Social Agenda: December 2016 / by Adele Schelling

It was of general opinion that the world of entertainment had reached an aesthetic abyss when « The Notebook » was performed on ice last Christmas, a flurry of leotarded figure skaters invading the Winterset House ice rink for over two hours of heart-wrenching pirouettes and absolute confusion concerning the storyline, especially after the notebook’s failed grand lutz. But Edward Wood’s new piece, a musical rendition of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play « No Exit » is an excruciating proof that the art world still has unknown territories of aesthetic desolation to discover and fervently applaud. Three overly enthusiastic actors sit in the middle of the stage, manically staring at each other while the Bronze de Barbedienne vase whistles the musical’s theme songs to mask evident struggles with dialogue. The set designs lack focus, acrylic sheepskin rugs flirting with a gigantic lava lamp, casting a turquoise glow over an already precarious situation. An ironic thought crossed my mind, during the particularly painful fox-trot inspired « Give Me That Mirror ! » tune, that maybe Wood’s ultimate hommage to Sartre was to plunge us into his own fabricated hell, rampant with sequins and shrill singsong.

On a more whimsical note, The National Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker is a delight. Erwin Wurm has been appointed costume and set designer for the ballet, and his eye-catching pieces, such as the gigantic gray mousse rat outfit or the traditional Snowflake Forest turned into a crowd of chair- holding models, are spectacular. The lead dancers perform flawlessly, and even the Sugar Plum Fairy’s struggle to accomplish pirouettes in her pink beanbag chair tutu is greeted with applause and a couple of walnuts thrown playfully on stage by an eager member of the audiance, trying out his new promotional nutcracker. This production largely surpasses their previous ballet, a sordid recounting of Macbeth with the glacial twist of its happening exculsively on Antartic territory, amid revenge-seeking penguins. The artistic director guilty of perpetrating this show is currently in rehab for an eggnog overdose, may our festive thoughts be with him in this difficult time and hope for a career reorientation.

Last but not least, Winterset House’s new exhibit on fashion inspired by the Art&Language conceptual artists is a must-see. The Joseph Kosuth ball gown is a breathtaking cloud of silk wound around chair legs and topped with a veiled hat bearing the Harvard definition of a chair. Mel Ramsden’s athletic line, entirely black and shapless, is more perplexing, the artist having specified that the form and shades of his creations are to be kept secret, known only to himself. Finaly, Terry Atkinson’s nightwear collection is seductive, yet clearly implies a critique of the fashion industry, instead of its lighthearted celebration. A catwalk show is scheduled next February for LFW, invitations will be sent to random visitors of Winterset House by On Kawara, stating the date and time of the happening in succint detail.