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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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11/04/07 10:21:30 pm
'Dancing for the City'

Christian Jankowski Rooftop Routine, Nov 3.

10 am on a chilly Saturday morning, and thirty or forty people are gathered at the top of a building on the Lower East side. We rub our hands together and pull our scarves round our necks to keep ourselves warm.

All at once it starts ?? the view comes alive with hula hoopers. Thirty men, women and one child are dotted around the rooftops that surround our gathering place, the roof of artist Christian Jankowski??s apartment. They bob and twist in unison, lacing together the disparate buildings that make up the New York skyline.

The troupe is lead by Suat Ling Chua, a beacon of scarlet on the top of an apartment block. The other hula hoopers follow her, keeping up through a sight line of at least one other dancer, although they can??t all see each other at once. It was Ling??s daily hula hoop routine, spied on by Jankowski, that inspired this event. Having watched her hula hoop for exercise, Jankowski asked her to collaborate on this one-morning only display.

Rooftop Routine is unashamedly silly and joyful - an act of casual voyeurism transformed into a communal dance. But it??s also a celebration of city living. The dancers animate a view of New York that would be otherwise anonymous ?? the outsides of buildings in which lives are carried out. They tie together different kinds of architecture (the derelict blocks, the neon-fronted buildings, the shiny new apartments) to temporarily stitch over the division lines that are felt more keenly on the street.

The performance both pays tribute to the vastness and diversity of the city and celebrates the human element that is its reason and its life. Like the tiny figures included in nineteenth century paintings of the sublime (by JMW Turner, for example, or Caspar David Freidrich), the hula hoop dancers encourage those of us watching to identify with the cityscape as well as wonder at its scale.

And those of us watching aren??t just the ones who have read the Performa programme and booked a place. Other New York residents peer out of their windows, climb onto their balconies or gaze up from the street. Some even become unwitting participants as they carry out their own rooftop exercises or hang out their washing. For someone who doesn??t live in the city, Rooftop Routine feels like a privileged glimpse into the semi-private space above street level, where the hustle of busy sidewalks gives way to a rolling landscape of domestic vignettes. Making use of this space, Jankowski has permitted us all to belong, however fleetingly.

It is fittingly bitter-sweet that Rooftop Routine is not a regular event. It ends, and the hula hoopers dissolve into the activity of New York. Later I see a boy hula hooping in Washington Square, oblivious to the performance that happened earlier in the day. The city has returned to a society of individuals.

Mary Paterson

11/04/07 01:53:48 pm
'A Hair Massacre'

me having my hair cut

me having hair cut

man having his hair cut

pell street, china town

me after having hair cut

Darren O??Donnell Haircuts by Children at 2 in 1 Hair Salon, Nov 3.

Produced with children studying at MS131, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Middle School in Chinatown by Art In General for PERFORMA07

Hair is not as external, shallow or simple as it may seem. Since before the dawn of Western civilisation hair and hair cuts have played a vital role in our cultural, social and religious beliefs and impacted upon our sense of our innermost selves: In the Bible Samson lost his strength when his hair was cut. For a Sikh long (uncut) and turbaned hair is a symbol of faith. In addition, Women??s hair has historically been covered up in the practise of Orthodox Judaism and Islam. Hair also plays a vital role in the identification of African tribal peoples. The long and short of it is, whether it??s shaving your head, having too much body hair, being concerned about going bald or getting a drastic new cut, hair is rooted to our contemporary psyche. All this makes having your hair cut, especially by non expert young children, extremely fitting material for a performance.

So the stakes are high in Haircuts by Children and the risks involved are many, for both performer and participant: the child ???stylist?? or performer risks giving someone an unwanted or bad - in academy terms - haircut. The ???customer?? or audience member has to make themselves and their hair open to a hair cut in the name of art and to potentially sporting a truly avant-garde style. The economic and cultural factors are equally tangible; whatever the result, the haircut is - literally - live art and it??s free, this means you can??t get a refund or complain. The politico-economic factors in the work are also clear; 2 in 1 is a hair salon in Chinatown, the kids are all of Chinese heritage mostly with English as a second language. The implications of being white, whilst being pampered by a group of clearly underage Chinese people in a run-down part of town, their home, perhaps doesn??t bear worth thinking about. But in this way, Haircuts By Children is yet another example of how live performance uncovers, and puts pressure on, important aspects of contemporary life that could so easily otherwise remain hidden beneath the surface; of the body, of the city of New York, and of the current (booming) Chinese / Anglo-American market economy.

Politics aside, my own hair cut was a personal disaster for me. To cut a long story short, I went from shoulder length curly hair to a severe, short, and very uneven bob in only 30 minutes. They were an extremely tense 30 minutes in which I saw larger and larger chunks of my hair falling past my shoulders while my hairdresser accidentally cut her finger, laughed a lot and waved her scissors dangerously near my eyes. Meanwhile, other 10 year olds stood by and stared, saying in hushed Chinese tones what I hoped - but doubted - were nice comments about my beautiful, stylish hair cut.

The focus of O??Donnell??s work isn??t to traumatise people or give bad hair cuts (the kids have all undergone basic training). His point is that children should be trusted with the important things in life and not sidelined. Moreover, a child??s opinion, their vision, should not be put down as simply childlike. Perhaps then, my hair came out bad not because of my child stylist??s inexperience or young age, but because I appeared nervous or was too demanding and therefore wasn??t trusting enough of her aesthetic vision for my hair. Whatever the result, she and I entered into Haircuts by Children as equals, both parties open and willing not only to acknowledge, but actively participate in, or risk, failure. This is a rare and difficult thing to undertake, however old you are, and it is testament to O??Donnell??s skill that both the participating children and adults took the transgression of these social and personal boundaries in the slightly manic, dangerous, yet underlying serious spirit of the work.

If you see me at any of the remaining Performa events come and say 'hello', I??ll be the one with a turban, hijab or large head-band on.

Darren O??Donnell and Art In General are offering the public free haircuts by children next Saturday November 10, 2007. (See Performa website for location details)

Rachel Lois Clapham

11/04/07 12:09:26 pm
???The Art of High and Low??

Ei Arakawa & Amy Sillman BYOF Bring Your Own Flowers, Japan Society, 2007.

Michael Portnoy at the Swiss Institute and Ei Arakawa & Amy Sillman BYOF: Bring Your Own Flowers, at Japan Society, Nov 2.

Friday evening was filled with both the high art one has come to expect from the New York art world as well as the refreshing low art tactics of the emerging artist scene. Two performances in particular capitalized on these dichotomies, Michael Portnoy at the Swiss Institute and Amy Sillman and Ei Arakawa at the Japan Society.

Michael Portnoy was scheduled to conduct a performance based on his Seminar of Sublingual Carnage. This translated to a tongue in cheek re-enactment of the first form of performance art, what he considers to be the prank call. As Portnoy explained to the audience, he was interested in the ???poetics of holding,??? here, an attempt to keep the top 100 most powerful people in the art world from producing as much waste as possible for the duration of a phone call. As his assistant surfed the internet for new victims, her face covered by a bandana of dollar bills, Portnoy sang renditions of elevator music, blew into various musical objects, banged on empty coffee cans and masticated bits of filet mignon between his teeth.

Ei Arakawa and Amy Sillman took a very different approach to the first form of performance art ?? audience participation was encouraged, with each member asked to BYOF ?? bring your own flowers. For over an hour, acts of sewing, selling and spontaneity reigned in the lobby of the Japan Society as Arakawa pranced in and about the installation that he and his assistants continuously recreated over the course of the evening. The flowers, initially used to ???paint?? the Styrofoam billboards and swatches of fabric in the center of the stage, lay scattered about the floor, while Arakawa gave a mini-lecture on the effects of Non-Alcoholic Painting. Excerpts from Peter Handle were read, the flower remnants vacuumed and Sillman??s paintings, reproduced on the side of what looked to be cereal boxes, were humorously auctioned off by Arakawa as works of art. Crimson reds, swaths of yellow and viscous applications of paint played before the eye as Sillman??s paintings were then brought out on rolling carts and incorporated into an elaborate installation of color, scent and sound.

The piece concluded with a fake interview of Sillman (played by one of Arakawa??s assistants) by the editor for the Brooklyn Rail. While the two discussed the artist??s complex theoretical platforms, a high-pitched tone rang through the lobby, obscuring much of the exchange. In the end, there was silence and a sense of having witnessed not the creation of art objects, but rather, the creative process at work. It doesn??t get much higher than that.

Kara Rooney

11/04/07 12:05:25 pm
Preview: 'Stapelung (Stack)' 2007

John Bock Stapelung (Stack) 2007 at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre, Oct 28-Nov 19,

Best known for his 1990??s spontaneous performance lectures, German born visual artist John Bock works with a wide range of different media, including sculpture, theatre, film and performance, and everything he touches takes on a dirty, low-fi, absurdly comedic feel that is distinctly Bockian.

For PERFORMA 07 Bock has installed a video sculpture, Stapelung (Stack) 2007, at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre. Stapelung (Stack) is a 5 channel video sculpture; a 5 screen video work that is also a 9 foot high steel rack supporting a messy combination of monitors, electrical wire, tape, plugs and 5 sets of audio headphones. Each monitor perched on the rack or ???stack?? screens a different Bock film. On the top shelf is ???Meechhouse??. Below that ???Foetusgott in Memme??, then ???NogoJones Dandy?? on top of ???Wuhl um die Klumpen?? all 2002. On the bottom shelf is the 2004 ???Sechser Tragerl Sushi Aschai Periskop Guatscht Schwanerl- Wie kann man das Gobu Ten Udong massig Bekleben.

Stapelung (Stack) is an important inclusion within the PERFORMA 07 biennial; it manifests Bock??s trademark combination of performance, sculptural construction and film whilst highlighting the artist??s concerns with narrative, staging and props. If the German titles don??t make sense to you, don??t be alarmed, it??s all part of the absurdity. To view Stapelung (Stack) is to be touched by a distinctly European tradition of artistic madness that comes directly down from Surrealism, Dada, Chaplin, Boyce, Beckett and Brecht. If you get there before November 19th step inside PSI, into Bocks mind, and be immersed in his world.

Stapelung (Stack) 2007 is co-presented by PS1 Contemporary Art Centre (a Museum of Modern Art affiliate) and PERFORMA , with support from Anton Kern Gallery.

Rachel Lois Clapham

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>>'Dancing for the City'...
>>'A Hair Massacre'...
>>???The Art of High and Low??...
>>Preview: 'Stapelung (Stack)' 2007...