McCourt Theater in the Bloomberg Building
545 West 30th St. at Eleventh Ave.
On April 2, the Shed kicked off its in-person spring season, “An Audience with . . . ,” as singer, polymuse, and cellist Kelsey Lu took the stage at the reconfigured eighteen-thousand-square-foot McCourt theater, performing with a band for a socially distanced crowd of 150. “Everyone’s intention is to receive something; that energy is flying throughout the room, and it’s buzzing and it’s vibrating,” Lu says in a behind-the-scene video about the making of the show. Next up is Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the New York Philharmonic on April 14 and 15, musical performers Renée Fleming, Bill Frisell, Christian McBride, and Dan Tepfer on April 21, and comedians Michelle Wolf, Jared Freid, and Cipha Sounds on April 22. “When I performed in its very first events, I was struck by the architectural innovation of the Shed, especially the amazing flexible enclosure of the McCourt,” Fleming said in a statement about the theater, which features 115-foot-high ceilings and a state-of-the-art MERV ventilation system. “It could not be more ideal for these unusual circumstances, as we finally begin to gather again, safely, for live performances.” The Shed will later host the annual Frieze art fair and present its annual “Open Call” art exhibition. You can check out its ongoing digital Up Close programming here.
Over the past year, we’ve all had to deal with grief and healing in unique and unusual ways, not being able to see ill love ones, attending Zoom funerals, and following national and international death counts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Physical, psychological, and emotional distance has created space between us like never before, particularly for those of us facing loss. Writer, actor, comedian, journalist, documentarian, podcast producer, and musician Julie Piñero shares her painful personal tragedy in her online immersive one-woman show, Delejos (from afar), which continues with live Zoom presentations April 11, 17, and 22.
Broadcasting from a friend’s basement, Piñero explores her brief but passionate relationship with VR video game designer Jose Zambrano, who was working on a new project, “Delejos,” when a horrific event landed him in the hospital in serious condition. Piñero describes their love and celebrates her partner through drawings, family photos, Instagram posts, texts, punch lines, and song while discussing Carlos Santana, freezer dildos, Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory, Rick and Morty, an upstate treehouse, and the meaning of the word “saperoco.” She also tries to find her own identity amid her anguish.
“I wonder if he exists in this hybrid reality between this one and the ones he creates because it all seems to build to his newest project, ‘Delejos,’” she says. “He tells me about it on our first date. In the game he sends players on a journey to connect to something they love from afar. It’s a work in progress, but it’s unclear where he ends and where the game begins, because here in the real world he takes these little words from Venezuela and stitches across his T-shirts, and when I ask him what the word means it’s like I watch him cross the ocean to visit the place where he heard it first.”
Piñero takes us to some of those places, incorporating DIY virtual reality by occasionally asking the audience members — it’s up to you whether you want your camera on, although it is encouraged in order to build a tighter online community — to close their eyes and imagine a scene she lays out in detail. Those are powerful moments that stretch your imagination and put you in the middle of the story, which delves into grief and connection, magical realism, Latinx identity and vulnerability, and creativity in times of crisis. “His art doesn’t need a canvas,” Piñero says of Zambrano. Neither does hers, which comes together for a fascinating, and hopeful, finale.
Who: Janet Biggs, Vinson Fraley, Earl Maneein, CERN-IARI,
What: Livestream multimedia performance
Where: Cristin Tierney Gallery
When: Thursday, April 8, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: A performance from multidisciplinary artist Janet Biggs is always something special — and something hard to define. For last summer’s Augmentation and Amplification for Fridman Gallery’s “SO⅃OS: a space of limit as possibility” series, the Brooklyn-based Biggs brought together 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 and now 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, to explore artistic connections between humans and technology.
On April 8, Biggs and Cristin Tierney Gallery will present another unique and fascinating collaboration, the virtual Singular Value Decomposition, featuring dancer Vinson Fraley, violinist, violist, composer, and arranger Maneein, the Seven)Suns String Quartet, and CERN video footage mathematically manipulated using quantum mechanics and linear algebra. The multimedia “research and development” performance is part of Biggs’s work with Arts at CERN, which is part of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the Integrated Arts Research Initiative (IARI) at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas; also involved are KU associate professor of mathematics Agnieszka Międlar, high-energy nuclear physicist and KU associate physics professor Daniel Tapia Takaki, Spencer Museum research curator Joey Orr, and IARI research fellows Clint Hurshman, a KU graduate philosophy student, and Olivia Johnson, a KU undergraduate studying mathematics and dance. Got that? It might not exactly be easy peasy, but it will blow your mind all the same.
RICHARD THOMPSON WITH ELVIS COSTELLO
Montclair Literary Festival
Tuesday, April 6, $20 ($35 with book), 8:00
“There is dust, and then there is dust. It’s thickest here, in my memory. This remotest room of my mind has been shut up for years, the windows shuttered, the furniture covered with dust sheets. Light hasn’t penetrated into some of these corners for years; in some cases it never has. If something is uncomfortable, I shove it in here and forget about it. When was the last time I dared look? I don’t want to remember, but now it is time to think back. The arrow is arcing through the air and speeding towards its appointed target.”
So begins British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson’s new memoir, Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967–1975 (Workman, April 2021, $27.95), written with Scott Timberg and illustrated with personal photographs. Thompson, who turned seventy-one last week, is one of the world’s finest guitarists and songwriters and a musicologist; he has made classic records with Fairport Convention, French Frith Kaiser Thompson, his then-wife, Linda Thompson, and as a solo artist. His project 1000 Years of Popular Music features tunes that go back to 1068. He peppers his extraordinary live shows with engaging patter with the audience, highlighting a snarky sense of humor and a wry smile. During the pandemic, he put on a series of living room concerts with his partner, Zara Phillips, from their home in Montclair, New Jersey, and released the six-track EP Bloody Noses, which he debuted from their house. So it is fitting that on April 6, he will be launching the book at the virtual Montclair Literary Festival, discussing it with Elvis Costello, who wrote his own memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, in 2015. Tickets are $35 with a copy of the book, $20 without.
Thompson will be back online April 15 for the 92Y presentation “Beeswing: Richard Thompson in Conversation with David Fricke,” speaking with the longtime Rolling Stone journalist about the memoir, named for one of his most popular songs, an autobiographical tune about falling in love as a teenager. “She was a rare thing / Fine as a beeswing / So fine a breath of wind might blow her away / She was a lost child / She was running wild, she said / As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay / And you wouldn’t want me any other way,” he sings. Exploring his formative years, the book features such chapters as “Instead of Bleeding,” “Yankee Hopscotch,” “Tuppenny Bangers and Damp Squibs,” and “Bright Lights.” Thompson will be bringing his guitar with him to play a couple of songs as well.
As he writes in the afterword, “Like Fairport, like so many of my contemporaries, I don’t know when to stop — and hooray for that. There are more mortgages to be paid off and bills piling up, but more motivational than that, there is still an audience. It may be twenty thousand at a festival, a thousand in a theatre or ten in a retirement home, but the desire to communicate from my heart to their heart is the strongest pull, and the sweetest feeling.” If you’re not yet part of that audience, now’s the time. Hooray for that.
Who: Song Ming Ang, Melanie Kress
What: Live online artist talk
Where: The High Line Zoom
When: Tuesday, April 6, free with RSVP, 1:00 (exhibition continues through April 28)
Why: In the 2019 interview “A New Understanding of Place” for the High Line blog, associate curator Melanie Kress explained why video was part of the elevated park’s continuing celebration of site-specific public art. “When we think of public art, most of us think of murals and sculptures. But to fully showcase the range of mediums that artists are working in today, video is indispensable,” she said. “Video also has the ability to cross back and forth between many different worlds and forms at the same time — between advertising, social media, film, documentary, documentation, television, music videos, and more. It provides a really interesting place for artists to play with viewers’ expectations. In a public space, visitors aren’t necessarily expecting to encounter art — especially video art — so those lines can be blurred in all the more challenging and creative ways.”
The latest video art installation to screen on the High Line Channel at Fourteenth St. is Singapore-born artist Song-Ming Ang’s “Piano Magic,” which consists of 2014’s Backwards Bach, in which Ang, who is based in Singapore and Berlin, plays Johann Sebastian Bach’s C Major Prelude from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier on the harpsichord both forward and backward, and 2011’s Parts and Labour, in which he fixes a disused piano. On April 6 at 2:00, Ang and Kress will discuss the project, which continues through April 28, in a live Zoom Q&A. Ang is also represented at the Asia Society Triennial with the multimedia site-specific installation True Stories, twelve music stands with text and images that explore the demise of societal norms, which he detailed in the Instagram Live program “Talking Dreams: A Conversation with Artist Song-Ming Ang.”