In my two weeks in New York City I was fortunate to experience many cultural events.
Our first event was Inflatable Frankenstein, experimental theatre from the group Radiohole. It was heavily technologically dependent, with live video projections of performer’s faces on the backs of their heads, brains being made from stage gloop and lots of other weirdness.
It didn’t always make a lot of sense, even if you know Mary Shelley’s novel well and are familiar with details of her biography, but the short season sold out and we were glad we had booked ahead. We had tickets for the second night; Michael Stipe was reported to have attended opening night. See reviews from Gothamist, the New York Times and Showbusiness Weekly.
The other play we saw was Water by the spoonful, which is about a disparate group of people brought together by an internet chat room for recovering crack addicts. It was well acted and beautifully staged. See reviews from the Village Voice, Vulture and the Hollywood Reporter.
Walking along the Highline was a highlight for me. The efforts to secure this former industrial infrastructure as a public park is remarkable in itself, and the result makes for a wonderful walk.
If you love art deco visiting the lobbies of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings is rewarding. Taking the ‘Top of the Rock‘ tour is incredible in terms of explaining art deco architecture and the views of the city.
We went to Videology, a Williamsburg video rental library / bar which also has a large screening room (akin to Long Play) to see a free screening of The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, a brilliant doco about the LA metal scene in the late 1980s.
The galleries are all very impressive. I loved the Met, the Whitney, MOMA and the Guggenheim.
We managed to get tickets to visit the Explorers Club (a private members club for real explorers) one night to hear a talk by Charles Duke, NASA astronaut, who walked on the moon in 1972 on the Apollo 16 flight. He gave an incredible talk about exploring and science and it was one of the highlights of the trip. We got a cheese and wine reception for an hour then a talk for 90 minutes all for $25! All in amazing wood paneled club rooms like something out of a movie.
Life along the borderline: a tribute to Nico at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was wildly inconsistent but well worth attending. Curated and featuring John Cale, the night featured performances of Nico songs by different musicians including Peaches, Joan as Police Woman, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth and Mercury Rev.
Cale was excellent, Joan as Police Woman was outstanding, Peaches was very good but Kim Gordon was terrible. The audio mix was poor in parts and the microphone was problematic for Gordon and Meshell Ndegeocello, but her guitar noise performance and incomprehensible vocals were torturous to sit through. Read reviews from the New York Times, Rolling Stone and Flavorwire. Spotted in the audience were Genesis P-Orridge and David Fricke.
The art of fragrance is deconstructed by perfumer Christopher Brosius in his Williamsburg perfume gallery, where you can smell hundreds of different fragrances, from beautiful perfumes to the scents of tomato vines, dirt and rubber. Read more at the New York magazine and Ca fleure bon.
Finally, David Bowie’s new song ‘Where are we now’. It was released on his birthday, 8 January, without any traditional media or promotion. It was simply published on iTunes, with announcements on his official Facebook page and Twitter profile. Producer Tony Visconti credits Bowie with devising this deliberate strategy.
That day I was vaguely aware that something was happening on the internet about Bowie. Knowing it was his birthday, it was reasonable to see a few references, but there was more to it. The word ‘Bowie’ became connected with the words ‘new’ and ‘song’ and ‘video’ in a way that I found difficult to comprehend. It took a while to accept that it was real.
When I saw the video I was stunned, not least because it features video projections of faces in a manner very similar to Inflatable Frankenstein, which I had seen only two days before. It’s brooding, melancholy and ultimately optimistic.
Every day after that we heard Bowie’s music everywhere. Every diner, bagel shop, doughnut shop, wine bar and pizza place was playing him, often Ziggy era, sometimes 80s. I was also listening to ‘Where are we now’ on repeat in the hotel room until my girlfriend declared enough. New York City was buzzing with Bowie.
To be there and to experience the song’s release and the response to it in real time was surreal. It’s a strange feeling listening to ‘Where are we now’ in a hotel room in NYC knowing he is right here, somewhere very near, but utterly unreachable…