Performance

  • Of Goddesses and Monsters

    AT THE MOMENT OF THE SPRING EQUINOX on March 21st, I was standing in the basement coat check room of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The place was closed—it was 12:15pm on a Tuesday—so there weren’t any coats, but there was a little line of toaster-sized “dirt” clod sculptures sitting on the counter. A crowd of vernal worshippers and theater-fans had followed a team of celebrants here from the massive glass-and-concrete lobby upstairs, where a gaggle of women dressed like Russian space peasants had oriented us according to civil time, nautical time, and astronomical time. We had been admonished

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  • Self and Others

    PRIVATE COLLECTION is a phrase charged by museum tombstones, which display information about an artwork that is otherwise inaccessible to anyone beyond the “private” owner. It connotes a kind of exclusivity, a proprietary right to viewership, a generosity in extending that privilege to the viewer. The term also echoes private recollection, memories and personal experiences replaying in fragmented form. As the title of Lauren Bakst’s recent performance at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, the phrase and all of its associations formed a framework for something that, as Bakst declared, was “not a

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  • P.S. I LOVE YOU

    “ARROGANT ASSHOLE,” spits a man, not realizing that the words and their inflection do more to indict speaker than subject. Their target is, ostensibly, Yve Laris Cohen, the artist. We are sitting in the middle of Laris Cohen’s performance P.S. 122 (2018) on opening night, and I wish everyone would shut up.

    Laris Cohen spends most of P.S. 122 stationed far upstage. The work’s title conjures the previous name of the hosting venue, which has recently been rebranded, to an admixture of chagrin and nostalgia, as Performance Space New York. He abandons this post only occasionally—in this instance,

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  • All Together Now

    MILKA DJORDJEVICH'S ANTHEM sneaks up, quite literally, on its audience. At the Chocolate Factory Theater, we the audience had taken our seats around a parquet dance floor when from a back hallway, four women appeared, step-touching toward us in conga-line formation. Their clothes seemed plucked from a 1970s closet: a gold velour jumpsuit for one dancer; suspendered pants for another; and for everyone, black jazz shoes. They took their time, as unrushed as the iridescent soundscape anointing their entrance.

    Were they at a disco? A bat mitzvah? Maybe a high school dance, but then there would be

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  • MASK 4 MASC

    IN MY FANTASY, Gregg Bordowitz is a famous maggid—a traveling mystical Jewish preacher—in town for a rare three-night engagement at the New Museum. We gather at sunset on Friday night, that sacred turning point in the week, settle into the building’s pungently lit auditorium, which is still, after all, a basement on the Bowery, and prepare to listen.

    Bordowitz’s fantasy is different from mine, but not incompatible: We are the audience of The Benjamin Zev Show, a television variety program he has invented for this performance. Bordowitz hits the stage with a false start to the Yiddish

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  • She's Lost Control

    A COLLEAGUE ONCE QUIPPED that the imposing, concrete building of the Volksbühne Berlin looked like it was ripped from the pages of Marvel Comics. “A superhero headquarters for all the dads,” she joked, playfully pointing to the fact that the German theater has traditionally been a home to showcase the work of cisgendered, heterosexual, white, “bad boy” auteurs. While the artistic provocations of the Volksbühne were once confined to the stage, the controversy associated with the theater recently bled out beyond the the playing space. The institution’s director, Chris Dercon, abruptly resigned in

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  • Break It Down

    ART GALLERIES have traditionally preserved the paradox between the everyday theater of art, and the spectacle of exhibition display, while artists have simultaneously bucked these artificial divisions, and challenged the systems that reify, and rarify, their work. Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas’s series of autoreconstrucción sculptures have formally investigated these tenuous distinctions through a material vernacular inspired by the low-income favelas, barrios, and shantytowns of Latin America. His assemblages are similarly constructed, utilizing found domestic materials to inhabit, and

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  • All In the Family

    THE SETUP of writer-performer Constance Dejong and Tony Oursler's performance Relatives is simple: a large boxy television sits on a stand at center stage, flanked by two stools. As the TV plays a video created by Oursler, DeJong delivers a fragmented monologue, gesturing to the screen as one would a PowerPoint presentation, or a friend, following its movements, touching its surface, talking to it, finding in it familiar faces of relatives, real and imagined: DeJong’s great-grandmother, mother, uncle, older sister, and younger sister, all representations of family buried just under the glass,

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  • 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

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  • TO PRESERVE AND PROTEST

    ON FEBRUARY 5, 2018, a half man, half bull riding a black-and-white horse made a grand entrance into the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s premier fine-arts institution. Wearing curved horns attached to a woven rope net that covered his torso, the imposing beast sat on his steed, which was draped with a red caparison, and surveyed the area. Although a strange sight for pedestrians, the bull-man cut a familiar figure for members of the art community, who know him as a recurring character in the work of artist Mahbubur Rahman. Pointedly, he led the charge that evening

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  • Liberté or Death

    THE FORTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD CATALAN DIRECTOR Albert Serra has brought his singular sensibility to bear on a remarkable range of works, straddling the film and art worlds with a rare understanding of the contexts of spectatorship and a flair for productive provocation. His films bring the mythic past to life by distilling fabled events to eccentric anecdotes and imbuing figures of legend with the mundane weight of existence. Following the droll anti-adaptations of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (Honor of the Knights, 2006) and the Biblical parable of the Three Kings (Birdsong, 2008), he staged the

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  • Forever Young

    THE LEGENDARY VENUE P.S. 122—rechristened Performance Space New York—finally reopened in January. It’s hard to encompass the tangled mare’s nest of this building’s cultural associations: the place is like an archaeological site, with layers of civilization and history piled up higgledy-piggledy. Occupied originally in the late 1970s by a group of squatter-artists, the repurposed school building and its two theaters were at the center of New York’s experimental scene for nearly four decades. Spalding Gray spoke his monologues there. Philip Glass played a battered piano. Ron Athey literally bled

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