Are we human or are we dancer?

The AUNTS show at Grace Exhibition Space last Friday was fantastic.  It was co-produced by Roll Call/Movement Research Spring Festival.  I have to say that I love the AUNTS shows because their models for performance are always fun performance parties (like house parties with talented dancers/performers/artists making use of space while also hanging out and having fun), always free-wheeling and always in the spirit of creation.  They are the little pockets of bohemia that once dominated this city before it became a gentrified, overpriced Starbucks Nation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a Venti Latte sometimes but fuck if I’m going to watch my art go corporate alongside the soul of the city.  

The MARKET model for the show was based around beautiful screen printed fake AUNTS money (you got $6 + $1 when entering – you byob and you got the money).  The drinks and food at the bar were free (and they were plentiful).  Most of the goods by the artists were visual art based with some videos as well.  I loved the combination of the visual art gallery with the ability to “purchase” the performances, though I had wished for more performances being shown simulatenously as I’ve seen in the past AUNTS shows (Populous and the Aut 4 One and I Believe in You shows), though I think the space made it harder to work that way.  In a way, I loved the fact that the performance, including my own, really was so influenced by the crowd.  We did a spoken word/dance/movement piece from the (I…Labyrinth) series and couldn’t hear each other, but we were so feeling the energy from those around us watching us that we rocked it and felt amazing after the show. 

I also loved the dance that Jmy Leary, Felicia Ballos and Shizu Homma perfomedwith/by Stanley Love.  Their piece featured repetitive segments of a Prince song (forgot the name at the moment so I might update a bit later on with it) and two other people counting out the amount of national debt we’re currently accruing from the two wars were involved in and of course our current national economic crisis.  They also did headstands for several minutes in yogic perfection while Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner.   I think this is an updated version of a similar performance that I saw via video at the last AUNTS show in November of their performance in Sept. in Washington Square Park.  It was amazing. 

Also, I received a paper mache ice cream cone/flower thing from some anonymous admirer from my performance.  And this is just a tiny reason as to why AUNTS rules.

To Market, to Market…

I’m really sorry I haven’t updated.  Believe me, I have many things I’ve drafted for you all but unfortunately my internet where I am staying is pretty terrible.  Still, I’ve managed to hop across town to the nearest free internet source to let you all know that I, along with my cohorts, Jeanie, Niina, and Carl, will be performing and giving away little videos we made for the AUNTS Market show for the Movement Research Spring Festival.  Please come out to it if you’re in the NYC area!  You will have fun.  xoxo
MARKET
co-produced by ROLL CALL
The Movement Research Spring Festival 09
Friday May 1, 6pm – 12am

At MARKET, FACTORY issued goods, live performances, dvds, projections,
drawings are sold using a Barter System with new paradigm (handmade)
currency based on the cocktail standard!

Grace Exhibition Space 

at 840 Broadway, 2nd Fl.
Bushwick, Brooklyn
JMZ to Flushing 

Admission: cocktails for the free bar: beer, wine, water, juice, whiskey

FACTORY issued goods by these individuals and more:
Deb Black, Iris Rose, We, Coco Karol, Ana Keilson/Zine, Nsumi Collective

Amelia Uzategui Bonilla, Shizu Homma, Tayla Epstein, Maya Utsuinomiya, Wendy Thomas
Autumn Widdoes, Melanie Maar, Stanley Love, Gaku Shinohara & Alex, Anna Sperber & Peter Kerlin
Moriah Evans, Siri Peterson, Mathew Heggem, Veronica Carnero, Mariana Valencia, Jen Rosenblit
Keren Ganin-Pinto, Christina Zani, Meg Foley, Luke Stettner, Bessie McDonough-Thayer
Maggie Bennet, Madeline Best, Hanny Ahern, Francis Stallings, Felicia Ballos, Jess Cook
Sophia Peer, Allen Cordell, James Petz DJ, Bundlelyn, Katie Silorio, Rebecca Wender, Sarah Holcman, 
Rishauna Zumberg, Minnae Chae, Alison D’Amato, Adam Walko, Deborah Karp, Sabrina Alli, 
Bryan Campbell, Leslie Henkel, Eric Conroe, Eagleager, Melissa Sanfiorenzo, Tatyana Tenenbaum, 
Abigail Levine, Elle Chyun, Rafael Sanchez, Elaina Morgan, Pangaea Corps, Jocelyn Ladd, Taube, 
Allison Cave, Sandrine Bouiniere, Elaina Morgan, Sasha Welsh, Eli Lehrhoff, Megan Byrne, Gabe Cohen, Internet
DJ James Petz!

AUNTS is readymade!!! Like loft parties, birthdays and DIY punk shows,
AUNTS events occur in ad-hoc, domestic, out-of-doors, the theater and
found spaces. AUNTS events are rigorous; dancers dance, collaborate
and socialize with each other, amateurs, guests, the space, the walls,
energy flow, non-dancers and non-humans. Conventional
audience/performer configurations abound inside a structure of rules
and traditions of performance that are completely decimated. The
audience is boyfriends and lesbians and the dancers. Dance as
liberation against art, regulation, commercialism and itself and those
who practice it!


FACTORY (happened)
Saturday April 18, 10am – 11pm
FACTORY 
consolidates resources for production of custom-made art works
in All media All day long, starting early, making SHIrTs!!!  Curators,
artists and audience members are invited to manufacture original
products at work stations designed for cooking, dance-making, screen
printing, bookbinding, video-making, immaterial crafts, and more!!!
All day long! Open participation!


AUNTS
auntsisdance.com

Here we go again…

 

 

So, tomorrow morning I’m off to I’m in NYC, the capital of theater, dance, performance art, finance, fashion, greed and self-absorbed jerks (well, second to LA in this last category).   Still, I do love this city very much but I’ve been really on a complete break from it mentally.  Yet whenever I think of leaving it, I ask how I could ever think of such a thing?  Then I remind myself how important it is for me to venture beyond what it is I am currently doing and seeing.  It’s also important to relax, unwind and take breaks sometimes.  But that’s not easy to do without money.  Which is why I have to work full time.   Sometimes I find the dualistic life between working in a cubicle/office and trying to create new types of theater and performance to be really difficult.  Then I remember that I knew this life I had chosen was not an easy one.  I obviously will not give up what I’m passionate about but sometimes it wears me out.  That is the problem for anyone working in the arts  living in a society that thinks the arts are a luxury. 

About a week ago, I read an article in the St. Pete Times about how the funding for public arts is being cut in half in Hillsborough County and completely eliminated in Pinellas County.  On top of this, one of the Senators (Rhonda Storms) from this area of Florida is attempting to eliminate funding for the arts throughout the entire state.   In bad times, the arts are one of the first to suffer because people who have the power to call the shots claim that the arts are a luxury, they’re fun and spending money on them is just a waste.  This is one of the most ignorant ideas but it is so deeply embedded in our culture that it’s hard to make someone realize that the arts are incredibly important to a society.  They offer communities a sense of just that…connection within the community.  They inspire people and offer something higher than the mundane quotidian.  Actually, I might do an entire post on what performance does for a community, because that is even more so an important topic for me. 

Speaking of which, I was thinking recently about funding for theater/performance while watching two different shows this past week:  Gilgamesh at USF’s School of Theater and Dance and The Lieutanent of Inishmore at Jobsite Theater (at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center).  I actually am planning to write a bit more about each separately, but in light of funding issues I wondering, after having the privilege of seeing both, what small theater and performance companies will do if they can no longer afford to actually run their companies or produce their projects?

In NYC, this issue of funding is incredibly important and something that is on most peoples’ minds.  Last night I was at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s “The Downtown Dinner” spring gala and while the event was entirely booked and an incredible success thanks to the lovely LMCC staff, the catering crew and the performers and artists, I think that the economy was that specter lurking…haunting the building, the people, and the artists.    The question is, what alternatives do we have in order to continue to make innovative, amazing performance and art, if we can no longer rely on the sources that we’ve had to rely on in the past?  And what about the communities where there was already scarce funding available?

The horror

The playwright Sarah Ruhl, whose plays Eurydice (Second Stage) and Dead Man’s Cell Phone (Playwrights’ Horizons)  I saw when they opened off-Broadway, has been posting small essays in Paper Theatre’s online forum-magazine, Device.  Ruhl is an amazing playwright whose work combines beautiful poetic language, off-beat humor and otherworldly, mythical elements in many of her plays.  Her play Eurydice   took a different path in the retelling the Orpheus/Eurydice myth by examining not only Eurydice’s connection to Orpheus but also that to her long dead father, who is in the afterworld and who hasn’t had his soul completely washed of his mortal bound memories, though she has and can no longer remember him or Orpheus.   The question of connection to others through memories is central to this play and it is told in a very tender way, with the theme of loss sweeping over the entire production sans melancholy. 

In Ruhl’s essays in Device, she poses some interesting ideas about the limits and challenges of live performance.  I’m particularly intrigued with her essay on “The Scary” and the inability to terrify audiences anymore.  In this era is horror only relegated to film?   I also think that question may  be worth investigating.  I think she may not be considering the interactive performances found around Halloween that we call “Haunted Houses…” and I don’t mean the productions of the Haunted House but rather the interactive format of them.  I know that about two years ago the theater company Les Freres Corbusier experimented with the Hell House by turning the fundamentalist Christian morality that is the foundation of the Hell House, on its head, by simply reproducing a Hell House with irony.  

And, in the 1970s, the Argentinian playwright and novelist Griselda Gambaro, created several terrifying plays, one called Información para extranjeros (Information for Foreigners)  in the format of the “walkthrough” through various rooms, each more hellish than the last.  The play is essentially about Argentina’s Dirty War, the torture and disappearances of some 30,000 people the military junta considered degenerates and enemies of the state.  The play captures various scenes of torture but does not show them directly for the audience to see, everything is hinted off stage and after a while those traveling through the guided tour see not only the obvious examples, but also more frightening ones in which individuals in the society are able to turn their backs on their fellow humans, comrades, neighbors, classmates, etc.  In ignoring the situation all around them, Gambaro implicates not only the “characters” involved in the genocide, but also the people in the audience who are bearing witness to the disappearances and murder and doing nothing.  

Yet, I don’t think that’s the type of horror that Ms. Ruhl is writing about, but maybe it is and  maybe live performance is no longer capable of scaring us the way films still can.  If live performance can return to the horror story, perhaps what is is necessary is again interaction, something film cannot offer its audiences.   Perhaps embracing models of performance such as the seance or a return to basic storytelling “around the campfire” would work.  Food for thought towards a future project…

losing our religion

I’m currently in love with this song Live with Me by Massive Attack.  Maybe it’s just where I am located right now in my mind but there is something about the sentiment of it that has been missing from many of the songs I’ve listened to recently.  It’s not so much the words, but rather the honesty in the delivery of the words, and the way it has been mixed with awesome melodies. Good songs, good lyrics, like anything performed, come from a well of emotion that cannot be faked.  At least, that is how I feel about it.  The emotion does not have to come from personal experience, per se, but I think living fully in this world, attemping to avoid mindless consumerism and other materialistic garbage as much as possible, helps to keep the edge of the knife from being blunted.  

I think that is why I really dislike all of the hip/smug cynicism that abounds in much of the work I have seen recently.  I blame television, advertising and the suburbanite sprawl that surfaced over the last half century.  I guess I could also blame the internet and the car in their influence on increasing isolation and alienation, but you cannot single any one thing out.  I’m not even really against cynicism.  There is a place for it, especially since we live in an era of superficiality fueled by the branding/marketing of almost anything.   I’m not someone who skips through the world holding hands singing some corporate created happy-go-lucky song.  I find myself quite cynical at times,  but if something can tear me apart, either in sorrow or in joy or even in anger, or inspire me to create something new, then I know the performance has succeeded.   If I walk out of there ambivalent or annoyed by its contrived attempt to show how hip and meta it is via snarky commentary, that is when I start to think that we’re all damned. 

A friend of mine who works at an art gallery in Chelsea recently introduced a book called “Damaged Romanticism” to me.  The book itself is based on an exhibition with the same name.  The concept of damaged romanticism is incredibly appealing to me as an artist.  It is a type of undefined movement/undercurrent in western society that focuses on recovering something valuable, something positive from disappointment.  It’s hard to get through life without some form of tragedy or damage, but where former movements show humans throwing themselves into full on self-destruction mode, I suppose our generations version of romanticism mixes both the idealism of the original movement within the current soup of a hyperstimulated, bitter  world of this current milieu.   I’ve been seeking performance that might fit this definition.  I wanted to say that Sarah Kane’s work really had elements of this, particularly her play Blasted.     I was fortunate enough to catch Sarah Benson’s direction of Kane’s play at Soho Rep last fall.  Sarah Benson was a second year MFA student at Brooklyn College when I matriculated in the MFA  Directing program in 2003 and I remember having a conversation or two with her before leaving the program before the first semester began.  Benson is now the Artistic Director of Soho Rep and her direction of Blasted was perfectly executed.  It was an incredible performance by all of the actors and I’m not really going to get into a review of this, but I was astounded to realize that this was the first time  Blasted  had been staged in NYC, even though it was originally shown at the Royal Court in London back in the mid 1990’s, before Kane’s early death at the age of 28. 

Plays with lots of violence have to be handled differently from violent films.  There is something that a live performance does to an audience that a film never can.  I rarely see audiences walk out of films that are violent unless there is something especially brutal in them or they’ve been filmed a certain way that has a particular effect on the audience.   I bring up this because soon enough I will be viewing the Tampa based Jobsite Theater’s version of The Lieutanent of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh.  While McDonagh’s play is very different from Kane’s, they both have large amounts of violence.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve done for Tampa Bay area audiences.  From the reviews I’ve read so far, it looks like it’s a gruesome success.  Looking forward to seeing it as well as the Gilgamesh production at USF before I head out of Tampa again until June. 

Yes, it’s true.  I’m leaving again for a short stint and I’ll be taking this blog from Tampa to NYC for the next two months while I work on several of my own shows for the Movement Research spring festival as well as another located on a boat at pier 40 for this Book Club performance art show.  I think it’s Mutiny on the Bounty as the theme.    Can’t wait.

 

Sunrise/Sunset

Living in between two places, I feel as if I were caught up 35,000 feet high in the jetstream between New York City and Tampa, Florida.  I keep imagining myself more at home high above the ground in the airplane than in either city at this point:  NYC being a rollercoaster I am only half on and Tampa being a dreamy, sleepy vacation-land where I spent my childhood and left before my formative adult years.  Having decided to leave NYC for an extended hiatus, I made the decision to create this journal of performance to take wherever I go on my travels, be it Florida or elsewhere.   Feeling rootless somehow has necessitated a desire to have a stable, long-term project, something that keeps me focused and which, even if grounded in an ephemeral medium, feels more solid than some of the other current things in my life.  For this particular blog, the focus will be on others’ work, with some of my own notes on what I am currently working on as well as I do not consider myself a critic but rather an artist/writer/performer who happens to want to share my own perspective to someone, somewhere out there in this vast sea of 1’s and 0’s.  

Over the past week I have been privileged to see several different dance theater projects at the Ybor City Festival of the Moving Image in Tampa. Some of the works were from Tampa based artists and some from NYC based performers who are in the bay area.  One of these artists was Claire Porter/Portables, whose work I had seen at the DanceNow/NYC 2007 festival at Dance Theater Workshop.  Her work, Portables, is composed of movement based  monologues which combine elements of dance, spoken-word, and a type of comedic movement coming from vaudeville rather than mime.   I attended both evenings of her work, one of them a montage of various short movement-monologues, covering everything from philosophical concepts such as space+place to more socio-political ones situated at gala evening at MoMA and at a tele-fundraiser, respectively.  The second evening, Portables: Part 2, was a 45-50 minute movement monologue based completely on the study of muscles, the nomenclature of the body and the process of language.  

While I enjoyed both evenings, I found  Part 2 memorable in its exploration of post-structuralist concepts of signifying systems, particularly in relation to the body, through the translation of languages and the naming of parts of the body.  This was framed as a poetry reading by a professor of anatomical nomenclature, or something absurdly similar to that.  With each “poem” the character, Nickie Nom, described different muscles in the body and how these muscles move, live, breath, and effect other parts of the body while moving into various positions.  (Porter herself is, according to the bio in the Dance Ybor playbill, a Laban Movement analyst, so if anything she is very knowledgeable about the body and movement).  The complexity of this piece was hidden underneath the clowning elements.  Performing anything comedic is not a simple feat, but creating a dance piece which can simulateously satisfy both adults and children (albeit, she doesn’t hold back on obscenities though they are only briefly whispered) is a sign of a gifted performer. 

Porter has a very strong presence on stage and she’s very aware of the body and its own language.  Her small monologe “Interview” involves her as a potential employee in front of a board of potential employers and while interviewing, she examines various work-related phrases such as “jumping through hoops”, “bending over backwards” and “a variety of positions” through movement positions.  Yet watching her move on stage and grovel for the job, the audience realizes the socio-political commentary of the piece . . . the irony of the interview and of office-related cultural and social cues,  in particular the language used in the office.  Being currently unemployed myself and going through (or, rather actually avoiding) this ridiculous process we call “the  interview”, I recognized through Porter’s Interview piece the absurdity of this ritual, and in essence, the absurdity of life.