Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Normal Girls: On SZA, Nella Larsen, and the Varieties of Black Feminism

By Marina Magloire

I am not Beyoncé. Never did I feel this more strongly than when I sat high above her, watching her tiny figure strut across the stage at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Screens several stories high projecting her image hung like banners for some erstwhile fascist leader. It was in many ways not the ideal concert — it was outdoors, and a thunderstorm sparked a temporary evacuation of the stadium (“Please remain calm, Beyoncé is not leaving” someone said over an intercom). But what struck me as least ideal was the staged-ness of every word and gesture, everything scripted from the high kicks, to the thank yous to her loyal and dedicated fans, to the rote delivery of the songs meant to be uplifting and to get us “in formation.” Did she know the tears I had shed in the dark over “Sandcastles,” the reckless careworn times in my car when I drove on the highway just to turn up “Sorry” loud enough to drown out my pounding heart? Did she not know the emotional catharsis I wanted to share with her at that concert? Apparently not. Continue reading

Shadi Yousefian: A Retrospective

By Christopher Ian Lutz

Know thyself. You would have read these two words as you entered the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, if you lived in Greece 2000 years ago. More recently you might have read or watched Alice in Wonderland, in which the Caterpillar asks Alice: “Who are you?” This question has been known to initiate young people on a lifelong journey of self-realization. It is the underlying factor of self-expression, teenage angst, and mid-life crises. This question, this pursuit of identity, is what perpetuates the institutions of religion, other spiritual practices, and all the methods individuals use to connect with an identity beyond temporary designations. In a similar systematic approach, Shadi Yousefian has undergone a journey of self-realization through the ritual of art by dismantling such designations in order to construct a truer form of identity. Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rock and Roll

By Erin Coulehan 

People loved rock and roll long before Joan Jett made an anthem about it in 1982. The genre was born through traditionally African American musical styles and adapted to suit a different audience — a whiter audience. Rock and roll as we know (and love) it drew influence from jazz, gospel, country, and R&B to popularize in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was set on fire by bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Yale-educated music historian Lorenzo Candelaria at the University of Texas at El Paso, audience is what initially distinguished rock and roll from rhythm and blues. Simply put, “rhythm and blues refers to music that was marketed to a black audience; rock and roll refers to music directed at a white audience.” Continue reading

There’s a Theory I’ve Got Cooking: An Interview with John Rossiter of Young Jesus

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein 

Los Angeles-based alt-rock band Young Jesus has been through many iterations; it started as a high school band in the suburbs of Chicago, did a Red Bull-sponsored tour, went acoustic for an album, and then transformed into its current formation. A band of far-out sounds, 10-minute-plus songs that could be described as soundscapes, and live shows full of improvisation, Young Jesus resonates as both expansive and personal. Continue reading

Connections, Collage, and Citation in the Work of Lana Del Rey and Maggie Nelson

By Niina Pollari

These days, Lana Del Rey records every interview she does as a mode of self-protection against publications taking things she says out of context. The anxiety of citation has caused Del Rey to take major precautions; and yet, her new album Lust for Life is brimming with references, even more than her previous albums, from its title all the way to its final, Radiohead-riffing manifesto. Though they may not be attributed as citations, they are easily recognizable as pop canon: there are direct lyrical callouts to “Tiny Dancer,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and many more. The album also nods toward genres: the motorcycle revving at the beginning of the title track is straight out of teenage tragedy ballads like “Leader of the Pack.” How does the fact of Del Rey’s concern with citation, and with being cited correctly herself, reconcile with her borrowings from pop? Continue reading

The Little Rock Nine, Ballet, and Racial Justice in Art

By Amy M. Wilkinson

The U.S. recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Arkansas Central High School’s integration. The commemoration included reflections on the turbulence of the civil rights era and memorialized how Little Rock became a flashpoint in the struggle for racial equality. While many acknowledge progress in race relations, data suggests that decades after Brown v. Board of Education, public schools are still largely segregated. Continue reading

From Language Lessons to Sex Slavery: Korea’s New Comfort-Woman Comedy I Can Speak

By Colin Marshall

Over the past few months, a publicity blitz of the caliber usually reserved for Hollywood superhero spectacles has urged Koreans to see a I Can Speak (아이 캔 스피크), a movie about a straight-laced young civil servant who reluctantly gives English lessons to an old battleaxe. Or at least that’s how it looked at first: as more detailed press and advertisements came out, people started to sense something more complicated than the Korean Harold and Maude (if that) they might have expected. Soon word spread that it actually deals with one of the most dangerously controversial issues in the country today: the plight of the “comfort women,” the young girls forced into prostitution for the Japanese military during the Second World War. Continue reading

Art Inside: Graduation Day

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

Attending graduation, with all its traditional pomp and regalia, is a ritual I enjoy as a university professor. This year, I had the good fortune to celebrate more graduates from my department than ever before. Exciting as this was, there was another, smaller, graduation celebration that stands out in my mind. In June, together with three students who also graduated with BAs this year, I hosted a graduation at the prison in Chino for 11 students who completed the Yearlong Certificate in Art and Creative writing. These graduates did not receive a university diploma or celebrate their day with caps and gowns, dinners out, or even balloons and streamers. They walked across a makeshift concrete stage in prison-issue blues to receive their certificates. Those assembled to support them — teaching artists, volunteers, prison staff, and a precious few family members — sat together with the graduates in plastic chairs clustered under a metal awning in the visiting yard. Despite the humble surroundings, the celebration was as festive as any, and all the more laudatory for the effort that these men had put forward to complete this achievement. Continue reading

The Farhang Foundation 9th Annual Short Film Festival

By Orly Minazad

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles is the bottomless pit of cultural exploits and opportunities just an Uber ride away. At the forefront of some of those events is Farhang Foundation, the leading purveyor of Iranian cultural celebrations. Since 2008, the non-profit foundation has been championing Persian artists from all over the world and welcoming the community to indulge in the festivities. Continue reading