Who: Marta Minujín, Aimé Iglesias Lukin
What: Artist conversation
Where: Americas Society Instagram Live, (archived on YouTube)
When: Wednesday, August 12, free, 5:00
Why: This past fall, Argentine artist Marta Minujín remounted her seminal La Menesunda interactive installation at the New Museum, an exciting and fun multimedia labyrinth that anticipated Instagram-friendly pop-up galleries way back in 1965. The seventy-seven-year-old Buenos Aires-based Minujín is now returning — virtually, of course — to Americas Society, where in 1968 she installed Minucode at the Center for Inter-American Relations, now known as Americas Society, for a live discussion from her studio with the institution’s visual arts director and chief curator, Aimé Iglesias Lukin; part of the Americas Society program “In the Studio,” the free talk will take place on August 12 at 5:00, after which it will be archived on YouTube. The Wednesday series previously featured such artists as Naufus Ramiréz-Figueroa, Gabino Castelán, Gonzalo Fuenmayor, Sara Ramo, and Juan José Olavarría; up next on August 19 will be Ulrik López.
Who: Lynn Hershman Leeson, Margot Norton
What: Artist conversation
Where: New Museum Zoom
When: Thursday, August 6, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: On February 9, 2021, the New Museum is planning on opening “Twisted,” the first solo museum exhibition by Cleveland-born artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. The multimedia show will feature drawåing, sculpture, video, photography, and interactive online works. Leeson, who is based in San Francisco, has also directed five films: Strange Culture, Teknolust, Conceiving Ada, Women Art Revolution: A Secret History, and Tania Libre. On August 6 at 7:00, Leeson will discuss the upcoming exhibition, which explores such issues as transmutation, identity, and cyborgs (including her new series “Twisted Gravity”), as well as art in the time of Covid-19, with New Museum curator Margot Norton, who organized the show and interviewed Leeson for the catalog. The Zoom discussion is free with advance RSVP here.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Forty-Ninth to Fiftieth Sts. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Daily through August 16, free
Flags are more political than ever these days, generating heated arguments about the meaning of Confederate symbols, kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sports events, and even President Trump’s refusal to order flags to half-staff for coronavirus victims until the death toll headed toward one hundred thousand.
Rockefeller Center is using flags as a way to heal the city with “The Flag Project,” continuing through August 16 around the periphery of the skating rink, which is currently being used as a place of respite, offering delightful socially distant seating, drinks, and food from the Rainbow Room barbecue booth. (Make sure you wear your mask down there; even golden Prometheus’s face is covered.) Rock Center is usually surrounded by 193 flags, one for each member country in the United Nations. But for just more than two weeks, those have been replaced by flags designed by emerging and established artists, adults and children, to honor how New Yorkers have come together during the pandemic lockdown. Each eight-foot-by-five-foot flag boasts a design celebrating essential workers, the uniqueness of the Big Apple, and/or hope for a promising future. Many of the flags are accompanied by an artist statement you can find on this map.
“Flags are employed to guide people through uncertain or dangerous situations. They can be used as a means of communication, signaling, or a way to unite people, for better or for worse,” Marina Abramović says about her contribution, a staggered red line on a white background. “I created a flag which represents the echocardiography (EKG) line of the human heartbeat. . . . The EKG line of my flag represents the resilience of the human spirit in the color red, which symbolizes our blood and is a color I often surround myself with when I need to feel strong. This red line beats across the white flag, which symbolizes surrender. In this moment in human history, I believe we as a society must conduct ourselves with a balance of strength and surrender. We must be strong in the face of the unknown and at the same time we must surrender to changes demanded of society, our politics, and our planet.”
Other commissioned artists include Carmen Herrera, Christian Siriano, Hank Willis Thomas, Jeff Koons, Jenny Holzer, KAWS, Laurie Anderson, Sanford Biggers, Sarah Sze, Shantell Martin, Steve Powers, and Faith Ringgold, who pays homage to “the life & Breath of Freedom” in her red, white, and blue quiltlike creation.
The flags are, of course, more impressive when there’s some wind blowing them around, allowing them to unfurl; be on the lookout for Ien Boodan’s Henri Matisse- and Keith Haring-inspired design based on “La danse” (“My wish is to have other queer brown boys and girls see this flag waving in public space so that they may know that their bodies are worthy of representation, pleasure, and celebration,” he notes), Karen Margolis’s tiny burned cells (“I explore the changing landscape of both our physical and internal worlds through the arbitrariness of destruction and loss”), Kate Matthiesen’s vivid abstract painting (her intensity takes on greater meaning since she hails from Portland, Oregon), Mario Milosevic’s repetitive half-circles, which support immigrants, language, and unity (“The gradient symbolizes skin tones and diversity, while five color stripes represent five boroughs”), Jonathan Rockefeller’s bright, shining cityscape, Courtney Heather’s group of sneakered feet on a subway near a plastic bag, and Vlad Zadneprianski’s NYC Strong flag, in which masked superheroes are joined by an essential healthcare worker. You’ll also find depictions of Coney Island, sports and cultural events, the Statue of Liberty, water towers, bridges, a salted pretzel, Broadway, mass transit, skyscrapers, a pigeon, and other familiar city sights.
“Our flag is not just one of many political points of view. Rather, the flag is a symbol of our national unity,” said U.S. Air Force Radio and Television Broadcasting Specialist Adrian Cronauer, best known as the man Robin Williams portrayed in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam.
“A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation’s flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself,” longtime Brooklynite Henry Ward Beecher proclaimed. In these flags, one can see the whole of New York as it rises yet again through unimaginable diversity and tragedy, once more a microcosm of America.
Who: Mary Esther Carter, Richard Savery, A.I. Anne, Janet Biggs
What: Final presentation of “SO⅃OS: a space of limit as possibility”
Where: Fridman Gallery online
When: Thursday, July 30, $5 for access to all twelve performances, 8:00
Why: In July 2019, I experienced multimedia artist Janet Biggs’s workshop presentation of her work-in-progress performance of How the Light Gets In, an extraordinary collaboration at the New Museum exploring the ever-growing relationship between humans and technology, with singer and dancer Mary Esther Carter; machine learning program A.I. Anne; composer and music technologist Richard Savery; drummer Jason Barnes, who lost an arm in an accident so uses a robotic prosthesis; marathon runner Brian Reynolds, a double (below-knee) amputee who is fitted with carbon fiber running prostheses; and violinists Earl Maneein and Mylez Gittens.
The Pennsylvania-born, Brooklyn-based Biggs has traveled to unusual places all over the world for her video installations, including a sulfur mine in the Ijen volcano in East Java (A Step on the Sun), the Taklamakan desert in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (Point of No Return), a coal mine in the Arctic (Brightness All Around), the crystal caverns below the German Merkers salt mine (Can’t Find My Way Home), and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah (Vanishing Point). She’s also all set to go to Mars after several simulated adventures.
During the pandemic lockdown, Biggs has been hunkering down at home with her her husband and occasional cinematographer, Bob Cmar, and their cat, Hooper, but that hasn’t kept her from creating bold and inventive new work. On July 30, she will debut the site-specific multimedia performance piece Augmentation and Amplification, concluding the Fridman Gallery’s terrific “SO⅃OS” series, cutting-edge performances made during the coronavirus crisis that incorporate the empty gallery space on Bowery, delving into the feeling of isolation that hovers over us all. (The program also features Daniel Neumann’s Soundcheck, Luke Stewart’s Unity Elements, Abigail Levine’s Fat Chance, Hermes, and Diamanda Galás’s Broken Gargoyles, among others; a five-dollar fee gives you access to all the works.)
In her third conversation with twi-ny, Biggs takes us behind the scenes of her latest innovative, boundary-pushing project.
twi-ny: You’re so used to traveling. What’s it been like being stuck at home?
janet biggs: Working on the performance has been a saving grace for me — to have something to focus on that feels exciting. But it has also had its share of interesting challenges.
twi-ny: How did it come about?
jb: I was asked by experimental sound artist and audio engineer Daniel Neumann if I would be interested in doing a performance for the series he was organizing for Fridman Gallery. The premise was that he would set up the gallery space with audio mics, projectors, and cameras, clean the whole space, and leave. The performer would be given a code to the lock on the gallery so they could safely enter the space by themselves and perform within shelter-in-place guidelines. During the performance, Daniel mixes the sound remotely from his home and livestreams it.
I loved his premise, but I don’t perform. I direct. I said I was eager to figure out a way to direct from home and send both a live performer and an Artificial Intelligence entity into the space. Both Daniel and gallery owner and director Iliya Fridman were excited about my proposal and gave complete support to the idea.
twi-ny: And then you turned to Mary Esther Carter and Richard Savery.
jb: Yes, I reached out to Mary and Richard, both of whom I worked with on the performance you saw at the New Museum. Happily, they were up for the challenge.
twi-ny: Which led you back to A.I. Anne.
jb: Richard has been working on expanding A.I. Anne’s abilities and neural diversity. A.I. Anne was trained on Mary’s voice and named for my aunt, who was autistic and had apraxia. Since the performance last year, A.I. Anne has gained more agency through deep machine learning and semantic knowledge. The entity can now express and respond to emotion. We are also using phenotypic data and first-person accounts of people on the autism spectrum for vocal patterning.
We want to explore neural diversity and inclusion in creative collaborations between humans and machines. Our challenge was how to get A.I. Anne in the gallery so she could perform live. A.I. is a disembodied virtual entity. Richard lives in Atlanta. While A.I. Anne is autonomous, Richard needed to be able to receive a single audio channel of Mary’s voice from the gallery and then send back a single channel audio response from A.I. Anne. With strong wifi and the right software, our tests from Atlanta to the gallery have been successful, so keep your fingers crossed for Thursday.
twi-ny: What was it like collaborating long distance?
jb: I’ve been having rehearsals with Mary and Richard for the last couple weeks via Zoom. We have been able to work out the choreography remotely and even developed some new camera angles due to the constraints of cellphone cameras and apartment sizes. The percussive soundtrack that Mary will dance to was generated by EEG sonification, the process of turning data into sound. Richard developed a process where he could use his brainwaves to control a drumset, creating a kind of brain-beat.
And lastly, I’ve been editing video images. Some will be projected on walls in the gallery and some will be a video overlay, run by the streaming software so that we essentially will have multiple layers of images and live action. If all goes well, I think this will be a pretty exciting performance.
twi-ny: Is that all? You don’t exactly make things easy for yourself.
jb: I’ve been to the gallery myself to see the layout and make some staging/lighting decisions. I will send Daniel a floor plan marked with my staging decisions and a tech-script. Daniel will set up the space (projector angles, lighting, camera and microphone placements) during the day on Thursday and then completely clean the space. Thursday evening, Mary will enter the space alone. Richard will run A.I. Anne from his computer in Atlanta. Daniel will mix the sound and images remotely into a livestream Vimeo channel that the audience can access from their homes. And I’ll be watching from home, holding my breath that everything works!
Who: Kes, Lila Downs, Junglepussy, Madison McFerrin, Shantell Martin, ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo, Yemi Alade, Buscabulla, Glendalys Medina, the Tallest Man on Earth, Common, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Michelle Buteau
What: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Where: BRIC Facebook, YouTube
When: Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, free, 8:00
Why: Every summer I make sure to return to the borough of my birth, in the park where my parents used to push me around in a stroller, to revel in the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, a months-long party of music, dance, art, food, and camaraderie. Of course, with New York City in pandemic lockdown, the in-person festival has been canceled; however, you can get a taste of what you’re missing when Celebrate Brooklyn! goes virtual this weekend. A wide-ranging collection of international performers will be taking part, with Kes, Lila Downs, Junglepussy, Madison McFerrin with Shantell Martin, and ?uestlove (DJ set) on Saturday night and Angelique Kidjo, Yemi Alade, Buscabulla with visual artist Glendalys Medina, the Tallest Man on Earth, and Common joined by Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins on Sunday evening. The event will be hosted live on Facebook, YouTube, and Brooklyn cable channels by comedian and actress Michelle Buteau. In addition, there will be an all-star finale celebrating the greatest borough in the world. The festival is free, but donations will be accepted for the BRIC Creative Future Relief Fund here.
Who: Diamanda Galás
What: Livestreamed broadcast from empty gallery
Where: Fridman Gallery
When: Thursday, July 23, $5, 8:00
Why: Fridman Gallery and CT::SWaM (Contemporary Temporary:: Sound Works and Music) continue their SO⅃OS livestreamed performance series on July 23 with experimental musician, lecturer, activist, and visual artist Diamanda Galás. The San Diego-born Galás, who has released such albums as Plague Mass, Defixiones: Orders from the Dead, Vena Cava, Schrei X, and The Refugee, will present Broken Gargoyles, an audiovisual installation recorded in the empty Fridman Gallery on Bowery and offsite and mixed remotely, featuring music, script, video, and photography by Galás and two expressionist poems by Georg Heym, “Das Fieberspital” and “Die Dämonen der Städte”; Galás willl read an excerpt from the latter. (You can see a clip from her 2013 performance of the poem here.) A work in progress made with artist and sound engineer Daniel Neumann, video artist Carlton Bright, and artist Robert Knoke, Broken Gargoyles takes its name from the phrase used in WWI to describe facially disfigured soldiers and includes a war-era photo by Ernst Freidrich. Tickets are five dollars to watch the livestream or any time thereafter; you can also still catch earlier SO⅃OS installments by such artists as Neumann, Luke Stewart, Mendi and Keith Obadike, and Marina Rosenfeld / Ben Vida (solos). The series concludes July 30 with the multidisciplinary Augmentation and Amplification with Janet Biggs, Mary Esther Carter, Richard Savery, and A.I. Anne.
Who: Dara Birnbaum, Alex Kitnick, Asad Raza, Marianna Simnett
What: Special streaming and live conversation with Q&A
Where: Marian Goodman Gallery Zoom
When: Thursday, July 23, free with registration, 2:00
Why: New York native Dara Birnbaum has been making video and installation art since the 1970s, at the cutting edge of the emerging discipline. On July 23, Marian Goodman Gallery will host a screening of the pioneer’s breakthrough five-minute 1978-79 video, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, which welcomed visitors to the contemporary galleries at the new MoMA prior to the pandemic lockdown (it was initially displayed in a SoHo storefront), and Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry, a seven-minute video from 1979 in which Birnbaum uses clips from the popular Hollywood Squares game show to explore coded gestures, pop culture imagery, and gender representation. (The setup for the show is like a modern-day Zoom meeting come to life in three dimensions.) The screening will be followed by a live conversation and audience Q&A with Birnbaum, art historian Alex Kitnick, and artists Asad Raza and Marianna Simnett.