Read newer BOMB Bits here.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) teaches its graduates how to sell out once again this year. Artrepreneur Kits filled with practical goodies give RISD graduates the tools to fulfill their creative careers by acknowledging the long-dreaded “business side” of things.
For the graduate with the most promising shop, Etsy has teamed up with RISD awarding the first Etsy-RISD fellowship grant of $1,500 to attend a small-business summit on enterprise and sustainability in Berlin, Germany. This business “bag-o-tricks” also includes a credit card reader by Square that plugs into mobile phones, allowing budding artists to sling their work table-side at festivals, from the backs of shady vans, or wherever else a spontaneous sale might strike. Graduates receive a free trial with Behance’s new portfolio website Prosite, an Action Journal, and 2GB of free file storage for three months at YouSendIt.
In this economy artists may not be getting the love they deserve, but with RISD’s Artrepreneur Kits they can now claim entrepreneurial autonomy without the guilt of wearing a suit.
Book hoarders, lovers of literature, those who seek out unconventional and unpredictable arrangements of words! Line your libraries with guaranteed upsetters of the apple cart—it’s a summer sale from Dalkey Archive Press. Speaking from the heart here: absolutely one of the greatest publishers out there. Dalkey (name comes from a hilarious and wonderful Flann O’Brien novel) keeps classic authors of “experimental” literature like Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein in print, champions new writers, including many in translation, and has series of national literature from places even geography bee All-Stars have never heard of. Some recommendations: Stanley Crawford’s Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine, which depicts marriage as a not-quite-Eden on a solitary and fantastic barge, the jagged and detached short stories of Diane Williams, which are filled with linguistic invention and emotional violence, Joshua Cohen’s immense Witz, the story of the last Jew on earth and an encyclopedia of all of the different registers of American Jewish language, everything by Harry Mathews, the wide-ranging and complex novels of Juan Goytisolo, Patrik Ouredník’s historical journeys and detours, Dubravka Ugresic’s sly metaliterary tricks, and of course, the boozy and brilliant books of Flann O’Brien (At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman), filled with stolen characters, absurd debates, and an astonishing sense of humor that overruns anything you think is true about literature. Sounds like too much? Dalkey’s selling bundles of ten books, so if anything you’ll need more.
It’s a hard world to bring a magazine into. Constantly folding, going under, barely scraping by. . . it’s a wonder anyone bothers. But it’s a hard world to bring a baby into, or a puppy, and that’s never stopped anyone. So let’s salute two magazines, a twenty-year veteran and a fresh-faced youngster. Plazm is a Portland-based magazine founded by a group of artists in 1991. It’s beautiful—as they say of the need for print, “It isn’t something you look at for thirty seconds and then get distracted by a cat video on YouTube.” (BOMB Bits will send you here.) Printer problems imperil their 20th anniversary issue. We cannot let that happen! Give ‘em a kick!
Outpost is “a journey into the creative heart of a place.” That place: Pittsburgh. Well, not exactly—each issue will bring you art from an overlooked city as a way of showing how creative communities emerge and thrive on the fringes. For the first issue, they’ve commissioned a local knitter to make a cardigan for an 11-foot statue of Mr. Rogers. Don’t leave him out in the cold! Give ‘em a kick!
Take a look—it’s a mitzvah.
Open up to Outpost.
Plazm’s plaintive plea.
Annie Clark of St. Vincent plays the vicious and vile music of Big Black.
Boring college rock karaoke nostalgia-fest or heartfelt tribute to DIY pioneers? Don’t know, don’t care. Our Band Could Be Your Concert, 21st-century bands covering the ‘80s crew who were the subjects of Michael Azerrad’s wonderful Our Band Could Be Your Life, gave the people what they wanted: the not-quite-hits. Besides, it has given the Internet videos of great songs covered in both reverent and bizarre ways, and what more can anyone ask for these days?
Sunday at the Bowery Ballroom, a bunch of the yutes did their best to live up to the standards of fourteen ‘80s bands (and one extra.) In the hands of Delicate Steve and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, the Minutemen’s “History Lesson, Pt. II” (source of Azerrad’s title; poor quality video here) was like a campfire singalong around an enormous trashcan fire; a tribute to inspiration and the late D. Boon. tUnE-YaRds, covering Sonic Youth, looped several different recordings of her voice over one another to build up to a dense thicket of sound, thwacking the drums and finally shrieking the song’s few words. As she said to BOMB, “This is my voice. I can really use it for all it’s worth.” A glowering Ted Leo stalked the stage, screaming Ian MacKaye’s lyrics into a mic, accompanied only by an ancient reel-to-reel onto which he’d recorded backing tracks. The slight-seeming St. Vincent showed off more rage than just about anyone else as she matched Steve Albini bile-for-bile on Big Black’s “Bad Penny” (pulling off the “I fucked your girlfriend” bit!) and “Kerosene.” (Hey, have you seen Albini’s cooking blog?)
Despite the battle-of-the-bands atmosphere, there was little in the way of masquerade—at least not straightforward imitation. The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, contractually obligated to show up anywhere anything Minnesotan is getting referenced, dressed up in a police uniform and tried to break up the party just as Titus Andronicus was kicking off their set of Replacements covers, just like on Stink, before crowd-surfing. Dan Deacon did the Dan Deacon thing—a space explorer behind a smoke machine and console playing the Butthole Surfers with his band. After the closing song, a lovely layered version of Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer” by helium-voiced Yellow Ostrich, Azerrad urged the audience to go out there and make what they want to make—music, a novel, “vegan brownies”—and then crowd-surfed as members of different bands came together for some Nirvana.
tUnE-YaRdS plays Sonic Youth’s “Burning Spear.”
Ted Leo and his reel-to-reel make like Minor Threat.
The all-stars play “Lithium.”
Listen to the whole thing at NPR.
If everything on the internet is new again, if there is some eternal recurrence of the linkable, then it is most certainly time for the Gostak. It is a text-based game in which entering commands allows you to progress through its world. However, the language one must speak is not quite English. Nouns, adjectives, and verbs have all been replaced with lovely Lewis Carrollesque Jabberwockese. Here’s the opening description: “This is the delcot of tondam, where gitches frike and duscats glake. Across from a tophthed curple, a gomway deaves to kiloff and kirf, gombing a samilen to its hoff.” The syntax is there, the pronouns, prepositions, and articles, as well as the rules of word order and some affixation, but absolutely nothing of this is comprehensible. At least at first. Play around with it a little bit and you’ll pick up some basic vocabulary—perhaps “doatch” and “gomb” will nudge out their standard English equivalents (sorry, no hints) and bits of the Gostak will creep into your everyday speech, appalling and confusing your friends and loved ones, and another world will glimmer in the distance, Tlönlike. There are probably some comments to be made about the philosophy of language (the phrase “the gostak distims the doshes” is used to demonstrate the possibility of deriving meaning through syntax), but perhaps it is better to simply say “Vorling is the fesh of ghelipers.”
Comics were counterculture before anyone knew it. Talking animals, wild fonts, weird suspensions of logic and satire you had to be in the know to pick up on . . . it’s a wonder the House only held hearings on superheroes. But it’s a whole different animal when cats start selling their homemade comics (scratch that, comix) out of a baby carriage on the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Robert Crumb’s Zap was anti-war and pro-drugs, full of sex and scatology, but also dark and neurotic, sex-obsessed and self-criticizing. Other Zap artists, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, and Robert Williams, are known for Dead album covers, counterculture posters, and other comix including East Village Other, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and Captain Piss Gums and Perverted Pirates. These guys made more college dorm posters than all the Impressionists put together. To catch up on what you missed out on or what just kinda uh got lost in the haze, check them all out at the exhibition Zap: Masters of Psychedelic Art, 1965-74, showing at Andrew Edlin Gallery 5/12-6/25.
Oh, Crumb’s illustrated Book of Genesis from a couple years back is pretty great too—here in the office, we just flipped it open to a random page and it was Lot with his daughters. Sick!
Too out there for the Velvet Underground? Angus MacLise, the band’s first drummer (he played bongos), “withdrew when he found out that at a paying job he had to start and stop playing when told to. No one told Angus to stop playing,” according to Lou Reed. His post-Velvets career included collaborations with La Monte Young, John Cale, Jack Smith, and Tony Conrad, forays into drone and electronic music, and exploration of Tibetan Buddhism.
Boo-Hooray’s “DREAMWEAPON” exhibit digs up a whole lot of things MacLise made during his ‘60s and ‘70s orbits and syzygies with various luminaries or while charting his own course. Poetry, artists’ books, drawings, manuscripts, calligraphy, and ephemera all give off that distracted-brilliant sixties sense of an overactive mind. Over 100 hours of recorded music (including tirades against “fucking asshole cop motherfuckers,” upon whose souls he placed a “powerful curse”) exist and have been arranged into a sound installation; DREAMWEAPON I and III LPs, recordings from the MacLise archive featuring Angus MacLise, Tony Conrad, and Jack Smith, are also now available from Boo-Hooray.
An opening party tonight (Boo-Hooray, 521 W. 23rd Street) includes a performance by Endless Boogie, acclaimed by BOMB for “focusing, with incredible discipline, on chasing single monolithic choogle out on the horizon.”
A couple weeks ago, David Kilgour of kiwi rock semi-fame (The Clean, now the Heavy Eights) shared a mixtape with BOMBlog. Not surprisingly, his selections were jangly and full of reverb, somewhere between sunny indolence and inaccessible introversion. Kilgour and the Heavy Eights’ Left By Soft is now out from Merge (stream on the site), and on it the guitars chime and slide and tiptoe with a melancholy Santo & Johnny by way of the Velvet Underground spacy sweetness. “A Break In The Weather” has lovely, seemingly effortless vocal and guitar melodies; “Diamond Mine” is maybe more where it’s at for electric guitar types, with languid bright notes slipping beneath your feet.
And while we’re at it, a Clean classic:
Everything is possible, or nothing is, or both are true at the same time.
The Bay Area. Whatever they do there must have a distinctively Californian mix of innocence and depravity. A certain wild-eyed wonder comes through in the program Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, a sampler of videos showing at Anthology Film Archives today and Saturday and MoMA Sunday and Monday. The shorts showing are only a few of the ones discussed in the massive Radical Light book released concurrently. . . but there are a lot of weird things you can do with a camera in this one. There’s a screening devoted to Sidney Peterson’s collaborative film workshops as well as one of videos of punk bands recorded by punker filmmakers. ...Therefore I Am documents filmmakers getting Cartesian behind the camera (including Joanne Kyger’s Descartes, 1968.) Lots of good work by female filmmakers, particularly Lynn Hershman’s Confessions of a Chameleon, and various bits of proto-feminist play with domestic imagery, the confined mental space of the housewife, and the appearance of the Mother Goddess. The program jumps around chronologically, which also allows you to watch technological change affecting the output of experimental filmmakers.
At Anthology: Sidney Peterson
Fri 7:30, ...Therefore I Am Sat 6:45, Punk, Attitudinal Sat
9. At MoMA, screenings Sun 2, Mon @ 5 and 7.
Anthology Film Archives will be screening the films of novelist and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer from April 29th to May 5th. The retrospective, titled Drop Edges of Yonder: the Films of Rudy Wurlitzer, will feature Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (featuring the very short Bob Dylan in a bit part), the hippie post-apocalypse fable Glen and Randa, Alex Cox’s Walker, experimental films made in collaboration with Robert Frank, and Monte Hellman’s masterpiece Two Lane Blacktop. This last one is a truly great film. Starring the borderline catatonic duo of James Taylor and Dennis Wilson, alongside Warren Oates in what I’d say is his greatest role, the film begins as a typical ‘70s road movie, following two outlaw gearheads as they race their way across the southwest. Once Oates appears, however, things get strange. His character, known only as GTO (after the model of car he drives), appears to be a tough hombre at first, but as the film progresses and the nationwide race devolves into a series of drifting, beautifully filmed vignettes and pit-stops, it becomes clear that he’s simply a desperately lonely man. Oates’s genius is to somehow make this guy incredibly funny.
Two Lane Blacktop is often called “existential,” but I’d say that “zen” is a more apt term for it, as the characters seek balance in movement, in the perpetually motion of the road. While Wilson and Taylor’s characters seem able to thrive on this uncertainty, GTO becomes progressively unhinged, his personal history increasingly confused and contradictory as he shuffles personas for each new hitchhiker he picks up (including a hilarious Harry Dean Stanton). In the end, he seems unable to recognize any aspect of himself save an urge for speed, for novelty, for some brief thrill to remind him that he’s alive. Which I guess is fairly existential after all.
Two Lane Blacktop is playing at Anthology Film Archives on Saturday, April 30th at 5:30 pm and on Monday, May 2nd at 7 pm. Keep your eyes open for Wurlitzer himself in a small part as a bitter drag racer.
BOMB is psyched to be selected by Fiction Writers Review for their “Journal of the Week” column, and thrilled to be in such esteemed company as past features One Story, Ploughshares, and Gulf Coast. They’ve done their homework over at FWR in preparation for the post, and it shows (how else would they know the real inspiration for our magazine’s title?). A website about writers for writers, produced and edited by other writers, Fiction Writers Review has a lot in common with BOMB, most importantly, in their aim to foster conversation about writing and storytelling technique. And their post couldn’t be better timed too, as BOMBlog just published the first part of a two-part interview with author George Saunders. We’re grateful for the opportunity to answer their four interview questions, too, so if you’re curious about the role BOMB plays in the literary community, how the web has affected our editorial methodology, or even just what’s currently playing on the BOMB stereo these days, go read Michael Rudin’s post in its entirety (if only because there are a few special surprises for readers who get to the end). Thanks FWR, keep up the good work!
The Convincing Victory: Two Stories on What Really Happened, by Belarusian artist Marina Naprushkina, published in both English and Russian by the Frankfurt-based Office of Anti-Propaganda and supported in part by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, documents two reports of events leading up to and surrounding the 2010 presidential election in Belarus: the government-controlled media’s story and the story taken from voters, demonstrators, and victims of violence. Printed as a large-format newspaper relating these two versions side by side, The Convincing Victory is a blow-by-blow comparison of the incongruous statements in both stories.
December 19, 2010, election day in Belarus, ended in mass protests, arrests, and clashes with the police in Minsk. Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Belarusian president since July 1994, ran against nine opposition candidates, some of whom reported to have been attacked or arrested—or both. Thousands of people gathered in the center of Minsk to protest electoral fraud after the polls closed, but as they rallied at the government headquarters and the central election commission building, they were thrown back by riot police. Dozens of protesters and a number of journalists, including a reporter and a photographer for the New York Times, were injured. Additionally, limited access to the Internet and social media and opposition Web sites in Minsk was reported throughout the day.
Through works like The Convincing Victory, Naprushkina, a painter and video installation artist whose work has been exhibited widely in Russia and Europe and was included in the 2009 Istanbul Biennial, seeks to shed light on the confusion and conflicts that took place in Belarus during what should have been a peaceful democratic process. Free copies of The Convincing Victory are available through CEC Artslink.
—Kevin Kinsella is a writer and translator (from Russian) living in Brooklyn. His latest book, a translation of Sasha Chernyi’s Poems from Children’s Island, is now available through Lightful Press.
Poets thrive on constraint, from sparse haiku to six six-line stanzas in which the same six final words are used, but in a different order each time. It’s unsurprising that they should be drawn to that most Oulipean of social networking platforms, Twitter. For National Poetry Month, the Academy of American Poets has had a new guest poet take over its Twitter feed daily. Some have posted unmonitorable immensities, others more tamely; subjects have ranged from favorite quotes and poems line-by-line to minutiae to lovely aphorisms and shards. A sampling: “Boiling chickpeas for dinner, skimming off their translucent coats: a sink full of angel wings.” “The Philadelphia Poetry Hotel is a dream of mine which WILL be realized! http://poetryhotel.blogspot.com/ I HAVE NO DOUBT ABOUT IT!” “Bons mots, mai tais, and bugbears will be intermittent as this typist lurches from plane to plane.” “Bon Jovi begat snooky begat poetry.” “Nation-state = language = pineapples = tamales = your face operating independent of the eye.” “Hardly any of this stuff is about poetry. But then again neither is most poetry.” “Let’s all take a ride on the ontology train!!!” “If #NationalPoetryMonth trends, it’ll probably be the first time in history that poetry was in sync with trends.”
Weather’s a little gritty in New York. Sure, crime rates might be down and rents up, but maybe a gust of No Wave is hitting the city. Céline Danhier’s documentary Blank City digs up the downtown scene of the late 70s and early 80s with a wealth of clips, archival trips, and interviews with filmmakers. Heads talking here include Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Lydia Lunch, Debbie Harry, Thurston Moore—and read interviews from BOMB’s early days with Amos Poe, featured in the doc, Jarmusch, and Becky Johnston. Anthology Film Archives pitches in with showings of Eric Mitchell’s Underground U.S.A. and Kidnapped—see what BOMB 1 had to say about Mitchell here. Next weekend, Anthology brings back Bette Gordon (read her on “Women Looking At Other Women” in BOMB 2), while The Kitchen remembers its 1981 ‘Aluminum Nights’ fundraiser with a pair of concerts featuring Bush Tetras, Z’EV, George Lewis, and Love of Life Orchestra. To commemorate these shows, the ROIR label is pressing a limited-edition 7” of the Tetras’ “You Can’t Be Funky”/”Too Many Creeps.” (They’re on the Blank City soundtrack, along with Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Sonic Youth, and the rest.) This was seriously an incredible time for film in New York, just as into sleaze as art. So make that void the one you enter. Just because the cost of drugs and movie tickets has gone up doesn’t mean Super-8 and 16mm look any worse. Or better.
It’s only mid-afternoon, but inside Vadis Turner’s studio it feels more like that liquid moment late at night, when a celebration has gone on for hours and the atmosphere is permeated with a mix of intimacy and delirium. Bubble wrap, balloons, and bodies fill her studio space just prior to the opening of her new exhibit “Burial Party” at Lyons Weir Gallery. The saturated colors, and the improbable postures of things, give the room an off-kilter feel. Even the Velvet Underground songs playing on the stereo seem like they might’ve been on repeat for a long, long time. You get the sense that Turner’s exhibition has reached that phase of completion where the work is not only ready to be shown, but longs to be shown. Vadis herself feels ready to turn the lights on her work.
“It’s strange, an opening…,” she says. “The process of making the work is a completely private act. And then in one instant, it goes completely public. But I have labored, and I feel really excited.”
“Burial Party” opens at Lyons Weir Gallery in New York City from 6–8pm, Thursday, April 7.
Dear Readers of BOMB Bits, please proceed with caution as you are now being led into an extremely cluttered and unkempt corner of the Internet. The links that bring you to the work of German filmmaker Hans-Jürgen Syberberg have pitfalls containing the most menacing horrors of the 20th Century, but, as our web editors have passed them around the office the last few days, we have found that the value of the experience outweighs the potential dangers.
What is workly about the work of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg has stirred contentious debate. Having enraptured the likes of Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze and Francis Ford Coppola, his films are now delegated to this dark and dusty webspace, as their distribution has become so rare and expensive that the director has decided to offer them on his own site for a suggested donation of one dollar. The webpage alone is enough to keep some back, as it has an aesthetic one could imagine being developed by schizophrenic cats, but if you are able to navigate the layout and the German, it can lead to a completely unique film experience.
The most important film here is Hitler: A Film From Germany. This is 442 minutes that combines the techniques of Wagner, Brecht, puppetry and Charlie Chaplin to explore how the German population became infatuated by Nazism. The contention should now be obvious: this isn’t a film about the atrocities enacted by Nazis, but instead an attempt to portray how the infatuation happened. This is where you need to read Sontag’s essay on the film, and if you wish to delve further, Deleuze’s Cinema 2. We’ll leave you with the following from Cinema 2, and from there you can enter the fray:
“And it is true that up to the end Nazism thinks of itself in competition with Hollywood. The revolutionary courtship of the movement-image and an art of the masses become subject was broken off, giving way to the masses subjected as psychological automaton, and to their leader as great spiritual automaton. This is what compels Syberberg to say that that the end-product of the movement-image is Leni Riefenstahl, and if Hitler is to be put on trial by cinema, it must be inside cinema, against Hitler the film-maker, in order to ‘defeat him cinematographically, turning his weapons against him’.”
Watch more of the film here.
Doomed missions, epics that are anything but sprawling, protagonists that are murderers, scientists, soldiers, even women—no one can accuse Jim Shepard of playing it safe when it comes to short stories. Last night at Greenlight Bookstore, Shepard read only the introductions to three stories from his latest collection, You Think That’s Bad. He then spent the rest of the night taking questions from the audience. And given his candid style and unusual subject matter, there were plenty. He seemed to not even realize that the tough questions were tough—even “So, what’s the story behind your mustache?” (A: he’s been growing it since high school). Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore’s co-owner, called Shepard a “writer’s writer.” It’s clear why. Shepard has a humanizing way of explaining his work that resonates with writers especially. He does not claim to be a mere channel through which his message reaches the world. Nor was he the obsessive artist we sometimes picture writers to be, laboring over a keyboard for years to produce big fat novels. Shepard has an unassuming nature that is evident from spending time with him and a grasp on the authentic that is evident from reading his stories.
Canadian pop eviscerator Dan Bejar, the body that voices the band Destroyer, makes songs out of disillusioned strings of references to other songs in which girls and art and politics are all sort of metaphors for each other but also just mean the realization of some vague loss that encompasses the whole world and yourself and is unbearably sad. Usually these sound a bit like David Bowie, but his most recent record, Kaputt, draws upon the reviled sounds of smooth jazz. And while Destroyer’s lyrics have always been much of the appeal, the words to album highlight “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker” come from text written on cue cards the titular artist gave to Bejar.
As collaborations go, this one would seem unlikely. Bejar said in an interview, “someone is going to ask me what the song is about, and I’m going to say “maybe it’s about black women’s experience in America over the last 400 years,” and… I’m not American, I’m not black, and I’m not a woman.” Yet both artists share an interest in appropriation and recontextualization, taking loaded images and making striking new work from them. Walker’s famous for her silhouette cutouts, which take 19th-century images of African-Americans and place them into surreal and horrific scenes of racial and sexual violence and humiliation. In BOMB, she said, “I like the way people invent things and lie, and construct identities for themselves as a form of storytelling.” Destroyer’s fragments don’t have this history to them, yet share this theory of narrative. Hearing lines like “Harmless little Negress, you got to say yes to another excess” over the self-effacing sound of a borrowed disco beat, the identity of the singer seems a creature apart from either Bejar or Walker. It’s all on the surface, interiority concealed or deceptive: “All that slender-wristed, white, translucent business passes for love these days.”
Destroyer plays Webster Hall Sunday 4/3.
We long for the days when they used to say rock and roll and teenage sexuality were some kind of threat. When kids in leather jackets on bikes could roll into a suburban town and have it seem ominous. But while the days of James Dean and The Wild One might be gone, that 50s aesthetic is still kind of great. Sometimes images that were once used to suggest danger can conjure a sort of innocence, other times maybe there’s something weird and menacing and dark that seeps in through it.
Eddie O’Keefe’s short film The Ghosts is about “Girls, Boys, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Sex, Guns, Leather, Summer, Humidity, Suburbia.” According to O’Keefe’s blog, The Teenage Head, he “digs pretty girls, patty melts, rock ‘n’ roll and the month of October.” There’s a girl who’s a bit of a drip, some knives and ferris wheels, and maybe a little time travel. It’s kind of cute, and if it can’t tell if it wants to make you unsettled or sad it still manages to do both.
While you’re at it, check out Dirty Beaches, whose Badlands is out today from Zoo Music. Listen to this and you will believe that at this very moment you are sitting in The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks while somewhere else an attractive high schooler with a secret double life is getting murdered.
Last Thursday, Poets House commemorated legendary Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert in a way that the poet himself would have appreciated. An in-depth panel discussion titled “A Poet’s Prose: The Poetic Vision of Zbigniew Herbert” explored the poignant honesty and modest beauty of Herbert’s poetry. Poet and essayist Edward Hirsch, poet and translator Alissa Valles, and Polish poet Adam Zagajewski headlined the event, each contributing a unique perspective by reading Herbert’s poems aloud and then discussing them. The panel also featured a book—made exclusively for this event—that included selected poems, photos, drawings, and short essays by the panelists and other admirers, which provided valuable context for those unfamiliar with his work. Living in Poland during World War II, Herbert was, as Hirsch put it, “completely aware of what we do to each other.” Zagajewski captured the poet’s work in these closing remarks from his essay in the book: “This poetry is about the pain of the twentieth century, about accepting cruelty of an inhuman age, about an extraordinary sense of reality. And the fact that at the same time the poet loses none of his lyricism or his sense of humor—this is the unfathomable secret of a great artist.”
All around the world stirs, but BOMB Bits is mired in a gray and gloomy sleep. To trap you in the same dim state, here are a few works that will make you use the word ‘oneiric.’
Delia Ann Derbyshire’s Dreams (1964) is a musique concrete collage of spliced interviews in which people describe their dreams over hazy electronic sounds. Its five movements encompass running, falling, land, sea, and color. Listen at UBUweb.
In 1909, Sigmund Freud, on his only trip to the United States, visited Coney Island—and later called America “a gigantic mistake.” A hundred years later, media artist Zoe Beloff’s Dreamland: The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and Its Circle, 1926-1972 presented home movies supposedly shot by members of this society. The crude Freudian symbolism of the dreams and naive faith in psychoanalysis is touching and makes Beloff’s fictional immigrants human presences.
Marry Ellen Bute’s 1965-7 Passages from Finnegans Wake transforms Joyce into a surreal film—too late for St. Patrick’s Day, but watch ninety minutes and you too can become the River Liffey.
Have you written a book without the letter e? Yes. Have you written a book where the only vowel is e? Yes. Do you deserve a raise?
The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, a previously untranslated novel by OuLiPo author Georges Perec, was just released by Verso, and with it comes an online game to help you hone this art. Choose yes or no and see if anything gets you anywhere. (“Ask if one of his daughters has measles.”) Especially recommended for interns! Think about the relationship of constraint to narrative, of games to literature, and the moral and emotional claims of works categorized as mathematical and purely formal. As Harry Mathews said in a BOMB interview, “For Perec, writing was a kind of salvation. It was justification by works.”
Sure, BOMB Bits loves books. We like writers and words and all that stuff. But going to readings… well, there’s a reason no one’s ever started a mosh pit while Jonathan Franzen’s talking. A little dull, is all. We’re hoping Blake Butler’s going to do better. The HTML Giant founder and some of his pals are doing a marathon reading of new novel There is No Year. The entire goddamn thing. Over four days. Now maybe this’ll be like one of those readings where the writer doesn’t know when to stop and you have to use your entire reserves of politeness just to keep your eyes somewhere above the floor, except worse, since it will go on forever. But maybe it will be like what you thought Bloomsday would be like when you were seventeen, a magical explosion of language and booze and literary camaraderie, whatever that’s a euphemism for. Go check it out. And read an excerpt at Viceland, not that it will make anything clearer.
Here at BOMBlog, we’re into ephemerality, and what could be more ephemeral than instant reactions to an excerpt of a mammoth unfinished novel? On Monday, the New Yorker posted the late David Foster Wallace’s Backbone from the forthcoming The Pale King. It opens, “Every whole person has ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals. This one particular boy’s goal was to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his own body.” As in much of his later fiction, Wallace uses the detached, clinical tone and technical vocabulary (“dextrorotated,” “splenius capitis,” “baculiform”) of the case history to both portray alienation and suggest a way past it. A clear theme is the quest for self-knowledge as a source of pain, with abstractions (including the titular metaphor of “backbone” or “spine”) rendered as a struggle with the body. Naturally, we are proud to contribute to #paleking, #dfw, #davidfosterwallace, which have showed admirable restraint when judging whether this story will sabotage Wallace’s posthumous reputation once and for all.
A throng of enthusiastic students, little but not exactly monsters (boys looking to meet either girls or boys would be advised to drop by) flooded FIT’s auditorium Wednesday evening for, of all things, a panel discussion. Irene Buchman, chair of the Presidential Scholars program, spoke of an interest in expanding the lecture series to incorporate popular culture, and realizing that for the heavily female student body, an ideal subject would be Lady Gaga. Fashion historian Valerie Steele spoke of the pop star’s influences, from Madonna and glam rock to Warhol and Lee Bowery. “The space between clothes and naked skin,” she said, is the key to eroticism, with good clothes being a “static striptease.” Critic Christopher Weingarten discussed her music videos, arguing that the anachronism of Gaga’s creation of spectacle makes her so compelling. Cultural critic Jason King drew some fire from the audience for saying that if she can’t do a ballad, she can’t connect with her audience. Unlike Steele and Weingarten, whose interest in Lady Gaga stems from her controlled and dense use of reference, King wants authentic emotion. Yet for many, students said, the appeal of Lady Gaga is her creation of an identity unconstrained by the facts of biography, and they connect with her through performance.
Fiction innovators Ben Marcus and Joseph McElroy were found at Spoonbill & Sugartown Wednesday night—Marcus reading from The Flame Alphabet (Knopf, Jan. 2012), while McElroy read two pieces from his recent collection Night Soul and Other Stories (Dalkey Archive). Both postulate a language of children cut off from the words of adults, domestic Babels. In The Flame Alphabet, Marcus explained, a husband and wife become strangely sick and learn that they are suffering from “language toxicity” brought on by the speech of children. Unlike Marcus’ previous works, this novel has a relatively traditional narrative (formally, not thematically) and conventional prose style, yet its concern with the mutability and violence of language shares much with The Age of Wire and String and Notable American Women. McElroy read the title story, in which a father listens to the “string of sounds” made by his infant son. He hears vowelish sounds and then the “lids” of consonants and seeks patterns, breaking apart his own words and his wife’s to learn a transitional and impermanent language. His choice of story—based on “seeing what was in front of me when I stood up”—complemented the work of the younger Marcus, who called McElroy “worth ripping off.”
Tom Petty’s answer to Neil Hagerty’s question, Big Search’s Matt Popieluch has been bumming around California for the past decade or so, surfacing on occasion as the front man for indie rock shoulda-beens Foreign Born and as third (fourth?) guitar for Afro-boogie collective Fool’s Gold. Popieluch has also played with Cass McCombs, Glasser and the Papercuts, a resume that provides some idea of the diversity of his tastes as well as his appreciation of song-craft. His recent record on Secretly Canadian’s St. Ives imprint, Lay of the Land, features plenty of the later, alongside with some more experimental jams reminiscent of Cats and Dogs-era Royal Trux. You’ll no doubt be hearing more from this guy in the near future. Like this Sunday, if you’re in New York.
Big Search plays Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg this Sunday, February 27th, alongside the Bow Ribbons and Hiro Kone. Check out his new single on White Iris Records too. For a preview, here’s a link to a radio show Mr. Search recently recorded.
I met PMD on Essex Street in the Lower East Side, where he was trying to sell me framed art of bawdy scenes, photocopied and then drawn on with marker. I had just left the New Museum feeling directionless. He told me he was from South Africa and was trying to raise money to return home, and then he made me laugh several times. As he started to walk in his own direction, he passed me a flyer for his debut opening at a startup DIY venue in Brooklyn called Youth Group Gallery. I visited PMD’s show at YGG, which will be up until March 1. You can find details on the Youth Group Gallery website.
Jon Rafman, in collaboration with Tabor Robak, has posted some new netart. BNPJ.exe is an interactive narrative based in an application designed like a first person video game. Beginning with a blue powder snorted up the nose, these netartists send you into a disorientating world full of hypnotic and strangely familiar images via your computer screen. Download BNPJ.exe (for Mac or PC) here. Of course, BOMBlog has an interview with Rafman here, which may help remedy any confusion caused by the BNPJ.exe experience.
A representive from Voina emailed BOMBlog recently to relay some unfortunate news. The judge overseeing the imprisoned artists pre-trial hearing refused an offer from Banksy, who wanted to post bail of US $ 133,000 in order to release the artists under recognizance not to leave before the trail. The two members of Voina are accused of “hooliganism, committed by an organized group with a motive of hate or enmity towards a certain social group,” for their political action art. They are facing up to 7 years. The conditions in the prison are substandard, as the two artists are kept in “mass cells together with prisoners, infected by hepatitis, T.B., AIDS, etc.” Voina reports.
“That’s how we roll, yo, it’s a Kickstarter thing.” — RSM