Daily Postings
literature : first proof

One Poem

by Alissa Valles

All rhapsodes want it, to fold the world into a poem,
          reconstrue a world in salvaged scraps & bracketed sighs;
it is easier to say what a poem is than what a world,
          were-ald, man-era, a stretch of time measured for a man
& weathered by him, a course charted across the face
          of time & everything found or fished up along the way?
Surviving pieces, in their brokenness, a call to form

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art : interview

Morgan Bassichis

by Katherine Brewer Ball

"What's the point of being queer, or an artist, or a radical, if you don't veer?"

Morgan Bassichis is a comedic storyteller and songstress. I met Morgan through my friend Jibz Cameron (aka Dynasty Handbag), and then again at a protest or a party. The first time I saw Morgan perform I remember laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. I leaned against the brick wall of the Creative Time tenement space, thinking I'd finally found pleasure. Morgan's performances are conversational fairytales that take the audience into the steamy underbelly bathhouses of the self-help and tincture-obsessed mind. Over the past three years, I've become a diehard Bassichian, studying the political activism and irreverence of Morgan's work with care. Yet when I find myself explaining it to my students or friends, my voice tends to trail off, not wanting to fix something that feels ethereal, resistant, and alive. Instead of saying much, I send people Instagram links to Morgan's songs on the longue durée of resistance. Or I tell them to watch a Lily Tomlin movie from the '80s.

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literature : review

Building Blocks of Noise

by Ben Tripp

Slow-cooked verbiage in Flarf: An Anthology of Flarf

Flarf is an avant-garde writing movement with a neologistic name, a nonsense word meant to signal its distance from delicate, effete, high-art poetry. According to the editors of Flarf: An Anthology of Flarf  (Aerial/Edge Books, May 2017), this sort of poetry is more like punk rock or Dada, but distinct from these previous movements in that the content crucial to its construction is sourced from the Internet. Flarf poets appropriate writings that might first appear in the textual yonder as unimportant, unfinished, and unwarranted—or just plain wrong. The finished poem itself may remain just as cringe-worthy, yet the poet is "in" on the joke, as it were, in a way that the ostensible author of the original source material may not be (but really we'll never know, and that's part of the fun).

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literature : review

Girlfriend Malaise

by J. Jezewska Stevens

Satirizing the "late-capitalist late-patriarchy" in Catherine Lacey's The Answers

The wry joke of The Answers (FSG, June 2017) is that it's a novel bristling with questions—mostly about what it means "to find love or keep love going," and why that struggle has to hurt. The result is a kind of postmortem on human intimacy, as Catherine Lacey examines, with clinical chill and precision, late-capitalism's perversions of love: celebrity worship, exorbitant health fads designed to help us better 'love' ourselves, and, inevitably, dating in NYC. It brings to mind some of Freud's gloomier conclusions: human beings are hopeless misfits within the civilization they've created. Love and civilization are at odds.

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literature : first proof

After the Attack

by Sara Nović

Well, nothing at first, not right after. In those initial moments panic is still optional.

At the grocery store, the one across from your building on Frederick Douglass, or farther up on Ft. Washington near your boyfriend's place, depending—a shrill, unfamiliar tone piercing the Muzak. It startles awake a sudden bond between you and other shoppers, people with whom you'd so far avoided eye contact, mumbling a continuous apology for bumping into one another. Now there is camaraderie in the unison groping of pockets, the rifling for phones among purses and reusable totes.

Across the river on Atlantic Avenue, in the urgent care waiting room, you and the receptionist both jump. The emergency alert system, this is not only a test.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by John Fell Ryan

The electric meter at the corner of President and Bond—in the industrial area of Gowanus, Brooklyn—is usually silent, but on this April afternoon it was emitting a synthesizer-like drone that caught my ear from across the street, just as I was leaving work. With its many small vents, this particular type of meter also happened to be identical to one that had been on the street of my childhood home in Seattle. So, I made a quick sample of this drone with my cellphone, hoping to use it for this assignment. However, upon reviewing the recording on studio monitors, the tone that had attracted me was lost, totally obscured by surrounding sounds in the background.

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film : review

Toshio Masumoto's Funeral Parade of Roses

by Dana Reinoos

A restored masterpiece unmasks Tokyo's underground gay subculture of the 1960s

"Each man has his own mask," a voice intones in an art gallery filled with paintings of misshapen, monstrous faces. "Some will wear the same mask for their entire life. Some will wear several masks based on their needs." The voice projects from a reel-to-reel tape recorder on the carpeted ground and it sends Eddie, a gender nonconforming Tokyo bar hostess, into a violent reverie about her childhood trauma. Toshio Masumoto's radical 1969 masterpiece of queer cinema Funeral Parade of Roses, currently re-released in a new restoration, portrays Tokyo's underground LBGT culture as a similar gallery of masks, ones that people wear and occasionally let slip.

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art : interview

Kayapó Chief Tuire

by Pinar Yolaçan

"I won't open my palm for those wanting to dominate."

The body has always been at the center of my photographs, often covered with materials such as meat, liquid latex, body paint, and fabric, all of which mimic the models' own skin, or the impression of skin found on ancient fertility goddesses, such as Venus of Willendorf. Archeology is interesting for the same reason the human body is. Both register the passage of time. Wrinkles and deformations are marks of the body going through puberty, giving birth, and eventually reaching old age. Through these investigations of form and material, I became interested in the question of whether we can use the body—especially the female body—as a measure of time and civilization.

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literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Andy Axel

How specific is neck to a woods?
Sleep-sick, the vehicle I operate's full
of ears that fail to be pricked by the query
so I field it myself, "one for the road" in that
it keeps it under us because it keeps me awake

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literature : review

Take Note

by Julia Bosson

Unchanging times, in Joan Didion's South and West

Californians live with a particular affliction. We suffer from a sense of timelessness, an ahistorical bent for the future. California may represent the end of the American dream, the realization of a brutal manifest destiny, but it is mostly a land of new beginnings, technological and cinematic alike. At times, it can forget that it is not its own country, focused as it is on the Pacific horizon. It looks back east, over its shoulder, only when the ties that yoke it to America go taut. November 2016 was one of those times, when its purported myth of future-building was outdone by the sea of red states still angry about the past. California, long-enamored with its visions for a utopian future, was made aware that it could not control it.

Joan Didion knows more about this than just about anybody, and she knew it forty years earlier. In 1970, Didion, a native Californian herself, made a pilgrimage to the South, where she spent a month driving through Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi with her husband, John Gregory Dunne. The notes she took while there make up the bulk of South and West, the first released writing from her notebooks. She went with no journalistic imperative, in hunt for no particular story, but rather to test a hypothesis: "I had only some dim and unformed sense…that the South… had been for America what people were still saying California was, and what California seemed to me not to be: the future, the secret source of malevolent and benevolent energy, the psychic center."

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literature : first proof

14 Person Poem

by Jeff Dolven

Incorporating poems by Maureen McLane, Dorothea von Moltke, Geoffrey Nutter, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Sal Randolph, Mónica de la Torre, and Monica Youn

It happens like this: you enter the bright room on the west side of the sixth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art. You are among young trees, twenty-six of them, growing from wooden boxes raised on casters, spaced out around the room; the floor is red carpet, the light a mix of sun from the windows and a magenta glow from the bulbs on the ceiling. You may have a moment to look around, or you may be approached right away by someone who says: Find a furrow in your sleep. Or, The ridge. A ladder asleep against a house. Or, That went, This was our planet, a past tense.

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art : review

Louise Lawler's Why Pictures Now

by Zack Hatfield

The institution of institutional critique

Photography is, of course, permitted in the new Louise Lawler retrospective. If you attend MoMA's expansive yet sparse survey, titled Why Pictures Now, you'll surely see visitors taking photographs of photographs, posing and producing selfies with their phones. These images will later be hashtagged accordingly. These visitors are, perhaps unwittingly, engaging in what Lawler has been practicing for over forty years: creating images that expose how cultural systems and economies shape how we perceive art. A member of the mischievous Pictures Generation, Lawler has largely dedicated her career to photographing artworks within their usual ecosystems, from the bleached walls of museums to the living rooms of the 1%, from storage facilities and backrooms to aristocratic auction houses. Why pictures now. The question doesn't need a question mark. Why pictures then? The answers are the same, though the issues the Pictures Generation addressed in the '70s and '80s are amplified now. Still, compared to recent, more instructive insurgencies mounted against powerful art spaces, the institutional critique pioneered by the Pictures Generation feels neither quaint nor harmless, but rather like an institution itself, complete with its own exclusive references and codes. By including her own past works in photographs, Lawler invites us to appraise her paradoxical strategy.

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theater : review

Annie Baker's The Antipodes

by Marie-Helene Bertino

The universe and the playwright

In last year's brilliant performance of Annie Baker's play John, her first at Signature Theatre, a moment occurred that the Irish would refer to as an aisling—the universe in one moment. It happened at the end of a monologue told by that play's enigmatic innkeeper, regarding a small but profound moment of comeuppance in her life. There is at least one aisling moment in all of Baker's plays, and I couldn't wait to see The Antipodes, also at Signature.

For two hours with no intermission, a cast referred to only by their first names is locked around a regular-seeming office conference table, brainstorming story ideas for a company purposefully left vague. The premise is promising. In the Page to Stage talk preceding the show, director Lila Neugebauer praised Baker's attention to "micro-minutia," an apt way to describe her brave, famous pauses and extended scenes. The Antipodes's set is a pigeon-gray, unrelenting maw of office furniture and carpeting. If you're sensing a conceit of featurelessness, you're right. This can be thrilling if in service of a new and unusual revelation or anomaly. Baker's insight is usually so strong that style elements work counterintuitively to create a sort of breathlessness. In John, another single-room play set over a short period of time, audiences hung on every word until the last emotionally shattering one. While I enjoy Baker's plays mostly for their hyperrealism, her attempt at new surrealist ground is welcome.

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literature : review

Excavating Memory

by Alexander Pines

Moving toward a poetics of grief in Kate Zambreno's Book of Mutter

Louise Bourgeois's Cells makes physical the emotion of a wound, each piece in the series meditates on a painful object—clothing, furniture, a childhood home—as a form of exorcism. This duality of resurrection and destruction also animates much of Kate Zambreno's Book of Mutter (Semiotext(e), March 2017). It reveals both a tenderly curated archive of Zambreno's mother and the messiness of unearthing its zombie parts. "My mother book, my monster book," she writes of the text and its thirteen-year-long incubation.

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literature : first proof


by Eve Gleichman

The new girl, Rachel Shapiro, kept getting flowers. They started coming her second week. Benny the cross-eyed mail guy brought them in, going, "Is there a Rachel Shapiro here? Does a Rachel Shapiro work here? I never heard of a Rachel Shapiro. Anyone?"

Rachel Shapiro had a rudely wide forehead, eyes that were miles away from each other, and bangs that didn't help. She was overqualified for the job, with two degrees in computer science. Cornell. That's what her resume said. And I was the one showing her the ropes. We got new ones, new coders I mean, every three months or so, and it would go like this. They'd come in and I'd show them the ropes, and after they left, no one would hear from them again.

But Rachel Shapiro was different. She didn't need the experience. For years she'd done complex coding for big companies like Johnson & Johnson. She was the only female on the floor, the first girl we'd had since Stephanie Peters, and she knew more about code than any of us. Even so, she never got bossy, never showed off on purpose, and this was of course more embarrassing for all of us.

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film : review

TV Personality

by Rebecca Cleman

The legacy of Jaime Davidovich

Jaime Davidovich, an artist best known for his role as an avant-garde television host, was always quick to suggest "business" dinners at Arte, a self-consciously high-class Italian restaurant that flaunts its status with white tablecloths and mannered waiters. Jaime relished the gaudiness of discussing art at Arte—its dining room décor of heavily framed paintings and flower vases felt like a set for a satire about fine art pretensions.

I had many such dinners with Jaime, but most of our discussions were focused on his current projects or his plans to stage a daring conceptual performance in Las Vegas. There was a lot about his background that never came up. It was a bittersweet experience to belatedly discover the revelations in a new publication featuring Jaime's in-depth conversation with scholar Daniel Quiles co-published by the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros's and the Institute for Studies of Latin American Art. More than an insightful overview of Jaime's career, the dialogue calls attention to the impact of his early life in Argentina during a turbulent political period in the 1950s and '60s, and reframes the nature of Jaime's often playful and entertaining projects to connect them to his passionate belief that artists have a social responsibility to be rebels.

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literature : first proof

One Poem

by She Who Has No Master(s)

Warrior spirit and a harness to tie down
        the heart, in case it should fall behind when it came time
                to run;

Resilience, relentlessness, stubbornness; I do not give up,
        I do not let go, and I do not listen;

Small hardworking hands, a missing sweet tooth,
        a mistrust
                of chocolate;

Her nervous laugh, her satisfaction at the deep discount
                her love ofthe gaudy;

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music : review

The Endorithm

by Keith Connolly

A selection of recent and reissued music by Don Cherry, Pierre Henry, Dominique Lawalree, and Phew

Free jazz, so to speak, has long been the province of initiates. At the fringes of popular music discourse at best, it's barely understood by those outside its oft-insular ranks. Few have done more to dispel this anathema than the late, great Don Cherry, whose boundary dissolving music, though rooted in the post-bop and free jazz movements, develops in the long run into something else entirely. Beginning with the Eternal Rhythm sessions in 1968, Cherry's fourth-world mindset ushers in an amalgam of deep-set exotica hitherto only touched on by his peers. Combining living musics from various cultures with esoterica and the avant-garde, the sophistication and poetic immediacy of Cherry's music at this time is startling.

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literature : review

Rules of the Game

by Matthew Phipps

Playing at life in Albert Mobilio's Games & Stunts

"Balloon Bust," the opening story in Albert Mobilio's new collection Games & Stunts (Black Square Editions, April 2017), reads something like the instructions for an esoteric hazing ritual, or perhaps the elaborate stage directions for a downtown play. "Stand with the others in the fenced-in yard," it begins. "Each of us has an uninflated balloon. At a signal, given from someone outside the fence, from someone who used to be in here with us, we all begin to blow up our balloons." The story amounts to half-game, half-stunt: we see a group of "contestants," as well as a clear objective: to be the first to pop one's balloon.

Participation is optional. "One plays only if one wishes to," the epigraph states, taken from Man, Play and Games, an idiosyncratic 1961 work by Roger Caillois, the pioneer of game studies. Part sociology, part philosophy, part cultural criticism, Caillois's study borrows concepts from various world cultures in the elaboration of a number of broad categories of play, ranging from agôn, "a combat in which equality of chances is artificially created," to alea, "in which winning is the result of fate rather than triumphing over an adversary." A tone of benign pedantry and a pleasingly opaque quality predominate—both of which seem to have inspired Mobilio in crafting the unique voice of Games & Stunts, which sometimes hovers above the contestants like an impartial commentator, diving at other times into their midst as a rival and co-conspirator. Like Caillois, Mobilio uncovers echoes of elemental human nature, both pathetic and profound, in the most trivial-seeming of juvenile competitions; unlike Caillois, Mobilio finds sly humor and beauty there as well.

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film : review

Portrait of the Artist as a Room

by Lynne Sachs

On Studio: Remembering Chris Marker

In San Francisco in the mid-1980s, I saw French filmmaker Chris Marker's expansive, enigmatic ciné meditation Sans Soleil (1983). I witnessed his mode of daring, wandering filmmaking with a camera. Alone, he traveled to Japan, Sweden, and West Africa where he pondered revolution, shopping, family, and the gaze in a sweeping but intimate film essay that shook the thinking of more filmmakers than any film I know. Marker's quasi-autobiographical movie blended an intense empathy with a global picaresque. It presented the possibility of merging cultural theory, politics, history, and poetry—all aspects of my own life I did not yet know how to bring together—into one artistic expression. I wrote my own interpretation of the film and then boldly, perhaps naively, sent it to Marker in Paris.

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literature : review

Beginnings & Endlings

by Liza St. James

A bestiary of human proportions in Elena Passarello's Animals Strike Curious Poses

In "Why Look at Animals?" John Berger writes, "Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises." He goes on to detail the ways in which, in 1977, this is no longer the case; animals no longer hold the mysteries required for acts of the imagination. Berger describes a culture saturated with the animal imagery of late capitalism—toys and costumes, stuffed animal reproductions. He explains that when a child visits the zoo, they cannot help but be disappointed, cannot help but wonder, "Why are these animals less than I believed?"

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literature : review

Arrogant Class Renegade

by Daniel Lefferts

Sexual awakening amid poverty and violence in Édouard Louis's The End of Eddy

Early in The End of Eddy (FSG, May 2017), the autobiographical debut novel of twenty-four-year-old Édouard Louis, the protagonist, Eddy Belleguele, recounts his mother's frequent vituperations against what she calls "the politicians." To her, such figures seem like distant, mysterious overlords who only ever make their presence felt, at least in their impoverished, semi-rural village in northern France, in the form of reductions to welfare payments. She resents them, and yet, when conversation turns toward crime, or "Arabs," or "any kind of sexual behavior she didn't approve of," she doesn't "hesitate to invoke those same powers," telling Eddy, "What we need is some law and order in this country." Later, once Eddy has fled home and availed himself of an education, he'll find in his mother's conflicted raillery echoes of those women who, in 1789, went in droves to Versailles to vent their grievances, but upon seeing Louis XVI, chanted Vive le Roi! Much like those women, and Eddy himself, his mother is "torn between absolute submission to power and an enduring sense of revolt."

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