Articles by

<Jennifer Mills>

03/05/12 2:00pm


Stepping into the back room of the Invisible Dog gallery this weekend was something like wondering into one of those old marionette theaters for kids, except transplanted to Brooklyn and equally attended by trendy art folks and children. The gallery hosted four intimate performances of musician/composer Laurent Bigot’s “Le Petit Cirque,” (“The Small Circus”) to audiences of rapt children, and equally fascinated adults. The circus, a sound performance with noises made from mechanical toys sliding along wires and microphones strategically posted about the artist’s stage, was presented in conjunction with the French Embassy.

The whole “stage” was mounted on a simple table. Lamps were clipped onto and mounted on the edges. On the two far sides of the table sprung up two poles, strung together by a wire with a bird toy balancing on it. There was a lower set of wires on the back of the table and to the left a frame with a paper pin-up doll fastened to a swing inside it. Throughout the performance, Bigot would constantly add new elements to the structure, coils, plates and pedestals littering the miniature arena.

“There is as much to listen to as to watch” announced Bigot before Saturday evening’s debut performance. As paperdoll tightrope walkers glided along wires, theremin-like chords resounded. “Splat!” could be heard as Bigot flung little action figure men made of sticky-gel at a long roll of paper in front of him. Whirring metal tops spun out wildly from some air-pressure spinning top-releasing device (who knew those even existed?). Add to all of this the giggles and gasps from the children in the audience, and who needs Cirque-de-Soleil?

Bigot, with wrinkled forehead and outfitted in a black t-shirt and grey suspenders, recalled some lovably obsessive character from Amelie. Every once in a while the ringleader broke from the focus of the performance and let slip a “Oui!” or “Bon!” whenever one of his toys performed well. After a wind-up hamster toy had finished revolving and spinning around the inside of a sphere, Bigot picked it up and patted its head. After the performance, he was surrounded by a throng of cherub-like little children and took time to point out every toy and sound device to them.

Although there are no more scheduled performances of “Le Petit Cirque,” the Invisible Dog will be hosting another 3-part exhibition this weekend. And if you missed it, you can watch a video of a previous circus, here.

02/27/12 11:24am


“Hey, is this the… Snowflake Party?” asked a curious passerby to a roomful of people industriously cutting and perfecting their paper creations at last Sunday’s “Build A Blizzard” event. The “blizzard” is actually a thick tangle of paper-snowflakes hung from a hallway ceiling, inspired by artist Caroline Burghardt’s bout with a couch-ridden cold earlier in the year. The event is also part of Round Robin Art Collective’s “Hospitality” exhibition, a series of community-based events that are taking over Greenpoint’s Arts@Renaissance space until March 10.

Arts@Renaissance space is billed as an “innovative community art space” in the “garden level” (read: basement) of a former outpatient hospital building. The space has been hosting exhibitions since July 2010, but has quietly been building a following. The space’s goal, according to Arts@Renaissance program manager Chris Henderson, is to find “common ground between the neighborhood’s emerging creative population and the longtime low and moderate residents of the neighborhood’s dynamic ethnic communities.” This entails a series of event-based exhibitions by local creative groups, which in the past has included collaborations with Scene:Brooklyn and Chez Bushwick.

The enormous 4,500 square-foot space is a labyrinth of hallways and hidden rooms, most of which are showers or old bathrooms. “They pretty much let you do whatever you want” Burghardt says, leading me through a former group shower that is in the midst of a transformation into an installation by artist. With walls and floors streaked with swirls of red, teal, and gold spray paint, there is a sign on the door which warns that any visitor must “consent to such photography, filming and/or recording” for any use “throughout the universe in perpetuity.” Voyeurism fits in pretty nicely with this space, which recently hosted an artist’s talk in one of its already claustrophobic shower stalls. Another long, narrow room is set to house an installation of fabric “prismatic vortexes” by artist Amanda Browder. Each vortex looks kind of like a funnel made of fabric strips, many of which were cut and sewn at “Community Sewing Day,” another Round Robin event.

In the more welcoming workroom at the space’s entrance there are large chalk boards on the walls and workman’s tables covered in scraps from the snowflakes. Burghardt’s ipod blasts block party-worthy jams while attendees gulp down the complimentary coffee and donuts. The whole “Blizzard” feels like a really artsy block party really, with community members all contributing some small part to a much larger installation (which ends up looking a bit like a very creative effort from a prom committee).

Round Robin’s residency goes on until March 11th, and includes many more fun events like art show Audio Light Leap (which will feature a Disney Proncess mashup video re-scored with 80s classics), and a Winter Barbecue. You can get a full listing of the events here. After Round Robin, there will be spring residencies from Jill Sigman’s “Hut” project, featuring performances and events given in a temporary structure built from repurposed materials. In May, Leat Klingman will be hosting workshops and demonstrations on the act of puppeteering.

We hope that Arts@Renaissance sticks around, unlike similar community arts projects like the Trinity Project or the group exhibitions at former convent Saint Cecilia’s. “A hospital is no place to be sick” Samuel Goldwyn once said. Turns out it’s a damn fine place to cut out paper snowflakes.

02/10/12 3:20pm

Noted literary criminals Emma Bovary and Tom Ripley. (Courtesy The Composites)

  • Noted literary criminals Emma Bovary and Tom Ripley. (Courtesy The Composites)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Brian Joseph Davis’s new Tumblr The Composites takes this pretty literally. Using descriptions of famous literary crooks and police sketch technology, The Composites attempts to show exactly what your favorite villains would look like in real life (that’s Emma Bovary and Tom Ripley, above). It’s a relatively new Tumblr, so we’re putting in a request for these 10 book baddies we’d love to see.

Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders: Sure you might remember C. Thomas Howell’s version of the Greaser in the 1983 film, but who wouldn’t want to see the soulful, tortured little gangster in sorta real life?

Meursault from The Stranger: The indifferent, honest, and mysterious main character from Camus’ 1942 may not have cared that Marie was in love with him, but we’d like to see why she was.

The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist: Dickens describes the self-assured prince of the pick-pockets as “a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man.”

Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca: The vengeful maid of a deceased mistress, Daphne Du Maurier’s antagonist tries to persuade the narrator to kill herself and even sets fire to Manderlay hall. For Downton Abbey fans, think of a psychotic version of O’brien.

Captain Ahab from Moby Dick: Whaling is so illegal. Sadly, Ahab probably doesn’t look nearly as handsome as the composite of Gregory Peck and Patrick Stewart that we always picture in our mind’s eye.

The White Witch from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: Narnia’s most formidable albino is abnormally tall and has inflicted an eternal winter on the land (without Christmas!), but somehow she is still able to charm Edmund with the aid of Turkish Delight. Even given Tilda Swinton’s formidable interpretation in the Narnia films, countless fantasy book nerds would still like to see this dictatress in the flesh.

Mr. Hyde from Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The strange elixir drunk by Dr. Henry Jekyll in the novella transforms him from a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty” into Mr. Edward Hyde, a small cruel and remorseless man who takes pleasure in destruction, murder, and lustful activities that were too touchy from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian readership to handle.

Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations: Sure, we all know the famous animated character, but in the book this disgraced aristocrat has black and white braided hair, tons of jewels around her neck, and of course the trademark fur coat.

The Judge from Blood Meridian: The gargantuan scalp-hunter from one of Cormac Mccarthy’s Western novels, Judge is supposedly hairless, lacking even eyebrows and eyelashes.

Grendel’s mother from Beowulf: Because there’s no way she looks like Angelina Jolie.

02/08/12 9:46am

Attendees at last weeks Dorkbot meeting listen attentively. (Courtesy Doug Repetto/Dorkbot)

  • Attendees at last week’s Dorkbot meeting listen attentively. (Courtesy Doug Repetto/Dorkbot)

Tucked behind a curtain in Soho gallery Location One, some of New York’s most up-to-date techies congregate. Some are discussing the transition from “http” to “https,” others are comparing their highest Skyrim score. They are all gathered here for Dorkbot, the 11-year-old technology forum that happens here the first Wednesday of every month.

The bespectacled and iPhone-clasping crowd is headed by Dorkbot founder Doug Repetto, who got the idea for the meetings after moving to New York to work at Columbia University. He wanted to create a place for people to “share what they’re doing informally,” he tells me. After sending emails to different technology organizations around New York, the first Dorkbot was assembled and the event has since grown to cities all around the world. And the meetings live up to Repetto’s vision of informality, even relying on guests and visitors to provide food and drinks for the meeting’s snack bar (last Wednesday’s buffet included wine, donuts and pretzel chips). Repetto wanted to make it “as much not like a club as possible,” and says that about three quarters of the crowd changes at every meeting.

Last week’s first offering was from Josh Silverman, a designer involved in making ABC’s Times Square screen and CEO of Pretty Extreme Industries. Silverman’s invention, called “Synplode,” is an interactive dance floor where dancers’ movement across a dance-grid is tracked by an infrared camera. As dancers pass over different units on the grid, different sounds are produced, all of it meshing into a lush, electro-dance soundscape. (You can see a demonstration of the dancefloor here.)

Next up was artist, designer, and “neuro enthusiast” Pinar Yoldas. Despite her soft-spokenness and twee looks, Yoldas’s presentation was particularly graphic and imagined with what kind of creatures might come into being if the world were created today in some kind of consumer-industrial apocalypse. The techno swamp monsters, according to Yoldas, would be a “purely sexual species,” with females made from a cluster of mammaries, and the “Mega-male” a stringy creature made of interconnected phalluses (“It has no brain,” Yoldas made a point of saying). The last five minutes of her presentation involved plans for shock-therapy to stop credit card use.

To brighten the mood slightly, the last presenter of the evening was professor and Bill Nye the Science Guy lookalike, Arno Klein. Klein has taken a picture of his (adorable) daughter every day for 7 years, and has mapped and aligned pictures of her face using brain-imaging technology to morph and layer her image from birth till childhood. It’s like if Einstein were obsessed with LOLcats. You can see a video of the first five years of this experiment here.

The best part of the evening is the post-presentation discussion. As the crowd includes mostly science and technology peers (and the occasional fascinated college student), the repartee is mostly suggestions more than questions, one audience member even suggesting that Yoldas modify her shock collar so that it give massages if the wearer buys things like fair-trade coffee. Next month’s meeting will feature presentations from video and sound artists Katherine Liberovskaya and Keiko Uenishi, and Ranjit Bhatnagar of moonmilk who has just begun chronicling a February instrument-a-day challenge on his website.