Not that I usually indulge in very personal blog posts, but today has been a rather interesting and—in a good way—emotional day. Getting up earlier than I rather would on a Sunday morning, I rushed into the city to meet friends at MoMA to see the Matisse cut-outs exhibit. Matisse is not particularly one of my favorites, but a good friend is very fond of his work, and so me and her and her husband had made plans to see it, and finding a time (it’s a ticketed exhibit) proved tricky.
While I have to admit to being touched by the Matisse exhibit, the emotional part came more through visiting MoMA with someone who’d never been there before. For someone like me, an embittered critic (or something) whose job it is to tackle some of the more thorny intersections of labor, artistic production, and art presentation, I have all manner of complicated responses to an 800-pound gorilla in the room like MoMA. But mostly what I was reminded of—wandering the fifth floor permanent collection after our time with Matisse—was how spell-binding MoMA was the first time I went there. March 1997, me on a trip with my high school drama class from Portland, Oregon. I was nearly 18 years old and the entire affair was very, very exciting. It included mostly Broadway shows—Rent with the original cast, and Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum with Whoopi—but on our one free day, while most of my friends either shopped for knock-offs in Chinatown or entertained themselves by wondering what it was like inside the strip-clubs that still lined Times Square that precious few of us could enter, I went off, by myself, to MoMA.
I’m not sure why, exactly, visiting today affected me so. I go at least a few times a year for one reason or another. Hell, I once did a power visit for Boris Charmatz’s Musee de la Danse: Three Collective Gestures, just to score a print of Jim Fletcher re-enacting a Vito Acconci performance (sort of) piece. Which still hangs on my wall. Anyway, today, while standing in front of Van Gogh, and glancing to my left, through the archway to where Desmoiselles d’Avignon hangs, I was rather affected by the entire experience, as much tied to the passage of time as to anything else, and have been in a weird sort of fugue ever since.
Right after I had to rush north, up to the Park Avenue Armory, where I was hosting a rehearsal by Susana Cook in the space I had to vacate immediately after in Company I on the second floor, Sister Sylvester’s home over the past four or five months. The space was courtesy of Sasha Frere-Jones (of the New Yorker and whatnot), who was the proper artist-in-residence there and on whose behalf we performed The Fall: A Performative Screening on November 12 as part of the Armory’s “Under Construction” series. Sasha opened with a passionate and intelligent plea that organizations like the Armory avail (some, at least) of their space and resources to emerging artists like us.
It was quite hard to lug that last box of materials out of the Armory (not least because it contains various BDSM-y implements, including a four-foot-long closet rack with leather neck-chokers, which attracts more than its fair share of attention on the subway). This was a sort of home-away-from-home for some time. Depositing a few spare beers I found inside one of the regimental lockers in the second-floor kitchen refrigerator, I was reminded of sitting in that kitchen desperately trying to finish a draft of a bizarre essay on Suzanne Bocanegra, Sibyl Kempson, and Big Dance Theater’s Ich, Kürbisgeist, which was just published in Chance magazine, of which I’ve become an editor. I need to pick up my copy at our Union Square offices this week. This edition also includes a photo spread of Sister Sylvester’s The Maids’ The Maids, shot by the amazing Maria Baranova (the best in the business says the editor–hire her).
Maybe my entire seasonal nostalgia trip began a few days ago, when I heard from Performance Space 122, asking me to serve on the invite committee for the annual Red & White Party in January. How time does fly! How much has happened since last January. When I was also on the invite committee, from which I learned to flog—and flog hard!—the event as early as possible. (See how clever I was, there? $30 a ticket or contact me! January 11–ping pong again!)
With my good friend and collaborator Kathryn Hamilton, I’ve developed two full productions (Dead Behind These Eyes and The Maids’ The Maids) and two work-in-progress showings (Make Like Its Yours and The Fall: A Performative Screening). With Chance, I’ve written a lengthy profile of Kenneth Collins and his transitional durational work My Voice Has an Echo In It (part of the 2015 PS 122 COIL Festival); completed research on zoe | juniper’s BeginAgain (also part of PS 122’s COIL Festival—I’ll be busy this January!); the aforementioned critical inquiry into the nature of authorship (you just have to read it) about Ich, Kürbisgeist. Four shows with Kathryn and Sister Sylvester. Two shows (Immersion and, opening last night, Lisa and Her Things) with Sans Comedia. I’m in discussion with my friend Steve Valk and his frequent collaborator Michael Klien about a forthcoming project in New York. I’ve written lengthy profiles and features on admirable artists like Mimi Lien (in American Theatre) and Dan Safer and Tony Torn (for Culturebot), whose fantastic Ubu Sings Ubu may well be coming back to NYC stages (if Facebook hints are to be properly analyzed and believed). And I watched Mallory Catlett—whose This Was the End blew me away on its opening weekend—sweep awards in the city for her and her collaborators’ brilliant work.
All things considered it’s been a fantastic—if troubling and problematic and everything else—year. And as November slips uncomfortably into December, the weather gyrating between pleasantly autumnal and brutishly cold, I’m looking back on time elapsed, another year older (and thereby closer to death, world death rates remaining constant at 100% despite best efforts), wiser (maybe?), happier (who knows?), but certainly more jaded.
Which was why it was nice to visit MoMA today. To be reminded of the very genuine experience of discovery and awe. When I first visited that lonely morning around 18 years ago, it had never occurred to me what it would mean to truly feel like I was a part of the world of the arts. I may not be super important, I may be stumbling (or fumbling, awkwardly) forward like everyone else I know in this field, but as much as I sometimes miss the feeling of what it was first like to be overwhelmed by art, I nevertheless am ecstatic to have wound up the little cog in the machine I now am.