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To Kill A Mocking Bird

To Kill A Mocking Bird

Court 13’s film Glory At Sea has me thinking about children’s stories, particularly those stories that offer a dark, though beautiful, worldview. I find work that is appropriate for children, but smart enough to be enjoyed by adults really interesting and challenging. I would not hesitate to show Glory At Sea to a seven year old, but I also think its one of the most incredible and emotionally deep films I have seen in a long time.

I understand that there is a long history of fantastical children’s stories that are quite sinister (Roald Dahl, Brother’s Grimm, etc.) but I am not so much interested in fantasy stories as those stories that are only touched by darkness. Childhood can be a melancholic time and I find that works of art, film, and literature that address that directly can be breathtaking.

I for one was raised with a very Scandinavian love for the dark side. My parents are realists, first and foremost, but more importantly, Icelanders as a nation subscribe to a whole cast of nefarious mythological characters who are ready to prey on children at any given moment. Think 13 devilish Santa Clauses ready for all sorts of hijinks and one scary mountain giant named Gryla, and you have a good start.

I wanted to get a list started of works (art, film, literature) that fit into this loose category I am trying to define. Comments are strongly encouraged.

THE LIST

Secret of Roan Inish: The only children’s film made by John Sayles. Tells the story of a young Irish girl who tries to bring her family back to the island they left and to find her brother who has gone missing. The whole story is also interwoven with the re-telling of beautiful Irish mythologies about humans and seals. I saw this first when I was 9 and have loved it ever since.

Small Change: One of Truffaut’s masterpieces, tells the story of children and their parents living in a small town in France. One of the best moments comes when an adult says: “I don’t know why children are always portrayed as being happy. They really aren’t, often they are quite sad.”

George Washington: I have to admit that I can’t remember the exact plot of this film, but I remember it being dark, Southern, involving death and being quite amazing. The tagline: “down this twisted road, please watch over my soul and lift me up so gently so as not to touch the ground.”

Amarcord: Fellini’s autobiographical film about growing up in a small town in Italy. Everything that is sad and beautiful about life. Mixed with a bunch of boyish pranks.

The Brother’s Lionheart: This is a book by Astrid Lindgren that my mother read to me in Icelandic. It tells the story of two brothers reunited in the afterlife. The wikipedia entry agrees with me, saying “Many of its themes are unusually dark and heavy for the children’s book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal and rebellion are some of the dark themes that permeate the story.” I remember being somewhat haunted by the novel as a kid, but loving it nonetheless.

To Kill a Mockingbird: This novel and film really need to no synopsis, but fall perfectly into the category.

The Writer: It’s perhaps unfair to lump this poem by Richard Wilbur in here since I can’t really argue that it was intended for a children’s audience. That said, his use of the metaphor of a bloody and battered starling to describe the sound of his young daughter working on the typewriter made it seem appropriate.

More to come….

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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. (more…)

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This is an article I originally wrote for Art Cat’s The Zine, published November 5, 2008. Read the original here.

Shimon Okshteyn, Reflection #8, 2007, graphite, canvas, mixed media, paint, mirror. Via Heist.

Shimon Okshteyn, Reflection #8, 2007, graphite, canvas, mixed media, paint, mirror. Via Heist.

Shimon Okshteyn
Heist Gallery – Shimon Okshteyn at Heist, New York NY
10 October – 7 November 2008

For one more week, merry wanderers and afternoon flâneurs can find a funhouse gallery of mirrors hidden on a quiet block of Chinatown. Tucked between two small shops on Essex Street south of Delancey, you can enter a wormhole that will send you back to a Coney Island spectacle or a Times Square peep show. But peek around the corner of a mirror and you will see nary an amusement ride technician nor a beautiful girl, but a cheerful gallery attendant eager to hand you a press release.

Shimon Okshteyn’s show, Reflection on Reality, is the fourth exhibition at the newly opened Heist Gallery located in eastern Chinatown. The immersive installation, including a mirrored floor, is made up of slightly distorted mirrors bolted to the gallery walls. The mirrors swell and contract light and splinter where the screws bite. Thin purple and pink neon bulbs light the hall, bouncing against the opposing mirrors, and illuminating the space with an appropriately artificial glow.

(more…)

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This is an article I originally wrote for Art Cat’s The Zine, published October 18, 2007. Read the original article here.

Kohei Yoshiyuki, from the series The Park, 1971, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery.

Kohei Yoshiyuki, from the series The Park, 1971, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery.

The Park
Kohei Yoshiyuki
Yossi Milo Gallery – 525 West 25th Street New York, NY
6 September – 20 October, 2007

If you have read anything about Kohei Yoshiyuki’s show The Park, currently on view at Yossi Milo Gallery, you know the basic story — that Yoshiyuki went about photographing young lovers coupling in Toyko’s public parks and the many men who watched them do it. As told to The New York Times columnist Philip Gefter, the story goes that one night in the early 1970’s while innocently photographing lit skyscrapers, Yoshiyuki strolled through a local park and happened upon a group of men secretly watching a couple fool around. The couple seemed unaware of the rapt audience and went about their business unperturbed. Intrigued, Yoshiyuki decided to shift the focus of his camera lens away from the steel phallus to real phallus. After spending months infiltrating and observing these clandestine gatherings sans camera, Yoskiyuki began documenting the events without disrupting the lovers or the peeping toms, using a film camera outfitted with an infrared flash.

(more…)

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This is a piece I originally wrote for Art Cat’s The Zine, published March 25, 2008. Read the original piece here.

Carolee Schneemann, still image from "Fuses",  1965, color film in 16mm, 22:00 minutes

Carolee Schneemann, still image from "Fuses", 1965, color film in 16mm, 22:00 minutes

Women in Experimental Film
Co-presented by The Film-makers’s Cooperative and PS1
2pm Saturday 1 March 2008
PS1 – 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City NY

Women Behind the Lens, Panel Discussion
Presented by CineKink
Moderated by Rachel Kramer Bussel
5pm Saturday 1 March 2008
Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY

Running concurrent to the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibition at PS1 and boasting its own set of events, was the less high profile CineKink Film Festival. The festival, whose aim is to continue “the recognition and encouragement of sex-positive and kink-friendly depictions in film and television” — according to the letter of introduction written by CineKink Co-Founder and Director Lisa Vandever — focuses primarily on porn, a topic deplored by many feminists, yet one that resonates deeply with much of the work on display at PS1.

Saturday March 1, 2008, in a moment of programmatic convergence, PS1 in Long Island City screened the works of seven experimental feminist filmmakers followed by a panel discussion; across the river at the Anthology Film Archives, CineKink hosted its pornographic version of the same event, showcasing woman-directed works of pornography followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers.

(more…)

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Together, Tom Starkweather and I co-produced this piece for Flavorwire, Flavorpill’s blog. We had a spectacularly fun time making it happen. Check out the Flavorwire post for the full slideshow.

Dreaming of dancing with Matisse.

Dreaming of dancing with Matisse. Photo: Tom Starkweather

VIEW THE SLIDESHOW OF HER INSPIRED MISADVENTURES

After reading about Jerry Saltz’s overnight stay at Carsten Höller’s Revolving Hotel Room at the Guggenheim, we got to thinking: What would it be like to spend a night in New York’s other major museums? No better way to find out than to try. We sent our more attractive reporter Adda Birnir — robe in hand — with our staff photographer Tom Starkweather to *test out the accommodations.

Jerry Saltz, we see your Guggenheim and raise you the New Museum, Brooklyn Museum and MoMA.

The New Museum $
Rock n’ roll modernism without the vomit

I arrived at the New Museum in the early evening and was delighted to have the place to myself. I began by reading all about painter Mary Heilman and contemplating her exuberant abstract geometric forms. Next, I went to hang out with my friends Kurt, Georgia, and Patti in the Elizabeth Peyton exhibit. While there, I met an art handler working late, let’s call him J. The two of us spent some quality time exploring the museum’s nooks and crannies. After our rendezvous I sent J packing and headed up to the Sky Room to get some rest. The cold concrete floor was not great for sleeping, but wow, the view of Manhattan in the morning is unparalleled.

On a scale from Paul Chan to Tomma Abts, I give my stay at the New Museum a Tillman Kaiser: minimalist, yet visually arresting, and totally rock n’ roll.
For reservations: (212) 219-1222

The Brooklyn Museum $$
A pluralist haven for those willing to cross the river

The staff was incredibly welcoming when I checked in; they armed me with a map, informational brochures, and set me free to explore the museum’s maze of galleries. Since I hadn’t eaten, my first stop was Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, where I chowed down in the company of some remarkable women. After dinner I brushed up on the history of African art, which turned out to be a perfect antecedent to the 21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum show. The exhibit includes works by black American artists Fred Wilson and Mickalene Thomas. I decided against bedding down on Edwina Sandys’s not so Posturepedic looking Marriage Bed, opting instead to sleep in the Egyptian wing among the mummies.

On a scale from Gilbert Stuart to the Egyptian Goddess Isis, I give the Brooklyn Museum a Catherine Opie: an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary, while always keeping an eye out for women and minorities.
For reservations: (718) 638-5000

The Museum of Modern Art $$$
There’s no sex in the Abstract Expressionist room

There is no place like the Modern if you want to see the masters — or at least MoMA’s take on who’s who of Modern Art. Stumble upon a Matisse in the stairwell, round a corner to find a Picasso, and walk three more steps to see Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, all in quick succession. But man, those guards do not kid around. Despite the long list of rules handed to me at the front desk, I found plenty of ways to entertain myself during my overnight stay. After taking in the major exhibitions, I scoped out the museum’s spectacular architecture, spent some quality time checking myself out in the mirror, and then slept wonderfully, dreaming of action painting.

On a scale from Henri Rousseau to Elizabeth Murray, I give the Museum of Modern Art an Olafur Eliasson: awesome and extremely meticulous, but a little too pleased with itself.
For reservations: (212) 708-9400

*Flavorwire wants to be clear that we didn’t really spend the night in any of these lovely hotels errr, museums. We just had a really good time taking photographs that made it look like we did.

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I wrote the feature for Artkrush 97: Paris Photo, published November 12, 2008. You can read the original here.

Laura Letinsky, <em>Untitled #117 (from Hardly More Than Ever)</em>, 2007, Courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #117 (from Hardly More Than Ever), 2007, Courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery

Paris Photo 2008

Now in its 12th installment, Paris Photo 2008 arrives in the European capital with a marked turn toward international photography. The 107 exhibitors that fill the great Carrousel du Louvre hall include a healthy mix of first-time contributors from around the world. Galleries new to the fair include India’s Nature Morte, Stills Gallery of Australia, South Korea’s Keumsan Gallery, and Cologne’s Claudia Delank Gallery . But the exhibition’s undoubted focus falls on its guest of honor, Japan, boasting the most comprehensive European exhibition of contemporary Japanese photography to date. (more…)

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