Filmmaker Ken Jacobs wants to get moviegoers out of Flatland. He’s been making 3-D films for decades—but not the kind James Cameron makes, or even Werner Herzog. Zack Friedman spoke to Jacobs before the start of Anthology Film Archives’ new retrospective of his work.
Ken Jacobs is “fascinated by depth.” Over the phone, in his thick old-time Brooklyn accent, he tells me that he is filled with wonder at the way the world looks. Vision is a marvel, something to constantly be stunned by. We’re used to seeing in one way, and, as moviegoers and spectators, train ourselves to see in a few more. But how many ways of looking are we missing out on?
Jacobs has been making his own kind of films since the ‘50s, working in three dimensions since the late ‘60s. Anthology Film Archives has decreed that it’s time for everybody to put on flimsy paper spectacles, red cellophane on one side and blue on the other, and give him—the 3-D stuff in particular—a better look.
All kinds of folks rolling into town this week, including goon squads, anarchist artists (Teach 4 Amerika), necronauts, Brazilians who take pictures in Germany, and a Fiction Invasion. Plus an attempt to resurrect one of the 20th century’s great novelists and a whole lot of failure.
BOMB would like to alert you to the week ahead of you. Read on for the best arts and culture events New York has to offer, including Brooklyn poets, a Funeral for a Dog, a Kara Walker Thursday, Soviet avant-garde film, dance without discipline, and yes, more Brooklyn poets.
Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose works are now being shown at MoMA as part of a major retrospective, spent the 1920s developing many of the techniques of avant-garde cinema—in the belief that the new technology of film would help the working class transform reality.
We’re getting attacked by art events! But don’t raise the White Flag just yet. Find favorable terms of surrender for your calendar this week, including Cleon Peterson, Thurston Moore, tUnE-YaRdS, and a Gigantic party.
Catch up on some new exhibitions, including filmmaker Su Friedrich’s gallery debut, re:working, at Microscope Gallery. Her new filmstrips and digital collage works, as well as early black and white shorts, explore issues from sexual identity to the gentrification of Williamsburg.
Europa Editions-related festivities continue: this time Europa Turns (out) 100 at Housing Works, cosponsored by McNally Jackson. Author Michele Zackheim (Broken Colors), translators Alison Anderson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) and Ann Goldstein (Days of Abandonment) and guest Stacy Schiff will be reading. 7-8:30.
Belladonna’s Prose Event, featuring “prose writers who write at the intersection of fiction and the essay,” includes Renee Gladman, Danielle Dutton, and Amina Cain, curated by Kate Zambreno. 7:30 at Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie Street.
Many arts and culture events, some air-conditioned. This shortened week, highlights include urban therapy, !Women Art Revolution, and golden sperm whales.
Premiere of !Women Art Revolution, a documentary/”secret history” of the Feminist Art movement, at the IFC Center. Director Lynn Hershman Leeson and Kathleen Hanna will introduce the film tonight; more great speakers throughout the week.
It’s the Moby Awards! The best and worst book trailers—no, they don’t all star Gary Shteyngart. Winners get golden sperm whales, which every home should have. At Powerhouse Arena (37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201), 8-10 pm; please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Formal wear suggested.
It’s a hard-boiled week ahead, including a Noir Festival, depraved scenemaking, auto-destructive machines, historical reenactors, and wood chippers. Let BOMB guide you through the concrete jungle…
What a week… highlights include the discipline of Toxicology, a new geometry, Ashbery on Rimbaud, the decline of modernism’s cultural influence, Anthology Film Archives’ 40th, Children of Hiroshima, novels about bookstores, worldwide writers yapping, and the void.
Though you might be tempted to spend every hour possible outside this week, there are still Art and Culture, and sadly, they often occur indoors. This week, put your shirt and shoes back on for Sam Lipsyte, Yo La Tengo, Francine Prose, Lorna Simpson, and more events that will set you on fire, especially The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. Ready?
Ugly Ducking Presse visits The Kitchen for a pleasant evening of companionship and camaraderie. The agenda includes: “A text for speaking by playwright and performer Kristen Kosmas, a sound-space intervention by No Collective; a slide-show and reading by artist Erica Baum (joined by poet Kim Rosenfield), and Yevgeniy Fiks with a queer guide to Moscow’s communist monuments.” 7 pm.
Cathleen Schine and Adam Gopnik discuss the role place has played in their work at the Museum of the City of New York. 6:30 pm; $6 museum members; $8 seniors and students; $12 non-members, $6 when you mention BOMB Magazine.
An editor of creative translation journal Telephone and the EFA Project Space’s curator discuss hybrid translations of Brazilian concrete poet Augusto de Campos.
In the 1950s in Brazil, Augusto de Campos and a few collaborators concocted what they called concrete poetry—a “tension of thing-words in space-time,” as a phrase of de Campos’s manifesto puts it. Their work collided written language with image and sound, creating a synesthetic barrage of poems that are also in their ways physical objects. “The concrete poet does not turn away from words, he does not glance at them obliquely: he goes directly to their center, in order to live and vivify their facticity,” de Campos proclaimed. The editors of creative translation journal Telephone recently joined forces with the Elizabeth Foundation of the Arts’ EFA Project Space to put on an exhibition featuring de Campos’s work alongside hybrid translations of it by a number of poets and artists. After visiting the exhibition, I exchanged emails with Sharmila Cohen of Telephone and Michelle Levy from EFA Project Space to get a sense of the resonance of concrete poetry. Selected work of de Campos and translations follow.
BOMB reports on novelist Blake Butler’s “marathon reading” of There Is No Year and talks to Butler about his book, household objects, and the cowardly act of terrorism that is writing. Listen to excerpts from the reading.
So you’re not in Austin. Big deal. New York’s still here. Keep an eye out for gator wrestling, anarchist terrorists, huge bats, bloodied Japanese school girls, Objectivists, and more.
The man behind the Reanimation Library, an assemblage of discarded texts and cultural detritus, talks to BOMBlog about how to put life back into works ranging from taxidermy to a million random numbers to a 19th-century dentist’s rewriting of the Bible.
Zack Friedman What does it mean to reanimate books?
Andrew Beccone I think that on balance, most people would look at the kinds of books that I collect and have trouble seeing much value in them, aside from being a kind of minor historical curiosity. By collecting, cataloging, and making these books available, I am really hoping to demonstrate their continuing relevance and facilitate their further use. So rather than sitting in a basement or rotting away in some thrift store, they can continue to be of value. Perhaps the books have outlived their original intended purpose, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to use them.
As the days get less dreary, catch up with some big names in books, including Ben Marcus, Gary Shteyngart, and Lorrie Moore, plus abstract art, trampolines, and guinea pigs on a fire truck.
This week in New York, make some room on your calendar for mixologist poets, a space program for artists, cult films, lepidopterists, and the future of small literary magazines.
The films of Kaneto Shindo, including the now tragically relevant Children of Hiroshima, tell stark tales of life at the margins of society. Zack Friedman considers the ways in which Shindo’s characters manage to survive.
Consider the two meanings of the phrase “live through”: to survive or endure and to experience vicariously. They seem almost mockingly far apart; one cannot really live through what someone else has really lived through. This distinction comes to mind while watching the films of Japanese director Kaneto Shindo, whose retrospective at BAM has been titled “The Urge for Survival.” ‘Survival’ is apt—his characters, notably people struggling to reassemble life a few years after the bombing of Hiroshima and destitute inhabitants of a remote island, are alive when they very well could not be. Yet survival does not seem to be something they desire, only something that happens to them, and we cannot quite understand how.
Children of Hiroshima (1952) begins with a pan through the rubble of the ruined city before jumping to an elementary school teacher supervising gymnastics on an idyllic island. Her name is Takako (Nobuko Otowa, Shindo’s wife), and she is returning to Hiroshima, her hometown, for the first time since the bombing. As she arrives a voiceover somewhat pedagogically states, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Hiroshima, where the world’s first A-bomb victims died on August 6th, 1945… The children of that day are now grown.”
Look what the cat dragged in. . . artists. Dorothea Lasky reads poetry, Tony Conrad drags you to the edge, Futurefarmers explore the interstices, Francis Alÿs deceives, and more, including Keith Haring, Robert Greene, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Jack Smith. All that’s happening this week, in the BOMB Alert.
Design collective Futurefarmers bring their urban planning-esque work to the Guggenheim in the form of Intervals, “in the interstices of the museum’s exhibition spaces,” a “ten-day thinkery” aimed at public dialogue in public space. More info.
Click through for the rest of the week’s happenings.
Coast into Memorial Day Weekend with more art than you can fit on a picnic blanket. It’s getting athletic (by our standards): gutter balls, minigolf, sculpture gardens. . . plus Thurston Moore acoustic, cutups and collage, and a Christlike pilgrimage.
American editors and Spanish writers tell you about just how many things it is possible to screw up when translating. 7 pm at McNally Jackson.
The volume Imaginary Syllabi “includes writings which dream up, concoct and explore utopian, fabulist, fantasy syllabi for potential imagined and real classroom endeavors.” Editor Jane Sprague discusses feral sites, mongrel schools, and the all-too-real labor conditions of American education.
Zack Friedman The project seems to have two sides: it has a utopian aspect, in the sense that it seeks to not be constricted by limitations on the possible and instead pictures different ways of learning (or parodies the “rules”), but also is relatively pragmatic—many practicing teachers could implement ideas influenced by many of the syllabi in the volume. How do you reconcile these strands?
Jane Sprague I’m not sure I intend the book to “reconcile these strands”: I hope to expand them. Their contradictions. The limits certain sites of labor place on our version of “what’s possible.” What’s possible in the increasingly assessment-driven curricula endemic to higher ed.? (At least in the public sector.) How creative can you be in the composition classroom at college X where you work as contingent faculty, though no one really knows what you’re doing since no one checks. . . . And yet there you are, in the face of every ‘ism’ or ‘phobia’ you can imagine. You may want to push. You may want to provoke thinking about the war(s) and war culture, though this doesn’t sit well with Dean X, or any of the people who shudder at the idea of “hot-button” topics. So what about those of us, legion, duking it out in the trenches of what we must transmit (often called “SLOs” or “SCOs,” translation: Student Learning Outcomes; Standard Course Outlines), not to mention those of us, legion, who must teach texts pre-selected for us. And sometimes these texts have been authored by the department chair. . . . Still, in the face of all this, we forge ahead hoping to establish a space where we can work on what we hope our students might become: critical thinkers, strong writers, or at least writers who are keenly aware of the work they need to do, inquisitive readers, citizens galvanized to think beyond that which they already know. Or art makers who think outside reproducing the real and risk activism, re-thinking genre-ism, re-thinking thinking.
Blake Butler and Lily Hoang put a score and a half of writing whiz kids in their new anthology, 30 Under 30. They talk about magic, maggots, and the lack of conflict between tradition and innovation.
Thirty black-and-white ‘50s-yearbook-style photos of groomed adolescents are posed on the cover of 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction by Younger Writers. Someone scrawled hearts and fangs and silly hats all over them with magic marker. The joke’s on the youth of the writers, and possibly the put-it-up-on-the-fridge-with-a-magnet pride with which some publicize their work. It may also be a way for some people known in part for being writers on the Internet to poke fun at the old-fashioned thing they are doing by making a book. (The editors are Blake Butler and Lily Hoang, of HTML Giant, There Is No Year (Butler), and The Evolutionary Revolution (Hoang), among other accomplishments.)
The stories within this book, though they vary a great deal, seem to belong to a certain aesthetic, though it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes it so. Perhaps it’s an openness to letting new technological forms influence narrative structure: I wanted to make an Excel spreadsheet organized by attributes of the stories and then Adam Good had to go and write a story that was actually a spreadsheet. Brian Oliu’s thinking about the physicality of the Internet in a story of IP addresses and distance, and Matt Bell about video games and narrative, through the Sisyphean, repetitive story of a game about rescuing a girl from an ape. The story in here that I thought of as the best relatively formally straightforward and character-driven piece, by Rachel Glaser, gets much of its strength from the way it shows how a lot of very 21st-century specificity gets blended into the consciousness of a listless gay medical student. Cover artist Zach Dodson’s story, which is in faux handwriting in a faux composition book, seems very much a reaction to the omnipresence of the digital elsewhere. But then again, so many of the stories deal with the fantastic, sometimes in surreal or allegorical ways, Robin Hood and Hephaestus pop up, and that seems like a whole different trend.
Fiery Furnace Eleanor Friedberger has a lovely solo album that’s pretty much ultimate aestival. She talks to BOMB about feeling lost in your own city, sibling rivalry, and sentimentality.
Zack Friedman Can you tell me about the songwriting process for the new record? How was it different from making a regular Fiery Furnaces record (not that any Fiery Furnaces records are regular in any way)?
Eleanor Friedberger Well, it was very different. For me at least, the best and worst part of any collaboration, I think, is compromise. I think it’s important to have to compromise, I think it gets you something good, but when you’re working by yourself, it’s simultaneously very terrifying and liberating. I was in a position where the timing was perfect for me to do something on my own. The Fiery Furnaces had just finished a tour, we’d been touring for about a year after I’m Going Away came out, and I wanted to make something in a very short amount of time. I wanted to write songs in a month, and record them in a month, and have it come out as quickly as possible, just to see if I could do it. And I pretty much did that—with the exception of one song, I wrote them all last summer and then I started recording at the end of August and I finished it at the end of October, the beginning of November. It all did happen within a year’s time, which is pretty good, I think, considering that I didn’t know who was going to put it out, didn’t know who was going to record it. I’m happy with the way it all came together.
Renee Gladman’s novels, set in the yellow-skied, unraveling city-country Ravicka, link language and deep disorientation. She talks to BOMB about cities, sentences and the alterities therein.
Renee Gladman’s latest novels, set in a yellow-skied, unraveling city-country called Ravicka, link language and deep disorientation. In Event Factory (2010), a linguist-traveler arrives in Ravicka, which she believes she understands but does not, not really. Her attempts to speak the language, Esperanto-like in its evocation of all European languages yet none, including complex bodily rituals, elaborate concoctions of gestures and bows and dances, never quite cohere. From her errors come comedy, poignancy, and—evoking Kafka—a sense of being trapped in a system whose logic is airtight yet inaccessible. Her latest, and the second in a planned trilogy is The Ravickians, published by Dorothy. Narrated by the “Great Ravickian Novelist,” Luswage Amini, the novel begins with a meditation on its own untranslatability: “To say you have been born in Ravicka in any other language than Ravic is to say you have been hungry. That is why this story must not be translated.” Amini travels through the city and ponders its deepening crisis, which has something to do with the buildings. To give a summary—she takes the train to a park, thinks about the bridge where she met her onetime lover, hears an old friend read poetry, drinks and talks with other writers as somewhere fires start—doesn’t do it justice. Gladman’s writing is about consciousness, memory, and thought, and how these occur in urban space. She calls a city into being for this purpose, its language, culture, architecture. Yet the city itself keeps gleaming in the distance—as Gladman puts it, an idea toward which the characters reach, rather than something that is revealed.
Zack Friedman I’ll start things off with some comments based on Event Factory. To me, a central theme of this book was fluency. The narrator has a formal intellectual understanding of the language and culture of Ravicka, but lacks the practical understanding that comes from lived experience within the city and its traditions or the native speaker’s true facility with natural speech. I was struck by the detail that went into this—the slightly awkward or clumsy phrasing of the narrator is rendered perfectly. What elements of your own personal background with language learning, teaching, and translating (not to mention iffy tourism) went into these books? Are there certain ideas about language and culture that influenced you or that you find coming through in the books?
Renee Gladman I wrote the first two books of the series without ever having left the North American continent. At the time of the writing, I experienced a kind of paradox. It had something to do with the filmmaker Béla Tarr. I’m not sure how to explain this. Seeing his work, in particular the 7.5-hour Satantango—as well as the work of the Polish filmmaker Kieślowski, and the Russians Tarkovsky and Sokurov—created in me some instinct of belonging.