In the early 90s I finally got to go to my dream college, NYU Tisch. Enrolled in the film and television undergrad program, I encountered a lot of heavy competition to get into practical production classes and thus often found myself resorting to courses in the Cinema Studies program, i.e. film criticism. In case you aren’t aware of this arcane field (I bet you aren’t) the discipline I’m describing isn’t what you typically think of as film criticism, i.e., critical reviews of movies, although there was some of that. But actually what it refers to is the cinema’s equivalent of Lit Crit, high criticism, essentially aesthetic navel gazing , much more a sub-branch of Philosophy than of Journalism.
In the long run I have been grateful for that turn of events, because the experience truly taught me how to think and write about art. On the other hand, I was forced to endure amounts and degrees of bullshit you never ever dreamt could exist in this or any other world. Under the heady spell of French critics like Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard (the latter of whom I quite liked, I must admit), the purveyors of deconstructionism had a bad habit of nuancing points to such an extent that rather than achieving clarity, they arrived at greater and greater obfuscation, ludicrously arcane distinctions, and absurd non-meanings, all in the name of WHAT it proved impossible to know. It was the very definition of a waste of time for all except for the people who loved the sound of their own voice parroting the jargon that made up this mode of speech, littered as it was with slashes and parentheses and such.
Jonny Porkpie and Iris Explosion give us a dead-on parody of this gobbledy-gook in their subtitle for their show Deconstructing Burlesque, which I saw at the Kraine Theater last night.
“Explod(d/r)ing Symbol(ic)(isms) Inherent in the Post-Contemporary Neo/Classic (Classic/Neo) Ecydesiastical Paradigm, and the Meta-Erotic Liminality of Nude/ Non-Nude Dissimilitude and Exposure of the Underlying Human Physicality/ Psyche”
Don’t be skeered! It’s just their clever theme for a regular old burlesque show, and I had a high old time of it last night, watching the cast skewer the pettifogging pedantry of academics, a daring act considering how many of them are involved in neo-burlesque (I’m not joking — they are!)
Jonny and Iris opened the show with an outpouring of doublespeak, delivered macaronically (at the same time). And they returned to this conceit many times throughout the show. But most of the time it was an ordinary bill of strips, most of which had some twist on the idea that it was being exploded or deconstructed.
* Iris opened with an audience participatory strip (she queried the audience on what garments would come off next), which ended with her limping offstage at the end with one shoe still on.
* Peekaboo Pointe next performed a classic-style number, duly picked apart by the professorial hosts.
* Peter Aguero delivered a rambling existential comedy monologue about…delivering a rambling existential comedy monologue.
* Fancy Feast was caught in a Beckett like dilemma (not unlike that of Daffy Duck in Duck Amuck), having to strip to music that sped up, slowed down, stopped and changed mid-song.
* Jonny Porkpie did a strip featuring self-deprecating color commentary delivered by a Howard Cosell imitation that I may have been alone in appreciating in that youthful audience.
* The always funny Creamee Stevens did a Crash inspired number, stripping off her neck brace, cast, and leg brace, before getting down to underthings.
* Sizzle Dizzle‘s joke was that she misunderstood Jonny and Iris’s assignment for something “meta”, and so she did a routine with an MTA theme, clad in a yellow hard hat, orange vest and not much else, with periodic interruptions by a conductor saying to “Please Watch the Closing Doors” and so forth. And then Jonny and Iris subjected her to a humiliating mock critique at the end.
* And the one and only Tigger was the headliner, who did a hilarious bit where he emerged completely nude at the outset (except for high heels and make up) and merely MIMED disrobing.
And then there was a raffle, for which the audience bought prizes, in order to win tickets.
Overthought? yes, but by design for the purposes of ridicule! We hope this show isn’t too smart for downtown audiences, because we had a bang-up time. If the hosts weren’t joshing, this was the inaugural edition of a new series and they’ll be doing a bunch more shows with this theme, so keep an eye peeled!
I had also attended the NYU Cinema Studies program, and you are dead on right about it, pretentiousness and all – even to it giving me a different way to think about art.