Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Futurama meow woof woof

I'm really starting to be out-Performa-ed out. Three weeks. I mean, wouldn't 2 weeks been enough? But not in New York, oh no, in New York, 3 weeks. Went to Performa to catch a film by Matthew Silver, the man in a white dress. Sold out at 8pm so I went at the 9:30pm session. It is one of 10 short films commissioned by Performa. Was worried how I would survive 10 films re-creating re-inventing a 1916 futurist manifest for cinema. I enjoyed it a lot. It's of course pleasant to have all the films on the same DVD or whatever support, so you don't need to wait for the projector to be rethreaded, etc. as it the days of 16mm/Super8 projections.

There were amazingly beautiful films and funny films and touching films and beautiful and funny films, etc. Amazing how good curating can work, the films blended effortlessly into each other. I was interested to see how new media had affected experimental filmmaking, as I haven't been following this scene so much since my experimental days. Some films could have been shot on film, no effect or really little, and some, such as Matthew's, used a lot of effects. There were pets and babies, which seem to be popular everywhere these days, on youtube and in experimental films and on facebook profile photos. That's how deep I'll go today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Performa last night

I was inside an astronaut's body last night. It was cosy and nurturing. We were offered milk shakes. A fashion show followed with characters who arrived from different parts of the body and exited through the - female - astronaut's v. (can't write the whole word, I don't want my blog to be tagged as pornography!) . They seemed to come out of a 60s Soviet futurist film. The costumes were extremely detailed with varying nuances, a Russian bear, a Siberian group, and in the end a Little White Riding Hood who we worried about whether she would find her way. It reminded us how in the 60s people believed in an utopian future where things would be better, where thanks to technology we would be healthy and beautiful and at peace. Who still believes that nowadays? Despite the fact that we are less at a risk of being wiped out by an nuclear exchange between two superpowers? My friend Adrian Saich was one of the performers. In profile in one of the pics. She says that Christian Tomaszewski and Joanna Malinowska were very pleasant and sweet, just like their show. No Avant-Garde Art Prima Donna. Refreshing.

Christian Tomaszewski photographing his show

Adrian Sachs

Friday, November 13, 2009

Art or art?

Today lots and lots of pictures, and less words. I went to the Joan Jonas performance at Performa last night. Didn't talk to me much. Well, I was standing in the aisle because the show was sold out, and art might not look as good when standing up as when sitting comfortably. I liked some stuff, the technical aspect, but it just didn't strike me the way the brilliant performance by William Kentridge did on Monday night. But the pics above do not represent Joan Jonas' sudden turn around in her style.

While I was waiting in line, I saw another line two doors down. Went to check it after the show. It was a kidzrobot opening, is it art, is it not? I'm not even going to go there. The crowd was young and hip, there was free beer - all gone by the time I got there. Cool figures produced by young artists.

I was waiting in line for the 2nd time when a guy arrived in a spectacular beat up 70s grey car, in mat finish as opposed to usual glossy car paint. Address stencil painted on door: 255 E6th st, New York, NY no name. And the guy, in his 60s, parked the car right in front of a fire hydrant while there was a perfectly good parking space exactly on the other side of the street and just as large too.
All on one Wooster block, Thursday November 12.

New York dispatch by - Arabella Hutter

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NYC infused with Performa

The Performa festival has changed my relationship to New York. It looks and it feels different. Walking around the city from one venue to another. Seeing amazing performances after performances commissioned by the festival. Some less amazing performances, but still vibrant with enthusiasm and commitment. Improvisation, this daredevil show par excellence, soar or fall. Don't the organizers the performers the audience know it's 2009? That we are in an economic crisis? That everyone in New York is concerned just with themselves, and money, and their career? The experience so far has been enchanted, making new friends, blowing my mind, walking around New York as if it were a small festival town somewhere, where you know everybody else after a couple of days, remembering that there is an element of "désinteressment" as says dear old Jon Elster (see many other entries) with a broad Norwegian accent, the "desssin terrrrressment".

Brought to you to you by - Arabella Hutter

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who's modern?

If you're about to go and see Quartett with Isabelle Huppert, you might prefer to skip reading this entry. In the first 10 minutes of the show last night at BAM, the design of the play and its directing felt so 80s, I almost fainted. I remember the excitement of seeing Peer Gynt directed by Robert Wilson in London. But that was quite a few years ago. I worked on keeping an open mind last night, and it paid off. The performances were vibrant, not just Isabelle Huppert but the whole cast. And the play is beautiful. It updates to the 20th century the delectation of 18th century French literature, that exquisite combination of formal language and blatant eroticism. While Robert Wilson's direction grew on me, it didn't create for me the excitement of the Lepage production at BAM earlier this season. For me, Lepage redifines theater. The relationship between reality, the show and the audience is altered. In Lipsynch, the words, the acting is not so important. The play works as a kind of modern pageant of situations, stories that we all know. Instead of Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem, a sister takes her sibling out of mental hospital. A doctor operates on a patient’s brain. A young woman is sold by one man to another man. As the sets are more realistic than we have become used to in contemporary theater, the delivery of the lines understated, there has to be a reference to cinema. But it is not staged cinema. The evident theme of the play is word. Communication. Media. We are served a big dish of it, at nauseam. Word as lipsynched dialogue, word lipread, word recorded word forgotten word created and recreated. From a baby’s cry to an opera singer via recorded announcements, robot’s voices and poetry. No stone unturned.
The sets are black and metal and white. They’re gimmicky. The play’s full of gimmick. Electronics. Gadgets. Made out of modules, they are as much a part of the play as the characters are. The world in which the character evolves is constantly mutating around them. The plane seen from the outside, opens up, revolves and becomes its interior. The modules come together to form one setting and are split again, inverted and work as a completely different setting. They are realistic to some extent. The technology is at the service of the play director. For sure a lot of the poetry from the set is created by the lighting. Where the set representing the inside of a plane is nearly a copy, the small back lights which turn every passenger into a shadow manage to give this most banal of settings a poetic mystery. In every scene the lighting transcends the style to turn it into something spiritual or poetic. There is so much inventiveness in the craft of the staging. At the end of the play, the stage hands come to receive their part of the applause, as they are an integral part of the play. It shamelessly stuns the audience by tricks bordering on magic. The car moves on the stage with its lights on. It doesn’t look like a car, there is not mistaking here, but it has wheels, it moves and it lights. And somehow, it’s touching. That is the mystery of the play. While the sets are techno, the situations are contrived, the dialogues and the acting are banal, the result is hugely human. Compelling. It creates a balletic representation of our human condition, one where maybe technology can be set to serve humanity, and not the other way round. Where we can still be playful. Hopeful. And deeply care about each other.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bleak is right

Depressed people are the only ones who see the world objectively, says Jon Elster. Everybody else is wearing pink-tinted eyeglasses. They have a better idea of how other people see them for example, whereas the rest overestimate the good opinion others have of them. In controlled experiments, depressed people figure out better what their odds are in a chance game vs others who tend to think the odds will be favorable to them. I read Gabriel Marquez' autobiography. He tells of many encounters in his travel. He describes everyone he meets as charming, generous, tolerant, intelligent, the station master in a village, the doctor in an other, the professor in Bogota. I envy him. I bet if I went and met them, they would all appear to me as wife beaters, prejudiced, self serving, egotistical individuals. I guess I am a life long depressive. The world seems pretty bleak to me. Statements such as "Life is wonderful" and "Isn't the world God created beautiful?" amaze me. I'm always wondering whether we're talking about the same place, the one with the wars, the pollution, the diseases, the poverty, the injustice, the repression? The only reprieve to this bleak vision comes from my children. Their love and the singular wonder of seeing them grow have out balanced the hardness of the world.

Les gens déprimés sont les seuls à voir le monde objectivement, d'après Jon Elster. Les autres portent des lunettes teintées en rose. Les déprimés ont une meilleure idée de comme ils sont vus par les autres, par exemple, alors que les autres surestiment la bonne opinion qu'on se fait d'eux. Dans des expériences contrôlées, les gens déprimés comprennent mieux leurs chances de gagner. Les autres prédisent des résultats trop positifs, comme si le hasard allait les favoriser. J'ai lu l'autobiographie de Gabriel Marquez. Il décrit les gens qu'il a rencontrés pendant sa vie: charmant, généreux, tolérant, intelligent. A propos de chef de gare de village, du médecin d'une petite ville, du professeur à Bogota. Je l'envie. Je suis sûre que si je les avais rencontrés, ils m'auraient semblé soit violents, intolérants, bornés ou égocentriques. Je suppose que je suis une dépressive à vie. Le monde me semble plutôt cruel. Lorsque j'entends des affirmations telles que "La vie est belle." et "Comme le monde que Dieu a créé est parfait.", je me demande chaque fois si on parle du même, celui avec les guerres, la pollution, les maladies, la pauvreté, l'injustice, la famine? La seule source de lumière, je la tire de mes enfants. Leur amour et l'émerveillement de les voir croître m'offrent un contrebalancier de poids contre la dureté du monde.

Par votre lectrice reporter - Arabella Hutter