Cheap Lecture and The Cow Piece
The New York Times, November 8th 2011
Composition is, after all, in the words of one of the pieces I saw, “about making a choice, including the choice to make no choice.”

That insight came from “Cheap Lecture” (2009), a whimsical and smart duet by the British choreographer Jonathan Burrows and the Italian composer Matteo Fargion that was performed over the weekend at Danspace Project as part of a larger examination of this team’s ’s work of the last decade.

In many ways, these five related works, which are deeply
and sometimes overtly indebted to John Cage, are about the tension between structure and choice, as well as how these tensions play out within an artist and between artists and audiences. These tensions and negotiations are always shifting when we view art — never more so than in the realm of performance.

Mr. Burrows and Mr. Fargion are fine company. The front they present — straightforward, sometimes deceptively so — allows for ease of access on multiple levels. Here are two regular-looking middle-aged men singing, talking, moving in pedestrian ways and playing with props that include musical instruments and, utterly winningly in “The Cow Piece” (2009), toy cows.

You can let all of this roll over you. You can geek out on the counts and phrasing and rhythms of their structures (and enjoy, as the artists seem to, their small missteps within these). You can do both, while sometimes stumbling, as if by chance, onto larger questions about the nature of creation and collaboration among those who make art and those who take it in.

Would Cage have approved? Let’s say yes — at least on some level. He approved of chance, after all, and of choice.

Claudia La Rocco