As Robyn Has Retired to the Coutryside +Binibon Review
I’m Upstate, stay tuned for posts about the caterpillars and hummingbirds I’ve been meeting, in the meantime, here’s Ella!
As Robyn has callously abandoned her friends for a few weeks and retired to the countryside, Brooklyn Socialiting has been left to me for a bit. Braving the Hudson River, or rather, the evil machinations of the subway system, I left my lovely King’s county nest on Friday for an evening of Big City cultural activities. Not just hanging out in bars.
Admittedly, as I was early for the Bermuda art opening in China town, a little bit of Ella-in-Bar was necessary, so I sat myself down in Les Enfants Terrible. Lychee martini is the glass, Pink Martini playing on the stereo and meretricious French barmen multi-taskingly flirting with everyone around the bar. A good way to warm up for a friend’s art opening, which is generally not something that should be attended without some sort of support, alcoholic or otherwise. Because there’s always that underlying terror that your friends are going to be profoundly untalented, and you still have to be nice BUT SPECIFIC about their creative output.
Having reached the age where a disturbing number of my friends are spawning, I’ve found that a parallel case exists with people’s babies. Otherwise funny and open-minded people have a complete sense of humor failure when it comes to their own children, which is why I have had to hold back about how many children I could name that look like Dick Cheney. Even though it’s intrinsically funny. Similarly, otherwise intelligent and interesting people often like and make bad art.
Luckily, this wasn’t the case with the Bermuda exhibit. Put together by students and fellows from the School of Visual Arts, the theme was secondary to showcasing works in progress. While a lot of the work was interesting, the looseness of the theme meant that the exhibition as a whole didn’t necessarily work, despite several really interesting pieces.
Running late, I had to jump into a cab to get to experimental art space, The Kitchen, for the eight o’clock showing of “Binibon”, a new piece of musical theater, based around the early 80’s stabbing of aspiring actor and waiter Richard Adan by John Henry Adam, a former convict whose writing talents had made him the toast of New York’s literati. Back in the bull economy, cabs used to be a part of my daily life, pretty much always charged to my work account. No longer. I’m hoping that relative poverty and strife will successfully translate into me eventually writing something that’s not nauseatingly terrible, and it seems as if the team behind Binibon come at creativity from a similar angle.
At the same time, let’s face it – New York? Not what it used to be. I’ve heard people discuss the matter over organic, cruelty-free yuppie food: “Is New York’s current stability and safety a fair trade for the loss of vibrancy?” Where once the city was genuinely throat cuttingly cutting edge, or was at least violent enough for the frenzy to rub off on the art scene, now it’s a place where people feel OK about raising their kids. Dear lord, even Madonna, a woman my MOTHER listens to, recently criticized the city for losing its edge.
After which, she moved back to raise her children.
Binibon, the experimental musical play put on at contemporary art centre The Kitchen in the west village is part of this debate. Part of, but also symptomatic of. Because while the writer, Jack Womack, brings attention to the Disney-fication of the city that has taken place in the last few decades, the piece can’t escape the fact that it’s a play about a New York that mainly exists in the memories of the things were much realer in the past-brigade. Which brings questions about where the responsibility for the city’s loss of edge lies: I may be wrong, but it struck me as hard to believe that writers and musicians in the early eighties would have put together a piece about a murder in the mid-50s.
Elliott Sharp’s live music works most of the time (though there’s an unfortunate electric guitar solo which reminds me of a Dave Chapelle sketch where he wonders about white people’s love of the instrument), and gives an urgency to the storytelling which is occasionally lacking in the writing. One of the problems, for me, is that the role of several of New York’s literary heroes in the release of John Henry Adams from prison was touched on, but not really examined – despite the fact that their moral responsibility for the death of Adan is at the core of the play’s preoccupation with the city, creativity, authenticity and violence.