Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Critical Time: Claudia La Rocco

On November 21, the Arts Research Center will present Critical Time: Claudia La Rocco In Conversation with Shannon Jackson, which will focus on the role of the critic in the landscape of time-based art practices. In advance of the event, we've asked her for some reflections on this topic. La Rocco is a poet and critic whose recent collaborations include projects with the choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, the performance company Findlay//Sandsmark, the visual artist Brett Goodroad, and the composer Phillip Greenlief. 

“We’ve had the right piece in the wrong theater.”

That’s something I keep thinking about. The choreographer and director Annie-B Parson (of Big Dance Theater) said it to me once in an interview.

I get calls sometimes from publicists asking me if they should pitch a work to dance or theater or visual art critics. Usually they want to pitch it to performance critics. But, well. Those are in short order. Gotta pick a genre, folks. Better pick right.

The whole notion of crossing forms. As if we were entering enemy territory. I was in a performance recently and a dancer thanked me for “crossing the line.” As if I had entered Gaza.

If you assume (a big assumption, but let’s just go for it) that a critic can write (and by write I also mean think), then really the only question remaining is, can she look? Is she able to be in the present and see what’s in front of her and deal with it from her inevitably limited and biased and fragile point of view?

Probably the answer, even for the best of us and even at the best of times, is almost always NO. That’s what makes criticism so intensely maddening. It’s also what makes it human (try as we might to pretend otherwise). Welcome to the club. Or something.

Another thing, is that people who have seen way too much and people who have seen way too little—well, those people speak the same language(s). (I’m not sure I agree entirely with that sentence, with its logic, but I hope that you, dear reader, know what I mean, even if I don’t entirely.) That is, they’re like members of the extreme right and left. They converge. There is no forest, only the tree. There is only, from afar, the forest.

Ok, well, that paragraph didn’t entirely work.

But it’s important to remember that critics aren’t really special creatures. If they were allowed more often to be failures, if they were celebrated for it, I don’t think that would be the worst thing in the world.

As usual, as with art, as with everything, you might say it comes down to the economy.

Or, to what person you want to catch a drink with after the opening.

And there is, beyond all of this nonsense, that “impossible moment of being alive.”

I still can’t put it any better than Eileen Myles. With any luck, she’ll be at this talk, too.

Well, no, I can’t imagine she will be. But that reminds me of something Eleanor Antin said at a recent talk about Eleanora Antinova, as she prepared to delve into her creation’s words: “I hope Antinova will come.”


Don’t we all.

And then when she doesn’t, well, somebody still has to say something.

Unless we all made a gentlemen’s agreement to lay off for awhile.

A speaking and writing sabbatical. Or something.


(my syntax is already rejecting this idea)

(the right piece: the wrong theater).