Four hundred years ago, Henry Hudson traveled from Amsterdam to New York Harbor, leading to the Dutch settlement of what was originally called New Amsterdam. Now, the Dutch are coming back for the New Island Festival — 150 of them, anyway, all artists, offering two long weekends of some very out-there theater, music and dance performances on Governors Island.
The number of events is overwhelming — there are 45 performances and events on Saturday, September 12th alone.

The Historic District and Lower ManhattanMost are free, and those that cost money are under $10, with an all-day pass available for $35. Also free is transportation to the surreally uninhabited island with its spectacular views, via ferry from either Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan.

Most of the artists are Dutch, yes. (There are also well-known non-Dutch like Robert Wilson.) But the performances will all either be spoken in English, or subtitled in English, or completely non-verbal. But this is not just a chance to see some avant-garde work. There will be food, and an archaeological dig, comedy, special shows for kids.

It’s the outre stuff that most intrigues me. To give just a small sampling, taken from the program guide:

WaterwalkWaterwalk on the Hudson
Artist: Spatial Effects

“Theo Botschuijver will try out his walking shoes – on water – in this
one of a kind installation. Waterwalk emerged more or less by
accident in the late 60s after Theo Botschuijver and Jeffrey Shaw
began experimenting with inflatable cushions. Their first tests drew
worldwide attention, and before long they were rigging Sean Connery
to walk on the Pacific in the classic James Bond film “Diamonds are
“Since then, they’ve put pedestrians inside inflatable triangles, tubes,
and spheres, having them stroll across rivers, oceans, and lakes, in
Europe and Australia. Preparations are under way for the biggest
Waterwalk ever – cycling in a plastic ball from Dover to Calais. This
will be the first Waterwalk in the United States, and it’s well timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson.”

LA VOIX HUMAINE (The Human Voice)
Artist: Toneelgroep Amsterdam

Director Ivo van Hove’s “Toneelgroep Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ largest repertory
company and one of the most prominent players on the world stage” whose productions have appeared at BAM’s 2008 Next Wave Festival and at the New York Theater Workshop.
Actress Halina Rijn performs Jean Cocteau’s La
Voix Humaine (The Human Voice) a monologue he wrote in 1927,
centers on a woman’s last desperate phone call to her ex-lover.
Co-presented by New York Theater Workshop and Iamsterdam

tuig-salto-vitaleSalto Vitale
Artist: Tuig (
” Using only the most basic
materials and techniques, this company manages to
inspire awe with every performance. Tuig will
typically build some kind of rudimentary structure or
object, and then the performers are forced to engage
with it – no matter how frightening or dangerous it may
“Salto Vitale is a performance that takes place up to
45 feet above the ground. Inch by inch, a giant
wooden structure is erected, with a man clinging to the

Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center Presents

o C. Ryder Cooley: A multimedia artist and musician based in Troy, NY, Cooley weaves together fantastical images with found props and forgotten objects. Working with the history and military background of Governors Island, Cooley will create a cinematic and haunting installation-performance.
o Maria Jose Arjona: A Columbian born performance artist based in Miami, Maria José Arjona’s work explores the capacities of the body to produce new languages. Here, she continues her investigation by incorporating video and live performance in a wonderfully
unusual space.
o Implied Violence: Implied Violence is a Seattle-based art collaborative. They keep secrets, speak in code, and love nothing more than a good pie in the face. Here, Implied Violence presents The Dorothy K., a work of experimental theatre performed continuously
throughout the weekend with 16 performers and a band of musicians.
herd1o H*E*R*D Group: The H*E*R*D Group is comprised of Ireland’s Declan Rooney and South Korea’s Eunhye Hwang. Working with performance, video, and music production, H*E*R*D creates live exchanges between artist and spectator.

Home Culture New Island Festival on Governors Island starting September 10, 2009