COLUMNS

  • Dancing in the Dark

    Catherine Damman on Ligia Lewis

    “GOD TOOK NO PLEASURE IN HER.” A nod or some form of unbidden recognition ran through me. She was made to die, or allowed to die; in either case, she refused her fate, punching through wet earth from grave toward unaccommodating sky. Obstinate, the hand could be mastered only by the one who had borne it; the mother was swift and unhesitating with the rod—and so the buried girl stopped moving for good. 

    This story, The Willful Child, by the Brothers Grimm, haunts Ligia Lewis’s Water Will (in Melody), 2018. Water Will is the third in a trilogy of stage works, each of which wrestles with one color

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  • Round and Round

    Jennifer Krasinski on Michael R. Jackson's A Strange Loop

    HOW AM I THIS I? So asks composer and playwright Michael R. Jackson’s brazen and brilliant game changer A Strange Loop, a “Big Black and Queer-Ass American Broadway Show” that’s as thrilling and excruciating as having an existential crisis in a hall of mirrors. At its center is Usher (the sublime Larry Owens), who works as an usher in a Broadway theater while struggling to write a self-referential musical called A Strange Loop, about a man named Usher who works as an usher in a Broadway theater while struggling to write a self-referential musical called A Strange Loop. The title, he explains in

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  • Butch Chasers and Femmes Fatales

    Jess Barbagallo on Merril Mushroom's Bar Dykes

    I ARRIVE TO SEE BAR DYKES at the Flea just a few minutes before 7 PM on a Friday. I spot Becca Blackwell and their best friend Casey ambling toward the theater from an unremarkable Tribeca watering hole; Jennifer is waiting inside with the tickets. Tanya texts me—“hold the curtain!”—and I can only guess what special dose of hell the MTA is serving her this evening. Returning from a quick visit to the all-gender bathroom, Becca excitedly informs us that bottles of wine are going for twenty dollars at the lobby bar. It’s a forgone conclusion that two will be purchased, and drunk, before the play

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  • Forbidden Love

    Jess Barbagallo on Sebastián Castro Niculescu's Tired Selena

    ON THE SECOND FLOOR of the LGBT Center on West Thirteenth Street, at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, Sebastián Castro Niculescu stands in teacherly repose next to a large screen. An academic goth of indeterminate age, she begins to introduce her performance, Tired Selena, by gently bemoaning the heat of the room. She gives us permission to do what we must to survive our enclosure and assures the crowd that she herself will only get shinier over the course of the next hour. Appreciative titters travel over the small audience that has gathered here, although I’m doubtful anyone will

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  • VEILED MEANING

    Jennifer Krasinski on Paul Swan

    SINGULAR BEINGS LIKE THE DANCER, artist, and poet Paul Swan (1883–1972) are best approached with curiosity rather than a firm thesis. Those whose work has fallen out of favor—or whose tastes were out of step with their times—are often burdened with narratives of failure, of irrelevance, which anyone who understands the unpredictable values of art should dismiss outright. As Jack Smith, one of the great reader-recuperators of culture, wrote in his bravura encomium “The Perfect Filmic Appositeness of Maria Montez” (1962–63): “A highly charged idiosyncratic person (in films) is a rare phenomenon

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  • CROWD CONTROL

    Jonah Westerman on Anne Imhof

    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

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  • Open Access

    Adelita Husni Bey on I wanna be with you everywhere at Performance Space New York

    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,

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  • Nice Troy

    Jennifer Krasinski on Norma Jeane Baker of Troy at The Shed

    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.

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  • All Falls Down

    Sam Dolbear on “Steve Paxton: Drafting Interior Techniques” at Culturgest, Lisbon

    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,

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  • Live After Death

    Jess Barbagallo on Anohni’s SHE WHO SAW BEAUTIFUL THINGS

    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

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  • THESE WOMEN’S WORK

    Catherine Damman on Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole

    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

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  • Night of 100 Solos: London

    Martin Hargreaves on the London celebration of Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday

    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

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