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Before Pictures: John Killacky on Douglas Crimp’s New Memoir

Douglas Crimp is a prodigious New York intellect. In his curation and critical writing of the late 1970s, he identified a group of emerging visual artists, (i.e. Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine) appropriating popular culture images in subversive critiques. They were often referred to as the “Pictures Generation” after Crimp’s 1977 exhibition, Pictures, […]

Douglas Crimp's 2011 Artforum feature on Trisha Brown, via academia.edu

A spread from Douglas Crimp’s 2011 Artforum feature on Trisha Brown, via academia.edu

Douglas Crimp is a prodigious New York intellect. In his curation and critical writing of the late 1970s, he identified a group of emerging visual artists, (i.e. Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine) appropriating popular culture images in subversive critiques. They were often referred to as the “Pictures Generation” after Crimp’s 1977 exhibition, Pictures, at the Artists Space gallery.

In 1987, he edited a special issue of October magazine entitled “AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism.” His contribution to this groundbreaking collection illuminated the engaged art strategies of various ACT UP collectives: “Their work demands a total reevaluation of the nature and purpose of cultural practices in conjunction with an understanding of the political goals of AIDS activism.”

His discursive essays brilliantly analyzed Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film, In a Year of 13 Moons, in October magazine, and Trisha Brown’s “wholly new lexicon of ordinary movement performed with effortless directness” in Artforum. Critically acclaimed books include Our Kind of Movie”: The Films of Andy Warhol and Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics.

Crimp’s latest, Before Pictures (2016), tenderly chronicles his initial years in New York City (1967–1977). Interwoven personal and professional stories create a vivid historical narrative of post-Stonewall Manhattan. Moving there after college, Crimp, “would have to learn how and where to be queer all over again” as gay sexual culture exploded around him.

Early jobs included reviewing for ARTnews, organizing the papers of society couturier Charles James, and working as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum, while hanging out with Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling, and Joe Dallesandro. His first curatorial effort was an Agnes Martin exhibition in 1971 at the School of Visual Arts Gallery, where he was an adjunct professor.

In this hybrid memoir, the author revisits his nascent critical thinking about Agnes Martin, realizing he had been wrong to reduce her aesthetic to mathematical minimalism. He also reconciles his contradictory views on Ellsworth Kelly’s “highly intelligent and accomplished painting,” and shares details of a failed liaison with the artist.

Sexual trysts, both casual and loving, are a crucial part of his education with the West Side piers, Greenwich Village trucks, backroom bars, and outdoor public cruising as backdrops. His drug-enhanced years dancing at Flamingo, 12 West, and Paradise Garage are reverently described: “What is extraordinary about it (disco) and also show how it is symptomatic of a wider experience of pleasure in our society…”

Crimp’s burgeoning cinephile-self attended Anthology Film Archives and his balletomane obsession with George Balanchine’s neo-classicism—“in which sharp angles replace soft curves, legs turn in as well as out, feet are flexed as well as pointed, and extensions are stretched to the breaking point”was nurtured in the upper balconies of New York City Ballet’s State Theater.

As his career progressed, Crimp sojourned downtown from Spanish Harlem to Chelsea, then to Greenwich Village, Tribeca, and finally landing in the Financial District, where he presently lives. Photographs and luminous descriptions of his various apartments function as framing devices for each of the chapters, with Crimp serving as a cultural anthropologist and architectural historian.

The final chapter discusses Crimp’s career-defining Pictures exhibition, hailed by New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl as “a movement-initiating, instantly legendary group show.” That same year, 1977, Crimp became managing editor of October magazine, and under his stewardship for the next thirteen years, it became required reading in the art world.

However, Before Pictures primarily focuses on art and life in the formative decade prior to 1977. Back then he was convinced “with sufficient insight a critic could—even should—determine what was historically significant.” Reflecting back on these early years, he reconsiders: “Coming to the understanding that my knowledge of art can never be anything but partial has been liberating. It has allowed me to write about what attracts me, challenges me, or simply gives me pleasure without having to make a grand historical claim for it.”

Douglas Crimp is a pivotal figure in contemporary art and AIDS cultural activism. Before Pictures fills in his backstory. Utilizing lived experiences as a primary source, he is his own archive. In reaching into his past, he fully embodies the present, and history benefits from this erudite and compelling storytelling.

Before Pictures in available for purchase in the Walker Shop. John R. Killacky is Executive Director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont.

Luminous Non-Intention: John Killacky on The Selected Letters of John Cage

“I can’t understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I’m frightened by old ones.” —John Cage (September 5, 1912–August 12, 1992) One of the most singular artists of the 20th century, avant-garde composer, philosopher, visual artist, and writer John Cage transformed modernist aesthetics with his embrace of randomness, chance operations, and early adoption of technology […]

John Cage reads from Muocye at the Walker Art Center, Februrary 1980. Photo: Glenn Halvorson

John Cage reads at the Walker Art Center. Photo: Glenn Halvorson

“I can’t understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I’m frightened by old ones.”

John Cage (September 5, 1912–August 12, 1992)

One of the most singular artists of the 20th century, avant-garde composer, philosopher, visual artist, and writer John Cage transformed modernist aesthetics with his embrace of randomness, chance operations, and early adoption of technology in his artistic practice. And yes, silence. His seminal composition, 4’33” (1952), wherein musicians sit in silence and do not intentionally make sounds for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, taught us all to listen more deeply.

Our paths crossed a few times. Once, while I was on tour in the mid-1980s with the Trisha Brown Dance Company in France, I sat in a hotel lobby with him watching the French Open on television, and then shared a taxi with him to the theater. On the drive over, he repeatedly lowered and closed the window, amused by its squeaky sounds.

Then in 1990, when I worked at the Walker Art Center, I invited him to do a reading to celebrate the opening of the Jasper Johns: Printed Symbols exhibition. Cage had written about Johns earlier in their careers, and for this performance, he randomly rearranged his text utilizing his computer and presented this.

We had gotten a request for ASL interpretation. Cage was concerned, warning the interpreter the speech did not really make any linear sense. During his performance, he repeatedly stopped and watched the interpreter, who, of course, also stopped. The bemused Cage then continued reading. Afterward, Margaret Leng Tan performed Cage’s compositions on a toy piano.

While his public artistic persona was expansive, Cage was reticent about his private life. When asked about his relationship with life partner choreographer Merce Cunningham, he would often politely reply, “I do the cooking, and he does the dishes.” Although openly gay, neither of them chose to discuss their homosexuality publicly.

However, The Selected Letters of John Cage (2016, Wesleyan University Press), with more than 500 letters, brings readers intimately into his personal life, beginning in the 1930s when he was a 17-year-old dropout traveling in Europe and Algeria to shortly before his death in 1992. His affable nature resonates throughout this luminous collection and gives the reader insight into his prodigious intellectual and artistic pursuits.

When a nascent musical student, we read his pleas to study with Arnold Schoenberg, acquire expertise on Erik Satie and Virgil Thomson’s music, and build relationships with Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, and other emerging mavericks. These composers performed each other’s works in concert, and often wrote about the other, since few critics understood the new aesthetic frontiers they were fomenting.

Frustration is present in Cage’s missives to orchestral and museum directors around the world as he struggles to earn a living and be taken seriously as a composer. For decades, he was his own booking agent and asked people to help underwrite concerts. As well, he pleaded valiantly trying to establish a center for new music at Cornish School, Bennington College, and Mills College—all for naught. Tellingly, he wrote to young composer, “I never made enough money (from my music) to live on until I was fifty. Interrupted my music in order to do odd jobs in order to eat, etc.”

Throughout his life, Cage remained a cultural omnivore. Interwoven into The Selected Letters of John Cage are details as to how his study of the I Ching and Zen Buddhism, his burgeoning interest as an amateur mycologist (love of mushrooms), and his embrace of a macrobiotic diet informed his life and art. He aspired to have “all distinctions between art and life removed.” This blending of eastern and western traditions put him at the epicenter of the American avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s.

His early notes to Merce Cunningham are beautifully innocent, “I think of you all the time and therefore have little to say that would not embarrass you, for instance my first feeling about the rain was that it was like you… I would like to measure my breath in relation to the air between us.”

Cage became musical director for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and together they disrupted prevailing notions of modern music and dance. Aiding their revolution were visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, often collaborators on scenic and costume elements. These relationships, and the masterworks they created, are gloriously annotated throughout the book.

Cage did so much more than music for the Cunningham dance company. Early letters show him writing to festival promoters to book engagements, sending fundraising appeals to donors and funding agencies, and pleading with fellow artists to donate artwork to make up shortfalls from touring.

His persistence, entrepreneurship, and unequivocal questioning of the status quo as evidenced in this volume could in fact be a textbook for modern day artists struggling to forge a career. Ever the courageous anarchist, Cage states, “I think my activity in the arts is analogous to political activity. It gives an instance of how to change things radically.”

The Selected Letters of John Cage is revelatory, illuminating his creative processes, as well as the heart and mind of this multifaceted individual who has influenced generations of artists—essential reading for understanding 20th century American art history.

John R. Killacky is executive director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont.

 

An Eruption of Communal Voice: Marvin Lin on Guitarist Mary Halvorson

For Sound Horizon 2016, our series of free in-gallery music performances, we’ve invited critic and Tiny Mix Tapes editor Marvin Lin to share his perspective on each installment of this three-part program: Mary Halvorson (February 11), Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich (March 24), and C. Spencer Yeh (April 28). How does an artist find her […]

Mary Halvorson. Photo: Brian Cohen

Mary Halvorson. Photo: Brian Cohen

For Sound Horizon 2016, our series of free in-gallery music performances, we’ve invited critic and Tiny Mix Tapes editor Marvin Lin to share his perspective on each installment of this three-part program: Mary Halvorson (February 11), Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich (March 24), and C. Spencer Yeh (April 28).

How does an artist find her voice?

Experts say to live life. Experts say to practice. Experts say to explore, deconstruct, appropriate, hybridize, internalize. Experts say to add your own inflection, your own cadence, your own twist. But even if an artist somehow finds her voice, what exactly is she voicing?

For musicians like Mary Halvorson, a long fixture in New York improv and experimental circles, her voice is ostensibly the guitar’s voice. Or, rather, the guitar becomes a proxy for her supposed “internal” voice. An extension, a stand-in. A substitute. But is her voice really about who she is? Is the voice ever really about who a person is?

Maybe. But when I hear Halvorson fumbling haphazardly into a chord and articulating its dissonance through arpeggios, I hear her voicing tension. When she filters the guitar through delay, splaying sound molecules on the walls, I hear her voicing the room. When she’s violently scraping the strings, I hear her voicing the guitar’s materiality. When she’s scaling the fretboard in impossibly quick, complex movements, I hear her voicing the limits of human physicality. Halvorson’s guitar is not a reflection of her voice, but an eruption of a communal voice: she gives voice, we romanticize it.

The beauty found in Halvorson’s music isn’t necessarily about her finding a voice, but about the act of voicing itself. Nowhere was this clearer for me than on 2015’s Meltframe, her first solo album after a career marked most significantly (and prolifically) as a leader or member of jazz groups of various shapes and styles (she is also a former student of Anthony Braxton, an avant-rock musician in People, and a chamber-jazz artist with violist Jessica Pavone, among others). On this album, Halvorson finds herself both alone and among friends, darting through coarse, meandering moments of solitude while appropriating lovingly from her favorites (Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Carla Bley). Rather than bracketing herself off, Halvorson’s guitar-voice opens the conversation, gesturing toward the mirror while displacing itself historically, affixing itself on a continuum of an avant-garde that’s still avant-garde against many odds.

When critics say that Halvorson is the “future” of jazz guitar (a sentiment pervasive in much writing about her), they’re really saying that her guitar playing is a future for jazz guitar, one that their very proclamations are aiming to preserve and make room for. But Halvorson’s guitar work has always created its own space, its own justification for emergence beyond genre and history. Originality is everything, but originality is also bullshit—both beautiful and disgusting, an aspiration and a dead-end. The myth of originality wants us to frame our experiences in terms of uniqueness—at best to find ruptures and breaking points and the limits of “good taste”/convention, at worst to whip us into a fog of individuality and lubricate the movement of products, the latter playing like capitalism’s own poetic cadence.

But music has an ability to not only reflect, but to also embody capitalism’s most despicable outgrowths, resisting it at the same time that it critiques it. Halvorson’s politics need not be known to hear the protest in her music, even if it has nothing to do with the free market. Because the voicing itself can be heard as a protest—against silence, against assent, against coherence, against convention, against acceptance—wrought by the destructive quality in her virtuosity, the immediacy in her attacks, the subversiveness in her melodies. It’s a protest, however, that seeks commonalities and communal modes of operation, as in line with Brandon Seabrook and Marc Ribot as Mick Barr and Annette Peacock, making her no more the future of jazz guitar than the future of whatever.

This is one way for a voice to function in capitalism. Because, aesthetically, music can serve to dissolve identity, to erode borders, to wriggle free from ideological baggage in order to tap into shared experiences or feelings that don’t need language for meaning. Because, aesthetically, music can be about an ambiguous, completely irrational expansion, without having to be determined through the narrowed lens of dogma or rhetoric or a reified future.

Halvorson’s voice is not her own voice. It’s a voice that we’ve been hearing throughout history. It’s a voice that she found already entrenched in its own peculiar contexts, willfully obscured and faintly heard in the gutters. It’s a voice chirping away anachronistically on the soggy frontiers, lost and found, yet perpetually made anew. It’s actually our voice, and it continues to say something important.

2015: The Year According to C. Spencer Yeh

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to Black Futures (Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham), theater director Daniel Fish to designer Na Kim—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to Black Futures (Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham), theater director Daniel Fish to designer Na Kim—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“2015, what a year, right? Cops, climate, drugs, Trump, refugees, terror abroad, terror at home, guns, guns, more guns,” writes artist and composer C. Spencer Yeh. “It’s hard not to wonder if this is all building towards something, or if it’s just business as usual—life as we know it (or at least read it on the screen). The phantom of the ‘other’ has been growing and growing, a device used to evoke not only fear and danger, but also security. How much longer can we comfortably put-off and pretend that it won’t be us next?”

Yeh—who performs in the Walker galleries April 28 as part of the Sound Horizons series—is recognized for his interdisciplinary activities and collaborations as an artist, improviser, and composer, as well his music project Burning Star Core. Recent presentations of work include “Modern Mondays” at MoMA NYC, “The Companion” at the Liverpool Biennial, “99 Objects” at the Whitney Museum, “Great Tricks From Your Future” at D-CAF in Cairo Egypt, and many others. Yeh also collaborated with Triple Canopy for its contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial. He was a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at ISSUE Project Room NYC, and is included in the performance program for Greater New York at MoMA/PS1. Recent recordings include Solo Voice I-X (Primary Information); Wake Up Awesome, with Okkyung Lee and Lasse Marhaug (Software Recording Company); and Long Pig by New Monuments, his trio with Ben Hall and Don Dietrich (Bocian).

Introducing his top 11 picks for 2015, he writes, “I feel extremely fortunate to be able to do what I did, and to experience what I could, and of course for the people I was with.”

2015-11

 

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Incapacitants, All Ears Festival, Oslo

They still got it!

2015-10

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Moriah Evans, Social Dance 1–8: index, ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn

I feel like any conversation around disciplines such as movement and choreography is preceded by the ol’ “I’m not an expert but…” So—I’m not an expert but, I really really enjoyed this.

2015-09

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Yuji Agematsu, Real Fine Arts / Whitney Museum of American Art

The more pristine the frame, the grosser and more real the hand gets. Wouldn’t want it any other way.

2015-08

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Royal Trux, Berserktown II, Santa Ana 

What do you expect from a long-desired reunion? Felt like a Trux show that could’ve happened back around Y2K.

2015-07

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High Zero 2015, Baltimore

I returned after ten years to participate again in this weekend-long improvised music festival (and social experiment/summer camp/artist intensive), and I have to say, it was even more fantastic than before.

2015-06

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Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival, Lausanne

What other festival has Peter Tscherkassky introducing his a program of works, and then Sissy Spacek on for the party after?

2015-05

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ALLGOLD: Stephen Decker, Inva Çota, Kevin Beasley, Golnaz Esmaili

ALLGOLD, MoMA PS1 Print Shop, Queens

In case you missed it, these four artists/designers/multieverythings just wrapped up a residency at PS1’s new raw space, staging an intense and voracious yearlong program with a dizzying array of fellow heads.

2015-04

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Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Museum, Joshua Tree 

Checked this wonder out, and then the Purifoy Junk Dada show at LACMA days later. Always love a desert, though it was breaking 100 degrees outside.

 

2015-03

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Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Absolutely intense and dizzying, for many reasons beyond the landscape. A complex and complicated human spectacle. Spent some time in Cairo as well, including working in 100Copies studio where Islam Chipsy and EEK recorded their latest record (check that out).

2015-02

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Spectacle Theater, Brooklyn

Though I am a part of this all-volunteer no-profit microcinema, this mention is also a reminder of the many other people and ideas that flow through that I am as much a spectator and supporter of. Wobbling towards the edge of a true five years of existence has been a thoroughly harrowing, difficult, and rewarding experience.

2015-01

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Got laid off, got hitched, took the cat up into the mountains

2015: The Year According to Trajal Harrell

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, theater director Daniel Fish to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, theater director Daniel Fish to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

Dubbed “spellbinding” and “the next Martha Graham,” dancemaker  Trajal Harrell has performed all around the globe, including at the Walker for Out There in 2013. In anticipation of the March 2016 US premiere of his Walker-commissioned new work The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, we invited him to contribute his perspective on the past year—which he generously did while waiting for a flight out of Delhi.

In addition to the Walker, Harrell’s work has been presented by the Kitchen, New York Live Arts, the TBA Festival, the American Realness Festival, ICA Boston, Danspace Project, the Crossing the Line Festival, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, LA’s RedCat Theater, Festival d’Automne (Paris), Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Festival d’Avignon, Impulstanz (Vienna), TanzimAugust (Berlin), and Panorama Festival (Rio de Janeiro), among others. He has also shown performance work in visual art contexts at MoMA, the Perfoma Biennial, MoMA PS1, Fondation Cartier (Paris), the New Museum,the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Serralves Museum (Porto), Centre Pompidou-Paris and Metz, ICA Boston, and Art Basel-Miami Beach. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and Doris Duke Impact Artist fellowship, among others, he’s currently part working with the Museum of Modern Art on a two-year Annenberg Residency.

2015-0117928722479_f794a5f92a_bWangechi Mutu, She’s got the whole world in her with Forbidden Fruit Picker (both 2015) at the Venice Biennale. Photo: La Biennale di Venezia, Flickr

The 2015 Venice Biennale

Standout works by Sarah Sze, Kerry James Marshall, Sarah Lucas, and Wangechi Mutu, among others.

2015-02

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Sigmar Polke, Untitled 2006, 2006 © The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / Adagp, Paris. Photo: Grand Palais

I’m late to the Sigmar Polke party, but the MoMA show and a pic in the Picasso.mania show in Paris made me so happy—and frigging better late than frigging never (honk honk!!)

 

2015-03

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The Serena Slam

When asked was she going after the grand slam in 2016 after not making the final grade in 2015, Williams answered in the affirmative, saying it was a goal she had never reached. Now, that’s a champion! You might beat her on that rare occasion, but she’s always setting the pace. (And a major shout out to Venus, who’s back to winning.)

 

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Tangerine

One of my favorite movies of the year, it was made on an iPhone 5s by director Sean S. Baker.

 

2015-05

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Cookie Lyon

Taraji P. Henson is killing us and killing it on Empire. Keep your front row seat because Cookie’s Cookout is still on the way…

 

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Hello? Hello!

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Greek Parliament as seen through a protester’s EU flag. Photo: © Nikos Pilos for the Open Society Foundations

The Greek Crisis

Speaking of front row seats, for about two weeks the imminent fate of Greece was compounded with high interest by political havoc, euro neckwringing, and capital controls on Greek banks that still exist until when? (pause) We don’t know.

 

2015-08

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Agnes Martin, Untitled #1 (1980), in the Walker’s collection

Agnes Martin
Ran into one of her paintings by mistake. She takes no prisoners. I fell so willingly between the lines.

 

2015-09

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Babette Mangolte, Trisha Brown “Roof Piece”, 1973, 53 Wooster Street to 381 Lafayette Street, New York City Photo ©1973 and 2003 Babette Mangolte

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Trisha Brown’s Roof Piece at the re-opening of Le Centre National de la Danse in Paris—a monument if ever there was one.

 

2015-10

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Trajal Harrel with choreographer Jennifer Lacey at the Mona Bismark American Center, October 19, 2015. Photo: © Meredith Mullins

The new team at the Mona Bismarck American Center in Paris

Looks like things with edge and aesthetic seriousness are breaking into that bespoke townhouse overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Go Mona! Go Mona! Go Mona!

2015: The Year According to Daniel Fish

Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, artist Adam Pendleton to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire […]

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Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow

Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, artist Adam Pendleton to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 ..

Daniel Fish is a New York–based director who makes work across the boundaries of theater, video, and opera. Drawing on a broad range of forms and subject matter including plays, film scripts, contemporary fiction, essays, and found audio, he’s been called “an auteur force in the American theater.” Fish’s work has been performed at theaters and festivals throughout the US and Europe including: VooruitFestival TransAmériquesBAM Next Wave Festival, Noorderzon Festival, the Juilliard School, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has taught at  Juilliard, the Yale School of Drama, Bard College, and Princeton University. In January, he’ll present A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace and screen Eternal as part of the Walker’s Out There series.

Here, he reflects on the loss (of great artists) and discovery (of new images and ideas) that the past 365 days have held.

2015-01

photo: http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/

Best use of party streamers and mannequins

Called Schauspieler (German for “actor”), Isa Genzken’s show at David Zwirner Gallery kept taking me by surprise, especially when it reversed the viewing experience and was suddenly, quietly looking at me.

 

2015-02

photo: Kenneth Saunders via http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/08/chantal-akerman

Greatest loss of a filmmaker

Chantal Akerman’s final film, which premiered in New York City the day after her death, is a slow, challenging, and deeply human work about her mother. Her work is fearless, and she kept searching.

 

2015-03

photo: http://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibition/gordon-matta-clark-2/

Best use of arrows

Gordon Matta-Clark’s drawings: I could look at these all day long.

2015-04

photo: imago / DRAMA-Berlin.de

Photo courtesy DRAMA-Berlin.de

Greatest loss of a theater artist

Bert Neumann, the great stage and costume designer, graphic artist, and wild mind of Berlin’s Volksbühne. A  huge influence and inspiration to so many people working in theater, many of whom are unaware he’s influenced them. A hero is gone, and an era ends.

 

2015-05

Photo: Paula Court

Photo: Paula Court

Most haunted performance

The Vine of the Dead, Jim Findlay’s gorgeous, long work about ghosts and his family, splayed out across the boiler room dungeon of New York’s Westbeth apartment building.

 

2015-06

photo: http://www.iaap.org/news-2/obituaries-2/1270-lee-roloff.html

Photo: IAAP

Greatest loss of a gifted teacher

Age 88, professor emeritus of Performance Studies at Northwestern University and Jungian analyst, Dr. Leland Roloff taught me that “language is psychic breath.”

 

2015-07

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Best book I somehow missed reading until this year

James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Read it if you have not.

 

2015-08

Most challenging film

Nearly 13 hrs of seductive, wearying, funny 1970’s  French guerrilla filmmaking, the re-release of Jaques Rivette’s OUT no. 1 manages to call up associations of both Molière and the October Paris attacks.

 

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Most effective object of the year

The gun.

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Most ineffective object of the year

The gun.

2015: The Year According to Sibyl Kempson

Sibyl Kempson. Photo: Matt Murphy To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to choreographer Trajal Harrell, filmmaker Tala Hadid to artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series […]

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Sibyl Kempson. Photo: Matt Murphy

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to choreographer Trajal Harrell, filmmaker Tala Hadid to artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“I really have barely been able to lift my head up from my own work table the entire year,” says playwright Sibyl Kempson, explaining why her year-end list is “so self-absorbed.” “I had no spare attention to give to current events, which are mostly evil—except for same-sex marriage. YAY!” Just a few of the things that consumed so much of her time this year: launching a theater company, publishing a book, premiering two plays and a dance theater work, visiting the ranch from TV’s Dallas, Bigfoot tracking in the wilderness…

A playwright based in New York City and the Pocono Mountains, Kempson’s plays have been presented all over the world, from New York to Omaha, Bonn, Germany to Skien, Norway—including Minneapolis: at the Walker with Elevator Repair Service (in the 2013 Walker-commissioned work Fondly, Collette Richland), at Red Eye Theater Company (Ich, Kürbisgeist and Potatoes of August), and in reading form at the Playwrights Center (The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S.). Below, her enthusiastic, month-by-month (almost) take on the past year.

2015-01

Half Straddle,

Half Straddle, Ancient Lives

January

APAP! The year started off with the many festivals, visitors to the Big Apple, and performance works to last us townies throughout the year. This year I took in the genius of Half Straddle (Ancient Lives), Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (The Art of Luv), David Neumann and the Advanced Beginner Group (I Understand Everything Better—and I helped write the text!), Amanda Villalobos (Lightkeepers), and Erin Markey (A Ride on the Irish Cream). Then I joined a gym!

2015-02

Rehearsal for LUNPSS at Abrons Arts Center

Rehearsal for Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag at Abrons Arts Center

February

Creative Capital application! Workshop at Sarah Lawrence of my new play, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag. Directed by David Neumann!

 

2015-03

The Care Ladies of David Neumann's I Understand Everything Better: Karen Kandel, Yours Truly, and Jennifer Nikki Kidwell. I forgot to say: Two Bessies for Best Production and Sound Design in Oct!

The Care Ladies of David Neumann’s I Understand Everything Better: Karen Kandel, yours truly, and Jennifer Nikki Kidwell. I forgot to say: Two Bessies for Best Production and Sound Design in October!

March

Rehearsals for Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag—and I Understand Everything Better premiers at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Maryland. And guess who stands in for in-demand theater and dance world star Jennifer Nikki Kidwell? YOURS, TRULY!!!

 

2015-04

LUNPSS published by 53rd State Press. Great hot-tub reading.

Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag published in April by 53rd State Press. Great hot-tub reading.

April

I launch my very own theater company: 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. at the Martin E. Segal Center at CUNY Grad Center! A momentous moment—like a wedding. Also: I launch my first Indiegogo campaign, for our first production: Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, which opens on the 28th at Abrons Arts Center!

2015-05

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June

I attend my first expedition with the Bigfoot Field Research Organization—amazing!—and a wilderness survival course at the Tom Brown, Jr’s Tracker School in New Jersey! Difficult and liberating.

 

2015-06

The doors to the DANCENOISE Wawa Hut at the Whitney!

The doors to the DANCENOISE Wawa Hut at the Whitney!

July

DANCENOISE exhibition and performances at the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District! I am blown away by my artistic elders, recognizing an influence under which I’ve been operating all along without ever encountering it directly. Another momentous moment.

 

2015-07

Writer/performer Oceana James and my dog, Rey, at the 7 Daughters Academic Re-Education Event at Dixon Place

Writer/performer Oceana James and my dog, Rey, at the 7 Daughters Academic Re-Education Event at Dixon Place

August

7 Daughters’ second action—an “Academic Re-Education Event” at Dixon Place, entitled Make No Mistake: These Youth Are Here To Restructure Your Mindfeaturing the work of emerging women’s voices in experimental performance writing and welcoming them to the community.

 

2015-08

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SUPER BLOOD MOON TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE! Photo: Homer Horowitz

September

After four years of work, Fondly, Collette Richland, my collaboration with Elevator Repair Service, opens at New York Theatre Workshop! It divides the NYTW audience! Half hate it, half love it, except during the SUPER BLOOD MOON TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, when all hail broke loose, and no one could resist: subscribers headbanging in the aisles and clapping along to the “Krampus Devil Dance,” people converting to pagan feminism by the hordes, etc. Meanwhile, I continue to cherish many fond memories of our early previews at the Walker Art Center.

 

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The little door in the attic of the home where Henrik Ibsen grew up!

October

After 20+ years of dreaming about it, I finally flee to Norway! Robert M. Johanson (my former compadre from Nature Theater of OK) and I make a crazy translation/adaptation of the 4th act of An Enemy of the People entitled Public People’s Enemy for the Ibsen Awards and Conference in Ibsen’s hometown of Skien, Norway. I also visit the Rhineland’s Mittelrhein region for research.

2015-10

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Pilgrimage to Southfork

And beyond

Since then I’ve traveled to Dallas where I visited Southfork Ranch (of Dallas fame) and worked on a new cycle of rituals for the Whitney Museum starting in March 2016, worked on a new piece for 7 Daughters called The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S. at New Dramatists (which was also developed in the Twin Cities at the Playwrights Center!), and have continuted writing lots of grant applications.

2015: The Year According to Kristin Van Loon

Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to filmmaker Tala Hadid, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: […]

2015-header
Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda

Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to filmmaker Tala Hadid, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“To compile this list, I did the quickest scan of my memory banks and went with my gut,” writes Kristin Van Loon. “As a curator, and for choreographic research, frankly, I take in more culture than is pleasurable. It’s fun to hold pleasure as a standard here. Owning up to this list reveals that pleasure for KVL in 2015 is both extravagant and sinister and, per usual, gravitates towards the craptastic. I am also enjoying a particular flavor of boring.”

A dance artist based in Minneapolis, Van Loon is a choreographer who collaborates with Arwen Wilder as HIJACK. To mark HIJACK’s 20th anniversary, the Walker commissioned redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye in 2013, and Contact Quarterly published Passing for Dance — A HIJACK READER. As a dancer, this season she performs in works by Morgan Thorson and Laurie Van Wieren and was most recently on the Walker stage in Steve Paxton’s Smiling. Van Loon is artistic director of Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, co-hosts Future Interstates, and co-instigates Minneapolis Tuning Club and fARt FesT video nights.

2015-01

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Photo: Jael O’Hare

Bruce Sprungsteen/Brattny Spurrs (a.k.a. Stephanie Stoumbelis)

A frequent contributor to Dykes Do Drag at Bryant Lake Bowl, everything this performer does is exquisite. In one show this fall, Stoumbelis was Queen Selena Gomez in the first act, an uncanny King Bieber in the second act, and then decimated Billy Joel with sloppyass hilarity. My favorites are the quieter pieces: unclassifiable, minimalist gems like a perfectly lined, beglittered lip.

 

2015-02

2015Van Loon teapot

Designed by James Hadley, manufactured by the Royal Worchester Porcelain Company, exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Kristin Van Loon

Teapot made in 1882

When at the Art Institute of Chicago, I usually jog through the decorative arts to get to the  contemporary galleries, but this teapot made in 1882 stopped me in my tracks and stole my heart. I have secretly inserted a reference to it—attempting to embody its fabulousness—in every dance performance I’ve done this year.

2015-03

2015VanLoon Holtzman

Installation view of Hammer Projects: Joseph Holtzman. Photo: Brian Forrest

Joseph Holtzman at the Hammer

So weird. Tylenol-shaped room! Thin scrawly paint on marble! Overstuffed farm-motif sofas! So many shades of green!

 

2015-04

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Mike Kelley with Roth New York Bar @ Hauser & Wirth

I feared it redundant to go see more Mike Kelley after having recently seen the devastating, mammoth PS1 show in Queens a few years back. But his “Kandor” works at Hauser & Wirth: ooh-la-la, the deliciousness of the Jolly Rancher–hued glowers and the cheap jewel geode-esque cave. And then to sip free espresso prepared by this cute French guy in a bar with Dieter Roth’s gross rotting chocolate busts looking down on me. I looked down on the city turned upside down by the Pope’s visit. A little weepy from the beauty and cheap thrills.

2015-05

2015Van Loon July

Miranda July’s The First Bad Man

I am not a fan of fiction, especially novels, but life went on hold for two days of nightmarish non-stop reading. A virtuosic snuggling of lived and fantasy threads.

 

2015-06

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Michael Harding’s “The Paints, Past and Present: Details and Descriptions of Colours”

My morning mediation is to hand-write a color a day. I don’t paint. I hope to gain a more juicy and unapologistically technical vocabulary by the end of his section on “Earths and Antinomies.”

 

2015-07

2015Van Loon McCarthy
Paul McCarthy’s Black and White Tapes

I have long been obsessed with the little screening room at Walker. I have many objections to the new touchscreen open-access design of the Mediatheque but can’t complain about the badassery I have found on the playlist. I went back to watch McCarthy again yesterday to make sure I could get behind this one. Absolutely.

2015-08

2015Van Loon Carrera

Jaime Carrera’s neither at Public Functionary

Such a complex feeling: giddiness from excruciating boredom. Oh!, to survive the dampening of all the little blue towels and then have another stack of little blue towels show up. It’s no secret I’m a Carrera fan, and I also feel lucky to have seen his Anti Hero at the Made Here pop-up gallery and Eucharistia (with Michael Cimino) at Bryant Lake Bowl this year.

2015-092015Van Loon Whitten

Detail of Jack Whitten’s Black Monolith II: Homage to Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man, 1994. Photo: Kristin Van Loon

Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting

To see it all at once after never seeing any of it before was an intense pleasure attack. Each new room made me gasp anew. So delicious both up close and squinty from afar.

2015-10
2015Van Loon Adams2

The films of Trevor Adams

I had only enjoyed Adams’ short scratch films here and there over the years. But 2015 delivered two full-evenings of his absolute gorgeousness: “Trevor Island” at The Island last January and “Trevor Adams: Made from Scratch“as part of Cellular Cinema at Bryant Lake Bowl in October. These films are my favorite party drug.

Noveller’s intricate soundscapes: an interview with Sarah Lipstate

A musical force is set to descend upon the Walker Art Center this Saturday, when Glasser, Noveller, and Victoire take the McGuire stage  for a special performance co-presented by the SPCO’s Liquid Music series. All three bands (Glasser and Noveller are solo artists, and Victoire is a quintet led by composer Missy Mazzoli) manipulate musical structures, […]

Victoire_Glasser_Noveller_2014-15_11_PP

Noveller. Photo: Alex Marks

A musical force is set to descend upon the Walker Art Center this Saturday, when Glasser, Noveller, and Victoire take the McGuire stage  for a special performance co-presented by the SPCO’s Liquid Music series. All three bands (Glasser and Noveller are solo artists, and Victoire is a quintet led by composer Missy Mazzoli) manipulate musical structures, warping human and technology into stunning sonic shapes. I had the chance to talk with experimental guitarist/composer Noveller (a.k.a. Sarah Lipstate) about the evolution of her project and the process of building her entrancing soundscapes. Noveller pulls notes from their stuffy staff lines to evolve and meld together with today’s machines: pedals, feedback, guitar, and a bow. When I talked with Lipstate on Wednesday, she had just finished a set on Radiolab at WNYC the night before and was ready for the next performance at hand, saying: “tonight I have rehearsal for Victoire. Starting tomorrow, I have performances every night. So, you know it’s exciting, it’s the best I could imagine for myself as a musician, but I also have to keep my head together.”

Abbie Gobeli: How did Noveller begin?

Sarah Lipstate: Noveller began when I was living in Austin at the University of Texas. When I started playing guitar, it was very much a solitary activity. None of my friends I’ve grown up with were really interested in the type of music that I was interested in, so it was something I did for fun by myself. I had a feeling that when I moved to Austin, which to me at the time seemed like a big city,  when I started college, I hoped I would meet other people I could play with and at the very least share the same musical taste as me. So that does happen, and I start playing with other people. I had a duo called One Umbrella. We would record improvised guitar and synth pieces and we self-released them.  That was the first time I was able to connect with someone else, make a recording, and get music out there into the world.

I was contacted by these women in Oakland that were doing a compilation called, Women Take Back the Noise, and it was all women in the realm of experimental music. I really wanted to be a part of this, but my duo was me with a guy. They said, “This is only for women, so why don’t you send us something you create on your own?” That was how I started: I recorded a piece and submitted it to them and they said, “This is great, so what is your project called?” I came up with Noveller, and that’s what encouraged me to make music on my own. I realized I really like recording on my own. Performing came later.

Gobeli: I was listening to one of your early records, Red Rainbows, and found it was noisier than the more cinematic tracks on your latest release, Fantastic Planet. How has Noveller evolved over time?

Lipstate: In the first recording (“Signal”) from Women Take Back the Noise, guitar wasn’t used at all. I used a Theremin and manipulated feedback through guitar pedals I had at the time. The very beginning of Noveller was very noisy, and when I started performing live, I had to figure out what I wanted to do in a live setting. That’s when the guitar became the primary instrument, but at the time I was using this double-neck guitar: one neck had 12 strings; the other had 6 strings. Because it was very heavy, I didn’t wear it. I laid it flat on a keyboard stand because it was a different orientation. I didn’t really play it in a melodic sense, but to create sounds I could manipulate through the pedals.

The biggest evolution with Noveller is viewing the guitar as a sound source, and now in present day, viewing the guitar as an instrument that I can actually craft melodies with in a more nuanced way to create soundscapes. There’s an early piece called “St. Powers” where I was plucking the strings, and it was very melodic, very pretty. That helped shape my live performance; I would play that piece and two short noisier pieces. I remember playing this show at a place in Williamsburg, which actually became 285 Kent, which doesn’t even exist anymore.  It was cold. I had to play with my leather jacket zipped up. After I played, [a guy who lived there] said, “Anyone can make noise. When you played that piece…that was very beautiful. That’s where you should focus your attention,” and that’s stuck with me. Things always feel organic with this project. I’m not a skilled guitarist in the traditional sense, but I want to figure out how I want to play it and give it its due.

Gobeli: How do you approach building one of your compositions?

Lipstate: I’ll start by playing the guitar completely unamplified; not plugged into anything. If I come up with several ideas, eventually I’ll set up everything: amp, pedals, everything and try to bring those ideas into the realm of effects, where things can really take shape. So, if I start that way, then I have some sort of foundation of melodies or structure that I like. Then, I can let effects take that to the next level. Recording a song, especially as a solo performer, I can record many different things I want, but translating it to a live setting takes some time to figure out. When I’m recording, I think I just can’t wait to play this live! It definitely takes some preparation to figure out when you have two hands and one instrument.

Gobeli: Do you craft each layer individually?

Lipstate: I have a cool looping pedal that has three different loopings available to me. I have three going live and I play on top of that. That’s how I’m able to create these compositions that don’t seem static. They evolve and build—that’s my goal. It’s taken a long time to assemble all these different pedals, but the set up I have now is great to create these compositions live. It can be a pain to have all these pedals as opposed to a laptop. But I think having the pedals gives the audience something to engage with to see what’s happening, to see who’s building these things. That’s really fun for me. I love when people come up after the show and ask about the pedals.

Gobeli: How many pedals do you have and do you have a favorite?

Lipstate: I have eight in my current set-up, but I’m constantly swapping things out. I try not to add any, because I’m trying to be as compact and efficient as possible. Recently, I got the Eventide H-9, and it’s a square, white pedal with an LED screen. It’s really awesome; it allows me to access any preset Eventide has ever created and it can do reverb, delay, pitch shifting, harmonizing, it can do all these crazy things. It’s a compositional tool in itself.

Gobeli: What’s the most challenging and what’s the most rewarding part of crafting your compositions?

Lipstate: Getting to compose and play music all day is rewarding. Even if I’m writing or composing something that won’t be recorded, it’s the most pure satisfaction; it’s my life.

Gobeli: What do you like about manipulating technology in music?

Lipstate: It broadens the possibilities.  We’ve been playing the guitar so long, but we can make new sounds with it. For me, personally, the pedals give me more options to push boundaries.

….

Glasser, Victoire, and Noveller take the McGuire stage this Saturday, May 9th at 8pm.

In addition, there is a free Composer Conversation with Missy Mazzoli of Victoire on Friday, May 8th at 6pm at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. 

Dance in the Future: Emmanuel Iduma on Danspace Project’s Platform 2015

As the Walker’s senior curator of Performing Arts, I have followed with great interest Danspace Project’s distinctive curatorial approach to building dance/research Platforms. These rich—and, at times, provocative—multi-week guest-curated structures mix dance presentations, discussions, and related events centered around a single curatorial inquiry and accompanied by a print catalogue. In a few short years, the Platform […]

Emily Coates, Yvonne Rainer's Trio A, Part 1 Workshop. Danspace Project, March 13, 2015. Photo: Ian Douglas

Emily Coates, Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A, Part 1 Workshop. Danspace Project, March 13, 2015. Photo: Ian Douglas

As the Walker’s senior curator of Performing Arts, I have followed with great interest Danspace Project’s distinctive curatorial approach to building dance/research Platforms. These rich—and, at times, provocative—multi-week guest-curated structures mix dance presentations, discussions, and related events centered around a single curatorial inquiry and accompanied by a print catalogue. In a few short years, the Platform series has added such vitality and spirit, scholarship and debate to the dance scene of New York City, which despite its challenges, continues to be the urban nexus of movement art and critical discourse in the United States. Two longtime colleagues I respect greatly, Judy Hussie-Taylor (Danspace’s executive director and instigator of its Platform structure) and poet, critic, and now curator Claudia La Rocco, teamed up to create the ninth installment of the series, Platform 2015: Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets, which ran from February 14 to March 28, 2015. La Rocco’s sources of inspiration for her Platform were the writings of Edwin Denby and the poet-as-critic tradition; the overlapping dance lineages of George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, and Judson Dance Theater; and the ways these traditions are relevant today. While I was so pleased to attend the kick-off event—a memorable evening of Denby-inspired readings, hosted by La Rocco and featuring a number of great poets (and a few dancers)—I was not able to return for the rest of the series.  Instead, I got the next best thing: written reflections from this Platform’s writer–in-residence, Emmanuel Iduma, one of which we are lucky enough (thanks to Claudia and our friends at Danspace Project), to share with you below, in a post exclusive to the Walker website.

—Philip Bither, Senior Curator of Performing Arts

. . . . .

I remember glancing repeatedly at Yvonne Rainer while she watched one of the Dance Dialogues at Danspace Project’s ongoing Platform. She had a notebook open on her lap, which she occasionally wrote in, leaving what seemed to me like giant scrawls. It struck me that each note-taking was preceded by a confirmatory nod. But since I could only see her through the corner of my eyes, her notes might have contradicted her gestures. I do not recall seeing her smile, although audience members were sometimes upbeat and sanguine—she might have, when I wasn’t watching. She seemed at once serious and dedicated to her seriousness. In her manner of observation, in the repeated nods and scribbling, she became one who scrutinized appearances within a stage or outside it.

I imagine from afar. I reflect on the workshops I have observed—Adrian Daching-Waring on Cunningham technique and composition, Kaitlyn Gilliland on Balanchine’s Serenade, and Emily Coates on Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A—aware of a distance created by non-participation. Amateurs (like me) could benefit from an opportunity to be taught a dance that would never be presented before a live audience. Yet I maintain a distance in order to write about what I observe. It’s a posture of criticality: but this could fail me. Is the mind put to work by the body? Are there insights I have missed by the stiffness of my muscle?

Each workshop, like a story without plot, could unfold as an occurrence with manifold motions. While Emily Coates taught hers, she said, “I’m going to talk you through the dance.” But the responses to this, during the course of three hours, were various attempts to subvert the difficulty and rigor of Trio A. I remember a black woman. When she spoke, her accent was as thick as mine. When there was a pause, I noticed she was dancing to something else, perhaps a song she recalled suddenly. She saw me looking, and then we smiled as if we had shared the same thoughts: the workshop brought to mind extraneous rhythms, other forms of grace.

One woman complained of dizziness. Coates responded, “It will start to get better as it gets into your body.” “Maybe,” the woman replied. Echoing Rainer, Coates emphasized a rigor of minds as well as bodies. In 1966, The Mind is a Muscle was the title of the series of dances Trio A was included in. “If you stare at anyone watching,” the dancers were told, “you are wrong. It is important to know where your gaze is at every moment.” As they progressed in learning the dance, they were asked to stand with their sides to the audience, and were taught moves that required gazing to the ceiling, towards clasped palms, and with closed eyes.

These motions, with certain variations, have been repeated since 1966 by dancers and non-dancers alike. There were up to 22 dancers being taught by Coates at St. Mark’s Church. They had been asked to sign waivers, following an instruction by Rainer, in order to control the proliferation of Trio A. On many occasions, we were told, she had the videos of the performance taken down from YouTube. In the intervening time between its first and subsequent iterations, certain motions might have been altered. The present form of the dance is one chiseled to specificity. New dancers would learn to add their individual flourishes, building on their instructor’s muscle memory. I am not inclined to believe Rainer gives a handful of people license to teach Trio A because of an overprotective instinct, nor from an obsession with a scrupulous performance. But a question: how does the passage of time affect the marriage of mind and muscle?

Each workshop in Platform 2015 wrestled with the evolution of the dance being taught. A performance, unlike a photograph, has a less tenuous relationship with its original. Those who argue, for instance, that today’s Serenade is infused with newer variations, hold on to a vision of how the ballet was performed before Balanchine’s death. Yet a performance is not a reproducible object. It has a being, and this suggests a movement toward mastery, as well as meaning. The three workshop tutors confessed to a renewed love for the dances they taught.

One of the first things Emily Coates said to the workshop class was: “I’m expecting.” A congratulatory cheer followed, her pregnancy already beginning to show. When Trio A required the dancer to lie with the belly on the floor, she simply sat, talking others through the motion. There was an unborn child in the room, feeling its mother teach a dance, dancing in the future.

Read more of Emmanuel Iduma’s reflections on Platform 2015 on Danspace Project’s Tumblr.

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