Japanther’s Animatronic Robot Dinosaur @ PS 122


Getting tossed into that “experimental” genre dumpster often implies an act’s insufferable seriousness, which is likely one of the reasons Brooklyn’s lo-fi loft-space duo Japanther most often get thrown into the nebulous “noise” bin. It’s not like they haven’t the feigned art-world legitimacy of the “experimental” tag—they once composed a live puppet opera that later ended up as the basis of a video piece in last year’s Whitney Biennial—but they also have a sense of humor. As in: their fist-pumping singalong, “River Phoenix.” As in: they once bashed out this Young Indy ode while synchronized swimmers calling themselves Aquadoom splash-kicked in time with the beat.

As in: a performance piece with an animatronic dinosaur. . . voiced by anarcho-punk Penny Rimbaud?

PS122’s fall calendar knows more:

Williamsburg’s favorite noise-rock band Japanther (Ian Vanek and Matt Reily) unveils a new comedic rock-opera of unpredictable scale, repercussions, and decibel levels. Using a high-energy multi-media format—their “tool kit” integrates live music, dance, an interactive set, video projections plus an animatronic robot dinosaur—the band and their collaborators create a full-immersion theatrical concert experience that sports a a sharp political edge and an equally edgy heart.

What starts as a post-modern funeral becomes an uplifting and entertaining ceremony. The set, designed by conceptual artist Dan Graham, becomes a canvas for simultaneous stimuli: a large optical glass wall not unlike his “pavilions” is situated next to a circular band stage, a la the Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan, where Japanther works their musical magic. While Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs dance up a storm, an animatronic dinosaur narrator, designed and built by industrial artist Doyle, inhabited by the text and voice of peace-punk Penny Rimbaud (spoken word artist and the co-founder of anarchist punk band Crass) lies on his deathbed recanting his belief systems. Darkly humorous intersticial commercials advertise the sunny plight of the American Indian and advocate arresting those who feed the homeless. By daring the audience to laugh at sad truths, Japanther opens up a door to hope and makes it cool again.

November 15-19
Thursday at 9 and 11
Friday and Saturday at 11
Sunday and Monday at 9
Tickets from $20, $15 (students/seniors), $10 (members)

To think, last week, I was just excited to realize their newest record features artwork from UFO 907.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 29, 2007

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