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


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,

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,, 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.

Sophie Blackall, Missed Connections and Love at First Sight
January 5, 2012, 1:00 am
Filed under: Art, Literature, New York City | Tags:

You were wearing an average office suit with an admirably messy haircut. I was the girl with brown curly hair and a blouse with horses on it. We did that awkward back-and-forth shuffle of two strangers trying to pass each other on the street; then you grabbed me and gently swirled me in a mini waltz in the middle of the lunchtime shoppers and angry passersby. I would understand that moment if it happened now – two people sharing a delicate second in a day that hadn't gone to plan. But no, when it happened I was in my awkward early-twenties, so I just frowned, trudged away and hoped no one had noticed. Thanks for making my day.

It only took a few weeks of me moving to New York over three years ago to find out about Craigslist’s famous Missed Connections and subsequently secretly wish I might catch someone’s eye on a random train ride. If it ever happened though, I never knew, I didn’t check the personals enough to know. Still, love at first sight remains in the back of many of our minds as the ideal way to find a significant other. Sophie Blackall first started illustrating the hopeful ads on her blog, Missed Connections, and its success was so big, it’s now a book, Missed Connections, Love Lost & Found. How ironic that in a place with a no-nonsense reputation like New York, we’d be such suckers for sentimentality? Not that romanticism makes no sense, but it’s the exact opposite of the precision of the city’s cherished grid system and individualistic mentality. Blackall’s whimsical take on the Craigslist ads paints a more idealistic light on New Yorkers and their needs of the heart.

New York’s reputation is often defined around the world because of the famous line, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” We usually understand it to be referring to professional success. But could our compulsion to post (and live vicariously through missed connections) exist because we believe that if we manage to find love in the huge maze that is New York, we might have hit a bigger jackpot?

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…

Mikhail Baryshnikov archives at the New York Public Library
December 15, 2011, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Dance, Exhibition, New York City | Tags:

I’ve said it before: Mikhail Baryshnikov is my hero in many ways. And the little time that I got to spend at the Library of the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center looking through the archival preview of the newly donated archives of video, letters, magazines, pictures and books of him reminded me once more of the endless number of reasons why.

From very early videos of him dancing as a child in the USSR, to his dancing duet with Gregory Hines in White Nights, his performance in Roland Petit’s Carmen, or even just by looking at his handsome face in his old yearbook, his magnetism radiates through the various screens and vitrines of the exhibit.

I realize that I sound like a little fan girl, but I’m not the only one who’s excited about him and his talent. Take a listen to the conversation I had with Jan Schmidt, the curator of the dance division, after I met with Kate Stober, a press representative of the New York Public Library.

You can visit the this delightful little archival preview at the Library for the Performing Arts, the NYPL branch located at Lincoln Center, until December 20th. After that, they’ll be getting processed and entered into the collection over a few years. For more information on the library and when to see the exhibit, visit the branch’s website,

And for your viewing pleasure, the man at work with Zizi Jeanmaire, dancing Carmen:

Jen Bervin and Emily Dickinson at the Poets House
December 15, 2011, 1:12 am
Filed under: Literature, New York City | Tags:

Jen Bervin, The Composite Marks of Fascicle 28. Cotton and silk thread on cotton batting backed with muslin. 6 ft h x 8 ft w.

A little over two years ago now, when I was still a somewhat fresh-faced sophomore, I joined WNYU as a newscaster. During my training session with then-associate news director and former Citywide host Zoe Rosenberg, I was asked to write a sample newscast; if you’re here, you’ll know that on WNYU, those include one local story. I remember looking the NY1 website and choosing to write about how the Poets House was changing location. Well, it was about time I paid the place a visit.

Now, I regret not having gone sooner; their library overlooks the Hudson so it is a delight to behold when the sun sets, and the openness of the space just invites creative thoughts. It seems like a particularly appropriate place to have epiphanies about Emily Dickinson while studying her manuscripts currently on view there until January 28th.

Before my interview with the curator of the show Jen Bervin, which you can hear again at the end of this post, I attended the two-hour seminar she led about the poet and I was struck to see how responsive the crowd was and how curious they were about her words, her typographical and visual choices when writing and the variety of meanings present in even the shortest of her poems. I have to say, I’ve rarely seen pupils that animated and participative in my classes at NYU — but maybe I just haven’t attended the right classes.

What’s certain is that Emily Dickinson’s words leave no one indifferent and those initial reactions to her work were certainly amplified when readers were confronted with the handwritten originals. One look at them and Dickinson goes back to being an enigma; from the sheer size of her letters to the various markings annotating her poems (which Bervin magnifies in her quilts on display in the Poets House library as well), what took so long to decipher is given a new dimension and lens for reading.

You can read more about Jen Bervin and her work on her website, or you can go see it for yourself at the Poets House, located at 10 River Terrace in downtown Manhattan; the manuscripts on view belong to the personal collection of Donald & Patricia Oresman. For more information about the Poets House, their website is

Alexis Tryon and Artsicle
November 24, 2011, 12:59 am
Filed under: Art, New York City, Photography | Tags:

My house growing up was full of paintings, Van Gogh prints and even later some fusain portraits of me and my family. All in all, I was very spoiled because I grew up in an environment where art was important and something to cherish.

However, now that I don’t live at home anymore and that most of the money I have goes either to tuition, loans or groceries, my art budget is particularly low. I would ask to have some things shipped from home, but because I live in a dorm, the investment seems hardly worth it if I can’t even put a hole in the wall to hang paintings.

Artsicle appealed to me because it made me think that if I ever had a little bit of extra funds, I could constantly re-arrange and remodel my living space according to my artistic affinity of the time, which sounds like an unattainable luxury if art is only available at gallery prices. I also strongly believe that art is a lot more enjoyable if it can be lived with, as opposed to just existing during the working hours of a museum.

Artsicle also has the added benefit of being as good to its customers as it is to its artists; it’s a win-win!

Russian Film Week, Part 2: Dmitry Povolotsky and “My Dad is Baryshnikov”
November 10, 2011, 1:00 am
Filed under: Film | Tags: ,

My Dad is Baryshnikov couldn’t be more removed from Slava Ross’s Siberia Monamour. The film’s opening is in part scored by Boney M’s disco anthem “Sunny;” Siberia’s feral dogs are a long way away.

The two films grab the viewer in different places: Ross’s film caused more visceral reactions whereas this one just grabbed me by the heart… But maybe that’s also because I always idealized places like the Bolshoi Ballet school in my head. Not all that long ago, I dreamt that I would become a Danseuse Etoile at the Opera in Paris. In my mind, reaching that goal always meant that I would need to spend a little while in Moscow with those I considered to be the best dancers in the world.

Or maybe it’s because Baryshnikov is a man I’ve admired for many years and a little part of me understands how an aspiring dancer in need of inspiration would make himself believe he was his father. I’m fairly certain that the first time I watched him dance in White Nights, the same film Povolotsky’s protagonist watches, I had the same look of disbelief at how someone could be so emotive while remaining technically impeccable.

Still, this film is about more than ballet. It’s about a country opening itself up to the West, about a boy building his identity in a changing landscape… I just can’t bring myself to talk about anything else because I miss dancing, but My Dad is Baryshnikov has plenty to offer for those unfamiliar with ballet.

And if you’re interested in reading a little more about it, this article about dancer David Hallberg will give you a sense of how the Bolshoi’s changed from what Povolotsky aptly describes in the film — and our interview.

Russian Film Week, Part 1: Katie Metcalfe and Slava Ross
November 3, 2011, 3:04 am
Filed under: Film, New York City | Tags: ,

In the past few months, we’ve had a certain number of interviews centered around French Film (#1, #2 and #3). But in many ways, talking about seeing French films is easy; if you like cinema a little bit, having a bit of a French film fetish is probably a rite of passage. [I realize that might sound pompous coming from a French girl, but I’ve been in those cinema studies classes; we’re kind of a big deal.]

Exploring Russian film however, is a bit more adventurous, that’s why we’re dedicating two weeks to it. Russian Film Week is currently taking over the East Village until Friday, November 4th. Katie Metcalfe, my first guest on this show, was the curator of this 11th edition. It’s unfortunately impossible for me to cover all the films she chose to feature this year, but the two that will get discussed in depth on Citywide give a nice spectrum of what is being presented during the week.

First up is Siberia, Monamour by Slava Ross, my second guest on this show. To explain what this film is about might lead me to give it all away and could have me writing for days.

It’s a violent and sometimes disturbing family drama but it’s also a tale of love and self-sacrifice. Its realism is gripping, the pain of the characters seems to jump out of the screen to grab you as well… It’s fascinating to watch and discuss, especially when you have the director at hand. Many thanks to Anna Kadysheva for being our intermediary.

Russian Film Week ends on Friday, November 4th. For information on the screenings, visit