Archive for April, 2017

Culture Vulture: Okwui Okpokwasili’s POOR PEOPLE’S TV ROOM

April 30, 2017

April 29 – Thrilling to see the final performance of Okwui Okpokwasili’s Poor People’s TV Room at New York Live Arts. Devised in collaboration with director-designer Peter Born, this extraordinary performance created a highly sophisticated dreamscape that sustained separate physical, verbal, visual, and sonic tracks for 90 minutes. Not a narrative but a theatrical symphony of themes and variations about women’s bodies, doubles, shape-shifting, this world, the other world…oh, and Oprah. Two pairs of women enacted a series of rituals elliptically stitched together, as if the piece were inventing itself moment by moment. (The riveting performers represent a wide age range – Katrina Reid and Nehemoyia Young are younger than Okpokwasili, and the resident elder is quietly monumental Thuli Dumakude, whom New Yorkers first glimpsed in 1982’s Poppie Nongena)  Lots of dense poetic text, sometimes two people speaking at once, not always meant to be heard. “She used quiet like a cobra in the market.” “How do we know her perpetual transformation isn’t just stagnation?”

In interviews Okpokwasili has talked about the piece as a response to Black Lives Matter, to the abduction of 270 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, and Nigerian women’s protest practices in the early 20th century. (She herself comes from a Nigerian family though she was born and raised in the Bronx.) But none of that is foreground in the piece. Instead the performance takes viewers on a deep psychic journey through black women’s bodies. Not quite like anything else I’ve seen before. I’d love to see it again. Here’s a fascinating video about the rehearsal process.

Quote of the day: SONGWRITING

April 27, 2017


There’s this sadness about [Katy Perry’s hit song “Teenage Dream”], where you feel young listening to it, but you feel impermanence at the same time. When I put that song on, I’m as moved as I am by anything by David Bowie, by Fleetwood Mac, by Neil Young. It lets you feel something you didn’t know you needed to feel. There’s something holy about it.

–Lorde, interviewed by Jonah Weiner in the New York Times Magazine

Quote of the day: NAMES

April 16, 2017

Photo diary: Tax March, NYC, 4/15/17

April 15, 2017

(click photos to enlarge)

Show me what democracy looks like? THIS is what democracy looks like. Empowered citizens hit the streets all over the country today to demand that the president release his tax returns, in the name of accountability, to let the American people judge whether he is acting in our interests or his own in his dealings with foreign powers. It was great to show up at Bryant Park and share energy with a real grass-roots assembly of New Yorkers — lots of pussyhat-energized women, young and old, multi-generational families with kids wielding handmade signs and grandparents in wheelchairs making their voices heard as we marched from there up Sixth Avenue.

Some chants: “We need a leader/Not a creepy tweeter!” “We don’t want your alternate factses/We just want to see your taxes!” “We wanna know/Who you owe!”



April 15, 2017


“Email, Texts, and Negative Escalation”

In our contemporary time, email and texts are so often the source for tragic separations of potentially enriching relationships. First of all, email and text are both unidirectional and don’t allow for return information to enhance or transform comprehension. We must speak to each other, especially when events or feelings are fraught. I wish that all the people of the industrial world would sign a pledge that any negative exchange that is created on email or text must be followed by a live, in-person conversation. And clearly we have a responsibility to encourage our friends and colleagues to not make negative judgments based on email or texts. So many relationships are ruined by the artificial nature of these obstructive walls, especially when one party makes a negative power-play by refusing to speak to the other in person. They then create the false problem of whether or not the two conflicted parties will speak at all, which makes addressing and progressing to the real source of anxiety impossible. Refusing to communicate has always been one of the main causes of false accusation as it guarantees negative fantasy about the other, especially in arenas that are particularly loaded like sexuality, love, community, family, materiality, group identification, gender, power, access, and violence. Email and texts don’t allow us to go through the human phases of feeling that occur when we actually communicate face to face.


Email creates repression and anxiety. No one is seen and no one is affirmed. The only way to recreate the normal human cycle of response is to send even more short emails or texts in a row, each with an evolved position. The next one assures you that I understand, as I am afraid that you are misconstruing me. And the final one wishes you a good trip. And, sadly, I have only made it all worse by now being in the arena of what I know is going to be simplistically called “too much” when in reality it is frankly and literally not enough. Five texts are culturally stigmatized as excessive, but they only cover a minute or two of conversation. And people need interactive conversations, even short ones, in order to understand each other.

Most Americans have cell phones now. They can return phone calls on the walk from the subway station to their apartment buildings, from the car to the mall. There is no reason why people do not return phone calls except for the power-play of not answering. It certainly does not save time. It is tragic that we have evolved a social custom that people need to email in order to ask for permission to make a phone call. Just call! Emailing to ask for permission to speak privileges the rage, Supremacy, and Trauma of withholding over the human responsibility to communicate and understand. I say, let’s get back to the first one hundred years of telephone culture, where people looked up each other’s numbers and called. The now “forbidden” ten-to-twenty-minute phone conversation could save the subsequent months or years of misplaced bad feeling. All this terrible loss, for nothing.

–Sarah Schulman, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

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