Under the Radar Festival Gets Shown the Door By the Public
Author’s Note: Since I originally publishing this piece I’ve had a few conversations with people which have led me to the conclusion that, whatever the validity of the opinions I’ve tried to express, there are enough issues with the piece that it doesn’t stand on its own. As a result I’ve decided to remove it with the following acknowledgements and mea culpas. First, there are some factual historical issues regarding events surrounding the founding of Under the Radar, including Mark Russell’s career changes from PS122 onward, including misunderstandings regarding the various ways he engaged with the Public Theater at the time, both in terms of how Under the Radar became a project of that organization, the decision-making that informed it, and the process that led to Oskar Eustis to assume the role of Artistic Director there. The best information I can point to on that would essentially be this article. Additionally, I mischaracterized the way in which Meiyin Wang became engaged with the festival, which was recorded by her on Facebook. Hopefully this is largely the extent of the purely factual errors; I apologize for these. Beyond the purely factual, I’ve also been challenged on some characterizations and assumptions I made based on my own experience and observation. I have slightly more mixed feelings on how to respond to this – other than listening – but if I can offer my own take: I felt a great deal of ambivalence about the legacy of UTR and what it came to represent, and I tried to express that based primarily on my experience over the past 13 years. The problem is that it’s hard to reconcile – even in ambivalent form – two competing ideas. UTR was an important platform for supporting New York and American artists and presenting in dialogue with international works; it’s loss is acutely felt. At the same time the way in which the American work it presented is funded and supported is highly problematic, a position that I hope I don’t have to belabor in all its complex ways. Acknowledging both are true isn’t intended to assert that Under the Radar or any other organization is uniquely at fault for a system they neither created nor have the unilateral ability to change, nor to imply that within their purviews they haven’t attempted and accomplished positive changes. At the same time, acknowledging the latter part of that doesn’t change the fundamental brokenness of a system. I tried to offer some thoughts on the matter, but clearly came up short. For a diversity of perspectives, social media provides many and, while this probably sounds like a joke (given how toxic social media otherwise can be), I should have paid more attention to what others were saying before offering an opinion myself, much as I should have spent more time researching and reporting before I published.