Daily Postings
architecture : review

Momentarily Becalmed

by Pierre Alexandre de Looz

This year's Architectural League Prize for Young Architects & Designers convenes work that probes an "unstable environment."

The winning projects for 2016, which are now on view at Parson's Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at the New School until July 30th, bracket a world undergoing (big) change in delicate ways, much as this year's competition theme—"(im)permanence"—holds back the boogieman of instability with a mere parenthesis. Elegant, finely crafted drawings and pristine models treat issues like space junk, rampant real-estate speculation, and remedying the post-industrial, post-colonial environment. There's also a good showing of simply sure-footed design. As Program Director at the Architectural League, Anne Rieselbach explains, "The theme is geared to elicit different modes of interpretation and envelope a spectrum of work. It leaves the critical interpretation to the entrants."

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art : review

Simone Leigh's The Waiting Room

by Terence Trouillot

For her residency at the New Museum, Leigh looks at the act of healing through the lens of black female caregivers, educators, and intellectuals.

There were needles piercing my lower back, ankle, and wrist while a warming sensation spread all the way to my fingertips. This was just hours after the news of Philando Castile's fatal shooting by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota permeated the Internet, and only days after the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Delrawn Small in Brooklyn. Three black men in three days… gone, killed by cops. The feeling of crushing fear and anger weighed heavy on my mind, and perhaps even more so on my body. It was pure happenstance that I would find myself on a massage table (of all places) and in actual need of soothing and treating a pain that never seems to go away.

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literature : interview

Susan Daitch

by Evan Lavender-Smith

"There are times when all writing is like the cinema hat you can't take off, and once it's in place, there's a tendency to catastrophize, to make things more interesting."

Stories and texts get passed from one character to another in Susan Daitch's fictions. Details change. Truth becomes relative. For the reader, the desire to understand "what happened" soon takes a backseat to the appreciation of "what is happening" with respect to narrative form. Tensions between form and content—constant alterations to the map's depiction of the territory—are especially prominent in her newest work, The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, a novel in which an international, intergenerational series of characters searches obsessively for a phantom city. Over the course of a few weeks, Daitch and I corresponded about her characters' obsessions and the value of art in relation to cultural and geological catastrophe. 

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music : interview

Jon Gibson

by Britton Powell

Whether you're drawing a straight line or zig-zagging through the history of American Minimalist music, there is one person you're bound meet. Jon Gibson is a New York based composer and performer with an encyclopedic list of collaborators, including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, and Terry Riley. Gibson's own work evokes a sense of uncharted exoticism that invites the listener to spin the compass and follow. His phrasing and textures float like smoke in the air—boundless, serpentine, and weightless.

Arriving at Gibson's loft in Tribeca feels like entering the territory of his imagination. Sheet music covered with arpeggios line almost every surface of the house, echoing the rhythmically patterned geometries of Gibson's own visual art. Golden gongs bask in the window's light, Tibetan tapestries drape the walls, and enormous sculptures of dragonflies hang from the ceiling, slowly spinning. Seeing all this, you immediately feel that Gibson's home is a safe haven from the city below.

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film : interview

Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan

by Nicholas Elliott

"It was meant to kink your head."

In Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan's directorial debut For the Plasma, Charlie (Annabelle LeMieux) joins her childhood friend Helen (Rosalie Lowe) in a remote house on the coast of Maine to help repair the surveillance cameras she uses as a fire lookout. Helen informs Charlie she's also been interpreting the CCTV images of the woods to accurately forecast global economic trends. Charlie tells her about the shit-eating bug featured in the Kobo Abe novel she's reading. Then things get weirder.

Skirting genre conventions to develop its own allusive (and elusive) tone, For the Plasma has the kind of highly specific, confident direction that inspires viewers to sit back and let their brains be scrambled. As I looked at a digital projection of Bryant and Molzan's 16 mm footage of CCTV images of a forest in Maine, I found myself acutely aware of the act of watching and by extension of myself, inside and outside the film. That rare heady experience encouraged me to invite these young New York directors to sit down and talk about the tension between narrative and interpretation, their film's offbeat soundtrack, and Korean filmmaker Hong Sang Soo's art of simultaneity.

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art : interview

Tony Oursler

by Maika Pollack

"I'm a multimedia artist. If it’s not in the museums or history books, then where’s my art history?"

For the past three decades Tony Oursler has been known for his videos, installations, and public projections. But he is also a collector of images—mostly photographs, alongside books, posters, and other objects—which together map esoteric practices and collectives that range from 19th-century spiritualism to ufology and the Baader-Meinhof group. A show of works from this collection, Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive, will be on view at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, through October 30, 2016. A feature-length, immersive 5-D film and large-scale installation, Tony Oursler: Imponderable, is now on view at the Museum of Modern Art through January 8, 2017.

Maika Pollack Why is your film called Imponderable? And why is the Bard show called The Imponderable Archive?

Tony Oursler Recently I became fascinated with early science, reading all these books and taking “The Great Courses” series. I kept coming upon this word imponderable—for example, when reading about Newton's idea that gravity was connected to the moon, that it moves the planets around. It was a major breakthrough, yet he couldn't figure out what the medium was, so he called it imponderable. He got the big picture, but he also knew where his knowledge ended. So the imponderable is a recognition of our limitations. It's an old term, but it doesn't go away. Today, the imponderable is always there in physics, and life in general—that mysterious place outside all our preconceptions. It's what's left when your worldview melts away.

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literature : interview

Geoff Dyer

by Ryan Chapman

"I'm glad that the work is still proving elusive enough to resist attempts to gather it all up in a critical hamper or net."

Because Geoff Dyer's two previous books tackled Tarkovsky's film Stalker (Zona) and life aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier (Another Great Day at Sea), one might be forgiven for approaching White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World as a stopgap work, a mere collection of previously-published essays and reportage: fan service. Rather, its seemingly straightforward travel narratives—with stops in Tahiti, the Arctic Circle, New Mexico, and China, among others—are obliquely fictionalized and rife with the author's hopscotch intellect. Everywhere he goes Dyer finds inspired connections across music, art, and time.

Perhaps White Sands can be best summarized by the two photographs bookending the text itself, both taken during a trip to Egypt. Dyer noticed a half-ruined ancient statue of a king and queen appeared complete if one simply stood from a different vantage point: the woman's absent form becomes instead a gesture of shyness, as if she were ducking behind her partner. The moment rewards a skewed, deep-time approach to looking at the world. In an email interview conducted during the author's book tour, I asked him about these approaches.

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film : interview

Zachary Treitz

by Hannah Holden

Men Go to Battle is the story of two brothers who live in a cabin on the remnants of their family's once-grand Kentucky estate, which they sell piecemeal to survive. The year is 1861, and rumors about the Union Army are a hot topic in the parlor of the town's wealthiest family, the Smalls. When younger brother Henry (David Maloney) is romantically spurned by Betsy Small (Rachel Korine), he enlists in the Union Army without telling Francis (Tim Morton). The brothers' lives diverge for the first time, and they are forced to confront the world alone precisely as the Civil War transforms it forever.

Men Go to Battle eschews the extravagance of conventional period pieces in favor of intimacy and naturalism. The camera lingers on Henry's face as he marches into the Battle of Perryville, and outdoor scenes are scored by cicadas and rustling wind. Contrary to expectations, Men Go to Battle is also very funny. Much of the humor arises from longtime pals Maloney and Morton's prankish brotherly dynamic, which vacillates between hostility and affection. Korine also kills as a romantic, well-bred young woman who gently humors her hapless suitors—that is, until Henry makes the wrong move.

I sat down with director Zachary Treitz to discuss the film, which he co-wrote with Kate Lyn Sheil and for which he was awarded Best New Narrative Director at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Men Go to Battle plays at Anthology Film Archives in New York City through July 14 and opens in Los Angles on July 15, 2016.

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art : interview

Dara Birnbaum & Matt Saunders

by Chris Chang

"How can one express the horrific side of what’s going on in our society without it being a spectacle?"

Depictions of trauma can be blunt, oblique, and sometimes even both. In many cases, trauma is simply beyond representation. In two separate, simultaneous exhibitions at Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris, artists Dara Birnbaum and Matt Saunders explored the terrain of such upheaval and strain—be it world conflict, personal illness, rising seas, or inside the image itself.

Birnbaum and Saunders may seem, prima facie, worlds apart. Birnbaum, for over four decades, has been a master of media intervention. Her video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–79) is a cornerstone of avant-garde and feminist canons. Saunders's camera-less photographs and animated films deliberately dissolve media boundaries, creating a space where painting, photography, and film question their own specificity. But at the gallery and in this conversation, which took place May 4, 2016, their pairing felt completely symbiotic.

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film : comment

Remembering Peter Hutton (1944–2016)

by Joan Retallack

Peter Hutton was an American filmmaker who spent many years of his youth at sea in the US Merchant Marine. His celebrated films, widely acclaimed for their luminous integrity, blurred the divide between still photography and cinema. Lingering, contemplative shots of water, sky, land, and cityscape opened camera and eye to the unexpected thrill of minute changes in stillness, making both seem as wondrously improbable as they actually are. Beloved by his students, he taught for three decades at Bard College in the Hudson Valley—subject of many of his films. Poet and essayist Joan Retallack remembers her colleague with the text below, which consists of lines from Lucretius's poem De Rerum Natura in transvariation from the Latin and the W.H.D. Rouse translation.

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art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Gabriele Beveridge

Gabriele Beveridge has quite the eye for sad-looking models in posters—the kind of women who hawk things like hair dye and shampoo. Hanging in the sun too long, the women's faces are now dull and not so lustrous. There's often an equally sad-looking, droopy, blown-glass bubble hanging off Beveridge’s picture frames, like a deflated balloon or even a saline breast implant. In Sugar baby, mystic mountain the glass sprouts tentacles of plastic tubing. In other examples, eyes are obscured by feathers or fake bamboo. Either way, beauty is marred, literally and figuratively so.

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literature : first proof

The Hypochondriac in the Landscape

by Walter Benjamin

Penned between 1906 and 1912, the following fragment of fiction is among the earliest writings of critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin. This tale—along with many other of his fables, parables, riddles, and novellas—are gathered in The Storyteller, forthcoming in late July 2016 from Verso Books.

 

ONLY FOR GROWN-UPS. NERVOUS TYPES—BEWARE!

Above the landscape hung such storm clouds as cause that specific fear of storms among young people known to physicians under a Latin name. It was a gently apprehensive mountain scenery. The path was steep and tiresome; the air was very hot and high temperatures prevailed. A mature man—greyed by the passing of the years—and an adolescent moved as inaudible points through the silence. They carried an empty stretcher. From time to time the gaze of the younger man fell upon the stretcher and his eyes would fill with tears. It was not long before a doleful song streamed forth from his mouth, reverberating from the mountain with a thousand sobs. "Red of the morning, red of the morning lights the path to an early death." In the distance, bloody bolts of lightning tinged the sky. Suddenly the singing broke off and was followed by a faint groan. "Permit me for a moment," the young man said to the elder one. He rested the stretcher on the ground, sat down, closed his eyes and folded his hands.

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art : comment

We Are Orlando

by Malik Gaines

“Americans don’t agree on what happened in Orlando, or what should happen now.”

Are we? Or…

America is very concerned with which forms of violence are permissible when. Execution, murder with impunity, homicide, warfare, negligence, and revolution—each holds an important place in our law. In our discourse, we constantly debate the proper distribution of these forms. In our field of representation, we rehearse their efficacies. I’ve seen so many murders on TV.

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art : comment

We Are Orlando

by niv Acosta

"Orlando is a queer AND racial issue AFTER a gun control, Islamophobia, and mental-health issue."

first i would like to acknowledge that i am one of two artists of color who was invited to contribute on a story about the mass shooting of a club full of Queer and Transgender people of color (QTPOC)…

i was traveling while black recently in three different cities, London, Hamburg, and Berlin, when i logged onto social media and realized yet another instance of gun violence had occurred in Amerikkka. normally i scroll endlessly until i’ve scraped together the entire story and subsequent op-ed's that follow to craft a robust and informed post regarding the issue, but this time was different. facebook widget wiggled and cleared.

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art : oral history

Eldzier Cortor

by Terry Carbone

American Art lost a unique and vital presence last year, when the painter and master printmaker Eldzier Cortor died on Thanksgiving Day, just months before his 100th birthday. The oral history presented here is synthesized from two interviews permitted by this intensely modest and private man, at the Brooklyn Museum in 2014, and at his Lower East Side home last fall. I was introduced to the work of Eldzier Cortor in 2005, when I saw his arresting Southern Landscape (Southern Flood) in a booth at the Park Avenue Armory. The artist presented two beautiful, young black figures stretched out on a grassy hill, while behind them flood waters sweep through a valley and carry away unmoored, frame houses. The figures appear calm, owing to the artist's having cast their faces according to the forms of African masks. We purchased the picture for the Brooklyn Museum, where it has hung ever since. I called Mr. Cortor at the time. Although he claimed he remembered little about a work he had created sixty years earlier, he subsequently completed a questionnaire with precision, noting his materials ("Gesso panel, Shiva casein paint, Shiva emulsion, Shiva oil paint, Shiva glossy varnish, Damar varnish—glossy finish.") and the location, a site in Kentucky that he had witnessed en route to the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. He wrote, "It was created from my feelings in the face of devastation, and the two figures represent youth with hope." When I asked Mr. Cortor if he would come to the museum to speak, he replied with a polite but categorical "no thank you."

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film : review

Bound by Cinema

by Daniel Bird

On the fiery filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski and his final work—Cosmos.

Five years ago in Copenhagen.

A hotel restaurant.

Breakfast.

Polish director Andrzej Żuławski has a dramatic announcement to make: "There are no real directors at this festival."

"Why?" I ask.

"Look!" A young girl, bored senseless, stacking plates loaded with breakfast remains.

"A real director would stop stuffing his face and cast her in a movie."

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music : interview

Vivien Goldman

by Michael Patrick MacDonald

"Dub was my sound because of postcolonial movements. I grew up in it. I bathed in it. I breathed it. So why shouldn't it be mine?"

I first heard the foreboding bass line of Vivien Goldman's "Private Armies" in Boston, 1981. Stereophonic sounds crashed into each other, dissipated, and appeared again, and the bass kept it all together while a British woman's voice alternated between sweet sing-song and militant shouts of resistance. That summer, police were violently clamping down on behalf of the new corporate state in the working-class Caribbean community of Brixton, as well as in striking white mining towns across England. As a kid, listening eagerly with big ears across the pond, "Private Armies" evoked all these images in visceral ways that newspapers could not. And that a woman's voice spoke up to the masculinity of oppression put the images in a focus we were not getting in mainstream reportage.

The lead voice and visionary of the project was a music journalist. Vivien Goldman often wrote in NME and Melody Maker about London's "sound systems" and the links happening between white punks and rastas at all-night Blue Parties. Coming from Boston's poor and working class white ghetto where any interaction with nearby poor and working-class black neighborhoods seemed unimaginable, such "crossing over" lit me. A glimpse into this faraway world sparked my own fantasies of class-conscious and cross-cultural intersections.

Thirty-five years after those angry teenage days of alienation, I called my now good friend and ally for a conversation about the new collection of her music—Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982) (Staubgold Records), covering solo songs as well as her work with The Flying Lizards and Chantage—from that explosive and brilliantly creative period.

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art : comment

We Are Orlando

by Corrine Fitzpatrick

"We need a new word, because neither 'hate' nor 'terror' will suffice."

Will called me from Missoula on Tuesday to talk. He told me that one of the times he'd gone to see Carol in the theater there he'd been touched to see so many older lesbian couples in attendance. Then it occurred to him that someone could come into the theater and wipe out "a hundred of us at once." He spent the movie wondering what he would do if somebody opened fire.

As the massacre at Pulse began, I was in my living room in California drunkenly discussing the pace of gay progress versus race progress in the United States. I cautioned Chris and our guests, who were thoughtfully commending the swiftness of gains in gay rights and mainstream acceptance of homosexuality. I brought up suicide rates, addiction rates, homelessness rates, assault rates, murder rates, and insidious marginalization—particularly the alienation of queer people from their families.

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art : comment

We Are Orlando

by Gerard & Kelly

“I don't know how to pray so I cry.”

Dear Brennan,

I did not want to begin my email to you like this, but oh no, Orlando. The sinking feeling of opening Facebook to see a friend marked “safe,” signifier of our time. Globe-trotting crises; Orlando, the next peg on the map of violence. Pulse nightclub. No, not another nightclub, too soon after the Bataclan. Then, the sucker punch, a gay nightclub. 50 dead and counting, as many injured. They call it a terrorist attack. Why not a hate crime? It is not immaterial that these bodies were queer and mainly brown. I want hate there in what we call this thing. I update my status: I don't want to pray for the dead or their families. I don't want to thank the police for their courage. I want to pass a fucking law that prohibits the sale of assault weapons.

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art : comment

We Are Orlando

by Carlos Motta

"Queerness is a political force powered by anger."

Queerness is an unstoppable force powered by dreams of survival. Queer is a language of freedom from systemic oppression. Queer lives hardened by violence: familial prejudice, bullying at school and work, exhaustively discriminatory institutions. Yet we carve spaces to cope and thrive. We build dissenting forms of living. We construct futures that resist the suffocating norms of the mainstream.

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