Performance art may have long had a bad rap, but if anything can change minds, it’s Performa, the vibrant biennial celebrating its fourth iteration in New York from November 1 through 21. Since 2004, Performa creator RoseLee Goldberg has staked out unique turf by supporting artists like the slyly subversive duo Elmgreen and Dragset, who this year presents Happy Days in the Art World, an unlikely fusion of Samuel Beckett’s bleak Happy Days and Sarah Thornton’s 2008 nonfiction book about the art world. “It’s autobiography mixed with absurdity,” says Michael Elmgreen, who’s been collaborating with Ingar Dragset for 16 years. The darkly comic tone of the hour-long piece—in which our heroes grapple with the meaning of ­artistic success and middle age amid the spare set they’ve designed (above)—is typical of the pair’s work. The rest of this year’s offerings range from Simon Fujiwara’s epic fantasy-autobiography The Boy Who Cried Wolf to voguing legend Benny Ninja, whose propulsive energy brings to life the Kabuki hip-hop paintings of Iona Rozeal Brown. The variety strikes Dragset as a robust sign. “Whenever financial crises happen, performance art seems to have a revival,” he says. “People are less concerned with commodity and can appreciate the ephemeral.”

Photo: Elmgreen And Dragset, Happy Days In The Art World, 2011, Copyright Elmar Vestner