Saturday, June 26, 2010

PARK @ Freshkills Park

I've posted several times about my colleague poet/scholar/translator Jennifer Scappettone, who teaches at the University of Chicago and who was one of the primary forces behind the wonderful visit of some of Italy's leading experimental poets to the US a year ago.  Most recently I wrote briefly and posted photos from her performance at the Red Rover experimental poetry-performance series in Chicago. At that event and after, Jennifer told me about her spring residency at Freshkills Park, which is the new incarnation of what was once the largest (29,000 tons of trash a day) landfill in the US, the notorious Freshkills Land Fill, in Staten Island.  As part of her residency, she worked with choreographer and dancer Kathy Westwater, and architect/designer Seung Jae Lee to create a site-specific dance-poetry-performance version of one of Westwater's pieces, "PARK," at the park, and I decided not to miss it.

Below are photos and short videos from the performance, which required getting to the Manhattan Staten Island Ferry terminal at 9 am this morning, riding on a bus from the St. George Ferry terminal (on which we got an excellent introduction by Freshkills Park Outreach Coordinator Doug Elliott) to the park, and then visiting two different sites at which the performance unfolded. It was, to put it simply, unforgettable.  I'm no dance critic so I won't even try to describe it, but I did appreciate how the performance metaphorically and symbolically explored ideas concerning our consumerist, throwaway society and our relation to garbage/waste/debris, our (re-)constructions of "nature," "land" and "landscape," our struggles to communicate, community and atomization in relation to the natural world and (human) bodies, and, throughout, the role of time, in a setting like this still-unfinished, still-transforming "park." Kathy Westwater's and Jennifer's performance of insideness and outsideness, and their conceptualization of participation, involving themselves, the performers, the audience, and the surrounding landscape--with the wind providing an ever-shifting soundtrack, as the videos attest--was also enlightening.

Here's the writeup from the Freshkills Park blog:
It seems like no New York City site has truly been inaugurated as a public space until it has hosted an avant-garde dance performance.  Our time has come!  A group of artists and performers organized by choreographer Kathy Westwater has developed a movement-based project responding to their research and on-site study of the Freshkills Park site over several visits this spring.  PARK, as the project is called, isn’t a traditional dance performance—more a combination of movement, writing, and game playing.  It is “concerned with our construction and consumption of nature.”
Kathy and her dancers have previously performed PARK in locations as varied as Yosemite Park and Dance Theater Workshop in Chelsea.

And now, the photos and videos:

Jennifer Scappettone (poet/scholar), in white, dancers in background
Jennifer Scappettone (in white, in foreground), with dancers and audience around her
Dancers on the hill
The dancers on the first hill
The string phone
One of the string phones at the second hilltop (note how far it stretches into the meadow)

3 string phones
Three string phones visible (painter Vilem Benes in the foreground)

The dancers on the meadow
One of the dancers, leaving the meadow
One of the dancers leaving the meadow
The dancers, in a circle
The dancers closing a circle through and within the audience
Dancers exchanging our words
The dancers reading the words we'd written down, exchanging, chanting, discarding them
The dance
Jennifer reading
Jennifer reading/performing

Dancing a cloud-storm
The dancers
Forming a clock/signifying time
Creating the debris-flower
Creating a waste-flower, as time (a dancer) runs on
The dancers departing
View from East (?) Hill
Freshkills Park, from East Hill

1 comment:

  1. awesome! thanks for posting the report, John. the dancers look like egrets in the remediating grasses . . .