At Performa’s opening night celebration at Skylight Soho, which also served as a live retrospective of performances by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, two young men were spooning naked in a bed together. A group had formed around them that included Roberta Smith and the artist Ryan McNamara. He was watching in disbelief, wondering how they could make physical contact like that and still remain, uh, professional.
By the entrance, a large cluster of photographers were shouting and snapping photos feverishly. Many of the more reticent artists and writers in the room weren’t sure what to make of this.
“It’s a joke, right?” one guest said, pausing before walking inside.
“It has to be a joke,” another guest said.
It was one of the pieces in the retrospective anyway. They braved the pack of performative paparazzi quickly and without smiles.
Elsewhere guests were debating whether the cordoned off VIP section in the back was itself a performance. Inside, Terence Koh was chatting up Marina Abramovic and Will Cotton was lounging on a leather sofa. It was the real thing: a seat inside cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Just outside the velvet rope was a naked young man, stretched out on a leather chair, listening to an iPod and silently reading a copy of Elmgreen & Dragset’s Home Is the Place You Left. That was a performance.
As we were leaving, the paparazzi cornered us as we exited the men’s room. They were camped out in front of the door. They yelled and shouted while their flashes went off and we pursed our lips, giving our best super model performance.