Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rain, Rain, Everywhere

Agnes Denes, Wheatfield, 1982.
It seems that New York got few showers in April, but Earth is making up for it in May; I'm drying off from a deluge as I write. Ironically, I was en route from the Joyce Theater, where artificial rain fell during Cedar Lake's performance of Andonis Foniadakis' Horizons as storm clouds gathered outside to wait for me to release torrents in a tempestuous thunderstorm. And yesterday I experienced MoMA's Rain Room, by Random International, amid an otherwise lovely day. 

It is part of Expo 1 at PS1, an exhibition organized by Klaus Biesenbach on the theme of "ecological challenges" in today's world. It sprawls throughout MoMA PS1 and takes as its theme "dark optimism," perfectly reflected in Rain Room. There are some smaller exhibitions nested within, including a fairly extensive selection of Ansel Adams photographs curated by Roxana Marcoci, and a smart group show—ProBio—put together by Josh Kline; highlights include Dina Chang's creepy Flesh Diamonds, pink flesh-like faceted things with hair; Ian Cheng's strange, intriguing installation of twitchy "live" machines inhabiting a tide pool ecosystem; and a flexible cloth of LEDs that received imagery of a CGI concert, by Shanzhai Biennial. A group of photographs documents Agnes Denes' Wheatfield, which at the time felt far closer to crunchy environmentalism than a last cry before development and terrorism swallowed up lower Manhattan.

Expo 1 also has the requisite ancillary elements of film, education (organized by Triple Canopy), a daily special dish by restaurateur M. Wells, and a "colony" of trailers in one of the courtyards. Meg Webster has installed Pool in the lobby, which basically just looks like a fancy fountain in a skyscraper lobby, and Adri├ín Villar Rojas has been given a ginormous amount of room for La inocencia de los animals, with a broad grand staircase where classes will meet, and rooms of ruins—columns and giant amphora—all the hue of dusty grey concrete.

Rain Room is situated in an annex in the parking lot next door to MoMA, complete with its own retro-mod, airport-style lounge in the queue area, which I guess is supposed to make the anticipated long wait entertaining. When I viewed Rain Room, people seemed reluctant to walk into the rain; perhaps to encourage this, several dancers had been deployed to move dramatically under the deluge (although it might not have helped that they were drenched. A word of advice—as you enter the rain, extend a hand forward to keep your head dry.) This project seems to work as well in concept as in practice, and whether you choose to participate or simply watch emerges as a key precept.

Kylian's Indigo Rose. Photo: Paula Lobo
Meanwhile, back at the Joyce, the small rainburst took place over a rectangle of red carpeting that the Cedar Lake dancers dragged onstage in the premiere of Horizons by Andonis Foniadakis. The piece began with rubber-limbed Jon Bond bounding across the stage, each turbocharged move tweaked with a contortion, robotic effect, or caffeinated jolt; many moves elicited gasps of shock. Pairs danced frantically on the rug to driving rhythms; a final twosome writhed frantically, life affirmingly. Joaquim de Santana crashed to the floor on his knees and shins, the violence exaggerated by his large size. The work purports to address the concept of finding inner peace amid urban frenzy; a voiceover intoned calls to action and ponderous observations. While the adrenalized movement becomes a bit numbing after awhile, Foniadakis  has a unique, daredevil means of physical expression.

Jiri Kylian's Indigo Rose (1998) suits Cedar Lake to a tee—articulated lines, hyper-pointed toes, a dramatic flair in every pose. Two pairs danced on the stage bisected by shapes of light, one dim, the other bright. A billowing white wedge of sail cloth framed the dancers; in particular, Matthew Rich, a company veteran, has matured into a riveting, confident performer. Filling out the program was Crystal Pite's Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, a well-paced concatenation of duets and solos by just five dancers, but that feels like three times as many. It has become a staple in an ever-growing repertory that showcases mostly European choreographers, and who benefit from the impressive skills of the dancers. 

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