Performa announced today that the Los Angeles–based artist Edgar Arceneaux has won the biennial’s Malcolm McLaren Award for his performance Until, Until, Until…, staged for the first time on Friday, in New York.
Named for the British artist who was also closely associated with the punk scene, the Malcolm McLaren award is given to a Performa artist at each biennial. Arceneaux is the third winner; the other two were Ragnar Kjartansson, in 2011, and Ryan McNamara, in 2013.
Arceneaux’s socially conscious practice has involved performance for a while, but Until, Until, Until… was the artist’s first live performance. The Performa commission was based on Ben Vereen’s controversial 1981 performance at Ronald Reagan’s inaugural celebration. Vereen wore blackface for the performance as a way of addressing America’s history of racism, and the performance was subsequently censored when it was aired on television. Arceneaux’s performance, in which Frank Lawson plays Vereen, reconstructs the final five minutes of Vereen’s performance, bringing what could previously not be seen to light and reminding audiences of prejudice.
Rather than talking up Arceneaux’s winning commission, Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg chose to congratulate all of Performa 15’s artists in a statement. “Choosing a winner,” she said, “is impossible—there are only winners at the Performa biennial, each artist absolutely focused on rendering their ideas in real time and space.”
“Edgar stepped out of his poised and poignant video installations to bring us into a profoundly emotional space,” she added. “It is a work that will continue to resonate as we further develop the project to take it to Washington,” one of the places where Performa is in the initial stages of planning for touring the commission.