Theaters

Staying Afloat at the Socrates Sculpture Park

Performance by the dance group MGM Grand (all photos by author)

Maybe the name “float” welcomes the flood. After skipping the journey to Queens the previous Sunday due to the torrential rains, I finally made it to Socrates Sculpture Park two weekends ago for FLOAT: Field of Dreams, the fifth edition in the biennial series of “ephemeral and interactive art.”

MGM Grand performance

The 2011 FLOAT is curated by the Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based Cleopatra’s, with over 10 artists collaborating on and creating site specific pieces. I arrived at Socrates Sculpture Park just as MGM Grand (Modern Garage Movement), a dance troupe originally from San Francisco, was starting their performance in the grove at the park’s center. It’s a wonderful setting for a performance, with heavily rooted and more wraith-like trees clustered in front of the East River, glimpses of skyscrapers between their branches. Already I could feel a storm rolling in, with a determined wind rustling through the leaves and dark clouds hovering in the sky. Luckily, the rain held off for the entirety of MGM Grand’s performance.

MGM Grand performance

Photographing dance is an art in itself, and my skills are more suited to completely stationary objects or dogs, so this documentation is meant only as a suggestion of their performance of Oneness: Making It With Love.

MGM Grand is composed of Jmy Leary, Piage Martin and Biba Bell, each of whom was fully committed to rolling in the Socrates Sculpture Park dirt, still soft from the week’s previous rains. But it wasn’t all earthy writhing, as they were all technically skilled, beautiful dancers, captivating as they turned and strode around the trees.

MGM Grand performance

From the title and the song choices, ranging from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to the more pulsing music you’d expect to find in a tree grove under threat of storm, I gathered that this was a performance about the ups and downs of love. There were movements of both passion and defiance, and then some that were inscrutable to me like when all the members hid under black blankets.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and it made me wish that I had been able to see more of the FLOAT performances and how they’d turn the serene park on the edge of Long Island City into a stage. Unfortunately, it was just before the next event that the skies again cracked open and a fierce wind swept through the park, driving me away.

J. Manuel Mansylla, "Ghostnet(works)" (2011) reclaimed derelict fishing and salvaged construction materials

However, I was able to see some of the art currently installed in the park, including some pieces that were part of The (S)Files, El Museo del Barrio’s Biennial. The park is one of several venues participating in the biennial, along with the museum itself, Bric Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn, Lehman College Art Gallery and the Northern Manhattan Art Alliance.

Each sculpture I saw at Socrates incorporated found materials, and even though they made have suffered a bit from the recent wet weather, I liked how they naturally claim the space. Socrates Sculpture Park was, after all, at one time a landfill and then for many years an illegal dumping site, before artists and community members undertook its transformation in 1986. The trash sculptures were like homages to the place’s not-so-illustrious past combined with its present artistic identity.

Simon Vega, "Sputnik NY-Z011 Tropical Capsule" (2011), steel structure, wood, cardboard, plastic and found materials

There are also a few installations by FLOAT artists, although most seemed like they were waiting for performers. I did love these topiaries by documentary photographer and performance artist Chris Verene and Brooklyn-based artist Jessica Grable, created in conjunction with their performance, “Self-Esteem Salon.” The enthusiastic topiary garden was created by cultivating invasive plant species.

Topiaries by Chris Verene and Jessica Grable with the "Self-Esteem Salon"

Hopefully the 2011 FLOAT will be able to stay above water for its final day this Sunday The Socrates Park website has postponed the Sunday, August 28 performances for Float until further notice. The final day will feature Erica Magrey’s Protest Geometry, Georgia Sagri who worked with an American soldier on a monologue and Martin Soto Climent. Even if it does pour, their website says “rain or shine,” so braver art goers than me may defy the storms.

FLOAT: Field of Dreams was originally scheduled to continue this Sunday, August 28 but will be postponed until further notice. A rain date will be announced shorty. Socrates Sculpture Park  is located at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City.

comments (0)