Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Photos from Vidas Perfectas

4 Aug 2014

Vidas Perfectas, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

While we’re catching our breath after this past weekend’s Marfa Dialogues/St. Louis, we thought we’d share photos from the stunning performances of Vidas Perfectas, Alex Waterman’s Spanish-language production of Robert Ashley’s groundbreaking work Perfect Lives (1983). Thanks to everyone who helped make Vidas Perfectas happen. See the full list of thanks and acknowledgements here.

All photos by Alex Marks,
July 18 and 19,2014.


Jane Crockett, Rocky Barnette, and Bob Crockett, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Rob Crowley and Alex Waterman, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Fairfax Dorn and Alex Waterman, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Music Producer Peter Gordon, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Vidas Perfectas, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Elisa Santiago, Ned Sublette, and Elio Villafranca, Vidas Perfectas, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.


Elisa Santiago, Ned Sublette, and Raul de Nieves, Vidas Perfectas, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Vidas Perfectas, July 18, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.



Raul de Nieves, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.


Peter Gordon, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Elio Villafranca, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Raul de Nieves, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Elisa Santiago and Elio Villafranca, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Scott Kiernan, Victoria Keddie, Alex Waterman, Ned Sublette, Elisa Santiago, Elio Villafranca, Raul de Nieves, and Peter Gordon, Vidas Perfectas, July 19, 2014. Photo by Alex Marks.

Vidas Perfectas on Vimeo

2 Jul 2014

If you’re unable to attend the West Texas and Mexico performances of Vidas Perfectas, or just want a sample of what’s coming up, check out all seven episodes of the work on Vimeo (recorded in front of a live audience during the Whitney Biennial).

El Parque (The Park):

Vidas Perfectas – El Parque (17 Apr 2014 @ 4:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

El Supermercado (The Supermarket):

Vidas Perfectas – El Supermercado (19 Apr 2014 @ 12pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

El Banco (The Bank):

Vidas Perfectas – El Banco (18 Apr 2014 @ 1:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

El Bar (The Bar):

Vidas Perfectas – El Bar (19 Apr 2014 @ 4:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

El Salon (The Living Room):

Vidas Perfectas – El Salon (18 Apr 2014 @ 1:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

La Iglesia (The Church):

Vidas Perfectas – La Iglesia (17 Apr 2014 @ 1:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

El Patio De Atras (The Backyard):

Vidas Perfectas – El Patio De Atras (19 Apr 2014 @ 4:30pm) from Alex Waterman on Vimeo.

And if you’re really in a Robert-Ashley frame of mind, treat yourself to watching the original Perfect Lives: An Opera for Television, four episodes of which are available on YouTube.

The Park (Privacy Rules):

The Supermarket (Famous People):

The Bank (Victimless Crime):

The Bar (Differences):

And if you still can’t get enough,

Making the World Strange Through Opera: An Introduction to Vidas Perfectas

1 Jul 2014


Sigue leyendo en español

Before the Texas/Mexico premieres of Vidas Perfectas – an all new Spanish-language version of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives – in El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Marfa, we wanted to present you with a quick primer on some of the important aspects of the piece. The new work, directed by Alex Waterman, has been in development since 2009 and replaces not only the language but the location of the original work, moving from the American Midwest to the Far West Texas desert.

Vidas Perfectas is presented by Ballroom Marfa in conjunction with the El Paso Opera, Whitney Museum of American Art, ISSUE Project Room and Irondale Brooklyn.

Vidas is the realization of years of hard work, rehearsal, and research by the cast and crew, and will be an exciting tribute to Ashley, who passed away earlier this year.

Waterman, who is a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble and performs with the Either/Or Ensemble, has been engaging with Ashley and his work for over a decade. He is currently co-writing a book on the composer’s notational scores entitled Robert Ashley: Yes, But is it Edible? and working on his PhD in musicology.

Vidas Perfectas will premiere in El Paso on July 12 and then move to Juaréz (July 13) and Marfa (July 18-19). All the details are on the Vidas Perfectas page.

Who was Robert Ashley?

Watch Vidas Perfectas Via Live Stream

17 Apr 2014


Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman, Performance of El Parque, Vidas Perfectas, Irondale Theater, Brooklyn, NY; December 2011, Pictured: Ned Sublette as ‘R’, aka Raoul de Noget, Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Phillip Stearns.

For anyone unable to make it to the performances of Vidas Perfectas at the Whitney Biennial, be sure to tune into the performance’s live stream beginning today.

Here is the schedule (all times EST):

each episode is 30 minutes, plus 15-minute changeovers between episodes

Thursday, April 17

1:30pm (El Parque, La Iglesia)

4:30pm (La Iglesia, El Parque

Friday, April 18

1:30pm (El Banco, El Salon)

6:30pm (El Banco, El Salon, El Bar)

Saturday, April 19

12pm (El Supermercado, El Banco)

4:30pm (El Bar, El Patio de Atras)

Sunday, April 20

12pm (El Supermercado, El Bar)

4:30pm (El Parque,

N+1, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal Reflect on Robert Ashley, “Perfect Lives”, and “Vidas Perfectas” at the Whitney

16 Apr 2014


Vidas Perfectas premieres tomorrow at the Whitney Biennial and many have taken this opportunity to reflect on Robert Ashley’s legacy and the great works he left behind, particularly this recent three-opera series at the Whitney.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Corinne Ramey discusses with director Alex Waterman what drew him to Ashley’s operas:

“That’s the genius of Bob’s work,” said Mr. Waterman, in the Williamsburg apartment he shares with his wife Elisa Santiago, who performs in “Vidas Perfectas,” and their toddler son. “His idea of an opera is that it’s characters in a landscape telling stories musically.”

For Mr. Waterman, a major attraction of Ashley’s work is the idea of music as a social and collaborative process, where a less formal interpretation—like that of the performance collective Varispeed, which produced a site-specific “Perfect Lives” in the Catskills—is just as valid as Mr. Waterman’s more formal one.

“I’m interested in music not just as a way of organizing sound,” said Mr. Waterman, “but as a way of thinking about who we are when we gather together, and how we listen and speak together, and how we produce things together.”

Paul Grimstad focuses on the importance of Ashley’s Perfect Lives: A Television Opera for N+1 Magazine. An excerpt:

While the operas for television might seem yet another way in which the calculatedly outrageous became a commonplace of 20th-century art, Ashley’s work looks more like an ingenious trick of defamiliarization whereby that quaint banality “television” is transformed into a medium for opera. In the end, I think, Ashley was mostly interested in the sound of Americans talking to each other, or talking to themselves: insistent, often indistinct, never meaningless, demotic. In these voices can be heard something revelatory and strange, as if someone took the lid off life and let us see the works.

Finally, Steve Smith eulogizes Ashley in The New York Times. Finding comfort in the fact that Waterman’s new productions of Ashley’s work manage to both be faithful to Ashley’s vision while cleverly building upon them. An excerpt:

What I have appreciated most about previous reconceptions of Ashley’s operas was the extent to which newcomers found fresh possibilities. Already in “Crash,” broadened horizons were evident. Ms. Bell’s inquisitive “yeah” was not Mr. Pinto’s hipster aside. Mr. McCorkle’s stammer was more pronounced than Ms. Kidambi’s. Ms. Simons and Mr. Ruder employed distinct hues of wistfulness. If the specter of death haunted this wistful, articulate swan song, prospects of preservation and renewal were also at hand.

After extensive filming on location in Marfa, Vidas Perfectas will debut at the Whitney Biennial tomorrow, April 17, 2014. Please join us here in Far West Texas as the production returns to Marfa and El Paso from July 10-14.

Alex Waterman on Celebrating Robert Ashley

11 Mar 2014


Above photo, production still shot on location in Marfa, TX, February 2014 Courtesy of Alex Waterman and Peter Szollosi

Waterman, the director of Vidas Perfectas, a co-production with Ballroom Marfa and the El Paso Opera, recently shared this letter via email with friends and supporters after Robert Ashley’s passing on March 3. The subject was “Celebrating Robert Ashley’s Life and Work”:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

On February 21, 2014, we launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to compensate the extraordinary talent and to cover the costs of all the technical equipment we need to stage 3 Operas by Robert Ashley at the Whitney Biennial.

On March 3, 2014, our friend, inspiration, and the composer of these incredible operas, Robert Ashley, passed away.

As we grieve and come to accept the new reality of these productions without Bob, we still face the daunting and awkward task of fundraising.

What’s clear to us is that these operas need to be staged. Bob would not have wanted a memorial concert. What he would want is for his work to be appreciated and performed with love and care, with a thoughtfulness that comes from spending days, months, years… working together and sharing these stories.

At the Whitney Biennial, we don’t want to grieve, we want to celebrate. Bob’s work has always been grounded in an every day life, even when the music veers to the cosmic. His operas are about the people he knew, the stories shared, the books read, the questions asked, the revelations unveiled. By staging his work, we celebrate a mind keen to the nuances of conversation and thought, and a life lived fully.

As difficult as it is to ask under these circumstances, we do need your help. We want these operas to be staged with the best possible sound, lighting, video, and sets, in order to honor Robert Ashley and his work. 12 days remain to raise nearly $35,000. My gratitude goes to those who have already donated. If we don’t reach our goal, we lose it all.

RIP Robert Ashley: Long Live the Avant-Garde

4 Mar 2014

Highlights from the premiere of Vidas Perfectas, a Spanish-language version of Robert Ashley’s opera Perfect Lives

It’s a testament to the timelessness Robert Ashley’s work that so many artists and musicians from across a broad range of disciplines are marking his passing by pointing out his profound impact on an entire universe of challenging and inspirational work. Remembrances are pouring in from NPR, Frieze, Bomb, Fader, Pitchfork and Hyperallergic plus a new generation of sound composers — C. Spencer Yeh, Daniel Lopatin, M. Geddes Gengras, Sun Araw, Amen Dunes et al — all citing Ashley’s influence.

For those not yet familiar with Ashley, we point you to Ubu Web’s Twitter feed, which has become a steady flow of links to his magnificent works.

Ballroom Marfa is also grateful to join Ashley’s friend and collaborator Alex Waterman in continuing work on Vidas Perfectas, a Spanish-language adaptation of Ashley’s Perfect Lives, to debut at the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Long live the avant-garde, indeed …