Performance Art Review: Heard*NY is the Emperor’s New Horses

I was intrigued when I read glowing references to Heard*NY,  a new performance art piece in Grand Central Terminal, sponsored by the innovative arts organization Creative Time. Artist Nick Cave designed a herd of 30 shaggy, colorful life-size horses that twice- daily prance across Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall.  Periodically the herd breaks into choreographed movement performed by students from The Ailey School.

According to a curatorial statement on the Creative Time website, the horses invite us “To take a second. To look.” That, unfortunately, was impossible on the day I went to Heard*NY.  Visually evocative these horses might be – in photographs they resemble Sesame Street’s Mr. Snuffleupagus costumed for Mardi Gras.  But attending the actual event, not a horse could be seen.   They made their “crossing” at floor level — the same level as the 10-deep crowds who had gathered to partake of the promised “festivalism” of the occasion.  Anyone who failed to arrive early enough to stake out a front row position could only add to the field of iPhones waving at arms length  above the heads of the crowd.  Every now and then, when the choreography called for hopping, it was possible to spot a jaunty ear or two.


Onlookers scramble to capture Heard*NY

Grand Central is one of my favorite places in New York and I was eager to partake of the “dizzying sense of wonder” the horses were meant to evoke.  Instead I joined the frustrated iPhone wavers, hoping that at least my device could catch a glimpse of the action.  As a woman next to me said, “What were they thinking?  They’d have done better with giraffes!” It’s a mystery. In the past, Creative Time has been wonderfully successful at staging public art in unexpected places: They commissioned Tribute in Light, the twin beacons that illuminated lower Manhattan around the anniversary of 9/11, and a production of Waiting for Godot staged in post-Katrina New Orleans.  It’s hard to understand why no one foresaw the visibility problems with Heard*NY.

Want to take a chance on seeing Heard*NY’s performance at Grand Central ? Do it this weekend because it goes away March 31!