WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Drew Klein 11.20.2013
Posted In: Performance Art at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sun_credit foteini christofilopoulou

REVIEW: Performa 13 (Part Three)

CAC performance curator Drew Klein reports from arts biennial in NYC

Meeting with other curators and programmers while I'm traveling always gets me eager to head back to Cincinnati to start plugging away at full speed on new projects. So I was in a privileged situation on Friday to find myself at the Performa Hub (the official festival HQ) for a casual meet and greet. The conversations there with curators from organizations and institutions like Performa and Tate Modern in London gave me a fresh perspective on the kinds of performances that are making waves internationally and piquing the interest of curators from some of the premiere programs around the world. Following coffee and chitchat, the participating curators were introduced to Turkish artist/activist Ahmet Ögüt and his project The Silent University. First started in London, the goal of this platform is to share the knowledge of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in different forms — lectures, consulting or other means — that utilize their cultural and educational insight. Contributors have had various levels of professional and/or educational experience in their homeland, but are prevented from obtaining work or exercising in their field whilst their legal status is in flux. Instead of being silenced by political barriers, The Silent University looks to provide an outlet for participants to activate their abilities and draw attention to the failure to celebrate the skills and experience many asylum seekers bring with them from their countries. It is proposed that the mission of The Silent University can be viewed as a creative one as the participants often use performance, writing and open dialogue to explore various themes relevant to the program. While certainly not a traditional manner of performance art, seeing how Ahmet Ögüt approaches new ways of addressing this situation brought a new appreciation for looking at old problems in a completely new light. The big show for the night saw me head to Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with CAC Director and Chief Curator Raphaela Platow to see Sun, the latest dance piece from acclaimed Israeli-born, Britain-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter. A packed theater was introduced to the work via an announcement that the company was to show us a snippet of the very end of the piece in order to ensure us that “everything is going to be OK”. A comedic beginning to a performance full of sharp wit and contrast. Consisting of various vignettes that reappeared at points throughout the performance, Sun utilizes smart lighting and a brutal sound design (composed for the most part by Shechter himself) to rather brilliantly and swiftly turn on a dime and take the piece from moments of intensity and anger to those of subtle and soft humor; highly sexualized slo-mo gyrations of female dancers to male dancers prancing around the stage with cutout sheep drawings. Sun was certainly intent on making a political point of some kind. The aforementioned sheep cutouts were being stalked by a wolf, cutouts of indigenous tribesmen were being stalked into conversing with a colonist, and at one point a dancer addresses (shrieks at) the crowd with, “The wolf is behind you!” While those more interested in the message might have been somewhat frustrated by the political clichés, the dance was the draw and the dance didn't disappoint. Prior to the performance I had been told that Shechter would become one of the leading choreographers of my time. Those major words were met and complemented with some of the most impressive company work I've seen recently. Each dancer in the 16-person company (besides sharing that they were striking and in the same, great shape) wore soft shades of white or cream, resembling a team consisting of artists from various genres and centuries. It was in the moments when the entire company was on stage, fluidly realizing Shechter's intricate and tightly controlled choreography, that the program truly became nothing less than mesmerizing. Strongly gestural, each company member looked entirely confident embodying this work, so much so that you would have thought that Sun had been a part of their repertoire for years rather than just less than a month. I left BAM wishing I'd been a contemporary dancer. I wanted to be in Hofesh Shechter's company. I'd carry a sheep, I'd head bang, I'd scream and rant at the audience — whatever it'd take to get me into that gang.Follow citybeat.com for more Performa 13 updates from Drew Klein.
 
 
by Drew Klein 11.14.2013
Posted In: Performance Art at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
disabled-theater_credit ursula kaufmann

REVIEW: Performa 13 (Part Two)

CAC performance curator Drew Klein reports from arts biennial in NYC

Another Performa show, another mesmerizing experience. But we'll get to that. While my nights are reserved for performances, the days allow me an opportunity to put some miles on my MTA card, shuttling around the city to meet people in various outposts. Wednesday morning saw me grab breakfast and coffee with artist Roberto Lange, a frequent Cincinnati visitor under the guise of Helado Negro. Roberto has a long history working with Cincinnati's own Paul Coors on various projects over a number of years, and Helado Negro's packed performance at MOTR Pub closed this past edition of Midpoint. A graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Roberto's creative output is not limited to the standard write/record/tour process, and his vision for future projects across various mediums was exciting to talk about. Another meeting of note was a jump across Fort Greene to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to sit down with Joseph Melillo, executive producer of BAM overseeing artistic direction over the esteemed organization and its venues. Our chat nearly didn't happen as our CAC email had been out of service for the past 24 hours (work traveler's worst nightmare realized) and all emails to me were bouncing back. Thankfully everything got up and running just before the one window of opportunity and we were able to connect The operational realities of the performance programs at BAM and the CAC may be very different, but the conversation on our shared ideologies and the approach to the work we program was inspirational and left me feeling energized for the performance I was heading to immediately thereafter. Quickly grabbing dinner to go (a cubano sandwich, for those interested), I made my way to Chelsea and New York Live Arts, a venue dedicated to movement-based artistry that was created in 2011 by a merger of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Dance Theater Workshop. Tonight's performance was the much-discussed Disabled Theater, a collaboration between French choreographer Jérôme Bel and Zurich's Theater HORA, a company of actors with learning disabilities. Debated and praised all over Europe after its premiere at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, the work sees the actors' conditions and their (dis)abilities laid bare as they remain onstage for the duration of the performance as they respond, often with humor, to a series of tasks proposed by Bel.
A translator to the side of the stage began by addressing the crowd. The actors only speak Swiss German fluently, so she would be our guide. Each of the ten actors individually came out to stand in front of the audience for one minute. Even with this task, you began to learn about their conditions, their strengths and their fears. The actors ranged in age from 20 to 43. Some suffered from more severe or noticeable conditions than others. Asked to name their disability, some were fully aware of their diagnosed reality while others were limited to describing themselves as “slower than normal”.The main focus of the night was the dance routines, with the actors selecting the music, choreographing and then performing their own pieces. One by one, they would jump up when their name was called, taking the opportunity to show their moves and completely invest in the moment. With each new dance different questions would come to mind, as well as a new awareness of what expectations or preconceptions I might generally have had of artists — and people — with disabilities. Essentially, these actors were just being themselves, out in front, onstage, mostly without concern for how the audience was feeling. There were moments, however, in which we see that these actors have had experiences whereby they feel different from the so-called “normal people”. In one heartbreaking instance, a young, energetic girl with Down syndrome informed us of her disability when prompted, said “I am sorry,” and rushed back to her chair in tears, straight into the arms of a consoling friend.With Disabled Theater, Bel has made the notion of disability commonplace. The idiosyncrasies, weaknesses and natural gestures of the performers are displayed free of outside influence, allowing each audience member to accept and appreciate the artists as they would any other. An honest, highly impressive look at how we relate to a group typically viewed under a different lens.Follow citybeat.com for more Performa 13 updates from Drew Klein. Read Part One here.
 
 

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