Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Handzo, a former editor of BOMBlog and a protégé of the recently passed Sarah Charlesworth, remembers his mentor.
My mentor Sarah
If we are lucky, we get a couple of mentors who shape and disrupt our views during the course of our career. I’m lucky to have had Sarah Charlesworth as one of mine. Many can, will, and have spoken about Sarah as an artist and about her incredibly important contributions to the field. Sarah was an equally important teacher for many of the reasons she was a great artist.
As Alissa Nutting’s Tampa scandalizes readers, the author defends her novel’s transgressive eroticism as a devilish temptation that readers must resist.
Alissa Nutting’s first collection of short fiction, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, was selected by Ben Marcus for the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction. That book—made up of stories with titles like “Bandleader’s Girlfriend,” “Corpse Smoker,” “Teenager,” “Hellion,” and “She-Man”—is an often fantastical, always mockingly familiar taxonomy of female “types.” The protagonists of each tale continually peel, erase, or redecorate the labels that the author applies to them along with the associations that readers might have with such labels. Michael Martone called the pieces “panoplies of syntactic semantic seismic wonders.” Kate Bernheimer said of Nutting: “I want to be her avatar.”
Nutting’s first novel, Tampa, is out now from Ecco/HarperCollins. The hardcover has a furry black jacket that is hard not to stroke like a campy villain petting a Persian in heat. Based on Debra LeFave, a high-school classmate of Nutting who in 2004 was arrested in Florida for lewd and lascivious battery of her fourteen-year-old male student, Tampa is narrated by Celeste, a young, gorgeous, effortlessly manipulative, cruelly incisive junior-high teacher with an insatiable sexual compulsion for adolescent boys. An unapologetically dark, dangerously comic social satire, the novel needles gender, power, violence, love, desire, age, commodification, justice, and any other balloon of contemporary hot air that’s there for the popping. It’s a deliriously enjoyable, absolutely shocking book—a morality tale that tempts and taunts readers to succumb to every kind of immorality.
Here Nutting makes clear that cheap titillation is not what her novel is about, and suggests that literature won’t find any answers if it’s afraid to explore questions for all that they’re worth.
Micaela Morrissette In the course of the novel, Celeste seduces two fourteen-year-old boys: Jack and Boyd. In neither case can the reader hold on to any absolute certainty as to whether she is an unforgivable predator, or a teenager’s fantasy, or both—the predation dependent on the fantasy, the fantasy on the predation. Much of the reading experience balances delicately upon this, and you acknowledge the question directly at the end of the book, though without resolving it.
The boys’ experiences seem very different. Jack is on the losing end of a very distinct imbalance of power: he’s deeply in love with Celeste and unable to resist her deliberate manipulations. As for Boyd, there’s almost nothing in the book to imply that he suffers any ill effects from the trysts. With Jack, you find ways to imply abuse, but you empower Boyd with what seems like self-determination, real individual agency, and the power of free choice. Why?
Alissa Nutting I felt like the book needed both characters in order to acknowledge the different social views surrounding this type of scandal. With Jack, we easily see the emotional harm she causes him, both inside and outside of their sexual relationship. With Boyd, his “fun” never seems to stop. One of the troubling things about the dialogue surrounding these cases in the media is the conflation of arousal with consent when it comes to underage males and female adults. There’s this sense of, “he wanted it, he enjoyed it, so what’s the harm?” So Boyd’s character is me needling that discussion. We don’t see him feeling upset about their encounter, which I think is important.
What I want readers to ask is this: Are the same acts she does with Boyd as she does with Jack somehow less wrong because of Boyd’s reaction? Is an underage victim’s reaction relevant to the act’s criminality? How capable are fourteen-year-olds (or minors in general) of weighing in on the psychological harm that’s being done to them, or predicting how these events will psychologically affect them in the future?
Radcliffe Bailey on artistic and regional labels, testing his own DNA, aging, and the power familial ancestry holds on his practice.
Radcliffe Bailey investigates memory—personal, genetic, and related to place—as the basis for his artistic practice. Old family photographs and his own DNA collide with symbols of the African Diaspora and potent natural materials like Georgia red clay and sea water. Bailey’s work is rooted in personal experience but posits this experience as part of a greater whole, diverting the focus from himself and towards a greater history. Bailey speaks of his work with the air of a mystic, describing himself as a vessel that carries many histories, or as a lens for viewing the past and future. He vacillates between personal pronouns, frequently interchanging “I” and “you;” even in casual conversation, the line between individual and collective experience is fluid.
I visited Bailey at his home and studio in Southwest Atlanta, built on old Civil War grounds, in May of 2013. The building was designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects and completed in 2003. The house is 2,200 square feet; the studio almost matches the house at 2,000 square feet. A driveway bisects the two at the ground floor, but house and studio are connected by a causeway at the top level. After a quick tour of the studio, Bailey and I retired to an open-air porch on the top level of the house where Bailey could smoke as we talked.
Mariana Valencia on her sculptural arrangements of bodies and objects, teenagers in parking lots, and Bushwick sunsets.
PHRESH is a word Mariana and I invented to talk about the things we like, things that are crisp, playful, and cool. My ADIDAS original high tops are PHRESH. Mariana’s collection of succulents on her windowsill are PHRESH. Like #hashtags, PHRESH carries embodied meaning, and defines itself the more often we use it. Referencing the conventionally spelled nineties term of the same name, PHRESH is fresh’s contemporary, queer sister. It is the objects we like to wear and the things we like to do. PHRESH is ours for the taking and the making.
Mariana’s installation and dance work is undeniably PHRESH and, like the term itself, her pieces resurrect embodied histories and codes while inscribing vibrant new happenings in the church attics, galleries, and theaters they occupy. Her work—while full of objects and colors and bodies—functions as a visual palette cleanser, deliberately constructed to create room for our digestion of its multifarious elements. Her work is a gateway to an unknown world that is controlled yet wild, one in which every shape, movement, sound, and object is equally understandable and mysterious.
Mariana and I conversed on her roof where we discussed #milk, #parkinglots, and #longbodies.
Mariana Valencia The name of the dance is Milk—well the name of it is M.I.A.M.I., but it’s an acronym. I secretly want this dance to be called Miami but I wanted it to be a whole sentence so we decided Milk is a Mother’s Idea was the best acronym.
Effie Bowen How did your process with this dance begin?
MV We were thinking about parking lots as a place to be.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read four poems by Brandon Shimoda with art by Lydia Anne McCarthy, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
I am a child
Standing on a bridge in the old
Looking up at the heads and
Beyond heads the hills
Are on fire———The sun is touching
With the force
My feet are no longer
Touching the bridge that
Come on night
Have I really been
The bodies of thousands
Contain me against them
I read fires on the swell
For the first time out loud
I hold my hand above the crowd
Mets Grapefruit or Pocari Sweat
Whistle over burials of hair like
Appearing as offspring from
Divine collision———Having won!
And having each
Concentration of the sun
Completing nerves the fires
To come back I have been talking
About learning to see with learning
To speak I am learning
To perfume the air
With carbonation and meat squeezed
From my eyes
Will I be alert as ion supply? Moving
With a can of fruit tucked inside?
Just taking the sun from one crown to another?
I really don’t know, but I
Will just go
Kalup Linzy on growing up in a small town, soap operas and his new feature film, Romantic Loner.
Genre-crossing, multidisciplinary artist Kalup Linzy is known for his short videos featuring a cast of characters with big dreams to match their big personalities and complex lives. I’ve known of Linzy and his bawdy, affecting, and quite funny videos for a while, but have only recently began to really look at them. Linzy’s low-tech aesthetic subverts the tropes and stereotypes from the soap operas and old Hollywood movies that populate his videos. Whether he is employing voiceovers and shooting in black and white or gender-bending and intentionally editing out of sync, Linzy makes work that obliges viewers to reconsider ways of making meaning. We met recently one afternoon in Brooklyn to talk about roots, home, family, and art.
Lee Ann Norman You’re from Stuckey, a small town in Florida—would you call it a tight-knit community?
Kalup Linzy It was close-knit, but it wasn’t closed. It wasn’t really like a small town but more like a settlement where people migrated, so they just never incorporated. Well, I think they had the opportunity to incorporate [as a municipality], but they didn’t want to—the community was always reluctant. They thought the city or the county would come in and kind of take over.
My great grandmother and grandfather migrated there to work at a steel mill. Shanties were donated for people to live in— kind of like a Little House on the Prairie community. There were a lot of small businesses back in the day run by the people in the community, like gas stations and stores. But something happened, the crack epidemic, and shit like that. . . so there’s a gap. A particular generation didn’t keep the entrepreneurship going full punch. And then with my generation, a lot of us moved away and then came back. You were kind of taught to get away from there once certain things start to happen in your life. I think that happens in a lot of small towns.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Erin Markey discusses familial relationships, making “stuff for stage and video,” and dating chaperones.
I sat down with Erin Markey at Van Leeuwen, a cafe-cum-ice cream shop in Greenpoint this winter. I had first seen her live show on the day of the Gay Pride Parade, an event about which I’d had my trepidations, after seeing banners hanging from lamp posts in lower Manhattan advertising its Pepsi-sponsorship. So I headed to Everybooty, an alternative event at DeKalb Market—a temporary space in downtown Brooklyn composed mostly of old shipping containers.
The June sun beat down and my Linda Rondstadt-esque floral prom dress stuck to my body. By the time Erin Markey came onstage, following a lamé-clad pair of Dolly Parton impersonators, enough beer had circulated the crowd for a feeling of jubilance to hang in the air. Markey wore green suspenders and lace-up boots, her long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She flashed a wide smile at the crowd and started by singing a song about Skyping with her mother and father—”Let Me Go to Fullscreen.” As soon as she finished (to great applause) she went on to perform her second musical number, “Secret Puddles” in the drag persona of Timmy.
Timmy—Markey in a fire red wig and mud smeared face—introduced himself timidly as Markey’s fundraiser, eliciting laughs from the audience. She sang shyly while holding a baby doll: “I have a doll named Secret. Secret is his name. Secret’s just a baby. And a baby’s not a game. I know because I was one, and a tiny one at that. My mom and dad they left me, in a shabby London flat.”
From the minute Timmy begins singing I am laughing. Absurd!, I am thinking. Absurd! I sense an incommensurability between the stage tune and melody of Markey’s song and the dark content of the lyrics. The feelings that Timmy expresses do not line up with the circumstances he describes and the proximity of Timmy’s tragic ballad to “Let me Go to Fullscreen” reveals a hilarious ambivalence about family. Even in this short performance, Markey has me thinking about family as fallible, wonderful, deeply political and entirely unresolved.
I have to talk to this person, I thought. My conversation with Markey, six months later, ambled from family politics to astrological signs (she’s a Leo) and artist statements to Catholicism. I wanted to discuss Erin’s particular breed of humor and, enjoyably, that humor seeped into every area of our discussion.
Katherine Cooper I feel like misquoting people is really yucky.
Erin Markey It is. Having been misquoted many times.
Frances Bodomo discusses her films Boneshaker and Afronauts, how she found a Zambian desert in New Jersey, and mythologizing “home.”
Ghanaian filmmaker Frances Bodomo was inspired to make Boneshaker by a generation of kids with nowhere to call home. The thirteen-minute short follows a Ghanaian family as they travel across Louisiana in an attempt to cast a demon from their daughter, Blessing, played by young Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis.
Bodomo grew up on four continents—in Ghana, Norway, California, and Hong Kong—before moving to New York to attend Columbia University as a Kluge Scholar. After receiving her B.A. in English Literature and Film Studies she became a MFA Candidate and Dean’s Fellow at NYU’s Graduate Film Program. In her own words her work features “doppelgangers, imaginary friends, ventriloquist dummies, and the un-institutionalized crazies who constantly break society’s view of itself.”
We spoke at her apartment in Bushwick for about an hour before she had to rush to the editing studio at NYU. She’s in the middle of editing her new film Afronauts, and trying to keep up with Boneshaker’s busy festival run. Afronauts is an alternative history of the 1960s Space Race, based on the true story of Edward Makuka Nkoloso’s Zambian National Academy of Science, Space Research and Astronomical Research, and his team’s attempts to be the first to send a rocket to the moon.
Boneshaker had its world premiere at Sundance last January, and has recently exhibited at the Maryland Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival. It will be at Rooftop Films on July 12th.
Katie Bradshaw You shot Boneshaker on Super 16. What format do you prefer, film or digital?
Frances Bodomo I knew I wanted to shoot Boneshaker on 16 mm because this movie is about not having a land, not having a place to call home. I started thinking about memory a lot, very early on, which had to be the feel of the movie. It had to be film, sort of grainy, intensely colored… it couldn’t be digital, it couldn’t be sterile. In that sense I much prefer working on film, because of the quality of the image. That’s telling the story as much as the writing or acting is. Ultimately I prefer film because I tend to want to tell stories that are nostalgic, stories sort of reckoning with who we are or who we were or who we’re supposed to be.