Monday, April 29, 2019

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers: An Ode to Woman

I wrote a blog entry a couple of weeks ago entitled it 'The Lehman Trilogy: An Ode to Patriarchy, Judaism, and Capitalism.'
That play was written by a man, based on a book by a man, directed by a man, and played by three male actors.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, playing at the beautiful St Ann's Warehouse in Dumbo, shares these features: based on the best seller written by Max Porter, it is staged by the inventive Enda Walsh, and stars a man and two boys. But where the creators of the Lehman trilogy didn’t think the play needed women to tell the story of a family, ‘Grief’ tells of the disappearance of one woman as defining the whole story of that masculine family at that point in their life.   
Cillian Murphy plays a father who loses his wife abruptly. He, and his two young sons, are visited by Crow, which is also played by Murphy. Crow is evil and elegant. Crow is witty and articulate, cruel and detached. A black, hooded bathrobe turns Murphy into the mythical bird, and any evil creature associated with fear, with loss, with death: demons, ogres, henchman even. He is the one who imposes pain. As Crow, Murphy speaks with the literary English accented voice of fairy tales turned wrong, of horror films. The powerful male voice is further amplified, distorted until the beautiful text becomes incomprehensible. The book, and the play, are based in part on a body of poems, The Crow, that Ted Hughes wrote after the suicide of Sylvia Plath. 
Murphy is the fascinating actor of the Internet series ‘PeakyBlinders’. With his square jaw and stunning blue eyes, glamor is in his range. He leaves all that backstage as he turns into an Irish father, with an unflattering hair style, unfashionable moustache, drab clothes. H portrays the fallibility of a man, as a lover, as a husband, as a father. That requires modesty.

When the actor switches to being Crow, he recovers his potential for glamor, all brilliance, all aloofness from anything that ties humans down: emotions, fears, needs. His bird dance, trancelike, dazzles with its lightness, his delivery of the text seduces with its perfect articulation. He won the Irish Times award for this near one-man show in which streams of sweat literally jets out of his body from the physicality of the performance.

How can grief, that utterly internal experience, so huge, so overwhelming,  liquefying of the insides, be represented on stage which by definition shows only the exterior of a human body? In part, in this case, by projecting the pain onto the walls. They are scratched with the words, with scribbled words, that turn to pure scribble, that paint the walls black. The whole stage is plunged in darkness. Suddenly Crow is perched on the 2nd floor, light strobes, throbs like sobs in the throat, like blood in the head. It’s terrifying as it looks like Crow might try to fly, and he would crash, being only human.

The moment of terror, the father’s madness passes thanks to the cathartic experience. Back to the mundane London apartment. The stage is mostly empty but for the bare necessities. A kitchen for food. Bunk beds for the boys to sleep. The father does not have a bed. A home movies is projected on the wall. Day trip to the beach. The mother’s face. She’s just a woman. One woman. But we know that every trait of her face, every expression is beloved by the three males in her life, who, dwarfed by her image and her presence, watch her. Her projection becomes huge, encompasses all three walls, the floor of the stage until it diffuses into the whole theater and can’t be read anymore.

The power of women. And isn’t that what they are forever being punished for by men? Girls as sisters, women as mothers, as life partners to men, loom huge over the male emotional landscape with their psychological powers, the power of their beauty, of their bodies, and at the same time, the power of their frailty, the innocence of not knowing their own power. However much material submission men impose on women, as they have done on other groups of human beings, whether they lock them indoor, deny them education, property, respect, whether they are beaten, the dependence of men’s happiness on women can never be reversed. In this play, the boys and their father's world turns to chaos and violence without the presence of the woman in their life.

The lights, the projections, the distorted voice turn the major part of the play into a noisy experience that could have done with a bit more modulation. In the end, the father recovers his sanity, is able to care for his young, and Grief might turn back into "Hope that thing with feathers". In an effective staging trick, the pantry that was empty because of the father’s incapacitation, has miraculously refilled with cans and jars of food: sustenance has been recovered.

written and published by    Arabella von Arx

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Hilma af Klint's exhibit Paintings for the Future: successful, popular and ... late!

Hilma af Klint's exhibition Paintings for the Future has been a sensation. It's the most successful exhibition at he Guggenheim ever: 600,000 visitors. I don't have much to add to the general conversation. I have just a few pondering thoughts:
Why is her work so popular?
Is it sad that fame came too late?
Would it have changed the course of Modern Art?
Where was the work since she died in 1944?
How much money is the work worth?

Thought: Why is her work so popular?
 I love her work. So does everybody else, it seems. The atmosphere at the Guggenheim was festive, the public diverse, colorful. Nothing rarefied about this crowd, and how pleasant that is. What is the secret to its success? The work might be inspired by spirits, it breathes life and energy and joy and curiosity. It's spectacular. It's harmonious often. We have also seen similar works, Delaunay, Klee, Kandisnsky, Miro, so that the works' form is not shocking to us as it would have been to Klint's contemporaries.

Thought: Is it sad that fame came too late?
I wondered whether it is sad that she was not celebrated during her lifetime, as is the case for Kahlo and O'Keefe who would have very much enjoyed the fame their work attracts now. It probably was not so important to Hilma af Klint who had a spiritual approach to creating. But she must have thought the spirits had something to communicate to the world through her paintings. Rudolf Steiner, the theosophy guru, ordered her not to show her work for 50 years. Which is probably how long it took until her first works were shown to the world.
Her work would not have been understood nor welcomed by her contemporaries. See van Gogh, see Gauguin, or Seurat. The critics would have laughed. But her peer might have been struck by her audacity.

Thought: Would it have changed the course of Modern Art?
She was the first Western artist to paint abstractions. Had they been seen at least by contemporary artists, her work might have changed the course of Modern Art. Put it on a faster track. The first abstractions were not painted until about 10 years later, and they tended to be more timid than hers. Her work also demonstrates an astounding variety. Below landscapes by Kandinsky (on the left) and by Malevich (on the right) both painted around 1906: they were looking for abstraction but had not found it yet!

Thought: I wish I had been the one to discover the trove!
I day dream: imagine opening the door to a barn and coming upon these superlative paintings! Breathtaking moment. Well, it's actually pretty much how it happened. When she died in 1944, she requested that her work not be shown for another 20 years. Hence the title of the show, Paintings for the Future is particularly apt. She left her 1000+ paintings, her texts, her notebooks to her nephew, Eric af Klint, an admiral in the navy. His reaction, according to his son Johan? "he was horrified". He probably felt this legacy of crazy paintings by his crazy old aunt was a curse more than anything else. It was stored in fact in a barn until the farmer asked them to move it out.

Thought: What is the future of the Paintings for the Future?
Her nephew Eric af Klint started a foundation in her name in 1972 which is worthy, considering he did not appreciate it, but just to preserved her work, without exhibiting it. According to her will, her work could have been shown from 1964, andit took another 20 years before it was first exhibited internationally at the 1986 Los Angeles show "The Spiritual in Art". MOMA did not include any of her work in its 2012 show "Inventing Abstraction". Apparently, they alleged as the reason that she did not define her work as art, - despite the fact that she went to art school and was trained as an artist. Occultism worries the establishment.
But in primary schools all over, children will be doing Hilma af Klint art projects. And young women scholars will write their thesis on her work for their art history degree!

Thought: how much money is the work worth?
The future of the work is uncertain. Not a single one has been sold yet, quite an incredible fact in regards to the monetization of the art world. Her work is in the position of a young, virginal girl, bare foot in her white night gown. Who will pay the most to wed her? Once a work or two has been sold, the fee paid for it will determine her place in the hierarchy of art economics. Will it be 10MYO, say like a Paul Signac or 100MYO, like a Modigliani? There is talk of the Foundation selling some of her work, and they are likely to go for a pretty penny, given the popularity of the show which will pay its money back for Museums. The fees would be used by the foundation to fund research into the artist and her work, assures Patrick O'Neill, the chairwoman of the Foundation. As there are more than 1000 paintings, that means that bundle of works left in a barn would be worth maybe half a billion dollars. An ironical lot of money for work by a woman who struggled financially through her life. But same story as van Gogh or Seurat, naturally. Now Robert Longo lives on the fat of the land with works that fetch 500K+, and where will they be in 100 years? 

Thought: Influences
I could not find information, and the exhibition shares none, about what art and artists she was exposed to. It's clear from her early work that she was familiar with contemporary painters,whether local ones or French: Monet, Manet. She was certainly influenced by science aesthetics as in the elegant scientific plate which she drew (see below) to sustain herself.
She is known to have traveled to Italy and to Switzerland. Did she see exhibitions there? Did she travel elsewhere?

I am glad she has found us and that we have found her.

written and published by  - -  Arabella von Arx

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: Simon Russell BealeAdam Godley, and Ben Miles. 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 Sam Mendes, the director, and the producers of this play are concerned, play such a minor role in a family dynasty that they are 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 look stylish!) without anyone blinking, when a man in a dress (they look ridiculous!) is a “crossdresser”.  

The set includes a revolving stage. Beware 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! Beniamin! Arendt!), writers (so many: Proust! Roth! Singer! Cohen - several! 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 committed to Judaism, and that has not prevented the country from accumulating a shameful human rights record.
As it happens, and as the Washington 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. Given the bias in "The Lehman Trilogy", I fear Islam might not get a fair portrayal by Massini. Will the Armory bring that work to New York too? For the sake of peace in the world and in our city, how about not?


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 on the hyperbolic scale of the 00s mortgage scandal. 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. I enjoyed looking at Adam Godley's face and ears, they are seriously extraordinary, unlike the production.

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, and 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 women's 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 work of art should sell for that 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 from 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 and uncensored. 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 the beans above, gently swollen with life: life that is, life that might be. Neither vertically 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.

Transgressions, Nalini Malani

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, bewitching, is 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 centimeters 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