The crowd arrives in a burst of flashlights and tango. The ears primed for tin can cantatas. The white-dressed flamenceros waltzing with the cubists. The anti-history mechanics arriving with sheepskin mandelas. El Museo Del Barrio, on the north end of Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile, is an orange and green sherbert in glass light, hosting tonight's event: "Viva Futurism! Revolution, Vanguardia, and the Modern Metropolis."  The music man dressed in vertigo, mechanizes his mixing wheels — industrial torque scaled down to the size of a CD. Hola, to the pre-period-costume under the strobed feather. Looking good, to the lipstick gazzarellos chewing tobacco to Satie. Welcome to Futurismo in Latin America. This posting was supposed to be a pre-review of what hadn't happened yet, but it was finished after it happened. Tonight, or tomorrow, or whenever you read this...the future will be happening one more time, again.

Sponsored by Performa '09, the festival is under an umbrella of multo-multo Futurist events this year. Excerpts of Marinetti's manifesto are read in English by a peacock-eyed woman in bowler hat, shirt and suspenders...and in French by the evening's curator and master of ceremony, Nicky Enright, doing his best Futurist-scowl with Nicaragua-tinged vowelings. While Futurism's mandate of speed is as present as ever, its rebellion against the old is ironically antiquated. Those cringey end-of-the-world lines may come off a bit dated, but the basis of its attempt to change the world with the excitement of transformative art permeates now and forever. Señor Nicky provides the live soundtrack to go with the video he also created as both backdrop and feature, mixing period-music with contemporary-atonal, feeding it through effects and choosing to isolate an instrument to echo as a solo warble through walls and skin. 

I need a breath of air to go over some lines...pardon me the student with the happening skirt, excusé mois the elegant nuyo-taino couple vaya reprazent...stepping out of the space-zone, the view from the courtyard, glassy and modern with spins of tropicalia accenting a burbling wash of light. The museum's recent renovation has given it a much-needed polish of now, a visual clavé beat announcing its arrival from the street. Time to step back in.

The harmonica player, Ernesto Gomez, rides the island mood against drum beats with rare restraint, a sublime moment, alternating music with recitation. Electronic swoops against a conga that filters in and out of his harmonica, playing folk-island riffs under a tragic backbeat. I felt I was hearing the future looking back at its mirror — a beautifully unresolved mirror. Next is Mariposa, badass in crisp white men's hat and suit, performing her ode to women, Mujer-nifesta, the perfect piece for this crowd, her crowd. Then Noël Jones powers through to a performative jam on the trans-human movement. All of us could be considered Spoken Word poets, all of us could be considered Futurist poets, all of us could be considered Latino poets. Meanwhile, my antique white lab coat from the south of France had popped two of its three major buttons just before I was going on. I wouldn't be able to wear it along with the stringed cans that thread through its sleeves. Visual setback. I pretend my tin cans are really supposed to fall and can't tie them to my goatee so I need to hold them now. One hand lost. The other holding paper. I inch close to mic. Tune out distractions and launch into a chant written specifically for the event...Future Chant Futopo.

Built around steady reveals of syllable, escalating in rhythm, eg. this / this is my / this is my man / this is my manifestic vibration, etc. Over the course of 10 minutes, it borders on sonic water torture slash island history slash mantra seeker. The effect of a steady vibration against the video in this museum with a stationary audience, makes me think about speed (its lack of in a static setting) as catalyst for transformation. 

The motion inside the poem when it stands still. The line waiting to find its next landing. The crowd in sequins. The sound bed. The rhythm sprung free. The two women dressed for a tango, a dance company called Bared Souls. Beginning with Argentina and ending with Contact Improv. A perfect jumping off point from Futurism...the speed in language. Contact Language. More likely, the speed of listening. Contact Listening. Of translating. Of reviewing an event that hasn't happened, until its time to happen presents itself to you. Contact You. To step inside something that moves slower than you, by letting it catch up. To give yourself that time. I don't think the future's supposed to be here. That's the lesson from Futurism, maybe.

Originally Published: November 15th, 2009

A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...

  1. November 16, 2009

    Peacock-eyed? I am there, Edwin. Great reporting!

  2. November 17, 2009

    Jerry Saltz goes Performa:\r\r

    And so does Thom Donovan:\r\r

    Free hugs!