Who: Stefan Falke, Laura Anderson Barbata
What: Exhibition opening and artist talk
Where: Deutsches Haus at NYU, 42 Washington Mews
When: Monday, February 12, free, 6:00
Why: From 1997 to 2004, German-born, New York-based photographer Stefan Falke photographed Trinidadian stilt walkers, known as moko jumbies, collecting his pictures in the book Moko Jumbies: The Dancing Spirits of Trinidad (Pointed Leaf Press, 2005, $65). Falke will be at NYU’s Deutsches Haus on February 12 at 6:00 for the opening of his latest exhibition, featuring photos of the Dragon Keylemanjahro School of Art & Culture in Cocorite, which have never been on view in New York City before. Falke, who has also published La Frontera, portraits of artists on either side of the US-Mexico border, will be speaking with Mexico City native Laura Anderson Barbata, a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works there and in Brooklyn and who has also photographed moko jumbies for her project “Transommunality.” “Moko Jumbies: The Dancing Spirits of Trinidad” continues at Deutsches Haus through March 31.
What would the internet be without cat videos to cheer up even our darkest days? The feline phenomenon has spread to cat conventions and cat cafés, and now the folks at Fresh Step, makers of cat litter, are lifting the housecat to the lofty position of work of art with the temporary Cats on Glass Gallery. From February 15 to 19, a pop-up interactive exhibit will feature combinations of cats and glass, and yes, you will have the opportunity to adopt a new pet. In addition, by taking pictures and posting them on Instagram, donations will be made to the Humane Society of New York for shelter cats. The exhibit kicks off with a party on February 15 with “Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw and Nala Cat. Admission to the unpredictable experience is free, but you have to reserve your spot in advance, and times are filling up quickly, just like our cats’ litter boxes.
Museum of Arts & Design
2 Columbus Circle at 58th St. & Eighth Ave.
Sunday, February 11, $20, 4:00
Exhibit continues through February 25, $12-$16 (pay-what-you-wish Fridays 6:00 - 9:00)
On February 11, light, air, and sound artist Julianne Swartz will activate “Sine Body,” her contribution to the Museum of Arts & Design exhibition “Sonic Arcade: Shaping Space with Sound,” joined by Grammy-winning soprano Estelí Gomez. The installation on the fifth floor consists of a table occupied by translucent abstract vessels made of acoustically reflective ceramic and glass that use electronic feedback and air to emit sound with a mallet. For the forty-five-minute performance, the New York–based Swartz (“Digital Empathy” on the High Line, “The Sound of Light” at the Jewish Museum) will play the vessels like instruments, with Gomez (Roomful of Teeth) harmonizing with the resonant Sine tones to create unique frequencies emanating throughout the gallery. The exhibition continues through February 25; on February 10 at 7:00 ($10), as part of “At Play: Performing Artist-in-Residence Series,” Muscle Memory (Steven Reker and Matt Evans) will team up with Ka Baird and the trio War Bubble (Sarah Register, Christina Files, and Eli Lehrhoff) for “this / visitor,” an evening of new music inspired by “Sonic Arcade.”
There’s less than a week left to experience as much as you can of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s extraordinary “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” Public Art Fund project, consisting of a variety of works at more than three hundred locations in all five boroughs. The massive installation went up October 12, in conjunction with the release of his stunning documentary, Human Flow, in which he visited twenty-three countries in order to personalize the global refugee crisis. The exhibition takes its title from the last words of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” which includes the line “We keep the wall between us as we go.”
As Congress and the president battle over immigration reform, sanctuary cities, deportation, the fate of the Dreamers, and the construction of a wall on the Mexico border, Ai, whose family was exiled for political reasons when he was a child, shares hundreds of works in five main groups. Banner photographs of two hundred individual refugees, printed on double-sided cut black vinyl, jut out from lampposts that make it appear as if the person is disappearing into thin air right before our eyes. Ai has also created one hundred “Good Neighbors” photos of refugees arriving in countries and settling in makeshift camps in Bangladesh, Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza, and Greece. Classical Greek–style friezes, called “Odyssey,” depict scenes of the refugee crisis in black-and-white, from military maneuvers to people living in tents. “Exodus” is a series of black-and-white linked banners on Essex St., filled with symbolism, showing families leaving their homes and searching for a new place to live. (One part hovers over a pizzeria called Roma, evoking the plight of Romani refugees.) Fences have been installed in between buildings on the Lower East Side, a major immigrant area where Ai lived in the 1980s. And gates have been added to bus shelters in Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx, equating borders with public transportation that can take riders just about anywhere.
Several one-of-a-kind site-specific works further connect with the history of the city. Inside the Washington Square arch, Ai has installed a thirty-seven-foot steel cage with a passage in the outline of two giant people; off to the side are empty jail-like cells. Washington Square Park, of course, is famous for its diversity and acceptance of everyone; however, it has also been the site of protests and class and race riots. Five fences cover large windows on the facade of the Cooper Union, the institution where Abraham Lincoln gave a critical speech on slavery and the two major political parties on February 27, 1860.
“Gilded Cage” resides on Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the Scholars’ Gate entrance to Central Park on Fifth Ave. and Sixtieth St., a large circular cage, bathed in gold, with a door so tourists and New Yorkers can go inside, where there are hard-to-reach turnstiles that represent yet another blockage. The first time I was there, I watched as a white couple in tuxedo and wedding dress went in and had pictures taken by their photographer, none of whom were quite getting the irony. It reminded me of wealthy people who pay to spend a night in jail as part of a fundraising gathering.
Finally, “Circle Fence” is a hammock-like rope barrier surrounding the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a giant globe constructed for the 1964–65 World’s Fair in Queens, welcoming visitors from all over the planet to one of the most diverse areas on Earth. The fence is only a few feet high, sectioned off by geometric shapes in a repeating sequence. Feel free to sit or lie down on it, although not every area is conducive to comfort. While I was walking around it, a Chinese bride and groom, wearing traditional red outfits, and their wedding party arrived for pictures. They all pulled themselves over the barrier relatively easily, then posed for pictures with the Unisphere behind them. I have a feeling Ai would have gotten a big kick out of this timely interaction.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, February 3, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum honors Black History Month with its free February First Saturday program, featuring live performances by Aaron Abernathy, the Skins, Brooklyn Dance Festival, Everyday People, Latasha Alcindor (presenting All a Dream: Intro to Latasha), and Urban Word NYC, including teen poets William Lohier, Shakeva Griswould, Roya Marsh, Jive Poetic, and Anthony McPherson, hosted by Shanelle Gabriel; a screening of Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s Whose Streets? followed by a discussion with Folayan and museum Teen Night Planning Committee senior member Elizabeth Rodriguez; pop-up gallery talks by teen apprentices in the “American Art” galleries; a community talk by Kleaver Cruz, founder of the Black Joy Project; a Black Joy photo booth with photographer Dominique Sindayiganza; a hands-on workshop inspired by the scratch and resist technique of Jean-Michel Basquiat; a curator talk by Eugenie Tsai on Basquiat’s “Untitled” (1982), part of the exhibition “One Basquiat”; and the community talk “Malcolm X in Brooklyn” by oral historian Zaheer Ali. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “One Basquiat,” “Roots of ‘The Dinner Party’: History in the Making,” ““Arts of Korea,” “Infinite Blue,” “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys,” “Rodin at the Brooklyn Museum: The Body in Bronze,” “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt,” and more.
MINUSCULE: VALLEY OF THE LOST ANTS (Thomas Szabo & Hélène Giraud, 2013)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall, Le Skyroom, FIAF Gallery
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Friday, February 2, $15-$20 ($40 for double feature and launch party), 7:00
Festival runs February 2-4, festival passes $60-$120
Even though the opening night selection of FIAF’s “Animation First” festival is Thomas Szabo and Hélène Giraud’s Minuscule, there is nothing minuscule about the festival itself. The French Institute Alliance Française is packing a whole lotta stuff into one mere weekend, February 2-4, including dozens of short and feature-length movies, postscreening Q&As, panel discussions, workshops, a free Augmented Reality exhibit by Sutu, a free Virtual Reality Arcade, and a big party. The French festival, the first of its kind in the United States, kicks off with Szabo and Giraud’s charming 2013 Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants, being shown in 3D. Combining live-action backgrounds with digital animation, the eighty-eight-minute delight tracks a lost little ladybug who meets up with a colony of black ants scouring the remains of a picnic after a human couple is forced to skedaddle when the pregnant lady goes into labor. At first the ant is suspicious of the playful ladybug, but soon the ladybug, who slightly resembles Kenny from South Park, proves her worth and becomes part of the team. However, when the evil red ants come looking to steal the black ants’ latest treasure, blocks of brown sugar cubes, the future is suddenly doubtful for the black ants and the ladybug.
The film is expanded from Szabo and Giraud’s French animated television series, which consisted of two seasons (2006 and 2012) totaling more than 175 mostly two-to-six-minute shorts focusing on numerous insects involved in various situations. In the feature film, the story gets repetitive at times and the sound effects can be a bit too silly (and also wildly funny), but the ladybug is so cute you’ll forgive such small problems. The film deals with loneliness, friendship, dedication, hate, teamwork, and war, all beautifully photographed and designed, with an ever-changing score by Hervé Lavandier built around multiple genres. And nary a word is spoken; there is no dialogue whatsoever, but you’ll know exactly what is happening because of Szabo and Giraud’s unique storytelling skill. Winner of the César for Best Animated Feature Film, Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants is screening February 2 at 7:30, followed by a launch party for kids and adults. However, only grown-ups will be able to stick around for “Erotic Animated Shorts,” a collection of nine naughty quickies not suitable for les enfants. Below are more highlights of this whirlwind festival.
Saturday, February 3
Loulou and Other Wolves, followed by a Q&A with director Serge Elissalde, Florence Gould Hall, $10-$14, 11:30 am
The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit, 2016), introduced by Dudok de Wit, Florence Gould Hall, $10-$14, 2:00
Conversation: The Making of The Red Turtle, a success story, with Michael Dudok de Wit, free, Le Skyroom, 4:00
Panel Discussion: The French Touch in Animation, with Michael Dudok de Wit, Christophe Jankovic, Chance Huskey, and Kristof Serrand, Le Skyroom, free, 6:00
Ciné-Concert: Pioneers of French Animation, Florence Gould Hall, $10-$14, 6:45
Sunday, February 4
Work in Progress: Terry Gilliam and Tim Ollive’s 1884: Yesterday’s Future, Le Skyroom, $10-$14, 12:15
Surrealist Poems of Robert Desnos, Animated: En Sortant de l’école, followed by a Q&A with Xavier Kawa-Topor, Le Skyroom, $10-$14, 4:00
Renaissance (Christian Volckman, 2006), Florence Gould Hall, $10-$14, 4:30
In conjunction with the exhibition Laura Owens, a midcareer survey of the work of the LA-based artist, the Whitney is hosting the immersive multimedia performance [title], by LA dancer, choreographer, and teacher mecca vazie andrews and her company, the MOVEMENT movement. The fifty-minute presentation will feature movement, sound, and projection as andrews responds to Owens’s radical style of painting, exploring freedom, enlightenment, and the future. The performance takes place on February 3 at 4:00, the day before the exhibition closes; tickets are ten dollars in addition to museum admission. Also currently on view at the Whitney are “Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined,” “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940-2017,” “Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960,” and “Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Art from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966-1986.”