IMPRESSIONS: The 17th Annual River To River Festival with Cori Olinghouse, Catherine Galasso and It’s Showtime NYC!
June 15–24, 2018
Presented by LMCC
The 17th annual River to River Festival is a free summer arts festival in New York City. It offers a smorgasbord of dance, music, theater and visual arts. This year highlights the geographic and historical nuances of Lower Manhattan. I had the opportunity to see Cori Olinghouse’s Grandma, Catherine Galasso’s Of Granite and Glass, and It’s Showtime NYC!. This collective viewing experience provides a unique look into the opulence of cityscape transformation.
Cori Olinghouse’s performance installation Grandma transforms a windowless office space into an artistic squatters dream.
A pathway of flattened cardboard boxes leads into an explosion of household products. A mountain of Wonder Bread loaves spills from a corner near the audience. Plastic jugs of cleaning solution and detergent line the length of a wall. Stacks of video cassettes hug an old TV in the middle for the floor. The scene also includes cereal boxes, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, large storage bags mounted upside down on the back wall, and piles of stuffed animals.
Everything looks to have strategically thrown up; magnified even more by the contents of the refrigerator. The freezer bursting with white paper and the main compartment overflows with boxes of Twinkies and Hostess.
A woman wearing a grey bob wig, pink tracksuit, and dingy white gloves sits in a metal folding chair covered with plastic. Upstage, another woman wearing a yellow bob wig and red jumpsuit enters and exits the space. She wraps her body in egg crate foam, and drags objects to and from the backroom.
The women orbit each other’s activities in connected contrast. The woman in red explores spastic, angular, jerky movements. She dives into the mountain of Wonder Bread, rips open the bags, rubs slices on her face, the bags.
The woman in pink shuffles around meticulously investigating objects. She squeezes large bags of cheese puffs from the top. With a burst, the contents pours to the floor. She plunges her hand into large jar of mayonnaise and spreads it on a nearby wall and loose bread slices.
Grandma amplifies the American landscape of consumer excess. It rests uncomfortably in the sphere of horder and mental illness. Viewers are confronted with the discomfort and comedy of ambiguity. In opposition to the symbols of instant consumption, the work presents a challenging quest to digest.
For more info on Olinghouse's Grandma, click here.
Catherine Galasso’s Of Granite and Glass takes place in Brookfield Winter Garden. This indoor garden is situated in the center of a mega complex also known as the World Financial Center. Palm trees erect toward a giant glass skylight. Granite steps cascade beneath the glass and steel.
Four performers, wearing shades of forest green, stoically enter from the audience. They make a slow accession up the stairs. One foot robotically hovers over each step until it releases in unison. Their suspended movement offers a satisfying contrast to the shoppers strolling along the perimeter.
During the piece, they share the history of Brookfield Winter Garden. It was once a beach, then a landfill site for Battery City Park and World Trade Center construction. Now, it’s a high end retail complex.
Jordan D. Lloyd, Ambika Raina, Doug LeCours, and Mei Yamanaka in Catherine Galasso's Of Granite and Glass; Photo: Shane Drummond, Courtesy of Arts Brookfield
The quartet exaggerates gestures and selfie poses. They peel to the edges of the space which accentuates the magnitude of depth. Later they synchronize into duets that twist, slide, and scoot up and down the stairs.
This steady crescendo is punctuated with an ensemble of nine who breach the performance area. Dressed like tourists, they arrange a in V-formation playing with poses and levels. They also introduce beach balls and slinkies into the mix. Their whimsical and youthful energy blends nicely with the quartet.
The work concludes with Galasso’s son Atlas accompanied by Keith McDermott making a procession up the stairs into the distance.
Of Granite and Glass activates the history of Brookfield Winter Garden with an accessible contemporary dance. Galasso builds a conversation between building and body structures. A delightful playfulness that amplifies the transformation of this place.
For more info on Catherine Galasso's Granite and Glass, click here.
In the Financial district, It’s Showtime NYC! gathers for a migratory work in front of Federal Hall, directed by Marguerite Hemmings.
Peppering Broad’s cobble street, twelve performers slowly undulate, lock joints, dislocate shoulders that suspend into stillness while pedestrians busily walk to their destination. They accumulate into two groups that later spill onto the sidewalk in front of Federal Hall. Sultry jazz music accompanies the journey of their line that drifts along the sidewalk. This is achieved by the last person to the right moving to the outermost point on the left.
Next, each member commandeers a step in from of Federal Hall. A hype-man (also an ensemble member) announces each member in turn. We see a virtuosic display of each mover’s personality and flair. They conclude with a freestyle circle on the street. Witnesses envelope the movers with claps, smiles, and head nods. An episode of call and response activates movers to spiral, soar, and suspend in athletic movement conversations.
It’s profound to see a collective of men and women of color celebrating and thriving in front of Federal Hall and George Washington’s statue — both markers of government and institutional slavery. Equally interesting is that this site is one block away from the historical slave market (corner of Wall Street and Pearl Street) designed to keep minorities from assembly and possible rebellion. It’s Showtime NYC! temporarily transforms this space into one of liberation.
For more info on It's Showtime NYC!, click here.
For complete festival information, click here.