more: because my friends all have wicked style, and because obviously x-pro’ing the hell out of every last grainy, uber-wide-angle image needs to make a comeback along with all of the hair clips, manic panic, creepers, scrunchies, and temp tats
Okay, kids. We need to interrupt our usual programming because of the fact that I absolutely need to rave at great length about the incredible experience that was Sleep No More, okay?
There probably isn’t much to be said about it that hasn’t already been said — NYMag and NYTimes sum it up pretty well — but I basically still can’t stop talking about it after disappearing into a strange outer Chelsea warehouse for three hours last night. For those who have missed the press hype, it’s a loosely interpreted “immersive” experience of Macbeth, updated to 1930’s noir and peppered with Hitchcok characters. Meaning: you enter, are given a white mask, are told that you may touch anything but never speak, and left to wander over 100 rooms in a massive, six-story space, while actors (often grabbing at the audience screaming, often having dramatic breakdowns, often climbing up the walls and furniture with inhuman agility, and often naked) move throughout the building acting out scenes from a more-or-less Macbeth, with most of the dialogue replaced with compelling, convulsive dance.
The attention to detail in every last room is unbelievable: every drawer is filled with something (hair samples, cut paper, a silk stocking, dirt, dried flowers, love letters) and every room is impeccably lit, filled with strange sounds and even smells. The sheer labyrinthine volume of space (100,000 square feet, I believe) to be explored on all scales — from the enormous ballroom filled with pine trees to the last details of every paper in a detective’s file cabinet — adds to the strangely dreamlike, filmic, utterly bizarre impression you leave with: some details and events in perfect crisp detail, others a blur of flickering lightbulbs, velvet curtains, and a distant scream heard from down a hallway.
For those who care about “plot,” (psh, what outdated notions!) obviously, it’s impossible to get the whole story — but who doesn’t know Macbeth by heart by now? Besides, we all know that if there’s one thing I totally get off on it’s DECONSTRUCTED UBER-POSTMODERN NARRATIVES and then you consider that it ALSO INCORPORATES ALL FIVE SENSES AND LITERALLY PHYSICALLY WALKING THROUGH THE NARRATIVE AND ALSO COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE AND HAVING TO PIECE TOGETHER THE STORY AFTER THE FACT AND ALSO CREEPY COSTUMES AND MASKS ALSO WITCHES AND DISGUSTINGLY CHIC FILM NOIR SETS HOLY CRAP SERIOUSLY, I mean, really. But beyond that? The whole thing was eerie, suspenseful, beautiful, and strangely sexy — completely haunting and, forgive all this hyperbole, probably unforgettable. I seriously want to spend another $80 to go back again. Totally worth it and if you’re in the area you should probably get a ticket like right the fuck now since it’s only playing until July 9th and available dates are getting limited.
image: V Magazine
The space was beautiful and nightmarish, especially in the way your journey physically creates the narrative — as in dreams, a twisting corridor lined with children’s bedrooms (naturally!) suddenly becomes an outside graveyard, dimly lit, noticeably cooler and more humid, and thick with the smell of wet ground. Behind a brick wall in the graveyard you find a candlelit room, surrounded on three sides by French doors (sometimes open, but an hour later, locked) which is bare save for a blood-filled bathtub on a pedestal, a handful of torn papers (love letters, upon closer inspection), and a woman’s slip lying in a puddle on the floor. A flight of stairs leads to a psych ward of a hospital, where a nurse with her cap askew sits meticulously cutting perfect squares from a textbook with a razor blade; in the next room, the walls of a padded room are pierced with hundreds of black feathers, and in the next, fluttering laundry and a strong wind, and then suddenly and without warning you find yourself in a labyrinth of wrought-iron gates and white birch trees. After fifteen minutes of wandering you finally discover another flight of stairs, which leads to a candy shop (caramel-scented, with jars of real sweets you can eat) which in turn faces a witches’ lair filled with dried herbs, skulls, and old, yellowed books of spells, which in turn leads to a cabaret where (I’m not joking about this) a naked man wearing a bull mask and horns dances on a table as two half-naked witches writhe out of their evening gowns under the strobe lights to pounding dance music, convulsing and smearing themselves with blood that they drink from crystal-cut shot glasses, alternately crying and laughing maniacally.
Then there’s the actors — Lady Macbeth, whom I first found naked in a bathtub crying, encountered me later, her hair still wet but now clad in a backless sequin evening gown, fell to the floor clutching at my skirt, screaming that I was a ghost, before slamming herself into the wall and collapsing into the arms of another audience member, in tears and mumbling about the perfumes of Arabia. Down the hall, a bellhop dragged another young boy in a tuxedo into a phonebooth to kiss while a woman in a red evening gown and velvet gloves flirted wordlessly with an audience member before throwing him into a closet, which was probably another hallway. Ten minutes later, Macduff and his very pregnant lady fought and made up through dance moments before their murder, climbing bookshelves to kiss each other joyfully ten feet above my head. And then there was a black mass, and the hanging, and the man dying in a strange tent strewn with roses, and the woman in the tweed skirt who wrote on a piece of paper “plant this seed and it will tell you who is friend and who is foe” before running from the room — who they all were, I have no idea.
It’s an oddly visceral experience and an out-of-body one at the same time — as if one of the most well known plays by the most well known playwright of the English language became some kind of choose-your-own-adventure/Myst (REMEMBER THAT YOU GUYS) hybrid, while looking as if Eyes Wide Shut was set in the hotel from The Shining, with Hitchcock as the director instead. Mostly though, it seems like a dream: everything, as in dreams, seems to lack structure, shape, meaning, or a sense of time and place — both events and rooms seem to blur together and lead into each other in strange ways that leave you, as when waking, trying to piece together details that seem just out of reach.
Plenty of photos after the jump — although aside from the shot of my mask above, they’re all jacked from other places, as photography was prohibited — but I definitely don’t regret abandoning my only links to the outside world (camera, phone, bag) before entering the maze. (ScoutingNY also did a great April Fool’s post claiming that the space was actually an abandoned hotel, for a better idea of the intricacy of some of the sets.)
Y’all, we need to take a second to talk about how obsessed I am with Langoliers, okay? We all know how much I like things that mix rough with delicate, the decadent and glamorous with the macabre — so it’s no surprise that the decayed texture and organic fragility of their knit and tangled chains and metal-cast-crochet pieces appeals to me bigtime.
(I guess I’m legally also supposed to disclose that my company works with them, but that also lets me tell you something else awesome: of all the press releases, onesheets, and marketing copy I’ve had to write, these guys were the first time ever that a band/artist/designer sent me their notes for a biography and instead of trying to make the uninspired sound fresh and grammatically correct, I actually had to dumb it down so that the general public would be able to deal.) We’re talking TS Eliot, western esotericism, numerology, and weird Anglo-Saxon mythology as inspiration for the collection, as well as complex systems of mathematical patterns that they weave into every piece. As if it didn’t look cool enough already.
REST AFTER THE JUMP
Sorry kids, is this too many photography posts in a week? But seriously, you guys — that photo of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe on their balcony that everyone ever loves has been done to death and we still love it, but check out these images of the two of them, shot by Judith Linn (who teaches at my alma mater, and who I definitely had no idea was hanging around Manhattan with Patti Smith before she became, you know, some other art professor at my college.) A book of the images just came out, and the show opens at Feature on the LES tomorrow evening.
More after the jump.
While when it comes to NYC street photography I tend to rave mostly about Bruce Davidson (I’ve blogged about Brooklyn Gang probably like sixteen times by now for real) and while the slick, stylish urban glitz of his work creates a romantic vision of this city which I can’t get enough of, Helen Levitt is among my favourites as well.
Along with Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Levitt’s widely considered part of a triumvirate of great street photographers of the early twentieth century. Her work though somehow seems more empathetic than either of theirs — almost always candid, frequently of the elderly or children, unpretentious and somehow restrained. Levitt was an unobtrusive photographer — even when Walker Evans snapped photos of subway riders from a camera hidden in his overcoat, he framed and edited them to look like formal portraits. In contrast, Levitt was one of those photographers who chooses the awkward images: the imperfect shots, mid-gesture, that look more like film stills than paintings, frames from a hidden surveillance camera rather than calculated representations.
As compared to Evans’ more polished, clean portraiture and Cartier-Bresson’s decidedly Parisian glamour, Levitt’s work is gritty, uncomfortable, and occasionally downright weird — somehow the most honest portrayal of New York of the three. Her photographs of city streets, which range from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, somehow still always seem familiar despite the distance in years, as if she’s captured something quintessentially New York that persists even today.
More after the jump, as usual.
Bevel. Kind of obsessed with these ear cuffs and wishing the strange face-armor was, you know, work/life-appropriate. I love the creepy, organic, almost exoskeleton-like feel to everything: it looks like the decayed bones of some small animal or like the cracked and sea-worn remnants of crabs and shells you find on the beach. [[via Jesse//CreateBuildDestroy]]
More after the jump.
more old film. august thru december, disposable cameras.
It’s like #GPOYW, except it’s a Monday, and it’s mostly recent photos of a handful of my excessively cool/well-dressed friends from the past months. Soon to be followed by the, uh, six rolls of film I’ve forgotten to get developed since the summer. Hot damn!
I’m sorry, how cool are these? This summer I queued-to-post-but-didn’t (this is how this blog actually works, by the way, as if it was run by a CRAZY PERSON) KT Auleta’s hardcore-inspired spread with Tasha Tilberg from Twin Magazine, because it, I don’t know, felt weird and stylized and like too clean or something, and I felt like I was maybe only into it because they totally made her look like the girls I had crushes on in high school when I was going to craptacular NJ hardcore/emo shows before I actually knew that I had crushes on them and thought I just wanted their moshpit sweat/haircut in like a really intense way or something, and because the styling was just, like, how I dress on a daily basis anyhow.
SO here as a replacement half a year later, we can post these actual photos from the hardcore scene in NYC from the days before CBGB was a John Varvatos store, which are way more awesome than any Twin editorials anyhow. Also, the lady that took them supposedly ended up being in The Silence of the Lambs and Grey’s Anatomy? Oh, okay. More after the jump. [via SB+TVC]