Exclusive: Go Eye To Eye With Miles Greenberg On His Unforgettable Performances And Fashion Moments

June 23, 2023

To most, Miles Greenberg is a man turned myth. On stage, whether that’s a glass cube or the storied hallways of the Louvre after hours, Greenberg looms like a deity, emitting otherworldly auras. He prepares weeks in advance of every performance with workouts, saunas, and more, all to achieve the physical cut of an athlete and mentally prepare himself for whatever’s in store.

In Étude Pour Sébastien (2023), for instance, Miles employed an expert to pierce him through with real life arrows before traipsing the Louvre's hallways for five hours. He almost always dons contacts that turn his eyes all black or all white, obscuring his own gaze — and views of himself.


Eye to Eye

Rain, however, met Greenberg eye to eye for a six-hour shoot in London that smacked of his typical engagements mostly in terms of time. Greenberg often favors the durational impact of long-term performances — in Oysterknife (2020), a virtual performance live streamed by the Marina Abramović Institute at a lofty New York City warehouse open to the street, Greenberg walked on a conveyor belt for a full 24 hours straight (the piece was later shown as a video work and acquired by the Brooklyn Museum for their permanent collection). So far, that’s the only performance where the artist hasn’t obscured his vision.


A stage doesn't make a performance

A stage alone doesn’t make a performance, though.

“I'm not going to add another layer between us,” Greenberg said, comparing Oysterknife with the experience of sitting for Rain. “The contact lens or the camera lens, they serve the same purpose as a thin veil of removal, between myself and the audience.”

It’s not that Greenberg becomes someone else in the space that this removal creates, per se. He does enter a trancelike state, though, which the artist purposely abstained from while trading between styles by fashion’s biggest legacy brands and Central Saint Martins students alike. 

Turtleneck sweater by HERMÈS

Miles Greenberg

Greenberg was born in Montreal to a first-generation Ukrainian Canadian mother — an actress in a locally-based Russian absurdist theater company who took Greenberg along on European tours where he learned stage gags, saw art, and even attended every edition of the Venice Biennale during his lifetime, including while in the womb. At 17, Greenberg dropped out of school to study movement independently. Early on, he staged his first well-received series of performances at a rented storefront in his hometown alongside a cohort of local artists working in performance, and regularly performed in underground nightclubs and DIY performance events around the city.

"I wouldn't have wanted to start out anywhere else than Montreal, because I could try stuff out with no consequences. That was a great privilege, in hindsight. Nothing had to count. That freedom to experiment is much harder to come by in cities like New York or Paris where everyone keeps track of everything you do, and they hold you to it. Back home I felt like I could shed my skin every week; I tried everything out in order to define my language."


Now, though, “fashion is just a really fun space for me with no stakes,” the artist said. “I've always been keenly intrigued by people who work closely with the body,” whether extending or covering it.

Top by JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, earring, stylist's own, gloves by PAULA ROWAN

On Performance

Somehow, Greenberg had to laugh when we asked how he exudes such ease amidst the physical turmoil his performances often require in their efforts to explore how the body negotiates extreme sensations, including mania and ecstasy. Private Danish museum, The Faurschou Foundation, a private Danish museum, is the first institution to purchase and acquire one of Greenberg’s performances — The Embrace(2020), wherein two performers hug closely, perched atop a rock within a glass cube, pooling saltwater reflecting their forms from below. 

Full look by SIMONE ROCHA, earring by SWAROVSKI
Full look by SIMONE ROCHA, earring by SWAROVSKI

The piece prescribes that performers embrace for six to eight hours in the cube each day. It’s currently on view at Faurschou’s Greenpoint, Brooklyn location, alongside artworks by Yoko Ono and Louise Bourgeoise. On opening night, Greenberg was excited to relax amongst the reception — until one performer needed a break. Those of us in attendance were treated to an unexpected show by the mastermind himself, his thousand-yard stare all alabaster, haunting.

What anyone who’s ever witnessed this artist might be surprised to learn, though, is that Greenberg doesn’t identify entirely with the superhuman force he ends up presenting to viewers. "I feel very different as a civilian than when I'm onstage. I didn't used to, but now it's become really important to me to draw a hard distinction between on and off stage. I think I'm a lot happier in my personal life now than I used to be, and I want to try and keep it that way."

Full look by MOSCHINO, earring and necklace by SHAUN LEANE

“When I'm performing, I get right with my God,” he intimated. “My 'civilian'real' life feels somehow quite precarious,” Greenberg continued, “I feel no sense of fear whatsoever.” No spectacle takes place without its very real physical risks, and sometimes the artist does have close calls. “I tell myself, every single time I perform that if that is where I dropped dead, that'd have to be fine…” Greenberg trailed off, making light of the dark notion: “My mom's not gonna love reading that.”

Full look by EDWARD CRUTCHLEY, earring, stylist's own
Full look by EDWARD CRUTCHLEY, earring, stylist's own

On Fashion

He appears weightless — head back and savoring a white Hermès turtleneck and earring by Shaun Leane, flexing his well-earned traps and delts in an airy patterned maxi by Mithridate. Elsewhere Greenberg stands firm, challenging the camera in a black and white Simone Rocha ensemble crowned by Swarovski, regal in various states of swathing in a celestial wrap by Georges Hobeika.

He prefers autonomy over choreography. It's impossible to control a 24-hour performance — let alone a shoot of this length. Greenberg’s unadulterated gaze provides the common through throughout these sartorial explorations, accounting for the lens once again to foster intimacy with whoever’s on the other side.

Coat by GEORGES HOBEIKA, shirt and trousers by GCDS, earring by SHAUN LEANE, sandals by HERMÈS

Greenberg follows the model of famed mentors like Marina Abramović in his day-to-day life, lately favoring a straightforward uniform of blue jeans and a white tank top. It keeps things simple and strikes a balance between his artist persona and “civilian life.” Work/life balance has grown into a recent focus as Greenberg becomes more secure not only within his own craft but his place in the greater contemporary canon, beyond just the pigeonhole of “performance art.”

“Work aside, I'm in in the throes of the greatest love story of my life so far,” Greenberg added, “I've been learning about how to love myself better by loving somebody else, which has been nourishing and really exciting.” 

It’s clear — Greenberg is a mortal savoring sensuality at this moment. You can see it in his eyes. 

Interview by Vittoria Benzine

Photography by Thanos Poulimenos
Styling by Star Burleigh
Hair by Sharon Robinson
Makeup by Pablo Rodriguez 
Talent Miles Greenberg
Photo Assistant Evan Baul
Backstage Photographer India Bharadwaj