COLUMNS

  • CROWD CONTROL

    IN 1792, Robert Barker, the Irish painter and inventor, exhibited a 360-degree view of London as seen from the roof of Albion Mills, a flour mill roughly five hundred feet west of where Tate Modern now stands. His “panorama” and others like it were technological marvels, popular attractions that rendered sweeping landscapes—both foreign and domestic, historical and contemporary—from the standpoint of an all-seeing visitor, the sublimity of the ungraspable world translated for ready capture by the centered individual. London from the Roof of the Albion Mills triumphed in Leicester Square before

    Read more
  • Open Access

    I VIVIDLY RECALL participating in a workshop hosted by Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos four years ago in Glasgow as part of “We Can’t Live Without Our Lives,” the seventh episode of an annual festival put on by the political arts organization Arika. Their discussions of “access intimacy” based on Mia Mingus’s insight that the body should be treated as a “medium through which we can become one another’s means” profoundly shaped not only my art but also the way I relate to and care for my chronically ill mother.

    A related three-day festival held in mid-April at Performance Space New York,

    Read more
  • Nice Troy

    NORMA JEANE BAKER/MARILYN MONROE: a well of sadness/a siren of the silver screen. “War creates two categories of persons,” wrote poet and translator Anne Carson in Norma Jeane Baker of Troy. “Those who outlive it and those who don’t. Both carry wounds.” Stardom also splits one into two—a celebrity, a person—and like war, advances and succeeds on the brute power of the myths that fuel it. (Few have ever pillaged this world defending unadorned fact.) And although it is true that a persona is not a war, it is also true that Norma Jeane didn’t survive the bombshell.

    This is the Nile and I’m a liar.

    Read more
  • All Falls Down

    YVONNE RAINER ONCE QUIPPED that, if she invented running, then Steve Paxton invented walking. At the opening of this major retrospective, “Drafting Interior Techniques” at Culturgest in Lisbon, Paxton walked through the exhibition space clutching a hand-held camera. We followed, watching him walk around, watching him watch and film himself on projected documents around us. The observance of others and the performance of the everyday are governing principles of much of Paxton’s work, evident in the very first room of the exhibition, which is dominated by an elongated projection of Waiting, Walking,

    Read more
  • Live After Death

    IN THE LOBBY OF THE KITCHEN, a small black table offers tiny plastic cups of clear alcohol—wine or liquor I can’t be sure, and I don’t actually know the color of absinthe, but it seems like an appropriately gothic choice for this event—a staging of Anohni’s SHE WHO SAW BEAUTIFUL THINGS, advertised as “a two-act surrealist and absurdist drama containing music, painting, video and performance.” I imagine the preshow drink as ritualistically endowed with a kind of ceremonial magic useful for conjuring up the past. A merch table offers, among other staples, vinyls of Anohni’s music, which I first

    Read more
  • THESE WOMEN’S WORK

    THE SNEAKERS, six pairs in all, are pink. Every actress who appears in Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole (2019) wears them—with jeans, with scrubs, beneath petticoats. The anesthetized set, by Mariana Sanchez, is spare: A hospital bed, a reception desk, and a waiting area adorned with potted plants are surrounded on three sides by tiles that match, almost exactly, the color of the actresses’ shoes. Flattering, photogenic, and distinctively of this moment, the rosy shade nonetheless seems almost threatening, mutant, evoking the soigné efforts of corporate branding run amok.

    Mournful bagpipes

    Read more
  • Night of 100 Solos: London

    AROUND FIFTEEN MINUTES into the one-and-a-half hour performance of Night of 100 Solos: A Centenary Event at the Barbican Theatre, the phrase SKILL—FOR THE HOLES was projected against a large cyclorama onstage. Shadows cast by readymades, 2019, was part of artist Richard Hamilton’s contribution to the evening, splicing Duchampian images with found texts from engineering manuals. Although it runs counter to the aleatory spirit of a Cunningham Event to use any one part as the key with which to decode another, this aphoristic slogan resonated in my mind for the rest of the performance. The pleasures

    Read more
  • Night of 100 Solos: Los Angeles

    WHAT MAKES A CUNNINGHAM DANCER? What makes a Cunningham dance? These questions flickered in my mind like the digital butterflies on the massive screen in UCLA’s Royce Hall as I watched the Los Angeles iteration of Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event, a celebration of the late choreographer’s one-hundredth birthday. Once the ninety-minute performance and all standing ovations were over, I was no nearer to an answer but better off for bearing witness to brilliant dancing and the sheer dedication to Merce Cunningham’s legacy.

    There was the explosive pass across the stage by Rena Butler, a standout

    Read more
  • Night of 100 Solos: New York

    ON APRIL 16, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, MERCE CUNNINGHAM WAS BORN. On April 15, 2019, I was sitting in the balcony of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House among the hundred or so people watching the final run-through of the “Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event.” Can I say that I assisted at the memorial’s birth? Probably not.

    The program took even more risks than the patchworked material that his company used to perform worldwide as Events. Each of the seventy-five dancers celebrating his birthday (twenty-five in New York, and the same number in London and in Los Angeles) learned short passages culled

    Read more
  • Negative Space

    DYING IS A PROCESS, one that is both arduous and physically precise—so Faye Driscoll reminds us as we walk through a darkened theater wing to see Thank You For Coming: Space, which premiered as part of Montclair State University’s Peak Performances. This choreographic investigation of death begins when audiences step around (or accidentally on) a collage of art historical images taped to the floor. The pictures mostly depict the aftermath of violent acts: scenes of crime and martyrdom; pools of blood, splayed limbs. In one medieval painting, a smiling skeleton cavorts arm in arm with the living

    Read more
  • Cher and Cher Alike

    IT WAS EITHER SCOTT’S IDEA, or Maddie’s idea. Or it was Dave’s idea, but then Dave couldn’t come. He’d already seen it anyway and told me that it was like nothing that should be allowed onstage, but there it was. We gave his ticket to Jennifer, and the four of us made our way to the Neil Simon Theater to see The Cher Show, which—playing right across the way from Mean Girls—made a neat little homo alley out of Fifty-Second Street.

    Sitting way up in the $69 “cheap seats” on an undersold Wednesday night, I marveled at how beat up the stage floor was. This is Broadway, I thought, those words hovering

    Read more
  • ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

    OPERA, CHARLES ROSEN ONCE WROTE, is governed by “the expectation of essential lunacy.” Its unrepentant feeling, its curling decor, its warbling inheritances, all these gilded artifacts of empire seem so far from the word’s Latin root, opus, which translates to “work,” that favorite American religion.

    The late operas of Michigan-born composer Robert Ashley (1930–2014) are staged with a dignified efficiency that seems at once to point backward to this etymology and to push the genre forward into the twentieth century. To begin a new presentation of Ashley’s 1985 Improvement (Don Leaves Linda) this

    Read more