Watch This Space

On 20 July 2018, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst welcomed the legendary electronic band Kraftwerk and 7500 visitors to the Jazz Open Festival on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz – live from the International Space Station, where he will live and work until mid-December 2018.

Watch them perform live. In real-time. In direct line. With space.

Alexander Gerst: […”The ISS is a Man-Machine. The most complex and valuable machine humankind has ever built. Here, in the European Columbus Laboratory, the successor to the Spacelab, the European Space Agency (ESA) is researching things that will improve the daily life on Earth. More than a 100 different nations work together peacefully here and achieve things that a single nation could never achieve”…]

∞ °•° 

Paired with the reflective, illusionary, upside down, spacey architecture by Samara Golden.

The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes, 2017 was a site-specific installation using insulation foamboard, extruded polystryrene, epoxy resin, carpet, vinyl, fabric, acrylic paint, spray paint, nail polish, plastic, altered found objects and mirror.

The 2017 Whitney Biennial

June 10th, 2017

Girls & Boys

Carey Mulligan has a story to tell. The tragicomic, shocking life story of an unnamed lover, wife, young professional and mother. She delivers it in a -seemingly- free flowing monologue with wit, tenderness and, at odds with her slender figure, a steely determination in a powerful, arresting performance that deserves admiration. That, besides her phenomenal capacity as an actor, to absorb ninety minutes worth of text and recite it naturally, almost if it were spontaneous rather than painstakingly rehearsed.

If your way brings you to New York City in the coming days, go see Ms. Mulligan in the rollercoaster of a monologue that is ”Girls & Boys”. It will run until July 22, 2018 only, but its effect may stay with you a lot longer.

The Minetta Lane Theatre

July 8th, 2018

Socializing

in Lincoln Center.

With music and drinks, followed by more music in an evening tagged as ”born of ice and fire”.

With the New York Premiers of Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Wing on Wing, written for and featuring soprano sisters Anu and Piia Komsi, and Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s etherial Aeriality (ice) –

and a superb performance by the New York Philharmonic’s Artist-in-Residence for 2016-2017, renowned violinist Leonidas Kavakos, who played Brahms’ Violin Concerto (fire).

After the concert, we were joined by some of the Philharmonic musicians who, following the ”obligatory” Q&A session, simply mingled with the guests for some more music and drinks.

No, Mr. Kavakos was not among them.

#nyppolaris

May 20th, 2017

Philip Glass Ensemble @ The Town Hall

In 1946, Jean Cocteau directed a dark, poetic film adaptation of La Belle et la Bête, the story written in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

In 1994, Philip Glass removed the film’s original dialogue and score and replaced them with his own musical score, performed live by members of the Philip Glass Ensemble. The singers, perfectly synchronized with the actors, become an extension of the story.

In April 2017, this masterful production was presented at the Town Hall following a brief discussion between Philip Glass and his friend and collaborator, Errol Morris.

”In the scene when Belle begs La Bête for permission to visit her father, La Bête, moved by her plea, decides to let her go, but requires her, at the cost of his own life, to return in a week. He explains to her that his magic exists by the force of five power objects—the rose, the key, the mirror, the glove, and the horse. These five are the root of La Bête’s creativity and magic. The point is, if a young artist were to ask Cocteau directly what he would need to pursue the life and work of an artist, these five elements would be the answer. The rose represents beauty. The key represents technique—literally, the means by which the “door” to creativity is opened. The horse represents strength and stamina. The mirror represents the path itself, without which the dream of the artist cannot be accomplished. The meaning of the glove eluded me for a long time, but finally, and unexpectedly, I understood that the glove represents nobility. By this symbol Cocteau asserts that the true nobility of mankind are the artist-magician creators. This scene, which leads directly to the resolution of the fairy tale, is framed as the most significant moment of the film and is the message we are meant to take away with us: Cocteau is teaching about creativity in terms of the power of the artist, which we now understand to be the power of transformation.”     

“The past is reinvented and becomes the future. But the lineage is everything.”

”If you remember your lineage, you will never feel lonely.”

All mages from Pinterest, except last one from the – well deserved – standing ovation.

Quotations by Philip Glass.

The Town Hall

April 20th, 2017

Drawing the line ~ from forgettable to memorable

I’m going back in time. I have to, for if this blog is to continue doubling up as my journal, I can’t be skipping events. Even the not so memorable ones like those two, almost back-to-back performances at BAM.

First, the utterly forgettable performance by Doug Varone and Dancers, emphatically described as: ”Doug Varone and Dancers celebrate 30 years of impassioned choreography with three works representing the past, present, and future of this peerless company.” By the third work I was convinced I’m never watching another Doug Varone performance again. Art is subjective and a matter of chemistry, and unfortunately it didn’t work for me this time.

Next, ”A Nonesuch Celebration, a stellar lineup of musical luminaries” that came together ‘‘for one night only to pay tribute to Bob Hurwitz, who for the past three decades has served as the visionary architect of Nonesuch Records”. I had not heard of Mr Hurwitz before, but the idea of watching live performances by (among others) Pat Metheny, Kronos Quartet, k.d. lang and Mandy Patinkin all in one evening, seemed very appealing. I did enjoy myself but it seemed like the hosts were enjoying themselves much more which made me feel a bit awkward, like crashing a private party.

But then, on 1-2 April, it was time for the annual MoCCA Arts Festival. A multimedia event organised by the Society of Illustrators with workshops, film screenings, exhibitions and panels, MoCCA is Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival and my first chance to meet two rather brilliant gentlemen, artists and friends: Blutch in Conversation with David Mazzucchelli – and the weekend couldn’t get any better.

But wait… there’s more! Here come the real superheroes, those early comic book creators from the industry’s early years  (1935-1955), lovingly depicted by their colleague, American cartoonist Drew Friedman in his two recent books Heroes of the Comics and More Heroes of the Comics. 

The Society of Illustrators presented 100 original colour illustrations by the artist, who was also featured as a guest of honour at the MoCCA 2017.

Bernard Krigstein, 1919-1990
He approached comics as a serious art form and his innovative, beautifully composed, almost cinematic use of panels have never been equaled in comics. Following Harvey Kurtzman’s invitation to illustrate one of his EC war stories, Krigstein became a regular contributor to EC, illustrating a total of 47 stories for them, including several pieces for MAD, highlighting his brilliant gift for caricature. 1955’s ”Master Race”, appeared in the debut issue of EC’s ”New Direction” comic Impact and was his masterpiece, a groundbreaking triumph of sequential storytelling.


Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993)
Cartoonist, writer, editor, satirist and teacher, he was the founder and creator of MAD – as well as Trump, Humbug, Help, etc. Along with his long-time partner, cartoonist Will Elder, he spent almost 30 years producing the lushly painted comic strip ”Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy. Kurtzman has had a huge, almost unmeasurable influence on several generations of cartoonists and humorists, among them Robert Crumb and the (Monty) Pythons.


Norman Maurer (1926-1986)
Born in Brooklyn, he started working in comic books while still a teenager. His marriage to Joan Howard, daughter of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, in 1947 kicked-off his lifelong association with the comedy team.


Carl Barks (1901-2000)
His cartoon adventures of Donald Duck were published anonymously for decades. Barks drew the Donald Duck story for the front of Walt Disney’s Comics, the most popular post-War II comic book being published. In 1935 he has hired as a full-time writer at the Disney film studios only to quit in 1942 and become a full-time artist for their comic book line – which included the bimonthly Donald Duck. In his later years, Barks would recreate in oil large paintings of his beloved ducks, some of them now fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars.


William Erwin ”Will” Eisner (1917-2005)
Eisner grew up in the Bronx dreaming of someday becoming a successful cartoonist. In 1936, Eisner’s friend from Dewitt Clinton high school, Bob Kane, suggested he sell some of his cartoons to a new tabloid-sized magazine called WOW, What a Magazine!, edited by cartoonist and letterer Jerry Iger. Although Iger was 12 years older than the 19-year old Eisner, they both clicked. They opened together the Eisner-Iger studio in New York, a mass production comic book factory in 1937. It was a great financial success but Eisner, who was more interested in concentrating on his writing and drawing, would sell his interest in the shop in 1939 to pursue an offer to create a syndicated newspaper comics section of his own. His first 16-page The Spirit insert episode ran in 1940.


William Moulton Marston (1893-1947)
Marston’s relatively short life was filled with fascinating, seemingly at first, unrelated accomplishments. He attended Harvard and received a Ph.D in Psychology, became a teacher and briefly, in 1929, the director of public services for Universal Studios in Hollywood. Marston was also a lawyer and inventor, and is credited as the creator of the Systolic Blood Pressure Test, which would help lead to the invention of the modern Polygraph machine. He also authored several self-help books and was a champion of women’s causes, writing that he was convinced that women were ”more honest and reliable than men, and could work faster and more accurately.” He also recognized and wrote of the ”great educational potential” of the new medium of comic books and in the early forties he was hired by publisher Max Gaines to be an ”educational consultant” for National Periodicals and All-American Publications which would soon merge into DC comics. Marston’s wife Elizabeth gave him the idea to create a female superhero in the then male dominated world of comics; he developed the character ”Suprema” soon called ”Wonder Woman” basing her to an extend on his own wife and her appearance on his polyamorous partner, a former student of his who now lived with the couple in an open marriage, named Olive Byrne.


Whitney Ellsworth (1908-1980)
Writer and artist for DC comics, he became their Hollywood liaison. He had a hands-on role in script and production for the 1951 feature Superman and the Mole Men which led directly to 1952’s The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves.


Joe Shuster (1914-1992) & Jerry Siegel (1914-1996)
They met at 16 at Glendale high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The two young, shy Jewish teenagers discovered they shared much in common, Siegel dreaming of writing science fiction stories for Pulp magazines and the shy, bespectacled Shuster also sharing a love for science fiction and dreaming of working as a Pulp artist. Siegel conceived a superhero character he called ”The Superman” and together with Shuster’s art, began a frustrating four-year quest to get it published as a comic. Another of their characters, Slam Bradley, debuted in National’s Detective Comics #1 in 1937. In 1938 Max Gaines urged National’s new publishers, Harry Donefeld and Jack Liebowitz to publish Superman, and after four years of submissions and rejections, the character finally debuted as the cover feature for National’s Action Comics #1 in June 1938. It was an instant sensation. By endorsing a check for $130 (the total amount of the check was for more than $400, other monies owed to the team was padded on to no doubt make the signing more enticing), assuring them that they would be the primary artist and writer for Superman and the upcoming syndicated Superman newspaper comic, and without any advice from a lawyer, Siegel & Shuster forever signed away all their rights to a character that would soon become one of the most commercially successful and iconic characters of the 20th century.


Bill Finger (1914-1974)


Bob Kane (1915-1988)
He was the controversial artist who posed for almost half a century as the sole creator of Batman. In 1938, after the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster named Superman caused a sensation in Action Comics #1, National sought more super-heroes to add to their roster and Kane soon conceived a character he called ”The Batman”. He showed his flimsy conception drawings to his writer Bill Finger, who he had hired to work for him and Finger suggested specific changes to redesign the character into the now familiar Dark Knight persona. The completed Batman debut finally appeared in Detective Comics #27, in May 1939. It became a hit and was soon starring in his own series, featuring his sidekick ”Robin”, conceived by Finger and artist Jerry Robinson. Kane worked out a cozy deal with National where he would receive sole credit as the writer and artist behind Batman, even though the character was essentially created by Bill Finger


Wally Wood (1927-1981)
“Wally may have been our most troubled artist, but he may have been our most brilliant” – William M. Gaines


Marie Severin (b. 1929)
As EC’s colorist and the only creative woman on staff, and a very moral catholic, she was known for often colouring a particularly gruesome panel dark blue to help tone down the gore. Marie Severin’s older brother John first invited her to work as his colourist at EC in 1949 and soon she was colouring all of their comics, including the notorious horror titles.


Doug  Varone and Dancers, BAM
March 30th, 2017

A Nonesuch Celebration, BAM
April 1st, 2017

MoCCA Arts Festival
April 1st, 2017

887 @ BAM

887 Murray Avenue, Quebec City, Canada.The apartment block where the play’s main – and only – character actually grew up becomes alive, with the help of an incredible off-stage crew, in the form of a giant dollhouse.
Robert Lepage, who also wrote and directed this deeply personal, autobiographical play,  invites us to join him on a journey into the realm of memory. On the way, he revisits his childhood home; shares anecdotes about his friends and family; commemorates names of parks, streets and monuments – places often forgotten or no longer noticed; recalls Charles De Gaulle’s call for a Free Quebec, the time he famously ended his July 24, 1967 speech with a loud and clear ”Vive le Québec libre!”, in Montreal.

The same words that were used as a slogan by Front de Libération du Québec, the separatist group that had launched a series of terror attacks in 1963, a campaign that culminated with the kidnapping and killing of Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, in October 1970.
The trip starts with a struggle: Lepage is invited to recite ”Speak White”, a poem by the Quebecoise Michèle Lalonde, in an evening commemorating the anniversary of a poetry event that first took place in Montreal, in 1970. But, for reasons that he cannot explain, the more he tries to memorize the worlds, the more they elude him. 

So he turns to the method of loci, an ancient technique in which the items to be remembered are placed in specific places (”palace rooms”) one associates with past experiences or childhood memories. In order to retrieve them, all Lepage had to do was revisit the right ”palace room”. And we were only too happy to follow him along.

”Speak White” refers to the oppressive orders shouted at the enslaved across North American plantations, forbidding them to speak their own languages, incomprehensible to their masters. ”Speak White” was also used to shame francophone Canadians and force them to adopt the language of the British Empire.
The ”palace room” method worked; in the end, Lepage did recite the poem and it was powerful, emotional – flawless. Ironically, the most compelling performance we’d seen thus far in New York was by a francophone Canadian, translated into English.

Speak White by Michèle Lalonde: original in French and translation in English.

[…]
Speak white
Tell us again about Freedom and Democracy

We know that liberty is a black word
Just as poverty is black
And just as blood mixes with dust in the streets of Algiers
And Little Rock
[…]

All images by Erick Labbé.

887 @ BAM

March 25th, 2017

Sunday in the park with George

On a Saturday evening at the Hudson Theatre, exactly one month after its reopening on February 11th, 2017.

First opened in 1903 it served many a purpose: theatre, radio & television studio, club, porn cinema, events venue and, making a full round, a theatre again. And a Broadway one at that.

Many of its original features have been lovingly restored, like this magnificent Tiffany glass ceiling. But the seating has been completely redesigned with chairs adjusted to fit the average human measurements and not the other way round as in most (or all) other Broadway theatres.

It opened with the revival of ”Sunday in the Park with George”, a play inspired by George Seurat’s masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Jake Gyllenhaal embodied the master of pointillism and, on his side, Annaleigh Ashford performed the role of his muse and lover, Dot. The story unfolds with the perfectionist master obsessing over his work to such an extend that he ends up alienating the bourgeoisie, his peers and even his lover. His relationship is damaged, his fellow artists have rejected him, and yet…

Nothing will stop him from his quest to ”finish the hat”.

The story kicks off like this:

ACT I
Time: 1884.
A white stage. George, an artist, is sketching.

GEORGE
White. A blank page or canvas.
The challenge: bring order to the whole. (As he continues to speak, the white stage is transformed into a park on the island of La Grande Jatte. Trees descend onto the grass; a bottle glides into view; a cut out couple appear in the distance. The lighting gives the impression of early morning.)
Through design.
Composition.
Tension.
Balance.
Light.
And harmony.

1. SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE
George is sketching. Dot is posing.

DOT
George. (no response) Why is it you always get to sit in the shade while I have to stand in the sun? (still no response) Hello, George? There is someone in this dress! (twitches slightly, sighs, mutters to herself)
A trickle of sweat.
The back of the head.
He always does this.
(hisses)
[…]

Until the painting was complete.

[…]
Forever
By the blue
Purple yellow
red water
On the green
Orange violet mass
Of the grass

DOT
In our perfect park

GEORGE
Made of flecks of light
And dark

ALL
(except George end Dot)
And Parasols…

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park
On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday…
(All begin to leave very slowly, except Dot, who remains in the park, and George, who steps outside the park.)
Sunday… (A blank white canvas descends.)

GEORGE
(looking in the book again)
“White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities…”
(He looks up and sees Dot disappearing behind the white canvas.)

Sunday in the Park with George
Music: Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: James Lapine

The Hudson Theatre, Broadway
March 11th, 2017

Dadan @ BAM

In order to create Dadan, I started rehearsals with the performers in the summer of 2007.  At that time we had no idea that we would create a piece like this. If a group of men who just wanted to strike the drums would gather and practice intensely, a performance would come out of that energy.

So we told ourselves.

As for the name of the piece, we didn’t have any assurance that we could complete it in the future. But fortunately, in 2009 we were able to create this work called Dadan, and show it to the public.

The word Dadan is written with the kanji characters that literally mean “men drumming,” but at the same time we tried to come up with a name which would put across the sense of drumming when written in roman letters, would feel dynamic, and be easy for people around the world to say.

Dadan saw its world premiere in Tokyo during September 2009, and the success of this initial run led to its foreign debut at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France, with four sold-out performances in 2012.

Following such success abroad, Dadan toured across Japan in 2012 and was showcased twice at the “Earth Celebration” annual international performing arts festival on Sado Island. Tours in Spain and France followed during 2014, and then in October 2015, Dadan was performed in Hong Kong—a first in Asia outside of Japan. The South American debut took place in March of 2016 in Brazil. 

The 2017 Dadan performances are part of its first North American tour, and are presented as a part of Kodo’s 35th Anniversary celebrations. For Dadan’s US tour, I would like to express my gratitude to the sponsors who made this possible. I hope to be able to continue to create even better performances in the future. I will be very happy if you enjoy our performance.

—Tamasaburo Bando, Dadan Artistic Director

Never has drumming seemed so elegant, flawlessly coordinated, primal, powerful, precise and curiously meditative, until these guys came along.

*first three images from the net

Kodo performed in BAM
March 4th, 2017

The play that never was

Three old friends and a neighbor. A summer of afternoons in the backyard. Lingering sunshine and inevitable darkness.

Caryl Churchill, one of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, returns to BAM for the first time in 15 years with this by-turns hilarious and unsettling daydream. Directed by Churchill’s frequent collaborator James Macdonald (Cloud Nine; Love and Information; John Gabriel Borkman, Spring 2011), with startling performances from Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham, and June Watson, Escaped Alone is doomsday in a teapot, a calmly revolutionary vision of looming collapse.

No, doomsday in a teapot was not meant to be that Saturday evening. The play had already begun and Mrs Jarrett – played by the courageous Mrs Linda Bassett – had already joined the three other ladies in the garden that sat behind the fence. But, as the conversation picked up, Mrs Bassett stood up and walked off stage, calmly, naturally as if it was part of the play. Only Mrs Bassett had been feeling unwell that day but had decided to go on with the show hoping she would manage to make it through. She didn’t, despite her strong will and professionalism; Mrs Bassett could not go on. And neither could the show.

The management offered refunds or rebookings to one of the following days and the play went ahead as scheduled. We missed it only because of a planned trip, our first away from the City since the day we arrived.

Escaped Alone, BAM
February 18th, 2017