David Levine received a 2013 Village Voice OBIE award for his installation Habit, and was a 2013 Fellow in Visual Arts at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Creating works that function in both contemporary art and theatrical environments, he has recently created the performance Private Moment for Creative Time's exhibition, Drifting in Daylight, and WOW, a multimedia opera about Milli Vanilli, at BRIC House. His work has been featured or reviewed in Frieze, Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times, The Believer, Bomb TDR, PAJ and Mousse, and he has published artists’ projects and essays in Triple Canopy, Cabinet, and Theater. He is the recipient of fellowships from NYFA and NYSCA, and is the Director of Studio and Performing Arts at Bard College, Berlin.
David Levin’s PRIVATE MOMENT takes iconic Central Park movie scenes and infiltrates them back into their original locations, using live actors to quietly transform the park into a backdrop where any given moment could be read as film.
Taking his title from a classic acting exercise, David Levine, a conceptual artist with a practice strongly rooted in performance and theatre, works with live actors to reinsert iconic movie scenes from Central Park into their original locations. Viewers search for these “private moments” throughout the park, attempting to distinguish looped scenes from everyday human interaction, trying to listen in without eavesdropping; trying to observe without getting too close. Or these subtle, unamplified interventions into the everyday may catch the public by surprise as they recognize favorite characters from favorite films, reliving, again and again, fictional private moments in front of a (sometimes unwitting) audience.
Performances in Central Park (Summer 2015).
For an article in The New Yorker, click here.
Developed with Joe Diebes and Christian Hawkey.
An opera based on the story of Milli Vanilli, a manufactured German pop duo whose spectacular rise and fall has become an American legend. Milli Vanilli's troubled history is not only tragically operatic in terms of its story; it is also a tragedy of the digital. WOW challenges the endless repetition of the CD-skip moment that led to the destruction of the pop duo's career with a real-time opera production environment in which the score, libretto, and staging intersect differently during each performance, evoking news ways of thinking and feeling about a story that's not as simple as it first may seem.
Using Milli Vanilli's four major videos as cardinal points on, and settings for, their journey, Levine’s staging of WOW continues his examination of the relation of performance to labor by taking the audience through BRIC’s various spaces as they witness Milli Vanilli’s rise and fall. Hawkey has generated a libretto using remixed, pirated, and appropriated language, including transcriptions of various Milli Vanilli press conferences and interviews; examining how exploited labor and racism are often at the heart of manufactured fame. Diebes has constructed more of an information-processing system than a traditional score, recombining fragments from Wagner’s Der Meistersinger von Nürenberg into a sound stream that jumps, skips, and loops.
Work-in-progress showing at BRIC House (2014). Developed during a BRIC House Fireworks Residency.
"Part of the appeal of WOW...is that is depicts that prelapsarian moment when our relationship to mass culture was not totally saturated with irony." - Art Forum
HABIT is a process-based installation that reorients the way we watch performance. It fuses TV production, durational performance, behavioral psychology, and realist theater into a project that asks basic questions about spectatorship, performance, routine, reality and realism.
Developed at Robert Wilson’s Water Mill Center, spring, 2010, and Mass MoCA in winter, 2011. Premiered in Toronto’s Luminato Festival in summer, 2011. Subsequent performance at P.S. 122 in 2012 and at Essex Street Market in 2013.
Text by Jason Grote, Environment by Marsha Ginsberg
“Mr. Levine has long been interested in both the boundaries that separate art from its audience, and the act of acting as hired labor…In HABIT, Mr. Levine is again reminding us that acting is just a job. The play, in this case, is not the thing…What makes HABIT redux so much fun is knowing that the cast members are changing the rules (and hence the characters, and hence the play) as they go along. They might be stuck in an imaginary universe, but they aren’t just puppets. They have power. You the spectator feel the rush of that power — and also a renewed sense that a play is, finally, such a marvelously mutable entity.” - The New York Times
To challenge the very notion of performing, David created the critically acclaimed performance piece, BAUERNTHEATER – a production that combined elements of theater, land art, performance art and endurance art. American actor David Barlow became the farmer from Heiner Müller’s THE RESETTLER (DIE UMSIEDLERIN), and for a month plowed fields and planted potatoes for 10-hour shifts in a rural area north of Berlin.
New York Times
VENICE SAVED: A SEMINAR
an interactive play-cum-seminar in which actors (with Levine as colloquium facilitator) acted out pieces of Simone Weil’s great lost play, Venice Saved, while audience members debated the role of politics within American Theater, and political theater within American life.
Presented at PS 122
Levine assembles and displays thousands of unsolicited headshot-and-cover-letter submissions from around NYC. The installation questions the very notion of a “culture industry”, as well as the literal and figuratively wasteful qualities inherent to “the business.”
Presented in Berlin, NYC and LA
Art In America Magazine