Season Preview: Crossing the Line Festival 2013

Entering its seventh year, the French Institute Alliance Francaise’s fall Crossing the Line Festival has long since established itself as a highlight of the fall arts season. Global in scope and committed to ambitious multidisciplinary work, last year’s festival presented some of the most talked about shows of the entire season (first and foremost, perhaps, David Levine’s Habit). This year’s festival–from the curatorial team of Lili Chopra, Simon Dove, and Gideon Lester (see last year’s interview with them for more info)–promises to be just as exciting.

In 2012, one of the ongoing highlights was a series of daily installations around the city by Brazilian artist Bel Borba. This year, that tradition continues with a centerpiece installation (produced in cooperation with the Times Square Arts) by artist Steve Lambert, Capitalism Works for Me! (True/False) (Sept. 20-Oct. 9). A massive sculpture in the form of an old-timey roadside diner sign, the work invites passersby to vote true or false on the titular question, with the signing documenting a running total of its audiences’ response.

The exploration and critique of capitalism continues with the work of French director Pascal Rambert, in a (micro) history of world economics, danced (co-presented by La Mama and PS 122; Oct. 11-13). Rambert’s Love’s End, a dual monologue performed by Kate Moran and Jim Fletcher, was well-received at the festival last year. a (micro) history is on a far larger scale. Working with a large group of New Yorkers, Rambert creates an evening-length movement piece generated from the performers’ experience of economic crisis and instability.

Perhaps the most anticipated piece in the festival for most New Yorkers will be the return of Nature Theater of Oklahoma, for episodes 4.5 and 5 of Life &Times (Sept. 20-21). Anyone who felt that the eight or so hours of Life & Times presented by Under the Radar and Soho Rep this past January were exhausting the form will be pleasantly surprised, I suspect, by the direction the company is taking the new episodes. And if you missed any of Life & Times when it was in New York, you can catch up with a visit to Philly Live Arts, where the company will be doing the entire series the week before (Sept. 14 is the new marathon day, clocking in at 12 hours).

The intersection of politics and personal experience is theme that runs through several works besides Rambert’s in this year’s line-up. Two fantastic contemporary dance artists from Africa. Boyzie Cekwana (South Africa) and Panaibra Canda (Mozambique) present The Inkomati (dis)cord (with New York Live Arts, Sept. 25-26). Framed around the diplomatic accord Mozambique signed in 1984 with the then-apartheid South African government, the work explores the international implications of political wrangling through personal histories. In contract to that embodiment, Annie Dorsen’s Spokaoke (Sept. 21-Oct. 13), a performance installation in a karaoke bar, implicates its participants in world-historical events by by inviting them to enact (karaoke-style) speeches by the famous and infamous. Kyle DeCamp documents the experience of living in a transitional urbal space with a biographical performance, Urban Renewal (Oct. 11). And Ernesto Pujol, in Time After Us (24 hours beginning Oct. 3), memorializes the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks through presence alone, as a series of performers enter and occupy the space at St. Paul’s Chapel (a refuge for first responders) in half-hour intervals.

In terms of dance, the festival offers two works by French choreographer Fanny de ChaillĂ©. Again intersecting issues of personal experience and social practice, in The Library, audiences enter one of a couple libraries (the Jefferson Market branch of the NYPL and FIAF’s own Haskell Library) and select performers who serve as a book, recounting some of their personal narrative. And in Passage a l’acte/Acting Out, a collaboration with visual artist Philippe Ramette (at the Invisible Dog, Sept. 26-28), is a series of twelve performative human sculptures. Filling out the dance programming is a new work-in-progress from Nora Chipaumire, one of the more compelling dance makers coming out of New York these days. rite riot (Oct. 3-5) is a response to the centenary of The Rite of Spring, and is the first part–performed solo by Chipaumire–of what will emerge as a larger-scale work in the future (or so I understand).

And then finally, there’s Tim Etchells. One of the most respected performance makers in the world, mainly through his work with Forced Entertainment, it’s always exciting to have the chance to dip into his work. PS 122 presented a co-creation of his (with Ant Hampton) this past spring, in the site specific auto-teatro work The Quiet Volume, which was phenomenal (and recently nominated for a Bessie). In Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First (Sept. 28), Etchells explores the failures of language to describe and capture experience, in a performance by Jim Fletcher. Preceding the one-night-only event, Etchells himself will give a lecture, which is free an open to the public with a reservation.

Tickets for the festival will be available through FIAF’s website beginning in early August.

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