Claudia La Rocco

Claudia La Rocco on performance in 2013

The Collapsable Funeral. Performance view, September, 2013. Photo: Paula Court.


They’re weird; I think we can all acknowledge that.

As well as wildly spotty and biased and unscientific (in the artistic sense). One of their (my) problems is that they don’t take into account all of the shows the people (me) writing these lists didn’t see—you know, like Jon Kinzel’s Someone Once Called Me a Sound Man, which happened at the Chocolate Factory Theater earlier this month and, according to everything everyone smart said, was one of the best things to have hit a New York stage in ages. Didn’t see it, dunno, can’t comment, etc. And yet. Yes. Let’s put it on the list. That’s number 1. (You can catch up with Kinzel again in April at New York Live Arts.)

No. 2. The reason I couldn’t see Jon’s show is that I was down in Tallahassee, Florida to observe Beth Gill’s residency at MANCC, for an ensemble dance that will premiere at New York Live Arts in March. As part of the residency, she did the inevitable in-process showing. This one was notable for being interrupted by an emergency alarm (apparently brought on by a misfiring steam machine): It happened right in one of the quietest, stillest sections of a quiet and still dance. So, we got to see it again, after an impromptu intermission on the lawn out front. Architecture. The edifice. Sun on palm fronds. The slow laborious movement of the maker, the liquid embodiment of influence. Bodies as archives, the kind that don’t keep. Get thee to NYLA in March. (And also maybe I should say that I am doing documentation and evaluation work for The Hatchery Project, which Gill is a part of—so, well. There could be an entire conflict-of-interest list. Problem No. 2.)

No. 3. In a lot of ways, and lucky for us, Gill is just getting started. One of the most memorable events of 2013 was an end: the funeral of The Collapsable Hole. And what an end: richly performative, booze-infused, spilling out and through the streets of Williamsburg in traffic-stopping mayhem. You would expect no less from a rehearsal and performance space founded and run by the folks from Collapsable Giraffe and Radiohole. It’s good when people know when and how to end. (I wish more people in the arts did.) But still. I miss that place.

No. 4. I also miss the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Two years after the final New Year’s Eve bash at the Park Avenue Armory, we get our Cunningham fixes in dribs and drabs: a studio showing here, a film screening there. A couple of weeks ago I got a double dose of the latter at the Migrating Forms festival at BAM: Nam June Paik’s Merce by Merce by Paik (1978) and Charles Atlas’s Channels/Inserts (1982). All these years later, Atlas’s collaborations with Cunningham still stand as the strongest examples of dance filmed for camera that I can think of, and Channels/Inserts is a lush ravisher. As for the Paik, what to say other than how deeply, marvelously weird it remains? More, please—and wonder of wonders, there is. The newly rediscovered Cunningham film Assemblage (1968, created with Richard Moore) will be shown at Electronic Arts Intermix on January 15, 2014.

No. 5. EAI is one of those organizations that I always, idiotically, forget about, until the next time they unearth some crazy, obscure gem. Like an evening with the dearly departed Hungarian collective Squat Theatre, presented as part of the Whitney Museum survey “Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980.” Speaking of crazy, obscure gems, this show is packed with them. Every time I’ve walked in there I’ve had to resist the urge to walk out with Jack Smith’s glittery mutant brassieres strapped on. So far so good.

No. 6. This other great thing happened to me at the Whitney: By sheer dumb luck I managed to stumble into a Charlemagne Palestine solo performance one uncivilly hot August evening. Trailed by various electronic thingamajigs, the artist, composer, and musician sailed grandly up and down that imposing staircase, recording a work that will be featured in the upcoming biennial. As I recall, he had a suitcase or maybe two stuffed with stuffed animals, and a tumbler full of cognac. He sounded like a dream. These are the consolations of New York. Like Frank O’Hara put it: the occasional “sign that people do not totally regret life.”

Tim Etchells, Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First, 2008. Jim Fletcher. Photo: Hugo Glendinning.

No. 7. Another late summer dream: The Tempest at the Delacorte, the inaugural offering of The Public Theater’s Public Works program. So many Shakespeare productions make you despair of anybody ever getting anything right ever again. But the Public has had some magical successes this year, most recently with Much Ado About Nothing performed by the Mobile Shakespeare Unit.

No. 8. What else can I tell you? The inevitable: Kate Valk. She stood in for Tim Etchells at the Crossing the Line festival, since the British artist, director, and writer couldn’t make it overseas to deliver a lecture presented as part of an evening of his work. The second half of the night was another solo knockout: Jim Fletcher, performing the monologue Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First. I don’t recall if he mentioned what goes last.

No. 9. I’m running out of steam. These lists are exhausting. There were (so many) other things, like pretty much the entire Sequences VI time-based-art festival in Reykjavik this April or Justin Peck’s In Creases at New York City Ballet in May or the Wally Cardona showing at LMCC that same month, with Jennifer Lacey and Rebecca Warner. Cardona is on a tear these days: dance stripped to its essential, gossamer musculature.

That’s a three-for-one No. 9. Do we still need a No. 10? How about… two actors in an endless filmed loop, repeating the final scene of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for two hours, come what may or may not? That was Daniel Fish’s Eternal, this October at the Incubator Arts Project. I could have watched it forever, and it seems as good a place as any to stop. Happy New Year.

Claudia La Rocco is a writer based in New York.