‘Prelude’ Provides Preview of Programming at The Shed

At the May 1 opening, two men danced to Tino Sehgal’s “This Variation.” | Photo by Winnie McCroy

BY WINNIE McCROY | On May 1, The Shed at Hudson Yards began presenting a free, two-week showcase in a temporary structure located a block from the where massive complex is poised to establish itself as major cultural presence on the West Side.

“A Prelude to The Shed” is intended to give people an idea of the of the type of programming to be offered once The Shed officially opens in spring 2019.

“Rather than artists serving a building, this is the idea that the building becomes a sort of software that informs the hardware of art,” said Alex Poots, Artistic Director of The Shed. “Its functionality inspires the way it looks. It can move and adapt, appear and disappear.”

Among the performances will be Tino Sehgal’s “This Variation,” a series of movements and sounds presented in pitch black. The structure that houses this preview is, like The Shed, able to be configured in myriad ways. For this presentation, the walls close in to complete darkness, giving the sensation of being buried alive. But as your eyes acclimate, the fear turns to funk, as the group create a capella grooves to pop songs like “Good Vibrations,” with no variation repeated twice.

Another dance presentation is William Forsythe’s short “Pas de Deux Cent Douze.” Specially commissioned for “Prelude,” it’s a radical reimagining of the central duet from his seminal 1987 ballet “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.”

There will also be musical performances by Atlanta-based R&B singer Abra, singer/songwriter Azealia Banks, and Venezuelan electronic music producer Arca — plus D.R.E.A.M. Ring dance battles organized by Reggie ‘Regg Roc’ Gray, taking place in the early evenings. The D.R.E.A.M. Ring dancers are part of The Shed’s pre-opening commission, FlexNYC, whose participants (elementary through high school age) explore social issues and self-expression through FLEXN, a form of street dance with roots in Jamaican Bruk Up.

Influencing the creation of both The Shed and the temporary “Prelude” space, “A stroll through the fun palace,” will give viewers an insight into Cedric Price’s archives — including his influential but unrealized inspiration, the Fun Palace, visualized as an open infrastructure able to accommodate myriad “plug and play” presentations.

L to R: Alex Poots, Kunlé Adeyemi and Hans Ulrich Obrist, at May 1’s opening day of “A Prelude to The Shed.” | Photo by Winnie McCroy

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Senior Program Advisor at The Shed, spent a lot of time with Price when they began working together in 1996. He said Price wanted architectural documents to be circulated rather than buried in some office filing cabinet.

“I think he would love this idea that younger architects like Kunlé [Adeyemi]can be inspired to create a flexible structure very much based on what he and I discussed,” Obrist confidently speculated. “He didn’t want architecture to be an object, he wanted it to be a process. Also the playfulness; Cedric never wanted to be stuck in the architectural world, he wanted to go beyond the boundaries of disciplines. Important to his Fun Palace was the idea of visionary theatre, street theatre, bringing these ideas literally to the people to the street, which is kind of what we’re doing here with Tino Sehgal’s choreography.”

There will also be panel discussions curated by Dorothea von Hantelmann on the role of art and culture in social connectivity. Von Hantelmann has written an essay specially commissioned for “Prelude” that considers new ritual forms for the 21st century; her booklet will be distributed free at the site.

Architect Kunlé Adeyemi collaborated with Sehgal to create this flexible venue on an undeveloped lot at 10th Ave. and W. 31st St. (one block from The Shed’s future home). Tickets are free online or via standby for these standing room, general admission performances. It is a rain or shine event, with free ponchos available in the case of rain; organizers ask that you please don’t bring umbrellas. It is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but there is a no re-entry policy.

Like The Shed itself, the structure that houses “Prelude” is able to be configured in numerous manners. | Photo by Winnie McCroy

Said Adeyemi, “I think we’ve tried to respond to the functional requirements of culture, of flexibility, of context, of space, and how people interact with it. We didn’t work toward making a Fun Palace type of piece, but I am very glad it’s in the spirit of Cedric Price.”

In spring 2019, when the inaugural programming launches at The Shed — the 200,000-square-foot structure designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with The Rockwell Group — people will be able to access the arts venue where the High Line meets W. 30th St.

“I know that Cedric Price’s work had a huge impact on Liz Diller and David Rockwell’s thinking,” Poots said. “Cedric was so ambitious, some people wondered if it was even possible to do this, but that was his genius. He set the bar so high for people to aspire to.” Poots noted they own the temporary structure, and assured that it would be used again for another purpose. It might even be sold in its entirety to an art collector.

The Shed was created exclusively to commission, produce, and present all kinds of performing arts, visual arts, and popular culture events, from hip-hop to classical music, visual art to literature, film to theater to dance. As it expands and contracts, it can be set into many configurations to accommodate multiple events simultaneously. It will have the capacity for 1,200 seated or 2,700 standing. Flexible overlap space in the two adjoining galleries allows for an expanded hall audience up to 3,000. The entire ceiling is a theatrical deck with rigging and structural capacity throughout.

Its most notable design feature is its telescoping outside shell that deploys over the plaza to provide a vast, 120-foot-high, temperature-controlled hall. The shell is made of ETFE panels, a durable, lightweight, highly resistant plastic that is more energy efficient and economical than glass.

When the telescoping shell is rolled back on its rails, the plaza offers nearly 20,000-square-feet ideal for outdoor events, with the eastern façade able to serve as a backdrop for projection. And when using the adapted gantry crane technology to close the outer shell, The Shed can still provide 17,000-square-foot of space for programming.

For now, the two-week “Prelude” will give New Yorkers a taste of what’s to come: new works by artists and choreographers, musical performances, and panel discussions throughout the day, demonstrating The Shed’s mission to support artistic invention and present multiple art forms in one flexible space.

Free and open to the public, “A Prelude to The Shed” runs through May 13 at The Shed (10th Ave., btw. W. 30th & 31st Sts.; entrance on W. 31st St.). A number of walk-in tickets to all events, including those sold out online, will be available on-site daily. For more information, visit theshed.org.

A rendering of The Shed and Lawrence Weiner’s public installation, “IN FRONT OF ITSELF.” | Image courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

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