Performa, the biennial exhibition of performance art in New York, came to a close last night with a grand finale event capped by the announcement that Kemang Wa Lehulere has won the Malcolm McLaren Award, given by Performa to a standout artist in each biennial iteration.
For Performa 17, the Cape Town–based Wa Lehulere presented I Cut My Skin to Liberate the Splinter, a sonic installation staged at the Connelly Theater in the East Village, where collaborators played found objects as if they were musical instruments and performed movements from childhood games. The award was presented by the critic Carlo McCormick and accepted on the artist’s behalf by Vuyo Sotashe, the South African singer.
The Malcolm McLaren Award was launched in 2011 as a way to honor its namesake, the deeply influential pop culture impresario perhaps best known for his role in putting together the Sex Pistols. McLaren died in 2010, and his partner, Young Kim, worked with curator Mark Beasley and Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg to develop the prize. The inaugural award went to Ragnar Kjartansson in 2011, followed by Ryan McNamara in 2013 and Edgar Arceneaux in 2015.
“Each performance has been a work of wonder, and it’s impossible to single out one for a prize, but we do so in the name of Malcolm McLaren, to remember his incredible spirit, to honor him, and to inspire us all anew with his words and imagination,” Goldberg said in a statement.
Other Performa 17 offerings included a Barbara Kruger skatepark, as well as her first-ever performance, where she created her own version of a Supreme drop. Jason Moran unveiled a collaboration with Julie Mehretu in a deconsecrated church in Harlem that she had used as a studio, Xavier Cha presented a stage play at BAM about relationships in the digital era, Anu Vahtra gave a tour of the historic cast iron buildings in SoHo, and Laurie Anderson screamed to perform a work by Yoko Ono.
Performa returns to New York in the fall of 2019.