CITYWIDE


Citywide in Paris: First Evaluations
August 18, 2012, 10:05 am
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Bonjour!

First, an apology. This post is kind of (very) late. I’m sorry. Now back to business.

When August comes around, you always find yourself wondering where the summer has gone, at least I do. And so it came time to reflect upon what I’d seen in Paris, so I got in touch with Shelby Donnelly, a Philly-based artist who ended an artist residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. I stumbled upon her Kickstarter page because I wanted to get in touch with American artists who were working in Paris and her study of the state of leisure in the French capital seemed particularly a propos for the show.

Donnelly, as I mention in the interview, says developing art work is a form of cultural exploration. that was what these shows attempted to do and I thought it might be nice to try to put what came out of these visits into words.

What we end up with is still somewhat bathed in a Midnight In Paris-like light : where the ideal of Paris is impossible to shake and experiencing the city is more of a time travel type of experience. I think an actual sociological and anthropological study of the place of leisure in French society and French art would take much longer than the 30 minutes of our show, but even at this level, it’s interesting to see how the level of fantasy attached to New York is nourished by images of the Beat Generation, Warholian icons and more recently Sex and the City escapades, its status as a model of cosmopolitanism makes the fancy much more contemporary : people come to New York looking for the cool thing happening you need to know about right now, whereas it seems visitors in Paris want to ride around the Concorde like Seberg and Belmondo in Breathless or retrace Hemingway’s steps with A Moveable Feast in hand.

Is that fantasy somehow less valuable than a desire to experience the now? I couldn’t really say, especially since it is a big point of pride for the French; Maybe that’s a question to answer in a future show? Ideas, Ideas…

Listen again to my interview with Shelby below. For more info on her and her work, check out shelbydonnelly.com.



Films on the Green, 2012 Edition
June 16, 2012, 10:59 am
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Our DJ’s, NAS’s Molly and Shake ’em on Down’s Anna at Washington Square Park. (Photo Credit: Nathalie Charles)

We told you last year about Films on the Green, the French film festival held all over New York City parks each summer. Well, the festival is back this year, with a nice selection of films and with the added bonus of featuring WNYU as an official partner!

The festival started out on June 1st with a screening of OSS 117: Nest of Spies, by the most famous French trio in cinema at the moment, actors Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and director Michel Hazanavicius, who were heavily praised for 2011’s The Artist. It will go on until July 13th, and will return for one last outdoor screening on Columbia University’s Low Library steps for a viewing of the classic Jules and Jim with Jeanne Moreau at the beginning of September.

We’re not just talking about this festival because you’ll get to hear WNYU DJ’s awesome skills on the 1’s and 2’s before the screenings if you decide to go. French cinema has the reputation for being slow, pretentious and overly intellectual at times. And that might be true in some instances. But when this festival brings classic films (as well as newer ones) to Tompkins Square Park, our own Washington Square or Pier 1 at Riverside Park with its big inflatable screen, it becomes a lot easier to see that French films–or any foreign movies, for that matter–are a lot more accessible than we often like to make them seem.

As the festival alternates between childhood favourites like War of the Buttons, which screened on Thursday, or Donkey Skin with the legendary Catherine Deneuve (June 29, Tompkins Square Park) and high tension thrillers like Tell No One (July 6, Riverside Park – Pier I) while also showing the good-humored but politically charged animated film Persepolis (July 13, Riverside Park – Pier I), our perspective on what movies are outside of Hollywood and the anglophone indie market is immediately enriched.

I should probably disclose, for the sake of fairness, that I am French and could potentially be biased about all of this. But when I brought friends of mine to the festival last year and we saw the dangerously sexy The Swimming Pool with Alain Delon and a few weeks later, the big family comedy Nos Jours Heureux, it was quite obvious that when put in an inviting setting (and nothing is more inviting than a park on a hot summer night in New York), French films are just as inviting as the rest of them.

So there’s a lot of competition for outdoor screenings in the city every summer, but if you feel a little bit curious about foreign films, attending one or more of the shows of Films on the Green might not be a terrible idea for you.

Here are the remaining films you can see for this 5th edition of the festival:

June 22 – 8:30pm: The Axe, Tompkins Square Park

June 29 – 8:30pm: Donkey Skin, Tompkins Square Park

July 6 – 8:30pm: Tell No One, Riverside Park – Pier I (at 70th St)

July 13 – 8:30pm: Persepolis, Riverside Park – Pier I (at 70th St)

September 6- 7:30pm: Jules and Jim, Columbia University – Low Library Steps

For more information about Films on the Green, simply click here.



On Girls
April 16, 2012, 10:46 pm
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Lena Dunham in HBO's Girls © Jojo Whilden/HBO. All rights reserved.

If you pay attention to pop culture, and have taken the subway in the past few weeks, you may be aware that a new show, Girls, written and directed by Lena Dunham, premiered yesterday night on HBO. We here at Citywide couldn’t afford to not talk about this new show as its creator once appeared on the show to talk about her equally buzzed-about debut film, Tiny Furniture.

But to get back to the point of this post. If you’ve heard of the imminent arrival of Girls, you’ve probably read in the myriad of articles about it that it’s a younger, hipster version of HBO’s past female-centric series, Sex and the City. You’ve also probably heard that the show features some very unglamourous, possibly humiliating sex scenes, many discussions of Dunham love handles and that her character claims, under the influence of opium pod tea, that she may be the voice of her generation.

Whether the show’s content warrants such copious coverage is probably too early to tell–we’ve only seen the first episode because HBO was gracious enough to make it available for free on Youtube for the next month and the countless articles online seem to point out that screeners for the first 3 episodes were made available to reviewers. From the first episode, we see in Hannah Hovarth, Dunham’s character, an only slightly improved version of Tiny Furniture’s Aura. Hannah, who is two years out of college, is a little bit more along into figuring out what she wants to do but seems equally as clueless as to how she’s going to get there. She seems to be trying to do things right, working at an unpaid internship in the hope of getting hired, but she’s been there for a year and only comes to the conclusion that the arrangement might have run its course when her parents decide to cut her off financially. She and her friends live in a “First World Problems” kind of environment and the show doesn’t seem to make much of an attempt to widen that perspective, which can be a little unnerving.

But maybe that’s not the point. In fact, many of the twentysomethings we see around are generally quite content only seeing things from their little bubble so that portrayal turns out to be pretty accurate. Still, the first episode still falls prey to some caricatures. These Brooklynites don’t seem to be spending much time with people who aren’t white and the girls, who are the center of the show, fall into some pretty common tropes. The freewheelin’ boho Jessa (Jemima Kirke) gets pregnant from a fling with a foreigner, the virgin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) lives vicariously through episodes of Sex and the City, the hot friend Marnie (Allison Williams) can’t handle how much her boyfriend loves her and the one with a few extra pounds, Hannah, is in a somewhat degrading non-relationship. Yet, despite these unflattering generalizations, a little something rings true in each of these girls as a symptom of being caught in a fantasy of what you’d like to be and what you have to face in the moment. As an 18 year-old coming to NYC, I packed my Sex and the City book with me because I imagined it was going to be some sort of roadmap when navigating my future relationships in the here. However, I also aspired to be like Jessa who, even though she spends all her time gallivanting around the world, is the epitome of the “too cool for school” New York it girl I expected all New York girls to be. As for Hannah, as sad as it is, many young graduates end up rotting away in unpaid internships because once out of college, getting sound advice on how to play your life becomes harder to come by. Meanwhile, the Marnies of the world seem to be the most rational and have it all together, at least on the surface.

What is obvious from the get-go is that these girls will not speak to every female on the planet. It’s not a big laughs kind of humor and many of the jokes might leave you feeling sorry for these characters, which is an odd place to end up when you’re hoping for the relief and uplift of laughter. But what is sure to make an impression as the show develops, and we get a few glimpses of it in the first episode, is the friendship bond that unites them all. Its most poignant appearance in yesterday’s episode is when Jessa, while sitting on the toilet, reveals to Marnie that she is pregnant. Marnie until then had been on a long diatribe about the uneven dynamic of their relationship, but as soon as Jessa tells her secret, Marnie stops dead in her tracks, forgetting about her initial problem and letting her friend in need be the focus. In the end, the friendship between Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte was the most memorable takeaway from Girls’ big sister Sex and the City (the show), and moments like that will make for a series that amounts to more than “The quirky and odd moments of white twentysomethings in NYC in 2012” and allow it to still seem relevant in a few years.

So if someone has HBO, can you host a watch party for Citywide to come watch episode 2? We still have some reservations but we’d really like to see how this show evolves. Thanks a million!



Urban Word NYC, “Tattoo Me Human”
November 23, 2011, 5:20 am
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Take a Listen  –

Poetry organization Urban Word and New York Live Arts Theatre came together to create Journey to Journal. The Journey to Journal program selects around seven young poets who each write a one-man show. For this upcoming show, “Tattoo Me Human” the artists combined their original words with choreography and music to create a hybrid performance for the Live Arts stage.

I sat down with three of the performers- Aziza Barnes, Kedene McCloud and Marlon Cadore – in the lobby of New York Live Arts Theatre on a quick break from their all-day dress rehearsal to talk about their work, their poetry, and what it all means to their community.

Thank you to Urban Word and these three artist for letting me be a part of this rehearsal. “Tattoo Me Human” only has a short run early this week, but fortunately Urban Word will continue their Journey to Journal program with Live Arts, as well as their independent annual programming.

 



RAW/COOKED, an exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum
September 27, 2011, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, New York City, Uncategorized | Tags:

I love the Brooklyn Museum. They’re so smart. The genius in the basic formulation of the Brooklyn Museum is that it places new work from great contemporary artists along side great works from ancient artists. Subsequent to browsing classical Roman sculpture, you can find yourself in front of a Paul Klee. It’s a phenomenon common in most major museums, but at the Brooklyn Museum you often don’t have to even leave a room of Ancient Egyptian artwork to confront a modern (within the last months even) interpretation by a new artist of the canonized work surrounding you. That the Brooklyn Museum strives to create a timeline that only ends at the immediate present engenders constantly original juxtapositions. Perhaps that is why curator Eugenie Tsai titled the new year-long exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum Raw/Cooked (It also might be a reference to Claude Lèvi-Strauss’s The Raw and the Cooked which aptly investigates ethnic mythologies). Eugenie is very conscious of this unique propensity of the Brooklyn Museum; she says it is “a place showing what artists are doing today in the context of what has been done in the past.”

Kristof Wickman (American, b. 1981). Self-Portrait, 2010. Neoprene ball, cast silicone. 35 x 35 x 35 in. (88.9 x 88.9 x 88.9 cm).

Raw/Cooked strives to accomplish this goal with a particular focus on Brooklyn. Eugenie Tsai visited dozens of studios within Brooklyn to find work that she found exceptional and appropriate for a show that is intrinsically entwined with the museum itself. Over the next year, the five artists she selected will create new work with the freedom to incorporate and respond to the existing space and content of the museum. One artist is actually using museum materials to create a monument to the museum Listen to the interview below to hear from the artists themselves how they plan to manifest the dialogue that pervades this show.

Raw/Cooked began September 16th and will continue to show throughout the next year one artist at a time. Currently on view until November 27th is Kristof Wickman, whose work is depicted above.

Enjoy the show.

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

Lucas Green



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.



EarSay’s Youth Arts and Activism Workshops
January 27, 2011, 12:43 am
Filed under: Activism, Art, Life!, Opinion, Projects, Uncategorized | Tags:

Judith Sloan has been my adviser at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study since I took her oral history class in the spring of 2009.  I’ve found that, in more than a few ways, Judith fits the mold for what one would consider a stereotypical New Yorker.  Man, can she talk.  But what Judith is talking about–what she’s concerned with–goes far beyond the threshold of what one would consider spitty, casual, every day conversation.  Her  words and her actions have remarkable substance.  In my interactions with Judith, I’ve gleaned how much living in Queens, the country’s most ethnically diverse county, has affected her outlook and especially her professional work.  As Judith explains in our interview, when at once she was doing work for National Public Radio with her husband on police brutality, she soon found herself leading workshops under her non-profit EarSay at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College.  Judith is currently running two workshops: Transforming Trauma into Art and Cross-Cultural Dialogue Through the Arts.  EarSay’s programs are designed in a way to cox students into confronting the big issues they face as immigrants to the United States and, just as importantly, as teenagers.  As explained on EarSay’s website,

“The premise of this workshop is based on healing through artistic expression using a combination of music, movement, theatre and storytelling. This process helps release the stories and stressors that prevent people—who have been traumatized by war, economic or natural disasters—from moving forward…”

I personally witnessed the transformative powers of the workshops.  As a part of an independent study with Judith, I attended and aided the Cross-Cultural Dialogue Through the Arts workshop on a weekly basis.  Also in the classroom and on tonight’s show is Hasan Salaam, an accomplished rapper signed on Viper Records, educator Laura Doggett, and documentary film maker Robert C. Winn.  The most important guests on tonight’s show are several of the students from the International High School.  They share their experiences in Judith’s classroom and stories from home.  The students also share the creative piece they’ve been working on in the Cross-Cultural Dialogue Through the Arts workshop: I Feel Free.  Tune in below!

Zoe Rosenberg