The summer art scene in New England presents a special challenge. On the one hand there is almost too much going on, particularly with outdoor events. And yet it’s not the season when we can expect the best films or museum shows, which are typically reserved for the fall. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t standout events to be found.
On Wednesday I had a chance to share a few of my own recommendations for summer arts events in New England on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth. (It’s always a blast to work with the show’s host Virginia Prescott and producer Taylor Quimby.)
Here’s a look at the New England arts events that I’m most looking forward to this summer, along with a few suggestions I didn’t have time to mention on the show…
Michelle in the New Hampshire Public Radio studios (Photo by Taylor Quimby)
Zach in the control booth at New Hampshire Public Radio (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
Word of Mouth host Virginia Prescott and Michelle just before their live segment on NHPR (Photo by Taylor Quimby)
Ed Ruscha at the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts
The Rose had a firestorm of bad press back in 2009 when the former President Jehuda Reinharz announced plans to shut down the Rose and sell the collection in order to shore up Brandeis’ University’s plummeting endowment. The news enraged faculty, alumni and the art world. But the museum has a new president now and the Rose, luckily, has been preserved.
The museum is back with a vengeance showcasing the work of renowned pop artist Ed Ruscha, the first large-scale solo show of the artist’s work in the Boston area.
Ruscha is all about Southern California–cars, billboards, film, and Los Angeles. His best known work may be his artist books 26 Gasoline Stations and Every Building on the Sunset Strip, seminal works that inspired countless imitations.
“Standard Station” (1966), a screenprint from the exhibit “Ed Ruscha: Standard” at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.
Ruscha’s 1966 screenprint called Standard Station (shown above) is a pop art masterpiece. The artist is a genius of word play. “Standard” is not only a gas station, but also a mark of quality. Ruscha is also making reference to John D. Rockefeller’s oil company, Standard, which was dissolved by an antitrust ruling in 1911.
The Ed Ruscha show, also called Standard, contains 70 pieces and covers 60 years of the artist’s career. The exhibit ended up at Brandeis thanks to Christopher Bedford, the Rose Museum Director, who used to work at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the Ruscha show originated.
Contemporary Chinese Art at the Brattleboro Museum and Mass MoCA
Liu Bolin at the Brattleboro Museum of Art in Vermont
This summer New Englanders have not one but two rare opportunities to see the work of two important Chinese artists, both working out of Beijing.
Photographer and performance artist Liu Bolin is sometimes called “The Invisible Man” because he creates photographs of himself blending into various settings around Beijing. Whether he is standing in front of demolished building, a piece of Chinese propaganda, or grocery store shelves lined with soft drinks, Liu (with the help of his assistant) finds creative ways to disguise his body with paint and other materials in order to make himself “invisible.”
In 2005 the Chinese government destroyed Suo Jia Cun, the artist village where Liu’s studio was located. In response Liu started the Hiding in the City series as a way of protesting artists’ troubled relationship with the government and their physical surroundings. Through his elaborate photographs, he embodies the role of the conflicted citizen in a country torn between tradition and “progress,” communal interests and individual freedom.
Liu is an important Chinese artist and it’s a rare event to have his work at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont through June 23rd.
Also, on Sunday May 26th at 3 p.m. Taliesin Thomas, director of AW Asia, will discuss the emergence and evolution of Chinese contemporary art from the end of the Cultural Revolution to the present day. More information about the talk is available on the Brattleboro Museum website.
The Tank in Rangely, Colorado, is considered one of the sonic marvels of the world within a certain circle of composers and sound artists. (Photo courtesy Friends of the Tank)
Is there a connection between noise and money? Which sounds are healing to us as humans, and which are damaging? And what does an abandoned water tank in Colorado have in common with the Taj Mahal or a Gothic cathedral?
These are questions that sound artist and composer Bruce Odland has been pondering for decades. While Odland began his career in the traditional music world—one that emphasized Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms—Odland discovered that his academic training didn’t correspond with his own experiences in the American landscape. While traveling in the mountains out West, he began to invent a new musical language—one based on the random sounds of nature instead of the repeated sounds and rhythms found in both Western music and in man-made machines.
Composer Bruce Odland recording inside the abandoned water tank in Rangely, Colorado (Photo courtesy Friends of the Tank)
Bruce Odland making recordings for Hearing View, a project involving the oldest mental hospital in Switzerland. The project is a collaboration with Sam Auinger. (Photo courtesy Bruce Odland)
For Blue Moon, O + A (Sam Auinger and Bruce Odland) created an installation that transformed the environment of the World Financial Center Plaza in New York City into an ambient soundscape activated by the rising tides of the river, docking commuter ferries, helicopter and jet traffic, car horns, waves, bird song, and breezes off the Hudson. (Photo courtesy Bruce Odland)
Odland is known for his large-scale, public space sound installations which transform city noise into harmony, realtime. In 2004 he and collaborator Sam Auinger altered the harmonic mix of the World Financial Center Plaza in New York City, using the moon, tides, harmonic tuning tubes, and cement loudspeakers. Together they have changed the sonic character of many public spaces around the world. His most recent project with Auinger involves transforming Switzerland’s oldest mental hospital into a space filled with healing sounds. Odland has also worked with artists like Laurie Anderson, Dan Graham, Andre Gregory, Wally Shawn, Peter Sellars, and the Wooster Group.
Bruce recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to save an abandoned water tank in Colorado. The Tank is considered one of the sonic marvels of the world within a certain circle of composers and sound artists. The group, called Friends of the Tank, has started a nonprofit to preserve the unique structure as a space for community gatherings, music events, and recording sessions. The group needs to raise $42,000 in order to preserve the space, and they won’t receive any donations if they don’t meet their goal by March 31st.
A glimpse inside The Tank (Photo courtesy Friends of the Tank)
The Tank in Rangely, Colorado is in danger of being lost. (Photo courtesy of Friends of the Tank)
Light inside The Tank (Photo courtesy Friends of the Tank)
A few weeks ago Bruce and I had an in-depth conversation about the Tank, sonic space, and the political and personal implications of the sounds we encounter each day.
As Bruce explained during our interview, “We won’t understand ourselves as a culture until we also understand the sounds we make.”
Sam Green narrating his live documentary The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (Photo by Sam Allison)
“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing—a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process—an integral function of the universe.”
–R. Buckminster Fuller
In 1927 designer, architect, and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller was contemplating suicide on the shore of Lake Michigan, when he had an epiphany:
“The thought then came that my impulse to commit suicide was a consequence of my being expressly overconcerned with ‘me’ and ‘my pains,’ and that doing so would mean that I would be making the supremely selfish mistake of possibly losing forever some evolutionary information link essential to the ultimately realization of the as-yet-to-be-known human function in Universe.”
According to legend, Fuller decided to “throw away” his “personal ego” instead of committing suicide, and use himself “as a scientific `guinea pig’… on behalf of all humanity.” He resolved to “make the world work for one hundred percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”
Although he grew up in an elite New England family, he flunked out of Harvard (twice), worked as a meatpacker, and served in the Navy before reinventing himself as a philosopher, engineer, writer, inventor, and lecturer. Never content to work in only one field, Fuller, or “Bucky” as his friends called him, embraced an interdisciplinary approach to global problems like poverty, shelter, transportation, education, energy, and ecological destruction. By the time of his death in 1983, Fuller held 28 patents, had authored 28 books, and received 47 honorary degrees.
F. Buckminster Fuller has influenced everyone from Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne to Stewart Brand, creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and The WELL, one of the oldest virtual communities. (Photo by Roger Stroller)
Part TED Talk, part travelogue, and part Japanese benshi, Sam Green’s “live documentary,” The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, was like no other film screening I’ve been to. (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
But neither Fuller’s biography, nor his legacy are simple.
“If you really look for the details of his life at the time, it’s easy to see that the suicide story was a creation,” Stanford historian Barry Katz told the New York Times in 2008.
“There was nothing even remotely in the archives suggesting feelings on the scale he later described” in 1927, he said…
Mr. Katz said he found instead signs of depression and anxiety stretching from the time…[Fuller's] first daughter, Alexandra, died in 1922, through his financial failures and, finally, the collapse of a torrid extramarital romance in 1931. Still, he said, the suicide story seemed to serve a purpose.
“That’s why I now call it a myth,” [said Katz,] “but it was an effective myth. It gave a trajectory to his career. The story was constructed after the fact to show how he suddenly developed these new ideas. I think he came to believe the story himself…”
In recurrent dark periods Fuller was not trying only to persuade others his ideas were important, but to persuade himself that he mattered….
Supporting that view is [the late] Evelyn Schwartz Nef. “Those days were really quite exciting because he was so convincing that he was trying to save the world,” she said in an interview…“The question I had is whether he was as convinced as we were. He was trying to reassure himself that he was something.”
Buckminster Fuller in his Black Mountain College studio (Photo courtesy of SFMoMA)
Sam Green and Yo La Tengo performing the “live documentary” The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at the ICA in Boston (Photo by Sam Allison. Click to Enlarge)
As James Sterngold writes in the New York Times, “by conventional measures…[Fuller] accomplished little. The efforts to mass-produce his houses, though written about widely, failed. His project to develop his efficient three-wheeled autos collapsed after an accident killed the driver of one. His soaring geodesic domes, built with a distinctive pattern of triangles, have been used — memorably for the United States pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal — but never for the large-scale projects he envisioned.”
Mention Fuller’s name to a group of artists and architects and you’re likely to be bombarded with passionate responses from both supporters and detractors.
Philip Johnson once called Fuller a “lousy architect,” and Fuller’s vision for Manhattan provoked this response from one architect I know: “Fuller envisioned covering mid-town Manhattan by an enormous climate-controlled bubble. How in the world is that an environmental improvement? It would have consumed enormous amounts of energy, contributing immensely to air pollution and global warming. And the prospect of enclosing city dwellers in a bubble, cut off from wind and rain and sun and the play of the elements, is something that I find horrifying…I’m very suspicious of big universal theories, like those of Fuller, when it comes to architecture.”
But Fuller’s impact can’t be discounted. He has influenced everyone from Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne to Stewart Brand, creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and The WELL, one of the oldest virtual communities.
“Bucky…looked at the world big-scale, in terms of the number of people who didn’t have enough to eat,” architect Nicholas Grimshaw says. “He talked about the really big issues, like food and water and shelter. And that’s really just coming home to roost. Everything he wrote then he could have written right now.”
The Dymaxion House as presented by Buckminster Fuller in Fortune magazine in July of 1932 (Click to Enlarge)
Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao Dome Over Manhattan, 1960. Black-and-white photograph mounted on board, 13 3/4 x 18 3/8″ Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries (Image courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller)
As K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, explained to me via email, focusing too much attention on Fuller’s popularization of the geodesic dome or his idea to shroud the city of Manhattan in a bubble misses the point. According to Hayes, Fuller made other contributions that are still relevant today, if we can look past the outdated designs and cultural critique:
The current generation of artists and architects who rediscover Buckminster Fuller will not be inspired by his structural inventions or cultural critique but by his spatial modeling of a globalized system of pattern and contingency, organization and change, temporary stability and constant renewal. That is his legacy.
“Bucky…looked at the world big-scale, in terms of the number of people who didn’t have enough to eat,” architect Nicholas Grimshaw says. “He talked about the really big issues, like food and water and shelter. And that’s really just coming home to roost. Everything he wrote then he could have written right now.”
“Fuller was the original systems thinker, with regards to the ecology of a building and its relationship to the environment,” explains artist, designer, and engineer Chuck Hoberman:
When he asked, ‘How much does your building weigh?’ it immediately put it into the realm of material usage and embodied energy, all of which are now very hot topics of discussion—not driven by stylistic concern, but simply by the need to make buildings more sustainable. His work framed a lot of those issues very early on…
I think he’s been highly influential as an iconoclastic spirit, who never accepted that the boundaries between disciplines were anything other than something to be climbed over or circumvented in some way. To me that’s not so much a heroic stance as much as a very practical way to proceed in the world today.
Whether R. Buckminster Fuller was visionary or naive in his beliefs is one of the subjects that interests Sam Green, a genre-bending artist in his own right. (Photo by Sam Allison)
Fuller’s sketch of a Three-Frequency Geodesic Sphere. Felt-tip pen and graphite on paper, 8 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries (Photograph by Ben Blackwell courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller)
“At many other points in history…people had high hopes and a great imagintion for the future. You remember: we’d all be living in space, or flying around using jetpacks, or robots would be doing all the work for us. Today, it seems to me that most people don’t look at the future with fancy or hope or a great imagination.” (Photo by Sam Allison)
We live in a dystopian age—one more interested in zombies from The Walking Dead and Cormac McCarthy’s grim, apocalyptic vision than in slick, futuristic fantasies about jet-packs and cars that drive themselves. “There are too many of us who wonder whether civilization is going to make it or not,” former Vice-President Al Gore commented in a recent interview. “When people flirt with despair about the future, they are less likely to take the actions necessary to safeguard it.”
In marked contrast, R. Buckminster Fuller believed that cooperation, not competition, was the key to a better life, and he remained optimistic about humanity’s future. ”It no longer has to be you or me,” Fuller wrote in Critical Path. “Selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable.”
Whether R. Buckminster Fuller was visionary or naive in his beliefs is one of the subjects that interests Sam Green, a genre-bending artist in his own right.
It’s fitting that a multi-media artist like Green should tackle an enigma like Fuller, while accompanied by the live music of a critically-acclaimed, three-piece band that also defies categorization. Part TED Talk, part travelogue, and part Japanese benshi, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller was like no other film screening I’ve been to, with Green narrating a special cut of his film (created for his Boston audience), while the intoxicating sounds of Yo La Tengo pulsed through the glass-walled auditorium. As writer Rebecca Solnit described the experience, it’s like “a movie being born as you see it and hear it, as alive as music.”
“It’s really exciting to perform this way,” Yo La Tengo band member Georgia Hubley told me via email. “You feel like you are a piece of something bigger and doing your part. It is different than presenting yourself as a band with songs etc., which is more personal.” (Yo La Tengo photo by Ed Dittenhoefer courtesy Sam Green)
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.”
The invitations, event notices, emails, and review copies are pouring in. The fall arts season has officially arrived. If only I could clone myself, then perhaps, I’d have a chance of catching even a handful of these concerts, openings, and shows.
I wish I could attend everything listed here, but since I can’t, I hope you’ll venture out in the coming weeks and report back on what you loved (and what you didn’t).
Here is my completely biased Don’t-Miss List for the coming month (in no particular order).
If I’ve overlooked an event you think Gwarlingo readers would enjoy, feel free to add your event to the Comments section below or to the Gwarlingo Facebook page.
Slinkachu in London and New York
British street artist Slinkachu (a favorite here at Gwarlingo) is celebrating the launch of his new book with two solo shows in London and New York. Global Model Village opens to the public September 27th at Andipa Gallery in London and runs until October 27th. There will also be a pop-up show in New York City from October 3rd through the 7th. Both shows will feature new work shot in different cities around the world.
Also be sure to check out Slinkachu‘s new book Global Model Village: The International Street Art of Slinkachu, which collects together images of installations the street artist has left in cities around the world, including New York, Moscow, Cape Town, Beijing, Berlin, Hong Kong and, of course, his hometown of London. The books is available in UK, US, and German editions. There will also be a Japanese version released in the new year by Sogensha (図書出版 創元社), along with a Japanese version of Slinkachu’s original book. 驚くべき.
John Kelly in 1993 as Cocteau in Light Shall Lift Them (Photo by Rick Gillette courtesy John Kelly)
John Kelly at Joe’s Pub in New York City
When performance artist-actor-writer-video artist-singer-dancer John Kelly is scheduled to perform, count me in. Kelly has the reputation as an artist’s artist. Over the years, he has worked with everyone from Nan Goldin to Antony and the Johnsons and James Franco. His work is so daring and original it can be difficult to boil down to a bite-sized blurb. He has received numerous awards, including Obies, Bessies, and The Rome Prize (a testament to how diverse his work is). If you don’t know Kelly’s work yet, keep him on your radar. I’m building an entire New York trip around his upcoming cabaret performances at Joe’s Pub. Seeing Kelly perform is always revelatory.
John Kelly (Photo by Billy Erb courtesy John Kelly)
John Kelly makes his solo Joe’s Pubdebut performing songs by Kurt Weill, Charles Aznavour, Holcombe Waller, Richard Einhorn, The Incredible String Band and Richard Thompson, among others. Tickets are $20. Performances are October 14th, October 28th, and November 4th. Visit the Joe’s Pub website for more information or to purchase tickets. You can also read more about the show on John Kelly’s Facebook event page.
OPERAtion Brooklyn 2012. Back Row: Zach Redler, Sidney Marquez Boquiren, Daniel Neer, Kayleigh Butcher, Daniel Felsenfeld. Front Row: Sara Cooper, Noah Himmelstein. (Photo by Meghan Hickey courtesy of American Opera Projects)
OPERAtion Brooklyn Brings Opera to The BEAT Festival
American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap’s acclaimed series returns for a new showcase of operatic works from and inspired by Brooklyn.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld will premiere A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book I),the first installment in the composer’s “Author Project,” which features music and multi-media performance based on texts by living writers and songwriters, such as Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, Stephen Elliott, and Fiona Maazel. Felsenfeld’s Raw Footage: Composer’s Cut, based on Robert Coover’s novel The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Director’s Cut, is also on the program, along with Stop and Frisk by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer and Male Identity by composer Zach Redler and librettist Sara Cooper.
Topping off the program are four songs drawn from One Ring Zero’s album As Smart As We Are (The Author Project). Viggo Mortensen (yes, that Viggo Mortensen) calls these “mysterious pop songs,” arranged for piano and chamber ensemble by Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, “…a well-orchestrated booby trap for music lovers everywhere…“ The works feature texts by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and David Wondrich.
OPERAtion Brooklyn is part of the first annual BEAT Festival. BEAT creates a platform to celebrate Brooklyn’s finest performing artists, ”extraordinary world-class performers who stand as the greatest innovators of the performing arts,” says festival artistic director Stephen Shelley. From September 12-23, artists will perform in venues throughout the borough. For complete information and festival passes visit www.beatbrooklyn.com.
Wednesday, Sept. 19 – 7:30 PM Brooklyn Conservatory of Music
58 7th Avenue, Park Slope
Saturday, Sept. 22 – 7:30 PM The Irondale Center
85 S. Oxford Street, Ft Greene
Andrew Ohanesian’s The House Party under construction at Pierogi’s The Boiler (Photo by Will Femia courtesy ny.curbed.com)
Andrew Ohanesian’s The House Party at Pierogi’s The Boiler in Williamsburg
Artist Andrew Ohanesian is fascinated with art that imitates reality. He’s built a confessional-booth-sized bar for one (with beer on tap),a row house and a fully stocked, walk-in, refrigerated cooler (installed at English Kills Art Gallery). For his latest work, The House Party, Ohanesian has constructed a full-sized suburban home inside Pierogi’s satellite gallery, The Boiler, a former factory boiler room with 40 foot ceilings located at 191 N. 14th St. in Willisamburg.
Ohanesian’s house will be opened up to the public for a house party on September 14th, the opening night of the exhibition. In this at once creative and destructive act, the artist enlists the audience to provide the final element of the work itself, giving each viewer the unique opportunity to physically leave his or her own scar on the House, by partying within it throughout the evening. You can see an animation of the house in this video:
As Stephen Truax reported on Hyperallergic, “depending on New York Fire Department’s ruling on the certificate of occupancy, visitors may or may not have to sign a waiver to enter the space. However, if you do get in, you will enjoy a functional bathroom and kitchen with plumbing (as well as, thankfully, ventilation), a working stove (including an oven hood), dishwasher, fridge (complete with water dispenser), garbage disposal, 94,000 BTUs of AC cooling power, dish cable, and wifi.”
There will be a lot of openings to choose from the night of the 14th, but be sure to put this one on the must-see list.
Andrew Ohanesian’s The House Party is on view at Pierogi’s The Boiler at 191 North 14th Street in Brooklyn September 14th-November 18th.
Fred Hersch Trio at the Village Vanguard and On Tour
Composer and pianist Fred Hersch’s return to jazz after several months in an AIDS-related coma was nothing short of miraculous. (You can hear Hersch discuss his illness and recovery with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross here). Hersch is back with a new tour, a new album, and is better than ever.
The Grammy-nominated performer is currently performing at the Village Vanguard with his trio, John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, to celebrate the release of his new two-disk CD, Alive at the Vanguard. Recorded in February 2012, the new album contains seven new Hersch compositions, as well as music by Coleman, Kern, Porter and Monk.
I’ve seen Hersch perform over seven times now, and he never disappoints. If you can’t catch The Fred Hersch Trio for their six-night performance at the Village Vanguard in New York, you can also see them on tour this September in Boston, Chicago, D.C., Baltimore, and Cincinnati. Tour dates and venues are listed below. You can listen to tracks off the new album right here:
You can purchase a copy of the Fred Hersch Trio’s new album Alive at the Vanguard from Amazon or iTunes. (A portion of your purchase will benefit Gwarlingo).
Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus in New York City
Thanks to the Public Art Fund, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has created a different kind of “house party” at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Discovering Columbus places the 13-foot-tall statue of Columbus in the center of an American living room six stories above the city streets, temporarily transforming it into a contemporary artwork. According to the Public Art Fund website, the room will feature many of the trappings of a domestic living room—lamps, a couch, a coffee table, a television, and more—as well as custom wallpaper by the artist. Through large, loft-style windows, visitors will have dramatic views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan that will be seen from Columbus’s perspective for the first time.
Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus (Photo courtesy of the artist and the Public Art Fund, NY)
In a stroke of genius, the Public Art Fund is simultaneously overseeing the conservation of the 1892 Columbus Monument in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The scaffolding supporting Nishi’s living room is allowing conservators to access the column and figure at its top. The restoration is expected to be completed by January of 2013. (Why can’t all government bureaucracies be this creative with their resources?)
Over 100,000 people are expected to visit the installation, which is on view from September 20th through November 18th.
Tickets to climb six stories to this home-away-from-home are free, but must be booked in advance. (Elevator access is available for those who require special assistance.) Register for free tickets at the Public Art website.
Norman Mooney, Series 4 No. 1, 2007. Carbon on aluminum panel, 72 x 144 inches. (Photo courtesy the artist and Causey Contemporary)
Norman Mooney’s Close Your Eyes at Causey Contemporary in Williamsburg
If you’re in Williamsburg Friday night to catch the opening of Andrew Ohanesian’s The House Party, stop by Causey Contemporary for Norman Mooney’s solo show of monumental carbon smoke drawings, Close Your Eyes. The Irish artist’s carbon drawings are created with layers of billowing smoke preserved on aluminum panel and have both a physical and metaphysical presence.
Causey Contemporary is located at 92 Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn. The gallery will be participating in the Williamsburg Gallery Association‘s Every Second Friday on September 14, 2012 from 6-10 p.m. along with Art101, Figureworks, Front Room, Gitana Rosa, Parker’s Box, Pierogi, P339, Skink Ink Editions, T.A.P.S. Gallery, The Boiler, Ventana 244 and Williamsburg Art and Historical Society. Galleries will be open late and the wine and cheese will be in heavy supply. More information is available at the Causey Contemporary website.
Country music legend Kitty Wells died Monday at her home in Madison, Tennessee, after suffering complications from a stroke. She was 92.
The music of Kitty Wells and other country artists played frequently on the turntable in our Georgia house. My grandmother, who grew up on a farm in the North Georgia mountains as one of twelve children, was raised on the sounds of Mother Maybelle and The Carter Family. Music was an integral part of the church services she attended, and my grandmother (who is still living) always loved to belt out hymns on Sunday mornings in an off-key whine reminiscent of both Mother Maybelle and Wells. When I hear the gospel-tinged moan of Kitty Wells today, it still feels like home to me.
Without Wells, it’s possible that a young Loretta Webb born into poverty in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and married at the ripe age of 15, never would have found the courage to teach herself to play a $17 Harmony Guitar or to write songs like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Pill,” “One’s on the Way,” or “Rated X.” (Photo courtesy the Associated Press)
From where we sit today, it’s easy to forget how important Wells was to country music. Before Mother Maybelle and Kitty Wells, country music was very much a man’s world. Singers like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Thompson, and Ernest Tubb emerged from a conservative, working class life obsessed with both sin and salvation. There was poverty, drinking, hard living, followed by the usual Sunday morning repentance. The female characters who inhabit these country music songs were often portrayed as either “angels” or “whores.”
Take Hank Thompson’s number one hit “The Wild Side of Life” (see video below), which tells the story of a woman shirking her domestic duties in pursuit of a wild, night life. “Wild Side” co-writer William Warren based the song on a young woman he once met — a honky tonk angel, as it were — who “found the glitter of the gay night life too hard to resist.” In his book The Grand Ole Opry History of Country Music Paul Kingsbury writes that the song appealed to people who “thought the world was going to hell and that faithless women deserved a good deal of the blame.”
Until Mother Maybelle and Kitty Wells, the female perspective was notably absent from commercial country music. One has to look to Appalachian, Scotch-Irish, and New England folk tunes to find female singers and writers “telling it like it is.” (One of my favorite examples is this Vermont folk tune “Single Again,” which was collected and recorded by legendary song catcher Margaret MacArthur and recently re-recorded by Margaret MacArthur’s granddaughter Robin and her husband Tyler Gibbons.)
Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” was the perfect comeback song to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side.” It should be noted that the tune wasn’t written by Wells herself, but by J.D. “Jay” Miller, but it was Wells who made it a success. It became the first number one Billboard country hit for a solo female artist, which was in and of itself, a major breakthrough. Here is Bill Friskics-Warren writing in The New York Times:
Ms. Wells was an unlikely and unassuming pioneer. When she recorded “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” she was a 33-year-old wife and mother intending to retire from the business to devote herself to her family full time. The only reason she made the record, she told the weekly newspaper Nashville Scene in 1999, was to collect the union-scale wage ($125) that the session would bring.
“I wasn’t expecting it to make a hit,” she said. “I just thought it was another song.”
But Ms. Wells’s record proved to be much more than just “another song.” It was a rejoinder to Hank Thompson’s No. 1 hit “Wild Side of Life,” a brooding lament in which the singer blames a woman he picks up in a bar for breaking up his marriage, and it became her signature song.
“Honky Tonk Angels” resonated with women who had been outraged by Mr. Thompson’s record, which called into question their morals and their increasing social and sexual freedom. At a time when divorce rates were rising and sexual mores changing in postwar America, the song, with lyrics by J. D. Miller, resounded like a protofeminist anthem.
“As I sit here tonight, the jukebox playin’/The tune about the wild side of life,” Ms. Wells sings, she reflects on married men pretending to be single and causing “many a good girl to go wrong.” She continues:
It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women
It’s not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that’s ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame.
The NBC radio network banned Ms. Wells’s record, deeming it “suggestive,” and officials at the Grand Ole Opry would not at first let her perform it on their show. The Opry eventually relented, in part because of the song’s popularity and Ms. Wells’s nonthreatening image.
It was the remarkable Kitty Wells who paved the way for singers like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and Tammy Wynette, whose popular songs defied the typical stereotype of being submissive to men and putting up with their philandering ways.
Without Wells, it’s possible that a young Loretta Webb, born into poverty in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and married at the ripe age of 15, never would have found the courage to teach herself to play a $17 Harmony Guitar or to write songs like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Pill,” “One’s on the Way,” or “Rated X.” Like Wells, the conservative country music community was slow to embrace Loretta Lynn’s frank songs about sexuality, and often refused to play them on the radio, but both Lynn and Wells found widespread commercial success — a testament to the fact that their voices were appreciated by listeners, if not by the male dominated music business.
Here’s Kitty Wells performing her #1 hit at the Grand Ole Opry. I love this video for the way it captures commercial country music at this moment in history. Everything about the set, band, and television production plays it safe — it’s conservative, white, and non-threatening. The real innovation here is Kitty Wells herself, the woman who voiced an alternative point of view and made it possible for the groundbreaking female voices that followed in her footsteps. Continue Reading…
Filmmaker Jem Cohen produced the late Vic Chesnutt's album "North Star Deserter." Cohen's films, including "Anecdotal Evidence," a film about Chesnutt, will be on view from 12-5, Saturday, June 9th. (Photo by Jem Cohen)
If you’re in the New England area on June 8th, 9th, or 10th, you’ll want to check out the Thing in the Spring art and music festival in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Here’s a rundown of some of the art, film, and music you can see at the festival along with some of my personal favorites. And if you can’t make the event, I encourage you to check out the work of some of these artists online.
The Films of Jem Cohen
From 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 9th festival-goers will have a rare chance to view a selection of films by MacDowell Colony fellow Jem Cohen.
Jem is one of the finest filmmakers working today–a truly original artist using film as a solo medium to create cinematic collages and haunting meditations on memory and place. Along with Peter Hutton and Bill Morrison, Cohen is one of only a handful of contemporary filmmakers pushing the boundaries of lo-fi film in an era that’s increasingly obsessed with digital. Forget your preconceived notions about traditional movie making. Cohen is a rarity even in the independent film world. Cohen’s films, like those of Hutton and Morrison, are works of art–soulful, provocative, anti-commercial, mysterious, unconventional, and beautifully imperfect.
When I look at Jem’s work, I’m reminded of wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in things imperfect, impermanent, unconventional, and incomplete. In the wabi-sabi system, beauty can be cajoled from ugliness and quality lies in the inconspicuous, overlooked details. In contrast to modernism, wabi-sabi values the one-of-a-kind over the mass produced, darkness over brightness, the “crude” over the slick, and nature over technology. If this isn’t a perfect description of Jem Cohen’s work, then I don’t know what is.
Cohen's films remind me that we have a choice about how we spend our time. We can seek out those things that are mysterious, unknown, and provocative, or we can allow ourselves to be consumed by the commercialism that repeatedly barrages us in our culture. (A still from Cohen's film "Little Flags")
Cohen, like his high-school friend and collaborator Ian MacKaye (from Fugazi and The Evens), favors a more direct exchange between artist and audience, one that values connection and authenticity more than a vapid commercial transaction. It is this DIY, punk ethos you’ll see at work in Cohen’s highly acclaimed film Instrument, a film about the band Fugazi that took 10 years to complete.
“Punk is what we made it, and what we make it,” Cohen writes in the liner notes to Instrument. “This sense of punk is something that does not go in or out of style: it has to do with making your own way, in whatever field you find yourself in, outside of what the mainstream dictates, and for reasons other than the sell. That is a meaning that Fugazi and I learned from some of the same sources and it is, I hope, the engine that drives my own work as a filmmaker.”
For Cohen, this DIY philosophy means working with cheaper formats like Super 8, video, and 16mm, even as the rest of the film world embraces digital. “It was constantly carrying a Super 8 camera that enabled me to become a filmmaker,” Jem says. “Super 8 was like the 7-inch single or the home 4-track of the film world…The small format freed me up. Shooting everything around me became a way of life.”
The filmmaker has worked with an array of original musical artists through the years–Patti Smith, R.E.M., The Ex, Gil Shaham, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, Sparklehorse, and the late Vic Chesnutt, who committed suicide on Christmas day in 2009. Jem produced Chesnutt’s remarkable 2007 album North Star Deserter.
Jem says his “production” was mostly about picking songs and musicians and bringing them together in the studio.” It was a way of getting at some things; a discussion about death and life, really,” Cohen writes in the book Signal Fires. “It’s not something most people are willing to to attend to. Vic does. He’s a brave, beautiful fellow, and I knew the musicians I brought him together with would enter that discussion and carry it forwards with grace and abandon. As I said in the liner notes, ‘I thought it might get heavy. It did.’”
Jem Cohen, "Tree at Drive-Thru." Brooklyn, 2009 (Photo courtesy of the NY Times Lens Blog)
Jem Cohen, "Fruit Stands." Brooklyn, 2012 (Photo courtesy of the NY Times Lens Blog)
Having grown up in a town not far from Athens, Georgia, the music of both R.E.M. and Chesnutt holds a special power for me, not unlike the work of another great Georgia artist, Flannery O’Connor. (I’ve always thought of Chesnutt as O’Connor’s musical equivalent.) I remember those early days when R.E.M. was touring the South in their blue van, reportedly living on a $2-a-day food allowance. The band was a refreshing, raw musical alternative in the throes of the synthesizer-soaked 80s. If you’re the right age, you may remember the original short films Cohen created to accompany R.E.M. tracks like “Nightswimming” and “Talk about the Passion,” both of which will be on view at The Thing in the Spring.
It’s important to note that these films were artistic collaborations in every sense of the word–short films intended to stand alone, and not commercial music videos created as advertisements for MTV. “The union of music and moving images is terribly important to me,” Jem explains, “and somewhere along the line, it got hijacked.” Fugazi and I “had our disagreements, but I never had to re-do anything because someone didn’t like someone’s haircut or the label wanted to see some scantily clad back-up singers or some poor musician couldn’t lip-sync ‘properly.’”
Both Cohen and MacKaye have found a way to pursue their artwork outside the commercial machine. Here is Cohen describing the relationship between art and politics:
“I just shoot things that I see: places that are changing, scenes from car windows or motels, portraits of friends, of people on the street, of musicians making music. By the same token, I believe that when Fugazi plays, that is what it is all about: playing music. Politics and big thoughts and their relationship with the ‘music world’ are entwined but secondary, and thankfully so. There is still a lot of confusion about this. It came as something of a revelation to me that Fugazi’s standard $5 ticket price didn’t just represent a reaction against the $20 or $30 or $40 Rock Show. It had as much or more to do with the band’s insistence on playing whatever they wanted to play how and whenever they wanted to play it, with no obligation to provide spectacle entertainment or even bow to audience demand. This freedom to go where they want with their music is at the heart of every logistical decision they make. In other words, and this is where most of the critics get it wrong, the music isn’t just about politics, and to a certain degree, the politics are about the music.”
"It came as something of a revelation to me that Fugazi's standard $5 ticket price didn't just represent a reaction against the $20 or $30 or $40 Rock Show. It had as much or more to do with the band's insistence on playing whatever they wanted to play, how and whenever they wanted to play it, with no obligation to provide spectacle entertainment or even bow to audience demand. This freedom to go where they want with their music is at the heart of every logistical decision they make." (Fugazi by Jem Cohen)
For the Thing in the Spring, we've assembled a first-rate collection of Jem's music-related films, as well as his portrait of the acclaimed sculptor Anne Truitt. The short film, titled "Working," was shown at Truitt's retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and is a thought-provoking look at both color and the creative process.
Cohen’s work is finally attracting the widespread critical acclaim it deserves. The filmmaker has received the prestigious Independent Spirit Award, as well as grants from the Guggenheim, Creative Capital, Rockefeller and Alpert Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other organizations. His films have been broadcast in Europe by the BBC and ZDF/ARTE, and in the U.S. by the Sundance Channel and PBS. They’re also in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, and Melbourne’s Screen Gallery. In 2009 a bilingual publication titled Signal Fires: The Cinema of Jem Cohen was published by Gobierno de Navarra.
For the Thing in the Spring, we’ve assembled a first-rate collection of Jem’s music-related films, as well as his portrait of the acclaimed sculptor Anne Truitt. The short film, titled Working, was shown at Truitt’s retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and is a thought-provoking look at both color and the creative process.
Such an extensive screening of Cohen’s work is an exceptional event, not only because these films are too rarely seen, but also because the spirit in which they were created is so seldom in evidence in the film world.
Cohen’s films remind me that we have a choice about how we spend our time. We can seek out those things that are mysterious, unknown, and provocative, or we can allow ourselves to be consumed by the commercialism that repeatedly barrages us in our culture. To choose to spend time with Jem’s work is to choose an alternative. Once you’ve seen the original, haunting films of Jem Cohen, you’re unlikely to forget them.
Jem Cohen beside a marquis for his film "Benjamin Smoke" (Photo courtesy lightindustry.org)
4:00 p.m. Jem Cohen: Music Works (60 minutes total)
R.E.M.-”Nightswimming,” “Country Feedback,” and “E-Bow the Letter” (with Patti Smith)
Gil Shaham and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra-Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons
Direct Effect-”Away”-PSA Announcement
Lucky Three featuring Elliott Smith
Jonathan Richman (from the Modern Lovers)-I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar
Miracle Legion-”You’re the One”
R.E.M.-”Talk about the Passion” and “Belong” (live)
Mystic-Messiaen’s “Vocalise” from Concert for Four featuring Myung-Whun Chung and the Bastille Orchestra
The Thing in the Spring Music Line-up
This year’s festival includes a wonderfully diverse range of music. I highly recommend purchasing a $35 weekend pass, which is good for all music concerts (except for the late-night Saturday show at Harlow’s, which is $5 at the door). Town Hall concerts are $18 in advance and $22 at the door, so $35 is a bargain. There are only 100 weekend passes available though, and they’re going fast. You can purchase weekend passes and advance tickets here. Get one before they’re gone!
While the Seacoast band Mmoss veers toward the psychedelic end of the spectrum, Brooklyn-based Woods is lo-fi, reverb-laden folk rock. (Mmoss cover photo courtesy daykampmusic.com)
Friday, June 8
Woods . Mmoss . Daniel Higgs
On Friday, June 8th the jangly, upbeat sounds of Woods and Mmoss will kick off the festival at the Peterborough Town Hall. Also performing is Daniel Higgs, an off-beat, hillbilly mystic partial to Eastern drones, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and unconventional instruments like the Jews harp. The former lead singer of the band Lungfish, Higgs is known for his hypnotic style and onstage shenanigans. The fact that Higgs had the audacity to record an album of 17 instrumental, Jews harp improvisations tells you everything you need to know about the artist’s musical approach.
While the band Mmoss veers toward the psychedelic end of the spectrum, Brooklyn-based Woods is lo-fi, reverb-laden folk rock. Woods sounds more like sun-soaked California than Brooklyn to me (think The Byrds meets the Velvet Underground with a dash of Neil Young thrown in). Jeremy Earl’s quivering falsetto makes this band stand out. Woods’ latest release, Sun and Shade, may be their strongest work to date. You can preview the album right here (or if you’re reading this in an email, click to here to listen to samples and view all videos)
After the show, cross the street to Harlow’s Pub for a free after-party djed by musician Austin Wright.
Steve Albini, producer of both Nirvana and the Pixies, is a Nina Nastasia fan and engineered her first two records. Famed BBC DJ John Peel described Nastasia's debut album "Dogs" as "astonishing." It's immediacy and rawness are striking, and the tone of Nastasia's voice pitch-perfect.
Saturday, June 9
Nina Nastasia . Brown Bird . P.G. Six
I’m eagerly anticipating Saturday night’s concert at the Town Hall, which features Brown Bird, P.G. Six, and New York City based singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia.
I’ve enjoyed Nastasia’s delicate voice and intimate songwriting for over a decade and look forward to seeing her on stage for the first time. While her style might be considered country or folk, her off-kilter songwriting and band, which includes instruments like cello, viola, and bowed saw, add an urbane twist to her music. Her haunting sound relies on an understated simplicity. Steve Albini, producer of both Nirvana and the Pixies, is a Nastasia fan and engineered her first two records, and famed BBC DJ John Peel described Nastasia’s debut album Dogs as “astonishing.” It’s immediacy and rawness are striking, and the tone of Nastasia’s voice pitch-perfect. Her follow-up, The Blackened Air, with its visceral, elegant tales of rural life, has been in heavy rotation on my iPod for years now, but her newest records also hold their own against these two early gems.
(If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch the video and listen to samples)
P.G. Six is one of the monikers used by Patrick Gubler, a New York singer and guitar player whose debut solo album, Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites, was released in 2001 by the Amish label to much critical acclaim. As a multi-instrumentalist, he worked in the group Tower Recordings, which released albums on the Siltbreeze and Audible Hiss labels. They were cult icons of the downtown New York scene during the ’90s, with performances that included British folk revival styles meeting Sun Ra-inspired jamming, to all-out noise and improvisation. In August of 2011, Drag City released P.G. Six’s sophomore effort for the label, the very electric, full band effort Starry Mind. Their style might be described as Grateful Dead meets Fairpoint Convention.
The Americana band will pair nicely with Nastasia and P.G. Six. “A cantankerous and drafty two-man ship stationed in Providence, RI, Brown Bird plays original, traditional American music in the best sense possible,” says Professor Charles Booth. “It is music that comes from a context but is not afraid of the context: a living root with a view towards the leaves.” The band warmly layers guitar, banjo, cello, violin, double bass, and more in their their latest full-length effort, Salt for Salt.
The band’s latest release was recorded live to tape in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Booth says the record is the first “to capture the intense energy of the duo’s live show, surging in waves that often swell into high-spirited, foot-stomping madness…[Dave] Lamb and his partner Morgan Eve Swain write simply, and the record is eerily sparse at times – a tambourine, a bass drum and the cello often the sole accompaniment to Lamb’s…cracked, wood-smoke voice…But Brown Bird also know too much to be pure romantics; Lamb’s continual reference to ships clearly come from his years spent working at the shipyard in Warren, RI, just as their arrangements well only from a deep knowledge of the American folk tradition.”
Dave Lamb and his partner Morgan Eve Swain, known as the band Brown Bird, write simply, and their latest record is "eerily sparse at times - a tambourine, a bass drum and the cello often the sole accompaniment to Lamb's...cracked, wood-smoke voice."
Sunday, June 10
Death to Tyrants . Klessa
The music wraps up on Sunday with an afternoon concert at The Peterborough Historical Society’s Bass Hall.
Many years ago, friends and I crammed into Eric Gagne’s small apartment to listen to New Paltz band L’Hiver jam on their toy instruments. Their light, upbeat sound was enchanting and made the perfect living room concert, so I was excited when Eric informed me that the members of L’Hiver have reformed as the group Klessa. Xylophone, clarinet, and accordion are just a few of the instruments you’ll hear on Sunday afternoon. Klessa’s sound is sprawling, loose, and somewhat unkempt, but what the band may lack in taughtness, they more than make up for with their authenticity and exuberance. These musicians are having fun, and the pleasure is infectious. This is music both you and your kids can enjoy.
Fans of progressive punk band Death to Tyrants will want to be sure to catch Sunday’s concert. Eric Gagne, Randy Patrick, Ben Rogers, Paul Gagne, and Ian Logan haven’t played together since 2006, so this reunion concert will be a treat for fans.
Death to Tyrants and Klessa can be seen at The Peterborough Historical Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 10th. Tickets are $7. You can purchase advance tickets for the show here or purchase a weekend pass.
These ceramic creations by artist Megan Bogonovich are one of the many highlights at the *broke arts fair.
*Broke the Affordable Arts Fair
From 10-4 on Saturday be sure to stop by *broke at the Town Hall in Peterborough, where more than 50 artists will be selling work for under $50. *Broke is a welcome relief from the traditional, tired craft fairs held in basements and church halls all over New England. The work here is more cutting edge than you’re used to seeing at regional fairs, and you’ll find established artists, as well as younger, emerging artists, who have been selected from a wide-range of applicants.
I’ve been attending *broke for several years now and always leave with something unique in my bag. You’ll find everything from letterpress books, terrariums, handmade jewelery, ceramics, photography, collage, handmade retro-aprons (from Sarah Taylor), and much, much more. Artist Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne is the organizing force behind *broke. The quality of the work only seems to improve each year, and the event has become a much-anticipated, regional favorite.
One of the *broke artists I’ve been following with interest is Megan Bogonovich, who turns the familiar cliches of ceramics into unique, whimsical sculptures. I’m particularly fond of her all-white, clay pieces of animals. It’s the perfect blending of medium, humor, and charm. Her work pokes fun at kitsch, while somehow managing to transcend it.
Megan Bogonovich's ceramics are the perfect blending of medium, humor, and charm. Her work pokes fun at kitsch, while somehow managing to transcend it.
Megan Bogonovich's humorous cake toppers have become so popular that she has created her own Etsy shop.
Some of the other work that caught my eye while perusing the line-up include Miss Olivia Kennett‘s striking collages, the handmade work of textile artist and garden designer Emily Drury, Mary Remington’s handmade china cups, and Lillian Helen Graham‘s vintage tin jewelry. Also, for the first time, the Western New York Book Arts Center will be selling letterpress posters and small press poetry books at *broke.
Garden designer and textile artist Emily Drury will have one-of-a-kind terrariums for sale at *broke.
Drury's plant-dyed yarn will also be available.
For the first time, the Western New York Book Arts Center will be selling letterpress cards, posters, and small press poetry books at *broke.
Cards by the Western New York Book Arts Center. The press is based in Buffalo.
A 3-color print of the Buffalo Central Terminal, an art deco masterpiece that was built in 1929. This print is #7 in WNYBAC's series of architecture prints.
*Broke also features these unique collages by Miss Olivia Kennett.
Peer Gynt is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in 1875. It premiered along with the play on February 24th, 1876 in Norway. Grieg later extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites. As Erica Jeal explains in the Guardian, Grieg always wanted to write a truly Norwegian opera; he never did, but the incidental music he wrote for Ibsen’s play is the nearest he came. Grieg’s dream of seeing this piece performed out the theater and in the concert hall was never fulfilled in his lifetime.
The below video features the movement “Morning Mood,” which depicts the rising of the sun during Act IV, Scene 4 of Ibsen’s play. In this scene the play’s hero finds himself stranded in the Moroccan desert after his companions have taken his yacht and abandoned him there while he slept.
I love the juxtaposition of this quiet, peaceful piece with the moving metro train and bustling, preoccupied commuters. It’s also poignant to watch the expressions on the passengers faces as they transform from suspicion and discomfort into delight.
It just goes to prove that classical music doesn’t have to contained in concert halls or only enjoyed by an elite few.
Jazz lovers might also be interested in Duke Ellington’s interpretation of Peer Gynt, which was recorded in 1960 on his Swinging Suites by Edward E. and Edward G. album. In 1990 the album was rereleased on CD as Three Suites along with Ellington’s reworking of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Earlier this year a remastered version of Ellington’s Peer Gynt was released along with Strayhorn’s Suite Thursday.
February 24, 2012 in
Events, News with
As spring approaches I suddenly find myself inundated with invitations to concerts, readings, and exhibits. It appears that our winter hibernation is finally coming to an end.
Here is a small sampling of some of the events I’m planning to attend, along with a few I’m very, very sorry to miss…
"Computer Lab" by Olive Ayhens is on view at Lori Bookstein Fine Art through March 24th (Photo courtesy Olive Ayhens)
Olive Ayhens at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in New York City
I never tire of looking at the intricate, unruly paintings of Olive Ayhens. Her new show, Electronic Labyrinth at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in New York, finds Ayhens exploring a new artistic direction–extreme interiors. These striking paintings of genome and computer labs are like nothing the artist has done before, and yet they share all of the distinctive characteristics of Ayhens’ unique style.
The detail of Ayhens’ work is best appreciated in person. You can stop by Lori Bookstein Fine Art through through March 24, 2012.
Missy Mazzoli's "Song from the Uproar—The Lives & Deaths Of Isabelle Eberhardt" opens tonight at The Kitchen.
Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar at The Kitchen in New York City
The New York Times called Missy Mazzoli “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York.” Time Out New York has dubbed her “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart.”
While her music has been performed all over the world by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, the American Composers Orchestra, New York City Opera, New York City’s NOW Ensemble, and many others, Mazzoli has found that one of the best ways to see your work performed is to form your own musical ensemble, much like composer Steve Reich did. Mazzoli’s all-female quintet Victoire has been receiving rave reviews. Victoire’s album Cathedral City was named one of the top classical albums of 2010. And New Yorker music critic Alex Ross declared it “one of 2010′s most memorable albums.”
This weekend, you’ll have a chance to see the premiere of Mazzoli’s new multimedia opera Song from the Uproar–the Lives & Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt at The Kitchen. The work, which is Mazzoli’s most ambitious piece to date, is a unique combination of live musical performance and original films, inspired by the life and writings of early-20th-century explorer Isabelle Eberhardt.
The audience will witness key moments in Eberhardt’s life, from the death of her family, through her journeys in the North African desert, to her tragic drowning in a flash flood at the age of 27.
Song from the Uproar is presented in collaboration with filmmaker Stephen Taylor, librettist Royce Vavrek, stage director Gia Forakis, and conductor Steven Osgood, featuring NOW Ensemble with mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer and a vocal ensemble of some of New York City’s finest singers. The show is produced by Beth Morrison Projects.
Tickets are only $15. Song from the Uproar can be seen at 8 p.m. on Friday–Saturday, February 24–25, and Thursday–Saturday, March 1–3. More information is available here.
"Overlander" is a site-specific installation by artist Elizabeth Duffy that uses drawing, embroidery, objects, textiles, wallpaper and upholstered furniture, in an inventive way to explore the role of pattern in both data security and interior decoration. (Photo courtesy Elizabeth Duffy)
(Photo courtesy Elizabeth Duffy)
Elizabeth Duffy at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island
As the days grow warmer, it’s a great time to take a day trip to the shore for a little ocean air and art.
Rhode Island artist Elizabeth Duffy has a special exhibit at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Gallery at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island through March 14th. Overlander is a site-specific installation that uses drawing, embroidery, objects, textiles, wallpaper and upholstered furniture, in an inventive way to explore the role of pattern in both data security and interior decoration. This show’s centerpiece, a custom restored horse-drawn carriage, points to the Antone Academic Center’s origins as a carriage house.
This exhibit is open to the public through March 14. The gallery is closed on Mondays. Click here for directions and hours.
Poets Ted Powers, Wendy Xu, and Mark Leidner at the Good Neighbor Series in Peterborough, New Hampshire
On Saturday, February 25th, the Good Neighbor Series continues at the Sharon Arts Center with featured poets Ted Powers, Wendy Xu, and Mark Leidner. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. There will be wine, cheese, and other treats. The suggested donation is $6, but don’t let money keep you away. The reading is conveniently located next door to the local pub.
The Low Anthem performs in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday (Photo courtesy The Low Anthem)
The Low Anthem and Redwing Blackbird at South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Also on Saturday, February 25th, the popular Providence, Rhode Island band and Nonesuch recording artists The Low Anthem will be playing at the beautiful South Church in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Opening the show will be the Monadnock region’s own Redwing Blackbird.
The Low Anthem promises the concert will be a one-of-a-kind performance. Over the course of three full-length albums, the band has not only grown in numbers, they have also added new influences and instruments. The band collects and repairs antique pump organs, oversized drum kits, hammered dulcimers, autoharps, singing bowls, banjos, steel drums, crotales, horns of all shapes, and a 600 pound pipe organ—they are obsessive scavengers, reverent of oddity and fanatical in the search for sound. The eclectic array of instruments used on their most recent release, Smart Flesh, includes jaw harp, musical saw, stylophone, antique organs, and an elaborate scheme to re-amp noise through various chambers of a factory. The resulting sound is an album as interesting as it is beautiful, that can really only be fully understood in a live setting.
This event is appropriate for all ages. Doors open at 7 p..m. Redwing Blackbird plays at 7:30, followed by The Low Anthem at 8:30.
Soprano Ilana Davidson will perform in New Hampshire on Monday, February 27th (Photo courtesy Ilana Davidson)
Music for the Mountain’s Inaugural Concert at the First Church in Jaffrey, New Hampshire
Artistic directors and musicians Jonathan Bagg and Laura Gilbert have been bringing classical and new music to Southern New Hampshire for years now. Bagg and Gilbert will officially launch their new year-round music series on Monday, February 27th with a mid-winter soiree at the First Church in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
Greek guitarist Antigoni Goni
This kick-off concert for Music for the Mountain will feature Greek guitarist Antigoni Goni, soprano Ilana Davidson, Jesse Mills, Reiko Aizawa, plus Bagg and Gilbert. The program will feature Billa-Lobos’s haunting Bachianas Brasilieras for guitar and voice, fados and canciones by Brazilian composer Jose Merlin, tangos by Piazzola, and more.
The concert is at 6:00 p.m. at the First Church in Jaffrey on Monday, February 27th. Tickets are $20. For reservations call 603-784-5265. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. Click here for more information.
A Philadelphia native, Jamaaladeen Tacuma broke onto the national music scene in the 70s as a member of Ornette Coleman’s electric band. (Photo courtesy The MacDowell Colony)
Jamaaladeen Tacuma at MacDowell Downtown in Peterborough, New Hampshire
Friday, March 2nd is First Friday in Peterborough, New Hampshire, which means stores will be open late and a number of special events will be happening in town. The MacDowell Colony will kick off its free series, MacDowell Downtown, with a special live performance by bassist, bandleader, producer, and composer Jamaaladeen Tacuma. A Philadelphia native, Tacuma broke onto the national music scene in the 70s as a member of Ornette Coleman’s electric band.
Releasing his debut album, Showstopper, in 1983, Tacuma has since recorded extensively on his own and collaborated with a wide spectrum of superlative musicians, including Pharoah Sanders, Marc Ribot, Carlos Santana, Anthony Davis, and former Bauhaus front man, Peter Murphy. For his Peterborough audience, Tacuma will perform selections from his current work-in-progress, 2 Groove Electric.
This free event takes place at the Peterborough Historical Society on Grove Street at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and free refreshments will be served. For more information, visit The MacDowell Colony website.
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.
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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.