The Coincidental Hour

Haunted NYC

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This past Friday I was taken on a haunted tour of the financial district in Manhattan, led by Bernard Herman (Barkev Gulesserian). It was a performance piece billed as “Haunted New York City”, where people can sign up for a 30 minute slot from 12am to 4am for a “one-on-one guided tour down the lonely streets of Manhattan Island’s Financial District after dark”.

Despite the fact that it has provoked a lot of curiosity from folks who heard about the event, I decided that I’m not going to say what exactly happened on the tour. I feel like it was an event that sits best as private, partly because of the intimate nature of the event, but also because the content of the event created a weird esotericism that I feel reluctant to betray.
But what I will say is that it was wonderful and so truly bizarre that it barely feels like it really happened. I’m sure experiencing it at 2am helped make it feel so dreamlike in retrospect.
I see too much performance work by scared artists. Scared to make themselves vulnerable, or scared of failure, or scared to really open their mouths and say something without irony or indifference. Reticence has become a standard gesture in the vocabulary of performance. It’s rare to find art experiences like Barkev’s “tour”, wherein a subject is explored through touching it with your hands, feeling it in your flesh, and consuming it with as many senses as possible. It was a fearless piece surrounded by dangers uncanny and actual. But it never lingered on the danger, which would have been an easy thing to do. Instead, the sense of danger and eeriness was just a backdrop out from which Barkev continuously emerged with a series of crafted interactions and tableaus of the macabre and cabalistic.

This is the kind of work that inspires me. It’s horror theatre, which is a tag I often give to my own work, specifically the Coincidental Hour. It was somewhere between a haunted house and Grand Guignol, two other types of veritable horror theatre. But the safety net of a group experience or conventions of form were completely removed in this case. For me, it was a thrilling combination of some of my favorite things; it was sex, ghosts, food, stage makeup and the sense that anything can happen.
It was a palpable engagement that certainly made me feel something, and I still have the band-aid to prove it.

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