Daily Postings
film : interview

Raam Reddy

by Daniel Kasman

“Freedom and bondage I find interesting. Or purity—and a contrast to that purity.”

This year’s edition of New Directors/New Films served as the perfect place for the North American premiere of Raam Reddy’s Thithi. To make this film, the crew—along with its 25-year-old director—immersed themselves in their south India location and built the narrative directly from the community. The story involves a modest saga of three generations of village men, each searching for their own kind of happiness. Their struggles and delights are seen as inextricable from their customs, which are effortlessly revealed in a manner suffused with generosity, understanding, and humor far wiser than the youth of its director might suggest. Here we are introduced to a town (Nodekoppalu), a language (Kannada), and an interconnected group of people—cast mainly from local non-professionals—rich and full of humanity. To watch Thithi is to be invited into a sprawling and diverse world—and to step through the cinema screen to explore a new place and meet new people. The film’s next stop on the festival circuit will be at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where screenings begin April 30, 2016.

Director Raam Reddy—who, incidentally, wrote his first novel at age 19—took home the First Feature and Cineasti del presente (Filmmakers of the Present) prizes at the Locarno Film Festival last year. I have no doubt he’ll be introducing more cinema to us soon. We began our conversation by talking about how Thithi might be received in his native India.

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art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Martha Rosler

“Bodily trauma at the very level of form.”

In response to the atrocities of the Iraq War, Martha Rosler added to her iconic series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967–72) in 2004 and again in 2008. Her combination of pristine scenes from design magazines with photographs of war makes explicit the connections between a specifically gendered iteration of capitalism and global conflict. This reinvigoration of House Beautiful is not a revision; Rosler instead requires us to reconsider the tools with which we analyze her entire practice. Her return to the photomontage technique, despite the advent of Photoshop, insists there is something essential about the medium itself that works in tandem with a continued critique of war. In this way, neither medium nor concept takes precedence over the other, creating a formalism driven by ethics—an operation that is as conceptual as it is corporeal.

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theater : interview

Tina Satter

by Richard Maxwell

Listening Party

Playwrights/directors Tina Satter and Richard Maxwell listen to the music that inspires Half Straddle’s latest production, Ghost Rings, which runs at New York Live Arts from April 22–30, 2016.

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film : interview

Adam Green, Alia Shawkat, & Francesco Clemente

“You’re looking at the human inverse of a technological idea.”

When I first learned that Adam Green—perhaps best known as the lead singer of the on-hiatus, indie stalwart band The Moldy Peaches—had made Aladdin, I thought the obvious: Macaulay Culkin should interview Green for BOMB. Reason? Culkin has a key role in this new film, and the Green-Culkin connection has already birthed several exasperating collaborations, plus it’s not often that the ex-star of Home Alone gets the space he deserves. But alas, it was not to be.

Miraculously, Francesco Clemente—who needs no introduction, and happens to play Aladdin’s Genie (WTF?)—was available. Even more surprising was the addition of another member of the cast, Alia Shawkat, who, among other things, is the actress who played the essential Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development. She turned the proposed one-on-one into a free-associative three-way.

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music : interview

Tashi Dorji & Shane Parish

“I don’t have a specific idiom that I’m aspiring to, and I’m not creating some sort of homage or giving a reference point for people to hang onto. I’m just playing whatever’s in my head, literally.”

Tashi Dorji and I share a mutual passion for the guitar as a vehicle for spontaneous creative expression. Although I’m originally from Miami and he is from Bhutan, we managed to converge in the Appalachian town of Asheville, North Carolina at the beginning of the twenty-first century, where we both still reside. Our new album, Expecting (MIE Music), is a collection of acoustic duo improvisations played on nylon strings, which we happened to record as we were both preparing to become fathers. This conversation reflects on the history of our friendship and music, following many a digression, as any improvisation is prone to do.

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literature : first proof

Two Poems

by Eric Amling

“Consider Satan’s feelings…as love is the anvil that shaped the scythe…let summer loosen your expectations…the hottest night of the year…in a little leather pouch…”

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literature : review

Bad News

by Lizzie Tribone

Disobeying history in Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War.

Don Mee Choi quotes Gertrude Stein’s Wars I Have Seen in the epigraph of her new collection of poetry, prose, and opera, Hardly War: “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” This line introduces the book’s preoccupation with the homogeneity of conflicts, certainly, but also with Stein herself. Not only does Choi display a stylistic fidelity to Stein’s oeuvre, by way of radical experiments with language and syntax, but the very inspiration for the collection stems from her as well.

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music : interview

Lightstorm

by Jason Gillis

“The quest was always on. Inside, never out.”

I first discovered Lightstorm about five years ago, via the 1982 movie Boardinghouse, which enjoys well-deserved cult status as one of the strangest horror movies ever made, and happens to be the first feature-length film ever recorded on video and transferred to 35mm for a theatrical run. On that initial viewing there was something about the film’s spirit and texture that resonated with me. I’m not sure if it was the balls-to-the-wall yet playful DIY approach, the strange suggestive New Age subtexts, or both. It was immediately clear that there was a lot more to the film than the average horror fan would ever notice or want to know.

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theater : interview

Lisa Dwan & Walter Asmus

by Michael Coffey

”I am not a human being up there, true, and I am not a woman. I’m consciousness.”

Samuel Beckett returned to writing in English in his mid-60s—not that he had ever completely left it. But he had certainly shed the rhythms and unavoidable inheritances of his native tongue after completing the mad and brilliant novel Watt while hiding out during the German occupation of France. For the next frenzied decade, Beckett turned to French, and wrote the works that established his fame and earned him the 1969 Nobel Prize: the plays En Attendant Godot and Fin de Partie, and the trilogy of novels, Molloy, Malone meurt, and L’Innommable. Of course, he was always the brilliant (if reluctant) English translator of nearly all his French work, and from time to time he composed original works in English: Krapp’s Last Tape (1958) and Happy Days (1960) are prime examples. But as his prose grew more spare and abstract, and his plays began to remove setting, lighting, sound, and bodies, Beckett increasingly wrote in his mother tongue—and, more interestingly, in a woman’s voice.

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art : portfolio
music : review

Trees, Grass, & Collectivist Rock

by Clinton Krute

Träd, Gräs och Stenar and the democratizing power of the riff.

The Swedish heavy psych band Träd, Gräs och Stenar were clearly not in it for the money. They grew their own food, built their own guitars and amplifiers, and between 1969 and 1972, released four of their own records—two studio and two live. Although the early studio albums have some pretty incredible moments—in particular the shaggy, mammoth, 23-minute title track of 1971’s Rock För Kropp Och Själ (Rock for Body and Soul), which cuts off just as it turns into a proto-punk chant—they were really a band best appreciated live. Anthology Recordings’ new reissues, packaged together as a deluxe 6-LP box set, include the two live albums, Mors Mors and Djungelns Lag, along with an album of unreleased live recordings called Kom Tillsammens, discovered in the home of guitarist Jakob Sjöholmm. These records are documents of a countercultural approach to art-making, as well as monuments of trance rock, of subtle motion inside stillness, where their commitment to chasing a single riff can often overshadow any overt political agenda.

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art : portfolio

Portfolio

by Elise Rasmussen

“…light off the water.”

Robert Smithson’s failed Broken Clear Glass (Atlantis) project was to be the artist’s first permanent earthwork; his intention in 1969 was to fill a small islet off the coast of Vancouver Island with one hundred tons of glass shards in an attempt to turn it into a “thing of beauty, reflecting the light off the water.” Over time the glass would erode back to sand, its original form.

After reaching an agreement with the British Columbia government and making arrangements for the glass to ship from California, press coverage of the proposed work alerted environmentalists to the project. They objected, stating that it would disrupt the ecological system of the area, and pressured the government, who withdrew its permission to loan Smithson this or any other property for his project.

The failure of Broken Clear Glass signaled the end of Smithson’s work in Canada, causing him to look for sites in the United States. Although frustrated at first, this failure ultimately led him to Utah and the creation of Spiral Jetty, arguably his most renowned work. In revisiting Broken Clear Glass, this work reconsiders Smithson’s working process and failure, and how that reflects the myth of Atlantis, which is both utopic and catastrophic.

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literature : interview

Stephen O’Connor

by Melody Nixon

”In a way, I am like some demented lawyer seeking only to get a hung jury—with the saving grace being that, when the truth is not obvious, people tend to do their most profound and significant thinking.”

In Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings—Stephen O’Connor’s newest book, and most ambitious to date—the choice of subject matter is deeply problematic and deliberately problematized. At a time when discussions of representation, identity politics, racial privilege, and authorial authority are waking up the publishing world, O’Connor wades into this territory full knowing that his own identity is overrepresented and that his viewpoint is, in a sense, not welcome. In short, he does what should not be done when he imagines himself into the lives of Sally Hemings, an enslaved young woman, and her power-wielding master Thomas Jefferson, then figures the shape of their sexual relationship—all along writing while white, while male, while an employed academic, while a writer and not a historian, archivist, activist, or scholar of racial justice. He does this with his eyes open.

Over the course of our conversation, I’ve come to understand that he has not written this book to provoke or to engender a self-serving sense of shock; he has written with a belief in the possibilities of liminal space and in the revelations that occur at the point of tension. The result is a book that jars, unequivocally, and that disquietingly brings to the surface the anguish of past and present America. This is not a book that can leave you untouched. Its fine-point poetic sensibility and vivid description combine to haunt, to create a sub-dermis itch that begs relief—while offering, at last, a subtle but searing indictment.

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theater : interview

Nicky Paraiso

by Zachary Small

“I hope it’s not a masochistic impulse within me, but I will always stay until the end to see how a creative thought completes itself.”

We convened for drinks at a bar called Pangea. It was in celebration of the opening of Imagining the Imaginary Invalid, which had its premier at La MaMa in late January. As guests flooded in, the actress Marylouise Burke reached across the table to whisper introductions between Nicky Paraiso and myself. Before she could, I quickly realized that we had met before—not once or twice, but six times in the past two weeks. At every theater and gallery opening I attended, he was there.

Perhaps Nicky’s omnipresence suggests an oncoming apotheosis. He is a steward of experimental theater, guiding it toward a more inclusive future that stretches across artistic disciplines and identities—especially during his time as La MaMa’s programming director. Later this April, he will receive top honors at Movement Research’s spring gala, an event that will also inaugurate an ethnic diversity fund bearing his name.

Nicky’s work as an actor is part of theater history. His collaborations with luminaries such as Meredith Monk and Jeff Weiss put him in the center of the thriving theater scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Indeed, he makes a cameo appearance in BOMB’s 1984 interview with Weiss; they were rehearsing for That’s How the Rent Gets Paid, Part IV. As a solo performer, Nicky’s work is an ongoing investigation of his Asian identity, an excavation of queer history, and a reverie in the persistent voice of the theater.  

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film : interview

Tom Sachs & Van Neistat

by Chris Chang

“I’ve always wanted to make something as good as an iPhone, and I never could, but Apple could never make anything as shitty as one of my sculptures or movies. And that’s a huge advantage.”

My intention at Tom Sachs’s Lower Manhattan art compound was to interview the artist and his longtime collaborator, the filmmaker Van Neistat. I wanted to talk about their new film, A Space Program, which chronicles the Sachs studio crew’s profoundly ambitious voyage to Mars as it was executed in a massive installation staged at the Park Avenue Armory back in 2012. That they actually complete this mission, albeit with plywood spaceships and hot glue, is a real tribute to their bulldog ingenuity.

NASA… Part of the original Eisenhower idea, in 1958, was that government research projects related to aeronautics or outer space need not necessarily focus on war and weaponization. The agency could, instead, set seemingly loftier, fantastic engineering goals, like the moon mission. The Sachs-brand NASA, with that same rigor, expands such a mission with excursions into zero-gravity opium cultivation and Japanese tea ceremony. Indeed, the Sachs studio could itself be described as a tea ceremony, or ritual, that—thanks to American innovation—has wonderfully lost its mind. (By all means, see Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony at the Noguchi Museum; it runs through July 24, 2016.)
 
The Sachs studio’s creed, “Creativity is the Enemy,” is another way of saying, “Stay on Task.” It was my intention to speak with Neistat and Sachs about their new film. Which is another way of saying, “Epic Fail.”

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literature : from the editor
art : portfolio
music : interview

The Necks

by Clare Cooper

“There has to be a social music.”

For three of the four decades they’ve been musicians, Chris Abrahams, Tony Buck, and Lloyd Swanton have played together as The Necks. They return to play Australia each summer, and hearing these annual live performances has become a way of marking time on a long, slow clock. Indeed, their international routine seems to mimic their tacit musical agreements—cycles, simplicity, and patience. I’ve had the incredible pleasure of hearing thirty-two of their improvisations live.

My hippie allergy flared up when I went to my first Necks gig at The Basement [Sydney] in 2002; I saw audience members peacefully standing there, swaying ever so gently with eyes closed in preparation for the concert thirty minutes before they even started. I spent a good half hour of the concert holding on to my scepticism, and then: Bam. That thing happened, I let it in, and it’s moved me deeply ever since.
 
I’ve been friends with Chris, Lloyd, and Tony since we met through the NOW now festival of improvised music that I was organising about fifteen years ago. Chris and Tony both play in my Hammeriver project (a band exploring the music of the late Alice Coltrane), and Chris and I have a DX7 synthesiser and guzheng zither duo called Germ Studies. I’ve never played music with Lloyd. I’ve always thought of him as the straight-line staple jazz ingredient of the trio—the bread (and maybe the butter) that makes more cautious listeners feel like everything is going to be okay in the end. Things will resolve. But at the concert tonight, it was Lloyd’s timing and textures that rattled me like a Keiji Haino shriek. That’ll teach me.

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film : interview

Arnaud Desplechin

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

“I wanted to build the script as if we were entering into a brain or a memory, where you have separate elements existing in the same time and you don’t understand the logic.”

French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin—well known for Kings and Queen (2004) and A Christmas Tale (2008)—has made a sort of “prequel” to his first major cinematic work, My Sex Life ... or How I Got Into An Argument (1996). My Golden Days assigns an origin story to Desplechin’s former protagonist Paul Dédalus. It’s a personal and golden-hued tale of careless youthful passion. It stars Mathieu Amalric (the original Paul), and introduces the gusty newcomers, Quentin Dolmaire (the new Paul) and Lou Roy-Lecollinet (Esther).

Remembering his adolescence from the ripe old perch of middle-age, Paul Dédalus recalls three distinct chapters of his early life: the first, a painful childhood involving a depressed mother and violent father; the second, a strange trip he took to the USSR, where he offered up his own identity to a young Russian whom he deems his ghostly “double”; and the third, detailing his love affair with Esther. She’s the girl who matters most.

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literature : first proof

Three Poems

by Sally Wen Mao

Anna May Wong Goes Viral

In the future, there’s an oracle
            where you can search
for where you belong. I ask this engine
            and it replies:
do the deleted scenes choke you
            up? In the future, I am young
and poor, so I become a webcam girl.

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art : interview

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige

by Jessica Hong

“A good part of our work is about giving materiality to things that aren‘t visible.”

Based in Beirut and Paris, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige are filmmakers, visual artists, and avid researchers who employ images they have captured or made to investigate our relation with history. They both came of age in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, a period often bracketed as incongruous with the rest of Lebanon‘s history. But the latent power of images and unheeded effects of violence from the past loom large in the present—and urgently in their work.

Their inspiration often comes from specific, potent interactions with history, resulting in projects like the Lebanese Rocket Society—a multifaceted work that explores an actual, all but forgotten Lebanese space program from the mid-1960s, which the artists only stumbled upon after finding an old commemorative stamp. Hadjithomas and Joreige, however, work against the concept of nostalgia by evoking the past constructively, as a way to understand the present and how we position ourselves in a broader historical and temporal context. In Je Veux Voir (I Want to See), starring film icon Catherine Deneuve, the filmmakers adduce both the history of cinema and the country’s socio-political history. Filming near the border between South Lebanon and Israel—a contentious site, normally guarded and closed—they were able to test the potential power of cinema and open a small road just for a moment, demonstrating the possibilities when disparate histories, motivations, and realms (here the political and the filmic) clash with the present.

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