Daily Postings
Art : Interview

Natalie Czech

by Rachel Valinsky

Hidden poetry and repetition.

I first encountered the Berlin-based artist Natalie Czech’s work in 2012 at Ludlow 38 in New York. Her solo exhibition, I have nothing to say. Only to show. urged me to set aside any notion of passive viewership, and while the show’s title seemed to suggest that her photographs were merely to be looked at, they did in fact say something. The images felt like words to be looked at, but also carefully read, in pieces and over time, returned to like one returns to a poem, picks it up, and reads it over again. Opening up the connections between photography and writing in such a way as to eventually obscure their distinction, Czech’s work plays the visual qualities of text off the textual elements in the photographs, activating and crystallizing a mode of perception that both undoes and reconstitutes reading and seeing.

In pieces like A Small Bouquet for Frank O’Hara, for instance, Czech asked several writers to produce a text in response to O’Hara’s calligram “A Small Bouquet,” in which words and lines come together to produce an image corresponding to the poem’s title. These new texts are composed around the original poem, which is highlighted and circled so that its embedded reproduction is detectable amidst the new sentences that make use of O’Hara’s words. In her ongoing series, “Hidden Poems,” and the more recent, “Poems by Repetition,” Czech mines texts from a variety of sources, purposefully seeking or subconsciously finding in them words and fragments, which through a process of selection, repetition, and erasure, coalesce into poems by Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley, Aram Saroyan, Bruce Andrews, or Tan Lin, to name only a few of the artist’s sources. Sometimes Czech finds poems that reappear in other texts, replicated down to the line break, which feels miraculous. Photography comes after—it seals, within the image, a proposition for one possible reading among many, of one text through another. She’s talked about the poem transpiring through, stuttering itself into existence, into enunciation. But as a whole, Czech’s project is to open up this realm of possibility endlessly, radically suggesting anew the potential coexistence of any and all texts within and amongst each other. This interview took place between May and June 2014 through e-mail correspondence, shortly after the opening of her project Il Pleut at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris.

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Music : Interview

Chris Forsyth

by Andrew Aylward

Love, devotion, surrender, and the Phillies.

Philadelphia guitarist and composer Chris Forsyth gained initial recognition as an experimental artist with noted noise act Peeesseye. His latest effort with his Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost, arrives October 28, via No Quarter Records. As a performer under his own name, Forsyth has merged art rock with American blues and folk guitar idioms, all under the tent of free improvisation. The resulting music is energetic and free in its treatment of form and harmony.

Forsyth's recent, full band, records read as much as paeans to Robert Quine and Television at their most lucid, as they do tributes to Popol Vuh, the Grateful Dead, or Fairport Convention’s “A Sailor’s Life”. At its most compelling, Intensity Ghost manages to reconcile and even marry the grand, swelling gestures of the most boundary-pushing rock and roll of the ‘60s and ’70s with the melodic composition of instrumentalists such as Sandy Bull or, dare I say it, the spiritual shreddage of John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana's Love Devotion Surrender, minus the virtuosic cheese.

For Intensity Ghost's incarnation of the Solar Motel Band, Forsyth enlisted Paul Sukeena on second guitar, Steven Urgo on drums, Peter Kerlin on bass, and Shawn Hansen on keys.

Forsyth, who was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2011, talks here about his earliest musical experiences, taking guitar lessons with Richard Lloyd of Television, and how he captures his band's intense live dynamic on record.

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Art : Interview

Sophie T. Lvoff & Garrett Bradley

Photography versus filmmaking, twenty-somethings, and New Orleans.

As participants of the international arts biennial, Prospect.3: Notes for Now, headed by artistic director Franklin Sirmans, Sophie T. Lvoff and Garrett Bradley discuss the nature of editing as it differs between still images and moving images, as well as questions on what differentiates art from moviemaking and narrative from documentary forms.

Lvoff is a New Orleans-based artist and curator. Lvoff uses literature as a jumping off point for her photographic-based work. Most recently having investigated the 1961 Walker Percy novel The Moviegoer, Lvoff’s body of color photographs entitled Hell’s Bells/Sulfur/Honey attempts to describe the indescribable in New Orleans through the search for authenticity and light.

After receiving a BFA from NYU and an MFA from Tulane University, her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationally & internationally. Her first solo show was at Good Children Gallery in New Orleans in 2013. Her work will be on view at the Contemporary Art Center as part of Prospect.3: Notes for Now opening October 25, 2014. In 2014 through 2015, Lvoff will attend the Ecole du Magasin curatorial training program in Grenoble, France.

Garrett Bradley is a New Orleans based artist working in film and video. Bradley’s work is reflective of the environments in which they are made. Often combining scripted scenarios with an impressionistic formality, the work leans toward the functionality of social juxtaposition and historical reflection as it relates to human conflict and class in America.

Below Dreams, Bradley’s first feature length film, was named the Best Narrative Feature, and Best First Feature in the 2014 TriBeCa Film Festival IndieWire Critics Picks. Bradley was also named Best Director. Bradley's new film, Cover Me, conceived and produced for Prospect.3 and co-written with artist Tameka Norris, will be on view by request only throughout the duration of the biennial. Below Dreams will be screening as a part of Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal, CPH:MARKET and the New Orleans Film Festival, October 18 and 23 at the historic Joy and Prytania Theater.

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Literature : Interview

Claudia La Rocco

by Jennifer Krasinski

Rug pulling and responsibility in a writing practice that commingles genres.

Claudia La Rocco is a poet and critic who at the same time is not a poet and critic. Her calling is to entwine these forms, leveling their useless distinctions to lay claim to another, more promising territory. Sharp eyed and nimble minded, she is one of the rare practitioners of the slippery art of presence, no matter if her attention is turned toward a stage, or a page, whatever points in between appear in order to pique her interest. Whether her subject is a contemporary dance performance or the confusions wrought by desire, her first question always seems to be “What is this?” Then she asks, “How can I see this for what it is?” One of the many things I love about her writing is how it records the particular flicker of her synapses, swerving between subjects, veering in many directions in order to find the sharpest views, no matter if fractured or fleeting. At her core, Claudia might be a passionate champion of misbehavior. She understands that thinking and creating are messy businesses, that opinions are facts of a different stripe, and that ideas rarely arrive whole or in manageable sizes. If that wasn’t enough, she is also a teacher, collaborator, and curator, propelled by a personal velocity that seems to whir at a speed that clocks somewhere between pirouette and cyclone. A collection of her work titled The Best Most Useless Dress has just been published by Paul Chan’s Badlands Unlimited, so she and I took this occasion to talk about how she writes through unknowing, how she negotiates the rights and responsibilities of form crashing, and the reasons why confusion might be the most truthful expression of all.

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Film : Interview

Laida Lertxundi

by Katie Bradshaw

Setting soundtracks to the desert, the sea, and the sky.

Laida Lertxundi makes films using landscape and sounds. The first of Laida’s films I saw was Footnotes to a House of Love(2007), a thirteen-minute 16mm film in which a few people spend time in and around a dilapidated house in a southern California desert listening to Shangri-Las cassettes along with other, less immediately recognizable sounds. Footnotes struck me visually and sonically, though at the time I don’t think I was able to fully grasp the complexity in method or the way in which she, as Genevieve Yue has phrased it, “treats feeling as material.” As I moved through her filmography, Laida’s films felt threaded together. They could locate minutes that I felt I had already seen, previously collected but unnoticed till now, almost memories-in-progress—the sun at a particular time of day, the quiet feeling of being at home with another person, simply co-existing.

I am interested in her choice of careful frames, her relation to the body and its representation, and how uniquely and interestingly she succeeds in emphasizing the aural environment so that it directly influences and cannot be pulled apart from the image. There is a mysterious quality to her films that is both natural and unpretentious. I watch her films over and over again, the same way I’ve rewound a mix-tape over and over again to a specific track that pulls me out of myself.

Born in Bilbao, Spain, Lertxundi has had solo exhibitions at Alhóndiga Bilbao (2014) and Marta Cervera Gallery in Madrid (2013), and her work has been exhibited at the 2013 LIAF Biennial, 2013 Lyon Biennial and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Lertxundi is also a film and video programmer in the US and Spain and has published numerous articles on film, most recently in the anthology La Risa Oblicua and in Bostezo magazine. She teaches film at the University of California San Diego and resides in Los Angeles. Her last film, We Had the Experience but Missed the Meaning (2014) had its New York premiere this summer at BAMcinemaFest and has already exhibited internationally.

A few weeks after a preview screening of Utskor: Either/Or(2013), Laida came to meet me in between screenings at Spectacle, a microcinema in Williamsburg. It was December, in the middle of a blizzard, and I remember the snow was twice as deep when we left a couple hours later as it had been when we’d begun. I program films at Spectacle, and Laida and I began our conversation around curation:

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Art : Interview

Rachel Sussman

by Monica Westin

Eternity, ecology, and outer space.

Since the book appeared this past April, Rachel Sussman's The Oldest Living Things in the World project has captured the public imagination; it's about time, ecology, and even our deepest conceptions of eternity and life. Sussman has shifted her focus from—in her own words—“deep time” to “deep space,” which she is currently researching during her tenure at LACMA's Art + Technology Lab. She also opened the first gallery show dedicated to this project at Pioneer Works last week. We talked about scales of time in her work, lichens in outer space, and what happens when a sleeper-bestseller photography book is translated into an exhibition.

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Art : Interview

Martha Wilson & Clifford Owens

“I never wanted to be a performance artist.”

Clifford Owens will present “A Forum for Performance Art” at the BAM Fisher on Thursday, Oct 16, 2014.

Martha Wilson In college, I minored in art because I was too afraid to declare myself to be an artist. During graduate school in English Literature, I would hang out at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the art college across the street, because the visiting artists program was bringing in the Conceptual artists of the day from Vito Acconci to Lawrence Weiner, and the students (including my boyfriend) were way cooler. How did you become interested in performance art, Clifford?

Clifford Owens Indeed, I arrived to performance art through photography.

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Film : Essay

On Bridges over Argentine Cinema

by Gary M. Kramer

The cinematic influences of an emerging director.

Given that I strongly believe you are what you watch, filmmakers’ personal choices fascinate me. When Martin Scorsese or John Waters promote some gem that influenced them—be it an Asian action film or an existential French drama—it explains some part of their personalities and artistic sensibility. They, as filmmakers, best understand the craft that went into a film and perhaps consider the work more intently than most viewers—even critics. When filmmakers curate films, they choose titles because they are obscure, because they feature something that makes them special, and because they want to reveal something about their tastes. With the Anthology Film Archive’s series, Matías Piñeiro Selects: Bridges over Argentine Cinema, one can get a sense of what films influenced this emerging director.

Piñeiro previously curated films while at university in Buenos Aires, so he has some experience with programming. When I spoke with him about the series recently, he said that his goal in this New York series was to showcase “neglected” films—titles that never screen in New York. They provide a new perspective on Argentine cinema for American audiences. As evidenced by the thirteen titles in his Anthology series, I’d argue that Piñeiro deliberately selected films that represent his own passions and obsessions. Yet he insists the films he is showing in this series expose what he enjoys watching, not necessarily making.

What may be the unifying factor of the selections is that these films are highly stylized, and resist formal narratives, mixing genres and conventions. Many of these films are challenging, but each one is exceptional in its own way. But they also appreciate the possibilities of cinema, and this, perhaps more than anything else, is what excites Piñeiro and explains why he programmed them.

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Music : Interview

Xylouris White

by Jem Cohen

Goats, Cretan music, and the night of the snails.

Listen to an exclusive stream of Goats, by Xylouris White, available now from Other Music Recording Company.

Xylouris White is a duo comprised of Giorgos Xylouris on lute and Jim White on drums. Xylouris comes from the village of Anogeia—famous as a fount of traditional music—on the island of Crete, and is part of a long, imposing geneology of Greek folk musicians. His father, Antonis Xylouris (popularly known as Psarantonis) is a giant of Cretan folk music and a master of the Cretan lyra. His uncles are equally renowned, and the whole family, Giorgios and his brother included, have played together in various combinations as the Xylouris Ensemble. Giorgios is well-known in his own right and frequently credited with being one of the first to play the lute as a solo, lead instrument, though he contests his role as an innovator below.

Jim White is best-known in the United States as the drummer in the Australian instrumental trio the Dirty Three, alongside guitarist Mick Turner and violinist Warren Ellis. He has also played on numerous records by artists like Cat Power and Bonnie “Prince“ Billy, and was a member of the seminal Australian punk band Venom P. Stinger.

Filmmaker Jem Cohen has a vast filmography of documentary, fiction, and experimental work. His most recent feature was Museum Hours, which premeired at the Locarno Film Festival in 2012. He has frequently worked with musicians and recently made a short concert film with Xylouris White.

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Film : Interview

Alex Ross Perry

by Nicholas Elliott

Isolation, writer's block, and break-ups on the road to success.

Alex Ross Perry’s third feature, Listen Up Philip, follows the young New York writer Philip (Jason Schwartzman) over the course of a period during which he publishes his second novel, chooses to reject all promotional efforts, leaves his live-in girlfriend Ashley (Elizabeth Moss), and, most significantly, befriends the ornery master of prose, Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce). Perry has remained faithful to celluloid and the sharp dialogue and occasionally scathing portrayal of human relations seen in his previous film The Color Wheel, but made good use of the step up to a sizable indie budget by expanding the scope of his narrative, devising a relatively complex structure, and creating a visually rich experience whose patina remains long after the film is over.

Listen Up Philip captures a self-imposed isolation that is very specific to New York. Perhaps this proximity to the familiar explains why I found the film profoundly demoralizing, despite all the comedy in Philip’s mule-headed pursuit of honesty. I was eager to talk to Alex about his characters and their loneliness, and get a sense of whether or not the title is an injunction to tread carefully with your one life. We had fifteen minutes to toss ideas around a few days before Listen Up Philip screened at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

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Art : Portfolio
Literature : Word Choice

Four Poems

by Tomaž Šalamun

Irradiated Gnostics

As if water would have three                 
skins, one Istanbul’s, one

birds’ and one still cobbled into
fingers’ gloves’ skin. How

to pumice the skin into pavement
for two, how to define its

feathers up and down. You crumple
yourself in the fish pond.

There they stain your iron shirt.
Burda lotuses float on

the surface, Villon spat pits.
Anymore village boys

don’t spit pits. Pits fall out
their asses to the ground.

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Film : Interview

Mathieu Amalric

by Liza Béar

The Blue Room, Simenon, and non-linear narrative.

4:3 is the algebra of Georges Simenon’s terse psychological thriller The Blue Room: four individuals, three couples, two of which are married. 4:3 also happens to be the aspect ratio in which the film was shot. In a small French town, the redundant pair, illicit lovers, meet secretly in the titular blue room of Hotel des Voyageurs overlooking a public square; a passionate affair on the wane morphs into crime the way at high temperatures metal liquefies.

Written and directed by Mathieu Amalric and cowritten with his real-life partner Stéphanie Cléau, this adaptation hews closely to the unusual (for Simenon) non-linear structure of the 140-page novella. Both Amalric and Cléau—in her first major role—star in the film as the defiant lovers: Julien Gahyde, a tractor salesman, and Esther Despierre, a pharmacist—incidentally, very fitting professions for the story. The narrative intercuts the present reality of a magistrate’s criminal interrogation of Julien with Julien’s reminiscences: obsessive memories of love-making and haunting snatches of dialogue that give the film a chamber music quality. In a feat of aesthetic economy, the interrogatory format enables the story to unfold as the facts of the case—a double spousal murder—are unravelled through the minutiae of the legal discovery process.

No spoilers, but in a proactive twist on the femme fatale, Esther’s desire to be with Julien forever is satisfied, though not quite in the way she had envisioned.

A note in defense of small films: Compact at 74 minutes, the film’s Director of Photography Christophe Beaucarne uses the old Academy 4:3 format to box in and highlight visual details. Enhanced by Grégoire Hetzel’s chilling score and François Gédigier’s editing, The Blue Room evokes character and atmosphere better, and creates more mystery and tension than another current 20th Century Fox Oscar-contender, the 150-minute Gone Girl, which also plays with tropes of adultery and crime.

A high-profile, versatile actor (Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum Solace, Arnaud Despléchin’s A Christmas Tale and Kings and Queen), this is Amalric’s fourth feature as a director. His stylistically very different previous film On Tour (2010), in which a group of contemporary American “new burlesque” dancers are taken on tour in France, won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010.

I spoke with the enigmatic Amalric in French following the US premiere of The Blue Room at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

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Paper Clip
Music : Interview

Bing & Ruth

by Will Stephenson

Nostalgia for the future, bluegrass, and hating the term "minimalism."

Thirty-one-year-old David Moore is the pianist and composer behind Bing & Ruth, a Brooklyn-based instrumental ensemble whose second album, Tomorrow Was the Golden Age, will be released October 14. As with City Lake, their previous release, Tomorrow moves in pulses, open spaces, and subtle, nearly imperceptible changes in key and emotional register. Often linked to composers like Steve Reich or Max Richter, Moore similarly makes music that is radically expressive without being explicitly sentimental, imposing but never an imposition.

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Film : Interview

Orwa Nyrabia

by Pamela Cohn

Civil war, exile, and documentary as art.

Toward the end of his film Eau argentée, Syrie autoportrait (Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait), director Ossama Mohammed states that his country has made history’s longest film and that the 1001 filmmakers whose images he has used to craft it have recorded and participated in Syria’s longest funeral. Through an ongoing dialogue, both verbal and written, Mohammed and co-director Wiam Bedirxan—a young Kurdish woman whose name in her native language is Simav, which means silvered water—create a poetic lamentation for their disintegrating country caught in a brutal civil war between warring factions entrenched in regime-, ISIS-, and opposition-controlled zones. Over 170,000 civilians and counting have been killed, and there continues to be a massive exodus of refugees. The war has destroyed their homeland, making the landscape of one of the most ancient civilizations on the planet unrecognizable.

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Film : Essay

On Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

by Nicholas Elliott

Discovering a cinema of civil war.

At the Cannes Film Festival this year a gossamer young woman in a red shawl and ankle-length black dress stood before rows of film professionals and sobbed. She was not weeping tears of gratitude for her latest award, nor was her thinness a product of the Paleo DietTM. The woman was Wiam Simav Bedirxan, co-director with Ossama Mohammed of Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait. She was crying because she had just arrived on the Côte d’Azur from Homs, a Syrian city being turned into a vast heap of rubble as we clapped. She was thin because it’s hard to get a square meal in a city under siege. As Wiam Simav Bedirxan stood speechless, buffeted by the prescreening ovation, I felt a little less jazzy about my first taste of the palm tree and cocktail hour life and my fascination with the yachts that glimmered in the harbor as I fought for hors d’oeuvre on the beach. Yet all this pomp and circumstance were supposed to be for movies, right? And Bedirxan and Mohammed were being applauded for what turned out to be an essential movie. It was also one of the most painful things I have ever seen.

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Art : Interview

Boru O’Brien O’Connell

by Cat Kron

The process of performance.

Boru O’Brien O’Connell speaks in open-ended sentences which frequently splinter into several different thoughts, reflecting the multimedia artist’s ambivalence toward didactic methods of relaying information and problems with pedagogy more generally.

His performance and film works feel like the artist’s internal dialogues. Since 2010, O’Brien O’Connell has been accumulating a body of looped films, projections made in collaboration with other performance artists, and monologues performed in public places. The performers, who range from the choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, who was included in this year’s Whitney Biennial, to children in the nebulous age range between nine and thirteen, spout chains of thought that often seem grounded only by the surety of the performers themselves. A 2013 piece titled I can only tell you what it does for me, performed by twelve-year-old Izzy Sherman, deftly sums the experience of watching these performances, in which oblique narratives leave the audience members wondering if others in the room understood what just transpired better than they did. Each performance is singularly moving, but you’re left not entirely sure you caught O’Brien O’Connell’s drift.

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Literature : Word Choice

from The Second Dog

by Rob Walsh

The mother opened the door but was not able to speak, not right away.

It took her a long moment to become accustomed to the idea of a town official in her home, or on the threshold of her home. Maybe the idea was gradually starting to appeal to her, to warm her sense of importance, to give her a more functional role in the community and environment she had begun to see as unchanging, but when the time came for someone to say hello, it was Kramer who stumbled forward and said hello, who kind of elbowed to the front and said hello again, breathing harder than should have been necessary for a man who had only crossed from the living room.

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Art : Interview

Charles Simonds

by Christopher Lyon

Learning to dwell in various landscapes.

Since 1970, New York City–based Charles Simonds has created miniature landscapes with meticulously crafted Dwellings, as he calls them, for an imaginary civilization of Little People, who are migrating through neighborhoods in New York, mainly the Lower East Side, and appear in other cities throughout the world. He is also known for larger-scale sculptures, installations, and videos.

Last year, Simonds gave a “Modern Mondays” talk at the Museum of Modern Art. Veronika Vogler attended the event, which included a Q&A with Stephanie Weber, then Assistant Curator at MoMA, and Christopher Lyon, now the publisher of Lyon Artbooks. An excerpt of their conversation is below, followed by Vogler’s further questions to Simonds about his Dwellings and Floating Cities, as well as recent projects.

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Paper Clip

Paper Clip #77

Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts, and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.

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Film : Interview

Matías Piñeiro

by Giovanni Marchini Camia

Shakespeare in Buenos Aires.

Argentinean director Matías Piñeiro has accrued an impressive cult following in the eight years since his first feature. His latest, La princesa de Francia (The Princess of France), was one of the most anticipated films at this summer’s Locarno International Film Festival, which also included new features by such arthouse lions as Pedro Costa and Lav Diaz in its program. The film, which was met with ecstatic reviews and will also play at the New York Film Festival on October 5 and 6, is the latest installment in the director’s ongoing filmic experimentations with the work of William Shakespeare.

While As You Like It and Twelfth Night provided the foundation for Piñeiro’s previous features, Rosalinda (2011) and Viola (2012) respectively, the main source text this time around is Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. Again the play is placed in the hands of a group of Buenos Aires bohemians, played by the director’s regular troupe of actors. Here they are preparing a radio adaptation, a playful wink at the fact that Piñeiro’s films eschew and subvert conventional adaptation as well as a metonymic reflection of the film’s infatuation with language.

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Literature : Interview

Joanna Ruocco

by Micaela Morrissette

Deviance, social collectives, narrative constraint, and looniness in the groundwater.

In Joanna Ruocco’s new novel, Dan (Dorothy, 2014), the beleaguered but stouthearted heroine, Melba Zuzzo, finds herself the object of a conspiracy of criticism by perhaps every member of the titular small town in which she lives. As Melba says, “In Dan, we all live in the shadow of blame.” Yet Melba’s sufferings are smothered, to some extent, by the simplicity of the voice Ruocco employs to convey her extremely peculiar tale. The often disconcerting directness of the syntax muffles the otherwise startling use of vocabulary and the contextual absurdity; it softens but never distorts the unpredictable laws of cause and effect that rule the world of Dan. Accused of murder, of impersonating the dead, of abducting a principal, of being special, of being a succubus, of anarchy, of being hairy, Melba is dismayed, outcast, evicted, and bewildered. She faces repressions both linguistic and societal; she’s a creature in a society where desire is anxious, fervent, but sterile; limbo is metamorphic; unkindness is loving. She is threatened with the same fate as that of her friends and neighbors who have disappeared, reappeared, or are revealed to have never existed, even though, “in small towns [like Dan] … the only way to leave is to go nowhere. But that takes a certain type of resolve.”

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Film : Interview

Cherien Dabis

Listen to audio excerpts from this interview:

dabis


Cherien Dabis directing Melkar Muallem (Fadi) on the set of Amreeka .

January, 2002: Columbia University’s graduate film school. The winter sun flashed through the mini-blinds in my classroom, spilling slatted bars of light onto the beautiful face of a stranger in the corner. Who was she ? It was a new semester, but “Directing Actors,” the class I teach, is a full-year course and I don’t allow new students to join midstream. Rules are rules, but I didn’t bargain on the likes of the force about to be born. Cherien Dabis stayed, busted her ass, and ate every pertinent molecule in that room. As my colleague, professor and filmmaker Katherine Dieckmann said: she was incredibly diligent, dogged, and determined to learn the screenwriting form. She’d rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. She was tireless. She just didn’t give up on her ideas until she got them right. Her great determination and focus were a huge factor in how she got her first feature made. Because she’s tenacious. Power to her.

Amreeka , a comedy/drama, premiered at Sundance in 2009 and played as opening night of New Directors/New Films at MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. At Cannes in 2009, it was awarded the prestigious FIPRESCI Critics’ Prize. The film is a universal journey into the lives of immigrants searching for a better future in America’s promised land. Muna, a single mother, leaves the West Bank with her son Fadi only to find undreamed-of challenges in a new world full of seismic changes.

I thought of my own young artistic ambition as I trudged up 85th Street, past a FedEx depot that used to be Merkin’s, a jazz-and-drugs bar. Bizarrely, Cherien’s apartment was in the exact same building that I had moved into exactly 40 years ago when I first came to New York, before Cherien was even born. Here’s the old wrought-iron fence! And the crooked little entrance facing the elevator that I got attacked in! God, the lobby hasn’t changed at all. I feel old, but proud. Cherien answers the door and we horse around, do some girl talk, and apply lip gloss for a photo shoot. Then she cracks a joke that she is clearly fond of, so please, LOL.

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