At the Whitney Biennial (Or, an art review for people who don’t care to know much about art)

baseball field whitney biennial

I usually fail at my attempts to make it to the Whitney Biennial. Every two years the Whitney does an exhibit of contemporary art, which often features work by the young and unknown, to show us where art is right now. I like to think of it as an extended Fashion Week for the art world.

This year, during the last two hours of the last day of the full exhibit, I made it.

Now, unless you go see a lot of contemporary art – contemporary meaning current, or now, and not to be confused with Modern Art which is from a set time period – going to the Biennial is a strange experience. I love museums but don’t go out of my way to see the non-performing arts much otherwise. And when you go to museums, you are far more often than not, looking at the past.

There is little to compare the work to, nothing to pull time markers from as you might do when wandering the Museum of Modern Art where you can see each generation effecting the next and where various movements can be put into context by their times.

Seeing contemporary art is seeing something that is commenting on a time for which you do not yet have hindsight or any idea of what is coming next. As I am the kind of person who likes to wander up and experience art with little knowledge of it, this suits me well.

There’s a sense of adventure to not knowing what will come next. Unlike visiting the Lourve or other great museums, there weren’t any hugely famous pieces expected. Wandering the building with my fiance, we started at the top and worked our way down.  Most of what I saw didn’t really stick with me.

My favorite piece was a field of baseballs that were penned in on the ground filling up a substantial section of one of the floors. Being a huge baseball fan I appreciated the whimsy of it. It made me think of the movie The Sandlot. But I also wondered if I would like it as much if it were presented someplace else. The layout of the space, including the angled window and doorways that let light in were a nice balance to the simplicity of what was on the ground. Even those who don’t love baseball the way I do would be hard pressed not to stop for a moment and take in the scale of the thing, though I could also see it being the butt of some joke about the lack of work in some works of art.

A sort of scavenger hunt started as my fiance and I ran up to a variety of black and white photos of space that were placed throughout the museum. He proposed to me earlier this year after seeing a space show so that’s right up our alley. The small framed images, clearly ripped out of some larger book, grabbed our attention away from most of the paintings and installations we saw.

One room, which featured many projections of two musicians along with what looked like far away images of seashores or close up images of some kind of biology, didn’t especially move me. But I was impressed by the passionate playing of one of the musicians. While I doubt the piece was intended solely to highlight the fervency one could have for what I believe was a cello, it did that for me at the very least.

The crowd was an interesting mix as well. There were the standard stereotypes one expects at such an exhibit – young people with strange hair, fit middle-aged people with interesting glasses, old women wearing brightly colored clothing that is cut at odd angles – in addition to the usual tourists. There were also a lot of kids, which I didn’t expect. I kept happening upon this one pregnant woman who was there with what I can only assume were her two kids. Both kids looked younger than seven years old. Every time I saw her it looked like she was trying to talk the kids through the art, actively trying to engage them. It was charming.

As we approached the ground floor, we weren’t quite sure what we had seen. We both knew we did not like the installation that reminded us of any number of horror films that portray kids as creepy. I wished we had been able to move further into some installations which were crowded. Mostly I thought it was odd that there were so often a large number of people huddled around the text that accompanied some of the pieces but so few people looking at the pieces themselves.

The art made us think of all kinds of things, from movies to times, places, and random images as art is wont to do. The only thing I am sure of is that we had fun.

Reviews without spoilers: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson always creates a world for his films that feels distinctly his own, and Moonrise Kingdom follows that trend. Though this may be the first time the audience knows exactly what year the film is set in since he tells us that right at the top. It looks and feels like a Wes Anderson film, but also feels very true to the time in which it is set.

It’s not laugh out loud funny, it’s a creeper; the kind of film where you feel yourself smiling even when you’re not laughing. It isn’t so much twee as it is charming in a young way. The story is about two preteen misfits played by unknowns Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman. It manages to capture the feeling of youth very well, even while anchored by great adult actors. The movie never drags, and is relatively short at 94 minutes, but the way time passes in the film feels like childhood. It feels like a time when an afternoon could last forever.

I could have watched it for another hour, but the story wrapped up, then the credits rolled and sadly, it was over. I would love to visit this movie, this world, time, and place. I could wrap myself up in this movie on a rainy day. And I might, once it’s out on DVD.

Playing Hoops Underground

If you want to experience a bizarro version of college hoops, then division three NCAA Basketball in New York City may be for you.

On Tuesday night in the basement gym at Hunter College many fair skinned, non-tattooed young men ran up and down a court dominated by an imposing Jewish kid from Pennsylvania. (Well, okay there were some tattoos. One player on each team had one.)

Hunter College was hosting a double header against NYU. First the women’s teams played, and then the men’s teams.

Hunter cheerleaders did all they could to build the audience, which could hardly be called a crowd, into a frenzy. They didn’t succeed, but their commitment was admirable. For the women’s game they had six cheerleaders. By the time the men’s game began the squad had grown to nine.

There were also a few more bodies in the bleachers by the time the men’s game began. It was a mix of family, friends, and other athletes from Hunter, including a wrestler who shouted that his match was the next night before following up under his breath that no one would attend.

Hunter player Lorenzo Brown’s mother and father were at the game. According to the mother, they are at every game. Same for the family of NYU player Andy Stein, the imposing Jewish kid who looks like Tim Tebow and is finishing up his senior year.

Tuesday was special for the Steins with Andy scoring his 1000th point as an NYU player. His mother made a brief attempt at heckling the Hunter fans before seeming to realize too few people were paying attention for it to matter.

But it wasn’t boring. The teams showed up with as much spirit as you’d hope to see anywhere. During the announcement of the starting line ups the players bumped their coaches with as much gusto as the Miami Heat (minus the egos and over the top technological fanfare).

It’s just that the timing of everything felt a bit off. The cheerleaders weren’t in place when the line-ups were announced. The shot clock on one side was purposely turned off because it kept buzzing at the wrong time. When Hunter’s center, Panagiotis Koutsoloukas, missed a rebound and fell to the ground, he did so awkwardly, without the smooth manner in which many athletes can take a fall.

And even though NYU blew Hunter out – they won by 22 points – they didn’t feel completely cohesive either. Maybe it’s because it is division three. Stein, the clear star of the game, didn’t have any illusions of going into pro-basketball. If he didn’t, what could the others hope to do?

But they played hard. Really hard. It was clear that they cared. My favorite moment of the entire night was probably watching two of the women’s players celebrate a beautiful assist. If you want your athletes to care, and you like it at least a little bizarre, then yeah, maybe division three basketball in New York City is for you.

How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Gets Ready

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is an icon of New York City during the holiday season. Even people who have never seen the tree in person probably recognize it from postcards or television. But how do they get the tree up and ready to be the star of Rockefeller Plaza?

This video will give you a glimpse at how riggers put the tree up, how they decorate it, and the way it looks in its final state.

A tree rigger holds a rope attached to the tree.

A little backstory on this year’s tree: This is the 79th annual tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Nancy Keller of Mifflinville, PA donated the tree after being approached by a representative from Rockefeller Center who spotted the tree on her property. Keller and her family were on hand the morning the tree arrived in New York.

It was driven up to NYC on a flatbed truck and put up on Friday November 11th. It was lit on Wednesday, November 30th. The tree will be on display through the first week of January. After it is taken down, the wood will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

One thing that was hard to capture on film is that the tree is also held in place by cables. If you visit, take a look up and you will see cables attached to the top of the tree and connected to 30 Rock, the famous building that anchors Rockefeller Plaza.

To read more about the details of who hoists the tree and how, check out this great little article from Popular

[image and video by Daisy Rosario. Song in video courtesy of Amil Byleckie via]


How Does That Make You Feel? Unemployment Edition

Weeks ago I put up a survey about how it feels to be unemployed. I’d already encountered three people who were experiencing unemployment in different ways; long-time unemployed Dave Ritz, and two recent college graduates, Lisa Magid and Katie Simon.

Let’s just acknowledge right away that this is an informal survey, and I only had a small pool of respondents. But there are a few answers in which there was real consistency, so let’s focus there.

The last question of the survey asked people to describe how they felt others viewed them because of their unemployed status.  All but three respondents wrote either “lazy,” or some synonym of lazy.

Lazy is a hot word right now. President Obama recently used it in reference to a lack of foreign investment on the part of the American government. Republicans jumped on the President’s remark, some claiming he called the American people lazy, others saying it showed the President didn’t see the country the way its citizens did. And with all the back and forth as to whether to not Occupy Wall Street is a legitimate movement or a bunch of lazy hippies, the word’s connotations might be stronger than ever. If nothing else, this survey shows that these people believe they will be viewed in that light.

The survey also asked people how hopeful they felt that they would find work, and once they did find work, how likely it was that the job would pay enough. The numbers hovered right around the middle on finding work again, but the majority of respondents were – to varying degrees – less hopeful about finding work that paid well.It may be a small survey, but it definitely showed that being unemployed makes these people feel anxious, and worried that others will see them as less than. Whether or not you think the unemployed actually are lazy, it looks like at the very least it will make you feel as if you’ve failed.

This is fun lazy, that’s not the lazy they mean.

The Last Bridge of the NYC Marathon

The New York City Marathon is an all-city affair, passing through many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. There are five bridges on the marathon route. The uphill incline that begins each bridge is a challenge for runners, particularly as they get more tired throughout the race.

The Madison Avenue Bridge, which connects the South Bronx to Harlem, is the final bridge on the route. From there runners turn left onto Fifth Avenue and head down towards Central Park and the finish line.

Watch this slideshow for the sights and sounds of the marathon as runners make their way over the final bridge.

[all images by Daisy Rosario]

An Everyday Harlem Character

This is a 90-second audio story I did for class about a man in my neighborhood.

I have lived in Harlem for a few years now and I really love it. It is a friendly and polite neighborhood, rich with characters and full of history. I grew up in Brooklyn, and I find it reminds me of some of the best parts of the version of Brooklyn in which I grew up.

I’m passionate about using personal stories to tell larger stories and I’m always interested in busting stereotypes. I think stereotypes are actually useful, as long as they aren’t applied in every single situation.

The assignment was just to interview someone in our neighborhood and write some text around it. We were able to style it any way we want, so I imagined mine as a piece that would be part of a larger series about neighborhood characters.

A Brief Look at Lawrence R. Scott by Daisy Rosario

Fake Wrestler, Real Dedication, Completely Hilarious

UCBW Autumnslamn Occupy Denim

Billy Beyrer loves wrestling. He has since he was a kid, so when the opportunity to wrestle in front of a paying audience presented itself, he jumped at the chance.

Billy isn’t really a wrestler per se. He plays the character Whole Lotta Denim as part of the UCBW, a comedy-wrestling group that performs at the UCB Theatre. Wrestling is already fun and silly, but these comics take it to new levels.

This month, Billy won the UCBW World Championship at AutumnSlamn, one of UCBW’s seasonal homages to the pay-per-view events put on by WWE. He defeated the evil Wall Street, a guy dressed in a suit with a Bluetooth in his ear.

For Billy’s story and the sounds of the match, check out the clips below:

How Billy found his character by Daisy Rosario

Billy on how he got interested in wrestling by Daisy Rosario

Billy on his favorite wrestler and when he got to meet him by Daisy Rosario

The sounds of Billy’s match by Daisy Rosario

[image courtesy of Billy Beyrer]

October 15th in Washington Square Park: A Photo Essay

Saturday October 15th was billed as a “global day of action,” in 1000 cities worldwide. As people took to the streets in major cities, many smaller groups converged in Washington Square Park to begin their marches towards banks and Times Square, while others remained in the park to rally.

1. A group of protesters march out of Washington Square Park towards banks. A short time later protesters at a bank close to the park would be arrested while attempting to close their bank accounts.

2. The gathered crowd, a mix of protesters, journalists, and interested people, as seen from the east side of the park.

3. Police barricaded the perimeter of Washington Square Park’s famous and recently renovated fountain.

4. The table of a group distributing a socialist newspaper.

5. Two of the people distributing a socialist newspaper answer questions for a passerby.

6. Young people stand on stone park benches to get a better view of one of the many speakers. Different groups were in circles all around the park, sharing information via the “people’s microphone.

7. Older women (and a veteran) stand back from the crowd while trying to hear a speaker in the park.

8. An older Puerto Rican protester shares a laugh with a man who just took his picture.

doctors rally arch

9. A group of people in doctor’s coats stand together with a sign that says “Doctors for the 99%” on the north side of the park. They were one of many separate circles sharing information at the time. As seen through the Washington Square Arch.

10. The Washington Square Arch as seen from outside the park. Police and tourists kept their distance, but many took pictures of the action from behind the barricade surrounding the arch. The “Doctors for the 99%” sign is visible on the lower left.

[all photos by Daisy Rosario]