Archive for August, 2018

From the Deep Archives: August Moon Festival (1981)

August 30, 2018

Last weekend my husband and I decided on short notice to rent a car and drive up to Hudson to see a show with the very long title Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and Other Works by John Bernd. The show, produced by Lumberyard and performed at the beautiful Hudson Hall, debuted almost two years ago at Danspace in New York City, created by Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez as a tribute to Bernd and by extension to a generation of downtown artists lost to AIDS. A cast of very young performers recreated a series of vignettes from Bernd’s work, which incorporated words, dancing, drawings, singing. It was a beautiful show that recaptured the essence of downtown New York in the 1980s, with echoes of Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, and the full panoply of postmodern dancer-choreographers running/jumping/standing still and performance artists yakking about whatever was on their minds. Along with original music by Nick Hallett, the piece burst with groovy music of the era by Prince, Lou Reed, New Order, and the S.O.S. Band, whose “Just Be Good to Me” opened the show, played in its entirety as the cast took their places onstage one by one and just stood there in their tighty-whities — sexy, brave, and sadly reminiscent of all the young bodies we lost to the plague.

Bernd died almost exactly thirty years ago, and the show in Hudson conjured my strongest memory of seeing Bernd performing in nearby Catskill at the August Moon Festival six years earlier, in August 1981. He and Tim Miller reprised Live Boys, a duet they had created and performed to great acclaim at P.S. 122. As I wrote in my review for the Soho News:

When Miller and Bernd first performed Live Boys at P. S. 122 last winter, it was essentially a celebration documenting their relationship (in words, slides, movement) with deadpan romanticism and explicit eroticism. But when they performed at August Moon, the relationship had broken up, which brought a riveting, almost unbearable edge to the performance. Tim cut straight to the bone by talking about how he and John were asked, before going to August Moon, whether they wanted “a room with one big bed or a room with two little beds”; a little bit later he announced, “This is our last performance.” (Apparently, the night before a playful boxing sequence had gotten out of hand, and some serious blows were landed.) Already the tension in the room was suffocating, and probably half the audience felt like saying, “Uh, I think I’ll go have a drink while you two guys work this out between yourselves.” But having allowed their lives to intrude so far into their art, Miller and Bernd impressively refrained from mawkish self-indulgence; their emotions, however private, fueled a devastating portrait of failed romance that anyone could relate to. And whereas originally the climax of the piece was a proud gesture (Tim spray-painting letters on their bare chests so that when they stood together their bodies read “faggots”), this performance ended with the two of them ripping and tearing their ceremonial pajama costumes to shreds. It was such a bummer that it was almost shocking to see Miller and Bernd the next day smiling and talking together at the same picnic table; but then they grabbed s hovel and went off into the woods to bury their shredded pajamas. Clearly, these men didn’t just tear up their lives into pieces to serve their art; they also knew how to use the ritual aspects of theater to heal their lives. And the two were unavoidably intertwined.

You can read the complete text of my review (“Art on the Rocks”) here.


Quote of the day: PASSION VS. ADDICTION

August 28, 2018


The difference between passion and addiction is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates…Passion is divine fire: it enlivens and makes holy; it gives light and yields inspiration. Passion is generous because it’s not ego-driven; addiction is self-centered. Passion gives and enriches; addiction is a thief. Passion is a source of truth and enlightenment; addictive behaviors lead you into darkness. You’re more alive when you are passionate, and you triumph whether or not you attain your goal. But an addiction requires a specific outcome that feeds the ego; without that outcome, the ego feels empty and deprived. A consuming passion that you are helpless to resist, no matter what the consequences, is an addiction.

–Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: David Wojnarowicz at the Whitney Museum

August 28, 2018

Andy and I visited the Whitney Museum to see the David Wojnarowicz retrospective, History Keeps Me Awake at Night. Here are some pieces that stuck out for me.


The next day I found this cardboard cry for help on the sidewalk next to my closest mailbox. It struck me as related to the experience of urban alienation and despair that runs riot through Wojnarowicz’s work.

Quote of the day: EGO

August 21, 2018


When each thought absorbs your attention completely, it means you identify with the voice in your head….This is the ego, a mind-made “me.” That mentally constructed self feels incomplete and precarious. That’s why fearing and wanting are its predominant emotions and motivating forces. When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking…. Who you are is not the voice – the thinker – but the one who is aware of it.

–Eckhart Tolle

Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: Saturday 8/18/18

August 21, 2018

On Facebook, John Leland turned me on to peach and tomato salad, and now I can’t get enough of it (sometimes with avocado, onion, and pepper, tossed with salt, olive oil, and rice vinegar).

Andy and I set out to ride bicycles to the movies but my rear tire blew out. If we hadn’t had to walk to the subway, I would have missed seeing this strange sight — a duo from Argentina called Ensamble Ferroeléctrico de Marte (you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram).

We planned to see Crazy Rich Asians at Cinépolis in Chelsea but the screening was sold out. So we took a leisurely stroll over to the Whitney Museum, which is open until 10pm on Saturdays.

What stood out for me? Among the selections from the permanent collection, Andy Warhol’s $199 Television (1961, above) and Fairfield Porter’s double portrait Ted Carey and Andy Warhol (1960, below, pre-wig for Warhol).

We popped into The Wild Son for a cocktail and a snack. Later we had another drink and some small plates at Txikito on Ninth Avenue, including a delicious Russian potato salad with tuna and capers plus strange breadsticks that looked like fingers poking up out of the pile.

Between the two pit stops we wandered the High Line after dark, ideal time for viewing Andrea Bower’s neon sign reading “Somos 11 Millones / We Are 11 Million,” which is the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.


%d bloggers like this: