Performing MMoCA


Durational participatory performance
September 23, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Wisconsin Triennial 2016

Our social practice project Performing MMoCA was selected by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) for the Wisconsin Triennial 2016 exhibition. Performing MMoCA unfolds throughout the time-space of the Wisconsin Triennial, bracketing attendees’ experience at the exhibition as a participatory performance situation.

The material dimension of the project is an installation at the museum with text on the wall, a clear vessel filled with “(performing)” buttons, and a stack of instruction cards.

The immaterial dimension of the project is the performance of everyday life. The work includes all actions and interactions performed by all MMoCA Triennial attendees wearing “(performing)” buttons throughout the duration of the Triennial, beginning September 23, 2016 and ending January 8, 2017. The project spotlights the context of the museum, asking questions about the role of perception and performance within an exhibition of contemporary art. Blurring the boundaries between artist, artwork, and spectator, Performing MMoCA playfully asks, where does art begin and end?

We invite Triennial attendees to wear a “(performing)” button to signify their participation in the performance. Buttons are available in an installation at MMoCA starting Friday, Sep. 23, 2016, at the opening reception and throughout the duration of the exhibition. The parentheses signify that an ongoing performance is always already the subtext of any exhibition, undergirding the social structure and material conditions of the museum as a public sphere. The buttons act as social sculptures, spotlighting relational performances in everyday life. While wearing the button, participants might choose to notice their thoughts, perceptions, and reactions to the artwork; notice how they are physically positioning themselves in relation to the artwork; or notice other museum-goers wearing the button. Participants might also wear the button outside the museum, taking the Triennial with them wherever they go, and noticing their performance(s) of identity in everyday life.

We also encourage participants to take pictures or videos of themselves wearing the button and post them to social media with the hashtag #PerformingMMoCA.

Performing MMoCA has its own page on Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s website that aggregates the social media engagement on Instagram and Twitter — view the growing archive of photos here. Post your own photo on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with the hashtag #PerformingMMoCA to become part of the museum’s archive.


“To prepare for the Triennial, museum staff sifted through 600 applications and visited 95 studios around the state. The final list features 34 individual artists and three pairs of artists working in collaboration. Those teams include the performance art duo Spatula and Barcode, currently in residence in Madison Public Library’s Bubbler space with their ‘Foodways’ project, and Salyer + Schaag, who made ‘Performing MMoCA’ buttons to draw attention to how we ‘perform’ the role of museum visitor.”
“Crawl inside the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial” by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times

“Every three years, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides an exciting status update on art in Wisconsin. Highlighting 40 artists from around the state, the ‘Wisconsin Triennial 2016’ reveals current work and forecasts the subject matter and themes that will prove to be significant in years to come…After reviewing the 600-plus submissions for the juried exhibition early this year, director Stephen Fleischman, senior curator Richard Axsom, associate curator Leah Kolb and curator of education Sheri Castlenuovo whittled the list down to 95 artists and conducted studio visits with each of them…Ultimately, they chose the final participants by striking a balance of geographic, thematic and demographic diversity and keeping an eye toward artists creating cutting-edge contemporary work that addresses modern-day issues or uses materials in innovative ways.”
“MMoCA shares state of the arts: The ‘Wisconsin Triennial’ shines a light on cutting-edge artwork being made across the state” by Katie Vaughn for Madison Magazine

“The Wisconsin Triennial returns this month to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art—heralding the creative genius of the state’s most well-known contemporary artists and unveiling rising talent destined to leave an imprint upon the art world…Social justice, racial equity and environmental concerns are a few of the powerful themes explored at the 2016 Triennial in striking prints, site-specific sculptures and interactive multimedia installations. Fourteen of the contributing artists are Madison residents including performance artists Laurie Beth Clark and Katie Schaag; printmaker Emily Arthur; mixed media artists Helen Hawley and Meg Mitchell; and glassblower Helen Lee.”
“Third Year’s the Charm” by Rachel Werner for Brava

“‘The Wisconsin Triennial is unique in this country,’ says [senior curator Rick] Axsom. A couple of other states have similar shows, but, adds Axsom, ‘they are nothing like the ambition of this Triennial, which involves large numbers of studio visits for final vetting. A number of artists will say to us: ‘studio visits?’ They are amazed by the kind of time and physical energy it takes to do them. But that’s how seriously we take this selection.’ … Axsom says the Triennial is not just an introduction to Wisconsin artists; it’s a powerful gateway to contemporary art as it’s developing right now. Unlike, say, the abstract art of the 1950s, today’s contemporary art deals very much with what people see in their everyday world, what a curator might call ‘the now.’ Political issues. Social concerns. Questions of identity. In other words, the art may not be as strange or hard to grasp as visitors might suppose.”
“Calling all artists: MMoCA’s Triennial showcases art on the  cutting edge” by Laura Jones for Isthmus

“Madison newcomers to the exhibition include Lee (glass), Emily Arthur (printmaking), Victor Castro aka TetraPAKMAN Man (social sculpture), Helen Hawley (multimedia installation), Romano Johnson (painting), Meg Mitchell (sound installation), Christopher Rowley (painting), SALYER + SCHAAG (performance) and Gregory Vershbow (photography)… Two notable themes that emerged in 2016 are the state of the environment and storytelling, marked by an exploration of personal identity, said MMOCA senior curator Richard Axsom… ‘What we saw emerging (in the studio visits) was – here is another artist who is concerned personally with the environment, or with cultural identity, ethnic identity, political identity,’ he said.”
“Art tells a personal story in latest Wisconsin Triennial” by Gayle Worland for Wisconsin State Journal