Daily Postings
film : interview

Maíra Bühler & Matias Mariani

by Gary M. Kramer

“He needed to know everything about her, and we went beyond his narrative—into his hard drive—to know everything about him.”

I Touched All Your Stuff is an astonishing documentary centered on Chris “Goose” Kirk, a restless young man from Olympia, Washington, who sought out adventure by heading to Colombia to see hippos that the infamous narcotraficante Pablo Escobar smuggled out of Africa. While in Latin America, he meets a Japanese-Colombian girl known as “V,” and falls in love. They are soon involved in a long-distance relationship that breeds suspicion about various shady behaviors involving sums of money and questionable friends. Chris then investigates—thoroughly.

Curiously, Chris narrates almost the entirety of I Touched All Your Stuff from a prison in Brazil. Directors Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani let their imprisoned subject recount his story directly to the camera, illustrating it with images and files sourced from his computer’s hard drive. But what exactly is true here? The film posits that it may not matter. What makes the film so riveting is the filmmakers’ deliberate narrative construction of Chris’s storytelling. This portrait of a man is fascinating precisely because it will frustrate viewers who want the truth.

[ Read More ]
literature : review

Le Mômo in the Mire

by Micaela Morrissette

Madness, melodrama, mundanity, and the legacy of Antonin Artaud.

For those susceptible to the romance of madness, the essential sanity of the written word is a tragedy. Perhaps literature is not the only art to suffer from the rationality that form and meanings impose, but it does seem at a peculiar disadvantage, even when it comes to the works of those practitioners who were themselves inarguably mad. The violently colored, claustrophobically dense drawings of the psychotic Adolf Wölfli satisfy with an intense frisson of delirium; the schizophrenic August Natterer’s elusively symbolic, eerily cartoonish images are unsettling in the extreme. But Robert Walser’s microscripts, creepy though they may be to behold, are, once deciphered, all too legible. Gérard de Nerval’s Aurelia, while it may chronicle his descent into lunacy, does so in limpid prose, unfolding its narrative in a calm and eminently parseable progression. The fiction Philip K. Dick generated from his transcendental visions is, if anything, more clichéd than the brain-bending stories that arose during his slightly less hallucinatory earlier years. Maybe literature, the reading of which involves deciphering a series of symbolic equations, simply cannot escape an intrinsically argumentative, demonstrative quality. Maybe, because literary works operate, no matter how conventional or how revolutionary the text, through the suspension of readerly disbelief, it’s tautologically impossible to regard them as delusional. Maybe literature’s mundanity is one more evil ascribable to the crime syndicate of literary criticism: There’s no idea, no form, no mode of language too extreme or sublime to escape the shackles of a meaningful analytical framework. Or maybe one must simply give way to the heartbreaking truth that battiness is banal—no more, no less. The crazy are as bourgeois, as irremediably earthbound as the rest of us. They cannot take us aloft with them; they’re even deeper in the mire than we are.

If anyone was ever truly deranged, it was the French playwright, poet, theorist, and opiate addict Antonin Artaud. If anyone had a chance at translating psychopathy into poetry, it was him. Born in 1896, Artaud suffered in childhood from stammering, headaches, meningitis, and other painful physical illnesses; by the time he was a teenager, he had already spent time in sanatoriums; and in 1937, he entered a period of institutionalization that lasted until his death in 1948. He believed he was Christ—also Antichrist. Wrenchingly repulsed by sex, he would spit at pregnant women when they crossed his path. Artaud knew himself to be the victim of numerous bewitchments by an international cabal of black magicians, and was horrified by the fact that his near and dear were being murdered and replaced by indistinguishable doubles. He was also a maniacally prolific writer now best known for his formulation of the theater of cruelty and for poems and other texts that incorporate glossolalia and nonverbal noise—particularly the scream.

[ Read More ]
art : interview

Alina Tenser

by Rachel Valinsky

“Oh, obviously my leg sticking out from underneath the tray needs to stay.”

“Narrative is pattern and transformation.” I was standing in front of Alina Tenser’s video, Necklace, as she walked me and a handful of others around “No Entrance, No Exit,” her recent three-person exhibition at The Kitchen, in New York. This piece, installed in the entrance to the gallery, was my introduction to the New York-based artist’s work, which rather than negate access (or departure), complicates and multiplies points of entry, positioning the surface of the image as one of many contiguous and coexisting structures. In her videos, decontextualized objects—which are cast against uniformly-colored backgrounds or patterned, material supports—both initiate changes in shape and activity and are acted upon to transform. Though not always revealed, her body is never far off.  

Tenser carries with her an ever expanding repertoire of gestures, including hovering, rolling, gliding, stretching, climbing, balancing, and simply staying still. These gestures, which are at times choreographed and at other times more incidental, have developed in relation to her body, as have the proportions of the performance objects and environments she creates for them. The qualities of these objects determine their use, often going against a prescribed function in favor of affective, aesthetic, and intuitive use. Objects and bodies pass fluidly across planes even as Tenser moves between sculpture, video, and performance, redefining what might constitute, today, new ways to approach the overlapping qualities of these practices.

[ Read More ]
film : interview

Alex Ross Perry

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“This is not a movie that invites you to really empathize with these characters, nor is that the point.”

Director Alex Ross Perry’s psychological drama Queen of Earth is about Catherine (Elisabeth Moss), a lapsed artist who leaves New York City in favor of the country’s tranquility, only to find her demons have followed her there. Catherine stays with her childhood best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston), and the many complexities of female friendship are elucidated; the two women are by turns competitive, resentful, judgmental, and possessive of one another. But they are still close—at least for the time being.

The time period is ambiguous. The film has a sun-kissed, nostalgic glow reminiscent of the ’70s (Catherine uses a cordless landline), but there are no solid indicators of decade or year, a touch that placed the already-isolated characters even more outside of reality. Although barely anything overtly dangerous transpires, the atmosphere crackles with eerie tension, and an air of psychological torment pervades the country home. Catherine’s father has recently committed suicide, and her boyfriend has dumped her. Neither woman seems emotionally stable, but Elisabeth grows especially delusional. The film is punctuated by flashbacks to last year’s vacation, when Catherine visited Virginia and brought her then-boyfriend, to a time when she was still holding it all together. Shows how much difference a year can make.

[ Read More ]
film : interview

William Fowler

by Pamela Cohn

Restoring, archiving, and exhibiting artists‘ films from the post-punk era.

In April 2014 in London, the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank presented a program called “This Is Now: Film and Video After Punk.” The films were part of a significant restoration project overseen by William Fowler. As a young lad in the early 2000s, the Cornwall born-and-bred Fowler was working at the information desk at the British Museum and occasionally putting on film screenings at an underground venue called The Horse Hospital. He then pursued a film studies and archiving degree at the University of East Anglia and, in 2004, took a temporary job at the top film organization for artist films, LUX. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as the first-ever Curator of Artists’ Moving Image at the BFI National Archive. His restoration projects at the BFI have included “GAZWRX: The films of Jeff Keen”; “Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman”; as well as “This Is Now,” which is currently touring internationally through LUX and will hit the US with all seven programs playing at MoMA in late 2016.

The period of 1979-1985 saw an explosion in artist filmmaking. Since that time, the majority of these personal, frequently very intimate, works have gone unseen—until now. Pieces by Grayson Perry, John Maybury, Tina Keane, Christine Binnie, Isaac Julien, Jill Westwood, Cerith Wyn Evans, and Sophie Muller were part of a massive restoration endeavor. Fowler spent three full years of research and development on the project, archiving and restoring twenty Super-8 and 16mm films. Almost all of these works have been taken into the national collection and digitally remastered. Some of the recognizable key figures captured in these beautiful and lushly romantic films include Leigh Bowery, Michael Clarke, Siouxsie Sioux, Public Image Ltd., and many other underground denizens of London’s art and music scene during that time. Many video works from the period are also included.

[ Read More ]
literature : interview

Stephanie Barber

by Laura van den Berg

“You poor, quite accurate word… cast aside for being too apt!”

Stephanie Barber lives in Baltimore where she is an artist-in-residence in the MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art. In addition to her latest book, All the People (Ink Press, 2015), Barber is the author of Night Moves (Publishing Genius, 2013) and these here separated to see how they standing alone (Publishing Genius, 2010). She also has an extensive body of work in film and various media. Recently her first feature, Daredevils, screened at The National Gallery of Art in DC, and for jhana and the rats of james olds, Barber moved her studio into the Baltimore Museum of Art where she created a new video every day, with museum visitors acting as both spectators and collaborators.

The art I most admire creates its own world. I can remember visiting Stephanie at the BMA and being so wholly absorbed by the world she was creating—isolated, collaborative, lonely, joyful. I remember wanting to stay and stay. To me, that experience is characteristic of her body of work: whether she is operating in film or installation or poetry or prose, she constructs worlds that are kinetic, strange, and stunningly beautiful, worlds that are wise and scary, that hit you in the head and in the heart.

[ Read More ]
art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Rachel Stern

Fascinated by how objects can hold symbolic and material value, Rachel Stern finds inspiration in the history of decorative arts and stylistic movements—such as Rococo—believing it’s possible to create beauty from the banal and to make high aesthetics universally accessible. Internalizing these ideas, Stern constructs fantastical image worlds using male muses. Further instigated by her interest in the history of art, visual culture, feminism, queer aesthetics, and beauty, she embraces the complexity of these images and is honest about not fully understanding them.  

[ Read More ]
literature : word choice

I Am Not Dead, Yet: A Mesostic for Janet Fanjón

by John Pluecker

I sit down this morning to write about this image. This image—which might be a poem—that I made as the result of an experiment. I took walks through a city looking for street names with sufficient letters to create a mesostic for Janet Fanjón, a young photographer in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, in the northern part of Mexico on the border with Texas. She was disappeared by Mexican federal defense forces in 2011 along with her entire family.

[ Read More ]
art : interview

Robin Rhode

by Lee Ann Norman

“No, it’s not graffiti art. It’s not street art. I’m a bushman cave painter.”

Cape Town-born and Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Robin Rhode works across visual media to interrogate notions of the city and urban landscapes, the individual, and the cultural collective. Rhode was recently announced as a commissioned artist for Performa 15, the biennial of performance art, taking place in New York November 1–22, 2015. For his commission, which is still in the works, Rhode will reinterpret Schoenberg’s 1909 opera Erwartung and build the set using doors reclaimed from his native South Africa. He currently has two exhibitions on view; “Borne Frieze,” his third solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, features new work meant to broaden the possibilities of drawing as a medium. “Drawing Waves” at the Drawing Center, meanwhile, includes stop-motion photographs and a wall drawing done in collaboration with school children. We spoke recently about the new shows and what it means to make art in an increasingly globalized world. 

[ Read More ]
music : interview

Peacers

by Meg Remy

Meg Remy of US Girls talks to the former Sic Alp about anger, publicity, lyrics, and Roald Dahl.

I remember the first time I saw Mike Donovan in the flesh. I was living in Chicago and road my bike to a shitty loft to see Sic Alps play. I walked in and there he was setting up the tower of power, a huge stack of amps. I felt nervous in my belly—a good sign. Some months later, I actually met Mike in Montreal, where my band, US Girls, shared a bill with Sic Alps. We sat at the bar and dove right in. I told him we shared a mutual acquaintance who I thought was a complete asshole. He laughed and wasn't offended. He emitted such a tender and wise glow, but just a few hours later I witnessed him throw his guitar like a rag doll, grab the mic stand and beat a bowling-ball-sized hole into the stage, and fuck up his foot in the process. I was shocked and excited. He was an openly conflicted, multi-dimension man who sometimes sang in a falsetto! I knew I had found a friend for life.

Mike dissolved the Sic Alps a few years ago and released a puzzling acoustic album, Wot, under his given name in 2013. Just this summer he released his umpteenth record, but his first with a new band—Peacers. The record is self-titled, and it’s great. I called Mike from the mountains of Colorado, mid-family picnic. For the very first time, I was on the conducting side of an interview.

[ Read More ]
music : interview

Mac DeMarco

by Gary Canino

"When I’m home, I’m completely alone. I get the creative bug, and if I’m sitting here long enough not working on music, it drives me insane."

Mac DeMarco’s latest record, Another One, is in his words, “just an EP,” supposedly a stopgap between Salad Days and his next full-length, but there’s been nothing understated about its rollout. Contrast the plaintive, light, hermetic spirit of this EP to the impromptu BBQ DeMarco held celebrating its release, which brought out over 800 kids armed with their millennial selfie-sticks. Another One is not the wild party that 2 was, and there’s nothing wrong with that: seven low-key love songs and one instrumental work their way through the pipeline before Mac invites you to his Far Rockaway home, address and all, and then that’s that. The tunes are mostly in the key of the early Beatles, a half-decade before “God (is just a concept)” or “Monkberry Moon Delight.” One could call it Spotlight on DeMarco (Mac is a huge Nilsson fan). It’s a more personal record than he’s ever made. The results, however, are still in 3D 75mm, particularly the unsettling chord progression and synth patch of “A Heart Like Hers,” or the introspective “Without Me,” which is like if Roy Orbison sang over the credits of Sixteen Candles instead of OMD. 

His pseudo-stardom can be mainly attributed to his goofy cult of public personality—unusually vulgar with wild abandon—but also to the broad appeal of 2. A recent comedic collaboration with Tyler, the Creator has also ensured a throng of young new fans. However, the stardom hasn’t gotten to DeMarco. This ostensibly wealthy young man records and engineers his own music for free at home, drives an ’87 Volvo, and shares a home with six of his friends. So it’s refreshing to hear him keep everything dialed down on this latest release, and between Another One and the instrumental album he released in early July, he’s managed to remain creative under the crush of fame.

[ Read More ]
film : interview

Whit Stillman and Chris Eigeman

by Gary M. Kramer

“The reviews, even the positive ones, said, ‘You won’t like these people, and nothing happens,’ and yet we benefit from those expectations.”

Set to the beat of the cha-cha, writer/director Whit Stillman’s 1990 debut, Metropolitan, still fizzes like uncorked champagne, even twenty-five years later. The film, which is getting a silver-anniversary run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center starting August 7, 2015, shows the not-so-discrete charm of the bourgeoisie—renamed the UHB, or Urban Haute Bourgeoisie.

This sharply-observed comedy of manners, set over Christmas break, concerns a group of debutantes and their escorts known as the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, or SFRP. The members include: Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina), a young woman who finds herself falling in love with Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), a modest outsider who unexpectedly joins the SFRP; Nick Smith (Chris Eigeman), a smart, sarcastic guy, who gives Tom life lessons; and Charlie Black (Taylor Nichols) who frequently monologues about the plight of WASP life. As the young upper-class men and women drink, gossip, play games, and have dates, rumors are spread, truths are told, and some members possibly fall in love.

[ Read More ]
literature : from the editor
literature : interview

Mark von Schlegell

by Erika Landström

“Fiction can be this art object that doesn’t show us anything new about reality, but draws out everything fake.”

On the European release of Sundogz earlier this summer, I met with author and cultural critic Mark von Schlegell to talk about a mutual interest—the desire to observe from multiple viewpoints simultaneously, both inside and outside of fiction.

The idea of transformation is at the heart of speculative writing. Sundogz articulates this desire both allegorically, through descriptions of shape-shifting subjects in liquid worlds, and structurally, through normalizing a disrupted linearity, letting the point of reading become irretrievable by expansion instead. One viewpoint is diffused by striking two new.

[ Read More ]
art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Mary Simpson

Boys or Women

“You laugh when boys or women tell their dreams.”
—Cleopatra to Dolabella
Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene II

 

In a suburb outside of Cologne:

Mary and Gerhard are sitting in Gerhard’s studio, drinking espresso. They’re arguing.

G There’s impulse, and there’s control of impulse.

M But how can you calculate an image in proportions, like milk to coffee?

G It’s a danger to let heroic feelings into an image. You have to discipline the image.

M Those absurd feelings. It’s not so analytical. Even whales mate belly to belly.

G Whales and humans.

M Any chimp can fling paint. What if control is just the cycle of doing something over and again? You reach for the image, and it’s there for you.

G This is why I envy women—the indulgence in madness every twenty-eight days! It’s wonderful, the organization of it.

[ Read More ]
literature : word choice

Three Poems

by Joe Milazzo

THE DREAM
IN    WHICH
WE    WALK
EVERY DAY

They uncovered a u-boat in the bays beneath
the rayonnant of the kitchen linoleum,
drainpipes labyrinthed through its hull like
antennae with no use for alerts.
They anointed it “her,” so the lilting blue
of their torches might saw. In their sleeves
and buckles, they shoveled the fecund smell
her decks surrendered into the bags
whose buttressing they’d emptied of sand.
They offered to lay her relics in their van,
leaving me only her spiny lungs.
I asked them instead to erect
a second sink atop her bridge.
In the corroded glass of her periscope,
I can observe the creeping of green
bottles, brown bottles, brown bottles,
green bottles and the surface
of a mirror blank save
for a single bubble.

[ Read More ]
film : interview

Les Blank’s A Poem Is a Naked Person

by Alex Zafiris

Thanks to his son, Harrod Blank, the filmmaker’s forty-year-old documentary on musician Leon Russell is finally released.

In May of 1972, Les Blank and his assistant, Maureen Gosling, traveled to Tulsa to begin shooting a documentary on Leon Russell. Blank had just left Louisiana, where he had filmed the footage for Dry Wood, an in-depth look at Creole people, their life, food, and music, and Hot Pepper, about local legend Clifton Chenier, who was also known as the “King of Zydeco.” Blank had already made Dizzy Gillespie (1965), Christopher Tree (1967), and The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1969-70), captured images of the Los Angeles “Love-In” of 1967 with God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance, and filmed the LSD scene in Easy Rider (1969) alongside cinematographer Baird Bryant. His interest in traditional music and counterculture was so immersive and all-consuming that when Russell and his producer, Denny Cordell, commissioned him to make a film about Russell, Blank didn’t know who he was.

That year, Russell was enjoying enormous success as a writer, performer, and recording artist with his third solo album, Carney. He was on a nationwide tour. His label, Shelter Records, which he co-founded with Cordell, was putting out music by J.J. Cale, Don Nix, and Freddie King, and was responsible for releasing Bob Marley’s first American single. The past two years had seen Russell release his first eponymous record, which included his biggest hit, “A Song For You,” and he was just coming off of collaborations with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and B.B. King. By ’72, he decided to relocate to Tulsa, his hometown, and set up Paradise Studios, located a few hours drive northeast in Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees. When Blank and Gosling arrived, they were housed nearby on the water in an old floating fisherman’s motel, where they lived for the next two years.

Russell returned to Tulsa and Grand Lake as a huge presence with an entourage. Many of his friends—among them Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Charlie McCoy—appear in unguarded, intimate performances. Blank’s camera focuses on the locals with equal reverence, layering it all with lingering shots of the moon, ripples in the lake, or a wriggling catfish caught on a line. He films artist Jim Franklin scooping up scorpions from an empty swimming pool; he’s onstage with Russell, who samples from a plate of gumbo on his piano as he performs to a blissed-out crowd; he attends the demolition of a city building and a pie-eating contest. Toward the middle, he introduces a segment where Franklin feeds a baby chick to a snake while the artist sounds off about the corporatization of America, an unsettling and cynical metaphor that anchors some of the anxieties expressed throughout. Early on, a young Bill Mullins laments his generation’s lack of spiritual leadership. When Blank questions Russell about money, Russell responds that he can’t think about it too much or he’ll get blocked. “I won’t know what I’m doing,” he says. “If I feel I know what I’m doing, then I know what I am doing.”

After viewing the completed work, Russell prevented it from being released. The two men never spoke again. Blank was only permitted to screen the film at nonprofit institutions, and kept working on it. A few years ago, when his health began to wane, his son Harrod—aware of how much the film meant to his father—reached out to Russell. Blank died soon afterwards, but Harrod kept pushing for the release, which Russell finally granted. A Poem Is a Naked Person is about these two complex, visionary men whose deep connections to sound and image could not quite meet, despite both of them communicating their own interests vividly and masterfully. After forty years, the film’s allure deepens as it resurfaces in a new era, reigniting old mysteries and creating new ones. Gosling went on to become a prolific documentarian, and Harrod is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. I spoke to them at the end of June at the Criterion Collection offices in New York.

[ Read More ]
art : interview

Judith Bernstein

by Sofia Leiby

“In my work, there’s an awful lot of screaming to be heard.”

Judith Bernstein’s drawings and paintings are inspired by her early introduction to graffiti during her time at Yale School of Art. A vehicle for her outspoken feminist and anti-war activism, her paintings feature expressive line work, raw imagery, and an unflagging sense of humor. She was a participant in many activist organizations, including the Guerrilla Girls and the Art Workers’ Coalition. In the 1970s she was a member of AIR Gallery, the first to be devoted to showing female artists. Recently, Bernstein has exhibited at Mary Boone Gallery, Migros Museum Zurich, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Museum, ICA London, Studio Voltaire London, Hauser & Wirth London and Zurich, Karma International Zurich, The Box LA, and MoMA PS1. She is currently preparing for an retrospective at Kunsthalle Stavanger in Norway and a solo exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea; both opening in the new year. Bernstein is also working on a book of her work with Patrick Frey Publications.

On a steamy day in late June, I met Judith in the Chinatown loft where she lives and works. We began by looking through images of older work before moving into her adjacent studio and, over pungent chocolate-flavored coffee, beginning a more intimate conversation regarding touchstones in our own personal feminist histories.

[ Read More ]
: literature
literature : interview

V. Vale

by Karlynne Ejercito

“Everything goes, whatever. You know that word 'whatever'—whenever that started coming in, about twenty years ago? It's like whatever-core—that's where we're at now.”

As the editor and publisher of RE/Search, and a self-described amateur anthropologist, V. Vale has commanded volumes of interviews and articles about countercultural figures and the subcultures they spawned. In the thirty-some years since the first issue appeared in 1980—a slim journal that drew Julio Cortázar together with Non, Sun Ra, and The Slits—few things about RE/Search have changed. Still too catholic in its taste for discriminating punk palates and still not academic enough to be Semiotext(e), RE/Search continues to articulate a no-man’s-land between the “underground” and the institutions that undergrounds allegedly subvert. Despite inhabiting this space, these publications assume a distinct place with their irregular sizes and boldface logo emblazoned onto their exaggerated covers.

Much like the curious tone of his books, Vale is notably less cynical toward his countercultural peers than readers of, say, Vice or The Baffler might expect. His is an attitude that reflects a willingness to publish a book of interviews with tattooist Ed Hardy alongside a zine by McKenzie Wark and a book by Penny Rimbaud—with little trace of irony. His sincerity is not simply a pose but a mark of his deep involvement with the people he writes about.

That he’s sincere, however, makes him no less inscrutable. For one thing, Vale has a habit of deliberating over the delicate specificity of certain terms in unwieldy generalities—a style of expression that yields the most unpredictable of ideas. Although deciphering our conversation proved to be a difficult task, it may be the most straightforward path to an understanding of RE/Search and its place today.

[ Read More ]
art : interview

Mike Nelson

by Chris Chang

Matter, mythology, and metaphysical pelts.

Visitors to Mike Nelson’s installation at 303 Gallery, on view earlier this year, had a chance to meet the Gang of Seven, an array of sculptural assemblages made out of debris culled from the Pacific Northwest coastline. To understand the Gang—and to further enhance their aesthetic power—one needs to delve into the mythologies that Nelson has been building over the years. Luckily, he was more than happy to discuss his alternate universe, but reader take warning: it is a strange place indeed.

[ Read More ]
film : interview

Jennifer Phang

by Steve Macfarlane

The director of Advantageous on technology, childhood, and the market forces that shape family relations. 

In the paranoid and heartbroken contours of Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous, one can see today’s concerns refracted with crystalline clarity: whiz-kid precocity emboldened, understandably, in a generation reared as much by LCD screens as parents; a never-ending litany of brand-name products and procedures; a mysterious ongoing war that bursts the story’s neon New York bubble only intermittently; and all this with an alarming casualness. As in the heyday of paperback science, or “speculative,” fiction, Advantageous questions where society is heading by nudging these present-tense anxieties slightly into the future. Heroine Gwen Koh (Jacqueline Kim) has to cope with her dismissal from her job as spokeswoman for a medical conglomerate. A single mother raising a hyperintelligent tween named Jules (Samantha Kim, no relation), Gwen finds that, even in a future liberated by technology, her options aren’t much different from any other woman’s in history. With increasing despair, she begins to explore life as an unemployed single parent, which culminates in an identity-switch that turns Advantageous into something closer to a horror movie.

The film is an expansion from the twenty-minute version featured in the Independent Television Service’s Futurestates project, an ongoing compendium of short, speculative sci-fi works by filmmakers such as J. P. Chan, Barry Jenkins, A. Sayeeda Clarke, and Alex Rivera. And, like Rivera’s Sleep Dealer, the film’s ideas-per-minute allow it to transcend its confining production value. This is not a work of cinema bound by overblown genre prerogatives: Phang gives Advantageous a nimble touch and a devastating conclusion, more a chamber drama of its milieu than anything remotely close to satire. It will be measured in coming years not for whiz-bang visuals or hoary monologues, but for its prescience.

[ Read More ]
literature : interview

Magnus Mills

by Michael Barron

As novelist and bus driver, Mills discusses The Maintenance of Headway, vinyl puritans, and the history of England.

Few writers of fiction would retain a blue-collar occupation after meeting with literary success. In the case of Magnus Mills, however, it remains a vital component of his process. Throughout the span of eight novels, including one Booker nomination, the sixty-one-year-old British novelist has, curiously, remained a bus driver. It’s during his routes that he develops his ideas, which expand until he is ready to put them down on paper.

Plotted isn’t the most appropriate word to describe the kind of work Mills prefers to write. His novels are systems that slowly reveal their flaws as they progress. The Maintenance of Headway, released in the UK to much fanfare in 2010, now published in a US edition, is a poignant example of the Millsian style. The narrator is a bus driver who encounters little slips—a rushed or rerouted bus—that disrupt the optimal distance between the buses. Drivers are occasionally promoted to inspectors who, in turn, cite their colleagues for being early or late. New bus models loom on the horizon; others are retired. Headway remains a white rabbit.

Mills has since published two books in the UK, including this year’s The Field of the Cloth of Gold, a systemic novel tackling not the maladies of public transit, but the early history of the British, all woven with allegorical thread: a field of tent dwellers grows in population, including Caesarian and Christian inhabitants that bring about change.

[ Read More ]