Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Reflections on “Arlington”

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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

The Voice Who

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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

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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

Recetas y Gangas: Essex Street Market Installation

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Recetas y Gangas (Recipes and Deals) is an audio montage of Essex Street Market vendors and shoppers listing goods for sales or sharing personal recipes. The audio montage was recorded and composed to project the market on to the street through an amplified bullhorn. As pedestrians walk past the Essex Street Market, they hear the recorded voices of people working and shopping in the market. Recetas y Gangas was conceived and produced by Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga in 2016 for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful and presented at Cuchifritos Gallery, located within the Essex Street Market.

Commonly street markets around the world have both an outdoor and indoor space. The perimeters of the market may extend on to the street to invite pedestrians in to the market. Rather than walls, street markets may present large openings and awnings to create an arcade where people are at once outside and inside. The Essex Market in the Lower East Side of New York City does not have a side walk extension beyond sandwich boards and signage outside its brick wall. The Essex Street Market facade does not even present pedestrian level windows for those outside to peer in to the interior. The facade is rather an uninviting brick facade, perhaps a planned institutional barrier that Mayor La Guardia desired as he sought to take cart vendors off the sidewalk in an effort to clean up the streets from obstacles and noise. For the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” at Cuchifritos curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful, I have sought to extend the Essex Street Market on to the sidewalk through sound.

There is a long history of market vendors announcing, singing or chanting their goods to the public. On Essex Street before cart vendors were moved off the street and into the market, they would call out their goods, hoping to attract buyers. I imagine that when the market first opened this practice continued. Today, walk through a traditional Latin American market and you will hear various products sung in to the air. To develop my project, I solicited vendors to vocalize their products and the more performative, the better. Only two vendors played along, one eagerly – Rosella Albanese from Pain d’Avignon and another through a bit of coaxing – Yanivis Rodriguez of Luna Brothers. You may listen to each of their recordings here. When I was trying to talk Yanivis into the recording while she worked the register, a shopper began to tell me about her recipes for preparing yams. It was an older Dominican woman, perhaps in her 60s who after describing her recipe, told me about the many health benefits of yams.

As I was having a difficult time convincing vendors to sing or chant their goods, I decided to request a recipe from them. This turned out effective as I’ve collected several recipes from vendors and customers. The final piece is an audio montage that captures a portrait of the Essex Street Market through the voices of vendors and customers alike all recorded within the market. The audio montage is titled Recetas y Gangas (Recipes and Deals).

New York Magazine Does Not Pay Immigrant Subjects

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New York MagazineWith a verified paid circulation of 404,5731, you would think that New York Magazine would offer a small honorarium to immigrants who are photographed for the magazine.

The bi-weekly New York Magazine is a limited liability company (LLC) with a cover price of $5.99 and an annual subscription cost ranging from $25 to $29.97. In September 2014, New York had the biggest growth for online traffic in the company’s history with 27 million monthly unique visitors across it’s web properties (NYmag.com, Vulture, the Cut, Grub Street and Science of Us)2. The magazine has claimed that it’s newsstand business remains highly profitable3 and yet it expects immigrants to be photographed and featured in the magazine to voluntarily offer 2 hours of their time.

Last week I received the following call via an email list that I’m on:

Boom Production Casting Call – New York Magazine

What: Looking for New York immigrants from ALL walks of life— this can include babies, infants, grandparents, mothers, daughters, sons, everyone. From diverse neighborhoods and ethnic communities all over the 5 boroughs. Immigration Status doesn’t matter!!! Only requirement you must be born in another country and live here in NY. Feel free to pass this along to a friend of family member.
When: Shoot dates – Monday Nov 28th and Tuesday Nov 29th in New York City (Requires a minimum of 2 hours of availability)

About the Photographer: Platon (Has photographed, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Woody Allen, Adele and Alicia Keys to name a few)

I then emailed the contact for the call asking how much does the two hour photo shoot pay. I got the following response:
This is a journalistic project therefore theres no rate for it.

So then I replied – am I to understand that the photo shoot, feeds NY Magazine content that is sold to buyers and subscribers and will help promote Platon’s career, whom I assume is paid for taking the photographs, but the subjects get nothing for their time? If so, it seems as if the magazine and photographer are taking advantage of immigrants based partly on the current political environment in this country.

And to this email, I received the following response:

This is a voluntary participation,

This content is to fulfill an article being written about the amazing citizens of NY who migrated here from somewhere…

Amazing citizens whose portraits will help sell the magazine and yet not even a small honorarium for their time. I am a CUNY professor with a lousy salary for New York City and when I work with immigrants on an art project, I always put aside an honorarium for their time. In a latest project, I budgeted $120/hour for 10 interviewees. I have a tiny budget and no expectation of a profit on an artistic project, yet, I respect the people who work with me and their time hence I offer an honorarium. It’s unbelievable that a successful magazine can not do the same.


Footnotes

1. The Alliance for Audited Media
2. Magazine.org
3. Folio

Written by ricardo

November 28th, 2016 at 8:47 am

Too Many Guppies

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I took a video of a clarinet and drum duo inside the Metro Tech Subway Station and created a rotoscope animation with the musicians in the foreground, a collection of subway advertisements that I’ve documented over the years in the background and recent gentrification interviews as audio… This is New York City!

On View at Cuchifritos Gallery

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Artist Antonia Pérez creates sculptures by weaving discarded plastic bags. She worked at the gallery during the exhibition.

This is the final weekend for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” at Cuchifritos Gallery located in the Essex Street Market. The exhibition curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful has been in the works for the past two years. The premise of the exhibition is for “six socially conscious artists to engage vendors, customers and the Market itself in their artistic processes as a means of co-generating experiences centered on the life that unfolds outside Cuchifritos Gallery, the art space of the Artist Alliance Inc”.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Recetas y Gangas: The Essex Street Market Recordings” with mock up of originally proposed installation of bullhorn on the facade of the market

So in preparation for the exhibition, the artists came together with Jodi Waynberg the Executive Director of Artist Alliance as well as Nicolas to begin considering how the artists might work with the market. Jodi toured the artists through the market and introduced them to various vendors as well as the building manager and staff. Nearly all the artists attended a Vendors Association Meeting to present their projects and solicit collaboration.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Refuse Redo” a collaboration between Mary Ting and Lower East Side Girls Club/La Tiendita – sculptures made from market cardboard.

As one may imagine, the vendors are small business owners and workers. The market is the place that they go to for employment, not necessarily for cultural engagement. Many of the vendors are entirely preoccupied with maintaining their business and were no nonsense about artistic participation. If the artists did not approach with a brief and concrete plan for collaboration, there was little chance of any cooperation. A few vendors were excited at the prospect of creative engagement and happily collaborated. However in general, the ambitious projects envisioned by the artists needed to be simplified.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

Scent and air time capsule of the Essex Street Market by Beatrice Glow.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

Market collection and journal by Inspector Collector Harley Spiller.


Laia Solé and Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful employ the color green from the market to create a video montage that collapses the artists at work and the market at work.

For example, I wanted to create an audio montage of the vendors chanting or singing their goods and then to have that audio amplified onto the street via a bullhorn installed on the facade of the Essex Street Market. The concept was to have the interior of the market spill out onto the street as street markets commonly do in Latin America and Europe. Most of the vendors were not comfortable in singing their goods and the building management did not allow the installation of the bullhorn due to city ordinances regarding noise pollution (at least that was their excuse). When I was recording one of the vendors, a shopper approached me to tell me about recipes that she uses for a particular root. It then occurred to me that if vendors did not want to sing, perhaps they would share a recipe and the audio montage became primarily recordings of market recipes. As the piece would not be projected onto the street via a loudspeaker, I created a sandwich board with a speaker installed into it and wore the sandwich board on the street. In this way, the original concept of the piece was fully realized.

Each artist has her or his own story of how the work needed to be modified for the final exhibition. And in the end, this is the nature of collaboration.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Recetas y Gangas: The Essex Street Market Recordings” with mock up of originally proposed installation of bullhorn on the facade of the market

Drawings for Bernie!

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Alevo Zkaynak drawing for Bernie

On an outing to Fort Greene Park yesterday afternoon, I met Alevo Zkaynak at the entrance of the park. She was holding a home made banner declaring “BERNIE DRAWS THE LINE – LINE DRAWINGS!!!”. From the banner hung 5 terrific line drawings created by the artist to generate donations for Bernie. She told me that she was out of money to give to Bernie, so she made the drawings to sell; she’d send half the proceeds to the Bernie campaign.

It is this sort of youthful and earnest enthusiasm that makes me wish that Bernie Sanders Political Revolution did occur. Unfortunately as with Obama’s HOPE, the United States is far too divided for any revolution to occur whether it’s a revolution of bigotry and hate or one of openness and love. As with much of Obama’s tenure, the Republicans are blocking the President’s right to select a new Supreme Court judge. When our representatives are unwilling to do their job, it is amazing that any legislation gets done in this country. Change must occur, perhaps it will happen through today’s youth, people like Alevo Zkaynak.

Downstairs Neighbor

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My wife emailed me the video below and dared me to send it to our downstairs neighbor (we live in a six story 1920s art deco Brooklyn coop building). The video captures our neighbor’s perception of us. Following his complaint to our coop board for our walking, we met with the building’s head of management who served as the mediator. At the meeting our neighbor stomped around, pounding the floor as hard as he could to illustrate the manner that we walk in our apartment. And he claimed that we walk this way to intentionally abuse him! This man actually thinks we walk in our apartment with him in mind, because we are bent on torturing him at all times. In his mind, we are the upstairs couple in this video:

Unlike the video above, our neighbor has anger issues and has twice slammed on our door to yell at us, once for bouncing a nerf ball with a toddler and the second time for allowing our 3 year old to run in the apartment (we didn’t allow him, but he was three). This is following three years of this neighbor telling us how great we were (we moved in just before our son was born). We went from being great neighbors to intentionally stomping on our floor to torture the man. My kid is now seven, so the years of nastiness now out-number the friendly years… It’s a bit nuts as we do not wear shoes in the house, throw parties, stay up late or even play music loudly (we listen to WNYC).

Written by ricardo

January 20th, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Posted in New York

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