Down at the Arcade
Friday, October 15—Saturday, October 16 8:00 pm—9:00 pm
Sunday, October 17 from 2:00pm—3:00pm
Former Topshop (Midtown)
608 5th Ave, New York, NY 10020

Sara Cwynar manipulates found imagery from commercial advertising, personal archives, and screenshots to investigating how popular imagery infiltrates our consciousness as well as our ever-changing ideals of beauty and truth. For her first live performance, Cwynar marches a parade of pictures and language across the room to reveal how they create false social and political realities—online and in real life—in order to address the overwhelming media bombardment that we experience in contemporary society.

Audiences will enter the familiar setting of a retail establishment—with its maze of escalators and deserted displays—to find themselves immersed in a visual extravaganza akin to Cwynar’s photographs. Guests are enveloped in video monitors, pulley systems, conveyors, and other mechanical methods of transporting images and objects. Cwynar authors a hypotonic screenplay, collaging found text with the artist’s original writing, and delivered by the voice actor Paul Cooper whose ambivalent male voice is often corrected, echoed or superseded by the artist herself. Studio assistants, recalling lab technicians or fit models, perform a variety of tasks such as pilling, pulling, or hanging pictures to illustrate the living process of a work of art.

Curated by Job Piston, Associate Curator at Large

Selections from Down at the Arcade
The script is a combination of found text and Sara Cwynar’s original writing.
1. I was making a giant archive of images and screenshots and bookmarks that I will never have time to go back and look at again. We were all doing this together.
2. Rarely in the western imagination is metamorphosis translated as a total deviation of being.
3. Many have thought that to make the inventory would lead to enlarged understanding, that classifying things would help, but this is wrong too.
4. Is apple green or red?
5. Everyone does his or her task on the conveyor belt, performing a partial function without grasping the totality.
6. The future, of course, never comes, it is merely a space for the projection of the frustrations of the present, and these terms are already nostalgic
7. “The eternal is in any case far more the ruffle on a dress than some idea”—Walter B, not me.
8. Does it belong to you more if it hurt you?
9. Does it belong to you just because you saw it?
10. I would only say, you saw it, that was good enough.

Performer: Conor McShane and Tim Webb
Voice Actor: Paul Cooper


Producer: Bob Kalas
Performa 2021 Biennial Fellow: Nectar Knuckles
Dramaturg: Ariel Sibert
Technical Director: André Ferreira
Movement Director: Emily Maltby
Stage Manager: Taylor Suffridge
Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Pathman
Cinematographer: Wilson Cameron
Video: Kyle Harrigan
Sound: Vincent Dee
Music: Prokofiev and Prokofiev covered by Lydia Ainsworth

Toby Devan Lewis, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Canada Council for the Arts.



Sara Cwynar was born in 1985 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Cwynar studied English Literature at University of British Columbia, a Bachelor of Design from York University and an MFA in Photography at Yale University. She completed an artist residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine. Recent solo exhibitions include: Glass Life, Foxy Production, New York;Source, Remai Modern, Saskatoon (2021); Gilded Age, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield (2019); Image Model Muse, Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN (2018); Soft Film, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2017). Forthcoming and group exhibitions include: Objects of Desire: Photography and the Language of Advertising, LACMA, Los Angeles (forthcoming); Don’t! Photography and the Art of Mistakes, SFMOMA, San Francisco (2019); To Our Parents, Bienal de São Paulo (2018). Her publications include Glass Life, Aperture Foundation (2021) and independently released Kitsch Encyclopedia (2014) and Pictures of Pictures(2014). Cwynar’s works are in the permanent collections of MoMA, NewYork; Guggenheim, New York; SFMOMA, San Francisco; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fondazione Prada, Milan.


Paul Cooper is a Brooklyn-based actor and musician. He will next be seen on screen in Antonio Tibaldi’s feature We Are Living Things. He appears in the feature Paint, directed by Michael Walker, and featured in the original pilot that premiered at Sundance in 2018. His television credits include HBO’s Westworld and Fox’s The Gifted. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


Conor McShane received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre from Pace University in 2019. He most recently made his Off-Broadway debut in the musical I Spy a Spy. This winter, Conor looks forward to playing Buddy the Elf in Elf: The Musical at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, and making his television debut in Gossip Girl on HBO Max. Conor thanks Emily Maltby and Sara Cwynar for having him join this project.


Ariel Sibert is a Brooklyn-based dramaturg, writer, and producer of film and performance. She studied Art History at Princeton University and is pursuing a doctorate in Dramaturgy & Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama. She is a founding member of the company Fake Friends and has worked with artists and directors including Hito Steyerl, Savas Boyraz, and Shadi Ghaheri.


Tim Webb is a recent graduate of Pace University, where he earned his BFA in Musical Theatre. His most recent performance credit was playing Morris Delancey in Newsies at the Gateway Playhouse. Tim would like to thank Emily, Sara, Bob, Ariel, Conor, Taylor, and everyone at Performa for a wonderful process.