Daily Postings
film : review

Disconnection Notice

by Jon Dieringer

Werner Herzog’s phoned-in tech film, Lo and Behold, is an ad in disguise.

From Walter Rutmann to Hou-Hsao Hsien, there's a rich vein of unlikely sponsored works by esteemed film and video artists. A survey could begin with abstract artists who used commercial patronage as a platform to dodge Nazi censorship, such as Oskar Fischinger, who licensed canonical works of experimental animation like Kreise to ad agencies, and Hans Richter, whose subversive mercantile histories for the Swiss stock exchange represent a leftist chronicle of capital ensconced in heady surrealist montage. In the 1950s, Eyes Without a Face filmmaker Georges Franju twisted a commission from the Army Museum into a grotesque anti-war critique in Hôtel des Invalides, succeeded by Alain Resnais and Oulipo poet Raymond Queneau's blissful and absurd paean to plastics, Le Chant du Styrène. Across the pond, Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero created a bone chilling PSA about the mortality rate of impoverished African-American youth in Pittsburgh's Hill District, and Dara Birnbaum's iconoclastic "MTV: Artbreak" spot presented a dialectical feminist history of animation in thirty seconds. But Werner Herzog's Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World marks the first time a feature film conceived and developed by a modern advertising agency and its client has landed in theaters, where critics and audiences alike are expected to accord it the dignity of a real movie.

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literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Francesca Coppola

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

She’s an archaic, the last meaning of a word. He’s a drunk, but of the ultramarine kind. Her body is a library he eats and sleeps in. Books fluttering seagulls in her electric hair. The alphabet hangs a wet towel on the door, while other birds are exchanged in their mouths. “Danish charcoal”... then another doorway, then “A little yellow tree”... then a few inches of carpet touched by human fingers. Sentences remain in the cupboard. Everyone else is asleep in the city, holes cut to the shape of their feet. Behind the glass is the ocean, the tree, a beard, tall African masks. Inside the dark lays furniture like perfect bodies... “Dying is not a tendency or the bottom of a well”... appearing faintly, in a fingerprint, then “Green, incapable clouds”... “We’re barely here,” she says. It was cold and rainy and full of shoes.

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literature : first proof
music : interview

Peaches

by Zachary Small

"I grew up having to sing along to very patriarchal, male, straight viewpoints—lyrics that had nothing to do with me."

Disruption is defined by radical change, a condition of forced reappraisal from outside the status quo. Deceptively catchy, with a strong dance beat cloaking explicit lyrics, the music of Peaches is a burlesque of disruption, a constant provocation to rethink the misogyny that underscores much of electronic music. Listen to her songs and you will end up singing along with tracks such as "Vaginoplasty," "Rock The Shocker," and "Two Guys (For Every Girl)." As a performance artist, Peaches knows not to take herself so seriously, deploying humor to ease in her message of sex positivity and gender fluidity.

Across six albums, Peaches has become a role model for a new generation of feminist artists who sing about female pleasure and power. But Peaches remains a major force in the music industry, and 2016 seems to be the year the mainstream is finally catching up with her. Recently, her song "Boys Wanna Be Her" became the theme song of the popular comedy-news show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and she also appeared in an episode of Transparent. This June, Peaches released Rub Remixed, a collection of remixes from her latest album.

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music : interview

Senyawa

by David Novak

"I want it like this, just how it sounds."

Indonesian experimental duo Senyawa creates some of the most exciting experimental music anywhere on the planet, pairing the extreme vocal techniques of Rully Shabara with the intense virtuosity of Wukir Suryardi on his unique instrument and namesake, the bambu wukir [bamboo spear]. While Shabara originally hails from the island of Sulawesi and Wukir from Malang in East Java, the group formed in the cultural and artistic center of Jogjakarta, where the two fused hardcore metal, traditional folk culture, and free improvisation into a powerful sound that somehow echoes (and distorts) the gritty populist spectacle of Javanese village ritual, the confrontational intensity of punk, and the edginess of avant-garde performance. The exploratory, challenging energy of Senyawa bursts off the screen in videos of their live appearances, including itinerant director Vincent Moon’s Calling the New Gods, which captures the duo roaming the streets of Jogjakarta for impromptu guerrilla performances around the city.

Since their formation six years ago, Senyawa has emerged in various global experimental music networks, with appearances in Australia, Denmark, Holland, Scotland, and Japan, and released several original recordings and collaborations with international artists. I caught up with Rully Shabara at the start of Senyawa’s first tour of the United States in August 2016.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Che Chen

I recorded a wedding just outside of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. I traveled there briefly in the spring of 2013, compelled to go after hearing the compilation, Wallahi le Zein: Wezin, Jakwar and Guitar Boogie from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. I spent my days getting a crash course in the Moorish modal system and at night would often accompany my teacher, Jeiche Ould Chigaly, or his wife, the phenomenal singer, Noura Mint Seymali, to their gigs, which were always weddings. On this occasion, Jeiche was playing as part of a pickup band assembled by le grande chanteur, Mohamed Ould Hembara. I was taking guitar lessons from Jeiche, but that night he played tidinit—a fretless, banjo-like instrument known by many names in the region (ngoni in Mali and Niger, xalam in Senegal, and so forth).

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literature : first proof

Room Tone

by Bill Berkson Archie Rand

It was one year ago (June 25, 2015), at Poets House, right before the late Bill Berkson's reading began, that I casually said hi to him and he, always a generous and prolific collaborator with artists, said, "Let's talk." We found a corner and quickly acknowledged that we had both, for a while, wanted to work together. He preferred using a pre-existent text and after some email exchanges we landed on “Room Tone” from Expect Delays (2014).

When working with poets I like to offer something a bit off-putting, which acts to refresh the text and generate a synapse rather than having the poetry puddle alongside a simperingly sympathetic image. In this format I imagine myself a composer working with a lyricist—and Bill and I got along like a team of songwriters. After I had tweaked the paintings in a way that I thought would echo each line, Bill wrote the poem, line by line, onto each panel with an acrylic pen. We were thrilled with the results. (Or as Bill put it in an email, "we IS Stephen Curry!") That was in March.
 
Bill gave a few local readings after our meeting at Poets House and he always ended with “Room Tone”—a private nod to our work together.

—Archie Rand

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art : interview

Nina Canell

by CCS Bard

"In a failed system new systems have space to grow."

Graduates of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and director Paul O’Neill speak with artist Nina Canell on the occasion of her recent international exhibitions.

For Nina Canell, sculpture is a condition. Grounded as much in the chance encounter as in close study, her work places material forms and immaterial forces in proximity, whereby each shapes the other, allowing dynamic relations to emerge. The resulting circuits of things and substances, along with their attendant poetic and linguistic associations, prioritize the generative nature of the interruption, glitch, or noisy signal.

Some works, employing thermodynamics and the alchemical, transmute physical forms, like altering the color of a copper rod with heat or solidifying a bag of powdered concrete with percolated vapor. Others physicalize the intangible, locating communication, for example, in a subterranean cable. Evident in each of these approaches is an understanding of matter as process, whereby things remain in a state of flux vulnerable to both internal and external shifts.

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Announcing the Winner of BOMB's 2016 Poetry Contest

Each year BOMB hosts a literary contest, alternating between fiction and poetry, with a distinguished guest judge in the field. It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of this year’s poetry contest, Marwa Helal, whose work was selected by poet Bhanu Kapil.

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literature : review

Solmaz Sharif's Look

by Rebekah Weikel

First published in 1989, the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military & Associated Terms outlines the terminology used to obfuscate military procedures. Modified continually, this dictionary consists of thousands of acronyms and euphemisms that veer between the banal, bizarre, and callous. While "warhead mating" and "kill box" might be a few of the more exotic examples, it's a familiar term like "collateral damage" that best illustrates the dictionary's reductive function:

Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time.
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art : interview

Rafa Esparza

by Clara López Menéndez

What a brick can do.

I met Rafa Esparza for the first time in the spring of 2015, in Los Angeles, the city where he grew up and still lives.
We met at the Bowtie, an 18-acre lot by the LA River belonging to the California State Parks Service that looks like nothing else I've seen before, definitely not like any park I've been in before. The Bowtie was the former site of a Southern Pacific Railroad train yard and maintenance facility. None of the built structures remain, only sparse concrete foundations, some paved roads surfacing among the weeds, and railroad tracks still engraved on the ground.

It's called the Bowtie because the knot made by the freeways intersecting nearby (the 5 and the 2) looks like a bow tie. The Bowtie is public: one can just raise the skinny steel gate, walk in, and wander around its desert landscape. Desert but not barren. The river, paved in 1938, has been the site of encounters that exceed the confines of certain institutions. Graffiti writers, furtive lovers, youth groups, and different socials gather and have gathered on the edges of that river, more or less (in)visible to the whiter public.

In the summer of 2014 Rafa started a year-long residency at the Bowtie, facilitated by Clockshop Gallery, a multifaceted arts organization that works for the intersection of cultural production, politics, and urban space. Rafa was one of the artists invited by Clockshop to locate their practice in the Bowtie, thinking about the history and specificity of the space and its public character. During this period he had made the Bowtie his studio, or mixed the ongoing concerns that fuel his practice with the sun, the water, and the dirt that preceded him by the river. What can be done with such a mixture? An army of bricks to transform realities.

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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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The 2016 Small Press Flea



A summer market with your favorite publishers and magazines.

Saturday, July 30, 10:00am - 4:00pm ET
Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch
10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Presented by BOMB & The Brooklyn Public Library

Details

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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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