Jimmy Robert: Imitation of Lives

Co-commissioned by The Glass House and Performa, Jimmy Robert’s Imitation of Lives turns the Glass House into a stage for an intimate performance that delves into the intersections of architecture, visibility, and black representation. Inspired by Jeff Wall’s essay Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel (1988), Robert draws on the house’s reflective qualities to devise a work for three performers engaged in a subtle game of looking and being looked at in turn. Read about Imitation of Lives in the performance booklet, in Frieze Magazine, and in Performa Magazine for a conversation between Robert and theorist Mario Gooden.

In previous works, Robert has explored the politics of spectatorship by reworking seminal avant-garde performances in ways that complicate their racial and gendered readings. For this performance, poetry and music are merged into a “live collage” that includes a new painting by Lucy McKenzie, and references to Harlem Renaissance cabaret singer Jimmie Daniels, who was once romantically involved with Philip Johnson; Samuel Beckett’s Quad (1981); David Hammons’ In the Hood (1993); lyrics by Josephine Baker; and texts by Jayne Cortez, Marguerite Duras, Audre Lorde, and Lorenzo Thomas. Robert’s layered performance turns the Glass House into an arena where exposure, representation, and power can be thought anew.

Imitation of Lives was co-curated by Cole Akers (The Glass House) and Charles Aubin (Performa), and co-commissioned by Performa and The Glass House for Performa 17.

Jimmy Robert (b. 1975, Guadeloupe, France), trained in visual arts at Goldsmiths in London and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. His oeuvre encompasses performance, photography, film, video, and drawing. Robert has exhibited at WIELS in Brussels, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and the Dakar Biennial. Recent solo exhibitions and performances include David Robert Arts Foundation in London (2020), KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (2019), Museum M in Leuven (2015), The Power Plant in Toronto (2013), and MCA Chicago (2012). In 2014, as part of MoMA’s James Lee Byars retrospective, Robert performed The Mile-Long Paper Walk (1965), a performance initially danced by Lucinda Childs. Forthcoming projects include a solo, survey exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary in September 2020, which will travel to venues throughout Europe. Robert will also be taking part of Glasgow International, with a solo exhibition at The Hunterian Art Gallery (postponed until 2021).

Performers: NIC Kay, Jimmy Robert, and Quenton Stuckey
Painting: Loos / De Bruycker marble (2017) by Lucy McKenzie
Costume design: Carmen Secareanu (robes) and Regina M. Rizzo (t-shirts)
Voice coach: Emily Kron

The performance was supported by the Performa Commissioning Fund and FUSED (French U.S. Exchange in Dance), a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts-National Dance Project and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York in collaboration with FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), with lead funding from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and private donors. Additional support provided by Andy Romer. This project has been selected and supported by the patronage committee for the arts of the FNAGP.