Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Avenue
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through October 29 (weather permitting)
Recommended admission: $25 adults, children under twelve free
theater of disappearance slide show
In 2014, Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas installed “The Evolution of God” on the High Line, cement and clay blocks that deteriorated over time, revealing such artifacts as clothing and sneakers while grass and plants grew in the cracks. The previous year, Villar Rojas’s “La inocencia de los animales” served as a decaying amphitheater where lectures and performances were held as part of MoMA PS1’s “Expo 1: New York.” He has now created the ultimate dinner party on the Met roof, “The Theater of Disappearance,” tables and chairs occupied by an amalgamation of characters based on sculptures in the Met collection.
Some of the men, women, children, and animals are haunting in a ghostly white, while others are in an ominous black. Villar Rojas handpicked each item he re-created, milled or using a 3D printer and made in urethane foam coated with matte industrial paint to protect it all from the weather. Villar Rojas has mixed the ancient with the modern, the classical with the contemporary, including elements from Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, a boy resting with a horse on a fourteenth-century fragment of a queen’s face, a French knight from the Cloisters, a sixth-century Egyptian otter, fourth-century BCE Persian plates, a mid-twentieth-century Côte d’Ivoire bird, Edvard Munch’s “The Kiss” with the man and woman turned into horses, a boy general wearing business shoes, and a man sitting on a table, two disembodied arms forming binoculars over his eyes as he stares at the head of a New Kingdom hippo in his hands. There are also babies, cats, tiny lions, crabs, musical instruments, a hand holding a cigarette, coins, and abstract shapes. (Villar Rojas even designed the bar and the typography.) It’s as if Villar Rojas collected hundreds of works from the Met collection (he has referred to it as a scavenger hunt), tossed them like a salad, then put the pieces back together however he wanted, letting his imagination go wild.
There’s a decidedly playful feel to “The Theater of Disappearance” in addition to an endearing hope for the future; Villar Rojas has constructed a surreal fantasy world where art from cultures around the globe, including China, Japan, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and America, have gathered for a Bacchanalian feast by way of Judy Chicago, their parts having been rearranged so that they cannot be easily identified by nationality, religion, or even gender, instead a melting pot devoid of time and place, built with the glee of a child playing with his or her toys. Oh, and look out for the hand in the symbol of devil horns; it’s a cast of Villar Rojas’s own, and it just happens to mean “I love you” in sign language.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gallery 131, the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
October 28-29, $65 (includes same-day museum admission), 2:00
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first-ever artist-in-residence choreographer, Andrea Miller of Gallim Dance, will debut her site-specific project, Stone Skipping, on October 28 and 29 at 2:00 at the Met Fifth Avenue, at the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing. The Salt Lake City-born, New York City-based choreographer, a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow who formed Gallim in 2007, created the piece as a conversation with the popular historical artifact, a Roman Period Egyptian temple completed in 10 BCE, during the reign of Augustus Caesar, who is depicted on one of the outer walls as a pharaoh. “I am curious to understand the capacity of the body, its anatomy, its power, and its instinct to connect with the space and events around us. In my work, I look for texture, a quality of energy, or a psychological pitch that surfaces in the doing of things,” Miller, whose previous pieces include W H A L E, Fold Here, Wonderland, and Blush, has said. That mission should resonate beautifully with the Temple of Dendur, a favorite of Met visitors. Stone Skipping features ten members of the Gallim company, joined by six guest dancers from Juilliard, with an original composition by Phil Kline (Unsilent Night, John the Revelator), performed live by the viola quartet Firewood, consisting of Ralph Farris, Stephanie Griffin, Jessica Meyer, and Lev Zhurbin; the costumes are by fashion designer Jose Solis. Stone Skipping will also touch upon the journey the Aeolian sandstone structure made from Egypt, which, in conjunction with the White House, awarded the institution the temple in 1967. “I am convinced that the Metropolitan’s plans for the temple will protect it and make it available to millions of Americans in a setting appropriate to its character,” President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote to museum director Thomas Hoving in April 1967. Exploring such universal themes as loss, preservation, and survival, Miller’s Stone Skipping should only add to the special nature of this extraordinary artifact. Tickets are $65 and include museum admission; for an addition dollar, you can bring a child between the ages of seven and sixteen to the performance, up to three kids per adult. Back in 2011, we saw Shen Wei give a gorgeous presentation in the Met’s Charles Engelhard Court, so we can’t wait to see what Gallim has in store for us.
This past fall, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei had several concurrent exhibitions in New York City that dealt with the international refugee crisis. At Deitch Projects in SoHo, “Laundromat” included racks of clothing that had been worn by Syrian refugees at the Idomeni refugee camp in Iraq, all freshly cleaned and pressed, as if ready to give the migrant men, women, and children a new lease on life. Among other items, the gallery show also featured several monitors playing footage that Ai had shot in various refugee camps, film that has now been turned into the stunning documentary Human Flow. In 2016, Ai and his crew traveled to twenty-three countries, visiting dozens of camps in a year in which it was estimated that there were as many as 65 million displaced people around the world, fleeing war, poverty, famine, and persecution. In his first full-length documentary, Ai moves from macro to micro, shooting at a variety of scales. He uses drones to photograph tent cities in the desert from high above — reminiscent of the photography of Edward Burtynsky, turning individual items into parts of a vast pattern — along with gorgeous scenes of deserts and seascapes and intimate cell-phone footage and handheld camera shots that put viewers right in the middle of these makeshift villages, where some families live for decades. Ai, with his scruffy gray beard and in a hoodie, is often shown not only taking cell-phone videos but helping out and mingling with the refugees as dinghies arrive on the shores of Lesbos, Greece, or playfully trading passports with a refugee. Throughout the film, men and women stand proudly, often in traditional dress, looking directly at the camera for extended lengths of time, establishing their unique individuality, putting faces to what is most often seen in news clips as swaths of people struggling to survive. As Ai travels to each successive camp, he posts relevant quotes from writers and philosophers from that nation, from Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, the Dhammapada Buddhist scripture, and Persian poet Baba Tahir to Kurdish poet Sherko Bekas, Syrian poet Adonis, and U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Details about the situations are sometimes delivered news-crawl-style, along the bottom of the screen.
In addition to giving voice to the refugees themselves — “Where am I supposed to start my new life?” one woman asks — Ai speaks with crisis workers on the ground and United Nations officials and other experts, such as UNHCR Communications Officer Boris Cheshirkov, Princess Dana Firas of Jordan, Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, UNHCR Pakistan Senior Operation Coordinator Marin Din Kajdomcaj, UNICEF Lebanon representative Tanya Chapuisat, former Syrian astronaut Mohammad Fares, Dr. Cem Terzi of the Association of Bridging Peoples, and Dr. Kemal Kirişci, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who gets right to the point, explaining, “It’s going to be a big challenge to recognize that the world is shrinking, and people from different religions, different cultures, are going to have to learn to live with each other.” The powerful, immersive film was edited by Niels Pagh Andersen, who worked on Joshua Oppenheimer’s searing The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, from nine hundred hours of footage, with a score by Karsten Fundal and a dozen cinematographers, among them Ai, Christopher Doyle, Zhang Zanbo, Konstantinos Koukoulis, and Johannes Waltermann. “The more immune you are to people suffering, that’s very, very dangerous. It’s critical for us to maintain this humanity,” one woman says, and that gets right to the heart of the film. Human Flow is very personal to Ai, whose own battles with Chinese authorities and exile — he spent much of his childhood in a hard labor camp in the Gobi Desert because his father, a poet and intellectual, was part of a revolutionary group, and as an adult Ai has been imprisoned, placed under house arrest, and beaten for his activism — were detailed in the Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. A masterful Conceptualist whose work explores sociocultural elements through a historical lens, Ai has always believed that artists have a responsibility to reveal the truth, and that’s precisely what he does in Human Flow, with a determined fearlessness to do what’s right.
In one of the film’s most heart-wrenching moments, thirteen thousand refugees, mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, walk through the Greek countryside toward the Macedonian border, only to find that a fence has been erected and the entrance is now closed, leaving them with nowhere to go. It’s a harrowing scene, but Ai is no mere doomsayer. There are many shots in the film that show children running about and playing, laughing and smiling for the camera, still filled with hope for a better life. It’s the rest of the world’s job to make that happen, and as Ai exemplifies, every one of us can make a difference. Human Flow opens at the Angelika and the Landmark at 57 West on October 13; Ai will participate in Q&As following the 7:00 screening at the Landmark on October 13 and after the 1:50 show on October 14 at the Angelika. The film is being released in conjunction with the Public Art Fund project “Ai Weiwei: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” consisting of dozens of installations and interventions in all five boroughs: at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, the Washington Square Arch, the Unisphere, Essex Street Market, the Cooper Union, bus shelters, lampposts, newsstand kiosks, and other locations, furthering Ai’s artistic ideas about immigrant bans and the treatment of refugees, spread across a city he called home in the 1980s.
November 1-19, free - $40
The seventh Performa biennial takes place November 1-19 in multiple venues around the city, featuring an impressive roster of international artists pushing the limits of what live performance can be. This year’s lineup includes ten Performa commissions and dozens of events, from film, poetry, and dance to architecture, music, and comedy, arranged in such categories as Performa Projects, Performa Premieres, and Pavilion without Walls. In addition to the below recommendations for this always exciting festival, there will be presentations by Kendell Geers, Xavier Cha, Yto Barrada, Brian Belott, Flo Kasearu, Jimmy Robert, Mohau Modisakeng, Kelly Nipper, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Nicolas Hlobo, Kris Lemsalu with Kyp Malone, the Marching Cobras of New York, and others at such venues as Abrons Arts Center, BAM, the Met, White Box Arts Center, Marcus Garvey Park, the Connelly Theater, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, Harlem Parish, and the Glass House in New Canaan.
Thursday, November 2, 7:00
Friday, November 3, 7:00 & 9:00
Saturday, November 4, 7:00
Teju Cole: Black Paper, BKLYN Studio at City Point, 445 Albee Square West, $15-$25
Thursday, November 2, 9, 16
Barbara Kruger: The Drop, Performa 17 Hub, 47 Walker St., $5, 4:00 - 8:00
Sunday, November 5
Monday, November 6
William Kentridge: Ursonate, Harlem Parish, 258 West 118th St., $25-$40, 7:00
Sunday, November 5, 12, 19
Eiko Otake: A Body in Places, Metropolitan Museum of Art, free with museum admission, 10:30 am
Wednesday, November 8
Estonian Pavilion Symposium: Call for Action — Key Moments of Estonian Performance Art, lecture and screening with curators Anu Allas and Maria Arusoo, free, Performa 17 Hub, 47 Walker St., 5:00
Thursday, November 9
Friday, November 10
Saturday, November 11
The Tracey Rose Show in Collaboration with Performa 17 and Afroglossia Presents: The Good Ship Jesus vs The Black Star Line Hitching a Ride with Die Alibama [Working Title], the Black Lady Theatre, 750 Nostrand Ave., $15-$25, 7:30
Friday, November 10
Zanele Muholi on Visual Activism, grand finale of two weeks of meetings, performances, discussions, and art-making, the Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, free, 7:00
Friday, November 10
Sunday, November 19
Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley: The Newcomers, with Lena Kouvela and Sarah Burns, 28 Liberty Plaza, free, all day
Saturday, November 11
Architecture Conference, with Giovana Borasi, Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco, Yve Laris Cohen, Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe), and Elizabeth Diller, Performa 17 Hub, 47 Walker St., free, 2:00 - 6:00
Monday, November 13
Tuesday, November 14
Wangechi Mutu: Banana Stroke, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, free with museum admission, 7:00
Monday, November 13
Friday, November 17
Kwani Trust: Everyone Is Radicalizing, multimedia installation and public programs, Performa 17 Hub, 47 Walker St., free, 12 noon – 6:00 pm
Wednesday, November 15
Thursday, November 16
Friday, November 17
Anu Vahtra: Open House Closing. A Walk, Performa 17 Hub, 47 Walker St., free, 5:00
Thursday, November 16
Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran: MASS (HOWL, eon), Harlem Parish, 258 West 118th St,, $25-$40, 7:00 & 9:00
Thursday, November 16
Friday, November 17
Saturday, November 18
Gillian Walsh: Moon Fate Sin, Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East Tenth St., $22-$25, 8:00
There are only a few more days to see the Brooklyn Museum’s shattering “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” a searing, must-see collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and Google that looks at the past, present, and future of the lynching of blacks in the United States. The exhibition is built around a series of short EJI videos in which such men and women as Anthony Ray Hinton, Thomas Miles Sr., James Johnson, Mamie Lang Kirkland, Dee Dee Johnson, and Vanessa Croft share their personal stories about how members of their families were lynched, visiting graveyards and the trees from which the innocent victims were hanged as well as making comparisons between lynching and black and brown men who are or were on Death Row despite substantial evidence against their guilt. The oral histories are vividly photographed by Melissa Bunni Elian, Kris Graves, Raymond Thompson, Andre Wagner, Bee Walker, and Rog Walker and are utterly haunting, ending with explanatory notes from EJI founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson. (To further the discussion, EJI will be opening a national monument in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2018 called the Memorial to Peace and Justice.) The exhibition also features related works from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, including Elizabeth Catlett’s “I Have Special Reservations,” Jacob Lawrence’s “Harlem Street Scene,” Kara Walker’s “Burning African Village Play Set with Big Hour and Lynching,” Rashid Johnson’s “Thurgood in the House of Chaos,” Theaster Gates’s “In Case of Race Riot II,” Jack Whitten’s “Black Monolith II (For Ralph Ellison),” and Titus Kaphar’s “The Jerome Project (My Loss),” which explore slavery, segregation, the civil rights movement, and modern-day racism. A kind of companion piece to such films as Ava DuVernay’s 13th and such books as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, the exhibit is a powerful, gut-wrenching experience that visitors walk through in near-silence — when I went, the only talking was between a white father and his young son, who whispered that he wanted to know what various words and images meant, and the dad told him, thoughtfully and directly. It was a microcosm of what should be happening more today, expanding the conversation about America’s Original Sin.
Paula Cooper Gallery
534 West 21st St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Saturday through October 7, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Christian Marclay’s “Phones” exhibition at Paula Cooper is a statement about the demise of the old-fashioned corded landline telephone in the face of the mobile phone revolution. But you’re likely to be surprised that the three works all date back to the 1990s, a generation before the latest technology took over. The sixty-two-year-old California-born Swiss and American artist has been exploring the evolving nature of sound and image throughout his career, as highlighted by his multidisciplinary “Festival” show at the Whitney in 2010. The three-part exhibit at Paula Cooper is centered by 1990’s “Boneyard,” a large room filled with 750 white hydrostone casts of handheld telephone receivers, together resembling a graveyard of scattered bones. But here it is the disconnected phone parts that are dead, victims of time. Marclay displays how old phones were used in the seven-minute 1995 video Telephones, consisting of scenes from movies in which phones ring, characters pick them up and say hello, listen to the person on the other end, engage in brief conversations, then say goodbye and hang up, forming mysterious narratives; Marclay would expand the idea to his international favorite The Clock, a captivating twenty-four-hour film of timepieces in movies that played to packed houses at Paula Cooper, MoMA, and Lincoln Center a few years ago. And in another room is “Extended Phone II,” a winding length of dark plastic tubing, evoking a garden hose, that is an outdated, overly thick phone cord. The long separation between base and handset represents the physical distance between callers, which in the modern age is no more because of such apps as FaceTime and Skype. If you have kids, be sure to bring them, as “Phones” is like a diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, a trio of renderings of extinct existence, of what once was and will never be again.