bare life (eiko) on wall street

Marx called money a “general equivalent.” It is this equivalence that is being discussed here. Not to think about it by itself, but to reflect that the regime of general equivalence henceforth virtually absorbs, well beyond the monetary or financial sphere but thanks to it and with regard to it, all the spheres of human existence, and along with them all things that exist.

Jean-Luc Nancy, After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes

Eiko Otake, A Body on Wall Street on June 20, 2016

(Aside: Eiko and Nancy are not a 100% match, but that’s not the point here.)

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016_DSC6922 Photo by Wm Johnston

I like this next shot.

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016 No_0196

And the same thing here.

Eiko on Wall St 20 June 2016 No_1228

Eiko teaches here (Colorado) in the fall.

The Most Naive Philosopher

[Foucault] may perhaps have meant that I was the most naive philosopher of our generation. In all of us you find themes like multiplicity, difference, repetition. But I put forward almost raw concepts of these, while others work with more meditations. I’ve never worried about going beyond metaphysics…I’ve never renounced a kind of empiricism…Maybe that’s what Foucault meant: I wasn’t better than others, but more naive, producing a kind of art brut, so to speak, not the most profound but the most innocent. 

(Deleuze, Negotiations 88-90) via Paul Patton via Vibrant Matter, 128

Ornamentality in Post-Minimalist Choreography: A Sketch for a Category

A friend recently returned from NYC brought this performance by Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey to my attention. Our discussion led us to think about the possiblity of thinking about ornamentality as trend in post-minimalist veins of contemporary choreography. Ornamentality would relate to a return to the beautiful, or at least, to trained awkwardness as a reference to the loss of beauty. This position relates to minimalism because minimalist dance traces the disappearance of visual forms, but in doing so paradoxically retains the visual. Installation and gallery-based works might be particularly predisposed to falling into this category, given that they cease to deal with temporal constraints and narrative framing.

Post-mininalist ornamentality? I didn’t see it, so this is all in theory.

Addendum: I’ve been reading a lot of Jean-Luc Nancy. He has a great quote about this issue— disappearance, transcendence, and the beautiful— in his essay, “The Vestige of Art.”

all of modernity that speaks of the invisible or the unrepresentable is always on the verge of renewing this motif… what makes for the beautiful, ever since Plato… for whom, in the access to beauty, it is a question of becoming oneself pure light and vision

At the limit…there remains nothing more than the Idea of art itself, like a pure gesture of presentation folded back on itself. But this residue still functions as Idea, and even as pure Idea of pure sense, or like an ideal visibility wihtou any other content than light itself (89-90)

(Hmm… I think this line of criticism may apply to my banner image from Deborah Hay…)


Annette Peacock: Spacing (not space)

A friend of mine who traffics in esoteric and avant-garde sounds has been dropping off loads of back issues of The Wire at my house. I came across this interesting observation in an article about by Daniel Shea about Annette Peacock:

Peacock’s early pieces often completely dispensed with chordal harmony, focusing instead on intervals between single notes. She had in mind an approach emphasizing slowness and space, partly in response to the frenetic pace and fireworks of free jazz. “Free music was very exciting, very intense, very male and energizing, but as a female I wanted to carve chunks of space out of it… you have to play waves 


Peacock has often described her pieces as environments, a term that… echoes composers such as Morton Feldman… [and his] preoccupation with decay, what he called “this departing landscape,” which “expresses where the sound exists in our hearing, leaving us rather than coming towards us.”


Robin Bernstein on Affect in The Rude Mechs

“Toward the Integration of Theatre History and Affect Studies: Shame and the Rude Mechs’s The Method Gun.” Theatre Journal 64:2 (May 2012): 213-230.




The Rude Mechs’s The Method Gun

I like this essay! In my opinion, it is consummately crafted and clearly frames its argument around a single concept: shame as an affect, as applied to a reading of The Rude Mechs’s The Method Gun. Bernstein’s reading is excellent, although this choice of subject strikes me as a bit improbable as a model for affect in theatre– but more on that later. First, the good stuff, in condensed form:


  • As an affect, shame replaces death

In a sense, death is overrated in theatre. It is, at least, too often assumed to be theatre’s ontological limit, the thing at risk in the foundational performance works of the sixties and seventies. Think Chris Burden. (Who is referenced in the name of the performance’s fictional guru, Stella Burden.) Or Marina. Or for that matter, Bernstein argues, Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked. (There are many other examples too.) As Bernstein points out, there is a lot of potential shame and embarrassment on stage, but “I have never seen anyone, onstage or in audience, die.” As I see it, the continuing perception of theatre and live performance with death is a sign that it depends on symbolic forms representation. Affect, on the other hand, does not conform to symbolic language– a fact that Kathleen Stewart points out repeatedly in the introduction to Ordinary Affects. Crucially, this shift also has consequences for the ontological status of performance, which is typically assumed to be “live.”

Lots to be said here.

  • The Rude Mechs’s Racial Shame

Bernstein deals with a numbers of ways in which The Method Gun consciously stages its anxiety about failing to live up to the example of one’s artistic predecessors, as well as the exacting standards of theatrical realism based on method acting. However, she points out that the performance also displays an unacknowledged source of shame: racial anxiety. Her two major pieces of evidence are compelling.

Firstly, The Method Gun conducts a meta-performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, which includes non-white roles occupied here by the white members of The Rude Mechs, who “play the roles as racially unmarked.” This unacknowledged racial substitution is a way of suppressing difference and the privileges accorded to whiteness. Here’s Bernstein:

“In The Method Gun, Burden’s actors’ self-involvement and self-examination stop abruptly before questions of whiteness; the Rude Mechs are willing to display themselves dancing awkwardly, crying, flubbing lines, or even tethering their genitalia to balloons, but they never acknowledge their cross-racial casting… They never acknowledge themselves as white.”

Convincing stuff.

Does race appear anywhere in the show? Why yes, says Bernstein, albeit unintentionally: in a clown-like figure who appears in the opening of the show– a tiger. Dressed like a mascot, it may not seem that this tiger is linked to racial ideology, but as Bernstein notes, it speaks with a Spanish accent for increased comic effect, even though “tigers are native to no Spanish-speaking part of the world.”

Method Gun

The tiger in The Method Gun.

Bernstein: “Its jaws sealed shut, the tiger performs the role of unmasticated shame– a cold lump of contemporary white shame that sits, unmoving and painful, in the belly of the show.”

What a great insight! Bernstein does an outstanding job in her racial analysis. Given her academic expertise, this reading should perhaps be no surprise. But one might also expect that the author of Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theatre would address the role of gender and sexuality in The Method Gun, especially since her conceptual framework is drawn from the queen of queer studies, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.

To my mind, The Method Gun also strongly invokes anxieties about gender and sexuality, especially about white masculinity. Even without closely reviewing the performance, it is possible to see evidence that supports this conclusion. First of all, method acting is a notoriously hypermasculine pursuit associated with the self-destructive urge of star actors, such as Robert de Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Christian Bale. (As seen in early Scorcese films, De Niro particularly epitomizes the hypermasculine display of masculine self-destruction.) Who can live up to the impossible intensity of these male stars? Hence, the ironic gesture towards the “gun”— an obvious phallic symbol— in the performance’s title, which was used by the company’s fictional acting guru, Stella Adler. As it turns out, the gun was always filled with blanks, a sign of metaphorical and literal impotence. Impotence is consistent with Adler’s presence of a female model for method acting. Perhaps the only thing worse than being unable to live up to one’s artistic forefathers is to be at the beck and call of a woman, who of course, turns out to be a fraud, a mere fiction. Little wonder that “she” never appears on stage, even in a photograph.

I suspect that there is other evidence to support this claim about the centrality of male anxiety to The Method Gun. One might, for instance, follow Bernstein’s racial analysis of Streetcar in order to examine how its gender politics affect the staging employed by The Rude Mechs. More pertinently, however, is the question about the absence of queerness. I am not sure if there is a “smoking gun” in this respect, as Bernstein found in her example of the Spanish-accented tiger. Perhaps The Rude Mechs’s anxiety about living up to Stella Adler invokes questions about artistic lineages that could be troubled by turning towards other models of kinship not based on the concept of inheritance and reproduction.

More broadly, what troubles me is the possibility that the performance of masculine anxiety at work in The Method Gun may also be present in work by other young ensemble theatre companies in the U.S.. As an example, the prominent group Elevator Repair Service comes to mind. Are they an all-white company? (Quick image searches suggest that they are, but that’s by no means proof of that fact.) Like The Method Gun, they are also dealing with issues of artistic predecessors in American culture, such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald– Gatz famously stages a full reading of The Great Gatsby, a man, it might be noted, who is the first and last of his kind, a fraud, much like The Rude Mechs’s Stella Adler. Oh, and he has some pretty big gender issues to boot.

Gatz Public Theater/Martinson Hall

Elevator Repair Service performing Gatz.

I have also had the pleasure to see ERS at work with my students. Several years ago, they gave an admirable workshop for us, which really energized students into thinking about different strategies for creative work– strategies that notably broke with models based on an internal process of self-expression. Instead of self-expression from within, they encouraged students to design movement sequences drawn from outside sources, taking this video of a performance by cheerleaders from Alcorn State as their model:


In the context of Bernstein’s analysis of the “race-blind casting” in The Method Gun, the artistic appropriation of this dance by ERS follows a similar pattern. Furthermore, it should prompt us to ask about the resulting dance in Gatz: what does it mean for these particular bodies and movements to be cited on stage by white performers? Does it reinforce specific racial anxieties and stereotypes, perhaps such as the powerful black female body, which could potentially overwhelm and overtake white civilized culture? In this sense, is the cheerleader’s dance implicitly likened to a primitive religious ritual? To what degree, if any, does the specter of miscegenation linger here?

In noting these questions, I have drifted from my original subject: the prospect of affect in theatre, especially as it relates to queerness. Following Bernstein’s model, thinking about shame— rather than death— may provide a way to rework anxieties here about death, be it the death of one’s artistic lineage and national identity or the social death imposed on subjects excluded from representation.


Impulstanz Impressions

I have been fortunate enough to spend several weeks in Vienna at the world’s leading dance festival, Impulstanz. The festival is a vast, sprawling entity consisting of workshops, residencies, courses for professionals— and likewise, performances. Lots of performances. Multiple performances each evening, some of which never repeat and last late into unruly hours of the night.

As it was impossible to attend all of these numerous performances, I focused my attention on solos, especially by emerging artists working at the borders between dance and “performance” more broadly construed. Since there were more such performances than I can describe in deep detail, I propose in this post to give my “impressions,” beginning with a few general observations.

1) The Identity Crisis.

First, a little background.

Contemporary dance is in the midst of an identity crisis. This crisis is the natural result of a succeeding series of stylistic developments that started with Pina Bausch, whose use of theatrical conventions increasingly seems to define dance. As is well-known, Bausch’s Tanztheater inspired a second generation of choreographers (Vandekeybus, Stuart, de Keersmaeker, Fabre) during the nineties in a movement whose epicenter was in Belgium. Twenty years later, many of these choreographers are still on the main stages at Impulstanz. Even though their early work remains relevant and important— by all accounts, Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker’s restaging of Elena’s Aria from 1985 was a festival highlight— they have long since ceased to represent the forefront of artistic innovation. Quite to the contrary, these choreographers have regressed into relatively conservative aesthetic frameworks, as exemplified by Wim Vandekeybus’ recent return to the quintessential dramatic narrative, Oedipus Rex.

It is also a well-established fact that this second wave of Tanztheater-inspired choreography gave way during the last decade to solo artists based in France, whose admirers have dubbed it “conceptual” dance. It is not my intention to describe this movement here. I only want to note that this movement too has peaked and begun to pass, as is evident when looking at the primacy of French dance at Impulstanz several years ago.

With the passing of conceptual dance, choreographers are left with a banal question: what’s next? Judging from this year’s performances, I would say that a solid period of self-reckoning is in order— rather than thinking forward towards the next new thing, dance may be approaching a period of historical reflection and reorganization. I, for one, think that this work is long overdue in numerous artistic fields, which often rely on unexamined precepts inherited from previous artistic periods. Most contemporary theatre and dance returns to problems and ideas initially encountered in post-war performance.

This influence of postwar experimental performance was at least implicitly acknowledged at Impulstanz. Several artists staged artistic encounters with luminaries of performance from the sixties: Eszter Salamon invoked John Cage; Trajal Harrell examined the legacy of Judson Dance; an Austrian-based trio produced a “vegan” version of Viennese Actionism ; and former Forsythe dancer Tony Rizzi cast himself as the “new” Jack Smith. At worst, they are suffering from a concept popularized by Harold Bloom, the anxiety of influence. As I will describe below, this is certainly the case for Tony Rizzi. At best, these performances have the potential to begin a substantial undertaking: examining the influence, limitations and unresolved problems stemming from postwar experimental performance in order to consciously reconstruct the aesthetic foundations for choreographic practice— one which may detach dance from its recent dependence on theatrical and narrative form.

(I have begun elsewhere to discuss aspects of this transition. My previous post alludes to a forthcoming piece on the autobiographical impulse in William Forsythe and Ralph Lemon’s choreography.)

Based on my impressions below, it will be perfectly clear where I feel that certain have artists fallen. But before proceeding, I would like to offer one more observation.

2) The (relative) decline of European dance

As described above, European choreographers have dominated dance for three decades. There are invariably exceptions to this statement, but I have long believed that European work has defined the field. Nevertheless, the 2011 Impulstanz Festival seemed to indicate a shift away from the unrivaled predominance of European dance. Much to my surprise, American choreographers assumed increasing prominence in the festival. In fact, among the admittedly incomplete selection of performances that I saw, the best were by American choreographers: Marie Chouinard and Trajal Harrell.

However, it would be premature— or better yet, inaccurate— to declare the preeminence of American performance. On the contrary, I believe that its resurgence suggests that the transatlantic division between Europe and North America is ceasing to define dance culture. (I would love to call this “global,” but there was an exclusive emphasis on Western dance traditions at the festival.)

Does this matter? Well, yes and no. It could certainly have implications for practitioners. The rise of an autonomous dance scene in the U.S. and Canada with connections to Europe could have a significant impact on the future of emerging choreographers. But what about in theoretical terms? Ultimately, what matters most at this point is the archeological act: like other artistic fields, performance is in a period of transition that will only be solved through active self-examination leading to the informed reconstruction of its fundamental premises and conventions.

In the early seventies, Julia Kristeva wrote a short, but beautifully insightful essay  in which she claimed that experimental theatre and dance had become the testing ground for the development of a “new subject” that would no longer defined as a particular and exclusive locus for individual consciousness— a subject criss-crossed by multiplicity, “a multitude of stories (histories) and spaces where totalitarianism cannot extend its grasp.”  But while waiting for this space of multiplicity, (which Kristeva refers to as “language,” by the way) to arrive, she reminds her reader that theatre merely offers temporary solution by staving off ideological domination. In order to achieve this new form of subjectivity, theatre must itself undergo a fundamental transformation. In other words, theatre must cease to be theatre. It must also cease to be the framework for dance, which means re-examining the legacy of Bausch’s Tanztheater in terms of earlier questions raised in post-war performance.

If not Kristeva’s “new subject,” I hope to have seen tentative traces of this project at Impulstanz this summer.

Part II: Impressions of Impulstanz7

(Listed according to the order in which I saw them.)

Eszter Salamon, dance for nothing

As described on her website (linked above), in this solo she recited John Cage’s 1949 “Lecture on Nothing” while performing a series of repetitious idiosyncratic gestures devoid of dramatic effect. Despite their intentionally uninteresting appearance, these gestures had an elusively appealing stylistic consistency that could be considered in further detail. In short, I liked it. Quite a bit. The absence of dramatic expression and its understated eccentricity reminded me of Rainer’s Trio A, more so than any recent piece I have seen. Like Trio A, dance for nothing was designed to achieve nothing, to go nowhere, and achieve no visible effect. Rainer also had a conflicted relationship with Cage, and Salamon’s recitation could be seen as invoking the ambivalence of their relationship, if not the ambivalence of Cage’s subtle but decisive influence on post-war dance. However, dance for nothing could equally be a demonstration of Salamon’s ambivalence towards this historical lineage— or even her emotional and intellectual detachment from Cage’s influence and innovations. In this regard, it was significant that she treated  “Lecture on Nothing” as an indifferent textual material that constituted a continuously droning background to her choreography. Like Trio A, dance for nothing deliberately avoided virtuosic movement, but it also was likely difficult to perform, especially while delivering the entirety of Cage’s text. The task (a very Judson word) of maintaining this state of split attention— which produced an appearance of distraction— seemed to be one of the principal purposes of the piece. I am tempted to call it a “peripheral relationship” with the audience. At the same time, the act of reciting Cage’s text could also be interpreted as a mindless repetition, which does not necessarily correlate to an internalized state of understanding. (Indeed, English was not Salamon’s first language, and one could only speculate about the possible slippages of meaning between languages and cultural contexts.) Such mindless repetition would be merely mechanical and thus contrary to the premises of performance, which is conventionally held to be “live.” Whether intended or not, the question and challenge to the presumption of liveness in dance for nothing was perhaps its most intriguing aspect for me (and yes, very relevant to my research), a fact that was underscored by Cage’s own words as mediated through Salamon’s performance: “The phonograph is a thing, not a musical instrument.”

Wim Vandekeybus, Oedipus Rex/Bête Noire

Wim Vandekeybus belongs to the vanguard of second-wave Flemish Tanztheater. Oedipus Rex was an excellent example of how some these second-wave artists have regressed into artistic mediocrity. There is not much to say about Oedipus Rex. It featured a live fusion rock band (European art rock at its worst), an overwrought installation on which performers could climb, and a narrative— in fact, the Ur-narrative, the story of Oedipus. Amid these conventional elements of a middling theatrical mise-en-scene, the crude physical boldness of Vandkeybus’ early choreography was an afterthought, an odd anachronism from twenty years hence that had ceased to develop.

Marie Chouinard, Les Trous du Ciel and Henri Michaux: Mouvements

In the twenty years that separated these two pieces, Marie Chouinard has emerged from Montréal to become one of the luminaries of contemporary choreography. She was a festival headliner, and with good reason: her work is bold, brilliant, visually dynamic, and scintillatingly virtuosic. There’s nevertheless a strongly essentialist streak in her work, which has been manifest in her striking, but flawed foray into prosthetically-supplemented ballets. The source of this essentialism was evident in Les Trous du Ciel and Mouvements, which drew on two related avant-garde movements, primitivism and surrealism. Les Trous du Ciel was based on Inuit mythology, and Mouvements was a choreographic adaptation of a book (with the same title, Mouvements) of ink drawings and poetry by Henri Michaux.

As an illustration of a text, Mouvements could have easily lent itself to broad and easy audience appeal. At first, it seemed like a mere exercise in fanciful adaptation. Figures flashed on the screen, which a solo dancer sought to recreate in choreographic positions. But set to the background of blaring electronic music by Louis Dufort, the dance quickly evolved into an overlapping series of successive, accelerating patterning by convoluted groups until it reached a catastrophic conclusion, in which the company took turns dancing, nearly nude, in a single spotlight on stage. It was downright Dionysian. And the thematic continuity with Les Trous du Ciel— which was literally about tribes— was impossible to overlook.

There are many interesting observations and connections to be made about the two works, as well as the general direction of Chouinard’s work. She is self-consciously continuing the language of the French avant-garde in way that is faithful to its original aims, intensity, and Dionysian character. (This was a refreshing reminder not to forget the violence inherent in Michaux’s seemingly ephemeral and ludic paintings.) Furthermore, the intensity realized in Chouinard’s work has permitted it to extend the language of avant-garde aesthetics into interrelated areas of inquiry that I believe of currently of great importance— namely, media, movement, and sound.

However, her work does not recognize or challenge any of the problematic tendencies in avant-garde aesthetics, which makes it politically unpalatable for communities excluded from traditional representation, such as women or ethnic minorities, including Native Americans. The pronounced primitivism of Les Trous du Ciel was abandoned in her recent prosthetically- ballets, her breakthrough use of prosthetics has troubling implications for people with disabilities.   (One astute student of mine called it “simply offensive.”) Although these prosthetics had (thankfully) vanished in Mouvements, I nevertheless believe that this line of criticism could still be applied to the piece— which was enthralling, by the way.

Trajal Harrell, Three Versions of Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at Judson Church: (M)imosa, (S), and (XS)


Before proceeding, I need to make a disclaimer: in November, Trajal will be teaching at my university, Colorado College! Fortunately, I have exceedingly positive impressions of Trajal’s work, but I am loathe to dish out my informal opinions in a public forum that is accessible to students. So it must suffice to share a few basic observations.

1) Trajal’s work is strongly influenced by French conceptual dance.

2) Given the pressure placed on physical movement and genre by conceptual dance, his evocation of Judson is a natural next step.

3) It is very personal and emotionally moving. This was a pleasant surprise. As a result of this, I felt a greater affinity for the smalller, more deliberately intimate pieces than the more boisterously and eclectic queer cabaret in (M)imosa.

4) I am curious to see how the project continues to evolve.

5) There will be a lot to discuss in November.

Chris Haring/Liquid Loft, The Perfect Garden

As a Vienna-based choreographer, Chris Haring attracted large audiences at the festival, even though The Perfect Garden was a weak piece. In its favor, its weaknesses were formally self-consistent and clearly established by its set, which consisted of a number of cheaply handmade devices for producing an effusion of bubbly soap suds. This endless sea of suds was the site for Haring’s ostensibly playful choreography. The choreography and set alike were predicated on a superficial artistic inquiry, which had halted its process at an early stage of development prior to the emergence of an established structure. As such, it remained in a state of pre-structural limbo that precluded the articulation of clear differences. Similar to the womb, this pre-structural state transformed all content into an undifferentiated mass— literally, a mass of child-like soap suds, or the vicious liquid vinyl that was poured onstage at the conclusion of the performance.

Although this image seems to have been a staged photo shoot (rather than a scene from the performance), it provides an image of the bubble-making machines that dominated its decor and concept.

There was a lot of work left undone here. A quick look at the other piece he performed at the festival— in which online faces are warped into grotesque, fluid masses— suggests that this is not an isolated incidence in his work, but an unexamined and flawed formal premise.

David Zambrano & Zeena Parkins, Zeta

For someone with Zambrano’s apparent success (see link above), this was an astonishingly inept piece. Instead of an improvisation, it simply seemed unprepared and relied on hackneyed dramatic expression to evoke a vague emotional atmosphere.

I would conclude my observations here, but there is one unfortunate note to add: I was dismayed to see that he will be performing at the Walker Art Center in 2012.

Christine Gaigg, Seven Cuts

Among the unrestrained stylistic diversity on display at ImpulsTanz, it was surprising to see Christine Gaigg’s surprising conventional choreography in Seven Cuts. In Seven Cuts, two dancers performed a series a seven solos that were staged in successive segments along a thin straight line. It was no surprise that their pattern— (in contrast to say, Salamon’s circuitous repetitions or Chouinard’s demonic drive towards catastrophe)— moved in the same pattern as reading, from left to right. Seven Cuts relied on the most fundamental and conservative framework for choreography, a text.

This text was both verbal and musical. After each “cut,” Gaigg came on stage to read from her journal, in which she recounted her artistic motivations (“to make contemporary dance personal”), physical ailments, and philosophical reflections (a great quotation on ticks from Giorgio Agamben’s The Open). These were the most interesting parts of the performance and related to an increasing interest in autobiographical expression in contemporary dance. However, I was never entirely moved or surprised by these declarations, even though I assumed that they were probably true. In Barthes terms, they lacked a punctum, that moment in which it is possible to perceive the potent proximity of personal experience, its “ça-a-été” or fact of having once been.

But the openness of such personal expression was precluded by the presence of a limiting textual framework, music. The piece was a collaboration with an Austrian composer, Bernhard Gander, and the Klangforum Wien. Although it did not seem that each step had been attached to a particular preexisting note, the music arguably operated as the proverbial voice of dance, a form of expression whose enunciation and notation compensated for dance’s transitory and insubstantial nature.

Which reminds me— there was also choreography. It was clean, precise, swift, and clear. Accomplished and uninteresting, much like the quality of the contemporary musical compositional and the conceptual foundations of Seven Cuts itself.

Cie. Tony Rizzi, An Attempt to Fail at Groundbreaking Theatre with Pina Arcade Smith

Isn’t this title reminiscent of another piece of overly self-conscious and derivative (see this nice little piece from the Times Magazine on David Foster Wallace) fiction, Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? Whether or not you agree with that comparison, there’s no question that Rizzi had entirely failed to use his self-referential and self-questioning style to create a coherent piece of theatre.

This style was itself borrowed from William Forsythe’s 2002 performance, Kammer/Kammer, in which Rizzi starred as the former lover of an unnamed rock star (presumably Michael Stipe). As a result of his romantic rejection, Rizzi’s character collapsed into depression and self-doubt, which were expressed through an unusual means: a stylized whine with which he petulantly upbraided his audience. In Kammer/Kammer, this voice was part of a complicated thematic thread that he would subsequently develop in his acclaimed dance, Decreation. However, ten years later in Rizzi’s hands, this stylized depiction of craven, thwarted desire was disconnected from this— or seemingly any— line of inquiry.

I would like to see Rizzi succeed. But the apparent popularity of this performance and its inclusion in the festival, is evidently the product of his affiliation with Forsythe. Rather than Pina Bausch, Penny Arcade, or Jack Smith, it may well be Forsythe’s shadow that colors An Attempt to Fail.