Daily Postings
art : review

Recalibrating Sense: Cassils at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

by Tess Altman

The body as social sculpture.


Art historian David Getsy writes extensively about the ways in which abstract forms have been utilized by queer and trans artists to express a queer “stance,” i.e., a way of being in the world and being in relation to others “without recourse to the representation of bodies,” as he phrases it in “Appearing Differently: Abstraction’s Transgender and Queer Capacities,” a conversation between him and William J. Simmons. “Recourse to representation” references the demands made of trans people in their art, walking down the street, and in a courtroom: demands for legible bodily representation, for surveilling eyes to know their “biological” bodies, essences, or truths—whatever the hell that means. Straight-up representation of the body is not the only expressive tactic and often not the best one; maybe manifestations of “stance” can do more. Artist and performer Cassils formally builds their “stance” out of glass, bronze, clay, gold paint, and fire. But a refusal of an easily legible body representation does not mean these works are not infused and saturated with the bodily: the glass orbs hung from the ceiling of Cassil’s current exhibition, MONUMENTAL, at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts are filled with their actual breaths, a large glass cube at the center of the exhibition holds their yellow-orange urine, and a bronzed clay tower registers the marks of their fingers and toes. Photo and video documentation of the body-based making of these abstracted forms hangs on the surrounding walls. What is and isn’t “bodily” here is not so clear. What makes a “queer form” is not so clear.

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literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Safia Jama

I tend to my fallacies like this field of yellow petals
A little landscape my mind makes

It's like an old tune you might whistle out of nowhere
Pretty, you think, but what the heck does it mean?

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performance : interview

The Visual Choreographic: Walter Dundervill Interviewed

by Ivan Talijancic

The art and science of the costume.


I first saw an excerpt of Walter Dundervill’s work as part of a group show at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn in 2012. I still vividly remember his quicksilver weaving around his performers, creating a mesmerizing whirlwind of ribbons, fabric, and props that shape-shifted into one baroque costume after another in front of my eyes. Fast-forward to 2017: Dundervill will premier Skybox, an elaborate, large-scale installation/performance presented by New York Live Arts, at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, from Friday, October 20 through Sunday, October 22. I recently had the opportunity to converse with Walter as he puts the finishing touches on this ambitious new work.

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art : review

History and Its Marks: Kahlil Robert Irving's Streets:Chains:Cocktails

by Amelia Rina

Smashing high and low.


Porcelain, like culture, emerges from a series of transformations. Different complementary and contrasting elements combine with changing environments to produce something that is wholly different from its original state, yet both versions are forever connected. Kahlil Robert Irving’s porcelain sculptures blend the medium’s lineage with Irving’s inherited cultural history to reveal a contradiction of beauty, oppression, value, and waste.

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art : interview
art : review

Sculpting Space: Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner

by Osman Can Yerebakan

Mixing ardor ethereality.

Ruth Asawa’s artistic career endured the regrettable fate shared by many twentieth-century women. The late Japanese American artist never enjoyed a solo exhibition at a New York institution, and for the most part she remained eclipsed by her predominantly white, male peers. The last few years, however, have signaled a noticeable recognition for Asawa’s composed sculptures in tandem with a growing engagement with the legacy of Black Mountain College, partly provoked by Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, an in-depth group survey dedicated to that alternative institution’s teachers and students. After announcing exclusive representation of the Ruth Asawa estate earlier this year, David Zwirner contributes to the burgeoning conversation around the artist’s work with a concentrated survey, which includes painting, drawing, and photographs of her and her work in addition to Asawa’s preeminent hand-woven wire sculptures.

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literature : first proof

Baby, They Call It Vermilion

by Annie Dewitt

The first thing my Godsent said when I came through the door was, "I think I have this damn thing on backwards."

His mother had already left for the night. He was wearing her Prada swimsuit and a wig the color of raw meat which he had fashioned into a shoulder-length bob.

"Nice ruby slippers," I said, nodding at the stilettos into which he had shoved his chubby feet.

"Baby," he said, pointing down at them. "They call it vermilion."

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art : review

William Pope.L Navigates the Flint Waterways

by Jennifer Junkermeier

Not fit for human consumption.

Flint, Michigan, nicknamed “Vehicle City” for once being a leader in U.S. auto manufacturing, is the birthplace of General Motors. It went from a thriving city in the late 1970s to one in financial distress when GM drastically reduced its workforce from 80,000 to 8,000 over 20 years. Today it has a population of 100,000 people, with 57% black residents, 37% white residents, and 42% living below the poverty line. In 2014, in an effort to save money, the state-appointed emergency manager (not an elected official) made the decision to switch Flint’s water supply from the Great Lakes Water Authority to the Flint River. After the switch, residents began getting sick, developing rashes and other symptoms that could not be explained. Complaints were routinely dismissed, and although a few boil water advisories were put into effect, Flint residents were repeatedly assured by city and state officials that it was safe to drink and bathe in the water. [ Read More ]

literature : interview

Writing Anti-Stories: an Interview with Roberta Allen

by John Zinsser

"When we really like a book, it's often because its rhythm is similar to our own—to our heartbeat, our breathing, the way we walk. I think that's what draws us to certain writers and not to others even though we know they are great."

Roberta Allen's latest collection of stories, The Princess of Herself (Pelekinesis), offers us a lens into human distortion. In humorous and sharply clipped prose, she takes us through a landscape of characters squarely in denial of who they are.

Allen's own life and career trajectory have exposed her to a variety of people, places, and modalities. Born in New York City to a Russian gambler father, she grew up in the Ansonia Hotel long before its rooms were converted to condos. She resided in the West Village in the early 1960s before traveling alone to Europe, where she married a German sculptor and lived in Athens, Amsterdam, and Berlin. She returned to the U.S. and became an exhibiting artist, showing sculpture and conceptual drawings with the John Weber Gallery and in solo gallery and museum shows in Europe and Australia. At age thirty-five, Allen embarked on her writing career, publishing nine books that include story collections, experimental fiction, and writing guides. A catalogue raisonné of her artist books has just been issued, following a 2016 exhibition at The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, California.

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literature : first proof
art : review

Between Then and Now: on Kara Walker and Ta-Nehisi Coates

by Rabia Ashfaque

Reminding us of what should never have been forgotten

“White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint,” Ta-Nehisi Coates declares in his essay “The First White President,” published in the October 2017 issue of The Atlantic. Coates’s words, which offer a bracing assessment of America’s perturbing present in relationship with its contentious past, are in perfect sync with Kara Walker’s current exhibition, floridly titled Sikkema Jenkins and Co. is Compelled to present The most Astounding and Important Painting show of the fall Art Show viewing season! The grotesque images she creates with Sumi ink, charcoal, and watercolor depict the ugly reality of an America that both Walker and Coates see clearly: a fractured, bigoted society haunted by a past it dare not accept, collapsing under the burden of its own stubborn blindness.

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film : interview

Collective Enthusiasm: An Interview with Agnès Varda & JR

by Gary M. Kramer

"We never thought, 'We have to give them dignity.' We thought we have to give them empathy."

In the playful and wistful new documentary Faces Places, Agnès Varda, godmother of the French New Wave, and JR, the brash street artist, tour around France taking photos of people in their environs. The wise old grandmother and spirited young man let chance be their guide as they visit miners' houses, various farms, small towns, a salt factory, and dockworkers in Le Havre.

Using JR's "Inside Out" traveling, large-format instant photo booth, each encounter yields great art—such as an image of dozens of people "eating" a wall-length baguette. But it is the stories of the people, as well as their expressive faces, that make Faces Places memorable.

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theater : interview
literature : first proof
art : essay

One Piece: The Old Bars (after M.H.)

by David Salle

The artist talks about the genesis, composition, and execution of a recently completed work.

Old Bars (after M.H.) began as a little wager with myself. As everyone knows, putting two more or less equal masses on either side of a painting's centerline is, compositionally speaking, instant death. I bet you can't make a painting with that structure. So what the hell. The painting is saved from certain death by three upright forms, the stakes or staves, the old bars, which, in their original appearance, were part of a split rail fence edging the flinty coastal landscape of Gloucester, Mass., courtesy of Marsden Hartley. The three forms, along with the smaller diagonal "legs" and the horizontal post, are big, and assertive, and they solve a lot of problems, compositionally speaking that is. Thanks, Marsden, for the assist.

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art : review
literature : interview

The Form Vampire: An Interview with Carmen Maria Machado

by Liza St. James

"Our bodies are graveyards of cells, the source of art, inherently finite, constantly decaying."

The first story I read by Carmen Maria Machado was "Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU." The novella's inventive structure and indelible images—the unforgettable doppelgängers, the ghostly presences of girls-with-bells-for-eyes—were an apt introduction to the writer's powers. Borrowing from the tropes of speculative fiction, Machado takes on even the most rigid, seemingly closed forms (like estate sale inventories or TV capsule descriptions), and inhabits them as though they were living systems, subverting them to her own ends. The worlds of her seductive stories, whether post-pandemic or ostensibly made-for-entertainment, reveal the uncanny of our own, and then some.

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art : essay

One Piece: There's a bright side somewhere

by Alteronce Gumby

The artist talks about the genesis, composition, and execution of a recently completed work.

When I was ten my grandmother had a jigsaw puzzle on her dining room table and I was infatuated with it. I remember spending hours working on that puzzle instead of doing my homework. I liked to challenge myself by not looking at the image on front of the puzzle box. Currently, I'm assembling paintings in the same mannerism, composing their chromatic comparison and directing the mind's eye to another space.

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literature : first proof

The House That Donovan Built

by Sarah Wang

I caught Elma licking her front teeth in the rearview mirror. The gap between them seemed to be getting wider, like Jane Birkin, whose teeth spread considerably apart as she grew older, an oral Pangea situation. The late afternoon sun poked rhythmically between buildings as we left Los Angeles behind and drove east into the Mojave Desert. Outside, the wind gusted. We were ready to shed our skin in the hot desert, as dry and blistering as a foundry in July, and bathe in the light of the full moon. In the passenger seat, Magda propped her feet up, displacing a layer of dust on the dashboard.

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film : interview

Movies and Their Making: New York Film Festival's Kent Jones

by Peter Gizzi

"We choose the films that mean the most to us and offer them and let people react to them and form their own impressions and judgments."

For the official start of the 2017 New York Film Festival, Peter Gizzi interviews the festival's director, Kent Jones, about this year's selection of films along with his own life as a filmmaker and prolific writer about film.


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literature : review

Dance of the Self: On John Haskell's The Complete Ballet

by Will Harrison

Noir, Balanchine, and an escape from the conventional novel.

Set on the still-seedy Sunset Strip, John Cassavetes' 1976 film The Killing of a Chinese Bookie opens with nightclub owner Cosmo Vitelli settling a longstanding gambling debt. A few scenes later, Cosmo celebrates his liberation with a night of high-stakes poker and finds himself out $23,000. In John Haskell's new book The Complete Ballet (Graywolf Press), a similar fate befalls an unnamed narrator, who has been spurred on by his charismatic friend Cosmo, proprietor of a strip club on Sunset Boulevard. Perhaps it is fitting that a work so original—a nearly unclassifiable "fictional essay in five acts"—draws from a film more notable for its atmospherics than for the innovation of its plot. By placing his story in a musty, noirish environment where all men are gangsters and all women strip for a living, Haskell risks slipping into complete predictability. Fortunately for readers, he is just as concerned with the wonders of Nijinsky and Tchaikovsky as he is with the sordid workings of underground Los Angeles.

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music : review

The Endorithm 4

by Keith Connolly

A selection of recent and reissued music by Elysia Crampton, Brother Ah, Anom Vitruv, C-Schulz, and Frans Zwartjes

A film fetishist's acquired taste with little more than an unverifiable Susan Sontag pull quote ("the most important experimental filmmaker of his time") tethering him to an historical abstract, Dutch polymath Frans Zwartjes is a curious figure to say the least. His fifty some-odd films—running the gamut from proto-selfie-stick masterpiece Living, to the genuinely disturbing feature-length Pentimento, to goth-mannerist vignettes like Anamnesis, Spare Bed-room, and Visual Training—would seem to have had a clear influence on the likes of David Lynch, Guy Maddin, Chris Morris, and Calvin Klein, assuming, that is, that anyone outside of Holland had a chance to see them at the time. In these films, a generative (rather than associative) music is combined with the filmed images and actors' trance-like performances in such a way that the scenario seems predicated on the soundtrack, creating an uncanny effect of suspended immersion. A slice of this music, consisting of minimal instrumental passages collaged with found sound and voices created by Zwartjes (at times with fellow countryman Michel Waisvisz) has now been made available to the record-buying public via Trunk Records on the first of two proposed LPs entitled Tapes 1. Culled from Zwartjes's original tapes and assembled unexpurgated by archivist Stanley Schinter, the resulting sequence takes on a life of its own and begs the question: What is this music, and what does it do? As far from nostalgia or reminiscence as it is from adornment, its effect, disembodied, is startling. In listening to these thusly repurposed tracks it's as if Zwartes's weird scenarios, now in combination with our own, somehow continue to be made.

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literature : interview

Staring Back, Staring Out: An Interview with Jillian Weise

by Jessie Male

"I originally published this in 2007 thinking, Oh this is a fine book, but I will be joined by a whole lot of amputee writers, and they are going to be here any minute. I'm still waiting."

Within twenty-four hours of meeting Jillian Weise for the first time, I was in a wig and dark round glasses, drinking extra-dry martinis in a dive bar, and answering to the name Zosia Zuckerberg (ZZ, for short). It felt like the most natural thing in the world. Spending time with Weise is not disparate from spending time with her work—entertaining and engaging, playing with form—and always a little unsure (but excited) about what comes next. I first encountered Weise's writing through her novel The Colony (Soft Skull Press), where she confronts the often eluded conversations about disability and intimacy. Her protagonist is bold and electrifying, navigating the territory between societal acceptance and self-preservation.

These tensions are present in Weise's most recent poetry collection, The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions), as well as her debut novel, The Amputee's Guide to Sex, originally published by Soft Skull Press in 2007 and reissued this fall. "I dream the Mona Lisa into a wheelchair; she smirks behind glass with a victory stare," Weise writes in the poem "Half-Portrait." Her poetry complicates notions of "normalcy" and rescinds popular narratives of bodily shame. Her work engages with scholars, doctors, patients, writers, and of course, her readers—asking vital questions about where their values and ideals lie.

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literature : review

Stormy Weather: on Andrew Durbin's MacArthur Park

by Evan Moffitt

A globe-hopping novel ruminates on drift and disaster.


The last time I was in Los Angeles, it rained. Not a light drizzle, but great gusty torrents of seawater, lifted from the Pacific and dumped on streets that didn't know what hit them. Mid-City was intractable. Its cracked asphalt drowned in a river with no clear directional flow. At dinner a few days later, talk was all about “disaster." Hyperbole is the mode of Hollywood, but it seemed ironic that such dry land suddenly received too much water to swallow. Perhaps it was fate: always more (or less) than we bargained for.

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literature : first proof

Metaphors on Vision

by Stan Brakhage

To coincide with the republication by Anthology Film Archives and Light Industry of Stan Brakhage’s Metaphors on Vision, out of print for nearly forty years, BOMB Daily presents the following excerpt—a letter from Brakhage to the poet Robert Kelly describing his work on the groundbreaking film Mothlight, which Brakhage made without a camera, instead affixing bits of material directly to film strips.

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