The Economy on ICE–WQXR

We were really bummed to cancel our concert at Southern Theater (Minneapolis) on April 26th because of economic straits. At a time when many music and arts venues are struggling to stay afloat, ICE decided to bring the concert to curious audience members in a different way—online!  On April 26th, we decided to do a performance/recording session at the Brooklyn ICEhaus that was then streamed by  WQXR. The evening featured two new pieces that I wrote from my ICElab, including Beneath A Trace of Vapor for flute and electronics and Glass Clouds We Have Known for toy piano, bass clarinet, flute, bowls, keyboard,electronics and video. We are unfortunately unable to capture the visual world of this piece without a theater, but be sure to check back and see it’s New York premiere scheduled to take place in November of 2011. The concert also featured works by ICElab composers Mario Diaz de Leon and Steve Lehman.  Thanks to WQXR for broadcasting our performance!


Eric Lamb, flute

Josh Rubin, clarinet

Cory Smythe, keyboard

Rob Dietz, video artist

Strange Powers at Film Forum

I just watched Strange Powers, a documentary on Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields last night at the Film Forum. If you are a Magnetic Fields fan, you will love seeing the behind-the-scenes stories on him and his bandmates. Wow– I felt like I was transported back to Coraline rehearsals when seeing him work out some of his songs. You meet a number of characters in his life throughout the documentary and see a lot of young photos of Stephin with Claudia. Strange Powers will be playing until November 9th.

Stephin is also dj-ing tonight the Showpaper Gallery, a really funky gallery/performance space on 42nd Street. (They also have an arcade exhibit going on!

Yoko Ono “Das Gift”

While visiting Berlin, I stumbled upon a magazine with an exclusive interview with Yoko Ono about her new exhibit, Das Gift, currently at Berlin’s Haunch of Venison. After following her for quite some time, I found the timing of this to be serendipitous. It was my last day in Berlin and  I felt hungry for something alive, interesting and giving to prepare me for my final show. Yoko has been an inspiration for me as an artist and human being so I was excited to see her new installation.

The Haunch of Venison in Berlin is located north of the main train station on Heidestrasse. The walk itself was kind of interesting because there is not much going on there except for construction and some motorcycle shops. We thought we had approached the Haunch when we came upon a bunch of converted industrial warehouses that were galleries. Finally, we found the Haunch next door and entered Yoko’s exhibit.

There were a few things that made the experience exceptional for me– first is that the entire gallery is dedicated to Yoko’s show. There was a concentrated feeling of her presence because it was all Das Gift. This magnified the exhibit rather than it being a small part of a large museum where there are paintings next door.  Second, was the fact that it was almost entirely empty, so Rob and I were able to experience it in silence and space without crowds of people.  It made me think about how hard it was for me to view Marina’s show at the MOMA last Spring because of all the people ( though of course, she deserves the attention.) In this kind of space, there was so much more intimacy and since Yoko’s works often encourage viewer interaction, the setting of this show was perfect.  And last–the exhibit truly was a gift–it was a FREE show from Yoko to us.

Now for the work itself– in true Yoko form, the entire exhibit focuses on peace in the midst of violence. Right when you enter, there are suspended helmets holding puzzle pieces of blue sky and white clouds. Piece Of Sky invites the viewer to take a small piece of sky with them, remembering that we are all part of this picture together. Her bullet-shattered glass is stunning. In close viewing, the cracks in the thick pane of glass appeared deep, multi-layered,rich and beautiful. In a following room, she invites the viewers to tack on a note, picture or memory to a location on a map of Berlin telling a story of pain. This was provocative in idea since Berlin is such a changing city. Several people attached notes on gentrification, some people drew pictures,attached poems and located places they had sex with strangers. Soon there will be so many memories attached that it will cover the map entirely.  Upstairs is a playful piece Berlin Smile where there is a projection of a bunch of people smiling. On the side of the room is a photo booth where we sat down to take our picture to add to her collection.  A very simple idea but after sitting there for a few minutes we did find it to be heartwarming.  There were several other works on display as well that all fit into her concept of gift and poison. To find out more about it , visit Haunch of Venison. The exhibit will be up until November 13th.

Pollock’s Toy Museum in London

I just spent the morning at the Pollock Toy Museum in London, named after  Benjamin Pollock who was a renowned maker of toy theaters in the late 19th century to 20th century. The museum houses a bunch of puppets, dolls, toy theater sets, tin toys, mechanical toys  from different eras and countries. The museum opened in 1956 and each little room/exhibit is threaded together by narrow winding stairs. To my knowledge, there really isn’t anything like this in the US.

There were no toy instruments in the museum, unfortunately, but many old-styled science toys like a praxinoscope, magic lanterns and other precursors to television and animation. Some of the earlier board games from around the world are  a representation of the culture that invented them. For example, there were a variety of “Snakes and ladders” games that are from the Hindu tradition. You can get ahead on a ladder by doing good deeds while you might also slide down the snake and start at a lower level in your next life.   I particularly loved the toy theater sets. So many of these things are made from paper cut-outs and recycled materials. Another really interesting toy “set” idea was made from small match boxes. Some of these matchboxes would pull out and be a miniature two-story house. I saw a Pop-eye board game that was essentially one of those old-fashioned projectors with 35 mm slides that could be hand-held through the projector, kind of like a flip book. It made me think how some of the vintage toys were so much more clever without the use of modern technology because we could still see and experience the mechanical nature of the toy.

It occurred to me that the idea of “toy” is more about “make-believe.” In a way, it is a just a miniature version of life with a completely “imagined” set of rules to follow. There are toys for everything…toy food, toy tea sets, toy weapons(slingshots,beebee guns), toy science instruments, toy people (dolls/puppets) , toy societies (board games)and I play a toy instrument. When viewed by an adult, all of these things are a representation of what we experience in a more symbolic world.  It was interesting–I had trouble finding the museum, so I asked a man who owned a street vendor in that area. He said that he took his kids there and they really didn’t enjoy it. He said it was a waste of my time. To the contrary, I really loved the museum and while wandering through it, I thought the experience would be more poignant for adults than children. I think toys have a really different meaning to us when revisiting them!

An evening at the MOMA with Marina Abramovic

abramovicOn Monday night, the MOMA had an evening with Marina Abramovic to  talk to her about her work and her upcoming exhibit opening on March 14th.  I first discovered Marina Abramovic while I was a student at Oberlin in one of my sculpture classes. I had very little exposure to living artists at that time and Marina really stuck with me for being a minority female artist in a performance-based medium.  I found Marina’s work  so compelling and personal at that age; It influenced me to think outside of conventional means in regards to performance.  She  has referred to herself as “the grandmother of performance art” and after seeing just a small glimpse of her many works tonight, I can see how and why she has taken this special seat in the art world.

Tonight, she struck me as a vibrant and centered human being. I am still having a hard time believing that she was born in the 1940’s. She started out the evening by reading a poetic Artist Manifesto that was rich,simple but filled with meaningful phrases for an artist to remember…”Artists should never be idols….artists should want more more of less less…an artist should never fall in love with another artist….artists should never commit suicide…an artist needs to learn how to forgive…” she covered topics of death, love, depression, relationship with one’s work, an artist’s need for solitude and an artist’s absolute need to live without the compromise of the  commercial or marketing world. Plain prose but extremely rich and obviously from her own voice.

She probably covered less than a quarter of her works (she said to really dive in, she would need our attention for ten hours) but were able to cover such works as her Rhythm pieces and her collaborations with her long time partner Ulay such as the walk of the Great Wall of China. The two of them started at opposite ends and in 3 months, they each walked 1550 miles to meet one another in the middle. They knew beforehand that this was to mark the end of their long and beautiful relationship. Tonight, we were able to watch a raw video of the moment when they finally met after this spiritual journey. Another really compelling piece was one where Ulay and Marina are both standing naked facing one another in a very skinny corridor in a museum. Each passerby is forced to have body contact with them and has to decide (whether consciously or not) which person they will have to turn their body to face when passing.  Another more humorous piece involved her eating an entire onion (tears rolling out of her bulging red eyes) while she complained about her life. Later on we learned that she had to eat three onions to get the best video take!

There were two works that risked her life and many of them are so physically intense that it nearly hurt me just to see them. From self-cutting (knifes or shards of glass) to throwing her body against a column, it’s hard not to notice how her performances truly demand an endurance, stamina and mentality that is altered and considered performance. At some point during the presentation, she recalled a performance experience where  the audience energy really brought her to a different kind of level so that she was able to push her boundaries even further than what she had known of herself.

In viewing all of these works tonight, I realized how her life is really her art form. I somehow imagine that she is performing as much as she is living. For the next three months in the MOMA, she will be entering complete silence for her performance. Many of her genius  works will be re-performed by a very carefully selected group of performance artists. In this sense, Marina is kind of like an author, composer or playwright, where the work itself is created and can be re-interpreted and brought to life from another human being,demanding their energy,risk-taking abilities, stamina and personality to fulfill some of these rich and intense pieces. I am extremely curious to see how I will receive these re-interpretations in the coming months.

I left the talk feeling that there is really so much more I can ask from myself in performance.  How do you think it would change you to be silent for 3 months? What would you have to do to prepare for it? And just to think that this  is one of many performance experiences she’s had…and how much these works have changed not only the art world but the content and experience of her life.