Coming Up at BAM: Phantom Limb and “Brooklyn Babylon”

An animation still from "Brooklyn Babylon," by artist Danijel Zezelj

Usually doing a preview is tricky business, because–absent an interview–what you’re doing is writing about something you haven’t seen, made by artists you may or may not know much about, with the only information at your disposal the biased press release materials you’ve gotten, some only reviews and interviews, and grainy YouTube clips. But for the upcoming pair of offerings at BAM’s Next Wave Fest (which is picking up steam), a pair of my online colleagues have some great things worth checking out.

First, Phantom Limb. 69°S, which opens Wednesday (seating is limited; call the box-office), is one of the shows that has a lot of buzz, because the puppetry is, well, amazing. Seriously–check out the photos. But what’s more, Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff, the husband-and-wife team behind the company, are well-known artists who’ve left their mark on people in the past, and Rob Weinert-Kendt has a lovely post over at the Wicked Stage recounting his own past interviewing the duo.

Phantom Limb. Photo by Sarah Walker.

“My wife to this day rolls her eyes a bit when I start to go on about the magical ‘puppet people’ and that text-less globe,” he writes. (You’ll have to read the piece to understand the part about the globe.) The occasion for the post is his interview with the pair in Time Out, which you can read here.

Second, and a bit more touching, is Parabasis’s Isaac Butler on Brooklyn Babylon (tickets here), which opens next week. A collaboration between artist Daniejl Zezelj and musician Darcy James Argue, the show is a live-art-meets-video-art performance by the artist supported by Argue’s steampunk jazz-band Secret Society. Not only does it sound cool, but for Butler, who was a “directorial consultant” on the piece, it marks completing a childhood dream.

It is also the culmination of a dream I’ve had since I was in college, to be involved in a directorial capactiy on a show that performs in Next Wave. I’ve had a romantic association with the Brooklyn Academy of Music ever since I was a little kid, when my freaky grandparents gave me Philip Glass cassettes and took me to see The Hard Nut and Twyla Tharp and told me over and over again of this world in New York City. A world where these curious, unclassifiable works of performance happened. A world at that time dominated in their minds by The Kitchen and BAM. As I grew up and got into Steve Reich and Laurie Anderson and all sorts of other performing artists of that period, I realized that all of them connected at some point to BAM.

It became– privately– my brass ring. I never talked about it. In fact, this is the first time I’m disclosing it to anyone, but having a show at BAM has been my idea of what success would mean ever since I was a sophomore in college.

Anyway, both shows look visually fantastic and feature collaborations with great musicians (69°S was developed with Kronos Quartet and features live music from Skeleton Key), so check them out, and read both Rob’s and Isaac’s previews of them: when people like that have such a personal interest in the work, it’s wise to take note.

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