Abdoh and his partner, Brenden Doyle, in Paris, in 1993.
Photograph courtesy Estate of Reza Abdoh
The New Yorker: It is always startling to hear the dead breathe again, speak again. Reza Abdoh, one of the more profound and original theatre artists of the twentieth century, died, of AIDS, in the spring of 1995; he was thirty-two. And yet it’s his voice—political, inconsolable—that we have the privilege of hearing once again in “Reza Abdoh” (at MOMA PS1), the first large-scale retrospective devoted to this Iranian-born spinner of epic, omnivorous tales about queerness, AIDS, American TV and violence, the cult of celebrity, and the gay child’s relationship to the patriarchy. Co-curated by the museum’s director, Klaus Biesenbach, and Negar Azimi, Tiffany Malakooti, and Babak Radboy, of Bidoun, the show is a marvel of archival research and curatorial empathy, paying the kind of attention that Abdoh craved for most of his professional life but had trouble receiving.
In the exhibition’s six rooms, monitors flicker with scenes from the nine productions that Abdoh wrote and directed, including “Peep Show” (1988), which was staged in a derelict motel in Los Angeles and featured sometimes scantily clad performers, full of testiness and threat, acting out scenarios about porn, drugs, and the Contras. Two years later, in New York, Abdoh, with his brilliant company, Dar A Luz, devised “Father Was a Peculiar Man,” an event that took place in the ungentrified meatpacking district, where the air smelled of offal and the cobblestones were slippery with blood. Amid all that, Abdoh’s performers reënacted President Kennedy’s assassination; it was a show that tore apart the idea of heteronormative masculinity as strength, as damage >>>