Estonians Kitty Florentine and Kris Lemsalu to perform at New York biennial

Second Hennessy Urban Festival, Saturday, August 26, 2023.
Second Hennessy Urban Festival, Saturday, August 26, 2023. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian artists Kitty Florentine and Kris Lemsalu are set to perform at the opening of the Baltic program at the 2023 Performa Biennial in New York. Their performance "As long as the blood beats in our fountains," takes place on November 5.

The 2023 Performa Biennial takes place in New York from November 1 to 19. The event sees Estonian artists Kitty Florentine and Kris Lemsalu come together in collaboration for the first time in a show which centers "a metamorphic landscape as an agent of interrogation, pleasure, mystery, and transformation."

According to a press release, the partnership between Florentine and Lemsalu highlights themes present in much of their individual work - that wildness is really crafted after an image of ourselves, that the quotidian is often a surreal ecstasy, and that time's passing is far more akin – like water itself – to metamorphic changes of state than to linear progressions of narrative.

The artists have converted the space at New York's 99 Canal into a series of gardens connected by pathways and lit by nets that mimic the glowing phenomena of young Mycena mushrooms. Each garden 'island' functions as its own hydraulic state – with fountains, water reservoirs, steams, and scents. Centered in the environment, where all paths lead, is a large tongue sculpture created by Lemsalu.

During the performance, the symbols of body and fountain are blurred, each becoming the other as Lemsalu transforms herself into a human-water production, troubling concepts of origin and source. Florentine glues together the staging with sound and movement that is inspired by her harp and Linnujämm Improvisation (Bird Jam Session), built on the song of a Common Snipe, transformed into textures and soundscapes with an important focus on the cycle of becoming and dissolving.

As part of the biennial's Baltic focus, a three-month Baltic Fellowship program is also taking place for the first time. During the fellowship, three young curators from the Baltic countries - Kerly Ritval from Estonia, Aiste Liuka Jonynaite from Lithuania and Tina Petersone from Latvia –  will gain experience from working alongside Performa's own curators and producers.

The Baltic Fellowship for the 2023 Performa Biennial is organized in cooperation with the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center (ECADC), the Rupert Art Center in Vilnius and the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art (LCCA).

The ECADC's long-standing collaboration with Performa began in 2017, when Estonia was the focus country of the biennial.

This year, the Finnish Open Pavilion will be showcased in the biennal's program, as a way of providing a unique opportunity to amplify contemporary art from the Nordic and Baltic region in the art capital of the world.

Founded by curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa has produced nine biennials since the first took place in 2005. Since then over 1,000 artists have participated in Performa Biennial events at venues across New York City, with more than 250,000 people having attended.

"As long as the blood beats in our fountains," by Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine will open the Baltic and Estonian projects program of this year's Performa Biennale on November 5 at New York's Canal 99.

More information about the performance is available here.

Kitty Florentine also appeared on ETV's "Terevisioon" this week, where she performed her 2022 debut single "127."

Editor: Michael Cole

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