A still from Terry Gilliam’s 1968 animation “The Christmas Card”
This holiday I’m grateful to readers like yourself who have made 2012 such a fulfilling and exciting year. Thank you. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed connecting with so many of you in person, through email, social media, snail mail, and through the comments on the site.
I’ll be taking some much-needed time off over the next few days and taking a (working) holiday down in Philadelphia over New Year’s. Next weekend will be a rare break for Gwarlingo’s Sunday Poem series. I know how disappointed readers are when they don’t find the poem in their inboxes on Sunday mornings, so consider yourself forewarned! The good news: my shelves are bulging with fabulous, new poetry collections that have arrived in the mail recently, and I’m eager to showcase some of these talented, contemporary poets in 2013. Soon…
In the meantime, I have a fun, irreverent, animated Christmas card from animator and film director Terry Gilliam to share with you this Christmas Day. Gilliam was responsible for giving Monty Python’s Flying Circus its unique visual style, and he also directed a number of memorable films, including Brazil, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys.
A still from Terry Gilliam’s 1968 animation “The Christmas Card”
This drawing may look like a maze or an artist’s sketch, but it’s actually a musical score created by Emmy-award-winning composer Steve Heitzeg.
A few years ago pianist Teresa McCollough received a surprise gift in the mail from Heitzeg: 192 scores titled World Piece. Each score was named for one of the 192 countries in the United Nations at that time and made a political or environmental statement through one chord, or a few notes beautifully expressed through Steve’s evocative drawings.
“World Piece arrived during a very difficult time in my life,” Teresa told me via phone this week. “I couldn’t believe that he had kept the project a secret for so many months. I cried when I opened the package.”
From the very beginning, Heitzeg conceived of the project as a thank you to McCollough. Heitzeg describes the evolution of the idea:
In 2000 Teresa McCollough had a call for scores for her new CD of music for solo piano by living American composers listed in the American Composers Forum newsletter. I submitted my Sandhill Crane (Migration Variations) and fortunately, I was one of the composers selected for her CD New American Piano Music that was released on the Innova label in 2001. Since the release of that CD she has performed my Sandhill Crane numerous times internationally–from China to Canada. She would always send me programs from the performances, too. So, I wanted to send her a thank you for her kindness.
I had been ruminating about composing a piece about world peace. Then, one day while walking through the Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis, I came upon Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World. I thought I could honor each country in the world with a brief chord or gesture. The UN works tirelessly for peace and most of the countries in the world are member states, that is why I chose the UN.
I use a single chord or small musical fragments to symbolize the notion that the smallest acts of kindness can change the world in a positive way.
“When I was in school, the only people who were doing improv were jazz players, and the jazz world and the classical worlds never met.” (Photo: Pianist Teresa McCollough. Image courtesy the artist)
My own discovery of Heitzeg’s World Piece project occurred last year when I saw Teresa perform selections of the work at Roulette in Brooklyn during a concert featuring compositions by Alvin Singleton, Alex Shapiro, and the Wet Ink Ensemble. Seeing each score projected behind the piano as Teresa performed was a memorable experience, and I was particularly struck by how much creative freedom Heitzeg had given to McCollough. (Not every composer is so trusting of performers, and not every performer is up to the task of improvisation). As I talked to Teresa about the evolution of the piece after her Roulette performance, I knew immediately that I wanted to share World Piece with Gwarlingo readers on October 24th: United Nations Day.
Throughout this highly-improvisatory work, McCollough is called upon to play all parts of the piano (the keys, the strings inside the piano, the wood), to whistle, to make animal sounds, whisper and sing into the piano. In the Bhutan movement, she plays a high cluster of chords in honor of “the roof of the world” and the Canadian movement is a tender “song for seal pups.” In a light-hearted moment, McCollough tosses Euros into the piano for the Monaco movement; as a protest to war, she is directed to scream into the piano for the Vietnam movement, which is represented with a black hole in the score.
(NOTE: If you are reading this post in an email and can’t see the below videos, click here to watch the videos on the Gwarlingo website).
Why compose a piece of music for the United Nations? “I’ve always believed in the United Nations,” says Steve. “I was raised by two liberal and democratic parents. My dad still lives on the dairy farm I grew up on. My mom died last year. She was an incredibly positive and hopeful person. She always saw the best in everyone and reminded my sister and me to be kind to and help others and those in need. It was in my junior year in high school that I was able to go on a Know Your Government seminar for one week to Washington, D.C. and New York City. It was my first trip to NYC and I was hooked! We toured the UN and that changed my life.”
“I started the piece on Valentine’s Day 2006 (as sort of a love letter to the world),” Heitzeg explains. “My routine would be to compose a movement for one country each day, consecutively through August, and then research the next country (I went in alphabetical order) that same evening. My wife Gwen is the Director of Public Relations at the Minnesota Orchestra. Our daughter Zadie was born in the summer of 2005, so while Gwen as at work I usually composed these movements during Zadie’s naps right after lunch at noon. Sometimes I would compose the movements in the evening when Gwen was home with Zadie.”
Heitzeg says he was influenced by composer Lou Harrison’s Peace Piece (Nos. 1-3), John Cage’s Litany for the Whale, and nature photographer Jim Brandenburg’s project where he challenged himself to take only one photograph per day between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice.
Steve’s musical score for the Afghanistan movement of World Piece
“I use a single chord or small musical fragments to symbolize the notion that the smallest acts of kindness can change the world in a positive way.” (Photo: Steve Heitzeg by John Noltner courtesy the artist)
Steve’s musical score for the Madagascar movement of World Piece
I asked Steve if the various movements were based on research or more intuitive in nature. “In most cases I researched the country either through The Travel Book, the internet or with books I previously owned. Some movements arose from sheer intuition as you say. I wanted to vary it a bit, so, yes, some are an attempt to draw upon musical styles and sounds of that particular country, while others are more about an imaginative or visual mixed with sonic representation.”
If you’re close to me in age and were a voracious reader as a young person, you undoubtedly remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, a series created by Edward Packard and originally published by Constance Cappel’s and R.A. Montgomery’s Vermont Crossroads Press in 1976. The books were written from a second-person point of view, with the reader making choices to determine the protagonist’s actions and the plot’s outcome. Choose Your Own Adventure was one of the most popular children’s series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling over 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998.
Poet Sierra Nelson and visual artist Loren Erdrich have created their own twist on this concept with their new book I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose Your Own Adventure, just published by Rose Metal Press. Each page turn features an ink and watercolor drawing, a poem, and a choice between two sound-alike words that create a variety of paths through the book. The adventure always begins in the same place, but depending on your choices, your reading experience moves by emotional meander until it finally reaches one of the possible endings.
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson met while working at the Vermont Studio Center. All of the drawings (primarily ink and watercolor) are by Loren, some of the poems are written solely by Sierra, and some of the poems were written collaboratively by both specifically for this project.
Each drawing and poem comes with a choice between two homophones (or sound-alike words), with strange and lovely definitions borrowed from a 1900’s spelling book. The pairing of the images in conversation with the poems and the mapping of the book’s meandering structure was a collaborative process as well.
The book will be launched at AWP in Chicago next week with three special readings and events on Wednesday, February 29th and two events on Saturday, March 3rd. There is also an upcoming reading in Portland, Oregon. The full schedule is included below.
A drawing from Nelson and Erdrich's book
Sierra and Loren have been kind enough to send me the opening page of the book, along with the two branching choices, so you can get a sneak preview. To get a closer look at the drawings and text, just click on the image. I’ve also included the text below each spread, so it’s easier to read.
Instructions: Read the poem and image. Then choose one word from the given pair, using the provided sentence as a guide. When you’ve made your choice, click the corresponding link.
You Will Go Back Again
We have seen your future, and it’s all eyes,
you crazy head of bees.
Hurry, while they’re still sleepy—
get out the gate.
Wait: to stay Weight: heaviness
____________, my heart is breaking.
If you choose wait, click here.
If you choose weight, click here.
About Sierra Nelson & Loren Erdrich
Sierra Nelson (Photo by Rebecca Hoogs)
Sierra Nelson’s poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Poetry Northwest, City Arts Magazine, Forklift Ohio, Painted Bride Quarterly, and DIAGRAM, among others. For over a decade she has collaboratively written and performed as co-founder of The Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale and on the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Washington and is a MacDowell Colony fellow. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Loren and Sierra continue to collaborate under the name Invisible Seeing Machine.
Loren Erdrich is a mixed-media visual artist working primarily in drawing, sculpture, performance, and video. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, both individually and as part of CultureLab Collective. A 2011 show at the Joan Cole Mitte Gallery in Texas featured her work alongside that of Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, and Félix González-Torres. Loren completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a BA and BFA respectively. She received her MFA in 2007 from the Burren College of Art and the National University of Ireland. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more about Loren Erdrich’s work, visit her website.
Olive Ayhens, Urban Frenzy, 2010, watercolor and ink on paper 16" x 12.5" (Image Courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery, Click to Enlarge)
Labor Day is behind us and school is in session, which means there are gallery shows galore opening this month. If you’re in New York and looking for an anecdote to all of the 9/11-themed shows currently on view, you should check out Olive Ayhens show “New York Drawings” at Adam Baumgold Gallery on the Upper East Side.
Ayhens’ neo-expressionist pen and ink and watercolor drawings are a knock-out: textured, original, and deliberately unruly. Working on location, Ayhens draws the lively center of New York City, personifying its skyscrapers in a style that is vigorous and playful, as well as idiosyncratic.
Olive Ayhens, Sweet Sky, 2007, watercolor and ink on paper 16" x 12.5" (Image Courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery, Click to Enlarge)
Olive Ayhens, Wall Street Facing West, 2011, watercolor and ink on paper 18" x 12.5" (Image Courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery, Click to Enlarge)
Olive Ayhens, Wall Street Facing West, 2011, watercolor and ink on paper 16" x 12.5" (Image Courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery, Click to Enlarge)
In her newest series of stylized cityscapes, Ayhens combines fine ink lines with layered areas of watercolor. By incorporating multiple focal points into her images, she suspends viewers high above the topsy-turvy, urban landscape.
Gwarlingo highlights some of the most inventive work being made today in visual art, music, writing, film, performance, design, and more. It's also a place where creative people can connect, explore, and share ideas. Gwarlingo has been featured on Andrew Sullivan's The Dish, NHPR, and more. And the name? Gwarlingo is a Welsh word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it strikes.
“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.”
― Theodore Roethke
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My name is Michelle Aldredge. I’m a writer, photographer, and the creator of Gwarlingo. At Gwarlingo, I share in-depth conversations with artists, as well as some of my own exciting finds in contemporary art. I've done radio appearances on NHPR and consulted on arts projects big and small. From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation's oldest artist retreat, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. You can read more about me and my work here. Thanks for visiting. Come back. Come often.
A Chain Link Fence Transformed: On my recent visit to the deCordova Museum, one of the artworks I found most compelling was “Capturing Resonance” by sculptor Soo Sunny Park and composer Spencer Topel, which is made out of chain link fencing. Read more about the piece here.
Sol LeWitt's Advice to Eva Hesse: DO! In 1965, when Eva Hesse found herself in a difficult creative place, artist Sol LeWitt wrote his friend a long letter of encouragement: “Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!...If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety.” I’ve never had so many overwhelming, positive responses to a piece. Read LeWitt's entire letter here.
The Sunday Poem: Gwarlingo subscribers receive The Sunday Poem in their inbox each week for free. The Sunday poets include Matthew Zapruder, Ravi Shankar (shown above), Meghan O'Rourke, Donald Hall, Kevin Young, Matthew Dickman, Seamus Heaney, Cristián Flores García, D. Nurkse, Jane Hirshfield, Stephen Dunn, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Eduardo Corral, Jean Valentine, Maureen McLane, and more. Explore the entire series here.
The Complete Creative Series: In 13 years working for an artist residency program, I've seen it all. I understand both the psychological and practical barriers to creating your best work. Fear, doubt, financial worries, procrastination, the distraction of technology, presenting yourself online and on applications, creating an engaged community: these are just a few of the challenges you face in any creative field. The Complete Creative is an in-depth series that examines some of the topics that most concern you and your creative life. Read the series here.
Envisioning the Future with Yo La Tengo, R. Buckminster Fuller, & Sam Green: Recently, I had a chance to hang out with Sam Green and Yo La Tengo at the ICA in Boston. Their "live documentary," The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, was like no other film screening I’ve been to and is a must see. Read more here.
The Life & Legacy of Horace Pippin: One of my favorite discoveries at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia was African-American artist Horace Pippin. Here's a look at Pippin's life, art, and legacy, including 34 works by the Depression-era painter. These paintings blow me away.
Everything is Art. Everything is Politics: I didn’t expect a publication that has been touted as one of the “Best Art Books of 2012″ to stand just six inches tall and contain only two photographs. But as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new book of quotes, Weiwei-isms, proves, small can be powerful. Read my review here.
The Day in the Life of a Homeless Piano in NYC: Anthony Sherin's quiet, poignant short film has haunted me since I first saw it. Surely you have five minutes? I promise it's worth it. Click here to watch the film.
The Debut of Mary Ruefle's Erasure Melody: Mary Ruefle is one of today’s most admired practitioners of erasure poetry. A new erasure by Ruefle is a rare event, and the publication of one online or in print even rarer. Gwarlingo is the only place where you can see this one-of-a-kind piece. Read Melody in its entirety and learn more about erasure poetry here.
Little People in the City: While the public goes mad for Banksy, a more polished street artist named Slinkachu has been producing brilliant, evocative artwork that has largely escaped the attention of an American audience. Slinkachu is everything Banksy is not–-subtle, poignant, empathic, contemplative. Gwarlingo readers loved Slinkachu's photographs. Check out 33 of his images here.
The Art of Focus - 5 Ways to Free Yourself from Digital Dependency: Our day begins with good intentions. We resolve that today will be different from yesterday, because today, we we’ll stay on task. But then we turn on our computers and smart-phones, and before we know it, we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. How do we make the most of technology without frittering our lives away? How do we create time and space for deep thinking, creation, and real connection within the chaos of digital life?
13 Years, 3500 Artists, 7 Memorable Lessons: After thirteen remarkable years of working at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, I decided to leave the Colony in May of 2012. Letting go of a 9-5 job (with a regular paycheck and benefits) in order to expand an arts website is a risky thing to do, but I've loved every minute of the Gwarlingo adventure. Did I learn something from working with over 3500 artists in those 13 years? Hell yeah. Read more here.
52 Pieces by British Street Artist Banksy: Banksy is a walking, breathing oxymoron. Depending on who you ask, he is either a genius or an overhyped vandal, a talented documentary filmmaker or a brilliant faker. He is both a lefty and a critic of liberal piety. He flips off the art world establishment, and yet courts the very art world he claims to detest. He is a street artist who sells his work for high sums in galleries and auction houses, and “an anarchist environmentalist who travels by chauffeured S.U.V. Is Banksy an arch prankster or an art genius? Read more here. (Above: Cardinal Sin by Banksy)
The Illusionist: At first glance, the work of Swiss artist Felice Varini looks like interesting, abstract art superimposed on an architectural space. But these are actually brilliantly composed installations--real paintings in real spaces that hover eerily in front of it. See more of Varini's work here.
The Spectacular Snow Drawings of Simon Beck: Beck creates these incredible designs by simply walking in the snow. These massive installations take two days to complete. See more photos here.
Creativity is the Power to Act: Ai Weiwei's interviews and blog posts are a thought-provoking read. “Creativity is the power to act," Ai says. "It’s the power “to reject the past, to change the status quo, and to seek new potential.” Ai is an architect, sculptor, curator, poet, critic, publisher, and photographer--an artist who created installations out of 1,200 bicycles and 100 million handmade porcelain sunflower seeds. Read more about Ai's writing, political activism, and art work here.
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist: This marvelous list, which is relevant to artists of all disciplines, was created by illustrator Keri Smith and is part of The Artist’s Survival Kit, which Keri wrote and designed. I like Keri’s list because it emphasizes the ways in which we tend to stay in our safe zones as artists. Read the full list here.
Hugo Author Brian Selznick Shares 20 Favorite Books: Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret has won over critics and fans alike. In this popular Gwarlingo exclusive, Selznick shares his own favorite books for children. There are some wonderful discoveries on the list for readers of all ages. View all 20 titles and see illustrations from Selznick's newest book, Wonderstruck here.
95 Rare Color Photographs: The second most popular post in Gwarlingo's short history has been this feature on the rare color photographs taken by FSA photographers like Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott. The overwhelming response to this piece leads me to believe that I'm not the only one who finds these early Kodachrome photos from the 30s and 40s a fascinating discovery.
Grace Paley on Writing: "If you want to write, keep a low overhead...The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don’t live with a lover or roommate who doesn’t respect your work. Don’t lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write." Read more here.
On Money, Fear, & the Artist: Being an artist is so hard because we’re operating in a parallel universe from the larger culture–one that values imagination, creativity, and ideas more than money or status. Read more about art and fear and explore Mark Wagner's amazing currency collages here.
Tour the Tate Modern: The Tate Modern in London, a former power plant, is the most visited modern art gallery in the world. I share some of the highlights from my own visit in this special tour.
The Journey to Freedom: Peter Wyer's Numinous City is inspired by the extraordinary true story of Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun, imprisoned in Lhasa, Tibet at age 14. Sangdrol and other nuns managed to record songs on a smuggled cassette player while in prison, the fame of which ultimately led to her release. I spoke to Sangdrol and Wyer (pictured above) at a sneak preview of the opera at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Read more about this incredible story here.
Visit Kim Uchiyama's Tribeca Studio: "I think it's important for us to understand that we live in a society that doesn't value mystery. We want everything to be absolutely clear and unambiguous because this makes us feel more comfortable. We're often afraid of what is foreign or unfamiliar."
Red Heart the Ticker: A legendary songcatcher inspires two musicians on a Vermont farm. Listen to new music from Red Heart the Ticker and take a tour of their farm and studios in this special expanded edition of Gwarlingo's Creative Spaces series.
Browse a handpicked selection of books and other items of interest to artists, writers, teachers, librarians, art lovers, designers, and other creative individuals. A percentage of your purchase supports Gwarlingo.
A Line Made By Flooding: In 2007 Eve Mosher created High Water Line, a public art project in Manhattan and Brooklyn that brought the topic of climate change directly to the city’s residents. “I never wanted this to be a reality,” Mosher said the week Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. Read more here.
Before and After Dinner: Most people know André Gregory through his critically acclaimed film My Dinner with André, but Cindy Kleine's new documentary reveals so much more about the respected theatre director and raconteur. Read my full review of the film here.
Film & Fatherhood:How do you learn to be a father, particularly when there are no fathers around to be an example? This is the question at the heart of Samein Priester’s documentary 1st&4ever. The dilemma of fatherhood has taken on new significance for Samein since the tragic loss of his partner, artist Denyse Thomasos. Read more and watch the film in its entirety here.
Transforming New York City's Water Towers: Artists like Tom Fruin and Rachel Whiteread are creating memorable public sculptures out of the humble New York City water tower. In the Spring of 2013, 300 rooftop tanks will be transformed into works of art by established and emerging figures in art, music, science as well as public school students. Read more about water-tower art here.
Lessons from the Writing Life: Poet Matthew Zapruder and fiction writer Amy Hempel read and discuss new work at the Juniper Summer Writing Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts.Read more here.
My Review of Christian Marclay's The Clock: The Clock is artist Christian Marclay’s magnum opus, a mesmerizing 24-hour montage of thousands of time-related movie clips that have been masterfully edited and synchronized to show the actual time. Does it live up to the hype? Find out here.
Tales of Captivity and Freedom: In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes: from the lovesick tiger who narrates the unforgettable opener, to the ex-CompUSA employee who masquerades as a doctor; from a railroad manager in a turn-of-the-century Indian village, to an elephant writing her autobiography; from a woman whose Thanksgiving preparations put her husband to eternal rest, to the newlywed executioner of the title, these characters inhabit a marvelous region between desire and death, playfulness and violence. Read an interview with Rajesh Parameswaran here.
Lewis Hyde on Art and Ownership: Lawsuits over image appropriation, music remixes, file sharing, and copyright infringement are on the rise and emerging as the central debate of the digital era. The Grey Album, a 2004 mash-up by Danger Mouse, is a prime example of the type of copyright dispute Lewis Hyde discusses in his most recent book, Common as Air. You can read a full interview with Hyde here.
Whistler, Fireworks, and a New Way of Seeing: James McNeill Whistler’s loose, impressionistic depiction of fireworks at night was not to everyone’s liking when the painting made its public debut in 1877. Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket sparked an infamous feud between the artist and the Victorian critic John Ruskin. During the libel trial that followed, Ruskin's lawyer asked Whistler, "The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?" The artist replied, “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.” Read more here.
Peter Hutton’s films of rivers, oceans, cargo ships, and landscapes are everything commercial movies are not—subtle, completely silent, thoughtful, and devoid of narrative. "Cinema tends to be this additive thing, it gets more complicated technologically," says Hutton. "I wanted to do it alone, keep it personal and private...It’s not about the pyrotechnics, it’s about something else---being inventive with limitations." Read an interview with Hutton and watch a video of his recent exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum here.
The Lines Between the Arts are Insignificant: Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi is like no other film I can think of. This 72-minute visual poem on the Spanish Art-Nouveau architect avoids conventional narrative and instead, lets Gaudi’s buildings do the talking. "Gaudi worked beyond the borders of various arts,” Teshigahara once said, “and made me feel that the world in which I was living still left a great many possibilities.” Read more about Gaudi and Teshigahara here.
Doris Salcedo on the Perspective of the Defeated: This photograph of 1,550 wooden chairs piled between two buildings in Istanbul stopped me in my virtual tracks when I first saw it. Born in Colombia, Salcedo’s installations are meditations on the silenced lives of the marginalized--the gap between the powerful and the powerless. Read more about Salcedo's installations here.
The DIY Punk Philosophy of Jem Cohen: Artist Jem Cohen uses film as a solo medium to create cinematic collages and haunting meditations on memory and place. Cohen’s films are works of art–soulful, provocative, anti-commercial, mysterious, unconventional, and beautifully imperfect. The filmmaker has worked with an array of musicians through the years–Patti Smith, R.E.M., The Ex, Gil Shaham, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, and the late Vic Chesnutt. Read more about Jem's work here.
Roger King Explores Love & Fatigue in America: “What does it mean to live in between?” writes novelist Andrea Barrett of Roger King’s latest book. “Not only between geographical locations, but between health and illness, commitment and freedom, love and loss?” In this in-depth interview with British novelist Roger King, we discuss writing, King's fight with chronic fatigue syndrome, his aid work in Africa and Asia, American healthcare, and more.
Artist Matthew Northridge: Matthew Northridge uses paper like no other artist I know. Matt gave me a tour of his solo show at Kansas Gallery during a recent visit to New York City. Explore more of his work here.
The Most Memorable Experiences in the Arts: I asked an array of artists to tell me about their most memorable experiences in the arts during 2011. Singer Rosanne Cash (pictured above), Moosewood cookbook author Mollie Katzen, journalists William Powers and Jeff Sharlet, British composer Tarik O'Regan and others share their surprising picks here.
Exhuming the Forgotten: Filmmaker Errol Morris said that Bill Morrison's Decasia might be ”the greatest movie ever made.” Assembled entirely from decaying, highly flammable, early nitrate footage, this masterpiece belongs in the tradition of Stan Brakhage’s films and Michael Lessy’s memorable book Wisconsin Death Trip; it is simultaneously poetic, haunting, and compelling. The entire piece is a meditation on ruin and the temporal nature not only of film, but of life itself. Learn more about Decasia and Bill Morrison's other films here.
The World of E.B. White: In 1951 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accused writer E.B. White of not paying his dog tax and “harboring” an unlicensed dog. White wrote this hilarious letter in response to the ASPCA. Read the letter and an overview of White's work here.
The Sound of Four Hands Clapping: In 1971 composer Steve Reich embarked on a five-week trip to study music and drumming in Ghana. Shortly after his return, he wrote “Clapping Music.” In this 1972 video Reich performs this classic piece with percussionist Russell Hartenberger.
The Evolution of Photographer Bill Jacobson: “There has always been a poetic stance in my work,” says photographer Bill Jacobson. “Whether in focus or out, it’s never been about a single narrative, but rather something beneath the surface of what’s being photographed." Explore Jacobson's work here.
An Accidental Classic: Sibylle Baier’s critically-acclaimed Colour Green was published 30 years after it was first recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Baier starred in Wim Wender's films and wrote her own songs, but abandoned her career to move to America and raise her family. Read more about how this classic finally found an audience here.
Errol Morris on Photography: What makes an “honest” photograph? Is the medium of photography more factual and authentic than other art forms? Can a photo be objective or does it always have a point of view? When does a photograph document reality? When is it propaganda? When is it art? Filmmaker Errol Morris addresses all of these questions and more in his new book Believing is Seeing.
Ira Glass on the Creative Process: Ira Glass, the host of NPR’s This American Life, gives some useful advice about the art of story telling. Remember the method you learned in college–opening paragraph, thesis sentence, supporting material? Glass says to throw that tired technique out the window!
Essay: On Crows Openness is a state of mind that the nature lover and the artist share. Art, like bird watching, is about seeing, hearing, and understanding. It requires stillness. It demands that we remain open to the unexpected. Read the entire essay here.
Nairobi-London Sound Clash: I discovered the Owiny Sigoma Band during a 2011 trip to London. This highly original, Nairobi-London sound clash, which blends traditional Kenyan Luo styles with contemporary western influences, is like nothing else I’ve heard before. Their debut album, which pulses with mellow grooves, lyre riffs, and hypnotic drums, is organic, quirky and rough around the edges, but in a good way. Listen to the record here.
The Urban Frenzy of Olive Ayhens: Olive Ayhens' neo-expressionist pen and ink and watercolor drawings are a knock-out: textured, original, and deliberately unruly. Working on location, Ayhens draws the lively center of New York City, personifying its skyscrapers in a style that is vigorous and playful, as well as idiosyncratic.
Occupy Writers: Who could have guessed that one of the sanest pieces of writing about the Occupy movement would come from children's book author Lemony Snicket? Read “13 Observations Made by Lemony Snicket while Watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance" here.
P.J. Harvey's "Let England Shake": "I only sing the songs that I can still believe," says singer P.J. Harvey. The emotionally charged "Let England Shake" is one of the strongest records of her career. Listen to samples and watch videos of Harvey's collaboration with filmmaker Seamus Murphy here.
A Secret Garden in the City:These gardens on the roof of Rockefeller Center are one of the best-kept secrets in New York City.
The Discomfort Zone: V.S. Naipaul believes that female writers are inferior and sentimental. Jonathan Franzen observes that "you can't deconstruct and undress at the same time." Has writing about love without hipster irony become a radical act for male novelists today? Read the full story here.
Ten Rules for Writing Fiction: Writers like Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Richard Ford offer guidance on the art of fiction writing. A sampling of their advice: "Have children." "Don't have children." "Get an accountant." "No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write." Damn. What am I going to do with all of those black turtlenecks?
Music by Goldfish: How aware are we of sound as we move through the course of our day? Which sounds do we register and which do we ignore? Do we even give the subject much thought? “Quintetto” by the Italian artist collective Quiet Ensemble is an intriguing blend of music, sound and installation art.
Doubt is Your Revelation: Jeff Sharlet's most recent book, Sweet Heaven When I Die, is a collection of 13 essays about belief, skepticism, and spirituality. Sharlet writes about Brad Will, an anarchist journalist who filmed his own murder by police; BattleCry, an evangelical youth movement devoted to spreading its particular brand of the Christian message; a new-age healer named Sondra Shaye; and renowned intellectual Cornel West.
George Bernard Shaw Exposed: Not many people realize that George Bernard Shaw was a passionate amateur photographer, as well as a prolific writer. When Shaw died at the age of 94, he left behind over 10,000 photographic prints and over 10,000 negatives in his home in Ayot St Lawrence.
Olafur Eliasson, the Danish artist who brought the sun to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and created man-made waterfalls in New York City, has a new project--Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger), a 295-foot-long tunnel filled with dense fog.
Breathbox by Antti Paalanen: Watch a mesmerizing piece of music by Finnish accordion master Antti Paalanen. "Mesmerizing accordion music?" you ask. Yes. Really.
The Fear of Failure: Even if you don't know his name, you know his work. Legendary designer Milton Glaser discusses the myth of creative genius and gives advice on how artists can move past the fear of failure. “Find out what you’re capable of doing or not capable of doing,” says Glaser. “Admit what is.” “Embrace the failure.” Watch Glaser's talk here.
Documenting a Revolution: Two filmmakers, who risked their lives to document the looting of archeological sites during the Iraq war, now find themselves in the heart of the Egyptian Revolution.