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


Pope.L. "The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street" (2000-2009). Performance. ©POPE. L. COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS AND MITCHEL-INNES & NASH, NEW YORK.

Pope.L., “The Great White Way: 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street,” 2000-2009 (©Pope.L, courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York)

Seravalli Playground, St. Vincent’s Triangle, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park
Saturday, September 21, free, 9:45 am - 3:30 pm

On September 21, Newark-born, Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist Pope.L will lead “Conquest,” a crawl starting at Seravalli Playground at Hudson and Horatio Sts. at 9:45 am, continuing to NYC AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle around 11:00 and Washington Square Park at approximately 12:30, and then concluding at Union Square Park from 2:45 to 3:30. More than 140 volunteers will make their way on their bellies, becoming one with the New York City landscape. “The reason it’s called ‘Conquest’ is because that’s not what we’re gonna do at all!” (William) Pope.L explains in a Public Art Fund video. “We’re gonna give up stuff. And in giving up stuff, we’re gonna make more stuff for more people.” The one-day-only site-specific, 1.5-mile relay journey will offer up, according to the artist, humility, generosity, mirth, puzzlement, a guffaw, and maybe even some hectoring during these hard times, bringing a new perspective to how we all get by in this thoroughly amazing yet maddeningly frustrating city. Pope.L (eRacism: White Room, Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece) will be at the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium at the Cooper Union on September 20 at 6:30 for a Public Art Fund talk (free with advance RSVP) about the project, which leads up to two concurrent New York museum exhibitions: “Choir” at the Whitney (beginning October 20) and “member” at MoMA (October 21), which with “Conquest” form “Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration.”


Mika Rottenberg

A tunnel welcomes visitors to Mika Rottenberg’s Cosmic Generator at the New Museum (photo © Mika Rottenberg / courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

New Museum of Contemporary Art
235 Bowery at Prince St.
Through September 15, $12-$18

Allegorical depictions of consumerism, the means of production, and the global reach of capitalism are at the center of Mika Rottenberg’s artistic concerns, and they are on full display in her first solo New York museum show, the delightful “Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces,” which continues at the New Museum through September 15. The presentation consists of three major video installations along with playful sculptures and an additional short film that immerse visitors in the Argentina-born, Israel-raised, New York–based Rottenberg’s unique visual and physical world. Her videos have an almost visceral and tactile appeal due to her inventive use of sound and imagery, while the uncanny sculptures that accompany them enhance the overall experience, bringing together humanity, nature, materiality, and technology. The title of the show was inspired by Richard P. Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher; Feynman, a theoretical physicist, writes in the introduction, “Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth, or the complete truth so far as we know it. In fact, everything we know is only some kind of approximation, because we know that we do not know all the laws as yet. Therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected.” Feynman might have been speaking to physics students, but it also reads like Rottenberg explaining her work to her audience.

Mika Rottenberg

A hallway of ceiling fans leads to Mika Rottenberg’s new Spaghetti Blockchain video installation (photo © Mika Rottenberg / courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

Visitors get a hint of what’s to come as soon as they get off the elevator, where they are greeted by AC and Plant, an air conditioner sticking out of a temporary wall, a slow drip from which waters a potted plant on the floor. The three main videos burst with bright colors, make absurdist connections, and depict the monotony of everyday work. You enter the new Spaghetti Blockchain through a hallway of ceiling fans seen through slits in the walls; the twenty-one-minute video travels from Siberia, where Tuvan throat singer Choduraa Tumat vocalizes in traditional dress in a vast mountain landscape, to a potato farm in Maine shot from above, to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. A rotating hexagonal kaleidoscopic structure at the antimatter factory turns to reveal a knife slicing a jelly roll, a man getting his bald spot sprayed, sizzling candy melting, and other odd actions that serve as ASMR cues.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Mika Rottenberg’s Finger might just contain the key to the universe (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

You have to walk through a tunnel to get to 2017’s Cosmic Generator (Tunnel Variant), a twenty-seven-minute video that connects Chinese restaurants in Mexicali to a wholesale market in Yiwu, China, through a network of abandoned underground tunnels, creating seemingly arbitrary relationships that comment on border towns, immigration, and cheap Chinese labor and plastic goods. (Be sure to ride the large elevator to get a cool bonus.) You exit the room through a floor-to-ceiling sparkling rainbow curtain, like the ones on display at the Yiwu market, leading you to the three-minute short Sneeze, in which barefoot men in suits sit at a table, sneezing out rabbits, lightbulbs, and steak, referencing Thomas Edison’s 1894 five-second Fred Ott’s Sneeze. That room and the next contain bags of (fake) pearls and bunnies made of the gems, leading into 2015’s NoNoseKnows (Artist Variant), linking a pearl factory in China, where women first infect oysters so they will produce pearls, then harvest them and separate them, with fetishist Bunny Glamazon, who sniffs flowers in a small room and sneezes out plates of noodles. Meanwhile, a pair of upside-down feet stick out of a bucket of cultured pearls.

Mika Rottenberg

Pearls are at the center of Mika Rottenberg’s NoNoseKnows (Artist Variant) (photo © Mika Rottenberg / courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth)

The videos are supplemented by a room of kinetic sculptures that are directly or indirectly related, physical manifestations of what we have seen and/or experienced onscreen, blurring the lines between fact and fiction: AC and Plant is joined by Frying Pans (duo), a pair of pans on stovetops into which drops of water fall from above and sizzle, emanating smoke and sharp sounds; Finger is a digit sticking out of a wall, slowly turning, the cosmos visible on its long nail; Lips (Study #3) is a pair of sultry red lips on a wall, a miniature video playing inside, with smoke occasionally wafting out; and Ponytail (Orange) is made of real hair, flopping out of a hole in a wall. You’re not going to make sense out of every detail, so don’t try; just enjoy the pure fun of it all, even as it takes on aspects of labor with a Marxist bent. Rottenberg’s (Bowls Balls Souls Holes, Seven with Jon Kessler) work can be extremely funny and surreal, but it also is deceptively smart and clever as it deals with the apparatus of making and using, manufacturing and consuming, that so dominates modern society.


Crossing the Line Festival opens with Isabelle Adjani in Opening Night

Crossing the Line Festival opens with Isabelle Adjani in Opening Night (photo © Simon Gosselin)

Crossing the Line Festival
French Institute Alliance Française and other venues
September 12 - October 12

FIAF’s thirteenth annual Crossing the Line Festival, one of the city’s best multidisciplinary events, opens appropriately enough with the US premiere of French director Cyril Teste’s Opening Night, a multimedia adaptation of John Cassavetes’s 1977 film. The seventy-five-minute presentation, running September 12-14, stars the legendary Isabelle Adjani, along with Morgan Lloyd Sicard and Frédéric Pierrot; the actors will receive new stage directions at each performance, so anything can happen. (In conjunction with Opening Night, FIAF will be hosting the CinéSalon series “Magnetic Gaze: Isabelle Adjani on Screen,” consisting of ten films starring Adjani, including The Story of Adele H, Queen Margot, and Possession, on Tuesdays through October 29.) Also on September 12, Paris-born, New York–based visual artist Pierre Huyghe will unveil his free video installation The Host and the Cloud, a two-hour film exploring the nature of human ritual, set in a former ethnographic museum; the 2009-10 film will be shown on a loop in the FIAF Gallery Monday to Saturday through the end of the festival, October 12. Another major highlight of CTL 2019 is the US premiere of Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne’s Why? Running September 21 through October 6 at Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, the seventy-five-minute show delves into the very existence of theater itself. The festival also features dance, music, and other live performances by an impressive range of creators; below is the full schedule. Numerous shows will be followed by Q&As with the writers, directors, and/or performers.

Thursday, September 12
Saturday, September 14

Opening Night, directed by Cyril Teste, starring Isabelle Adjani, Morgan Lloyd Sicard, and Frédéric Pierrot, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $45-$55, 7:30

Thursday, September 12
Saturday, October 12

The Host and the Cloud, directed by Pierre Huyghe, FIAF Gallery, free

Friday, September 13
Sunday, September 15

Manmade Earth, by 600 HIGHWAYMEN, the Invisible Dog Art Center, $15 suggested donation

Tuesday, September 17
Wednesday, September 18

The Disorder of Discourse, Fanny de Chaillé’s restaging of a lecture by Michel Foucault, with Guillaume Bailliart, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, free with RSVP, 8:00

Saturday, September 21
Sunday, October 6

Why?, by Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Theatre for a New Audience, $90-$115

© Louise Quignon

Radio Live makes its New York premiere at Crossing the Line Festival (photo © Louise Quignon)

Wednesday, September 25
Isadora Duncan, by Jérôme Bel, CTL commission, with Catherine Gallant, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $35, 7:30

Thursday, September 26
Saturday, September 28

Somewhere at the Beginning, created and performed by Mikaël Serre, choreographed by Germaine Acogny, set to music by Fabrice Bouillon, La MaMa, $25, 7:00

Wednesday, October 2
Radio Live, with Aurélie Charon, Caroline Gillet, and Amélie Bonnin, based on narratives by young change makers from around the world, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $15-$35

Thursday, October 3
Sunday, October 6

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, world premiere choreographed by Stefanie Batten Bland, with music by Paul Damien Hogan, inspired by 1967 Stanley Kramer film, La MaMa, $21-$26

Friday, October 4
Saturday, October 5

The Sun Too Close to the Earth, world premiere by Rhys Chatham for nine-piece ensemble, inspired by climate change, along with Le Possédé bass flute solo and On, Suzanne featuring harpist Zeena Parkins and drummer Jonathan Kane, ISSUE Project Room, $25, 8:00

Thursday, October 10
When Birds Refused to Fly, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Olivier Tarpaga, featuring Salamata Kobré, Jean Robert Kiki Koudogbo, Stéphane Michael Nana, and Abdoul Aziz Zoundi, with music by Super Volta and others, FIAF Florence Gould Hall, $15-$35, 7:30

Friday, October 11
Saturday, October 12

Дyми Moï — Dumy Moyi, solo performance by François Chaignaud, the Invisible Dog Art Center, free with RSVP


Joan Jett Melody Maker, 1977 Gibson (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Joan Jett’s 1977 Melody Maker Gibson is part of Met exhibition “Play It Loud” (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Ave.
Gallery 199
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Through Through October 1, $25 suggested admission

In 2011, the Met hosted “Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York,” focusing on the lutherie tradition of Italian Americans in New York and New Jersey, artisans making violins, mandolins, guitars, and other stringed instruments. In the current exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll,” the Met turns it up to eleven, celebrating the stringed and nonstringed apparatus of rock and pop music since the 1950s. In Mott the Hoople’s 1973 staple “All the Way from Memphis,” Ian Hunter refers to his guitar as a “six-string razor,” an “axe,” and “electric junk.” He continues: “Some dude said, ‘Rock ’n’ rollers, you’re all the same / Man, that’s your instrument.’ / I felt so ashamed.” Ian and Mott might not be represented in the Met exhibit — or in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — but there’s nothing for anyone to be ashamed of regarding this exciting collection of nearly two hundred items, with most of the instruments displayed in vitrines, like sculptural works of art, which of course they are.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Keith Emerson’s 1960s Modified Hammond L-100 organ features two knives Emerson would stab the keys with (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Don’t go straight to the labels, which contain information about who made the instrument and who played it on what songs; it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out whose instrument it is. You’re likely to guess twangers by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Prince, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Ravi Shankar, and Bruce Springsteen, but others will surprise and delight you. One of the first items you’ll encounter is Jerry Lee Lewis’s 1955 Petite Grand Piano; for some reason, the signage refers to Lewis, who is eighty-three, in the past tense. Among the many gems are Chuck Berry’s 1958 Gibson, Louis Jordan’s 1954 Mark VI alto saxophone, Muddy Waters’s 1958 Telecaster known as “the Hoss,” Les Paul’s 1942 “Klunker,” Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 “Love Drops” Flying V, Joni Mitchell’s 1978 GB10NT George Benson Signature, Jack White’s 1964 Airline Res-O-Glas, Joe Perry’s 1985-86 X-100 Blade Runner, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1963 “Number One” composite Stratocaster, Robert Trujillo’s 2007–08 “Aztec De La Chloe” five-string bass, Keith Emerson’s 1968 Customized Moog Modular Synthesizer with keyboard, ribbon controllers, and stand, Ian Anderson’s 1975 Model 18-0 flute, Lady Gaga’s 2014 ARTPOP piano with custom housing, and Paul Stanley’s 1979–80 Cracked Mirror Iceman in addition to instruments played by Duane Allman, the Edge, Angus Young, Jeff Beck, Flea, Patti Smith, Ray Manzarek, Paul Butterfield, Nancy Wilson, Clarence Clemons, Steve Vai, Neil Young, Tina Weymouth, Bob Dylan, and dozens more.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Met exhibition is not just about classic guitars (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

These are not mere artifacts; Jerry Garcia’s Wolf was taken out of the museum so John Mayer could play it at a recent Dead & Co. show at CitiField, and a Stones guitar is out on the road with the band right now. There are several striking guitars from Met fave Steve Miller, who will playing a show in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on September 28 and contributed to the 2011 “Guitar Heroes” exhibit. Don’t miss Kurt Cobain’s destroyed 1993 left-handed Fender Stratocaster, Eric Clapton’s trippy 1964 “The Fool” SG (and the original headstock, which earns its own vitrine), Pete Townshend’s 1973 Gibson SG Special (which he smashed during a photo shoot and is now encased in Lucite), and a fragment of Hendrix’s 1967 Monterey Pop Fender Stratocaster, which he famously lit on fire. Four guitar greats tell their stories in a circular case that houses their gear and video monitors: Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen, and Tom Morello. (Having seen Morello shred live, I understand exactly why he’s part of this elite quartet.) Several bands display their stage setup, including the Beatles, the Who, Metallica, and the Roots. The exhibition, which was inspired by Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna’s book Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar and is co-organized by the Met’s Jayson Kerr Dobney and the Hall of Fame’s Craig J. Inciardi, is supplemented by vintage concert posters by Lee Conklin, Bonnie MacLean, Rick Griffin, and others. It’s easy to argue why certain musicians are not part of the show (What, no Richard Thompson or Lou Reed?!? Where’s Ritchie Blackmore, Bob Mould, and Johnny Ramone?), but it’s better to just enjoy who is in it. Below are the remaining special events being held in conjunction with the exhibition, which runs through October 1.

Prince Love Symbol, 1993

Prince’s 1993 Love Symbol captures his trademark glyph (photo by Cathy Hapka for twi-ny)

Saturday, September 7
Black Rock Coalition: History of Our Future, with the BRC Orchestra, Fantastic Negrito, Nona Hendryx, Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, and Will Calhoun, “Captain” Kirk Douglas, Stew, the Family Stand, Carl Hancock Rux, and Toshi Reagon, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, $25, 7:00

Sunday, September 8
Sunday at the Met — Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll, panel discussion with Anthony DeCurtis, David Fricke, Holly George-Warren, Jayson Dobney, and Craig J. Inciardi, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, free with Museum admission, 2:00

Friday, September 13
MetFridays: Play It Loud — ETHEL and Friends: Four for Fighting, Great Hall Balcony Bar, 5:00–8:00; screening of Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970), Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, 6:00; Conversations with . . . curators Jayson Dobney and Craig J. Inciardi, Gallery 199, 6:00; Signs and Symbols of Rock and Roll, with designers from ThoughtMatter, a band-name generator, and a button workshop, Great Hall, 6:00; Building Instruments with Atelier Rosenkrantz, Gallery 681, 6:00; Tie-Dye Workshop, Carroll Classroom, 6:00; Reflections on Woodstock with Chris Molanphy, Art Study Room, 6:30; Lez Zeppelin Live, preceded by discussion with Steph Paynes and Brad Tolinski, free with advance RSVP, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 7:15; all free with museum admission, 5:00–9:00

Saturday, September 28
Steve Miller Band and Jimmie Vaughan Band in Concert, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, 7:00


(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Nicole Eisenman’s aptly named Procession nearly proceeded out of the Whitney Biennial (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
Wednesday - Monday through September 22, $18-$25 (eighteen and under free; pay-what-you-wish Fridays 7:00 - 9:30)
Some programs require advance registration and/or tickets

The most viscerally entertaining work at the 2019 Whitney Biennial is Nicole Eisenman’s aptly named Procession, which first proceeded onto the sixth floor terrace, then nearly proceeded out of the building. The France-born, Brooklyn-based artist was part of a protest against the Whitney’s vice chairman, Warren Kanders, whose Safariland company makes tear-gas canisters, among other items used by security forces on civilians around the world. Eight artists — Eisenman, Michael Rakowitz, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicholas Galanin, Eddie Arroyo, Agustina Woodgate, and Christine Sun Kim — demanded their work be removed from the biennial as long as Kanders remained on the board; they were responding to an original call for a boycott made by Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett. Two years ago, artist and writer Black argued that Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket, depicting Emmett Till in his coffin, “must go,” claiming it was cultural appropriation. The Whitney decided to add signage to Schutz’s canvas, explaining the controversy and letting viewers decide for themselves. But this time around, the Whitney agreed to pull the contributions from the eight artists — only to stop when Kanders resigned from the board, not admitting any guilt but not wanting the story to “undermine the important work of the Whitney.”

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Agustina Woodgate’s National Times erases “master/slave” time (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The site-specific Procession is an oddball collection of near-mythical bronze and plaster figures trudging along, a mix of classical and contemporary styles. Visitors are allowed to walk on the platform and get up close to the individual elements, which contain plenty of humor; watch out for the gaseous release. If you’d like to comment on the piece, Eisenman has a message for you: “How’s my sculpting? Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT.” Meanwhile, after much consternation, Marcus Fischer opted to keep his audio installation, Ascent/Dissent, in the Allison and Warren Kanders Stairway as a tribute to Felix Gonzalez Torres’s Untitled (America) string of lightbulbs that hang down the center of the stairwell. For more on the Kanders situation, Forensic Architecture’s eye-opening Triple-Chaser digs deep into the making and distribution of tear-gas canisters using an AI algorithm.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Joe Minter’s ’63 Foot Soldiers is composed of found objects (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

The rest of the survey of twenty-first-century American art is, as always, a hit-or-miss affair, with many works dealing with international sociopolitical issues. Alexandra Bell’s Friday, April 21, 1989 — Front Page looks at how the New York Daily News reported the Central Park Five case. Bennani’s Mission Teens invites viewers to sit in a tropical “video viewing garden” to experience her films on colonialism. Robert Bittenbender uses garbage he collected in Long Island City to create wall sculptures that comment on gentrification. Kota Ezawa’s large-scale animation National Anthem was made from smaller watercolors of football players taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Sofía Gallisá Muriente explores the fraught relationship between mainland America and Puerto Rico in Lluvia con Nieve (Rain with Snow), as does Daniel Lind-Ramos in his found-object sculptures Sentinels and Maria-Maria; the latter reimagines the Virgin Mary through Hurricane Maria, which devastated his homeland.

Calvin Marcus (1988-), Los Angeles Painting, 2018. Watercolor and vinyl paint on linen, 79 x 101 5/8 in. (200 x 258 cm). Image courtesy the artist; Clearing, New York and Brussels; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

Calvin Marcus, Los Angeles Painting, watercolor and vinyl paint on linen, 2018 (image courtesy the artist; Clearing, New York and Brussels; and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles)

Three videos by Ilana Harris-Babou take on such issues as reparations and redlining. Joe Minter’s ’63 Foot Soldiers uses found materials, including license plates, signs, helmets, sneakers, and a small flag, to reference the civil rights movement and the current state of wealth and class inequality. Woodgate’s National Times consists of clocks keeping “master/slave” time, the minute hand equipped with sandpaper that slowly erases the numbers. In My Soul Remainer, ballet star Jock Soto dances to Laura Ortman’s violin, playing a combination of musical notes and environmental sounds amid a mountain landscape. On select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, five dancers (Hector Cerna, Tiffany Mangulabnan, Charles Gowin, Violetta Komyshan, Josep Maria Monreal Vidal, Amy Saunder, Mauricio Vera, Allison Walsh, Jennifer Whalen, Tyler Zydel) move within Brendan Fernandes’s The Master and Form scaffold-like installation, in which the performers get ready at individual spots where they interact with ash wood and leather works on black carpets, their bodies mimicking the shape of the sculpture, then inhabit a central scaffold-like installation that looks like it belongs in a children’s playground before grabbing on to floor-to-ceiling ropes lined up in front of full-length windows.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Brendan Fernandes’s The Master and Form is performed Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Two of the most striking images in the show are Curran Hatleberg’s Untitled (Camaro), a photograph of a red Camaro stuck on top of two dumpsters in a junkyard, and Calvin Marcus’s gorgeous Los Angeles Painting, a fiery red future visible through a car windshield; both can be seen as harbingers of doom, a theme that hovers over this biennial, though the exhibit, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, is not without hope. Also keep an eye out for impressive works by Simone Leigh, Brian Belott, Todd Gray, Maia Ruth Lee, and the late Barbara Hammer. Below are the remaining special screenings and live performances; some require advance tickets or RSVP.

Thursday, September 5
Saturday, September 7

Autumn Knight: Sanity TV, third floor, Susan and John Hess Family Theater, $10, 7:30

Saturday, September 7
Whitney Block Walk, free with advance RSVP, 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00

Friday, September 13
Steffani Jemison with Garrett Gray: On Similitude, third floor, Susan and John Hess Family Theater, $10, 7:30

Saturday, September 14
Whitney Block Walk, free with advance RSVP, 4:30, 5:30

Sunday, September 15
From Seneca Village to Brooklyn: A Conversation with Tomashi Jackson, with Tourmaline, Tsubasa Berg, Diana diZerega, Jonathan Kuhn, Meredith B. Linn, Kelly Mena, K-Sue Park, Nan Rothschild, Marie Warsh, and Stephen Witt, third floor, Susan and John Hess Family Theater, free with advance RSVP, 7:30

Thursday, September 19
Madeline Hollander — Ouroboros: Gs, Pamella and Daniel DeVos Family Outdoor Largo, free with museum admission, 5:00 - 9:00

Friday, September 20, 7:00
Saturday, September 21, 4:00

What Was Always Yours and Never Lost, short films followed by a Q&A with curator Sky Hopinka and some of the filmmakers, Susan and John Hess Family Theater, $10


George Fok, "Passing Through," 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Frederick Charles

George Fok’s Passing Through is centerpiece of Leonard Cohen show at Jewish Museum (courtesy of the artist / photo by Frederick Charles)

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
Through September 8, $8-$18, pay-what-you-wish Thursday from 5:00 - 8:00, free Saturday

In an October 2016 Q&A at the Canadian Consulate in LA, Leonard Cohen explained, “Uh, I said I was ready to die recently. And I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” Leonard Norman Cohen died the next month at the age of eighty-two, leaving behind a legacy that might just live forever, as evidenced by the sensational exhibition “Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything” that continues at the Jewish Museum through September 8. Curated by John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman for the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in Cohen’s beloved hometown, the show is an ingenious exploration of the life and career of the singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, visual artist, Buddhist monk, father, grandfather, Sabbath-observant Jew, and elegant raconteur.

Named after a quote from his song “Anthem” from the 1992 album The Future — “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in” — the three-floor multimedia exhibit consists of thirteen installations by artists repurposing and recontextualizing Cohen’s words and images. The centerpiece is George Fok’s nearly hourlong Passing Through, a nine-channel video across three walls of a large room in which visitors can sit on benches or beanbag chairs; the piece features concert and backstage footage ranging from Cohen’s early days to his final tour in 2013, merging together performances of the same songs through the years, including “Hallelujah,” “Tower of Song,” “Suzanne,” “I’m Your Man,” “Chelsea Hotel #2,” and “First We Take Manhattan,” revealing how he adapted his unique trademark vocal phrasings as he got older. Kara Blake’s The Offerings is a five-channel video that compiles thirty-five minutes of interviews in which Cohen discusses his writing process and some of his life choices, from moving to Greece to becoming a monk. In Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber, the director of such films as Waltz with Bashir and The Congress invites people one at a time to spend five minutes in a dark room, lying on a bed as Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” plays, the lyrics coming alive in mesmerizing, meaningful ways. At the other end of the hall, more than two hundred of Cohen’s self-portrait drawings from 2003 to 2016 are projected on a loop, edited together by Alexandre Perreault.

Candice Breitz, "I'm Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen)," 2017. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Frederick Charles

Candice Breitz’s I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) consists of eighteen fans singing all of 1988 Cohen comeback album (courtesy of the artist / photo by Frederick Charles)

Candice Breitz’s two-part I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) begins with a video of the all-male Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, from Cohen’s longtime shul, singing only the background vocals to every tune on Cohen’s extraordinary 1988 comeback album, I’m Your Man (“First We Take Manhattan,” “Ain’t No Cure for Love,” “Everybody Knows,” “Take This Waltz,” “Tower of Song,” the title track, et al.); down a narrow path blanketed by red curtains, eighteen Cohen fans sing the main lyrics to the songs, each on their own screen and speaker. For the best effect, walk around the room and then into the hall to find the exact spot where the lead vocals and harmonies merge. Audiences can participate in Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Poetry Machine, a vintage Wurlitzer organ with an array of speakers and gramophone horns; guests can take a seat and press down the keys, each of which connects to Cohen’s voice reading poems from his 2006 Book of Longing. You can also sit or lie down on a bench and hum “Hallelujah” into any of several dangling microphones in Daily tous les jours’ Heard There Was a Secret Chord, joining a chorus of live hummers online.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, "The Poetry Machine," 2017. Courtesy of the artists; Luhring Augustine, New York; Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; and Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo. Photo: Frederick Charles

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s The Poetry Machine invites visitors to take a seat (courtesy of the artists; Luhring Augustine, New York; Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; and Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo / photo by Frederick Charles)

On the third floor is a listening room where you can relax and hear specially commissioned Cohen cover songs while immersed in a James Turrell–like display of changing colors and shapes; the setlist includes Feist’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” Dear Criminals’ “Anthem,” Ariane Moffatt and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” Moby’s “Suzanne,” Chilly Gonzales, Jarvis Cocker, and Kaiser Quartett’s “Paper Thin Hotel,” and the National, Sufjan Stevens, Ragnar Kjartansson, and Richard Reed Parry’s “Memories.” There are also contributions from Christophe Chassol, Kota Ezawa, Jon Rafman, Taryn Simon (linking Cohen’s death with the election of Donald Trump), and Tacita Dean (a sweet tribute to “Bird on the Wire”) along with extensive biographical text in one area. It all comes together to paint a magnificent portrait of an exceptional artist who continually challenged himself and his audience, a highly intelligent storyteller and performer who seemed to exist on his own plane. “I never had the sense that there was an end. That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot, Cohen told Paul Zollo in an 1990s interview. With “Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything,” fans hit the jackpot with a potpourri of phenomenal proportion. (On August 29, the Jewish Museum and Russ & Daughters are hosting the final “Cocktails with Cohen,” in which, from 5:30 to 7:30, visitors can partake of the Red Needle, a drink invented by Cohen in 1975 consisting of tequila, cranberry juice, lemon, and ice. Beer, wine, and other drinks will also be available for purchase.)



Two sets of twins perform in the round in Ragnar Kjartansson’s Death Is Elsewhere (photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Ave.
Gallery 963, Robert Lehman Wing court
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Through September 2, $25 suggested admission

Multimedia Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson has an affinity for durational installations that push the boundaries for both the audience and the performers. In A Lot of Sorrow, the Ohio band the National played their song “Sorrow” repeatedly for six hours at one of MoMA PS1’s Sunday Sessions. For his immersive New Museum show My, My Mother, My Father, and I, a group of musicians played the song “Take Me Here by the Dishwasher: Memorial for a Marriage” for two months, alongside personal videos involving Kjartansson’s parents. And for his contribution to “Drifting in Daylight” in Central Park, the SS Hangover wooden fishing boat sailed on the Harlem Meer, carrying a brass sextet performing a dirgelike composition by Kjartan Sveinsson. Kjartansson’s latest work, Death Is Elsewhere, premiering at the Met through September 2, combines elements of those pieces in a beautiful presentation in the Robert Lehman Wing court.

A stone fountain sits in the middle of a circular tiled floor, around which seven large screens depict two sets of twins singing the title song, which Kjartansson wrote on a summer solstice with brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National and sisters Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir from múm. The lyrics take words and phrases from such books as Alexander Dumbadze’s Bas Jan Ader: Death Is Elsewhere, about the late Dutch performance artist, Anne Carson’s If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho, and poetry by Robert Lax and uses them to explore poetic ideas of love and the rebirth of spring. The siblings form two couples, each man playing an acoustic guitar, as they walk across a grass-covered landscape surrounded by lava fields near the volcano Laki — which wreaked havoc when it erupted in 1783-84 — singing “Death Is Elsewhere” for seventy-seven consecutive minutes, as if an endless rehearsal of a movie scene. The ballad includes such lines as “In the dark, in the dark, my love, my love” and “By the stream, by the stream, my love, my love.”

death is elsewhere 2

Inspired by cycloramas and a theater production staged by his father, Kjartansson shot the video in real time with seven cameras arranged in a circle, “like a high-tech Stonehenge,” he says in a Met blog post; the film is directed by Kate Ferrell, with cinematography by Rick Siegel. There is empty space between each screen, so sometimes the couples disappear from view, only to appear again on the next screen as if nothing happened. The screens are like paintings come to life, but Kjartansson leaves it up to visitors to flesh out the details. “I’ve never wanted to make a narrative film,” he explains. “I make films that have no stories, but there’s the idea of a story around it. They’re these open, poetic things that you can relate to in an ironic or sentimental way. The audience can create their own narrative around my works. There’s no wrong way to understand the piece.”

Watching Death Is Elsewhere, which Kjartansson dedicates to Carolee Schneemann, the groundbreaking performance artist who passed away in March at the age of seventy-nine, is a lovely, beguiling experience, filled with the beauty of nature, the love of family, the pain of loss, and the innate power of music to invade our soul, all tinged with nihilism. Spend as much time as you possibly can in the installation’s lush yet simple and evocative grandeur; there is no beginning and no end. It just is.