Alvin Ailey’s Caught

A spot light funnels a musty yellow light onto the center of the stage where a man, with ivory pants, stares at his hands. He never looks at the audience as he slings an arm, shoots a leg, raises a toe. It’s hypnosis with every step, surrendering your thoughts to the artist’s whim.  Caught between two of his movements, you bounce back and forth from the real world to dream land in cerebral play.

Intense flashing sears the auditorium and you are left with a glimpse every couple seconds, eternity in a world where a touch connects you to everything. In the absence of light, he takes the chance to jump up so that in the light he is flying. Oozing with strength, he leaps a hundred times in the course of five minutes. The illusion has the ladies in back swooning over his walking “like Jesus” in the air. The darkness dulcifies the light. You sweat from the sweet anxiety of not knowing whether he’ll be able to keep the act up and the pride of knowing humans are capable of such a delicious feat over the constraining human body.

This isn’t even the first piece or last piece or main piece. This is just a piece betwixt the other Ailey gems, the avocado to a veggie sandwich.

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Sam’s Boyhood

The boy’s noodley hair swings in his top bunk bed where he most likely thinks about wasps. The girl with bangs and two pony tails wields a pillow. Upon release, the heft disrupts the bowl of noodles on top of the boy’s head.

“Oops…” squeaks the girl, eyes still fixated on his eyebrows.

“…I did it again! I played with your heart, got lost in the game. Oh baby, baby…”

Hands clasped on top of her head, tommy button exposed, hulla thursts dare her brother to fight back.

So begins the 12 year time lapse.  Here, 163 minutes feels desperately short.

The plot doesn’t matter. You have seen a movie and you know how movies work. Teens get drunk and fling ciraded metal blades at a wooden plank, a plank held up by the scrawniest member of the gang. A child shows up to his house twisted and late in middle of his mother’s party. The father runs off to Alaska and swears he’ll come back but he just needs some time to think.

The onscreen only possessed first names. Thus, each audience member betrothed the characters, giving them a last name, and making we, the sea of strangers, in-laws. The theater transformed into a family reunion watching very lengthy home videos. I may have gone to the theater by myself but I didn’t see this movie alone.

I liked the girl a lot. Some mix of me being a girl and her sharp dialogue. At the beginning, the girls says goodbye to the mailbox, the door, the furniture her mommy wouldn’t let them take but that she still loved, and not loving her mommy as much since she was making them move. We laugh because she is sincere but we think we know better and that she won’t actually end up too sad. Years later, the girl says “once you leave for college, your parents don’t really have any control over you”. This time there is an awkward pause since we don’t know whether this is meant to be something thought by students in college or a truth of society.

Go watch it.  I think you’ll like it.

Bushwick-Bushwhack

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Giant beaters churn the yolk of Bushwick into cement, a useful material.  A painted tiger guards the factory from his nearby ivory tower.  The hieroglyphics of a King’s grave, burnt into the brick wall, wait for Howard Carter and the Rosetta Stone.

Inscribed in the sidewalk next to the Jefferson Street subway stop is the following decree: “Don’t litter. It makes finding drugs on the street so much harder.”

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In the surrounding area, the decaying walls are newsprint where artists practice old, learned technique and new style. It’s an exploration of everything that could go wrong, making you understand the beauty of everything going right. Here, paint smacks the eyes, a sharp, hard, consistent punch.

In Bushwick, local authorities require shops and factories to maintain unmarked walls (cleaned on the businesses’s dime).  However, the neighborhood appreciates the lettering and applies for “gimme graffiti” permits from the city.  20 years ago nobody hoped to still be in this area in 20 years.

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The red stop sign sports a green, crotchet, Seussian thneed with 2 leaf-wings.  You really do need to stop and smell the flowers.

Our 30 or so group of camera wearers and bottled water drinkers play tourist in what is not Times Square.  The ice cream truck toots past in 5 minute intervals. The minstrel music mixed with jarring animations sends us in a confused Pavlovian frenzy for money for ice cream and for the nearest Miyazaki showing.

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The sun reflects off shards of glass and drained spray cans.  Latex gloves and fresh paint impregnate the dry air.  A stencil of a girl lays abandoned.  She patiently waits for the moon.

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Here is some (useful/not useful) info:

If you are interested in a wonderful (and did I mention FREE?) public art walking tour in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, Tours By Foot offers this amazing journey (a tale recounted above).

The above pictures were taken by a friend and by myself on iPhones (hence the 8-megapixels quality) and then edited by me.

Wood Line

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What is art?  I know I won’t answer the question fully, but part of youth is asking and attempting to answer so here it goes.  I don’t ascribe to the belief that art is what is pleasing to the eye or something that must be beyond the creativity and ability of a 5 year old.  I’m of the Scott McCloud school where art is an apple with a core full of “thought” and “significance” seeds that plant ideas in people through the flesh, some medium/structure.  Good art forces you to have ideas and think but also has some inherent meaning intended by the author (which may or may not line up with your initial understanding).

Getting to Andy Goldsworthy, his wood line is a homage to nature’s relationship with man.  Instead of a typical jarring trail that cuts into a hill that clearly defines man from nature, wood line is an organic path that compliments the trees surrounding and encourages the Presidio goer to adventurer further.  It’s very easy to mistake the line as a natural extension of the woodlands, not a man-made entity.

Looking up, the eucalyptus towering over the grounded line display the trees’ authority as well as protect the line from the elements.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  And the juxtaposition of the ruler-straight trees and slithering line creates visual dissonance and a wonderful texture in an otherwise ordinary area.

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The interactive design built into the work caters to all audiences.  Nobody I saw could help smiling as they ran up, jumped off, fell off, photographed instagrammed, lindy hopped or plopped on the wood.  There, a tempo exists as your feet or eyes follow the sinuous line.  And I think that ties into Goldworthy’s note that “a lot of my work is like picking potatoes; you have to get into the rhythm of it.”

From Google, I learned more about the construction of such a design.  Goldworthy commonly uses surrounding bodies in his pieces and, for this, used eucalyptus branches that were being removed and discarded from other parts of the park.  He utilized unwanted materials and remained with his philosophy of building, all while not disturbing the standing grove where the line sits today.

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According to a press release, “like many of the Goldworthy’s site-specific works, the materials will decompose and return to the earth over time.”  The cyclic and ephemeral nature of his work facilitates harmony between humans and nature.  And for the first time, Presidio goers see the trees in their full tree-being.

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Oh the music!

The division of the stage in perfect thirds.  The drummer, the singer, and the instrumentalist.  A beat, a voice, a sound.  Musical and aesthetic symmetry.

The vocalist asserts the composer and meaning of the piece to us, her audience. She sports golden triangles on her ears and cocks her swan neck, with elegance but with the purpose of looking out for her ducklings.  She seems old and practiced, much like Buddha whose stance she’s taken.  It’s only the peach fuzz on her cheeks that reveal her youth.  Then she began to sing.

Her soprano voice blended with the hum of the tambura and magically chimed notes that warmed the ears as the chai being sipped did the lips, synesthesia of a sort.   My unfamiliarity with Carnatic music is such that I’m not sure where my ignorance ends and begins.  However listening to her sing was like being dunked in cold water and not being able to breadth…but in a good way.

I see the scraggily violinist who assumes an unyielding look.  And I can’t help remembering the years of being dragged to Kathak practice.  Did these performers being as young as they were, enjoy or even recognize the joy that could be taken from their performance?

When my friend sang, I looked for the pit perspiration that has always accompanied my performances but all I could see was uniform, undamped fabric.  He wasn’t nervous.  And he didn’t have to be.  Because the performance was an embrace between equals where one welcomes you into their home and heart and expects you to love and appreciate what they have to show.

Later the same day, I went to the Fox to see the artist, Flying Lotus.  On the screen, a man marches with his head raised while defiant lyrics wallop from speakers, causing the unshakeable feeling you are in some sort of cult.  When the music began we all jumped up and down and I was reminded of sifting sand and wondered what would be left in our sieve.

With Flying Lotus, each song has so many different layers.  And each slice can be heard and evokes a particular feeling/memory and thus you are able to live through so many different moments all at the same time, it’s a lifetime in a musical measure.

I thought it was strange how solemn the audience members were at both concerts.  However, it was because the feelings were within and shared: you didn’t need to smear a cheap grin on your face to savor these moments.

The ABCs of Chitwan Part 7: Celebrations

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At school, whenever classes were tired of the regular lesson plan, we would have singing and dancing.  Back at the farm, the background changed, but the entertainment stayed the same.  This involved everyone singing traditional Nepalese songs, the girls dancing, me teaching American folk songs and accompanying them on the guitar, and (the crowd favorite) me dancing to Sheila, a song perpetually piping from the Nepali radio.  So Priyanka from everyone in Chitwan, great choreography. Continue reading “The ABCs of Chitwan Part 7: Celebrations”