We arrived in Boston after the early flight from Chicago (where the van didn’t meet us at 4.30am.) We solved that by getting two taxis and that seemed to work okay. Boston is a 3 hours flight from Chicago and we went immediately to the theatre. It was called the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theatre and was situated at the new Institute of Contemporary Art building. Just one year old, the building is sited on the old waterfront. It looks quite isolated set in a parking lot, but there is future development planned for the site. The building itself is very nice, modern, full of views to the bay and the water, which some have said were distracting to the art, but I didn’t find that so. I liked their permanent collection, though not so much the temporary exhibition from the Tate Modern. It lacked guts.
The theatre was spanking new and the crew were terrific. Maggie, our contact there was helpful, the sort of person who would ring up to see if the restaurant she’d recommended was open. David Henry, the Director of Programs was extremely nice, and a down to earth person. He had seen the piece at Under the Radar in New York two years ago. He’d told a friend to see the show in Chicago and the friend had said they loved the show especially the music, to which David replied, “Was there music? I don’t remember any.” He told this to Colin in a kind of artless, straightforward way, which I found most amusing, although I don’t think Colin did.
The presentation was a partnership between ICA, who provided the venue and the production team, and CRASHarts, who did the marketing. They did occasional collaborations and CRASHarts presented programmes at other venues, mainly dance. I never met Maure Aronson, their director. He came to the show on the opening night, liked it, but had to rush off to another production. I thought it was a bit odd but David explained he didn’t always socialize with the artists.
The shows went very well, although it was quite odd performing on Good Friday, which isn’t even a holiday here and neither is Easter Monday. We got 84 on Friday and 113 on Saturday. They really liked it and most stayed for the question and answer. The standard of questions was high and there were black American people in the audience who asked questions which was really good for me. One of them said he thought Shadows should be taught in schools. There’s always a lot of interest in Colin’s instrument, the Great Island Mouth Bow, and David heard the music the second time around.
Later David told me that although they have a great building, they don’t have an endowment and they are struggling to put on performance pieces. They are still building up an audience. That said, he seemed amenable to having me back.
I talked to some students (4), they were students of photography. They were okay, although I struggled to comment on the work the teacher brought in to show me.
Nicholas Baume, the curator from MCA Sydney ten years ago, is senior curator here. I knew Nicholas in Sydney and he had commissioned a performance piece by me at the MCA when he was there. He took me to lunch, and after the show we went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant with a group of his gay friends whom he’d brought to the show. They were all quite erudite and had liked Shadows. Keith, the expert in Japanese literature had liked the tonality of the spoken word, which is a change from Australian critics saying it’s a monotone. (Actually the piece itself has improved with age and we are performing it better than ever before.) I enjoyed being with gay people. We drank Australian shiraz, which they pronounce “sherrah”.
On another night we went out with David to a restaurant, the Barking Crab, nice atmosphere. Boston is a fishy town, it’s on the sea, and we were staying in the area of the old fish markets. One shop had huge prehistoric live lobsters which came from Maine. I ate fish at every meal. We also ate at another cheaper restaurant, No Name, which had a set menu of more fish. They had Blue fish, a heavy, dark, oily fish, swordfish, salmon and a generic white fish called scrott or something. You could get them all on a platter, swordfish was the pick.
I enjoyed seeing seals swimming in the tank outside the aquarium. They were local harbour seals, unlike any other seals I had seen, shaped like a torpedo and they swam upside down.
We went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum which David had mentioned. It was the highlight of the trip. Isabella Gardner was a rich Bostonian who collected mostly European art – the old masters – Botticelli, Titian, Piero Della Francesca and wonderful Rembrandts, but also small pieces which were displayed in glass cupboards, and a collection of letters from famous people. There was something of a personal touch to each object. The four storied building was built around a beautiful garden, which with its geometric symmetry, obelisks and the arched colonnade in the background had something of an Islamic feel to it, reminding me of the famous Court of the Lions at the Alhambra in Spain. Although you weren’t allowed to walk through it, sitting by the garden and looking at it from the various floors was enchanting. She lived there too, on the fourth floor, and it had the intimacy of a home. Moreover it was famous for the biggest art theft in the USA. Five paintings were stolen in 1990 including a Vermeer (yes they actually had one, one of only 35 in existence), and the paintings have never been recovered. They were indicated by empty frames on the walls, as Isabella stipulated that the museum not be changed when she died in 1924. Oh and there was a wonderful café, very small, but it served old fashioned dishes which tasted home made. I had a wonderful apple crumble. Sorry, no pictures, as they weren’t allowed, but I’ve reproduced a postcard of the court.
So we liked Boston, even though there was a icy wind blowing the whole time, just another variation of cold.