The World Financial Center Winter Garden has been invaded with volunteers interconnected by handmade rope from secondhand fabric. This Fable is Intended for You: A Work-Energy Principle, a conceptual movement piece by the mixed-media artist MK Guth, strives to depict the relationship between exertion and productivity in New York City. Not unlike hard work itself, the intention has been lost in the execution, leaving little representation of the original effort or idea.
Reviewed by Amanda Halkiotis
For most of this past fall, MK Guth could be seen with her assistant through the display window of a vacant flower shop in the Financial District accepting used clothing from nearby residents and commuters, and unraveling the fabric to store as threads later to be braided into rope. This was the first phase of a three-piece modern art exhibit, This Fable is Intended for You: A Work-Energy Principle. Since the fall, the braided rope has been transported into the mezzanine level of the World Financial Center Winter Garden, counting as phase two of the art exhibit. Here, visitors can see the ropes on display in various forms and settings, as well as watch a five-minute “making of” video at the entrance to the exhibit.
For the final phase of the exhibit, Guth has choreographed a conceptual movement performed by 24 volunteers wearing backpacks that hold sixty-six feet of rope each, allowing them to expand and contract within the space, and each other. The performance is done in real time, with slow, methodical movement cued by monotone trumpet blasts by musician Gus Baum from atop the Garden’s marble staircase. Guth designed the concept around the architecture of the Winter Garden, a large, glass-walled atrium supported by marble pillars with a cylindrical, low staircase in the center.
Entertaining at first, the slowness of the pace soon settles in, and the lagging, apathetic volunteers never change their demeanor. The highlight here is more the concept and less the movement, as Guth’s recreation of the Garden’s geometric shapes works well and has interesting affects. At one point the volunteers stand in a semicircle curve along the perimeter of the lower staircase before expanding in opposite directions to close the gap and form an entire circle. From there they move onto the giant palm trees in the center of the foyer; they lay their ropes down in straight lines to create a grid between each tree.
For the most part, however, these movements shift very slowly and do not blend into each other. It looks more like a live-action stop-motion piece than a modern art conceptual movement. While doing a good job of imitating the space’s silence and elegance, it does little to translate the long hours spent to create the rope or design the piece. For a fast-paced city that never sleeps, the metaphor created in This Fable Is Intended For You: A Work Energy Principle to reflect its cycle of productivity just doesn’t work hard enough.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.