Sunday, April 13, 2008

strike the tall grass

I am obsessed with people tangled in and lost among trees, bamboo and tall grass.  

So, when I saw pictures of Fang-Yi Sheu clinging to and tangled upside-down in a field of plastic blue reeds  -- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style -- in TimeOutNY (go to these sites for pix; dance theaters are very strict with trying to take pictures during a show), I knew I had to see the Ballet Tech / ManDanceProject ( performance of Eliot Feld's works at the Joyce Theater (

Along with the reed sequence mentioned above (an Isis story with a curious set of stations (of which the reeds were one): part descent into the Labyrinth, part exercise machines in a gym from Space-1999), several other images throughout the evening were stunning:

* the condensation of breath and body heat on the inside of a clinging transparent plastic sheet womb wrapped around a body struggling to push through.

* a long roll (50+ feet by 6 feet) of butcher-colored paper/plastic, crumpled and spilling forth, enveloping and obliterating the contours of a body-become-shambling heap.

* the glinting strobe effect of light bouncing off a large (5' diameter?) shallow silvery bowl and onto Fang-Yi's body as she tipped and rocked the bowl while dancing in it.

In the seat in front of me during the show, a person I took later to be the choreographer himself (? - people congratulated him afterwards) chatted up his guest during the show and, once, let out a obscenely loud "damn it! that's their cue to get off the stage!".  Harrumph.

One more thing: the set change from the first to the second piece was done with the curtain up.  The purposeful and disciplined striking of a set is a mesmerizing bit of choreography.  I would love to make a piece consisting only of sets, flats, curious arbitrary ramps and objects being placed, raised and struck again and again, silently.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

air bear

I love Joshua Allen Harris' New York subway grate ephemeral inflatable bear, although it looks a lot more like a dog to me (thanks to YouTube's Rocketboom for featuring the piece in their broadcast today).  It makes me so freaking happy to see that apparent trash slowly rise up and take form as the subway air comes rushing from the grate, and then wag, shake its head (the mouth half-open in anticipation), shiver with excitement...

... then sink down to the grate -- commuters on their way -- and disappear once again as a heap of discarded plastic on the city street.

(New York's fifth season, as everyone knows, is when the plastic bags bud in all the trees, thrust there by winter/spring winds rushing through the steel and glass canyons... Ian Frazier has a nice piece about his own personal obsessive attempt to tackle the problem one tree at a time -- (see : "Bag snagging was our exercise, our companionship, our hobby, our impromptu community action program")

Harris' second inflatable piece is more kooky, a kind of alien sideshow assemblage of critters waving arms, but it reminds me a bit of those inflatables outside of car dealerships and it doesn't have the fragile -- and ultimately lonely -- impact of the lost dog... er, bear.

You can find out a little more on Harris' work at the Wooster Collective ("dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world"):