This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

EI ARAKAWA: WEWORK BABIES (11 Cortlandt Alley)

Ei Arakawa

[A group of children follow each other down a dirt path in a wooded forest, their backs turned away from the camera. The path leads towards a grassy clearing, lit by radiant sun. Across the frame is the logo for "WeWork," offset on a diagonal.]

Artists Space
11 Cortlandt Alley
Sunday, December 8, free, 2:00

Fukushima-born, LA–based performance artist Ei Arakawa will lead a parade of a different kind on Sunday, December 8, inaugurating the new home of Artists Space. The former New Yorker is presenting WeWork Babies (11 Cortlandt Alley), beginning at 2:00 outside Artists Space at 11 Cortlandt Alley with a march of plastic infants that will then go into the lobby and down into the cellar gallery, which serves as an art baby nursery. The piece, complete with Q&A, will be performed by Arakawa, Malik Gaines, Tony Jackson, Sohee Kim, Erika Landström, Shuang Liang, George Liu, Yuri Manabe, Molly McFadden, Gela Patashuri, Jamie Stevens, and Tinatin Tsiklauri, with music by Boston-born, Brooklyn-based composer and installation artist Stefan Tcherepnin and his seven-month-old son, Igor Törnudd-Tcherepnin. Founded in 1972, Artists Space “strives for exemplary conditions in which to produce, experience, and understand art, to be a locus of critical discourse and education, and to advocate for the capacity of artistic work to significantly define and reflect our understanding of ourselves.” The opening-month celebration continues with such other free programs as the album launch “Speaker Music: drape over another” on December 13 and the book launch “Alexander Zevin: Liberalism at Large” on December 16.



Tuesday Smillie, S.T.A.R., watercolor, collage on board, 2012 (courtesy of the artist / © Tuesday Smillie)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, December 7, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00

The Brooklyn Museum shows off the best of the borough in the December edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Los Hacheros, Gemma, DJ Laylo, Adrian Daniel, and drag collective Switch n’ Play (featuring Divina GranSparkle, K.James, Miss Malice, Nyx Nocturne, Pearl Harbor, and Vigor Mortis with special guest Heart Crimson); Visual AIDS screenings of short films commemorating the annual Day With(out) Art, followed by a conversation between filmmakers Iman Shervington and Derrick Woods-Morrow, moderated by writer Mathew Rodriguez; a book talk on Elia Alba’s The Supper Club with Sur Rodney (Sur) and Jack Waters, focusing on the conversation from the book that asks “What Would an HIV Doula Do?”; a curator tour of the Arts of Japan galleries with Joan Cummins; teen apprentice pop-up gallery talks in “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall”; a night market with handmade artisanal products; and a poetry reading and book signing by Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang from her latest book, Hybrida. In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “yasiin bey: Negus,” “One: Xu Bing,” “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” “JR: Chronicles,” and more.


brooklyn whiskey fest

Brooklyn Expo Center
72 Noble St.
Saturday, December 7, $70 (use code WHISKEYBK to save $25), 2:00 - 5:00, 6:30 - 9:30

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough,” Mark Twain famously said. You can test his hypothesis on December 7 at the Brooklyn Whiskey and Spirits Fest. Taking place at the Brooklyn Expo Center, the festival is divided into two three-hour sessions, beginning at 2:00 and 6:30. Attendees will be given a souvenir tasting glass with which they can sample more than one hundred varieties of bourbon, blended, Irish, Scotch, Tennessee, rye, single malt, and Canadian whiskey and craft spirits, including gin, tequila, rum, stout, and more. Among the participants are Iron Smoke, the Fighting 69th Irish Whiskey, BSB Brown Sugar Bourbon, the Vale Fox, Sono 1420, Twinstills Moonshine, Cutwater, Copper Sea Distilling, Black Button Distillery, and Elijah Craig, with experts on hand to talk about their offerings. There will be live music as well as food available for purchase. You can also get a designated driver ticket for $15, but if you’re caught stealing a sip, you’ll be escorted out.


Dana Davenport and Samita Sinha will present new work together for Gibney DoublePlus (photos by Maria Baranova and Yanissa Grand-Pierre)

Dana Davenport and Samita Sinha will present new work together for Gibney DoublePlus (photos by Maria Baranova and Yanissa Grand-Pierre)

The Theater at Gibney 280 Broadway
280 Broadway between Chambers & Reade Sts.
December 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, $15-$20, 8:00

Gibney’s annual DoublePlus program, in which established artists mentor pairs of emerging choreographers, kicks off December 5-7 with Pilipinx-American producer, administrator, contemporary performance manager, and Current Sessions founder Alexis Convento curating works by Korean and black American interdisciplinary artist Dana Davenport and composer and vocal artist Samita Sinha. Davenport will present the new movement piece Experiments for ~Relaxation~, while Sinha debuts Kaalo Jol (“Black Waters”), a duet with Sunny Jain on dhol on Thursday and guitarist Grey Mcmurray on Friday and Saturday. The December 6 show will be preceded at 7:00 by a free Living Gallery site-specific performance of Capital-D Dance by Brooklyn-based dancer, writer, and producer Tara Sheena. The series continues December 12-14 with Alexander Diaz’s Getting closer to Coral and Jennifer Harrison Newman’s topologies, curated by Charmaine Warren, and December 19-21 with Laurel Atwell’s We Wield and Hyung Seok Jeon’s Deep Out Agents, curated by Tei Blow.


Laurie Anderson. Photography by Ebru Yildiz / Nicole Krauss. Photography by Goni Riskin.

Laurie Anderson and Nicole Krauss will be at the Morgan Library on December 5 for latest Le Conversazioni presentation (photos by Ebru Yildiz and Goni Riskin)

Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Ave. at 36th St.
Thursday, December 5, $20, 7:00

The ongoing series “Le Conversazioni: Films of My Life” continues December 5 at the Morgan Library with Laurie Anderson and Nicole Krauss sitting down for a discussion with moderator Antonio Monda, the artistic director and cofounder of Le Conversazioni, an Italian festival started in 2006 dedicated to literature but which has since spread to include other disciplines. Anderson is an Illinois-born, New York-based, Grammy-winning musician, filmmaker, composer, and multimedia performance and spoken-word artist who has released such records as Big Science and Mister Heartbreak, made such films as Home of the Brave and Heart of a Dog, and staged such cutting-edge shows as United States Live, Moby-Dick, and The End of the Moon. Krauss is the Manhattan-born award-winning author of Man Walks into a Room, The History of Love, Great House, and Forest Dark. They will be discussing films that influenced their work. The 7:00 event is being held in conjunction with the Morgan exhibition “Verdi: Creating Otello and Falstaff — Highlights from the Ricordi Archive,” which will be open at 6:00 for ticket holders.


Jack Sim

Jack Sim is on a mission to bring clean toilets to India, China, and the rest of the world

MR. TOILET: THE WORLD’S #2 MAN (Lily Zepeda, 2019)
Village East Cinema
181-189 Second Ave. at 12th St.
Opens Friday, November 22

Jack Sim is my new hero. Known as Mr. Toilet, the Singapore native and former construction entrepreneur travels around the globe preaching the gospel of poo, promoting safe and healthy sanitation in countries where bathrooms are scarce and open defecation leads to rampant disease and even crime, especially against women and children, who find themselves particularly vulnerable when they must relieve themselves outside in remote areas. Lily Zepeda tells Sim’s story in her first feature film, the vastly entertaining and important documentary Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man. “The toilet is a spiritual room, a place to cherish and rejoice,” Sim explains at the beginning of the film. “When you go and let go, you’re connected with the universe. That’s why good ideas come up from the toilet. If you survey people before and after they use the toilet, ninety-nine percent of them will be much happier than before they go to the toilet. When you open the toilet door, it’s not the toilet inside; it’s your future.” Sim must go a lot, because he is one happy guy.

Zepeda follows the eccentric Sim as he meets with government officials, local leaders, young students, and the general public in Singapore, China, India, and the United Nations, lobbying for more toilets, particularly for schoolchildren and women. He has a never-ending array of fecal puns (one of his mottoes is “Getting People to Give a Shit”), rides around on a scooter, uses a toilet brush to comb his hair, swims with a poo emoji float, and often dresses up in costume as a man sitting on a toilet, doing his business; the playful animation Zepeda includes highlights Sim’s youthful qualities. Now sixty-two, he is away from home a lot, which disappoints his loyal wife, Julie Teng, and their four kids, daughters Faith and Earth and sons Worth and Truth, who consider their father “a twelve-year-old trapped in a sixty-year-old man’s body.” Sim does things his own way, with little regard for the consequences; he believes strongly in civil disobedience, feeling that certain rules don’t apply to him. “I’m very naughty,” he admits.

Sim is nearly all laughs and smiles until there are rumbles of dissatisfaction with some board members of his nonprofit, the World Toilet Organization, which boasts such fans as Oscar winner Matt Damon, Bollywood star Salman Khan, and “Indian King of Toilets” Dr. Bindeshwar Parhak. “I support his movement, but for me, frankly, the task for Jack is too big,” notes former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong, not necessarily realizing his own fecal pun. But as goofy as Sim is — and he’s plenty goofy — he knows his shit and is very serious about changing the planet’s perception of poop, one toilet, and one crappy joke, at a time. Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man opens November 22 at Village East Cinema, with Zepeda and Sim participating in Q&As after the 7:00 shows on Friday and Saturday.


Anamaria Marinca

Anamaria Marinca stars in Cristian Mungiu’s harrowing 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,, part of Film Forum celebration of the last three decades of Romanian cinema

Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Through November 26

On December 25, 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by a firing squad after being found guilty of corruption and genocide. In the wake of his death, the Romanian film industry reinvented itself, and Film Forum pays tribute to that change with “The Romanians: 30 Years of Cinema Revolution,” consisting of thirty films screening over twelve days through November 26. Several shows will be followed by Q&As with the director and/or actor. In addition to the below four recommendations, the series includes Nae Caranfil’s Do Not Lean Out the Window, Radu Mihaileanu’s Train of Life, Alexandru Solomon’s The Great Communist Bank Robbery, and Constantin Popescu’s Pororoca.

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Friday, November 22, 3:30, 7:45

Winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a harrowing look at personal freedom at the end of the Ceaușescu regime in late-’80s Romania. Anamaria Marinca gives a powerful performance as Otilia, a young woman risking her own safety to help her best friend, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), out of a difficult, dangerous situation. Their lives get even more complicated when they turn to Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) to take care of things. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu, who shot Cristi Puiu’s brilliant The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, keeps the camera relatively steady for long scenes, without cuts, pans, dollies, or zooms, as the actors walk in and out of view, giving the film a heightened level of believability without looking like a documentary. Set in a restrictive era with a burgeoning black market, 4 Months goes from mystery to psychological drama to thriller with remarkable ease — and the less you know about the plot, the better.


Father (Teodor Corban) and son (Mihai Comānoiu) hunt for a runaway slave in wickedly funny Aferim!

AFERIM! (Radu Jude, 2015)
Saturday, November 23, 3:30

Romanian director Radu Jude won the Silver Bear as Best Director at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival for Aferim!, his savagely funny blacker-than-black comic Western about bigotry, infidelity, and frontier justice in 1835 Wallachia. Lawkeeper Costandin (Teodor Corban) and his son, Ionitā (Mihai Comānoiu), are galloping through the local countryside, searching for runaway Gypsy slave Carfin (Cuzin Toma), who Boyar Iordache Cindescu (Alexandru Dabija) has accused of having an affair with his wife, Sultana (Mihaela Sîrbu). The surly Costandin leads the hunt, verbally cutting down everyone he meets, from random old women to abbots to fellow lawmen, with wicked barbs, calling them filthy whores, crows, and other foul names while spouting ridiculous theories about honor and religion; he even batters his son, saying he’s “a waste of bread” and that “if you slap him, he’ll die of grief.” It’s a cruel, cholera-filled time in which even the monks beat the poor, where Costandin regales a priest with the telling riddle, “Lifeless out of life, life out of lifeless,” which the priest thinks refers to the coming doomsday.

Cowritten by Jude (The Happiest Girl in the World, Everybody in Our Family) and novelist Florin Lăzărescu (Our Special Envoy, Numbness), who previously collaborated on the short film The Tube with a Hat, and shot in gloriously stark black-and-white by Marius Panduru (12:08 East of Bucharest; Police, Adjective), the Romanian / Bulgarian / Czech coproduction is an absurdist combination of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail, and John Ford’s The Searchers, skewering everything in its path, either overtly or under its wide-reaching breath. Even Dana Pāpāruz’s costumes are a genuine riot, especially the boyar’s majestically ridiculous hat. But Aferim! is more than just a clever parody of period films and nineteenth-century Eastern European culture and social mores; it is also a brilliant exploration of the nature of racism, discrimination, misogyny, and the aristocracy that directly relates to what’s going on around the world today as well as how Romania has dealt with its own sorry past of enslaving the Romani people. Jude was inspired by real events and historical documents, setting the film immediately after the 1834 Russian occupation, which adds to its razor-sharp observations. “Aferim! is an attempt to gaze into the past, to take a journey inside the mentalities of the beginning of the nineteenth century — all epistemological imperfections inherent to such an enterprise included,” Jude says in his director’s statement. “It is obvious that such an effort would be pointless should we not believe that this hazy past holds the explanation for certain present issues.” Don’t miss this absolute gem of a film, which was Romania’s submission for the Academy Awards.


Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) must choose between her faith and her best friend in Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills

BEYOND THE HILLS (DUPA DEALURI) (Cristian Mungiu, 2012)
Sunday, November 24, 7:30
Monday, November 25, 12:40

Inspired by a true story detailed in a pair of nonfiction novels by Romanian journalist Tatiana Niculescu Bran, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills is a powerful, emotional study of love, friendship, dedication, devotion, and sexual repression. In a barren section of modern-day Romania, Alina (Cristina Flutur) arrives at a poverty-stricken Orthodox monastery, where her childhood friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) has become a nun. Both young women grew up in a poor orphanage, and both still have no real place in society. Alina has come to try to convince Voichita — possibly her former lover — to leave the flock and go with her to Germany, where they can live and work together freely. Early on, Voichita rubs a tired Alina’s bare back; when Alina turns over, Voichita just stops short of massaging her friend’s chest, the sexual tension nearly exploding in a scene of quiet beauty that speaks volumes about their relationship. Despite Alina’s pleading, Voichita, apparently filled with deep inner guilt, refuses to turn her back on the priest (Valeriu Andriuţă), whom all the nuns refer to as Pa, and her newfound vocation. Unable to accept her friend’s decision, Alina begins acting out in threatening ways to both herself and the true believers, leading to shocking, tragic consequences.

Mungiu’s feature-film follow-up to the 2007 Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is another harrowing examination of characters trapped in a devastating situation. The two-and-a-half-hour film seems to take place in a different era, far away from contemporary towns and cities, cell phones and even electricity. Mungiu, who won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes for the film, is careful not to condemn or belittle Pa, Ma (Dana Tapalagă), and their faith, but he doesn’t praise them either, leaving it up to viewers to decide for themselves. In their feature-film debuts, Flutur and Stratan, who are both from Mungiu’s hometown of Iasi and shared the Best Actress award at Cannes, are exceptional, their eyes filled with fear and longing as Alina and Voichita try to find a balance in their opposing worlds.

Luminița Gheorghiu

Luminița Gheorghiu plays a controlling, domineering mother in Călin Peter Netzer’s award-winning Child’s Pose

CHILD’S POSE (POZITIA COPILULUI) (Călin Peter Netzer, 2013)
Monday, November 25, 8:40

Luminita Gheorghiu, grand dame of the Romanian New Wave, was nominated for Best Actress at the European Film Awards for her devastating portrayal of a domineering mother in Călin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose. Gheorghiu (The Death of Mister Lazarescu; 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) stars as Cornelia Kerenes, an elegant, cigarette-smoking architect who immediately jumps into action when her son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), is involved in a terrible car accident, killing a child. Despite their recent estrangement — Cornelia and Barbu have rarely spoken since he married Carmen (Ilinca Goia) — Cornelia starts constructing a scenario, like designing one of her buildings, to keep Barbu out of jail. She and her surgeon husband, Reli (Florin Zamfirescu), along with her sister, Olga (Nataşa Raab), start calling in favors and doling out bribes while showing a stunning lack of concern for the family of the boy who Barbu killed. As the child’s funeral approaches, relationships come together and fall apart as parents try to deal with what has happened to their children. Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale, Child’s Pose is a searing examination of class, corruption, and power.

Reminiscent of Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, in which María Onetto gives a mesmerizing performance as an Argentine upper-class wife and mother who looks the other way when it appears that she might have run over a local boy, Child’s Pose is a penetrating character study that centers around the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Early on in the film, Cornelia, who her husband at one point calls “Controlia,” sits down with her dour cleaning woman and offers her a pair of used shoes, expecting her to rejoice in such wonderful charity. The scene sets the stage for what occurs later, as Cornelia believes money is the primary route to Barbu’s freedom, but it’s a path littered with more than just one young child’s body. The taut, razor-sharp script was written by Netzer (Maria, Medal of Honor) and Răzvan Rădulescu, who has worked on such other Romanian New Wave films as The Death of Mister Lazarescu, Stuff and Dough, and Tuesday, After Christmas. In Cornelia, they have created a woman worthy of joining the pantheon of classic domineering cinematic mothers.