Throughout the River to River Festival’s eleven-day span, participants were awed by a series of incredible cultural performances, and given the opportunity to meet and network with the artists at mixers such as the R2R Living Room – a place for artists and art aficionados to talk over drinks in the South Street Seaport. While the Festival offered several opportunities for like-minded participants to connect, its principal mission was to showcase the work of talented artists. This year’s performances ranged from tales about the human experience to ritualistic dance, with themes such as cultural appropriation, sexual identity, and race taking center stage. The exhibitions and performances all worked together to highlight the value of endemic art and arts’ continued evolution.
Will Rawls’ ‘The Planet Eaters: Seconds‘, performed at The National Museum of the American Indian, depicted the story of a man who left his fiancé after years of suffering from suffocated identity. He goes on to ‘The Wild Camp’ – an island where men go when they’re in need of personal authenticity. Year-round refuge is granted in the heart of the Bojana River Delta as it empties into the Adriatic Sea. Some men stayed, while others return to their respective states of asphyxiation. Ironically, Rawls completes his monolog describing his desperate need of individuality and performs a ceremonial wedding dance from Kosovo, in the Western Balkans with his dance partner. Eiko’s ‘A Body in Places‘ was similarly inspired by Asian customs and aesthetic design in Nolan Park on Governor’s Island.
The theme of cultural consumption on an international scale played out throughout the Festival, which showcased aesthetics and traditions from at least seven different countries, including Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Japan. In adopting ceremonial and sometimes sacred movements and sounds, the complexity of cultural appropriation was communicated.
The performances at the River-to-River Festival were predominantly interpretive in nature, allowing onlookers to create their own meaning. Through a seamless blend of words, aesthetics, dance, and music, the performances were both creative and cultural. The River-to-River Festival is dedicated to showcasing ‘the creative process and historic architecture in Lower Manhattan, as well as the past, present, and future of site-based work’. To see who may be making appearances at next year’s festival click here.