Michael Clark Company performing in Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern was chosen as one of the most memorable experiences in the arts for 2011. (Photo courtesy camelwritesart.blogspot.com)

It’s the New Year, which means it’s time for lofty resolutions and the annual onslaught of “best of” lists.

Here at Gwarlingo, I thought I’d provide readers with a new twist on the traditional “Best of 2011” list.

I asked an array of artists, composers, filmmakers, writers, musicians, and performers to tell me about their most memorable experiences in the arts during 2011. I wanted to know which books, concerts, albums, art shows, films, plays, performances, essays, etc. had personal resonance with artists this past year. I gave participants the option to comment on their choice or not.

A critical difference between the Gwarlingo Index and other year-end lists is that the chosen work didn’t have to be created or released in 2011. The Index wasn’t meant to be comprehensive. The idea was to see if any zeitgeist emerged in the responses and to get a glimpse of how the arts impacted our lives in the past twelve months.

There are a few surprises here.

I was particularly struck by the cross-disciplinary nature of the list. Many artists chose works or events from outside their own discipline. (Who, for instance, could have guessed that Moosewood author Mollie Katzen would choose a dance performance as her most memorable art experience of 2011?) Five of the composers and musicians polled listed events in the visual arts, which was a surprise. It just proves that creative inspiration comes from a myriad of sources and that cross-pollination between disciplines is a fertile pursuit for today’s working artists. After all, creative people don’t live in boxes.

Dance was a popular category among the artists who responded. Music, less so. Curiously, no plays appear on the Index, but two literary classics from the 19th century do.


"I was fascinated to read that some British filmgoers were hopping a ferry and crossing the English Channel to see Tree of Life in France, where the film was already showing. Any movie that can incite this much passion, love or hate, must be doing something right."

I was pleased to see two controversial works appear in the Gwarlingo Index—Peter Greenaway’s monumental take on Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Terrence Malick’s polarizing film Tree of Life.

In early June I began to hear all sorts of rumblings about Malick’s film. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. Some people were walking out of movie theaters in disgust. When I arrived in London that same month, where the film’s release date had been pushed back to July, I was amused to read that some British filmgoers were hopping a ferry and crossing the English Channel to see Tree of Life in France, where the film was already showing. Any movie that can incite this much passion, love or hate, must be doing something right.

As for Greenaway’s monumental installation at the Park Avenue Armory, Holland Carter gave the show a scathing review in the New York Times calling the piece “a dud.” “It is, however, a big, expensive, technological-bells-and-whistles-to-the-max dud, which is something,” Carter added. And yet, despite this public drubbing, Greenaway’s installation appears here as one composer’s “most memorable art experience.” It’s a useful reminder that art is exactly that–an art, and not a science. It’s also a reminder to keep an open mind when reading those New York Times’ reviews.


An installation view of "Leonardo's Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway." The installation received a scathing review in The New York Times, but appears on the Gwarlingo Index as a most memorable art experience of 2011. (Photo courtesy Luciano Romano/Change Performing Arts)

Many large-scale, public events received a mention, including two different art installations at the Park Avenue Armory and an impromptu concert at the Occupy Wall Street protests.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, artists like Rosanne Cash, Bill Powers, and Will Rawls speak eloquently about the relationship between art and solitude. They remind us how rewarding intimacy with a work of art can be. This is one of the benefits of art in the 21st century–it allows us to slow down, to think, to push away those pesky distractions that chip away at our dwindling attention spans, to encounter the world of others.

What were your own memorable experiences in the arts in 2011? Please share your own picks on the Gwarlingo Facebook page or in the “Comments” section below.


Singer and Writer Rosanne Cash

The de Kooning retrospective at MoMA had the most profound impact on me in 2011. To see the entire scope of his artistic life, from the small painting he made at age 12 through the complex figures, vast abstracts and sculptures, to the sparse canvasses at the end of his life when his mind was deteriorating, was so moving, heartbreaking, inspiring… overwhelming. I was in tears by the last few paintings.

My friend Laurie Beckelman, who is friends with John Elderfield, who organized the show, arranged for a private tour. Walking through empty galleries with nothing but the art added to the impact. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen this show.


Willem de Kooning, Woman, ca. 1969. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (Photo © 2011 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society, New York)


“De Kooning: A Retrospective” fills MoMA’s entire sixth floor with some 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures. The show is on view through January 9th. (Photo courtesy c-monster.net)


Grammy-winner Rosanne Cash has recorded 15 albums and 11 number-one hit singles. Her most recent albums are The List (Manhattan, 2009) and The Essential Rosanne Cash (Sony Legacy, 2011). Her prose and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Oxford-American, New York Magazine, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and other publications. Her most recent book, Composed, was published by Viking in 2010. For more information visit her website or follow her on Twitter.



Writer William Powers

Last summer, I spent several days alone in an isolated house with no internet connection, dog-sitting for friends. My plan was to do nothing all day but read, and I brought along a novel, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which somehow I’d never got around to. I dove into that beautiful book — it was the Richard Pevear / Larissa Volokhonsky translation — like I haven’t done since college days, and it was glorious. Crime and Punisment is a masterpiece, so in one sense it’s no surprise I had a powerful experience. But the circumstances, a rare chance, in a world of distractions, to focus for an extended period on just one thing, were also a big part of why it was so memorable. Four months have gone by and I still think about that extraordinary inner journey, and fantasize about repeating it with another book, one of these days.



William Powers is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Hamlet’s BlackBerry, which has been widely praised for its insights on the digital future. His writing has appeared in The AtlanticThe New York Times and many other publications. He has been featured in dozens of major news outlets, including interviews with Katie Couric, NPR, Good Morning America, the PBS NewsHour, CNBC and the BBC, and coverage in The New YorkerThe Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Wired, and The Guardian. For more information, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.



Filmmaker Cindy Kleine

The work that had the biggest impact on me this year was Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s exquisite work of cinema.

Nothing else comes close.





Cindy Kleine is a film and video artist whose prolific career began when she was an undergraduate at The Museum School. Her 2008 documentary Phyllis and Harold probes fifty-nine years of her parents’ dubious, fractured marriage. Her films have been exhibited at many international festivals, including: Telluride, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver, and at such venues as The Knitting Factory and Anthology Film Archives in NYC, and The ICA in London. Her film, Doug and Mike, Mike and Doug, about the artists Starn Twins, was broadcast on PBS’s POV Film Series. She lives with her husband, theater director, actor, playwright and painter Andre Gregory, and their two cats, in New York City and on Cape Cod. For more information about Cindy Kleine, visit her website.



Choreographer, Performer, and Writer Will Rawls

The most rewarding, amusing and influential work that I’ve encountered this year is a text, A Choreographer’s Handbook by Jonathan Burrows. This book is written for choreographers but would be a useful reference for any artist who is trying to tease apart and constructively reassemble the familiar interplay of life experience, personal aesthetic goals and confusion.

Burrows started as a ballet dancer with the Royal Ballet in London and has followed this up with a scintillating career as a choreographer and educator. In my experience, dance and choreography appear on all levels of life, from big or small stage performances to executing a complex recipe to the dance of ideas among people from different walks of life. Because a dance can seemingly happen anywhere, it takes a nimble, meticulous and humble thinker like Burrows to provide insight on how we might assemble our ideas, experiences and bodies into performance works. The book is like a breath of fresh air coming from a wise but intentionally naive owl sitting on your shoulder. I quote Burrows from the introduction to the book when he addresses the unprecedented multiplicity of approaches to dance making that the history of dance has ever seen, “How do we make this field of choice a friend and not an overwhelming burden? How do we come back also sometimes to a position of passionate ignorance, enough to choose something, instead of knowing everything?”

Choreography is hard, and Burrows knows this intimately. And he’s as dry and funny about it as only a Brit can be. The book is written as a series of aphoristic considerations – you can open the book and start anywhere, much like making a dance. The chapters are organized by themes, but the themes are often lumped together to force new associations about old art making concepts.  One Chapter is titled “Distracting the Self / Paradox / Choreography/ Performance/ Electric Guitars.” If I had to pick some very useful quotes from the book they are “Your greatest material will only be great in the right place,” “Our tolerance for stillness is greater than you  might imagine,” and my favorite, “It’s only a stupid dance.”



Will Rawls is a performer, choreographer, teacher and curator theoretically based in Brooklyn, but currently, happily apartment-less. Rawls was a 2009-2010 Studio Series Resident Artist at Dance Theater Workshop where he began long term research for The Planet-Eaters, an investigation of nationhood, ethnicity, folk and contemporary dance inspired by wanderings through the Balkans. His works have appeared at Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, Tanzquartier Wien and The Brooklyn Museum, a. o. Since 2006, Rawls has collaborated closely with Kennis Hawkins as the performance duo Dance Gang. As a dancer and interpreter, Rawls has worked with Marina Abramovic, Tino Sehgal, Shen Wei Dance Arts and David Neumann / advanced beginner group. He will present his solo performance, Collected Fictions, at Danspace Project in February 2012. He is also curator of the upcoming event The Protagonists: Documents of Dace and Debate. Rawls holds a degree in Art History from Williams College.



Writer Jeff Sharlet

“Holland, 1945,” as performed by Jeff Mangum at Occupy Wall Street late one night in October. I’d returned home after a night in park — my first, I think — and by the time I got home I was already aching to return. It is truly no exaggeration to say that I’d never experienced anything like Zuccotti Park in those early days of the occupation. And nothing like the live stream, either — the almost 24-7 video feed from the park set up by the semi-legendary video provocateur Flux Rostrum that allowed you to experience some of the boredom, the ecstasy, the fear, and, on that night, the music. I’d been tuning in and out during the day, didn’t know Mangum would be there. Tuned in and saw this grainy picture of a guy — I don’t know what Mangum looks like — and he’s singing Neutral Milk Hotel Songs. “Hey,” I thought, “this guy is really good.” I was enjoying it deeply, thoroughly, completely before I realized it was, in fact, Mangum. Authenticity made it no better; it was already as good as could be.

The Occupy Movement led me to read a number of books I might not have read otherwise — Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, David Graeber’s Direct Action, Marina Sitrin’s Horizontalidad, Frank Bardacke’s Trampling the Vintage. Worthwhile, all, but the one I’m most grateful for this year, which I don’t think I would have ever have gotten around to were it not for Occupy, is Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days, “the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” Or so Whitman boasted. He is not to be believed so much as enjoyed.



Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum surprised Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City with a solo, acoustic set featuring “Holland, 1945," “Ghost," “Song Against Sex,” “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” and “Oh Comely.” (Photo courtesy exclaim.ca)



Jeff Sharlet is an American journalist, bestselling author, and academic best known for writing about religious subcultures in the United States. He is best-known as the nationally bestselling author of The Family, described by Barbara Ehrenreich as “one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposés you’ll ever read.” His most recent book, Sweet Heaven When I Die, is a collection of thirteen essays about belief, spirituality, and skepticism. Sharlet is a contributing editor for Harper’s and Rolling Stone. He’s been a frequent guest on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and NPR’s Fresh Air, and has appeared on HBO’s Bill Maher Show, Comedy Central’s Daily Show, NBC Nightly News, CNN, NPR, BBC, and other media venues. He is currently working on The Hammer Song, a short book about pop, folk, punk, sex, riots, and the Cold War. For more information visit his website or follow him on Twitter.



Cookbook Author Mollie Katzen

This year I was most profoundly impacted by seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group perform Mark Morris’s epic work, “L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato” choreographed to the eponymous oratorio by Handel. This colorful, powerful, emotional, funny, lyrical work, which I have seen many times over the years, just gets better and deeper with each exposure. It is officially modern dance, but it transcends the definition. Note that it will be performed later in January at the Kennedy Center in D.C. — spread the word!



The Mark Morris Dance group performs "L'Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. The production was a collaboration with LA Opera. (Photo courtesy Liz O. Baylen from the Los Angeles Times)


Mollie Katzen, with over 6 million books in print, is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. A 2007 inductee into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, and largely credited with moving healthful vegetarian food from the “fringe” to the center of the American dinner plate, Ms. Katzen has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.” An award-winning illustrator and designer as well as best-selling cookbook author and popular public speaker, Mollie Katzen is best known as the creator of the groundbreaking classics  Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. She is also a closeted classical musician. More information is available at her website.



Novelist Roger King

I read David Lodge’s novel A Man of Parts about H.G. Wells, followed immediately by Murakami’s 1Q84. I enjoyed both, but it was the juxtaposition that meant most. A hundred years ago Wells’ (prescient) fantasies of future lives shaped by technology and social engineering made him one of the most popular and influential writers of his time. Today it is Murakami who holds that position, with popular, realistic fantasies that excite readers around the world and are literary events. But Murakami’s spell is the magical expression of what is inside us, even while the familiar outer world stays the same. If these two writers express the zeitgeists of their times, then the zeitgeist has moved in a hundred years not only from Europe to Asia, but from fascination with how scientific thought might shape our outer world, to fascination with the magically expressed possibilities for inner transformation.




Roger King is a London-born novelist. He began writing while working as a socio-economist in poor rural areas of Africa and Asia, and has taught both creative writing and international development at universities on three continents. He has received numerous fellowships supporting his work, and won the BABRA award for best novel of the year for A Girl from Zanzibar. His fifth novel Love and Fatigue in America will be published in March. For more information, visit his website or follow him on Facebook.



Artist Sabrina Gschwandtner

The Folk Art Museum’s “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” at the Park Avenue Armory








The American Folk Art Museum dramatically transformed the Park Avenue Armory’s historic 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall with the installation of 650 red and white American quilts, all of which were on loan from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. It was the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city. As an extraordinary gift to the public, entry to this unprecedented event was free. (Photo Courtesy Laura Fenton at Little House in the City)


Sabrina Gschwandtner is an artist who combines photographic and textile media in works that bridge the fields of contemporary art, craft and social history. She has exhibited her work internationally, at institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, among others. From 2002-7 she edited and published the ‘zine KnitKnit. She is the author of KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave and has lectured extensively on the revival of handcraft in popular culture. Her solo show “Sunshine and Shadow” will open at the LMAK Gallery in New York in September. For more information about her work, visit her website.



Composer Tarik O’Regan

My 2011 highlight — by a long way — was the (re-)opening of the magnificent Islamic wing of the Met Museum (which had been closed for eight years). Technically it’s called the “New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Latter South Asia” (catchy!), but most seem to call it the “Islamic wing”.

There’s actually a great little film of the building of one of my favourite sections – a Moroccan courtyard, built by traditional craftsmen from Fez:



A traditional avoidance of figurative representation in Islamic art has led to a focus on permutations and combinations of geometric-like patterning and the intertwining of Arabic calligraphy. Perhaps it was my upbringing, with much time spent in Morocco and Algeria, coupled with my own part-Arab heritage, that has led to a lot of similar types of “geometric” weaving of lines in my own music. I can’t say for sure, but a good example is this piece from the last album:



There’s a specific line in Peter Schjeldahl’s rave review of the new wing in the New Yorker, which sums things up nicely: “To grasp Islamic aesthetics, Westerners must upend their sense of ornamentation as a minor art.”

More than one thousand works from the preeminent collection of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Islamic Art—one of the most comprehensive gatherings of this material in the world—have returned to view in a completely renovated, expanded, and reinstalled suite of fifteen galleries. (Photo courtesy architecturetraveljournal.blogspot.com)


Tarik O’Regan is a British composer. His compositions, which number over 90, are represented on 24 recordings and have garnered two Grammy nominations and two British Composer Awards. 2011 marked the premiere of Heart of Darkness, O’Regan’s opera based on Joseph Conrad’s novel of the same name, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the release of Acallam Na Senórach, his third album on the Harmonia Mundi label. For more information about his recordings and upcoming concerts, visit his website or follow him on Facebook.



Pianist Teresa McCollough

When I look back on the year, I have to say that one of my favorite arts events of the year was the final Bay area performance of Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Stanford Lively Arts. For me, it brought together all the elements of creativity that I admire:  music, movement, and media. Truly an amazing celebration of one of the most innovative art creators of our time.




The Merce Cunningham Dance Company's Legacy Tour showcased seminal works from throughout Cunningham’s career, and offered audiences around the world a final opportunity to see Cunningham’s choreography performed by the company he personally trained. Encompassing 60 engagements in nearly 50 cities, the tour highlighted the artistic collaborations that characterized Cunningham’s creative life, including his work with visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Lancaster, and Andy Warhol, and musicians John Cage—Cunningham’s long-time collaborator and life partner—David Tudor, Takehisa Kosugi, Gavin Bryars, Brian Eno, Radiohead, and Sigur Rós, among others. (Photo courtesy the Merce Cunningham Dance Company)


Teresa McCollough is a prominent pianist and champion of new music, responsible for premiering and recording the works of many well-known composers including George Crumb, Lou Harrison, Chen Yi, Alvin Singleton, Alex Shapiro, Joan Tower, and others. Her most recent  project, World Piece, was written for her by composer Steve Heitzeg, and can be viewed here. Composed over as many days, World Piece musically illustrates the 192 countries represented in the United Nations, with an intention to maintain peace and foster international communication among all peoples of the world. For more information about Teresa McCollough, please visit her website.



Writer Katherine Min

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan was a book that lived up to its hype. Seldom do you find a novel that is as bold imaginatively as it is stylistically, with as much generous and real emotional depth. It was one of the best books I’ve read in years.



Katherine Min is the author of the novel Secondhand World, published by Knopf. Her short stories have been widely anthologized, most recently in The Pushcart Book of Stories: The Best Short Stories from a Quarter-Century of The Pushcart Prize. “Eyelids” was listed as one of 100 distinguished stories in The Best American Short Stories of 1997. “The Brick” was read on National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts program in 1999. “Courting a Monk” won a Pushcart Prize. She graduated from Amherst College and the Columbia School of Journalism. She currently teaches at the University of North Carolina Asheville. For more information about Katherine Min, visit her website.



Jazz Composer & Pianist Fred Hersch

I loved Mary McDonnell’s painting show at the Graham Gallery in New York City last year. Mary (who I met at The MacDowell Colony) is a wonderful abstract painter, and I had the chance to get a gallery tour with her personally and gained a lot of insight into her process. Wonderful work!





Mary McDonnell, "Untitled," 2010. Oil on panel 44 x 30 inches, diptych. (Photo courtesy marymcdonnellart.com)


Also, Sonny Rollins’ 80th Birthday Concert at the Beacon Theater (technically at the end of 2010) was my jazz highlight. He is still playing with fire, amazing technique, spirit and love!  And having Ornette Coleman join him on stage for a number was jazz heaven…


Jazz legends Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman performing at the Beacon Theater (Photo courtesy Christian McBride)


Proclaimed by Vanity Fair magazine, “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade or so,” Fred Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental skills with significant achievements as a composer, bandleader, and theatrical conceptualist, as well as remaining an in-demand collaborator with other noted bandleaders and vocalists. He was the first artist in the 75-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play week-long engagements as a solo pianist. His second featured run is documented on the 2011 release, Alone at the Vanguard. This CD has been nominated for two 2012 Grammy Awards: for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and for Best Jazz Improvised Solo. For more information, visit his website.



Writer Peter Ransley

The Fear Index by Robert Harris. What?  A thriller? Well it’s more than that. It’s a brilliant concept — Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde meets Artificial Intelligence to give the most scary illuminating picture of the crash in 2008 — and what might happen in the future — that I know.





Peter Ransley is a British writer whose work spans psychological thrillers, historical drama, and drama with a social theme. He adapted his novel The Hawk into a film starring Helen Mirren, and his novel Bright Hair was a BBC television series with Emilia Fox. In mainstream television, he has worked on series such as Tales of the Unexpected and Ruth Rendell Mysteries. His three most recent TV productions were Fallen Angel, ITV 2007, A Good Murder, BBC1 2006 and his BAFTA nominated adaptation of Sarah Water’ Fingersmith for BBC1 in 2005. He wrote a TV series Bread or Blood set at the time of the Swing Riots in 1830. He is also the author of the novel Plague Child. For more information, visit his website.



Composer Daniel Felsenfeld

When I was in Amsterdam in 2006, I was fortunate enough to stumble on Peter Greenaway’s take on Rembrandt’s Nightwatch as a multi-media display at the Rijkmuseum, a gorgeous and singular “use” of the great Dutch masterpiece–the work itself suspended in the center of a room while a play of lights and sound cast different shadows on its already vivid sense of shadows, making the painting itself into a more time-oriented narrative. The work, Greenaway felt, told a story, and he laid that story bare by means of illumination. So early in 2011, I went (on my birthday) to one of the final showings of Greenaway’s take on Da Vinci’s famous opus called Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway and was beyond satisfied.

Greenaway has the rare gift of the identifiably post-modern (depending on who you ask) capacity for melding the ancient and modern, the opaque and the obvious, the poppy and the sublime–define those terms how you will–into a singular thing: the word “vision” in the title of the installation is beyond apt. The cavernous Park Avenue Armory is quite literally the only place where this could have been staged (site-specific, I suppose) because the unduly vast space in the middle of famously cramped New York City is, in a way, part of the exhibition. It was a spectacle in the French sense of the word–a show, albeit one done using not only the canvas but also exclusively digital media. And who among us cannot say they’ve wanted to fly close to the surface of a not-to-be-handled masterpiece, or even fly over it as if it were a landscape?  I and all who were fortunate enough to see this work in “action” can say we have.


Visionary artist and filmmaker Peter Greenaway brought new insight into one of the world’s most celebrated masterpieces in his multimedia reverie of Leonardo da Vinci’s "The Last Supper." Set within a full-scale replica of the dome of Refectory of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, the home of the original painting, a meticulously detailed facsimile of "The Last Supper" was brought to life through Greenaway’s manipulation of light, sound, and theatrical illusion. (Photo by James Ewing courtesy of Park Avenue Armory)



"Leonardo’s Last Supper" was part of Greenaway’s ongoing series "Ten Classic Paintings Revisited" in which the artist creates a dialogue “between 8,000 years of art and 112 years of cinema.” The Armory’s presentation marks the first time that one of Greenaway’s critically acclaimed artistic installations was mounted in the United States. (Photo courtesy Park Avenue Armory)


Daniel Felsenfeld has written music for the string quartet Ethel, the pianists Simone Dinnerstein and Andrew Russo, the DaCapo Chamber Players, Corey Dargel, Jenny Lin, New York City Opera, and many others. His ASCAP commission A Genuine Willingness to Help Out is an evening-length project with writers, including Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, Stephen Elliot, Fiona Mazel, Rosanne Cash, Amanda Palmer, Stew, and Lydia Lunch, among many others. This piece will mark the debut for Felsenfeld’s own ensemble, the FelsenPhilharmonic. His monodrama Nora, In The Great Outdoors, written for soprano Caroline Worra with playwright Will Eno will be performed this Spring with American Opera Projects, the first part of a trilogy. Commercially available works include: Pianist Andrew Russo’s Dirty Little Secrets and Mix Tape (Endeavor Classics); Pianist Jenny Lin’s American Insomniac (Koch).  You.  Have.  No.  Idea., a forthcoming CD devoted to Felsenfeld’s chamber music will be available on Naxos in 2013. More music and information can be found at his Web site.



Writer Judith Dupré

Madame Bovary, audio version, translated by Lydia Davis and narrated by Kate Reading. A literary trifecta! Flaubert’s precise language and masterful cadences are illuminated by Davis’ stunning translation and Reading’s brilliant phrasing.



Judith Dupré is an author, teacher and arts advocate. Her work in the fields of art, architecture and theology explores the essential relationship between creativity and humanity’s search for meaning. The best-selling author of Skyscrapers, Bridges, Churches, and Monuments, she has written several works of illustrated nonfiction that bridge the worlds of art, photography, and architecture in ways that delight and educate. Her most recent book is Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life. For more information visit her website.



New Media and Performance Artist Rachelle Beaudoin

I was so in love with Franz Erhard Walther’s wearable interactive pieces at DIA Beacon. They were created in the 60s but I had never seen or heard of them before. You and your friends (or a group of strangers I suppose), choose which object you want to wear and activate. On the large rug in the middle of the room, you did feel like you were the center of attention, but the attention was shared with others so it wasn’t intimidating. With a friend, I wore a few of the various sculptures including Sehkanal 1, (1968)  and each created a different feeling. One brave soul even wore something that can only be described as a large diaper and it was great fun.



Museumgoers at Dia Beacon engaging Franz Erhard Walther's “Sehkanal (Sight Channel),” 1968. (Photo by Paula Court courtesy Dia Art Foundation)



Franz Erhard Walther "Positionen (Positions)," 1969. (Photo by Paula Court courtesy of Dia Art Foundation)


I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants on a trip down to North Carolina.  It’s not exactly challenging, but it’s delightful and covers a lot of territory. Some sections read as a memoir and other parts read as a management manual.  I always love tales of awkward teenage girls, and she tells them with such wit and self-deprecating humor that they’re irresistible. She describes her rise in the male-dominated world of comedy without sounding whiny. The section where she cites lines from 30 Rock is not necessary and seems excessive, even if you are a fan, but it seems to prove a broader point about her management-style and valuing her team. I don’t have kids but Fey’s “A Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter” is funny and slightly sad in its truth.


Rachelle Beaudoin is a new media artist who uses video, wearables, and performance to explore feminine iconography, role modeling, and “raunch culture.” She attended the College of the Holy Cross where she studied Studio Art and played ice hockey. She holds a Master’s degree in Digital+Media from Rhode Island School of Design. In 2007 she was named the recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Rhode Island School of Design. She often works collaboratively with Jeanne Jo on textiles and new media projects. For more information, visit her website.



Artist Fritz Haeg

My selection this year would be Michael Clark Company in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall.

The following is an excerpt from Fritz Haeg’s Wikidiary about the experience of seeing the Michael Clark Company perform in London on June 8, 2011:

From the smart seating position at the far end of the hall we enjoyed a long view towards the distant vertical stripe industrial windows – reflected in the black stripes painted on the dance floor – on the custom made bleachers next to dear old NYC artist friends I happened upon – to watch the evening of new work, entitled th, to the tunes of David Bowie, and Kraftwerk, Pulp, featuring a corp de ballet of 48 non-professionals of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities clad in black terry bath towel togas, plus his own company of stunning movers with amazing bodies encased in geometric patterns of tight lycra graduating from black/white, to silver, to radiant red with snappy stripped sport coats for the finale, was an ideal mix of the pleasure from watching amazing dancers perform gorgeous sequences of precise movements across the stage together and alone AND the delight in seeing our 48 surrogates sharing the stage, in a way that we could all imagine sharing the stage, while performing simple mechanical synchronized movements in a grid, turning, running, laying on the ground…though my favorite sequences involved the company of 12 – each a dream to watch in their own way – occupying the stage like a meadow, where movements come and go, in unison, and then apart, close-up and in the deep background, fast and then slow, migrations and herds, alone and in a group – never sure if you were the only person who actually witnessed a particular moment, was that just for me?


In 2011 Michael Clark Company transformed the monumental Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern into an arena for experimentation and practice. As well as devising movement for his company’s trained dancers, Clark responded to the uniquely performative nature of the Turbine Hall’s public space by inviting 75 non-dancers to join weekly workshops with the company. The group of untrained dancers learned a piece of dance, specially devised by Clark, which was performed en-masse in the space. (Photo courtesy Fritz Haeg)


Fritz Haeg was trained as an architect, but his current work spans a range of disciplines and media including gardens, dance, performance, design, installation, ecology and architecture, most of which is commissioned and presented by art museums and institutions. His work often involves collaboration with other individuals and site specific projects that respond to particular places. His projects include Gardenlab, Animal Estates (included in the Whitney Biennial), the Sundown Salon, Edible Estates, among others. He is also the author of the book Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. For more information, visit his website.



Filmmaker Denise Iris

The Gift, poems by Hafiz.



Denise Iris makes all kinds of movies – short and long, fiction and documentary. They’ve been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in N.Y., on PBS/Channel 13, and festivals around the world. She has received grants from the Sloan Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the N.Y. Council on the Arts, NYFA, and the Experimental TV Center, among others. She grew up in Romania and currently lives in New York City. You can view her short web films about the wondrous adventures of daily living at www.minimentals.net.



Writer, Performer, & Artist Tricia Rose Burt

My choice would be the New York International Fringe Festival. Here’s why:

1) As both a visual and performing artist, it was thrilling to be around so much creative energy from all around the world — writers, directors, performers, producers.

2) It was very inspiring to see the commitment of the FringeNYC team — there are only two full-time employees (Executive Director Elena Holy is amazing). The rest of the work is done by volunteers, people totally committed to providing opportunities for new theater — more than 200 shows performing over a 3-week period. What the festival brings to artists and to NYC is nothing short of remarkable.

3) As a writer and performer of a one-woman show, the Fringe pushed me and my work to the next level. An invaluable experience.



Tricia Rose Burt is a writer, performer and visual artist. She is a guest storyteller with the acclaimed storytelling organization The Moth, which The Wall Street Journal calls New York’s “hippest, hottest literary event.” Her one-woman show, I Will Be Good, was selected for the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) and further honored to appear in the FringeNYC Encore Series. Burt is currently working on her next show, Be Fruitful and Multiply, a portion of which was the featured podcast for The StoryCollider. For more information, visit her website.



Composer Yotam Haber and Artist Anna Schuleit






Hearing Ensemble Klang at Issue Project Room perform the music of Tom Johnson, Oscar Bettison and Ted Hearne. Gutsy, muscular, breathtaking playing.

Seeing the Holbeins at the Kunstmuseum Basel

Checking out the stunning preliminary plans for Peter Zumthor’s design of LACMA. It will make Los Angeles a different city.

Re-reading Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator, a collection of 104 very short stories that have made an indelible mark, prompting us to collaborate on a project of 104 paintings and 104 works for solo piano.


Formed in The Hague in 2003, Ensemble Klang’s innovative programs, their commissioning of work from some of the most exciting composers working today, and the inception of their own record label, has seen them quickly rise to become “one of the top ensembles” (NRC Handelsblad) in the Netherlands’ rich contemporary music scene.



Hans Holbein, "Dorothea Kannengiesser," 1516. Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland




Yotam Haber is a modern composer born in Holland who is a dual citizen of Israel and the United States. He has won countless awards, including a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2007-2008 Frederic A. Juilliard/ Walter Damrosch Rome Prize, which brought him to the American Academy in Rome for a year. He has been in residence at the Aaron Copland House, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Bogliasco, and has been a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Aspen Music Festival. His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, Italy and Holland. His wind ensemble, Espresso, was performed at Carnegie Hall in 2004. He has numerous large commissions in the works, including a 2009 Meet the Composer commission for the Knights Ensemble in New York. He is currently the Artistic Director of the MATA Festival of Contemporary Music and lives in New York City. For more information, visit his website.

Anna Schuleit is a visual artist who studied painting at RISD and creative writing at Dartmouth, whose early, large-scale installations included Habeas Corpus (2000) at Northampton State Hospital, and Bloom (2003) at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. She has been a visiting artist / lecturer at MIT, Brown, Smith, RISD, The New School, Brandeis, Pratt, UMichigan, McGill, Bowdoin, and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard. Recently she completed a large painting commission at UMass Amherst, as well as a painted set-design for Ivy Baldwin Dance at the Chocolate Factory Theater in New York. In 2006 she was named a MacArthur Fellow. More information is available on her website.

To learn more about The Voice Imitator, a collaborative project between Schuleit and Haber inspired by Thomas Bernhard’s book, please visit the project website.



Musician & Artistic Director Laura Gilbert

Although I live in New York City, one of the most fecund places in the country for life-changing artistic experiences, the performance that most took my breath away this year happened right down the road from Peterborough, New Hampshire. Soprano, Tony Arnold — with her inspired collaborators Gabriella Diaz, violin, Petra Berenyi, cimbalom and Robert Black, bass — gave a most startling, expressive, tortured and moving  performance of Gyorgy Kurtag’s Scenes from a Novel.


Soprano Tony Arnold


Laura Gilbert has performed around the world as a chamber musician, soloist, recitalist and guest lecturer. In addition to founding and performing with Aureole, a trio comprised of flute, viola and harp, she has appeared with Musicians from Marlboro, Chamber Music at the 92nd Street “Y”, Saint Luke’s Ensemble and Orchestra, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, among others. Gilbert also performs frequently in a duo with the Greek guitarist Antigoni Goni. Her extensive discography includes two solo recordings on Koch International: The Flute Music of Serge Prokofiev and the Flute Music of Toru Takemitsu. In addition to her solo recordings, Aureole has released nine discs on Koch International, the first of which was short-listed for numerous Grammy awards. Gilbert is also the Co-Artistic Director and founder of Music For the Mountain: Electric Earth Concerts in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.


Which book, concert, album, museum or gallery show, performance, play, film, essay, etc. had the biggest impact on you in 2011? I’d love to hear your feedback in the “Comments” section below or on the Gwarlingo Facebook page.

Don’t miss the next Gwarlingo feature. Subscribe to Gwarlingo by email. (It’s easy, safe, and free). You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

If you enjoyed this article, please spread the word by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc.