Saturday, January 31, 2015

Niegel and Todd and ten willing participants



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Niegel Smith and Todd Shalom

Oh. One more thing to celebrate...

Happy 10th anniversary of "artnership" to Niegel Smith and Todd Shalom who opened their latest collaborative gig, Dream State of Affairs, with sly toasts over sparkling cider and an invitation to their watchers to become doers. Presented by The Invisible Dog Art Center in partnership with Shalom's Elastic City, this dream state has a whimsical premise and a spine of steel.
We’ve scored a performance: a where-we-are but in your shoes. There are written prompts that overlap–a set of tasks that form a fairy tale weee invite you to complete.
We’ll play with race, lust, consent, underpaid labor and childhood shit; the cat and the meow. You’ve a choice: consent to be on stage or around it, as you will. We will take care of you.
Not to be overly paranoid, but "we will take care of you" is a promise that can be read different ways, and I ended up relieved that I did not volunteer to be one of ten participants. Sure, I would have gladly held the orange tabby (see photo above) but last night, the second of the two-night run, there was no cat in sight and no meow to be heard.

Instead, there was an orchestral structure involving a score with instructions set up on a semicircle of music stands, precision timing regulated by digital clocks set up around the space. Participants had to read and then leave their timed instructions on the stands and enter the performance space just at the right moment to not strand one or another of their fellow players working off their own set of directions and schedules.

In one of a few efforts to ease any pre-performance jitters, though, Shalom told his willing participants, "There's absolutely nothing you can do wrong tonight. Whatever you do is the right thing to do."

Well, that's not exactly the case. In one instance, action had to be stopped and clocks reset for another go with a guy, stretched across a broken-legged sofa, saying "What if nothing is too serious to be joked about?" And remained the possibility that someone from the audience-audience (unwilling non-participants) might stop the proceedings and the clock (by calling "Hold" into a dangling mic) to critique what had gone before.

And yes, that happened, although only once, the unwilling being particularly unwilling. But when it happened, it was a doozy.

One of the players, to the shock and amusement of the audience, had just finished pelting the wall and windows with half a dozen eggs. Smith showed up with a bucket of water and sponges, but one woman wasn't having it. She got up and took the mic.

"I want to see the white man clean up," she said, indicating Shalom and excavating what could have been buried deep in the minds of others. I chuckled and snapped because--you GO, girl!--that was top of mind for me. This directive from the audience-audience required a momentary negotiation between Smith and Shalom, but they managed it.

Now, mind you, that was a white woman. Most of the audience, unsurprisingly, was white. Most, I'm guessing, were artist types, performers even--which is why the willing participants seemed to look like they could well handle both the surreal theatrical activities of Dream State of Affairs and its controlled, highly-choreographed unfolding.

But one player, a white woman, seemed to balk at her next set of directions. She muttered something about not being sure she could do this before approaching one watcher and beckoning for him to come into the performance area. As she came up to me, I motioned towards my notebook, and she got the message.

She moved on, but it was a while before I figured out what was up. She had been instructed to pick out the Black people in the room. All five of us.

Without me, then, her meager haul was four. Once arranged in front of everyone, the Black people found out their fate. Again apologizing under her breath, she ordered them to turn around and stand with their arms against the wall and legs spread while the rest of the players, all of them white, whimpered in guilt. In short order, I swear to you, Smith turned all of this into the Hokey Pokey.

What if nothing is too serious to be joked about, indeed? The places your childhood memories take you? The rough debris of racial history and all the "crazy shit"--to quote Shalom's bio--that happens now? The sensuality and sexuality that only you can define? The struggle to survival and make your work in a tough market?

[Closed] For information on future events at The Invisible Dog, click here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jack Leggett, 97

Jack Leggett, Pivotal Figure in Creative Writing, Dies at 97
by Bruce Weber, The New York Times, January 30, 2015

Super WE: Raja Feather Kelly and Tzveta Kassabova

Tzveta Kassabova and Raja Feather Kelly
present their program Super WE at Danspace Project this weekend.



Who folded the programs into paper airplanes? Was it Raja Feather Kelly? Was it Tzveta Kassabova?

I don't know, but it could have been either of these whose dancing displays such sharpness, such a sense of daring, of serious play. Super WE, their hour-long show at Danspace Project, is a paper airplane with deliberate aim. Kelly and Kassabova have filled the space with artificial fog, and together they shine through and pierce through that soft filter.

Their space is ringed by lights that establish not just any arena for dance but a theatrical hothouse, perhaps a sacred precinct.

The slim, bewigged Kelly, a Black man with lips slathered orange-red and face smeared in matte makeup the color of blueberries, opens with one of his Andy Warhol studies--25 Cats Name SAM and one Blue Pussy, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, or How Can You Dance When Every 7 Minutes Human Conversation Lapses into Silence. The music's percussive impulses call for crunchy, flattened, expansive movement and primitive perambulation that might get a body somewhere but only after struggle and never too far. The understated poignancy of the solo suddenly gives way to an outburst of Streisand in full brass: "Gotta move, gotta get out/Gotta leave this place, gotta find some place/Some place where each face that I see/Won't be staring back at me/Telling me what to be and how to be it...."

Bulgarian-born Kassabova follows with her charged, staccato Letter (to Ed). Every single movement in this solo says, "I am here for this. I am here to give myself away." With her shaggy head of dark hair and her tendency to strain joints and muscles to the max, she reminds me of a rock star at the height of abandon.

The program continues with Be Still, My Heart, a duet by Sara Pearson--the dancers first met while performing with Pearsonwidrig Dance Theater--and the ferocious joint project, Super WE. Embracing virtuosity, Kelly and Kassabova match skillful precision to intense expression. They are compelling, must-see performers.

Music, played live by Aleksei Stevens
, and Tuce Yasak

's lighting design bring nature indoors with dense cacophony and subtle legerdemain.

Super WE continues through Saturday, January 31 with performances at 8pm.

Danspace Project
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan
(directions)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Colleen McCullough, 77

Colleen McCullough, Author of ‘The Thorn Birds,’ Dies at 77
by Margalit Fox, The New York Times, January 29, 2015

What I've been seeing at MoMA

Osamu Shiihara (Japanese, 1905–1974). Construction of Hand. 1932–41
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Thomas Walther Collection

At the Museum of Modern Art yesterday, I saw a couple of recent Laura Owens paintings that I enjoyed for their noisy, hyper-caffeinated clash of media, color and dimensions. (One, written across sharp notebook lines on a giant canvas, inscribes a child's brisk and irresistible story about a runaway princess with a mind of her own and a monster with a "fears Gase.") Owens keeps these canvases dynamic, broadcasting on numerous channels at once, inviting while challenging perceptions. One wall plaque quotes her as saying that she does this "so that you can't fall into (the painting) like a window." I don't think this means she's trying to protect you, baby bird, from skyscraper glass. She's hoping you do get tossed around a bit as you try to make your way in.

See Owens's work and a trio of Mark Grotjahn's equally exhilarating Circus series pieces at The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World (through April 5). Also, don't miss Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949 (through April 19) in the Edward Steichen Photography Galleries.

And do I even have to remind you to see Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs? Well, if I do, take heart: You still have time to catch that delightful show (through February 10).

Coming up? Björk (March 8-June 7), Jacob Lawrence (April 3-September 7), Yoko Ono (May 17-September 7) and more. Click here for all the details.

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

So you think you can dance? What science says

Northumbria University conducted a study about the male dance moves that are attractive to women.
Here's what they found!

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