Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Three Upcoming Readings!

FRIDAY, March 26
7:30pm Doors, $15.00 (no one turned away)
One Arm Red
10 Jay Street, #903, Dumbo, Brooklyn
(F to York, or A/C to High Street)
as part of: Great Small Works Spaghetti Dinner.

8pm, Free!!
Nowhere Bar
322 East 14th Street, Manhattan
as part of: LOVE PANIC!
also with Jimmy Lam, Nyna, Brandon Lacy Campos and Chadwick Moore.

8pm, Free!!
envoy enterprises
131 Chrystie Street, Manhattan
as part of: Brother, My Lover
also with
Justin Bond, Saeed Alan Siama, Aaron Tilford, and Colin Fitzpatrick

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Cleaning and Other Things

--Jennifer and I went to see Keigwin+Company last night at the Joyce, which was fabulous. The most real revelation of the evening: horizontal lines with vertical lines going in a diagonal is so satisfying. If you are here in New York, and you can still get a ticket, do go. If you are not in New York, I bet you wish you were. This piece, Runaway, (which for the Joyce run was scaled down a bit) was, for me, the highlight of the evening.

--The plan for the next few weeks is to get some of this shit out of my house. Spring cleaning, if you will, of the shelves and the psyche. Thinking about publicity for Yield has given me such explosions of excitement and anxiety, that I feel I need to get back to the center somehow. I have so many books. Really. And some of them could find new owners.

--Theatrical Roundup! We saw Looped, which sucked hard. We saw God of Carnage, which was, well, what I expected it to be. There seems to be a lot of these plays in the past few years, where adults act like children and are terrible to each other, and they are supposed to be comedies. Janet McTeer, in this one, however, is remarkable, and brought me to tears in her final speech, which is, believe it or not, on the phone. Back in January, we saw the 39 Steps, which seemed stale but born of some brilliance, and then I saw Turandot at the Met, which was incredibly good.

--If you are nearabouts Ft. Greene, check out No. 7 Restaurant, particularly for brunch. We've had, at this point, everything on the brunch menu, and everything is great. I particularly like the fried hominy which comes alongside the grits, and the banana butter that comes with the waffle. Yo can also get a half fried chicken at 11am, which seems intense, but a lot of tables were ordering it as a shared course, which I also recommend. Of course, when you go, the menu might be very different, which is what I also like about No. 7.

See what I mean about wanting to be here?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Being Present

I am thinking these days about presence. About what creates it. About what makes it real, or maybe palpable, since what is real and what is unreal, these days, I find difficult to decipher. (And, of course, the other huge question here is: Does real matter?) More specifically, I am thinking about how much energy it takes to be present. To respect another person's presence by showing up, by becoming present yourself.

I am first thinking of how being present can take everything out of you. As evidence: me standing on South 4th Street and Bedford Avenue, waiting on the blessed B62 (which, by the way, hasn't gotten better since the restructuring.) There was a man standing there as well, mid 50s maybe, something slightly off-kilter about his clothing. (But this is New York, and you never know anything about anyone, really.) I notice that he's looking at me. Not looking at me like one New Yorker looks at another New Yorker. He's trying to make eye contact. I get the feeling that he wants to ask me something. (This is natural at the bus stop. People often have logistical or directional questions at bus stops, and I, apparently, look like the kind of person who has the answers.) So, I take the bait, and look back at him.

"My wife died," he said. "Two weeks ago. She was 62 years old." "I'm sorry," I said. He said thank you, and we stood there a minute, quietly, waiting on the bus, with this fact suddenly between us.

For the rest of the day I carried all that around with me, and before I crawled into bed, I spent an hour playing thrashy folk songs on the guitar, maybe annoying the neighbors, until all that was out of me and I felt like myself again. He needed to say it out loud. He needed to give some of the weight to someone else so that he could go on with the motion of living. This makes sense to me. Sometimes saying something out loud can make it real. Or sometimes we say things out loud that aren't true at all, and it's a way of feeling the realness of them, if only an instant, like trying on a new pair of strange glasses, or like sliding your feet into a pair of your father's shoes. That guy just needed me to be present. Or, by default, my presence contributed his relief. Even if he made it all up, I was there, and we shared that weird, horrible, tragic conversation. And there was nothing to say afterward.

Second, I went to MoMA to see the Marina Abromovic retrospective. In addition to filling the 6th floor with lots of photos and videos, there are several recreations, or "reperformances" as Abromovic is calling them, by actors, dancers and other performance artists, of her previous work. Meanwhile, for the duration of the exhibit--about 700 hours that is--Abromovic herself will be seated at a table in the main atrium. Museum guests are invited to sit across from her for a duration of their choosing and do nothing but meet her gaze and feel whatever you feel, in a piece called "The Artist is Present." This is what it looks like, from the outside:

Sitting in a chair for an hour is difficult. Try it for 700 hours, all the while under the gaze of lights, viewers, the art world, critics, fans, people who hate you, etc. Marina ain't kidding, y'all. I've been thinking so much about presence after seeing this piece because of the way the reperformances failed to create the kind of excitement, mystery, emotion, verve--any of the things you feel when you see "The Artist is Present" in the Atrium.

So then what is creating that feeling? The situation is so simple, and other than blinking and the slight movement from her breathing, she didn't move at all for the half hour I stood watching her. So how can it be that the reperformances don't carry the same weight, if the actions are the same as in the original pieces? And Abromovic herself has been coaching and training the performers for the past several weeks. It begs the question, what is performance? Is it the sum of the actions, or is it the intention behind the actions? (I recall Yeats here and "how can we know the dancer from the dance?") And if the reperformers are supposed to be truly in the moment, and truly present, then why not call them performers? Why divide the past from the present, if what you are looking for--I think--is the magic of the moment?

In the new piece, Abromovic is basically doing everything at once, controlling every aspect, either directly or indirectly, by just being present. One museum-goer opted to sit across from her for about two hours. This made me angry--this person was taking up so much time, other people were waiting, how selfish! But what does that say about my sense of time? What does that say about my own selfishness? What does it say about what I think about the act of being present, and the limits, or extensions of it?

One of the things I like most about "The Artist is Present" is that the catalog copy calls the piece "generous." Such a rarity in art, I think. A kind of slow, meaningful present generosity.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

News of the Week

--Sometimes I find myself standing in my living room, looking over the shelves, reaching for a book I've read ten times, twenty times. This week, I pulled down Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital, which I first heard about from a Booksense76 newsletter--do those still exist? I wrote this post a while back about her, which popped into my brain when I decided that I had already said all the things I was about to say again. One of the things I wrote then was that her work is: "a response, a reaction, a dialogue with the entire scope of art and artforms: music, opera, poetry, painting." This is true, even more than I remember it. Oyster is complicated, difficult, incredibly rich with language and room and intellect. And I love it.

--I hate teenagers on the bus. I realize that the only time they have to be themselves is the short, unsupervised hour between when school ends and when they arrive at home. So, in a way, the bus is the pinnacle of their real experience with each other. I'm just depressed that the way they talk to each other is so cruel, so destructive. (I do not remember my teenage years being like this. Were they? Was it because I had a group of weirdo friends who made theater together and drank wine at the teacher's house?) Everything to them is about saving face, about being in the middle, not too much of anything. They don't even listen to each other, they just talk, make grand statements about the lesserness of each other. It's disguised by the talk of phones and shoes and what she or he said, and how they said it. Am I a grumpy old person cursing the kids for stepping on the lawn? All of it makes me feel very alone. And I hate it.

--Charles Busch and Julie Halston, and a victorious cavalcade of other fantastically talented people are performing in "The Divine Sister," down at Theater for the New City. They say it's totally sold out, but you can get on the wait list. Do try. It's extraordinary. I think what I find most refreshing about Charles's work is that every one of his plays, when you take away everything, all the references and laughs and over-the-top everything, his work is about finding who you are, and loving who you are, and making the past right, and owning yourself in whatever way you have to. It's theater like nobody else is doing right now, or has ever maybe, and I don't know how the walls of that little theater can ever contain all the joy that they create together. And I love it.