The Buzz, 7-2: Needling
Singer Sews up Kitchen Gig
Instant Reaction by
Considered Responses by Cathy Edwards and Mark Russell
The Press Release
Late Tuesday, the Kitchen
announced that Debra Singer, associate curator of contemporary art
at the Whitney Museum, will succeed Elise Bernhardt as its executive
director, with the added title of chief curator. "It is a great
honor to have been appointed to lead the Kitchen at this moment
in time," Singer said in a press release issued by the Chelsea venue.
"I have such admiration for the Kitchen's extraordinary legacy of
showing experimental work, and I look forward to building on that
unique history. Given today's conservative cultural and political
climate, it is more critical than ever to show risk-taking work
within a variety of disciplines."
According to the Kitchen
press release, Singer's primary performance curating experience
consists of five seasons programming the Performance on 42nd Street
series at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria (Phillip
Morris) and selecting the "sound and performance works" for the
2002 biennial. She has also served on the Bessies committee.
The Flip Reaction
On Wednesday, Paul
Ben-Itzak forwarded the Kitchen press release to the Dance Insider
e-mail list, topped off with the following flippant comment and
request for substantive response from readers:
Let's see.... The Lower
Manhattan Cultural Council hires a new president/executive director
whose main artistic experience consists of having started a Chelsea
gallery, and now the Kitchen's hired a new chef who's mainly cooked
up biennials. They're even going to call her "Chief Curator." (The
departing director came to the Kitchen from Dancing in the Streets,
if memory serves.)
What do you think, dance
insider? Is the Kitchen about to put its customers on a low-performance
diet? Is it time to wake up and smell the toast?
The Considered Response
On Thursday, Cathy Edwards,
artistic director of Dance Theater Workshop, and Mark Russell, recently
departed artistic and executive director of PS 122, wrote to offer
their evaluations of Singer's appointment.
Cathy Edwards wrote:
Debra has a lot of knowledge
about performing arts -- she's been active as a curator of live
performance, and has served on the Bessies committee for years and
been deeply involved in dialogue about contemporary dance and performance.
I think she'll bring a new perspective to the Kitchen but I wouldn't
assume that performance will disappear. Have you been in touch with
Debra to ask what her programming priorities will be? She has probably
put a lot of thought into this.
Mark Russell wrote:
I hope that you give
Deb Singer a chance. She is a very gifted curator, whose roots are
in theatre and performance, and, yes, dance. She is a friend to
the community of artists in New York. She is part of a new generation
of leaders that is coming up to the plate. She has a very big job
in front of her and she will need all of our support and good will.
I hope you will not jump to conclusions just because she comes from
a visual arts institution. I am looking forward to what she will
program at the Kitchen; I expect it to be challenging and different
and full of questions, new questions. We need some new questions.
If she is able to integrate the Kitchen back into the visual arts
world that would be a good thing for all of us in the live arts.
Perhaps dance will have to share a little more of the pie at the
Kitchen but I think the benefits to all the fields will be worth
I will miss Ms. Bernhardt
at the Kitchen. She did a great job during a really tough time with
a dysfunctional institution. She brought them back to fiscal health
and to interaction with their community. A lot of great work got
done there during her tenure. I think the Kitchen will miss her
knowledge and energy.
However, I applaud the
Kitchen for taking a big risk and a brave move to engage Ms. Singer.
I am particularly impressed by their fast transition to this new
directorship. I think she will do them and us proud... if we open
our minds to a new vision of the Kitchen and give her a chance.