Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Anxious Object: The Sublime Void and Art in the Age of Anxiety

The Sublime Void (Ludion Press, Antwerp / DAP, 1993); Art in the Age of Anxiety (MIT Press/Morel Books, 2021)

“Perhaps it was always like this. Perhaps there was always a vast alien expanse between an epoch and the great art which it produced. What distinguishes works of art from all other objects is the fact that they are, as it were, things of the future, things whose time has not yet come.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

“Art in the age of anxiety explores the ways in which everyday devices, technologies and networks have altered our collective consciousness. We are all living in an age where anxiety has become a part of our daily life.” – Omar Kholeif, curator.

When my wife Dr. Mimi first gave me these two books as a birthday gift, it was not immediately apparent how intimately connected, as if by some subterranean river of meaning, both of them were to me in the present, nor how substantially that meaning would expand exponentially over time to encompass almost every aspect of what tenuously living in both the 20th and 21st centuries actually might signify. That gift might just be the unexpected case where profundity drops down on us, apparently carried on winds that at first are not quite even discernible by us, until later on, one day, it comes crashing through the roof of our skulls and rearranges the furniture in our minds.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Epiphany: Death and Community

The cast of Epiphany. (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

The new Brian Watkins play Epiphany, which closed last weekend at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, is wildly ambitious and wildly erratic, and the two hours without intermission really began to feel long by the final half-hour. You’d have to account it a failure, but it’s an imaginative, fascinating one, a phrase I wouldn’t apply to, say, the generously reviewed POTUS or The Minutes. There were certainly some high points in the New York theatre season: The Lehman Trilogy, Girl from the North Country and Skeleton Crew, all of which I saw before COVID (the first during its run in London’s West End, the last at Boston’s Huntington Theatre), the Lynn Nottage/Ricky Ian Gordon opera of Nottage’s play Intimate Apparel and the Mint Theater’s recent revival of Elizabeth Baker’s 1909 Chains. A Case for the Existence of God didn’t reach down deep enough, but it had ideas and a pair of splendid actors, Kyle Beltran and Will Brill. The other shows I saw weren’t much good and left little or nothing behind to contemplate. But you couldn’t say the same about Epiphany, which was directed by Tyne Rafaeli. It’s often very funny and occasionally quite moving, and it tickles the brain.