On View: March 30-March 31
General Theological Seminary (440 W 21st St, New York, NY 10011)
March 30, 2-9pm, Free with RSVP, 7pm performance tickets forthcoming
The Kitchen partners with the General Theological Seminary to present HOLY SATURDAY, a day-long, multi-event performance liturgy created by Neal Medlyn in collaboration with Gillian Walsh and others.
Holy Saturday is the day before Easter, the actual day the show will take place, and the concept and organizing theme. As an artist twenty plus years into a practice wherein he is no longer young and nowhere near done, Medlyn’s life, history, and practice merge, as in all his previous work, with themes and subjects of a grand scale, in this case, religion, death, and anticipation.
HOLY SATURDAY has its roots in a series of mail art projects Medlyn began in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for which he created seven sets of writing, collages, art works, and a performance for no audience. HOLY SATURDAY is also part three of Medlyn’s Death and Dying series of performance pieces, following Comeback Comeback (2022), and The Comfort in Being Sad (2023). Now, in 2024, Medlyn brings these various strands of research and work together in an afternoon of free smaller performances and installations culminating in a ticketed, evening-length performance.
HOLY SATURDAY seeks to continue a conversation that stretches backward and forward in time at the borders between gatherings of faith and gatherings of artists. From the prophet holding the tambourine 4000 years ago to performance, music, and dance in theaters today; from the holy mountain to the local church, art and ministry have sought to approach those places where the veil is thinnest between this world and the next one. HOLY SATURDAY, like its constituent parts and preceding projects, seeks to restart a dormant dialogue about how art and faith can talk to each other: non-dogmatically, open to conversation, open to allowing ourselves to be transformed by one another. As always, the dialogue is unique to the artist and the audience, but there is generally–perhaps due to the pandemic and the gradual ebb of the colonial Enlightenment era–a renewed desire for a thicker universe. One in which experience is not commodified, rationalized, and contained, and where art can grapple again with the spiritual, the internal, the felt, the messy, the glorious.
HOLY SATURDAY includes:
INVITATORY XIII and XIV: two new iterations of a monthly series of informal performance events that Medlyn conducted at GTS from March 2022 to May 2023 after enrolling at the seminary in 2021 to study theology.
ADVENTURES IN WORSHIP: An installation of video and photos documenting a series of research and performance trips that Medlyn and Walsh undertook in 2021 to various sites of religious/spiritual significance in the United States. They shot video, met people, wrote postcards, and took photographs at sites significant to the histories of Mormonism (Hill Cumorah and the Priesthood Restoration Site); spiritualism (Lily Dale, New York); American Revivalism (the Cane Ridge revival site in Kentucky; First Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York; Brushy Creek brush arbor, Texas); American apocalypticism (Cobb Hill, New York, site of the Great Disappointment); evangelicalism, civil rights, and the Black church (Mother Emanuel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia; the COGIC church in Memphis, Tennessee; the Billy Graham Library, North Carolina); mystical Catholicism (the Vatican pavilion site in Queens, New York); and eccentric incarnations of American religiosity such as the Creation Museum and Holyland, Connecticut.
GODS NOT FINISHED: an abstract music project with Gillian Walsh begun in 2022. They have previously performed at General Theological Seminary and at Union Theological Seminary, where Walsh is pursuing a Divinity degree.
PLAINSONG: The culminating event of the day in which Medlyn and a full band accompanied by tableaux vivants perform songs from the Cure’s 1989 album Disintegration.
Neal Medlyn: HOLY SATURDAY is organized by Matthew Lyons, Curator.
Neal Medlyn (he/him) is an artist whose work straddles the lines between theater, performance art, comedy, faith, and music. His most well-known work is his seven show Pop Star Series and Champagne Jerry, the subsequent iteration of his work with popular music. The Pop Star Series spanned seven shows and eight years, as Medlyn remade himself in the images of Lionel Richie, Phil Collins, Prince, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Insane Clown Posse and Michael Jackson, excavating the deep, generative weirdness of celebrity. The Pop Star Series works have been presented at venues such as Dance Theater Workshop, The Kitchen, PS122, the Chocolate Factory and others, as well as in various festivals and theaters around the U.S. and abroad such as American Realness, New York; the TBA Festival, Portland, OR; the Live Art Festival at Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany; and others. The Pop Star Series was made into a book published by 53rd State Press featuring photographs by Paula Court. His work as Champagne Jerry has appeared at Joe’s Pub, BAM, New York Live Arts and on tour in various music venues, art galleries and Walmart parking lots as well as online. His album “For Real, You Guys” debuted in 2014, followed by “The Champagne Room” in 2016 and “I’ve Grown” in 2018. His albums feature collaborations with Max Tannone, Adam Ad-Rock Horovitz, Bridget Everett, Kathleen Hanna and others. Other work, notably his reenactment of a Beyoncé concert, has been presented by the New Museum for Contemporary Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and others. He was the recipient of a Bessie award for sound design for his work with Miguel Gutierrez & the Powerful People’s “Last Meadow” and has danced for Adrienne Truscott, David Neumann, and Gillian Walsh.
He has lectured at NYU and the University of Michigan, been a guest artist at CalArts, guest taught at Sarah Lawrence and was an adjunct professor teaching devised theater at Playwrights Horizons Theater School / NYU for six years. He was a board member of the academic journal Women & Performance and has served on the artist advisory council for Movement Research. Medlyn is ordained and has a master’s in theology from General Theological Seminary.
FUNDING SUPPORT & CREDITS
The Kitchen’s programs are made possible in part with support from The Kitchen’s Board of Directors, The Kitchen Leadership Fund, and the Director’s Council, as well as through generous support from The Amphion Foundation, Inc., Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Cowles Charitable Trust, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Inc., Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Marta Heflin Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Open Society Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, Ruth Foundation For The Arts, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Simons Foundation, and Teiger Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.