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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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11/12/07 04:49:12 pm
???Dancing About Architecture??™

Isaac Julien and Russell Maliphant, Cast No Shadow, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA and Sadler’s Wells.

Isaac Julien & Russell Maliphant Cast No Shadow at BAM Harvey Theater, Nov 8-10.

The quote ???Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,??? variously attributed to Frank Zappa, Steve Martin and Lester Bangs, among others, implies that dancing and architecture have nothing in common, except, maybe, if you are dancing on a piece of architecture. Not so, if you can accept that the body is a structure the dancer shapes. In Cast No Shadow (a PERFORMA07 commission), with video by Isaac Julien and choreography by Russell Maliphant some of the most affecting moments in the first portion of the show, True North, are exactly when one or another of the dancers, normally running and leaping and bending, suddenly flings himself into a rigid shape and is manipulated by is fellow dancers-placed at an angle from the floor, held up and carried like a piece of lumber, propped onto another dancer and so on.

Otherwise, the relationship between the video, the dancers and the audience, is slightly distant. The projected images are absolutely beautiful, in fact, I had forgotten, until I saw this performance, that I had seen a video projection in a gallery (where? I know I was visiting someone, and I remember the space-something more like a house than a white cube) by Julien before. But once I remembered, I remembered very clearly that it was Vagabondia that I had seen and that I stayed where I was to watch while my friends? Family? walked on ahead. I was taken by the installation??™s ability to speak to me, despite being a projection; it had a faintly palpable presence. So I know Julien is capable of immediacy.

Honestly, I think it was the distance between the audience and the, I??™ll say for here, action that created the barrier. The second projection, Fantome Afrique, would have, I??™m sure, knocked me breathless had it taken up more of my field of vision, but from so far away and small, the projection only made me yearn to be closer to it. I will certainly go see Stephen Galloway, the dancer and choreographer in the video, when I have a chance, and I will definitely also go see the video itself, when it is installed in a gallery. The few magic moments when Julien and Maliphant worked together -video and dance- were in the last portion of the performance.

And on to the last piece, Small Boats. It was the longest and the most narrative of them. There was travel and then being in a place. The projection was cast onto a scrim, with the dancers behind, occasionally revealed by backlighting. The first time we see them, the projection is of a ship, and the dancers perform their sudden architectural movements with a constant rocking undercurrent, as if they were on a voyage. The second time they appear in the projection, the one that was most startling, the video is of a desert with people standing still at various places on the dunes when the screen is backlit and the dancers are standing at nearly, but not exactly, the same places. This established, for the, the relationship between image and live performance and made the rest of the piece, carried out largely in something that appears to be an Eastern European palace, more human and real. The distance between performers and audience shrinks or is bridged by the blending of human and man-made. The dance is about the space and the space is beautiful. We travel there too; now distance is cancelled and that thing that the internet cannot do, make our viewing experience a physical experience, is briefly done. Success! Then the performance returns to the ship and we are back in our seats. Finally, it ends. For a few seconds, this collaboration has taken the audience traveling with them. It was a lovely trip.

Vanessa Baish

11/12/07 04:43:26 pm
'Review: International Festival'

On the Town, MGM Pictures, 1949

International Festival, On the Town, 2007.

International Festival On the Town at Storefront for Art and Architecture, Nov 1??“20.

???New York, New York it's a wonderful town! / The Bronx is up and the Battery's down! / The people ride in a hole in the ground!??? So begins On the Town, the riotous MGM musical film released in 1949, which follows the amorous adventures of three Navy sailors as they try to find dates and see the city in just 24 hours of leave from their ship.

Paralleling this madcap race is International Festival's attempt to restage the film with their small, hand-held recorder during the three weeks of the Performa Biennial. Swedish duo International Festival (aka Tor Lindstrand and M??rten Sp??ngberg, and herein ???IF??™) decided to retain the original soundtrack and dialogue, but do away with actors and instead retrace and film only the locations featured in the movie. Therefore, where in the original we see the three sailors excitedly strut down the Brooklyn bridge, IF's footage is a straight shot of the same location, with tourists milling about. The original movie features New York as a central character, and America's post-war invincibility is apparent in the heroic way the city is presented. In IF's version, the city is the only character, with its present-day throngs of tired commuters and preoccupied pedestrians; the city is cast as a loose collection of places and strangers that offers no narrative thread.

Without the distraction of dance numbers and dazzling dresses, the antiquated interactions (one sailor says to a female cab driver: ???What you doing working? The war's over!") and ???primitive??? grunting songs in the fictional Museum of Anthropological History are set against IF's deadpan shots of a bored, gum-chewing magazine stand attendant, African drums behind glass, or a skeleton on display. It's tempting to read irony into the work??”it??™s almost too easy with the over-the-top campiness and "Everyone loves the Navy!" optimism of the musical. Making the juxtaposition of the different eras even more jarring is the fact that while filming a scene that takes place on the Empire State building, IF were stopped and interrogated for two hours by security guards??”who were very concerned in these post-9/11 times??”about why these men were filming the fire escape for so long (in the movie, a song and dance sequence took place there).

But the project is more than an easy puncturing of 1940s values from our enlightened, if cynical, present day. International Festival has over the past several years presented a wide range of projects that are a dynamic hybrid of dance, architecture, and performance. With this background interest, their project acts not only as a premise to see how the city itself can perform, but further, replaces the candied spectacle of action and sublime dancing with the pedestrian movement of the everyday by using??”yes??”actual New York city pedestrians.

IF??™s choice to foreground the city recalls, oddly, artist Allan McCollum's "Surrogate Paintings" of the late 1970s??”black squares of varying sizes that acted as surrogates for indiscernible paintings used as background decor. Reversing McCollum??™s project, IF??™s footage of the city is the ???real??? thing, setting up the fantasy-city portrayed in the 1949 film as a surrogate. Yet the new city scenes also stand in as surrogates for the human drama and spectacle pictured in the original film. In this later version, the city, while realer, is voided of the action we hear occurring??”its banality provides us with a blank screen on which to project our own fantasies suggested by the snappy dialogue.

At this point, IF is not finished filming their version and haven??™t concluded how they will handle the two dream-sequence scenes, one of which is a recap of the movie within the movie, meaning that they will have to create a reenactment of a reenactment...stay tuned.

Lyra Kilston

11/12/07 04:35:09 pm
???The Multilingual Art and Soul of Adam Pendleton??™

Vanesse Thomas, Adam Pendleton, and Renee Neufville in The Revival, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA.

Adam Pendleton The Revival at Stephan Weiss Studios, Nov 1.

Having recently re-assembled 1960s poetry and Civil Rights speeches onto smoke-colored silk-screens, Adam Pendleton has a reputation for handling the visual substance of text. Getting a PERFORMA commission upped the ante by requesting his next project to include a live, durational element, and the 26 year old, black, gay conceptualist upped it again, performing with an ethereal backup choir, two poets and a three-piece band. Diving into poetics and resurfacing with a fist full of politics, art and personal theology, the pure zeal of The Revival roused a crowd of non-believers.

While the audience settled onto simple wooden benches or minimalist, black cube seats, three projections by Charles Sandison showed pixilated white figures slowly blown apart like dandelion petals and reconfiguring as other people. Though the videos stopped when the performance began, they readied the stage for the shape-shifting energy and gusts of fragmented prose to come.

The choir entered through a partition in the audience, announcing a ???new day??? by singing Duke Ellington??™s I like the Sunrise and making its way to two staggered rostrums adjoining a piano, bass, and drums. Pendleton followed, reciting the first stanza of the amalgamated monologue and performance underscore, dream of an uncommon language. ???We lived on a small island stone nation, love without color, sound, garlic,??? his voice began evenly.

Throughout the performance, phrases borrowed from cultural figures such as John Ashbery and Jesse Jackson reoccurred in shifting cadence. The mood swelled with tenderness and torridity to address the pain of living in homophobic America and then calmed in a jumble of obscure quotations. Recalling the semiotic challenges of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner (among others) the alternate shortcomings and multiplicities of language were weighed politically. Proving that every word speaks a thousand more, ???Here is your language,??? Pendleton gave us repeatedly, at one point adding, ???mother fucker.???

Definition is rarely an only child and in The Revival, it was born a Gemini, starting sentences that a disparate twin would finish. Spirit, for example, was synonymous with linguistics and with love, introduced through gospel praise and morphing into something vaguely aesthetic. Language gained emancipation through experimental form and it took love with it, delivering a singular message of freedom: in art as in sexuality. Loosely conjoined in a patchwork patois, these ideas were felt, rather than understood.

Half way through, Jena Osman and Liam Gillick mounted the pulpit to read stylistically similar poems referred to as ???Testimonials.??? Awkward guests in the authorless hybrid, they ???testified??™ to the monotheistic (albeit multimedia) emphasis of The Revival. Whether one considers the spirit Pendleton spoke of to be secularly aesthetic or guided by God, The Revival showed gospel optimism, rare among evangelical hypocrisy and art world restraint. When soloist Renee Neufville refused to take credit for her beautifully human voice by pointing to the ceiling, her faith was blind, rapturous and unfamiliar to an audience that has seen too much materialism and criticality. This spiritual forcefulness left the audience stirred, baffled and with a strange taste of faith in their mouths hung ajar.

Sophie Landres

11/12/07 11:18:53 am
Check out WPS1- PERFORMA07's radio station!

Art Radio is the official Internet radio station for PERFORMA07. Select events will be recorded and archived on the website, so
check it out!

11/12/07 09:34:41 am
???Heavy Metal??™

Xu Zhen, In Just a Blink of an Eye 2005-07

Xu Zhen In the Blink of an Eye at James Cohan Gallery, Nov 7-10.

An uneasy silence hangs in the air as visitors hesitantly traverse the intermediary space between two New York Chinatown migrants. With voyeuristic gestures, they lean closer to the two figures, in an attempt to dispel the dreamlike atmosphere staged by artist Xu Zhen. One can sense the performers breathing, the diminutive pulses of life perceptible in the slight rustle of clothing or a brief flickering of movement that plays across their faces. Yet their bodies linger at inhuman angles ??“ crooked, awkward and lumbering ??“ deceptively suspended as if frozen in time. Like mannequins, they stare into nothingness, apparently immune to the viewers??™ presence. Their expressions are blank, detached; and then one of them blinks, catapulting the onlookers back to reality.

Since his first appearance on the global art scene in 1998, Xu Zhen has worked with the human form, consistently challenging its limitations on both a physical and psychological level. His performance, 6th March (2000), created for the first Shanghai Biennial, consisted of over 100 participants positioned outside of a gallery and disguised as the mentally ill. Their purpose was to follow viewers into the exhibition space, shadowing their movements and reactions to the work on display, effectively limiting ways of viewing by establishing an atmosphere of anxiety and unrest. The same elements are at work in the artist??™s most recent piece, In the Blink of an Eye.

Zhen??™s latest illusion is achieved by means of industrial strength steel frames that are fitted underneath the actor??™s clothes. The redolent symbolism inherent in the use of such a medium seems fitting considering the piece was created in conjunction with the Long-March Project, an artistic undertaking that aims to underscore both the political and cultural struggles encountered by contemporary Chinese and African-American societies. Yet Zhen??™s work is also doing something different. By placing his performance outside the realm of human proportions, his work reaches beyond the confines of mere political activism or commentary and into the nebulous zone that typifies the stuff of science-fiction novels. Hovering only a few feet from the ground, Zhen??™s subjects are literally immobilized by their state of helplessness. It is this weighted sense of stasis, not the possibility of movement that imbues his work with power.

In the Blink of an Eye is one of many works by Chinese artists that will be performed in conjunction with PEFORMA and the Long-March Project over the course of the weekend.

Kara Rooney

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>>???Dancing About Architecture??™...
>>'Review: International Festival'...
>>???The Multilingual Art and Soul of Adam Pendleton...
>>Check out WPS1- PERFORMA07's radio station!...
>>???Heavy Metal??™...