Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Jun 14, 2012
06:00 AMTalk about Arts
Letter from Toronto #2: It's about time
(Note: This is the second in a series of reports from the Luminato Festival and other events in Toronto by Spree writer Ron Ehmke and photographer Don Kreger.)
Einstein on the Beach, the thematic centerpiece of much of Luminato 2012, may be four and a half hours long, but if you’re in a certain frame of mind—open to its trancelike repetitions and visionary visual images, for starters—it can seem far shorter. It’s performed without an intermission, although audience members are invited to duck in and out as they see fit.
Einstein on the Beach; photo by Lucie Jansch
It’s hardly the only piece in this year’s festival that plays with conventions of time, either. Last Saturday, for instance, Montreal-born, New York-based visual artist Corno was the focus of “Soon is Now,” a seven-hour performance/party in which she finished ten paintings and used the clothing and elaborate headgear of models as further canvases; no one but the artist and her models was really expected to stick around the entire time. On the other side of downtown, Stewart Goodyear was performing all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a single-day marathon divided into three parts for the faint-hearted.
The late night crowd for the TSO; photo by Don Kreger
The same evening, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony in “TSO Goes Late Night,” an otherwise conventional concert except for its 10:30 p.m. start time and midnight conclusion with a lobby performance by the instrumental post-rock outfit BadBadNotGood. As with Einstein, that slight twist brought a welcome informality to the proceedings; audience members were dressed in everything from conventional formal attire to jeans and shorts, and the crowd was raucous when it all ended. Given the turnout, to say nothing of Buffalo’s notoriously nocturnal habits, the BPO might want to give this stunt a try themselves sometime.
Meanwhile, Einstein co-creator Robert Wilson’s “Video Portraits” series of short tableaux—their runtimes the opposite of his epic’s—is currently screening before Luminato-sponsored films at the TIFF Lightbox cinema. In these, portrait subjects hold a given pose for five to ten minutes, the only sign of motion coming from fluttering eyelids or the gentle rise and fall of the lungs while breathing. Speaking of striking a pose, the screening we attended featured Jack Smith’s 1963 film Flaming Creatures and a 2009 short co-created by Robert Lepage, whose work is a major focus of week 2 of the festival; both were heavy on compelling static images. (Well, compelling to me; friends struggled to stay awake during Creatures’ 45 minutes.)
What’s notable about these very long and very short works, in addition to the obvious, is the way that they have found a place under the umbrella of a larger festival—a format that favors uniformity (everything clocking in at 90 minutes or less, ideally with start times on the hour) and tends to reduce individual offerings to little more than consumer options. In its openness to the over- and under-sized, Luminato encourages attendees to slow down (or speed up) and enjoy the passage of time at whatever pace it happens to unfold in the moment.