Thursday, June 18, 2015


You've seen them around town. Rolling on the asphalt at Astor Place and Union Square in their underwear. Sometimes in the rain. Bearded men in women's one-piece bathing suits and motorcycle helmets, women in glitter and furry brassieres, getting dirty, joyfully grappling one another, repeating the same words over and over. (Sometimes, the Van Gogh lookalike walks by.) They operate like a hive-minded flock, moving like starlings, in fleshy murmurations. Coming together, splitting apart, reforming in a new shape each time.

Some weeks ago, I came upon them in dishwater-dull Times Square, during a hunt for something New York, something startling and weird. Some sign, to quote Frank O'Hara, "that people do not totally regret life." In the soul-deadening crush of selfie sticks and Bubba Gump, I felt greatly relieved to see them in their strange and sweaty scrum of pre-Bloombergian delirium. But who are they and what are they all about?

I reached out to group co-organizer Fritz Donnelly to ask him about this thing they call "looping."

Fritz looping in Times Square, at TKTS

Q: What is looping?

A: Looping is what we call getting together and performing spontaneously with an orientation toward playful subversion. You're invited! We all lead and follow. We repeat for emphasis and to move the form, to get into a groove and then roll and see where it goes.

Q: Who is your group of loopers?

A: Many of us know one another from Circus of Dreams, a monthly variety performance art show at Bizarre Bar in Bushwick that Matthew Silver started and hosts, and which is now run by House of Screwball.

Looping specifically arose out of collaborative films and a workshops that I led earlier this year. Some characteristics of looping so far: Listening and offering. The body unsexualized, gender morphs, the audience is the performance, contact improv, undressing and redressing, language plays, absurdity, undrugged exuberance, unexpected but nurtured political gestures, normalizing weirdness and weirding normalcy.

Q: When you bring a performance (is that the right word?) to a place like the TKTS ticket lounge area, filled with Times Square tourists, what is your aim? What do you hope will happen?

A: Throwing our hands up and calling, "I'm a tree. Are you a tree?" And being joined by a family--including a little girl in a rainbow vest was one highlight. In a way, that's the point of looping: magical participatory moments. People smiling, laughing at themselves, at us. That's the good stuff.

I love it when people join. They step out of their day and into the wave. Whoosh. In another moment, a woman observing us threw off her dress and climbed a lamp post with our help, while another guy stripped to his underwear and rolled on the ground. "Life has its highs and lows!"

Looping is about feeling alive and challenging zombie culture, and recognizing community is a hand hold away. Love and acceptance for our strangeness is right here. We're all there inside just waiting for an excuse to peek out. "One of these kids is doing his own thing," why not join him!?

We all have different particular aims and interests but the overall point of performing like this in the place where people go to see spectacle, where they go to buy tickets for these multimillion dollar packaged productions, is to say that we can create theater in the everyday, in the moment. We can sing on Broadway. We did. The audience is here and the stage is set. Life can be a dramatic and ridiculous experience in just the way our 'entertainment' is.

I wore a costume from a former Broadway show, for example, and a lot of our loops resulted in singing or plays with the idea of theater, a chorus line, props, dance. It's not to reject that entertainment, just to point out the capacity we all have for that and to show the power of collective imagination and of performing for each other even in the smallest way. We're a beacon and a license.

A police officer said "you can't perform here," and I said, "this is a public space. That's a sidewalk. We'll perform here. We're respectful." And he said, "I look forward to seeing the show." Of course, you are told to stop and move so we stop, we freeze, and then we move, we boogie. The biggest laws are all on our side (speech, assembly), even if the smallest regulations and marching orders are not.

Some people pass by saying, "only in New York." My hope is they say, "anywhere in America, heck, the world."

Q: How do you see looping connected to a history of performance art or "happenings"? Specifically, to a New York history.

A: It's funny, the '70s in New York City, for example, are looked back on as a time of destitution, grime, crime, but oh-so-interesting and culturally rich. Danger and artistic edginess get interrelated, like we can't have one without the other. But there's a rich tradition in New York of happenings, be-ins, other shaped group experiences where the edgy art or community experience is safe for everyone. It may challenge the hegemony, but it exists because it creates a haven, a space for speaking or sharing that wasn't otherwise there. I find this kind of thing incredibly inspiring.

Think of all the creative effort, all the loft build-outs and building squats and people who've stood up and gone to jail for trying to save a tiny square of green space in their neighborhoods. Or the few women who are responsible for planting most of the sidewalk trees in New York. Looping is a kind of echo of these struggles, of those beautiful and daring personalities, the superheroes of our city. It's a kind of celebration of the freedoms that we have here, that we've fought for, but that we may be generally too busy to exercise. Now there are other people to be silly with.

Imagine if Bloomberg had convened a special committee not to deal with getting rid of Occupy Wall Street, but to see if there are ways to address the systemic issues being raised. We are eating the hand that feeds us because our hunger knows no end. Zombie time!

photo: Matthew Silver

For more looping: The next event will be today, June 18 ("5:30PM - meet at W. 23rd st. and 10th Ave. wear outlandish costume or underwear. Extra points if you bring weird prop.").

Find more info on Facebook, check out videos at TotheHills and on Fritz's youtube channel. You can also find Matthew Silver at Man in the White Dress -- I've written about him a bit here.


Forest Hills Harry said...

This is a part of New York that wouldn't be missed by me if it vanished...

Scout said...

Wow - this sounds terrifically fun; a sort of San-Fran-Haight-Ashbury-late-60s-early-70s-Cockette kind of thing. I hope I get to see them sometime.

marjorie said...

Fun! Love this. (And lovely writing, Jeremiah.)

Scout said...

There is one weird error, thought - Fritz mentions "the few women who are responsible for planting most of the sidewalk trees in New York."

The trees in the sidewalks are all planted and maintained by the Parks Department ( The city does care a little bit about green space.

Anonymous said...

this isn't my cup of tea in the least but i'm glad they're doing what they do and i hope they inspire more new yorkers to follow suit.

Anonymous said...

Pretentious self-indulgent oblivious to anyone around them hipster nonsense.

Grappling in Astor Place? Because Astor Place is their living room and not a public place people should be able to walk past/through without having to dodge or be hit into by idiots acting out their Wrestlemania fantasies, right ok.

You wanna grapple or wrestle or loop or whatever? Do it in the privacy of your own home. Astor Place and Union Square aren't your own private wrestling rings. Oh yeah what if they knock into an elderly person or a child or knock someone into the street with oncoming cars?

'Reads to me like you're somewhat desperate to find something "different" in NYC. This is some latent adolescent BS they're doing as well as public disturbance. You can't wrestle in public, sorry.

Jill said...

I have never seen this, or else completely ignored it as the usual noise. Now, I bet I notice them tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

To anon at June 18, 2015 at 1:33 PM

Oh lighten up. How is this any worse than standing next to one of those twits with the high-pitched ear-piercing squealy voices talking incessantly on her phone but can't speak one sentence without using the word "like":

"Like that's SOOOOOO TOTALLY COOL !!!" "Like TOTALLY!!!" "Like OMG! OMGEEEE!!! OH-EEEEMMMM-GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!" as she jumps up and down in high-heeled shoes, loses her balance, and lands on you and then looks at you as if it's YOUR fault that she couldn't land right with those spikes. You wanna talk about danger to children and elderly ? LOL well there ya go !

If we're going to treat looping as a nuisance and ban it, then we should ban ALL nuisances. Heck, last year I overheard some dude with a heavy accent (foreigner ?) complain about how he can't even step out onto the balcony in his new home in Times Square during New Year's - all those loud people, the music, the confetti, etc. Read "his home in Times Square" = mega $$$$$. He was going to "call the city and complain tomorrow".

And that's one of the biggest problems these days is that people move to various neighborhoods in Manhattan and then complain about this and that. Supposedly one would do their research before moving especially if you're going to pay big bucks for your home. Not sure whatever happened to his "complaint" but apparently it didn't have much affect since New Year's 2015 party went on as usual!

For now, we can only hope that those wrestlers do their thing while being aware of their surroundings like responsible adults. As long as we're all aware of our surroundings and respectful of each other, we can all have fun. But please don't use the 'think of the elderly' or 'think of the children' as an excuse to further dull this place because of your own personal distaste for it.

Scout said...

Anonymous June 19, 2015 at 12:53 AM - well said!

anon at June 18, 2015 at 1:33 PM seems to be one of those zombies who would be ecstatic to turn NYC into Levittown, a lifeless suburb filled with lifeless people who only leave their houses to run lifelessly to the office to make money or run lifelessly to the store to spend that money. The rest of they time, they sit lifelessly in front of their televisions, lifelessly watching the lifeless programming that Entertainment Weekly told them to watch, as they slowly and lifelessly die.

Anonymous said...

Bottom Photo taken by Michelle Krivo, yet it is of Matthew Silver and the loopers in union square.

Anonymous said...

I fall somewhere between the lovers and haters of Matthew Silver. I'd like to "Keep Austin Weird" -- I mean New York -- but if you encounter an MS "perfomance," as at Astor Place, it tends to seem weird in a not-very-good way. More of a sad/scary/annoying way.

Anonymous said...

1:33pm here. First off, 8:20am, I am not a zombie who wants to change NYC into Levittown, where Billy Joel is from. The same Billy Joel who did a video for his song Matter Of Trust right on St.Mark's Place between 2nd and 3rd Avenues just a block away from Astor Place (which was briefly featured in 1972's The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3 and 1996's Sleepers) back in 1988-89, but you were most likely not born yet, an infant, or most likely not in NYC back then to know that. You know where Venus Records was - remember Venus? Dojo? Coney Island High? Sounds? Yeah I'm a zombie who doesn't know the area alright ya got me there. Only thing is, see, BJ planned it, made sure it was ok and unintrusive with the city and neighborhood, showed respect to both unlike these "wrestlers" who do this without a care as to who is around them. I don't lifelessly sit in front of the television and/or watch Entertainment Weekly, but let's say I did: that beats being a group of overgrown self-entitled brats who think Astor Place and Union Square are their own private playgrounds like these "loopers" are. You hipsters LOVVVVE to come up with new names for things to make them seem to be more and different than they are, don't you?

You and the other idiot 12:53am (since you want to namecall) are that, wrestlers or not: self-entitled, oblivious little brats who think NYC is your own private playground to wrestle and act out your Wrestlemania fantasies in when it's not for either of you or me. Wrestling in a public square people have a right to walk through unimpeded, not barreled into, not pushed into oncoming traffic from Lafayette Street (which has been a mini-Autobahn for years), and just plain untouched save unintentional bumps is illegal plain and simple, and any cop who happened to run across it would tell you to stop doing it then stop you from doing it if you kept it up. I could give a fuck what happens in Times Square on New Year's Eve and guess what you dumb shit? It's set up for people to go bonkers, but you wouldn't go far in your celebration knocking into people: you'll get your ass arrested if it doesn't get kicked by crowds first for physically harming people from your wrestling.

Anonymous said...

1:33pm here again and one last time as again 4096 character limit for a comment.

I got news for you you Millenial (probably twentysomething) shit: I don't have to like, support, or defend anything including what you do. You are not God. You are not always right, cute, cool, bitching, revolutionary, or whatever the fuck your narcissitic self thinks you are. This is not your city or anyone's city, it's our city. And in OUR city wrestling in a public square people walk through and past is considered by most people who live, work, and visit here to be rude, thoughtless, intrusive, and inconsiderate, and me saying that doesn't make me someone you think I am but am not (a rich person who bought a co-op in the neighborhood/area and doesn't want art in it.) Majority rules when it comes to manners and basic human behavior, that's right deal with it. Deal with you live in a city with rules inhabited by all not your domain and your domain alone. Your wrestling nonsense is not "art" or "performance art", it's you thinking a public space is your own private Idaho to act however you want regardless of those around you and I'm calling you out on that bullshit which is what it is and you are. You are disingenious. What's next? Boxing? Yeah I'm sure the average person walking through there wants to be feet away from two people duking it out (and at risk of getting hit from a missed punch) - you moron.

Take your "you're the reason NYC is dead" SHIT back to wherever you came from. People didn't do this shit in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, or even '00s. They were too busy creating things that didn't annoy and intrude on people like music, books, films, paintings, and other forms of art, and play wrestling in their OWN FUCKING HOMES/PRIVATE SPACES and/or in parts of parks with no one around/no chance to hit into anyone unlike you "looper" fucks who don't do any of that.

Anonymous said...

They are beautiful universal stars.

laura r. said...

comment #2. anon 1:33 glad to see you are back. agree 100%. this "looping" is not the same as performance artists like "man in a white dress". one or 2 people is not the same as a crowd. you are correct about the '60's. not much went on except in certain areas. there was a radical feminist demo near wall street in 1968. burning bras. that was a onetime thing, this is on going. "occupy wall street" was funded by george soros orgnazations that fund the looters in ferguson/baltimore. (BLM/BGF/REVCOME, many sub orgs which plan 100s of ptotests/riots coast to coast). this "looping" is harmless in comparison, i wouldnt compare.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 5:10PM AND 5:12PM

If you were to re-read my post at 12:53AM, you'll notice that I didn't call you names as you did to both of us. In fact, if I read your first post right, you actually called Jeremiah "desperate" to find something different in NYC. I didn't say that I was a looper and I also didn't say that I was a millenial - far far older than that - not quite "elderly" but no spring chicken either.

What I DID say was that "we can only hope that those wrestlers do their thing while being aware of their surroundings like responsible adults". You know - like every other public activity that people participate in. This city is well-known for it's sponteneity and ever-so creative expressions. Sure the expressions have changed and evolved over time, but what made this such a great place was that those expressions existed and were actually tolerated. Read the other comments that the posters before me as well as after me have written and you'll see that you're in the minority with your dislikes of this particular activity.

So don't make yourself the voice of us older folk and worry about us getting bumped into ... we can take care of ourselves thank you very much. And even if I were to get bumped into by one of these wrestlers, SO THE FUCK WHAT!?! If that's the price I pay to see that freedom of expression is still alive and well with the younger generation, then I'm fine with that. My ancestors died in the war way back when this country was created ... so that we can have this freedom ... and so that you can have your freedom to express yourself with your name-calling rants. I myself would rather be dead if we were to lose this freedom.

And yes I'm also grateful for your posts as well .. since it reminds me what would happen to me if I were to close my mind to things like this as you have. That's when you REALLY start to get "OLD". Looping may not be our cup of tea but at least I'm still fascinated by the ever-so-creative ways people come up with to have fun ... and entertain a bunch of strangers to boot. That was my whole point - have fun as long as your idea of "fun" isn't to hurt others intentionally. Yeah accidents do happen but if were were to eliminate the potential of all accidents, then such a life of seclusion would be quite boring.

So you can grow old and become a fuddy duddy for all I care. The rest of us, both older and younger generations, can enjoy all of life's moments together without you.

Anonymous said...

1:33pm here again. Second you and Scout sure came off like loopers with your defenses of them. You also came off like Millenials and I find it hilarious you are replying like you didn't write the nonsense before your last paragraph which you're trying to paint me as the bad guy with. You know, the nonsense where you equated a shrieking girl on her smartphone to being as physically harmful as two or more people "looping" cuz you know, people hit into people while shrieking on the phone ALL THE TIME. You were smarmy and obnoxious to me when I was not that to you and Scout was a nasty namecaller to me when I was not that to him/her so we're even on the personal attack front, ok? I could give a fuck if I'm in the minority of commenters here - so majority rules huh? Yes it does, but in the real world. If I was walking through Astor Place and saw these people I would report them and they would be told to stop by a policeperson, that's right. They're intrusive and behaving in an unsafe, inappropriate manner. They could hit into an elderly person, child, small frail man/woman etc. (yes they do exist in NYC, deal with it.) Astor Place is not, should not, and will not be someone's (perpetual) wrestling mat and what part of it's illegal (public disturbance) do you not understand? Btw what "freedom of expression"? So if I want to box, fence, or mma fight with people there, it's FOE. GTFOH. You wanna wrestle outside, go do it in a part of a park where no one will get hit into, not a square or park where people walk, stand and talk, and sit, all activities which do not physically intrude on others.

Anonymous said...

Last but not least I am not nor did I ever say I was "voice of older folk" - you're the one pulling the age card including saying how you're older than a Millenial. Funny how you think "Millenial" automatically means I'm being ageist when the word is used to describe a certain type of young person: a self-entitled won't criticize or dare be criticized brat exempt from reproach or consequences because they never suffered either as children cuz Mommy and Daddy never gave them discipline or taught them how to behave around others, manners, etiquette etc. God forbid I'm not cool with "looping"! GASP! I'm old, decrepit, a grouch, a grinch, slowing dying blah blah because of it. So what if you get bumped into by one of these wrestlers? First off, that's YOU. If you want to be bumped into by one of them, fine, go to it. Others including myself don't want to. Or should everyone be like you i.e. be cool with being hit into? No. Can you be more narsissitic? Yeah cuz you're cool with people knocking into you it's ok for everyone to be hit into. Freedom of expression my ass. You are one to talk about rants - re-read your rant at 12:53. Hello, Pot calling Kettle? I don't have to "pay the price" or any price! I have the right to walk through any public space and not be physically touched/hit into, ok? Again let's box in Astor Place cuz hey - freedom of expression dude. Nevermind that passersby might be nervous thinking we're really fighting and don't want to be caught/brought into the scrum.

Accidents happen huh? So cavalier. What if one of these loopers knocked an old lady into the street or down period? And she got hit by a car? Killed, paralyzed, comatized, broken bones (take your pick)? Then what? Oh "accidents happen". Fuck you accidents happen. Try reckless endangerment. Growing old and being a fuddy duddy? Puh-lease I said these people are rude, inconsiderate, thoughtless, and intrusive and you can't understand that or counter it with anything but the same old same old "lighten up, you're old" attacks Millenials use at every turn. Astor Place and Union Square throughfares are not playgrounds, period, end of story, case closed.

Anonymous said...

laura r. said "occupy wall street" was funded by george soros orgnazations that fund the looters in ferguson/baltimore. (BLM/BGF/REVCOME, many sub orgs which plan 100s of ptotests/riots coast to coast)"

Bullshit. 'Love your FOX talking points. Keep them coming - they're hilarious. Love, 1:33pm

Anonymous said...

And there you have it! That reply to Laura is exactly the problem with you. Laura was being as polite as can be in her post and you respond by calling it "bullshit" .. and a hilarious "fox talking point".

That's the problem with people like you. You want to control and regulate OTHER people's behavior but never really looking at yourself. I knew someone that was exactly like that - he used to troll the various message boards for hours on end looking for shit to start with people. Would post lengthy replies but not really saying much .. other than the namecalling and "fuck you" remarks, etc. yadda yadda yadda. Had trouble holding a daytime job for more than 1 or 2 years because he was a hothead that couldn't get along with people. And when he was consulting from his home office in between jobs, he'd have everything delivered to his apartment. Only time he'd even step out was to get cigarettes. Every one of his "friends" that he'd made online (as short term of a friendship as they were) had to come over to his apartment. Absolutely never went out to any type of social gathering at all. That's it. That was his life. So in order to compensate for being a miserable person with countless failed friendships, he'd go online and pick on things he didn't like or things he thought "should" be regulated and controlled.

What was remarkable that he'd turn on anyone that would even REMOTELY disagree with him. Even one single PEEP of disagreement would set him off. Your cheap pot shot toward Laura RIGHT THERE says it all!!! You are a fuckin unstable hothead that even the absolute slightest disagreement puts you in "the mood".

That poster "Scout" has you down to a tee hasn't he ? That's why you reacted the way you did towards his post about you being a lifeless zombie - because the truth hurts.

Anonymous said...

These guys are begging for attention. Attention mongers in its most basic form. Loooook at meeeee mom!

Scout said...

That got FUN! I love when zanies like Anonymous 1:33 go off on bizarre rants!

It's loony stuff like that that makes New York City the delightful multi-faceted circus it is.

laura r. said...

anon 1:33 or again 1:58,- please google george soros & learn some history. soros funds 300 media outlets, 100s of far left orgs, & well paid rent a mob agitators. (not only in the US but europe). he started out during ww2 working for you know who. it's his cash that has bought & paid the mainstream media outlets, public TV/RADIO, politicans. (except fox & CBS, some regional stations, alternative news). the reason i mentioned soros was because the loopers were compared to "occupy wall street". as much as i dont like loopers, they are an independent performance group. they're intent is not to disrupt disturb or push a political agenda like "occupy/blm"- which were created to give CNN ratings & make corporate sponsers rich. a cheap commericial ploy using social justice warriors as pawns. there is some confusion here, an error has occured. (as the expression goes). best to do research before making comparisons or calling something BS. been studying this for many years, way before you were born.

Scout said...

I'm sorry, laura r., but your post is so incoherent and filled with bad spelling, typographical errors, incomplete sentences and the like, I just can't put any credence into your "research."

Always remember - FORM and CONTENT are equally important when attempting to communicate any message. If you write like an illiterate, your audience will assume that your ideas are flawed as well.

This is intended to be a helpful criticism, not merely snark.

Pat said...

I understand what Laura writes, her communication style is a little stream-of-consciousness with a little "poetic license" thrown in, I find it rather refreshing. I don't always agree with what she says, so what, there is room for everyone here, don't you agree. This is not the first time someone ragged on Laura and her writing here, can't we give her a break? No one appointed anybody Editor-in-Chief here so no need to be so schoolmarmish about it all.

laura r. said...

scout: hiring low to middle skilled office workers, i do the thinking you do the typing. spell check skills required. let me know. FYI, google is your friend. you have the option of reading 1000s of articals on the communist based orgs run by soros. you will see that looping is not included. you can either educate yourself, or stay in the world of spell check. you decide. you have your audience, & i have mine.

Anonymous said...

Looping. Jesus.

laura r. said...

new york can be cool, or be a freak show. we have some of both. NY has an excess of everything! (except small businesses). other than that, enjoy!!

MbassBKNY718 said...

Not true at all. There's loads of community organizations that while likely getting trees/saplings from the parks dept, organize plantings by community members in whatever area they live in. They'll put a call out for volunteers and they have people plant trees. The city does care about and takes care of trees but anyone can volunteer to plant trees themselves.

MbassBKNY718 said...

Oh I'll bet your just loads of fun and a real hoot to be around. Maybe you might wanna just take that stick just a few inches out of your ass. Growing up..when I wasn't in Brooklyn I always hung out around astor place and union square..guess what..they've always and hopefully will forever remain places where people feel free to create, participate, act out, rebel, and whatever else can be added gotta be a suit right? Probably not originally from NY or if you are you grew up in some lame part of town where no one played music or did any art. It's people like you who've ruined the city and especially the village. How bout just go stay on the ues Or in midtown and keep your loafers out of the village. You're so uptight anyone with half a brain or an ounce of intuition can feel just how far that stick is shoved up your clenched up arsehole. You seriously need a dom mistress to flog and whip your ass into obedience. Maybe you'll loosen up a bit. And I'm a humble guy these days. But it's idiotic stuck up pricks like you who bring out my mean usually dormant side.

MbassBKNY718 said...

Thank you. Someone with some lighthearted fun left in this freakin town. Saw your post after I had to tear into the sad prick.

MbassBKNY718 said...

I'm a little late but better late than never. Agree 100%. I'm gonna be 49 and grew up here. Brooklyn baby but when not in Brooklyn I was in the village and les. I'd way rather laugh and enjoy some tomfoolery rather than bitch and moan about the merits of what can or can't be creative expression. As long as no one is getting injured than it should be live and let live. Not a bunch of what ifs..what if they bump me, what if they push me out into the autobahn of Lafayette street, what if what if what if. What if you all go move to the suburbs or some little hick town and let folks who wanna have some fun do it. Jeez.

MbassBKNY718 said...

Lol I like that attitude. And while liking I just wanna leave a message for Jeremiah. My first comment tonight at mr. 1:33 Pardon me if I got a little heated or inflammatory in any way. Won't happen again as evidenced in a couple of follow up least I think so. Keep up the good blogging.

MbassBKNY718 said...

Gimme a break. Occupy wall street had zero, nada, zilch, bupkis to do with cnn ratings or making corporate sponsors rich. They were people fighting greed plain and simple. Obviously you didn't know one participant cause the one's I know would have nothing to do with occupy wall street if it had anything to do with making money for corporations. I don't know what you were reading but you sure weren't down in Zucotti park.