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Pablo Helguera "performance lecture", BHQFU, 225 West Broadway, 10/22, 8pm

Theatrum Anatomicum (and other Performance Lectures), Pablo Helguera, published by Jorge Pinto Books

225 West Broadway
(as part of Edifying, a series of performative lectures curated by Beatrice Gross)

“If you have ever felt trapped amidst a boring lecture, this book has been made for you”.

Over the last few years, from the bars in Brooklyn to the stages of highbrow European museums, a now ubiquitous mode of lecturing is proliferating. It is known as “performance lecture”, referring to an academic presentation delivered by an artist that often turns into a spectacle and is usually accompanied by satire and irreverence. Despite the fact that this entertaining and experimental practice is now a familiar part of the life of artists communities around the world, few are recorded or survive beyond their presentation. Fortunately, Pablo Helguera, one of its most assiduous practitioners, has reunited a group of his performance texts to create what may well be the first anthology ever made of this genre.

An artist, educator, and storyteller, Helguera presents in this volume a collection of performance texts that cover a wide variety of subjects, ranging from political history to modern art. Working with actors to present scripted symposiums without the audience’s knowledge, presenting dueling lectures on topics as diverse as Mexican soap operas and XVIth century Anatomical Theaters, or constructing a five-theme presentation in the form of a baroque fugue, the texts in this anthology reflect Helguera’s perennial quest to critique and reinvigorate the lecture format.

The performance scripts included in Theatrum Anatomicum (and Other Performance Lectures) blend the dramatic elements of theater with the format of the academic presentation, and bring into dialogue topics as the life of the eccentric opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins, the story behind the creation of Chicago’s downtown neighborhood of Streeterville, the origins of the Kindergarten, the history of the Shakers, the story of the US/Mexico war, and the social dynamics of the art world. In these series of experimental works, the voices of real and fictional characters come together in a unique and critical exploration of history, politics, and art.

Helguera, who has worked in education departments of art museums for two decades organizing lectures, writes in the introduction: “In my role as programmer, I have frequently been frustrated by the low or nonexistent public-speaking skills of those who lecture and participate in academic discussions […] very few of them are skilled public speakers or comfortable in a public forum, which translates into stiffness and social awkwardness, insincerity, and a general reluctance to open up toward an audience. Because most lectures are based on a written text, their unfolding is slow and their language excessively formal and heavy for a live reading. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if panels were like theater works, where drama has its hand in conveying the message? I thought, why aren’t there be dramaturges for art lecturers?—and I set out to become one.”

“Helguera knows the lecture form inside-out, in all its frailties and anachronisms, and he cares for it. But expect the Professor-Doctor of its terminal condition to be doing stand-up at the funeral.” - Dominic Willsdon, The Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

“While Helguera writes in a manner that suggests parody, he is simultaneously deadly serious and entirely accurate… [he] routinely appropriates academic language or strategies to create his artworks, which can appear as books, recordings, symposia or even a nomadic museum. With these he astutely observes the politics of culture and its effects on society, what it means to us and how we are taught to appreciate it.” - Amanda Coulson, Art Review

“Pablo Helguera is […] a splendid liar, a first-class storyteller, a curious mind constantly in search of stories, a creator of parallel universes and impossible characters living in credible situations, which invariably probe our certainties, intuition and knowledge.” - Naief Yehya, writer and critic

Theatrum Anatomicum (and Other Performance Lectures) brings together a number of performance scripts that blend the dramatic elements of theater with the gravity of the academic presentation, and bring into dialogue topics as disparate as the Latin American soap opera, the origins of the Kindergarten, the history of the Shakers, the US/Mexico war and the social dynamics of the art world. In these series of experimental works, the voices of real and fictional characters come together in a critical exploration of history, politics, and art.

"Pablo Helguera is an educator and artist who uses satire to explore the complicated social structure of the contemporary art scene. His performance, "We all need a Pygmalion," takes the form of a "self-improvement" workshop with a musical component—Helguera sings songs about the art world to melodies from My Fair Lady. The performance is an introduction to his book The Pablo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style. Written in the style of an old-school etiquette handbook, Helguera's wry advice is practical for any artist." — from the Hirschhorn Museum website

The Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU) is a free, unaccredited alternative art school created by the New York based art collaborative the Bruce High Quality Foundation. "The Bruce High Quality Foundation, the official arbiter of the estate of Bruce High Quality, is dedicated to the preservation of the legacy of the late social sculptor, Bruce High Quality. In the spirit of the life and work of Bruce High Quality, we aspire to invest the experience of public space with wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man’s desiring. "Professional Challenges. Amateur Solutions."