COLUMNS

  • War of the Girls

    IN THE OPENING SCENE OF GRACIE GARDNER'S LATEST PLAY, ATHENA, the titular teenage fencer (played by Julia Greer) celebrates defeating her opponent Mary Wallace (Abby Awe) by letting out an animalistic scream. Watching Mary Wallace sob, Athena offers, “I get emotional too. Sometimes, after I lose? I’ll bump into a random person on the street, on purpose. And I won’t say sorry.” If the world demands we be either one kind of person or the other—winners or losers—Athena charts an emotional range, asking what is appropriate behavior for two young women, and what might be too much.  

    Choosing

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  • And What of the Night?

    SHE HAS A BEAUTIFUL CAT FACE—incredible feline cheekbones and a smile that reveals strangely changing teeth, sometimes fierce and snaggled and gold, sometimes smooth. She flirts with the camera as she sits at an outdoor café somewhere. The footage is casual. A voice asks, “Irene, does the camera make you uncomfortable?” She laughs.

    No! I love it!

    Don’t you understand?

    The camera to me is my beloved

    The one who understands me

    The one who wants me always

    and I give everything I have to the camera

    If you’ve ever been cornered by a Maria Irene Fornes1 obsessive, you’ve heard her described as “

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  • Secret Side

    THE FIRST TWO DECADES of the twenty-first century have taught us that, in the future, everyone who already was famous for fifteen minutes will be exhumed from the archives and remixed, reissued, or rebooted. In an age of curated ephemera mediated by the cliquish logic of hipster exclusivity, I’m surprised that Nico’s face doesn’t cross my Tumblr dashboard more often. Then again, I mostly follow gay porn blogs on Tumblr. At this timely juncture arrives Nico, 1988, a new biopic written and directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, with Trine Dyrholm in a spectacular, uncanny performance as Nico. The film

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  • Sexy M.F.

    THE NIGHT I CAUGHT BRIDGET EVERETT performing at Joe’s Pub with her band The Tender Moments, the lip of the stage—where brave souls can opt to sit under the tacit agreement that they might not return home with their dignity—looked like a scene lifted directly from a middlebrow empowerment comedy. There sat an array of average-looking 9-to-5ish types straight out of central casting—employees of life, as my friend the artist Becca Blackwell might say. Panning out further, I saw summer-casual wearing homosexuals and attendant gal pals all cheerily doing their part to exceed the two-drink minimum.

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  • 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).

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  • 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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