Monday, January 8, 2007

more NY

Time for another NYC update:

Friday we started out with a tour of the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library. Since my focus is visual arts, this resource may come in less handy for me than for some of my compatriots. It was, however, still amazing. They have archives of everything. They have newspaper clippings from what appeared to be every play that's ever been performed in the U.S. There were filmed stage shows that you could watch, all kinds of photographs and documents, costume and set notes (including fabric swatches! Be still my fabric-loving heart...). It was incredible. Unfortunately, you're only allowed to use their resources if you're doing legitimate research. So I couldn't go there just to look at costume sketches all day or watch different adaptations of Shakespeare just for fun. Sad...

We had lunch with John Rockwell, who has been a music critic, dance critic, NY Times editor, among other things in a number of fields. He was very nice, and what I could manage to overhear was interesting, but for the most part, I couldn't hear anything he was saying because the seating was all spread out. Also, the waiter was hilarious. He kept interrupting us mid-sentence when he brought out food. And when dessert came, he walked over and positively yelled "Key lime tart!" out of nowhere, with no warning. Kathleen and I cracked up.

Next we attended the ballet rehearsal (which turned out to be of "Sleeping Beauty," not "Swan Lake"). It was so neat. We got to see the director actually stop the dancers and make comments and changes. We got to see mistakes, which you never see when you attend a performance (how do they do that?). I wish we could have seen the actual performance too, though, as a comparison would have been appreciated. (Plus I love ballet.)

At night we saw part one of "The Coast of Utopia" (there are three parts). It was so good. It starred Ethan Hawke (lovely) as a pretentious philosophy (aka bullshit)-spouting Russian. I'm a bit hazy on the details, as it jumped around in time and there were a ton of characters, but I think the general gist of the plot is Ethan Hawke's character (Michael) sympathizes with the Decembrists (or maybe he is one, I'm not entirely sure...), and he wants Russia to modernize after the western world's example. At the end of the first part, he gets banished to Siberia for his "anti-government" activity. The costumes, the acting, the lighting, the set and scene changes... they were all superb. Seriously. Go see this play. All three parts if you can.

Yesterday we explored galleries in Chelsea, which made me oh so very happy. We started with Kimsooja's photographs, which I reviewed. (See above to read it, it should be the next blog post after this one.) We also saw Cecily Kahn's super bright abstract paintings, which I fell in love with, and Edgar Martins' absolutely beautiful, haunting photographs of a Portuguese beach at night. Lastly, we saw Janis Kounellis' sculptures, which I wasn't really that into. I don't know what the artist's intention was, but they all reminded me of torture chambers. There were these wire beds wrapped in strips of fabric, with the surface painted a rust color... they looked bloody to me, like someone had chopped people up on top of them. Scary.

(I'll post photos of this stuff and further comments when I get back to Syracuse. I don't have the right cord with me, so I can't transfer my pics to the computer while I'm here.)

We also had a studio visit with painter Pat Lipsky, but I wasn't that into the paintings she showed us either. I did get a look at a book of some more of her work, though, and I liked some of the stuff in the book a lot. Pat herself, however, was fantastic. I wish I could do studio visits all the time. It's fascinating to listen to artists talk about the mental and physical processes that go into creating a piece of work. I'm also a firm believer that knowing what goes into a piece of art informs your criticism by leagues. I guess as a bit of an artist myself, I just don't see how you can grasp an art form without experiencing its creation to a certain extent yourself. I don't believe that people with no artistic experience can't be critics, I just think that making art helps you appreciate it in a way that non-artists can't quite understand.

At night we attended the NY Philharmonic, which was thankfully a short performance, because I was very tired by this point. They played Beethoven's violin concerto first, with soloist Pinchas Zukerman. He was incredible. Who knew the violin could make such crazy, high pitched (yet somehow pleasing) squeals. The second piece was Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which was absolutely phenomenal. This is the piece of music that accompanies the dinosaurs in "Fantasia." It is so chaotic, and loud, and brash, and awsome. It was just the thing to wake me up enough to go out for some chow with classmates. We ended up at a Mexaican place called Cosmic Cantina, which had yummy, but unfortunately very small, quesadillas. And then bed at about 2 a.m.

Today was our one and only free day, so I slept super late and it was glorious. I didn't do much, started out wandering around Chinatown for a bit in search of this underground mall that I went to with other people once years ago, but I couldn't find it. Lappy told me what street it was on (even which block), but after walking back and forth down the one little block, I still couldn't figure out where the hell its entrance was. It's either totally inconspicuous, or I'm just blind (or both!).

I met up with Andre and we got lunch and wandered around for a while. We eventually split, and I went to the Museum of Sex. Their exhibit on Japanese comics was really good. There was lots to read and they had a vast, vast array of pornographic Ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints and some manga. The ukiyo-e prints were really creepy. Japanese artists used to depict genitalia (especially penises) as really scary-looking. I noticed that the comics really outlined Japanese history, though, with the earliest prints picturing brothels and the sex trade, then a lot of sex with animals and demons and rape when the western world exerted its influence just before and then after Commodore Perry's arrival. Then all the characters started wearing western clothes and women's roles became less submissive and victimized

Manga was banned in WWII, so you next saw crude homemade drawings, and then post WWII saw the development of manga as we now know it. And by now manga tackles every aspect of "liberated," "deviant," or "perverse" sexuality that you can imagine. Bestiality, boys' love (yaoi), underage activity... Japanese comics have it all. I see it as a result of a much less repressive society, though the lack of repression is still debatable compared to the west, I think. But regardless, it's obviously far less repressive than the Edo Period. Manga also depicts women and men in all different societal relationships now (dominant vs. submissive, old age with a young'un etc.), which is pretty revolutionary compared to the always dominant (and often domineering) role of the man in both art and society in the past.

Okay, it is definitely time for sleep. Workshop tomorrow.


Ariel said...

Oh my gosh I'm so jealous that you were able to visit with John Rockwell, he's one of my favorite critics.

I love reading your blog so much, since I aspire to be a critic (but a dance critic, I considered going to Syracuse when I graduate, but am still undecided). It's so neat to read about all your experiences!

twingomatic said...

Wow! You're the first person I don't know to post a comment on my blog. Thanks so much! You should definitely look into the program I'm in. It is absolutely fantastic. We'll also be going to Ireland in the spring for theatre stuff. Here is the program's website if you haven't discovered it yet:

Ariel said...

You're welcome. Yeah...I've definitely looked into the program, ever since I heard there was a school offering arts journalism, I had to check it out! However, I doubt I'll be going there, my grades aren't so hot, my writing needs work, and I know I want to concentrate in dance criticism.

Enjoy New York!