On Sunday, November 24, artists Nairy Baghramian and Maria Hassabi were named the winners of the fifth edition of Performa’s Malcolm McLaren Award, which was presented at the conclusion of the nineteenth performance biennial at the Brooklyn arts space Elsewhere. Since its inception in 2011, the award has honored Performa participants who have produced innovative and thought-provoking live performance works for the event. Both Baghramian and Hassabi will receive cash prizes of $5,000.
The artists were chosen by a jury—comprising curators Nikki Columbus, Ana Janevski, and Lumi Tan—for their work Entre Deux Actes (Ménage à Quatre), their largest collaboration to date. The installation and live performance, which was commissioned by Performa and 1014 and coproduced by the Kitchen, took place across two floors of a Fifth Avenue townhouse built in 1906. The installation pays homage to previous works by Baghramian and the late designer Janette Laverrière (1909–2011)—including their reimagined boudoir, titled Entre deux actes II (Loge des comédiennes), 2009, which features erotic Polaroid photographs by the late Italian architect Carlo Mollino (1905–1973)—and sets the stage for Hassabi’s performances TOGETHER and FIGURES, both 2019.
“At this Performa biennial, we encountered the work of familiar artists, whose careers we’ve long followed, and of artists who were new to us,” said Columbus. Remarking on the performances, she said, “TOGETHER, in particular—performed by Hassabi and Oisín Monaghan—marked a new level of achievement: While continuing Hassabi’s movement technique, the piece was about care and community, long-term relationships, and love.” Describing Baghramian’s sculptural interventions, Tan said they “[created] a bridge between Hassabi’s two works.”
The jurors also awarded a special mention to Éva Mag, whose durational performance DEAD MATTER MOVES, 2019, according to Columbus, “came as a glorious surprise on the penultimate day of the biennial.” The piece took place in the basement gym at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan. Past recipients of the McLaren Award include Ragnar Kjartansson, Ryan McNamara, Edgar Arcenaux, and Kemang Wa Lehulere.