular culture. Sarah Teraha also teaches a seminar in Performance studies at the EHESS and is co-director of the research project "Action-research: thinking in Performance" at the Center for Research on Arts and Language (CNRS, Paris, France). Her work has been presented in various academic venues and contemporary art centers, including Paris 8-University, the EHESS, and Lafayette Anticipations.

Long marginalized in Art History, sound became an exponential trend in the New York art scene during the mid-1970s. Between the advent of Conceptual Art and the emergence of Performance Art, the territory was moving toward a non-scopic turn that would lead to a radical revision of how sound gets perceived and qualified in Art History. Beyond the search for aesthetic coherence within a vast corpus, we will focus on the study of a specific mode of sound production, sound recording, and the History of its materiality. Artists' vinyls and cassettes will be examined both as the sonic expression of a movement of mass culture appropriation by the avant-garde, and as the realization of a deterritorialized alternative space. By producing a triple reducibility between the medium, its technical support, and its exhibition space, sound recording has over time emerged as a pioneering model for an alternative curation of sound. This talk aims to open up new perspectives on the contemporary historiography of sound in the arts by drawing on the archives of two New York alternative spaces, The Kitchen and Franklin Furnace, and a sound magazine, Tellus The Audio Cassette Magazine.


1:30 - 3:00 PM | “Cover Songs as a Curatorial Practice" curated Barbara Browning

Panelists: Barbara Browning, Malik Gaines, Sébastien Régnier, and Karen Tongson

Panel Description: Cover tunes - performances or recordings of songs previously recorded and popularized by another artist - are often construed as a sort of fallen genre: secondhand, derivative, even a "poor man's version" of the original. But those of us who care about cover tunes, whether as artists or appreciators, sometimes understand our relationship to them as curatorial. What happens when, in the words of Karen Tongson, "the copy outshines the original in some way; when something in the interpretation, the phrasing, the drama erases its status as copy"? Or what happens when a cover artist fully embraces her own amateurism, but views her contribution as the conceptual art of amassing and juxtaposing compositions such that the lack of virtuosic musicianship allows listeners to pay attention to something else in the songs? What forms of intersubjectivity might be better felt through interpreting existing materials than through performances of originality? And then there are the collectors: enthusiasts who want to attend to every possible rendition of a particular song in order to track its reception and its morphing significance. This panel, composed of listeners and practitioners, will explore the curatorial dimensions of assembling and interpreting covers.

Panelist Bios:

Barbara Browning teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. She is the author of four academic books - Samba (1995), Infectious Rhythm (1998), Caetano Veloso: A Foreign Sound (2017), and The Miniaturists (2022); three novels - The Correspondence Artist (2011), I'm Trying to Reach You (2012), and The Gift (2017); and two co-authored works with Sébastien Régnier. She is also a dancer, ukuleleist, and cover tune artist.

Malik Gaines uses performance as a premise for writing, events and exhibitions, music composition, video work, scholarly research, and collaboration. Since 2000, He has worked with Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade as the group My Barbarian. His book Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017) traces a circulation of black political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Gaines is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, UC San Diego. He is also a co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles.

Sébastien Régnier is a singer-songwriter, scenarist, writer, collector, and amateur naturalist. His film credits include Kabloonak (1994), Martha Martha (2001), and L’Histoire d’une mère (2016). With Barbara Browning, he published Who the Hell is Imre Lodbrog? (2018) - a story, told in counterpoint, about love, friendship, politics and rock ‘n’ roll - and The Terrarium (2022) - a collection of non-fiction meditations on eroticism and mortality.

Karen Tongson is the author of Normporn: Queer Viewers and the TV That Soothes Us (2023), Why Karen Carpenter Matters (one of Pitchfork’s best music books of 2019), and Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (2011). In 2019, she was awarded Lambda Literary’s Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction. She directs the Mellon-funded Consortium for Gender, Sexuality, Race and Public Culture at USC, where she is also Chair of gender & sexuality studies, and Professor of gender & sexuality studies, English, and American studies & ethnicity.


3:30 - 5:15 PM | “Voluminous Arts: Tidal Curation” organized by Jeannine Tang and Gavilán Rayna Russom

Panelists: Adonis Huff, SJ Norman, and Gavilán Rayna Russom,

Panel Description: This open conversation between Voluminous Arts Founding Director Gavilán Rayna Russom, artist and curator Adonis Staten (aka Mercury Symbol), and artist, curator, and writer SJ Norman explores questions of experimental form, community care and trans culture. The conversation begins with the summer 2023 residency program “bloom how you must, wild until we are free” at the Center for Art Research and Alliances – Russom curated and co-directed the residency, Mercury Symbol was an artist-in-residence, and SJ Norman a visiting faculty workshop leader. Each participant will explore and share the curatorial and creative dimensions of their roles in the residency, as an entry point into the intricacies and overlaps between their wider experiences with curating and sound, and their perspectives on the relationship between cultural materials and the communities they emerge from.

Voluminous Arts is a transgender liberation project that creates space for trans people to explore expansiveness and agency through music, sound, community and experimental art, with a mission to foreground, nurture, and advance the experimental artistic culture of transgender people and communities. In doing so, Voluminous Arts currently bridges the world of nightlife–a critical resource for trans and non-binary people–with institutional arts and academic spaces, and provides access to resources, mentorship, and community-building activities beyond the club. These include artist residencies, community programs, and releases of boundary-pushing music by trans artists.

Panelist Bios:

Gavilán Rayna Russom is a visionary artist, composer, scholar, and curator based in New York City. Over the past two decades she has produced a complex body of works oriented towards providing alternatives to binary thought and fixed modes of categorization. In addition to an extensive discography of recorded music, she has presented solo and collaborative works in performance, video, and installation at a range of international institutions.

Since her teens, Rayna has been involved with clubs, artist-run venues, and other “underground” spaces of artistic exchange and community. She has presented her own work and curated events in and for these spaces for more than thirty years and has consistently advocated for their cultural value in her writing and public speaking. Rayna is the founding director of Voluminous Arts, a cultural organization whose mission is to foreground, nurture, and advance the experimental artistic culture of transgender people and communities. Through Voluminous Arts she co-curated and co-directed the summer 2023 residency program Bloom How You Must, Wild Until We Are Free at the Center for Art, Research, and Alliances, as well as the accompanying Cooler Nights experimental performance series and Traces: Sonic and Material closing exhibition.

Adonis Huff is a musician, artist, and poet living and working in New York City. With an acute interest in noise and DIY culture, Adonis performs across the underground circuit of Brooklvn and Queens under the moniker “Mercury Symbol," creating in-situ compositions using no-input mixing and sampling, with heavy influences from various genres of club and dance music. With multiple releases under this name— including a feature in the critically-acclaimed People of Eternity: BDS Mixtape Vol 1– Adonis showcases mastery and deep curiosity in improvisational and experimental techniques across his work.

SJ Norman (b. 1984) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and cultural worker. His practice is counter-disciplinary and formally promiscuous. His body of work to date has included more than 20 works of long durational performance, and a significant body of other work embracing sculpture, photography, textiles, film and spatial audio. He is also the author of one book of fiction, with a second forthcoming. His awards for art include: the 67th Blake Prize (formerly the Blake Prize for Religious Art), a 2018 Sidney Myer Fellowship and a 2019 Australia Council Fellowship. Recent exhibitions include the 22nd Biennale of Sydney and the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial. His acquisition history includes major public collections, such as the National Gallery of Australia. His awards for literature include: the 2017 Kill Your Darlings Prize, the 2022 Peter Blazey Prize for Non-Fiction, as well as many shortlisting, including:  Australian Society for Literature Gold Medal, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in 2 categories, the Stella Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize for Short Story and twice for the Judith Wright Prize for Poetry. In 2019, he initiated Knowledge of Wounds, a curatorial project he continues to co-organize with Dr Joseph M. Pierce (Cherokee Nation Citizen) since 2019. He is a transmasculine Koori, born on Gadigal country. His maternal ties are to north-western Wiradjuri and Ngyiampaa-Wailwan Country (the community of Nyngan, NSW) and his paternal ties are to West Yorkshire, UK. He lives and works in Lenapehoking/New York City.


Over the past decade, museums and visual arts venues have been increasingly exhibiting, presenting and acquiring for their collections dance works, performance and live art as well as theatrical works, and filling staff positions to manage these processes. This major development in artistic and curatorial practices creates new theoretical and practical challenges for curators and archivists, as well as for artists and art theorists, scholars and researchers, journalists and critics.

The Department of Performance Studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts is well positioned to play a central role in education around curating performance. In keeping with our own emphasis on curatorial and archival instruction within our MA program, and drawing expertise from other NYU departments and curators in New York City art institutions, our department seeks to develop new approaches to teaching performance curation and promote trans-disciplinary exchanges to meet the rapidly changing practical, critical and theoretical challenges associated with this work. Given our situation in New York City, the expertise of our own faculty, and the experience many of our students bring to this topic, Performance Studies has been holding a yearly daylong symposium on curating performance to help define areas of focus, and develop future curricula and curatorial practices in this exciting new field.