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The Woman Producing MoMA PS1 Warm up on New York’s Favorite Summer Party

This weekend marked the opening of the 17th season of Warm Up, PS1’s daytime outdoor dance parties that never fail to crank up the heat. The highly anticipated summer Saturday staple at MoMA’s Long Island City outpost has established itself as one of the most highly coveted platforms for emerging local and international acts. Having seen sets from Teengirl Fantasy to Thom Yorke and everyone in between, Warm Up’s lineup consistently reflects a big ol’ finger on the pulse of music’s most progressive fixtures. Fittingly, these legendary lineups are selected by a panel of industry insiders, from True Panther Sounds head Dean Bein to DFA Records co-founder Jonathan Galkin. With Cashmere Cat, Total Freedom, and Pantha du Prince on the bill, this season is already shaping up to be one for the books. Before getting our dance on in the LIC, we caught up with Warm Up’s head lady, MoMA Curatorial Assistant and Warm Up producer Margaret Knowles for the story behind the smash success.

What is Warm Up?
Warm Up is a summer music series presented by MoMA PS1, the Museum of Modern Art’s contemporary art affiliate, and hosted in our giant outdoor courtyard. Every Saturday from June 28th to September 6th, visitors can come to the museum, check out the exhibitions (until 6pm), sample delicious summer fare from M. Wells Dinette, explore the Young Architects Program installation in the courtyard, learn about New York-based designers who create our colorful, vibrant stage backdrops, and dance to the best in experimental live music, sound, and DJs.

Warm Up prides itself on exploring a wide range of genres and styles, and drawing talent from all over the world. Thanks to our invaluable team of music curators, Warm Up has gotten a reputation for both inviting some of the most experienced and talented practitioners in their fields, and also exposing audiences to innovative up-and-coming and experimental musicians.

How did the series begin?
The Warm Up series started in 1998, 22 years after P.S.1 first opened its doors. Spearheaded by Alanna Hiess (P.S.1’s founder) and Klaus Biesenbach (MoMA PS1’s current director), Warm Up’s mission wasn’t all that dissimilar from what it is today – to invite an eclectic assortment of musicians to descend on Long Island City every Saturday to play in an environment quite different from your average dance club. Since the beginning, our outdoor galleries were transformed into an interactive space where attendees could climb, swim, and enjoy the music.

As Warm Up expanded to become a bigger and bigger part of the institution, situating itself at the heart of the museum’s summer programming, Eliza Ryan was brought on to manage the curatorial direction. With MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach, she selected the first committee of music curators and really established Warm Up as a New York City summer staple.

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Can you walk me through the curation process?
Warm Up is curated by a team of six music curators working across the music and performing arts industries. Dean Bein is head of True Panther Sounds, Jonathan Galkin is co-founder of DFA Records, Eliza Ryan, who I mentioned before, was the museum’s first full time curator focusing on music and contemporary practice, Imogene Strauss is the founder of Cool Managers, and Matt Werth is label head of RVNG Intl. It’s because all of these individuals have such different backgrounds in music and bring their vast knowledge to the table that Warm Up can present such a diverse program.

The team starts meeting in January with a blank spreadsheet of dates and lists of goals. Everyone works together to create a balanced lineup across the summer, and then within each day, we try to have a range of performances – a mix of live acts and DJs, local and international artists. Some days, we choose to focus on a specific sub-genre – we have a Jamaican Dancehall-focused day and a London Garage-focused day both taking place this summer! We try to build the lineup for the whole summer out as a curatorial statement. Unlike some music festivals, we release the lineup all at once, as we feel that the whole lineup together is a statement of the curatorial vision!

Can you speak a little more to the visual installations?
There are two main visual installations at Warm Up (besides the work on view within the museum). The Young Architects Program, organized by MoMA’s Architecture and Design Department, allows emerging architects to present designs for a temporary outdoor structure that can provide shade, water, and excitement to museum visitors. Annually, a winner is selected by a panel of MoMA PS1 and MoMA curators and this year’s selection is a project called Hy-Fi by New York architecture firm The Living. The main feature is a group of three circular towers that twist around each other as they ascend towards the sky. The towers are constructed with bricks made from 100% organic and compostable material, and are crowned with reflective silver bricks that bounce light through the interior of the structure.

The second visual draw in the MoMA PS1 courtyard is the stage set! Jocelyn Miller, a member of our curatorial staff with vested interest in design, organizes a weekly rotating program of backdrops for the Warm Up performers. Local New York designers – this year including  CONFETTISYSTEM, Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Fort Makers, Fort Standard, Nightwood, and The Principals – are invited to conceptualize dynamic and vibrant installations to mirror the energy of Warm Up.

What should we look forward to this season and in the future?
One highlight of this season for me is Cibo Matto (playing July 12th) because I love that Warm Up can recontextualize this band that’s so associated with the ’90s and my high school experience, and bring it into a completely different sphere. There are also a few younger artists that I’m especially excited to see react to the energy of our 4,000 person audience: DJ UNiiQU3, a Jersey Club queen, Visionist, the London-based grime producer, and Sophie, the elusive anonymous UK producer, to name a few!

But what I am look forward to most is the phenomenal vibes this program produces. Warm Up creates a community and a vibrant, energetic summer energy. What’s better than coming to a giant, outdoor dance party on a Saturday afternoon in the summer, being exposed to new and interesting artists, both visual and musical, hanging out with friends, grabbing a cold beer, and dancing your heart out!?

Categories:   Article, Art, Festivals