Sunday, November 10, 2013

24hrs with Performa & nycbike: the pictures

Started in Times Square. Academia Ruchu happening. When asked what they were doing, the performers replied: "We're measuring people".  Reminded me of an installation on 42nd St when they were starting to haul it up, Nam June Paik had installed a dozen copies of famous statues: Statue of Liberty, Rio De Janeiro's Christ, Michelangelo's David, Venus de Milo. They were all the same size, human size,  made out of an artificial resin, in bold colors, green, blue, red. Tourists loved the installation, they would have their photo taken with each statue. A great way to engage people with a contemporary installation.

I promised myself this blog entry would be about pictures, not words. Here's the first one, of performers with their measuring tape:

Got on my nycbike to reach the next show.

Went past the Church of Scientology, right in the middle of the Theater District, an appropriate location.

Next: The Great and Secret Show at the Post Office on 8th Ave & 34th. An unused outlooking gallery was transformed into an installation by artist Krakowiak. She was there, discussed her work. It was eery (most of the post office is not in used anymore, when thousands of employees used to work there, when people used snail mail), some features were ambiguous: were they part of the building or set up by the artist? Spooky and intriguing.

The artist with her special, alien eyes
As I cycled back through Times Square, another happening, protesting repression in Egypt -  not part of Performa or maybe it was, maybe everything happening in NYC yesterday was part of Performa:

I had my schedule, I had my nycbike key (I will not call it its soulsoldtodevil name, the c***bike). I stopped at an anonymous, soulless cafe, undoubtedly an installation part of Performa:

Then I went to Grand Central Station, to witness a Performa wedding:

The Grand Station Terminal tour with bold, beautiful, brilliant Marthe Ramm Fortun:

She talked poetically on a number of themes. As she took us around the Station, it became clear how the themes related to its features: the ceiling mosaic, a fresco of flowers, a dedication to Jackie Kennedy Onassis. She changed the space for us, it will always have her imprint whenever I will pass through to take the train. Performa at its best.

Hear her speak:

Some Performa attendees:

I was hoping to make it to a show at the Kitchen, but it was too late. I went straight to the Performa Hub for a Kundilini sleep over: the 8 large gongs went on all night, from 9:30 until 5am when we had a yoga session, then breakfast at 7.

I slept a little. I was home by 8:30am.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Enemy of The People at BAM - an enemy of the audience?

Directed by Thomas Ostermeier
In the first part of the staging of An Enemy of The People, the play moves along fine, people say their lines properly, the sets are good. The audience enjoy some good musical moments, and a few precious silent moments when instead of coughing, the audience is eagerly waiting for what is going to happen next on stage. 

The direction is not unlike Lepage's work, in the sense that the actors' delivery of their lines and their gestures are played down, they do not constitute the focus of the direction. The tone, the mood brought on by the modulation of the scenes are more important in conveying the essence of the play. In a stunning new interpretation which once more conveys the modernity of Ibsen drama.

Enemy of the People at BAM: the public meeting goes awry.

Things get more interesting as the play progressed. The main character Stockmann wants truth to prevail. He's the only one, all the other characters are gained little by little by the cause of personal interest. A public meeting is organized, and Stockmann gives a bewildering speech. Up to that point, our liberal hearts are clearly on his side. But his ranting causes an unease, suddenly we are maybe not so sure we totally support him. His opponents jumps on the opportunity to address the audience directly, trying to enlist opposition to Stockmann. The play turns into a public forum where everyone is invited to voice their opinion, after the house lights go on. It is mind boggling. Risky. Unsettling. Stimulating. Everything I hope for when I go to the theater. 

Enemy of the People at BAM: audience leaving (apologies about poor quality of smartphone pic)
Last night it was too challenging for a good number of members of the audience who left, indignant, during the meeting. A member of the cast who ran after them to  convince them to stay contributed to the breaking of the 4th wall, and to comic relief. 

The direction of the play then succeeded in a tour de force: the political speakers became actors again, and the meeting turned back into a play. But it was a different play, now, because of what had happened, with a different tone. No more charming musical interludes, instead, passion and conflict.

Published by  -  Arabella Hutter

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Sounds like a rip off? The Performa program stated "Audiences are invited to embark on a bus tour around Red Hook harbor in Brooklyn led by Philippe Quesne, who uses his position as tour guide to encourage the group to shift their attention to the poetic or strange elements in the landscape ... the group is invited to take part in a series of tableaux vivants orchestrated by the artist". Quite an intriguing program for which I was happy to fork out $20.

There is always an unspoken deal struck between the people responsible for the show and the audience. The audience expects to marvel, to feel, to be entertained, amused, intrigued by what goes on on stage, and in exchange they pay a ticket price and give their attention and some amount of praise usually in the form of hand clapping.

At Performa, we as an audience come ready to experience a different deal, as promised by Philippe Quesne's promoted "tableaux vivants". We were ready to be asked to do more than clap our hands: interact with the landscape or with the other spectators of with the performers.

We embarked on a coach bus that drove to Red Hook in the sunset. A
video of 
a mole constructing a wall with a narrow entrance was playing on the bus monitor. A good start. The bus was full, everyone was excited. It was downhill from there. Philipe Quesne made clear once we had signed a release form that we were to act as extras in his production.  The bus stopped near the water. The director gave us instructions: walk to the fence at a regular pace then back to the bus. You can take pictures. We did. We were filmed.

At the second and final stop an alluring mole, or a performer in an alluring mole costume crossed the road in front of the bus, which then followed the performer, in spite of the fact that the driver, probably from NJ, looked deeply aggravated by the whole thing. A large door to an old industrial loft opened slowly. Lots of  carbon dioxide smoke came through an opening in a wall which seemed narrow, but was large enough, just about, to let the bus through. Intriguing. Then we got off the bus and the director gave us more instructions: we were to form a group between the bus and the car, which was parked with its lights on. He said we would later move toward the back where we would discover the "concept".

I thought maybe the concept was that we were offered the chance to disobey his directives, which I did, but that didn't seem to be the intention. A beautiful blond woman dressed in fetching clothes played the thimerin. It was striking, but I couldn't enjoy it because I wasn't listening to the music, I was playing someone listening to music.

A whisper got around: t"hey're offering whiskey at the front near the bus". I rushed back hoping to get some return on my $20, which I did, whiskey in a glass made out of glass. About half of the audience of 60 was also enjoying drinks around me. We couldn't see the other half of the audience, still listening to music, because of the fog. A cry was heard above our heads: 'Action!". Everyone went quiet. Then out of the smoke emerged the other group, marching toward us with the musician and the mole at the front. What were they going to do to us? The moment carried a lot of potential for drama. But nothing happened, they joined us and the whole thing was over. Some people clapped, before we were driven back to the original spot. At a nearby pizza place, a number of spectators went for nourishment. When I asked, most of them thought the experience had been cool. But a group of four people, who looked different from the rest of the hipsters in their 30s, echoed my complaint: "Not only did we pay to be extras, but it wasn't even a good film".

Published by  - -  Arabella Hutter