Undoing Language: Early Performance Works by Brian O'Doherty, October 8, 2022. Performance view, The Kitchen. Photo ©2022 Paula Court.

Brian O’Doherty

Undoing Language: Early Performance Works by Brian O’Doherty

On View: October 8-October 8, 2021

512 West 19th Street

This program brings together early performance works by artist, art critic, poet, and novelist Brian O’Doherty that engage with the breakdown of language into vowels that are isolated from meaning and enunciated as bodily sounds.

It will include the first-ever performance of Vowel Chorus for Five Voices (1968) by the vocal ensemble Ekmeles; the movement and sound work Vowel Grid (1970) performed by Roxy Farman and C. Spencer Yeh; and a new commission by vocalist and composer Holland Andrews, who will unpack the layers of O’Doherty’s vowel performances and poems in a soundscape. At his age of ninety-three, this program recognizes O’Doherty’s role as an artist who created a substantial body of performance works engaging with the performativity of language and how it interacts with the performance of the “self,” as well as his leadership role in the first national funding for performance and media art at the National Endowment for the Arts in 1970s, which has made an indelible mark on the New York performance art scene. Guest curated by Lucy Cotter.


Lucy Cotter is an Irish curator and writer based in Portland, Oregon,R where she is the 2021 Curator in Residence at Oregon Center for Contemporary Art. Previous projects include being the curator of the Dutch Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale 2017. She is author-editor of Reclaiming Artistic Research (2019) and a regular contributor to journals such as Flash Art, Frieze, and Mousse Magazine. She holds a PhD in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and lectures at Portland State University. She is currently working on an experimental play entitled The Entangled Museum, alongside new curatorial projects.

Brian O’Doherty is an artist, art critic, novelist, filmmaker, and poet who has worked under several identities. Born in Ireland in 1928, and trained as a doctor, he began his art career in the 1960s in New York. As an artist he works with drawing, installation, and performance, exhibiting in museums and galleries worldwide. He is the author of two books and three novels, one of which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. He was art critic for the New York Times in the 1960s and editor of Art in America in the ’70s and is best known for his paradigm-shifting Inside the White Cube essays (1976). Recent publications include the monographic survey Between Categories: Patrick Ireland/Brian O’ Doherty (Lund/Humphries, 2009), edited by Brenda-Moore McCann; the artist’s novel A Crossdresser’s Secret (Sternberg Press, 2014); the critical anthology Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland: Word, Image and Institutional Critique, edited by Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, 2017; Brian O’Doherty: Collected Essays (University of California Press, 2018); and A Mental Masquerade, edited by Thomas Fischer and Astrid Mania, (Spector Books, 2019).


Undoing Language: Early Performance Works by Brian O’Doherty is made possible with endowment support from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust; annual grants from The Amphion Foundation, Inc., The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Curatorial travel supported by Portland State University.

Season programming is made possible in part with support from The Kitchen’s Board of Directors and The Kitchen Leadership Fund. Learn more about the Leadership Fund.

Image: Brian O'Doherty, Structural Play: Vowel Grid, 1970. Performance, Grianan Aileach, Donegal, Ireland, 1998.
Courtesy of the artist and Brenda Moore-McCann.