The Center for Book Arts
28 West 27th St., third floor
Friday, November 17, suggested admission $10, 6:30
“I work with the book. It is my chosen medium for the simple fact that it can contain and embrace all artistic media and expressions. Within the book, an infinitely complex array of materials and techniques come together and combine with a history as rich and diverse as we who create and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy.” So declares Mark Cockram, a faculty fellow at the Center for Book Arts, where on November 17 he will participate in an artist talk and reception in conjunction with his exhibition, “Beyond the Rules.” The show features several of his unique, multidimensional books and bindings, including The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, Wine from My Garden, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday, and Iskandar Jalil: Kembara Tanah Liat (Clay Travels). The exhibit continues through December 16; also currently on view at the center are “Felicia Rice: Collaboration and Metamorphosis” and the interactive “The Internal Machine,” consisting of pieces, many of which visitors can touch and activate, by Doug Beube, Ranjit Bhatnagar, András Böröcz, Caroline Bouissou, Gillian Brown, Brian Dettmer, Juan Fontanive, Arnaldo Morales, Bruno Munari, Alexander Rosenberg, Claudia Schmitz, Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson, Kaethe Wenzel, Benjamin Wright, Nick Yulman, and Mary Ziegler.
You don’t have to wait for their next season at the Joyce to catch the Trocks, aka Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, here in New York City. On November 15, Canadian director Bobbi Jo Hart’s ninety-minute documentary, Rebels on Pointe, opens at the Quad, an intimate look at the “the World’s Foremost All-Male Comic Ballet Company.” Founded in 1974, the Trocks specialize in parodying classical ballet and gender identity. “In the early years, the company was blackballed because of the gay element,” notes one troupe member, while another says, “I can be myself. I can wear tutus; why not? Little things change the world.” Named Best Documentary at several film festivals, Rebels on Pointe follows the troupe as it travels around the world, presenting its unique flair and talent, going behind the scenes and showing them perform onstage. “When that curtain goes up, it’s just electric,” another dancer declares. Hart (Rise, I Am Not a Rock Star) and members of the troupe will be at the Quad for a Q&A following the 7:00 screening on November 15.
In conjunction with the excellent exhibition “Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo,” which equates primarily black-and-white etchings, drawings, and films by Spanish painter Francisco Goya, Russian auteur Sergei Eisenstein, and American visual artist Robert Longo as they relate to the socioeconomic and -political issues of their times, the Brooklyn Museum is hosting an artist talk with Longo and American art critic and historian Hal Foster, author of such books as Compulsive Beauty, The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century, and The Art-Architecture Complex. The exhibition features stunning large-scale, multipanel charcoal drawings by the Brooklyn-born Longo that resemble photographs, including “Untitled (Black Pussy Hat in Women’s March),” “Untitled (Bullet Hole in Window),” and “Untitled (Mecca).” Longo and Foster will discuss how art and activism, and particularly photography, can have an impact in times of emergency, like what is happening right now in the United States and around the world.
Conference: NYIT, 1871 Broadway, $45 - $215, 8:00 am - 12:30 pm
Festival: Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall Street, $95 - $215, 6:00 - 9:00
Thursday, November 16
The Politics of Food will bring together more than 250 chefs, politicians, experts, and policy makers, examining the current state of nutrition in New York State and serving signature dishes. Held on November 16, the day begins at 8:00 in the morning at the New York Institute of Technology for a conference that includes the panel discussions “Future of food programs for NYC’s vulnerable communities,” with Barbara Turk, Donna M. Corrado, Margarette Purvis, and Joel Berg, “Legislating Nutrition and Sustainability,” with Charles Platkin, Elizabeth Balkan, Gale A. Brewer, and Kim Kessler, and “Food Dialogue with Farmers and Consumers: Common values? Common ground?” Richard Ball will deliver the keynote address, with closing remarks by Julia Turshen. The fun really begins at 6:00 at the Museum of American Finance for the Taste of Lower Manhattan Food Festival, hosted by Wylie Dufresne and boasting samples from chefs Jay Strauss, Jin Ruan, Joseph Mallol, Louis Goral, Mark Rosati, Matt Deliso, Nicolas “Nico” Abello, and Shaun Acosta and restaurants Amada, Benares, Blacktail at Pier A, Brushstroke, the Dead Rabbit, Blue Ribbon Federal Grill, Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, Harry’s Cafe and Steak, Harry & Ida’s Luncheonette, Jing Fong, L’Appart, Pier A Harbor House, Shake Shack, the Tuck Room, and Westville. Tickets for the conference are $45 and the food festival $95, with various VIP incentives at higher prices.
MetLiveArts / Performa 17
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Performance: Monday, November 13, and Tuesday, November 14, free with advance registration, 7:00
Talk: Wednesday, November 15, Performa Hub, 427 Broadway at Canal St., free, 1:00
Kenyan-born artist and activist Wangechi Mutu, who is based in New York and Nairobi, will be at the Met Fifth Ave. on November 13 and 14 presenting the Performa 17 commission and MetLiveArts program Banana Stroke. The sculptor, collage painter, and multidisciplinary, multimedia artist is the founder of AFRICA’SOUT!, an organization that seeks to raise awareness and “advance radical change” regarding freedom of creative expression in Africa and the diaspora, with a particular focus on gender equality and gay rights. Banana Stroke is an immersive environment constructed from collages made with dyed, fermented, or saturated paper, a live performance, and a site-specific action painting. “A lot of my work reflects the incredible influence that America has had on contemporary African culture. Some of it’s insidious, some of it’s innocuous, some of it’s invisible. It’s there,” Mutu told Mother Jones in 2013. On November 15 at 1:00, she will be at the Performa 17 Biennial Hub at 427 Broadway for a free talk with writer and scholar Adrienne Edwards, concentrating on Mutu’s use of abstraction and performance over the last two years. The conversation is being held in conjunction with Performa’s AFROGLOSSIA program, curated by Edwards and featuring work by Mutu, Teju Cole, Tracey Rose, Julie Mehretu and Jason Moran, Yto Barrada, and others.
Update: Wangechi Mutu’s Banana Stroke is an intimate, immersive experience reminiscent of the Happenings of the 1960s and ’70s. A small, extremely lucky crowd is ushered into the Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium and onto the stage, where they take seats on white benches of various heights and lengths, placed to the right and left. In between is an empty space with large white canvas boards at the front and back. Sounds of nature seep in and two related videos produced, edited, and photographed by Andrew Dru Mungai are projected onto the boards, in which the Kenyan-born Mutu rises from the ground wearing long banana branches on both hands. The videos switch from color to black-and-white while Mutu gently recites Nobel Prize–winning St. Lucian writer Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa,” including: “Again brutish necessity wipes its hands / Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again / A waste of our compassion, as with Spain, / The gorilla wrestles with the superman. / I who am poisoned with the blood of both, / Where shall I turn, divided to the vein? / I who have cursed / The drunken officer of British rule, how choose / Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?” In addition, such words as “Wail,” “Cry,” “Promise,” “Profane,” and “Stroke” appear on one of the walls and are spoken. The lights go out, and Mutu walks into the center, two long banana branches shackled to her arms. She moves slowly while going back and forth between the two canvases, dipping the banana leaves in metal containers of black ink and banging, dotting, and swirling them onto the stark whiteness and dragging them over the floor, the ink at times threatening to touch the audience as Mutu dances and throws her arms in the air.
Satisfied with her stark creations, she leaves the stage in darkness, and soon two more videos are projected over the artwork, similar to the earlier films but not exactly the same. The action paintings are essentially abstract, but Mutu carefully crafted some very specific patterns that now make sense with what’s happening onscreen. The images and words clash with the black strokes on the white screens, calling into question the effects of the artistic intervention as well as that of the colonialists. And about sixty minutes before it all started, it’s over; the audience leaves in silence, Mutu not coming out to take a bow. Banana Stroke is a powerful, provocative experience layered with meaning that will take time and effort to decipher, but it’s well worth further investigation; perhaps Mutu will shed more light on it during her November 15 talk with curator Adrienne Edwards.
SKY AND GROUND (Talya Tibbon & Joshua Bennett, 2017)
Sunday, November 12, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves., $19, 6:45
Thursday, November 16, IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St., $12, 10:15 am
Festival runs November 9-16 (various passes $75-$750)
The DOC NYC festival, consisting of more than 150 nonfiction feature films and shorts, has room for stories small and large, allowing viewers to understand the world from the macro to the micro; Talya Tibbon and Joshua Bennett’s Sky and Ground, having its world premiere November 12 and 16, zeroes in on the micro. In his sweeping new documentary, Human Flow, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and his crew went to twenty-three countries and dozens of refugee camps to personalize the growing international migrant crisis. Among the places he visited was the Idomeni tent city in Greece at the now-closed Macedonian border. The makeshift camp is the starting point for Tibbon and Bennett’s startling and intimate Sky and Ground. Tibbon embeds herself with the Nabi clan, led by Abdullah Sheik Nabi, known as Guevara for his childhood admiration for Argentine rebel Che Guevara. Guevara and his family have escaped the dangerous situation in Aleppo, Syria, and are trying to get to Berlin, where Guevara’s brother, Abdo, lives. But getting there is a harrowing journey, fraught with police and military, rewards for citizens who turn them in, cheating smugglers, and more impediments to their attempts to find a new home. “If we stay here in this misery, my family will go crazy,” Guevara says of the camp, and they are soon back on the road, not knowing what fate awaits them. Using the GPS on his cell phone and staying in touch with Abdo, Guevara has taken charge because no one else could, accepting responsibility for his mother, Jalila; his sister, Shireen, and her husband, Souleiman; and his nieces and nephews. The film plays out like a gripping thriller as the family sneaks through vast landscapes, wooded areas, isolated camps, and train stations, knowing they could get caught and sent back to war-torn Syria at any moment. “Everywhere I go, I lose my home,” Shireen says, while Jalila adds, “I am very, very regretful. I’d rather have bombs dropping every day than go through this torment.” But Guevara never gives up, no matter how treacherous things become. “After trying to get in touch with ten smugglers, all of them proved to be liars and frauds,” he explains. “We have no choice but to attempt to smuggle ourselves again.”
The arresting film is beautifully photographed by Emmy winner Axel Baumann, the lush vistas and sunsets in stark contrast to the Nabis’ heart-wrenching dilemma. In addition, Guevara documents everything he can using his cell phone and a handheld camera given to him by the crew. Tibbon and Bennett, who are also two of the producers — Guevara is credited as one of the coproducers — puts the viewer right in the midst of the action, helping us understand the Nabis’ strife and fear. They could be a middle-class family from anywhere; they are not poor and uneducated but an intelligent and clever group with money and connections and yet still are thwarted at nearly every turn, though they manage to maintain their faith and even their sense of humor throughout. There is a fascinating, unspoken aspect to Sky and Ground that went on behind the scenes; the filmmakers might have embedded themselves with the Nabis, but they had access to a car and slept in hotels as they followed the family across several countries. “As a filmmaker, ‘embedding’ with your subjects poses moral and editorial dilemmas on a daily basis,” Tibbon notes in her director’s statement. “When Jalila, the family matriarch, wondered why we couldn’t get them a car (or put them in ours), or when the kids asked why do I get to go back to a hotel at the end of the evening and they don’t, I didn’t have good enough answers. They weren’t criminals and I wasn’t better than them. . . . But from the outset we knew we couldn’t do anything illegal (like sneaking through borders) and we also knew that we didn’t want to do anything that would potentially put the family at risk or alter their journey.” Sky and Ground is a terrifying film to watch not only because it is hard to know what we as free individuals can do about the crisis but also because in today’s situation across the globe, it makes you realize that this could happen to just about anyone. Part of the Humanity on the Move trilogy from Show of Force, Sky and Ground is screening on November 12 at 6:45 at the SVA Theatre and November 16 at 10:15 am at IFC Center, followed by Q&As with Tibbon, Bennett, and producers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre.
Gibney Dance Performing Arts Center, Studio H
280 Broadway between Chambers & Reade Sts.
November 16-18, $20-$25, 8:00
California-based AXIS Dance Company is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary with its debut New York City season, November 16-18 at Gibney Dance. The company, founded in 1987 by Thais Mazur, brings together performers with and without physical disabilities through artistry, engagement, and advocacy. Under new artistic director Marc Brew, AXIS will present three works in Gibney’s Studio H, featuring company dancers James Bowen, Lani Dickinson, Scotty Hardwig, Carina Ho, Dwayne Schuneman, and Yuko Monden. Brew’s Radical Impact, a collaboration with composer and pianist JooWan Kim of Ensemble Mik Nawooj, explores identity politics and what it means to be human. Amy Seiwert is reworking her 2013 piece, The Reflective Surface, with an original score by Darren Johnston, seeking to surprise the audience and challenge its expectations. The evening will also include an excerpt from 2015’s In Defense of Regret, an examination of interior landscapes choreographed by Maurya Kerr, Alex Ketley, and Bobbi Jene Smith, with music by Emily Adams and Matan Dasaki. In addition, AXIS will be curating a series of integrated technique classes November 14-17 ($20, 10:00 am) with Brew (11/14), Mark Travis-Rivera (11/15), Heidi Latsky (11/16), and Alice Sheppard (11/17).