Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Mons Pubis” by Lee Paige.
My civic self fruited only once. In teenhood, I loitered in a negligible township ten hours from here, maybe more, where my mother toyed with audits until late in the evenings as a municipal comptroller and where my father spent daylight hours alone in our yard, red-faced, picking cellophane and betel nut out of the grass—or when the spirit moved him, hammering together more fencing to discourage “Indians” from yellowing a path through the property. I liked very much watching him quit all this, pull on a clean shirt, and split the ranks of these workers who were headed home from the nearby talc quarry and really only cutting the corner to halve the time to the bus stop. I remember him looking very red among them, his face a stubbed-toe, bald, against the flow, striking out for another night shift paddling the factory vats, manufacturing astringent, which the world kept dabbing at and demanding more of.
Michael Ricioppo and Drew Liverman on liberation through collaboration, the needs of a picture, and the pros and cons of paint.
Far past midnight, hurried through the shuttered airport, I dipped from an off-ramp into a starlit residential block and then onto a property where an assortment of tin-roofed shacks, trailer homes, and tree-stump chairs faced one another. There was a Calagarian outhouse built on a deep skew like the prow of a ship and a stocked refrigerator en plein air. I was in Texas, at the Monofonus Compound—a multipurpose arts grotto in the loamy neighborhood of east Austin. I came to watch artists Mike Ricioppo and Drew Liverman paint collaboratively, trading turns with every mark as if they were one person with two syncopated right hands. Their pictures are direct, boisterous, and often randy.
Here at the compound grounds, the action always takes place at night and with a half dozen owlish spectators attending as an audience in the dark. The large canvases are lit up dramatically, like movie screens or theatre backdrops, and Ricioppo and Liverman occupy what feels like the studio’s proscenium. They cavort in equal measure with concentrated work—alternating between flourishes and pratfalls, between first and second fiddle. Too early in the morning after a long night of painting, I had the pleasure of forcing them to wake up and speak with me.
Elisa Ambrogio, Pete Nolan, and John Shaw of Magik Markers on songwriting, the ideal live venue, and their incredible new album Surrender to the Fantasy, out next week.
When Magik Markers started out, “noise,” and “experimental” were labels that followed them around the DIY touring circuit, as they went off on semi-improvised, squeal-heavy jams in basements from Baltimore to San Francisco. Since the 2007 release of BOSS, they’ve had to deal with being called “rock n’ roll.” The blissfully fuzzed-out Surrender to the Fantasy (out November 19 on Drag City) is their tightest record yet, and further frustrates the attempt to pin the band down.
The album’s nine tracks shift gracefully between dark punk blasts and meandering, quiet, almost folky tunes. “I’m American,” guitarist and singer Elisa Ambrogio sighs flatly over blazing feedback on the album’s seven-minute centerpiece “American Sphinx Face.”
For Ambrogio, drummer Pete Nolan, and bassist John Shaw, being part of a musical tradition that is distinctly American is enough to contend with. Though all three members come from a background in the experimental/noise scene, their subversion of the time-tested vocals/bass/guitar/drums is constantly flirting with song craft. The band is so wholly comfortable in this in-between space that they rarely think to define it as that. I got them on a conference call, with John and Elisa dialing in from their homes in Holyoke, Massachusetts and Pete from a craft fair in New York City, to talk about what has changed over the years, what is, and what should never be.
Jacob Forrest Severn Where was Surrender to the Fantasy recorded and how long did it take to come together?
John Shaw I guess it’s been incubating for four years or so. Some of the songs are a few years old and some of them are newer, but it got recorded in a lot of different places over that period and I guess built up that way, rather than having one session.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
In Quartet, multiple conversations become one. Claudia La Rocco, Rashaun Mitchell, Silas Riener & Davison Scandrett muse on the nature of performance during the process of creating Way In.
This week, Way In, a performance choreographed by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener in collaboration with poet & critic Claudia La Rocco and lighting designer Davison Scandrett, will have its premiere at Danspace Project. Composed by La Rocco in collaboration with Mitchell, Riener and Scandrett, Quartet assembles language generated during the process of making Way In, interweaving multiple conversations into one stream of exchanges. Four individuated voices emerge, bringing to bear concerns with each artist’s respective tools—language, the body, light—while revealing overlapping inquiries into the ambiguity of meaning, formal strategies, and relationships to technique.
Rashaun Mitchell People make their meaning. They will always do that. So then the question is how much or little do you guide them.
Davison Scandrett I think for most lighting designers, drafting a plot is the stupidest part of what they do; they hate it. I hate it too but there’s a certain art to things being laid out correctly and making sense and looking good. So, I do immediately—and part of it is being a production manager, too—go to not just “How is this going to look technically?” but “How is it going to get circuited and how long is it going to take to hang?” That shit does have aesthetic beauty to me, even if I’m usually the only one who would ever know that. There’s something about it; if something is systematic and has its own internal intrinsic logic, then that logic tends to radiate out into whatever you’re creating.
David Levine and Alexandre Singh discuss the playwriting process, on stage excretions, and traversing the art-theater divide.
In the week before its premiere at BAM, theater director-turned-artist David Levine spoke with artist-turned-theater director Alexandre Singh about recreating classical theater in Singh’s play, The Humans. The Humans will run from November 13 through November 17 as part of Performa 13.
David Levine Was the genesis of The Humans a question of somebody commissioning you to do a play out of the blue, or had you been wanting to do something like this?
Alexandre Singh I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long, long time; seven or eight years. I got an email out of the blue from Defne Ayas saying that she had a mysterious new job which she wouldn’t reveal, and did I have any large projects that I wanted to do, I said “Yes, I’ve always wanted to do this play” and it was just as I was finishing up another project. So she invited me to Rotterdam and gave me the space and the time, and most importantly the incentive and deadline, to actually produce the play. But it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, all of the pieces I’ve made in the last eight or ten years have been steps in a process of learning how to craft stories in more orthodox genres, with the aim of moving towards theater and film, perhaps something even like opera—but traditional dramatic genres. I’m friends with this amazing novelist, Benjamin Hale, and we share both a passion for cinema. He decided he wouldn’t go down that avenue because he enjoys the act of crafting the entire world as it were, by himself, and not being compromised by the stress of having to work with many, many people. I definitely share that feeling when you’re in the middle of a huge production, but I think it’s something that suits my megalomaniacal qualities; I like to interfere in everything.
On the intricate emotional architecture of Philippe Garrel’s autobiographical classic, based on his own romance with legendary chanteuse Nico.
No one films faces the way Philippe Garrel does. The French autobiographical filmmaker does not rely on a special lens or light to achieve the luminous presence he captures when he films a man and, especially, a woman. He succeeds because he hones in, filming only what he loves—there are no extras in a Garrel movie and of course no explosions. Naturally, the films are also about love. But Garrel makes no attempt to account for the reasons we slip in and out of each other’s lives, placing narrative far behind presence and psychology deep below that. His masterpiece I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar (1991), which plays at the Alliance Française on Tuesday, offers the paradox of a rich surface with endless depth. The depths are in the way the weather changes in his magnificent actors’ eyes but mostly in the ellipses, the months and sometimes years that pass between two shots, the major events—what others would call plot points—that happen off-screen. Garrel films the simple moments, the stroll down to the beach or the hurried drink at the café, two lovers alone in a bare apartment and what happens when the toilet paper runs out, reeling in from the unconscious what he doesn’t show but what we’ve all felt—the break-up or first kiss—anchoring it in tangible reality. And so your own feelings come alive inside the movie and you leave pulsing with the intensity of your own life.
A selection from husband and wife team Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s House/Hold series (2011-12), plus a video excerpt of Family Portrait (2012).
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read three poems by Eric Higgins.
We raised this city together. Good Enough, it’s called.
On the main drag built a gilded entrance, my partner and I.
Suits and tie tacks—no one, and not us—thought we were bilkers
We wrested out a myth. We thought the time prime,
rolled carpet like dice. At city council
not just elegance was a promise we made.
People are reasonable, we reasoned;
in a billfold is a thing everyone wants to take.
They’d guessed we were fleecing ourselves
so if they took a little none would be the wiser.
Desert dons with their dumb house-of-card tricks,
they thought. And by giving we bought.
It’s possible to think right but be wrong.
A starched shirt in that heat is a myth—
vision, eloquence: witness, these come from wrestling.
Czechoslovak New Wave filmmaker Jan Němec discusses jazz and making movies under communism.
Any cinephile would jump at the chance to interview Jan Němec, an at-times undersung hero of the Czech New Wave. Alongside Forman’s tongue-in-cheek naturalism, Chytilová’s psychedelic ennui and Menzel’s literary agitprop, Němec forged a path either blistering in its clear-headed sorrow or almost naughty in its willingness to poke fun at the organs of totalitarianism—sometimes, as in A Report on the Party and the Guests, both at once.
As an innovator of new ways to express internal flights of fancy and despair, Němec receives his first career-long retrospective beginning November 8th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He graciously agreed to a brief interview from his apartment in Prague; armed with a muscular cup of coffee, I began my day volleying questions to him via Skype.
Steve Macfarlane How are you?
Jan Němec Oh, I’m fine. It seems you’re the guy who wants to talk with me about my films.
SM Yeah, if that’s cool with you.
JN Go ahead.