Past Gems

These are some shows we’ve done with people we really like-

Borna Sammak, Eric Laska, Jeff Sisson, and Bennet Williamson – Double Happiness 4/1/2009

This is the first interview Zoe did for Citywide.  It’s hardly debatable whether this is one of her favorites because it was her first, or because her guests were articulate beyond belief on the clusterfuck of an internet art site that is Double Happiness.  At first glance, one might think that the site simply lingers, exists in the dark corner of the internet for the hell of it.  But, as per the interview, a lot more than whim often goes into creating a post.

If you are going to visit DubHap, make sure all of your other computer programs are closed, that you’ve recently backed up, and turn your speakers on loud.  Visit Shaq Week (a nearly ode to Shark Week); bask in the pixelated sensory devastation.

Zoe is happy to report that after this interview aired in April of ’09, there was a steamy debate housed in DubHap’s most recent post’s comments section.  That, ladies and gentlemen, the ability to quarrel over the internet on a site poking, prodding, and exploring the intangible universe that is the world wide web –arguably meta–is a beautiful thing.

Casey Safron- Animation Block Party 7/28

An interview between Lucas and Casey Safron. Casey began and curates the annual Animation Block Party, an animated film festival presented in Brooklyn every year. More than that, it’s a party. ABP provides free booze and sometimes corn(not porn) with admission to each night’s screening event. The screenings are comprised of animated shorts in a variety of mediums, length, and subject matter. It is the only festival in the US of its kind.

Animation Block Party is one of those events that was conceived because a group of people thought there was something missing. They wanted an accessible platform to be available for animation artists who don’t necessarily have the capital or the time it takes to make a short and find a way to exhibit it. ABP is now one of the big summer events in New York City and attracts some of the most  original and skilled independent talent in the US and else. Listen to the show if you want to find out more about why ABP is a unique and important event and to hear Casey demystify the confusing world of contemporary animation. I’ll try to get some more shorts up soon.

Update, festival winners:

The 2010 winners are:

  • Best in Show: Old Fangs – Adrien Merigeau, Ireland
  • Original Design: Paper Daydream – Jun Iwakawa, United Kingdom
  • Computer Animation: Urs – Moritz Mayerhofer, Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg
  • Experimental Film: Pink Spray Paint – Carly White, ENSAD, France
  • Music Video: Spacious Thoughts – Fluorescent Hill, Montreal, Canada
  • Narrative Short: Bygone Behemoth – Harry Chaskin, California
  • Student Film: Always Only Ever – Barbara Benas, CCAD
  • Minute or Under: How to Lose Weight in 60 Seconds – Dave Carter, Australia
  • Documentary: Perista – Kim Weiner, RISD
  • Audience Award: Death Buy Lemonade – Kyu-bum Lee, Sheridan


Reverend Billy 7/13

Lucas interviews Reverend Billy. Reverend Billy has a powerful ability to inspire, to entertain, and to move his audiences. I was skeptical about the Reverend before I saw him. I’d heard about his gospel choirs, his outrageous protests, his fanaticism. He’s infamous for these things. But I’d never seen him in action. I was skeptical, but then he also believed in something important.

When I met Reverend Billy, I saw how earnestly his smile beamed. He is frustrated, but he’s hopeful. He’s a fanatic, but he’s practical. He is a man who is grateful the powers in his life that allow him to fight for what he thinks is worth fighting for. Also, his energy is fantastic.

In this show, we discuss the plight of the mountains, the dangers of consumerism, and what Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping with his Gospel Choir is doing to make some changes.

Rising Currents, architect Mimi Hoang on rising water levels in Manhattan 6/23

Rising Currents opened at MoMA first on March 26, 2010. MoMA and P.S. 1 commissioned 5 architectural firms in New York to design engineering solutions to the heightening of waterfronts in New York Bay. Each team was assigned a different region of the bay to design a “shovel-ready” project to contend with each region’s particular issues.

I spoke to architect Mimi Hoang of nArchitects who informed me that we were facing a critical time and that the damage that has been done so far is enough that practical efforts must begin for the city to preserve its infrastructure and ecosystem. If. She shared with me some of the solutions she and her contemporaries proposed to maintain, and in some cases better, the way of life in New York City. The Rising Currents exhibition will remain up at the MoMA until October 11, 2010. It’s a great show, with excellent detail and very educational. I loved it. Take a listen to hear about the predicament the city faces over the next decades and what has to be done now.

Joe Berlinger, director of Crude 6/16

Before Crude, Joe Berlinger was known for his Iconoclast series on the Sundance Channel and a number of documentaries including Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) and Brother’s Keeper (1992). Now Crude has created an enormous ripple in the realm of the documentary film.

First, Crude tells an altogether tragic story of native tribes in Ecuador who many years ago had oil drilled from their land only to have it dumped back into their rain forest. Over the years, the water has become undrinkable, the wildlife is suffering, and the health of the people is dwindling as even the children develop cancer from exposure to crude oil. There are very few places for these people to appeal to. Crude details the plight of the unfortunate people and how foreigners have stepped in on their behalf to confront the big companies. Chevron and Texaco namely.

But guess what happened after that… Chevron subpoenas Berlinger’s outtakes (over 600 hours worth of footage). It’s an unprecedented move from the subject of a documentary and it has enraged many prolific and respected artists who are afraid for the sanctity of the art of documentary filmmaking.  Joe Berlinger is fighting it. Listen to the interview to see what he says.

Here is Robert Redford’s appeal on the Huffington Post on behalf of Joe Berlinger.

Ben Model, Piano Accompaniment to Silent Film 6/9

It took a while to get Ben on the show and I’m glad I did. Ben practices a very unique and valuable craft. He is one of the few musicians out there who professionally accompanies silent cinema with piano. If you’ve been to New York and sat in a screening of a classic silent movie at the MoMA and there was piano playing alongside it, it was probably Ben.

He has a whole philosophy to his craft. He doesn’t play with music in front of him, but rather improvises based on cues from the audiences and his interpretation of a film. Each time he plays in front of a film it becomes a different experience. In the interview, he tells me why silent cinema will always be a relevant artifact to our world’s culture, and why it remains so entertaining and accessible to modern skeptical audiences.

I’ve seen him play alongside some Buster Keaton works at the museum. Since I’ve started enjoying Buster Keaton, I usually watched his works on disc or online, but sitting with a projector and live piano in the room is an entirely different experience. Ben attributes the phenomenon to a higher state of focus the brain experiences. He pointed out to me that when you watch a movie projected from film, you are literally sitting in utter darkness for half the time you watch the movie, but your brain doesn’t register it. He suggested to me that the brain actually tunes itself into the movie. (insomanywords). I thought it was cool and I believed it coming from a man who has devoted his life to recreating a bygone classical era in our culture.

this is his website

There’s much more though. it’s one of my favorite interviews. Have a listen.

Factory Fresh, Skewville and Ali Ha on Street Art 5/28

You can visit almost any major city in the world and see these wooden shoes (left) hanging from power lines. Skewville does those. He and Ali Ha run Factory Fresh, a ‘street art’ gallery. I put ‘street art’ in quotations marks because both of my guests disputed the term.

The question of street art is big right now. And complicated. Can someone be called a street artist and is it the same as a graffiti artist? are street artists committed to rebellion? did Mr. Brainwash ever exist? Most artists isolate a piece of the world, extract it in their minds, and reproduce what they’ve seen in the medium of their choice (canvas, film, rhintestones). The street artist bypasses most of those steps. The street artists isolates a piece of the world and makes into art. They make a direct change to the world for their audience (everyone?) to reckon with. The audience confronts the art(say wooden shoes), the part of the world that is the art (say powerlines), and the collision of the two (antics?). The nature of street art is to catch you off guard with a question you weren’t expecting, at a time you weren’t expecting a question.

This is what Skew, Ali, and myself discussed. What street art actually is, who street artists are, and how attitudes have changed on both sides of the practice. They also share their story of how they’ve each come from backgrounds as artists to having a gallery in the Lower East Side and eventually to their new space, Factory Fresh, in Brooklyn. We also spoke about their frustration with the exhibition community in New York. Learned a lot.  At the time of the interview they were getting ready for Bushwick Open Studios 2010 and promoting their show with ROA. Their shows are always interesting and new and worth checking out.

Factory Fresh is at 1053 Flushing Ave. They are innovative people and damn interesting.

Zaza Acevedo, Terrific New Painter 4/21

I met Zaza when I walked by her pop-up and took a look around. First, I saw her paintings which were incredibly vibrant, almost lurid. The content of her work is marked by tropes of a sexual/pop-cultural/indulgent nature. Her work finds realization at the moment one caves in to the need to submit. Like an orgasm.

And while the works themselves seem to contain this carnal energy, so does Zaza. I spoke to her and discovered she (with the help of some friends) had herself organized and produced her pop-up. She had the confidence to rent a street-level storefront to place her works on display. And people responded. I think she told me that she sold four of her pieces from that one show. (!).

So I had her on and she was great to talk to. We discuss her process, the means by which a young artist might get his or her work into the world, and the tough decisions one must face when starting one’s artistic career. She had some valuable insights and she’s worth keeping track of. See her work here.

After.Life director Agnieszka Wowtjovic-Vosloo  3/31

Agnieszka is a challenging person. Which is to say, not difficult, but possessing a pronounced thrill for challenge. Not just personal challenge, she is a challenging person in that she makes a point to challenge those she comes in contact with and, importantly, her audience. From the time Zoe and I started the interview (after we learned how to say her name) Agnieszka persistently turned the questions back on us.

We were speaking of her latest work, After.Life, which opened soon after the interview aired. After.Life stars Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, and Justin Long. Ricci and Long play couple Anna and Paul. Anna wakes up in her own coffin after a terrible accident in her car and is greeted by Liam Neeson as the funeral director Eliot Deacon. Deacon informs Anna she has died and that he must prepare her for her funeral. Agnieszka’s asks her audience to decide for itself whether Anna is really alive or dead as Anna’s boyfriend Paul does the same.

Along with beautiful art direction and finely stylized acting, After.Life is a complex psychological and philosophical work. It’s a piece thats easy to get involved and difficult to reckon with. After.Life is Agnieszka’s first feature film and a strong one at that. In the interview, Agnieszka shares her on-set experiences and explains her thought process behind the film.

Ryan Kelly from The Moving Theater on The Armory Show 2/17

The Park Avenue Armory is one of New York City’s great charming gems, as is The Moving Theater. The Moving Theater is a performance company led up by Ryan Kelly and Brennan Gerard. Their multi-disciplinary performances are shaped around specific sites and choreographed with reference to the history of the environment they are set in, such as The Park Avenue Armory.

When I met Ryan for the interview, I had prepared questions for the founder of a dance company. I asked those questions and I learned a lot as a person who isn’t very familiar with dance in practice or theory. Ryan gave me a lot more though; he gave me a whole philosophy of performance. He helped me to realize that I didn’t need a ‘sophisticated’ understanding of the experience of a dancer or, on the other hand, an intellectualizing wit to conceptualize the work. Rather– while those capacities by no means cheapen the experience– that dance is not just a cognitive experience on the act of the audience or physical for the dancer, but a fastening of mind into the all parts of the body equally. An intuitive and visceral experience.

We talked about these things and the Armory Show itself which blew my mind. I have never seen anything like what this group did and the Armory on Park Avenue is magnificent. The performance included a cast of seven and a live music ensemble provided by ICE. The performance took place in three rooms, on two projector screens, took the audience down the hallway, and included an extend sequence of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It was great.

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