Daily Postings
art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #4

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This fourth installment features images and audio captured just after the Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that it will not approve an easement to allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River.

While the news has been heralded as a victory for the thousands gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment, many water protectors have underscored the fact that their fight is far from over. Eric, a veteran who has been at Standing Rock since early November, provides commentary, vowing to stay until all pipeline equipment has been removed. Spiritual leader Coyote, meanwhile, remarks on the importance of indigenous prayer practices and respect for natural resources so often regarded as mere commodities.

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art : review

Sondra Perry’s Resident Evil

by Terence Trouillot

Black memes, black bodies.

How do artists, black artists in particular, respond creatively and critically to the viral images of black death in the media without falling prey to sensationalism? Or, simply put: How do artists take inspiration from such abject imagery without coming off as trite?

Presently, there's an ongoing trend among artists to not only take the Black Lives Matter movement as subject matter, but also to repurpose media footage of black suffering in the hopes of gleaning new meaning through their own permutations. Carrie Mae Weems's Grace Notes: Reflections for Now (2016), Arthur Jafa's Love is the Message, the Message is Death (2016)—currently showing at Gavin Brown Enterprise in Harlem—and even Julie Mehretu's Conjured Parts (Eye), Ferguson (2016) are all cogent examples of artists culling images from the media and recasting or reinterpreting them to create spaces of introspection and empowerment.

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art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #3

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This past Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not approve an easement to allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River—a major step forward for the thousands of tribal leaders, veterans, and other water protectors who have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment over the past several months.

This third installment features images and interviews made on December 3, before the Army's announcement the next afternoon. Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes who was born in the Standing Rock area but now lives in New Mexico, speaks about the mirror shields he designed and distributed to water protectors on the front lines. With the organizing help of Rory Wakemup of All My Relations Arts in Minneapolis, 500 mirror shields were distributed throughout the camp, culminating in a performance, portions of which are presented here.

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literature : review

A Wrinkle in Swing Time

by Chase Quinn

Friendship and the lies we tell ourselves in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time.

Swing, a jazz term, is about resisting expectations, embracing surprise, and establishing flow. Zadie Smith's Swing Time (Penguin Press, 2016) evokes this concept in literature by depicting how powerful our illusions about time and place can be. While tilling the ever-fertile soil of race, class, and gender relations with signature wit, Swing Time achieves its greatest insights engaged in questions about friendship and shifts in perspective. What results is an unswerving examination of some of our deepest and most neurotic anxieties. The fear that, for instance, people are far less predictable than we might like to believe. Or worse still, the notion that someone you thought you knew, beyond hurting or disappointing you, might utterly exceed your expectations.

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art : review

The Artificial Life

by Andrea Kleine

Odyssey Works has an audience of one—and a book for the rest of us.

Looking at a stranger's Facebook or Instagram feed, you often develop an affinity for the person. You feel you know them. You might actually be "friends" without ever meeting. These incorporeal pals might make you feel good. They might influence your decisions. They might even change your life. Or you might, someday, be introduced and excitedly blurt out, "We're friends online!" You might feel awkward or bashful afterward, then interact with them less often as a result, wishing to go back to not knowing them, to connecting only with an idea of who they might be.

I thought these things as I read Odyssey Works' eponymous book (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016). The quasi theater company/immersive art experience collective, primarily instigated by Abraham Burickson and Ayden Leroux, creates "odysseys" for one audience member by infiltrating their lives, threading an artificial narrative through reality so intrinsically that the participant/subject/observer might not be aware their journey has begun until the Jungian synchronicities take over. Their family may be in on it. Their best friends might be double agents. Out of this elaborate undertaking, Odyssey Works seeks to provide a shifting of perception, a sort of psychological rapid detox, an infusion of wonder. Their goal is to create art that can have the deepest affect on people, and to accomplish this they have reduced their audience size to a single soul.

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art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #2

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In these short dispatches, she’ll be sharing her own candid photos and video clips, along with statements from tribal leaders, artists, and other water protectors among the thousands that have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment.

This second installment features images of the nearby native communities of Wakpala, McLaughlin, and Fort Yates—their snowy roads, memorials, gravestones, homes, and offices. These areas have some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, and suicide in the country, and the average yearly income of its residents is well below the national poverty line. Geraldine Agard, former tribal councilperson and current Standing Rock election coordinator, comments on how the demonstrations have effected life on the reservation for the better and also recounts what she regards as a prophetic warning from generations past.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Crys Cole

This recording was made in June of 2013 in Lisbon. It was my first time in Portugal and I was completely entranced by its beauty and vibrancy. When I'm in a new place I find myself constantly tuning into its unique sonic character. I often do recordings from hotel windows and on trains and subways. This particular recording was made from the window of a beautiful B&B that my friend (and fabulous musician) Margarida Garcia was running. It was in the old quarter near a small public square. 

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literature : interview

Laura Sims

by Claudia F. Savage

"Humans are complicated, and I find that complexity—even as it pertains to murderous behavior or planetary sabotage—fascinating and repulsive in equal measure."

The latest book by Laura Sims, Staying Alive (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016), doesn't pull punches. The world is on fire, the world is ending, and it is highly unlikely we are going to get out of this mess. Yet, somehow, as Cormac McCarthy writes in The Road, there are moments of relief, even beauty. Sims renders the apocalyptic terrifyingly gorgeous, desirous even:

You were always a murmurous forest
But now you are
This
                                    Incandescence

Referencing texts as varied as Bradford Angier's How to Stay Alive in the Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, the TV series Battlestar Galactica, and Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl, Sims's tone is one of both commiseration and warning: "Not simply torn between longing and safety / But torn." We want to forget. We want to start over, but we're not sure we can.

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art : comment

Dispatch from Standing Rock #1

by Ati Maier

Brooklyn-based artist Ati Maier is currently in North Dakota, where she has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In these short dispatches, she’ll be sharing her own candid photos and video clips, along with statements from tribal leaders, artists, and other water protectors among the thousands that have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin encampment.

This first video features images of the terrain, flags, and signage at the entrance to the main camp, then shows a small group of US military veterans advancing toward a cement and razor-wire blockade at a bridge spanning the Cannon Ball River. Veterans Manaja Hill and Andrew Struss provide commentary. With colder weather now arriving, some 2000 veterans plan to join the effort on December 4, defending demonstrators against intimidation and assault.

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art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Liz Collins

"Analogues for organizing and activism."

Weaving—labor-intensive, methodical, therapeutic—stands as a gesture of capitalist resistance. It's a technique that can be performed communally, publicly, as an analogue for organizing and activism. Stemming from her background in fashion and art, Liz Collins's practice considers the radical potential of craft. KNITTING NATION (2005–), for example, enlists large numbers of collaborators to create fabric-sculptures, following the legacy of feminist art and political practices like the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Such gestures remind us of the power of what was once deemed "women's work." They recall the way such crafts were appropriated and transformed into a mechanistic, masculinist industry. After all, who were the first computer punch-card operators, if not high-tech knitters? Weaving is the Internet cables on the bottom of the ocean, the hair we sculpt to reveal our individual personas, the excess, the vestige, the incommensurate.

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art : review

Embodied Absence

by Claire Barliant

Chilean protest art of the 1970s proves timely.

What does it really mean to talk about "the body"? Overuse dilutes the term's meaning—so much so, in fact, that Adrienne Rich called for a moratorium on the phrase in 1984: "When I write 'the body,' I see nothing in particular. To write 'my body' plunges me into lived experience, particularity."

In Embodied Absence: Chilean Art of the 1970s Now, a compact and compelling exhibition now on view at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, "the body" alternates nimbly between abstract concept and "lived experience." This exhibition collects the work and performances of some fifteen artists and collectives from Chile, most of it made in the late '70s when the country was entering a period of great uncertainty. After the CIA facilitated a military coup in 1973, which led to the death of President Salvador Allende and the end of its socialist government, General Augusto Pinochet was thrust into power (and the military junta retained control until 1990). Thus, in light of Trump's election in the US, an all-too-relatable urgency defines the tone of the pieces here. Indeed, seen as a whole, the exhibition could be a primer for how to be an artist under dictatorship.

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art : portfolio
music : portfolio

Free Exercise

by Marina Rosenfeld

Using a hybrid orchestra of military and experimental musicians, the most recent iteration of Marina Rosenfeld's large-scale composition, Free Exercise, was staged at this year's La Biennale de Montréal. Drummers, percussionists, wind players, and others—including les Fusiliers du Mont-Royal (an enlisted band based at the Cathcart Armoury) and luminaries from Montréal's rock, contemporary, and free/improvised music scenes—mounted the collective performance on October 19. The hour-long performance is presented here in its entirety.

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literature : interview

Joel Whitney

by Rob Spillman

"If we know the government is funding the arts or funding journalism, then it behooves us to put structures in place that will allow for them to be fearless."

It's long been known in the publishing world that in the 1950s, the CIA was involved in founding the influential literary magazine, the Paris Review. My wife, Elissa Schappell, was senior editor of the Paris Review under George Plimpton in the '90s, so I saw firsthand his charismatic charm, and it was hard to imagine this liberal lion anywhere near the CIA. Yet Peter Matthiessen, one of the other founders, was employed by the agency, which was formed after World War II to counter worldwide Soviet influence. Its focus was not just political influence, but cultural influence, so-called "soft power," which the Soviets were successfully wielding, winning hearts and minds of Western cultural elites. The CIA also funded the first American abstract expressionist exhibit in Europe, the Boston Symphony's first European tour, and dozens of cultural magazines.

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literature : review

A Circus of Meaning

by Kyle Paoletta

Animals say it better in Yoko Tawada's Memoirs of a Polar Bear.

Yoko Tawada's novel Memoirs of a Polar Bear (New Directions, 2016) opens with a bear, the first of three generations of authors, recalling her traumatic childhood in a Soviet circus. A sea lion editor circulates her story in a literary magazine, the Russian censors take notice, and the bear is exiled to West Berlin. The novel is less about the politics of the time, though, and more about the struggle of expression itself. "In the past," the bear agonizes, "I'd used language primarily for transporting an opinion to the outside. Now language remained at my side, touching soft spots within me." But when her work is translated, she becomes alienated from her own story, complaining that the German translator "turned my bearish sentences into artful literature."

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art : interview

Daniel R. Small

by David Matorin

A highlight of the Hammer Museum's Made in L.A. biennial, Small's work spins history from cultural leftovers, false starts, and simulations.

Los Angeles-based artist Daniel R. Small assumes the roles of curator and collector—among other guises—to investigate the systems of knowledge and representation by which we know the past. Starting in 2012, the artist participated in several archeological excavations in the dunes of Guadalupe, California, on the site where Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 biblical epic, The Ten Commandments, was filmed—with the American desert standing in for ancient Egypt. At DeMille's behest, his ornate reconstruction of the lost city of Pi-Ramesses was blown up and buried once production wrapped, preventing other filmmakers from making use of his set. Still littered with faux-ancient Egyptian artifacts nearly a century later, the Guadalupe site performs a pantomime of the ancient ruins its reconstruction was based on.

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literature : first proof

Four Poems

by Claire Donato

I am in the Void
I sd to my friend
To which he responded
How was your day

Re: the day:
It was a Pool of Tears infested by social media
It was an infinite regression accented by yr texts
It was akin to http://www.instagram.com/tsa
It was a pair of CGI black boxes: ◼️ ◼️

And last night I dreamt twice. First, the second
Body was burning, then the world was a machine, and you
Were lying beside me like some inert butterfly effortlessly, an image
Which depends upon notions of nearness that can be defined
As follows:

I woke up
You were not there
I wanted to throw up
Then I went back to sleep
Feeling the same or similar

And of course I thought the world
Was deeply stupid, but then it opened up
Into sighing choral harmonies that moved
Me toward the pronoun we, and a door 
Appeared leading into another world
In which I, a black box filled with music, said
How was your day to you.
In other words, you said hi first.
And then we merged: ◼️

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art : interview

Anthony Hernandez

by Stephen Hilger

"The idea is that you have to find it—and you have to walk to discover what's there."

For more than forty years photographer Anthony Hernandez has chronicled his native city of Los Angeles, producing images that stand apart from the glamorous, manufactured views of Hollywood productions, picture postcards, and Instagram feeds. Instead, Hernandez leads viewers down the city's lonely concrete riverbeds and into the hidden encampments of the homeless—zones that might otherwise remain invisible. Filmmaker Werner Herzog once proclaimed, "Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue." Hernandez travels the sprawling metropolis deftly, and on foot, realizing a vision for collective reflection rather than mass consumption.

On the occasion of his retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I spoke with Hernandez about his long-term engagement with Los Angeles. Through the years, his motifs and photographic style have often shifted, yet an unflinching interest in making the invisible visible has remained. His work enables us to see what we could not or would not see. Unique in vision and long in view, Hernandez's complete archive is one of Los Angeles's great works of art.

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literature : interview

Michelle Tea

by Sara Jaffe

"I'm just using language to manipulate the reader into feeling my feelings, or the feelings I hope they feel."

A little less than halfway through Michelle Tea's new novel Black Wave, our narrator—also named Michelle—reveals that the story she's been telling is not the "true" version of events. Originally, she tells us, this was to be a book about the end of a major long-term relationship, but the ex didn't want to be written about. In the past, Michelle powered through such discomfort with the mantra "don't act that way if you don't like to see it in print," but she's increasingly "haunted by the thought that the work she did, her art, brought pain to other people." So she shifts around the order of some encounters and events, and has herself move from San Francisco to Los Angeles alone, rather than with that ex, which is, we're told, what "really" happened. Also, the world is literally about to end.

The looming apocalypse is present from the beginning of the novel—late '90s San Francisco is a "vampire town," heated by a "killer sun," so we already know we're not reading straight-up memoir. But something happens when Michelle the narrator, who, of course, we can't help but read as a stand-in for Michelle the author (of numerous memoirs and novels), intervenes to let us know that she's presenting us with a manufactured reality. The whole book begins to buzz, glow, backward and forward, with the possibility of both the imagined and the real. Every utterance becomes multivalent. The effect is more complex and compelling than the typical state of suspended disbelief fiction typically invites us to embrace. Black Wave—brainily, hilariously, heartbreakingly—makes felt the labor of dragging language onto experiences in order to give them a shape that will reveal their emotional truth without bringing pain to other people. Every sentence is thick with what it both can and cannot communicate about a person, a time, a place, a life.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Eve Essex

I find myself recording frequently, usually at practice sessions. I use these documents like a notebook, pulling out pieces to rework ideas later, but they often don't go much further. Capturing sounds outside the studio, out in the world, was something I seldom considered. After being prompted to do field recording for this project, I went into nature, looking for novel sounds, and was surprised to find that, in the end, what really caught my attention were my most immediate surroundings—my home and practice space.

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literature : first proof

Spring

by Ari Braverman

The city has turned so beautiful in its new season that being indoors is giving the woman a stomach cramp. From her desk, the woman can see the whole expanse of the parking lot. On the medians between parking spaces, white flowering trees fill the air with the odor of semen.

"My son's room smells like that all the time, now that he's hit puberty," says the woman's office-mate.

"They're a varietal of pear tree," says a person nobody likes, plunging a fork into a microwavable meal.

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