Charles Simonds’s New York Dwellings and his mysterious absence from contemporary discourse.
At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Robert Smithson, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Charles Simonds were among those artists who applied the principles of Land Art and site-specificity to the contemporary urban context of the East Coast. All three artists were motivated by a similar ambition to do away with the traditional ontology of the viewing experience and to renegotiate the relationship between the artwork and its context. Although close friends who naturally influenced each other (Simonds and Matta-Clark shared a studio building from 1969 to 1971), the artists’ individual positions regarding the phenomenological locus and intentions of their work varied drastically. While Smithson and Matta-Clark geared parts of their art production toward a gallery context, Simonds had a markedly more conflicted relationship with the art establishment and the circumstances in which his work should or should not be experienced. He wanted his work to be encountered unexpectedly out in the streets, beyond an institutional framework pre-conditioning the viewer’s behavior.
Eduardo C. Corral on the soundtrack to his poetry and his book, Slow Lightning.
Eduardo C. Corral reminds us that when we listen for poetry, it is memory we hear. The “truth” won’t help you write a poem—Emily Dickinson’s famous dictum, “tell the truth, but tell it slant,” applies on each and every page in the mind of Corral. The more autobiographical a poem sounds, the more fictional it is, he says, because it is important to kick yourself out of your usual language habits. This conversation reminded me that poetry doesn’t always sit with or in language; the poets we enjoy and the communities and movements they are associated with are touchstones for poets to enter into the very community of writers they study. The visual iconography of our lives is just as much of a companion to our words and their associative meanings as is a book by our favorite writer.
If we look back at its history, Arizona has never been a place with easy access or privilege to those outside the norm, and yet Slow Lightning does not impose itself like the thorny geography and history of the native state that inspired many of the poems. The collection is both an ode and a Dear John letter to it’s author’s homestate of Arizona.
Yezmin Villarreal Rivera Slow Lightning sets a soundtrack through the sounds of violins, guitars, accordions, and corridos. Are you a musician? What is it about music and instruments that complements your writing?
Eduardo C. Corral I am not a musician. It is one of the skills I wish I had—to play an instrument. I took a year of high school piano but I don’t remember a single thing from that year. I do remember one thing. My teacher had perfect pitch, so each time I played piano, his face contorted in pain. So that tells you right away that I had no musical gifts as a performer of any kind of instrument. (laughter) It’s always been one of my biggest regrets.
The founders of Mossless on turning their photography blog into a magazine: why self-publishing can be the scary future of art books.
Initially a daily blog where Romke Hoogwaerts and a few contributors interviewed over 300 photographers, Mossless has now grown to be a sophisticated two issue photography magazine. Launched by Kickstarter, Issue 1 garnered a quick and widespread following among the small but close-knit photography book community. Issue 2, which launched last fall, was hand-made by co-editors Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh in their home/studio in Long Island City.
The small niche of photography magazines—while popularized by events such as Printed Matter’s LA and NY Art Book Fairs—is still a small and challenging market. In our interview, we discuss the hurdles in Mossless’s transformation from an interview-based photography website to a print magazine as well as the role of the internet in their process. Hoogwaerts’s accompanying essay in Issue 2, Swimming in the Center of the Earth, focuses on how the internet has introduced an arena for artists to show their work, while additionally generating a new kind of competition between artists.
While attending school, working, and creating art, Hoogwaerts and Leigh managed to produce a magazine that has already been recognized by museums, store owners, and individuals as something unique. The dedication and joy involved in the making of Mossless is essential to their success.
Ashley McNelis Romke, previously you were the editor of the Mossless blog where you interviewed contemporary photographers several times a week for over two years. Why did you decide to shift into creating a photo magazine of the same name?
Romke Hoogwaerts The magazine was the idea that started the interview blog. I’d always wanted to work in publishing and I figured there might be a way to carve my way through to it independently. I launched our first Kickstarter campaign to light a fire under my ass and so that I would graduate college with something in my hands. Most importantly though . . . these things look better in print, right?
In part one of a three part series, Katie Peyton discusses the origins of the Occupy movement in The Occupy Handbook.
Have you heard about Libertatia? I first encountered the story in William S. Burroughs’s Cities of the Red Night. Burroughs opens the trilogy by stating that “the liberal principles embodied in the French and American revolutions and later in the liberal revolutions of 1848 had already been codified and put into practice by pirate communes a hundred years earlier.”
He is talking about the pirate community founded by Captain Mission along the Madagascar coast. Quoting Under the Black Flag, by Don C. Seitz, Burroughs describes the principles of Libertatia. The citizens were to live “in strict harmony among themselves;” even so, he continues, “a misplaced society would adjudge them still as pirates. Self-preservation, therefore, and not a cruel disposition, compelled them to declare war on all nations who should close their ports to them.”
The ruling principles of one of these communities were called the Articles. According to Burroughs, The Articles state, among other things:
All decisions with regard to the colony to be submitted to vote by the colonists; the abolition of slavery for any reason including debt; the abolition of the death penalty; and freedom to follow any religious beliefs or practices without sanction or molestation.
Paper Clip is a weekly compilation of online articles, artifacts and other—old, new, and sometimes BOMB-related.
Nick Thurston on how Kim Rosenfield’s Lividity and Steven Zultanski’s Agony both convert the long form poem into an act of hyper-objectification, and how both do so to brutally contemporary effect.
In an age of acceleration and over-production, wherein the very ontology of published language has been transformed by its reformation through and as principally-digital data, the most intelligent and imaginative poetic responses seem to have come from the field of so-called Conceptual writing. Basically this is because conceptualist approaches to cultural production demand that “makers” consider what they make in the context of their field or community at the level of social epistemology as well as that of the projective imaginary. That is, the maker-subject recognizes herself as just one producer within a specific community and history of possibilities that are united by some shared concerns (technical, political, economic, geographic, sexual, whatever), and which are in turn embedded in other communities and histories of production. Those maker-subjects re-imagine those shared concerns by holding them together, often in dispute, which means that they don’t have to agree on what those concerns “mean,” but that they do privilege them as a/the problematic(s) for their community of production. The job, then, is to develop that shared problematic(s).
Conceptual writers are writing beyond other communities of literary practice because they’ve taken the risk of advancing the problematic(s) of poetry, whereas other communities of poetic practice (at least the ones who are producing textual fields that we would currently recognize as “poetry”) are failing to even at least sufficiently develop the problematic(s) of poetry in our age. At present, the conceptualist approach to writing (which is something that expands before and beyond so-called Conceptual writing) seems to be exploring what it means for poetic writing to be “contemporary” in the most interesting way right now. And the contemporaneity at stake in this contemporary moment seems to be being shaped by the unprecedented tension between a pair of facts that are perfectly articulated in Kim Rosenfield’s doublet “THE BRUTE MATERIAL OF WORDS. THE BRUTAL MATERIAL OF WORLDS.” (Lividity, p. 165), partly because of what it says and partly because she makes no claim to having said it first.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt on the politics of art school admissions, knick-knacks, and linguistic gate-keeping in contemporary art.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt is a doggedly peripheral figure in an historic and cultural narrative in which he’s actually played a central role. He was out as gay before Stonewall (he’s one of the few surviving participants), he made “installations” before they were branded as such, and he has persisted in maintaining a relationship with the Catholic faith which was and is still highly suspect to the art world and activist liberal community.
I interviewed Tommy this past January in the Hell’s Kitchen apartment where he’s lived for four decades, to discuss his recent exhibit at MoMA PS1, Tender Love Among the Junk. The largest survey of his work to date, the show included work from the late-’60s to early-2000s that accreted into a radiant, cathedral-like environment comprised of hundreds of hand-wrought and jewel-like artworks, many made on the TV-dinner tray nested in the far edge of Tommy’s bedroom.
Ours was a long, meandering conversation held over the course of a weekend—an otherwise unassuming continuation of a conversation we’ve been having since I was 18 and I first met him in person.
Jessica Baran I’m wondering about the relationship between the time when you were assigned to decorate the school bulletin board in your Catholic elementary school in Linden, New Jersey and the story of how you got your first review in the Village Voice, which was by stenciling “Object Art” all over an East Village city block. The Object Art project seems very different from both that childhood bulletin board and the artwork you subsequently went on to make.
Banker White takes us through the impermanence of memory and familial filmmaking in his documentary on his mother and mother’s mother, The Genius of Marian.
Artist Banker White’s second documentary feature, The Genius of Marian, tells the story of the filmmaker’s mother, Pamela White. When White started filming with her almost three years ago, Pamela was experiencing symptoms of what was to be diagnosed as early onset Alzheimer’s dementia—the same disease her own mother, Marian, had when Marian was in her 80s.
Using a collage of Super-8 family home movies and other evocative archival set against this intimate family drama from the White family home in New England, Banker immerses us in the daily life of Pam, whose relentlessly deteriorating condition threatens to wipe out the memory of her own mother, about whom she is writing a memoir when her symptoms start to worsen. The Genius of Marian retraces both women’s lives and legacies to create a complex and powerful portrait of motherhood.
Banker—whose previous film was 2010’s award-winning Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars—spoke to me from his home in San Francisco where he lives with his wife and baby, Dylan Tilly White. As he shifts gears from making the film to getting ready to share it with the world, we talked about the ways in which he created this moving and poignant piece of work.
The film will have its world premiere as part of the World Documentary Feature Competition at this month’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Pamela Cohn I’m always interested in the process of discovery a filmmaker has about his or her own project, particularly those projects that are so personal. You welcome an audience in immediately by opening with family home movies. The reverberations of that footage mixed with the immediacy of lives lived now is always so affecting. The years you spent being, in a way, your family’s archivist, set you up perfectly to make this kind of film. How did you work with your editor, Don Bernier, in extracting the best narrative?
Banker White Even before I identified as a filmmaker, I would film every family vacation and any other family function. So did my dad. So for the film, I could easily go back into that material. I also continued to shoot after what you see as the end of the film, and suspect I will keep doing so into the future.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read two poems by Evie Shockley with art by Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth, selected by Daniel Moysaenko.
a white web veils its own frailty
each wan tendril an arachnid’s will
spokes wielding silence speak volumes
the white weave concedes its empty center
its see-through beauty colors the view
Rachid Djaïdani discusses his new film Rengaine (Hold Back), and the advantages and hazards of guerrilla filmmaking.
Rachid Djaïdani’s unusual career spans from mason, boxer, actor, writer, to filmmaker. Although he made two short films before his first feature-length film, Rengaine (Hold Back) (2011), these films garnered little critical attention, despite having been shown in a number of festivals—Sur ma ligne (2006) and La ligne brune (2010).
In the first, Djaïdani filmed himself in the process of writing his second novel Mon Nerf (2004). The film aimed to prove that he was indeed a writer, after his authenticity was questioned by his editor at the publishing house Seuil. In the second, he filmed the pregnancy of his wife over its nine months. It was shown in the Festival Pickpocket in Paris. In both, Djaïdani isn’t in a hurry. He seems interested in taking his time. He filmed both in an improvisatory, spontaneous manner, composing sequences of images that often aren’t well explained that but revolve around a single face or a single object.
We can certainly say the same about Rengaine, which won the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) for the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, 2012. Djaïdani worked alone and without studio support during the nine years it took to complete this film. In the following interview, he describes the difficulties and the joys of the filmmaking process, as well as the choices he made along the way.
Translated from French by Matt Reeck
Laura Reeck What led you to make Rengaine? What idea did you want to explore?
Rachid Djaïdani As far as I can remember, the idea came about when I was working on Peter Brook’s Tierno Bokar. Little by little I began to invent the story of a black man who falls in love with a rebeu [person of North African descent], and how that was complicated by the fact that she had brothers. Then, by the end of the play’s tour, I had the idea of giving her forty brothers.
LR Did your parents’ relationship influence the story?