• Body Parts

    THE SUNLIGHT from the circular window high in the wall marks time in a shifting stretching oval on the floor. I am not quite sure what I am looking at, the various piles of construction and design-related materials, also maybe marking time on this long floor. I haven’t yet made the decision to look closely enough, always that decision when you walk into a gallery, like any conversation, whether or not to commit. I’m still getting my bearings at the echt Brooklyn arts-and-science compound that is Pioneer Works on a Sunday afternoon.

    Lauren Bakst and Yuri Masnyj’s Living Room Index and Pool is

    Read more
  • Death Becomes Her

    THERE MAY BE no experience more excruciating, or more essentially human, than that of rising to the occasion of a loved one’s death. What to do when there is nothing to do? How to tell a story as form is falling away?

    Playwright/director Richard Maxwell wrote his most recent play, The Evening, as his father was dying. It is his first work in a forthcoming trilogy inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Rather than adapt or remake, Maxwell has so far loosed threads from the classic, weaving them through a story set not in hell, purgatory, or heaven precisely, but in an unremarkable bar in an unnamed

    Read more
  • Construction Sites

    Silly Writer Construct:

    See two plays, one written by a woman and directed by a man, the other vice versa. Discuss within larger context of progressive New York performance.

    Shows in Question:

    Social Security, at the Bushwick Starr, written by Christina Masciotti and directed by Paul Lazar, performed by Elizabeth DeMent, Cynthia Hopkins, and T. Ryder Smith

    Running Away From the One With the Knife, at the Chocolate Factory, written by Aaron Landsman and directed by Mallory Catlett, performed by Kate Benson, Juliana Francis Kelly, and James Himmelsbach

    Post-Performance Reality (aka Mostly Non-Construct

    Read more
  • Punch and Judy

    “MY GENDER IS PERFORMER,” a bedazzling Taylor Mac announced to a sold-out audience at New York Live Arts. “My pronoun,” he twinkled, “is judy.” Looking like the love-child of Rosalind Russell and a leopard-print-obsessed Lubavitcher, with eyes lashed like Venus flytraps, Mac launched into a six-hour marathon performance of songs and stories of the 1900s to the 1950s—a preview of sorts of his forthcoming opus, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music. Written by Mac, the show reads music history to double as a chronicle of sex, repression, expression, and community, and “to remind people what they’ve

    Read more
  • Out of the Box

    THERE IS A PARTICULAR LOW, sustained rumble that is used in films to build suspense. Unlike the discordant stabs of a piano or frenetic strings that mark terror, this tone alerts us to danger’s nearness, lurking but not immediate.

    In Ligia Lewis’s Minor Matter, which recently premiered at Human Resources LA, this sound announced performer Kenneth Nicholson’s rise from the floor.

    Like the best science fiction, Lewis’s work is most successful in its insistence that the spare can be made spectacular. Nicholson began with a monologue delivered supine. Reporting on his view under the astringent gallery

    Read more
  • Mortal COIL

    AH, TECHNOLOGY! The bogeyman that threatens to fetter our bodies to gadgets, entangle our synapses in wires, thieve our memories, erode our free will, etc. Popular stories remain riddled with the plagues and punishments that befall humanity when it believes it possesses the power to create the new, to exceed the limits of the body, to trump mortality. And in the end we always save ourselves somehow, don’t we? (Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers anymore.) How dispiriting to realize that our devices might be updated with greater frequency than the narratives we spin around them.

    However, there

    Read more
  • Notes to Self

    I’VE JUST DELETED the three hundred words I’d written to start this month’s column, which covers a fraction of the myriad festivals, showings, showcases, etc. mushrooming up around the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference in New York.

    There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with these words, which talked about the “show-must-go-on New York performance crisis” and how exhausted and overwhelmed everyone is by the whole magnificently underfunded circus. The system is distressingly fucked, has been for years.

    It’s just that, well, I wrote about these same exact things in 2012

    Read more
  • the Halprin workshops

    IN 1966, David Antin declared that environment was “a pretty dead word.” The critic was being more than a little ironic, yet his pronouncement diagnosed a real anxiety. For artists and critics across the ideological spectrum, environment had become a difficult—and destabilizing—term. For some, it invited a departure from ideals of flatness, threatening the art object’s increasingly precarious autonomy. For others, including those sympathetic to art’s expanded field, environment had a worrying association with movement, a disruption of the one-to-one encounter between viewer and static

    Read more
  • The Year in Video Games

    A WAR STARTED the year in video games, and another war ended it. That latter—Gamergate, a vituperative expression of cultural frictions among game-makers, critics, and audiences—continues to play out in news feeds and their ids, the comment sections. But the first clash, while less contentious, raised another set of stakes for video-game cognoscenti. Gamers call it the Bloodbath of B-R5RB, and it took place this January in EVE Online: an anarchic outer-space environment where players, to survive, often join one of several thousand-member alliances, many of them locked in ongoing hostilities with

    Read more
  • The Year in Radio

    ABSENT FRIENDS—WHERE ARE THEY? Why, pulling their weekly shift down at KCHUNG Radio, of course—or KNOW-WAVE or Clocktower—one of the mostly unlicensed, mostly Web-only, artist-run underground radio stations that have kept the on-air light lit in 2014. It’s a rare program that, given the nearly full-spectrum saturation of modern communication, nonetheless anchors a small and anonymous collaborative; collaboration being the buzzword, for example, of this year’s Made in LA biennial, which (to borrow Thomas Lawson’s phrase) set up “mildly anarchic” collective KCHUNG in the front lobby. In a fragmented

    Read more
  • Jail Bait

    ANN LIV YOUNG had been in jail for about two hours when I got to Jack. She didn’t seem especially unhappy about it. She seemed, in fact, and no surprise, like she had the upper hand—for example, she had a chair, more than was provided to anyone who had paid fifteen dollars to come look at the performance art incarceration spectacle that was set to unfold over the next few nights at the interdisciplinary Brooklyn space. I mean, her wig was slightly askew. But when isn’t it?

    When I returned three nights later, the scene was much the same, with two key differences: The rickety cell constructed within

    Read more
  • Du Keke

    WHILE THIS YEAR, another wave of East Asian shows explored (Western) modernity—with terms such as Anthropocene, thingworld, and posthuman popping up in the titles and curatorial statements of various exhibitions—two large-scale prodemocracy protests in Taipei and Hong Kong, as well as escalating territorial disputes in the East China Sea, plainly prove that the mission Frantz Fanon set out for the third world in The Wretched of the Earth (1961):—“to resolve the problems to which Europe has not been able to find the answers”—is far from being fulfilled.

    The 2014 Yokohama Triennale refrained from

    Read more