If you were a horror fan back in the late ‘90s or early aughts then you may be familiar with the UK distributor Redemption Films, which specializes in movies with titles like Nude For Satan, The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine, and The Rape of the Vampire. As a teenager, I was more interested in the Evil Deads and Re-Animators of the world and less in Redemption’s output; it wasn’t until recently that I gave them another look, and in so doing, discovered the hypnotic, strangely beautiful world of Jean Rollin. Continue reading
On Saturday, as nearly 100,000 youths blissed out to a lineup that included Lady Gaga, Bon Iver and ScHoolboy Q on the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, California, 500 miles to the north antifascist and alt-rightist forces fought in pitched street battles in Berkeley. The day before, on my way from the dusty day parking lot to the 330 acre chunk of emerald sod plopped in the desert like so many of its golf course cousins, I spoke to a 25-year old festival-goer from Encino about his plans for the weekend. It was his first Coachella, and he sincerely hoped his weekend would be devoid of anything political. It was a sentiment that seemed to pervade the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and stands in sun-bleached contrast to the darkness shaping up around us. Continue reading
What is found in a “found object”? That question, like many questions that have animated postwar American art, was first asked under very different circumstances. A remnant of the prewar European avant-garde, it was most memorably posed by the Surrealist poet and theorist André Breton in his 1937 autobiographical novel, L’Amour fou. Recalling a meandering walk that he had taken with the sculptor Alberto Giacometti through the Marché aux Puces flea market in Paris in the spring of 1934, Breton described how he came upon a large wooden spoon with a distinctive slipper-heel handle. Although otherwise unimpressive, this “found object,” or “objet trouvé,” seized Breton, who purchased it and brought it home, still wondering why it had had such an effect on him. After some time, he realized that his apparent interest in the spoon was only the most recent link in a much longer associative chain that led deep into his unconscious. In a convulsive moment of perception, he recognized that its slipper-heel called to mind a glass sculpture of a slipper that he had asked Giacometti to make for him months earlier but that the sculptor had never delivered. That sculpture was in turn linked to a half-formed phrase, “the Cinderella ashtray,” that had occurred to Breton in a waking dream earlier still. Together, that half-formed phrase and the undelivered sculpture made up yet another composite link that reached even further back, now to Breton’s erotic desire for the “lost object” as such. What had initially been a simple wooden spoon came to symbolize for Breton “a woman unique and unknown.” Continue reading
You’re already a consumer of Afrofuturist art, though you may not know it.
On either television or YouTube, you’ve likely seen the transfixing commercial for Apple AirPods, featuring “Down” by Marian Hill, with acting by Lil Buck, who begins his footwork on the street but soon steps into the air, moving along invisible walls and waves of sound. His dance — and Hill’s music — envision a world in which Blackness floats free of the constraints and violence that so often weigh it down today. And this freedom, enabled by technology and the fundamental belief that black life matters, is one definition for what has become a big, encompassing, and increasingly important term: Afrofuturism. Continue reading
Near the end of the first episode of the new crime podcast S-Town, from the makers of This American Life and Serial, host Brian Reed asks himself, “What am I still doing here?” Reed is in the small town of Woodstock, Alabama, watching S-Town’s subject, an eccentric clockmaker named John B. Mclemore, tinker around his shop. Reed came to Woodstock to investigate a murder Mclemore emailed him about, but at this point in the show, the basic facts of the murder, and the issue of whether it even happened, are in question. Reed thinks he might be facing a dead end, but Mclemore, a 50-year-old southerner with chest tattoos, nipple piercings, and an expert knowledge of antique clocks, intrigues him to stay. Eventually, Mclemore pays off. Continue reading
“It’s crazy how art can actually make you feel something.” I smile and nod. It is crazy, isn’t it? And yet sometimes — in the flurry of making and discussing, marketing and analyzing — we forget that primal aspect of art. But not here, never here: on the inside, where art is a lifeline like nowhere else. When I hear this comment, I am sitting with a group of men at a small table, one of multiple clustered around the large gymnasium. We are in a prison, one of four where I created and now oversee what has become an expansive and collaborative art program with 20 teaching artists facilitating multiple weekly classes in four prisons. At this table, we are looking at the men’s artwork and talking about their progress. One of the men, Shaun (all names are changed), has been with our program since the beginning and has taken nearly all of our classes. He recalls that when he started, one of our teaching artists looked at his colorful psychedelic drawings and said, “You’re an artist, man, you have to own it!” Shaun beams as he recalls this and proceeds to help the newer students look at one another’s art and express what they see. Continue reading
In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.
I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading
The second act of Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo was originally a self-contained one-act called The Zoo Story, written in 1958. In it, a laconic textbook editor named Peter is approached in Central Park by Jerry, a disheveled hustler who’s spent his life on the fringes and is desperate for a meaningful human connection. If you have had a homeless person approach you and start talking in a way that doesn’t make perfect sense, then you can imagine Peter’s unease. Likewise, if you’ve ever been surrounded by people, but still somehow managed to find yourself deeply, suffocatingly lonely, then you can imagine Jerry’s desperation. The play is about these two men: one who wants to mind his own business and the other who needs someone to talk to, and how they reach the worst kind of compromise. Laugh-out-loud funny at times and heart-wrenchingly sad at others, The Zoo Story is an almost-perfect short play. Continue reading
There came a point this winter at which I realized that I was reading more cookbooks than novels, more cookbooks than poetry collections, certainly more cookbooks than newspapers. When I turned on the radio and tried to listen to the day’s events, I found myself compelled, rather, to turn it off and to flip through a Madhur Jaffrey or Nigel Slater volume instead. I stirred ginger into chickpeas and cream into gratins instead of learning what the oligarch would do next. I made elaborate lists of ingredients and recipes to cook almost compulsively, and in this, I was more diligent than any diary keeping or calendar. Continue reading