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I have recently been introduced to the work of Court 13, an indy production company rumored to be run by a group of Wesleyan grads. One of their first film, Death To The Tinman, is awesome, but they have out-done themselves with their follow up Glory at Sea. The film is a surrealist response to Katrina and is absolutely one of the best works of art to deal with the trauma of the hurricane. The first time I saw this I burst into tears, causing my friend to run into the room to check that I was alright. When I made him sit down with me to watch it again about an hour later, I burst into tears again even though this time I knew what was coming.

It is so rare to see art that is so sincere and loving without even a hint of being emotionally manipulative. Spectacular.

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I just want to go on the record to say that there are few places in the world that I am as content to make up romantic fantasies about as the American South. Planning my Louisville–>Nashville–>New Orleans trip obviously only stokes the fire.

Its just so ripe! Evangelic Christianity, country and folk music, the history of slavery and sharecropping, all of the great American Literature set in the South…the list goes on. I recently read this great quote by Flannery O’Connor, which I at once think is hilarious and, well, very apropo given the topic of this post.

“I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” (via Maude Newton)

My friend Jim turned me on this film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus that looks awesome and also like an egregious offender of exactly the thing that O’Connor is complaining about.

On Friday I saw Songwriter, starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Beautiful and sexy and amazing. Happens in Nashville and Austin and was super inspiring. Inspiring me to grow long hair and learn to play the guitar that is. Everyone should see it.

Ryan Mrozowski is a Brooklyn based artist who channels this fascination incredibly beautifully. I love this picture of his, and what could be more romantic or more Southern than an image that looks like a baptism in the dirty waters of the Mississippi (although I am pretty sure that is an astronaut they are pulling out of the water…):

Ryan Mrozowksi, Pulled from the river, 2008, Acrylic on panel, 36 by 38 inches

Ryan Mrozowksi, Pulled from the river, 2008, Acrylic on panel, 36 by 38 inches

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My senior year in college, I received a modest grant from my school in order to cover expenses incurred during the creation of my senior thesis. Since I was a photography major, there were many. In exchange for the funding, I was asked to present my project to a small group of students. And one of the fun parts of the presentation was that a friend of mine was asked to introduce me.

Unfortunately, my friend Paul was unable to attend my presentation, so he wrote me an introduction, which was read by my friend Jake in Paul’s absence. The introduction was written on a typewriter and typing errors were crossed out with a black marker. I recently found the introduction in my stuff as I was moving.

It’s easily one of the nicest things anyone has ever written for me and one of my most treasured notes. I wanted to save it here for posterity.

Thank you Paul.

An introduction, written by Paul on the ocassion of Adda’s Mellon Forum presentation, April 2007

Last night I told Adda that I respected her because she was the type of person that, upon identifying a problem, took action to correct it. I had in mind, at that moment, her YDN column, which you might have seen today and which she began at the start of this semester in order to add a female perspective to page 2. Some might have only pointed out such a flaw, that there was a noticeable hegemony of viewpoints’ Adda pointed it out and then set out to do something about it. Even if it was not a revolution, even if it was just one column, it was something, it was a change. This, to me, summed up the kind of person Adda was. After not saying anything for about a minute, she agreed with me: she was that kind of person. This is also why I like Adda; she knows when I’m right.

Which is to say, Adda knows when to agree, just like she know when, and how, to disagree. This is where photography comes in. Perhaps more than any other visual art, knowing the importance of agreement is essential in photography. Knowing when to agree is hard, as hard as knowing when to click open the shutter to let in those few milliseconds of light, those ones, and not the ones that just passed by, or the ones just around the corner.

Timing alone doesn’t produce worthwhile photographs though. Adda’s great strength as a photographer is that she, possibly by her nature, agrees with her subject. She treats plants with the same agreement as she treats topless old men at the beach, with the same agreement as she treats cement, with the same agreement as she treats loved ones, family, and friends.

No one can become a street photographer who is at heart a misanthrope. Luckily for the world, and for the world of photography, Adda isn’t. Thank you.

This is an article I wrote for The Village Voice, published August 12, 2008. Read the original here.

Beauty bomb: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s  Atomic Age, 1955, Courtesy Kinz, Tillou + Feigen/The New Museum of Contemporary Art

Beauty bomb: Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s  Atomic Age, 1955, Courtesy Kinz, Tillou + Feigen/The New Museum of Contemporary Art

Americans experience the world as being in a state of perpetual pre-apocalypse: Disaster looms large in the form of terrorism, AIDS, nuclear war, or environmental devastation. Assembling a collection of works that pit the vulnerability of man against the devastating force of man-made catastrophe, the New Museum’s “After Nature” exhibition heralds our fear and bravely imagines the world post-apocalypse.

The power of the exhibition lies in curator Massimiliano Gioni’s complex and contradictory view that destruction is beautiful. Werner Herzog’s documentary Lessons of Darkness inspired the show and is a fitting opener; the film is a smoky chronicle of Kuwait on fire in the months after the end of the first Gulf War. Herzog splices footage of firefighters battling blazing oil wells with exquisite aerial views of the desert pocked with searing red flames and billowing black smoke. In his paintings Atomic Age and The Birth of Light, outsider artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein also revels in the exuberant beauty of fiery explosions. Made during the Cold War era, his glossy waxworks envision the final atomic blasts as bright, looping mushroom clouds gleefully signaling the end. Continue Reading »

This is an article I wrote for the Architect’s Newspaper, originally published in the November 19, 2008 issue. This is actually the only version of it you will find online, because this was one of my rare instances of writing for print only.

339 Lafayette in 1991, Photo by Ed Hedemann

339 Lafayette in 1991, Photo by Ed Hedemann

Tenants of “Peace Pentagon” at 339 Lafayette oppose building’s potential sale

At three stories high, 339 Lafayette Street is a dwarf in a sea of giants, a 90-year-old unrenovated relic in a gentrifying neighborhood north of Houston. For the past 40 years, this modest brick structures on the northeast corner of Bleecker and Lafayette has been home to the War Resisters League and a collection of social justice groups who pay only $6.65 per square foot for their office space. Past and current tenants include David Dellinger’s Liberation magazine, Paper Tiger Television, the Socialist Party, and the Metropolitan Council on Housing. Now the informal collective is at risk of losing the building that Abbie Hoffman famously named the “Peace Pentagon”

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Sarah Stolfa is a spectacular photographer I first got to know while we were both at Yale. This is an interview I conducted with her for the Flavorwire, published February 25, 2009. Read the original here.

Sarah Stolfa, Los Angeles, CA, Courtesy the artist

Sarah Stolfa, Los Angeles, CA, Courtesy the artist

VIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY OF HER WORK HERE

Philadelphia-based Sarah Stolfa is a fine art photographer who holds an undergraduate degree from Drexler University and an MFA from the Yale School of Art. She’s most famous for her series, The Regulars, which won the The New York Times Photography Contest for College Students in 2004 and became a popular book with an introduction by one of our favorite writers, Jonathan Franzen. After the jump she talks to Flavorwire’s Adda Birnir about changing her visual language, seeking out the universal trauma in American culture, and suggesting the link between religion and sports in her work.

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