Describing her zeal for art and the expression of the lives of artists, RoseLee Goldberg says, "It is pure desire, like falling in love." And it is with this intensity for art that she has lived her life. From the director of the Royal College of Arts Gallery (right out of grad school) to a curator at the Kitchen, she has lept into uncomfortable and intimidating situations and conquered them by storm. "There is no such thing as failure," RoseLee states. Her plan B is better than her plan A, and, as with art, no endeavor met with the soul is ever a waste, or, as Man Ray, once told her, "There's no such thing as progress. Art is like making love -- there's just different ways of doing it."
So when RoseLee was feeling the top-heaviness of the NY art world in the early 2000s (the dissolution of a vital bottom-up, adventurous art scene that she knew so well Downtown in the 70s), she did something about it. "The voice of the young needed to be heard, and not just in Berlin or Shanghai," asserts RoseLee. Her fervor for action and the source of societal creation stems from the days of growing up during apartheid in South Africa. "I'm always trying to understand where ideas and their influences come from," RoseLee explains. "My brother always said, 'Why should we study art history?' I'd reply, 'Where is your last visual concept of the world of the past thousands of years coming from? Art is how you imagine the past." Her mom, too, always encouraged her to walk out of the front door with a pad and paint in hand. "I grew up in Durban. It's the heart of Zulu land, it's the heart of a very large Indian population. The landscape was extraordinary," says RoseLee of her South African hometown. Those rich multicultural sensations birthed a storyteller of the depths of our hearts and minds.
"I remember seeing Shirin Neshat's work and thinking, Oh my god, this is what it should be about. It was a total awakening for me -- a moment of East and West, black-and-white politics, men and women," says RoseLee. "I sat there with tears in my eyes, asking, Why doesn't performance make me feel like this?" And thus began what has become the performance art phenomenon called Performa, a three-week biennial that showers the private and public spaces of NYC with an array of live performances comprised of dance, poetry, film, and everything in between. About her relationship with her rotating gang of artists, RoseLee disclosed, "It's total risk and total trust. I see the artist's work and I know whatever they deliver is going to be brilliant." Clad in a uniform of Jil Sander leather pants and a Comme des Garçons top for each day of the week, RoseLee is unveiling a whole history of today's expressers. "The way that culture reveals itself is so different from the mainstream of anything. But art does that for us... it's complicated."
Elisa & Lily
RoseLee's video was edited by Maximiliano Gaston Longo.
For more on Performa, click here