Social Buttons

Friday, October 30, 2015

In Context: Hagoromo

featuring celebrated dancers Wendy Whelen and Jock Soto, comes to BAM November 3. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #WendyWhelan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Nathan Boyle of Circa

Nathan Boyle
Australian troupe Circa makes its BAM debut next week with Opus, a jaw-dropping combination of physical feats accompanied by live music by the Debussy String Quartet. Performer Nathan Boyle spoke with us about the piece, its challenges, and more.

How did you get involved with Circa? What is your experience in physical theater?

I saw CIRCA, one of Circa's shows at the Sydney Opera House in 2008. I didn't know what to expect; I knew it was contemporary circus and that was it. After watching that show, I immediately thought "I will work for this company one day." After finishing my Bachelor in Circus Arts in 2010 at NICA (the National Institute of Circus Arts), I was immediately hired by Circa and have been with the company ever since.

How is Opus different from what you’ve done in the past? What can the audience expect to see from you during the performance?

Firstly, the music is live. We have the amazing Debussy String Quartet accompanying us throughout the entire show. This is the first time I wasn't performing to recorded music, so it took a while for me and the other performers to adapt to the slight changes in tempo from night to night as it’s performed live. It’s organic and varies slightly on how the musicians play on the night. The audience can expect to see an absolute fusion of acrobatics and classical music. The quartet isn't just shoved to the back of the stage—they move throughout us, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes with assisted acrobatic lifts, all while continuing to play the music from memory. You have to see it to believe it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spike Lee's Bamboozled—15 Years Later

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled is among the director’s most polarizing works—a furious, uncompromising satire that finds the racist traditions of blackface and minstrelsy in contemporary media. This Wednesday, BAMcinématek welcomes Lee for a post-screening conversation about Bamboozled and its legacy, followed by a nine-film series that explores race and media across a wide range of periods.

Writer-curator Ashley Clark, whose monograph Facing Blackness: Media and Minstrelsy in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled is now on sale, spoke with us about the enduring resonance of the film and the urgency of its contemporary context.

Of all the Spike Lee films you might have written a book on, what in particular drew you to Bamboozled, and were there specific aspects of its critical reception that you were seeking to address or change?

Spike Lee has made a number of very knotty, awkward films that are resistant to a concrete interpretation. When he makes films that don’t go down well with critics, including Girl 6, She Hate Me, and Miracle at St. Anna, I think they’re still always very interesting, with lots to unpack. Of all his films that are not critically acclaimed, Bamboozled is the most fascinating. There’s so much to dig into aesthetically, politically, and tonally. A lot of critics at the time said it was a mess, and they didn’t give Lee enough credit for his deliberate artistic choices, like shooting on digital video, and the seeming randomness of the editing. None of this is by accident, and I wanted to dig into it as a piece of experimental filmmaking and argue for the effects of its technical approach.

The other major thing: many critics said it was unnecessary and dated—that everybody knew blackface wasn’t funny and not politically correct. But Lee used controversial, brutal satire to make the point that, even if we don’t have actual blackface minstrelsy today, a lot of the stereotypes from that supposedly bygone era persist in mainstream entertainment. Maybe it was difficult for people to look honestly at where we were in 2000, and to see that some of these issues were, and remain, in full effect, particularly in institutions, where there is a terrible lack of diversity at gatekeeper level, and what the fallout from that inequality can be, representationally-speaking.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hagoromo—Taking Flight

Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Photo: David Michalek
By Susan Yung

At a recent rehearsal for Hagoromo, Chris Green talks to a group of performers as one man cradles Wendy Whelan, appearing paler than usual and remarkably lank, limbs akimbo at slightly bizarre angles. One of the world’s most beloved ballerinas suffering from exhaustion? Not to worry—Green is the project’s puppet designer, and this Wendy was one of two puppets. And even though the puppets are not in their finished states, the working models feature silicon skins cast from Whelan, including her face, so it’s still a bit unsettling despite the knowledge that it’s a doppelganger.

Life Cycles

In an exuberant ode to life filled with live music, Epiphany: The Cycle of Life (coming to the BAM Fisher November 4—7) sends its audience roaming through labyrinthine tunnels of video, light, and reflection to celebrate the ecstasies of existence. Here, filmmaker Ali Hossaini shares some of the experiences that helped incubate this new multimedia choral work.

On inspiration...

Epiphany came from reflection on mortality. I was with my mother when she died. As she became inanimate, her environment came alive—it seemed almost merciful. The balloons above her bed were talking. The walls breathed. I tried to imagine a world full of grace, a world where everything flows. Guided by spiritual traditions from Tibet and elsewhere, I began exploring her experience with a camera.

When our mothers die, they leave a cord that connects us to the numinous beyond. Every person on the planet grasps that cord, and I wanted to create a requiem that celebrates all our mothers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Context: The Exalted

The Exalted, featuring Theo Bleckmann and Carl Hancock Rux, comes to BAM on October 28. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #TheExalted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fresh Hamm: Seeing Eye Screenings—Avant-Garde in 1943

Photo documenting a "seeing eye" screening for the blind, at BAM in 1943.
BAM is known for artistic experimentation, in particular since the Next Wave Festival began in 1983.

But did you know that 80 years before that, it hosted such events as this "seeing eye" screening of the Warner Bros.' musical film, The Desert Song, for residents of the Industrial Home for the Blind in 1943? As the film screened, a narrator described the unfolding events over a loudspeaker system. And prior to the start of the film, audience members received braille programs.

This is one of thousands of photos and artifacts which document BAM's history both onstage and as a cornerstone of daily life in Brooklyn.

The back of the photo with a description of the event.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Real Enemies—Shadow History

Real Enemies comes to the BAM Harvey Theater November 18—22, with music by Darcy James Argue, films by Peter Nigrini, and text and direction by Isaac Butler, who shares his thoughts here.

Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece band Secret Society. Photo: Noah Stern Weber

As of this writing, the Real Enemies team has just returned from developing the piece at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. People know Virginia Tech for many reasons—its unique limestone, football team, and engineering program are all legendary—but more recently, Tech and its environs have been in the news because of a spectacular act of violence. In late August, Vester Flanagan shot and killed two former colleagues on live television in the outskirts of Roanoke, less than 30 minutes from our hotel. Shortly thereafter, he released footage of the murder filmed from his own point of view, and then killed himself during a car chase with police.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sankai Juku—Cosmic Dance

Courtesy Sankai Juku

By Tanya Calamoneri

Now one of the best known artists in the avant garde dance form of butoh, Ushio Amagatsu founded Sankai Juku—who come to BAM later this month—in 1975 in Tokyo. A cultural councilor at the French Embassy in Japan invited the company to Paris in 1980, and French audiences smartly fell in love with its work. Sankai Juku has booked nearly bi-annual engagements at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris ever since, and splits its time between Paris and Tokyo. The company also tours extensively, contributing significantly to butoh’s global recognition.

Butoh emerged in 1959 in Japan, instigated by Tatsumi Hijikata, whose work was a provocation to modernity in general and specifically to the Western-lead reconstruction of Japan following World War II. In his 1960 essay “Inner/Outer Material,” Hijikata describes his performances as “bodies that have maintained the crisis of primal experience.” His work was grotesque, erotic, inflammatory, and rebellious. Sometimes dancers would flail wildly. Other times, they would stand completely still—though not serenely—held in place like an insect in amber, crushed by images, sensation, and histories. Rather than a specific dance grammar, butoh utilizes images to initiate movement. The dancers transform their sense of time, space, shape, and relationship based on a string of image poetry that propels them to move.

In Context: Refuse the Hour

William Kentridge’s phantasmagoric investigation of time, Refuse the Hour, comes to BAM on October 22. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #WilliamKentridge.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Modern Cinema's Holy Grail

Photo courtesy Carlotta Films US
By Stephen Bowie

Jacques Rivette’s OUT 1: Noli me Tangere (1971) is so much a thing of legend that longtime cinephiles recall its infrequent screenings like concerts: Le Havre in ’71, Rotterdam in ’89, New York City (Queens, though!) in ’05. Next month, BAMcinématek revives OUT 1, all 775 minutes of it, via the world premiere of a new digital restoration. Its eight parts will screen several times, in pairs (for a more movie-sized experience) and also as a two-day marathon (for the binge-watchers).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Martin Zimmermann, hero in a paradoxical world

Photo: Augustin Rebetez
By Thomas Hahn

Martin Zimmermann is that phenomenally pliable mime around whom twist and wind the absurd frescoes and circus disciplines of the Zimmermann & de Perrot duo. After having recently roused the delighted audience to tumultuous applause at the Théâtre de la Ville, the mime with a ballet dancer’s body is already back in Paris with a solo to say "Hallo" at the Théâtre de la Ville – Les Abbesses.

Their last piece remains indelibly fixed in our memory: Hans was Heiri, performed in Théâtre de la Ville in 2012 and again in 2013. Zimmermann has now created his first solo. But what does "solo“ actually mean? Just as in the previous blockbusters, the stage setting here does not simply serve as decoration, but rather takes part as a full-fledged actor. In constant motion, it is an ally of the director, but a formidable adversary for the figure.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Maya Beiser on All Vows

This Wednesday, cellist Maya Beiser is joined by bassist Jherek Bischoff, filmmaker Bill Morrison, and others in All Vows, a convention-flouting survey of her musical personality, featuring music by Nirvana, Michael Gordon, Glenn Kotche, and more. A note from Beiser follows.

Photo: Justin Knight for MIT

In All Vows, I explore the dichotomy and multifaceted interaction between the physical, external world we inhabit and the landscape of our mysterious inner selves. A humble, intensely personal lament, Kol Nidrei—translated to All Vows—is a prayer about human imperfection, about stumbling and making mistakes. The words of the prayer are meant for no one other than the person who utters them, but the melody of the prayer is aimed at everyone—the words divide, and the music unites. My show, All Vows, is an exploration of that idea; language, words, actions, can bridge or separate us—music, any music, is purely spiritual, as it has no obstacle in entering the soul. In juxtaposing the ancient prayer of the Kol Nidrei, with reimagined Classic Rock, I aim to show that tradition is not sacred. That if there is a heuristic value to the music, whether rock or ancient laments, breaking away from its original form will strengthen its inner emotional meaning, rather than detract from it.

In Context: Umusuna: Memories Before History

Japanese Butoh troupe Sankai Juku comes to BAM October 28—31 with Umusuna: Memories Before History. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #SankaiJuku.

Friday, October 9, 2015

BAM Illustrated: Learning to Love Noir

Visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock bring film noir to the opera house stage October 14—17 with Canadian Stage's Helen Lawrence, a high-tech theater production featuring live filming and blue screen. In anticipation of this cinematic piece, illustrator Nathan Gelgud reflects on noir and how he came to love the many films and faces that embody the genre.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Poetry of the Absurd—An Interview with Hallo's Martin Zimmermann

Somewhere between Beckett and Buster Keaton, Martin Zimmermann's Hallocoming to the BAM Harvey Theater on October 15—pits shape-shifting human against animate architecture, teetering on the threshold between collapse and order. One year ago, Gwénola David sat down with Zimmermann to learn more about the broken walls, breached skylights, and sculptural echoes of his creative mind.

Hallo's Martin Zimmermann. Photo: Augustin Rebetez

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In Context: texts&beheadings/ElizabethR

texts&beheadings/Elizabeth R, Karin Coonrod’s inventive deconstruction of Queen Elizabeth’s writings, comes to BAM on October 21. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #textsbeheadings.

Refuse the Hour—Time, Indulgent Muse

Dada Masilo and William Kentridge. Photo: John Hodges

By Susan Yung

Refuse the Hour, like artist William Kentridge’s production of The Magic Flute (2007 Winter/Spring), can be referred to as opera, but it sits restlessly within one genre. This multilayered performance by Kentridge is a collaboration with composer Philip Miller, choreographer Dada Masilo, video artist Catherine Meyburgh, and dramaturg Peter Galison. Unpacking the layered, engaging work (October 22—25, Harvey Theater)—in which a running monologue by Kentridge alternates with sections of music, song, dance, and film—is a rewarding experience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Building Bridges—Muslim Stories

Amkoullel and Yacouba Sissoko. Photo: Mike Benigno
Under the programming umbrella of Global BAM, BAM has had a long and dynamic history of presenting transnational events that connect artists and audiences from around the world. From the annual DanceAfrica Festival to the countless international artists who headline the Next Wave Festival and Winter/Spring Season every year, BAM is committed to serving as a forum not only for excellent art across disciplines, but also for innovative work that furthers cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.

In Context: Helen Lawrence

Helen Lawrence, the hi-tech experiment in film noir from visual artist Stan Douglas and writer Chris Haddock, comes to BAM on October 14. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #HelenLawrence.

Mapping Intersensory Domains

This Friday and Saturday (October 9 & 10), Portland-based indie group Other Lives teams with Steppenwolf Theatre Company co-founder Terry Kinney for Reconfiguration: An Evening with Other Lives—playing the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House at 7:30 PM. Intricately mapping live video, lighting, and projections to meticulously arranged songs from their recent releases, Kinney creates an engrossing audio-visual narrative wrought from the band’s lyrics and Oklahoma origins. At the core of this image-saturated foray lies original animation by Matt Huynh and projection design by Daniel Brodie. We sat down with the two visual masterminds to learn more about their processes, creative practices, lives in Brooklyn and so much more.

Brodie's work for Kanye West at Lollapalooza.

What classes, moments, or other projects have been the highlights of your careers thus far?

DANIEL BRODIE: I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some tremendous artists and collaborators. I’m especially proud to have worked with legendary puppeteer and recent MacArthur fellow Basil Twist. We’ve worked together on four or five shows, including his new show, Sisters’ Follies, running now through November 7 at Abrons Arts Center. I mostly work in Broadway theater and I’ve also designed video effects for some giant acts like Kanye West and Mariah Carey.

MATT HUYNH: I'm very proud of an interactive comic I've just released with Australian TV station SBS—The Boat. It's based on the acclaimed short story by Nam Le and we spent a year researching and developing an original online, interactive format for comics from the ground up. It incorporates sound design, animation, archival film, and photography with traditional ink and brush illustration. It also let me explore a very personal part of my family's history—post-Vietnam war migration—and speak to contemporary issues in Australia's asylum seeker and refugee issues.

I've also been a regular contributor to The New York Times, have had my illustrated reportage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations exhibited at the MoMA and had my comics presented on the Sydney Opera House stage.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

In Context: Hallo

Swiss choreographer Martin Zimmermann’s acrobatic one-man show Hallo comes to BAM on October 15. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #HalloMartin.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

In Context: All Vows

Cellist Maya Beiser’s All Vows, featuring music by Led Zeppelin, David T. Little, Nirvana, Janis Joplin, Michael Gordon, and others, comes to BAM on October 14. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #AllVows.