Michael Portnoy and Jovana Stokić discuss abstract games, the dangers of Relational Aesthetics and Portnoy’s recent participatory work 27 Gnosis.
In 27 Gnosis, the latest work from New York-based performance artist Michael Portnoy, language as we know it is broken down and re-introduced as a tool for discovery. Taking place inside a mauve-hued “ontic sphere”, Portnoy plays the “Rigid Designator” alongside his wife, performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė, who appears as “Modifa, The Modifier” and together—outfitted in matching suits by designers threeASFOUR—they steer a group of participants through a game sequence led by dance, instruction, 17th century knowledge systems, revised syntax codes, and melancholic jokes. The winners’ ideas, or results, christen a ‘gnose’, a black, vaguely nose-like clay sculpture which is then passed onto the next group. Originally commissioned and performed for dOCUMENTA (13) last year, the work was adapted for a two-week run at The Kitchen in New York during March 2013.
Michael Portnoy I met you at one of my favorite restaurants in New York, Lucien. And you were with our common friend, Adina, who’s also from those lands in the east. Instantly, what I appreciated about you was this kind of unrestrained presentation of yourself.
Jovana Stokić Sounds awful!
MP No, you felt very real to me. A strong life force.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read five poems by Sommer Browning with art by the author, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
It was cold. Virginia winter. Throwing lit firecrackers down the hallway. Apostrophes of scorch. The Irishman below us. How I would dress for Third Street Diner. How I told you he spanked me before work. The heat didn’t work. Where did you go when I went to work? You must have gone to work, too. We worked so much. All the money we worked. What a time to fake bourgeoisie. I might have had my apron cinched around me. I might have had ones blooming from my hips. Might have drank there until the bartender told you I needed to leave. Might have left there. Might have.
David Groff and Angelo Nikolopoulos’s divergent work centers on the poetics and politics of the gay body.
In his introduction to James L. White’s exemplary book, The Salt Ecstasies, Mark Doty observes: “further and further from the closet, we come to an increasingly complex understanding of the power and failure of desire, the ways that liberation isn’t a cure for loneliness or soul-ache or despair,” and later, “it’s simply that we’re as free to be as sexually confused, as bowled over by longing, as uncertain as anyone else is.”
David Groff unfolds those experiences “bowled over by longing” in his second collection, Clay (Trio House Press). Doty, who picked Groff for the National Poetry Series in 2002, noted Groff’s territory as “at the end of a nightmare crisis but nowhere near the end of an epidemic. How, in such times, to speak?” A decade later, Groff’s territory has grown to a place where he does speak, using Clay, his husband, as the material to mold and shape the ever-changing queer landscape. The intersection of a “normal” life growing old (and married) becomes ultimately queered under the lens of the AIDS epidemic. On this crossroad, Groff’s poetry illustrates that though we might have moved further from the closet, our liberation is no cure, but only a larger landscape in which our queerness continues to morph and redefine itself. As he notes,
This isn’t 1984: the virus, we know, is manageable,
at least if you’re the class of man who strolls
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
L. Annette Binder on her debut collection, Rise, and the role of myth in her work.
L. Annette Binder’s Rise (Sarabande Books, 2013) is a stunning debut collection that blurs the line between ancient mythologies and modern anxieties, employing fantastical narratives to capture feelings of loss, regret, wonder, and despair. Binder depicts, in achingly beautiful prose, the weirdness of the world, and makes us love the strange people who inhabit it.
I first came across Binder’s work in One Story, which published her Pushcart Prize-winning piece, “Nephilim,” in 2010, a story that charts the inevitable decay of a giantess, Freda, and the desperation of unrequited love. Binder answered my questions by email from Boston.
Amanda Faraone In “Dead Languages,” and several of your stories, I was struck by how the most surreal and poignant moments were not the ones dealing with strange phenomena, but the mundane moments of daily life surrounding them, like a mother taking her child to the grocery store and realizing her own alienation from her son. When you were writing these stories, did you tend to start with the general condition of the characters, or from these moments of loss and alienation? When did it become clear that the collection would be loosely bound by this theme of otherness and the surreal?
L. Annette Binder The starting point really varied from story to story. Some stories began with a general feel for the characters. What would it be like to be a giantess living in her childhood home? Or a man who grows increasingly far-sighted until he can see the distant planets, but not the face of his newborn son? I thought about these characters for weeks sometimes before I started writing.
Channeling neurosis into haunting dance beats, Autre Ne Veut’s newest release Anxiety helps bring us all in on the healing process.
Autre Ne Veut (the brainchild of Brooklyn based artist Arthur Ashin) is an amalgam of sounds, a pastiche of both beats and emotions. Its mastermind and uber mixmasterologist wafts between krautrock and the kind of unique blend of self-deprecation and faux bravado that’s come to characterize much of the more ground-breaking forms of R&B. In short, Autre Ne Veut escapes definition. With a popularity that has soared to astounding heights this year, recent world tours, a growing and loyal base, and the approval of esteemed music outlets like Pitchfork, 2013 is truly looking to be Ashin’s year. Energetic, enigmatic, and tinged with the outlines of a sinister force propelling his heavy loops and falsetto-inflected vocals, you’d expect Ashin to be something of an elusive mad man. Rather, he is a down-to earth New Yorker with a background in psychology, who uses his innate intellectualism and perceptivity to zone in on emotions we’d rather forget: anxiety, fear, depression, and turns them into something that connects his work to the entire human experience.
Laura Feinstein I hadn’t realized your family was from Kenya. How do you think this multi-cultural aspect of your background has affected your music?
Arthur Ashin Saying my family is from Kenya is a bit of an overstatement. My mom spent a number of years the Peace Corps and my dad had been out in the Kakamega district for years before that, teaching at and running secondary schools. I was actually born in the United States, though. The biggest creative impact that it had on me is that my parents listened to African music while I was growing up (King Sunny Ade, Ladysmith Black Mambazo) and obviously Graceland was a big player. But really, the music that they listened to was filtered through a sort of Kenyan lens. That’s what trickled down to me, and as with many things that we grow up with, it created an implicit foundation for my musical tastes as well as my internal melodic and rhythmic sensibilities.
Mia Engberg discusses her latest film, Belleville Baby, and trusting the filmmaking process.
Swedish filmmaker Mia Engberg’s elegiac and mystical film, Belleville Baby explores themes of personal memory and time as she recounts a passionate love story of her youth with a young French criminal. Using the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a launching point, she tells the story of the man she lost to the underworld, realizing when he calls eight years later that he has been in prison all this time. Using only voices and ambient sounds, a Super 8 camera and a mobile phone, Engberg refracts a re-telling of their encounter through the prism of the woman she is now. Like Pietro Marcello’s La bocca del lupo and Chris Marker’s classic Sans Soleil, Engberg creates a bespoke world of sound and vision from her fertile imagination, a cinematic evocation of a mythical archetype, and an excavation of memory from sources both real and imagined.
Engberg spoke to me from her home in Stockholm where she lives with her husband and two children and teaches and mentors graduate documentary film students at the Swedish Film Academy. Belleville Baby, her twelfth film, will have its cinema premiere in Sweden at the end of this summer in the midst of a robust international festival tour including the Viennale and CPH:DOX in the autumn. It will have its Balkan regional premiere in Kosovo at Dokufest this summer, as well as exhibition dates in the US at Seattle International Film Festival and Rooftop Films in New York.
Pamela Cohn I am madly in love with your film. (laughter) I also view it as yet another example of how narrative in filmmaking is changing. Nonfiction, especially, seems to be undergoing significant sea changes. The intimate, personal stories are the ones that seem to be resonating the most, not just for festival programmers, but for audiences as well. Films that deal with memory and re-vitalizing the past through a cinematic tale.
Mia Engberg I’ve been teaching documentary for almost 15 years, as well as making documentary films for that amount of time. More and more, we see new people coming into the business, which creates more points of view than ever before. When I started, I got the impression that it was only middle-aged, white, heterosexual men who made documentaries on things like war and history and economy. (laughter) There was a classical tradition of storytelling. Now you have all of these communities—gay, feminist, young people, people from the suburbs. There are so many new voices telling their stories.
Jon Imber’s latest paintings capture the energy and vitality of the botanic cosmos.
In the last ten years, Jon Imber’s paintings have taken on a new dynamism, a freshness, and a remarkable proliferation of color. To see paintings like Lantern in the Snow, Stonington Harbor, and Spring Totems together is to witness the thrill of a master rising to a challenge, letting it open and change him. These paintings display the selflessness of mastery: the cultivated willingness to step out of the way and hold an image as it develops, joyfully and calmly.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read three stories by James Yeh with art by Dominic Fortunato, selected by Peter Moysaenko and Daniel Moysaenko.
I’m giving my parents the tour. My tiny bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen. My mother is walking around the living room, examining the cheap furniture, peering out the grime-covered window that overlooks a poorly lit alley between my building and the building across from it. Her face looks worried.
Jem, she says. Your apartment make your mother want to cry.
Aw, it’s not that bad, I say.
My father sits down on the couch and begins flipping through the old magazines crowded on the coffee table. He goes from cover to cover without really looking at anything, then tosses it back in the pile.
Chelsea Knight on performing motherhood and marriage in her new video The Breath We Took and why “write what you know” is limiting advice.
I first met Chelsea Knight last year at the cheekily-named Bushwick Basel during the Bushwick Open Studios weekend. She was one of the featured artists, and I was an intern helping to man the booth. During the sweltering hours we spent together last June, I was impressed by Chelsea’s political savvy, feminist views and highly original video art. So impressed, in fact, that almost a year later I asked her to be my first interview as BOMBlog’s Art Editor. We sat down in her Liberty Plaza studio to discuss her newest work, The Breath We Took (showing through June 1 at Aspect Ratio Projects in Chicago). It is a partially fictional yet deeply personal documentary featuring four generations of Knight women (both real and imagined), and explores the ways in which we perform motherhood, marriage, and confront femininity.
Sophie Buonomo Where was the original idea for this piece and for performing motherhood?
Chelsea Knight Good question. I always work with people who are authentic to their given field. I’m not interested in direct documentary, I’m interested in the way people perform their lives, professions and emotional selves. Performance is not necessarily a construction but there is a frame for it, there’s a front. Things don’t flow from humans 100 percent naturally all the time. I wanted to make a piece that was partially documentary and partially fiction to talk about that—because non-actors are so much more convincing than actors with certain subject matter. Sometimes you need an actor if you’re remaking another work—I remade Antigone last year—and we needed actors for that.
But generally I like extracting specific kinds of truths from people based on their actual experience. But I want to undercut it with these notions of performance by adding in literally overproduced or theatrical or fictional elements.