Sufjan Stevens and the BQE

On Friday evening I went with my friends to BAM to see Sufjan Stevens perform The BQE, which is a new work that BAM comissioned celebrating Robert Moses’ unlikely monument to automobile culture and “ubran renewal.” With three film screens, dancers with glowing hula hoops and a full orchestra, it was a stunning piece. It reminded me of the ballet I saw in Paris by Robyn Orlin, who also incorporated film into her work in a very dynamic way. The performance made me think about how I relate to Brooklyn visually–what are the sights I see everyday as I move around the city that are actually monuments (or ruins) or a certain kind? The blue gorilla near 9th street and the Gowanus canal? The bright yellow storage warehouse on Atlantic Ave? Sunset Park’s numerous industrial buildings and dentention center? Dumbo and Williamsburg’s new high rise condos? The other effect the piece had on me was it lead me to reflect on a relationship I was in several years ago with someone who lived in Queens. I never thought about it like this before, but our relationship was so much about the BQE. There was always traffic, rough pavement, and construction at unlikely times. I learned very quickly that the BQE was not a road to be trusted; expressway often meant anything but. I knew so many sights in Sufjan’s film from that time in my life- the bridges, the Queens cemetaries, the Manhattan skyline as seen from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m glad it’s been memorialized and analyzed in someway. It made me realize my trips on the BQE are probably my fondest memories from those days.

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