LOOKING FOR A LADY WITH FANGS AND A MOUSTACHE (Khyentse Norbu, 2019)
Rubin Museum of Art
Thursday, April 8, suggested admission $15, 5:00
Opens virtually Friday, April 9
Every November, my partner travels to Kathmandu in Nepal to study with a meditation teacher, known as a Rinpoche, and I have accompanied her several times. This annual trip became impossible last year because of Covid-19. But writer-director Khyentse Norbu’s latest film, Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache, made us feel like we were there once again, in this mystical, spiritual land.
A Bhutan-born Tibetan Buddhist teacher and filmmaker, Norbu, also known as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, the third incarnation of a principal lama, maintains a calm, meditative pace in telling the story of a secular man suddenly staring death in the face. Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang) rides his motorcycle through Kathmandu, trying to find a place to open a Western-style coffee shop. He is guided by Rabindra (Rabindra Singh Baniya), who is not happy when Tenzin is drawn to an abandoned monastery that was partially destroyed in the devastating 2015 earthquake. “Are you crazy?” Rabindra says, claiming that the building is “the womb of the goddess.” But Tenzin is a nonbeliever, more concerned that his button-down shirt and tie are properly adjusted and his hair is perfect than offending a would-be divine being.
Tenzin starts having strange dreams involving a young girl skipping barefoot through a field of marigolds, so his friend Jachung (Tulku Kungzang), worried about what the dreams mean, takes him to see a fabulously cool cereal-loving psychic monk (Ngawang Tenzin) who wears shades and headphones and regularly checks his iPad. The monk interprets the dreams to be a signal that Tenzin has only a week to live unless he finds a dakini, a sacred female messenger of wisdom and power. “You don’t have much time left. Better go and see your friends and relatives,” the monk says. “If you have any money, spend it all and have some fun. I heard you’re a modern man, so you won’t offer to monasteries anyway.” Tenzin is told to visit with the Master of Left Hand Lineage (Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche), who will further advise him about dakinis. Meanwhile, Tenzin continues going to a traditional Tibetan music class with Janchung and Kunsel (Tenzin Kunsel), taught by a wise, elderly man (Loten Namling).
Tenzin at first thinks his supposed fate is nonsense until strange things start happening to him and the prospect of his potential impending death finally gets to him. He searches for a dakini, which could be any woman he sees, particularly if they have fangs, a moustache, and three eyes. Meanwhile, the Master instructs, “If everyone believed they only had seven days to live, the world would be peaceful.” As the end of the week approaches, Tenzin must decide what, and whom, to believe as he examines the world he has made for himself.
Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache is a beautifully constructed, deeply contemplative parable about tradition and modernity in a culture that melds the good and the bad, spirituality and practicality, life and death. Norbu, whose previous films include 1999’s much-loved The Cup, in which two boys are desperate to watch the World Cup at a monastery that doesn’t have a working television, and 2003’s extraordinary Travellers and Magicians, a road movie in which the Bhutanese protagonist wants to leave the Himalayas for the prospect of success in America, once again explores the idea of a personal quest in his latest work. Tenzin’s hunt for a dakini represents the pursuit all of us have for something other than what is already within us. The film is gorgeously photographed by famed Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing (In the Mood for Love, The Assassin), with reds, yellows, greens, and blues blossoming from the brown, gray ancient city of Kathmandu.
In one nearly four-and-a-half-minute uncut scene shot from a few dozen feet away with a stationary camera, the rock-and-roll monk is seen through an open doorway on the right, sitting cross-legged on a white cushion, relaxed and comfortable as he checks his iPad. Tenzin stands by an open doorway on the left, his arms crossed in stark refusal of what is happening to him. The two men are separated by a window in front of which are three large potted ferns and two smaller plants, life growing gloriously between them. They are not quite as different as they might appear.
Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache is having a special online screening on April 8 at 5:00, kicking off the Rubin Museum’s “Brainwave: Awareness” series, followed by a live Q&A with Norbu and neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson. The film opens virtually on April 9.
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.”
Who: Red Bull Theater company
What: Conversation about William Shakespeare character Falstaff
Where: Red Bull Theater website, YouTube, and Facebook Live
When: Monday, April 5, free with RSVP (donations accepted), 7:30
Why: The last hand I shook was the large paw of Drama Desk Award–winning actor Jay O. Sanders, following his performance in the Broadway show Girl from the North Country at the Belasco on March 10, 2020, two days before the pandemic lockdown shuttered the city. With most theaters and the Great White Way still closed, Sanders will take part in Red Bull’s next online RemarkaBULL Podversation, “Exploring Falstaff,” on April 5 at 7:30. In the free virtual event, streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, the Austin-born actor and activist will perform an excerpt from Act 2, Scene 4 from Henry IV, Part 1, in which the bearish Sir John Falstaff tells Prince Hal at the Boar’s Head Tavern: “Shall I? content: this chair shall be my state, / this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown. / Give me a cup of sack to / make my eyes look red, that it may be thought I have / wept; for I must speak in passion.”
After the speech, Sanders will discuss the character, who appeared in both parts of Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor before being eulogized in Henry V, with Red Bull associate producer Nathan Winkelstein. The conversation will include several questions from the audience as well. Sanders (Uncle Vanya, the Apple Family plays) has portrayed such Shakespearean figures as Titus Andronicus, Marc Antony, Macbeth, Toby Belch, Caliban, Petruchio, and Bottom and has the record for most appearances at the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park presentations at the Delacorte, so he knows what of he speaks. Up next for Red Bull’s ambitious lockdown programming is a Zoom benefit reading of Paradise Lost on April 12 and 26; you can watch previous RemarkaBULL Podversations with André De Shields, Kate Burton, Patrick Page, Elizabeth Marvel, Michael Urie, Chukwudi Iwuji, Stephen Spinella, and others here.
Museum of Arts & Design
The Theater at MAD
2 Columbus Circle at 58th St. & Eighth Ave.
Friday - Sunday, March 26 - April 11, $12-$18, eighteen and under free
Activations April 2 & 9, 6:00
Crafting has seen a huge resurgence during the pandemic lockdown. Since March 2020, people around the world have been passing the time by sewing, knitting, crocheting, and taking on other crafting projects (when they’re not baking sourdough bread). So the time is right for Mia Wright-Ross’s new exhibition at the Museum of Arts & Design, “A Moment to Breathe.” Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Wright-Ross is the founder and creative director of the Washington Heights–based MWR Collection, a “full-service luxury crafting atelier” that makes handbags, home decor, furniture, and other high-end accessories. The exhibit, which runs Fridays through Sundays through April 11, is the culmination of Wright-Ross’s MAD residency, which included informal Zoom studio visits and online workshops. MAD’s ninth Artist Fellow, Wright-Ross learned her trade at Parsons/the New School of Design, where she is an adjunct professor, at internships and early jobs at such companies as Jimlar, Converse, Talbots, and Calvin Klein, and from such mentors as shoe designer Howard Davis and photographer and professor Bill Gaskins.
The exhibition deals with grief and collective healing in several ways. It is being held in the Theater at MAD and features two monumental leather tapestries, a large sewing machine that Wright-Ross will activate on April 2 and 9 at 6:00 for a limited in-person audience, and a short film made with multidisciplinary artist Akeema-Zane (Sonic Escape Routes: Shall We Fly? or Shall We Resist?) and SCOGÉ builder and designer and media specialist Starnilas Oge. In addition, on April 1 at 7:00, Wright-Ross and Gaskins will participate in the live Online Learning Lab “Artists in Dialogue.” After the opening weekend of the show, Wright-Ross discussed her fascination with leather, sewing, her hometown, the power of artisanship, and more.
twi-ny: You are most well known for your leather creations. What got you into that material?
mia wright-ross: I have always had a love of leather, even as a young child. My mom would collect Coach bags and I remember going to the store to get them repaired and cleaned. I loved the smell of the leather that engulfed me when we walked into the store. That is my first sensory memory with leather. Later in my creative career, I was able to work with leather more intimately when I was introduced to it as a designer by my mentor, Howard Davis. He was my first and only footwear instructor. In his class, I was able to examine the qualities and utility of leather as a material. Since then I have been in love with the dynamic nature of leather as an unforgiving material. Once it is scratched or stitched, you must live with the mark — make it beautiful at all costs.
twi-ny: Your new MAD exhibit comes at the end of your yearlong residency. What was that experience like? How did the pandemic lockdown affect it?
mwr: Working with MAD has been a delightful experience, especially with all that we have all endured over the past year. The truth is that the residency was initially only six months. I arrived to move into my artist studio within the museum in February 2020, but by mid-March we were told the museum would be closing due to the pandemic. I took a few of my materials and tools and began working in quarantine from my home studio. The MAD Artist Studios department worked with me and extended my fellowship for an additional six months. This allowed me to extend the research and development of my new body of work and also find new ways to connect with the museum’s audience through educational workshops and virtual artist studio visits.
In September 2020, I came back to my studio in the museum with new work in tow. I then realized the amount of work I had created while in quarantine, from the leather sculptures, to the tapestries, and some new works in 2D sketch format. I saw that the incubation of the lockdown was something my creative process was missing. It was the reason I applied for the fellowship in the first place — space to evaluate my reason for being an artisan. I wanted to go inward and find the source of my connection with my work. Amidst all things the pandemic brought — the fear, the grief, and the uprising — personal and collective, I was able to take the time to communicate my feelings and heal through my connection with leather, and I am happy to be able to share that with other artisans.
twi-ny: The show involves sewing, an activity that has flourished during the pandemic, as many people made masks as well as their own clothing. How did the act of sewing come into your life?
mwr: I have been sewing since high school. I was initially taught by a dear family friend, Ms. Gracie. But in 2003, I was accepted to a specialty art program, the Center for the Arts, at my local high school in Richmond. As a little girl, I always wanted to be a fashion designer, so during the summer of my junior–senior high school year, I asked my mother to buy a sewing machine. She purchased a small machine from Walmart and bought me a few Vogue patterns to explore the skill. I instantly fell in love with the process. From there, I took sheets from my great-grandmother’s linen closet, painted textures on them, and began using them to create draped dresses. I had no idea what I was doing but the skill called for me.
twi-ny: On April 2 and 9, you will be onstage, sewing, in front of a limited audience. What do you anticipate for that?
mwr: I want people to engage with the truest parts of themselves when they experience the live performance. The performance adds an additional layer of sensory to the exhibition in that you are able to witness in its most honest and intimate setting, as a space of reverence. I am bringing you into my studio — my worship space. My sewing machine is the altar and I am using my practice to process through my healing as a craftsperson and as a human being.
The film creates an additional layer to the experience as an amalgamation of emotion, visual documentation, making in process, meditation, and memory in sound and visual representation. I hope that the vulnerability of my process allows individuals to assess the areas of themselves that haven’t been allowed to breathe — be it sorrow, love, anger, and anything in between.
twi-ny: How did the film collaboration with Starnilas Oge and Akeema-Zane come about? [ed. note: below film clip courtesy Mia Wright-Ross (@mwrcollection) and her collaborators: Film Design by Starnilas Oge (@scoge2222) and Sound Design by Akeema-Zane (@kissingtherain)]
mwr: They are both dear friends of mine and I knew I wanted to involve my community of artist friends in this work in every way possible. It happened quite naturally. Starnilas has been a close friend in design, and I have always admired his perspective in video/film work. I felt he would bring a level of raw intimacy to the editing process that I couldn’t make possible alone. And Akeema-Zane is truly a sound craftsperson. I’ve known Akeema for a very long time, and we became neighbors over the past few years. I have always admired the ways in which she researches and dissects consciousness through whichever media she is working in. With her exploration in audio design, having her perspective truly enhances the multisensory experience of the exhibition.
twi-ny: On April 1, you will take part in a live conversation with Bill Gaskins. What are some of the things you are looking forward to talking about with him?
mwr: First let me say, Bill Gaskins is my guiding light. He is not only an amazingly talented artist but also my mentor. So, it’s safe to say we will be examining the work in a way that is intimate, philosophical, and examines historical and contemporary context. With Bill, I never know what to expect, which is why he is such a great teacher and artist.
twi-ny: Earlier this month, you were awarded the inaugural Female Design Council grant, which focuses on women of color. What does that mean to you?
mwr: Community is the reason I am able to do the work I do. Without the support of my familial and artist communities, I would not be where I am today. So the award from the Female Design Council means that I am able to continue to do this work and push the bounds of what the design community identifies as an artisan. Design and the luxury industry is a heavily white male–dominated field but women, especially women of color, have consistently contributed to the successes of the design industry from a space of the unseen. From [former slave, seamstress, activist, and author] Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley to [fashion designer] Ann Lowe, Black designers and artisans have always been here and will continue to evolve through our work. I am grateful that the FDC sees this as a vision they want to be a part in supporting designers of color through the support of my studio work.
twi-ny: The health crisis has also led to a severe economic downturn. How has that affected MWR Collection, which specializes in the luxury market?
mwr: Well, the easiest way to respond to this question is that MWR Collection is still here. It has definitely been a learning experience to sustain a small business in a time of economic downturn. But I’ve always sought to maintain MWR Collection as a small, steady, growing business. So when the pandemic began, it meant that I had to reassess my definition of growth — “slow and steady wins the race” was my assessment. Which meant that I could take the time to evaluate our strong suits and ways the brand could be more secure in what we stand for in luxury even during a time of economic instability. I began working with a branding team to strategize on the future of MWR Collection, which is something I didn’t have the time or knowledge to do in the past. Now with the new strategy, I am crowdfunding to support the launch of our new products and maintaining our consistent audience throughout the global luxury market.
twi-ny: Richmond has seen its fair share of controversy recently, primarily involving Monument Ave., and it was also home to BLM protests. Do you still have family there? If so, have you been able to see any of them over the course of the last year?
mwr: Yes, all of my family is still in Richmond. I actually traveled back to VA during the BLM protests last summer. Richmond has always been controversial and will remain this way because of the powerful Black people that push our communities. It was a bit of a shock to see the burned buildings and tags on the statues of Monument Avenue. But this is not a Richmond that is new to me. The ancestral spirit of Richmond has always been rooted in revolutionary Black people. I was happy to see my ancestors’ spirits still thriving in our communities of color and making their presence known as we continue to fight for freedom.
twi-ny: When we come out on the other side of this, what is the first thing you want to do that you’ve been unable to because of Covid-19?
mwr: I don’t like to identify with “the other side of this” when it pertains to the pandemic. This is the world we are living in now, all of it — the protests, the pandemic, the memories, and the grief. We can’t avoid it or history will continue to repeat itself. I hope this exhibition can show people what can be done when we are honest with ourselves, with our experiences, and with each other. Breathe through it all.
Who: devynn emory, Okwui Okpokwasili
What: Multidisciplinary project and live conversation
Where: Danspace Project Zoom, Prospect Park
When: Premiere screening and live talk: Wednesday, March 31, pay-what-you-can ($0-$20), 7:00; interactive installation: Prospect Park, April 1-3, free with RSVP, noon - 4:00
Why: This week, Danspace Project is hosting the premiere of mixed Lenape/Blackfoot transgender choreographer, dance artist, bodyworker, ceremonial guide, and acute care and hospice nurse devynn emory’s film, deadbird, which was originally scheduled to be presented as a live performance at St. Mark’s Church last spring but has now been reimagined as a multidisciplinary, interactive experience, both online and in person. The film will be streamed on March 31 at 7:00, preceded by a one-time-only live conversation between emory and Brooklyn-based writer, performer, and choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili (for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, Bronx Gothic). The work deals with the medical industrial complex and end-of-life care and offers viewers the chance to “grieve in honor of the bodies and spirits who are our teachers as they leave this plane,” with emory joined in the film by a mannequin voiced by Julia Bennett, Neil Greenberg, and Calvin Stalvig, sharing intimate tales of death and near-death.
Then, from April 1 to 3, people are invited to Prospect Park for the public grief altar: can anybody help me hold this body; details are available upon registration, but the official website notes that “these altars will be tended to by local BIPOC artists honoring the land they reside on and creating space for your visit.” The Brooklyn altar will be tended by emory and Joseph M. Pierce (Cherokee Nation). The ever-evolving work, which will continue on to Philadelphia, Portland, and Los Angeles, also features an online archive where anyone can make their own offerings as part of a communal “collection of items placed in honor of our loved ones to hold the accumulation of our collective grief, to witness one another as we gather, and to celebrate our resilience. our grief can be holy if we let it.” We’ve all suffered from different kinds of grief over the last year; as emory writes, “let us awaken to the call to grieve as an essential act of embodiment so that we remain resilient and connected to our awakening bodies, and each others’.”