Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize on Thursday, made his last great recording on my mother’s birthday in 1975. Also, Joni Mitchell is better. He’s a world-historical artist anyway. You might disagree; every Nobel Prize winner is broadly disliked, I hope. Taste is, as always, the least interesting aspect of the contentious debates over who is deserving of this annual travesty. More interesting is the struggle — the campaigning, the outrage, the political demands — over this doling out of cultural recognition by gross global prestige machines. But this year the heat seems to reside in the definition of literature, itself a site of ceaseless cultural combat. Continue reading
By Don Franzen
“Can a song written ten years ago change the world?”
That’s the question posed by “Why Do We Build the Wall,” a song written a decade ago by Vermont-based singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell as part of her folk opera Hadestown, which sets the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a post-apocalyptic depression-era America. Continue reading
Article and photos by Edith Young
Phelan, Mansur Gavriel, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Nicole Miller, Eckhaus Latta: Glancing at the New York Fashion Week calendar, it’s not immediately apparent that so many designers on the roster spent years toiling away in studios at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) before launching their eponymous labels. One might speculate that there will be more famous names in fashion to emerge from RISD; its history speaks for itself. On the second to last day of this season’s New York Fashion Week, ten newly-minted RISD apparel graduates presented the school’s first ever Fashion Week show. They convened backstage at Skylight Clarkson, one of the premiere event spaces for shows like Vera Wang, Cynthia Rowley, Hood by Air, and Band of Outsiders. Helping models shimmy into garments, strap into Tevas, and lace up cleats, the recent alums prepared to reveal a year’s worth of work to a new audience. While the designers had already debuted their Apparel Design theses in May on a makeshift runway in RISD’s Fleet Library, September 14th’s New York presentation felt like a coming out ball.
Photographs of photographs constitute a peculiarly self-conscious genre. These images often emit a jejune urgency, an automatic feeling that the photographs they depict must be preserved. Given the rapid transformation of the photographic medium, it’s noteworthy that a physical photograph no longer qualifies as a preservation in and of itself — there must be a digital replication of the object. Photos are taken so that information can be shared (one thinks now of the reliable screenshot) — or so that information can be destroyed, the simulated a proxy for the actual. Sometimes, a photograph of a photograph implies historical and psychic gulfs between both beholders. As Zoe Leonard’s latest exhibit shows, these photographs can bear witnesses to — and perform in — the mysterious drama that is memory. Continue reading
By Mimi Zeiger
In 1990, several years before the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMOMA) would move into its new building on Third Street, William Gibson wrote the short story “Skinner’s Room” for the architecture exhibition Visionary San Francisco. Commissioned by the museum’s first architecture and design curator Paolo Polledri, Gibson’s sci-fi dystopia depicted the city’s homeless population squatting on a defunct Bay Bridge while wealthy urbanites made their homes in 60-storey solar-powered towers. Continue reading
This moment in human history has the word gender turning over and over in its mouth, the sandstone of the modern tongue stripping away the callouses on the word “woman.” On October 3rd at Skylight Books, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl heralded the word “woman” in the presentation of their new book Rad Women Worldwide. The book is a celebration of amazing women throughout human history, like activist Malala Yousafzai, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and British punk rocker Poly Styrene. It is sequel to the duo’s first work, Rad Women of America, and a very considerate and artful archive of global femininity. The widened scope of subject matter was approached with great attention to diversity; of skill, of global recognition, of race, and of creed. By acknowledging each rad woman’s unique tribulations on her way to triumph, they have created not only an artifact of female excellence, but of female strength and tenacity in the face of patriarchy, racial oppression, and war. Continue reading
The first time script I ever read was Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as adapted by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. I played the role of the Count himself in my Catholic high school production back in 2001. The production was about what you would expect out of a group of American teenagers pretending to be European adults. I was mortified when, as I stood on stage during the final dress rehearsal in my dopey cape and fangs and white face paint, watching as the actress playing Mina asked — as politely as she could — if we could please change the scene at the end of Act One where Dracula kisses Mina on the lips. We’d rehearsed it a dozen times already, always stopping just short of the kiss, which, as a bookish teenager in the theater club was about as close to girls as I generally got. The director looked at my co-star, registering her shame and terror, and conceded. Perhaps, he suggested, Dracula could kiss her on the neck? No, that wouldn’t work. Perhaps bite her neck….? She hadn’t even stopped shaking her head. “Okay, he can start to bite your neck, but we’ll drop the curtain before he makes contact. How’s that?” The actress winced, then gave a deep shuddery sigh and nodded, eyes locked in a thousand-yard stare. A true professional. In the end, the scene played out much as Mr. Stoker had surely imagined it, with a 17-year-old Count Dracula almost maybe probably going to bite the neck of a noticeably grossed-out Mina. The scene was taught, real, and very powerful. Continue reading
Photo: J. Soto-Gonzalez, first prize art contest winner ages 14–18
Let us congratulate Lizeth and Zulema for the impossible trek they have conquered.
Lizeth speaks of the extremes of heat, self-reliance at an early age, the round the clock labor universe of farm worker (“plant — pick and pack”) and the all encompassing knowing that all this is to sustain all life. It is incredible to know that a 10 to 13-year-old wrote this with such wisdom and compassion — a hard earned essay.
Zulema charts the long cycle of migrant generations, the year-long calendar — from Asparagus to Apples — crushing through school schedules and towns. She wants to break the cycle of poverty — the same one my father dreamed of dismantling in the 1950’s. Zulema has succeeded.
So we congratulate these chroniclers of migrant struggle and continuity, these wisdom-word writers for a just Now.
Juan Felipe Herrera
Poet Laureate Continue reading