Sleep No More

Sharing a pastrami at Katz’s proved to be not only a delight but also necessary. We didn’t know it yet but we would need all the energy we could muster to see us through the rest of the evening. You see, we were about to embark on a journey to the fantasy world of the McKittrick Hotel and Punchdrunk’s adventurous production Sleep No More where lines between reality and dream, performer and spectator, time and space, are blurred and constantly shifting.

Sleep No More tells Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Macbeth seen as a film noir but, instead of watching a film, spectators move freely through corridors and rooms following any of the performers they choose to, or no one at all. People, wearing white masks handed by the McKittrick’s eccentric hosts before bidding them farewell with a firm ”fortune favours the bold”, can enter the dimly lit rooms, touch objects, open drawers, listen to soft rustling sounds and whispers, even breath the ever-so-faint scent of unseen residents. Sometimes, they can come face-to-face with an actor, perhaps too close for comfort. Which is precisely the whole point of this production, a unique theatrical experience unlike any other.

For tips on how to experience Sleep No More best, please check here.

Image credits: all except the first one, which was taken while waiting in line outside, are courtesy of the McKittrick and Punchdrunk. Photography is strictly forbidden so as not to spoil the ambience.

August 20th, 2017

Zender’s Winterreise || Jazz @ Lincoln

It was August but Winterreise was about to take us on a journey back in time, through Hans Zender’s Dark Mirror; I had a feeling it would be dark and cool, just what one needs in August in the City – and I was right.

Schubert’s Winterreise is a work shockingly ahead of its time, with a strongly expressionist flavor and prescient hints at the progress of music into the 20th century. Zender’s interpretation brings out and clarifies these extraordinary aspects and creates sonic associations for a modern audience. The rich cabaret feel draws on elements already there, and allows for a reflection on the piece itself—it is a work of art about a work of art.” (source)

Before looking into ”The Dark Mirror”, we lingered around the Ertegun Jazz Hall Of Fame, a space honouring the life and work of jazz legends with photos of the men and women who dedicated their lives to jazz, and a video series on the media wall, designed and animated by Nate Milton. Walking by, it occurred to me that I have yet to discover New York’s jazz scene. Now, a year-and-a-half later, I’m still in the dark and not sure where to start. If you have a recommendation, please do drop me a line in the comments – I would love to find out! 

Jazz at Lincoln Center

August 12th, 2017

Mlle Bourgeoise Noire || A State of Mind

Even more than the obvious joy of coming up close with works by renowned artists, I enjoy discovering those I had never seen before; especially the work of an artist that has something to say and does so in such a striking way, as Ms. Lorraine O’Grady.

This is her story:

[”In 1980, artist and critic Lorraine O’Grady left her apartment wearing an evening gown and cape made out of 180 pairs of white dinner gloves and carrying a white whip studded with white chrysanthemums. She was going to a party at Just Above Midtown (JAM), an avant-garde art space in Manhattan representing work by African American and other artists of color.”]

[”At the gallery, O’Grady turned heads. She raised her whip—which she called “the whip-that-made-plantations-move,”referencing the slave drivers on Southern plantations—and gave herself 100 lashes. And she shouted poems of protest—against the exclusion of black people from the mainstream art world in New York, and against black artists who she believed were compromising their identities to make work that was agreeable to white curators and audiences. The white gloves covering her body represented the work growing out of this system as “art with white gloves on.”]

Enough is Enough for Mlle Bourgeoise Noire
Among the poems that Mlle Bourgeoise Noire shouted at the Just Above Midtown (JAM) gallery reception was:

THAT’S ENOUGH!
No more boot-licking…
No more ass-kissing…
No more buttering-up…
No more pos…turing
of super-ass..imilates…
BLACK ART MUST TAKE MORE RISKS!!

Mlle Bourgeoise Noire leaves the safety of home (New Museum performance, 1981)
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire and her Master of Ceremonies enter the New Museum
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire continues her tournée
Crowd watches Mlle Bourgeoise Noire whipping herself
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire shouts out her poem
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire leaves the New Museum
Mlle Bourgeoise Noire celebrates with her friends

[”With this performance, O’Grady introduced a new, fictional persona to the art world: a tempestuous 1950s beauty queen named Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, or Miss Black Middle-Class. She has explained that Mlle Bourgeoise Noire was inspired by the Futurist declaration that art has the power to change the world. The persona was generated out of O’Grady’s anger at the racism and sexism then prevalent in the art world, and her own, complex relationship to race. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, she was raised in a privileged environment that contrasted with what she described as the “neighboring black working-class culture” and the disadvantaged position of blacks in American society. Through Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, she expressed the conflicts in her own identity, while also, as she stated, “invading art openings to give people a piece of her mind.”]

Lorraine O’Grady / Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The glove dress and b&w photos of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s performance, were part of We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, an exhibition that focused on the work of black women artists. It was on show at the Brooklyn Museum until September 2017.

Black & White highlights from Lorraine O’ Grady’s website. Please view the gallery for more.

Source of Mlle Bourgeoise Noire’s story & poem : MoMA Learning

Brooklyn Museum

July 22nd, 2017

 

 

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