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 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


Zoe Rosenberg

Lynn Hershman Leeson’s !W.A.R.
May 25, 2011, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Art, Film | Tags:

Lynn Hershman Leeson is not only an artist, but also a historiographer.  In our interview, Lynn admits that it was not until 2004 that she realized that the hundreds of hours of film that she had captured over the past four decades solely for personal documentation could be used to illuminate and share the oft conceled story of the feminist art movement.  What has prevailed is Lynn’s 83-minute documentary, !Women Art Revolution (or appropriately, !W.A.R.).  Through personal interviews, historical footage, and images of the art made and performed throughout the movement, Lynn unpacks this historic string of actions and illuminates how it has impacted the art culture of today.

!W.A.R. includes the voices of and works by artists such as Judy Chicago, the Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Marina Abromovic, Miranda July, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono, and of course, Ms. Hershman herself.

!W.A.R. has been quite successful in the festival circuit, being chosen as an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival,  the Sundance Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.  !W.A.R. will open at IFC on June 1st.

Zoe Rosenberg

Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘the transfinite’
May 22, 2011, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibition, New York City, Technology | Tags:

trans·fi·nite [trans-fahy-nahyt] –adjective

going beyond or surpassing the finite.

In his upcoming installation at the Park Avenue Armory, Ryoji Ikeda explores the transfinite.  As the installation will be housed in the Armory’s 55,000 sq ft. Wade Thompson drill hall, the infinite may not seem so far off.  Articulated to me by Armory president Rebecca Robertson and artistic director Kristy Edmunds, Ryoji’s conception of the infinite is something beautiful; a concentration composed of the sonifying and aestheticizing of sets of data.  For this particular installation Ikeda synthesized data sets from the human genome sequence, NASA constellation coordinates, and non-human muscle structures, amongst others, to create the installation’s soundscape and aesthetic cues.

To the unfamiliar ear Ikeda’s installation may sound like sonic destruction, but it is that confrontation with seemingly infinite sets of data that brings the transfinite into the realm of the sublime.  The installation is limitless in its scope and its sonic possibilities.  Listen in for Kristy and Rebecca’s take on Ikeda’s infinite precision, and the challenges of curating such an installation.


Zoe Rosenberg

Jean-Pierre Améris, co-writer and director of Les Emotifs Anonymes
May 4, 2011, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Film | Tags:

Often, in times of great stress, I find myself overcome with the desire to sloth out and indulge in a romantic comedy or two.  This usually means flipping through about 1,000 channels until I find a station halfway through When Harry Met Sally or, my personal favorite, You’ve Got Mail.  The night I was set to see the pre-Tribeca Film Festival screening of Les Emotifs Anonymes, or Romantics Anonymous, was an absolutely dreadful evening.  Some greater force seemed determined to join the East and Hudson Rivers, and I swam/trudged all the way downtown, at which point I made the mistake of committing to an overpriced smoothie and had to stand in the rain until allowed in for the screening (#bourgeoisieproblems).  Oh how I longed for the comfort of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks tango. But as the theater lights dimmed and Jean-Pierre Améris‘ polite vision of a romantic comedy played out before me, all stress melted away.  Les Emotifs Anonymes did something different, better for me than How To Lose a Guy In Ten Days, or most other romcom’s for that matter.

Les Emotifs Anonymes provides a mature, yet playful look into the life of two emotionally confused/burdened/stressed Parisians who are each put through the wringer of the other’s emotional instability.  The film stars Isabelle Carré and Benoît Poelvoorde who my co-host Sedera likened to a French Amy Adams and Owen Wilson (respectively).  The film takes place in a Paris seemingly untouched by globalization.  In this way, it is almost fairytale-like.  I left the theater feeling many things, but stressed was not one of them.  In fact, each raindrop falling from the sky presented itself like a tiny shooting star.  Not really, but you know what I’m getting at.

Jean-Pierre is just as delightful and uplifting as his film.  Tune in to hear about the making of Les Emotifs Anonymes, what persuaded him to make a film featuring overly-emotional characters, and why he chose chocolate as a central object.


Zoe Rosenberg

PEN World Voices Festival
April 23, 2011, 5:55 am
Filed under: Literature, New York City | Tags:

This week I had Jakab Orsos and Michael F. Moore in the studio to talk about the PEN World Voices Festival.  Jakab, first-time director of the Festival, and Michael, a translator from Italian and member of the PEN Translation Committee, came in loaded to discuss some pretty intense and interesting issues, including the role of the public intellectual in today’s society and translator rights.

This year’s Festival includes discussions on everything from David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King, to a roundtable discussion on the legal and moral ramifications of making classified information accesible to the public.  Some specific Festival events include “Poetry: The Second Skin”, described to me only as a “literary extravaganza” exploring the music in poetry and the poetry in music,hosted by Laurie Anderson, and “Written on Water”, the opening night reception to be held in the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse and featuring readers like Malcolm Gladwell and Deborah Eisenberg.  Also, if you live in the Highline/Standard area or are attending the Festival, don’t be surprised if you run into Harold Bloom, Jonathan Frazen, or Yusef Komunyakaa.

PEN is an international literary and human rights organization.  Salmon Rushdie is currently serving as PEN president, following the likes of Arthur Miller, Normal Mailer and Susan Sontag.  The PEN World Voices Festival will be taking place around New York City from April 25-May 1.


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, 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.


Zoe Rosenberg

Cooperative Living as per TreeHaus
March 24, 2011, 3:26 pm
Filed under: Life!, New York City, Projects | Tags:

As soon as all of my New York City college friends started moving out of their dorms and into Brooklyn, the word co-op entered my vocabulary.  I had heard the phrase before and not really understood what it was.  What I did know, though, was that it was a movement becoming more and more present.

I got in touch with Stephen, Aimee, and Grayson from the Brooklyn co-op TreeHaus after I saw their video on KickStarter.  They posted the video in an attempt to garner funds for their trip to NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation), and to raise funds for the documentary one of the house members is making about community living.  Their KickStarter video consisted of a little uke tune, three house members singing about community living (they have a chicken!) and I just couldn’t resist.  While our interview was fun (lots of giggles all around), it was also a really informative experience.  Check it out!


Grayson, Stephen, and Aimee in the studio

Zoe Rosenberg

Stefan Sullivan for Happy Clinic: on having his cake and eating it too
March 3, 2011, 7:40 am
Filed under: Art, Life!, Music | Tags:

I was once in this writing program where each week I was asked to write an introduction for myself.  This introduction always had to include three truths and one lie about me and my life.  While everyone in the program knew that their introduction possessed a bit of fiction, the audience was none-the-wiser.  I always felt a bit devious–certainly cunning–for the chance and ability to dupe the audience, as well as my fellow program members.  Hell, it was my life to play with.

But since that writing exercise, I’ve always been wary of autobiography–wary of autobiography and its potential to be fictionalized.  So when I started poking around the Happy Clinic website and Stefan Sullivan’s biography in preparation for our interview, I was aghast.  In remembering the three-truths-and-a-lie exercise, Stefan’s biography seemed a model of excellence.  How could one man truly be a Poly Sci and Russian graduate from Middlebury, hold an Oxford PhD about the Jesus figure in 19th century German philosophy, be an NGO operative in the war zones of the Caucasus, a well-published Washington based journalist, an internationally well-received author, and co-releasing an album all before the age of 50?

In an interview with Stefan, Joerg Plath makes the point that Mister Sullivan’s life has been “so turbulent that it easily suffices for two persons.” Touche, Joerg.  Stefan’s response to this point is something along the lines of–and I’m really paraphrasing here–instead of taking too much from one facet of his life, he nibbles and moves on.  Stefan has his cake and eats it too.  This has allowed him to have many fleeting, yet deeply impactful experiences.  It has allowed him to establish a life where the truth itself is a bit devious, and there’s plenty of material to play with.  Cue Happy Clinic, Stefan’s collaboration with musician, composer, and engineer Claus Bühler.

In our interview, Stefan talked about how the ephemeral and ecstatic moments of his life have remained in his consciousness, almost begging to become elegies to their own passing.  The result of this is Memory Mound, an album penned by Stefan and composed and performed by Stefan and Claus, with guest artists including Cecilia Colombo, Julius Krause, Scott Albert Johnson, and Gregg Robins.

Memory Mound is an often upbeat and slightly off-kilter homage to hedonism.  To date, the duo have a music video for the first track on the album, Lokomotiv.

Stefan is as much a storyteller as he is any of his other professions.  Listen in for his recollections of brushes with Thai sex tourism, losing his moral compass, and what it’s like to finally lead a “rather pedestrian life.”


Zoe Rosenberg

Zishan Ugurlu and Larisa Polonsky for PURGE
February 9, 2011, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Activism, Literature, Theater | Tags:

When Zishan and Larissa walked into the studio they were perfectly pleasant, but both possessed a quiet intensity about them.  As our interview proceeded, I came to understand why.  For the past few weeks,  Zishan and Larissa have been vicariously living in the world of Purge, a play set in 1992 Estonia which was then newly freed from Soviet occupation.  The play, first a novel by Finland’s Sofi Oksanen, explores the themes of freedom, memory, and the past, which concurrently binds yet distances those who’ve survived.

Purge follows the story of two strangers, Aliide Tru and  Zara, played by Larisa. Zara, a sex-trafficking victim, comes to Aliide’s home on the run from her captors.  Through a series of waltz-like dialogue, the women discover their pasts share more similarities than not.  Purge shows us a world damaged by physical and mental occupation.  Zishan, who directs, and Larisa have embarked on a brave feat unsilencing the silenced, for which we can only thank them by sharing Purge’s message.

Purge will be running at La Mama‘s first floor theater on E. 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Ave from February 10-20.

Zoe Rosenberg

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