Raúl de Nieves and Colin Self get metaphysical with collaborative performances, dance parties, and the challenging of corporeal limitations.
I’ve been seeing a lot of Raúl de Nieves and Colin Self this month. I’ve been admiring De Nieves’s work since seeing some of his gallery shows and his performances both in Ryan Trecartin’s videos and at Trecartin’s closing party at MoMA P.S.1 last year, Dis RT, and Self’s since seeing him perform with the band Ssion and at his monthly party, Clump.
Natasha Stagg discusses Joann Sfar’s tribute film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. Stagg questions the role of women in Gainsbourg’s life and on film, as he uses his power to transform them, and their power to transform himself.
When I think of Serge Gainsbourg, first I think of the women with which he was involved, and the way these relationships affected their careers. For example, Gainsbourg clearly liked to invest in the amateur. France Gall (played by Sara Forestier) was a teen when he started writing songs for her, and Brigitte Bardot (played by Laetitia Casta) and Jane Birkin (played by Lucy Gordon) were actors, not really singers, when he met them. There is much to the theme of transformation in Gainsbourg’s life—he becomes a man he created, so to speak; he makes stars out of girls and women by writing for them; and his longest-lasting love, Birkin, did a lot to change Gainsbourg’s image in return. The film makes an interesting use of special effects to make this point. This is a movie about persona, whether it is that of a scandalized Jew during the 1940s, a scandal-driving socialite during the 1970s, or a scummy drunk wearing double-denim and white Repettos during the 1980s.
What do Hannah Montana and Dorothea Brook have in common? Natasha Stagg shares her insights into contemporary tween culture through the lens of MoMA’s recent exhibition Drama Queens.
Melodrama is very in. Understand, this means it’s back, which means it was in several times before. Think 1950s oversaturated dramas and 1890s romantic Victorian novels, and all of the reincarnations of each. Think soap operas, music videos and high camp. Making a connection from these to current trends at first feels counterintuitive: We’re trying to dissect the facades in our post-Y2K existence in order to experience the real. But the more we are subjected to new dimensions of identity-politics (social networking, reality TV, you know the list), the more we must accept a new variousness of living. It makes sense that instead of flattening out our lives, both we (that is, adults) and the youth have become inclined to amplify the most generic emotions. We love, we hate, we cling to gender roles. Men talk to the backs of women’s crying heads, and everyone ends up where they started in the end. In melodramatic interpretations of life, earnestness is not essential. We see this pointed at in Madame Bovary, we see it mimicked in Pink Flamingos, and we see it played out in Hannah Montana.
Ryan McNamara’s familiarity with celebrity extends far beyond the name of his cat. With a new exhibition at Elizabeth Dee on the horizon, the artist is poised to show New York what he’s made of—and it’s not just papier-mâché.
I met with Ryan McNamara in his Williamsburg studio, which is surprisingly quiet for being so close to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. His cat, Celebrity, a stocky black male with noticeable white whiskers, greets me by rubbing against my legs, then quickly retires to a couch to sleep for the rest of the two hours I’m there. McNamara is working on some découpaged papier-mâché sculptures, so his surfaces are covered in Xeroxed cutouts and painted 3-D shapes. The ceiling’s covering is not his work but that of his studio-mate’s, and looks like miniature paper rafters, decorated sparingly with one-of-a-kind paper snowflakes. The atmosphere is altogether charming, each detail seemingly significant. This makes sense when considering McNamara’s work, which is, in a world where spontaneity and chaos can stand in for performance art cred, pretty near flawless. We watch a mini-retrospective video produced for the Elizabeth Dee Channel, which is charming and informative. McNamara’s work doesn’t take itself too seriously, but its production quality is striking. This isn’t to say that the work is always clean—sometimes, it’s far from it.
Natasha Stagg sits down with Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of Dogtooth, to discuss his new film Alps.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s films are largely about control. In Dogtooth, nominated for an Oscar in 2009, three adolescents are taught an invented dialect and set of rules by their parents. The two girls and boy are isolated from any outside influence via scare tactics (the cat is described as a beast who would attack a runaway) and false hope (they can leave the house and its fenced-off yard when their canines come out). The resulting atmosphere is game-like, with each act of rebellion more extreme and more juvenile than the last. Even sex is made into a lesson, taught, of course, by the parents, with the aid of one female non-relative. This setup doesn’t help much in distracting from the temptation of incest. Because of this controversial depiction of family-life, Dogtooth’s release worldwide as a subtitled Greek film faced varying degrees of resistance.
Lanthimos’s newest film, Alps (2011), which plays in New York July 13th to the 19th at Cinema Village and will be screened nationwide in later months, deals with a new set of rules. A team called Alps—named for the mountain range’s singularity—services the bereaved by replacing, for a time, the deceased. The leader, a paramedic, names himself Mont Blanc and asks each other group member to adopt a nickname from the Alps. Since the team’s job is to replace loved ones, their attitudes should match the status of the tallest mountains: nothing can match them, and if they were to stand in for any other mountains, their presence would be superior to their predecessors’. The leader also hands out a list of rules, which the film’s audience is not privy to. For fun, says Lanthimos, he and his co-writer, Efthimis Filippou, wrote the rules after the movie was finished, and included this list in screeners. You can find these sprinkled into fan posts and anticipatory trailer reviews all over the Internet now, as Dogtooth’s spare, relentless style and controversial subject matter has earned Lanthimos a much-deserved cult following. Listed below are the fifteen rules, irrelevant to the story’s plot but telling of the creative process.