Marina at the Armory

It’s the holidays, the bands are on hiatus, and I am becoming a danger to myself and society. There are limited opportunities for me to play drums and be musical, which are my favorite things in the world. I wander the streets in a daze looking for things to bang on, like trash cans and bollards. (Of the latter, the ones outside Barclays in Brooklyn are particularly resonant and have different pitches. If you’re really bored, go there with pals and start an urban music group called The Bollardeers. I will join your group and we will one day perform at The Park Avenue Armory. We will have to find a way to make our performance more interesting than The Blue Man Group, otherwise the Armory will never give us the time of day. But, I digress.)

Hey, speaking of interesting things at The Armory, here’s one: The Life and Death of Marina Abramović. Wow. Just saw it last night and I am filled with all kinds of compulsions and urges. For starters, I’m writing this blog post… who knows what I’ll do next? I am ebullient.

Throughout the two-hour show, a maniacal Willem Dafoe narrates Ghost of Christmas Past-style while Marina struts around holding knives and other actors wear snakes and crush tiny hospital beds under their feet. Antony of Antony and the Johnsons emerges gracefully and sings with tremendous power, filling the giant Wade Thompson Drill Hall with that warm, enveloping sound you can only experience in person: it fills your ears and rises from your feet at the same time. But, nothing was jarring or felt out-of-place despite the shocking tale Marina tells. Everything had a slow release for me— whether it was delivered by William Basinski’s accompaniment or softened by the impressive lighting —and Matmos’ frenetic, repetitive score kept the beat rolling on, providing a trance-inducing focal point amid the horrific imagery. I only wish I could see the show again, in order to pick out more detail. It was truly a masterpiece.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “masterpiece” without sarcasm before. It feels nice. I could go on trying to explain why this performance was so compelling for me, but I’d rather not… well, maybe a little bit. If you can go see it, please do and let me know what you think. It was one of those rare kinds of shows that is unforgettable because it felt like a new medium. The familiar elements were all there, but the sum of the parts was so much greater. I recall it in bursts: one of my favorites is a snippet of film showing a bass drum, then a snare drum, rolling down a forested hill. The sound of the drums caroming against roots and rocks reverberated in the room and I thought happily of my favorite hobby making a whimsical appearance. One day, I would like to throw my drums down a hill. I mean, why not? It was one of several times I felt like laughing out loud, but the grand spectacle loomed and demanded reverence, to which I gladly succumbed.

Here is my crappy instagram photo of Willem taken just before intermission ended. I hereby excuse myself of the crappiness because I was too busy enjoying the show to bother taking a better one. So, there. Happy Holidays y’all.

Willem Dafoe illuminated among his newspaper clippings