Photo: Drew Dir
The Grim Reaper comes a-calling in Manual Cinema’s Mementos Mori, in which the specter of Death takes the form of a femme fatale figure. The Manual Cinema collective, which hails from Chicago, is known for making “live cinema” incorporating a medley of elements: live performance, highly-detailed shadow-puppets, music and sound effects, and dynamic visuals projected on screens above the artists at work. With an eye equally invested in both the story and the creative process, their productions allow the audience a peek behind the curtain, so to speak — the puppeteers often do double duty as actors. From this vantage point, the complexity of the creators’ efforts can be thoroughly appreciated. According to a release, Death’s journey in the elaborate Mementos Mori also involves “a ghost, a seven-year-old girl, and an elderly projectionist.”
The electronic composer Nicolas Jaar has only two albums out, but he’s generated an outsize presence on the scene — even enough to sell out three nights at Brooklyn Steel. (The addition of this show was due to popular demand.) On his most recent release, 2016’s Sirens, Jaar displays his full range, with songs that hum quietly, drift into delicate piano samples, and then abruptly burst into gospel choirs. It’s impressive work that will easily blossom in the venue’s cavernous space.
This party by promoters Quiet Time will gather some of electronic dance music’s most exploratory talents to raise money for Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico, one of the island’s hurricane-relief ventures. Kode9, who DJs and produces music ranging from hip-hop to jungle, is an influential U.K. export. His label, Hyperdub, expertly curates artists who are pushing boundaries and creating new sounds, from Laurel Halo to Zomby. Debit, another fearless and pioneering DJ, who is part of Mexico City’s NAAFI collective, will play her abrasive, challenging sounds, while DJ J. Albert presents a live set of his contemplative breakbeats. The party takes place at an intimate secret spot with a custom sound system.
Photo: Courtesy Rubin Museum of Art
Columbia radio station WKCR’s annual marathon of Indian classical music has evolved into the Ragas Live Festival, a 24-hour, 24-performance immersion in India’s northern and southern classical traditions — along with some jazzy fellow travelers. You’ll want to either come early, or stay very late, to hear Indro Roy Chowdhury (sitar), Camila Celin (sarod), and Deepal Chodhari (santoor) perform seldom-heard morning ragas. You should also catch the Varanasi sitar master Rabindra Narayan Goswami and Carnatic vocalist Vignesh Ishwar. However, innovative fusion experiments like percussionist Sameer Gupta’s A Circle Has No Beginning, the string trio Woven, and Recalling the Valley (paying tribute to a landmark 1967 Hindustani recording) are what really distinguish this festival, which should resonate nicely alongside the Rubin’s immersive “The World Is Sound” exhibition.
Duke Riley’s current exhibition at Magnan Metz is a two-parter: A large temporary space across the street from the gallery displays new work, made in the wake of the artist’s Fly by Night undertaking; and in the gallery itself is a mini-retrospective of past pieces and project artifacts, including his original submarine. The show lends aesthetic grounding and context to the performance-style works, and tinges Riley’s rapscallion energy with introspection and melancholy. “The studio practice is extremely important to me functioning as a human and artist,” Riley says. “Starting with a blank piece of paper and creating another world — even when the projects are happening, it’s an important part because I’m thinking.”
It’s one thing to talk about fiery emotions — and another to get so mad that your apartment literally catches on fire. This, among other things, is the premise for The Power of Emotion: The Apartment, a new musical play now showing at Abrons Arts Center. A collaboration between writer Shonni Enelow and director Katherine Brook, the piece explores the cultural politics of feelings — how we perform our inner states — through a true crime–inspired tale of two women and a deadly argument. (The title is an homage to Alexander Kluge’s 1983 documentary about emotion, in all its philosophical and psychological complexity.) Classical-music quintet TAK Ensemble will perform live, playing new compositions by composer Taylor Brook. There will also be tarot card readings, courtroom drama, and forays into opera and film history.
Krautrock legend Hans-Joachim Roedelius will headline this edition of the Ambient Church series in south Brooklyn. Roedelius founded the groups Cluster and Harmonia in the Seventies, before branching into new age and ambient in the Nineties. He’ll play together with Steve Hauschidlt and John Elliott, both of the group Emeralds, who play bubbling, arpeggiated drone.
A choreographer whose work includes curation, performance, installation, and sculpture, and who practices and teaches the Feldenkrais method, Rebecca Davis here mobilizes collaborating performers Martita Abril, Dana Florin-Weiss, Carolyn Hall, and Kay Ottinger in her new quartet, the final hands count beginning sounds. One of the first artists to show work eleven years ago at this intimate Queens theater, she presents a piece in which the dancers change positions in precise, second-by-second shifts, moving between sitting, standing, kneeling, and lying flat. (They also create kinetic sculptures, within the dance, that range from minimalist to densely geometric.) Zach Layton provides the sound, and Kathy Kaufmann the lighting.
A dance performance inspired by soccer — and further informed by bicoastal, multidisciplinary artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s passion for the sport — Peh-LO-tah uses hip-hop as a way into discussions of the economy, “choreographed to the rhythm of the beautiful game.” South African and Brazilian styles dictate the movement, choreographed by Stacey Printz; the piece has been built collaboratively by Joseph’s “family” of artists, actors, dancers, and singers. The work, described as a “futbol-framed freedom suite,” explores the link between dance and sport, and the complexity of this particular activity, the world’s most popular game, using spoken word, charismatic storytelling, and video to illuminate techniques from the soccer field.
Let’s say you’ve had it with esoteric “downtown” dance, with silence and ambiguity and complex concepts and robotic movement. Then head even further downtown to Pace University, forget your troubles, and take in this new evening of American popular dance, assembled by Broadway professionals Daniel C. Levine and Bryan Perri and choreographer Al Blackstone of So You Think You Can Dance. The night takes you on a journey from the Charleston and the Lindy Hop through the decades, up to vogueing. Six Broadway dancers, a book by Susan Batten, three vocalists, and a live band will keep the joint jumping.
This shared evening by two ensembles of queer men of color offers new and very disciplinarily diversified works. J’Sun Howard, in from Chicago, presents Working on Better Versions of Prayers: Volume I, which aims to be “a dreamscape that can be a possibility for a future world.” Performed by D. Banks, Damon Green, and Will Harris, it flirts with notions of divine radical presence. Brother(hood) Dance!, meanwhile, is the project of Orlando Zane Hunter Jr. and Ricarrdo Valentine; their how to survive a plague explores healing and caregiving, and includes movement, singing by Starr Busby, and aromatherapy.
Legendary double bassist Ron Carter closes out his three-week residency at Birdland with a series of performances featuring his acclaimed Golden Striker Trio, with longtime guitarist Russell Malone and Donald Vega on piano. This current incarnation of the group have a beautiful live album, released this past April, called Golden Striker (Live at Theaterstübchen Kassel), where these three men gracefully interpret classic material like Oscar Pettiford’s “Laverne Walk”; Luiz Bonfá’s gorgeous “Samba de Orfeu,” from the 1959 film Black Narcissus; and a stunning reading of the very John Lewis song after which this trio is named. After kicking off his residency with a sixteen-piece big band in its first week and following up during week two with the debut of an excellent quartet (Jimmy Greene on tenor sax, pianist Renee Rosnes, and drummer Payton Crossley), Carter now brings his time at Birdland to a sublime ending with the Golden Striker Trio — a quintessential way for the musician to end a most epic New York City October.
L.A.’s Sheer Mag are one of the most badass bands currently on the indie rock circuit. Need to Feel Your Love, their debut album released this year, showed off their sick guitar riffs and lead singer Tina Halladay’s raspy, dominating voice. Their overwhelming stage presence and banging Seventies-esque, hard rock–inspired tunes are catnip for anyone who likes to drink cheap beer and fling their hair.
Photo: Brimstone and Glory / Courtesy American Museum of Natural History
The theme of this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival — “Activate” — sounds rather apropos in a city and a country that have been battered over the past several months by the intolerance and authoritarianism of the Trump administration. Tucked away at the American Museum of Natural History, the documentary-oriented fest honors the famed anthropologist’s desire for attaining a fuller understanding of the human condition. The four-day program will include screenings, dialogues with filmmakers, parties, and a special installation (by the stop-motion-animation artist Amanda Strong). As for the movies themselves, there will be, among others, a piece about a man documenting his own impending blindness and another about an Iroquois lacrosse team fighting struggling for recognition.
Pride month may be over, but there’s still plenty of time to catch the Museum of the City of New York’s current show, “AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism,” which takes a new look at the disease and its politics through a domestic lens. AIDS activism often involves spectacular forms of protest, but MCNY’s exhibition explores the relatively less visible role of queer homes and support networks during the Eighties and on through the present day. Three rooms divide the show into broad themes — caretaking, housing, and family — mapping out a novel history of New York’s LGBTQ community in documents and artworks across an array of mediums, including works in yarn, embroidery, wallpaper, textiles (think: the AIDS quilt), and other household materials. Arriving during a period of great discontent in Washington — six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS recently resigned to protest the White House’s lack of a strategy for addressing the ongoing epidemic — the show couldn’t feel more urgent.
It began with “Freestyle,” back in 2001. Since then, every few years the Studio Museum in Harlem has held a series of influential exhibitions that are specifically intended to bring a fresh crop of noteworthy Black American artists to the attention of a broad audience. An alliterative conceit binds together what have become known as the “F shows”: “Frequency” in 2005, “Flow” in 2008, “Fore” in 2012. Now, the museum has decided the climate is right to release a new batch of talent from the continual prospecting that is part of its mission. “Fictions,” featuring work by nineteen artists from around the country, and with a strong proportion of installation and work in unorthodox materials, began in September and runs through early January.
As part of the Peak Performances season devoted entirely to works by women, Pam Tanowitz, one of the most interesting choreographers still engaged with ballet, sends her dancers onstage with pianist Simone Dinnerstein, notorious for her 2007 interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Further deconstructing the ballet vocabulary, New Work for Goldberg Variations finds seven movers surrounding the piano to communicate the essence of Bach’s remarkable suite. The handy bus that brings New Yorkers to the suburban theater is running, now, only on Saturday night, so plan ahead; a New Jersey Transit train comes right to the campus on weeknights. For the Sunday matinee, you’re on your own to hitch a ride or an NJ Transit bus.
The writer and director Amir Nizar Zuabi’s play Oh My Sweet Land has no fixed address. Instead of being housed in a theater, it is being performed every night in the kitchen of a different New York apartment or community space. This movement around the city mirrors the plight of Syrian refugees, the subject of the piece, who have been pushed out of their homes by war and forced into a nomadic existence. The unsettled nature of the story’s characters neatly gel with its peripatetic premise: In just 65 minutes, Zuabi sends his audience across time and space, through vivid storytelling, aggressive smells and sounds, and descriptive detail — all imbued with a furious intensity that is not easily shaken.
The Siege grew out of actual events that occurred in April 2002, during the Second Intifada. As Israeli tanks rolled into Bethlehem and several other cities in the West Bank with the aim of capturing alleged militants, about two hundred Palestinian fighters crowded into the Church of the Nativity seeking refuge. The script for The Siege was informed by interviews with several of the real-life Palestinian fighters, who were eventually exiled to Europe or Gaza, as well as with civilians and monks who experienced the events. Running at around ninety minutes, and performed in Arabic with English subtitles, the show is mostly centered on the voices of six of the combatants as they struggle to survive and debate whether to surrender or fight until the end.
Because Michael Mann was best known at the time for his TV police dramas (Crime Story, Miami Vice), his decision to adapt this 1826 James Fenimore Cooper novel at first seemed like an inexplicable detour. In retrospect, The Last of the Mohicans (1992) fits neatly into Mann’s lifelong project of both amplifying and validating the intersection between macho integrity and rugged, often persecuted individualism. Mohicans has indeed become one of Mann’s most influential works — it’s hard to imagine a time when historical dramas weren’t pitched to young viewers — but almost nobody has been able to achieve the unity of tone that Mann produces, without apparent strain. (On Sunday, the theatrical cut will screen at the Museum of the Moving Image four, followed by Mann’s director’s cut at seven.) His impatience with conventional “period piece” filmmaking further unifies the picture’s crisp action sequences and romantic crescendos — it never seems to stop moving forward, even when it pauses to rest or regroup.
—Jaime N. Christley
Head to Red Hook for a first look at Skybox, the latest work from Bessie winner Walter Dundervill, renowned for constructing immersive environments that fuse dance, costume, sound, and visual art. This one’s a pip: It promises “ancient Roman frescoes, a seventeenth-century mathematical theory, and a late mannerist painting” as points of departure, and examines how we construct “highly ordered views of nature and the supernatural to express concepts of futurity and the infinite.” A project of New York Live Arts’ Live Feed residency program, Skybox takes place in a huge old factory building near the waterfront that the artist Dustin Yellin has converted into an art space, garden, and interdisciplinary community cultural center.
The English rock band Psychedelic Furs, who started putting out music in the late Seventies and became iconic with the song “Pretty in Pink,” are both touring again and, according to band member Tim Butler, working on a new album. Their last full length was 1991’s World Outside, an expansive pop record that now feels incredibly Eighties. Now that these sounds are back in style, it’s not hard to imagine a new album from the band fitting in with the many young indie groups that emulate them.
Photo: L'Enfant Secret (1979)
An admirer of Murnau and von Stroheim, Philippe Garrel infuses his fiercely intimate, artisanal work with the expressivity of early silent cinema. At times, he turns off sound entirely. Not knowing what is being said heightens the spectators’ anxiety and contributes to the general sense of ambivalence that pervades Garrel films, forcing us to hang on to the actors’ fleeting facial expressions and gestures. In this way, Garrel’s oeuvre is about the body language of love, the choreography of the myriad physical manifestations of the joy but mainly the pain it inflicts.
Alex Cox’s 1998 film establishes a brief stop in Liverpool as the stuff of slapstick so dry it almost isn’t there (except when jokes intrude like Whac-a-Mole), all while adhering to a dishwater-realist mode in photographing that town’s tourist quadrant. It’s a clash of styles that shouldn’t work — imagine sober mystic Rivette absconding with a few pages of Tati’s gag notebook. Miguel Sandoval is our first businessman, lacquered in indefatigable yet perennially exasperated good cheer, not an atypical road-warrior personality cocktail. Circumstances and a derelict hotel staff throw him in with a second businessman (played by Cox himself), transforming the largest part of the movie into a nighttime buddy comedy: Linklater’s Before Last Call. Things get pretty strange as drastic location shifts assert themselves casually, but this must be Cox’s most rigorously programmed fantasy, a Buñuelian Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on a budget and without pharmaceutical intervention.
—Jaime N. Christley
Photo: Cortney Armitage
There’s going to be a really long blackout, Heather Christian warns us, sometime during her show. If you’re afraid of the dark, find an usher — they have flashlights. She’s right to alert us: That long, late-breaking episode of darkness is one of the most affecting parts of Animal Wisdom, a sweet, quirky musical meditation on death, now playing at the Bushwick Starr. The piece takes the form of a “requiem mass” in which Christian communes with her beloved dead and recalls her Natchez, Mississippi, childhood. In between raucous musical numbers, she tells us about her grandmother and great-grandmother, both clairvoyants, and about her childhood phantasms. Christian’s past identities shimmer in these fables of a vanished childhood.
With the unexpectedly deep and moving Professor Marston and the Wonder Women in theaters and the excellent and uncannily accurate BPM (Beats Per Minute) opening this week, audiences no longer have to go to queer film festivals to see good films about queer people created by queer filmmakers. But NewFest, the New York LGBTQ film festival that embarks on its 29th annual run this week (and includes a screening of Marston), continues to provide, in films from the past and current ones that delve into it, a perspective of the community’s history that still never makes its way to the multiplex — or Netflix.
Photo: Photograph by Patrick D. Pagnano
New Yorkers are accustomed to change, Brooklynites perhaps more than most. In the past thirty years, the borough has undergone tremendous adjustments that have brought both good and ill. Now BRIC, the nonprofit arts and media organization, presents “Brooklyn Photographs,” an exhibition of seventy-five images from the Sixties through the present day, by eleven artists and documentarians who have captured Brooklyn’s history and its makeover. The contributors include Max Kozloff (the former editor of Artforum magazine), who spent twenty years photographing the West Indian Carnival; Russell Frederick, who has tracked the gentrification of Bed-Stuy; Meryl Meisler, whose work has focused on her students at I.S.291 in Bushwick; and George Malave, who spent time with kids on Varet Street in the late Sixties. All told, the photographs offer a succinct snapshot of an enormous, diverse, and ever-changing city.
Photo: Courtesy Film Forum via Photofest
Fifty years ago, in 1967, Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, and The Dirty Dozen rocked American cinemas. And somewhere in a field outside Pittsburgh, George Romero and John Russo were shooting on black-and-white 16mm film a low-budget movie that would found and define an entire horror subgenre. While those of-the-moment studio films were polished, Night of the Living Dead, released in 1968, seemed amateur on the surface — the frames were noisy with film grain, the sound always corrupted by a hint of static. But the immediate, quasi-documentary feel, a result of budgetary constraints, actually served the film’s horror, jolting audiences because it all seemed just a little too real. (It will look more real than ever in Janus Films’ new 4K restoration.)
George Harrison himself reportedly said that as the Beatles ended, the group’s spirit was caught by Monty Python. In their own way, the Pythons, too, transformed pop culture forever, taking a beloved form and exploding it in such ways that all who came afterward had to reckon with their legacy. The six-man comedy troupe accomplished this not just through its TV show (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran from 1969 to 1974) but also through its film work. That spirit lives on in “The Ministry of Silly Films: Monty Python and Beyond,” the Quad Cinema’s twelve-title retrospective, which features movies the Pythons made both together and separately.