Maria Hassabi’s “Show” at American Realness


Maria Hassabi is, in my experience, a divisive artist: You sort of either love her work or you don’t, without a lot of middle ground. Seeing SHOW this afternoon, at Abrons where it’s part of American Realness (you have one more shot tomorrow to see it), I was reminded why I like it so much: The sheer physical intensity of her presence. I missed Show when it premiered at the Kitchen, but caught it when Andy programmed it as part of River to River over the summer, when it was performed in front of the NYSE. That setting was sort profound in its own right: While the Stock Exchange building seeks to convey a sense of weight and permanence, I nevertheless found myself constantly aware of its frivolity, the frenetic (digital) activity of billions of dollars in transactions occurring (well, technically it was the weekend), causing the facade of solidity and history–pace Marx–to melt into the air. With that imposition of impermanence imposed as a backdrop, Hassabi ‘s duet with Hristoula Harakas took on an almost meditative quality, unfolding as if in slow-motion in front of a screen playing in fast-forward.

What it lacked, though, was the intense proximity the performance had in the smaller space at Abrons. Unfolding almost painstakingly slow, the audience’s nearness to the performers revealed how physically taxing the performance was. And in the street in the middle of the day, neither Hassabi nor Harakas managed to really impose their gaze on the viewers. To be only a few feet away from them as they turn to look you in the eye is a dramatic and impactful experience. I’ve liked Hassabi’s work since I first saw, and in four days of show-going thus far, it’s the only thing I’ve really responded to.

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