Toronto: New Performance by Jess Dobkin

Press photo courtesy of Jess Dobkin
Press photo courtesy of Jess Dobkin

How Many Performance Artists Does it Take

to Change a Light Bulb (For Martha Wilson)

Performance by Jess Dobkin
Thursday, April 16
at 7:00pm – 11:15pm
Enoch Turner Schoolhouse
Toronto, Ontario M5A, Canada

Made in response and as an ode to one of America’s foremost groundbreaking performance artists, performance artist Jess Dobkin’s newest work, How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb (For Martha Wilson), is at once a question, a joke and a reflection on the ways we see.

Taking a direct cue from Wilson’s 2005 video, A History of Performance Art According to Me, Martha Wilson, Dobkin takes on the complex and riddled history of performance art, defining its terms and conditions, while acknowledging the slippery temperament of her task. Wilson is also the founder and director of the renowned Franklin Furnace, a legendary artist-run space in New York City that once served as a venue, and in more recent years, exists as a virtual archive with the mission of “making the world safe for avant-garde art.”

In Wilson’s oral history of performance art, she by direct address to the camera relates the following joke:

Q: How Many Performance Artists Does it
Take to Change a Light Bulb?
A: I don’t know. I left after 4 hours.

True to the character of the light-bulb-joke oeuvre, where deviations occur over time and regions, Dobkin adds an additional variation of this joke concerning performance artists:

Q: How Many Performance Artists Does it
Take to Change a Light Bulb?
A: One to change the light bulb and 40 to document it.

As a manifestation of these jokes, and as a reflection of our screen-dependent culture, Dobkin has developed a four- plus-hour durational performance where a performance artist (Dobkin) will change a light bulb with at least 40 people documenting the piece through an exhaustive list of forms. From the ever-present phone camera, social media fanfare and GPS locator, Dobkin also turns to the generations of how performance art has been documented, revisiting the various models of photo- graphy, video recording, film formats, drawing, writing, along with treaded analogue technologies.

How Many Performance Artists Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb (For Martha Wilson) will be an attempt to overwhelm the definitions and intersections of performance, documentation, the archive and image reproduction to investigate the nature of performance itself.

Questions at stake include: How is performance shared, transmitted, recalled, remembered? How do we under- stand the lifespan of a performance? How does the
form and quality of the documentation impact our under- standing of the original work? How have technological advances in documentation and image making changed our understanding and definition of performance art practices?

Performed by Jess Dobkin and 40 volunteer documenters, with special guest appearance by Martha Wilson.

Co-presented by TD; York University; U of T Drama Centre; Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies; OCAD Onsite; Digital Dramaturgy Lab; FADO Performance Centre


Lactation Station, by Jess Dobkin

The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar, by Jess Dobkin. Photo credit: David Hawe

Quench your curiosity at the Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar! Audiences are invited to ‘quench their curiosity’ by tasting samples of pasteurized human breast milk at The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar, an interactive performance art piece conceived and presented by Jess Dobkin. Participants have the opportunity to sample small quantities of breast milk, donated by local lactating new mothers at this public ‘tasting.’

Public Event by Roxanne Dutroiscentrois and Jess Dobkin
Saturday, May 26, 2012
1:00pm until 4:00pm in UTC-04
Usine C
1345 Av. Lalonde, Montreal, QC H2L 5A9, Canada

Produced by Studio 303
Copresented by Studio 303 and OFFTA,,

Jess Dobkin: Everything I’ve Got

Interview with Jess Dobkin, published by Harbourfront Centre, Canada

Canadian performance artist Jess Dobkin talks about her piece ‘Everything I’ve Got’. The performance took place January 31, 2010 at the Studio Theatre at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Canada. In her performance Jess Dobkin examines her creative practice and artistic ideas in the light of her own mortality.

Related Link
Jess Dobkin’s website