Conversations between Artists, Writers, Actors, Directors, Musicians—Since 1981
Joanne Greenbaum Gyula Kosice Richard Thompson Fiona Maazel Matías Piñeiro Abraham Cruzvillegas Hope Gangloff David Grubbs Phillip Lopate
Number 124 / Summer 2013
Number 124 / Summer 2013 EDITOR’S CHOICE VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN DIRECTED BY ANDRÉS WOOD by Cecilia Vicuña
IRIS HAS FREE TIME BY IRIS SMYLES by Frederic Tuten
TABBOO!: THE ART OF STEPHEN TASHJIAN by Sean Mellyn
FILL THE VOID DIRECTED BY RAMA BURSHTEIN by Liza Béar
ABOVE AND BELOW: GORDON MATTA-CLARK by Lytle Shaw
CITY OF ANGELS OR, THE OVERCOAT OF DR. FREUD BY CHRISTA WOLF by Larissa Zimberoff
ARTISTS ON ARTISTS
on the cover: Joanne Greenbaum Untitled , 2012, oil and ink on canvas, 90 × 70 inches.
NADJA BOURNONVILLE by Zoe Beloff
LUCY SKAER by William Corwin
INTERVIEWS 24 ART — HOPE GANGLOFF by Yuri Masnyj For Masnyj, Gangloff has an uncanny ability to capture character in the exaggerated clarity of her art. They met at Cooper Union, whose activist students are the subjects of Gangloff’s recent portraits. 34 MUSIC — RICHARD THOMPSON by Keith Connolly Fairport Convention helped to bring traditional music into British folk rock back in the ’60s. On the through lines from the early Fairport albums to Thompson’s solo latest, Electric. 40 FILM — MATÍAS PIÑEIRO by Clinton Krute The Argentine filmmaker shuffles portions of Shakespeare’s plays into structured films that portray the slippage between words and reality. 50 ART — JOANNE GREENBAUM by Jeremy Sigler Though Greenbaum would rather keep her art-making process to herself, she speaks with Sigler on rage and play as great motivators. 3
ART — GYULA KOSICE 58 by Lyle Rexer and Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro Kosice’s plans for a theoretical Hydrospatial City (1972) included spaces for “the emphatic dreaming of unrealities” and for “tenderness and its vicinity.” 74 LITERATURE — FIONA MAAZEL by Justin Taylor Fiona Maazel on her second novel, Woke Up Lonely, its influences ranging from Thomas Mann to Kim Jong-il, and whether influence even exists. 104 LITERATURE — PHILLIP LOPATE by Shifra Sharlin One of America’s greatest essayists on being a native New Yorker, Freud, and showing and telling. ART — ABRAHAM CRUZVILLEGAS 114 by Haegue Yang On self-construction as a permanently unfinished process, apropos of Cruzvillegas’s The Autoconstrucción Suites at the Walker Art Center. MUSIC — DAVID GRUBBS 130 by C. Spencer Yeh David Grubbs likes to play with improvisatory musicians because they go for it—he’s after an unrepeatable quality. C. Spencer Yeh is one such improviser in Grubbs’s new album, The Plain Where the Palace Stood. BOMB SPECIFIC Fredi Casco
PORTFOLIO Paola Ferrario
THE WICK Jim Torok
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the coeditor of The Agriculture Reader, a limited-edition arts annual now in its sixth year. He has taught at Columbia University, NYU, and the Pratt Institute. He lives in Brooklyn.
KEITH CONNOLLY is a founding member of the No-Neck Blues Band (NNCK), whose extensive back catalog was released online by De Stijl Records in May. Connolly is a native New Yorker and was in the cast of two plays recently directed by Richard Maxwell: Neutral Hero and Early Plays, a joint production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Glencairn” plays by the New York City Players and the Wooster Group.
CLINTON KRUTE is a writer and filmmaker who lives in New York. As a film programmer, he has cocurated the La Di Da Film Festival and Sound + Vision at The Kitchen in New York City, as well as contributed criticism to BOMB, where he is the web editor. He is recording an album with the slow motion country-rock group the Monte de Rosas Band.
YURI MASNYJ is an artist, designer, and educator living and working in New York City. Best known for the austere drawings of interior space, Masnyj’s work addresses the relationship between art and design while exploring the human compulsion to collect and compose objects. Recent exhibitions include the solo shows X at Travesía Cuatro, Madrid, 2012, and The Night’s Still Young at Metro Pictures, New York, 2007, as well as the Whitney Biennial in 2006 and the 2005 edition of Greater New York at MoMA PS1. Masnyj’s work was included in Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing (Phaidon Press, 2005). 8
LYLE REXER is a critic, curator, and writer based in Brooklyn. He is the author of several books including The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography (2009) and How to Look at Outsider Art (2005). He has published numerous articles and catalog essays on contemporary artists, including León Ferrari, Mira Schendel, and Graciela Sacco, and writes on art, architecture, and photography for publications including Art in America, Aperture, Modern Painters, Parkett, DaMN, and Tate Etc. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is a columnist for Photograph magazine. (Daguerreotype by Jerry Spagnoli)
JEREMY SIGLER is the author of numerous poetry books, among them To and To, Mallet Eyes, Crackpot Poet, Led Almost by My Tie (with Jessica Stockholder), Math, and, forthcoming from Dashwood Books in 2013, Pleasure, in collaboration with the photographer Ari Marcopoulos. Sigler has taught sculpture in many graduate art programs, worked as the New York senior editor of Parkett, and recently joined Dia Art Foundation in New York as manager of publications, where with Yasmil Raymond he is coediting a traveling retrospective catalog of the sculptor and poet Carl Andre.
JUSTIN TAYLOR is the author of Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and The Gospel of Anarchy. His next book, Flings, a story collection, will be published by HarperCollins in 2014. He is
SHIFRA SHARLIN’s essays have appeared in Salmagundi, Southwest Review, Raritan, New Letters, and Hotel Amerika. “Better Practices in Mourning” was named a notable essay in the 2010 edition of Best American Essays. She teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center.
HAEGUE YANG lives and works in Berlin and Seoul. She represented South Korea at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and participated at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012. In complex sensorial installations, sculptures, and video, Yang translates her reflections of historical figures and concrete domestic environments into a language of formalistic abstraction. Most recently, she has had solo exhibitions at the Museé d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and at The Tanks at Tate Modern, London.
C. SPENCER YEH is recognized for his interdisciplinary activities and collaborations as an artist, composer, and improviser, as well as his music project Burning Star Core. Recent recorded works include Ambient (with Robert Piotrowicz), 1975, and Transitions, under the CS Yeh moniker. (Photo João Quirino)
Violeta Went to Heaven Directed by Andrés Wood
Francisca Gavilán as Violeta Parra. Courtesy of Kino Lorber. by CECILIA VICUÑA Andrés Wood’s film, Violeta Went to Heaven, brought me back to a decisive moment. I am 14 and I am crossing a threshold. I am walking down a hallway at my aunt Lola’s house on Manuel Montt Street in Santiago de Chile. As I’m crossing this threshold, I hear a shriek, a voice that sounds like nails on chalkboard—such a violent thing, as if emerging from unimaginable depths. So I ask, “What is that?” “La Violeta Parra,” I am told. La Violeta Parra! The world opened up before me at that very moment. I discovered all the poetry and all the sounds of the future hidden in those sounds of the past—in Chile’s buried culture, so out of sight that I’d reached 14 without ever encountering it before. I speak from that shriek ever since. Violeta Parra is our avant-garde, the master of three realities. A being in three combined auditions. I want to go there, I want the abyss. Between people’s spoken language and the radio’s official Spanish, the schooled Spanish of the upper classes. There it is: the syntax of truth in the abyss. A sonic aesthetics. Dissonance. The creation of the Americas. A way of being knowledge, conocimiento, not conocimiento but con cimiento, with a foundation. A voice tuned by centuries of being out of tune, by not hitting the nail on the head. That is where the sound is. The entryway is the mistake, what’s a bit off, coonchadetumaadre, that’s how genes are renewed— through error. The pre-Columbian peoples, masters of the ear, are not gone. The pre-Columbian peoples are now you and me, all of us here, pure and mixed, still tuning our ears 12
to a dissonance, to the chasm between one sound and the other, the campesino singers are there, serving the Pachamama, life and death, hearing the abyss at the edge of our own voices. To hear is the music of the interaction between the act of hearing and what is being heard. What is there—between the noun and the adjective—is the living verb, the exchange of all life’s forces. The trace and the sign. The po-ethics, the ethical poetics of of the Americas. Violeta Parra, I am speaking to you, ire filled with love: “Unco un co un co uncorá un corazón manso un corazón manso un co son cco tú tú tú tú tuyo. Un co son cco tú tú tú tú tuyo uhhhh uhhhh uhhhh uhhhh en vida en vida en vida.” A gen a gent a gentle heart, your heart, your gentle art, a beating heart. — CECILIA VICUÑA is a Chilean poet, artist, and filmmaker. Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña, edited and translated by Rosa Alcalá, is just out from Ugly Duckling Presse.
TABBOO!: The Art of Stephen Tashjian
by SEAN MELLYN DAMIANI, 2013 On New Years Eve 1980, I watched the new-wave band Human Sexual Response perform at the now defunct Boston Phoenix. I was 14 and my sister sneaked me past security. As the stage lights came up, four large refrigerator boxes appeared. The band began to sing “Anne Frank Story,” their haunting coming-of-age ballad, while cutting themselves out of the boxes with utility knives. Later that night in a post-show hotel-room party, I saw two guys play tongue hockey for the first time. The Boston art-school scene in the late ’70s set the stage for an influential group of artists, dealers, and curators who gravitated to the East Village in the early ’80s—Pat Hearn, Jack Pierson, Mark Morrisroe, and Mike and Doug Starn, to name a few, as well as Stephen Tashjian, known as Tabboo! A lush new book chronicles the last 20-plus years of the artist’s work. Large color reproductions are split into chapters with titles like “East Village Apocalypse” and “Pretty Pretty Flowers.” The chapter “Pyramid Flyers” features advertisements Tashjian made for the Pyramid, the drag-punk club on Avenue A. These flyers, handdrawn and collaged, advertising bands like Blowtorch Boys, The Fabulous Pop Tarts, and Elektrik Dik, were the first works by Tabboo! that I saw after moving to New York in 1983. They are part Marimekko on acid and part high-school-notebook-“I have a crush on Johnny” with spirals of loopy text, grimacing skinheads, poodles, doodles, and deluxe portraits of drag queens all packing the page. The East Village then was a cacophony of battered tenements, drug dealers, punks, homeless people, and artists living on the cheap. It was an explosive moment 16
of creativity, theater, kitsch, and hilarity. Tashjian joined forces in the burgeoning downtown drag scene, rising to fame with Lady Bunny, Hapi Phace, Sister Dimension, and Dean Johnson and headlining at now long-gone clubs like the Palladium and The World. The performance side of Tabboo!’s work took on epic proportions. Working with downtown luminaries such as Ethyl Eichelberger and John Kelly, Tashjian wrote and starred in send-ups of Faust or TV’s The Golden Girls. In the late ’80s, things drastically changed in the East Village and in the city at large. The Tompkins Square riots of ‘88 (a block away from the Pyramid) had imposed a violent edge to the neighborhood. As Tashjian writes, “Most of the huge nightclubs had closed. The city was being invaded by vapid ‘Sex and the City’ girls.” Nothing is more humorless than sky-high rents and chain stores displacing a creative hotbed. AIDS had seriously obliterated a wealth of creative lives. Tashjian explains that he needed to fall back in love with New York and his drawings of the city are visual love letters to the everchanging cityscape. Beautifully rendered and delicate, they twinkle on the page. NYC from My Roof (1998) captures the undulating grays of the city and its shadows. Blurry, misty glitter dapples down from the sky, puncturing the buildings like tiny drops of water against glass. Tashjian’s portraits have an arresting honesty. Flloyd and Carlos (1991) is a portrait of two boyfriends. Flloyd is shirtless with his pants’ button undone, revealing a small patch of pubic hair. Carlos has his arm around Flloyd; he looks toward us with a confident sexuality, almost sultrily. Flloyd looks past us with a content expression of love. The portrait is loaded with symbolism much of which, now, in the short time since it was painted, we take for granted. Text paintings like More Fairies than You May Even Want To Believe or Gay Boys Camp have a decidedly hand-crafted, in-the-moment edge. My favorite, The Thrill of Hope, is poignant and poetic—something about the letter e in the word hope falling to the bottom of the painting. Although I’ve never met Tabboo!, there is a part of me that feels like I know him well. New wave and punk co-opted the more “innocent” images of the ’50s and early ’60s; bouffant hairdos and Technicolor-clean teens got rearranged to expose the real lives those images wanted to gloss over. In her excellent essay, Elisabeth Kley writes “Tabboo!’s fierce delight in decorating potential violence is reminiscent of the seductive environment of effeminacy and crime described in Jean Genet’s novel Our Lady of the Flowers.” Tabboo! has a way of unfolding a forever-folded piece of paper, each crease revealing what the book’s editor, Lia Gangitano, calls in her essay Tashjian’s “encompassing, bittersweet worldview.” — SEAN MELLYN is an artist based in New York City. Optic Nerve: Sean Mellyn Prints and Multiples 1993–2013 opens at Underline Gallery in June 2013.
Fill the Void Directed by Rama Burshtein
Yiftach Klein as Yochay and Hadas Yaron as Shira. Photo by Karin Bar. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. by LIZA BÉAR It’s a rare delight when a film makes a little-known, hermetic community that is bristling with traditions, customs, rules, and regulations come alive, transcending that subculture through its humanity. Cinematically that means a nuanced script, a splendid cast, and firstrate performances. Fill the Void, the assured first feature by Israeli writer-director Rama Burshtein, is a sharply observed, bittersweet romantic drama set entirely within the ultra-Orthodox Hassidic community in Tel Aviv, of which Burshtein became a member shortly after graduating from Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel film school. Most of the cast members, though not the leads, are Hassidic. As an insider story, deliberately set in secular Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem, Fill the Void is a richly drawn, affectionate portrait of that community, even as it explores the characters’ internal or external tensions. In a wry opening scene, 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), mother Rivka (Irit Sheleg) in tow, is about to meet a marriage prospect in the aisles of a supermarket. (They’re in the wrong aisle; he’s in the dairy section.) Before there’s any follow-through on that score, though, Shira’s older sister Esther goes into labor during Purim festivities and dies giving birth, leaving baby Mordechai and husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein). Almost all the action takes place in crowded rooms in the Mendelman’s family home. Whether it’s through her own sibling empathy or family cohesion, Shira, who plays accordion at a kindergarten, helps Yochay take care of the baby—the accordion works wonders. Eventually, when Yochay gets an offer of marriage from a widowed childhood friend in Belgium, Shira’s mother is so loathe to let her grandson 18
leave the country that she comes up with a plan: Why not have Shira marry Yochay? They’re all getting along. He’s agreeable to the suggestion; she’s reluctant. As her deceased sister’s husband, Yochay seems off limits; her sense of propriety runs counter to her mother’s matchmaking intuition. Yet Shira’s 18. As admirably played by Hadas Yaron with a wide-eyed, resolute intensity, Shira’s decision making is complicated by Yochay’s masculine presence—and the emotional confusion caused by a growing, if unacknowledged, physical attraction. The stunning-looking Yiftach Klein, who starred in Nadav Lapid’s Policeman (screened in the 2011 New York Film Festival) as a member of an elite counterterrorism unit, brings great sensitivity to the radically different role of Yochay. Whereas Yaron, who’d had little previous acting experience, was still in the army when rehearsals for Fill the Void started. She received the best actress award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Their slightly formal encounters, alternately teasing and combative, are played out in exquisitely written dialogue scenes, as is the ensuing meddling by other women of the family, interspersed between strictly observed weekly rites and rituals. Shira’s initial refusal leads to false rumors, intrigue, and rivalry from an unmarried friend of the family’s, which builds to a major conflict. Fed up with all these shenanigans, Yochay is about to revive the Belgium marriage option and depart with the baby, at which point Shira must reconsider. In one of the film’s great displays of ensemble acting at a family round table, the head rabbi seems to defy orthodoxy by his dictum: marriage should be only a matter of feelings. — LIZA BÉAR is a writer and filmmaker and a contributing editor at BOMB.
Above and Below: Gordon Matta-Clark by LYTLE SHAW
Still from Conical Intersect , 1975, 16 mm film, color, 17 minutes 12 seconds.
Still from City Slivers , 1976, 16 mm film, color, 15 minutes. Images courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York/London.
DAVID ZWIRNER, APRIL 2–MAY 4, 2013 The 17th-century townhouses that Gordon MattaClark and his friends chipped away at in Conical Intersect (1975) did not collapse immediately—like, say, flimsy clapboard ranch styles built where neighborhood site plans had been rushed and mistaken. Wielding demolition hand tools (pickaxes, hammers) Matta-Clark crumbled plaster. Lime dust particles hovered. A stranger, more connected architecture of slots and gaps—of now-joined discrete family zones—was focalized as, and through, a widening lens. It flickered for a few days—the modular units of the Centre Pompidou behind. Some pedestrians stopped briefly to look, speak to the demolition crew. We have, perhaps, come to see Matta-Clark’s exposure of latent spaces as a direct challenge to the functionalist model of urban planning going up behind it. But when, two years later, at the Pompidou’s inauguration, Francis Ponge published his commissioned poem, “L’Écrit Beaubourg,” he emphasized not that the building was a cog in a new, increasingly streamlined passage through the city, but that it, like Ponge himself, showed its work, that its behind-the-scenes operations (heating, cooling, structure, circulation) organized the exterior, the elevation. Ponge made this point by taking as his quarry the over-familiar statements that had frozen discourse about the Pompidou. To reveal workable phrases, he sponged some, chipped into others. In what sense, then, was Matta-Clark’s work actually parallel to, rather than athwart, the Pompidou? Finally, it was not just an engineering feat that was going up behind the punctured pieds-à-terre, but also an archive—a repository for texts, images, and artworks related to projects like Conical Intersect. The townhouses and friends chipped immediately—like flimsy styles, where site plans rushed. Wielding crumbled plaster. Particles hovered. A stranger connected slots—joined discrete zones— through a widening. It flickered days—modular behind. Some pedestrians speak. Two years later, Ponge was a cog (heating, cooling). Taking his frozen discourse. Sponged. Then Clark’s athwart. Engineering terres. Houses hip—flimsy plans. Ding rumbled. Art over. A ranger—discrete. Lick mod behind. So peak. Ate cooling. King Zen. Wart. In ring res. Sip. Grumble. Over. Anger. Bend. Peak. Coo. King. Art. Ingres. Rum. End. — LYTLE SHAW’s recent books include The Moiré Effect, The Clifford Chadwick Clifford Collection, and Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics.
City of Angels or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf
by LARISSA ZIMBEROFF FARRAR, STRAUSS AND GIROUX, 2013 Imagine that the place you call home is no more, not just your house or apartment, but the entirety of your surroundings, including ideological ones. What if borders that were once maintained by thick concrete slabs and barbed wire suddenly disappeared? Christa Wolf, one of East Germany’s most revered writers—and a Socialist known for her vocal stand against the Socialist government—was 60 years old in 1989, when the Berlin wall fell. The undoing of borders, both physical and psychological, is at the core of Wolf’s final book, City of Angels or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud. Deftly translated from the German by Damion Searls, the novel opens with a German author seated in a plane that is about to land. The passengers clap at the successful strike of the wheels on the runway, and it is with this entrance that our unnamed female narrator embarks on a one-year stay in the “city of angels.” Three years after her country’s dissolution, Christa Wolf, a scholar of antiquity, was invited to the Getty Center to research a feminist version of the Greek myth of Medea. In City of Angels, our narrator is invited to work at a location that closely matches the Getty, referred to as the “CENTER,” and is delving into a bundle of old letters, signed simply with “L,” that had come 22
to her after a close friend’s passing. Investigation into the letter writer’s identity is the outward focus of her research, and it is during this inquiry into another’s history that her own past comes into question. Life by the Pacific Ocean is idyllic at first, but soon a steady stream of accusations (of collaboration with the notorious Stasi) arrive via that darling of Internet precursors, the fax machine. As our narrator reflects on past transgressions, she wonders how to reconcile a memory she has repressed with “a country that ceased to exist.” Wolf’s spare prose telescopes the reader in and out of her narrator’s world, from the minutiae of her day (drinking margaritas, watching Star Trek episodes, and literary discourse with her enigmatic neighbor, Peter Grupman) to what Wolf calls “memory images,” which are both vague and descriptive. Part of the charm of this Los Angeles is that it is, and was, a home to so many artists—many were Germanspeaking exiles (among them Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, and Thomas Mann) who fled a hostile and wartorn Europe and suddenly found themselves amongst sandy beaches and oil derricks. Brecht wrote, “I feel as if I had been exiled from our era; this is Tahiti in the form of a big city. “ Wolf’s narrator aligns with these ghostlike émigrés. She writes that these artists died of broken hearts, when “their hearts had withstood the pressure for decades, but not the sudden release from the pressure.” And she wonders what home will she return to after the wall has come down. The many paths in the novel overlay into one sweeping look back at a writer’s life in a changing social milieu. Part memoir and part fiction, this book rewards the patient reader who craves a spiritual journey and isn’t afraid of a little ambiguity. — LARISSA ZIMBEROFF is a freelance writer in Manhattan. Her writing has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, and the Rumpus. READ LARISSA ZIMBEROFF’S INTERVIEW WITH DAMION SEARLS AT BOMBSITE.COM.
E. Starbuck , 2010, acrylic on canvas, 60 Ă— 108 inches. Images courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, New York City.
Hope Gangloff by Yuri Masnyj
ART — HOPE GANGLOFF
It was sometime in the fall of 1995, when I was an undergraduate art student at Cooper Union in New York City, that I first met Hope Gangloff. Cooper Union is exceptional at attracting talented, hard-working, selfmotivated, socially awkward, and obsessive misfits from all over the US and from abroad by giving them a tuition-free opportunity to learn how to make stuff, which was, in our case, sometimes art. It was there, in the plaster studio, while suffering through some unresolved sculpture project (the details of which I have intentionally forgotten) that I first met Hope. I’m not sure what it is about friendships I forged in college, but they are intense and lasting. Hope and I have remained fiercely supportive and fiercely competitive with regard to our work. It is an unspoken contract that keeps us going and that we enjoy. Since our student days, I’ve been one of a rotating cast of characters in Hope’s paintings. Her ability to capture likeness in a pitch-perfect exaggerated clarity is
YURI MASNYJ Many people were introduced to you through your drawings. I remember that you were making murals in high school. HOPE GANGLOFF I was doing largescale paintings in my parent’s barn. They had built out the top half of an old barn, so I had a nice high ceiling and a carpeted floor. I also had a barn door that opened so I could pull weird bits of furniture and stuff into it. It was a really nice afterschool hangout. YM But it wasn’t on a farm? HG It was Amityville, on Long Island, but it was the original Powell Farm. The entire block was the farm, right in the center of the town. YM Your parents were into collecting tons of stuff—antiques and bric-a-brac. HG Yes, they’re like the Little Mermaid, Ariel. If they don’t have 15 of any one item, they’ll hit the garage sales. At the time my mom was collecting pigs but also all manner of chairs, jam cabinets, knickknacks, and tchotchkes, like a blackball box. My parents had really interesting, weird stuff. YM Did their collection encroach on your space? HG While I was away at Cooper, the folks’ stuff would start to creep up into my barn and every summer I’d have to kick it all out to use my space again. It was like rising water in Venice. The stuff would just gather. It was always swirling at my ankles, but if I left, it would rise into the top of the barn pretty quickly. 26
one of the many things that make her work so striking. Hope’s compositions have an immediacy and freshness that make them look easy, but I know they are not. For years we had a studio on the same floor of a Brooklyn building, and I sat for long hours in her comfy chair, procrastinating the day away while watching her process in action. With a movie or music playing (sometimes both), Hope would alternate between long periods of deliberate consideration and short bursts of manic fury. As someone who does not paint, and whose process is slow and belabored, I both admire and envy Hope’s dexterity at handling her plastic medium. I was curious to dig deeper into what past experiences informed her development as a painter, so I sat down and talked with Hope about her work. Over the years I have known her to make extraordinary drawings, but I have always thought of her as a painter in the grandest sense. — YURI MASNYJ
YM What did you paint back then? HG I made these dorky and really melodramatic oil portraits of my friends. A few were bearable, like a portrait of my uncle as a carpenter, a portrait of my writing teacher’s kid, and one of my first boyfriend. I can’t even tell you the stories the paintings were about; I would be embarrassed, like one is embarrassed of one’s diaries. I never wrote in diaries because I was afraid of someone reading them. But I guess my diary form was making these awful gigantic paintings. I keep trying to throw them out as I find them, but my mom has them stashed all over the place. YM You worked on a mural in a science museum? What was that? HG Oh, that was actually between freshman and sophomore year at Cooper. The science museum wasn’t really accepting kids my age, but they let me come on anyway because I’m kind of bossy. (laughter) It was the DNA Learning Center on the north shore of Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor. We had to paint microscopic DNA strands on the walls and the ceiling of a 30-by-50-foot room. YM Did working on a painting that large make you want to make your own work on that scale? HG Well, I applied for this job because I do like working large. I like to feel that I’m in the color-field with the paint. It’s an immediate way to abstract your space. YM Didn’t you make a painting for a hotel too?
HG Those were four paintings I failed on. I was hired to make large backdrops for some real estate party in a hotel on Long Island—a sunset, a beach, an underwater scene, stuff like that. They wanted the paintings to look realistic and, to me, impressionism is realism. I thought the murals were coming along nicely but my patrons wanted to see bikini strings on the people walking on the beach. And I was like, Holy shit, these paintings look great but you can’t see the individual palm fronds. My brother is a scientist but he can also paint well. So I got him up in the barn working on the fish details while my friends and I popped any caffeine pill you could get at GNC back then to keep ourselves up at night. We had only three days left before flying to Las Vegas (a random trip my friends and I had scheduled before I took the job) and, when it came down to the wire, I hadn’t finished the paintings. I left them in the barn with my mom and dad and they finished them for me, using a blow dryer and Bob Ross techniques. YM (laughter) I must have met you around that time, 1995. HG That’s right, we were 21. You saw those paintings when they were looking impressionistic. YM So, Cooper Union in the mid-1990s: you were already there when I started, and I recall you making large paintings with house paint. HG I would unroll butcher paper and tape it together vertically—12 or 15 feet tall. I must be hardwired to think of scale in this way. When I draw large, I feel I can
Study of Olga Alexandrovskaya , 2012, acrylic on canvas, 72 × 48 inches. 27
ART — HOPE GANGLOFF
Richard Thompson by Keith Connolly
KEITH CONNOLLY Hi Richard. I read recently in an old issue of ZigZag that you had been asked to join the Eagles. I believe that my world would be quite a different place if that had happened. Is it true? I’m curious to hear it directly from you. RICHARD THOMPSON Yeah, there was an approach, but I can’t really remember at what point that was; it was probably in the fairly early days. This went through management; I didn’t hear it directly. I wouldn’t have done it anyway, I don’t think, because I was much more interested in developing this very British strain of song writing and being in an American country-rock band would not have happened for me. KC There is a good book called Mansion on the Hill by Fred Goodman. He describes how the record industry changed so radically from the early rock and roll years through the 1980s, and spends a fair amount of time on the Eagles. The idea of this band, in his opinion, was the beginning or maybe middle of the end. So when I heard your name thrown into this, I was like, Wow, that’s another piece of that puzzle. RT Yeah. (laughter) KC Okay, I guess we should start with a little bit of history. I wouldn’t know how to encapsulate Fairport Convention and the earlier part of your trajectory into a few sentences, but that’s where it begins in the public eye. It seems like there were a number of phases to Fairport Convention and then there was this major change that led to the Liege & Lief album in 1969—in the aftermath of the horrible accident. [In the early hours of May 12, 34
Beginning with Fairport Convention in 1967, Richard Thompson has, with a stately assurance, taken his guitar and preternatural capacity for songcraft to some astonishing heights. From Fairport classics like “Meet on the Ledge” and “Sloth,” to the Sufi-inflected gravitas of his work with Linda Thompson, to the vivid, tragic storytelling of solo songs like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and “Beeswing,” Thompson’s songwriting is pure, visionary, and indelible. His latest record, Electric, released earlier this year, marks no exception. At points rollicking, then resigned, and with a signature economy, it contains some truly great songs, the lilting “Salford Sunday” just one among them. I spoke to Richard a bit about his history, about songs, and about some of the people that he has worked with along the way. — KEITH CONNOLLY
1969, Fairport’s tour van overturned on the M1, killing drummer Martin Lamble and Richard’s then girlfriend Jennie Franklyn. Richard was thrown from the vehicle and sustained a broken shoulder in the crash.] Something radical happened with the band’s approach: the kind of pop, West Coast version of Fairport transitioned into what would become the band’s more solid identity based on a modernist take on traditional English folk. What can we say about that that hasn’t been said? RT That hasn’t been said? Well, probably nothing, but I’ll try to encapsulate it. Fairport was a band that didn’t want to be the same as other bands, so even in its very early incarnations, when we were doing covers, we tried to do very obscure covers. So when other people were playing blues and R&B in 1965–67, we were trying to find obscure but good songs. We were always interested in lyrics, so we were attracted to singer-songwriters like Richard Fariña and Joni Mitchell before she was recorded. At a certain point, around 1968, we thought, Well, we’re never going to sing soul as well as Otis Redding and we’re never going to play the blues as well as Muddy Waters. We should be finding our own roots out here in Britain and trying to do a contemporary version of British music. We had to build a bridge between the tradition and popular music, because it had kind of died out in the public consciousness. Traditional music was something that farmers and fisherman did, but it wasn’t even close to the mainstream. So we wanted to contemporize British music, to bring it into popular music. We did it in a slightly studied way, I suppose, but after a while it became second nature. That became the music of Fairport Convention,
Steeleye Span, and all those other bands. KC In the UK there was a large group of musicians—post-’65, just to jump in somewhere—listening to records and bringing in these myriad influences. The public knows this much more through the stories of the Rolling Stones or of young people collecting blues and then turning them into this kind of new Britishinvasion music. Yet on a parallel track, at the same time, there was a lot of interest in folk and traditional music. That was connected to what was happening over here with Bob Dylan and Richard Fariña, as you mentioned. I guess this is where you come into contact with Joe Boyd. He describes seeing you guys play somewhere and starts to manage Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, among many others [famously, the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Boyd also produced the first Pink Floyd single and is the founder of Hannibal Records]. It seems like he’s a catalyst for this time. So you guys were all friendly with the Steeleye Span, the Dransfields, and the Incredible String Band people, true? Everybody was in a kind of consensus together? RT Yeah, I suppose so. I mean, from when we were teenagers we were going to folk clubs and blues clubs, we were listening to classical music, we were listening to jazz. We were living in London and we were trying to listen to everything possible. We were really on parallel scenes at the same time, so we knew people in the rock scene and the blues scene, and we knew people in the folk scene. I’m not sure if we were exclusively in one particular club. With Fairport, playing music that stemmed more from British traditions came out of an idea
Photo by Pamela Littky. Courtesy of New West Records. 35
MUSIC — RICHARD THOMPSON
Matías Piñeiro by Clinton Krute Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro has made four feature and medium-length films to date: El hombre robado (The Stolen Man, 2007), Todos mienten (They All Lie, 2009), Rosalinda (2010), and his latest, Viola (2012), which recently screened in New York as part of the New Directors / New Films series. His films are remarkable for their worrying of literature and the tension between text and image. Each of the four films takes either a literary figure or text as the jumping-off point for an exploration of the slippery correspondence between narrative and reality. Piñeiro is making movies that point to one of the original questions raised by cinema: How does the imposition of writing—of language or of a lens—alter the world? His carefully structured films—balanced like mobiles, as he says— describe with precision that slippage between words and reality. While El hombre robado and Todos mienten both circle around the writing of statesman and polymath Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the Argentine equivalent of Thomas Jefferson, in essence, they are both descriptions of the power dynamics of a small group of young upper-middle-class friends. His latest two, Rosalinda and Viola, are both based on Shakespeare and are the first two entries in a trilogy that the filmmaker has called “The Shakespeariada.” Working with the same cast and crew in all four features, Piñeiro— whose work shows a debt to the comedies of Rohmer and the shell games of Rivette—has developed a language all his own. Using literature to foreground the complex web of lies, acting, and language that underlies any social interaction, these films are less interested in psychology and individual characters than they are in social and linguistic structures. Both the filmmaker and his work are warm, funny, and full of life. I encountered his work when his first two films screened at the Harvard Film Archive a few years ago while he was in Cambridge working on Viola as a Radcliffe Fellow. He is currently living in New York, where we met at a diner on a snowy February afternoon to discuss his films and how he makes them. — CLINTON KRUTE
Elisa Carricajo as Sabrina in Viola , 2012. Images courtesy of the artist and Revólver Films.
FILM — MATÍAS PIÑEIRO
to shoot in August. Nothing has been written yet. I bought some books today to help me write, among them a not terribly special book on the French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau; Henry James’s The Lesson of the Master; Pierre: or, The Ambiguities by Herman Melville; and Preston Sturges’s autobiography—I have no idea how they will help, but who knows? So the process is very fragmentary at first, but then, when I want to rehearse, I need to communicate my ideas to the people with whom I’m working. That’s when the thing gets written, almost at once. This usually happens in the last month or two before shooting. Production and writing go pretty much together. Also, the films that deal with Shakespeare are connected with the play I did two years ago. Still from El hombre robado , 2007. CLINTON KRUTE We were talking about your time in Boston, or Cambridge, actually. What were you doing there? MATÍAS PIÑEIRO I had a ten-month fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, among a community of academics and other artists developing their own projects. It was the perfect opportunity to produce something new. CK How did that come about? MP My partner was moving to the States, so it was a way of following him. I also needed a change. (Food arrives.) MP We can share this absolutely huge slice of vegan carrot cake. CK It’s like a meal in itself. MP Radcliffe was great. I also applied for a scholarship to get an MFA in creative writing in Spanish at NYU. I needed time to develop another film project, and writing a novel on which it can be based seems like the way to move forward with it. So I am at NYU now. These are ways of making my system of work possible. CK That’s my next question: What is your system of work? How did you approach your work in Cambridge, and how did that lead to Viola? MP I first wanted to research and write, but you can change your plans at Radcliffe, so when I was done researching, I focused on editing Viola. In my 42
second semester at Radcliffe, I realized that the space I had there was pretty similar to a production company. I had a computer, a camera, an assistant—they provided everything. I had shot this film, Viola, before coming to the States—
CK Can you describe the play? Was that your first experience working with Shakespeare?
MP I had left it on my hard disk for some months. I shot Viola in a peculiar way before leaving because I didn’t exactly know when I would be returning to Argentina. I like to film in Buenos Aires, always with the same people, and I didn’t know when I would be able to do that again. At the time, I was doing a play, And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again, and the experience of working on it helped me make the film—it’s the process of capturing something and not letting it go. In the theater every time you perform something it disappears, but I am used to the opposite with cinema. I had some grant money I needed to use, the ensemble I worked with was there, and I was about to come here, so I said, “Let’s make a film.” Two months before leaving, I organized this ten-day shoot.
MP No, I’d done Rosalinda before. And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again was a very short stage play that was a pastiche of six or seven Shakespeare comedies. Mainly I took from the following five: As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, Love’s Labor’s Lost, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. From Cymbeline I took a few things. I also wanted to include the prologue of Henry V, but that’s not a comedy and I had run out of time. The play was part of a series called First Works. The University of Buenos Aires invited me as a filmmaker to produce my first play. That was the context. When I finished, I went back to cinema with Viola and my upcoming film, The Princess of France, named after the main female character in Love’s Labor’s Lost. The actors with whom I work, as well as my own activities, are in between cinema, theater, and literature. When I did Rosalinda I didn’t have any theater experience, so it’s not like I got to cinema through theater.
CK So what was the writing process like for Viola? Did you write it scene by scene while you were shooting?
CK So did you approach theater and Shakespeare through cinema or literature?
MP No, everything was pretty much written before we started shooting. The first thing I know is when I’m going to shoot, so I prepare myself to be done writing by that date. I may have two or three months, or sometimes more, to write. For instance, now I’m working on another Shakespeare film, and I know I’m going
MP Through the text, actually.
CK But you hadn’t edited it yet?
CK I see, through reading Shakespeare on the page. How did Shakespeare become such a large presence in your films? MP When I was writing Todos mienten, my second feature, I was reading
Untitled , 2012, oil and ink on canvas, 90 Ă— 70 inches. 50
Joanne Greenbaum by Jeremy Sigler
Untitled , 2012, oil and ink on canvas, 90 × 70 inches. 51
ART — JOANNE GREENBAUM
When I met Joanne Greenbaum last year in Jim Hyde’s kitchen, I didn’t know that she was the painter whose work I had admired for many years. Being a sort of on-call conversationalist, I was expected to talk to whomever was seated around the big, crowded table while Jim was busy cooking some fish-ratatouille concoction jammed with his favorite ingredients, anchovies and capers. While his back was inevitably to us, he’d usually be listening in, and I would often provoke him to turn around and cut me off, one way or another. In any event, Joanne and I struck up a great conversation and our dialogue has steadily progressed from there. My goal in the interview was to go in unprepared and let the words speak for themselves. — JEREMY SIGLER
JOANNE GREENBAUM As artists we fantasize about interviews. For instance I’m working and I think, If someone were interviewing me right now, this is what I would say—and it’s really eloquent and perfect and beautiful. But then you’re never able to say those things. JEREMY SIGLER But the things that come out in a conversation are often more accurate. Maybe they’re not the fantasy, but they’re more useful. JG We think we’re better in fantasy than we are in real life, but maybe in real life we’re better. JS I’m really down on critique right now. I’ve turned the corner and it’s gone from pure love to pure rage. Why should I teach like a real teacher when the students are not learning like real students? JG I’m teaching one day a week in Philadelphia to grad students this term. The first day I got in there I realized I have nothing to say to these students at all! I have nothing to give them. I don’t even really have an opinion about their work. And, I still get home at the end of the day totally exhausted. I’ve been giving them something, but it isn’t critiques. Lately, more and more people have asked to come to my studio, but I don’t want anyone else in my studio. Because, number one, I ultimately don’t care what people think about what I make and, number two, I’m tired of explaining it. I’m tired of talking about my process. I want to keep everything inward and reverential. Sometimes all I want to do is sit here at this desk and make watercolors—here’s the pile—and just be private and kind of not thinking at all. JS Well, I suppose we could have an interview right now that never gets off the ground. (laughter) JG Just two dumb artists talking. I love the word dumb, though. Sometimes I just go, God, I’m one of the dumb artists. Meaning that I don’t do that art talk. Not only do I refuse to do it, I can’t do it. But, knowing that about ourselves, if you want to ask me questions about my work, we could probably really get into it in an interesting way.
Untitled , 2012, oil and ink on canvas, 90 × 70 inches. Images courtesy of the artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; greengrassi, London; and Nicolas Krupp Gallery, Basel.
JS I consider myself a teacher. For me, the point of critique and artists’ discussions is—I almost want to say research. I’m not interested in critique as a form of entertainment or social networking.
Gyula Kosice by Lyle Rexer GYULA KOSICE TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY MONTANA RAY Gyula Kosice (b. 1924) is one of the more remarkable visionary artists of the previous century and certainly the most exotic Hungarian transplant to take root in Buenos Aires. A visual artist, poet, and theorist, Kosice was a founder (with Carmelo Arden Quin and Rhod Rothfuss) of the influential Madí group in 1946, which helped to transmit and transform Bauhaus ideas in Latin America, while adding an element of ludic invention and creative freedom. Fascinated by technology and committed to an art of the future, Kosice was among the first artists to use neon in sculpture and early on employed water in unprecedented ways in his work. His iterations of the theoretical Hydrospatial City, begun in the 1970s, place him among a group of visionary thinkers, including the late Paolo Soleri and Buckminster Fuller, who have reimagined the built environment. Recently Kosice participated in an extended interview with Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, director of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, published in book and ebook form as one of the “Conversations” series from the Fundación. Expanding on that dialogue, the following exchange among Kosice, Pérez-Barreiro (as interlocutor and translator), and me took place in November via telephone in Buenos Aires and New York. — LYLE REXER
LYLE REXER As I look over your early career, and that of your fellow artists and members of Madí, it seems that all of them, and you especially, did a great job of naming movements and publicizing your intentions—bringing out manifestos, writing essays, making publications of various sorts, staging activities, arguing with each other—but that the actual output of work was quite slim. Did this come from a belief that works of art involve a lot of theoretical preliminaries, or that writing and discussion are part and parcel of the work? Or was a lot of the early work simply lost? Do you really maintain that all this theorizing was germane to the work produced in Argentina and Uruguay? Another way to put this is: What is the relation between theory and practice? GYULA KOSICE First off, theory is always one step ahead. We had drafted some manifestos and we’d already tried to make leaflets, too, distributing these totally amongst ourselves, around cafés where we would gather. We’d go to a café on Corrientes street: Café La Fragata. Vicente Huidobro visited us from Chile. People traveled from other countries to see us. Our magazines [Arturo (1944) and Arte Madí Universal (1946– 54)] sought out international collaborators and created a network of supporters of abstract art. Things were effervescent then; we’d declared that “art is the currency of the absolute,” and from there our ideas started to clash, we’d get into discussions that ended up elucidating many things. I also want to mention Grete Stern—she was the one who brought all the Bauhaus documentation to Argentina. She was a disciple of the master photographer Walter Peterhans. She showed us all the Bauhaus material and was kind enough to translate a series of very valuable Bauhaus books. LR Your descriptions of those days suggest that the manifestos and rathersparse exhibitions of Madí and other proponents of abstract art were met with general indifference. Why was that, given that your stance was so public and provocative? Who was the audience for this new art? Were you talking only to yourselves? Did you have to exhibit in France before you could gain attention at home (the Argentine problem)?
Detail of “Diccionario portátil Madí” (Portable Madí Dictionary) in Arte Madí Universal , no. 2, October 1948.
GK I had the luck of traveling, no sooner or later than the year 1948, to a place called Réalités Nouvelles [an organization that hosted an annual abstract-art salon in Paris], which held the first international
Cover of Arturo , 1944, with linocut by Tomás Maldonado. Images courtesy of Fundación Cisneros/Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros.
ART — GYULA KOSICE
FIRST PROOF — BOMB’s Literary Supplement
Contents Portfolio 68
Interviews 74 Fiona Maazel by Justin Taylor 104 Phillip Lopate by Shifra Sharlin Fiction 71 82 90 98
Hilda Hilst From With My Dog-Eyes, translated from the Portuguese by Adam Morris Dylan Landis She Will Be Flesh Mimi Lipson The Cloud of Unknowing Thomas Israel Hopkins An Obstacle to Empathy, The Way the Water All Agrees on a River
Poetry 80 88 96 100
Tomaž Šalamun Three Poems, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren Leslie Shipman Four Poems Betsy Andrews From The Bottom Jen Hofer From less than one, more than one
This issue of First Proof is sponsored, in part, by Amazon and the Thanksgiving Fund. Additional funding is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and readers like you. 66
On the cover: Susan Bee, Sonia Delauney, 2011, watercolor, gouache, crayon, and collage on paper, 8 × 10 inches. Images for the forthcoming book Fabulas Feminae, with writing and design by Johanna Drucker. Courtesy of the artist.
Hilda Hilst With My Dog-Eyes Translated from the Portuguese by Adam Morris “Vita brevis, sensus ebes, negligentiae torpor et inutiles occupationes nos paucula scire permittent. Et aliquo tients scita excutit ab animo per temporum lapsum frudatrix scientiae et inimica memoriae praeceps oblivio.” “The brevity of life, the failing of the senses, the numbness of indifference and unprof itable occupations allow us to know very little. And again and again swift oblivion, the thief of knowledge and the enemy of memory, makes a void of the mind, in the course of time, even what we learn we lose.” — Copernicus “[ . . . ] Je saisis en sombrant que la seule verité de l’homme, enfin entrevue, est d’être une supplication sans réponse.” — Georges Bataille
A cross on the brow The facts of what I was Of what I will be: I was born a mathematician, a magician I was born a poet. A cross on the brow The dry laughter The scream I discover myself a king Sequined in darkness Knives striking Time and wisdom.
God? A sur face of ice anchored to laughter. That was God. Even so he tried to cling to that nothing, sliding frozen somersaults until finding the anchor’s thick rope and descending descending in the direction of that laughter. He touched himself. He was alive, yes. When the child asked his mother: and the dog? The mother: the dog died. And so he threw himself on 71
a patch of earth curdled with squash, hugged himself against one, a twisted c ylinder with an o chre head, and choked out: died how? died how? The father: woman, this boy’s a fool, get him off that squash. He died. He fucked himself said the father, just like that, he brought the clenched fingers of his left hand down against the flattened palm of his right and repeated: he fucked himself. This is how he learned of death. Amós Kéres, 48 years old, mathematician, stopped his car on the top of a small hill, opened the door and got out. From where he was he saw the university building. Whorehouse Church Government University. They all looked alike. Whispers, confessions, vanity, speeches, vestments, obscenities, brotherhood. The dean: Professor Amós Kéres, certain rumors have come to my attention. Okay. Care for a coffee? No. The dean removes his glasses. Gently chews one of their tips. Sure you don’t want some coffee? No thank you. Well, let’s see, I understand that pure mathematics avoids the obvious, do you like Bertrand Russell, Professor Kéres? Yes. Well, you should know that I never forgot a certain phrase from one of those magnificent books. One of my books? Have you written a book, Professor? No. I refer to the books of Bertrand Russell. Ah. And the phrase is this: “obviousness is always the enemy of correctness.” Of course. Well then, what I know about your classes is that not only are they not at all obvious, they…excuse me, Professor, hello hello, of course my love, obviously I love you, I’m busy right now, of course my dear, then I’ll take him to the dentist, I know I know . . . Amós passed his tongue over his gums. He should go to the dentist too (of course he had to go), with age everything gets worse he told me the last time I went, when was that again? it doesn’t matter, but he said Mr. Kéres there’s a tension all along your jawbone, the tension of a bankrupt
executive, it’s amazing, don’t you wake up with pain in your jaw? I do. Then it looks like we need to adjust your arch. How much? Ah, it’s a difficult procedure. But how much? (but, my love, the boy’s just whining, he has to go, dentists these days are all hot babes, let me talk to him, just a second longer, Professor). Of course. Ah, it’s pricey, look we need to align all the top teeth and almost all of the bottom ones, and the bottom ones are ex tremely impor tant, you should never lose a bottom tooth, they’re supports for future bridges, and yours down here is all worn away. (hey kid, daddy wants you to go to the dentist, don’t start with this, sure I’ll buy those sneakers, candy, I know, what? shorts? ah, I can’t promise it, all right I’ll take you I’ll take you, ok kid, hello, obviously it’s me my love, yes he’s going, I get home early yeah, bye-bye). Well now, where were we Professor Kéres? I respond: the obvious. Ah yes. He put his eyeglasses back on: you don’t seem to be taking me seriously. How’s that? I noticed that you had a bit of a smile there, let’s say, Professor, a bit of a condescending smile, as if you thought I were . . . silly? Just your impression, I was also recalling a phrase. Go ahead, Professor. And so then I say the phrase: “Hence we invent some new and diff icult symbolism, in which nothing seems obvious,”and he rather liked it. Who’s that? Bertrand Russell. Ah. Let’s proceed, Professor, I can’t stay much longer, so please just take a leave of absence, 20 days, relax. But sir, you still haven’t been clear with me about the rumors. Very well: there are obvious signs of wandering of f. Pardon? Of aloofness, if you like, yes, of aloofness on your part during classes, sentences that break off and only continue after 15 minutes, Professor Kéres, 15 minutes is too much, they say you simply disconnec t. I disconnec t? What sentences were they? It doesn’t matter, please just rest, take vitamins, tranquilizers. He takes off his glasses again, covers his top lip with his bottom one, sighs, smiles: let’s go let’s go, don’t worr y yourself, you’ve always been impeccable, just excellent, but between us . . . The dean clasps me by the arm, squeezes his fingers around my wrist: bet ween us, they ’re not u n d e r s t a n d i n g a ny t h i n g a ny m o r e. Who? Your students, Professor, your students. Strange I said, in the last
Fiona Maazel by Justin Taylor Fiona Maazel is the author of the novels Last Last Chance (2008) and Woke Up Lonely (2013). Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Conjunctions, This American Life, this magazine, and many more besides. She was the managing editor of the Paris Review (2003–2005), received a Lannan Residency, was a 2008 National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree, and won the Bard Fiction Prize. I fell in love with Last Last Chance when I read it, and praised it highly in Slate in 2008. That same year, I met Maazel herself at a reading, and though I don’t remember what I said to her, it was so emphatic (without, I hope, being off-putting, though there’s probably a reason I forgot the particulars) that she signed her book to me with the inscription “My first fan.” It wasn’t true then and is still less true now, but it was nice of her to say so and moreover was emblematic of two of Maazel’s signature traits: first, a quick wit, and second, an outsized sense of modesty. Maazel is a prodigious talent and a true original. Her new book, Woke Up Lonely—about a cult leader, his ex-wife, some incompetent government spies, a North Korean weapons plot, and plenty more besides— is as thrilling, dynamic, and unique a novel as I’ve encountered in some years. It’s a brain rearranger and goddamn funny too. — JUSTIN TAYLOR
JUSTIN TAYLOR One of the first things I noticed about Woke Up Lonely is how different it is—structurally, plotwise, character-wise—from Last Last Chance. And yet at the same time there are some truly striking similarities—apocalyptic loomings, obviously, but on a more fundamental level, the prodigal protagonist, the yearning for family. FIONA MAAZEL I’ve been told that you can feel my stamp (I have a stamp!) on both novels. That aesthetically, they have a lot in common. And, yes, I suppose the first novel is also about loneliness, though it’s less pronounced. Of course, now I’m worried all my novels will be about loneliness and everyone will think I’m just depressed. But to answer your question: I was not conscious of treading the same ground at all. I don’t think the apocalyptic persecution of the first novel makes a showing in Woke Up Lonely; things are dire but the world is not ending. No one is dying except, you know, everyone’s soul. But that was happening before the book starts. Which is really the point, I suppose. We’re dying of emotional isolation and despair. Is that apocalyptic? I guess it is. One thing I was acutely aware of while writing Woke Up Lonely was how much more it kept with the kind of novel I’ve always wanted to write. I wrote a novel before Last Last Chance called “Agent Blue.” No one wanted to publish it, and I was heartbroken. “Agent Blue” had multiple narrators; it was sweeping and a little weird. Last Last Chance is a first-person narrative that’s linear in design (barring all the reincarnated people). So it was kind of reactionary. And though I enjoyed working on it, and I worked really hard on it, it still wasn’t exactly the novel I wanted to write. But after I got it published, I felt like I could return to what I was trying to make happen in “Agent Blue,” only this time with more tools and experience. I still went hog wild on the thing, but perhaps with a better sense of how to keep it all together. JT So were you worried something like what happened to “Agent Blue” might happen with Woke Up Lonely? FM I think “Agent Blue” didn’t get published because it wasn’t ready. But, yes, I worried about Woke Up Lonely. You know, there’s that stupid distinction people make between books that win prizes and books that people actually read—between “prestige” books for a house and the popular fiction that keeps the house afloat financially. I hate that distinction. I’m not going to pretend that easier, less challenging novels don’t win the day when it comes to sales, but I still find the distinction between high and low belittling to readers and reductive. I can’t remember why I’m going on like this . . . Oh, right, because I worried my novel wouldn’t even fall into either category, stupid as they are. Woke Up Lonely is probably not the easiest read, but it’s not Gaddis either. It’s not the most experimental fiction by a long shot, but it is weird. Or so people keep telling me. Anyway, it’s all moot now because team Graywolf stepped in and did for me what it is doing so incredibly well these days, which is to take a risk and then get behind it 1,000 percent. 76
JT I’ve been trying to describe the novel’s structure and I keep coming up with words and phrases that I’m worried sound pejorative, even though I mean them as high praise—“crazy quilt,” for example, and especially “cantilevered,” since I love the way that some of the sections project out from the main “building” of the novel and hang over open space as if defying gravity. To start with, there’s Thurlow Dan, the cult leader, and his ex-wife Esme, a freelance secret agent charged with helping to bring him down, and their relationship is the prime motive force in the novel. Then there’s Esme’s spy team—a.k.a. Thurlow’s hostages—a group of four misfits who in another novel might be used in aggregate as a prop or plot device, but in this book are given the chance not only to individuate but to share each of their backstories, desires, and lonelinesses, and (eventually) to follow their own trajectories. How did you come to find this form for the book? FM I won’t lie to you: Putting this novel together was a small nightmare. I knew I wanted to start and end the book with four short stories and to stuff a love story in between them. That was my basic structure. I had ideas about how this structure would disport the same themes in play throughout the novel: fracture, schism, and so forth. Our stories are often more similar than they are empathic, and from this idea I decided to narrate the plight of the four hostages as four short stories that dovetail but do not actually overlap in a meaningful way. Then I was thinking about that Thomas Mann quote: A man “lives not only his personal life as an individual, but also, consciously or subconsciously, the lives of his epoch and his contemporaries . . . If the times, themselves, despite all their hustle and bustle, provide him with niether hopes nor prospects . . . the situation will have a crippling effect.” In other words: a man lives the lives of his epoch but if he doesn’t—if the universe never gives him a chance to rise up and out of himself—we are doomed. I think that’s an amazing sentiment—it’s from The Magic Mountain—and it was essentially a cornerstone of the novel. To me, “the lives of an epoch” were like solos or arias in a great score, and so I decided to voice two such arias and present them as first-person accounts that star-cross the book into a love story. So that was the plan. But here are two crazy things. One: I’d written that Mann quote down in a journal years ago and decided, after my novel was written, to go track it down in The Magic Mountain. So I did, only to find out that I’d botched the quote entirely and misunderstood its context and meaning. So I’d based my novel on an idea I imposed on Thomas Mann, and not the other way around. Two: No matter what I did, I could not make the novel work if it opened with the four hostages. And I was furious. Because I wanted my sandwich. But no one else did. That love story refused to be contained, so in the end, I had to relent and begin with my cult leader and his ex and segue into the four hostages, though I did manage to keep to my original plan for the second half of the book. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t go through about 40 drafts of Woke Up Lonely. I turned it upside down and inside out.
Acacia What is this maid, Caesar, who throws me in the babbling, I also don’t like Pound, he poisoned me, fish. I’d like to be Juaroz, I’d like to be Braco, but I’m not, I’m as I am, as life put me together, as the light poured on me (yes, it did), as they were kicking me like a box and broke their legs. As this acacia. It sees me, it hears me, invites my lonely walking out of the road. And true, the trace, I swear, it was not the wind, plants sometimes wake up, they greet you. Divieto di caccia, our walks are star shanks. Sunflowers rest, are you the dust? I’m not, I’m green, I’m washed, I’m washed, do you fall, do you extend, is it dangerous? It’s not yet dangerous, I’m only feeling. I’m not yet glazed by grace of love, the dreadful thanksgiving. I remember perplexed people’s gazes before the night crushed me. Not the night. The cold. Gray, steely cold. I shivered above the highway, the force was pushing me over the fence, I didn’t want it, the force wanted it, I was writing, I didn’t know I’d wound myself that much. That I would pierce through. That the sun won’t exist. That I’d be thrown there. Tires splatter, tires are leaving, tires lick, the fable, there will still be the fable, it’ll throw me out, the river is life, there will still be the fable, this the acacia sees. The acacia warned me.
Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren and the author. 80
Dylan Landis She Will Be Flesh Rainey locks herself into the ladies’ room of the Madison Gardens coffee shop, not far from the Met. It’s perfect: a little bathroom just for one. She slings her heavy pack over the doorknob and pulls out a glass pillar candle she decorated herself for the patroness of artists, Saint Catherine of Bologna. Lights the candle, wobbly on the sink, with her last cardboard match. Strips off the t-shirt she stayed up all night in. Slicks under her arms with soap. Cath, I need five minutes in this grotty bathroom. She slips a plastic razor from a pocket of her pack. You can do that. And let old Mr. Lipschitz love my work, and let him maybe give me a place to live and let him have, like, zero libido. She shaves the left pit. Someone rattles the knob. Rainey cruises through the right pit, leans over the sink and washes her hair with the green bathroom soap. This is what she wants Mr. Lipschitz to smell: soap and tea-rose oil. Not leather jacket and sweat. Not that she left the townhouse unshowered at five in the morning after a fight with her father, who had just returned from playing a gig. She’s only eighteen but it’s partly her house. It’s hers in trust but her father is trustee. Her father’s acolytes, the guys, anyway, they look at her like she’s wearing a sign that says, “Nail me, baby.” Her father smiles benef icently over them all, and live jazz pours out of the house and he is hot shit, he is Howard Royal—no one questions him. Last night she found a girl acolyte sprawled on her pink bed, making actual jazz come out of her junior-high flute. The girl’s enormous duffel bag was propped against the dressing table. This kind of shit was always Howard’s doing. The girl wouldn’t leave so Rainey waited up for Howard till almost sunrise. He came home with an arm draped around Reba, who had bongos between 82
her legs in Union Square till Howard lured her indoors. His fingertips dangled low. “The casa’s a little full, sweetheart,” he said, when Rainey demanded her room to herself. “Grab a sleeping bag. Or duke it out.” His middle f inger brushed Reba’s nipple, and a spark flew out and caught Rainey in the eye. The knob of the ladies’ room turns again. Rainey has an inter view in twenty minutes—she looked at the restaurant clock—with an old man who might commission a tapestry. “Hang on,” she says. She ties a turquoise scarf around her wet hair and slicks Vaseline on her eyelids and lips. Shine, she loves shine. Men have eyed the shine on her since she was a kid. They are, all of them, so full of shit. But this is not a problem she would bring to Saint Catherine of Bologna. Cath scorned temptation and the worldly state. She was all about the art. Loud knocking. “Hello, there are three of us out here?” Rainey had cut ahead of a lady in slingbacks, and right through the paint-chipped door she can see her, how her hat matches her gloves. On the Upper East Side it is the hour of church; it is the hour of brunch. Rainey skipped dinner, and she is too broke for breakfast. And she’s forgotten her perfume. W ithout p er f ume she’s s tripp e d of her powers. She passes her wrists quickly over the candle flame, prays Saint Cath, anoint me. I make you all these pretty things. It’s true, Cath could perfume her own flesh from molecules of nothing, a miracle she performed after death instead of rotting, and Rainey believes she smelled of tea rose, the scent of mothers. New k nock . Male. Some serious knuckle in it. “What?” she says. “I’m not feeling too well.” Brilliant—in a cof fee -shop bath room, not feeling well means junkie,
it means needles jamming the plumbing. She swipes on deodorant, lifts one foot to the sink, starts dry-shaving her leg—and accidentally rocks the glasspillar candle. It falls with dreamlike lassitude, then explodes. Shrapnel everywhere. Hard banging, and a male voice. “Whatever dope you’re doing in there, sister, you got five seconds before this door opens.” In five seconds she opens it herself. She’s wearing a low-necked, gauz y black tee on which she’s painted the face of Saint Cath in gold. Be resplendent, she thinks. Glass glitters at her feet. Her lips part. Her eyelids shine and she stares at the manager. His eyes flare with a look that needs one of those long German names that would mean something like anger braided with lust. “Scram,” he says. He reaches for her arm and she tries to wrench away, but he escorts her past a line of staring women and out into the sun. From the living room of the Lipschitz apartment, she hears a door close far off with a chocolaty thump. She hears footfalls that speak of Persian carpets. It’s Fifth Avenue. To get this far she’s been scrutinized by two doormen, an elevator man, the housekeeper. The man who limps into the room is thin and angular as a branch snapped off a winter tree. His eyes are ice-blue. He catches her in deliberate scrutiny of a little Impressionist landscape hanging by a grand piano—a Steinway, like her father’s, which she knows better than to even brush up against. She’s chosen the landscape because it hangs in a place of honor. “You’re the artist?” he says in some kind of accent. She forces herself not to brush invisible leaves from her skirt, takes a measured half-second to tear herself from the painting, and beams at him. He holds an ebony cane topped with a silver dog’s head whose nose thrusts through his fist. He’s dressed up—a suit, a tie. Church and brunch again, though with a name like Lipschitz, who knows about church. “I brought a sample of my work,” she says. She opens her army pack, which in this peach-colored room has all the presence of a burlap sack, and pulls out
Marine Life Remember that time we stood in the surf and mourned its havoc before it was gone, and kept walking crazily into the waves because we couldn’t get that feeling back? Here’s where you stood with your last lover, and here’s where I stand with you, bone-deep in fish hooks and salt. Remember the gull tearing into the chop, coming up empty-beaked? And out on the sandbar, an elderly man with the legs of a crane, waving triumphantly?
Another Disappointing Perigee Moon Hello, supermoon, my full-fledged saturant: blaze-bright in the black sky. Tonight, a mess is born. The marriage of chaos and affection. To know too much, to desire
He might have shouted “I made it,” but its deafening out there
too much, the first time like a relic.
so far from shore. One wave breaks, the next pulls away, a serenade of flotsam and noise.
The oval orbit spins itself dizzy, circles close, pulls away, deranges
Then he was swimming, a blur on the water. We couldn’t tell what sort of bird he might be.
the distances. This is how I want you to be: a body astonished, strung tight across the black matte of evening. A little bit drunk. Gaze-shy and stroked. What to say when surrender comes? What becomes of our promise to behave like lovers? Science doesn’t lie. It’s the end of a beautiful summer.
Mimi Lipson The Cloud of Unknowing Meanwhile the Corinthians com pleted their preparations and sailed for Corcyra with a hundred and fifty ships. O f these Elis furnished ten, Megara twelve, Leucas ten, Ambracia twenty-seven— Judy’s eyes slid off the page and up to the bleary halo of light surrounding the lamppost outside the library window. She was a slow reader. The syllabus for Humanities 110—Herodotus, Hesiod, Thucydides, mandatory for all Reed College freshmen—had defeated her last semester, and she’d taken an incomplete. Then, instead of reading The Peloponnesian War, she’d spent her break in a stupor watching Jack Benny reruns as 1982 wound down. It was February now, cold and green, and the bare branches of the cherry trees along the campus paths were dark in the Portland drizzle. In another month they would be swelling with buds. Each of these contingents had its own admiral, the Corinthians being under the command of Xenoclides, son of Euthycles— Her eyes slid again. The steam heat was making her drowsy. She resolved to finish the chapter at home. Outside the library, she stood for a moment looking back at the vaulted windows of the reserve room. It was a beautiful building: turrets and iv y and gothic arches, ever y thing she’d imagined when she’d fantasized about going away to college, but she was glad to turn from it now. She cut across the lawn, soaking her tennis shoes instantly. The air was saturated with something between a heavy mist and a light rain. A searchlight raked the low sky somewhere beyond the river, miles away. She walked in that direction, following the slope of Woodstock Boulevard. It wasn’t until Judy left campus that it became real—the distance between Oregon and the New England town where she’d grown up. The streets to 90
the south of Woodstock were wide, cur ving arbitrarily past low houses landscaped with strange conifers and succulents and gravel that glowed like moon rock under tall western streetlights. Up the hill from campus the houses were bigger and older, but not like the big old houses back home. They lacked ornamentation. The roofs of their wide porches were supported by a kind of column she didn’t remember seeing before: square and tapering, like a crude optical illusion. In her mind, those houses were closer to lumber than the shingled and gabled Victorians in her town. They made her think of the great trees that stood in every direction outside the city. Judy had lived up the hill from campus for a few months. Midway through the fall semester she’d moved out of her dormitory and into a group house with some older students. She’d been infatuated with someone who lived there, but things had ended badly with him. She moved again, right before the fall break, into another big house—this one on a cul-de-sac off Powell Boulevard, a mile and a half north of campus: her third address in six months, each a little farther afield. She crossed 28th Street at the bottom of the hill. From the 7-Eleven parking lot, she could read the big clock inside the store. It was only 11:40. Now she wished she’d stayed at the library until closing. She had a question for Jim, but he worked the graveyard shift. He wouldn’t be there for another twenty minutes, and she didn’t want him to find her waiting. “Don’t come too often,” he had said the first time she visited him at work. She hadn’t been offended, though. She’d accepted it as a kind of intimacy. She walked home along 28th Stre et pas t small, temp orar y- lo oking houses, and apartment complexes that reminded her of motels, with their rows of parking spots and numbered
doors. Turning onto Powell Boulevard, she left the residential streets behind. Two cars idled side-by-side outside the all-night bowling alley across the boulevard. She stood for a moment admiring the reflection of their taillights on the wet pavement. On rare sunny days she could see the snowcap of Mount Hood rising above the boulevard, but on a rainy night it could be anywhere. Judy ’s street dead- ended at the locked gate of a fuel company. Hers was the only house on the block, next to the drive-thru window of a Wendy’s that fronted on Powell. Sometimes she sat on the back porch and listened to the voices on the speaker box. Good afternoon, sir. Would you like to try our new baked stuffed potato? It comes in four exciting flavors. We have chili, sour cream and chive, cheddar cheese and chive, and ranch—over and over, until the flare and crackle of the speaker was a little like surf hitting sand. She got to know the voices of the different girls who worked there. When she had no classes and could stay home all day, she would go next door and buy a small coffee and sweeten it to syrup. She’d stuff some crackers and hot sauce in her pockets for lunch, and return for coffee refills until her cup was too soggy to use. She shared the house with three other Reedies, but she had her own entrance: a side door opening into the basement. Her room was partitioned off by a plywood wall. It had been built as a practice space for a band whose members had lived in the house at some p oint. They ’d cut St yrofoam inserts to fit into the narrow windowsills. She pulled them out, but she could do nothing about the spray-on soundproofing that hung like dust from the ceiling. The lighting, too, was ghastly: a double fluorescent fixture. One tube was strobing. She kept meaning to look for a replacement in the basement clutter outside her room. She hung her coat on the pipe running along the ceiling, took off her wet tennis shoes, and went upstairs. A light-gray cat was on the kitchen counter, licking at a stick of butter. “Come on, Windex. We can do better than that,” she said, shaking some dry food into the cat’s bowl. She’d found the little cat on the back porch a few weeks earlier and taken her into the house, and so far, none of her roommates had said anything. It was possible they hadn’t
Betsy Andrews from The Bottom
sea fairy, sea wizard, water-horse, sea-queen picked clean on long conveyor belts and sorted by shape and size how completely the meat is scooped from the shell; the world’s fell from the skies past the satellite that guides ships beyond reason in the season of bone-sad tides; are they wise, the drowned, who’ve found stillness while the rest of us flail? the Northern Passage, the Arctic’s third rail: fried fish and a polar bear rug, our collective shrug as lethal as a blast pressure wound evidence forgotten as soon as it’s archived; just the rats remember that this spit of concrete between the highway and the street was once a wetland; they scratch at the cracks there, hoping for water, and the daughters of the sinkholes, the cloud-covered mermaids, sit down with soot in their fins
she’s been here before the back beyond, this spider crab, this scavenger, bandida of the nets before the gluing and the ungluing of the wild, wild west before the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker washed up in their jalopy, and disembarked their sloppy ark of pigs and sheep and donkeys, who, having nothing more to eat, ate the island head to feet and burped a pile of gristle— the monkey flower, bedstraw, lace pod, paintbrush swapped for European thistle; before lift-off for a missile christened Come When I Whistle II from the mani-pedi launch pad of this island nicknamed “fantasy” in the Kali Yuga dawn; before Santa Ana winked her eye, dry as a Hollywood gimlet, and peeled and twisted yachts like limes beached on the rims of the inlets before the island foxes rifled in the campers’ trash for snacks the spider crab, headlamps on, humped her half-a-million burdens through the wrack they called her grotesque, a tangle of tubers and ulcers and spines swiping their bait at the pier, but language has no reason or rhyme for a crab with 500,000 babies and the next shed near like Gulliver who hoisted Lilliputians to his shoulders, she draped herself in barnacles, and the barnacles took a ride, with the air ferns and the moss dogs and the pink hearts side by side; that was moons ago, when adornment had its purpose as disguise and her shell was just another face to wear, then cast aside an arm was just an arm then—she had ten; she could abide one being pried from her by sailing men who played her like a lyre, plucking at her strings, and in the do-re-me of branding, called her “California king”; it’s a soup of stings, this ocean, it’s a salt-broth Try Pots chowder full of vampire birds and whiskered pelts and other starveling matter, but she’s braved it going soft each time, revising, one conclusion to the next, carrying on until this last of last of molts, the final text; she’s done with drafts doors and windows bolted, she will stay, at last, inside the lesson of the crab, my love? advance, and then be still; in time, everybody dies.
Thomas Israel Hopkins
An Obstacle to Empathy I am conducting an interview with a general who is in the process of authorizing an invasion of a country that borders both his and mine. This—the invasion—is not an out-of-the-ordinary thing for him to do, which is why he feels comfortable doing two things at once, launching a war and chatting with a foreign journalist. The atmosphere in his office, here in the marble palace of the ruling military junta, is relaxed; or, at least, as relaxed as it can be on an intensely hot day like today. Our interview takes longer than it might under more peaceful circumstances. His telephone keeps ringing—his subordinates calling with questions from the front. He needs to take each call, although he gives me an apologetic smile every time. “He is very sorry,” the general says, picking up the receiver. “He is entirely all right,” I say. His people are old hands at launching wars. Their problem—if you want to call it that; the general would not—is a simple one to diagnose, say scientists back in my country. Their hypothesis is that the general’s impulse to fight stems from the fact that his country’s language lacks both the first person and the second person. The general holds the receiver away from his head, pointing it in my direction. I can’t make out the words, but I can understand the tone, the frantic barking of a colonel out on a battlefield. The general rolls his eyes. I’m on his good side. I nod and smile. “Can he believe him?” the general says. “He cannot,” I say. “How is he expected to work?” he says. “He has a lot on his plate,” I say. The general abruptly brings the phone to his mouth. “He will call back!” he says. “He will have an answer. In the 98
meantime he should hold his horses.” The general slams the receiver down, wipes his damp forehead with a handkerchief, and smiles graciously at me. “Where were they?” The scientists back in my home country argue that the absence of the f irst-person plural—the lack of the word and the concept of “we”—results in the absence of any kind of common feeling, among the speakers of this language, with other people. Their grammar precludes compassion. This is why, the scientists say, the speakers of this language are constantly invading their neighbors. It’s why they have such an enormous prison population; it ’s why so many of them die every year, or lose various body parts, in knife fights. “He was describing the outrage,” I say. My country does a brisk business in the export of artificial limbs. “The outrage!” repeats the general. “The outrage, the outrage.” He pounds his open palm against his desk each time to punctuate the word, making the telephone receiver rattle in its cradle, leaving a trail of wet handprints. The press corps of my countr y also profits off the ongoing saga of our brutal neighbors. Hence, this interview. My readers love to be scandalized by fresh reports of barbarism and stupidity. We are lucky, as we busy ourselves making fun of our neighbors, to have a formidable mountain range between them and us. Our artificial-limb convoys make it there eventually, but we are no fun to invade. The phone rings yet again. The general sighs. “The foreign reporter needs to leave him now,” he says. “The general is very sorry. He has had a pleasurable interlude talking with him.” “The pleasure has been all the foreign reporter’s,” I say. “He is having difficulty understanding what they are doing to them,” he
says, “or what they say they are doing to them.” He chuckles, shaking his head. “Their incompetence astounds him sometimes!” “He knows what he means,” I say. Over the years, I’ve become fairly fluent in their language; and I have, over time, developed my own hypothesis, which is that their problem might not be a grammar-derived block to sympathy, but rather total, constant confusion about who the hell anyone is ever talking about. I chuckle sympathetically. “He has just the same problem with them!” The general’s look turns dark. “He should feel free to go now,” he says. He is staring bullets at me. I am worried that I may have been inadvertently unclear just now—unclear to the point of endangering my own life. “He should feel free not to return.” The general has one hand on the ringing phone, one hand on his chest. Is he scratching an itch? Or f ingering a hidden weapon? Dying would be a dumb way to prove my hypothesis. Especially when I haven’t had a chance to write about it in any of my articles. I drop all pretense of professionalism. “He knows his excellence knows no bounds!” I say. “And he knows he will soon know again the taste of his fresh blood!” Luckily, the general gets the quote. His people have only produced one poet—one awful, mean, idiotic poet— so it’s not difficult to have a working familiarity with their national literature. He grins broadly. “He is right, he is right,” he says, taking his hand from his chest and waving it at me. “Godwind- guns,” he says. Another reference—the poet’s catchphrase. He picks up the phone; he waves me away again. “God-wind- guns!” I parrot. I scuttle out of his office. My heart hurts with the shame of my brief, pathetic, self-preserving lapse into bootlicking. Fortunately, no one—not my family nor my colleagues, not my editor nor my readers—no one ever has to know my shame. I’m grateful, as I’ve been before, that the militar y here has a strict rule against recording devices. I have a story to file—one only partly untrue. I hurry down the palace’s long marble hallway to the press room.
Jen Hofer from less than one, more than one more than none, none between — immeasurably gray — more vaporous masses massing — heat rising, disbursements off the asphalt — diminishments returning, or half-lives vine-like — plumage, flares, warming — warning signs — visage — unseen between the clouds —— clouds unseen
The accident is not over.
— Helen Caldicott I T TA K E S A W H I L E B E F O R E Y O U C A N S T E P O V E R I N E R T B O D I E S A N D G O A H E A D W I T H W H AT YO U WERE TRYING TO DO. — Jenny Holzer
The trouble with you is you want a simple answer. But there isn’t any. The war started when people accepted the idiotic principle that peace could be maintained by arranging to defend themselves with weapons they couldn’t possibly use without committing suicide. Everybody had an atomic bomb, and counter-bombs, and counter-counter bombs. The devices outgrew us—we couldn’t control them! — On The Beach, 1959
You can blow people to bits with bombs, you can shoot them with shells, you can atomize them with atomic bombs, but the same people think there’s something terrible about poisoning the air and letting people breathe it. Anything having to do with gas warfare, chemical warfare, has this taint of horror on it, even if you only make people vomit. — Dr. Laurence Layton, Chief of the Chemical Warfare Division, early 1950s When they put us on that old Army bus and took us out past Saltair and down Skull Valley, I was convinced it was the end of the world ... The NCO that met us at the main gate said: “We don’t worry about you going AWOL, we just watch you walk away for three days and then go out and pick you up.” — U.S. Army Veteran Jerry Reed, Dugway Proving Ground worker starting in 1959
There isn’t time. No time to love. Nothing to remember. Nothing worth remembering. — On The Beach, 1959 Prepare to surface. Give it to me straight. Prepare to surface. Just give it to me straight. 100
Depth 58 feet. How much longer? Depth 58 feet, sir. How much longer? Sonar, any contacts topside? Any contacts? No contacts, sir. no contacts not much longer no contacts, no time, no signal, uninformed consent, air corridors, waterways, tunnels under the desert floor or wind channels vectoring off wingtips, no formula nor formal measurement tactic, strategic invisibility tunneling, accidental exposure, tanks ready to surface, no awareness or sudden awareness or sudden death, surfacing more slowly, more pervasively, penetrating force not accidental, decided, debts accidentally detonated or creeping dose entering the space between molecules accidentally which is purposeless motion, electron detachment, impinging particles or waves in accidental formation, conveyances or what we might have said, given the chance, whispering at extremely low frequencies undetected, but there was no chance unmeasured, no signal tapped out, trapped in the rote groove, give it to me straight, wavelengths passing straight through the body inevitably available as there is in this world no way not to expose the porous surface to accidental attachments the invisible air everything but invisible, detachments accidentally surface and beyond the surface straight through to the air surface surface surface a sure thing, give it to me straight lower main ballast a silvery luster lower main ballast forward a silvery white luster depth 4 5 feet sir secure the air tarnishes in dry air open main induction synthetic air main induction open sir ionization surfacing surfacing skimming skid on the skin of consent to contract or contaminate where coagulation rising demarcates an accidental mutuality we watched the moon rise and were obliged to agree it was pretty, very pretty on the rising surface topside just give it to me straight in uncontaminated code A: radiation accident A-R: accident, nuclear reactor A-NR: accident, naval reactor A-PR: accident, power reactor AC: criticality accident AC-RR: criticality accident, research reactor A-a: accelerator accident A-d: accidental dispersal of radioactive material
Phillip Lopate by Shifra Sharlin
LITERATURE — PHILLIP LOPATE
I interviewed Phillip Lopate at his Brooklyn home, which he mentions in “Brooklyn the Unknowable,” one of the essays in his new collection, Portrait Inside My Head. There, he describes his reluctance to leave Manhattan for Brooklyn: “Brooklyn was the primeval ooze out of which I had crawled in order to make something of myself.” There is nothing of the primeval or oozing about the Carroll Gardens brownstone with which he and his wife, Cheryl, ended up falling in love and where they raised their daughter, Lily, who is now a college freshman. His is the only one on the block with enormous pots of flowering plants at the top of the long flight of stairs to the front door. Phillip greeted me, preceded by one of his three large cats. It has been a good year for Phillip. The last time I visited him, he showed me Morris Dickstein’s laudatory review, in that week’s New York Times Book Review, of his two new books (his 17th and 18th as sole author)—To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction and Portrait Inside My Head. Dickstein thoughtfully notes that Phillip’s essays “match Hazlitt’s promiscuous host of interests with Montaigne’s piercing attention to his inner life.” The time before that, Phillip was still astonished by the news that Robert Atwan, editor of the Best American Essays series, had chosen “Against Joie de Vivre,” featured in the 1987 edition, as one of the ten best essays since 1950, claiming that Phillip “had found a creative way to insert the old familiar essay into the contemporary world.” “Along with James Baldwin and Joan Didion!” Phillip exclaimed on that fall afternoon. I was not in the least surprised. Phillip reinvented the essay for all of us, showing us the best features of that tradition combined with what Atwan has called a talent for “comic yet astute details.” Phillip’s exuberance and generosity as a teacher had been on display the day before our conversation, during a daylong conference on the essay that he organized at Columbia University, where he is a professor and director of the graduate program in nonfiction. There had been one star-studded panel of essayists after the other. Everyone, panelists and audience, was a little giddy with the thrill of the discussions on- and offstage. Through it all, Phillip was making sure everything was going as it should, clowning a little, hugging some, and always ready with a greeting for everyone. The following afternoon he still had plenty of energy for our two-hour conversation in the decidedly not primeval ooze of his cozy, book-lined living room. — SHIFRA SHARLIN
SHIFRA SHARLIN Coming to your place, I was thinking about your sense of place in Brooklyn and in New York. As someone who isn’t a native anything, I’m interested to hear what it means to call yourself a native New Yorker. PHILLIP LOPATE I do feel rooted in New York and am unapologetically pro–New York. There are other writers who have moved around and whose identity comes from being displaced or out of place or having two homes. I see myself as a New Yorker probably before I see myself as an American. SS That’s true for a lot of New Yorkers. PL First I’m a New Yorker, then a writer, then a Jew, and then an American. (laughter) SS You’ve lived in Houston and in the Bay Area. Were you ever tempted to stay there? Why have you come back? PL Because New York is part of my subject matter. When I’m in the street or on a bus or in the subway, I like to think that I have at least an inkling of what these people are thinking and feeling. It could be pure delusion, but I look at their faces, the set grimaces of their muscles, and I kind of know what’s passing through them. When I lived in places such as Houston or San Francisco, the people could be perfectly nice, but they were opaque to me. It’s just a fantasy perhaps, but I think I’m one of many here. SS Do you think they can imagine what you’re thinking? PL In New York, you get into the street and you take the measure of another person and the person after that. And you make very quick judgments from the way people are walking or standing still. It takes so much instinctual knowledge to navigate a street in New York, especially a busy one. This ocean of pedestrians has somewhat the same democratic promise that I think Whitman attributed to the crowd. The crowd gives the lie to D. H. Lawrence’s studies claiming that classical American literature is dominated by the isolate killer! SS Haussmann’s Paris, Baudelaire’s Paris, has boulevards, restaurants, and other public spaces that make it possible for different kinds of people to meet. PL It’s not an accident that the doppelgänger is a figure in urban literature. From Dostoyevsky on, we think of our doubles being encountered in city streets. When I first read Walter Benjamin and his writings about Baudelaire, the whole notion of the flaneur was a revelation for me. That was one of the most important books of my life. Just as in other ways Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities and Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York were very important to me. I later began to qualify my enthusiasm for both of those books—and to see that there were other ways of regarding the city—but, in a way, I never really departed from Benjamin’s approach. 106
SS When you describe yourself as a New Yorker, you are not only talking about it as an urban center but also about your familiarity with the people. PL There are limits to the extent to which you can be selfinvented. The trope of self-invention is one that Americans are drawn to, but I myself feel that you can’t evade your parentage. Some of my siblings like to think that they are more self-invented. I can see my father and my mother in me—they’ll never go away. Probably my relationship to Judaism is similar in that I’m not really a practicing Jew, although occasionally I fall back into it for old time’s sake. My daughter once said to me, “Why do you want to go to the synagogue, you don’t even believe in God, Daddy!” SS That is not a deterrent to going to synagogue! PL Definitely not a deterrent. I remember telling my friend Max Apple, a wonderful writer who’s much more of a practicing Jew, that I thought I was a bad Jew because I doubted everything. He said, “No, no, that means you’re a good Jew!” SS Right! That’s the crux! PL I just saw this American Masters TV show where Philip Roth is at pains to say, “I don’t want to be known as an American Jewish writer, I just want to be considered an American writer.” I thought, They can call me an American Jewish writer, I don’t mind. It’s funny because when I was a teenager, my god as a writer was Dostoyevsky. And Dostoyevsky said, “Why do they call me a psychologist? I don’t want to be called a psychologist, I’m a realist.” I remember at 18 years old thinking that if I ever became a writer, I wouldn’t mind if they called me a psychologist. SS They can call me whatever they want! PL Exactly! I’ve always been drawn to the psychological. The Freudian in me will never die, just as the Jane Jacobs in me will persist. My parents were both in a kind of Freudian therapy when I was a kid. They were working class, and didn’t even have much money, but they still went to therapy. SS Really? PL Yeah, they needed it. SS That seems very unusual to me. PL Well, it was part of the culture of New York. Growing up in Brooklyn, Freud and Dostoyevsky were the household gods. So I’ve always had a friendly feeling for psychology. When smart people dismiss Freud, I just roll my eyes. One of the points I made when I wrote the book on Susan Sontag, Notes on Sontag, was that there was this moment in the ’60s, especially in France, in which the psychological was disdained completely. The nouveau roman authors were all saying that the worst, the
Abraham Cruzvillegas by Haegue Yang
Installation view of The Autoconstrucción Suites , 2013, dimensions variable, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Photo by Gene Pittman. Courtesy of the Walker Art Center.
ART — ABRAHAM CRUZVILLEGAS
Installation views of The Autoconstrucci贸n Suites , 2013, dimensions variable, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Before I met Abraham Cruzvillegas, more than once I’d heard curator Clara Kim mention in passing that he was a special person. This piqued my curiosity. When I finally met him in Los Angeles in 2008, the rumors about him were confirmed. Five years after our first meeting, my sense of his uniqueness has not waned but rather continues to grow through our different interactions. We’ve introduced our respective home cities to each other and see each other’s shows whenever we can. So powerful are Abraham’s special qualities that they seem to be contagious—he influences people around him, alters their experiences and perception of what is possible in life. As an artist, one may fall prey to feeling anxious, weak, and even terrified by a fear of failure, of falling short of one’s desire to be good to oneself and to share something with others. This pressure is self-imposed.
HAEGUE YANG I remember your beautiful long hair when we met for the first time in LA in 2009. Don’t ask me why, but tonight in Dubai, this strange “island” in the gulf region, all of a sudden I found myself thinking about whether it meant anything to you to cut your hair. In Korea, under Confucianism, hair was regarded as something inherited from your parents or ancestors. There were people who would rather cut off their heads than their hair. I guess it was about protecting their honor. ABRAHAM CRUZVILLEGAS When I cut my hair, there was no symbolic meaning. I had let it grow because when my wife, Alejandra, and I went to live in Paris in 2005, my head felt cold in Europe. Prior to that, I had shaved my head every other week for nearly 20 years. The change was good. When I moved to Berlin in 2010, shampoo was expensive and I wanted a change, so I cut my hair. Change is very important for all of us—it’s not just something that happens, it’s something we must provoke. When you first wrote, I was installing some works from my series Autoconstrucción at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Autoconstrucción means transformation to me. I apply the notion to houses being both built and destroyed simultaneously, according to the specific needs of their inhabitants. Change is the rule for the Autoconstrucción houses, and transformation of identity is behind my approach (or misuse) of the concept: selfconstruction is permanently unfinished. I love that idea. And it so happens that hair affects people’s perception of us. Ah, yes—and the inventiveness of a new haircut. My haircuts can be a little Navajo, a little redneck, a little bit microbusero, a little 117
ART — ABRAHAM CRUZVILLEGAS
Cruzvillegas’s body of work provides a daring and encouraging optimism. The physicality of his sculptures and works on paper can’t be considered without noticing how processes unfolding in time, commitment (togetherness), and a vital nature (spirit), give them shape. Like Duchamp, who was often praised for his modes and efficiency with time, Cruzvillegas exercises a specific mode of efficiency, even when it comes to emotion. The works grow out of fertile ground, from his being in this world, which requires a temporal engagement different from that of being in the studio. His thinking process accumulates depth while it takes inefficient, nonlinear paths. Yet the making of his works occurs in a miraculously swift and decisive manner— their graceful execution is full of wit and demonstrates respect for their materials’ origin. — HAEGUE YANG
bit guama . . . I like it when people don’t recognize me in the street—also when my work becomes something like a cumulative dialogue of inner identities that are constantly switching arrangements, opinions, and relationships. The exhibition at the Walker is like that: a sort of confrontation of groups of works that I get to witness. HY I wonder whether I am too Korean to be your Mexican sister. What do you think about coming from the Third World, from a nonindustrialized country? Are we similar to each other, since we share this experience of the Third World? AC I like it. What does that mean? I’m sure there are more worlds in our world: a fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh . . . In Baja California shamans are called guamas; they sit in narrow caves, covered with other people’s hair. People cut their hair and attach it to the heads of the guamas (like bizarre extensions, similar to dreadlocks). They remind me of Cousin Itt from the TV series The Addams Family; a funny character similar to a large walking wig with John Lennon glasses. My mother used to say that our family was more eccentric than the Addams family because we lived in the so-called Third World. Very often I put diverse objects from contradictory contexts together in one work. This is like an economic clash—it’s having things on top of each other that are organic matter, industrially made, or handmade. They can be made in Taiwan, Marrakech, New York, Paris, or Mexico City. These objects have an internal system, and I like witnessing how they come together. I become a voyeur of their relationships. Between them there might be a conflict, or physical or conceptual instability, but also love, hate, gossip,
power, and sometimes friendship. It’s the same for all of us; sometimes we have to accept our own contradictions in order to develop friendships. Or not. HY We are very privileged to work internationally and share friendships with people with various cultural and geopolitical backgrounds. However, it seems like we artists don’t hang out with each other so much. We visit each other’s shows less often than curators do. Are we hesitant to knock on each other’s doors? If we ever made an effort to stress the importance of the friendships among us, what would it be for? And why? I know of your friendship with Jimmie Durham, but also with your peers in Mexico, as well as of your activities with La galería de comercio. AC I’ve cultivated strong friendships with some other artists who are like family now: Damián Ortega, Gabriel Orozco, Gabriel Kuri, and Jerónimo López, a.k.a Dr. Lakra. And, through them, extended relationships with José Kuri, Mónica Manzutto, and others. Also, teaching has provided me with many friends and accomplices. What I really like about these long-term bonds is that we can approach each other for advice, for help, or just to spend time together, without having any specific purpose or intention to plot something together. In Mexico everybody knows about our small community and our interests, since we’ve always been transparent and open. Our gallery, kurimanzutto, resulted from the development of our community. It is a commercial context and social sphere for the production of art, but also for the production of friendship. It has made our group bigger and more global. I would say—and maybe this is only my perception—that sharing
Welcome, Foreign Brother * Graham Greene . . . Photographer?
One of my first memories is a conversation over coffee between my parents and some relatives, in which my parents told a story about having run into Graham Greene at the terrace of the Hotel Guaraní, a lonely skyscraper of a provincial Asunción, Paraguay, in 1969. I faintly recall the smell of tobacco, some familiar voices, and the British writer’s name. Years later, when I asked my father if they had indeed ran into Greene or if the meeting was just a figment of my imagination, he told me they had actually met. He remembered vaguely that a diplomatic service officer had introduced them, apparently because my father was the only person who spoke English accurately and could handle a conversation. He also said that they had drunk a bottle of gin together, while Greene confessed that a bunch of undercover policemen had snatched his camera in front of the Partido Colorado’s1 offices the previous morning, just as he was shooting what appeared to be preparations for a parade. The Paraguayan diplomat added that the British embassy had dismissed any attempts of getting it back, as Mr. Greene insisted on avoiding a diplomatic incident. As I pressed him for further details, my father remembered that they also discussed the government, foreign policy, a few exclusive parties Greene had attended, and the Nazis who had taken refuge in Paraguay. A few months ago, while I was looking over police files from the Stroessner dictatorship related to missing persons during Operación Condor,2 I found an ordinary envelope which had “photos seized in front of the A.N.R.”3 written on it. Inside, wrapped in newspaper, were five strips of photo negatives, somewhat damaged. When I asked the person in charge of the files about the envelope, he simply answered that I would find hundreds of yet unidentified documents. My father never read Greene’s Travels with My Aunt, the second part of which takes place entirely in Asunción (and ends with a lavish party organized by an Italian smuggler and war criminal wanted by the CIA). In fact, he was pretty surprised when I pointed to the extraordinary coincidences between his story, the novel’s final scenes, and the photographs found in the envelope. — FREDI CASCO, Asunción, April 2013 *—“Bienvenido hermano extranjero” is the title of a popular Paraguayan folk song that welcomes foreigners into the country. 1—Partido Colorado was the political party of General Alfredo Stroessner who ruled from 1954 to 1989. 2—Operación Condor was the series of operations coordinated by South American dictatorships—Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia—and the CIA that took place in the 1970s and 1980s. 3—The Asociación Nacional Republicana (ANR) was the offical name of the Partido Colorado.
“The movement of the crowd edged me towards the Avenue Mariscal Lopez where the processions were passing” (Graham Greene, Travels with my Aunt , p. 217).
BOMB SPECIFIC — FREDI CASCO
David Grubbs performing beneath Peter Coffinâ€™s Untitled (Color Wheel) on August 2, 2008 at Deitch Projects, New York City. Photo by Peter Coffin.
David Grubbs by C. Spencer Yeh
MUSIC — DAVID GRUBBS
David Grubbs is a musician and composer, a PhD in literature, an associate professor at Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music and the MFA program in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA), and the author of the book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (Duke University Press, 2014). Recent collaborations include The Wired Salutation, a live performance with visual artist Angela Bulloch at the Centre Pompidou, and a forthcoming fourth intersection with writer Susan Howe, to be presented at multiple venues including ISSUE Project Room. That is David Grubbs professionally, in the now. As for my own personal Grubbs, where to begin? I can certainly talk about the first time I saw David perform as a musician. I had begged my underage head into the Empty Bottle in Chicago for—check this shit—Ruins, U.S. Maple, and Gastr del Sol. Or the first time I met him formally a couple of years after, when Grubbs was reviewing print proofs for a CD reissue of Swedish composer Folke Rabe’s masterful What? on the Dexter’s Cigar imprint he shared with fellow Gastr-mind Jim O’Rourke. My icebreaker was that I had a copy of Gastr’s appearance on the corporate college-radio filler program 7Up Listen Up!, a popular fizzy beverage mixed with my avant-garde—wasn’t that just nuts? I can then fast-forward almost two decades later and disclose the scene around my cameo on his latest singer-songwrecker effort, The Plain Where the Palace Stood (2013). A gray day turned rainy night, hauling a suitcase of gear from a previous engagement from the Upper West Side down to the Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn—arriving late, a wet mess, plugging in, and already second-guessing my contribution. David, in his way, calmly directed the session, measured my violin slobber, and gave the thumbs up. I think it took a total of half an hour, maybe less. “That’s it? Was that okay?” Well, yeah—but this is the same set of deliberate nerves to memorably dub his first namesake missive Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange, a tightly scripted triptych of understated musical cryptics (yikes). What to make of the spaces I suspected—the personal and professional, the wry and slapstick. It moved me to ask, “That’s it?” Well, it’s clearly not “it,” and so we had a lot to discuss. — C. SPENCER YEH
C. SPENCER YEH So, you were saying it was 1991, and you’re delivering the Chicago Reader. DAVID GRUBBS I delivered the Reader starting on Thursday morning, and I decided that I would just power through the day and that’s how I would quit smoking. CSY Was Gastr del Sol active at that point? DG That was kind of the end of Bastro, the band preceding Gastr. I’d moved to Chicago in ’90. I lived there very conveniently from ’90 to ’99.
couple of years. I was curious about the Art & Language opera at the Whitney Biennial last year. We had performed part of it in Tokyo in ’94 at P3 art and environment, a crazy performance space that was in the basement of a Zen temple. When we were doing the sound check a monk came down to ask us to proofread something he was translating into English. CSY He didn’t tell you to turn it down? DG No, he was really nice. It was an amazing show. Keiji Haino did a solo percussion performance. CSY Not like at brain-melting volume?
CSY It’s funny you mention it because I’d thought about just listening to a bunch of Bastro as part of my homework before I rolled over here. DG You thought about it or you did it? CSY I thought about it. (laughter) So Bastro ended because you moved? DG No, I felt that Bastro had worked its way into a straitjacket. We did one thing well, which was to play at full volume and to kick ass live, and yet we were totally constrained by the acoustics of the room we were playing in. It was time to try to do more things. I remember thinking of it as a unilateral disarmament. I had this vague idea that the music needed to go back down to a living room scale and that we needed to get rid of the weekly rehearsal schedule, the rehearsal space, and the fixed membership of a group. Around the same time, I started playing in the Red Krayola. Mayo Thompson described the Red Krayola as a “nonmembership organization.” That seemed like an interesting idea and a really fun way to make music with other people. It doesn’t give an alternative, just stipulates there are no members of the Red Krayola. At that time only roughly half the people in the Red Krayola would primarily identify as musicians. I liked that fact. CSY When you started being involved in the Krayola was there a time at which your nonmembership was nonrenewed? Non-nonrenewed? DG It was always kind of long distance. Definitely after I moved to New York and had a kid, I was less available for Krayola duty. I also started teaching college fulltime. So I was sort of out of the loop. I’ve played shows in New York with them since but it hasn’t been so active the last 132
DG No. It was the first time I’d seen him without a guitar. Otomo Yoshihide played and did a turntable performance with Red Krayola records and there was this performance group that Masami Akita [of Merzbow] did the sound for. It was like a bondage performance with lots of fake blood and meat. I remember this kind of highfalutin Japanese art critic, whom we had met before the show, storming out of there and saying, “This is an outrage!” Afterward there was a panel discussion, and at some point Keiji Haino, who was in the audience, jumped up and said, “This is an outrage!” He waved his cane and stormed out of there. I think his point was basically that it was utterly pointless to be talking about this music—just do it, you know? (laughter) But I was having total déjà vu of watching pro wrestling as a kid in Louisville on WDRB channel 41. Haino waving his cane and running out was like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper jumping up and shouting, “I can’t take any more of this!” It was awesome. I’ve never seen anything like that in New York City. CSY “This is total bull!”— DG “I’ll see you in the ring next Saturday!” CSY I’d like to go back to the evolution of Bastro into other projects. You said you didn’t want to be in a rock band. DG I just wanted us to practice in Bundy’s living room. I’d never played a steel-string acoustic guitar before. CSY Because before Bastro was Squirrel Bait, and before Squirrel Bait was— DG The band I was in before Squirrel Bait was called the Happy Cadavers. I was
probably 12 or 13 when it started and 14 when it ended. The Happy Cadavers was my eighth-grade band; Squirrel Bait was my high-school band. CSY That’s really young to be rocking. How did you even know about how rock bands worked? DG If you went into a record store in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1979, you would find copies of local fanzines like the Hammer, which was put out by Bruce Witsiepe who was in the band Circle X, and Modern, which was done by Jim Adams who was in the band Stutter. And suddenly you’re reading about punk rock and industrial music and Throbbing Gristle or whatever. In 1979—which is when I first encountered this stuff—the Clash had already peaked and Sandinista! was just about to come out. People were trying to make sense of the Gang of Four and Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. Punk had taken a really weird turn. There was an article on postpunk in Rolling Stone that had a picture of This Heat and a picture of the Raincoats. I remember that very vividly from when I was 11 or 12 years old. CSY I don’t think I knew how rock bands worked until even a few years ago. Growing up, I didn’t really have punk rock or hardcore experience, which has a heavy dialogue between artist and audience, including participation. I’m still fascinated by people who say, “Well, I just started doing stuff.” DG That’s why I stopped reading Rolling Stone and became more interested in fanzines made in Louisville. The people were so accessible. To me, every bit as important as hearing the records was the occasional bit of wisdom. I remember reading this interview with Public Image Ltd in Rolling Stone right when Second Edition came out where John Lydon reiterated that rock and roll was the enemy and entertainment was the enemy. Years later, when I read Peter Bürger’s description of the avant-garde as being hostile to the institution of art, I understood Public Image Ltd and I understood punk’s hostility to the institution—not only of music, but of entertainment, of pop music. CSY Since then though, you’ve been pursuing this particular sound and way of writing and playing; let’s call it, for lack of a better term, precision. I don’t necessarily mean precision in the sense that you’re
Portfolio: Paola Ferrario
“Portici,” 2012, archival inkjet print, grid 4 feet, 3 inches × 4 feet, 3 inches. Images courtesy of the artist. 135
PORTFOLIO — PAOLA FERRARIO
Nadja Bournonville by Zoe Beloff
The Champion Imitator , 2012, C print, 36 3/5 × 29 3/10 inches.
If one believed in nominal determinism, one would say that Nadja Bournonville was destined to work on the subject of hysteria. Nadja is the name of a book written by André Breton about an elusive and disturbed young woman, which concludes with the line, “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all.” The name Bournonville hovers close to Bourneville, the doctor who treated the most famous of all hysterics, Augustine. In the second half of the 19th century, the great neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot presided over the hospital of the Salpêtrière in Paris. In his charge were several thousand women and some men who suffered from what was known as hysteria. It was a mysterious disorder that could take the form of anything from the temporary paralysis of a limb to a full-scale attack in which the hysteric would throw herself about and speak with people that only she could see. Charcot believed his task was to record and decipher the language of these strange phenomena. To this end, he turned the hospital into a veritable image factory, employing the newest photographic technologies. Under the guise of the dictum “the camera cannot lie,” illness was staged as drama in a complex collaboration between doctor and patient. From the beginning, medicine and art were entwined. Charcot himself said that, when hypnotized, hysterics made perfect models
Putting Up a Fight , 2012, C print, 29 3/10 × 36 3/5 inches.
Lucy Skaer by William Corwin
Lucy Skaer might be hiding a time machine. It took me a while to figure out that she may be in possession of such a singular vehicle—initially I was confounded by the complexity of her assemblage of images, objects, and allegorical forms in her 2010 installation The Good Ship Blank and Ballast at K21 in Düsseldorf. The work has since evolved into different iterations at several galleries. The original work had a hermetic logic—consisting of the enlarged frontispiece to Sebastian Brant’s 1494 Ship of Fools chiseled into the wooden floor at a size of 9 by 14 feet; 98 pieces of ballast in the form of Brancusi’s Newborn, reduced in size and cast in aluminum; and a red curtain, bearing an imprint from the floor-cumwoodblock, now a branded (or “Branted”) sail. Skaer has made the brilliant conceptual leap backward into the fertile world of teleology—purposeoriented reasoning that, after its heyday in medieval times, ran into trouble as it became difficult to relate natural processes to moral or divine exigencies. But the possibilities for teleological reasoning within aesthetics are infinite, and for Skaer’s conceptual vessel, moored in a contemporary gallery, the vast branches of the art-historical tree provide substance, fuel, and ballast at once. Similarly, in her installation The Siege (2008–9), Brancusi’s sharp and lithe Bird in Space is repeatedly recast in coal dust and evenly arranged like 26 cruise missiles waiting to be loaded into an Apache helicopter, a repurposing of a sculpture that always had threatening potential. The large drawings, based on
Detail of The Siege , 2008–9, mixed media, dimensions variable, Kunsthalle Basel. 141
ARTISTS ON ARTISTS — LUCY SKAER
Jim Torok, This Is the Last Time I Do a Charity Event , 2013, ink on paper, 9 3/4 × 7 1/4. Courtesy of the artist. 144
THE WICK — JIM TOROK