Posts Tagged ‘performance art’

Photo: Jonothon Lyons
Theater artist Jonothon Lyons as Buddy the Rat in a New York City subway. “Oh, a dude in a rat suit. Just another day in New York.”

What you need today — a day that even in the best of times can mean anxiety about travel or kitchen prep or argumentative relatives — is Pizza Rat.

Valentina Di Liscia and Hyperallergic explain what I mean. “The internet is squeaking with delight this week at a 23-second-long clip of a figure in a rat costume, complete with a long tail, whiskers, and mousy gray suit, dragging a life-sized pizza slice up the stairs in a New York City subway station.

“As surreal as it may be, the sight is intimately familiar to urban dwellers who remember video footage of a real rodent carrying an entire cheese slice up the platform steps a few years back. The strangely endearing, ubiquitous New Yorker became lovingly known as ‘Pizza Rat.’

“The man behind the very realistic mask in the more recent viral video [is] Jonothon Lyons, an accomplished dancer, theater artist, and puppeteer whose previous credits include the Blue Man Group, Sleep No More, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 staging of Madame Butterfly. For his latest act, however, no tickets are needed. …

“Buddy the Rat, as Lyons has baptized his wiry-tailed character, brings the stage to the streets and the subway platforms: getting pets on the Brooklyn Bridge, showing off for Minnie Mouse in Times Square, and encouraging train riders to wear a mask.

“In an interview with Hyperallergic, below, Lyons tells us how Buddy was born and why he’s shaking up the performance art scene right now.

HyperallergicWhat’s the story of Buddy the Rat? How did the character originate?

Jonothon Lyons: Twelve years ago, I was working for a theater company in Portland, Oregon, called Imago Theater, and they have a show called Frogs, where we played big animal characters in masks. I played a frog, a polar bear, an anteater, and a penguin, but I never played a rat, and I always wanted to. In 2009, I made my own rat mask and went out in Times Square and ran around, put it up on YouTube, and it got around 70,000 views. It wasn’t gigantic, but it was enough that in the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘I need to take this rat out again.’

H: I’ve just emerged from a rabbit hole of TikTok videos of you performing in the costume. They’re incredible, and they’re really resonating with people right now. How did Buddy go viral?

JL: I’m friends with this film director Todd Strauss-Schulson (Isn’t It Romantic, The Final Girls, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas). I told him I had this rat character I’ve been wanting to do more with it, so we conceived of a little three and a half minute-long film.

“We shot it the week leading up to the election, in abandoned SoHo, as the windows were being boarded up — a very surreal and uncommon vision of New York. After the first night of shooting, a stranger had posted a video of me that got 1.7 million views that day. We wrapped up the movie, and over the next few days I started going out on my own and posting the content to TikTok and Instagram, and it really took off.”

Folks, I’m thankful for a whole lot of things today, but at this particular moment, I’m thankful for anyone who says they always wanted to play a rat! More at Hyperallergic, here.

Read Full Post »

Maria Popova at Brainpickings tweeted recently about artist Marina Abramović’s new production, “The Cleaner,” noting that it incorporated 40 Swedish choral groups. I couldn’t confirm that the choirs were 40 in number, but it looks like they were diverse.

At Deutsche Welle, Julia Hitz reports on her March 2017 visit to “The Cleaner.”

“Visitors had to leave all their personal belongings at the entrance and were allowed to stay as long as they wanted, becoming part of the performance. In fact, they were the actual performance. …

“Choirs and soloists are part of the performance. A group of professional singers connects the different choirs performing one after the other, resulting in a continuous, eight-hour-long musical performance.

” ‘They’re really a reflection of Sweden, like a small Stockholm: There are choirs of immigrants, such as the Iraqi Women’s Choir or the Bulgarian Choir, as well as traditional Swedish men choirs and church choirs, singing classical songs. Some solo musicians are also part of the performance,’ explains Catrin Lundqvist from Moderna Museet, who picked the choirs with Abramović and choreographer Lynsey Peisinger in a months-long process [that also involved] finding the 29 performers who are accompanying and guiding spectators through …

” ‘The Cleaner’ [was] performed daily at the Eric Ericson Hall in Stockholm through March 5, 2017. [Re-performances] of Abramović’s works are held through May 21, 2017. The retrospective will travel to Denmark and then to the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn in Germany next year, from April 20 – August 12, 2018.”

Some critics have called Marina Abramović too egocentric — for example, in the recent MoMA performance that had museum goers lining up for hours to sit and gaze into her eyes. But Maria Popova read her autobiography and feels sympathy for the traumatic childhood that shaped the artist. Popova posts this quote from the book:

‘When one of my baby teeth fell out and the bleeding wouldn’t stop, everyone thought I might have hemophilia so I was put in the hospital for a year. That was the happiest, most wonderful time of my life. Everybody was taking care of me and nobody was punishing me. I never felt at home in my own home and I never feel at home anywhere.’

Read about the Swedish performance of “The Cleaners” here and about Maria Popova’s take on the artist here.

Photo: Moderna Museet/Åsa Lundén
Marina Abramović’s “The Cleaner” performed in Stockholm.

Read Full Post »

I had an awfully nice lunch yesterday, and I’d like to tell you about it. It involved two nonprofits — the mostly Caucasian conservation group Trustees of Reservations and the mostly African American community-outreach enterprise called Haley House.

The trustees had a really great idea recently to do meaningful art installations on a couple of their properties and chose one next to the Old Manse in Concord. The Old Manse is most often associated with 19th Century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a resident and saw the historic events unfold at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

Artist Sam Durant wanted to draw attention to the presence of slaves in the early days of Concord and launch a discussion, so he constructed a kind of big-tent meeting house, with a floor made of the kinds of materials that might have been in slave buildings.

The Trustees conferred with him on a series of “lyceums” that might bring races together at the site. They decided that at the first one, they would encourage races to break bread together and talk about food traditions.

From Haley House in Roxbury, they brought in a chef, a beautiful meal, and singer/educator/retired-nurse Fulani Haynes.

I ate a vegan burger, sweet-potato mash, very spicey collard greens and wonderful corn muffins. Also available were salad and chicken.

Haynes sang a bit and talked about the origins of Haley House, how it helps low-income people and ex-offenders and local children, teaching cooking and nutrition and gardening, among other things. She invited attendees to tell food stories from their early years, and several brave spirits stood up.

That participatory aspect of the activities helped to reduce the impression that African Americans were making entertainments for a mostly white audience (art, food, music entertainments).

I loved the whole thing and learned a lot. (For example, Grandpa Emerson had slaves living upstairs, and “the embattled farmers” who “fired the shot heard ’round the world” were able to go marching off because slaves were working the farms. I really didn’t know.)

African American artifacts are on display next door at the Old Manse. The art installation will be up until the end of October 2016.

More here.

Photos: Artist Sam Durant offers the crowd a new lens on history. The chef from Haley House keeps an eye on the African American cuisine. Fulani Haynes demonstrates how a food can become an instrument.











Read Full Post »

Pigeon performance art in New York is ruffling a few feathers, and no wonder. The pigeons failed to sign performance agreements.

Andy Newman reports at the New York Times, “No one asked 2,000 pigeons if they wanted to have lights strapped to their legs in the name of art. Nor did anyone ask the birds how they felt about being shooed from their homes at dusk and sent flying up to illuminate the Brooklyn sky.

“But whether Duke Riley’s avian-powered performance piece ‘Fly by Night‘ constitutes pigeon abuse is a more complicated question.

“More than 5,000 people have signed a change.org petition calling for the show, which opened May 7 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, to be closed. …

“Their charges: that the birds are terrified by the flapping plastic flag Mr. Riley waves to keep them flying; that it is unnatural to make pigeons fly at night, when they normally rest; and that between their poor night vision and the distractions of the moving lights, they could become disoriented and crash into the East River. …

“Before ‘Fly by Night’ opened, [however], the nonprofit arts group that organized it, Creative Time, asked the director of the Wild Bird Fund, Rita McMahon, to inspect. The fund, based on the Upper West Side, treats more than 2,000 sick and injured pigeons a year.

“ ‘Mixing art and animals is a very risky business,’ said Ms. McMahon, who is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator, ‘but I was very impressed.’ The pigeons were healthy and well fed, their temporary homes beautiful and clean.

“ ‘I didn’t see any traumatized pigeons,’ she added. ‘You see them mating, courting, everything, all over the boat. I think that’s a pretty good sign.’

“ ‘Fly by Night’ runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until June 12, and the protesters say they will be out every night for the rest of the run.”

More here.

Photo: Byron Smith for The New York Times  
Duke Riley’s “Fly by Night” performance piece features more than 2,000 trained pigeons with LEDs attached to their legs.

Read Full Post »

Here’s an unusual approach to art. Christopher Bollen at Interview magazine has the story.

“Since 2005, the 41-year-old [Marie] Lorenz has been navigating New York Harbor in her handmade plywood-and-fiberglass boat, taking friends, artists, and willing participants on nautical odysseys of the city’s rivers and islands.

“The project, Tide and Current Taxi … has its roots in multiple artistic practices — from traditional Romantic seascape and marine painting to more radical iterations of performance art …

“It helps that the Brooklyn-based artist, who could command a boat by the age of 6, is an adventurer at heart — the kind of avant-garde pioneer more often found on Manhattan’s dry land than in its surrounding waters. Lorenz has extensive knowledge of the city’s waterways. ‘When I got to New York, I realized that the tides were significant,’ she says. …

“Lorenz uses the tides like a motor to propel her boat, as well as the time-trusted manual labor of paddling. She usually sits at the stern, with passengers facing forward at the bow and in the middle.  …

“The boat trips themselves are often captured on video by a waterproof digital camera fixed to a metal pole jutting up from the stern. The camera’s eye is in the position of fellow traveler or a Charon-like ferryman through the derelict metropolis. Perhaps what is most arresting about her work is the way it destabilizes our usual perception of the city itself — specifically the hypnotic rocking of the Manhattan skyline.

” ‘You usually see the city on solid ground,’ Lorenz says. ‘I think when you’re floating, you see differently, your vision expands. You get to see the city from an in-between zone.’ ”

More here.

Sebastian Kim

Read Full Post »

Longtime readers may recall I took a playwriting class a couple years ago. One of the assignments — which I blogged about here — was to listen in on a conversation in a public place and write it down word for word. Very awkward, but a good lesson in the random way people really talk.

Now the artist/cabby Daniel J. Wilson has taken the concept to an extreme, recording customers’ conversations and using them in his art.

Matt Flegenheimer writes at the NY Times that while driving a taxi in New York, Wilson “secretly recorded the conversations of his passengers, assembled the highlights into an audio collage of the back-seat musings and installed the final product in his taxi, playing the clips for his riders …

“ ‘It’s this world where people act like you don’t exist, even though you’re three feet away,’ Mr. Wilson, 35, said from the front seat of his cab recently. ‘You get this fragment of a person.’ ” More.

Much has been done with the invisibility theme in literature: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the powerful Mammy in The Sound and the Fury, the murderer disguised as an “invisible” waiter in an Agatha Christie novel — you can probably come up with more.

The Times article discusses the invasion of privacy. I think invasion of privacy might be the penalty for treating humans as invisible.

Photo: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Victoria Reis, left, called Daniel J. Wilson’s audio collage “the least pretentious and most experimental” work she had seen all week, and tipped him.

Read Full Post »

I love artists. They come up with the wackiest ideas. And often the ideas have bypassed the rest of us because they are in fact so incredibly sane.

In the July 27, 2012, Boston Globe, Stephanie Steinberg writes about two such artists.

Carla “Repice, 40, and Geoffrey Cunningham, 37, who met while studying at Lorenzo de’ Medici school of art in Italy, started the performance art project Office of Blame Accountability [in 2007] while working on a separate project in California. The two artists, now self-proclaimed ‘blame accountants,’ were frustrated by the lack of accountability by the media, government, and individuals. …

“Repice had recently purchased a red 1920s telephone at a flea market. As they sat on a bench outside Cal State Fullerton Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana discussing whom to blame for personal and countrywide problems, Repice brought up the idea of the phone representing an emergency call.

“ ‘We were talking about blame accountability, and there was this red phone, and we thought, “OK, let’s create an office. . . . Let’s place a desk on the sidewalk and facilitate a space where people can engage this idea of blame and accountability,” ’ ” she said.

“Within an hour, they set up a desk and placed a typewriter, mock blame forms, and, of course, the telephone on top. They then started asking random passersby, ‘Do you have any blame to place?’ ”

The lovely part is that the “blame accountants” also ask people to consider their own role is the thing they are blaming on others. The results can be quite touching. Read more.

Photograph: Tisha Kawcak

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: