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Performa 07 Live
Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.

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11/10/07 10:15:18 am
???A Multitude of Elsewheres??™




Vito Acconci A Live Reading at Swiss Institute, Nov 7.

Being better acquainted with Acconci??™s language-based performances and photographic works from the 60??™s and 70??™s it was a refreshing surprise to hear him read from unrealized architectural and design projects this past Wednesday evening.

During the reading the artist read four ???chapters??™ from the writing project, each chapter dealing with a different architectural theme (e.g. ???Buildings Inside/Out??™). Between chapters Acconci played ???interludes??™??”CD tracks of some of his 70??™s recording projects.
That the 70??™s recordings should be interposed Acconci??™s mainly 90??™s and 00??™s architectural writings proved a bit like time-travel (???Vito??? then, ???Vito??? now), yet also consistent with a sense of delay pervasive throughout Acconci??™s entire work.* For instance, the series of performances he did in the early 70??™s involving the transportation of his library back and forth from his West Village apartment to a gallery where he was showing Uptown; when he wanted to peruse any of his books he would have to get on a train, delaying research. Or the infamous St. Mark??™s Poetry Project ???reading??? consisting of a series of phone calls to the audience at the Project from different phone booths throughout the city. Acconci??™s represented voice arrived, as well as his coordinates on the ???grid,??? however never the bodily presence of the performer one expects from a poetry reading context.

If any delay is at work in Acconci??™s reading of last Wednesday it is that of architectural endeavors that also never embody or presence themselves for any number of reasons (because the money doesn??™t exist, or technology hasn??™t become sufficiently developed; because a particular location is not available or convenient). Among the projects Acconci proposed one of my favorites was his plan for a ???research station??? in Antarctica. Here the metaphysical thrust of the artist??™s writings was felt as Acconci announced ???an Antarctica of the mind??™ and imagined ???seeing the mind??™ itself through the ???blankness??™ of Antarctica. ???Think of this world as a blank piece of paper??™. The ???beacon??™ of the Antarctica research station, likewise, would project a light not for ???anyone??™ (as hardly any one goes to Antarctica and fewer still inhabit it) but for ???itself??™. A communion or conveyance with the stars (???information gets pulled down from the stars??™). A space-age movie house for a cold, iconoclastic geography (???a movie that is the air we breathe??™).

Many of the spaces Acconci chose for his implausible projects may be considered utopian in a literal sense, the term deriving from the Latin for ???no place???. In the spirit of Italo Calvino??™s Invisible Cities or (closer still) Arakawa/Gins??™ Reversible Destiny projects Acconci enumerates spaces of potentiality, the drafts of a capable artist-architect??™s imagination unloosed.

Other projects I especially liked were for a garden at W. 24th St. in New York City along Chelsea??™s ???Highline???. Here a ???crisscross of moving greenery??™ would allow the occupant to ???move through a magic carpet??™ eventually ???becom[ing] a spaceship [him]self??™. Other aspects of Acconci??™s utopian projects were to confuse opposed categories such as ???nature??? and ???culture,??? ???appearance??? and ???reality,??? ???identity??? and ???non-identity,??? ???surface??? and depth,??? ???inside??? and ???out,??? ???public??? and ???private???. As the utopian must admit the all-too-specific as well as the wildly implausible Acconci also projected a National Quilt museum for Indiana where each room of the museum would showcase a different type of quilt, or quilt by itself. Here the artist acknowledged the quilt as an American art form exemplary for its ???multitude of elsewheres???: places, identities, substances, beliefs, fabrics and stitching patchworked.

Other projects included a ???Plaza of Plazas??? for Strasbourg whereby the elements of the typical plaza should be set into motion creating a plaza its occupants ???never knew they wanted until they formed it by accident??™. Also a ???Sculpture Jungle??™ for the Czech Republic (???another world that??™s somewhere but isn??™t here yet??™) and a ???transfer??™ for an airport in Atlanta.

In the ???transfer??™ piece the connection between the ???no place??? of Acconci??™s unrealized projects and writing itself was evident in the many puns at play (???you have lost your head, you have gained still another head??™), as well as the conceitful position of Acconci??™s narrator (first he tells his reader he is home in NYC, then says he has lied, he is in Atlanta, then says he is ???nowhere??™, he is at an airport, writing). Indeed we have perhaps always been nowhere before Acconci??™s work, which consistently pits its audience between here and there, arriving and departing, potential and actual, on paper and off. For Acconci, who began his career as a poet and in so many ways still acts as one, language itself finally seems the ultimate elsewhere.

*for more about Acconci??™s ???delay??™ see Craig Dworkin??™s introduction to Acconci??™s 2005 MIT Press book, Language to Cover the Page (ed. Dworkin).

Thom Donovan

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11/09/07 11:35:17 am
???Twice upon times yet to come??™


Tris Vonna-Michell. Photo courtesy of the artist and Dispatch.


Tris Vonna-Michell Tall Tales and Short Stories, at Distpatch, 2007.

Tris Vonna-Michell Tall Tales and Short Stories at Dispatch Bureau, Nov 11.

???I can search for him but I can??™t find him.??? Tris Vonna-Michell on his quest for Henri Chopin, which has occupied him since 2005. From 2005 until now is two and a half years spent on a quest with an unrealisable outcome, if Chopin truly cannot be found. Vonna-Michell??™s (almost) epic work is a sprawling web of spoken word ???tall tales??™ and ???short stories??™ that comprise his quest, which began with his questioning of his own identity to his father, who told him to seek Henri Chopin in Paris.

There is a lot to write about journeys going off-course, meandering wildly, having no direction and so forth. I can??™t write too much about how Vonna-Michell is padding out his journey to his unreachable destination, as he wasn??™t at the Dispatch Bureau where he was promised to be telling his tales.

Vonna-Michell will be live for 4 days and until then the elegant curatorial face of Dispatch Bureau will seem a little apologetic or contextualise a bit if you seem interested. In the lead up to the artist??™s presence the live event continues through the purchase of a customised $10 telephone card. It looks like a telephone card, but it??™s black with a curious minute image that appears to be a photograph taken from within a small black hole from which the outside world can be glimpsed.

I am told that I may call Tris and he will spin me some part of his vast, accumulative tale, or that I may call my ???mom??™. The duration of the call will depend on where I am calling to and from. Spectator choice within contemporary art spectatorship is a regular occurrence; a natural extension of choice, in its various degrees of limitation, as a perennial part of life, and a progression of all historical art spectatorship that has lead to a direct foregrounding by the artist of the spectator??™s self-consciousness.

A ???Will I? Won??™t I???? on my part would be gratuitous to divulge, but since I have little money, am far from home and we have very recently lost my grandfather, the choice to place the call to my mother instead of Tris??™s UK mobile phone is weighing heavier than it would ordinarily, when such an offering could be construed as a bit glib. This time spent pondering is also due to my instinctive trust of the said elegant curatorial face of the project. Perhaps he doesn??™t want me to call? Perhaps he is further de-centering the object into more tangled communications that will not only be lost in time but also from the artist himself.

An exacerbated form of most art, like an accordion Vonna-Michell??™s work points into himself, his tale, where he is and how he does it, then unravels outward to the viewer, their presence, their choice and what they bring to it. And then it explodes in suspended motion and all the pieces are framed together in a communicative network that has no ties and is intangible fragments travelling apart.

Rebecca May Marston

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11/08/07 10:37:38 pm
Review: Allan Kaprow


Allan Kaprow, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (re-doing), Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2006. Photo by Marion Vogel.

Allan Kaprow 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing) at Deitch Studios, Nov 8.

If we bypass ???art??™ and take nature itself as a model or point of departure, we may be able to devise a different kind of art by first putting together a molecule out of the sensory stuff of ordinary life??¦Alan Kaprow, 1958.

A bell gongs loudly, announcing the entrance of four subjects. A deafening score of electronic bleeps and blips follow as a slide projector casts Ab-Ex images rapid-fire onto a white screen. An oration of monosyllabic words ensues in a third room; ???Up, what, out, and, no, which, each, the,??? all while the performers engage in a deliberately choreographed sequence of movements made to suggest the arms of a ticking clock. The bell gongs again. Act 1 is over.

Act 2: This time the slide show consists of Renaissance paintings. A Caravaggio catches the eye while a male subject reads off of a note card. ???It??™s simple to tell time,??? he tells us, ???we have designed the clock.??? Yet his awkwardly staged pauses, starts and stops, combined with the sound of another orator in the background, belie his words. Time is not the issue here, the suspension of it is.

Intermission.

Everyone is required to change seats. Moving from one makeshift room to another, the first space remains visible through a screen of transparent vinyl and open doorways. Large painted dots in primary colors float amidst the plastic barriers while individual light bulbs illuminated in patriotic shades of red, white and blue grace the perimeter of the space. Rhythm and balance have joined time as central themes for Act 3 but are destroyed by the dissonant sounds of a screeching violin, ukulele and kazoo in Act 4.

In 1959, Kaprow was standing on the precipice between modernism and the postmodern. 18 Happenings in 6 Parts embodies this middle-ground. Not yet of the same caliber that would come to typify the spontaneous and decadently feral Happenings of the 60??™s, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts demonstrates the organic basis and subsequent evolution of Kaprow??™s artistic idea(l)s.

Recreated from dozens of pages of original notes, the performance??™s format still maintains the narrative structures inherent in modernist theatre, with six consecutive acts separated by two intermissions. But the interplay of meticulously choreographed movements with everyday actions, such as the bouncing of a ball, the act of painting or the drinking of orange juice, creates an infinite number of variables that cannot be accounted for nor pre-determined. It is this intersection of philosophies, of the elements of chance combined with that of the mundanely routine that keep Kaprow??™s work contemporary.

In the final act, a scroll of words is pulled down from an overhanging bar in the center of the middle room. As all four subjects read in unison from its score, this notion of contemporaneity hits home. We are all joined, regardless of decade, by the elements of art and language; 2007 may as well be 1959. A bell gongs and we exit.

Kara Rooney

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11/08/07 05:47:42 pm
'Preview: Mahjong by He Yun Chang'


Washington Square Park


Project team 'Mahjong 2007' in the park

Preview: He Yun Chang
Mahjong,2007
Washington Square
09 Nov 4-7pm
Presented by Chambers Fine Art for PERFORMA07.

I went to Judson Church on Washington South yesterday to meet He Yun Chang whilst he prepared for his performance of Mahjong, 2007. Mahjong is a traditional Chinese game that He Yun Chang will perform with various audience members in nearby Washington Square Park on the 9th November. The performance of Mahjong itself has nothing to do with the church, but the tiles that He Yun Chang will use for the game are large bricks, 100??™s of them, and they are all to be hand painted by the artist himself, so Judson Church kindly agreed to give Performa space in their basement for the brick storage and painting.

That the tiles for He Yun Chang??™s unique version of Mahjong are big, heavy bricks and that each one is to be painstakingly hand-painted should come as no surprise to those who know He Yun Chang??™s work. Previous projects have tested the limits of the artists??™ physical and mental endurance against insurmountable odds. Such odds have included the artist trying to move a Chinese mountain with string in Moving a Mountain, 1999, being suspended over a river whilst trying to cut water with a knife in Dialogue With Water, 1999 and more recently Touring Great Britain With Rock, 2006 in which He Yun Chang walked 2000 UK miles in 9 months whilst carrying a large rock.

Although He Yun Chang doesn??™t succeed in physically moving mountains or dividing rivers, the artist??™s persistence does prevail in incredibly moving ways that reference human struggle and the triumph of the individual over both internal, natural and external political forces.

Mahjong,2007 will be the latest in a long line of powerful, poignant and quintessentially Chinese performances by China??™s leading contemporary performance artist. Put simply, it is not to be missed.



Rachel Lois Clapham

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11/08/07 02:10:41 pm
A Screening of Contrasts


Daria Martin, Harpstrings & Lava, 2007. Film production still. Photograph Thierry Bal, courtesy of PERFORMA and Maureen Paley, London.

Daria Martin Harpstrings and Lava at Tribeca Grand Hotel Screening Room, Nov 4 & 19.

The title of Harpstrings and Lava, the new film by the American artist Daria Martin, is taken from a nightmare that a friend of Martin??™s had as a child. The nightmarish element is the conjunction of two seemingly impossible things ??“ the thick, molten heat of lava and the cool, clear strings of a harp. The film, a PERFORMA Commission co-commissioned by S.M.A.K and Outset, also builds to an encounter between two conflicting ideas ??“ this time, embodied in characters. There is the driven activity of a musician, played by the experimental musician Zeena Parkins, and the exploratory, animal-like behaviour of a woman in a woodland set, played by the performer Nina Fog.

Parkins wears a Japanese Kimono and carries out a series of unexplained rituals ??“ banging chalks together, whipping the sleeves of her dress ??“ before sitting down to play the harp. She is surrounded by formal architecture and when she starts to play music, it??™s in a never-ending courtyard. The courtyard??™s walls and archways glimpse more walls and archways, receding into an infinity of man-made space. In contrast, Fog??™s world is consumed in nature and discovery. She wakes up, confused, under a tree, and scrambles round for food. Her dextrous fingers fumble through leaves and dirt, while Parkins??™ dextrous fingers take command of the harp. The camera slides between each character by way of a long, twisted branch; it is dead when it leads to or from Parkins, but comes to life as it gets closer to Fog.

Harpstrings and Lava is itself a contrast to the other two Daria Martin films shown at this screening, Birds (2001) and In the Palace (2000). In these earlier works, the camera travels around performers striking poses, or getting prepared to strike a pose. These films draw on modernist aesthetics ??“ relishing the shapes, forms and colours of objects; attending to the acts and tools of representation and performance themselves, rather than to mimesis (the drive to imitate). They draw attention to the camera??™s participation in performance and the actors, as Daria Martin said in her introductory speech to this screening, are used like mannequins or marionettes, rather than individuals with their own agency.

In Harpstrings and Lava, however, the characters sometimes lead the camera. While in her earlier films, Martin uses the camera to explore a set that is complicit in and produced entirely for its gaze, in Harpstrings and Lava the camera seems to have stumbled upon a world that resonates beyond its horizons. Here it is the agency of the camera and the performance of film as a medium that are rendered passive. Dripping with meaning beyond the viewers??™ control, Harpstrings and Lava really does feel like a nightmare. It ends just as the two irreconcilable characters meet. The lights go up in the auditorium, and we wake without resolution.


Mary Paterson

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11/08/07 01:21:40 pm
???Please Note: This is Not a Traditional Ikebana Workshop??™

BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) by Ei Arakawa and Amy Sillman
Japan Society Lobby
Friday November 02 at 8pm

Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, or Kad?? (the ???way of flowers??™), the traditional practise of which involves great skill and accomplished craftsmanship after many years of being tutored in the correct Ikebana school. In Japan, Ikebana is also revered and loaded with cultural, artistic and religious (Buddhist) significance and continues to be a popular contemporary art form. It is wise, then, that for Ei Arakawa??™s performance of BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) a large disclaimer "Warning: This is Not a Traditional Ikebana Workshop" was printed in the programme booklet. Traditional, harmonious, reverent and highly crafted, this performance installation was definitely not.

Instead, the audience for BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) were packed into the downstairs Japan Society lobby; tightly squeezed around a large make-shift installation that included paintings on canvas, polystyrene screens, data projectors -some rigged up, some strewn on the floor- sewing machines and unopened boxes of canned Blue Ribbon beer. We stayed like this, tense, shuffling and expectant whilst nothing happened, for some time until a Japanese man in tight leggings and a baggy tee shirt entered. He runs between the polystyrene screens, fumbles with the data projector, moves chairs around. The audience start to smile knowingly. Some of us start to take photos. The man senses our - misplaced - attention and, with some difficulty, holds up a metal table attached to a small microphone. Through the table-microphone he shouts: ???This is not the performance. The performance hasn??™t started. We are not ready yet!??? The man has an altogether worried look on his face. Does he think this performance is all going horribly wrong as we, the audience, do? Perhaps it is because we think it is going horribly wrong that we carry on smiling even more and taking photos. Looking exasperated at this the man then lurches forward at the happy snapping audience: "No photos please, this is not the performance!".

Although this was the performance; BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) had already begun and Ei Arakawa??™s performance persona was already in full force. With only a faintly ironic hound-dog expression, a baggy tee and a pair of leggings this likeable whirlwind of Japanese mischievousness already had us in the palm of his hand. We liked him, at least I did. And it didn??™t matter that I was tired, crushed and not just a bit confused about what was actually happening.

Amid Ei Arakawa??™s genuine protestations that his performance was not a performance, Japan Society staff, bored looking audience members and other ???helpers??™ of undefined status idly tinkered with the installation??™s equipment, moved boxes and draped material over polystyrene screens. 20 minutes later and I think I can say with confidence that the performance had definitely started (again). The artist and his helpers collected the all important flowers that the audience had brought, then proceeded to besmirch and swat them mercilessly across floor, table, chairs, data projector and beer cans. Chaos still reigned 10 minutes on, some confused audience members left, and Ei Arakawa gave out cans of "little bit chilled" - read : warm - beer and performed a disorganised slide lecture about famous artists throughout history whose life and work had been indebted to the consumption of alcohol (Van Gogh, Kandinsky, some others I couldn??™t hear). At some point in the middle of all this Ei Arakawa took US $150 from the audience and the American painter (Amy Sillman) was interviewed by a journalist for the Brooklyn Rail. It is unclear whether the money was ever given back (I very much doubt it) and if the interviewee really was the renowned Amy Sillman, or a younger stand in? It is in the rather punk spirit of BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) that all these questions - and many more - remain unanswered.

In a neat circle of self reflexivity the process for BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) - including the waiting, the nothing happening, the false starts and the non performance performances - is the work itself. BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) is at once the bare, shambolic, manic and sketchy bones of how a performance comes to be, or sometimes doesn??™t quite happen, whilst being the final finished version of itself. In this way, Ei Arawkawa and co skilfully perform creative chaos while enacting the grey, shifting and difficult area of live work that reveals the different levels of Performance itself (Ei Arawkawa performing himself performing, or rather, not performing). Breaking down traditional and deeply suspect notions of artistic skill, craftsmanship and cultural relevance for our contemporary times, BYOF (Bring Your Own Flowers) was high class Japanese theatrics with no Theatre in sight: sheer adulterated joy.


Rachel Lois Clapham

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11/07/07 01:11:43 pm
'Review: Christian Jankowski'


Christian Jankowski Rooftop Rountine, 2007.

Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine on Christian Jankowski??™s Rooftop, Nov 3.

Standing on a roof in the lowest and eastest of the Lower East Side in the briskest of brisk autumn winds, earlyish (10am) for a Saturday to look for hula hoopers on nearby roofs was already fun. One of the bundled pair of hoop-spotters just over my right shoulder said ???It??™s like ???Where??™s Waldo!??™??? and the other, face smothered in round black glasses, giggled. We were all a little giddy from the trip up (sharing turns on the elevator with the construction workers and materials going to another floor), the walk through Christian Jankowski??™s apartment, the climb to the roof and the emergence into the morning. There is something, maybe especially for backyard-depraved New Yorkers, exciting about being outside on a private patch of roof.

The remark I overheard was right. Spotting the hoopers was a seek and find game; the twirlers kept appearing on rooftops, some far away and some on other sides of the building (three were accessible.) The near ones were at points lower than us, and some of the far ones were higher. The far ones were specks of color-green, red, black-against the sky or other buildings or watertowers or the bluish-greyish sky. The near ones were swivel-hipped athletes. Another of the audience, as I passed by, noticed that they each had, despite the limited possibilities for motion, her (I only counted one ???his???) own style of hooping; this one was upright with planted feet apart and moving steadily but not so fast; that one was leaning into the motion with something like a runners stance and spinning her hoop fast. We, the audience drank teas or coffees in paper cups, if we had had the foresight to bring them, and wandered around the roof.

And then I heard Jankowski talking to a group of three or four people. He was explaining that the woman in red, very visible to us, was his neighbor and that she was the original collaborator. I knew this already from the listing on the PERFORMA07 website and had thought it was a nice idea, collaborating with your neighbor. We live packed pretty tightly and it is not always a pleasant thing. Some neighbors are friendly; some are tight-mouthed and remote, and most are both of these by sudden and surprising turns. So, sweet to arrange a morning exercise with a neighbor. Then I heard Jankowski continue; pointing to the neighbor, he explained that she was deciding and dictating the hard or arm gestures of the hoopers. They were to change their gestures based on her signal and, depending on how far or obscured they were, this information might take time to arrive at them or may not arrive at all.

Ah, now this is even more fun and I was glad to overhear the conversation. I hadn??™t noticed the gestures because, maybe, I am unobservant, but, in my defense, I couldn??™t see the arms of all the hoopers. But there they were, once I watched, first doing a prayer, then, minutes later, with arms raised. So this game was also an illustration of how information travels across a community. It was uncertain and slow, but there they went, following the leader when they knew she had led. In a darker interpretation, this spread is similar to any virus that moves from body to body across a community. The relationship between community information and community illness can be seen in the language of the Internet (virus, for the obvious, and random other words that mimic community actions in the real world, like mail and breadcrumbs) but it??™s good to see it in the language of performance too. And, according to me, a better experience. I hope Jankowski??™s explanation spread across this rooftop too, since watching hula hooping is already fun but such well-orchestrated and thoughtful fun is better.

Vanessa Baish

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11/07/07 12:10:46 pm
???Will Things End Before They Start???™


The TM Sisters, Things Will End Before They Start, Digital Video Performance in Uncertain States of America, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2006. Photo copyright Declan O’Neil.

TM Sisters Things Will End Before They Start at Artists Space
7pm November 02
Curated by Benjamin Weill and Silvia Karman Cubina
Presented by Artists Space in collaboration with Moore Space (Miami).

Two women in matching retro dresses fly through the air. They soar through a pale blue sky, arms straight out in front of them, their gaze fixed intently elsewhere: somewhere out in the ether. Together they float smoothly across pink clouds, white stars and pass awkwardly through abstract geometric shapes andworm-holes in outer space. Then, all of a sudden, God reaches out from the heavens, grasps both girls with two large hands and gently plonks them down on stage in front of us.

This is the colourful world of the TM Sisters in Things Will End Before They Start, a performance presented as part of PERFORMA 07 in which the distinctly bored looking art duo physically interact on stage with animated digital landscapes. The work involves the sisters running (in realtime) through digital streets, doing gawky dance moves with virtual characters in on-screen discos, pretending to fly through simulated clouds and physically encounter a cartoon pair of God??™s hands, all to the rhythm of 1980??™s sounding pop music.

The TM sisters are bound together by their artistic collaboration, but also by blood (they really are sisters). The sisters also share a religious upbringing in Miami where they were home-schooled under the watchful eye of their father, a church pastor. This spiritual element fits in with the naive graphics, cheesy choreography and retro-cool aesthetic of the sister??™s performance, in which spoof and sincerity are enacted in equal measures. However, this distinctly in vogue art-world mix of silliness, ennui, irony and contemporary retro that the sisters employ makes picking out what is spoof and what is sincerity in Things Will End Before They Start a very messy affair.

In that case, perhaps we should not pick at Things Will End Before They Start; not analyse the conceptual, faintly apocalyptic, title or the professed seriousness of Gods??™ influence in the work, and so not look underneath the skirts of the TM sisters to see what is at stake behind their poptastic veneer. Perhaps then, it is too cynical, amid the undoubtedly fun, deliberately low-fi and lightweight tone of the work, to wonder how firmly the TM sisters have their tongue lodged in their cheeks, and if so, who exactly - them or us - their joke is aimed at? Then again, perhaps all this is of the utmost importance. What I do know is that it remains to be seen if Things Will End Before They Start is critical enough to bring on the creative, transformative or religious apocalypse its title anticipates.


Rachel Lois Clapham

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11/06/07 01:51:39 pm
'Judensau'


Tamy Ben-Tor, Judensau, 2007. Photo courtesy of the artist and Riccardo Crespi Gallery.

Tamy Ben-Tor Judensau at Salon 94, Nov 5.

The first of Tamy Ben-Tor??™s four incarnations as part of her performance Judensau at Salon 94 was as a Gepetto-like character with a blonde wig and moustache, pressed shorts and slippers. She??™d made her skin pale with powder so that her eyes looked all the more watery and red, adding to the measured despair of the character??™s monologue given in German. For me, without an idea of what was being said, Ben-Tor??™s physical expressions, her head mechanically shaking from side to side, her tongue sticking out in disgust and her slight rhythmical movements to the folk music soundtrack convinced you of some kind of detachment, a tangible gap between what the audience was expecting and what Ben-Tor had to say.

The three subsequent characters she assumed the roles of gave slightly more away. Changing personas at the side of the stage from the blond man into a raven haired, buck toothed, starchy school teacher figure, the artist read out the title of the second vignette in English ??“ ???How does a Jew look???™ Some German-speaking members of the audience giggled at a few early sections of her spiel; I imagined the front row were being sprayed with spittle throughout her comically delivered rant, but as she progressed I picked up on a few words here and there, ???homosexual??™ and ???holocaust??™ (again, she poked out her tongue). I began to realise there was something much darker going on ??“ was she actually stating a case for holocaust denial?

The third of Ben-Tor??™s characters was a physically stunted figure in dark clothing and a skull cap. Readying herself for the performance she kneeled down, drew her arms into her sleeves and craned her neck. Squinting, she mouthed along faultlessly to a soundtrack of what sounded like a clip from a Quentin Tarentino film talking about the Sabbath. When the voiceover ended the artist proceeded to pine after the life of a gentile - I want to eat the pork chop and the bacon!??™ ???I want to die like a gentile! I want to be consumed by the gentiles!??™ The fourth character, an older woman dressed in gaudy jewellery, a tracksuit top and sneakers, was proud of her assimilation into American society, proclaiming in a broad American accent that other Jews would bring another holocaust on themselves if they didn??™t follow her example.

The title of the performance, Judensau is an anti-Semitic term from the Middle Ages meaning Jew??™s sow, or Jews who suckle from a pig. Despite the language barrier, Ben-Tor??™s performance functioned impeccably to unpack racism and inverted racism against Jews. From the plush environs of Salon 94, an exclusively accessible repository for contemporary art, the audience was confronted by underlying prejudice in the society that surrounds them and the threat to civil society this might carry.

Shama Khanna

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11/05/07 05:30:53 pm
'A Chinatown Remedy'


Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine (2007).


Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine (2007).


Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine (2007).

Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine , the artists residence on Division Street, 10am Nov 03 2007
Presented By PERFORMA

It??™s 10am on November 3rd and a small, tired looking crowd stand on the rooftop of Ming Tower on Division Street, Chinatown. We have been invited here, to the roof of the artist Christian Jankowski??™s apartment, to witness Rooftop Routine an early morning collaborative performance that is part of PERFOMA 07.

Just across from us on an adjacent rooftop is a Chinese woman stood amid bits of junk, walls of graffiti, discarded chairs and cans. She is dressed in red and is hula-hooping for all her worth rocking slightly back and forth, with both arms in the air, her palms toward her. Back on our roof thirty seconds later someone excitedly points in another direction just west of the original hula-hooper; another hula-hooper has been spotted doing the same routine. Then another. All in all the Chinese woman sets off a hula-hooping chain reaction that involves about 20 people and stretches in a three block radius around us.

Combined, the gyrating, sports-clad hula-hoopers are beautifully at odds with the grey New York morning, with its loud and busy rush hour streets, looming Uptown skyline and litter strewn Chinatown rooftops. The shared, simple arm gestures of the hula-hoopers, which change variously from waving arms up and down and turning palms inside and out, move out sequentially from the Chinese
woman, travelling beyond any one individual hula-hooper??™s body or sightline. This autonomy of movement gives the routine itself a visceral and contagious quality or choreography that moves through, but is independent of, the bodies of the hula-hoopers. Spreading like a happy rash over the rooftops, each change in the hula-hoop workout create links, making tangible the physical and conceptual bonds that bind us here together; this project, these buildings, these bodies.

The basis for Rooftop Routine was Jankowski looking out of his apartment window to discover his neighbour, Suat Ling Chua, doing her daily 40 minute hula-hoop workout on the roof of her apartment opposite. It is outside the frame of this project that spying on what your neighbour gets up to as part of her personal fitness regime might be a dubious starting point for a performance. Also not in the picture is why Suat Ling Chua was hula-hooping on her roof in the first place and whether or not hula-hooping is actually a sport, it is also unclear what Suat Ling Chua??™s actual level of input or personal investment in the project is (aside from being the lead hula-hooper). All this is of interest, but what really matters is that the artist eventually found, and initiated contact with, Suat Ling Chua and the rest, as they say, is history.

The coming together of the community of Chinatown and New York??™s contemporary art world is not something new or unique. Chinatown, one of the remaining parts of New York to retain its (Chinese) inhabitants and distinct (Chinese) flavour, is also home to many New York artists - including Jankowski - who live or keep art studios in the area. In recent history, this mix of low rent, available space, immigrant communities and artists has inevitably signalled areas in danger of impending corporate development or gentrification. Whether or not this is the immediate future for Ming Tower such local geographic and economic concerns seem important to Rooftop Routine. Seen in this political light, Jankowski??™s deceptively simple human chain of hula-hoopers is the perfect cover for a performative restoration of neighbourhood links that highlight the area??™s distinct blend of community, architecture and art that might just keep the developers at bay for a while longer.




Rachel Lois Clapham

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