I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
It's time for a history lesson. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, when the New York video performance art scene was first taking shape, it was at the Kitchen where the most experimental work was produced. It was also where the first Talking Heads concert took place in New York, where the Beastie Boys first debuted as a hardcore band, and where musicians like John Cage and Meredith Monk got their start. At the time, the Kitchen was home to many up and coming musicians and performers.
Beginning in 1971, artists Steina and Woody Vasulka founded the Kitchen as a place to showcase experimental video, and before long it also became known for presenting a wide variety of experimental musicians like Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson, both recognized today as pioneers. This comprehensive exhibit, which offers a selection of videotaped highlights as well as ephemera from the Kitchen's long history of groundbreaking performances, is a must-see show for anyone interested in performance art and the 1970s–1980s New York arts and music scene.
Take your time to ramble through this chronological exhibit that features original photographs, personal notes, posters, invitations, and catalog excerpts. Throughout the show, sit back and watch video documentation of various Kitchen performances by everyone from monologist Miranda July and video artist Nam June Paik to dances choreographed by Karole Armitage. Computer stations loaded with an overflowing archive of work are at visitors' disposal to sit for minutes or hours combing through decades of some of New York's most cutting-edge performance art.
At the time, SoHo was bustling with a heady arts scene as a massive influx of visual artists entered the city in search of low rents. They flooded the downtown neighborhood taking over former factory buildings and converting them to living spaces. That vibrant and interconnected world gave birth to what would become the nation's most well-known and well-established arena for performance art, drawing artists from around the world and setting the stage for what would eventually become the hottest spot for experimental music and art in the United States. The Kitchen was at the center of that movement, and after seeing this show it's abundantly clear how important it was then and now. The View from a Volcano is on view until August 27.