CITYWIDE


Update: Land of Songs by Aldona Watts
August 27, 2012, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Film, Life! | Tags: , ,

Earlier this Summer, Citywide covered the start of a new project by WNYU dj Aldona Watts in which she planned to document the lives and traditions of a troupe of elderly folk singer in a Lithuanian village. Aldona has wrapped her project and reports that it was a huge success (congratulations!). We look forward to seeing the final piece, but in the meantime Aldona will be joining us on Citywide once more in the near future to share her experiences first hand.

Here are some production stills to give you a taste-

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Luke Green

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Arts and Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn W/ Modesto “Flako” Jimenez

Gentrification from the perspective of a recent Bushwick resident-

Gentrification is a subject usually approached with the utmost trepidation. The discussion is ambiguous and laden with guilt prone to implicate anyone who walks through the minefield this conversation is. It’s hard to fault anyone involved-

-Who can blame the gentrification for trying to find a cheap place to live?   Who can blame them for trying to open up businesses in the area in order to make a living?

-Who can blame the people who grew up in the area for feeling resentful as they watch their culture slip away, their rent and grocery bills skyrocket, the physical features of their neighborhood morph into something new?

-Who can blame the city government for sending more police to a neighborhood with high crime rates?

-Who can blame the business owners and the real estate owners for charging higher prices as a more moneyed population enters their realm? (…lots of people probably, still a grey area though)

Each of these groups have righteous reasons to perform the actions I just enumerated and are some of the more broad and most recognizable features of gentrification. We may also suspect that each of these groups have more dubious agendas. However, it is unproductive and possibly damaging to the question of gentrification to project any agenda (especially the suspicious ones) to categories of people because they are formed by individuals with unique motivations in life and moral values.

Still, we can identify trends and attempt to understand its causes and effects in order to learn our own personal role and, from there, consider what can be done and avoided to minimize the negative effects and capitalize on the positive potential gentrifiers like me can bring to a community.

Low rent attracts the “gentrification,” in part formed by non-natives looking for the cheapest place to live that still has a connection to the larger city they came to work and exist in. These might include college-grads, students, young professionals, artists who can’t afford to live in Manhattan. They make the neighborhood a hip and exciting destination for artists and musicians who are followed by chic coffee shops and brunch cafés, pop-up galleries and yoga studios, which come with people who have money. At least, this is what I gather as a member of the gentrification who (like almost everyone else in the same boat) has trouble feeling comfortable with it. This blog post is written from that general perspective. I love the artistic environment Bushwick, my home for now, provides and its potential for something even greater. First though, the problems this exciting art scene brings with it are very real, but, based on conversations with individuals such as Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, they are not insurmountable and will only prove to be truly damaging if the complexity of gentrification continues to prevent us from addressing it. There is  little I can say about rising living costs except that I am grateful to have an affordable place to call home. I can also attempt to contribute to the economy of the community by buying my goods and groceries at local stores rather than carting them in on the L train. There is however a powerful social dynamic which each person living in the community has a place in regardless of choice.

A quick glance at Bushwick’s history informs that, like most any neighborhood in New York, its majority population has at various times been composed of several different ethnicities. Italian, African-American, Mexican, Caribbean. The relatively small area has indeed been gentrified several times. While there is certainly a racial element to the current gentrification, characterizing the issue as “white” people coming in and taking over an “hispanic” neighborhood is only partially true in this case and does nothing really other than contribute to the Us&Them mentality that slows down progress and creates barriers between people that don’t need to be there. We (any member of the community) see who people who dress and speak in unrelatable ways and we prescribe them as ‘the other.’ Whenever these barriers grow up, two things can happen. For some the other becomes invisible. People pass each other on the street without making eye contact, goods are exchanged at the bodega, but not words. The alternative is that the other is seen, but as a threat. Eye contact occurs, but it is intimidating or suspicious. This is the more unfortunate scenario because it involves a certain volatility. Sooner or later contact has to be made between people who co-exist, if we address these issues, this contact could be one of acceptance and appreciation and not intimidation or dominance.

I just can’t reconcile that scenario.

I’m simplifying a portion of one of the problems in order to start working toward a solution. This isn’t to say that the problem is in fact simple, just that we can start resolving it if we work hard to figure out what it is. It might take a while, even if we all determine to be understanding and welcoming to each other. I’ll close my part with something that happened to me weeks ago that I can’t stop thinking about. I was walking out of the bodega after grabbing some beer and some popcorn (probably) and I nearly bump into a man coming into the store. Instinctively I said “permiso” as I passed him. I sometimes try to use Spanish in the deli both for practice and out of consideration. But I was taken aback when I heard a nearby woman ask the man, “why did you let him speak to you like that?”

I felt terrible. Then the man said “Noooooooo, he was being respectful.” I’m still confused about that and still worried about offending the people who live around me who I have no reason to offend. It seems that, though we may sometimes treat one another like we’re invisible, nobody ever is.

Flako Jimenez

These thoughts and feelings have been developing inside me since I moved to Bushwick almost two years ago. For the past few weeks I’ve focused a couple Citywide episodes on the neighborhood because of the amazing work that takes place there and its astonishing diversity. I didn’t really consider the meeting point of arts in the neighborhood and gentrification until i saw this video-

This is a visual rendering of Modesto “Flako” Jimenez’s poem “Bushwick, Brooklyn” from his new book of autobiographical poetry ¡Oye! Para mi querido Brooklyn or Listen! For my Dear Brooklyn. It is a lyrical collection of experiences in English and Spanish he had growing up as an immigrant in Bushwick and what he saw change after he spent a short time a way. For the release of his book two weeks ago, Flako and some of his fellow artists arranged a reading as “an ode to Bushwick in all its richness, a night of music, theater, film, and art on the themes of immigration, gentrification and survival..” at the Bushwick Starr. It took me off guard in a really good way. That night longtime Bushwick residents and more recent residents performed on that stage both in English and Spanish for a crowd composed both people who grew up in Bushwick and people who had moved there. Everyone laughed at the same time, shared the same silence, ate and drank the same dishes together afterward and celebrated what they had shared together. It was just happy.

Flako later met me in Maria Hernandez Park and gave me his impression on the change taking place in his home. Flako moved into the neighborhood at a very young age and grew up in a much grittier Bushwick than exists today. He grew up on a deeply rooted gang culture, when drugs brought the danger of violence, disease, addiction, and police officers. He saw many of his peers and classmates falling into this dangerous lifestyle as a means of survival. Flako may have been destined for the same, but he says that a school teacher named Steven Haff, who operates Still Waters in a Storm, singled him out and introduced him to a world of literature and theater. Flako found a passion that took him to university in Vermont where he found a world that looked nothing like the one he had always lived in. By the time he came back to Bushwick a little over ten years ago he was shocked to see that the undergraduate culture he’d become accustomed to in Vermont had found its way into his own neighborhood.

After seeing his performance and talking to him for nearly an hour, I started to get an idea of some of the things he had noticed. That the fear people have of others in this neighborhood comes from very surface differences. And that if we can find common ground in the arts the way Modesto was able to facilitate at the Bushwick Starr, maybe the fear can start to fade and a strong community begin to develop. We can be thankful to people like Modesto and the people who operate the Bushwick Starr that they are raising interest for arts in the community that can be shared by everyone. We can also be grateful to organizations like Still Waters in a Storm and El Puente that inspire children to appreciate the arts, to discover the world and their own potential along with it. You can help.

Please let me know if I’m off base.

This is my conversation with Modesto “Flako” Jimenez. Hear him tell his story in his own words. They’re much more interesting than my words-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Modesto%20_Flako_%20Jimenez.mp3]

Lucas Green



The Year 2011 in review by Sedera
December 22, 2011, 12:59 am
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, Film, Life!, New York City, Theater | Tags:

Taken inside WNYU, courtesy of Talia Kazarian @ WSN

I can’t believe 2011 is already ending. I know that’s what everyone says whenever a year ends, but I think the speed of time has hit me harder this year because the stakes at the end of the day are higher: now, I’m half-way through my senior year, meaning that I’m only a few short months away from having to start a real job search and being a financially responsible adult in a market that doesn’t seem to really be able to take me in at the moment. I’ve never been too scared of time passing but the closer I get to reaching that end-of-college milestone, the more reasons I find to freak out.

So it was nice to take some time to look at the year past and remember the new things I learned, the awesome people I met and the great conversations we had, which may all start with art, but all end up touching upon other seemingly distant subjects and social issues. As the fatigue of this hectic semester finally starts taking its toll on my body and energy, this exercise was a nice reminder that I better continue making the most of the months ahead of me.

To a wonderful new year!

For these interviews in full, you can click here, here, here and here! But, we have many many more shows for you to listen to if you search around the blog…



Into the Abyss with Werner Herzog
November 18, 2011, 4:27 am
Filed under: Film, Life! | Tags: , ,

It’s fun to imagine living the life of the artist who has reached a point high enough in their career they can recreate whatever they imagine. Consider the ability to bring your epic fantasies in proximity with reality. For most, it takes years of practice and accumulating resources manifest one’s dreams into reality. Professional storytellers offer this as a service. To be successful, they must make their craft efficient and the product attractive. A movie maker draws from a filmic vocabulary and tropes from real life to create a world that his audience will accept and inhabit though it is far different. This seems to be the basic recipe for a story– the use of some amount of language to fuse some amount of the real world with some amount of the imagined world, to taste. The auteur then chooses whether or not to spice their work up with style. Style lets the storyteller. As in- “I love it when Woody Allen starts talking to the camera in his movies,” or “I cannot wait to see what the twist is at the end of this M.  Night Shyamalan movie.” Werner Herzog’s style, what makes him stand out, is not characterized by visual trademarks or one explicit theme, we turn to Werner Herzog because of the nature of his stories.

For his films, Werner Herzog re-creates actual events and people so outrageous that they seem to have sprouted from a highly imaginative fantasy. Whereas most storytellers carefully calculate where to draw the line between fiction and fantasy, Herzog seems unaware of the difference. His mastery is not in inventing a story, but in unwaveringly pursuing it, learning its patterns, and lunging toward it at exactly the right time. He neither observes the world from the outside nor conceives of a new world, but rather intervenes with the one we already perpetually inhabit in order to show us extraordinary existence already out there.

If you like the sound of Werner Herzog’s body of work and haven’t yet explored it, there are manymany places to start though none in particular. His body of work spans about 50 years and over 40 fiction and documentary films, plus books, operas, etc… There have also been several films made about him and about his movies. Such is the case with one of his classics Fitzcarraldo (1982) and the documentary made about its production Burden of Dreams (1982). Narrative orbits Werner Herzog like rings on Saturn.

I talked to him with interviewers from various other publications about his new film Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life. It is a documentary that spirals around the effects of violent crime and the institution of the death penalty. The film takes place in Texas where there is much to be explore about personal attitudes toward capital punishment. Through present day interviews, Herzog weaves a portrait of a crime that took place ten years ago that caused the deaths of three people, the incarceration of two young men (one who awaits oncoming execution and one who sits out a life sentence), their families, and the families of the victims. Though Herzog takes a clear stance on the crimes and the penalties for them, each person is afforded the utmost sympathy. Herzog makes sure to show that each person in the film is an actual human being, not alienating them by the direness of their situation, but giving them pathos for it.

Into the Abyss premiered at DOC NYC and began its run at IFC Center in New York on November 11th. He will follow up with several more shorter pieces about the subject of capital punishment that will air on television in the near future.

Take a listen-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Werner%20Herzog.mp3]

Lucas Green

This is the trailer (the same audio is at the beginning of the interview)-



Position of Conflict
June 15, 2011, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, Life!, Opinion | Tags:

These past few weeks as a new college grad have been languid.  I browse job postings on the internet, apply for a few here and there, and give up hope before even a week goes by knowing fully well that the application was merely another exercise in writing cover letters.  There is something static about this string of motions.  Browse, write, send, wait, repeat.  Browse, write, send, wait, repeat. Browse write send wait repeat.  I am not alone in this dance.  Although many of the people I know had secured jobs as lawyer’s secretaries, teacher’s aides, data entry ‘specialists’ before school had even ended, I know even more people, like myself, who are stuck in the groove between societal and personal expectation.

My colleagues and I are coming of age in a time of great contradiction.  While we consider journalism to be a triumph of first amendment rights, people are being flagged or followed for mindless Facebook posts.  While it is projected as an era of entrepreneurialism,  it seems to many of us impossible to secure a job or succeed independently.  We are a generation in which our passions  contend with expectation.  We are at war with the notion of institution.

This view was crystalized in my interview with Drew McKenzie, Graham Hamilton, and Alex LaLiberte–three graduating  NYU students who spoke with me about the upcoming exhibition, curated by McKenzie and contributed to by all, entitled “Position of Conflict.”  The exhibition’s title is derived from “Exchange of Views of a Group of Experts,” the literature produced following a series of meetings between Pierre Gaudibert, Pontus Hulten, Michael Kustow, Jean Leymarie, Francois Mathey, Georges Henri Riviere, Harald Szeemann, and Eduard de Wilde in 1970.  The meetings served as a space in which to discuss the museum or gallery as institution and the limits space places on the authenticity of the work of art.

“The museum has become more critical both of art and of itself, because it has become aware of its function outside daily life. It does indeed function outside the system, sets itself up in opposition to the Establishment, yet continually shows itself to be an instrument of the system. Like art it is a cosmetic medium, not absolutely essential. This inner contradiction in the role of the museum – that it is the epitome of the system, but at the same time relatively free to criticize it – is important for the museum of today and for its immediate future. To put it bluntly, the ideal museum would be the one that was closed by the authorities. The museum can only function towards promoting artistic interests provided it is outside the restraints of society. Because it is none the less subject to the rules of society, it falls into a position of conflict, which is aggravated by the fact that the authorities like to see highly controversial subjects discussed within an art context, because they are thereby rendered harmless.”

In our interview, my guests explained the exhibition’s multitudinous approach to the theme of conflict; the conflict that arises between artist and purveyor, the conflict that arises within the artist, who seeks to determine their audience.

In ways, “Position of Conflict” is a social token of Generation Y’s struggle amongst the X’s and Boomers.  Like the gallery or museum, while we’re expected to situate within them, their white walls seem to hold no place for us. It is adventurers like McKenzie and the show’s contributing artists, who dig deeper into the groove between personal and societal expectations, who, through exploration, are finding their own, unique space.

There will be an opening reception for “Position of Conflict” on July 7th, at 6pm in the Wagner Gallery of the Puck Building at Houston and Lafayette (295 Lafayette).  The event is open to the public via RSVP at wagner.nyu.edu/events. The exhibition runs July 7th through August 31st.  Summer viewing hours are Monday–Thursday 9:00am-7:00pm, Fridays 9:00am-5:00pm (closed on Saturdays and Sundays).

Contributing artists:

Jonathan Donaldson
Nick Etre
Graham Hamilton
Seth Hamlin
Alex LaLiberte
Drew G. McKenzie
Carolyn Park
Ken Q. Volk IV
Jordan Walczak

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/zar205/public/Position%20of%20Conflict%203.mp3]

Zoe Rosenberg



Sarah French Brennan, Aditi Fruitwala and the Race Monologues
March 31, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: Life!, Uncategorized | Tags:

When you name your project “The [insert word here] Monologues,” even if what you are doing is far removed from  what Eve Ensler did in The Vagina Monologues, expectations are pretty high. Sarah French Brennan and Aditi Fruitwala, the two main researchers for the anthropology project The Race Monologues, are living up to the name so far. They started collecting oral histories about people’s experiences with race and racism issues in America for a college class project and are now going through all the recordings they have collected from all parts of the country in order to put together a book and a play.

Speaking to Sarah and Aditi was a real eye-opener. The way people define race and experience it is never the same but those experiences are essential formative steps in our lives. Having done the exercise on myself, I can tell you that asking yourself “What is your personal experience with race and racism in America” can yield to very interesting results. Should you wish to share your thoughts following that little bit of introspection, Sarah and Aditi are still conducting interviews.

If you want more information on the Race Monologues or want to contact tonight’s guests, you can go to their website, www.racemonologues.com.

Special thanks to Katerina Hendershot who wrote about the Race Monologues for one of her classes, Race and Family Stories in US History, and was a great help in preparing the questions for this interview.



Quartet With Pyramid Scheme
March 25, 2011, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, Life!, Opinion | Tags:

My brother had been living in New York City for three years already when I moved up here.  At the time, he lived in one of Bushwick’s McKibbin lofts–a setting that has etched itself into the landscape of my memory–where he and his room mates would often host noise and improvised music shows.  They’d affectionately named their apartment Baghdad.  These shows were loud–rampant audible destruction.  They’d draw dozens and dozens of people, some nights.  The guys would house and host traveling musicians, like Tom Carter of Bharalanbides, James Ferraro as one half of The Skaters, and  Justice Yeldham–the man who ate glass. Once, Tony Conrad paid a visit.

I used to bring my other freshman friends; all of us wide-eyed at what we were witnessing.  That was four years ago.  “Remember when we used to go to shows at your brother’s place?,” a friend asked me maybe a month ago, “Shit was wild.”  I got into a conversation with my brother, Reed, the other day about those quasi-historic shows at Baghdad.  I told him how every once in a while I still hear from my friends about how distinct or strong of a memory the experience formed in the complex of their City experiences.  Reed seemed elated.  “That’s more than I could have asked for,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “To have exposed someone to something new that they remember forever.”

If it weren’t for my brother, I would hardly be privy to extreme computer music, to what a patch is, to Max/MSP or Supercollider.  I may never fully understand the stochastic process that determines the size of the sound waves.

After one year, Reed and his room mates moved out of Baghdad.  No more pestering Hasidic landlords, no more memories to be made that take up a disproportional amount of my conception of freshman year.  But Reed, his friends, and colleagues have continued making and hosting this music.  In an extension of their sound installation Quartet Without Pyramid Scheme, hosted at Diapason Gallery in the fall of 2009, comes Quartet With Pyramid Scheme.

As an online sound installation, Quartet With Pyramid Scheme is a testament to its era.  No longer housed in an immobile four-sided room but on tubulence.org, Quartet With Pyramid Scheme is a social experiment as much as it is a sound installation.  When I made this point to Reed, he said he had never thought of it like that.  But with my head in the thick of social networking, this was one of the first ways in which I perceived the installation.  As I understand it, the only control the curators have over the product of the installation is through the patches they write before contributors are asked to join, and those contributors ask others to join, and those others ask other others, and so on.

I’m writing this post in a service to my brother and out of a desire to extend the same sense of discovery that he once shared with me.  Check out Quartet With Pyramid Scheme via the link below.  Pass it on to your friends and colleagues.  A process I began at Baghdad, permeate in the sound and allow it to hollow out a compartment or cabinet or room in the house of your memory.  Even if you don’t return to the stream, I guarantee the room will remain to challenge your sense of perception.

QUARTET WITH PYRAMID SCHEME

Zoe Rosenberg