Jennifer Krasinski

  • Loosed Threads

    This summer, theater artist Reza Abdoh (1963–1995) was the subject of an ambitious yet fractional survey at MoMA PS1, New York, organized by director Klaus Biesenbach with Negar Azimi, Tiffany Malakooti, and Babak Radboy of Bidoun. In February 2019, a version of this exhibition, produced with Krist Gruijthuijsen, will travel to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. Here, Artforum senior editor Jennifer Krasinski reflects on Abdoh’s extraordinary body of work, examining the consequences of his—and his productions’—disappearance.

    I MOVED TO NEW YORK in the early 1990s, a gawky young know-nothing, ravenous for the theater and performance and art that I’d read about and heard about in conversations with mentors and elders and others more worldly. (Once upon a time, nothing buffed an artist’s aura quite as brilliantly as hearsay.) But New York in the early ’90s was shattered, multivalent. Here there were heroes, but as many holes—fresh wounds in the world—where heroes once stood. Jack Smith and Cookie Mueller had died in 1989. The following year, Ethyl Eichelberger took his own life rather than suffer the virus.

  • “RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder”

    In the beginning there was The RAMM:ELL:ZEE—not a pseudonym, but an equation that the legendary artist, rapper, philosopher, graffiti writer, and proto-Afrofuturist gave to himself. Why merely name oneself when identity is the result of a mixed-up math, the sum of complex calculations and multidimensional coordinates? God of his own creation myth, the Queens-born Rammellzee waged his first holy war on words, expounding the wild theories he called Gothic Futurism and Ikonoklast Panzerism, dedicated to liberating the alphabet from the corrupting social forces—“the tricknowledgies,” as he once

  • interviews August 30, 2018

    Dennis Cooper

    After his move to Paris from Los Angeles in 2005, writer Dennis Cooper’s words made the leap from the page to the stage and—more recently—to the big screen. Together with his collaborator, director/writer Zac Farley, he has created two films as disquieting and eloquent as the George Miles Cycle, the five novels—Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, and Period—that brought Cooper acclaim as one of America’s singular and transgressive literary voices. Here, Cooper talks about the genesis of Permanent Green Light, his second feature with Farley, which premieres at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New

  • performance August 01, 2018

    The Material World

    WHEN BASIL TWIST'S SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE debuted in New York in 1998, it quickly ascended as a classic work of downtown theater, playing for an unprecedented eighteen month run in the basement space of HERE—an unheard of success for a performance that was billed simply, curiously, as “an abstract puppet show.” At that time there was nothing quite like it, and twenty years later, a stunning revival proves that there’s nothing quite like it still—frankly because there is no other artist quite like Basil Twist.

    Twist is both a third-generation puppeteer and a third generation Basil (his real name).

  • GRACEFULNESS MUST BE SOUGHT

    IN HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX, Adrienne Kennedy’s first new play in a decade, the titular heart is a gruesome rumor—one that holds a truth too unwieldy, too excruciating, to be simply received as fact. As one of the most important experimentalists in American theater, the eighty-six-year-old playwright has written twenty-odd works at once cerebral and unhinged, phantasmagoric and lucid, all of which make vivid the brutalities visited by racism on the mind and body of a woman of color. Throughout her work, it is a condition that leaves madness and monsters in its wake.The mind

  • performance December 15, 2017

    The Boy in the Band

    MORGAN BASSICHIS IS A COMPOSER, a comedian, and a cabaret artist (not necessarily in that order). In performance, he plays piano, tells stories, and sings in a voice so honeyed and seductive that audible sighs are sometimes heard coming from the audience at the end of his songs. Lithe as a whippet, with laser beam blue eyes, he carries himself with both the self-deprecation of the comedian, and the self-possession of the diva. “You know I start every day with gratitude,” he zinged at Danspace Project at Saint Mark’s Church in October during a live recording of his forthcoming album, More Protest

  • performance July 05, 2017

    Phantom of the Oprah

    “THERE WAS A TIME—way, way back—when Oprah was a human being, just a woman, she felt pain and she suffered. She felt fear and desire.”

    So begins the storytelling in Poor People’s TV Room, a performance conceived by Okwui Okpokwasili, coauthored, designed, and directed in collaboration with Peter Born. Part theater, part dance, part installation, the piece hovers in an undefined space and time, conjuring the stories of four women: Merit (Katrina Reid), Madame (Okpokwasili), Honor (Thule Dumakude), and Yeru (Nehemoyia Young). From the grand tales of Oprah’s origin myth to the intimate gossip about

  • performance May 23, 2017

    Absolutely Fabulist

    THERE’S NO SATIRE QUITE LIKE THE PRESENT, a fact that poses a funny challenge to contemporary comedy—or at least threatens it with redundancy. How to harness the power of a joke, when a joke has been made all-powerful?

    Enter the great Absurdist, performance artist Michael Portnoy. His latest piece is titled Character Assassination, and it is (in part) a comedy heralding the end of comedy—or at least pointing to the rafters from which it’s hanging itself. Written in collaboration with Dan Fox (art critic, coeditor of Frieze, and author of Pretentiousness: Why It Matters), this deft and dizzying

  • performance January 24, 2017

    Fail Safe

    FAILURE HAS ALWAYS BEEN a ripe subject for theater. The stars don’t ever align for Romeo and Juliet. The three Prozorov sisters will never live happily ever after. Godot won’t arrive.

    The world’s stage is no different. The current spectacle of the forty-fifth President—his sociopathic twists of fact and fiction, stories told to seize the spotlight, to succeed—promises no happy endings either. It is part of the dispirit of our age that we must recognize that certain people seek not only to align themselves with power and money, but, barring real access to these things, they land their pride on

  • diary September 27, 2016

    Viva Viv

    “IS IT A MAN OR A WOMAN? The answer is no!” zinged Murray Hill, downtown’s favorite Drag King of Comedy—heir unapparent to the likes of Henny Youngman and Rodney Dangerfield. The occasion for Hill’s hot buttering of cold one-liners (and totally Catskilling it) was Trans/Art/Family: The Vivification of NYC, a night at Joe’s Pub in celebration of the singularly brilliant performer Justin Vivian Bond. Downtown being downtown, the event was also a fundraiser for two essential cultural institutions: Participant Inc., the nonprofit art space led by superhero Lia Gangitano, and The Gender and Family

  • performance August 01, 2016

    Madness and Civilization

    TO THINK AND SPEAK AND ACT in the way of madness—meaning, to speak in opposition to madness made popular, shared, atomized, taken as reason, as the natural way of things—only to be seen and heard and understood as madness, as criminality, itself: This is the condition of Moses’s mother, or rather the woman we think of as Moses’s mother in theater artist Romeo Castellucci’s harrowing and brilliant Go Down, Moses.

    Spun very loosely from the story of the Biblical hero who led the Israelites to the Promised Land, Castellucci’s play doesn’t tell us the story of the great prophet. Instead, it follows

  • diary July 28, 2016

    What’s the Occasion?

    EROTIC SOCIABILITY was in the air that evening, or at least that’s what we were told. The occasion for any and all frisson, real or imagined, was one of artist Isabel Lewis’s “occasions” held at Dia:Chelsea on the Friday of 4th of July weekend.

    Dia, as decorated by Lewis, certainly looked ready to put out. The front gates of the building were all open to the street, and the walls were completely bare. Modern white couches and concrete-topped bar tables placed throughout the space gave the audience places to sit and stand, floor-to-ceiling installations of air plants gave them something to Instagram,

  • performance April 15, 2016

    Big Words

    IS DEATH A CRUELER FATE for those who have lived a creative life? Is it a greater tragedy that one day a body that has channeled dance or theater or poetry will betray not just life, but art too? These questions surfaced in two recent productions, each of which consider the condition of the male artist in his golden years: Alvis Hermanis’s Brodsky/Baryshnikov starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Robert Wilson’s performance of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. At the center of both plays are the words of long-dead authors, ego ideals for the artists on stage. In the face of their own mortality,

  • performance January 29, 2016

    Proof of Life

    “ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE,” wrote Gertrude Stein, her most famous line dissolving the distinctions between a woman, a name, a word, a flower. Identity is, as the writer suggests, a slippery condition, and who we are rarely has much to do with how we’re called. In Erin Markey’s rousing and tender new musical A Ride on the Irish Cream, Irish Cream is a name is a pontoon boat is a horse is a lover, all borne in this production on the body of trans performer/writer Becca Blackwell, who is also Markey’s partner in life. One of the distinct pleasures of this joyful show is how it brings to

  • performance December 29, 2015

    Pulling the Plug

    IN 1981, Tony Award–winning actor/singer/dancer Ben Vereen accepted an invitation to perform as part of Ronald Reagan’s All-Star Inaugural Gala. Also slated to entertain the newly elected Republican and his supporters were Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston, Debbie Boone, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and Johnny Carson, the show’s master of ceremonies. Knowing the event would be broadcast to millions of viewers, Vereen decided to address the troubled history of black performers in America with a tribute to Bert Williams, one of the great vaudevillians (and subject of a forthcoming program at MoMA), a

  • performance October 28, 2015

    Delusional Downtown Divas

    THE PSYCHOSIS OF SISTERHOOD never goes out of style, I suppose. Two recent performances feature characters who are sisters—each other’s closest and most cherished rivals—and yet strangely at the heart of each of these productions is a kind mourning or meditation on theatrical space. Why?

    Basil Twist’s latest production, Sisters’ Follies: Between Two Worlds, was commissioned for the one hundredth anniversary of Abrons Playhouse, founded in 1915 by sisters Alice and Irene Lewisohn to give a home and audience to avant-garde theater. Part of the absolute delight of the show is its celebration-cum

  • diary July 29, 2015

    Vital Signs

    SUMMER IN NEW YORK CITY, no matter how heavy the weather, performs its possibilities to those who stick it out. The wealthy vanish, at least on the weekends, and the college students go home, or wherever. The tourists somehow stay in their designated areas, and for these few months, for those or other more charitable reasons, the city feels as though it’s got something of its character back.

    “Pardon my shtick,” Wayne Koestenbaum grinned to a dozen of us gathered one warm July evening in the East Village for “Marking Marks,” a walk the poet-painter-critic was leading in homage to Frank O’Hara’s

  • performance June 07, 2015

    Pass It On

    IF VISUAL ART sometimes seems only to mine archives for stuff to appropriate or sell or both, performance is the now-action that reanimates and perverts the past, in large part because performance can’t (won’t) calcify time into objects, or objects in time. This is a very obvious thing to say, but running between galleries and theaters these past weeks, I’ve been considering how to better map these spaces’ relationships to the historical, wondering how to think about their differences in a way that isn’t always reduced to capital. Three recent performances—each by female artists—wrestle history,

  • performance March 25, 2015

    Death Becomes Her

    THERE MAY BE no experience more excruciating, or more essentially human, than that of rising to the occasion of a loved one’s death. What to do when there is nothing to do? How to tell a story as form is falling away?

    Playwright/director Richard Maxwell wrote his most recent play, The Evening, as his father was dying. It is his first work in a forthcoming trilogy inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Rather than adapt or remake, Maxwell has so far loosed threads from the classic, weaving them through a story set not in hell, purgatory, or heaven precisely, but in an unremarkable bar in an unnamed

  • performance February 13, 2015

    Punch and Judy

    “MY GENDER IS PERFORMER,” a bedazzling Taylor Mac announced to a sold-out audience at New York Live Arts. “My pronoun,” he twinkled, “is judy.” Looking like the love-child of Rosalind Russell and a leopard-print-obsessed Lubavitcher, with eyes lashed like Venus flytraps, Mac launched into a six-hour marathon performance of songs and stories of the 1900s to the 1950s—a preview of sorts of his forthcoming opus, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Written by Mac, the show reads music history to double as a chronicle of sex, repression, expression, and community, and “to remind people what they’ve