A week when I felt glad to live in New York. I went to two art openings last week before in the frigid cold, before I went to my Analyst.
First, I went to see Ryan McNamara's "Gently Used" at Mary Boone Uptown, curated by Piper Marshall.
McNamara is kind of a hero to me, in a number of ways. I've long admired his work in particular, and his ability to be part of and sort of make/contribute to a really cool thing or culture of things in the art and performance conversations. Maybe that's not specific enough. His work is I think heroic. I used to not be into it, or I thought I wasn't into it, his performances, because I thought it was probably glamorous in a bad way. I get like that about other queer people's work sometimes. That's on me, I know. Regardless, I like McNamara's work even if I'm intimidated by it, jealous of it, turned-on and vexed by some things about it sometimes. I really liked this show. I was into the way performance was used in this exhibition, as content, a material process for art-making. I'm into the title-- it's about recycling right? Transmission.
to be titled (striped bands)
When I say that McNamara's artwork is about heroism to me, I'm saying that it seems to me an investigation of the "hero" dynamic, an interrogation of the golden boy. He's not afraid, say, to fill a gallery or fill a daydream with golden boys. He's not afraid to make a routine out of transcendence. It seems like easy choices for someone to make, but they're almost certainly not. I was impressed with the show, the politic insistence on collection, display, archaeological self-regard. A response to an impulse but acting as if it were orders, a command.
One of the pieces was a series of sculptures. Long, curved, brightly colored tubes along one wall, with casts of hands on one end of the tube and casts of feet on the other end. I saw the famous writer Wayne Koestenbaum there, being led around the show, and I overheard some people talking about the foot casts. I ran into this cute boy I know, N, who said he loved the feet, was jealous of the feet. He said the feet were perfect. I asked if he was a foot connoisseur. He said that he was a dancer. So, I figured, yes. He explained that the actual feet were sort of perfect, in terms of what would be prized by a ballet dancer. The feet had perfect angles, arches or something. It was heartening.
Then, I went downtown to see the Helmut Lang show at Sperone Westwater.
I sort of breezed into the gallery without looking at any of the information about the show. I thought the sculptures were mostly pretty, quite scary. Kind of totemic, personal, creepy. I sort of glanced at the press release, and all I saw was: "While the artist’s process is readily apparent and his materials easily identifiable, in his hands they are enhanced and transformed into objects of contemplation." Is this transformation, really? Aren't all sculptures objects of contemplation? Isn't everything? Maybe that's not fair. I'm kind of glad I didn't do too too much research ahead of time, because I also missed this important tidbit about the pieces in the show: namely, that they're made out of his archives. In the excellent and mystifying essay ("Scar Tissue") by Philip Larratt-Smith which accompanies the show, the process is described as: "Lang has fed his entire séance de travail archive through a shredder and mixed with it resin and pigment in long casting tubes, where it is left to bake in the sun for twenty-four hours. The resulting forms have an intense bodily presence, burst viscera exposing a mélange of buttons, zippers, rubber, and scraps of fabric embedded in resin, like teeth or bits of bone."
Larratt-Smith uses Buñuel's Belle de Jour as a foil through which to discuss a psychoanalytic interpretation of trauma, breakdown and catharsis in Lang's sculptures. This is sensitively articulated and clever enough (honestly, the little zine alone is worth the trip). But it seems to be that there's a tremendously large elephant in the room here and the elephant is stinky because the elephant is a pile of shit. I'm not saying the artwork is shit or shitty-- quite the opposite, they're almost majestic. But one strains (pun intended) to see this work and the process described as anything other than anal. It's as if the essay is deliberately trying to get at this idea in as many ways as possible without actually naming or engaging with, you know, shit. Scar tissue is a fine metaphor, but it falls short. Why are we not talking about shit?
On my way to the gallery that night, I passed by the Helmut Lang boutique downtown and looked in the window, at the clothes on sale. I wondered how much of the experience of this art show is about knowing the Lang story, right? Not too much. It's scary though. Psychoanalytic is right. Obscure is not right. That's the thing, it's daring us to see it as magick, obscure, phantasy. But yet it resists it too, it's insistently visceral. Trying to be gross, I thought. I'm being a baby about it. I need to grow up.
It made me think, initially, about about charnel grounds and sky burials. About beauty, digestion. Decay, but really recycling. Nutrients. Cannibalism. Rimming. Digestion. I guess, more than anything, the show seemed, to me, to be about how to measure time, how to reckon with a legacy, how to process, understand, and (yeah) digest one's history. About what counts as waste, and what gets used. Pretty cool stuff.
Friday night I went to WITCH CAMP at Nowhere Bar. It was such a joy as always to dance to the groovy tunes of Isis Black and Isis Black. It was also Isis (Nath-Ann)'s birthday, so there was a delicious carrot cake and a lot of fun.
Can you believe this is the only video I can find of WITCH CAMP online?
They're far and away one of my favorite bands in New York and their sporadic DJ nights at Nowhere are bar none my favorite DJ night in New York, ever. Even when I'm not drinking. It's just the best:
Saturday I woke up and did chores and gym and whatever, then went to Gibney Dance to see a work in progress of Marjani Forté's "being Here…/this time", as part of the Winter Works series. Part of a longer series that Forté's been working on for a few years, the work that was shown this weekend "investigates the implications of recent neuroscientific research on pleasure and reward in relation to substance abuse legislation. The completed work will featuring a 3-D audio installation by composer and sound designer Everett Saunders." I was introduced to her work at BAX, where we were both Artists in Residence, as she was one half of the collective Love/Forté, but I hadn't seen any of the work she'd made outside of that project. I know Marjani mostly from the BAX meeting and the showings of her work I'd seen there, and I knew she was smart and had a very clear sense of how she was thinking through the project, but still-- I was surprised at how affected I was by the performance on Saturday. I ended up going by myself and I'm kind of glad I did-- I really needed some time afterward to be alone with my thoughts. "being Here..." is a piece that's about mental illness, but that seems like too big of a distinction to be useful. Maybe I can describe by saying that it's about thinking. It's a dance about emotional work. It's a dance about struggling, about the power of telling, or not telling, or telling the wrong thing. What I saw was desire turned to rot, onstage. I saw passions pursued to their logical conclusions. I saw depictions of fear turn the performers (who were uniformly phenomenal) grotesque, and I saw the dance, as an artwork, stay with that grotesquerie until it changed. Far from passively "living through" the trauma, Marjani Forté's dance seemed, to me, to take an extraordinarily patient, clear-eyed, sober and almost didactic approach to depicting illness, darkness, destruction. She took it to a very difficult place and she kept it there so that you could see what it does. It was very inspiring. There'll be a showing of the fully-developed project in May at Gibney Dance, definitely do not miss it.
After going home to collect myself and layer up, even more, I met up with the darling Joey Koneko to go see Lydia Lunch's RETROVIRUS because he had an extra ticket and is an angel. I didn't even know the show was happening and was so over the moon to get to go. The opening act was a darling noise duo from Brooklyn called YVETTE.
We were standing right in the very front, and Joey brought earplus thank goodness)! The band was excellent, super fucking loud, physically bone-rattling, and the lead singer was cute and a very good, engaging performer. Here's some of their music:
Okay but then on to the real reason for the season. You must know if you're reading this, how much I love Lydia Lunch. I can't be cool about it, I'm a huge fanboy.
I'd seen RETROVIRUS perform a few years ago and was thrilled, and this show was even better. The band, which includes the legendary Weasel Walter, Tim Dahl and Bob Bert, performed some classics from Lunch's back catalog, all of which had been updated, broken down, resuscitated. It was ecstasy, truly.
Not to be insanely creepy, but I was in the very front and we did make eye contact and I totally melted. At one point, she introduced one of the songs, saying it was from Queen of Siam and that it was a nursery rhyme. She said "It's probably not anyone's favorite, but maybe you'll like this version, it's called 'Mechanical Flattery'." I thought that when she said the title that the entire audience would burst into rabid applause but I was maybe the only one who did. She looked me dead in the eye and sniffed. "Well, you like it."
The show was fantastic. There are few words. Lydia Lunch does what everyone else has been trying to do for the last 40 years. So much of what we consider groundbreaking, important, revolutionary, aesthetically progressive or vital has more or less been invented by Lydia Lunch in seedy basements and hotel rooms long before any of us got to New York. She is the source. She is hugely underrated and I'm sorry about that but I did just so relish getting to see her up close in Brooklyn. After the show I gave her a copy of my zine and I almost barfed.
During the set, she stopped to reapply lipstick twice.
I love you, Lydia Lunch.
Sunday I cleaned out my room. The angelic clever gorgeous baby dear heart Molly Pope came over and we went to work on my closet and it was wonderful. It's kind of a minor point or whatever, but I've needed to de-clutter for a very long time and I feel like a new man. It's just the start, but I'm making a lot of giveaway piles. So I might have a treasure for you.
I went, after cleaning, to an art show at 247365's Manhattan space, titled "Believe You Me."
It was fucking miniscule. It was good! Everything in the show is good, and I think it's definitely worth seeing, and I want to keep up with this gallery and their projects, but the show was really tiny. Felt small. It felt like a pop-up, or like a temporary... something. I mean, everything's temporary. It felt more ephemeral than I thought it would. I liked what I saw and I would go back. There were maybe ten people in the gallery space, which was way too many. But I liked it.
Then I high-tailed it over to Joe's Pub to see A Ride on the Irish Creme the new musical Erin Markey is making in her residency at BAX. I've seen pretty much every iteration of this project. I think I maybe missed one showing of it and I'm pissed about it! It co-stars the brilliant Becca Blackwell, and features Emily Bate, Kenny Mellman and Amber Gray to wonderful effect.
Such a paltry photo, I'm sorry. Look-- I can't be cool about this either. Erin is my friend, we hang out and eat food and go to parties and stuff, but I am also a huge fan, and this show reminds me how hard I have to work to be a person and not a fanboy. It's brilliant. It's a show about desire and judgment and learning to love someone and being vulnerable, in so many ways. Erin Markey is a fucking genius. I can't even. I can never, and don't need to, make songs and performances the way Erin does. I don't need to be there, that's not what I'm trying to say when I say that her work is deeply, personally inspiring to me. It's inspiring in the sense that her ideas are difficult to articulate. They might not make the most sense on paper (writing a neat synopsis of the show would be pointless here-- it's fantastical, surrealist, sexy, dramedy). But she ruthlessly pursues her hunches. She knows, or seems to know, that she's getting at a very specific thing, or range of things, and really fights hard (with herself, with the audience, with the material, with the confines of our lived reality) to show us that it's in there. The thing that makes Erin Markey brilliant is that she's like that part in Peter Pan where the audience has to clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life-- except the stakes are higher, you have to clap louder, and you're not being implored. You want to bring Tinkerbell back to life. It was a fantastic way to end a lovely weekend full of inspiring work.
I'm exhausted and it's freezing but I have to go to rehearsal and then I'm going to go home and eat soup and get ready for this week.