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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

At The Classical: Theater of Pain — The Knicks as Performance Art

Pipe

Over at The Classical, I wrote about the Knicks and Performance art (for serious)

If you’d attended a performance called Accidens (Matar Para Comer) at the Prelude Festival five years ago, here is what you would have happened: you walk into a bare, stage- and set-free room—this is at the City University of New York—to find a man sitting in a chair and smoking a cigar off to one side, with a large griddle warming up on a table at center. There’s a tub of water next to him. There are no seats (save for his) and it’s unclear if the play has started. So you would stand there and you wait.

After a stretch of time that seems to border on both the brief and the interminable, the man reaches into the tub and produces a live lobster, which he hangs from a microphoned wire suspended from the ceiling; he uses two other cords to splay the crustacean’s arms out. The lobster hangs there, at first motionless, then writhing and kicking, as the microphone and two speakers pick up and amplified every little sound the creature made. This is horrible, and it goes on for a while.

You would stand there, watching what is, yes, a performance, but also an actual event in which a living thing was suffering. Or you would walk out, repulsed.

Some people did. Others were angered or shocked or fascinated and stood there.

Then, after again a chunk of time that seemed eternal and oh-so-brief, the man brought out a serious pair kitchen scissors out and began poking and prodding at the lobster. There was no denying it. He was torturing the animal. You could hear its heart speed up (or at least, that’s what it seemed/felt like was occurring), as the animal seemed to be trying to escape this man wielding the knife.

Here’s a clip from an earlier production where he cuts off one of the lobster’s limbs. (Warning: It’s real.)

The audience watched.

Then he took the poor creature down and placed it next to his tiny grill. With one quick blow, he cleft its head in twain and placed it on the heat, cooking it.

It smelled delicious.

More people left, some stayed, and then he cooked it and ate it, while continuing to smoke and sipping champagne; and the audience watched.

While the performer consumed his meal, a video played behind him, explaining that what they’d seen occurs thousands of times a night, in restaurants across the globe. If you were offended or appalled or repulsed, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself about where your food comes from, and what measures are taken on your behalf in the process of growing, cultivating, killing, processing and presenting it.

You do not need to be a screeching Vegan to have a very strong emotional reaction to this. It was a play, a construct, but what was occurring onstage was undeniably also very real. A living creature, one that certainly seemed capable of experiencing fear and pain, was tortured and killed. It was clear that to a certain degree, the director/creator of the piece wanted to make the members of the audience miserable.

On the surface, that may seem odd; that an individual would willingly to fork over currency in order to be abused, or at least purposely made to feel and think unpleasant things. This sort of performance art is not for everyone, and—you could quite reasonably think—not really for anyone. But, of course, there are also the New York Knicks.

The full article can be found here. Happy New Year, Knicker-backers!

28 comments on “At The Classical: Theater of Pain — The Knicks as Performance Art

  1. DRed

    Off topic, but the Magritte show at MOMA is well worth going to, and is much more aesthetically enjoyable than watching the Knicks.

  2. JK47

    “We lose an I take 1 shit y’all mad”

    Literally taking a shit on the court is just about the only thing JR could do at this point that would make his play even more disgusting.

  3. Kikuchiyo

    If we’re going to describe unfolding history in terms of drama, I’m quoting Marx:

    “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

    I think we’re watching the second wave of the Isiah years, now in their farcical garb. I’m trying to recall my memories of that time, when rooting for D-Lee, Nate, and Channing Frye was all we had. At least those guys were figuring some things out, albeit largely as bench players. What’s to see now? Another JR 5-16 game? A Bargs-Beno pick and roll? Zombie Amar’e? We’ve got posters here desperate to see more Cole Aldrich, for goodness sake. Comedy and Clyde are my two reasons for still watching.

    If they pull things together and somehow get the 8th seed, I think they should petition to be able to use six defenders against Miami. (If it’s Indiana, it should be six offensive players.)

  4. ephus

    This is a great column.

    I have often said, “The good news is that there is nothing JR Smith cannot do on a basketball court. The bad news is that there is nothing JR Smith will not do on a basketball court.” This article puts that in stark relief. He could definitely spew bodily fluids and scat on celebrity row.

    For me, the difference between the Knicks and performance art is that the performance artist (to my limited understanding) makes things painful/difficult in order to force the audience to re-examine deeply held assumptions about how the world/society functions. The lobster torture in your article is a great example. I can see how I might pay $$ to be in the audience, prepared to be uncomfortable and learn something about my unexamined beliefs.

    The Knicks, on the other hand, are not engaged in painful basketball as part of a conscious attempt to make Knicks’ fans re-evaluate their understanding of basketball. The Knicks, as far as I can tell, are engaged in painful basketball because they have made several dozen micro-decisions that have led to a world where Woodson and the Front Office believe that these tactics/lineups give the Knicks the best chance to win. This is not performance art, it’s just poor performance.

    My favorite Knickerblogger performance artist is THCJ. He, of course, was right to predict that the 2013-14 roster was doomed. I was wrong to disagree.

  5. JK47

    But… but… but… But ruru said he would come back to the Knicks at a discount! WHY DID YOU LIE TO ME RURU

  6. DRed

    Anthony’s preference is to remain with the Knicks if he sees a solid plan in place.

    The plan is probably to offer Carmelo 30 million dollars more than anyone else once he’s convinced our clueless owner that he actually would go to the Lakers.

  7. JK47

    Melo for Luol Deng’s expiring contract, Kirk Hinrich’s expiring contract, Jimmy Butler, Charlotte’s 2014 first rounder that the Bulls currently own and the Bulls own 2014 first rounder. Works in the trade machine.

  8. DRed

    Melo for Luol Deng’s expiring contract, Kirk Hinrich’s expiring contract, Jimmy Butler, Charlotte’s 2014 first rounder that the Bulls currently own and the Bulls own 2014 first rounder. Works in the trade machine.

    I’d love to swindle the Bulls out of Butler and 2 picks, but I think they’re way too smart to do that deal.

  9. Frank O.

    Imagine Tom Thibodeau having a player that had the talent to be one of the very best in the league if he wants to be, but who doesn’t appear to want it…

    Thib would probably try to have Melo assassinated after their first season together.

  10. JK47

    Actually I think Melo would be a very good fit in Chicago. Their offense is completely flatlining but their defense is still elite. A Melo-for-assets trade could actually help both teams.

  11. Frank O.

    Robert, loved the column.
    Would enjoy reading you writing about the display from the lobster’s perspective.
    Given your apparent natural affinity for angst and suffering (you’re a Knicks fan with chops), I think you could pull it off.

  12. Frank O.

    Actually I think Melo would be a very good fit in Chicago. Their offense is completely flatlining but their defense is still elite. A Melo-for-assets trade could actually help both teams.

    probably right.
    I still like imaging his frustration with Melo.

  13. Brian Cronin

    I’d love to swindle the Bulls out of Butler and 2 picks, but I think they’re way too smart to do that deal.

    While I agree, I think they might do the deal if they kept their own pick.

  14. Brian Cronin

    Anthony’s preference is to remain with the Knicks if he sees a solid plan in place.

    So he’s gone, then? ‘Cuz there sure isn’t a solid plan in place. Unless “give Melo the Super MaX” is enough of a solid plan for him, which it very well might be.

  15. er

    Once he said he would try free agency, the season was done.
    —lol Hyperbole much? Everyone knew he was gonna do that.

  16. JK47

    “Okay Melo, we have a solid plan. We’re gonna trade every draft pick through 2078 for some more volume scorers, then we’re gonna use all of our cap space to sign some more volume scorers. You in?”

  17. ephus

    Here’s an unfair shot that the Daily News (Frank Isola) took at Carmelo Anthony in the article linked by Frank O. above:

    Twitter wasn’t around during Patrick Ewing’s playing days, but it’s safe to assume that Ewing, heavily criticized during his time in New York, would not have reacted that way. Moreover, Ewing was never 9-21 while in the prime of his career, either.

    On December 30, 1986, the Knicks beat the Washington Bullets to rise to 9-21 on the season. Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright both started. Ewing was in his second season. I guess you could say that Ewing was not “in the prime of his career”, but he was the most important player on a 24 win team, after the Knicks won only 23 games (and started 11-21) during his rookie season. I love the Big Fella beyond all reason. There were many times during those first two seasons that I was close to dispair that he was not enough to lift them team into the playoffs, let alone championship contention.

    Carmelo Anthony is the best player on a team that has fallen into the cellar and shows no signs of getting up. I see absolutely no evidence that Carmelo’s summer 2014 plans have anything to do with Bargnani’s D, Amar’e’s knee or Shumpert’s lack of a 3. Carmelo’s quote did not hurt Tyson’s leg, Felton’s groin, K-Mart’s abs or Prigioni’s toe

    Bottom line – If Carmelo stays, it won’t be because of the salary. Most of the $30 million difference in max salary that some say will compel Carmelo to stay is in the fifth year no other team can offer w/o Bird Rights. I expect that Carmelo believes (perhaps accurately, perhaps not) that he will command a large salary in his 2018-19 season, even if it is the first year of his next free agent contract. And if Carmelo wants to go, the Knicks are better off knowing that…

  18. Owen

    I will say, for Melo, getting out of NYC and going to a winning situation is 100% the right move. No one would fault him. Everyone understands who the problem is.

  19. flossy

    Melo could really do himself and the Knicks a solid and a “pull a Melo,” i.e. demand a trade to one specific team, specifically one that rhymes with “flippers.” It would be nice to watch him and Chris Paul together and would distinctly improve that team for the rest of Chris Paul’s prime (i.e. their championship window), and it would be awesome to exchange Melo’s decline for Griffin’s peak years (assuming we wouldn’t find a way to ruin him, too).

  20. Brian Cronin

    I saw the same thing, ephus, and thought the same exact thing “how convenient of a qualifier by Isola so that he can ignore that Ewing was a contributor to one of the worst Knick teams of all-time.”

  21. knickster

    Even Ruru realized the only possible reason for Carmelo to opt out is money. However, don’t be so sure he will stay the course: as the date nears, it will become obvious that he does not have a lot of choices, so he may find some last-minute “Knicks loyalty”.

  22. knickster

    Melo could really do himself and the Knicks a solid and a “pull a Melo,” i.e. demand a trade to one specific team, specifically one that rhymes with “flippers.” It would be nice to watch him and Chris Paul together and would distinctly improve that team for the rest of Chris Paul’s prime (i.e. their championship window), and it would be awesome to exchange Melo’s decline for Griffin’s peak years (assuming we wouldn’t find a way to ruin him, too).

    I honestly doubt the Clippers would trade Griffin for Carmelo. Too much of a risk after watching his NY tenure…

  23. JK47

    Ruru has apparently run out of spin. “The shots just aren’t falling” was his last gasp. If he comes back it will only be to tell us that Tyson Chandler sucks.

  24. JK47

    Ruru specifically said that he believed Melo would return to the Knicks at a discount, and that he (ruru) was willing to stake his reputation on that happening. Anybody else remember that?

    It’s laughable, but he said it.

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