Photo of Chapin Hall, home of the Cali School of Music

Extreme: The PopAction Performance Art of Elizabeth Streb

September 4 – September 29, 2019, Peak Performances and the George Segal Gallery collaborate to bring a STREB event to Montclair State

Posted in: College News and Announcements, University Galleries News

Elizabeth Streb - photo: Streb_ioulex
Elizabeth Streb - photo: Streb_ioulex

Extreme art comes to Montclair State University through the work of Elizabeth Streb, August 27-September 29, 2019. 

PEAK Performances World Premiere, FALLING & LOVING
Six actors from SITI Company and six dancers from STREB EXTREME ACTION share the stage with a “Guck Machine,” a contraption conceived by Streb featuring rings and buckets armed to continually release a variety of materials in cascades, performing what Streb describes as a “symphony of falling.”Streb explores falling—in such varied forms—as Bogart uses Charles Mee’s Love Sonnets and plays as a springboard for accessing multiform expressions of loving. Artists, ideas, and objects collide in this radical new production.

The George Segal Gallery has organized an exhibition that shows the type of choreography, equipment, and thinking behind Streb’s performance art.  Using boxes, harnesses, and an oversized rotating “tuning fork,” photographs and videos, notebooks and sketchbooks, three seminal pieces will be highlighted in the main gallery: Little Ease (1980s), Tied (2003), and Fly (1998).  Over time these pieces have evolved, with changes in choreography or equipment.  An additional six pieces will be the focus of photographic and sketchbook displays in the Kasser Theater lobby.

The exhibit augments the viewers’ appreciation of the elements of extreme art, which focuses on action or what Streb calls PopAction, which is sudden, unpredictable, urgent.  Considered action heroes, dancers are pushed to their limits in an environment of danger.  She marries dancers to equipment, called action machines, which generate extreme forces that the body must endure.  In this way, Streb creates new rhythmic structures expressed in bodily movements, similar to the way in which new compositions in sound are created by performers using musical instruments.

Today, Streb embodies over 30 years of experience.  She began her foray into extreme art by first considering a career in extreme sports like speed skating and waterskiing.  But having studied dance, she brought the elements of speed, risk, excitement, and specialized gear to that field through daredevil feats.  Inspired by post-modern dancers Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown, and entertainers like Evel Knievel and Harry Houdini, she launched her vision in the early 1980s, incorporating STREB EXTREME ACTION (a.k.a, STREB, Inc.) in 1985.  Streb’s action-based choreography and insatiable curiosity about human flight inspired evermore extreme art in pursuit of higher levels of human achievement.

Manipulating gravity, centrifugal force, and balance/counterbalance, Streb dares to verge on acrobatics in performances such as FORCES and SEA (Singular Extreme Actions) or defy physics in works such as Revolution and AIR, and explode dance in works such as Human FountainGizmo, and Passage.  Such work recalls the energy vested in investigations of light, space, time, and motion by visual art movements like Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism.  She exploits the temporality and integration of art forms as did the Art Happening; applies the simplicity and playfulness of Pop Art; and creates the lasting excitement of gesture found in Jackson Pollock’s action painting.

Streb won the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award,” and achieved international recognition for her thrilling artistry.  Streb’s story can be found in her autobiography, How to Become an Extreme Action Hero, and the Catherine Gund film, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity.

A reception and public event will be hosted by PEAK Performance and the George Segal Gallery, 9:00 p.m. on September 24, 2019, at the Kasser Theater.  Tickets to performances at Kasser Theater may be purchased at or 973-655-5112.  George Segal Gallery hours and arrangements for exhibition tours and programs may be found at or call 973-655-6941.