Bill’s Blog: Who? What? Where? When? How?
WHO-Jen Rosenblit, a performance artist whose work I am just getting to know. We are co-presenting her latest work, Clap Hands with the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn.
I saw Jen in Part 3 of Miguel Gutierrez’s Age and Beauty that we commissioned and presented here at New York Live Arts last fall. At one moment, as she and a very young performer were grappling just in front of me, Jen and I made eye contact or at least I think she was looking at me. The look was opaque, neither open or guarded, maybe wary-certainly aware. She employed that gaze much of the time in Clap Hands the other night.
WHAT-This site-specific work performed by Jen Rosenblit, Effie Bowen and Admanda Kobilka was about 70 minutes in length. Jen has described the works as an “overstuffed solo”. There was a moment during this sustained ritual of objects as events and events as objects, that it became clear that each performer was pursuing a solo trajectory, parallel dimensions of concern that could have been performed independent of the whole.
This work seems to be a very useful snapshot of the concerns of a present day community of body-based artists. However, Jen’s sensibility owes a great deal to Yvonne Rainer, Jack Smith, Carolee Schneemann, the Fluxus school and Allan Kaprow, among others. I expect this work and all of her work has been shaped by every critical eye ever cast in judgment on her “outlawed body” as she has made her way in the dense undergrowth of what could innocently be called “The Dance World”.
WHERE-The rough utility of the Invisible Dog space with its treacherous sheet metal, plywood floors (at one point Jen crawling bare-kneed dislodges a sizeable sliver and throws it with determination off the to side) and its stripped steel metal pillars is ideal for the intimate arena of Clap Hands. I cannot imagine it anywhere else and certainly not in our (by comparison) highly domesticated (sometimes) theatre space at New York Live Arts.
I asked Shantelle Jackson, our Front of House and Marketing Assistant for suggestions as to the most appropriate place to sit. She directed me to a rectangular bench on one of the long sides of the seating configuration, saying it felt to her like a kind of front.
Throughout the piece there is a constant adjustment of bodies, objects and even the audience, that throws the “where of the work” into flux and disorientation.
WHEN-When did Jen start speaking aloud, as she was sitting at a cluttered table, at a strained angle speaking sotte voce as if practicing lines when the house opened? When did the person with the boom mic enter the space? When did the person in marigold wrestling/boxing gear leave his position at the extreme edge of my long side bench? When did the slim performer in white introduce the vocabulary of fencing? When was the above picture taken? When did the “group hug” for all three happen? When did the boom mic person spray Jen and the fencer with a plastic spritz bottle? When did the happy-faced fan (marigold yellow, by the way) get deployed by the boxer/wrestler wearing the yellow singlet? When was the fan/ping pong paddle put away? When did Jen emerge stark naked from the large mashed up bundle of fuchsia felt and the two other performers? When did she pull her head out of the fuchsia bag and smile, as if to say, “Ok! That’s that!”?
HOW-How did these events come about in the way they did begs the question why? How does human imagination work and the imagination of this creator and her cohorts in particular, is the more persistent question. And yes, how does imagination become part of an entire fields mechanism? The field I refer to is in experimentalist body-based investigation in live performance. My generation of movement creators, sometimes called post-post modern, the emerging generation, new dance circa 1981, etc… had similar shared concerns. Some of those concerns have been deeply absorbed by those working in the field now and others long ago shed and forgotten. Still, how does this present generation of creators create and deconstruct modalities, styles and values is the question that Clap Hands leaves me with.
What else has been happening? Some snapshots.
89 Jane St (@ Washington St)
New York, NY 10014
through May 8 12-6PM
Academy of American Poets 14th Annual Poetry and Creative Mind Gala on April 27, 2016 at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center
Matthew Weiner, Amy Ryan, Bill T. Jones & Leslie Dill
Our season closed with a sly and joyously subversive performance of Tina Satter and Half Straddle’s Ghost Rings.