Between Davka And Awkward
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Between Davka And Awkward

Last Friday afternoon, a group of eight neon yellow-clad dancers wound their way around half of Bryant Park as part of Tamar Ettun’s “Mauve Bird with Yellow Teeth Red Feathers Green Feet and a Rose Belly: Part YELLOW.”

They began at the midtown Park’s southern fountain. The dancers inflated large, bright balloons with leaf blowers, and tossed them around. One performer sat in a chair attached to a skateboard, a plastic sunflower in her mouth, making sounds, while two others pranced around, they were connected by their very long sleeves, another dancer was costumed within a series of plastic containers and a watering can adorned with a duster. The movers in this performance were: Maia Karo, Rebecca Pristoop, Mor Mendel, Sabrina Shapiro, Asher Mones, Laura Bernstein, and Tina Wang.

The group wound its way southeast, ending the event at the opposite end of the park, at the back of the library. Though it was a chilly evening, a crowd followed the dancers in somewhat of a procession. Besides the art-appreciators who came for the performance there were parents with small children, people who had stopped on their way to the subway, a Fed Ex guy.

At times a player would disengage from the performance and speak with an audience member in a hushed voice. They spoke of such topics as jealousy, desire, shame. At the end of the performance members of the audience were each handed a sealed envelope. Within it was a short personal story Ettun wrote about growing up in a religious family in Jerusalem and wanting to fall in love with a rabbi. She wrote that she met a sailor on Tinder and fell for him. At the end of the evening, the purpose of the absurd exercise was unclear. What do these elements have to do with each other? Was this a moving sculpture?

Ettun, an Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based sculptor and performance artist, notes in her artist statement, “There is no word like davka in English. The closest synonym would be ‘deliberately’ or ‘purposefully.’ There is no word like ‘awkward’ in Hebrew either, and I see my work lying somewhere between davka and awkward, a purposeful, awkward art that attempts to question and recompose movement with sculpture in the absurdity of the everyday.”

“Part YELLOW” is one of four parts of a four-year project that will culminate in 2018 and will be the subject of the artist's upcoming exhibition at Uppsala Art Museum in Sweden.

Caroline Lagnado writes about arts and culture.

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