Considering Alastair, Questioning Realness

Judging from the Facebook chatter, the tweets, emails and all the rest of the outrage and vitriol swirling around the fishbowl of the “downtown” dance and performance world, you’d think Alastair Macaulay had literally raped someone * committed an act of unspeakable barbarity when he wrote in his January 11, 2014 review of American Realness:

American Realness presents itself as a festival of the cutting-edge and interdisciplinary. But much of it is twee, stale, labored and amateurish, with various kinds of anodyne music as accompaniment. Those hoping to find the subversive and the challenging are instead confronted with the slack, the coy, the mimsy. To greet this stuff as interestingly experimental is to clap your hands because you believe in fairies.

and concluded with:

There’s room in the world for the trivial, the silly, the daft, and often there’s room in my heart for them, too. But American Realness too often hunts down examples that are unoriginal and clique-ish. Rather than enlarging the world of New York performance, it shrinks it. Since this is a harsh judgment, I hope to be given cause to withdraw it in the days to come…

I have often – in fact, almost always – found reason to disagree with Mr. Macaulay, and his aesthetic assumptions and personal predilections are certainly open to rigorous interrogation, but in this observation of the clique-ishness and self-satisfaction of “downtown” dance/performance, particularly as embodied by American Realness, he is not incorrect.

The tragic paucity of legitimate public critical discourse – much less rigorous self-criticality – and the frequently navel-gazing and self-referential perspective of artists and presenters alike – and I say presenter, not curator, for a reason – have combined to create a performance culture that is aggressively insular and proudly uninterested in the public at large, or really anyone other than themselves. “Downtown” dance/performance seems to delight in its small audiences and irrelevance, wearing as a badge of honor its insularity while clinging to an outmoded victim mentality that is as depressing as it is ubiquitous.

I have yet to determine whether this insularity is an effect of a bunker mentality stemming from the scarcity of material support and the widespread cultural indifference to the form or whether this inwardness and irrelevance is the cause of the public’s indifference, but in either case the facts on the ground remain the same. And it is truly tragic.

I sometimes wish I was inclined to indulge my weltschmerz as eloquently and ascerbically as my colleague Claudia La Rocco who recently skewered the January Shit Show On Ice in ArtForum and, of the contemporary dance makers wrote, “…I want these works to talk about not just ballet, but the world as well….To move out and up and in.”

But while I’m of course concerned about the work the artists make, I am increasingly concerned about the system in which they make that work – the festivals, the organizations, the institutions, the individuals who create the structures in which the work is presented and contextualized, who – in a spectacularly vertically integrated closed ecosystem – determine both which artists get funded and who gets presented and as such wield outsized influence in the aesthetic and practical choices of artists. I am principally concerned about what this means for the health of the performed arts as a whole.

In the case of the festival season – and American Realness especially – Claudia is quite accurate when she says, “…the artists—paid shameful, if any, wages, if they’re lucky enough not to pay themselves—subsidize the whole creepy shebang…” In fact, I’m told that all artists at American Realness work for a cut of the box office, without even getting a fee. Since none of the organizations or festivals is willing to be transparent about budgets, fees or finances, it is impossible to assess how this compares to other festivals.

Like we’ve discovered in Brooklyn Commune, this is true of the entire enterprise of the performing arts and, frankly, the veneer is wearing thin on the idea that “downtown” or “contemporary” offers any kind of real, legitimate critique of the “mainstream” which it imagines as its opposite. This position is – mostly – a privileged social construct, deeply embedded within the existing power structure and embracing its assumptions, values and operations.

One need only look at the unbearable whiteness and overwhelming maleness of the decision-making presenters, or the wage inequity in even small arts organizations (it must be nice to make $114K/yr, 10% of your arts organization’s annual budget, while paying artists almost nothing) to realize how fraudulent the whole game is.

And perhaps only because of the audaciousness of its name, and the outsized reaction to Macaulay’s review, it seems fitting to note that American Realness is neither.

One can hardly suggest that a program comprised almost entirely of New Yorkers – and mostly Brooklynites – is “American” at all. America is a vast and complex country of which the artists at AR represent only the smallest possible segment. Especially in the context of a global city such as NYC – one wonders how it is possible to create an entire festival of such astonishing homogeneity. 

Of the three non-Americans, that two are co-presented with MoMA – the innocuously irreverent Marten Spangberg and Eszter Salamon, performing a danced response to the now-ancient John Cage work Lecture on Nothing – speaks volumes to both “downtown” dance’s desperate need for approval from the museum world and the mediocrity and  lack of curatorial imagination or rigor on both sides.

Spangberg’s performance of cultural critique is defiantly European in its inefficacy, preferring theory to action, and while I know nothing of Salamon’s work one can only wonder why a curator of supposedly contemporary art would include a dance about which the artist reminds us, “The dance should be autonomous and never become an illustration or a commentary on the text.” That was Merce Cunningham’s point over fifty years ago when he was working with – and living with – Cage. Surely something else has happened between now and then that merits a more nuanced and advanced conversation?

The startling lack of diverse perspectives represented in the program is testament more to the blindered worldview of the festival than any real aesthetic trend or movement. It seems useful to note that the third non-American – Montreal’s Dana Michel – is also one of the few (only?) artists programmed that represents any voice even slightly divergent from the all-too-familiar echo chamber of “contemporary dance/performance.”

As for realness I would suggest the festival is performing a cultural position which has little of “the real” about it.

The term “realness“, of course, comes from the gay world of the 1970’s, drag balls and so forth. It is about passing for something you are not, whether a man in drag passing as a woman or otherwise. It is about subverting cultural norms while appearing to conform to them. “Realness” holds within it a tension between the private and public self, the distance between the “real” self and “the real” world, how we perform ourselves and how traditionally marginalized groups exist both within and without mainstream society. It also suggests that in performing that tension and making it visible, “realness” – or an approximation of “the real” – yields a previously unacknowledged or hidden truth about society, that this performance interrogates “the real” by a performance of the real.

If AR’s cultural and aesthetic position were truly transgressive or actually aesthetically challenging, its rejection by the very mainstream Macaulay would be a badge of pride rather than a cause for chagrin. Rather, AR attempts to create a simulacrum of difference and transgression comprised of the signifiers of otherness and disenfranchisement while in fact being entirely of the system it purports to critique. (A much more thoughtfully curated festival exploring this cultural position was the Queer New York International Arts Festival, curated by Zvonimir Dobrović and his partner, the late André von Ah.)

AR – like so much of “contemporary” theater/dance/performance – wants it both ways. It seeks the approbation of the very mainstream it proposes to critique; it seeks approval, money, inclusion and affirmation while simultaneously being valued as somehow different, other, critical, transgressive and problematizing. And in its administration it embraces the same exploitive behavior of unfettered market capitalism, made all the more cruel by applying those behaviors in a not-for-profit environment where access to capital is brutally limited.

Macaulay has called out this cliquishness and insularity before, most notably in his 2010 review of Ann Liv Young’s Cinderella, where he described both the boredom he experienced and the fatuous adoration of Ms. Young by her audience:

“You won’t be bored,” one of Ms. Young’s admirers told me before the show. Boredom, however, was my constant condition during the 95 minutes I spent at this “Cinderella.” Waiting 10 minutes for someone to defecate onstage is boring in the way that waiting 10 minutes for someone to produce a double pirouette or high C would be boring. In this show nothing was interesting, save the gruesome compliance of its audience.

This seems particularly relevant at the moment, given Young’s vile behavior at American Realness this past weekend, her subsequent celebration of that behavior at PS122’s COIL Festival, and the complete inability (indifference? unwillingness?) of either curator to take action.

I was not present but have been informed by multiple sources that Ms. Young, supposedly “in character” as Sherry, chose to disrupt Ms. Patek’s performance twice on Friday. [CORRECTION: THIS HAPPENED ON WEDNESDAY] The first time she assaulted the performers verbally, though unaided by amplification; after a brief exit she returned with a bullhorn to continue her assault.

I am told that Ms. Patek was driven to tears – and from the room – by Ms. Young’s very public bullying and brutality while Mr. Pryor – the festival’s curator – remained in his office, unwilling to intervene. Not only was no action taken to protect Ms. Patek, but Ms. Young was allowed to maintain her craft store lobby installation throughout the remainder of the festival.

The following day Ms. Young attended PS122’s Span event where she apparently recounted her “Sherryvention” on Ms. Patek to, what I’m told, was the general amusement and approval of the audience. Since I wasn’t there at either event, I will leave it to those who were to address the details more completely.

My feelings about the emptiness and fraudulence of Ann Liv Young’s work are well-known and there is little need to recapitulate that here. In light of this year’s American Realness though, I feel compelled to revisit the notion of “the silly consensus” that not only allows Ms. Young to continue making work, but indeed to flourish. And I feel duty-bound to call out the systemic, institutional complicity that reinforces “the silly consensus” as further evidence of the dangerous vacuity of this little corner of the performing arts world.

How fantastically hypocritical is it that a festival purporting to support the voices of “transgressive” artists – a mostly meaningless term at best, anyway – would allow an artist like Ann Liv Young, who exists with the support of major institutions and curators, to violate the art work and physical person of an artist possessed of none of those resources? And then for another festival, supposedly conducting a public conversation on “risk”, to provide a platform for that artist to continue her violation of a colleague, to in fact seek approval and laughs for her bullying?

How fantastically hypocritical is it of a community to rally together in outrage against the candid opinion of a critic like Macaulay (who, despite differences of taste, still makes the effort to see all this work) and continue to support an unapologetically abusive and aggressively ignorant individual like Ann Liv Young? Ms. Young is brilliant in this sense: she heaps abuse and scorn on a fellow artist, also a woman, who is (from what I understand) using her art to interrogate rape culture and implicate the audience and then celebrates this as some kind of risky, transgressive, possibly feminist, act.

Every curator, institution and artist who aligns themselves with Ms. Young is complicit in her violence. She – and the organizations and individuals who support her – are the apotheosis of a society that is so deeply subsumed in hypocrisy and doublespeak so as to no longer recognize reality. The entire construct of “transgressive”, the entire notion of “risk” in art as it exists in the context of “contemporary performance”, is a lie, a posture, a consumer identity in the closed economy and rigged system of not-for-profit performing arts.

When I was in Berlin in May I found myself at a lunch table with theater makers from Iraq, Sarajevo, Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Mexico, Ukraine and more. People who had lived through genocide, dictatorship, repression and crushing poverty, who had faced unimaginable challenges and danger. You want to talk transgressive? Put on a performance where you risk death by firing squad. Even just in terms of NYC, I think it is an insult and an outrage to equate today’s landscape with “downtown” either geographically or aesthetically.

Ask Ishmael Houston-Jones about the risk of creating and performing Them during the height of the AIDS crisis, because you can’t ask most of his peers, because they’re dead. Ask Judith Malina about the Living Theater getting busted and  jailed, ask The Plastic People of the Universe, ask anybody who actually ever risked life, limb and well-being to make their art and bring people together.

Think about this. The vast majority of the people in the world are completely indifferent to any of this performance stuff at all. One of my favorite articulations of this was when Jim Findlay said to me, “How often this past year did you think about how you weren’t going to a Monster Truck Rally? That’s how many times pretty much everyone else thought about not going to the theater.”

If you are disappointed and feel misunderstood, don’t blame Alastair Macaulay and say he just doesn’t get it. First off, he’s given good reviews to people, sometimes at surprising times. Given Alastair’s leanings, I was amazed to read his thoughtful and approving review of Brian Rogers’ Selective Memory, which featured no dance whatsoever. Secondly, he represents a small segment of the vast majority of the world, people who are part of the mainstream but who are willing to see things outside of that range. Unlike the vast majority of the world, he’s interested enough to show up, so if he says the whole thing feels cliquish and insular, maybe he has a point.

Blaming Alastair is bullshit.

Blaming Alastair is a distraction. It’s a distraction from the economic inequality that compels artists to self-subsidize their work in pursuit of a reward that doesn’t exist, held in thrall to a myth that the system reinforces to keep artists in the game. Because the game requires that you work for free, that you compete, that you become indoctrinated in the language of scarcity and your own neediness.

Blaming Alastair is a distraction from so-called curators who don’t curate (the word curator comes from the Latin curare meaning “to take care”), who are not held accountable for caring for artists or articulating their aesthetics or values. It’s a distraction from the systemic dysfunction and our desperate need for real, public, self-critical conversation that would lead to collective action.

Blaming Alastair is a distraction from reality because at the end of the day, we’re actually all part of the same ecology and it is easier to blame Alastair, to make him the other, to say he just doesn’t get it and ascribe some kind of privilege to him that, in fact, is probably no different than the privilege enjoyed by many of our friends and colleagues.

It is easier to blame Alastair than take a good look at ourselves in the mirror, look at how we fight rather than collaborate, how we allow ourselves to be divided, how we delude ourselves with a self-affirming narrative of transgression, victimhood and outsiderness that elides  the very really issues of privilege that allow our world to exist.

It is easier to blame Alastair than to change ourselves and thus the world.

It is time to get real. Really real. Are you ready?

*it was a mistake to use this term & I acknowledge that it undercuts the argument and alienates people . I was trying to make the point that Alastair is being accused of being a bully by a community that celebrates an actual bully in Ann Liv Young. I apologize for my poor choice of words and, as always, will strive to do better. Like artists in other disciplines, I do this work – and Brooklyn Commune – for free with no support from funders or presenters and sometimes it is hard to uphold the standards I aspire to. Thank you for your feedback and support.

46 thoughts on “Considering Alastair, Questioning Realness”

  1. Ryan Wenzel says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve had similar thoughts since Macaulay’s first American Realness 2014 review was published and the backlash against him began to flare up. It’s lazy to blame a negative review on the narrow-mindedness of a critic without at least without acknowledging that the critic’s perspective, although different from your own, might have value. In a widely shared Facebook post, one American Realness artist rushed to suggest that Macaulay was disappointed by his piece because there were dancers of color and of larger-than-Balanchine-ballerina size, a claim I found disgusting. Has this artist read Macaulay’s reviews, which frequently disprove these preconceptions?

    I want to add that this same outburst from Ann Liv Young happened on Wednesday night as well, which suggests to me that it was staged if it recurred on Friday.

    1. Ryan McNamara says:

      Rebecca Patek’s show ran from Tuesday to Thursday; Ann only attended on Wednesday night.

      1. Ryan Wenzel says:

        Ah. Disregard my last comment, then.

      2. Andy Horwitz says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Will correct in article.

  2. Anya Liftig says:

    Bravo Andy! Bravo! This is one of the smartest, most precise things I have read about the state of performance in a very, very, too long time. I stand with you. And as for “interrupting” another woman’s performance, I say (with a knowing wink and a nod) that there are MUCH more savvy, subversive, open ways of doing so. (But then again, I wouldn’t know anything about all that.)

  3. Ben Pryor says:

    Thanks for the feedback Andy. Response forthcoming.

    1. Andy Horwitz says:

      I think a public discussion about this – and the wider situation – including you, Vallejo and other stakeholders – would be more valuable than yet another internet-based “response”. For the past year almost we have been holding public conversations through the Brooklyn Commune to try to have these difficult discussions meaningfully, transparently, openly and honestly with different stakeholders present and able to respond, in real time, having a real discussion. I, personally, have reached out to multiple people – you and Vallejo included – to participate and offered opportunities to collaborate on these discussions. I don’t know what your response will be but I would hope that you and Vallejo and other people who might see themselves in this would be encouraged to use your cultural capital to a better end than turning your vitriol on me, and truly engage openly and honestly in a public discussion about these pressing issues.

  4. Rachel says:

    I think that there are many excellent points that you make here regarding the “downtown” scene. And I find the incident with Ann Liv Young and Rebecca Patek incredibly disturbing. However, regarding Mr. Macaulay, his other reviews have set himself up for easy dismissal and backlash. When he regularly finds it more important to review a dancer’s size rather than their dancing, it becomes reflexive to ignore or blatantly hate what he writes. Or, even more so, hate the incredible platform that he has been given to air these inanities. His credibility would need to be built back up before his overall dismissal of an entire festival could ever be accepted as justifiable critique.

  5. Naomi Elena Ramirez says:

    I was in the audience at Rebecca Patek’s performance Wednesday night. I was unsure if the intervention was staged because her assessment of the insensitivity of Patek’s piece was astute. Isn’t the intention of the work to provoke reaction and instigate discourse, especially when the content of the work interrogates sensitive issues, in this instance rape culture and pornography.

  6. Jessica says:

    Great read, Andy! I have conditioned myself to completely ignore Alastair and so I didn’t even question his review. But to one of your many points, I have left AR performances wondering why some artists merely repeat the same questions and ethics of artists (50 years) before them without adding original perspective. I thought it was just me. And Ann Liv Young’s behavior is unacceptable. If Ben Pryor wants to do the right thing and send the right message, she should be banned from future festivals. Bullying should never be tolerated in any context.

  7. Leeanne G-B says:

    Such an important conversation. I fear for our city’s relevance and the future of NYC’s and the USA’s greatest export–and the work we artists care about so much. I believe diversity and freedom are the reasons American culture has reigned supreme for so many years! The war on the poor and “middle class”(I use that term almost ironically–as it is slipping away), on people of color, on critical thought, on freedom and independence (including financial)—this threatens our culture’s ability to create. Privilege and the economic realities in NYC and the US limit the voices creating (and being trained to create) art.

    I’m grateful for the work of the Brooklyn Commune this past year. I hope great discussion follows this article and the events of this month!

  8. RoseAnne Spradlin says:

    I couldn’t begin to address all the issues you bring up Andy, but feel compelled to write a few lines. Last year at apap time I negotiated with Ben Pryor about showing my piece at AR, but then decided to show it at Live Arts, since Live Arts had supported the re-staging of the work that year. And then this year I participated in AR’s one free works-in-progress showing, along with Melinda Ring, on a Sunday morning. Just want to say that Ben has always been great to work with and his whole crew of people have been great, very helpful, well-organized and responsive. It’s so easy to criticize, to criticize each other and to misunderstand each other and to misunderstand motives and what we’re all up against. I really think we should let people have their ‘say’ – whether that is through producing, critiquing, creating work, etc. etc. without always having to say something is wrong. Yes a lot is wrong with the world, but why do we attack members of our own community with such harsh words? I do wonder about that. And that goes for critics and people on FB, too. I hope Mark and Vallejo are not shooting the finger at Claudia, or if they are, I hope it’s only in fun. Finally, I do have to disagree with you about the power of the ‘downtown’ artist. When I look at where our culture has gone in the last couple of decades, I feel pretty sure that artists have had a hand in bringing different issues – particularly issues of race, gender and sexuality – further into the mainstream consciousness, if not directly then through our influence on more mainstream media. Of course there’s farther to go; and yes, we (many of us) are ‘lucky’ in many ways. But not in all ways. The world as a whole suffers; we’ll all become the weak one at some time. Most of us can only do a small part to engender change. I think Ben’s doing his part, in kind of a big way, so he’s getting a lot of scrutiny. Hang in there, everyone!

    1. Andy Horwitz says:

      Hey Roseanne –

      Even though I thought the reaction to Alastair was – and is – a distraction from real issues, I wasn’t going to write this essay until I heard about the Ann Liv thing. It is not personal against Ben, I know he works hard to provide a platform for certain artists. It is really about the system in which we all operate and there is, frankly, no way to change that system without rigorously and harshly critiquing it. The not-for-profit sector is inseparable from the financial services sector and is increasingly beholden to its brutal, dehumanizing logic. When we perform transgression, opposition or difference while embracing the same tactics, we are complicit. And Ben, wittingly or not, is a part of that system. What is problematic, frankly, is when one artist – Ann Liv – attacks another artist – Rebecca Patek – and no-one does anything. Even if it was pre-planned, it is still a bullshit move.

      Maybe I’m biased. In 1992 Mia Zapata, a member of my artistic community in Seattle was brutally raped and murdered. In the wake of her murder a number of my women friends started a grassroots movement called Home Alive ( to raise awareness about violence against women. I was deeply involved in that movement and profoundly changed by being a part of it. Learning about the cycles of violence, all the ways that our culture reinforces violence and teaches us to accept it, the way domestic violence and cultural violence are twins and how capital works as a tool of violence, all these things radicalized me, I suppose. And then seeing what the women around me – punk rockers and “riot grrls” and dykes that were widely dismissed by the mainstream – could do by self-organizing was transformative, it raised my consciousness. And they weren’t a 501c3 or a nonprofit, not at first. They weren’t getting grants. They were holding punk rock shows and doing it grassroots and engaging their community and having really hard discussions, holding people to account for their words and actions. and it really changed things on the ground.

      I can’t condone violence and I can’t condone a system that supports bullying and violence. If people – curators, presenters, artists – want to use artistic rationale to justify that behavior, that’s up to them. But I am under no obligation to let it slide. And it is the insular nature of the community, the lack of self-awareness and self-criticality, that allows people to ignore the real problems they face. I am all about people coming together to create change, but you can’t create change until you can actually discuss the problems.

      1. RoseAnne Spradlin says:

        Hi Andy, I didn’t address the Ann Liv Young issue because I don’t know enough about what happened, and I assume Ben will clarify his position himself. Personally, I don’t condone this kind of interloping on someone else’s work.

  9. Rebecca Warner says:

    Thank you Andy for addressing the Ann Liv Young/Rebecca Patek incident when no one else has.

  10. Judith Louise Iocovozzi says:

    It seems many of the readers here appreciate your response to The Ann Liv Young/Rebecca Patek incident (I was not there during that performance so I can’t speak to what happened/how it affected me). However, I don’t understand why you would find it appropriate to say that “you’d think Alastair Macaulay had literally raped someone when he wrote in his January 11, 2014 review of American Realness”, especially with the triggering content surrounding Patek’s performance. Using the language of rape culture to joke about the backlash directed towards Macaulay is unacceptable. As a victim of sexual assault and abuse I found it incredibly hard to continue reading with openness to your critique after that moment.

    1. Garnet Henderson says:

      Agreed. While I agree with much that is written here that opening contains a really inappropriate, unfortunate choice of words.

    2. Karen says:

      Absolutely agree with you, Judith. Andy, after that opener it was especially disconcerting to then read your comments on Mia Zapata — particularly when you profess an awareness that “domestic violence and cultural violence are twins.” I agree with much of what you wrote in this article but your rape comment almost stopped me from getting to it — it was offensively glib and at minimum, didn’t serve you (or anyone else). But how perfectly ironic — I had to do the work of setting aside my own reaction in order to read on and I feel that Alastair suffers at the hand of a similar dynamic. I am not in any way defending him in general or the bulk of what he writes — I almost always disagree with him. But his Achilles’ heel is that he is unable to resist couching his criticism in bitter, snarky, cruel language and tone (except when he is waxing poetic, pining for a young thing). This is where he does himself an even greater disservice than he does the field because every so often, he delivers an incisive critique of some “downtown” work but we’ve all been trained to reflexively dismiss him. It’s not a matter of Alastair simply being the only critic at the NYT — or in NYC in general — who cannot “see” experimental work. I know several other critics, including some of his fellow critics at the NYT, who agree with much of what he writes about the downtown work we think only he is too stupid/sheltered/pissy to get. On occasion, as much of a jerk as he is, he gets it right. It’s his own fault that he is unable to expand his writing style (if not his point of view) in such a way that allows us to do anything but dismiss him out of hand. But it’s our fault for not being better than him whenever we can. If you want intelligent criticism, be an intelligent critic (including of criticism). Which brings us back to your rape joke, Andy. You’re better than that. And to follow that comment by describing how the Mia Zapata tragedy made you more enlightened (the “than the rest of us” was implied) felt exploitative. That aside, this was an article that few others would bother to write and for which you’ll no doubt take heat, but makes some very salient points.

      1. Andy says:

        I hear the feedback and apologize for my poor choice of words. It has been edited with a footnote to explain why I used it & why I changed it. Thanks for the candid responses, I appreciate you taking the time to help me see how that language reads to others and giving me the opportunity to change it.

  11. Pingback: Taking the “Real” out of “American Realness” – Andy Horwitz responds to Macaulay’s critics | Point of Contact
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  15. Gabby says:

    “How often this past year did you think about how you weren’t going to a Monster Truck Rally? That’s how many times pretty much everyone else thought about not going to the theater.”

    I think this is the best question posed in this article (I realize it wasn’t even your question). I’d argue that the difference between Truck Rallies and the Theater, is that one of these has the potential improve the quality of life. Although Monster Truck Rallies must be entertaining, I don’t think one walks away from a rally with a deeper understanding of what it means to be human- to be vulnerable, honest, or to laugh for a moment and take a breath from the storm of life. I think theater, or better yet, all live and visual art experiences have the potential to do this.

    So to this end, I’d like to call artists and presenters to learn how to make ‘Monster Truck Rallies’ a little more appealing and accessible to those who haven’t been.

  16. Stance on Dance says:

    This is a fantastic article in that it not only addresses the American Realness festival but also the self-delusions under which so many contemporary and performance artists imagine themselves operating within. Thank you for your candidness. I am most certainly passing this article on.

  17. Keith Hennessy says:

    Judging from the outrage and vitriol swirling within Horvitz’ discursive bashing, you’d think American Realness had literally raped someone committed an act of unspeakable barbarity.

    Andy Horvitz’ piece on Realness is shoddy journalism and I’m not sure it’s even worth my, or your, time to detail and debate its gossipy sensationalism and hypocritical righteousness. That he indicates some issues worth serious and critical engagement is mostly obscured by his reactionary blaming.

    He doesn’t mention AR as part of, and a healthy response to, the APAP situation, that he can’t call up some artists and get some comparative facts on how we get paid or not or how performing at AR has resulted in actual paying gigs at venues and festivals in the US and Europe, that he doesn’t accept as legitimate an artist exploring an iconic historic piece (that would rule out a significant percentage of contemporary and Modern art), that he doesn’t expose the economics and disciplinary border crap implicated in dance artists performing in museums…

    He performs caring about non-white artists but can’t mention the African American roots of the term realness and cites as better curation Queer New York which features primarily white artists circulating in the same white and European festivals as many AR artists. Horvitz’ rant is especially lazy in not naming the difference (economics, curatorial context, audiences) between “festival” and “festival started by an emerging and independent artist manager to showcase work otherwise ignored or dismissed by mainstream US presenters during an annual, enormous, live performance booking conference.” He wants to challenge the non-profit industrial complex and its exploitative artist fees and its insular curating but he wants to focus that challenge on AR… while critiquing the political posturing or inefficacy of “downtown” artists???

    Horvitz refers to Ann Liv Young’s performances with the words assault, abuse, and violence but then criticizes artist/presenters for hyperbolic claims that appear ridiculous when compared to artists living through wartime and intensified state violence. Repeatedly he says or does what he criticizes in others.

    There is a serious lack of intelligent public discourse on the topics of misogyny, rape, feminist performance, violent representation, and representations of violence, but Horvitz pisses on the possibility of intelligent critical engagement with his comment that “… you’d think Alastair Macaulay had literally raped someone.” Leave it to others who actually “care” about women, feminism, and art, to discuss Ann Liv Young/Sherry’s fucked intervention of Rebecca Patek’s performance, and more importantly, to discuss their ongoing work. Horvitz is concerned about how bullies are protected but then protects Macaulay’s ongoing bullying while bullying AR artists and Ben Pryor. And then like a good bully after being scolded, he apologizes in a way that he gets to reassert his point.

    The biggest disappointment is Horvitz’ squandered opportunity to write in solidarity, as another un- or under-funded cultural worker creating new forums for artistic discourse. Instead he performs the same cynical, divisive, and soul crushing negativity that he projects onto AR and its artists. His toxic insult style obscures his few grounded opinions and alleged better intentions.

    1. Keith Hennessy says:

      Apologies: in my original formatting there was a strike through “literally raped someone,” similar to Horvitz’ rewrite. Now I see that the formatting was lost in copying, posting.

    2. Zvonimir Dobrovic says:

      dear keith, just a correction concerning queer new york – in its only two editions we have presented artists from, among other countries, japan, brazil, colombia, philippines, cape verde, UAE (as well as US artists who are non-white). finally, the festival has been co-curated by a brazilian – andre von ah. however, more importantly than the racial issue, the artists we have presented have more often than not been in the US for the first time with queer new york, as taking that kind of risk is something we thought was always welcome for curating. at the same time, the majority of artists we presented have not been circulating in festivals as you claim so that we just pick them up after they have been proven elsewhere and then we triumphantly bring them to new york. the (white) artists that you may think about when you wrote this are people i have been presenting in croatia (at queer zagreb) earlier than they entered any circuits in europe (or the US), usually with their early/est pieces – from dimchev to cecilia bengolea / francois chaignaud, antonia baehr and sineglossa. while raimund hoghe has been in zagreb probably more times than in brussels or berlin or vienna. and certainly new york – but we are looking to change that sad fact.
      sorry not to be able to comment on other issues in this discussion but i regret to say that i have not been in NY this january.
      zvonimir dobrovic
      artistic director / queer new york

  18. Keith Hennessy says:

    And more apologies: I’m real sorry that I misspelled Andy Horwitz’ last name throughout my piece.

  19. Andy Horwitz says:

    Keith I appreciate your perspective but I have to respectfully disagree with you on several points. I have a career’s worth of dedicated work to point to on behalf of artists, as an artist and administrator, curator and presenter. If you doubt the authenticity of my position, talk to Travis Chamberlain or the countless artists I have fought for and helped. Talk to your SF people – Julie Potter, Rob Avila, Brian Karl, Larry-Bob (formerly of Holy Titclamps), Cara Rose DeFabio to name a few – about me. I also have a career-long dedication to the issues I discuss and, perhaps, not knowing anything about me, or having insufficient knowledge of the on-the-ground politics of NYC’s arts ecology, you mistake me for something I’m not. In either case, I have spent more than ten years on Culturebot trying to build a platform for critical discourse and, in all that time, have rarely lashed out like this. I have been a dedicated, tireless and, dare I say, selfless supporter of this community at least since I started working at PS122 in 2002. I have supported countless choreographers and artists of all stripes, putting my time, money, hard work and psychospiritual energy into the system to try to create positive change. I have offered my work at Culturebot, for free, to Ben, Vallejo and the rest of this community, providing a much needed and completely undervalued resource and platform for contextualizing this work and how it functions in the culture at large.
    For that matter, we have written extensively about your work, providing a platform for in-depth conversation about your work and advocating for it. I have spent a year working with colleagues on building The Brooklyn Commune Project ( to provide a consistent, public space to have conversations about all these issues in real life, not online, where we could address systemic dysfunction. I have been working my ass off to try and AVOID writing this kind of thing precisely because I am NOT cynical, I’m fantastically naive and optimistic, that by working in a spirit of collaboration, openness and transparency, by working in service to the community, we would be able to create an opportunity for artists to come together across disciplines and experiences to find common points of interest to build solidarity and work to create change. It has been crushing to see the general lack of interest by the so-called “downtown” performance community in moving beyond the Internet into Real Life, physically moving beyond their comfort zones and having real dialogue. It has been disheartening to see the wholesale disinterest of the presenters you defend in actually getting involved and supporting the possibility of change. Maybe you haven’t been in the back rooms at presenter meetings, but I have, and it is bleak. My colleagues and I in the Commune, naively perhaps, have been trying to create public space for discourse but people in this community – and all over America – would much prefer to have Facebook Flame Wars and post comments on blogs than to come together in person and have a conversation. You’re welcome to your opinion of me, and you’re welcome to critique my writing, but I stand by what I write. I have never purported to the authority people give to the NY TIMES, I have always written from within this community as a passionate, devoted lover of artists and performance art in all its forms, someone committed to helping people out and making things better. And sometimes to make things better, like in any dysfunctional family, you have to call out the dysfunction. We live in a dysfunctional family, frankly, like Adult Children of Alcoholics, and everyone is afraid to speak out or acknowledge what we all know to be true. I don’t want to be the person who shits in the pool, but maybe that’s what it takes to spur real change.

  20. Lucien Zayan says:

    Andy Horwitz, Claudia La Rocco & Alastair Macaulay: you make me think of a bodybuilders contest.

  21. Andy Horwitz says:

    Oh yeah and Keith – I’m probably the ONLY person to write critically about the economics of dance and the museum. Here are just a few of the many:

    not to mention publishing writing on related topics by Michele Steinwald, Michael Klien and many others.

    And here’s my six-essay series dissecting “innovation” in the arts:

    plus, of course, the Brooklyn Commune Project Report which was collaboratively created by artists to offer an in-depth analysis of the economics of cultural production, how things got to where they are, why things are the way they are and how we can move forward.
    there’s also an abridged version and artist action handouts available at

    And, before all of this, an essay on reframing criticism for the 21st Century:

    If you want to take the time to read ALL that I’ve written about these issues and have a real conversation, I’m hoping to get out to SF sometime in the next 6 months.

  22. Ishmael says:

    As someone who has followed your writing and advocacy for artists for many years, I must say I was very much surprised by the original post here and that I agree with almost everything Keith Hennessy has to say about it. It is “shoddy journalism,” even shoddy blogging, and I expect much better from you.

    The article conflates several issues, all of them deserving discussion, in a way that makes me suspect of your motive and/or agenda for writing it. Suspect in a way that I have never felt about you or culturebot before. In that spirit I will disclose that I was presented by American Realness this year and in 2 previous years and I was a guest in Keith Hennessy’s piece, “Turbulence …,” last year. I must also disclose that I wrote a FB note expressing, somewhat satirically, Alistair Macaulay’s, biases and the criteria he uses when “critiquing” work, particularly, but not exclusively, “downtown” work. I also must admit that I have not read any of his writing for about a year now because I find him to be mean, soul-draining, not constructive, and frankly, not a great writer. I believe, unlike you, that he “makes the effort” to come downtown not from a place of curiosity but rather to reassert his well-established prejudices and he is predisposed to trash the work before he sees it. I don’t want reviewers to be cheerleaders, but Macaulay is basically dishonest as you illustrate by citing his review of Ann Liv Young’s “Cinderella.” While it is true that ALY has her fervent fans, I saw “Cinderella” and at the performance I attended about 20 of us walked out en masse after about 2 hours and she was offering her feces covered hands for shaking. That is to say, to characterize an entire community, (or “clique”), as supporting ALY and her work unconditionally and without criticism is bullshit and he knows it, and you should too. His is a polarizing voice with an outsized platform, the NYT, and he can do real damage to artists and arts organizations. Many of us consider him to be a bullying buffoon, but presenters in Europe, Australia, other parts of US and elsewhere don’t know this and read him only as the chief(?) dance critic for the Paper of Record and are influenced by what he writes. I’m not sure where you got the notion that because an artist is “transgressive” they don’t have rent, grocery bills and other expenses and that they don’t want the hard work they put into their art to pay for these living expenses. I have not seen this “delight in its small audiences” that you write about. Every artist that I know wants their work seen by as many people as possible. To this end, Ben Pryor ran a festival where many, if not most, shows were packed to capacity. Ben did something extremely positive and rad to the over-bloated behemoth that is APAP by disposing of the 15-minute showcase, presenting full pieces (this was rare before AR), and presenting artist who weren’t being seen at other APAP venues.

    I was present at Rebecca Patek’s performance that you write at length about without having been there. I do not condone the intervention and disruption, (it was not an assault), that ALY as Sherry performed during that piece. Mainly because she did it as a performance of Sherry, in costume and voice and not as herself, Ann Liv Young, audience member. This made me extremely suspicious of the authenticity of her outburst. That said, Patek’s work, like ALY’s transgresses certain boundaries and can provoke strong emotions for the viewer. Just before ALY/Sherry did her thing, I had been wondering how many women (and men) sitting there with me had experienced sexual assault or rape personally and what they must be experiencing watching this piece which is provocative in a smart but winking, hipster kind of way. Why was I being so passive in my watching? If any other audience member had done what ALY/Sherry did I would find it easy to see their point of view. Cards were personally handed out to each audience member that said something like, “I value your feedback and I will use it in making my next performance better.” Very bad paraphrase, but that was the sense of it. And you are dead wrong when you say that the entire community rallied behind ALY over Patek. I was one of the people that Ben Pryor called into his office to help him try to determine what was the best action to take. (I was no help, I’m afraid.) His phone and email was being flamed by Rebecca supporters calling for ALY’s head. In the end, not wanting to censor one artist, ALY, while trying to assure another’s, Rebecca’s, psychic safety, he took the path of least resistance, (it was 2 days before the end of AR) and did nothing, which may be criticized. But I don’t know what I would’ve done in that circumstance.

    This has gotten too, too long. But the sentence in your original post that really rankled me and supports Keith Hennessy’s claim of “shoddy journalism” was this one which I have re-edited for you: “… and while I know nothing of (Ezter) Salamon’s work I WILL NOT NOW USE IT TO SUPPORT A POINT I’M MAKING.” This gossipy tone is present throughout your post, and frankly, that disappoints me in that it undermines some very important issues that need to be addressed.

  23. Andy Horwitz says:

    Ishmael – I appreciate you taking the time to respond thoughtfully and I’m happy to discuss this in person, privately, or to participate in a public discussion of these issues. We’ve been convening public discussions about just these issues for 9 months as part of Brooklyn Commune and we haven’t seen any of the people involved in this discussion. I think Ben came once to hand out flyers for a show. Vallejo co-opted BKCP by partnering with Randy Martin and then offering me an “opportunity” to partner with him on Span – meaning he wanted me to provide coverage, marketing support and outreach for free. Because it was an “opportunity” for me.

    As to the notion of “shoddy journalism” – I’m not a journalist, I’m just some guy who works in the arts and writes a blog. As for “shoddy blogging” – I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean.

    When I present these issues in a rigorous and thoughtful way they are ignored and the people that I’ve busted my ass to support for ten years don’t seem to have any interest in supporting Culturebot, Brooklyn Commune or the work we do here, so I don’t feel any particular obligation to gild the lily anymore.

    The people who are so upset now have done NOTHING to support our work at Culturebot as we try to build a space for discourse. Of course if funders, presenters or pretty much anyone thought there was value to this, then maybe it would help provide resources to hire editors and researchers and “journalists” to do “journalism”.

    But if people are going to continue to bitch and moan about Alastair without making any serious commitment to helping build a legitimate critical counterweight and a culture of public critical discourse I’m not beholden to their opinions, nor to blindly go along supporting the hypocrisy of a bullshit system.

    Sadly, I think this whole thing proves that ALY is right. You have to act out to be heard. Which is really, really sad.

    1. DAVID says:

      @andy I do not understand the function of reiterating you have written about @keith or any other artist for that matter that comments on this post. It makes me feel that you are telling them they “owe” you for doing so and it distracts from the counter arguments they are presenting.

  24. Colleen says:

    Hi Mr. Horwitz,

    I’m a young aspiring writer and arts administrator, as I’m sure you were one day. I write the arts column for my school’s blog, and I’ve frequently looked to Culturebot for inspiration. I have respected so much of the work you’ve done, but was deeply saddened when I happened upon this article.

    You see, one of the first things I learned when I signed on to write for my university’s blog was to fact check. I’m not quite sure where you received any of your information from in this article, but many of it seems to be blatantly wrong. Starting with your recollection of the Ann-Liv / Rebecca Patek incident. You transition into this section of your article by saying “I was not present but…” You should have stopped there. I don’t understand how you think you can intelligently comment on an event that you were not present for. I was fortunate enough to witness Rebecca Patek’s Wednesday performance (which is a very thoughtful and smart piece that everyone should see if they get the chance) and while parts of your retelling are surprisingly accurate, some of the details you include genuinely shock me with how incorrect they are. Yes, Ann-Liv Young caused a scene and stormed out of the theater. Yes, Rebecca Patek was visibly upset and left to compose herself before returning to finish the piece. And yes, unfortunately Ann-Liv did return with a bullhorn to try to drive home her point. It was a sad, embarrassing incident, and I don’t think it should have happened in the first place. However, as an audience member, I was impressed by how quickly and efficiently the American Realness staff and the staff at Abrons Arts Center shut it down. Upon Ann-Liv’s first rousing, I witnessed a young usher (who didn’t even seem to know what was happening) try his best to escort her from the theater and a man that appeared to be the house manager immediately followed. Mr. Pryor, who for the record was sitting IN THE THEATER and not in his office as your article states, rose from his seat visibly upset. When Ms. Young returned with her bullhorn, I watched as Mr. Pryor physically barred the door of the theater and forced her out of the space. I would hardly call that “unwilling to intervene.” At the end of Rebecca Patek’s piece, I hurried out of the theater, hoping to get a glimpse of Ann-Liv/Sherry/whoever somewhere around Abrons. She was nowhere to be found. Her antics had me desperately curious though, so I returned to the festival on the following day to browse her “Sherry Art Fair” and hopefully get an up-close interaction with her. On that day, I found her art fair set up in the lobby of Abrons Arts Center, but I did not find Sherry. I asked the gentleman that was running her booth if I’d be able to meet Sherry for one of her infamous “Sherapy” sessions, and he informed me that if I wanted to meet Sherry, I’d have to come back some other time. Curious. I returned again on Friday, and again, no sign of Ann-Liv/Sherry. Maybe I happened to stop in on her lunch break both days? Or maybe some sort of effort was in fact made to limit Ann-Liv’s inclusion in the remainder of the festival. Who knows? Certainly not me. And certainly not you.

    I don’t even feel like I can appropriately address your comments about finances in this industry. I’m pretty sure everyone knows that this business is filled with financial inequality (much like hundreds of other industries in this country — welcome to America?), but like you said, “none of the organizations or festivals is willing to be transparent about budgets, fees or finances,” so there’s actually zero data to support any critical statements that you or I could make.

    I am saddened by your piece, Mr. Horwitz. I am not saddened by the content (I think you actually raise some interesting points worthy of discussion), but by the way you’ve presented it. This community is tough. This system is flawed. We are surrounded by inequality and negativity. And I agree, blaming Alastair is pointless. But blaming ANYBODY is pointless. Like it or not, we have all chosen to be a part of this community and we all share equal responsibility in its state. Writing emotionally charged articles at the expense of others (namely Mr. Pryor), filled with inconsistencies and blatantly incorrect information may spark some conversation, but it’s certainly not going to change anything.

    For a while I aspired to be just like you, Mr. Horwitz. But now, I aspire to be the person that you seem to think that you are.

  25. Ishmael says:

    i like @David, don’t understand you stating you’ve written about the artists or presenters commenting here. There is a whiff of “obligation,” especially with comments like <> Are people you’ve supported on your blog, (and you have been generous to my work, so thanks,) but is there a quid pro quo expected now? Would like to discuss further.

    And I find it curious for you to bring up an almost 30 y/o piece of mine as a positive (I think) example and then to not mention that American Realness presented the remounting of it, after a successful run at PS 122 and workshop at the New Museum, that got 4 European engagements in 3 countries + LA. Since so much not so positive things were written about AR in the post I wondered how that got omitted. This is an example of shoddy blogging along with the aforementioned Ezter Salamon quote. It was not careful or thoughtful and borders on dishonest.

  26. Ishmael says:

    This, somehow got deleted from the post above:

    ” the people that I’ve busted my ass to support for ten years don’t seem to have any interest in supporting Culturebot, Brooklyn Commune or the work we do here, so I don’t feel any particular obligation to gild the lily anymore.”

  27. Andy Horwitz says:

    Ishmael, as I said before, I’m happy to meet with you and discuss this offline. It is way too complicated to do via comments and it is clear that I am not being understood. I’m also disappointed that the essential point I’m trying to make with you is not being heard. You – and many others – are applying a double standard that you would never do to a choreographer.

    When Culturebot offends someone we are accused of not upholding journalistic standards or even some vague notion of “blogging standards” – which is a whole essay unto itself – but when we please someone we’re quoted in their press kit. We are treated by presenters, institutions and publicists like a “legitimate” press outlet when it suits their needs or they are seeking outreach and engagement support, or to drive ticket sales, but when we write something upsetting, we are dismissed as lazy, etc. Sound familiar?

    I have no sense of obligation to or from artists. I situate my work among artists, and I am – believe it or not – an artist whose medium happens to be text and whose practice is mostly conceptual and critical. Sometimes it works better than other times, sometimes I hit on the nose, sometimes I err. That is part of the creative process as I’m sure you know. I’m sure you know that writing is actually very, very difficult and, most of the time, I work incredibly hard to offer the best work I can. Sometimes it falls short. This happens sometimes and I believe that 98% of the time I extend a level of critical generosity to artists working in other forms that embraces that reality, one that is not being offered to me here.

    And just like any other artist, meaningful financial support allows me to make work that is thoughtful, considered and in depth. So receiving the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant has made it possible for me to start a new research project: Note that I was funded by a visual arts organization, not a performing arts organization, and I was not funded for Culturebot, but to start a new project. The performing arts world has repeatedly failed to step up to the plate when it comes to criticism, at best funding mainstream “arts journalism” by aspiring newspaper columnists that would never cover AR except as an oddity.

    Insofar as critical discourse is a vital part of the arts ecosystem – something I firmly believe and something I’m frequently told by stakeholders in the system – I *do* believe that presenters and institutions with access to funders, and who are favored by funders, should complain less about Alastair Macaulay and do more to help convince those funders of the need to support actual critical discourse like what we are trying to do here. It is not a “quid pro quo” – it is a longstanding problem, just ask Bonnie Marranca. That the presenters and institutions don’t see their role in advocating to funders for other parts of the ecosystem – including direct-to-artist funding – is a significant problem.

    As to @david and @colleen – same goes. It is fruitless to try and have this conversation here and if you want to convene some kind of public forum about these larger issues I’m happy to attend. @Collen I was never an aspiring arts administrator. I’m so old that when I went to college they didn’t have “arts administrators”, much less MFA programs in arts administration, you just had to figure out what needed to be done and then you did it. And I wasn’t an aspiring writer. I was just a writer who aspired to get better at it. And I’m still working on it.

  28. DAVID says:

    @andy The internet provides a space for a public forum. You chose to engage with it and as a result it is engaging with you, culturebot and a larger community. You say “The people who are so upset now have done NOTHING to support our work at Culturebot as we try to build a space for discourse.” but that statement is false. This comment thread ALONE is proof of that.

  29. Colleen says:

    I wish you all the luck in continuing to work on getting better at your job.

  30. Greg says:

    I feel there’s many sides to this situation and I believe what Andy was attempting to bring up are the general problems in the “downtown” performance community specifically. I support that full heartedly. Unfortunately like most situations when someone expresses something that calls individuals and a community out it turns into a mess and the opportunity for real dialogue halts. I don’t think there’s a clear answer to it all but I commend Andy for bringing up the white elephant(s) in the room and I commend him for offering up a situation to discuss all these topics in public, in person, with bodies present. We are talking about performance/dance after all where the body present is paramount.That’s what I find most interesting. For all those who are responding to this so strongly who is actually willing to discuss this in public in real time in person? If that doesn’t happen it’s just gonna be another dramatic episode that we can all walk away feeling very opinionated. How boring, how sad and how very now…

    1. Leeanne G-B says:

      Hear, Hear! Let’s concentrate on the big issues that are very worth a discussion!

  31. AZ says:

    In almost every long form article that we’ve seen, you’ve made mention of your volunteer service to the field in a silent demand of sympathy for being a part of the very thing that you’re intent on changing—through agitating for a sustainable and reasonable ecosystem. You admit your mistake with a turn of phrase in this article, but make a graver error in ascribing this poor choice to a lack of financial support. No amount of money, however, will change the way that your moral compass points nor the manner in which you’re trying to be a change agent (which, given this particular scenario, seems in an awfully histrionic and hyperbolic hurry). You choose the medium of prose-on-the-internet as your primary artistic practice, and the delivery method for this piece, and then suggest a public conversation when you feel misunderstood and attacked in the commentary. If the ideal thing was a conversation, you’ve got both the platform and the power to invite one and be a convener of people as you’ve been practicing to great effect. I believe you to be incredibly well intentioned, but increasingly feel that your tactics are confused and possibly guided by a motivation that more and more frequently appears to be about making a name for Andy rather than leading or educating a community. We don’t need you to always knock it out of the park, we see that this comes from a place of deep concern and you’re sincerely embedded and just as screwed as the rest of us in terms of passion, cares, concerns and capitalism. But we do need you to own your choices (all of them) and cut the crap about how you’ve “done your time too” if you’re going to be taken seriously as the leader that you want to be and that the independent artist worker is looking for. This is your moment, Andy, and what you do with it is going to speak volumes to what you’ll be doing with the rest of your days.

    1. Andy Horwitz says:

      AZ – Thanks for the response and I’d be very interested to meet with you to discuss further. It is helpful and interesting to see what things look like from the outside and I guess I wasn’t aware of the repetition or conflation.

      It is all really complicated and from where I sit it just feels like a constant grind to try and make the rent and pay the bills, being pulled in a million directions trying to get things done and keep a bunch of different things going just to stay in place. If you’re willing to meet for coffee, shoot me a line.

      Anyway, I’m going to turn off the comments because it feels like this thread has played out. The point really shouldn’t be me – it should about all the other stuff and like I said before, we’ve been working on creating public space for these conversations on economics, class, aesthetics, discourse, etc. etc. for the past nine months through Brooklyn Commune and I reckon we’ll keep doing it. And hopefully other people will be interested in having these conversations in person.

      all best.

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  38. Keith Hennessy says:

    Andy –

    Your response to me is troubling. You say that you respectfully disagree with several points I made but then address none of them. Then you suggest that I was unfair in my critique of your article because I am not familiar with your immense body of work addressing artists and issues that we mutually care about. I don’t know why you thought that you couldn’t write a critical and provocative essay about AR without being a dysfunctional brat who poops in the pool.

    Please don’t personalize this. I am not talking about you, but about what you’ve written in a single essay and I’ve tried to be both precise and generous. I did not frame my first response as ‘dear Andy or hey Andy’ because that’s not how you framed your essay. There are all kinds of power dynamics and structures at play here. Your essay is now being shared widely, which is a kind of history making. It was my intention to intervene in that history making, not only to write a personal complaint to you and a few others.

    I invite you to write an article about Ann Liv Young and/or about American Realness that is less gossipy and vague. Here is a specific example: “it must be nice to make $114K/yr, 10% of your arts organization’s annual budget, while paying artists almost nothing.” Who are you talking about? Whose budget is $1,114,000? Who is paying artists almost nothing? You toss this into an article about bratty bully art cliques and the associations get made where none exist.

    American Realness is growing into a festival that provides more and more resources for its artists, and works to raise the funds to pay artist fees. It originated as an alternative showcase for artists marginalized by the beast that is APAP. Most of us who have performed at AR get paid by the presenters we meet at AR. The idea that Ben Pryor doesn’t curate because he doesn’t care about artists is more bullshit than complaining about the NYT, which by the way is a complaint about structural power and the international status of the Times, not just about Macaulay and his opinions. For all your writing on economics and art it is especially annoying to recognize that you are using personal insult (he doesn’t care, she’s a bully, they don’t deserve their bloated salary, I deserve more respect) to replace structural analysis and critique.

    You do have some points to make – about American Realness, about Ann Liv Young, about artist relationships to the NYT, about (queer) art cliques, about structural wealth inequity, about the lack of critical discourse and engagement in NY performance communities – but because you pooped all over them it’s hard to know what they are. You’re even annoyed by the folks who don’t want to pick through your poop to figure out what you’re trying to say. Try again. First do a little poop cleaning, and I don’t mean replacing “literal rape” with “unspeakable barbarity.” Well intentioned white people and men fuck up all the time, despite our schooling by punk dykes and anti-racist scholars. Rather than defending your history with a paragraph of good deeds, look a little more closely at how you fucked up, who you pooped on, and take some responsibility for your “message” not landing as you’d intended.

    As for talking live, email some dates you’ll be in SF and I will arrange a public talk. We love salons and public discussion here and would gladly engage on issues of obscure dance, the role of (queer/art) cliques, the problem with complaining about shitty press, feminist performance and misogyny, festival culture, the reign of white males almost everywhere, or some other mutual interest topic…

  39. Meredith L Boggia says:

    Hi Andy,
    I am loathe to post this here but have been asked to. Please note that i dont want to skew the conversation as i dont think your article was attempting to address the concerns i have attempted to raise here. Also, my writing skills are limited so I post this with some anxiety in a room full of writers, however, i posted this on my facebook, so i suppose its public regardless. Here is a simple repeat. I will note that i was incorrect in my original post, and henceforth have omitted my statement about Ben here. I still stand behind his actions and commend his work. Ok:

    I am so embarrassed to be contributing to this internet AMERICAN REALNESS Culturebot fodder…. I do want to raise one point about the Sherry/Rebecca back and forth as I happen to be one of the audience members during this event that has taken so much of the spotlight. Then I promise to slink away:

    As a culture and as culture-consumers we engage with both of these women and encourage them to take the risks to be transgressive. We Expect them too. That is their cultural responsibility as artists and as performers and part of the contract that WE have engaged them in. As live performers there is an added immediacy to take responsibility for there own actions– it is decidedly different than piss-Christ or any of the most fashionable transgressive provocation in the ‘static’ arts. Sherry intervening was, admittedly rude, but 100% in character and on point for what we as a culture/community/audience have asked of her. Rebecca’s reaction, admittedly founded in its victimization, is 100% in character and reasonable when interrupted. Do i think artists should be interrupted by an audience member- No. DO i think that “we” have agreed to a different expectation and set of rules for specific artists- yes. Can we fault them and judge them as people when they perform/ react/behave in according to the rules that “we ” have agreed too previously in a different context.

    I cannot engage in a conversation about these individuals because I don’t know either individual. I know only their characters and their work. I am excited to see women artists openly reacting to one another. I am sad that the public consensus would rather engage in projected critique of who these people are rather than what these artists are choosing to put forth. The questions at hand for me are 1- regarding quality of the actual work in transgressive performance (Anne Liv to Rebecca); 2- questions of right and appropriation of subject matter and capacity to access transgression without permission (Rebecca to Anne Liv); and 3 ( perhaps the most unintended yet interesting question) will we, the “community” allow– or even force– ourselves to let go of our own engendered patriarchy and read these artists as artists, and not misbehaving girls.

    OK, that is all i am adding. Sorry for taking us so much space.

  40. edward sharp says:

    Happy to see that the comments are back open here. Seems to be very much in keeping with the Culturebot mission of public discourse. I, along with many others, would like to point out a couple of troubling points I’ve been pondering the past couple of days. There seems to be an opportunity to offer a critical reaction and discourse to Ann Live Young’s Sherry outbursts during the Rebecca Patek performance that was missed with the original post. Untangling the question of ‘why did this happen’ and ‘what might it mean’ seems to have a copious amount critical richness. Instead you called for prohibitive admonitions (“Ms. Young was allowed to maintain her craft store”). Often you assert yourself as an authority and that seems like a awful way to posit a critical outlook (self-aggrandizement, indeed). You need not go much further than or to find millions of people, like yourself, pouring their critical heart out for zero dollars. Although I don’t agree with “comments are easy” or “Facebook is easy”, I think I can see your sentiment here. I’d be inclined to say “critical observation of personally distressing events is fucking difficult”. I also find it troubling to tout the Brooklyn Commune as the apex of critical public discourse when it seems mired in the atypical institutional power structures like: finite occupancy, bourgeois time scheduling, authoritative oversight, etc. Not that the internet is without its own plagues, I do however, find it odd that someone that invests 10 years in digital discourse is so quick to renounce it and default to the normative apparatus of authority and professionalism (à la disabling comments & redundant assertion of credentials).

    Okay, there’s my rant (or perhaps, poop, to take a cue from Keith Hennessy). I think that Siobhan Burke has done some justice to answering some of the ‘why did this happen’ and ‘what does it mean’ questions over the And Meredith’s questions above also seem to be doing the same. Admittedly I’ve got little output and a whole lot of introspective emotion to deal with Patek’s ineter(a)nal fear. As a white male I’ve little to offer this discussion that would fall outside of corrosive patronizing or rude ineptitude. This here comment likely doesn’t even fall much outside of that, either. However a question (as questions are really all I have) I find most fascinating by the ALY Sherry outbursts would be: does engaging in these incredibly dramatic, yet highly relevant topics (rape, HIV, etc.), outside of our own persona offer a heuristic approach to confronting some of these issues? Ideological mutation offers, to me, a shred of hope in dealing with these heavy issues. Ann Liv Young’s Sherry persona demonstrated that, the ability for people to anonymize on the internet may provide that. I’m very much interested in nurturing an environment where that is “easy” (both online and not, I don’t feel the need to delineate).

  41. Auderi says:

    I have a great respect for the art of “pool pooping” as Hennessy called it, I think it is extremely important that our communities be pool-pooped from time to time. The history of pool-poopers is long and wonderful; its best artists include, for example, Dante Alighieri and Mark Twain. (And so, if the importance of NYC downtown dance and the AR festival have been aggrandized by this debate, let me, within this response, aggrandize pool-pooping as well by bringing up Dante).
    Pool-pooping is naturally related, of course, to pool-peeing. And what is pool-peeing within this mediocre metaphor? Pool peeing is what the rest of us do, and if I’m not mistaken, we do it pretty consistently, even within our communities who show such solidarity against people like Andy Horowitz in times like these. Pool-peeing is when we talk shit/”critique” one another’s festivals and works privately, in small groups, in ways that we think will remain invisible, silent, and will not come back to haunt us through the cogs of public-opinion.

    Pool-pooping, when useful, is a way to create an aberration in the waters where every body is playing so that every body gets out and takes a look at the waters themselves. Pool-pooping isn’t usually right on, it isn’t usually “good journalism,” it isn’t usually fair or nice or constructive. But it has a function. And here we all are in this debate via blog comments, pointing the finger at Horowitz and calling him mean-spirited, lying, lazy, irresponsible, bigoted, etc etc.

    I don’t think Horowitz is correct in his assertion about AR, but I also don’t think anybody in the AR community needs to defend themselves against his interpretation of the festival.

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  46. Grace says:

    Has anyone here ever heard of Alaistair Mclennan?

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