Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ne vouz faites pas de souci

I am obsessed with the artist Sophie Calle. I was first exposed to her in an exhibition at Mass MOCA in 1999 and I have been hungry for more ever since.  That exhibition included photographs and diary entries from a stint where she pursued a monochromatic diet (i.e. she ate only pink food for a week, followed by only white food…), photographs and writing from a stint as a maid in a Paris hotel (primarily of the personal effects she encountered in the rooms she ‘cleaned’), and photographs and writing collected by a private investigator who Calle had entreated her mother to hire to follow Calle.  Other work I’ve been fascinated by since then includes a late 1980s phone booth installation in lower Manhattan where she offered snacks, pillows, dimes, and positive aphorisms for passersby looking for some TLC and/or connection.  
On Friday I visited the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest uptown forher latest exhibition, “Rachel, Monique,” which is inspired by the loss of her mother. The exhibit presents a variety of elements; photos, audio, diary entries, and a video: Couldn’t Capture Death. On this video, you see the last chest expansion, and then, several minutes later the rituals of letting go: stunned stillness, checking for pulse and breath, tender kisses on the cheek, ultimately – one version of the spiritually ineffable.

Ever since I was first exposed to Calle – I felt a deep artistic kinship with her. We are both insatiably curious about strangers’ private lives, and especially the clues people’s personal effects tell us about them.  Like Calle, I prefer an immersive installation experience in my art, rather than a traditional ‘framing.’ I am also interested in excavating the deepest depths of my and my collaborators’ personal lives and psyches for public consumption.  I am influenced by her playfulness and sense of humor, as well as her willingness to probe and confront the most challenging feelings and concepts through art.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

detroit and america

Dina just sent me this article because we've been talking about the play Detroit, by Lisa D'Amour... I'm so glad she did. It's a long piece but so moving and so important. And it has great pictures.

I have some people from Michigan, from Saginaw and Flint. And one of my best friends is from Detroit. And I loved the book Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. So, I'm really interested in Detroit. Also because it is potent. It is a real place that is also a reflection of empty promises and corruption and really terrible thinking. 

The article also reminded me of the fascinating recent profile of Theaster Gates in the New Yorker.  I'm so happy these people exist in the world and they're at it every day doing their good work.

I'm also really glad I wanted to hyperlink Lisa's name. It made me do a little internet-stalking and I learned more about Lisa from her website. I knew I really liked her world view and way with language and all that from reading (and seeing the production of) Detroit. Now I know we are also very kindred. She recently did an installation called Nest that was part environmental installation, part devised theater piece, part social inquiry. I also have my Nest... that endeavored to engage similarly.  And she wrote and directed a theater piece called "Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea" for Swoon's moving installation of homemade barges a few years back. I love Swoon and that project especially. I wish I could have seen the show.
Ahh, theater... ephemeral as neighborhoods. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

holding on to the balloon

Next week's I'm going to see Daniel Kitson's show at St. Ann's Warehouse. I'm really excited. I loved the last show of his that I saw. (In December 2011 or January 2012?)
Last week I was very wobbly-hearted and in one more inspired moment I cracked open one of Pema Chodron's books. When I originally read the book it was speaking to me about heartbreak and heart ache in terms of romantic love.  This time I was not reading it that way. This time I was reading into it of potential loss. The passage that struck me most was:
Inspiration and wretchedness are inseparable. We always want to get rid of misery rather than see how it works together with joy.  The point isn't to cultivate one thing as opposed to another, but to relate properly to where we are. Inspiration and wretchedness complement each other. With only inspiration, we become arrogant. With only wretchedness, we lose our vision.  Feeling inspired cheers us up, makes us realize how vast and wonderful our world is.  Feeling wretched humbles us.  The gloriousness of our inspiration connects us with the sacredness of the world.  But when the tables are turned and we feel wretched, that softens us up. It ripens our hearts.

Fortunately, the loss did not happen. My heart did soften though. And even my brain I think, in a good way. A little less rigid.

Also, there will be loss. Inevitably. Impermanence. Forever. But at least loss makes us value what we have. Or it can.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

foot falls

In the Summer of 2004 Oscar Olivo and I made a piece together called Radio Sintesi (simultaneous translation) that we performed in my studio at Nest. It included an excerpt from Beckett's Footfalls. I played May, or Amy as she is referred to later, and he played my mother. He lay on the floor in a hospital gown and I was also in a hospital gown, and socks. It was done in almost total darkness as the sort of prologue to what went on to become a very chaotic piece. (The piece used a matrix of sections and several bells and timers and 'chance', and also included me ACTUALLY washing the audience member's feet whilst wearing a bubble wrap plastic bag on my head and speaking fake Asian languages. There were also 14 televisions and 14 vcrs (this was a long time ago) between the 'audience' and the 'playing space' in a low, crumbling-ish wall. Each television had a super long cord plugged into it and each of the 14 audience seats had a headset through which the audience could listen to the audio, and watch the video, on one of the screens. The video footage consisted of a combination of major life events in my family (birthday parties, prom, weddings, etc), Oscar and I talking about culture, and also just very casually sort of gossiping about life. He had just recently been diagnosed at that point, and though he was a spry 22 year old, mortality weighed heavily on both of our minds. Today, that section of time feels so close. I can imagine walking through the side door to the building (68 Washington Street) and entering that whole world. I can remember the smells and the sounds and the angst I felt and the freedom too.
One of the reasons all of these memories came flooding back is that I went to see Hoi Polloi's production of Beckett Solos (Cascando, Footfalls, and Rockaby) tonight. Alec Duffy directed and Leila Goldoni performed. Julian Rozzell, Jr. lent his voice to the first play, a radio play. The major thrust of Mimi Lien's scenic installation was the tinfoil paper that covered the walls, (or is that a permanent element of Jack, HP's new theater?), but it wasn't two-dimensional, it looked like half-eaten mounds of ice cream or a volcano-speckled lunar landscape. Leila Goldoni is 77 and starred in Cassavetes' Shadows among other films. As she told us in the casual conversation after the performance, she was also a dancer and is a "very physical person." She talked about how her modern dance background meant she was used to abstract things and didn't need a play to be linear. She felt like she really got Beckett, when you 'look at the words on a page it looks crazy' but 'when you come off the page' it's alive. Knud asked her about the first time she saw a Beckett play and she said it was 1959, at the old Beverly movie theater in LA. Waiting for Godot. She loved it. She also met Groucho Marx and told that story too. About how he said she was very funny and she asked him if she could be a comic and he said, :no! You're too beautiful. Nobody can laugh at a beautiful woman!"
Anyway, I loved the production. It made me think of so many things and also gave me so much room to explore in my own head. You could check in and check out. I love that about the repetition in Beckett. The rhythm.
It also made me think so much about the last two weeks. My close-up window onto the cycle of life. Time with an 89 year old and time with a 1 year old. Both blood relatives. As my mom pointed out, in many ways, these two ladies are struggling with the same basic physical things.  Of course, the hardest part about aging, when your mind doesn't go, is that you know you are helpless. You have all of your faculties, all of your self-consciousness, all of your ego, all of your pride, all of your wisdom, and none of the physical strength or stamina you used to have. You lose the ability to feed yourself. To clean yourself. To dress yourself. To do all the things you know how to do.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

we are all earthlings. we are all made of the stuff of stars.

This video is extraordinary. It's the first time I've heard astronauts speak so freely about the feeling of transcendence. Of one-ness. It made me think of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin's discovery in the 1920s, that we are all made of the stuff of stars... and it made me want to go back to that play I've been working on forever. Cecilia and the Universe.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I'm still here and I still love music videos

Sometimes I think this place should be re-named 'my favorite things my favorite people send me.' This is no exception. (Thank you Erica.)

You may have heard about that video with Shia Labeouf? This is not that.
This is a Sigur Ros music video / dance film / mind trip.
It is beautiful and grotesque, sexy and sterile. It is both very complex and very simple.
Okay, enough words. Cue the music and the wings and the fur-feathers.

Sigur Rós - Fjögur píanó from Sigur Rós Valtari Mystery Films on Vimeo.

So, music videos. I love that music and movement and the visual rule and story is secondary. Gravy almost. I love that because the music world is so effing cool and sensual a music video feels successful if it is
a) an emotional experience
b) dynamic in rhythm, tone, color, or something else entirely
c) things don't have to make sense.

Music video's legacy is so young and so modern that there's no interest in realism or naturalism at all. I love that. I love music videos.

A few of the ones that stand out in my mind are November Rain, of course, Aphex Twin, Right Now by Van Halen, No Rain by Blind Melon, so many Nirvana ones... hmmm, was the golden age of the music video the mid 90s or was that just when I was watching MTV? What are the kids watching now?

Beyonce's had some gems, obviously. Who else?
Elephant Gun by Beirut -- also, like this featuring the choreography and performance of one Ryan Heffington. I got to work with Ryan once. On a dance film. God that was fun.

Monday, April 15, 2013

my favorite things

The experience of watching this is, for me, almost as good as going on a picnic at the beach, falling in love, playing catch, or dancing. The section around 4:11 really slays me.
Also, the story of how this film/video project came to be is powerful and unusual. A happy accident. Why did Michael Chesterman's mother have these films? And thank goodness for Colleen.
And also, as always, for Stella.