Ads – NYC Players
aka Richard Maxwell

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I think I would have to label this a misplaced experiment.  The New York Times called it “a video installation in a modern-art museum” and I unfortunately I agree. As someone surrounded by digital technology which is lacking exactly the live component I crave and enjoy in seeing a performance, I was severely disappointed by this “performance.”

As an experiment in the live arts I understand the things Maxwell was going for… exploring what performance means, what live means, playing with technology available, but ultimatley it was not enjoyable or interesting to me. Still it was great to see Maxwell using his trademark tropes in a new setting.

PREMIERE – Maria Hassabi @the kitchen

PREMIERE-hassabi-maria

I like art that makes an entrance, this one does it while you enter. Under the brightest and harshest lights you are presented with tableaux as you saunter across the stage towards your seat. From there you get to enjoy tableaux plus performance of all those that came after you – maybe you were one of the lucky ones who came in as a group – late arrivals you had the stage kind-of all to yourself so might as well take a bow.

Now you might think that was the extent of your performance – and for many perhaps it was – but not for me.

The harsh examination lights continue and never waver or dim. The performers continue like stone. You get to go over the assemblage bit by bit. Your eyes rest on every detail. I for example notice, the multiple collars, cuffs and pockets, on the somewhat monochromatic 80’s/90’s ish denim and tucked in shirt ensembles being worn.

And then you wait, and wait and wait. Only you don’t get to do it from the comfort of a darkened corner, like a normal audience member, its bright as day in there, brighter! And meanwhile you start to get hot under the collar, it’s hot under these lights. And not a sound is being made, so you try to sit as still as possible. And you even control your breathing and your coughs. When will it start, so I can relax?

Finally, there is movement – but it’s subtle, barely there, really. There is sound – but it’s subtle. Eventually, has it been hours or minutes, there are even light cues, also subtle, but almost comical too, in that they offer hope of respite from the lights – but it’s only temporary. Let your mind wander for second and when you look up you catch a new arrangement – but stare at the performers intently and you only get excruciating effort, sweat and the occasional squeaks of rubber soles or skin on dance floor. Tiny indications of time passing. All mimicked, at least by me, by my own squeaks, exertions and hold-stillness.

maria-hassabi-PREMIERE

Now I’m not entirely sure making the audience feel self-conscious and performative was part of the plan, as it does make it doubly hard to “enjoy” a performance that is already somewhat taxing for the senses and the mind – but for me the parallels between performer and audience member enhanced the experience – even as every exertion by performer made me think of my own aching body and how no position is comfortable when you’re thinking about it and how for the performers any pedestrian movement when slowed down to such a degree requires extreme discipline as the pain and concentration is immense. I should know I’ve been there before – sometimes there is nothing harder than standing still unmoving for as long as it takes.

I’m not sure what to make of it, if the audience performer parallels were not intentional, there is still something there, but perhaps not enough to chew on? Could it be critiqued at “face” value as ultra minimal dance instead of audience interactive performance? perhaps.*

In any case – at the end of it all – phew what a workout. What a relief. But also a meditative, interactive, strenuous and in the end cathartic experience. Now that I think of it – ultimately a beautiful and sublime experience. I highly recommend it – but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

nov 6-9, 2013
the kitchen
nyc

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read nytimes review for another perspective

*review of show, Hassabi’s previous minimally named performance at the kitchen – I’m starting to understand what she is working with here, I love it when dancers deconstruct and interrogate the very fundamentals of performance

MCA Chicago – eighth blackbird with Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner

eighth_blackbird
Another great night courtesy of eight blackbird and the MCA. All of our favorites in one space, a special treat seeing Nico, and experiencing his music. Also surprised and enjoyed hearing a piece by Tristan Perich – toy pianos, electronics and joy on the performers faces. Lisa Kaplan’s world premiere of whirligig, continued the energy and playful atmosphere. And of course what night of eighth blackbird wouldn’t be complete without some Philip Glass. It was fantastic. I feel like I found new transformative depths in his Two Pages. A new world opened up to me. Tim Munro, eight blackbird’s flautist, introduced the piece as an ultra-marathon for the musicians. Watching their skill, focus, and flawless execution, I could feel the sheer level of exertion required. This added an extra layer of contemplation to an already meditative piece. Likewise we were mesmerized by a selection of songs from David Lang’s newly released album death speaks. Shara Worden’s voice and the haunting lyrics lingered on in our minds long into the night.

Apr 30 – May 1, 2013
museum of contemporary art
chicago

Miguel Gutierrez – MCA

I was so excited to finally be able to see Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in Chicago. I was a huge fan back in nyc, but was itching to be able to see him since my move here. It’s been a while since I’ve even posted in the performance category, I was sure I would finally have tons to say regarding And lose the name of action.

No beginning. Stargate SG-1. Parachute. White Room. Seance. Asylum. Useless Room. White. Black. Tableux. Garbage bag. UFO. Chairs. Acting. Play. Madness. Reading. Sci-fi. Mask. F*&K YOU! Video. Repetition. No end.

The list of seemingly random words goes on. The source material is very deep and very personal to Miguel, so I was surprised that the execution came across as very superficial to me. I’m guessing confusion is part of the piece but unfortunately I feel like it kept me from enjoying it.

Technically the dance movements were excellent and even the “non-dance” parts were obviously meticulously rehearsed and executed. These were the parts I enjoyed the most. The play acting, the speaking, the singing, the running about the stage – and especially the chair knocking over. But at the same time I felt like, these parts knocked me out of dance mode, and kept me from enjoying the more “pure dance” parts. It felt unbalanced to me – now we’re doing dance! now we’re doing speaking! now we’re watching a video in a useless room!

According to the new york times “Miguel Gutierrez’s ‘And lose the name of action’ seeks to demonstrate facets of a mind that has come apart.” I think he has accomplished that. Quite literally. But I think in many ways pure chaos is easy to accomplish, a little harder to do as an artistic rendition. A little editing, a little balance, a little more interpretation? Maybe that was missing? Or perhaps, I was just not prepared for a raw assault this time, and that is exactly what Miguel was exploring.

A few moments, made feel – now this is performance! But none made me feel – now this is dance! It was still amazingly awesome to see Miguel in Chicago, even more amazing to be mere inches away from him – convulsing, singing, undulating, and regurgitating white fabric/plastic.

For the record I came expecting something like this:


While most of it looked like this:

On second thought, I think those images beg more questions than answer – so, uh, nm?

some interesting interviews:
badatsports.com
newcitystage.com

and lose the name of action
miguel gutierrez and the powerful people
january 31 – february 3, 2013
museum of contemporary art
chicago, il

Martin Creed @ the MCA

The MCA performance, which I had assumed was commissioned by the MCA, but I have come to find out is actually a pre-existing work, perhaps I should read more before these things, but I like to be surprised, can probably be summarized by one of the songs performed within it, entitled “What’s the point?”

But just like that song, though you may ponder that very question during some the songs and even during parts of the whole performance, if you stop there, then indeed what is the point? But if you dig deeper, I think there is much to enjoy here.  And indeed the evening featured one of my favorite movement phrases I have ever seen.

The rest is a little on the banal side, but in all earnestness, I’m pretty sure banality is part of the point indeed. The basis of this performance is ballet’s five basic positions. Martin pairs each one with one note, and we go form there.

As martin points out, only two of the positions allow you to move sideways, and three of them sort of allow front/back movement.  Hmm how do you make a performance out of that?  We soon find out. Not to mention cacti, some awesome noise making bandmates, and some very amusing live edited/mixed nsfw background videos. Well only two of them were nsfw, the rest featured things like the alphabet. or the numbers 1 to 100.

I’m sure Martin was more interested in simplicity, than banality, but the line is so thin.  Not sure it matters, both can get you into a trance like state. If you let the simplicity wash over you, if you appreciate the humor of it, and the dancers and musicians earnest performance of it, then you really can get something from it.

Nov 15–16, 2012
museum of contemporary art
chicago

 

You may have seen the giant rotating “mothers” outside the MCA Chicago,  here’s a great little interview with Creed about that piece, but also a great little window into the mind that is Martin Creed:

 

this page is so info-shallow, I just had to link to it:
http://dance.about.com/od/stepsandmoves/ss/Ballet_Five.htm

 

ICE @ the MCA

It’s always amazing to see the International Contemporary Ensemble.  It’s just wonderful to be able to experience contemporary composers within a live concert.  I was excited to hear some John Cage and I was not familiar with Pierre Boulez, so I was looking forward to the concert.

I think by far, the most exciting to me was John Cage’s famous 4’33” which I’ve only read about about before, but never participated in in a formal concert setting like this.  Funny how people’s general awareness of this piece has changed its content a lot since it was first performed.  (certainly a lot of people held-off on their coughing until the end.)

My second fave of the evening was also a John Cage, Radio Music, for eight radios (1956). Once again something I’ve read about, but not seen performed live.  So two fantastic firsts for me.  This one a little more successful than the first in my mind.  It also changes with the times and remains current so long as there are radio broadcasts (who knows how long that will last for, lol). I was actually surprised by how little was taken up by commercials, but even that adds a nice layer to the tapestry of sounds.

In any case, always enjoy seeing ICE at the MCA Chicago, and looking forward to the next one.

International Contemporary Ensemble
correspondence: cage and boulez
october 6, 2012
museum of contemporary art
chicago, il

Digital Performance

I’ve often thought about how to bring digital effects to a live performance. What are the characteristics of something being digital and how to translate those ideas to something in front of a live audience. I think this certainly shows some of the possibilities. Really nicely done in that regard.

Devotion – Sarah Michelson

Baroque? Thematically and presentationally oppulent. Hmm, presentationally minimal but exertionaly opulent. Well, the dance was meticulously choreographed and executed but still minimal in that contemporary dance way, it was the set and the costumes that were pregnant with iconography. ? The Pieta and a line of Sarah Michelson loggo-ed track suits. Plus the Richard Maxwell text, being read aloud live by Sarah herself. Oh yes and running. Lot and lots of running. Over and Over again. With the mesmerizing spinning – I was suddenly struck – Beautiful! Truly.

Not something one usually says about a contemporary dance. Usually my hallmark is intellectually challenging, but this piece was all that but also on an emotional level just beautiful. I was entranced. The endurance of the dancers, the swells in music, courtesy of one Phillip Glass. All of it, at times, a repetitive drone. Yet all so grand.

An apt analogy of the entire experience comes (recursively) from the dance’s own set piece – a giant hanging bulge of scoop lights. At one point they all come on at full brightness and the whole contraption starts to swing like a giant bell. The light is harsh and hard to ignore, yet it is mesmerizing. The repetition is grating, yet the motion is enticing – beautiful.

Sarah Michelson is considered a choreographer, and she is a brilliant one, but for me it is her mastery and attention to detail over all the elements, the dance, the music, the set, the lighting, the costumes, the subject matter, the sum of all of these that I really enjoy.

Glad I made this trip, all the way to Minneapolis, to see this.

february 17 – 19
walker art center
minneapolis, mn

some opposite reactions to sarah’s work: minus plus

Whispering Pines 10

I got to catch this performance, Shana Moulton’s one-act opera, at the New Museum. I missed it when it was at the Kitchen and I have a feeling I would have enjoyed it there even more. I love the Kitchen and its space, as much as I dislike the oddly conference roomy feel of the space at the New Museum. Though oddly, both performances I’ve seen at the Museum so far, seemed to have been served well by that atmosphere.

Anyhoo – Whsipering Pines 10 – I really enjoyed this show. There was a vibrance too it, a liveness if you will, despite the heavily reliant on digital projection set, that I really enjoyed. It mighty have had something to do with the live singing. Also it was unapolegetically kitschy! And funny! Whimsical? “In touch with current trends in performance.” A fun ride, even the digital backdrop, as super-low tech as it was, was engaging. Does any of this make any sense? no? well, the point is – I really enjoyed the show!

january 8 – 9
the new museum
new york, ny