Saturday, March 4, 2017
Cate Blanchett's husband, Andrew Upton, adopted Chekhov's first play, Platonov (1878) under the title The Present. "London Calling" and "Death or Glory" by the Clash and "What is Love" by Haddaway place this milieu mid-80s. All actors in this production were Australian under the Sydney Theatre Co. and performed at the Barrymore Theater. Blanchett made her Broadway debut in this play directed by John Crowley.
Platonov, the name in English given to an early, untitled play in four acts written by Anton Chekhov in 1878. It was the first large-scale drama by Chekhov, written specifically for Maria Yermolova, rising star of Maly Theatr Yermolova rejected the play and it was not published until 1923. The lead character is Mikhail Platonov, a disillusioned provincial schoolmaster. The play is set in a dilapidated country house in the Russian provinces. Landowner Anna Petrovna, Sofia Yegorovna, wife of Anna Petrovna's stepson, and one of his colleagues fall in love with the married Platonov. He thinks society is without ideas and principles, but is aware that he himself is very much part of that society. He is compared to Hamlet and Don Juan, and likes to think of himself as a witty and intellectually stimulating entertainer. In the end, he recognizes his hopeless position between the four women and retreats into alcohol. Finally, Sofia understands that she cannot hope for a new life with Platonov and shoots him.
It may seem an unexpected choice for a Chekhov play from pre-revolutionary Russia, but for The Present, which is set in the post-perestroika world of the Russian oligarchs, Upton and Crowley have threaded the production with evocative music from the world of punk rock. “Andrew’s first draft referred to a couple of lyrics from a Garage track and a Joy Division track, so we looked at what the musical scene would have been when the characters were young, when Platonov would have been going to university,” Crowley explains. The playwright and director then settled on the music of The Clash, the English punk-rock band of the mid 1970s, to underscore the production.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989, HIV/AIDS) blew out all the boundaries of the "Last Taboo" (see Wesley Morris in The New York Times Mag, 10.13.16, p. 48) when he exhibited a veritable phallic phalanx of black penises, all playing into the "national terror of black sexuality." In 1990, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center ("CAC") was charged with obscenity based on the homoerotcism displayed in Mapplethorpe's retrospective The Perfect Moment. Years later, CAC restaged the exhibit under the title After the Moment in 2015 marking the 25th anniversary, bringing in a variety of artists who now navigate a changing artistic landscape since Mapplethorpe.
If anyone has taken the baton since 1989, it is Nan Goldin, whose book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, was the culmination of living with and recording friends in bohemian New York. Goldin's work is featured in the Nerve book. Other contributors include Leslie Lyons (who contributed the dramatic book cover), Sylvia Plachy, Greg Friedler, Robert Maxwell and Charles Gatewood. Genevieve Field notes that the body is a "palimpsest upon which biographies are written and erased over the course of a lifetime....it is the source of life and a document of erosion; and it is both loved and despisd for its elemental sexuality." Photographers seek trust in the relationship between artist and model even more so than painters and sculptors. The artist needs the subject's expressive offerings. Nerve's "new nude" explores the subject's humanity and sexual character as well as the photographer's vision.
The old masters of photography avoided the sexuality of their subjects by applyig the rules od still-life photography. They understood light and didn't want their models to upstage it. The photographers painted a mood but it rarely emanated from the model. New photographers read the body by coaxing it out of its standard vocabulary of gestures and poses to express an unscripted state of mind. The empathy between photographer and subject allows an exploitative dynamic rather than being merely voyeuristic. Field notes "It is what allows a sexually charged image to transcend the pretentiousness of erotica and the egotism of pornography."
Well the "new nudes" can't be tweeted but they can be "selfies." Unabashedly pointing their lenses "at the grity corners of their own sexual lives, these photographers are upturning and upstaging the visual cliche of the passive, fawn-eyed muse."