"This is how Johanna dances,"
Katrina Toshiko says. The petite woman arches her back and holds
out her arms like the wings of an eagle, demonstrating her friend’s
Johanna Linsley laughs, seeming more pleased than embarrassed
by Toshiko’s elegant interpretation of her dancing.
Toshiko, a dancer and performance artist, will have plenty of
opportunity to strut her stuff this coming month at UnionDocs,
the Williamsburg art space where she, Linsley and seven other
artists live and work. A gallery that has held exhibitions and
video screenings, hosted a radio show and Web casts, UnionDocs
will present two edgy concerts this month by artists with reputations
for getting the audience on their feet and dancing.
On Saturday, Joe Lally, bass player of Washington D.C.’s avant-punk
band Fugazi, will headline with a stripped-down set of new material.
The concert will open with an acoustic performance by Don Zientara,
whose audio engineering skills are apparent on Fugazi’s recordings.
For a second course of curiosity-satisfying new material, there
will also be a set previewing an upcoming album by New York recording
artist Craig Wedren, founder of the now defunct avant-pop band
Shudder to Think, and of the successful disco-pop project, Baby.
In an interview in "Spin," Wedren said his upcoming
CD is following in the footsteps of the spine-tinglingly atonal
Shudder to Think but is "slightly mellower, clearer, and
The crowning event, a preview of Lally’s upcoming solo album,
promises to be a major draw for local Fugazi fans. Founded by
Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, Fugazi is known as much for a rugged
anti-corporate stance and politically charged lyrics, as for
the crowd-stirring beat of its music.
One week later, UnionDocs will again offer the public a menu
of avant-punk treats. This time the bands will be younger and
the sounds heavier: if you like to dance to funky punk-core,
this lineup is your ticket to pogo paradise. Headliners Japanther
(Brooklyn’s Ian Varek and Matt Reilly), who gained notoriety
for concerts featuring a backdrop video of giant hippie puppets
doing the nasty, have been compared to Urge Overkill and the
The show will open with another two-man outfit, Mikaela’s Fiend,
an arty Seattle-based pair who appear to be bent on reliving
that city’s golden age of grunge. ("Oh, torn clothing"
reads the mysterious title of this band’s web page.) Mikaela’s
Fiend will be followed by Portland’s Show Me the Pink, a co-ed
disco punk group whose members moonlight as a bicycle-dance ensemble,
making rhythm-driven music with two keyboards, bass, drum and
Further musical drubbing will be offered by The USAisAMonster,
a Brooklyn duo whose heavy sounds combine horns and Native American
chants with prog, punk and metal influences.
Judging by the crowd at UnionDoc’s Feb. 11 dance party, the concerts
will likely attract an unselfconscious bunch of young artists
and intellectuals ready to leave their hang-ups at the door and
boogie down. That event featured a DJ and a video backdrop of
everyday New Yorkers dancing to their favorite songs, part of
a dance performance called "29 Friends" that included
collaborative contributions by UnionDocs members.
Although held on the night of the biggest blizzard in New York
history, it attracted a sizable crowd of 60 or more revelers.
A festive, friendly atmosphere reigned, and although the coat
area was the center of the mayhem, every kitten eventually located
her lost mittens.
Founded by film director Christopher Allen in 2003, UnionDocs
is a self-described "arts collaborative" whose members
located one another on Craig’s List, the free internet classified
The three-story building at 322 Union Ave. in Williamsburg has
been lovingly renovated by the members themselves, who live in
the two upper apartments. The artists share the labor of running
the 700-square-foot gallery space below, where their documentary
video and performance works are made public. The events are held
in UnionDocs’s clean, white-walled room, washed with sunlight.
In the evenings, a large movie screen can be pulled down from
the ceiling, hiding the office area in back, and theater seating
materializes in the form of chairs and handmade wooden benches
with red cushions. For big parties, the benches are lined up
against the walls.
UnionDocs has also been home to a broad range of events involving
artists outside of their collaborative group over the past two
and a half years, showcasing work from Germany, the United States,
Afghanistan, Iceland and Iraq. UnionDocs’s members traveled to
Berlin to participate in the international documentary performance
series, the "Rollende Road-Schau (Rolling Road Show)."
Despite this global reach, UnionDocs events have repeatedly focused
on topics that impact the lives of Brooklynites directly, such
as public housing issues and police brutality, as well as those
that engage us as Americans and as participants in a worldwide
The upcoming avant-punk concerts are a reflection of UnionDocs’s
members’ current emphasis on performance.
"We’re having weekly workshops [within the group],"
Executive Director Linsley says, "to focus on the development
of a full-length performance," slated to occur next summer.
Videos of UnionDocs events are accessible to the public via "video
podcast" on their Web site, www.uniondocs.org, and subscribers
with Ipods "will be automatically informed of updates,"
says member Paul Kiel.
About the current dance and music event schedule Linsley says,
"Our aim is to raise some money, but also to give our base
of supporters a good time."
Joe Lally of Fugazi; Craig Wedren of
Shudder to Think and Baby; and Don Zientara will perform at UnionDocs
(322 Union Ave. between Teneyck and Maujer streets in Williamsburg)
on March 18 at 9 pm. Admission is $8.
Japanther, The USAisAMonster, Show Me the Pink and Mikaela’s
Fiend will perform at UnionDocs on March 26 at 5 pm. Admission
is $6. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go
to the Web site, www.uniondocs.org.