CITYWIDE


Citywide in Paris: Saint Denis’s 6B
July 19, 2012, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, Projects | Tags:

The 6B jungle

Last night I might have spoken a bit too fast when I said that Paris was finally sunny. Though I have not felt any raindrops today, the sky has been decidedly grey and the few rays of sunlight that have managed to come through had to fight a hardy battle to push through the fluffy layer of clouds.

It might seem a bit off-topic to insist on commenting on the weather when, really, this post is meant to concentrate on what I discovered when I visited the 6B, an art center in the parisian suburb of Saint Denis but, I swear, there is a link.

You see, during my conversation with Julien Beller, the founder and director of the space, a lot of time was spent talking about the way the 6B is becoming and increasingly strong influence in the city of Saint Denis, as well as the cultural scene of the Paris area. “Ça rayonne” was the expression that kept being repeated: it shines.

Beller, courtesy of the JSD

The use of that word is not a manifestation of its founder’s arrogance; the verb “rayonner,” to shine, is actually the given term used in French to describe the repercussions of one entity’s energy on others. When used to talk about the 6B, that verb takes on an even stronger signification.

A different work of art is placed on this spot each month.

This space was not created to be the CoolHipArtsy place for Paris. Beller found the location, worked out a deal with the owner to rent a small part of the building then called up his friends to see who would want to be part of the project. It was just born out of a simple desire to work together. As Beller says,

I really couldn’t have cared less about speaking to people who lived in Paris itself. I didn’t come here thinking, ‘We need a new spot, it needs to be bringing in a ton of people, all the parigots [Paris-only minded people] have to be here as well as famous artists…’ I just wanted a space that had meaning and fulfilled the community’s needs. Turns out a lot of Paris people came and found a second wind because they had room to work, they met new people… Since we opened a lot of people have ended up moving to Saint Denis, but others still just come here to work, sometimes after a commute of an hour and 30 minutes.

Along the path, across the way from the 6B

That genuine and organic gathering of like-minded people really does turn the 6B into a bright spot in the neighbourhood. The walls of the pathway along the water that leads you to the center is covered in colourful graffiti and the little signs pointing the way, thus reassuring you that you’re not just walking to a dead end–before seeing the building, I could just see a lock on the canal in the distance, convincing me I’d gone the wrong way–are in fun, pastel colored paint and written in a soft, round-lettered font.

The Fabrique à Rêves’s watering hole

You truly get a sense of how unique the place is when you actually enter inside the gates and are face to face with the Fabrique à Rêves (or Dream Factory), a large outdoor installation made to host concerts, performances, and playful activities of all kinds. This is where you’ll see the residents getting lunch on warm, sunny days as well as the sheep of the sheep barn and the guerilla vegetable patches!

Someone’s growing fennel in a little crate outside…

The 6B also shines a new light on an area often dismissed because it still carries the burden of a violent, drug-filled past and the feeling that its population, often of humble or immigrant background, was never made to feel like they belonged. With his constant desire to integrate the many and to fill the gaps in the resources offered by cities, Julien Beller and his crew managed, through their work at the 6B, to ignite a new fire in the area by giving it a place where homegrown culture could grown and radiate far beyond the borders it was once confined in.

For more info, visit www.6b.org.

Sedera

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Two Inspiring Projects We Think You Should Know About

On Citywide, we interview passionate and driven people on a regular basis. It is our hope that the conversations we have with these people encourages our audience to seek out artistic expression that isn’t mass produced or packaged for the lowest common denominator. Ideally, people listen to our show and take a personal investment in the stories they hear, maybe even realize the possibility of composing their own something for everyone else to experience.

It’s understandable why many of us hesitate before seeing an independent movie, reading an unreviewed book, or investigating a new band. These experiences are not yet validated and nobody wants to feel like they have lost time with an unworthy experience. Even so, there are many of us who thrive on the prospect of untempered ground. Who crave to be the first to understand our new mythology as it changes. These people listen to Citywide. They also make projects like the two featured below-

LAND OF SONGS, a documentary in progress by Aldona Watts of WNYU

This documentary is the main feature of Citywide this week. It is made by Aldona Watts, or DJ Dona, host of Crucial Chaos at WNYU. Those of us at the station acquainted with Aldona know her for the way she pursues several projects at the same time with equal dedication. At any given time, Aldona is able to discuss the dozens of projects that occupy her time from teaching children about radio, to organizing events for Her Girl Friday, to hosting Crucial Chaos. In a way, it’s not all that surprising that she can leave her life in New York City to fully invest herself in filming a documentary in Lithuania. This week on Citywide we sat down with Aldona to discuss her motivations for traveling across the world to record the movements of an elderly group of folk singers. Their story is even more inspirational. Check out Aldona’s kickstarter below the interview below-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/land%20of%20songs_sedera.mp3]

this is the kickstarter

DETROPIA, something real

A still from Detropia

Detropia is the work of two filmmakers we hope to have on Citywide very soon. Listeners may recognize the work of Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the two documentarians behind Jesus Camp. Much like Aldona, their new film takes place somewhere outside most New Yorker’s regular awareness. In their case though, it’s set in a situation many people choose to ignore because of its nearness to our lives here. For Detropia, Rachel and Heidi turned their camera to the relic of American post-industrialized living, the city of Detroit. Caroline Libresco describes their film this way-

Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.

Besides creating a daring and earnest film, Rachel and Heidi with Loki Films are attempting to distribute their film independently. This means they forgo the step most films take in which a distribution company takes control of a film and its marketing. Detropia will go on tour with the filmmakers as they screen it in various independent theaters and festivals across the country. Check out the trailer below and the screenings you might find below that. Tune in to Citywide in the coming weeks to hear what Heidi and Rachel have to say themselves.

See their kickstarter here.

Silverdocs Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, Maryland
Thursday, June 21st @ 7:30pm
Friday, June 22nd @ 10:30am
BONUS SCREENING!!!
Saturday, June 23rd @ 10:45pm

Nantucket Film Festival
Nantucket, Mass.
Thursday, June 21st @ 6pm
Friday, June 22nd @ 6:30pm

BAMcinemaFEST
Brooklyn, New York
Wednesday, June 27th @ 9:30pm
Q&A with Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing

Aspen Ideas Festival
Aspen, Colorado
Friday, June 29th @ 8pm

Hamptons International Film Festival SummerDocs Series
East Hampton, New York
Saturday, July 21st @ 8pm
Followed by a discussion between Alec Baldwin and the directors Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

Indianapolis Independent Film Festival
Indianapolis, Indiana
Monday, July 23rd @ 5pm

Woods Hole Film Festival
Woods Hole, Mass.
Tuesday, July 31st @ 7pm

Rooftop Films Summer Series 2012
Brooklyn, New York
Saturday, August 11th @ 8pm

Opening Theatrically: IFC CENTER
New York, New York
Friday, September 7th

Screening at The Avon Theatre
Stamford, Connecticut
Wednesday, October 10th

Lucas Green



An Interview With Mykki Blanco Who Thrives on States of Change

Underground art in the little town of New York City has a natural propensity to become mainstream art for the big old World. There are two very important reasons for this. The first lies in the intrinsic material make-up of the city. Anyone who lives and works in this city has almost immediate access to the majority of what man-kind can make or could ever make. In this way the city itself is a canvas as well as a bottomless trove of resources and materials. The city harmonizes beautifully with artists because almost any landscape, any tool, any surface, and (most importantly) any person can be found here. This is the second reason. Though I am reluctant to bring humanity down to the mathematical model we can apply to the physical world, it might help in this sense. In addition to every combination of artificial creations, New York City also houses nearly every permutation of the nature of individual human beings that has existed to this point and whose constant interaction perpetually produces new interests and new goals for the individual. Here we find all the billions of combinations of interests, levels of ambition, ethnicity, gender, will, identification, and pure brilliance. There are countless other factors into the emotional/physical/intellectual composition of a human being and most of them haven’t been placed together thus far. But people have a strong proclivity for detecting corresponding elements in others and it is this tendency which leads to the greatest work, expression, and fulfillment. It is what motivates us to know people and also to know about the world. This is why New York City is one of the greatest places to produce art today; because these things happen. Any person with an idea they want to see manifested, if they have enough will, can go to New York City and find nearly everything they need to make it happen and nearly all the people who will dig it enough to help.

Of course it’s important to stress the “nearly” because there is a third reason that people either like to hide or to forget. One way or another it tends to get obscured. Inspiration. New York has a lot of it, but only because the city attracts it. It is the most essential cause for any artistic environment that has ever developed. It cannot be quantified, predicted, or contrived. It can only be harnessed.

This week, Citywide featured Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. (aka Mykki Blanco). Mykki is a person who creates art taking full advantage of what I just said makes New York City a great place for artists. Mykki possesses the faculties to channel inspiration in a very pure way and then express it with fervor. In the interview, Mykki tells me about growing up knowing who he was and that he was different from others and not caring. He’s had the very unique opportunity for most of his life to be honest with his family and peers and therefore be honest with others in his artistic expression.

At this point I should be describing Mykki’s body of work, but,as he brings up in the interview, it’s not something you can define as a body because it takes extremely varied forms. In fact, I’m not even sure if I should be using male or female pronouns to refer to Mykki since he performs dressed either as a man or a woman. That’s sort of the idea though. I can’t think even of a reason to assign a title to Mykki’s gender, which for most people is a basic factor of identity. Similarly, you can’t say that Mykki is a writer, rapper, singer, visual artist, poet, stylist, or actor. He’s all of those and especially a performer.

Mykki became known after publishing a book of poetry under the name of Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. entitled From the Silence of Marcel Duchamp to the Noise of Boys. He also performs his/her poetry and raps under the name of Mykki Blanco. His work takes many more forms and is continuing to grow in the arenas of music and video.

This is what I mean about him taking advantage of New York City’s resources. It’s very hard to take part in so many different forms of expression, but the city facilitates it for those who are motivated. It’s inspiration that makes it possible though. Mykki is also lucky to be working a community of people who get it.

The interview has him talking about his development as in artist, entering the New York art world and observing it’s changes, and the experiences of producing art in New York. It’s really good!

This is a sample of Mykki’s rapping:

But you should also listen to the interview-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Mykki%20Blanco.mp3]

Lucas Green



The Animus Arts Collective and the Flaming Cactus. Following them around and seeing how they make thousands of peoples’ lives a little bit better.

The first incarnation of The Flaming Cactus installation appeared in Astor Place at the beginning of August. Seeing it for the first time, you don’t really know what to make of it, only that it seems glad. It’s a piece of art that doesn’t necessarily produce complex emotions (you either love it or you hate it), but it does make you stop and think. The piece is made up of several of Astor Place’s very own lampposts curtained with thousands of multi-colored cable ties. What’s perplexing is the astounding simplicity of how a clever use of vibrant sympathies can inspire any emotion at all.

Overall, the installation is a cheerful expression that causes passer-by to lift their heads, if just for a second, and see something bright and colorful in place of steely-gray. Though a great deal of plastic is used in the installation, the fact that it reaches thousands of people each day should be enough to justify it considering the other items plastic is wasted on, even if only 1/10 of those people are effected. Regardless, after investigating further into the arts collective that erected The Flaming Cactus, I discovered they had done so in a way so as to minimize the environment impact. Each zip-tie is indeed still usable and currently remains in joyful stasis as art, rather than languishing in packaging.

Of course the installation in Astor Place has been up for about half a year now, but I wanted to find out more about the people who invest their time into making art like this and how they go about showing it to the public. I found The Animus Arts Collective. They’re a group of variously skilled DIY manufacturers of large scale sculpture. Previous work has included enormous glowing trees, a massive wooden mobius strip, and others which also generally involve a factor of spectator participation. Images of these are available on their website. Animus seems to have a special drive that makes them so prolific and so able to gather participation from every direction. It’s probably because of this that they are able to push forward on such ambitious work so often.

I wanted to get closer to the process of Animus Arts Collective. Soon after I contacted them for an interview, I discovered they had another iteration of The Flaming Cactus springing up in Tribeca. I followed them around interviewing them over a couple of weekends as we strung some 30,000 zip-ties together and strung them around lamp posts. Listen to the interview if you want to learn more about how it was done.

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/animus.mp3]

Lucas Green



UnionDocs Part 2/2: The UnionDocs Collaborative’s Los Sures Project
January 26, 2012, 12:58 am
Filed under: Film, New York City, Projects | Tags:

My idea of documentaries as a child were the animal documentaries I would catch a glimpse of while flipping through channels looking for cartoons. I say “catch a glimpse” because I would never stay on those channels for too long; as interesting as the animal kingdom can be, I was never truly drawn to the abundance of slow motion shots of bears catching their prey and the ominous “voice of God” narration.

My childhood bias gave me a skewed view of what documentaries were, or what they could be. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, I realized that there could be more to it than I expected. Now that I’ve gone on the journey to make one, I am almost overwhelmed with the amount of possibilities available to me to tell my story in an inventive, visually-stimulating and compelling way. The UnionDocs Collaborative is one of the places where all those options are being explored, currently through the Los Sures project, which you can hear more about in the interview below; hopefully, that will help more people have the little epiphany I had and awaken them to documentary art.

You can find out more about specific documentary art techniques at their next event, “Everything You Want To Know About Transmedia Storytelling But Are Afraid To Ask,” this Sunday, January 29th at 4:00pm. You’ll get to hear from designer Takaaki Okada (ConditionONE), game designer Nick Fortugno (Diner Dash), new media strategist Brian Newman (sub-genre), filmmakers Amam Ali and Bassam Tariq (30 Mosques), who will be in conversation with producer and strategist John Bruce (Forward Mapworks).

For more information about UnionDocs as a whole, how you can help support them (through your work or donations), you can visit their website, www.uniondocs.org.



UnionDocs, Part 1/2: What’s the deal with documentary art?
January 19, 2012, 12:59 am
Filed under: Film, New York City, Projects | Tags:

It’s fair to say that I like my work at Citywide to make connections and parallels to my own personal projects; in a way, I figure, if this is helpful and interesting to me, there must also be a link to be made by the listeners as well. I’ve been paying more attention to documentary films and the techniques they use in the last few months because I am working on my own documentary project about student debt so once I stumbled on the UnionDocs website, Christopher Allen, Steve Holmgren and Andre Almeida seemed like the perfect people for me to go to for a good interview about a genre that’s undergoing a huge transition/transformation right now and maybe at the same time a little guidance for places I should look to in order for my own project to be the best it can be.

The result: I have the equivalent of two interviews and the definite confirmation that I don’t need to (and really shouldn’t) feel restrained by the facts in my project and have plenty of room to be creative with my storytelling, even if my thesis is being completed for my journalism degree. Overall, scheduling these shows was a successful decision.

For more information on UnionDocs, visit their website, www.uniondocs.org, to read more about all the events you can attend. The next screening happening at UnionDocs will be in honor of the release of a book by editors Devin and Marsha Orgeron and Dan Streible, Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States. By video conference, they will introduce a sampling of 16mm prints from the golden age of educational filmmaking. Dan Streible will be in attendance for discussion. This is all taking place this Saturday, January 21st, at 7:30 pm.

Christopher, Steve and Andre will continue guiding us through the work that goes into compelling documentary art during next week’s show so tune back in next Wednesday at 7:30 pm.



A THOUSAND STORIES, a project of inspiration by Gregory Koutrouby
October 20, 2011, 4:01 pm
Filed under: New York City, Projects | Tags: , ,

Gregory Koutrouby from A Thousand Stories

What we do here on Citywide is not at all unique. There are at least a thousand blogs in existence who consider it a mission to plumb the internet, museums, and sometimes the street itself to discover new great work. While different outfits have their own reasons for finding new art, there is at least one end we all have in common. Damn good Karma. Gregory Koutrouby from A Thousand Stories is teeming with it.

Gregory seeks out new work on an instinct. He started the project A Thousand Stories some years ago lamenting the difficulty it takes to find new music, art, and literature not fed through a commercial construct. That’s what I got from him at least. Gregory uses his free time away from his day job working for a science journal at Rockefeller University hitting the road and plumbing the internet in search of artists whose inspiration drives them to great accomplishments that don’t necessarily receive public attention. It is important to remember, and it seems Gregory knows this, that publicity is not a natural process. Great work does not spring innate with the fame it merits. In some ways it is reassuring to know that amazing things perpetually happen anywhere without us being aware of them, which we are so accustomed to believe these days. Some people base a career on fostering and sharing new talent as a profession, some people talk about it on the radio as a way to give back to the art community, Gregory Koutrouby does it both out of necessity and as a mission.

The way he tells it, he started his project as a means to break through the media buffer and experience art that thrives on nothing other than the inspiration that feeds it. It’s a logical philosophy. If we only consume work filtered through an art market, we will only see permutations of the same material appealing to what is perceived as favorable to the consumer. In leaving this construct we may still witness those same combinations, but there is greater space for inspiration to emerge. And inspiration is always unique.

Since he started his project, Gregory has published twenty three stories on his website athousandstories.com about artists whose inspiration has caused him to feel inspired as well. In our interview he speaks about the importance of being receptive as the most efficient way to discover true expression, which he seems to be reliant on. Once he discovers that inspiration at work, he continues to move it forward by expanding its reach through his website for any receptive passerby to seize again.

Angel by Martin Wittfooth

It certainly does not take an open mind to see the sense in Gregory’s words. Listen to the interview to hear Gregory share is personal journey and recollect specific encounters with artists such as Martin Wittfooth (artwork pictured above) and Tamar Kali whose music plays at the close of the interview. Thanks for tuning into Citywide.

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/a%20thousand%20stories.mp3]

Lucas Green