Listen to James Benning discuss his recent film Easy Rider as part of last month’s First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image.
This podcast is presented in partnership with Museum of the Moving Image, where James Benning participated in a Q&A with Dennis Lim following a New York premiere screening of Easy Rider during the Museum’s First Look 2013 showcase on January 12, 2013. BOMB will be publishing more podcasts from MOMI’s First Look Series in the coming weeks.
After stumbling across the work of an anonymous, unknown poet, D. Foy became so enthralled and confused that he couldn’t keep himself from further investigation.
Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection once removed.
I was introduced to Ben Austin, or rather Austin brought himself to my attention, when he followed me on Twitter. His profile intrigued me. It featured no name or picture, just a handle and curiously-named Tumblr site, murooned.tumblr.com, which, once I’d navigated to it, featured nothing but a series of “poems” written by . . . nobody. I scanned the site for the person behind these poems, but found . . . nothing. I didn’t understand.
Looking at these bits of writing on murooned.tumblr.com, it occurred to me that, despite their poetic form, I nevertheless found it difficult to call them poems. Obviously, thankfully, poetry has for a long time had no rules. There’s nothing inherent to any poem by which we can call a poem a poem. Anyone more than a little interested in poetry knows this, and at some point or another has to have encountered a poem that made them wonder, if only for a second, just what it was before them. I certainly have, though until I read Austin’s work, the last was long ago, when the page I’d turned in some anthology was printed with the words of Emily Dickinson.
Like hers, not one of Austin’s poems has a title. None, properly speaking, conventionally speaking, feature a “character” or “person.” None present either an introduction or conclusion, leastwise in the typical sense. None, bizarrely protean as they are, adhere to any obvious logic or follow some plainly discernible course of development. None for that matter adhere to any sort of nonsense or anti-sense or senselessness or absence. And, finally, this being the real kicker, none even display any “poetry.” For all of that, however, or rather, maybe, as a result, each of these little works is somehow disturbing in the best sort of way, each arresting, each ineffably beautiful. The writer’s anonymity, I later realized, was nothing if not appropriate.
Anoka Faruqee’s paintings convert crafted labor into vision, as they seem to dematerialize before our eyes. Her description of these effects, however, seeks to demystify them without diminishing their power to dazzle and confound. Faruqee writes, “A moiré pattern is an interference effect created by the overlay of two or more offset patterns. The fusion of the patterns creates another pattern that is quite unlike and much more complex than any of the individual ones.”
I had seen her work online and read a bit of Faruqee’s writings before I met her, and I was curious to see how her ability to parse complex social and philosophic issues would relate to the woozy optics of her paintings. I finally met her at Yale, where we both teach and where we’ve navigated public conversations during group critiques, but hadn’t had an opportunity to explore what matters most to this recent LA transplant with family roots in South Asia. This fall I had a conversation in front of an audience with Anoka, surrounded by her paintings during a solo exhibition at the Hosfelt Gallery in New York. She describes her work as a balance of worked out process and intuitive experimentation in a way that makes sense but also comes with surprising turns and shadings.
David Humphrey I wanted to start with an epigraph that is more of an apology than it is a question. Samuel Beckett writes somewhere that to restore silence is the role of objects. We’re going to go against Beckett now and restore noise in the form of talking.
Here’s my first question: I feel your paintings almost insist on being described with self-contradictory terms like ephemeral materiality, or speedy slowness. Their vibrating opticality—and the way that opticality arises from your accomplished craftsmanship—reminds me of the Richard Sennett book called The Craftsman, in which he equates making with thinking. I’m curious what kind of thinking emerges for you from the process of making.
Anoka Faruqee That’s a great question. You’re right to say that the work deals with the poles, and reconciling poles. I definitely see thinking and making as part of the same process. I don’t see them as being opposite.
I’ve always been interested in knowledge that’s not passively received, but actively experienced. I guess that’s why I make paintings—or why I believe in making paintings—because the act of making the painting presents the question.
DH What excites me about your paintings is that they are so emphatically material. Undisguised paint and signs of process don’t diminish the effect: there is a disappearance of matter into the visual hum. I feel like this has the possibility of being a metaphor for something—about being in the world, perhaps.
AF These are very optical paintings, some more than others. You look at them and see them very much as image and illusion. There are a lot of things happening with color in the moiré patterns that are kind of illusionistic. Yet I don’t want the materiality to be lost. The materiality is important, even though it’s sublimated somewhat. I feel like I’m sublimating the materiality for the optical experience, and so much of what you are seeing are traces or residues of material events.
Donald Dunbar on the power of language, circumventing systems, and his new book Eyelid Lick.
I don’t know a lot about Donald Dunbar. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet. His bio can only be found in a few places online, including at Fence, who released his first full collection, Eyelid Lick, as the 2012 Fence Modern Poets Prize winner. I do know a lot about Eyelid Lick. I’ve been reading and thinking about it for over a month.
Stylistically, Eyelid Lick is a surreal text whose poetry is anchored by its syntactical coherence. This allows it to be able to diverge and digress, confusing and swapping nouns and pronouns, describing abnormal situations, all while never seeming to really lose the reader.
This is to say that the collection is fun, and that it feels good. It feels like being given a driving tour through someone’s dream, and the dream is continually re-centering and referring back to itself. And the car you’re sitting in is very fast and swervy. And the driver is both dementedly funny and insightfully sincere, and the way he talks to you is refreshing and colloquial and personal and a little bit sensual.
While doing all of this, Eyelid Lick also confronts some rather serious cultural, political, and philosophical predicaments. Through an email exchange, Donald and I were able to discuss some of these issues.
Jonathan Aprea It’s common in your poems for names to change and for one character to be swapped out for another. In “The Exact Same Line,” two characters, “Alicia” and “Dreamer # 3” can sometimes be read as the same person. And in the author’s note, one name beginning with a “C” changes over and over again, and “Fe Hu Chan” is replaced by “you” (the reader). I felt a slight sense of abduction or manipulation, especially when you involve “you,” and this was both exciting and attractive to experience in a poem. Can you talk a little bit about these choices, especially your direct inclusion of the reader?
Donald Dunbar Language is mind control. We don’t get the choice to hear what we want to—if someone’s talking, our brain is processing it—and by reading a thing we’re surrendering our mind to the system of meaning the author has arranged. This doesn’t mean that we’re not able to later make decisions about what’s being said, but that analysis happens at a much higher level than the initial processing of things. We naturally feel everything we hear or read. Using the second person just makes this more explicit.
“He takes pleasure in torturing puppies,” is easier on the reader than, “I take pleasure in torturing puppies,” is easier than, “You take pleasure in torturing puppies.” In each of these we’re still processing the same information—puppies are still being tortured—and we understand the torture is fictional, but when we’re signaled to process information in relation to ourselves, our tendency is to do it.
Gerald Jackson describes life as a black painter in the Bowery, poetry versus hip hop, and the jazz scene of the 1980s.
I am very pleased to present this short introduction into the world of Gerald Jackson. I think you will find him a very rare and extremely creative human being. I have known Gerald now for over 30 years and continue to find our conversations inspiring, funny and poignant. As an artist, his work goes from video to painting and sculpture to fashion to music and to performance.
Nothing fishy here…
Usher in the return of the 15 Minute Classic series with productions of Dr. Faustus, Antigone, and Epicene, tonight and tomorrow at Jimmy’s no. 43 in the East Village. For more information click here.
Pratt Institute presents Film/Video Artist Talks with renowned artist Eve Sussman. Begins at 6:30PM, at Higgins Hall located on Pratt’s Brooklyn campus.
Catch the opening of abstract painting exhibition Wit at the Painting Center, that explores visual representation of wit and its shapes and colors that evoke humor, 6 – 8 PM . Featuring artists Marina Abrams, Polly Apfelbaum, Joe Fyfe, Jonathan Lasker, Doreen McCarthy, Thomas Nozkowski, Stephen Westfall and others.
Pay tribute to late acclaimed poet Stacy Doris, and celebrate her final book, Fledge at 8:00PM, at the Poetry Project.
Join artist and sculptor Gary Simmons as he discusses his career and his thoughts on the new generation of emerging artists. Begins at 8 PM at 192 Books.
Matthew Daddona on the catharsis and circumvention in Leah Umansky’s Domestic Uncertainties.
When we think about revision—literary, personal, moral, otherwise—a clutching version of self converges with the outside world. It is how two distinct vocabularies merge, and whether elegiac, profound, magnanimous, or gleeful, it is nonetheless a beautiful and necessary allegiance. As Leah Umansky writes in her creative debut collection of poetry, Domestic Uncertainties, “I was the transfiguration,” a testament to not just the individual as the purveyor of compounded emotions but the author as its carrier and intelligible accomplice.
Domestic Uncertainties is not apprehensive about its message. At the forefront is the fictionalized trajectory of Umansky’s real-life divorce, but what arises is how a writer (in the most ubiquitous sense) can integrate the autobiographical and make herself better for it. In the book’s first part, thoughts, accusations, and annoyances are rushed into the overlooked, domestic spaces of married life, “Past the memory; past the dream,” as written in the opening line of “The Marital Space.” For Umansky, coping is sidling idealistic phrases and reveries into the margins. But even more important is doing so to convert them into more practical and vital forms, rendering them as self-confident, aware outpourings. She writes, “I stood, unafraid/ I stand now, unafraid.” Repeated phrases unabashedly unfold and improve upon themselves—they become literal and psychological ponderings, a type of marital subversion of double-blind theory of which there is a clear authoritative winner (hint: it’s the author). Language, then, must be revised in order to keep up.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from Amy Fusselman’s The Pharmacist’s Mate.
What is it about my dad being dead that I can’t say it enough? That I feel like My Dad Is Dead would be a good name for my son?
That I can picture myself saying, “I can’t talk right now, I have to pick My Dad Is Dead up from hockey?”
Singing, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear My Dad Is Dead”?
I look My Dad Is Dead up on the internet and discover that there is a band with that name. And they’re from Ohio, like my dad, like me. And I can listen to their song right now, a noisy, static-y MP3 called “Don’t Look Now.”
My dad is invisible. Everything invisible is interesting to me now. Like when I sit in the apartment we just moved into, and play guitar. When I sit here and am aware, as I play and sing, that the music is invisible. And I imagine what I would look like to a deaf person. That I would look like someone opening and closing her mouth and sliding one hand along some wood and using the other to touch some strings. And how that doesn’t look like much. Just someone sitting, making little movements. Little patterns with the mouth, open close, open close, little patterns with the hand, up and down, up and down. And how the only way a deaf person would know what I was doing is because the movements are creating vibrations. And how even though the vibrations are invisible, I can feel them in the air. I can feel them, they are there, they are as there as I am.
Feminine desires past and present in an exhibition, a biography, and a book of poems.
Triple ruffled at the wrist, her lace-gloved hand, cocked—index and thumb extended, covers the lower half of her face above which two dark eyes dare. Punctuating their span, the eyes emphasize the scalene triangle of negative space between her two fingers. The hand, a mask itself in covering, holds the face as if it were a mask—the situation of the double mask. All the while, the eyes float behind both. Oh, Dilon read on. Odilon Redon. This geometry of vogue would be enough to make de Honnecourt swoon . . .
These thoughts rushed through my head as I saw Lisa Cohen’s All We Know: Three Lives. Two of the three women the book explores would probably agree that a good cover is almost everything, this would be one-time fashion editor of British Vogue, Madge Garland, and the much misunderstood socialite Mercedes de Acosta. The third, Esther Murphy, was more active in politics and pontificating than appearances…though, all three women were political in some right by uncompromisingly being who they were; minorities at the center of the culture of their time. Their lives do intersect, and where not directly, their circles do. By bringing these three together, Cohen provides a much needed window on the changing expectations and roles of pre- and post-war (lesbian) women, society, and fashion.