07 September 2013

missing NYC

Missing NYC. Yesterday the New York Times had reviews of a show of work by Elaine Reichek at the Jewish Museum and work by Eleanor Antin at Columbia University. Reichel's needlepoint work about being Jewish looks compelling. "If you think you can be a little bit Jewish, you think you can be a little bit pregnant." Antin's work on identity has been around since the 1970s and has lost none of its power. Social practice from way back.

I was reading the paper as I waited for the Kyle Abraham and Abraham.in.Motion performance of Pavement to begin. It was incredible, reminded me of many visits to the Joyce, Danspace, BAM, Dance Theater Workshop, Duke, etc. etc. etc., in the quality of production and presentation.
This picture is from the company website and gives some idea of the energy. But it wasn't only the hard energy seen here; the dancers were also capable of loveliness and softness. A fine mix of modern, balletic, jazz, and street, and, gosh, just movement. Some text, mostly recorded. Oh, it was inside at Alfred with projections on the basketball backboard, and a single orange line marking the box of the in-or-out floor space.

One of the most powerful scenes was with Abraham as a street guy saying "help me" and the rest pretty much ignoring him, or worse. The lights went way down and the red revolving lights of a cop car came from off stage right. The street guy kept saying "help me" as a duet was happening in the near darkness. It was very compelling. I saw the darkness as protection from the overwhelming sadness of the social interaction (or non-interaction). In the talk back after the performance, Abraham said he thought it was "abstract" but I found it perhaps the most literal part of the narrative on fallen down neighborhoods.

You will note that the company includes both black and white dancers. Abraham himself is black. Some parts of the dance played very much off race and the race of the dancer mattered. Other parts were very mixed or silent on race. The term "post black" came to mind but I decided it was more like "race optional" (parallel to the clothing optionality of naturists). Besides, "post" anything is too easy, too ubiquitous.

I was sitting next to Laurel Jay Carpenter so of course we had to talk about performance and New York City. She just got back from sabbatical, some of which was spent in the City. She lived in the City for a decade or so, mostly before I lived there from 1995-2009. I first saw her when she did the Red Woman work in Tompkins Square in the early-mid aughts. I told her I wished I could find someone who had an extra room in their house/apartment or a small live/work space so that I could impulsively take off for a few days in NYC and not worry about imposing on someone or selling off my stock to stay in a hotel. She said "everybody wants that." Sigh. We know it's really not EVERYbody but there are a lot of us in Alfred that are very fond of the opportunities and street life of New York City.

All of this flowed through after Thursday night's Village Planning Board meeting with the ritual discussion of the drunkenness and litter and noise of Alfred nights. NYC is undoubtedly cacophonous but it's a constant, exuberant, gritty noise, not to everyone's taste or anyone's constant desire. The number of Styrofoam boxes along with cans and other litter on the streets of Alfred on Saturday or Sunday morning is devastatingly depressing for me. I can't believe that so much crappy post-drinking food can be consumed and that so many consumers of said stuff can be so sloppy in disposing of the containers.

Added to this cacophony of thoughts was the review on Thursday entitled "A small-town girl who wants out": the Hill Town Plays, a cycle of five plays by Lucy Thurber, produced concurrently by Rattlestick Plyawrights Theater in Greenwich Village theaters, set in western Massachusetts. Charles Isherwood, reviewer, has some pithy things to say about the "soul-deadening anomie" and "grim determinism" that infects the characters and setting.

So I've been missing the City after several months of seeing art in various upstate and other locations as I traveled around. The Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George show at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, for example, was really fine. So I thought I wasn't minding too much that I haven't been to the City since February but perhaps that's been part of the soul-deadening anomie that's been hanging over me.

2 comments:

bklynbiblio said...

I'm seriously behind in my blog reading, so I'm just now getting to this. The Eleanor Antin show is pretty good--I confess I was new to her, so I was pleased to discover more about her work. Any plans to come back and visit?

Sherman Clarke said...

No plans but it's been way too long. CAF was at the ARLIS/WNY meeting last week so, of course, we talked about you.