Peak Performances Presents World Premiere of Robert Whitman’s “Passport”

The world premiere of Robert Whitman’s Passport, a geographically split theatre spectacle, takes place simultaneously on the Montclair State University campus, courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair, and on the banks of the Hudson River near the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, New York, courtesy of Dia: Beacon Art Center, April 16 and 17. For the work, Whitman, a pioneer and master of multimedia installation and performance work, re-imagines our ability to be in two places at the same time. A fiber optic network serves as our passport.

In this witty, poetic example of collaborative boundary-crossing, Peak Performances and Dia transmit real-time images unique to its own space: the expanse of the Hudson, the budding trees, the whistle of a passing Metro North train and a blazing row boat are transmitted to the Kasser Theater, while select happenings on the Kasser Theater stage, including a white clad dancer walking upside-down midair and an erudite discussion of the meaning of words are mixed together and shared. Video capture, wireless transmission and real-time image streaming create this magical jump in time and space. The result is a theatricalization of the visual arts and a visual art experience in the theater.

Commissioned by both Peak Performances and Dia, Passport represents a singular joining of two major, cutting edge arts institutions—a theater and a gallery—to create what would otherwise be an impossible artistic experience.

Robert Whitman

Born in New York in 1935, Whitman first studied literature and drama, then visual arts, at Rutgers University. As a pioneer of artists’ theatre of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Whitman, together with Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, and Claes Oldenburg presented performances that combined props, sounds, and lights, in non-traditional theatre spaces throughout lower Manhattan. Notably, with his pioneering piece, The American Moon (1960), Whitman became the first artist to incorporate film into his performances. During the 1960s, Whitman also became increasingly interested in creative collaboration with scientists, engineers, and specialists beyond the realm of the visual arts world, which led first to his participation in 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City in 1966 and subsequently to the formation of E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology). He also collaborated on the design for the landmark Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan (1970), and made a new work for the Art and Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1971).

In addition to the retrospective of his early performance work at Dia in 1976, Whitman had solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in New York (1968) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1968) and was the inaugural artist in the Museum of Modern Art’s Projects series (1973). In the 1980s, several of Whitman’s theatre works traveled to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1983), and Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1987 and 1989). After a long hiatus, he returned to gallery exhibitions with shows at Pace Wildenstein Gallery in New York (1995 and 1997). Whitman’s historic work was also included in the exhibitions Les années Pop at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2001), Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964–1977 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2001–2002) and New Realisms: 1957–1962 at Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. Whitman has staged more than 40 theatre and performance pieces since the 1960s and received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Artists Public Service Grant, Citation of Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a Creative Arts Award Xerox Company Grant.

Performance times:

April 16 and 17 at 8 p.m.

All tickets are $15 and are available at the Alexander Kasser Theater Box Office, by calling 973-655-5112 or online at www.peakperfs.org. There is no charge for Montclair State University undergraduates with valid ID. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before curtain to claim your PAF ticket.

The 2010/11 Peak Performances season is made possible in part by funds from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The National Endowment for the Arts, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts, Alison and James T. Cirenza, and The Honorable Mary Mochary.

Released: March 7, 2011