Writer and director Shane Carruth talks about his latest film Upstream Color, Walden, and an integrated filmmaking process.
Filmmaker Shane Carruth’s 2004 debut Primer, completed on an inconceivably low budget, is a mindbending sci-fi film about time travel, with a narrative that’s rarely, if ever, linear or easy to follow. Yet, the film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and has garnered a kind of cult following among sci-fi aficionados. Carruth hasn’t made another film for the last nine years—until Upstream Color. Carruth wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited, and starred in the film, whose plot is, like his previous film, a little tricky to summarize. I can reveal that it involves a young woman named Kris (played by Amy Seimetz) who has been abducted and brainwashed by a mysterious parasitic organism. After she escapes from a period of mind control, Kris is left with no idea who she is—only scattered, potentially untrustworthy memories. She runs into Jeff (played by Carruth) who has been similarly treated and is similarly bewildered about who or where or why he is, and the two lost souls begin a romance. There’s also a farmer who keeps a drove of pigs, one of whom Kris has some psychic connection to. The film is comprised mostly of fragmentary, dream-like images that build a hypnotic rhythm, and which mimic the cycles of nature itself—not unlike a Terrence Malick film, although Carruth’s depiction of the natural world is slightly more sinister. Upstream Color explores the universal human desire to construct identity, to create some meaning, to impose a little structure on chaos.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read an excerpt from J.M. Ledgard’s forthcoming novel, Submergence.
He had lain down beside the trench and had a dream so lifelike he could not believe it was his alone. It was a Lenten carnival. A Christ-like figure was leading a crowd of young people in a dance. The music was techno. The street was narrow. Bodies were pressed up against old buildings. There were shouts in German and French. It might have been the pharmaceutical town of Basel. The Christ spelled out a message in hand movements like the hand movements of the flagellants who marched through Rhineland towns during the Black Death spelling out I am a liar, a thief, an adulterer, except that these hand movements were not confessional: the Christ and the crowd repeated over and over with their hands a thousand years of love, a thousand years of peace.
The faces were diverse. They were moved by a common happiness. Then there was a pop of a suicide bomber’s vest, a drawing in of air, and an exhaling, so that the carnival float, the Christ, and many in the crowd were reduced to shreds.
Filmmakers Andrew Lampert and Stom Sogo, who tragically passed away last year, trade impressions in an unpublished conversation from 2000. A retrospective of Sogo’s work will be at Anthology Film Archives from April 5–7.
In the movie no one is going to make about my late teens and early twenties I will be a side player to Stom Sogo. You could not stand next to him without feeling his heat. Looking closely, you might have seen steam rising off his head. As a married father re-reading this piece today, our crazed conversation feels like it was recorded a loooong time ago. I’m guessing that we spoke/wrote the following text in 2000 before he left NYC to attend grad school at the San Francisco Art Institute. He had originally moved to the US in the late 1980s to attend high school, migrated to NYC in 1993 for college at SVA, and landed a job at Anthology Film Archives. In those days, he was a central presence in the experimental film community, constantly inspiring all of us with his flickering forays into deeply spaced out territory. During those freewheeling days and mostly late nights he created an epic amount of densely packed, highly lyrical films and videos that turned heads and created incidents in various festivals, exhibitions and contexts.
Stom only enrolled at the Art Institute to get a student visa, otherwise it meant returning to Osaka, which he eventually was forced to do anyway in 2004. In Japan, Stom worked for his family and remained productive. He periodically issued DVD and CD care packages of new works to friends, however his screenings and communications became more sporadic. Stom Sogo, who in his lifetime had already grown into something of a myth to his friends and admirers, passed away in July, 2012 at age 37.
Nabil Nahas on painting with starfish, the reception of his work in the Middle East, and the symbolism of cedar trees.
Born in Beirut in 1949, Nabil Nahas spent the first decade of his life in Cairo before returning to his native country of Lebanon, where he remained until 1968. During the uprisings preceding the Lebanese civil war, Nahas, like many others, left the country to start a new life elsewhere. After studying painting under Al Held at Yale, Nahas moved to New York in 1973, where he has been living ever since. It was twenty years before he began to visit Lebanon again, and those trips would prove to have a profound affect on his work.
Ranging widely from densely textured works on canvas formed with layers of an acrylic and pumice mixture to abstract representations of the native olive and cedar trees of Lebanon, Nahas’s work consistently oscillates between many aesthetic sensibilities, ultimately driven by his almost religious passion for abstraction.
Nahas’s character has the same rapidly shifting qualities of his painting repertoire. His personality is iridescent, shifting rapidly yet gracefully from a serious man weathered by worldly experience to a sage with a sly sense of humor. I visited his Chelsea studio on a cold but bright afternoon in early March. After coffee and a light brunch, we perused the set of newly finished paintings to be included in his solo show at Sperone Westwater and discussed the stylistic shifts in his work, his recent exhibition at the Beirut Exhibition Center, and his relationship to the landscape of Lebanon.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
These days, Richard Meyer rarely goes by the moniker that helped make him famous, except, as he recently said in an interview with NPR’s Leonard Lopate, when he’s “making dinner reservations.” At 65, the man known as Richard Hell—a prime mover behind such visionary bands as Television, the Neon Boys, The Voidoids, and The Heartbreakers—is widely recognized as an originator of the punk movement, but has settled into a more subdued era of his life. Known in the ’70s for his blustery performances, scathing yet poignant lyrics, and particular brand of James Dean-hoodlum-meets-French-intellectual aesthetic, Hell was as ubiquitous as he was prolific. From pioneering new art forms, to mingling with some of the most provocative thinkers and creators of his era (ranging from Susan Sontag to Sid Vicious), Hell has certainly led a life worth reading about.
His new memoir I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp (Ecco) charts Hell’s early years as a young upstart on the downtown scene. From vivid descriptions of his nights at legendary punk club CBGB, to his battles with substance abuse, to his heartfelt and frequently candid asides on relationships with lovers and collaborators, this memoir “attempts to portray things the way they actually were,” exposing a new side of both the artist and the period itself.
Laura Feinstein The obvious question to most people would be “why now?” How did you decide this was the right time to release your memoirs?
Richard Hell I actually needed a subject for a book that I owed, though I think of the end product as being somewhat incidental. That it turned out to be an autobiography that I chose to do for the book that was scheduled, it was just kind of a conjunction of circumstances. But basically I look at as an attempt to write a good book, and the attempt to capture my life came second.
Though it had been something that was sort of percolating in the back of my head for a few years. Less the possibility of writing a book like this, but more curiosity about what my life actually looked like. The kind of curiosity you get when you hit middle age. I think it’s kind of universal. I mean when you hit your 40’s, and your youth is behind you.
All through the 1970s and ’80s, the sole inhabitants of a grand loft space in an old beautiful, industrial building on North 11th Street in Williamsburg had been pigeons fluttering undisturbed under the splendid cathedral-like ceiling. In 1990, filmmaker Su Friedrich and painters Cathy Quinlan and Martina Siebert transformed a full floor of this rusty palace into a communal place where they lived and worked for many years while the neighborhood changed around them. When the coexistence of artists and light industries came to a sudden end with the 2005 rezoning laws, which allowed the notorious Toll Brothers and other developers to build one brash, shiny apartment tower after another, Su Friedrich began counting—and filming. Gut Renovation is a systematic yet highly personal response from this cinematographic auteur to a particularly rapid and ruthless version of urban renewal.
Claudia Steinberg Your film starts with a bang. You push open the door and there’s a gasp of disbelief. What happened? There’s this sense of shock: the pigeons have moved back in. Almost 20 years of your life have been obliterated—gone, gone, gone.
Su Friedrich Well, I found that really traumatic. It made me understand what it means for people whose houses are destroyed by fire or bombed in a war. Here was this architecturally exquisite cast-iron building from the 1890’s and we had tried everything we could to maintain its quality. It’s one thing to see the walls you put up taken out, but the vaulted ceilings had those bands with finely carved, detailed floral motifs—
Special Powers and Abilities takes its inspiration from a long (and still!) running comic series about super-powered teenagers in a distant future. Through the intricate use of assorted poetic structures or devices, McDaniels investigates everything from teenage love triangles and last stands to mythological parallels and the limits of poetry and comics.
The character Brainiac 5 stands in as both a model of “adolescent geek romanticism” and the figure of the poet; 30th century utopia becomes a counterpoint to our own time, and all the while music runs through the poems with as much spunk as the young heroes themselves.
Ben Pease Special Powers and Abilities has been a constant companion these past few weeks, and it has come at a serendipitous time when I find myself almost exclusively reading poetry and comics. Crisis of Infinite Words! Alright, so my first set of questions has to do with structural elements of the book—in terms of both form and content. When beginning the book, I found the arrangement of poems both magnanimous and exciting: each super-hero gets an introduction (more on these later), and the poems that follow directly involve the characters we just learned about. As the book progresses, a widening variety of types of poems enters the fray: the “What to Expect” poems, the Superhero X Loves/Does Not Love Superhero Y poems, poems that take their titles directly from issues like “Computo the Conqueror!” or “The Doomed Legionnaire!” and so on. What was the impetus behind these many types of poems?
Raymond McDaniel I’m glad the book is good company! I don’t know if anything I’ve ever done has been characterized as magnanimous before but you can bet I’ll be using that in the future. “I found this poem difficult . . . ” “Are you sure? It’s actually magnanimous!”
I think the number of types of poems increases to distribute the burden of the Legion’s unwieldy narrative. In terms of plot and tone, following the chronology ends up both arithmetic and asymptotic. So the types manage that complexity. Rather than throw readers in the deep end immediately, I try to help them acclimate by signaling, via repetition, what kind of thing they are getting. As the book progresses, readers can then accommodate more and more types. I hope.
Of course, the repetition of types also reflects the redundancy of serial comics. Someone will always be falling in love with someone else; members will die; new members will join; the Time Trapper will show up in his purple hooded monk’s robe and cause serious epistemic trouble.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read three poems by Margarita Delcheva, with art by Maximilian Pramatarov, selected by Jozeph Herceg.
[from The Cold Slavic Heart, a folktale]
Extinct like the dinoceros, it will destroy itself
for a New Year’s resolution. Like Baudelaire’s, the cold Slavic heart
boils itself before hunger. Like an ice tray, it gives the form of promise selflessly.
The cold Slavic heart is a blue-gray sailor whose lass
and her white ruffled skirt sweep the sands of a faux beach
in a backyard brothel in Marseilles.
There is a prophesy of an unborn maiden who folds out of a red apple
to warm up its steel sinews. That maiden was me.
Born past-less, with instincts intact, I tried to enter the apple through the seed.
This is my love poem to the cold Slavic heart,
in the breasts of the ex-Soviet painters. They are the tender predator birds
who stop at the school girls picking linden and let them pass.
David Behrman, Tyondai Braxton, and Karlheinz Stockhausen took New York City by storm last weekend. Nick Hallett celebrates their interwoven histories and relationship to the cosmos.
Between March 21 and 24, 2013 three iconic Upper East Side institutions convened semi-ritualized multimedia gatherings of electronic music and art in celebration of the divine elements that define Earth’s relationship to the cosmos—lunar orbits, bodies of water both liquid and frozen, insect habitats—while in Brooklyn, opera audiences gathered in front of a giant video orb to celebrate all the remaining planets in our solar system. As the events of the weekend unfolded, I progressed from concert to concert as if at some kind of rarefied Burning Man festival, inscribed by the art world. Perhaps the synergy was due to the weekend’s proximity to Vernal Equinox or the Passover holiday. Whatever the reason, the music and art left me feeling evolved, ready to beam up to . . . somewhere, resulting in what I have since been calling Space Age New Music Weekend.