With “Habeas Corpus,” multimedia artist Laurie Anderson has taken a very serious topic, the seven-year incarceration of an innocent fourteen-year-old in Guantanamo, and turned it into a stunning celebration of freedom and the indomitability of the human spirit. In 2001, Mohammed el Gharani, a Chadian raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested in Karachi while praying in a mosque a few days after September 11. He spent the next seven years being tortured in prison until lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and his Reprieve organization finally got him a trial, and U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted his writ of habeas corpus and ordered his release in 2009. Anderson and el Gharani have collaborated on “Habeas Corpus,” an immersive audiovisual installation at Park Avenue Armory, but it’s about a lot more than just el Gharani’s grueling personal journey. “It’s a work about words, story, place,” Anderson said at a preview earlier this week. She pointedly noted that it asks the question “Where is America?” Near the back of the vast Wade Thompson Drill Hall, Anderson has built a sculpture that approximates the Lincoln Memorial, a giant white chair on which she has sculpted el Gharani’s body, as if his ghost is sitting there (while evoking the twelfth president, who delivered the Emancipation Proclamation). From October 2 to 4, a full-color el Gharani will be remotely projected onto the work from a studio in West Africa, where he lives; he is unable to be in New York in person because his imprisonment at Guantanamo bars his entry to the United States, despite his innocence. An amiable man who Anderson says “would make a great talk show host,” el Gharani will sit motionless in the chair every day from 12 noon to 7:00, projected live, but he will take a break once an hour, when prerecorded stories he tells about his time at Guantanamo will be shown, dealing with torture as well as developing close, important friendships.
Upon entering the hall, visitors step into a dark world lit by the glow of el Gharani in the chair as well as swirling lights emanating from a disco ball that causes immediate disorientation. Balance becomes precarious as you teeter toward the sculpture of el Gharani and the chair. But there’s also something exhilarating about it as you forge ahead through the loss of equilibrium. (Long strips of cardboard are provided if you need to take a seat or lie down, and you very well might have to.) Meanwhile, a droning guitar feedback score composed by Anderson’s late husband, Lou Reed, is played by his guitar tech, Stewart Hurwood, on a platform near the front that appears to be moving but is not, presenting yet another illusion, and nearby some of el Gharani’s words flash by on a wall like a ticker tape of memory and crackly snippets of military radio transmissions emanate from covered speakers. It all makes for a dizzying yet thrilling experience that delves into the nature of torture, identity, surveillance, borders, technology, personal responsibility, fighting injustice, and the very future of civilization. Make sure to allow yourself a few hours when you come to the armory in order to really absorb “Habeas Corpus”; walk around it (very carefully), contemplate its multiple meanings, meditate on its messages, and just enjoy the sheer spectacle of it. If you’re lucky, you might get a chance to walk right up to el Gharani and smile or wave at him, and he’ll smile and wave back; he’s been loving the direct interaction with the public. Also, look out for the cellist who occasionally wanders through the crowd, and that violin you hear just might be Anderson playing live, improvising with the cellist and Hurwood. Each night, Anderson will be joined by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman, Pakistani American performer Shahzad Ismaily, the Oakland-based Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs), Hurwood, and surprise guests for what Anderson promises will be “a great dance party.” In addition, in the Mary Divver Room, el Gharani shares some of his stories in a short documentary, talking about his friend Shaker Aamer, the construction of Camp 5, how he taught himself English, and imploring Obama to keep his promise and close Guantanamo. He tells his tales very directly, not seeking sympathy or complaining about what happened to him but instead hopeful there will be positive change in the world. And Anderson’s “From the Air,” a monologue about her dog, Lolabelle, and 9/11, plays in the Colonel’s Room, projected onto miniature sculptures of chairs on which tiny versions of Anderson and her dog sit; the text (which is not the lyrics from her 1982 song of the same name) is also part of her new seventy-five-minute film, Heart of a Dog, which will screen at the New York Film Festival on October 8, with Anderson at the Walter Reade Theater to discuss the work.
512 West 19th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Installation open Tuesday - Saturday through October 10, free
Performances Tuesday to Thursday at 5:00 and Friday and Saturday at 2:00 & 5:00 through October 3
Writer, photographer, and installation artist Sam Falls has created a beautifully intimate tribute to his late godbrother, Jamie Kanzler, with “September Spring,” continuing at the Kitchen through October 10. In 2013, Kanzler, who wrote poetry under the name September Spring and recorded music as Oldd News, died suddenly at the age of twenty-four. Falls has teamed up with dancers Hart of Gold, the New York-based duo consisting of Elizabeth Hart and Jessie Gold, for the durational work, which combines music, dance, and art in unique ways. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 5:00 and Saturdays at 2:00 and 5:00 since September 9, Hart of Gold has been performing an intricate dance on two stacks of twenty-four canvas rugs each, representing every year Kanzler was alive, separated by a translucent black scrim with a doorway at the center, in the Kitchen’s upstairs gallery. First, dabs of paint are carefully applied across each canvas. Then Hart and Gold, dressed in white, begin moving on the surface to the lo-fi, scratchy sounds of Oldd News, played on a turntable in another room. The dancers initially form a large yellow circle (Kanzler’s favorite color), then follow Falls’s choreography as they create a kind of action painting with their feet, at times evoking how a needle moves across a record, with Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s lighting going from bright to dark to stroboscopic and one of the dancers changing into a black costume. The audience is encouraged to walk around during the show, experiencing it from changing lines of sight. After each performance, which lasts about an hour, the resulting paintings are removed from the stack and hung from cords; although the choreography and color and initial placement of the paint are the same for every performance, each canvas comes out different. The last performance is on October 3, but the exhibition of the paintings will remain on view for another week. Falls, who was partly inspired by Kanzler’s cover version of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” notes in a deeply personal statement, “Jamie had twenty-four dynamic years and over the course of the show the twenty-four rugs become representations of this time, blending the lightness of days to the darkness at the end, the colorful depth of the center, the core of every mortal life.” But despite all the sadness associated with the concept behind the piece, it is an exhilarating experience, focusing much more on life than on death. “September Spring” is part of “From Minimalism to Algorithm,” a series of works curated by Lumi Tan that examine the legacy of Minimalist art in the digital age.
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, October 3, free, 5:00 - 11:00
The Brooklyn Museum’s October free First Saturday program pays tribute to National Hispanic Heritage Month — which actually runs September 15 to October 15 — on October 3, kicking things off with a performance by Garifuna traditionalist Aurelio Martínez, who is not only a singer-songwriter but was the first black member of Honduras’s National Congress. Known simply as Aurelio, he will be highlighting songs from his latest record, 2014’s Lándini, which includes such tracks as “Sañanaru,” “Milaguru,” and “Durugubei Mani.” (You can sample the songs here; Aurelio will also be playing a free show at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center on October 15.) First Saturday also features live performances by Danza Fiesta: Baile y Teatro Puertorriqueno, DJ duo iBomba (DJ Beto and DJ Ushka), the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, the Humberto Ramírez Quintent, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and Cave Canem poets Willie Perdomo, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Rio Cortez. In addition, Richard Aste and Edward J. Sullivan will lead a curator talk on the new exhibition “Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World,” art workshops will teach participants how to paint still lifes like Francisco Oller, you can settle in for a game of dominoes, Raquel Cepeda will read from and discuss her most recent book, Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, with her husband, Sacha Jenkins, and children are invited to sing and dance to Spanish and English songs with ¡Acopladitos! And the galleries are open late so you can check out such other exhibitions as “The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” “Kara Walker: ‘African Boy Attendant Curio (Bananas),’” “KAWS: ALONG THE WAY,” and “Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence.”
October 2-4, $40-$45
Sure, programs with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sigourney Weaver, Jim Gaffigan, Patti Smith, Billy Joel, Toni Morrison, Larry Wilmore, Trey Anastasio, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Malcolm Gladwell are already sold out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some pretty cool events you can check out at this year’s New Yorker Festival. Taking place October 2-4 at such locations as the Directors Guild Theatre, SIR Stage37, the Gramercy Theatre, One World Trade Center, and the SVA Theatre, the three-day series of discussions, interviews, preview film screenings, theatrical sneak peeks, and special presentations examines contemporary culture as only the New Yorker can. Talk isn’t necessarily cheap; it will cost you $40-$45 to see chats with Andrew Jarecki, Don DeLillo, HAIM, Ellie Kemper, Jason Segel, Jeffrey Tambor, Jesse Eisenberg, Marc Maron, Reggie Watts, Sleater-Kinney, Adam Driver, Julianna Margulies, and Zaha Hadid in addition to the below highlights.
Friday, October 2
Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists, with Liana Finck, Emily Flake, Mort Gerberg, and Robert Mankoff, moderated by Roz Chast, Directors Guild Theatre, $45, 9:30
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson Talk with Emily Nussbaum, SVA Theatre 1, $45, 10:00
The New R&B, with Azekel Adesuyi, Bilal, James Fauntleroy, and Kelela, moderated by Andrew Marantz, Gramercy Theatre, $45, 10:00
Saturday, October 3
Larry Kramer talks with Calvin Trillin, SVA Theatre 2, $40, 10:00 am
Justice Delayed, with Shawn Armbrust, Tyrone Hood, Patrick Quinn, and Ken Thompson, moderated by Nicholas Schmidle, Directors Guild Theatre, $40, 10:00 am
Creating Complicated Characters, with Joshua Ferris, Yiyun Li, and Lionel Shriver, moderated by Willing Davidson, Gramercy Theatre, $40, 1:00
Sneak Preview: The Lady in the Van, starring Maggie Smith and Jim Broadbent, followed by a conversation between Judith Thurman and director Nicholas Hytner, Directors Guild Theatre, $45, 6:30
Sunday, October 4
Cleo: A reading of Lawrence Wright’s new play, directed by Bob Balaban, with Damian Lewis as Richard Burton, Directors Guild Theatre, $40, 11:00 am
Congressman John Lewis talks with David Remnick, Directors Guild Theatre, $40, 2:00
JR talks with Françoise Mouly, Gramercy Theatre, $40, 2:30
Who: The Thigh-Highs (7:00), Regular Einstein (8:00), Lazy Lions (9:00), Doug Gillard (10:00), Field Guides (11:00)
What: “A riotous rockstravaganza with five acts fraternally banding together for a mini-fest of mountainous proportions”
Where: Piano’s, 158 Ludlow St. at Stanton St., 212-505-3733
When: Saturday, September 26, $10, 7:00 - 12 midnight
Why: You know that this mini-fest is the real deal because Jim Allen of Lazy Lions recently posted on Facebook, “I just passed up a free ticket to a private performance by one of my musical heroes so I could attend band practice tomorrow. So you people have to help make this Saturday’s gig worth it!” Meanwhile, Paula Carino of Regular Einstein has promised that this show at Piano’s will be “super-fun,” and we don’t doubt it, given this superior lineup, including twi-ny faves Regular Einstein and Lazy Lions, along with the Thigh-Highs; Doug Gillard, formerly of Guided by Voices and currently in Nada Surf; and Field Guides anchoring the evening. And it will only cost you ten bucks, so you really have no excuse not to check out what should be a great night of pure pop nirvana.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park
East Houston St. between Forsythe & Chrystie Sts.
Saturday, September 26, 12 noon – 5:00 pm
Tasting tickets: $20 for four plates
Nearly every culture makes some kind of dumpling, involving meat and/or vegetables tucked inside a wrapper made of flour or rice. So the NYC Dumpling Festival, held on the outskirts of Chinatown in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, is not merely a celebration of the Chinese delicacy but of dough-encased delights from all over the world. In past years, you could find such “dumplings” as pierogi, ravioli, empanada, mandoo, bao, shumai, and momo. The twelfth annual festivities, emceed by Danielle Chang and Anita Marks and featuring a special appearance by competitive eating favorite Takeru Kobayashi, includes fare from Dumpling Go, Bibigo, Tang’s Natural, Mika, TBaar, and festival sponsor Chef One, which serves frozen bagged dumplings. Of course, the highlight is the dumpling eating contest; last year’s men’s champion, James “the Bear” McDonald, downed eighty-six dumplings in two minutes, while women’s champ Molly Schuyler beat the Bear with a record ninety. In addition, there will be live performances by beatboxer Sung Lee, Korean drummers KTMDI (Janggu), the Lion Dance Crew from Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute, Bellyqueen, and Yut and the Hot Four. All proceeds from the festival benefit the Food Bank for New York City, so you won’t have to feel too guilty about stuffing your face, if you’re patient enough to navigate the long lines.