“Hansel & Gretel” at Park Avenue Armory – Save Your Money

without comments

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

The “Hansel & Gretel” curatorial statement describes the installation as a space that brings together Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei combined interests in

the psychological impact of architecture and the politics of public space; creating a playful, strange, and eventually eerie environment with different layers of reality revealed to the visitor… Hansel & Gretel is a dystopian forest of projected light where the floor rises up, as if lifted by an invisible force, and visitors are tracked by infrared cameras and surveyed by overhead drones as they systematically capture the parkgoers’ data and movements…

Unfortunately, the only portion of this description that resonates is the playfulness. Indeed Herzog, de Meuron and Weiwei have created a dark environment in which visitors may skip around and play with light traces of their image. However, the installation lacks strangeness, eeriness, politics or any psychological reverberation.

Other than the initial moment of discovery that one’s image is being projected on to the ground after it is periodically taken due to on one’s movement in the space, the installation presents very little that is interesting. The drones may have been a neat prop had they not been tethered.

The second part of the installation is a didactic revelation of what the installation is trying to allude to – that we are objects of surveillance. As far as a critical art installation regarding surveillance, there was much more interesting work done 15+ years ago. Perhaps the theme of surveillance has been so overly investigated and picked apart by art previously and by entertainment today (“Black Mirror” for example) that such an installation seems trite and naive. There is so much of our data being captured today, that building an installation that merely plays upon facial recognition and motion sensors is just kind of dumb, but it is playful. So if $16 is worth the cost of running around a huge dark open space and playing with light projection, check it out.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

A second perspective: Playtime at the Armory
Once again discovering what this city has to offer, there I was with Ricardo walking into a venue called the Armory near Hunter College, a place I had never been before to see a new art installation called “Hansel & Gretel”. He had been keen to check this out for a few weeks, and like the curious creature I am, I followed along.

We received a quick intro and were instructed to read a phase on the wall before entering -which i forgot- and then allowed to enter. We walked into black nothingness. My immediate reaction was to scramble for Ricardo’s hand. I didn’t realize the massiveness of this place until my eyes adjusted from the summer sunlight to the darkness inside of the Armory. It was only eerie the first few minutes because I had no idea where the hell I was walking. There were a few cameras far above us hanging from the ceiling and lights that would follow us. As we continued to walk, our movement was detected, grid lines would appear and cameras would be activated to capture our moves. Suddenly, it was playtime! It was fun to pose in different positions to watch the resulting snap shot of yourself illuminated on the black floor. At one point my sweater and shoes came off and I really got into it.

Ricardo noticed two drones hovering on one side of the space living poor unfulfilled lives- tied onto leashes without free movement. It would have been more interesting if they were chasing people around. After exhausting our ideas for poses, the novelty wore off and we were ready to enter part deux of the installation. For that, we had to exit this part of the Armory and enter from another entrance on the other side of the street.

After pausing in front of a camera you were allowed inside. There were many ipads on long tables with apps. You could elect to have your face identified and then search the cameras for your photo which was taken in the first part of the installation. That was cool. You could read about the history of surveillance, or access cameras to spy on others walking into the exhibits. The Armory itself was impressive, the installation not as much. It was a new, interesting experience- a fun activity for kids, I would say. I didn’t leave with the feeling that I had witnessed an impressive statement against today’s constant scrutiny and monitoring that we are all under. I didn’t feel intruded upon. There wasn’t anything menacing or fantastical as is described in the program leaflet. It was just pretty cool and fun.

Perhaps the work behind the installation was complicated, but with my lack of technical know-how, I failed to appreciate the amount of effort involved. To have truly made an impact, more could have been done to confuse or play with the audience with the intention of throwing them off or perhaps even scaring them. Coupling that with the sound of Russian men having conversations in the background (that felt clandestine in nature), and I would have possibly left quite feeling differently.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

Reflections on “Arlington”

without comments

Imagine a sterile white waiting room with a row of three plastic blue chairs to the far left and a tall narrow window to the far right. At the back, to the right is a wide fish-less aquarium, to the right of the aquarium on the wall a paper cup dispenser and nearly at the right corner the only door to enter or leave the waiting room. It is a narrow and tall door. On the drop ceiling are four surveillance cameras and mounted on to the wall behind the plastic chairs a microphone on a gooseneck. On the other side of that left wall, is a control room with a desk and many small monitors all about the room.

In Enda Walsh’s “Arlington” the waiting room is at once an isolation room and an observation room but more importantly a psychological prison. I went to the play (currently at St. Ann’s Warehouse) because I was interested in seeing how the piece melded multimedia with the actors on the stage as I had read it was quite successful; I was not disappointed.

The play that combines theater, dance, video, music and lighting effects to create a work of speculative fiction that delves in to existential reality based in contemporary, first-world society. Initially the play brought to mind Calderón de la Barca’s “La vida es sueño” (Life Is a Dream) (1635) – “Man dreams what he is until he awakens…” I read the play over 20 years ago and what I recall is that a prince, Segismundo is imprisoned in a windowless tower since his childhood. He is given a tutor to have a formal education. When he dreams he recalls his life before imprisonment – playing feely as a child. He confuses his dreams with his reality – to him his dreams that recall freedom are his reality and the time spent in the tower alone or with his tutor is sleep time. The play popularly considered a masterpiece of the Golden Age of Spanish Theater brings to the forefront questions of free will versus fate and whether life is a dream or a reality. Similarly, Isla, the main character in “Arlington” is imprisoned and has one individual to communicate with – the 32 year old technician that sits on the other side of the wall and observes her. As with Segismundo, it is unclear how long Isla has been in this waiting room and like Segismundo the waiting room is at the top of a tower.

At one point there are allusions to her having supernatural powers as she is the one constructing the towers that rise outside, beyond the window. As the piece progressed, it brought to mind Netflix’s “The OA” – an 8 episode series that also presents imprisonment, torture, the question of reality versus psychological construction. And as the combination of video projection and light effects were woven into the play, I couldn’t help but also think about Netflix’s “Black Mirror”.

There is a middle section in the play, following the freedom of Isla, when a new woman is inserted into the waiting room. This section is gripping due to her movement. The character has no words, but her dance choreographed by Oona Doherty speaks clearly of anger and resistance.

The final character to be inserted in to the waiting room is the 32-year old technician who apparently freed Isla from the room. As with Isla, he recalls elements of his childhood that appear to have left psychological scars.

There is one sequence of the play in which immense faces are projected onto the far wall, one after the next – a portrait of the audience and the accompanying narration is a philosophical reflection on the society that we have constructed. I need to find the entire play, in particular this narration.

I attended “Arlington” with my friend Erica and she shared her thoughts with me:

I walked into Saint Ann’s warehouse blind. I had no idea what kind of performance Ricardo had invited me to, but I was excited and my feeling was that it would be a simple yet creative production. Just moments after finding our seats, perfectly situated a few rows up towards the middle, the dimly illuminated theatre went black. The curtains opened up to the sides and the stage lights lit up revealing a very basic set depicting a waiting room. Nothing out of the ordinary. All the items were typical of what you would expect to find – a coat rack, three plastic chairs, a waiting ticket number dispenser, a fake plant and an aquarium. However, everyone’s attention was on her- a plainly dressed young woman who was waiting for her turn in what seemed to be a doctor’s office. Something felt odd though. She was staring out of the one window in the room. She seemed confused or lost in a thought. It didn’t take long to grasp that this was not your standard waiting room scenario. For one, there was a mike on the wall like the one used by the fast food drive thru operator. And second, there were four cameras in each corner of the room monitoring the girl. Third, and the weirdest, there was a nervous nerdy guy in a small room next door full of monitors watching and talking to her as if he were her watch guard.

She was obviously not mentally stable and in need of attention. He was definitely a geek who was lonely. Both establish an awkward relationship without ever seeing one another. There are many extensive monologues. It was difficult to ascertain whether the world she was describing is the real environment in which the story is set, or if she is nuts and has concocted a world where everyone is living in waiting rooms like hers and jumping out of windows when they can’t stand it any longer. Am I like her? If so, to what degree? I couldn’t help but think about my own sanity. Within 30 minutes or so, she has stolen his heart and he finally opens the door to let her out of the waiting room. She presumably is freed.

The next scene was the most difficult to sit through. I was literally so uncomfortable that at one point I had to look over at Ricardo and establish eye contact with him in order to feel that this was just a performance and I was not part of that world. Once he looked back at me, this was enough to confirm that we still belong to our crazy world that we’ve normalized and not the unfamiliar, insane world on the stage. The woman before our eyes was clearly in pain. For what seemed like forever, she was banging her chest, slapping her thighs, hitting the floor, throwing her shoes, running and twirling about the waiting room in such a chaos. There was a series of images and music throughout that at times made me feel disoriented. This woman didn’t say a word and she didn’t need to. The choreography was great. The emotions it stirred inside of me, disturbing. I felt she was going to be one of the falling leaves the previous girl had described in one of her monologues. At the end, sure enough, this leaf fell- right out of the window.

The last scene begins with the pathetic watch guard nerdy guy being thrown into the waiting room. He was bloody, and it’s unclear what the hell he’s done. From above, like an omnipresent god, a woman invoked his childhood traumas, and interrogated him not letting him sleep until he confessed what he saw. Apparently when he opened the door to let the woman out, he followed her into a forest where either he killed her or found her dead. How is this known? By a huge projection of her walking in a forest that was shown behind the wall of the waiting room. By the end of his psychological torture, the woman appears to him and reassures him that once “this is over” they will be reunited. They embrace briefly, he falls asleep, and she disappears.

Written by ricardo

May 18th, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Cuba Visa Services Scam

without comments

Last month I travelled to Cuba to present an art installation at the 7th International Video Art Festival of Camaguey. Ahead of my visit to Cuba, I wanted to make sure that I entered the country with the correct visa. As I’d be traveling with equipment, I did not think it would be appropriate to travel with a tourist visa which is available from the airline that I used for $50.

So I searched online and immediately found the Cuba Travel Services site (which has ads on Google, so it comes up immediately). I used their site to apply for the “Educational People to People” visa category as that seemed the most appropriate visa for my participation in the art festival based on my research. (The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control – OFAC – specifies 12 different categories for travel to Cuba which do not include tourism.) I fill out the Cuba Travel Services form and pay them $110 and a week or so later, my visa promptly arrives. However, what they sent me was a tourist visa, the same exact visa I could have purchased at the gate on the day of travel for $50! I call Cuba Travel Services to tell me that they’ve sent me the wrong visa as I had applied for the “Educational People to People”. They respond that they only sell the tourist visa and that my money would not be refunded.

I was outraged at the fact that I had paid more than twice the amount $110 for a $50 visa. So if you are traveling to Cuba, do not purchase a tourist visa from Cuba Travel Services! They will send you a tourist visa, but it’s a scam as you can purchase the same visa for less than half the price from your airline.

Written by ricardo

May 8th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Trump Administration Fantasy League

without comments

Donald Trump Paul Ryan Jared Kushner

I don’t play fantasy sports, not because I wouldn’t enjoy it, but more so because I’m not enough of a sports fan. I am however a measured political junky, so when I learned about the Trump Administration Fantasy League, I discovered a fantasy sport that I could find the time and interest to join! Join the Trump Administration Fantasy League by using the site’s random number generator to draft seven unique players from Trump’s administration that includes a selection of 29 players. Then track the league news via Twitter and see your players gain points! The creator of the site Matt McCaleb has been closely monitoring the latest news on the Trump administration to maintain up to date player stats!

Currently former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is at the top of the score board at 100 points. Devin Nunes is a far second at 65 points. Trump needs to up his game as he’s only fourth at 35 points. If he launches a war against North Korea, I’m certain he’d win hands down (although I don’t see launching a war as a possible stat). The stats used to measure the value of the players include:

  • Arrested / Arrests another player 100
  • Dies / Kills another player 100
  • Resigns / Is fired 75
  • Flees jurisdiction 75
  • Turns state evidence 75
  • Prosecuted for a crime / Prosecutes another player for a crime 75

There are many more stats and some that I question the low value of such as “Fabricates information/Reveals another player’s fabrication of information” as only 10 points. The fabrication of information can of course lead to overwhelming consequences, so I feel it should be worth more. Or perhaps in the new world order, information fabrication is far too normalized to be worth much…

It’s tough to select a team, do you go for the most outspoken that may be out of the game sooner than later such as Bannon or the sleazier ones that may play the long game such as Devin Nunes? And why are Eric and Donald Jr Trump one figure?

With the current 29 players, I would select the following seven:

  1. Steve Bannon
  2. Kellyanne Conway
  3. Devin Nunes
  4. Jared Kushner
  5. Rex Tillerson
  6. Vladimir Putin
  7. and Donald Trump himself

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

without comments

Help the Franklin Furnace continue to make the world safe for Avant-Garde Art (the really weird shit that the NEA is afraid of). The Furnace has turned 40 and is now relocated in Pratt Institute, however, in order to re-grant money to artists that challenge the norms of our society, the Furnace needs financial help. Anyone can donate to the Furnace anytime, but at this time the Furnace is holding a benefit art sale and you can participate via Paddle8!

Exhibition, Friday-Saturday April 19-22, 10am-6pm
Reception and Live Auction of Five Works, Saturday April 22, 5-7pm
Metro Pictures, 519 West 24 th Street, New York, NY 10011

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40 Honorees
Yoko Ono, Artist
Thea Westreich Wagner & Ethan Wagner, Collectors
Marian Goodman, Gallerist

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40 offers for sale original art by:
John Ahearn, Eleanor Antin, Ida Applebroog, Judith Bernstein, Patty Chang, Nicolas Ceccaldi, CRASH, Kate Gilmore, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ann Hamilton, David Hammons/Clifford Owens, Mona Hatoum, Jenny Holzer, Joan Jonas, Barbara Kruger, Suzy Lake, Louise Lawler, Maggie Lee, Robert Longo, Ana Mendieta, Franco Mondini-Ruiz, Portia Munson, Lorraine O’Grady, Lady Pink, Pope.L, Ed Ruscha, Carolee Schneemann, Dread Scott, Michael Smith, Anton van Dalen, William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner, Martha Wilson, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong.

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

FRANKLIN FURNACE @ 40

Fabrica Habana

without comments

Fabrica Habana

Fabrica Habana, contemporary art gallery of Concha Fontenla, Habana, Cuba

Currently on exhibition at the beautifully renovated colonial home turned contemporary art gallery by Concha Fontenla in Old Habana is a three story exhibition by Cuban artists Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin. Toirac and Marin draw from various artistic movements such as Conceptual Art and Arte Povera to create a study of the recent history and current reality of Cuba. The gallery consists of three floors and if one begins at the top and works their way down, there is a chronological thread throughout the exhibition. Beginning with allusions to Ancient Western Philosophy and Christianity. On the third floor one will find a broken bronze vase to commemorate Diogenes de Sinope (412-323 BCA), a Greek philosopher of the “escuela cinica” who gave up all material goods and lived as a vagabond on the streets of Athens searching for the honest man.

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Fabrica Habana
On the same floor, a metal press sits on a pedestal. On one side of the press, is the symbol of christ as stamped on to the eucharist and on the other plate is the portrait of Che Guevara with the phrase “Patria o Muerte 2017”. Above the press is a quote from Fidel, stating that every child should be modeled after Che, an honest and virtuous man. To the right of the press is a long table with two dozen tin cups filled with packaged eucharists stamped with the portrait of the Che. Above the table floats a holy chalice also with the portrait of El Che.

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin

On the second floor one will find many memorials to famous Cubans. Each memorial is a pedestal with the name of the historical figure, the dates of birth and death (if the person has died) and the work that each one is known for and on top of the pedestal are objects commemorating the individual. The memorials include intellectual figures such as Jose Marti as well as business men, a famous cook…

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica HabanaFinally, on the street level, the artists present a red carpet made of flattened tin cans of Cuban beer and soda. And on the three walls of the gallery hang a series of portraits of Cubans today from a street recycler to a flower vendor a famous chef. Each of these portraits are executed on the material or tools of their trade. At the rear of the gallery, are a couple dozen portraits shot on a steel cart with trash bags (that is installed against the rear wall). These portraits seem a bit trite as they try to emulate professional studio portrait images. However the larger portraits are beautifully executed.
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

The artists effectively portray Cuba as a deeply Catholic and literate society that is wrought with contradictions. The clearest contradiction is effectively presented by the eucharist embossed with the portrait of Che. The island at the foot of the United States, proudly embraces its Marxist identity as proclaimed by Fidel – the tiny nation that stands against the empire while stringently faithful to the greatest empire of Latin American culture, the Catholic church.
Much of the beauty of the exhibition lies in the simplicity of materials employed to realize the work which also effectively portrays the reality of Cuba. A country with few resources that is industrious, able to maintain 70 year old cars with rescued or constructed parts and that is slowly reconstructing its decaying architectural masterpieces. The culture – music, dance, visual arts resonate throughout the globe and Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin are able to capture a small piece of this reality.

Why I Love NYC

without comments

As I traverse the city from day to day, commuting to work or running errands or out alone or with friends, there are always interesting moments on the streets of NYC. The vast majority of us merely keep our eyes straight ahead focused on our tasks or destinations, ignoring the personal realities of the strangers around us. Generally, I find inspiration in public life and try to remain open to whatever maybe going on around me. Unfortunately, at times observing life can be very upsetting. However, generally, there’s plenty to celebrate, so I’ve started a video series capturing the pleasurable or unexpected in urban life.


It was late and I didn’t want to miss the train that I heard arrive, otherwise I was itching to join that guy and dance along, following his quebradita to the drone.

Written by ricardo

March 24th, 2017 at 7:02 am

“Broken Bone Bathtub” Review

without comments

Broken Bone Bathtub by Siobhan O'Loughlin

Broken Bone Bathtub by Siobhan OLoughlin

This past Saturday night a bit before 9pm, I stepped down into a basement apartment in Long Island City, Queens, just a couple blocks from MoMA PS 9. A few weeks ago, I read glowing reviews about Siobhan O’Loughlin’s immersive theater piece Broken Bone Bathtub that occurs in private bathrooms, so I decided to check it out. Once through a small door that I had to duck under, a coat rack outside the apartment entrance received the audience. I went with a friend and we entered behind a young couple who were very excited about the experience. We stepped in to the living room of the apartment and were greeted by a cheery hostess who invited us to chocolate fondue and nuts and a few other appetizers. Red wine was also available, but required a small donation. The hostess, told us about herself, the apartment – voluntarily lent by immersive theater fans and the actress as we waited for the Siobhan to gather herself; this was the second performance of the evening.

A few minutes later, another young woman nodded to the hostess indicating that the actress was ready for us. The hostess asked for two volunteers who would be comfortable speaking and contributing to the piece. Two young women raised their hands and were taken to the bathroom for introductions and instructions. A few minutes later, the remaining four of us, were invited to enter the small bathroom; the audience was a total of six.

Siobhan sat naked in a cast iron bathtub, her breasts concealed by soap bubbles. The two volunteers sat adjacent to the bathtub and the rest of us took seats on a toilet, stool, small chair and small plastic step stool. The actress thanked us for coming asked if we were all comfortable and then began her narrative. Her left arm was in a cast, decorated with signatures and drawings. She told us about the pain and the time necessary to recover from a broken bone and the difficulties of day to day life with her left arm in a cast. She began to detail how the accident happened, riding her bike to an activist meeting along the west side of Prospect Park, headed to Grand Army Plaza. She asked if we were familiar with the area, everybody appeared to be and as I ride it regularly, she asked me to describe it. Following my description of the area, she told us that it was a rainy night and there was a husband and wife riding south as she rode north. It was dark and wet and perhaps the couple had been riding in tandem. She collided with the woman. The husband immediately attended to her wife as Siobhan found herself alone and in a great deal of pain…

Through the performance, topics such as who do we call at a moment of emergency, loneliness, whether or not we cry, were discussed by both the actress and the audience. She seamlessly moved through the responses from audience members back to her narrative. At one point she sang a song as one of the volunteers either scrubbed her back or conditioned her hair. She joked that throughout this period of healing, she borrowed the bathrooms of friends in order to not be alone. And throughout the performance she made sure to include each audience member.

The piece was smart and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the bathroom door was left ajar and at the beginning, the residents of the apartment were taking cell phone photos of us in their bathroom. Later, at times it was distracting to look out to the living room and see people on their devices. However, in general, the manner that Siobhan was able to weave the audiences’s discussion in to her performance was impressive. The one weak element in the piece was unfortunately the conclusion.

Siobhan entered a seemingly heartfelt conclusion, she allowed herself to cry as she discussed moving on from the healing period. The crying and the final monologue felt contrived in comparison to the rest of the performance, because unlike the preceding narrative, it did not engage dialogue, but was instead prescriptive. The uniqueness presented by the back and forth between the actress and each audience was broken and the piece reverted to conventional theater – a one way presentation. It would have been transformative, if each conclusion appeared to vary given the audience interaction. Siobhan could still maintain the underlying message, but it would be great if she was able to draw from what was shared by a given audience to inform the concluding monologue rather than loose the sense of immersion.

The Voice Who

without comments

On a February Friday afternoon walking along Fulton near Nostrand in Brooklyn, my son and I encountered an artist/writer/performer/thinker mounting painted wooden statements or declarations to the temporary plywood of a construction site. We paused to ask him about his declarations and he broke them down one by one. According to the artist each sign represents a book that he is working on, but they also sound like moments and reflections from his life.

Written by ricardo

March 7th, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Volta Art Fair 2017

without comments

Last night, I strolled through the vast Volta13 Art Fair at Pier 90 in Manhattan. For the most part, the fair did not present anything particularly exciting, but below are a few of the works that I considered beautiful and interesting.

Max Razdow

from Max Razdow’s “Metropolis Drawings” that portray “a city in becoming”

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Federico Solmi’s awesome animations