Menu Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

New York NY [April 2]

Currently spending two weeks in New York, trying to choose from amongst the gazillions of cultural offerings here – no easy task. So i’ve been spreading the load – some visual arts, some performing arts, some music, some dance, some weird combinations of all of the above.

PS122 is a former primary school in the East Village, converted into an experimental performing arts venue and currently run by Australian artistic director Vallejo Gantner. Saw two shows there:

‘Bride’ – a funny, disturbing, dystopic puppet show which imagines God as a wrinkled old guy with a monkey-slave who patches him through to pleading humans via an old telephone exchange. Trouble is, God can’t really help – and even suicide is not an option, because all the big old books (the Bible, the Koran, the Torah) say he’s here for eternity. So he tries to create a son to take over the job, but each prototype (puppet) son turns out to be flawed, and is banished to a rat-infested basement of heaven. There’s a happy ending, involving a reconstructed giant goddess, and a moment of awkward sentimentality which undercuts and undermines the kooky, clever humour of the rest of the piece. Interesting enough, nevertheless.

‘Democracy in America’ – a concept show, in which every bit of it is for sale – each line, each movement, each song, each video projection. Bewildering. More anon.

PS1 is another former school, in Queens (graffiti capital of the world?), now a big multi-level gallery currently exhibiting Wack! a retrospective of feminist art from the last few decades. Paintings, videos, sculptures, collages, frocks, from women artists from all over the world. Funny, angry, clever, with work from women who are internationally famous (Louise Bourgeois) and others whose work has been important in the USA but hasn’t travelled as far.

Went to The Met to see a new production of Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’. Beautiful singing, such sweet acoustics in that enormous space. Very dark production, both literally and mood-wise, in which Teddy Tahu Rhodes made his Met debut as Ked Keene. Uniformly good acting – i guess they don’t have to choose, here, whether to go with the best actors or the best singers. They take their pick of the Complete Package. Loved the fact that New Yorkers didn’t bother dressing up to go the opera. No smell of mothballs, no fur coats. It’s all normalised.

Saw a couple of very interesting exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) – one called Design and the Elastic Mind – all about design and the digital age. Favourite exhibit there was the Future Families Project, by Elio Caccavale – a series of plastic blow-ups toys representing each of the ingredients potentially involved in creating a baby these days – eg. Dummy Tummy, Fertility Egg, Fertility Sperm, Fertility Tummy – ‘a baby today can have up to 5 people responsible for its birth – sperm donor, egg donor, surrogate mother, couple of any gender combination, or single mother or father.’ Why not use toys to explain it all to a child?

And next door on the same floor – ‘Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today’ – featuring the Andy Warhol silk-screened ‘Marilyn Flavors’ – Lemon Marilyn, Cherry Marilyn, Mint Marilyn, etc., and Marcel Duchamp’s last painting (before he moved on to urinals), featuring a cascade of lozenge-shaped color samples from a paint manufacturer’s catalogue.

And – of course – Paul Kelly, at Joe’s Pub on Lafayette – comfy chairs, tall ceilings, dim lighting, great acoustic, happy crowd, end of the tour – hooray!