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Loosed Threads

This summer, theater artist Reza Abdoh (1963–1995) was the subject of an ambitious yet fractional survey at MoMA PS1, New York, organized by Negar Azimi, Tiffany Malakooti, and Babak Radboy of Bidoun. In February 2019, a version of this exhibition, produced with Krist Gruijthuijsen, will travel to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. Here, Artforum senior editor Jennifer Krasinski reflects on Abdoh’s extraordinary body of work, examining the consequences of his—and his productions’—disappearance.

Reza Abdoh at a rehearsal for his Tight Right White, New York, 1993. Photo: Michael J. Vitti.

I MOVED TO NEW YORK in the early 1990s, a gawky young know-nothing, ravenous for the theater and performance and art that I’d read about and heard about in conversations with mentors and elders and others more worldly. (Once upon a time, nothing buffed an artist’s aura quite as brilliantly as hearsay.) But New York in the early ’90s was shattered, multivalent. Here there were heroes, but as many holes—fresh wounds in the world—where heroes once stood. Jack Smith and Cookie Mueller had died in 1989. The following year, Ethyl Eichelberger took his own life rather than suffer the virus. David Wojnarowicz was gone in 1992. Ron Vawter in 1994.

In the autumn of 1996, I was in rehearsals with Richard Foreman as a performer in his play Permanent Brain Damage. He was an exacting maestro, slow to offer praise, and with absolutely no predilection for social sugar. This general lack

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