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CLOSE UP: KINETIC ELEGY

Chris Cochrane, Dennis Cooper, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Them, 1986. Rehearsal view, Performance Space New York, June 20, 2018. Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Alvaro Gonzalez Dupuy, and Michael Parmelee. Photo: Rachel Papo.

ON NOVEMBER 21, 1986, Them, a performance by Chris Cochrane, Dennis Cooper, and Ishmael Houston-Jones, had an infamous premiere at Performance Space 122; it nearly got the place shut down. Eight years ago, PS 122 revived the work, and this summer it returned to Ninth Street and First Avenue as part of the East Village Series inaugurating the newly renovated, and renamed, Performance Space New York. The work’s legend—in certain corners, though, I would argue, not enough—precedes it.

So I knew Them would break my heart, but I wasn’t ready for it, not really. Premonition makes for a shitty analgesic,I keep reminding myself but never learning. This is a part of the work, too—that sense of hurtling toward catastrophe.

Before the quiver of volition, Them begins with a performer’s back defiantly turned, and silence for long enough to itch. While the audience waits for

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