july 9 2019 - pass the torch
on dance/writing legacy, plus lotsa tweets/vids, bet u missed them
|Benedict Nguyen||Jul 9, 2019||1|
but delivered to you in reverse order!
today , the moon shifts into its first quarter phase in libra. I’mma choose to not say more cause it is what it is
I recently made some ‘art’ ( I shouldn’t dismiss myself like this but) for a pop-up with HECHA / 做 . I won’t share photos just yet but will branch from the ish-aesthetic of that miniest piece with this slushy
^^byeeee, c u when I deserve to leave the trash
^^going between like 7 hrs and like 5 hrs a night so odd #’s only y’all
^^to have such clear focus!
plus some quick hot takes on recent reads (as they came up on my queue at least):
Katy Kelleher on ‘mustard yellow’ / turmeric
~~ yes color history and sorry, but i’m still not over millennial pink. #basics
Soraya Roberts on certain people commanding $4/word
~~ and also, the nepotistic gross relationships at the heart of it all. my take: blegh!
Rebecca Liu on the fascination with ‘millennial [TV] women’
~~ I quote, “Politics has increasingly been shuffled into the media-centric realm of the representational, replete as it is with artists, writers, and journalists who are not political organisers, not activists, and are certainly not the vanguard of any revolution.”
Margaret Talbot profiles Mitski
~~ where, among other things, Mitski gets to speak back to mischaracterizations of her work in previous profiles. the power!
Joan Acocella on the future of ‘modern dance’
There have been many good takes on this and, to the overbearing whiteness of this piece, the lack of mention of so many other ‘important (i.e. famous) folks’ in the field, and the really offensive language at times, I'll add some more complaints: that this piece makes the worst of dance/dance writing by
failing to place the artists (and art) discussed in a sociohistorical context and thus, upholding the worst of dance’s reputation as a gilded, elitist form. What does it actually look like for “Those who are trying to revive dances by a dead founder [to] constantly face complaints by old-timers that the result looks inaccurate, inauthentic?” If we’re comparing this to ballet (which seems to be the only referent that matters to this piece), people already complain about how modern ballet dancers are too thin and too acrobatic for the ‘original work’. But what do the shifts in aesthetics and interpretation of a work over time say about dance, dancers, dancers’ bodies, the true ‘spirit’ of a foundational choreographer or dance, and the specific place/time something is being rehearsed or performed in? How does one carry forward an art form though the body? Acocella seems ready to dismiss this ‘romantic’ question but to me, it’s one of the more interesting ones.
making sweeping generalizations of this broad field and the people who move within it. She writes about ‘older-dancer syndrome,’ and offers this proclamation about dancers more broadly: ‘And once their feet or shoulders have been trained, for years, to do a certain thing, they can’t easily do another thing.’) I feel like Acocella projects these generalizations and insecurities onto everyone, which ignores the (I would guess) much larger percentage of folks who have entirely different syndromes about dance and those who dance so many different things (if not easily, then quite well). The effect of these statements is a further closing off of dance to those who feel intimidated by it. The tone suggests, “If you’re ‘old or fat or tired,’ [she said this] it’s too late. Your body and mindset are rigid and unadaptable to new (somatic, embodied) ideas.” This is a terrible thing to imply, least of all because it’s just not true.
failing to call into question the presumption of Cunningham and Mark Morris, 2 white men (among others), to decide how their legacy should fit into a dance-cultural landscape post-mortem. Isn’t it kind of eerie to harness acquired social/financial/institutional capital and shove into the future a particular kind of thinking, a particular kind of work? Dance doesn’t have to serve people but when they’re talking about presenting it for people, this kind of planning feels icky. There’s preserving lineage and there’s (eek, here’s where the stereotype comes from) creating/sharing into an unpredictable future simply because one can. It’s taking this ephemeral, time-based form beyond one’s ephemeral time living in this ecosystem. But this isn’t questioned because the mere feat and capacity to hoard all of the capital required to do this work is so impressive that it must be a given that there will be interest. But we all know that’s not how money grows in the USA
but wait, B, what does this random dance complaint have to do with non-dance?
Regarding, certain of these artists extending and reflecting on their legacies by sharing stages with other creators, Acocella worries that “it violates what was supposed to be the mission of modern-dance companies: to present the vision of one artist.” Again, a big sweeping generalization, but what does it say that some of today’s ‘big names’ are shifting in that direction? It suggests that maybe contemporary folks aren’t interested in this singular vision. Perhaps it’s no longer financially viable; maybe even, this model isn’t artistically interesting. The expression of Acocella’s consternation does more clearly suggest that cult of (white, male) genius/personality still runs strong in people’s thinking about whose art/work gets to matter (in the now and over time) and that ‘important work’ must be constituted by a singular, exceptional individualism. I am yawning.
It’s frustrating how Acocella talks about older dancemakers’ late years as “a pageant of continuance in flat denial of imminent crisis” without recognizing how, by continuing to take up space in the cultural criticism ecology with these views, this essay definitely has a spot on that parade float. From the #demdebates, the thread of candidates pushing for Joe Biden to ‘pass the torch’ was one of the revealing dynamics to watch play out on a stage (political performance!). Acocella uses the phrase twice. Biden didn’t help his case for clutching his torch and neither have the white dance dudes and Acocella in this piece.
I didn’t mean to write this much about this, but here we are, at 1:14am.
From Soraya’s article (and others), I wonder about bridge burning in a ‘small’ field and how sharing thoughts like these isn’t good etiquette for a young folk like me, but oops
✰ benedict nguyen @xbennyboosome personal news / so excited to announce :: had a dream about packing for #semisolovacay2019 , coming to ME in 3 wks omg
this is dance; this is ‘soft touch’
burying the lede since 19__,
bonus: I got to model for CFGNY a couple weeks ago and it got covered by Vogue.com . all requests to me of any kind moving fwd must include glam, thank you.