Ishmael Houston-Jones in Conversation with Chris Cochrane
Movement Research Critical Correspondence | AUG 22, 2018
THEM was first conceived in 1985 as a collaboration between choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones, musician Chris Cochrane and writer Dennis Cooper. They set off to create a poetic reflection on their experiences as gay men and in the process, the AIDS crisis started advancing as a devastating force that entered their lives, and thus also the performance. Having been shown many times over the years, we asked Ishmael Houston-Jones and Chris Cochrane to have a conversation about the re-staging of THEM at Performance Space New York last June.
Variations on Themes from Lost and Found
The Materiality of queer loss
By Anh Vo | Medium | APR 11, 2018
“To accept loss is to accept queerness”.
This beautifully simple quote from José Muñoz gently reverberates in my ears during and after my experience of Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd.
Platform 2016: Lost and Found
Open Space SF MOMA | FEB 7, 2017
The choreographers Keith Hennessy and Ishmael Houston-Jones have long laid their bodies on the line, investigating, however obliquely, the myriad sociopolitical concerns that have shaped their lives. This past fall, in New York City, Houston-Jones was the guest artist-curator with Will Rawls of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016 Lost and Found: Dance, New York, HIV/AIDS, Then and Now. Just last weekend, Hennessy presented his performance lecture at Open Space’s Lost and Found: Bay Area Edition, co-presented with CounterPulse. In between these two events, I asked these two friends to look back on what it is to continue living and making work through this epidemic.
IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE
IToP | The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia, Arts Research Center, University
of California, Berkeley | 2016
In 1982 (Ishmael Houston-Jones) curated “Parallels” at Danspace, asking, “What is post–Alvin Ailey Black Dance?” Thirty years later, with Platform 2012: “Parallels,” he offered an updated reflection on the relation between dance makers of the African diaspora and postmodern choreography. (In Terms of Performance is a keywords anthology designed to provoke discovery across artistic disciplines)
Platform 2016: Lost and Found
They’ll Perform and Talk to Remember Those Killed by AIDS
By Brian Seibert | NY TIMES | OCT 6, 2016
One day in the middle of the 1980s, John Bernd took a taxi to St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, where he did a solo show for Danspace Project. Then he took a taxi back to where he had come from: New York University Hospital, a few blocks away. A friend had to sneak him out for his performance. Mr. Bernd had been sick with AIDS since 1981, before the syndrome had a name.
13 Love Songs: dot dot dot
Ishmael Houston-Jones and Emily Wexler talk about heartbreak
TimeOut New York | JAN 6, 2014
(The) American Realness Festival includes Ishmael Houston-Jones and Emily Wexler's 13 Love Songs: dot dot dot. To develop the duet, the artists sifted through old mixtapes, journals and love letters to determine the nature of love. But after Houston-Jones suffered a heart attack and Wexler became his primary caretaker, the duo found answers closer than they anticipated.
Platform 2012: Parallels
What is Black Dance?
TimeOut New York | JAN 30, 2012
After Ishmael Houston-Jones moved to New York from Philadelphia in 1979, he felt isolated, but instead of wallowing in it, he wrote to Cynthia Hedstrom, then-director of Danspace Project, to ask about curating a series of works by black choreographers. In 1982, the resulting "Parallels" showcased artists including Ralph Lemon, Bebe Miller, Blondell Cummings and Fred Holland. The point? Black artists weren't working merely in mainstream modern dance. Houston-Jones is commemorating the event this year by creating a new version of "Parallels" as part of Danspace Project's latest Platform series.
Ishmael Houston-Jones: The ’80s are back with Them.
By Gia Kourlas | TimeOut New York | SEP 23, 2010
Them, which celebrated its premiere in 1986, features text by Dennis Cooper, music by Chris Cochrane, six male dancers and a dead goat (yay, right?). Though he stopped actively making work in the early 2000s, Houston-Jones —a choreographer, teacher, curator, writer, performer and improviser— has been a force in the New York dance world for more than 30 years.
A Look Back to a Time of Feral Play and Fear
By Claudia La Rocco | NY TIMES | OCT 29, 2010
"...'Them' had its premiere at P.S. 122 in 1986, when the city was in the grip of the AIDS crisis. As Burt Supree wrote in a Village Voice review that year, “ ‘Them’ isn’t a piece about AIDS, but AIDS constricts its view and casts a considerable pall.”
In 2010 this grip has eased somewhat, but it is still very much present. “Them,” likewise, reads differently now. But it does not feel like a reconstruction. It is poetic and disturbing, backed by the full force of its history without being diminished by it..."
Fallen Angels In Energetic Theatricality
By Jennifer Dunning | NY TIMES | DEC 12, 1998
Mr. Houston-Jones clearly has a strong, sure sense of theater. He uses every inch of atmospheric bare stage space, studded with odd props that function as stolidly as the lost middle-class world that his dark angels once inhabited and remember here.
Unsafe / Unsuited (A High Risk Meditation)
The Space Between
By Deborah Jowitt | The Village Voice | MAR 21, 1995
When Contact Improvisation was spawned in the 1970s — love seemed easy and trust was a major word … These days, sex and peril are partners, and who can you trust for sure? … Anger and desire shape this meditation by three gay male artists … What pulls the piece together is the tension between the men’s fierce physicality and the inherent utopianism of Contact Improvisation
Houston-Jones, Meier at Sushi
By Janice Steinberg | LA Times | JAN 11, 1993
...Remarkably, the dancers (Yvonne Meier and Ishmael Houston-Jones) sustained a high sense of danger. In one section, both catapulted across the space on intersecting diagonals, at first barely missing each other. After the inevitable crash, Meier dove at, somersaulted over and propelled herself off of Houston-Jones, who pushed her away. Each time she landed, gasping audibly, she picked herself up and returned for more....
Dead and The End of Everything
Dance: Field Trips, a Mix of Styles and Standpoints (excerpt)
By Jennifer Dunning | New York Times | AUG 25, 1988
Ishmael Houston‐Jones seems intent, these days, on throwing himself to the ground as
bruisingly as possible...
By Marc Robinson | Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3, | 1987
In a recent program note Ishmael Houston-Jones lists over fifty major influences on his work: among them are the AIDS epidemic, the fall Allende, the Jonestown suicides, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and Palestine and the Palestinians. He also lists Meredith Monk, Yvonne Rainer, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, and Singin’ in the Rain. The program gave him away: Houston-Jones makes that rare hybrid, socially conscious dance.
f/i/s/s/i/o/n/i/n/g, Dead, and Relatives
Ishmael Houston Jones Performs at LACE
By Lewis Segal | LA TImes | DEC 13, 1986
Ishmael Houston-Jones is a remarkable artist committed to the themes of social justice and personal witness that are the bedrock of black dance in America, yet he boldly embraces the conceptual and technical innovations of late - '80s postmodernism.
Discovering Gay Identity Through the Energy of Dance
Advocate | JAN 21, 1986
Gayness is a fact of my existence, like being black”, declares choreographer and dancer Ishmael Houston-Jones. Therefore, the existence of provocative social material in his performance work is hardly remarkable, since, he explains, “it all springs from my own biography.
Men With Men
By Burt Supree | The Village Voice | DEC 22, 1986
Them isn’t a piece about AIDS, but AIDS constricts its view and casts a considerable pall. It’s a loosely organized work about some ways men are with men - physically, sexually, emotionally.
À La Recherche des Tricks Perdue
The most negative review that Ishmael ever received, to date
By Robert Sandla | New York Native | DEC 29, 1986
And then a man comes out and fucks a dead pig.
Cowboys, Dreams, and Ladders
The Tenderfoot Gang
By Burt Supree | The Village Voice | MAR 13, 1984
Ishmael Houston-Jones and Fred Holland’s Cowboys, Dreams, and Ladders at the Kitchen had
that amiable roominess that allows viewers to hook into what they like and let whatever doesn’t
especially grab them slide by. It’s so easy, especially when the performers have such affability
Part 2: Relatives
Black Choreographers’ ‘Parallels’
By Anna Kisselgoff | The New York Times | OCT 30, 1982
Mr. Houston-Jones's excerpt from Relatives was a warmhearted delight. The sense of dissociated humor permeating the piece began with the choreographer scattering mothballs in the dark and then dancing a stamping spinning solo in the dark as well. When the lights came up, he offered a fragmented account of his family tree and carried his mother, Pauline Jones, onto the floor.