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Saturday, June 29, 2019

At water's edge: Jennifer Monson/iLAND presents "ditch"

ditch--presented by Jennifer Monson/iLAND
at South Street Seaport Museum's Melville Gallery
(photo: Brian J. Green)

by Jennifer Monson/iLAND
River to River Festival 2019
Melville Gallery, South Street Seaport Museum
June 26 and 28

Happy hour at South Street Seaport is for something other than paying attention to post-modern eccentrics dressed in plastic materials like creatures ironically stuck inside reusable shopping bags. On this summer evening, folks pass the seaport museum's site or sit nearby or do whatever they do while Jennifer Monson's dancers do whatever they're doing on the cobblestones and iron steps. For a moment, I turn away from the building and, in a little parklet across the pathway, suddenly spy Monson herself. Her look and her positioning on the pavement suddenly remind me of a more familiar, mundane sighting--a pigeon. Like dancers, pigeons exist among us in the urban ecosystem and, to be honest, most of New York and its tourists pass by and pay them no mind. I recently learned that some people--may they burn in Hell--net loads of our pigeons and haul them out of state to shoot for sport.

When I turn back towards the steps to the museum's Melville Gallery, I see that audience is being admitted for the continuance of Monson's ditch--a multifaceted project motivated by the local effects of Hurricane Sandy (2012). I take a seat up front near one of the room's many wooden columns. The space feels confined; the lighting, dim. There's a dancer already in motion--swiveling, dipping, skittering and plié-ing barefooted and barelegged, her torso encased in a misshapen cube of black plastic with lime-green trim. There's a set up for composer/sound artist Jeff Kolar whose sonic communications, performed live over the course of perhaps 45 minutes, ebb and flow from nearly imperceptible, intermittent blips to deepened, driven pulses.

Three other dancers appear here and there, sometimes wholly or partially obscured by columns that could be an abstract forest of trees or stalks in a hugely-magnified stand of grasses at river's edge. This is home to sensitive, elusive critters who shed their casings and pitch and swirl in imaginary waters and, surprisingly, ace synchronized scarf juggling. Intelligent and, when need be, well-coordinated beings. Ben Demarest's lighting evokes a natural and changing world while also marking this gallery space as a sanctuary--at once, protected and vulnerable.

  • View the ditch rehearsal trailer here.

Monson premiered ditch on June 23 at the Lower East Side "ecopark" of Pier 35. At sunrise! How I wish I had been there for that or, later that morning and afternoon, for her iLanding Workshop where participants got to "dance, draw and map based on their observations of the movement and living ecologies of the pier, including birds, mussels, fish, plants, humans and other creatures."

Choreography: Jennifer Monson
Performers: Madeline Mellinger, Kaitlin Fox, Courtney Cooke, Jennifer Monson
Music/sound: Jeff Kolar
Costumes: Susan Becker
Lighting: Ben Demarest

ditch is closed. River to River Festival 2019 concludes today. For information on remaining programs, click here.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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