Park Avenue Armory announced the 50th season of its annual Festival for America on Monday. Based on the principle that artists need a platform to create work and curators need a gallery to display the work, the festival offers compelling opportunities for attendees.
This year’s theme: “The Future is Now” led the Armory’s curators to present twenty one new works, all inspired by a theme that is ephemeral but still acts as a counterpoint to the world we live in.
“Art is like the air we breathe. Art is something that should change all the time, like this far out space we are seeing now,” University of Louisville professor Darby Dale said of the Armory’s partnership with artists this season. “This space tells us how we should move forward.”
Curators also decided to give events a twist by staging interdisciplinary performances where multiple artists and works were featured. The Armory’s reworked program gives flexibility in all four quadrants of the space, something that director Jon B. Glass would like to see continue in upcoming seasons.
“When we first approached the Armory, we discussed building a season around these [explanations] that go on since the time of the Pharaohs,” Glass said. “They’re obviously timeless and can be something really amazing. This is definitely something I would love to do again.”
The season includes multi-media performances, public events, and livestreaming sessions with artists. A wide range of talents will be represented including Carrington Carr, David LaChapelle, Selen Buneley, and more.
Buneley’s “Calle Autor” exhibit examines a panel of pre-1960s Burmese women and the imprisonment that came with their clothing. Through body movements and music, the performers navigate a space of shifting boundaries through the stage of a room full of blocks, creating an optical illusion where the “outside” disappears.
“The interest for Selen Buneley lies in looking at boundaries as fluid, all of the different things we do to create a space,” Armory Program Manager Maggie Veale said. “It’s like how plastic paint becomes in the air.”
Gone are the days of performance events curated specifically for the Armory. Artists work alongside audience members to see the massive open space thrive on both ends.
“Performance has a unique danger because it’s off the grid, but there’s a danger in programming all by yourself and you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Veale said. “Performance is by its nature collaborative and you can never guarantee an outcome, but then again you’re never sure what it’ll be.”
With the growing video technology available to artists, many will be able to see performances recorded in HD or VR directly in front of an audience. Glass expressed his excitement for seeing what such technology can do for performance and wants to take the venue farther in this direction in the future.
“I think we’re at this point where we can finally get past the feeling that all art is the same. Every single work doesn’t work the same way and I think technology now gives us the ability to experiment and to be able to explore and rethink,” Glass said. “The best art is the kind that keeps getting better and better.”
According to the Armory, visitors can attend dozens of performances, days at a time, providing ample time to check out diverse talent and experiences.