Ms Schlenzka plans to organize her programming around themes – to provide “a gateway” for newcomers, she said – starting with the East Village. From February 17 to June 30, the East Village series will examine the history of Performance Space and its neighborhood, reflecting on the forces that have shaped them: gentrification, the AIDS epidemic, and punk and club culture. Ms Schlenzka compared it to “the way in psychoanalysis you have to know your past to free yourself and conquer the future”.
Nostalgia, she added, is forbidden: “We have this incredible past that, in my opinion, few people know about. But it can drag us down, and it’s a fine line to navigate.
Straddling the worlds of dance, theatre, fashion, film, visual arts and literature, the series includes Performance Space regulars like choreographers Sarah Michelson and Ishmael Houston-Jones, who calls himself joked one of his “ancestors”. (He’s shown work there since the ’80s and recently joined the board.) The performance artist Penny Arcade will revive his 1990 solo exhibition, and the legendary Avant-Garde-Arama series will return. A sub-series focuses on feminist writer Kathy Acker, with events including a marathon reading of her 1978 novel, “Blood and Guts in High School”.
But in keeping with her anti-nostalgia stance, Ms Schlenzka ensured that younger generations and more recent local history were also represented. Members of the scene known as kiki, 21st century keepers of the flame of underground vogue, will host a ball to benefit the Alliance for Positive Change (formerly the AIDS Service Center), co-tenants of Performance Space. Art collective Brujas, founded by 24-year-old East Village native Arianna Gil, will be in residence for two weeks with political education workshops and indoor skateboarding sessions.
For the Brujas Residence, Ms. Gil works with designer Jonathan Olivares to build a skate ramp in the theater, a statement on gentrification. She grew up skating a nearby park on East 12th Street, which has since been closed to skaters largely due to noise complaints from neighbors, she said.
“The idea of our installation is to create something that reflects the spaces that aren’t as active anymore,” she said. “And we’re going to make sure all the kids in the neighborhood know about it.”