Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Performa

I don’t know whether any of you have lingering idyllic fantasies about Broadway from any number of cheap musicals of Hollywood productions, but if so, allow me to rudely disabuse such notions. Broadway is a road that carves Manhattan in two like a festering scar. Wander along it on a Saturday, as I did last Saturday, and you will be assaulted, if you’re lucky enough only metaphorically, perhaps by the brightness of th shopfronts, the group clinch of the trudging crowd of shoppers, and the men trying to sell you apples at an inappropriate time.

But New York is a city where redemption, if redemption of the most sordid kind, is always just beyond the corner. So it was, that on Saturday you could slip into the inauspicious building before Canal Street, take the elevator to the third floor, and step out into a white-washed room that represented something like a sanctuary. I say something like, because somehat undercutting the tranquility of the scene was the distinct sound of wood being chopped, and numerous mingling voices. I am toying with you somewhat, by suggesting that I arbitrarily enter buildings; of course, I ascended to the third floor quite purposefully, because it contained a piece of performance art.

Beginning last week, the Performa 05 festival, the first biennial of performance art, aims to celebrate and revitalize a medium that is definitively New York. The scene that lay before me, which formed part of the festival, was appropriately chaotic. The exhibition, or installation, or action, or dissolution of cultural boundaries, or whatever else you chose to call it, took the form of ten simultaneous pieces of performance art, each of which was enacted over a continuous period of twenty-four hours.

In a white-walled corner, a black hammock was slung. Just visible through its meshing was the stublled face of an Italian performance artist, whose performance consisted of his sleeping throughout the 24hr duration, so that – and I quote the official handout – “he would register nothing of the proceedings.” By the foot of the wall is a plastic stool; standing upon it, your eyes are brought level with a small circle cut into the wall, through which, dimly perceptible, a Korean performance artist, so the handout charitasbly informs me, rummages around, attempting to construct something out of chicken-wire and lidless tin cans.

The sawing sounds, it transpires, are emanating from a couple of young workmen stationed towards the rear of the room, who diligently measure out and saw a series of wooden planks. The entirety of their labor is captured by a wide-lens camera mounted on a tripod in the center of the room. Over the next twelve hours, these workmen will assemble rows of wooden benches; in the twelve hours immediately following, these benches will provide seating for an audience to watch, yes, the construction of the benches. From the window overlooking Broadway, a small ray-gun-like device is visible on the roof of the facing block. This device, it turns out, is designed to capture Orgone, the grounds apparently of all energy upon Earth, and in so doing produce rainfall.

Elsewhere, there is a recreation of Yoko Ono’s famous “Yes” painting, which occasioned Jon Lennon’s love, and a “Pinochio Device”, used to simulate the sensation of one’s nose growing very rapidly. One piece of art was a specially-invited, unannounced guest, who had at some point traveled to the South Pole, and the crowd accordingly viewed one another with a greater suspicion than is usual even at performance art stagings, attempting to infer whether anyone had a distinctively Arctic look. The most daringly subliminal piece was to be created precisely by a member of the audience, who was to leave the exhibition without warning, to get a cup of tea or a cup of coffee, which was to be strictly undocumented.

This exhibition maked the commencement of Performa 05, the first biennial to celebrate performance art, an enterprise that strikes me as somewhat similar to trying to preserve hot lust in formaldehyde, but which nonetheless I shall shambolically cover over the next two weeks for your amusement. I couldn't stay as long as I wanted at the ongoing performance, which is a shame, because a Swiss friend tells me it got wild at around 3am. But in case you're wondering, there was no rainfall over New York City that night.

10 Comments:

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:23 AM, Blogger greenpoint said...

A general comment adressed to all: how the fuck do I turn off these spam comments? There was I, believing in my populaity, etc. etc.

I recall how once, when I posted about gay Village Cowboy Randy Jones, I got spam about foam mattresses, debt consolidation and alzheimer's disease.

At that point, I felt the spammers had an unexpectedly high level of discrimination.

Now I realise they just are irritating.

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous waiting patiently said...

I have no idea how to turn off the spammers but you remain popular with me at least. I check you once or twice a week. Keep it up.

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger greenpoint said...

Thank you waiting patiently. I am trying to figure out the identity of Mental Nurse. Is she a friend of Hannah Forbes Black? Are you?

 
At 1:34 AM, Blogger waitingpatiently said...

I think Mental is now a collective of a few nurses, helpers, etc. This i gleaned from reading earlier posts on her site. I am not a friend of either Mental or HFB merely a surfer and service user. I have created a blog myself, if your interested it's with this lot and called daysgorollingby I think. I'm so computer illiterate that I have to log out to check that is the correct name. Hope you are well.

 
At 1:36 AM, Blogger waitingpatiently said...

Oops, it's called dayskeeprollingby, sorry.

 
At 1:46 AM, Blogger waitingpatiently said...

I think I may be able to help with your spammer problem. Looking around the blogger site I found that if you go to change settings then "comments" tab and choose yes for word verifcation for comments, then save changes.
Then hopefully it will only be individual idiots spamming you, not "The Machine".
Good Luck

 
At 1:56 AM, Blogger waitingpatiently said...

You are going to think I'm really stupid my blog is called "dayskeeprolling". On day I'll get it right and stop coming across as a stalker.

 
At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

waiting patiently is a pretty stalker-y name, though, isn't it?

 
At 1:26 AM, Blogger waitingpatiently said...

I don't think it's stalker-y, it's just how I feel about life.

 

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