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

The Thank-you Bar – Emily Johnson/Catalyst

What a wonderful intimate experience this was. And the first of it’s kind since moving to Chicago. I wonder how audiences here feel about it, in Emily’s native Alaska they were not as excited about it as I am. For the first few minutes of the piece, the people sitting to the right of my wife kept asking each other rather loudly, “Where is the dance?” And were quite excited when deliberate movement finally made it’s appearance. I guess calling the whole thing a dance piece might be a bit of a misnomer, since dance is not the centerpiece, but simply one of the many tools Emily Johnson uses to create the atmosphere for the evening.

An atmosphere focused on storytelling in general, but also her story in particular, on issues of culture and identity and native peoples, but also the particular history of each space she performs in. An atmosphere evoking a campfire gathering, complete with a dim glow lighting all of our faces and fall leaves rustling among us. An atmosphere that feels interactive and inclusive but not annoyingly so. An atmosphere beautifully underscored by live music, but also at times focused on sonic/movement exploration. In short an exploration, an experiment, a wonderful shared journey.

Check to see if Emily Johnson is coming to your city or town on her website.

october 7 – 10
the dance center at columbia college
chicago, il

photo by Cameron Wittig

EMPIRE (Art & Politics) – Superamas @ the MCA

Photo: Salzburg Wolfgang Kirchner

It starts with a “Re-Enactment.” Ooh, I love those! Except the artifice is palpable. Not quite sure what to make of this, but suddenly a camera rolls on “to film” a number of close ups of fallen soldiers. This part is beautiful. I feel like I’m under water while one of those submarine thingies with the lights illuminates the depths. So this piece is about mediation? When are they gonna roll the live video feed from the camera?

Not quite, suddenly the scene erupts into a party and post production celebratory congratulations. In between this and the end we also get to watch a “documentary” set in Afghanistan. The beginning is slightly comical, but I’m not sure. Again the artifice is there, but we go with it, when the scene erupts into sudden violence. The credits roll. But this is only the middle of the performance – it ends not with a climax but silence, at least on the part of the performers as they stand still watching some fireworks – loud, colorful and possibly lethal, as the explosive sounds they make are not unlike those on a battlefield (mirroring the re-enactment in the beginning). We also get snippets of atrocities in Africa, and dealing with cancer and infidelity, just like the different moments that make up our lives. These are not poignant diatribes or admonishments or calls to action, but mere mentions, asides, things that get lost as new things come along or the action shifts.

I was not satisfied when I left the MCA that night, nothing seemed solid enough to merit reflection and deep analysis. Too many genres and topics mixed in. Did I see a performance or watch a documentary or just some people who wandered on stage – a few were performing “themselves.” But in retrospect I wonder if this performance was an all too accurate reflection of our times. Genres and media, personal and global tragedies and triumph are flying past us each new one capturing our attention but the overload not allowing us to delve deep and focus on any one of them.

october 2 – 3
museum of contemporary art
chicago, il

Synchronized Dancing Robots

Just look at those amazing dancing robots! Dancing to Ravel’s Bolero no less.

<mini-rant> Is this the future of “live” performance? At first it’s amazing to watch all of these robots move in a synchronized fashion and I’m sure the effect is multiplied the more robots you would add, can you imagine a sea of thousands of them?

But after a while it becomes tedious to watch a machine go through the motions. They never tire, there is no discipline or hours of training and practice involved. As a performance I think it’s an interesting novelty but it lacks precisely the exact elements that make watching a live person perform so fascinating. I’m not saying robots have no future in performance but I don’t think this is it.</mini-rant>

marchland – the seldoms

Just saw it at the MCA Chicago. A lot of creative talent went into this thing, a fashion designer, an architect, musician and composer, and of course a choreographer, but at least for me, the sum may not have been greater than the parts in this piece. I was distinctly aware of all these different elements and found myself examining them separately instead of a cohesive whole. This is my first experience with the Seldoms, so I’m curious to see some more of their work. I’m also really curious to see what you thought of marchland, so let me know.

march 12 – 14
museum of contemporary art
chicago, il


Young Jean Lee interviewed by Richard Maxwell

I just love artist interviews. I love being able to see into an artist’s mind.


Speaking of Videos, On the Boards recently launched a new project called OnTheBoards.tv. It’s a paid content site where you can purchase or rent videos of contemporary performance – theater, dance, performance art, etc. For example you can purchase a right to watch the entierty of Young Jean Lee’s excellent and thought provoking “The Shipment.” (see my review here)

Continue reading Videos

parades & changes, replays – Anna Halprin/Anne Collod & guests


When I saw this at the MCA chicago this past weekend I was not aware that it is a re-enactment, re-creation, “re-activation” of a piece that was originally performed in 1965. I wish I could have seen the original, in it’s original time more than 40 years ago, as such I am grateful I was able to at least see a re-activated version. That would explain why it felt not entirely current, I felt like there was an element missing, but now I understand that feeling to simply be the result of watching a re-doing, instead of the original doing.

Even so, I thought they did a remarkable job of altering the space with their actions, movement and props. The stage was continually evolving and morphing, we were part of their collective reshaping/constructing, and each scene created a full powerful landscape complete with new inhabitants embodied by the dancers.

I think a classically trained ballet dancer would have a hard time seeing any dance at all, but it was perfect for me, despite the fact that it felt a little like an extended exercise. I think any re-enactment will always feel like that, but I will gladly take that in exchange for a chance to see something resurrected from the past I would otherwise not get to see.

NOTE: you can catch it in new york city, it will be at DTW next week, part of the performa 09 biennial.

november 5 – 8
museum of contemporary art
Chicago, IL

coming up
november 18 – 21
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY

Heaven – Morgan Thorson

Heaven is visually quite stunning. If performance simply existed for the sole purpose to be photographed, or if this happened to be a site-specific installation with a live performance component, where the audience was free to come and go and experience it on their own terms, this might have been perfect.

I was very excited to see the ps122 space transformed into something so white, yet plush, a matressy, doily, embroidred, bandaged, quilted space. From the pillars to the audience seating to the onstage sound equipment everything was transformed to fit into this new environment. As the audience was filling-in, the dancers were already in movement, setting the mood, with their slow deliberate and trance like circling of the space. This movement tableaux was quite arresting with the performers moving in and out of your consciousness.

Morgan Thorson’s pursuit of a “a real-time performance ritual” that moves from the “religious to the theatre world” is commendable. However, I’m not sure it worked. I was intrigued visually, I admired the lighting (and the haze machine) while listening to the sublime trance inducing slowcore of LOW (Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker), but overall the performance was a little too stuck on ritual and I wasn’t able to get much more out of it.

In general I think re-enactments, and experiments in liveness are great, but for many of them, when they start to go into religious, or even simply, spiritual territory, as this show does with a few overtones, as long as they are in a theater, along with us (an audience), all of their attempts at authenticity only serve to highlight the artifice of what they are doing.

october 25th – 30th
Performance Space 122
150 First Ave. at E. 9th St.
New York, New York 10009

Last Meadow- Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People


At first I was surprised by the very formal and literally very colorful exploration. James Dean? Crisp and minimal. Is this really Miguel? If there was any doubt in the beginning by half-way we are in familiar territory laughing along. A threesome follows, and the biggest 3 person party/rave I have ever seen. Extreme catharsis followed by a return to darkness, restraint, structure and even 3 body doubles.

The whole thing seemed extremely theatrical, what with the scripts, repetition, and performance within a performance. I particularly loved the parts where the movements were meticulously narrated. A glimpse into the dancers/performers brain?

Obviously he is doing something right, tonight it was sold out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the remaining two nights were also.

Sep 15 – 19
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY

how ’bout a video? (scroll to the bottom)

Lewis Forever in Residence @ the New Museum


Audience interaction – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It is especially hard to pull of, within the context of performance. The lecture/workshop format of this piece broke the ice right away.

I think we knew from the start this was going to be interactive, though the extended waiting for something to happen section in the beginning made for an uncomfortable lack of focus, sitting in the round we had nothing to examine except ourselves. I think more than a few of us were wishing the lights would go down, audience interaction is not usually what you had in mind when you decide to see a performance. This was probably my favorite moment of the whole night.

The rest of the night, my interest came more form the anthropologist in me studying the audience, and trying to figure out what makes Lewis Forever tick, than from any specific art making motives they had. I didn’t feel particularly engaged despite the evening ending with frantic dancing and partaking of “fire water” in an anti-rain dance/ceremony.

[The piece is part of a month long residency at the New Museum, so I’m guessing it evolves over time and repeated viewings yield different experiences.]

every THU in June
The New Museum
New York, NY