Published-Interviewing Bill Viola

November 24th, 2009 § 0 comments

Learning to speak up happens in stages.

In undergrad I spent my time listening acutely during critiques to those professors and students who had already mastered the art of bullshit, articulation, and the clever dissection of ideas and artwork. In graduate school I became the conversation starter, enjoying how interesting conversations can be when you direct where they go. Teaching became another kind of public speaking stress, where you are expected to know in advance the correct answer to every unexpected problem. Presenting your work to an audience is a challenge as your voice is the only voice, and when it reaches a deadend there is nothing but your own desire to avoid embarrassment to redirect it. Interviewing an artist is stressful in a completely new way, being an odd combination of planned questions and improvised discussion. Avoiding the nervous trap that prevents from happening what should be an easy conversation about something both parties know a good deal about, seems key. It was a special kind of torture to slowly transcribe this 45-minute interview, as I heard every verbal blunder, stutter, and hesitation more times than I ever dreamed of having to. In the end it was a fantastic experience, and when whittled down to its core, a good interview.

Bill Viola

Viola Interview

Eccentric Soul Revue

November 17th, 2009 § 0 comments

It was a drunken and disheveled Syl Johnson I saw stumble about the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday night, gesticulating a bit uncontrollably and singing with all his inebriated soul. Not exactly at the top of his game, but somehow he still made the show; just not exactly in the way you might expect.

An Imagined Sacrifice: McCarthy’s Road

November 16th, 2009 § 0 comments

“How does the never to be differ from what never was?”

The Road seems like the kind of book that requires little explanation and needs no context. I knew before reading it that Cormac McCarthy’s last son was a young child when he wrote the book—it is dedicated to him—and that he was born when McCarthy was in his 60’s or 70’s, but I actually forgot these personal inspirations while I was reading the novel. The Road is a contemporary revival of the classic father and son journey narrative, but more than that the book questions and explores a father’s self-sacrificing love, and to what extent and under what circumstances that love can be maintained. It does not seem to be a story about McCarthy and his son, or even about a real father and his son, but more an imagined speculation of all that a paternal love could entail. The Road is not literally about a dark and desolate projected future for mankind, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is a nightmarish story born of parental anxiety.

“I wash a dead man’s brains out of [my son’s] hair. That is my job. Then he wrapped him in the blanket and carried him to the fire.”

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Accidental Admiration—The Dia Beacon

October 29th, 2009 § 2 comments

Dia Beacon

(For better or worse Robert Irwin–think Getty Garden–landscaped the museum)

I always mistakenly assumed that the Dia Foundation was founded in order to house the work of the Minimalist artists of the 1960s, and perhaps subsequently related movements. Somehow I pictured a figure such as Donald Judd arranging it. While this is not actually true, viewing the collection of the Dia Beacon, located an hour or so upstate in the run-down town of Beacon itself, rendered the mistake an understandable one. The Dia collection seemed to foreshadow the recent trend I have noticed amongst wealthy collectors showing in public spaces (Eli Broad for example), of collecting numerous works by the same artist. Never have I seen so many Judd’s, Flavin’s, Nauman’s, or Smithson’s shown together. The space itself reminds me of PS1, an “alternative” building turned into a clean, well-lit venue with huge rooms and long hallways, as opposed to the traditional museum or gallery cube. While PS1 used to be an elementary school and now haunts contemporary artwork with its institutional architecture, the Dia used to be a Nabisco printing plant built in the 1920s that now cozily embraces the geometric artwork it houses—the industrial nature of the building, all brick and cement, suits the industrial material choices of the artists inside. Dia is also a convincingly coordinated collection. While the artists are not necessarily like each other, they share the same intellectual concerns. Wandering through it feels like looking at the problems of an era dissected visually by various minds, and though the concerns were similar the individual answers appear to have been different.

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An Old Master

October 25th, 2009 § 1 comment

Leonard Cohen

If I had to make two assumptions about Leonard Cohen based simply on his stage persona, seen during last night’s concert from a very distant seat at Madison Square Garden, I would assume he is deeply humble and too spry for a man of 75. Hat in hand as he bowed to his band, or waltzing on and off the stage during a ridiculous number of encores, stretching the concert out into a three hour ordeal, it was undeniable that Cohen was having fun. Somehow I would expect the youthful Indie bands I venture out to see to be full of grateful energy rather than an aging Canadian folk singer who’s reputation needs no confirmation, but I realized as I sat listening last night that Cohen was brimming with enjoyment. Speaking to the crowd after a few opening songs, he deep voice rumbling throughout the arena, he thanked us for coming, for braving the rain and the traffic, and said, “I don’t know when I will be passing this way again, so I want you to know….we are going to give you everything we’ve got tonight.” As the crowd surged I thought he had summed up exactly why I was there: who knows when Leonard Cohen will be passing through town again in concert.

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