Please wait

Felix Bernstein:
Bieber Bathos Elegy

Jan 15–Jan 16, 2016

Felix Bernstein and Luke Smithers, Bieber and the Elder (promotional photograph for Bieber Bathos Elegy), 2015. Photograph by Luke Smithers

Felix Bernstein and Luke Smithers, Bieber and the Elder (promotional photograph for Bieber Bathos Elegy), 2015. Photograph by Luke Smithers

Location: Floor Three
Susan and John Hess Family Theater

In this hybrid work of musical performance, New York-based artist, poet, and writer Felix Bernstein shifts from poetry to cabaret drag to lonely web voyeurism to deconstructive criticism to opera. Bringing into the light issues of identity and persona, Bernstein ponders the concept of bathos—the anticlimax that comes with the descent from the sublime to the ridiculous. Set to new music by composer Rron Karahoda, pop star "Justin Bieber" visits the stage as a prophetic angel to critique Felix’s perverse rapture and hysteria, while avant-garde vocal artist and pioneer Shelley Hirsch leads a youth’s chorus in a rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie. Felix’s frequent collaborator Gabe Rubin directs and appears as a solemn sprite in a haunting version of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” 

The theater entrance features a special installation, “O Felix Culpa: Logos Spermatikos,” by artist Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt.

Bieber Bathos Elegy is organized by Jay Sanders, Curator and Curator of Performance, as a co-commission with NYPAC, the New York Performance Artists Collective, with residency support from Pioneer Works.

Event tickets are required. Please note: this event has reached ticketing capacity. A limited number of standby tickets will be sold at the admissions desk on a first-come, first-served basis one-hour prior to each performance ($10 adults, $8 students and seniors; free for members and children under 18).

Major support for the Whitney’s Performance Program is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the Performance Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

About the Artist

Felix Bernstein is the author of Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry (Insert Blanc Press) and Burn Book (Nightboat Books). He debuted on YouTube with his real and satirical Coming Out Video in 2009 and has since played characters from Amy Winehouse to Lamb Chop to Leopold Brant. Bernstein has created film, music, and YouTube videos with Gabe Rubin and his critical writings have appeared in BOMB, Hyperallergic, Poetry Magazine, and The Awl.

Felix Bernstein's Burn Book will be available for purchase in the Whitney Shop.


Director: Gabe Rubin
Assistant Director: Clara Lipfert
Sound Design and Composition: Cammisa Buerhaus
Production and Set Design: George Dupont
Lighting Design: MJ Kanai
Movement and Staging: Emily Skillings
Chief Stylist and Art Director: Mabel Nash Greenberg
Costumes: Whatever 21
Wings and Wigs: James McClain
Grizabella’s Dress: Ben Rosenberg
Felix’s Mask: Soren Roi
Sound Assistant: Izzy Ocampo
Art Assistants: Rue Hogarth, Stephen Michaels
Technical Assistance: Grayling Bauer, Jake Coan
Videographer: Sam Taffel
Producer: James Fry
Sound Engineer: Bob Bellerue
Theater entrance, “O Felix Culpa: Logos Spermatikos”: Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt


Composer: Rron Karahoda
Chorus Director and Improviser: Shelley Hirsch
Chorus: Daniel Barbrack, Zakiya Cordice, Gia Grier, Senna Lauer, Katya Naphtali, and Mitchell Harrison
Curator: Alex Fleming
Band: Gabe Rubin, Lazar Bozic, Austin Sley Julian
Violin: Joanna Mattrey
Cello: Leila Bordreuil
Voice of Bieber: Conrad Sundqvist-Olmos
Justin Bieber: Luke Smithers

In the News

“At 23, Bernstein is very young to be debuting anything at the Whitney, much less this grand a spectacle, of which he is both creator and star.” -Village Voice

“This hybrid work of opera, poetry, cabaret drag. . . and deconstructive criticism features Bernstein as the thinking millennial's poet trying to figure out where lieth the reality in the labyrinth of life.” - Huffington Post

“Bernstein plays with the psychological throughout, pulling the audience into an often bewildering but amusing rollercoaster of a mindset.” - Hyperallergic