Estonian artists Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine perform sold-out show in New York

Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine perform at the Performa Biennial in New York.
Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine perform at the Performa Biennial in New York. Source: Eleri Ever

Estonian contemporary artists Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine's performance "As Long as the Blood Beats in our Fountains" premiered to a full house at 99 Canal in New York earlier this week. The performance was part of the official program of the 2023 Performa Biennial and a first-time collaboration between Lemsalu and Florentine.

The Performa Biennial brings together some of today's most innovative visual artists, and this year is taking place for the tenth time at venues across New York from November 1 to 19. As part of this year's Baltic focus, Estonian contemporary artists Kris Lemsalu and Kitty Florentine performed a sold-out show at New York's 99 Canal on November 5.

"The selection of Estonian artists' performance in the main program of Performa during the biennial's jubilee year is a significant landmark for which a lot of preparatory work has been done," said Karin Laansoo, curator "As Long as Blood Beats in our Fountains."

"Of course, we are particularly pleased with the profound interest of the audience – the performance was sold out despite there being two other events in the Performa program at the same time," Laansoo added.

According to a press release, "As Long as the Blood Beats in our Fountains" centers on a landscape of questions, pleasures, and transformations. The venture highlighted themes present in much of their individual work including 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.

Based between New York and Tallinn, Kris Lemsalu is a multidisciplinary artist whose varied practice spans sculpture and performance. She also represented Estonia in the 58th Venice Biennial in 2019 and her works have been exhibited worldwide.

Described as "uncanny and ethereal," Kitty Florentine is an Estonian artist whose genre-bending practice explores the textures in sound you can touch and sense. Her most recent album was nominated at for Indie/Alternative Album of the Year at the 2023 Estonian Music Awards.

Continuing 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 is also being 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.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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