Performance

  • Hotel California

    YOU ARE MEETING A STRANGER AT THE HOTEL BAR. This is not your regular watering hole: velvet curtains, coffered ceilings, outstretched columns that hold up nothing. Everything is in the style of a ruin that doesn’t know it’s a ruin yet. You finger the thin straw plunged in a gin and tonic, unsure. Are you waiting to be found, or are you supposed to be looking?

    On the eighth floor, the room is dark. Shuffling in, you glimpse the outline of a recumbent figure. When the lights come up, a man is lying naked on one of two beds, phone in hand. You wait for him to speak first.

    His nakedness is not surprising

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  • Thank You for Being a Friend

    November 21, 2016 at 8:54 PM EST

    Dear Mr. B,

    I’ve just come home from an event of much love at the Kitchen, part of the rollout of Douglas [Crimp]’s superb memoir [Before Pictures]. Three exemplary interlocutors from three different dance worlds: Adrian Danchig-Waring (New York City Ballet/Balanchine), Silas Riener (Merce Cunningham), and Yvonne Rainer (Yvonne Rainer). 

    A little asymmetrical, I suppose, since Rainer got to play herself, though everyone did a very good job representing. 

    Rainer, at the end, was trying to respond to a question from the audience, and failing a bit. She said her mind

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  • Laugh Lines

    “IT’S A TERRIBLE WORD FOR A YOUNG ARTIST—creative dance; it’s oppressive.”

    “I hope you can understand how absurd my practice is.”

    These are two of the many very good lines Deborah Hay tossed off Saturday night on the stage of Zellerbach Hall, during a pre-performance lecture (a first for her and, no surprise, she nailed it) at Cal Performances in Berkeley. The occasion was her Figure a Sea, a 2015 collaboration with Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet.

    Here’s a third: “They both happened to laugh a lot, and that helped me.” This in reference to John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg, whose art and thinking were

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  • Time and Time Again

    THE ARTISTS, MUSICIANS, CURATORS, AND WRITERS that work in and support time-based art are a small, necessarily close-knit tribe. Performance is, after all, easily the least lucrative of genres, a fact that has consistently made it the repository for work that is less monetarily driven and less safe, but which has also sometimes made it feel insular and uninterested in courting an audience outside its fold. This is why the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, one of only a handful of such festivals in the US, feels so consistently fresh, both in its programming and

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  • the Wooster Group’s Town Hall Affair

    WHAT EXACTLY IS The Town Hall Affair, an hour-long performance piece the Wooster Group staged this past May as a work-in-progress at the Performing Garage in SoHo? Is it a reconstruction of Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s 1979 feature Town Bloody Hall, which documented the “Dialogue on Women’s Liberation” presented April 30, 1971, at New York’s Town Hall by the Theatre for Ideas? Is it a deconstruction? A hall of mirrors? A stroll down memory lane?

    Multiple iterations of a narrative (often jumping from medium to medium) tend toward myth. Such has been made of that archetype-populated April

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  • Madness and Civilization

    TO THINK AND SPEAK AND ACT in the way of madness—meaning, to speak in opposition to madness made popular, shared, atomized, taken as reason, as the natural way of things—only to be seen and heard and understood as madness, as criminality, itself: This is the condition of Moses’s mother, or rather the woman we think of as Moses’s mother in theater artist Romeo Castellucci’s harrowing and brilliant Go Down, Moses.

    Spun very loosely from the story of the Biblical hero who led the Israelites to the Promised Land, Castellucci’s play doesn’t tell us the story of the great prophet. Instead, it follows

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  • Deep Space

    SHORTLY BEFORE I SAW BLANK MAP, a work created and performed collectively by five black, queer artists, an invitation for “Blackness in Abstraction,” a show at Pace Gallery curated by Adrienne Edwards, landed in my inbox. 

     

    As I watched these five disparate individuals in Blank Map moving and not moving, together and apart, for roughly an hour, the concept of Edwards’s exhibition kept surfacing. When Brontez Purnell lay prone in front of a camera positioned on the floor, pulled down his pants and undulated his ass, the audience witnessed both the spectacle of bouncing flesh and the dark, wavelike

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  • Comin’ Round the Mountain

    IN THE BEGINNING IS THE END.

    That’s what I kept thinking while standing alone in 356 S. Mission’s industrial backlot amid shifting clumps of art-world denizens. The late-day golden light was fading, and wave upon wave of Biblical so-and-so begat so-and-so washed up and over us via James Earl Jones’s unmistakable voice.

    It was the opening night of Lutz Bacher’s Magic Mountain, an expansive installation that is one of the best things—full stop—I’ve been inside of in ages. All of the choices on display feel inevitable, unerring: complexity and clarity wandering hand in hand.

    Found objects and materials

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  • Great Ballz of Fire

    IT’S HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA. A day’s work done, the gainfully, under- and self-employed rush home by way of a well-earned pint. On South Main Street in Los Angeles, from a sidewalk cluttered with chalkboards, a dozen upscale haunts beckon the thirsty. 452 South Main is not among them.

    That address, the once and future home of a food truck turned brick-and-mortar hopeful known as Great Balls, has stood empty for four lucrative years. The blank storefront has its neighbors to thank. In 2013, residents of the New Genesis Apartments, the low-income and recovery housing complex for which 452 is

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  • Church and State

    IN A THREE-NIGHT STRETCH earlier this month, I saw jazz legend Cecil Taylor’s concert with Min Tanaka and Tony Oxley at the Whitney, Miami City Ballet at Lincoln Center, and Vicky Shick at Danspace Project. “This is a totally weird amalgamation,” I wrote to my editor, “and so I’m thinking it might make for a good column.”

    Such, it seems, are the dubious writerly frames I devise when faced with an overabundance of choices. I should have Shick choreograph this column for me; Another Spell, which marked the twentieth anniversary of her first commission at Danspace, showed yet again how skilled this

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  • Big Words

    IS DEATH A CRUELER FATE for those who have lived a creative life? Is it a greater tragedy that one day a body that has channeled dance or theater or poetry will betray not just life, but art too? These questions surfaced in two recent productions, each of which consider the condition of the male artist in his golden years: Alvis Hermanis’s Brodsky/Baryshnikov starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Robert Wilson’s performance of Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. At the center of both plays are the words of long-dead authors, ego ideals for the artists on stage. In the face of their own mortality,

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  • Forced Entertainment

    MOST ARTISTIC COLLABORATION is ad hoc and short-lived. But what happens when it goes on for decades, and yet takes place within the most ephemeral of genres, live performance? This probably wasn’t the question a group of University of Exeter drama graduates set out to answer in 1984 when founding a company that was not quite traditional artists’ collective and not quite traditional theater group. They called themselves Forced Entertainment, and led by artistic director Tim Etchells, the group’s current members (Etchells, Robin Arthur, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden, and Terry

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