The Builders Association, Sontag: Reborn (photo: James Gibbs)
Just after the new year, while most humans were recovering from excess, starting diets, and/or breaking resolutions, thousands of performing arts professionals along with hordes of agents, musicians, dancers, and theater folk from around the globe gathered in New York City for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) convention, centered at the Hilton midtown. Taken on one level, the insanity of APAP can amount to a glorified outlet mall, with artists and agents plying their wares in hotel conference rooms lit by fluorescent light in front of programmers with empty shopping carts, looking to book their venue's next season. While there are many redeeming opportunities to be found within APAP, that aspect of it (to me) can seem especially soul crushing. Thankfully, though, there is a parallel universe that operates at the same time as APAP, largely centered much farther downtown at venues like PS122, the Public Theater, LaMaMa, Abrons Arts Center, and Le Poisson Rouge, with mini-festivals like COIL, Under the Radar, American Realness, and Winter Jazzfest staging a plethora of experimental dance, theater, music, and various performative hybrids. Wexner Center Director of Performing Arts Chuck Helm is of course there seeing work; meeting with agents, managers, and artists to plan upcoming residencies and performances; as well as networking with peers on future plans and issues of the field. I attended this year, partially to see new work and partially to see and meet colleagues as part of the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) program I'm involved with at Wesleyan University.
From Friday through Monday afternoon I saw roughly 18 different works, bands, and 1 film(!), as well as taking quick trips to MoMA and the Guggenheim before the de Kooning and Cattelan exhibitions closed. Performance highlights included the Builders Association's Sontag: Reborn at the very-under-construction Public Theater, Tere O'Connor's Cover Boy at Danspace, Yasuko Yokoshi's Bell at New York Live Arts, violinist Jenny Scheinman and Nels Cline at Le Poisson Rouge, an excerpt of Bebe Miller's History (world premiere at the Wex in September), Big Art Group's Broke House, Cynthia Hopkins's work in progress of This Clement World, and Jennifer Lacey and Wally Cardona's Tool Is Loot. I purposefully didn't see John Jaspers's Canyon and Mariano Pensotti's El pasado es un animal grotesco (The past is a grotesque animal), as both are coming to the Wexner Center very soon. While much I saw could safely fall within the category "needs an editor," and scheduling conflicts made it a physical impossibility to get to some events (Gob Squad, Trajal Harrell), there were several transformative moments throughout the weekend. (Though not live performance, Wim Wenders's Pina 3D film Monday morning at the IFC was certainly one.) The (sad to me) fact is that while I had to leave to return to Ohio and to work at the Wexner Center, the festivals continued through a second weekend, with highly anticipated work from Meg Stuart, Young Jean Lee, and chelfitsch still on tap. It's an embarrassment of riches, if you know where to look and can quickly navigate the wilds of the Lower East Side.
-- Jerry Dannemiller