Performance

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • Roundabout Way

    I’M ON A PLANE from Seattle to San Francisco. A little plane, tilting fiercely the way little planes do high up here in the dark clouds. It’s Monday night, 6:29 to be precise. I have just spent the weekend watching four dances by Tere O’Connor: The large ensemble work BLEED, which enfolds and explodes elements from the three smaller dances Secret Mary, Poem, and Sister.

    So many bodies cast into and about space. Pleasures of full movement, both simple and ornate. Collisions of virtuosity, formalism, technique, rigmarole, the pedestrian, the absurd. All the little cruelties we casually gift to

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  • Corrine Fitzpatrick

    LAST APRIL, Cleopatra’s housed “Which arbitrary thing are you,” (April 6 to May 4, 2014) a two-person exhibition of sculpture and video by Sara Magenheimer and paintings by Sadie Laska. All of the works were from 2014, with the exception of Magenheimer’s seven-minute video, One Vast Focus, 2011, in which footage of a woman playing tuba before a grove of trees opens onto a quaalude-paced concert scene overlaid with text from Ada Lovelace’s megalomaniacal-Romantic musings to her mother—“I can throw rays from every corner of the universe into one vast focus”—which is then read aloud by the

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  • Andrew Witt

    IF MONUMENTS WERE ONCE CONSTRUCTED to celebrate the glories of history, the antimonuments of today question the future by destabilizing the present. History is substituted for abstractions of collapse and ruination. Patriarchal authority, empires, and the fallen of great wars all must succumb to gravity. For instance, Phyllida Barlow’s monstrous sculpture dock, 2014, installed in Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries (March 31 to October 19, 2014) read as an antimonument to the provisional. A perilous construction built of interweaving scaffolding, cardboard, plywood, and fabric, dock courted danger

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  • The Trouble with Normal

    IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING. The same week that former President George W. Bush published 41: A Portrait of My Father, his “love story” for pater and predecessor George H. W. Bush, the Farrelly Brothers’ (d)ur-comedy sequel Dumb and Dumber To was number one at the box office. Also that week, “The Innovations Issue” of the New York Times Magazine championed failure as the new success: “Welcome to the Failure Age!” “Virtual Reality Fails Its Way to Success,” “A Brief History of Failure.” A prodigal son who sinned and was born again—first into Christ, then into art—writing the record for dear old dad.

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  • Now You See Me

    RUSHING FROM BROOKLYN, the subways are slow and I don’t catch the right train up to Beacon to see Steve Paxton’s not-a-retrospective. The work of the virtuoso Cunningham dancer, Judson pioneer, Grand Union collaborator, and Contact Improvisation creator is precisely about awareness of one’s body and so as a distraction I try to pay attention to mine. Pacing on the platform is a kind of magical thinking, I realize, an impotent attempt to speed up trains or slow down time, as if my internal velocity could exert some force outside its own envelope. It is impossible not to make metaphors of this.

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  • Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman

    I ATTENDED two performances of Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this past June, the first out of curiosity about what Wilson would do with the oddball coupling of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, the second because I was ravenous for more. More of the miraculous mix of precision and spontaneity in the interplay of the performers, more of Wilson’s incandescent yet hard-as-nails stagecraft, more of Hal Willner’s pulsating score, and of Darryl Pinckney’s incantatory adaptation of Russian avant-garde writer Daniil Kharms’s short story “Starukha” (The Old Woman),

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