This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Performance Portrait

a canary torsi’s responsive multimedia installation “Performance Portrait” offers visitors a chance to respond to dancers (photo by Julie Wyman)

The Glass House, the Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen St.
January 5-15, free, 4:30 - 8:30

After being exhibited as part of the “Wonderland” group show at the Invisible Dog Art Center, a canary torsi’s latest collaborative project, Performance | Portrait, moves just down the street to the IDAC’s Glass House in conjunction with APAP | NYC, the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference, which features special performances throughout New York City every January. Puerto Rico–born Yanira Castro founded a canary torsi (an anagram of her name) in 2009, specializing in site-adaptive interactive works that blur the boundaries between audience and performer. In Paradis, the audience followed the dancers around the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, occasionally interacting with one another. In Court/Garden, Castro created a space inspired by the court of Louis XIV, exploring image, assembly, presentation, and consumption. Many of those elements are at the center of Performance | Portrait, which runs at the Glass House from January 5 to 15. The responsive multimedia work, made in conjunction with installation artist Kathy Couch, interaction designer Stephan Moore, and filmmaker Julie Wyman, consists of a projector that is activated once a person steps on a small box in between a screen and a curtain. The projector beams an image of four dancers, one at a time (Anna Azrieli, Leslie Cuyjet, Peter Schmitz, David Thomson), who were previously filmed by Wyman at a different location but in front of the same curtain where the viewer now stands. Each dancer gazes directly into the camera, essentially right into the viewer’s eyes; just as the viewer is waiting for the dancer to do something entertaining, it appears that the often uncomfortable dancers (each was filmed for four hours) are waiting for the viewer to do something entertaining as well. Castro is calling into question the gaze, audience expectation, the interplay before performer and crowd, and performer expectation, the dancers turning the tables on the viewer, who is likely to get antsy rather quickly unless he or she can just settle in and go head-to-head with the dancer for a while. It feels like a different take on the staring contests Marina Abramović held with MoMA visitors in “The Artist Is Present.” As the viewer stands there, the performers change over the course of time, but once the viewer steps off the box, the dancer fades into nothingness, for without an audience, can there be a performance?

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