COLUMNS

  • Oto Didacts

    “IS IT JUST ME? Lightning Bolt’s been doing it for, like, ten years,” a stranger sidles up, sensing a fellow-skeptic. I nod. “The shirtless thing, the masks,” he adds. My response is drowned out by waves of sonic interference. Out there in the spotlight, a balaclava-clad man stripped down to his waist is pounding away at some homemade drumlike instrument, while his bare-chested companion, a shaggy black wig covering up his face, is strumming on something resembling an elongated rocket. We’re being treated to sonic warfare by Poland’s noise rock band BNNT. Derivative or not, the act has got raw

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  • Means to an End

    THE END, whether it is near or not, is certainly upon us: The contemporary American imagination is seized by the terror that we—here, now—are civilization’s last sigh. Film, television, and literature are of course the most prolific purveyors of sensational apocalyptic visions, offering an array of endings to suit every demographic. (It is of no comfort to observe that in our politically fractured, post-Empire America, one of the few unifying sentiments is an impending sense of doom.) We may be besieged by flesh-eating zombies, obliterated by a rogue asteroid, enslaved by alien invaders, wiped

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  • Ifs, Ands, or Butts

    EVERYONE HAD KIND OF NOTICED, but then forgotten, the big yellow woodchipper. But now somebody fired it up; the performers, still dressed in their candystriped vaudeville getups, sliced through a giant Laura Owens painting with a little branch-clearing chainsaw and fed it piece by piece into the machine’s funnel.

    Joe Sola and Michael Webster have appeared as Shakey’s since 2006. For Shakey’s in “Der Hintern in der Luft,” held on Saturday, September 14, the duo turned their knack for endearing self-effacement on their willing venue—356 S. Mission, famous in Los Angeles for hosting “12 Paintings

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  • the Manchester International Festival

    SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 2007, the Manchester Inter­national Festival has leaned heavily on curator Hans Ulrich Obrist for advice on the portion of its programming devoted to visual art, which the biennial always features alongside big-name acts from pop and theater (this year’s lineup included Kenneth Branagh, in Macbeth; Massive Attack; and the xx). Obrist, for his part, seems to have continually used the festival to rethink the relationship between performance and visual art. In 2007, he and Philippe Parreno staged the first iteration of “Il Tempo del Postino,” an attempt to reinvent the

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  • Dig Your Own Hole

    “WHO DIED?” the kid stood on the sidewalk on Metropolitan Avenue, just off Berry Street in Williamsburg, staring in through the raised garage door.

    Outside was a funeral announcement. Inside were such things as: a table of booze; a mound of dirt sunk into a coffin-shaped cutout in the floor; and a man in a smart black hat, veil, and plunge-neck, slit-to-the-thigh dress that showed off an awful lot of body hair.

    “The real estate,” replied the man, one Eric Dyer.

    The kid, maybe in his mid-20s, nodded and craned his neck a little further. “Looks like it was pretty nice.”

    Dyer nodded, too, his eyes

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  • Fall to Pieces

    LET’S START WITH THE DISCLAIMER: This isn’t an exhaustive or even an exhaustively researched fall performance rundown. It is, rather, a somewhat random cross-selection of artists, events, and theaters that, whether for excitement, track record, or sheer train-wreck potential, will get me out of the house in the coming months, even after the inevitable New York fall arts stampede has made roadkill of us all.

    “Rituals of Rented Island: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New Psychodrama—Manhattan, 1970–1980,” opening October 31 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

    Historical performance

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  • Up in the Air

    THE AIR, this year’s chosen theme for Contexts 2013, the third Sokolovsko Festival of Ephemeral Art, could not be more appropriate. Set amid the wooded hills of the Stone Mountains, close to the Polish-Czech border, the health resort of Sokolovsko boasts a microclimate uniquely suited for the treatment of lung diseases. Consumptive patients have been employed over the years to carve out the unusual, childlike motifs adorning the concrete grey facades of local buildings. In Situ, the contemporary art foundation that runs the festival, has set out to restore these buildings, along with the ruined

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  • Home Is Where the Heart Is

    SOMETIMES A WHOLE THEATER leans forward and up, like a great set of hands is gathering the audience, and lifting. I don’t know anything else like it. The triumphant roar of the crowd at a baseball game comes close, but that surge is physical, whereas this is energetically felt, at once communal and deeply internal.

    When such electricity sweeps through a big, storied house, it is amplified, given power and speed. This has been my experience at the New York State Theater (permit me, in this context, to not call it the David H. Koch Theater) during the three ballets Alexei Ratmansky has choreographed

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  • Love or Money

    SPRING IS HIGH GALA SEASON IN NEW YORK. So many parties, so many drinks, so many conversations, so many of them about money. Getting it, giving it, never having enough of it.

    This quote just about sums it up: “I want you to look at this art and think about need.”

    That’s Ain Gordon, the writer, director, and actor, speaking at the Danspace Project gala, which he was emceeing. The art in question was static art, to be auctioned off in support of the theater. Among the works was a Marina Abramović portrait: “You could sell it tomorrow, let’s think clearly people,” a naked Lucy Sexton, fresh off a

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  • Once Upon a Time

    “THE PROBLEM WITH SCIENCE is all facts are manipulated.”

    The woman was talking to her friend in Kaffismiðja Íslands, a small, homespun café in Reykjavik. Good lattes and buttery croissants. The woman was Scottish, I think. Let’s just say definitely, and she was making a point about Margaret Thatcher—speaking ill of the dead, though respectfully, if one can be said to speak ill of the dead respectfully.

    The problem with science is the pleasure with art.

    This year’s Sequences VI, a “real-time art festival,” was ten days long, a day for every year that Gretar Reynisson, the festival’s honorary artist,

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  • Project Runway

    THE LAST TIME I saw New York–based Polish artists Joanna Malinowska and Christian Tomaszewski was at a party in Brooklyn. The guests were asked to set their inhibitions aside and howl together like a pack of wolves (or was it coyotes?) in preparation for a participatory group performance Malinowska was staging as part of her contribution to the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

    Nothing quite so taxing, or invigorating, was required of the elegant crowd gathered around the giant Tyvek spacesuit for the opening earlier this month of Mother Earth Sister Moon at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw. The spacesuit was

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  • Research and Development

    Critic and poet Claudia La Rocco recently chatted with the celebrated American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet dancer David Hallberg in Chelsea. They talked about his dual lives in New York and Moscow, what it means to be an intellectually curious ballet dancer in 2013, and his long self-education in contemporary art, including a for-now shelved collaboration with the French choreographer Jérôme Bel.

    Claudia La Rocco: When did you start seeing contemporary dance, and what got you interested?

    David Hallberg: It started when I was at Paris Opera School in 2000. I saw the company perform whenever

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