Posts Tagged ‘The Kitchen’

Step by Step

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

After a week of working on my taxes and reviewing receipts, invoices, and statements, I found myself revisiting my last year of activities.  Dinner with a curator friend.  Buying a catalogue after a museum visit.  Donating to an alumni fund.  What did I gain from these exchanges?  Was I better off?  With these questions in mind, it was fitting for me to finally see Gerard & Kelly’s Timelining at The Kitchen, curated by Tim Griffin.  Timelining looks like experimental couples therapy, but it feels like the afterlife.

For Timelining, intimately related pairs of performers circumnavigate the gallery at The Kitchen while reciting items from personal timelines. These pairs include couples, ex-lovers, roommates, family members; these timelines include memories, milestones, and other life events, all the way back to being born. “We think of this relationship as a ‘ready-made,'” says Ryan Kelly.

Astride through circle after circle around the psychosocially loaded space, the performers take turns unspooling chains of memories in reverse chronological order, chains linked by the spatially specific connective, “in front of.” For example, “Got malaria…in front of…went to Ghana.”

Gerard & Kelly, "Timelining" (2014). Performance view, The Kitchen, New York, NY. Pictured: Ted Henigson and Todd McQuade. Courtesy of the artist and Kate Werble Gallery.

Intermittently, one performer will stop while the other paces ahead. Or one pivots from the shared path and and orbits in the opposite direction, like the sun departing its ocean reflection, then reconnecting hours later. Occasionally, the performers rupture their text-based recitations and break into movement. Most of this movement seems literal and mimetic, and accompanied by narration: swimming motions, upward stretches, or twisting contortions. All of these stops, pivots, and movements are parts of a disciplined choreography made up of devices and maneuvers – rules – with names like “loop,” “link,” “trigger,” and “movement-memory-snapshot.”

Although these rule-based performances – “scores” – are based on scripts and crafted from rehearsals, they will appear to most viewers spontaneous and dynamic. That’s because the performers have a lot to juggle. In addition to the architecture of the performance, described above, each performer must tune into cues from his or her partner. Also, the performers respond to audience members arriving and leaving.  During my first visit, I was referred to as “black sneakers,” a friend as “stripes,” due to his striped sweater.

Gerard and Kelly, "Timelining" (2014). Performance view, The Kitchen, New York. (Image: Ian Douglas. Pictured: R.B. Schlather and Adam Weinert.)

Within one or two revolutions around the gallery, the memories can span from uncompromising adulthood to tender childhood. For example, one performer reached from adult decisions like “Got sober” and “Got into BDSM” to childhood caprice, such as, “My sister counting my toes.” Public events (“Obama was elected” or “Marine Le Pen won the primary” commingle with private encounters, often existential: sex, relocation, death, first times and last times. And because these memories resurface as the performers cycle through their timelines, their description varies each time (ergo, “A picture of my sister counting my toes”). They also stack up into interesting compounds. Take this sequence: “I realized that I do not have wealth… in front of… “I considered nursing school”…in front of… “I had a bulging disc.” But quotidian bits arise, especially at the beginning of each score: “I forgot to email someone” and “The C train was running express.”

The Kitchen’s gallery is painted in white cube drag, but it’s not a neutral tabula rasa. A bold black line stretches more than three quarters into the space, like a road surface marking. In one corner, colored lights shine through holes in the wall. On the walls, drafted lines connect nail holes to each other. These all are vestiges of the previous show. The space itself has a timeline. Moreover, copper panels in the gallery and entrance bear braille text: snippets from the transcript of Kelly and Gerard’s own timelines. Why braille? Perhaps because braille uniquely combines bodily movement and text, just like the Timelining performance itself. Or because it has an irresistible tactile appeal, as evidenced by the oily fingerprints that remain on the copper surfaces.

Timelining reveals ways an individual really is buffeted through life by external forces, or piloted (or hijacked) by seeds planted early in life. And you get to see the consequences laid out bare, revisited numerous times during each score. Yet, I also felt an uncanny sense of purgatory. There’s something abeyant about these memories and events when you hear them recounted in this particular setting. First, the only climax is the present, and only the present is the climax. Second, the memories and events are neutrally indexed without evaluation, without signifying the weight of goodness or badness through drama or expressive fire. (Though surely, a viewer projects his or her own.) Do these Timeline markers amount to a sum? A judgment? Or do they merely populate the otherwise null period between “Now” and “I was born”? What if St. Peter, at the Pearly Gates, read a dutiful index of events instead of a dramatic legacy of pluses and minuses?

Brennan Gerard says, “One of the other things that happens with memory is that when someone remembers and it’s so specific that when you hear it or read it, it feels like you had it too. That’s the weird thing about it. It’s totally subjective, but somehow impersonal—like it doesn’t belong to that person. In fact, it’s communal.” He’s referring to the role of memory in intersubjectivity – the ways identities build other identities. Or as Kelly says, “We are formed by being undone by one another.” -Indeed, the most trodden surfaces of Timelining, intentional or not, seem to be major unifying events that tower over the collective memories of performers and audience: Reagan, AIDS, Gulf War, Bush, 9/11, Iraq, Obama. What will Timelining look like ten years from Now?

Aluminum Moments

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Aluminum Nights Poster, Robert Longo, 1981

Thirty years ago was Aluminum Nights, a two-night performance series celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Kitchen.  Fast forward: to celebrate the fortieth anniversary season, The Kitchen has reincarnated the event as Aluminum Music, featuring a selection of the Aluminum Nights roster.  On Friday, the first of two nights, avant-kabbalah percussionist Z’EV performed with the post-punk Bush Tetras.

Nick Hallett

“The master artists on the program were being invited back to The Kitchen to school the children, and the children needed to learn to buy their tickets in advance.”  Jocular event curator Nick Hallett was commenting on the healthy turnout of gray-haired (or bottle colored) followers, and the according absence of curious kids born well after Aluminum Nights.

“The old guard is well represented in the audience,” Nick continued, intending an optimistic embrace of wisdom and acquired prudence, yet stirring some jovial heckling.  He conceded, “I am not responsible for the forward motion of clocks.”

Said motion will bear lightly on the imminently immortal Z’EV, who, clad in black with shaved head, with earrings, with bracelets, looked shamanic as he settled in among a cordon of suspended, shining discs. Each of these percussive surfaces, found objects, had traveled with him in his journeys, inner space and terra firma.

Z'EV

Z’EV found the clattering stainless steel box in a trash barge on the Thames in 1989 and the largest hanging stainless steel flat disc, in the center, in a Los Angeles scrapyard in 2004.  Two of the smaller discs are Thali trays, one found in in a NYC Indian deli/restaurant supply store, the other in a London Salvation Army in 2005.  The wandering instruments were now united and suspended in a wreath of tethered portals to the aural ocean.

Like an alchemist, Z’EV conjured ominous rumbles and eerie glissandos and converted them to booming sine waves and pitchshifted shrieks, the sounds of the sinking Titanic, of J.G. Ballard daydreams, of Richard Serra vortices in hurricanes.

With felt mallets, Z’EV drummed out thundering beats and with rubber mallets, dragged over the drum surface, he unfurled soaring sound warps.  How does a musician find notation for dragging a rubber mallet across the bass drum head?  Z’EV works from themes from which he improvises, customizing his drumming to the space and the audience.  I wonder what cues he took from the crowd.  Most were like me, silent and in awe.  Some were rocking back and forth.  Experimental noise Revival!  Occasionally pausing to puff a cigarette that seemed to burn forever, he shook homemade rattles, clashed the Thali trays, and generated jittery soundscapes by holding a pocket-sized shard of metal to the vibrating, clattering steel box he pounded on the inside, like the faceless industrial shell of a reanimated dead puppet.

All I can tell you is what I watched.  I can’t tell you what it was about because Z’EV is on some “next-level” numerology, pagan, kabbalah inspiration.  So if it looked like a prayer, it probably was.

After a few minutes for us to come back to earth, Nick Hallett introduced the Bush Tetras.  They opened with Cowboys in Africa, then urged the audience to “unhinge” from their seats and start a punky reggae party.  Scratchy caribbean rhythms and Pat Place’s shredded wheeze got the kids dancing, and the not-so-kids.

“Thirty years is like five minutes!” shouted a blonde woman who danced from the first thump to the last shard.  “We’re glad to be alive” said Cynthia Sley.

Is that all?  Just alive?  They were more than alive.

Tetras founder Pat Place made her guitar shriek in the climbs to chorus, chirp through the twitchy verses, and holler at the climax.  She leaned into it till the whammy bar itself unhinged and clattered to the floor. For Punch Drunk and the encore Voodoo, she whipped out a bottleneck slide and stroked the neck with enough fervor to make me cross my legs and blush.  Cynthia Sley (Womersley), magically gaunt (and a near twin of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes) and ready to hop, thrust, and shake, rapped out a dual gear vocal style combining rhythmic muttering and adrenaline howling.  Her sound seems suited to any survivor who was there, man – and any punishment-happy thrillseeker who would have wanted to be “there” in the first place.

“This song is about living in the East Village; we didn’t like when people came into our neighborhood,” said Cynthia Sley, chatting before “Stare You Down.”

“And they didn’t like us coming in to theirs,” was the dry rejoinder from drummer Dee Pop.   A rush of mystified incredulity curling his face, he added, “What were we doing there, anyway?”

Gray Pride Forever

Friday, June 25th, 2010

One of the highlights from Robert Melee’s Talent Show at The Kitchen: the SAGE choir assembling under the provision of Ryan McNamara, who selected the group and slightly choreographed their crowd-stirring show. Performers include: Marlene Feingold, Bill Schubick, Cheryl Adams, Jennifer Hampshire, Margo Kentry, Cheryl Lisbin, Tom Musilla, Roz Nadel