March 2, 2012

Pina

I recently saw Wim Wenders’ documentary

Pina.

It reminded me of a performance piece I’d seen in Prague a number of years ago,

whose title I wish I could now remember,

about a woman who gets trapped in a circus.

Set in a visually striking, surreal landscape,

under Wenders’ 3D direction,

Pina Bausch’s choreographies take on

a vivid, visceral, and at times wonderfully comic quality

that marries the best of dance, narrative and experimental theatre.

Wenders’ documentary is staged as a picaresque,

a mixture of various 3D dance sequences which read much like mini-stories

interspersed with brief reflections / interviews

with dancers from Pina’s company over the years.

The documentary’s fragmented, anecdotal quality reminded

me of some of the nostalgic picturescapes of Roy Andersson’s film You The Living.

And too of the elegiac quality of some of

Marguerite Duras’s novels,

most notably Destroy, She Said,

with their focus on staging and the body.

Pina Bausch.

I would love to know more about this incredible woman.

Well worth an afternoon.

February 23, 2012

“Just Down City”

My partner, photographer Jerome Jakubiec, and I

are excited to have a collaborative piece up

at Dossier Journal this morning.

Check it out!

Thank you to editor

Sara Femenella for posting.

February 15, 2012

“Salty Dog And Uncle Sam”

I have a story up today at TwoSeriousLadies here. The website is a new online journal created by Lauren Spohrer.
The title of the sight comes from a short Jane Bowles novel.  It is a sight devoted entirely to writing by women. I
am really thrilled to have a piece up here.  The sight features a “vanished page” from Heidi Julavits’s forthcoming novel, The Vanishers, as well as stories by Catherine Lacey, Kayla Blatchley, Roxane Gay, Diana Hamilton, Andrea Morales, Amanda Shapiro, Lesley Yalen and the Anonymous writer of MyDeadParents.  I respect and admire these women’s work immensely.
Many thanks to Lauren Spohrer
for including me.
Lauren is not only a dear friend
but a wildly urgent talent.
Check out her new chapbook,
Just Kids,
co-authored with Lawrence Giffin,
February 3, 2012

“A Small, Nearly-Vanishing Community”

I am eagerly anticipating

launching into Ben Marcus’s

new novel, The Flame Alphabet.

The above is a trailer for the book out from Erin Cosgrove

at Creative Capitol.

The Millions posted an interview with Marcus

recently here.

The piece is aptly titled, “Lethal Language: Ben Marcus Urges Writers To March On The Enemy.”

This is what drew me to Ben’s work originally:

“We are in a time when narrative tradition is getting honed and exquisitely refined by the novelists who are considered major: very subtle improvements on an established method. But the premise of art is that writers will seek new methods to reach people with language. This isn’t experimental at all: it’s traditional. It’s a tradition for artists to push forward and try to do new things. Such a project has defined the making of art from the very beginning. There’s nothing more traditional than that.”

It is encouraging to hear Marcus recall for us

that language which is wrestling with how

to reinvent form

in not difficult or troubled.

Rather these works remain the beacon of accessibility,

the call for expanding the brain toward

new comprehensions.

Indeed the ream of language-smiths

can sometime seem a small,

nearly vanishing community.

However, it is one with

dedicated arbiters.

Ben Marcus

is an exacting one.

January 29, 2012

Beginners

I’m calling this the best indie picture of 2011.

I must confess:

I did not go to see it in theatres

for fear that it would be

too twee.

Boy was I

wrong.

I recently watched the film

during a trans-Atlantic flight

on both legs of the journey.

On the way home I found myself

scribbling lines of dialogue in my notebook.

It’s not about what the dog says;

it’s about what the characters don’t say.

In its best moments, the film reminds me of a

Mary Robison short story from her collection,

An Amateur’s Guide To The Night.

Check out this old interview with Robison here

in BOMB Magazine.

It mirrors some of the themes in

recent interview with Beginners director, Mike Mills,

on the autobiographical art of filmmaking

here.

“Everybody’s version of these events would be different.” – Mills

January 20, 2012

The Results of Your Labors

* Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith (with Neckbrace), 1977

BBC posted an excerpt of their interview with

Patti Smith

online today.

Check it out here.

In the interview Smith specifically talks about

her rediscovery of polaroid photography.

She stumbled upon an old Land 100 polaroid camera

after the death of her brother, her husband, Robert Mapplethorpe and her pianist.

She says the immediacy of being able to create something on the spot

provided some relief

from the inertia she was feeling due to her inability create in her other artforms,

i.e. music, drawing and writing.

The satisfaction of having made something

which she could immediately regard

seemed particularly attractive during the period of exhaustion she was experiencing.

Loss is a profound state to create from.

What struck me most about the interview was what Smith calls

“the results of your labors.”

The vulnerabilities of attaching creative production

to both breadwinning and

making one’s way through life.

Creation of any kind

is intrinsically dependent on the health of the human as a total organism.

Different mediums present themselves

as viable arenas depending on mood and mental capacity.

Smith’s polaroids are now on exhibit here through February 19th

at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Connecticut.

The show, her first museum exhibition of Smith’s polaroid work, is appropriately titled Camera Solo.

Here is a sample:

January 20, 2012

Glory In It For One Thing

The Atlantic recently posted the below letter written by John Steinbeck to his son Thom.  I am reposting it here

partly for sentiment.

And partly for the phrase:

Try To Live Up To It.

And partly too for this realization:

Nothing Good Gets Away.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

January 18, 2012

Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty

I had the uncanny pleasure of hearing

Diane Williams read last night

at The Corner Bookstore.

I appreciate the seriousness

of Diane’s delivery.

Her voice has a way of extending the life of words

such that they begin to know each other in new

and conflicting ways.

I sat down this morning to read through her new collection,

“Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty.”

The texture of William’s prose reminded me of the feeling I had while watching the recent

Werner Herzog documentary,

Cave of Forgotten Dreams,

about the origin of our understanding of cave signs and symbols

and their relationship to the narrative tracking of historic and personal events.

Hertzog’s voice has that similarly

distilled, witty way

of unearthing surprise

through examining objects

from an obtuse, distanced lens.

The scientific is at once personal.

The personal

is open for exam.

So too, with William’s stories.

Blunt dialogue

meets exclamation.

Each chord is emphatic and yet strikes

an open-ended measure.

We end up feeling that the personal

is all the more persecuted and at bay.

Hertzog’s documentary charts the discovery of 32,000 year old drawings on the interior of the

Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D-Arc.

What struck me about the documentary was that

Herzog mentions that the moisture of the breath of visitors

sought to destroy the durability of the ancient renderings

and preempted further use of the cave as a tourist site.

I recently visited the origin

of the Ardèche River where the documentary was filmed

in the south of France.

The stone was red and brutal and evidenced

the power of water to draw gorges into

even the most unremitting of earth.

Diane Williams

seems to exhume that same sort of evidence

laying it bare for us to consider

and continually overturn.

For example, take the opening of her story, “Glee:”

“We have a drink of coffee and a Danish and it has this, what we call — grandmother cough-up –

a bright yellow filling.  The project is to resurrect glee.  This is the explicit reason I get on a bus and go to an area

where I do this and have a black coffee.

I emphasize, I confess, as well, that last night I came into a room, smiled a while and my laughter was like a hand on my own

shoulder.  As I opened up the volume of the television set, I saw a television beauty and a man wants to marry her and she says, “I

don’t do that sort of thing.””

For more excerpts, McSweeney’s Books has created a generous teaser with more of William’s

“Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty”

here.

January 17, 2012

Danser Sa Vie

“Look at Jasper Johns’ and Robert Rauschenberg’s painting. They use the canvas as I use the stage.” -Merce Cunningham

———-

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Danser Sa Vie exhibit

now on at the Centre Pompidou through April 2nd.

The scale of the exhibit alone was astounding.

In a space of over two thousand square meters, curators Christine Macel and Emma Lavigne

traced the theme of the moving body from paintings and sculptures by modern masters

such as Picasso and Matisse to works by a wide constellation of artists including Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg,

Yvonne Rainer, Robert Morris, and Andy Warhol.

In addition, the exhibit housed an impressive menagerie of large scale video projects of dance sequences

by greats such as Merce Cunningham, Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman and Nijinski.

The curatorial project here makes an interesting supposition:

“The history of abstraction would not be what it is without dance [...]

The whole gamut of avant-garde movements, Cubism, Futurism, Orphism, De Stijl, Dada, Bauhaus or Russian Constructivism,

also latched on to dance, all fascinated by the body in motion and by the colours, lines, energy and rhythms.”

The curators take to task the program of submerging the viewer into

a kind of kinetic, oracular, full-bodied choreography,

not unlike the kind of digitized geography of the dance notation which Laban himself invented.

The exhibit is divided into three sections,

each wall draped in the organic experience of craft attempting to realize and recreate the body through traditional paintings and

sculptures mixed into the fabric of a kind of technicolor dreamcoat created by modern full-scale video installations and audiovisual

works.

The show draws the unique conclusion that indeed the connection between modernity and dance

is an inseparable one.

At once the viewer encounters a hanging mobile by Calder,  a watercolor by German expressionist painter Emil Nolde,

and a video installation by Ange Leccia inspired by John Travolta’s 1970 “golden age of disco” performance in the film Saturday

Night Fever.

Works by Matthew Barney, Simon Dybbroe Moeller, Olafur Eliasson,

Daria Martin, Jeff Mills, Kelly Nipper, Mai-Thu Perret or Tino Sehgal

are in dialogue with modern masterpieces such as Henri Matisse’s “La Danse.”

The exhibit tranverses such diverse landscapes, the viewer wanders – happily though at times unaided -

through a kind of visual assault

looking for the unifying thread.

As I left the final viewing station in the exhibit,

Jérôme Bel’s fantastic sartorial, satire, “The Show Must Go On,” which draws on traditional pop music hits,

I was struck by this quote by 19th century thinker François Delsarte,

“Gesture is the direct agent of the heart.”

The body, its movements, the way it cuts through time and space, similar to the work of most post-expressionists,

argues that space itself is indeed nonhierarchical.

Dance highlights for us the kind of liminal narrative

that writers such a Joan Didion argue for in her essay, “We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live.”

Experience is fragmentary and nonhierarchical.

Indeed Didion’s sentiment is echoed in the exhibit’s opening quote by Isadora Duncan,

“My art is just an effort to express the truth of my being in gesture and movement. (…) From the beginning, I have only danced my life.”

Duncan’s quote reminded me of a discussion I recently had

with students on post-modernism.

Postmodernism, Fredric Jameson told us, was a periodizing concept.

It was a way of grouping a set of writers and painters and thinkers

into a lens which took into account

“the other.”

A way of looking at the world

which understood that experience itself

was fragmentary, nonhierarchical, imperfect.

The Danser Sa Vie exhibit hit the nail

square on the head.

January 10, 2012

Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, London

Malega, Surma Boy, Ethiopia, April 2011 by Mario Marino

The Embrace from the Series Hot Ink by Jonathan May

Olive Selling Dresses by Kenneth O Halloran

Bibi Aisha by Jodi Bieber

Oliver by Kelvin Murray

Maria and Raul, Paso Marti, Centro Habano by David Creedon

Anna from the Series Migration Linked to Prostitution by Paulo Patrizi

Monette and Mady, Rue Des Partants by Maja Daniels

Peter Crouch by Spencer Murphy

Old Truman Brewery / Claudia by Darren Hall

Tatiana And Belene by Yann Gross

_______________

I had the good fortune of passing through London

over the holidays

just in time to catch the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

on show at The National Portrait Gallery.

I was so captured by the exhibit,

I couldn’t walk away without the catalogue under my arm.

Above are a few of my favorites.

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