Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Lehman Trilogy: An ode to patriarchy, Judaism and capitalism


I’ll keep it short, here is my take on that trilogy of patriarchy, Judaism and capitalism:
Patriarchy: the story of a family is told through three men and their descendants. This is the story of the American Dream: three hard working brothers, clever, zealous, with strong moral values, come to America and make it big: first selling cloth, then shoes, then banking, then investments. The perfect curve. 

Three men, three male actors. No women. From time to time, one of the actors plays a woman, a fiancée or a lover here and there, with the kind of obvious comedy that had already Greek audiences laughing in 500BC. Women, as far as the producers of this play are concerned, play such a minor role in a family dynasty that it is not worth representing.

It would have been much more interesting, and would have made a point, if the Lehmann brothers had been played by women actors, just as Caryl Churchill had in Cloud 9, a play in which men were played by women, and whites by blacks, and vice versa. But women playing men do not draw the laughs that the reverse cross gender acting does, just as women nowadays can dress as men (they looks stylish!) without anyone blinking, when a man in a dress (they look ridiculous!) is a “crossdresser”.  

The set includes a revolving stage. I am wary of revolving stages, they usually flag a production that is going to favor brassiness over reflection and creativity, except if handled by Robert Lepage. A sofa on stage is also a flag, this one usually guaranteeing a production that will not take any risks creatively. The various sides of the revolving stage were not really differentiated, so it did not serve the purpose of offering different sets for different scenes. On the other hand, the revolving did bring to mind effectively the passing of time. There were other good choices: no period costumes and accessories, and a stunning stage, empty but for the revolving gizmo, and very large (there’s plenty of room at the Armory) with a projection of live images on the curved back wall. Pretty spectacular. The content is not scripted into scenes, little dialogue takes place. That can make for a new interesting take on the theatrical form, but did not salvage this propaganda piece from turning into pantomime.

That’s the least objectionable of the three institutions which are promoted in the play. Judaism has generated a rich culture, and produced great thinkers (Marx! Arendt!), writers (so many: Proust! Roth! Singer! Cohen! Krauss!), and numerous other creators in the arts and science.
Moral values are presented in the play as arising from the brothers’ commitment to Judaism. This is propaganda for a religion, and I resent the promotion of any religion. Let people choose their religion and spare us its praise. In fact, historically, moral values have not been linked to religious bigotry, some religions having a worse track record than others, such as Christianity. The majority of the population in Israel is zealous, and that has not prevented the country from accumulating a shameful human rights record.
As it happens, and as the Washing Post pointed out, the immigrant Lehmann brothers’ moral values did not prevent them from owning slaves, at a time when objections were being expressed loudly across the Western world. The American dream has been built on the backs of ethnic minorities.
The author, Stefano Massini, is Jewish. I don’t find that exactly surprising. He wrote a play about Anna Politkovskajathe woman journalist who was victim of Putin’s dictatorship. Seems like a worthy endeavor. Another play has not come to the USA: it’s called “Credo in unsolodio”, translated as “I believe in onlyonegod”, and is an indictment of Muslim terrorism. Will the Armory bring that work to New York too?


By the second interval, I had had enough.  We are told about the brothers financing railways (progress!), King Kong (culture!), but very little about the ills of the capitalist system: its false dreams, its false promises of happiness through possession of goods, its turning of human beings into efficient little working machines. 

I was waiting with trepidation to see how 2008 would be pictured: an apocalyptic armageddon, right? Terribly disappointing. The cast dances a frenzied twist through the 90s, convincingly. Just as in the 20s, it seemed like there was no end to miraculous speculations. Then the play fizzles into nothing much. Certainly nothing about the mortgage scandal of the 00s. The brothers did not respect shiva anymore, so they lost their company. No moral indictment of the criminals that brought about the crashing of an economy, and much hardship to the common people: loss of jobs, home repossessions. I don’t see how you can tell the story of the Lehman family and their company without alluding to the hardships caused by the greed and irresponsibility of the banking and investment world.
The New York Times raved.

written and published  - - by Arabella Hutter von Arx

Monday, April 8, 2019

10 Women Artists That Are Vastly Underrated

Calla Lillies by O'Keefe
In the list of the 100 most expensive art work sold, the first work by a woman is in 100th place (maybe they cheated a little and dropped a few male artworks to sneak in one woman, Georgia O'Keefe, to spare our feelings). This stresses how much women's work has been suppressed and underrated. I believed for the longest time that women had created very little art work throughout the centuries, because they were discouraged to do so, did not have access to instruction nor to adequate equipment.

As I researched the project The Thread where I use the art work of women to illustrate the woman condition through History, I realized that many more women created than I expected. Some were famous in their time such as Sofonisba Anguissola and Giovanna Garzoni. It was later that their work was systematically excluded from museums and art history books. I have enjoyed many wonderful, underrated artists's works. Here are some my favorite works, the ones that also should sell for hundreds of millions of dollars if any art of work should sell for that absurd kind of money. Absent from the list are the most famous women artists whose work also should be in the 100 most expensive list, but who are not as underrated: Artemisia Gentileschi, Frida Kahlo, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun, Marina Abramovic. This is also a list concerned mostly with Western Art. We would need a more knowledgable art historian, and a much, much longer list for all the women creators of the rest of the world.

1. Giovanna Garzoni - Still Life. It amazes me that in the middle of the Renaissance, where the tendency was to shut women up (yes, women had more legal rights in the Middle Ages - they were not yet persecuted as witches which started in the Renaissance), the sexual innuendo in the work of Garzoni went completely unnoticed.  Artemisia Gentileschi could be pretty explicit too. See the violent birth scene disguised as Judith cutting Holoferne's head, or Mary Magdalene enjoying an orgasm thanks to her skulled lover. Giovanna Garzoni was called Chaste Garzoni during her lifetime, but in my opinion, she was familiar with a man's aroused private parts as evidenced by these beans, gently swollen with life: life that is, life that might be. Neither erect nor martial, it's a very different image from the aggressive phallus men artists have favored. Her open figs and melons are quite juicy too.


2. Nalini Malani: (B 1946) - Remembering Mad Meg. There are many contemporary women artists who deserve a larger spot in the limelight, and that includes Malani who is bigger than life.  Her work is big, her referential is big, her soul is huge. Consequently, the work she produces is bewitching, an enchantment. Malani has addressed the feminine condition extensively, but not exclusively. This is what she has to say about her piece: 'Mad Meg was a character in a Breugel painting, which is in Antwerp now. It’s not a very large painting; it’s about 75 centimetres high by about a meter wide. You see this figure, this woman who almost looks like an androgynous figure striding across a landscape of completely perverted things around her, for example, there is an egg-like humanoid eating through his anus. It’s almost like she is seeing all of this and somehow wants to put things right but then she is considered the deviant.' I find it very touching that she goes and salvages a female character from a European Renaissance painting.


3. Sofonisba Anguissola: Her work is outstanding, it's difficult to choose one piece. She made stunningly beautiful portraits of women. In fact, she often explores the relationship between men and women, the female condition: a girl looks at her reading brother with an ambiguous expression: resentment? In Portrait of the Artist's Family, featured, her sister Minerva looks at the bond between her brother and her father, who seems only interested in the boy, and turns his back to her. The dog is the only one looking at the artist, asking her to bear witness to the injustice.
Anguissola is finely getting her due, with Lavinia Fontana, with an exhibition at the Prado in Madrid.


4. Berthe Morisot might be considered famous enough to be excluded from this list. However, quite famous is not good enough. She should be the star because her work is amongst the very best there is: bold, gutsy not too say ballsy, big, passionate, sensual, daring, there is nothing "feminine" about it but her attachment to representing women, girls, and often mothers and daughters. She painted extensively her daughter Julie who was born from her marriage to Manet's younger brother Eugène. She merged impressionism and expressionism in work that is unrivaled in its exuberance.

5. Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was an African American sculptor who studied at RISD and spent 12 years in Paris when that city was attracting African American luminaries where she nearly died of hunger, literally, while sculpting. She might be the most underrated of the women in this list. She was talented, expressive, brilliant, but her work got her very little recognition, and still to this day is acknowledged by a handful of art historians or African American scholars. She exhibited during her mid career, the Whitney purchased the Congolaise above, a piece of utmost delicateness and elegance, and she taught art. But later, her career petered out, and she ended up working as a maid. Makes me mad.

6. Helen Schjerfbeck: An honest self portrait by painter Helen Schjerfbeck, prolific despite suffering from bad health. She could be a bit scattered, she tried all sorts of styles, and was very adventurous in her experiments. She had an original and reflective approach to womanhood. She was Finnish, at a time when a number of talented, inventive women painters worked: Elin Danielson-Gambogi and Ellen Thesleff. She is also to enjoy, finally, a large retrospective at the Royal Academy in London.


7. Paula Modersohn-Becker: Selfportrait at 6th Wedding Anniversary is a paradoxical painting: she had left her husband to commit to her art, and was not, at least physically, pregnant. She eventually went back to her husband, and died following the birth of their daughter. Her last word is supposed to have been: "Shade". Shame. Yes, what a shame for her, for all of us. She would have been one of the major painters of the 20th Century. During her short life, she was prolific: her work, clearly inspired by Gauguin, incorporated Northern European naive styles. She also tended to frame her subjects very closely, giving them a mythic presence. I miss her deeply.

8. Belkis Ayon: I'm at a loss to discuss her work, either it would take pages and pages of thinking and analyzing and scrutinizing, or there is only need to look at the work. But here are words that seem apt: extremely mystical, extremely original, extremely beautiful, extremely inventive. She was Cuban and died way too young in mysterious circumstances, as did Ana Mendieta who could be included in this list too. Both are supposed to have committed suicide, and both might have been murdered


9. Leonor Fini, Leonor Carrington, Remedios Varos: that's three, but it was too difficult to choose amongst these superlative surrealists. This print was produced to promote a production of Tristan and Isolde at the Met in NYC. I prefer to call it "Two Women". It can be looked at as the epitome of dualism. Is it one woman or two? One sees, the other dreams. One comes out at the viewer, the other one invites the viewer into her self. Only their faces are quite distinct, their bodies might be merged even if the indication of a shoulder seems to locate the closed eyed in front, the open eyed protecting from behind. The technique, so skilled when we consider Fini was never formally trained, brings to mind Michelangelo, and creates an impression of translucence, as if we are looking at spirits.

10. Marie-Gabrielle Capet  had to be in this list with this vibrant self portrait painted at the age of 22. How confident and bold she looks. Later, she seems more demure, alas, maybe she got the message that confidence was an unseemly attitude for a woman. She was a devoted student of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, also underrated, who taught other women (see her self portrait with two students including Marie-Gabrielle). Their studio must have been a lot of fun, and tender and warm too.

The suppression of these women's work is unfair to the artists who were actually often more prominent in their life time then now. The institutionalization of art, through the creation of museums and art schools, the institution of art history, has been most prejudicial to women, and other minorities. In the Renaissance, when they wanted a good portrait, patrons did not mind so much the gender of the craft person as long as the painter had talent and could make a good likeness. But when it came to immortality, women were eliminated from memory. 

The suppression of these works has also been unfair to the public, particularly women. Many of these artists depicted their peer, not as objects but as subjects. They presented an interpretation of what it means to be a woman. Women have been deprived of this legacy, of this interpretative mirror of themselves while they have been assailed by images of women reduced to sexually available bodies, or to sexless saints.

Finally....  Most of art works by women artists are anonymous: sacred texts illuminations by nuns, embroideries, the magnificent tapestries from the Renaissance, quilts, pottery, dolls, not to mention the many women who worked in their father or brother or husband's workshop, unnamed and unrecognized. And now, the latest findings posit that even the Lascaux cave paintings were created by prehistoric women, and did they have talent!

written and published by  - -  Arabella Hutter von Arx

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Shed - New York City: press preview

I listened to the open remarks demurely, and now here are my opening remarks, not as demure, I guess.

Remark # 1: what a dull building

The cool structure outside The Shed
Well, from the inside, the building is a disappointment, because it looks like a building. And a pretty dull one at that. From the front, the structure looks like a suspended garden conceived by an alien. The architect Liz Diller worked with the brief of not having the architecture get in the way. It’s a rectangle. It might be an artistic center, but it has no center. The entrance and lobby look like they belong to a fairly nice company building. Also, you don't know what the building looks like from the outside, a weird feeling.

She says they looked to create something flexible, change on demand, agile without defaulting to the generic, with a reference to industrial NYC. Wish the reference were more obvious. The materials are generic, and so are the colors: white, grey and black. Looks like an office building. Large theater has been compared to cathedral, but transcendence is missing. Column free performances, telescopic devices can enlarge the spaces into the plaza which will serve for open air events. That sounds pretty cool. In winter, large indoor spaces. In summer, large outdoor.

 It’s impressive that the architectural conception of the center started in 2008, the apocalyptic year where the future looked bleak. It might have affected their ambitions.
Liz said: “We were challenged to serve artists and we hope the building will challenge the  artists back.” Nicely phrased, but it doesn’t relate to this particular building, unless the artists are challenged to produce dull art. And for the visitor, there is no joy from the building itself unlike, for example, the Whitney and its stunning spaces, it’s views, its terraces. Or the New Museum.

Remark #2: art & money

The first speakers patted each other’s backs, and the major players who have the kind of money that gets you well patted. And spoke about money. The Shed's chair, Dan Doctoroff, gave this definition  "shed is defined as an open-ended structure with tools" -well actually this definition can not be found in any dictionaries, but it serves their PR so well: tools for the artists! For the arts! Of course, the real purpose of the name is the hilarious contradiction between the cost of the simple structure it alludes to, and the price tag of this building at 500 MYO $ (not including the commissioned work?). In fact, invitees to the opening could not find “The Shed” as they should have been looking instead for “The Bloomberg Building”. And then the next speakers spoke about community, “civic imagination”, human creativity for the greater good. So on the one hand, huge amount of donations from the moneyed community that goes to who exactly? That’s one more new art center in the last decade, after the Park Armory, PS1, Brick, the Fisher Theater, The Theater for a New Audience, The New Museum. I’m forgetting some. Well, selfishly, I like it, it works for me. I love art, shows, music. The bill for these centers must amount to a couple of billions dollars collectively. How many more art centers can the city absorb? It does brings tourists in, and that’s good for the economy. But if the city, if donors do not invest in affordable housing, the people of New York will be gone. Nowadays, the only real local people in Manhattan that work there and breathe there and make babies there and are not flying to the Hamptons at the weekend, and are not bicoastal, and are not bicontinental, and have an accent when they speak, live in the projects, or in Chinatown or the Northern tip of the island.

If they go, if the indigenous people of the 5 boroughs are pushed out, New York will lose its identity. And its gritty soul. And no amount of art will buy it back. Switzerland has the means to buy art, and they do. They bought the Béjart ballet, they founded massively endowed cultural endeavors. It has not made Switzerland the vibrant place that immigrant and working class people and foreigners build together out of need, out of striving hard to make their lives within an urban context.

Remark #3: Rehearsals but the art! The performances!

Alex Poots
The building offers no joy, but the rehearsals in progress conveyed the excitement, the range of works commissioned. Alex Poots was everywhere, apparently multiplying himself to be present at every event, like the good spirit of the place. The artistic director, he is passionate and convincing, compassionate even, possibly. Hans Ulrich Obrist, the programmer, also blessed the opening with his benevolent presence.

Rehearsal in progress: The Arvo Pärt/Steven Reich/Gerhard Richter collaboration. Singers sprinkled amongst the crowd sing church-like music. The gallery is hung with Richter tapestries and banners that are so rich visually it’s ecstatic. In a panel discussion, Steven Reich spoke about 12th century music, but it was difficult to hear what he said, they did not use mics. Didn't matter too much, just good to see him, still alive, still kicking. He made jokes, used self derision but was not convincing at it, the maestro of minimalist music.
Then from Steven Reich up a couple of floors to a rehearsal with Renee Flemmmming and a libretto written by Anne Carson. Yep. That’s why I live in NYC despite the price of real estate. The rehearsal seemed so difficult because there is a lot of text, not necessarily set to music. I can understand saying by heart a play/libretto in its order. But there it was like: OK, let’s start at “Norma Jean when she was interviewed” , and the performers just had to go right into it, there and then. For 5 minutes. Then stop. Renee commented that the sound quality had become drier. She was funny, and discreetly flamboyant (that’s possible for opera singers). The performers waited for some sound issue. Then started again for a 2 min stretch. I felt honored to spy on the proceedings. Photos not allowed, but I can vouch the text is so intriguing, written by poet extraordinaire Anne Carson, the singing beautiful, interesting direction and staging.

Rehearsal of the history of African American music. Energetic and fun. From Ray Charles to Count Basie to a  vibrant rendition of “I’m just a jealous guy”, better than the original, no kidding. Not sure what John Lennon was doing there but he was certainly influenced by African American music. As Alex Poots noted, African American music has been one of the most influential art movements in the world and to the world.

A demonstration by the performers of a martial arts musical co-conceived by Chen Shi-Zheng and the Kung Fu Panda screenwriters. Because, as Alex Poots pointed out, martial arts are an art form. Obviously trying to reach a broader audience. After only two weeks of rehearsal, the performances were pretty breathtaking, under a huge skylight above which pretty trash was flying on that windy day.


And so, it all comes together. The excitement of creation. The broad range of the commissions.  Performers, directors, artists, musicians, stage managers, producers. Buzzing on all floors. That big beehive.


Written as witnessed by  - -  Arabella Hutter von Arx

This blog entry was written rapidly: it's fast and serious.
Here are some of my more cautious writings:

article about black artists Yiadom-Boakye and Wilmer Wilson IV

article about Manifesta, the Nomadic biennale out to change the world

poetic fiction: 100 women talk to their daughters 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Criticism: a fine balance according to Ricoeur

I have reviewed exhibitions, plays, a couple of operas, performances in the pages of this blog. It was important to me to communicate that these were my personal impressions, that I didn’t feel like I was any more qualified to review these shows than anyone else. I also held that no critics were more qualified than I, or anyone else!
Here’s an extract from an interview with thinker Paul Ricoeur about criticism. He proposes that the critic has to balance between a partisan position (I know it all), and a completely neutral position (I am as impartial as God). I like that.
Then he discusses clarifying and explaining. That does not ring to the same tune as my approach. I try to give an impression of the show to those readers who have not seen it, and to stimulate thought and appreciation in those who have seen the show, in a kind of remote conversation.
I do find Paul Ricoeur’s way of expressing himself “sympathique” (his last name, Ricoeur, sounds like "laugh heart'):

‘Between partisan criticism, which is an act of violence done to the text and, perhaps, to the reader, and this hypocritical claim that the critic belongs nowhere, there is this kind of self-criticism by the critic who knows that it is always from the basis of a prejudice that one understands something. In other words, it is necessary to understand that all comprehension implies a pre-comprehension; that is to say, a certain affinity with the object and, therefore, also a whole cultural equipment. It is from the depth of a certain culture that I approach a new object of the culture. As a result, pre-comprehension and prejudice are necessarily a part of comprehension. There cannot be any self-criticism by a neutral critic. And, inversely, a critic cannot be partisan. So, there is an extremely delicate point of balance there between, on the one hand, the conviction that pre-comprehension and prejudgment are a vital part of comprehension of every object, and, on the other hand and at the same time, the critique of the illusions of the subject which one may make with the aid of either Marxism or psychoanalysis.
But I myself don't believe that a single critique of ideologies suffices, because there is a truth in pre-comprehension. The question would then be posed again to the critic of ideologies: where do they stand themselves and who will do the critique of the critic? Anyway, there is a pre-comprehension, because there is no comprehension without pre-comprehension. But pre-comprehension is at the same time prejudice. German is, however, very interesting from that point of view, because there is one word, Vorurteil, which means prejudgment and prejudice. Phenomenology of the critic is based upon the dialectic between prejudice and prejudgment.

Phenomenology only concerns itself with clarifying and judging. To clarify a work of literature is to understand its internal structure, how the different codes, the different subjacent structures hold the message of the work. To explain is to put it in touch with its author, its audience, its world in a triangular relationship which begins with discourse. Judging comes from another discipline which would be aesthetics. I wouldn’t like to make phenomenology an almighty science, not everything is phenomenological.’

The text above has been edited for a shorter read. And the critic defined by a “he” by Ricoeur has been transgendered to a “they” because it is 2019 after all.  

Phenomenology and Theory of Literature, an interview with Paul Ricoeur, by Erik Nakjavani

Published, and partly written by  - - Arabella Hutter von Arx

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Notes: Taking back the net - PEN 2018

The most shocking item about this panel? Yassmin Abdel-Magied was denied entry in the USA, the custom officials arguing that her visa was inadequate, a visa she had used in the past for similar purposes. She participated in the panel via Skype.

Yassmin is an activist and a writer, she defends islam, and women, and muslim women. She has met with a lot of hostility in Australia, where she grew up, and has had to leave for her own safety and sanity. She spoke about how to survive harassement.

Toll on mental state:
Harassment takes a toll on mental state. Victims need to choose their strategy (ignore, react, respond, etc). They need to self care. Get support from communities around, from other victims of harassment. They can protect themselves with barriers such as

+ staff that takes over social media
+ friends that offer support
+ spend more time in "real life", interacting with real people

Harassment also takes time and energy away from activists, writers, artists, undermining their activities and production.

Anita Sarkeesian was the target of a sexist hate campaign of unbelievable proportions, when she tackled the sexism in gaming.

"The gaming world still hasn't done much to improve their misogynistic representations of women in particular."

Typical hate posts: "she's a liar!", "she makes pots of money", death and rape threats.

Porochista Khakpour is a writer, journalist, editor of Iranian descent. She has been harassed both as a woman and a Muslim.

"Some writers have in their contract the number of people that have linked with their social media platforms, and they can't quit them if they fall victime to harassment."

She lives in Harlem within a community of Muslims. Some of them have become less vocal on social media because of the psychological toll that takes, including suicidal frames of mind.

Media and harassment:
The media covering the harassment is often inadequately prepared. They want to sell a good story at whatever cost. They want to represent both sides of the stories. But when a crime is involved, there are no two sides of the story, just one. PEN is issuing guidelines for the media to help them cover the issue.

It's very difficult to get the law to intervene effectively, to sue successfully.

Harassment has increased under the current government. Revolution Books in Harlem have suffered a huge increase of attacks.

Companies' attitude to harassment:
Facebook, twitter and instagram and other social media platforms were created by white American guys. They had little awareness about harassment, racism, sexism, and didn't think through the potential for harassment. Initially the companies did very little in terms of controlling hate. They're now doing a bit better. Twitter used to have a staff of 4 concerned with safety issues. Now they have a whole department, safety counsel, etc.

They do not have to give their users freedom of speech, as they're private companies. They can, and do now, set rules: such word can't be used, such behavior is inacceptable.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter von Arx

Anita Sarkeesian

Friday, April 20, 2018

Artists take the street - at PEN 2018 - my notes

Interpretation of the notes above from the PEN panel Artists Take The Street:

Tania Brugera ran for president in CUBA! With, obviously, not a chance to win, but getting serious negative attention from government. She's a performance/installation artist. In one of her famous performances, she ate soil mixed with water and salt as a political act. 

She made some compelling contributions to the panel. My favorite:


Amy Khoshbin discussed how she reflected on talking to people who believe in the right to carry firearms, while she was in residence in a state where that was prevalent. The complexity statement was contributed to that discussion, as both sides of the American political divide hold on to simple slogans and beliefs. Only by adding complexity to the discussion, to artistic expression, can we hope to bridge that divide, so detrimental to our society.

Amy also discussed how she defines the "street" as a space for artists: public spaces, social media. Tania added that in Cuba, inside the house is a "street" space that escapes police attention. It is also a space of expression in the USA that is less monitored, less monetized.

Anne Carson did not say much. So here's an extract from a New Yorker text that is still very poetical while fiction:

"Her visit ends. Back at home, the newspapers, front-page photos of a train car in Europe jammed floor to door with escaped victims of a war zone farther south, people denied transit. Filthy families and souls in despair pressed flat against one another in the grip to survive, uncountable arms and legs, torn-open eyes, locked in the train all night waiting for dawn, a scene so much the antithesis of her own morning she cannot enter it. What sense it makes for these two mornings to exist side by side in the world where we live, should this be framed as a question, would not be answerable by philosophy or poetry or finance or by the shallows or the deeps of her own mind, she fears."

Get Organized Brooklyn and Refuse Fascism are two organizations that were referred to during the meeting. That was the best take away from the panel for me, because I had hoped for more blueprints, more handbook tips, more practical examples.  Word on The Street was one of the few projects described, it involves big names, and big money: not very relevant to the common guerillera artist sitting at the panel. I guess we will need to come up with our own invented processes.

Remark on the notes above: the woman gardening in the upper right corner is just going about her business. She pays no attention to the demonstrators around her. And why not? 

On the panel: Anne Carson, Tania Bruguera, Amy Khoshbin and very cool, very smart Carmen Hermo, who is a curator at the Brooklyn Museum

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Avignon Festival 2017: La Fiesta by Israel Galvan

When is it too much chaos to make for a show?

Hard to tell. I can't guarantee I did justice to the show. I was sitting too high up, why sell seats that will not let you enjoy fully the show? They were the only ones available. Plus, after a month of traveling through Europe, Paris, Venice, Lutry, Avignon, I went to see the Fiesta of Israel Galvan the night before my return to the United States. I was in between continents.

I liked the Fiesta concept, the end of a party when you're tired but you do not know if you want to leave, you're tired but you don't know if you want to sleep, when you've drunk all night, but you do not know if you're inebriate. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no organizing principle to the show, I only perceived noise. Noise when it came to sound, and to the staging. Discordant sounds. Small pieces of snippets of things, which seemed to happen by chance. Yes, in life, it's like that, but life happens to me, while there, I came to experience what the creator had to say, sitting on an uncomfortable seat that had cost me a round sum.

I had not come to see a classical flamenco show, the Avignon Festival is not the place. A few years ago, I attended a flamenco contest in Madrid, in a restaurant, an authentic experience of its own, even if not all dancers were gipsy.

The noise was so tiring, I lost patience and thought of something else. A little sketch to distract me, the courtyard of the Palace of the Popes is a marvel. The whole town is a marvel.

If there was some kind of plot, I did not pay enough attention to grasp it.

A woman sang a baroque tune admirably, while a man shouted druing the whole song in a strident voice. Throughout the show, every time he intervened, his grating voice ground my bones. At one point, he lay on his back, I hoped he was dead. But he got up. The last ten minutes of the show, Israel Galvan scraped his heels on a microphoned platform. I wanted to cry out, pity on us, pity on our ears! I would have left, as a number of spectators did throughout the show, but I was too curious to witness the reaction of the audience. The show seemed endless. Less than 2 hours in reality.

I wondered at one moment if it would continue until all the spectators had gone away, by snatches. A cool concept, a real end of the party where we are not sure why we decide to leave: fatigue, the prospect of rising the next day, the fray of pleasure, realization that probably nothing more exciting will happen.

Verdict from the public: I would say that about 2/3 was enthusiastic, ¼ booed, and the last portion (I will not calculate, this is a blog) either applauded weakly, or not at all. I belong to the last group. I did not boo, because I did not see in this creation dishonesty, a vice that I can not bear, nor pretentiousness. For me, it was a messy show, which had the potential to be successful if it had been more organized, more sequenced.

I loved :
The gigantic shadows of the dancers projected by lamps on the floor on the gigantic walls of the Palace of the Popes.

The woman in standard flamenco dress who not only does not dance, but ends up being tortured. We can see classic flamenco crucified, but I also thought about the condition of women in flamenco culture. Some gypsies allow their women to go to the saddle in the toilet only when they are not present at home, by repulsion.

The new forms of theater, whether dash circus, dash dance, dash cabaret, have brought vigor and freshness to the stage stage, as in the show The Great Tamer. During the Fiesta, I began to long for a story, any story, with a beginning, plot reversals, and an end, characters, suspense: what will happen next? Having limited patience and resilience, I was waiting for only one thing: the end.

Contributed by  - -  Arabella Hutter von Arx

Avignon 2017: La Fiesta de Israel Galvan

Quand le chaos est-il tout intense pour constituter un spectacle?

Je ne peux me targuer de connaître la réponse à cette question. Comme toujours, la subjectivité de chaque spectateur entre en jeu, je ne me sens pas l'autorité, mais j'ai des impressions, des réflexions.
Je ne sais pas si j’ai pu faire justice au spectacle, je l'admets. J'étais trop loin, il serait dans l'intérêt du spectacle autant que du spectateur de ne pas vendre des sièges qui empêchent d'apprécier ce quise passe sur scène. De plus, après un mois de voyage en Europe, Paris, Venise, Lutry, Avignon, je suis allée voir la Fiesta d’Israel Galvan le soir avant mon retour aux Etats-Unis. Je suis entre deux eaux.
Le concept de la Fiesta me plaisait, une fin de fête quand on est fatigué mais qu’on ne sait plus si on veut dormir, quand on a bu toute la nuit, mais on ne sait plus si on est soûl. Malheureusement, je n'ai pas perçu de principe organisant, seulement du bruit. Au niveau du son, au niveau de la mise en scène. Des sons discordants. Des petits bouts de bribes de choses, qui semblaient arriver au hasard. Oui, dans la vie, c’est comme ça, mais la vie m’arrive à moi, tandis que là, j’avais fait l’effort de me déplacer, de m’assoir sur un siège peu confortable qui m’avait coûté une somme rondelette.

Je n’étais pas venue pour voir un spectacle de flamenco classique, le Festival d’Avignon n’est pas le lieu. Il y a quelques années, j’ai assisté à un concours de flamenco à Madrid, dans un restaurant, une expérience authentique dans son genre, même si toutes les danseuses n’étaient pas gitanes. 

Le bruit était si fatigant, que j’ai perdu patience et pensé à autre chose. Un petit croquis pour me distraire, la cour du Palais des Papes est une merveille. Toute la ville est une merveille. 

S’il y avait une trame narrative au spectacle, je n’ai plus prêté assez attention pour la saisir.

Une femme chantait à merveille un air baroque, alors qu’un homme criait tout du long d’une voix stridente. Pendant tout le spectacle, chaque fois qu’il est intervenu, sa voix grinçante m’irritait les os. A un moment, il s’est couché sur le dos, j’espérais qu’il soit mort. Mais il s’est relevé. Les dix dernières minutes du spectacle, Israel a raclé de ses talons une plateforme sonorisée. Je voulais crier, pitié ! 

Je serais partie, comme un certain nombre de spectateurs tout au long du spectacle, mais j’étais trop curieuse d’assister à la réaction du public. Le spectacle n’en finissait pas. Je me suis demandé à un moment s’il continuerait jusqu’à ce que tous les spectateurs s’en aillent, bribes par bribes. Un concept assez cool, une vraie fin de fête où on ne sait pas trop bien ce qui nous décide à partir, la fatigue, la perspective du lever le lendemain, l’effilochement du plaisir, la réalisation que probablement rien d’excitant n’arrivera plus.

Verdict du public : je dirais qu’à peu près 2/3 était enthousiasmé, ¼ ont hué, et le petit reste (je ne calculerai pas, ceci est un blog) a soit applaudi mollement , soit pas du tout. Je fais partie du dernier groupe. Je n’ai pas hué, parce que je n’ai pas vu dans cette création de malhonnêteté, un vice que je ne supporte pas, ni de prétention. Pour moi, c’était un spectacle foiré, qui avait la potentialité d’être réussi s’il avait été plus organisé, plus séquencé.

J’ai aimé :
Les ombres gigantesques des danseurs projetés par des lampes au sol sur les gigantesques parois du Palais des Papes.
La femme en robe standard flamenco qui non seulement ne danse pas, mais finit par être suppliciée. On peut y voir le flamenco classique crucifié, mais j’ai aussi pensé à la condition des femmes dans la culture flamenco. Certains gitans n’autorisent leurs femmes à aller à selle dans les toilettes que lorsqu’ils ne sont présents à la maison, par répulsion.

Les nouvelles formes de théâtre que ce soit tiret -cirque, tiret -danse, tiret -cabaret, sont venues apporter de la vigueur et de la fraîcheur à la scène, comme dans le spectacle The Great Tamer. Pendant la Fiesta, je me suis prise à désirer une histoire, avec un début, des  revirements, et une fin, des personnages, du suspens : que va-t-il se passer maintenant ? Ayant une patience et une résistance limitée, je n’attendais qu’une chose : la fin.

Contribué par  - -  Arabella Hutter von Arx