Photo: Kelly Akashi, "Feel Me" (detail) / KYLE KNODELL
There is an eerie loveliness, a troubled elegance, to the work of Los Angeles–based artist Kelly Akashi. Insides and outsides are defined, then confused; materials behave as themselves, then pose as something else; objects look familiar, but perform strangely. In other words, she’s a sculptor in the classic California tradition that celebrates eccentricity as a kind of instinctive intelligence. (Akashi completed her MFA at the University of Southern California in 2014; her BFA at Otis College of Art and Design in 2006.) An exhibition at SculptureCenter, her first solo institutional show, is formally tight, conceptually brainy, and materially astute — not to mention appealingly weird.
Philadelphia-based rapper Lil Uzi Vert skyrocketed to fame off his hit “XO TOUR Llif3,” which featured the nihilistic chorus “Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead.” In the two years of his short career, Uzi has become a reference point for a new generation of Soundcloud kids, who are drawn to his dark subject matter and unique delivery. This is the first of his two nights at Terminal 5 with similarly hot young rapper Playboi Carti. The next Lil Uzi Vert will almost certainly be in the audience.
The Norwegian experimental singer-songwriter Jenny Hval seems to speak more directly than almost anyone else to this time of violence, uncertainty, and rebirth for women. On last year’s Blood Bitch, Hval delved into biology, romance, capitalism, and revolutionary self-knowledge, on tracks that veer among pop, harsh noise, and spoken-word sound art. Her live performances often involve visual and dance elements that add another layer of mystique and meaning to her fascinating and vital work.
Photo: Kino Lorber / Photofest
Jonas Mekas needs about as much introduction in these pages as George Martin needs to be explained during a radio block of the Beatles. His association with just about every major figure of American and European avant-garde cinema during the 20th century — the dual professional-social character of his polyvalent network with these titans — makes him a walking superbrain of a cinema that was, even in the early ’60s, still an infant form. If that isn’t enough, Mekas’s own films are as good as anyone’s, and unlike everyone’s. His landmark Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971) mixes thoughts and images of Mekas’s birthplace with present-day observations collected in New York and Vienna. The film’s style — a home-movie deluge of jittery impatience, imitating the sensation of one’s mind grabbing at memories as they drift away — coupled with his diaristic musings, gives the feeling of a movie being reinvented every few frames. (Fans of The Tree of Life will have a running start.) Quicksilvery and undemonstrative, Reminiscences comes across like a series of idle sketches, but it’s an engrossing, enthralling trip.
—Jaime N. Christley
Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) looks at an America in the throes of upheaval. Today, it feels like a monumental film, one that expertly captures the surreal chaos of America in the 1960s with scenes of revolutionary meetings, police crackdowns, Death Valley orgies, and that sublime, unforgettable climax — in which the eye-popping detonation of an elegant mountain home is replayed and replayed and eventually replaced by the slow-motion explosion of all sorts of material goods, from refrigerators to clothing racks to TVs to books. There’s something primordial about Zabriskie Point and its resistance to narrative and dialogue and character, suggesting the death of a civilization but also perhaps the beginnings of one — year zero in movie form. Antonioni sees both the terror and grandeur of this destruction and rebirth. And, as always, he presents it to us in a way that indulges its infinite beauties and meanings.
The first of two stand-out shows during Ches Smith’s Stone residency (December 19–23) features the drummer-percussionist’s understatedly intense trio with Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola), who joined him last year on The Bell for the (understatedly intense) ECM label. Smith, who’s somewhat better-known as a whip-smart avant-basher for the likes of guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Tim Berne, has also been studying Haitian Vodou music and culture for the past fifteen years. At the Friday show he unveils We All Break, a fiery new quartet in which Smith’s drums serve as bridge between a pair of traditional Vodou drummers (Daniel Brevil and Markus Schwartz) and pianist Matt Mitchell, who fully exploits his instrument’s percussive potential. Their music is conversational, polyrhythmically intense, and, when you think about it, long overdue.
Xeno & Oaklander are a synth duo known for their love of genres like minimal wave and synth-pop, and for the gloomy, ominous aura that surrounds their music and performances. This year, the group broke from their usual pop stylings to release the second part of an instrumental series called Movements. Originally released on cassette, the project could be the soundtrack to a cheesy horror movie or a goth video game — it’s full of dramatic synths rising over drones and unsettling, echoing rattles. They’ll play here with Public Memory, a local producer who finds his inspiration in similarly murky, textural realms.
Head to Secret Project Robot this Wednesday for a night of left-field music from some of New York’s strangest talents. Artist Max Eisenberg has performed his industrial avant-rap as DJ Dog Dick for over a decade. Watching him is fascinating and exciting — it’s often hard to process what you’re seeing, and that’s exactly why it’s so thrilling. “I’ve never been afraid to play the part of the fool,” Eisenberg said in a 2012 interview. “You need to show the awkward, stupid parts of existence as much as you need to show the brilliant, austere parts.” He’ll be backed up by the performance artist Juliana Huxtable, who approaches the challenging subjects of race and sexuality in a constantly changing, innovative fashion.
Photo: Katherine Liberovskaya
At age 84, minimalist composer and filmmaker Phill Niblock maintains a relatively hectic schedule producing music and images motivated by the notion of extending time. His annual Winter Solstice concert will blanket Roulette in six hours of very slow, dense, and microtonally calibrated sound clouds, along with videos projected onto three screens for nearly total immersion. In the past, Niblock’s looping images have often documented work: shoe-making, butchering, logging, carpentry, and so on. Whatever minimal tension arises derives from the contradiction inherent in soaking leisurely in a warm sonic bath while contemplating the labor of others. Niblock’s more recent videos, however, omit people and movement entirely, and instead stretch out images to several times their original duration.
Following the Second World War, American interest in life across the Atlantic (coupled with generous tax breaks and poorly regulated unions) inspired dozens of Hollywood filmmakers to pack their bags and set up shop at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. Film Forum’s “Roman Hollywood” celebrates this particular era of co-production, in which ancient architecture and landscapes butted up against the faces of unmatched screen stars — whether Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday or Italian icons like Gina Lollobrigida in Beat the Devil. The focus on glitz and glamour of Europe soon morphed into the historical epics on the order of Ben-Hur, complete with gargantuan sets and even bigger personalities, but the genre was later almost entirely sunk by the colossus Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Film Forum’s series then ventures on forward to demonstrate how the age of auteurism has continued the tradition, with Italian-American filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola embarking on their own Roman adventures in later years.
We’re heading into 2018 without a physical home for Shea Stadium, the venue that graced a sweaty second-floor room in an industrial stretch of East Williamsburg for most of the last decade. Shea is still searching for a new place to throw its blend of rock, pop, and experimental shows, but while we wait, we can enjoy some of Brooklyn’s premier DIY talent — including the indie-pop group Yucky Duster, the ’90s-alt-inspired Bueno, and the hook-heavy punk group Fits — in Brooklyn Bazaar’s basement space.
DIY pop punk queens Colleen Green and Cassie Ramone bring their Christmas show to Brooklyn this week, backed up by dreamy shoegaze act Spirit Crush. The Footlight, located off the DeKalb L stop on the border of Ridgewood and Brooklyn, is a perfectly cozy place to celebrate the last week before Christmas with friends. Ramone will play selections from her lo-fi holiday covers album, Christmas in Reno. We hear there will also be pie.
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.
Boston’s Grass Is Green play a brand of Malkmus-inspired post-punk that isn’t trying too hard to be liked. Their angular guitar parts and elliptical lyrics never quite form into something you can settle into, and that’s the point. For a certain kind of rock fan, this grimy, lo-fi, anguished vibe is heaven. They’ll be joined by Ovlov, a punk-emo group who have broken up and gotten back together several times over the years, but who always kill it live.
An incredible lineup of Detroit techno veterans comes to Elsewhere’s main space this holiday weekend, featuring Octave One, a duo who have laid the groundwork for decades of electronic music. Their productions are some of the most-used tracks by techno legends like Richie Hawtin. They’ll play alongside Kevin Saunderson, one of techno’s originators, and Turtle Bugg, a more recent, New York–based disciple.
Photo: My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) / Mike Laye / Channel Four Films / Photofest
What is the star persona of Daniel Day-Lewis, an actor, we’re told repeatedly, who “disappears” into his parts? Maybe it’s not so much an onscreen persona as it is a professional one — that of the daring, profoundly accomplished, go-for-broke actor. And yet, I’d argue that something revealing does come through in his performances, a unified sense of the man beneath the mask. That might even be his essence: He’s not afraid to jar us, and to reveal the process to a degree. For all his prodigious talent, what comes across most when we watch his performances is the effort he puts into them. He doesn’t just do the work; he shows us the work. Watching him — as you can at the Quad’s ten-day, fifteen-film series “All or Nothing: The Fearless Performances of Daniel Day-Lewis” — can be exhausting, and exhilarating.
Tygapaw is a Brooklyn-based, Jamaica-born DJ who weaves hip-hop, pop, techno, house, dancehall, and more into her electric live sets. She’s the founder of the party Fake Accent, a event, she says, that attempts to “make a new space to be among like-minded people, regardless of race, gender, [or] sexuality.” This won’t be a straightforward electronic music night — come prepared to be entertained.
Photo: Lev Radin
Michelle Dorrance, a world-class North Carolina hoofer with sharp elbows and skinny legs, was granted a MacArthur “genius” award in 2015. She holds down the holiday season at the Joyce with her fascinating and diverse tap ensemble, performing two dances. The program opens with the world premiere of Until the Real Thing Comes Along (a letter to ourselves), which features improvisatory turns by guest artists Jillian Meyers, Melinda Sullivan, and Josette Wiggan. Also on view is a reworking of her two-year-old Myelination, made in collaboration with her dancers and Ephrat “Bounce” and Asherie and Matthew “Megawatt” West. The latter, first seen at the 2015 Fall for Dance festival and now 45 minutes long, has original music by her brother Donovan Dorrance, Gregory Richardson, and soul vocalist Aaron Marcellus.