Visual Arts Alumnus Phoebe Osborne '18 Presents New Performance Work

BY Angeline Dimambro, May 3, 2021

Release the Horses (fka hydra), the newest performance work by alumnus Phoebe Osborne ‘18, recently premiered via a live-streamed event right here on the Columbia University campus.


Osborne is an interdisciplinary artist working with performance, video, and sculpture based in New York, NY. Osborne’s works have been presented across the US and Europe, including commissioned performances at Transmediale Berlin, La Caldera Barcelona, SFMoMA and Oakland Museum of California. They have exhibited at City Limits Gallery (Oakland), False Flag (Long Island City), Southern Exposure (San Francisco), and SOMArts (San Francisco). Osborne was a 2017 recipient of the DanceWEB scholarship as a resident artist at Impulstanz in Vienna. They have won several awards and held numerous residencies, including being the artist in residence in the DAS Choreography Program at the Amsterdam University of Arts. They earned their MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia’s School of the Arts.


Release the Horses was commissioned by the Office of Public Programs and Engagement for the School of the Arts’ Year of Water, a programming series that has included art exhibits, concerts, lectures, and symposia focused on the Earth's most precious resource in all of its social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental complexities—water. Osborne originally began developing a trio-work titled hydra; a many-headed collective body in constant change, in 2019. While hydra was set to premiere in April 2020, like so many planned performances, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Osborne used that time to reimagine the performance into a new solo work, and Release the Horses (fka hydra) came to life. As the performance statement notes, “this solo attends to a void while carrying the imprints of hydra and the many voices that it held.”


The performance was live-streamed last month, made possible by videography by Lazar Bozic and Sam Taffel. High above The Square outside the Lenfest Center for the Arts on Columbia’s Manhattanville campus, the audience watched as the solo performer, Osborne, entered, making their way to the only bench in the square, the sounds of the city alive in the background. Osborne removed their mask, and delivered a direct address to the camera and their audience. 


“I think it could end here,” the performance begins. “I mean, we don’t need to talk about the tears, right? They’re implied. I mean, obviously, there’s an avalanche of tears. It’s like streaming, pooling, drowning all the time, tears. I totally get it. Cry babies. And pooling tears. Because water pools. And water falls.”


In addition to Osborne’s choreography and performance, Release the Horses featured sound score by Colin Self and costume design by Anne Cousineau. While audience members could not attend the event in person, the wide range of camera angles used to capture the performance gave viewers a unique experience of the work that would not be possible in a more traditional performance setting. Osborne also noted their essential pre-pandemic collaborators Talya Epstein (performer) and Lu Yim (performer). 


“When I’m underwater, I can hear you. I can hear an envelope of thriving riot. It’s like an infinitely-sustained decay.”


Watch the complete performance below: