A Recent Event in Connecticut

by Jason Stoneking

I didn’t realize until quite recently that on some level I am actively looking for hope. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I might well have said that the portrayal of hope was somehow sappy or pedestrian, something better left to the realm of Disney movies and Chicken Soup books, and kept out of the sacred, lofty worlds of fine art and literature. But lately, I have to admit that the occasional appearance of this hope stuff in the arts hasn’t been looking so bad to me. In fact, I’ve even been starting to really appreciate it, and I’ve been meaning to ask myself why. For one thing, I suppose there’s the alternative to consider: art without hope.

This winter, my girlfriend, Leslie, and I spent several hours in line at the Grand Palais in Paris for the privilege of walking through the comprehensive Hopper exhibition. And although I appreciated the show, which offered a wide scope of perspective and even a profound insight into the work of Hopper and his contemporaries, I couldn’t help stumbling into the gaping black hole of despair from which it seemed that the artist was extending his hand. Most of Hopper’s paintings were like production stills from the sets of noir films. They depicted a cynical world, in which the human exchange of warmth had been lost amid industrialization. Buildings and trains stood empty. People, when they appeared, were alone in their rooms, haggard and bewildered, lost and disconsolate. When there were two figures, one invariably had vaguely unsavory designs on the other. The occasional lighter moment came only when we stumbled onto one of his unpopulated nature-scapes, featuring neither humans nor human-made goods of any kind.

After an afternoon of that, the sheer bleakness built up like a crushing weight on my chest. Was that really all there was to the Americans of the mid-twentieth century? Was Hopper for real? Were there really people out there thinking that all of the other people were just sinister, self-serving, cannibal zombies and their bitter, alienated victims, looking forward to nothing more than a blank-faced death-by-loneliness in a sparsely furnished hotel room over by the train station? But I guess that analysis should surprise me less and less as time marches on. It seems to be in lockstep with the mainstream thinking. At least, that’s what the evening news is always selling to me: the idea that everyone in my neighborhood is potentially a terrorist or a murderer, a sex offender or a school shooter. And this finally brings me to Connecticut.

Recently, after the horrific mass-shooting of school children in Sandy Hook, and amid the almost equally horrific pornography of its media coverage, Leslie and I made a pilgrimage to Connecticut to visit the home of Adam Niklewicz, one of my favorite artists in the world and, I am honored to say, also a very dear friend. Adam, who now lives near New Haven, was a longtime resident of Sandy Hook, where his daughter had actually attended the same elementary school where the shootings would later take place. The timing of our visit to Connecticut felt eerie, but the pretext for the trip was actually a coincidence. A few months before the shootings, Adam had been chosen to create a large piece of public art in the city of Hartford, and Leslie and I went there to see it with him. What we didn’t anticipate was the new significance that the piece would take on for us in light of current events.

The project had begun when Adam was contacted by Will K. Wilkins, the director of the Connecticut contemporary art organization Real Art Ways. Adam had shown with RAW several times and had known Wilkins for years, so when RAW was asked to help put together a public art proposal in partnership with the City of Hartford and The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Wilkins recommended Adam as a candidate artist for the project. They were looking for a large-scale piece of wall-based contemporary art that wasn’t a mural. Wilkins presented for consideration a video of the 2009 installation “Watergarden,” in which Adam had selectively treated a slab of concrete with a waterproofing agent so that the image of a tree would appear on it, when it was moistened at regular intervals with a hose, and then would gradually disappear as the concrete dried.

Adam was quickly and unanimously chosen to design a large wall piece for a location in downtown Hartford. In collaboration with the city and the two arts organizations, Adam adapted the idea from his Watergarden piece so that the tree depicted would be the Charter Oak, the recognizable symbol of the Connecticut colony and its important role in the American fight for independence. The resulting installation, titled “The Charter Oak,” has been a success for everyone concerned. For the City of Hartford, it has drawn countless visitors to consider the shared history of the state and its future role in encouraging advancements in the arts. And the piece has also been a pleasant surprise for Adam himself, who told me he feels that the incorporation of this specific symbol gives his original idea an added conceptual strength.

"The Charter Oak" installation.

“The Charter Oak” installation.

Happy with the fruits of their working relationship, the city also decided, in conjunction with this installation, to exhibit another, related piece of Adam’s on the adjacent AT&T building. This other part of the show is a giant, looping projection entitled “Walking Around a Tree” which depicts a tree slowly spinning in an undefined space. But it is in fact we who are spinning, as the camera moves in an even, deliberate circle, showing us the view we would have if we walked around the tree indefinitely, in a perfectly repeated loop, looking at it the whole time. For several months, this projection has been visible from many parts of the city, and even from the highway outside town. It has beckoned people to the heart of Hartford, where there is a convenient parking area from which they can take their time to view and consider the relationship between these works.

The "Walking Around a Tree" projection.

The “Walking Around a Tree” projection.

What Adam’s two pieces have in common is their meditation on cycles. The theme of return and rejuvenation. The perseverance of life. Their accent is on the natural rhythms (turning orbits, the cyclical redistribution of water through the atmosphere) that bring cleansing renewals to everything around us. As I stood at the feet of these two immense trees adorning the walls of busy, downtown, corporate buildings, I couldn’t help noticing that the longer I watched them, the smaller my problems felt. And then I was sincerely filled with a hope, however naïve, however improbable, that these images could help in some way to soothe the unimaginable pain and confusion that permeated the community at the time of our visit. I saw in those forever returning oaks a renewal of the spirit of Connecticut, a continual reminder of a timeless symbol around which the people of the state could rally and hopefully find a small amount of peace.

We made it to Hartford just in time to see the projection, which since has ended, but “The Charter Oak” is still there, indefinitely, on display. At one point, they were thinking of cleaning off the building at the end of the show’s run, but the powers that be in Hartford have since decided to leave it there. Instead of removing it entirely, they’ve elected just to stop the regular spraying of the piece with water and let the image continue to come and go with the natural rainfall for as long as the two shall last. Luckily for all of us who would like to see the piece, there is more water, and more regeneration coming, for as far as the imagination can see. Redeeming us. Washing away our sins. Bringing new life from the same ground in which we bury our dead.

As an artist, and as a person, Adam Niklewicz stands humbly before the mysteries of the universe and reports them back to us through a prism of mystic fascination. He refers to the concept of “magical thinking” as one that he strives for. And if I understand this concept correctly, it is one that Adam regularly achieves in his work. He creates things that open up the senses and reveal elements of the viewer’s own thinking that were not previously familiar. And this is a surprisingly intimate procedure. It’s like when a new lover helps you discover that your most secret desires are addressed by a practice in which you’ve never previously engaged. And then you suddenly feel exposed, self-conscious and vulnerable, but also wildly awake like you haven’t been since childhood. And you immediately have to ask yourself if you are in love, or drunk, or under the influence of some other as-yet-undiscovered sorcery from the great beyond.

In a video interview about the making of the Charter Oak installation, Adam shares a childhood memory of playing with water on concrete surfaces. Watching curiously as the marks made by the water disappeared when the water dried. Musing about where those marks went and what other magical discoveries might share the secret realm into which they’d vanished. This perspective of his reminds me of the spirit in the great Polish poets of the twentieth century, who, in the face of unspeakable adversity, rose to a warm, humble wisdom from which they infused their works with equal parts childlike wonder, hope, reverence, and humanity. Adam’s pieces have always filled me with these same feelings. They are each, in their own way, like kisses on the forehead from the infinite.

Perhaps a part of this timeless wisdom he’s tapped into is in accepting that a certain amount of hope makes practical sense. Not just as a coping strategy during difficult times, but because it reflects the truly cyclical nature of existence. Whatever it is that you’re hoping for will come around again eventually. War, peace, your political party, good movies, bell-bottom jeans. Nothing ever really goes away forever. Matter never disappears from the universe. But nothing really stays forever either. All the tragic horrors we do to each other find ways to fade back into the background as we move through time. Even death itself is just a spoke in the wheel, a turnaround point, a dateline on a spinning globe, a convenient stripe where we mark our laps. And the tree keeps reappearing, and the tree keeps reappearing, and the tree keeps reappearing…

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Roughly 2,929 Pairs of Shoes (and Mine)

Reviewer in Paris

By Jason Stoneking

This October, I was one of the more than two million Parisians attending various events in conjunction with Nuit Blanche, the all-night art festival that happens in Paris (and a growing list of other cities) once every autumn. Over 100 artists showcased their work around the city, but this year I spent my evening in one place, admiring and discussing Markus Hansen’s installation at the Palais de la Decouverte. I’ll confess that I was personally invested in people’s reactions to the piece because for the previous few days I’d had the honor of helping Markus install it. Together, we’d moved several tons of used shoes across town, through an underground parking garage, and up into a staging area in the west wing of the Grand Palais complex. Markus and his assistant on the project, artist Leslie McAllister, had already spent months meticulously grouping the shoes by color and separating them into specifically marked bags. So once we got those bags into the building, and lined them up according to category, Markus knew quickly where to find the ones he needed.

Staging Area

Staging area (photo: Leslie McAllister)

He began by placing a tight ring of jet-black shoes, carefully joined in matching pairs, toes pointing out from the middle of the floor in the Palais’s grand elliptical entrance hall. Then, with the help of his team, he worked his way out from there. He formed the next ring from the darkest of the brown shoes, the next one slightly lighter and so on, through the range of browns and beiges, creams and off-whites until he arrived at a ring of only the whitest whites. From that point, he gradually reversed his color steps, selecting darker shoes for each successive ring until he worked his way all the way back to black again. By the time he constructed his outermost ring, the grouping consisted of almost 3,000 pairs of shoes and took up an impressive percentage of the expansive floor space.

Nuit Blanche Ground Level

Ground Level (photo: Leslie McAllister)

Once Markus had finished the final selection and placement of the shoes, we quickly put away everything we hadn’t used, turned on the spotlights, and climbed the stairs to have a look at what we’d done. Markus must have had some idea of what we’d see up there, but even after working within the piece all evening, and being impressed by its effect at the ground level, I was not prepared for the scope it would take on when I finally saw it from above. In the view from the third-floor balcony, the arrangement of shoes morphed into a pulsating, radiant disc, free-floating below us in the darkness of space. And in its form, one could find almost anything that they happened to be looking for: an eye, a flower, a mandala, the abyss that stares back into you, a twirling galaxy, a drop in the pool of the universe spreading in infinite concentric waves toward the limits (if there be any) of human possibility. And from time to time the pattern rippled with an unexpected glint. Here and there a pair with pink laces, one with metal parts, a tall one, a short one, some furry and some flat, each in its own way adjusting the path of the tide from within.

Nuit Blanche from Above

From Above (photo: Leslie McAllister)

When we went back downstairs and approached the piece again, I was staggered by the reminder that each pixel of this contemplative visual oasis was, in fact, a very physical part of some human being’s life story. A few minutes later, when the doors opened to the public and the waves of actual human beings poured in, I engaged them as much as I could, listening intently for their thoughts. And one of the things that kept jumping out at me was how many different kinds of people found ways to plug into the piece and extrapolate various meanings. Those in attendance, and their interpretations of the work, seemed as varied as the shoes themselves. There were, however, some themes that recurred more than once. Now, I don’t usually like to discuss a piece in terms of its context in art history, or in any history for that matter, and I think Markus’s work stands beautifully on its own without such discussion, but I would like to address a few of the connections I heard being made during the evening.

Early on there were whispers of Christian Boltanski, the artist who had once, just feet from where we stood, filled the Grand Palais with immense piles of disused clothes being knocked about haphazardly by a crane. That installation, entitled “Personnes,” eerily evoked the horror of the WWII death camps where piles of clothes and shoes still stand, terrifyingly and accusingly inhabiting the space once occupied by their owners’ lives. Boltanski himself has described his work as “about the fact of dying.”*

Later, a woman I spoke with mentioned to me the recent installations at the Buchenwald Memorial Museum, and London’s Imperial War Museum, of Jenny Stolzenberg’s work “Forgive and Do Not Forget,” in which ceramic models of the mismatched shoes of holocaust victims march toward us, in a solemn single file out of the past. The piece is, in Stolzenberg’s own words, “a contemplation of human atrocity.”*

One guy even walked up next to me alongside Markus’s piece on that Saturday night and gravely intoned that “Shoes are different when you’re a German artist.”

For my part, I found it somewhat disappointing to hear the subject being dragged multiple times back to that darkest of all places in human history. It made me think of Theodor Adorno’s oft-quoted line about how continuing “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”* Being a poet myself, born in 1974, I always found that judgment a little bit problematic. In ever-increasing hyperbole, Adorno would later go on to “raise the less cultural question of whether after Auschwitz you can go on living.”*  But for better or worse, we simply do go on living, with or without a working knowledge of Adorno. And we also go on making poetry, whether it is deemed barbaric to do so or not.

Fortunately, Markus Hansen’s piece is poetic in the least barbaric way. It is a cosmic reassurance, a gesture of hope. Markus’s shoes do not march solemnly in one linear direction, nor do they laze about in disheveled heaps, passively awaiting the grand nothing. They spread actively into the unknown darkness of tomorrow, carrying with them the marriage of beauty and organization that lies at the very heart of narrative. In the Boltanski and Stolzenberg pieces, the accent is on the discontinued use of the objects, representing the absence of their previous utility, the deaths of their previous owners. But Hansen’s shoes have been brought back into use. Resurrected. They are as alive and functional as paint or clay or pianos ever have been. They are not discarded; they are not relegated to the category of memories or trash. They don’t wallow in grief, guilt or mourning. They are continuing instruments in the conversation about form, color, light, and time. They still have new stories to tell.

Of course, Markus’s shoes may in some cases have been the shoes of the dead, but they could equally have been the shoes of those who outgrew them or got bored of them, the shoes of those who bought new shoes, shoes that have merely gone out of fashion. And some of these shoes may even be yet to meet their future owners. To get straight to the point, Markus’s work isn’t about dying at all. It’s about living. And more, it’s about existing. It’s about inhabiting a reality in which the lives and deaths of people and objects are only cyclical refrains that swell and continue forever. As we all return to the ground to fertilize the future, so do our possessions. So do our ideas. There is nothing here so vulgar or morbid as fatalism. On the contrary, it’s the greatest and oldest kind of across-the-board, non-denominational comfort. It is the notion that we are part of the eternal.

The Palais de la Decouverte serves, in its day-job, as a science museum. And there in that foyer, with the history of astronomy on its one side and the history of evolution on its other, Markus Hansen’s installation reminded us that we humans still live and move through constantly returning cycles. Just as the galaxies and universes are infinitely collapsing and expanding, we too are a forever blinking and resetting iris. We pass from dark ages into enlightenments and back again. Our colors evolve and blend with each other as we do, generating newer and infinitely subtler hues as the generations march on. I am very happy to report that I snagged a pair of shoes out of the supplies for this installation while it was first taking shape in Markus’s studio. And now, thanks to him, a piece of that endless human story, a piece of the eternal poetry, walks with me everywhere I go. Onward. Into the future.

Markus sorting Shoes

Markus sorting shoes (photo: Leslie McAllister)

You can check out more of Markus Hansen’s work on his website, on facebook and on twitter.

*-“Interview with Christian Boltanski”, Tamar Garb, London Phaidon Press 1997
*-Jenny Stolzenberg’s website,  http://www.jennystolzenbergceramics.com
*-“Cultural Criticism and Society” Theodor Adorno, 1949 English translation: Samuel and Shierry Weber
*-“Negative Dialectics” Theodor Adorno, 1966 English Translation by E.B. Ashton

 

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Smoking Crack, Orgies, and Incest, Oh My

New Literature at The Periscope Project

A Mind Blowing Book Reading at the Periscope Project by Provocateur, Writer and Poet, Jason Stoneking, on the One Night-Only San Diego Stop of His Nation-Wide Book Tour

By Katherine Sweetman



It was a Sunday evening, and the sun was setting over downtown San Diego. On the patio of The Periscope Project, people milled about waiting for the book reading to begin. Some knew the author’s previous book — and had an idea of what they were getting into. Others had done some research on him — and thought they knew what they were getting into. But most had no idea at all what was in store for them. Although the event was billed as “free and open to the ADULT public”, no one was really, fully prepared.

Things started slow and steady — always the mark of a good evening. The audience was treated to a base of quality prose and personal stories with beautiful and heart-felt delivery that made us all genuinely like the author, Jason Stoneking. He began reading to us from his newest book, Audience of Twelve, which was written at a fairly stable point in his life and career, but later in the evening he also read from his previous book, Audience of One, which was written at a more challenging time and is, lets just say, darker in tone and subject matter.
I will stray from my story for a moment to point out the books’ structure; both books are comprised of a series of story/essays, and each title was designated by someone other than the author. Someone gave Stoneking the titles, and he was then bound by the rules (of the structure of the book) to write a story for the given titles. In Audience of One visual and conceptual artist Markus Hansen fed him titles, and for Audience of Twelve there were twelve different individuals feeding him titles. The main point here is that the titles, and therefore the themes of these stories, were not chosen by Stoneking but given to him as a kind of writing assignment.

So far, so good. The evening was shaping up as a traditional kind of book reading. We took a short break to enjoy some wine and cheese. It was at this point that a woman approached Stoneking to complain about something she had read on his website. She was a mother, and she brought her drug-using son to the reading. She was upset about a particular story, from Audience of One, that she had read online, and she had come to the reading with her son to tell Stoneking how his work was irresponsible and detrimental to those, like her child, who had a problem with illicit substances. The story in question was called Crack and Stoneking subsequently decided to read this work to the audience.

So it was at this point, as the sun set and the night began to creep in, that Stoneking’s stories began to take a more ADULT turn.

“I think crack cocaine gets a bad rap…” is the opening line of the story, which goes on, in a very humorous and honest way, to describe what crack is like (from a first hand experience) and to suggest that crack is not as bad as the world makes it out to be. Stoneking’s piece is not a glorification of crack, per se, but more of an honest, experiential, perhaps cathartic justification of why some people might want to smoke crack.

“For most of them [guys Stoneking used to smoke with], if they ever got off the pipe, the only thing waiting for them – in the sober light of day – would be a precarious dead-end job as a janitor or a fry cook. And I couldn’t look one of them in the eye and say that either of those titles was any more luxurious than crack-head.”

The pointy end of the story’s thesis is that crack is like a tool for extrication from reality — and maybe not that different from others in common usage (alcohol, TV, Facebook… ). Near the stories’ end Stoneking writes, “I think people look down on the crack-head not because of what he’s doing, but because he’s escaped the structure of what everyone else is doing.”

People laughed wildly, clapped, and nodded their heads in agreement. The stories’ description of and investigation into crack were so very convincing that I if a glass pipe were passed around at that moment, there would probably be a few interested parties (self included). After hearing Stoneking’s description and delivery of this story, the mother, who had approached him earlier, hugged him. Then they (mother and son) purchased both of his books and left.

“Wow,” I thought. What an interesting evening. But it wasn’t over yet.

Egged on by the audience to continue in adult themes, Stoneking read a story titled Dude, I need to hear about the Boulder chick and the Orgy one more time — an absolutely hysterical analysis of a kind of baffled orgy, complete with all the nakedness, strangeness, jealousies and downsides inherent in (most?) group sexual experiences.

“Dude, Jason, your girlfriend’s got the dank muff,” is the funniest and most memorable line from this story that also begins the tale’s U-turn into the dark side of things. But it was when Stoneking was deciding what to read that would satisfy this audience’s apparent desire for adult themes that he happened to mention another dark story from Audience of One– “The Aristocrats” story.

Some members of the audience who had read this story made some noise (one of them was me), and the rest of the audience became curious by the Stoneking’s reluctance to share it. He continued on with other stories and said something like, maybe he would read it at the end, but it had been a serious source of controversy, and he wasn’t sure it was a good idea.

Now, the audience was intrigued.

It’s true that Stoneking’s version of “The Aristocrats” actually titled, The Famous Joke. Version: Jason Stoneking, was indeed so problematic that it almost caused the book not to be published and engendered much debate about whether it could be included. In the book, the story comes with its own disclaimers:

“Publisher’s note: This piece is a version of an old and well- known dirty joke that traditionally aims to shock, offend and disgust, and is here written in the spirit of satire. Neither the author nor the publisher intends to advocate, glorify or condone any of the acts that are depicted therein.”

At the reading, the story also came with many disclaimers by the author, but each just seemed to intensify the curiosity.

I should break from my story, again, to point TO the famous joke,”The Aristrocrats”, if you have not heard it, and the documentary about this joke if you have not seen it. Commedians such as Chris Rock, Drew Carey, Bob Saget and so many more have done it, and the infamous joke is not told for the humor of the punch line but for the shock value of the scenes that happen before the punch line. The audience at The Periscope Project seemed to be split on their ability to recall the joke, but they knew they wanted to hear this story– whatever it was. Stoneking was hesitant, but he eventually gave in and began reading.

His story is told in the first person: I being the father of a poor family. And I believe this sets up some of the intimacy and subsequent horror the audience may feel upon its telling (especially in person). We had been listening to Stoneking’s personal, first person stories all night. Now we were listening to him put himself into this fictional story, and we identified I with this sweet, funny, and vulnerable man before us.

Since shock value is the ultimate goal of each telling of this tale, Stoneking’s success was marked by our shock. The game of rehashing the joke is that each time it’s told, it gets worse– and the game was played well. The story/joke in a nutshell: A poor family needs money; they go to an evil man in the entertainment industry to see if they can do a performance to earn them money; the evil entertainment exec gets them (the family) to do various kinds of perverse, abject and weird sex acts with each other; the punch line is that the title of their performance is “The Aristocrats” (play on the tradition of the aristocracy using incest to keep the power in the family).

Stoneking’s version takes the audience on a horrific and graphic journey into this joke’s story. It goes into disturbing details that really bring the reader, or listener in this case, into the story. We can relate to the pathetic father who must perform these incestuous acts on the daughter– acts that we could hardly imagine, but all of a sudden we are there in the father’s shoes. We are the mother performing deviant acts on our own son. And we relate to and with the characters because Jason Stoneking has such a compelling way of luring us on, against our will, from sentence to sentence. The horror story (14 pages long in the book) goes on, and on, and it fills us with disgust for ourselves for even thinking such things and picturing such mayhem.
The audience at The Periscope Project fell silent. We all suddenly become very self-conscious. We sat on the ends of our seats passing only surreptitious, sideways glances around the room. After the story, people either loved author Jason Stoneking or hated him. There was no in between. He had taken us somewhere very dark and uncomfortable, and then he left us there to witness the manifestations of this discomfort and shock — in a group setting. Most of the audience clapped. Most stayed to have a glass of wine, shake the author’s hand, and purchase a book. But some absolutely couldn’t handle it; even though they had stayed late and enjoyed themselves before this story, they left angry and/or confused after this story. One woman refused to shake the author’s hand when he extended it to her. He had shocked us to our very cores — a difficult thing to do in this day and age when sex scandals, internet porn, and nightly news atrocities give us all the graphic stories and images we could ever imagine.

But these moments of uncomfortable and emotionally heightened realization (those moments of being shocked) are very interesting to reflect upon. Of course “going against the norm” (and having the capacity to cause shock) has been done in all manner of art forms since there were rules to be broken. My obvious example choices being Duchamp, Picasso, and Shakespeare — they all shocked their critics. Shock can cause anger, hostility, confusion, but then gives us a chance for reflection and greater awareness once the object or idea causing shock has been examined. Was Duchamp’s Fountain really offensive or was it a work of art that changed the way the world thought about art? Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon outraged the Paris Art Scene, and Cubism was instantly shrouded in controversy but changed the very practice of painting as we know it. Shakespeare left devout critics up in arms with works like Macbeth that portrayed religious controversy in all of its horrors but is one of the most famous and enduring plays ever put to the stage. These shocking works are the most discussed, most written about, most influential pieces of art in the world. Shock causes discussions — sometimes with others, sometimes internal discussions (…like the one I am having with myself as I write this) and these help us to better understand ourselves, perhaps learn something about our own beliefs, and facilitate the asking of some very complex questions not only about ourselves but about the world, censorship, morality, and art.

And on a more basic level, when I personally read something dark and twisted handled by a gifted author (like Stoneking), and it’s something that I don’t really want to be experiencing, but I am compelled to keep reading against my morally-conscious, left brain-reasoning, I think, “Wow this is a talented author.”

And that’s is exactly what I was thinking on this particular evening. Jason Stoneking is very a talented author. He was capable of forcing all kinds of intense emotions upon his audience. That night his mesmerizing, hilarious, and painfully honest works horrified me, they brought tears to my eyes, and I damn near pissed my pants a few times from laughing so hard.

That’s exactly what a good author should do, and that’s exactly what a good book reading should be like.

Want to read the stories yourself?

Buy the books:

http://www.jasonstoneking.com/books.html


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New Film STYRIA: Interview Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf

The two filmmakers, with strong San Diego ties, take the world’s greatest female vampire character, Carmilla, to the big screen in their new film titled STYRIA.

By Katherine Sweetman


Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf ‘s new film, STYRIA, is an adaptation of a Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu short story, first published in 1872, about literature’s first female vampire character — a sultry and sexual vampire, named Carmilla, who also just happens to be the the precursor for all the modern-day lesbian vampire characters you know and love.

Mauricio Chernovetzky is a name known around the San Diego film scene. He went to grad school here — twice. He attended SDSU’s Television and Film Department Masters Program (where he met Mark Devendorf) and then UCSD’s Visual Arts Department MFA program, which is where I first met him. Mauricio and I ended up teaching The History of Film at Southwestern College, not together, but at the same time in different classrooms when the class was over enrolled to something like 200% over capacity. My point is I know him. And I’m not presenting that so much for disclosure but more for bragging rights. I am thrilled that a story, born out of conversations and scripts conceived in San Diego, can attract talented big name actors, get funding to make it happen, and go all the way to the big screen. Well, it’s almost there. It’s going there.

Currently STYRIA is in one of the last stages of post production — sound mixing, music composition, and music acquisition. But the film could use your help with its kickstarter campaign to give it that final push to completion.

I had the privileged of interviewing Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf about STYRIA as they were in these final stages of completing the film.

What follows is an interview with Mark Devendorf (MD) and Mauricio Chernovetzky (MC), Interviewer Katherine Sweetman (KS)

KS Mark and Mauricio, you two co-directed and also co-wrote this film that you adapted from a vampire story written in the 1800′s — a story that predates even Bram Stokers Dracula. That sounds challenging, to say the least. Can you tell me a little bit about the story and how you adapted this for the screen?

MC There was something about Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” that really resonated with both of us. We knew we wanted to make a Gothic film about a haunted psyche reminiscent of “The Innocents” (1961), which we both considered to be a masterpiece of the genre. There was something about the repressed Victorian atmosphere in the novella that lent itself to a far more layered approach than any film adaptation we had watched.

MD Yes. Most adaptations simply pounced on the most salacious aspect of the story: Lesbian vampires! But really, the novella is layered, atmospheric, and suffocating, and very Victorian. So even though there have been may adaptations, including one called Vampyros Lesbos, none really have touched on the most interesting dimension of the story. “Carmilla” was written pre-Dracula. So we took it as a challenge to make the film without any obvious vampire references that come from/after Dracula– fangs, bats, stakes, etc. It freed us up to tell a more original story with its own visual language.

MC We knew we wanted to make a film about adolescence, and we wanted to make sure that our characters were genuinely troubled. We wanted to explore the allure of the dark side, which for many teens has an almost mystical pull. Visually, we set out to capture that sense beauty and mystery, but we also wanted to show the real consequences of self-destructive behavior and ultimately the horror of suicide.

MD In reflecting on our own experiences as teenagers, we decided to set our film in 1989. The punk/goth mood and music of the time (Joy Division, The Cure, The Swans, Siouxsie) had a deep influence on us growing up. So this allowed us to merge this “gothic” sensibility with the 19th Century Gothic literature that “Carmilla” had emerged from.

KS Ok. I’m getting a sense of the setting in terms of mood and time, so tell me about the location. You shot this film in some kind of abandoned castle in Budapest? What was that like? How long was your shoot?

MC Setting STYRIA behind “the Iron Curtain” gave us a chance to explore the atmosphere of an authoritarian world on the brink of collapse. For our castle, we imagined a decaying, mysterious structure that would embody the “gothic” qualities of our story.

MD We searched as much as we could remotely, looking at different castles online and in books. Then we traveled to Poland, Austria, and Hungary. In Hungary, we spent a long weekend just driving to different castles. Most of the places we visited were either in too good of shape or completely in ruins. Then we saw Schlossberger Castle in the small town of Tura, about 45-minutes outside of Budapest, and we were blown away! It was this amazing piece of crumbling architecture, which is exactly what we wanted. The place was perfect!

MC It felt like the architect had gone mad. We walked down spiraling stone stairs leading into the castle’s basement and discovered a labyrinth. The mood was so mysterious and palpable, that Mark and I kept taking pictures. We were thrilled!

MD For the film, we only captured about 1/3 of the castle. There are levels and floors we never shot on. It’s an amazing experience just to spend time there. I highly recommend touring it.

MC We shot around 80% of the movie in the castle and the surrounding woods. Principal photography was scheduled for 24 days. As winter approached, it was really cold. All of us were constantly walking around with frozen toes. And then a snowstorm on the 22nd day completely disrupted our shoot. We had to wait a whole year to film a car accident that matched the late autumn look of STYRIA. For logistical reasons, we ended up shooting that scene in Poland.

KS You have some very talented, stand-out actors in this film, including Stephen Rea (of The Crying Game, Citizen X, V for Vendetta, Underworld, and many more). What was it like working with this actor, and how did he come to the project?

MD We submitted the script to his agent, and when we spoke to Stephen, he found the script, “terrifying.” We thought that after all the films he’s done, that was a good sign.

MC When Stephen agreed to play the role, it really set the whole film production in motion. Everyone around us suddenly understood our commitment to making a motion picture meant to be seen in theaters worldwide.

MD Stephen Rea had all the qualities we wanted for Lara’s father. He’s a great actor with a strong on screen presence. He also has a certain gravitas/darkness that lends credibility to our story. He was very particular about his character’s outfits. He also wanted all of his dialogue and actions to feel real. This gives the film a great deal of naturalism. Also, his being so well regarded amongst actors meant that all the other actors wanted to step up their game.

MC Yes, Stephen helped raise the stakes for everyone else. Since, at its core STYRIA tells of the intense and fractured relationship between two teenage girls, the soul of the film rests on Eleanor Tomlinson (Lara Hill) and Julia Pietrucha (Carmilla), who both gave absolutely wonderful performances.

 

KS I love the idea you mentioned earlier, Mauricio, about (some) teenagers being metaphysically drawn to the dark side– so true. Although Eleanor Tomlinson and Julia Pietrucha are both established actors (Eleanor Tomlinson has been in films such as The Illusionist and Alice in Wonderland and Julia Pietrucha has been a Polish TV actor for many years), they are also teenagers. What’s it like working with teenagers? Were you nervous going into this knowing the filmed hinged on their performances?

MC Obviously there was a risk. But Mark and I were very clear that Lara Hill had to be played by a teenager. There are some things you just can’t cheat.

MD Eleanor was 18 at the time, but she’d been on film sets since she was 9. She was a complete professional, always prepared, flexible, and cheerful. We were looking at hundreds of actresses for Lara, and we thought Eleanor had an interesting look, but every movie clip we saw her in, she played a very cheerful character.

MC Then we found a Youtube clip she did with her brother, where she played a brooding teenager, and we knew we found our Lara. We didn’t even have to audition her. We asked her to play the role after just one phone conversation.

MD Eleanor has this incredible work ethic and this intelligence in knowing how to play to the camera. So we weren’t surprised when she got hired onto Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer (2013)

MC For the role of Carmilla, we looked all over the world, Russia, France, Hungary. It was really challenging to find an actress with the right look– and the acting chops. Luckily, our Director of Photography, Grzegorz Bartoszewicz had recently worked with Julia on a Polish TV series. She was incredibly dedicated. The role of Carmilla gave her a chance to tap into a side she’d never really explored on camera before.

MD On set, Julia was a spark plug, and she really surprised us with her performance. On camera, she was completely present, but off camera, she was a bit mischievous. As the filming continued, she took on more and more of Carmilla’s traits. I, for one, never knew what was going on in her head.

MC Yes. She took the role really seriously! And she wasn’t afraid to challenge us from time to time.

MD She has a real instinct as an actor. I remember when we were rehearsing, she pointed out that the roof scene should have ended earlier. We shot the scene as it was written, but then in the editing room, we realized the emotional beat ended just where she had said it did. So we heeded her advice and cut the scene down.

MC Julia is very passionate. She approached the character with a lot of intensity, providing an emotional compass throughout the film.

MD We put both actresses through the ringer. It was always freezing in the castle, and most of the crew was sick throughout the shoot with a hollow cough that never went away. We were incredibly lucky to work with both girls. They gave everything to the film and it really shows on screen.

KS I’m based out of San Diego, and I know you two have ties to San Diego– because that’s where I met Mauricio, and I know you two went to film school here. Can you talk to me for a minute about Film Production in San Diego. Is it possible? It seems you are doing all your post-production in LA, is that true? What is San Diego missing?

MC You can say that STYRIA is a San Diego native. It was born there, when Mark and I were both finishing our Master’s degrees. Back in the day, we use to spend lot of time walking around North Park, discussing our story.

MD I’ve gone back between Los Angeles and San Diego my whole life, and I much prefer San Diego, but there is more work in Los Angeles, so right now, I’m living in LA. I think because SD is so close to LA, it’s got a second city syndrome. I would love for there to be more of a San Diego identity, with more locally produced television shows, even a dedicated channel, like Chicago has, but I think San Diegans are a little too relaxed to take on this issue. But dammit they should!

MC But we did work with a great San Diego crew to do our pick-up shots. There’s a lot of technical talent coming out of SDSU. And the editors working on our film teasers and trailers, Judd Resnick and Franck Deron are both based in San Diego. I think San Diego would benefit from embracing a completely independent spirit. A major ingredient that gives San Diego its unique character is its proximity to the border with Mexico. For me, the relationship between these two counties still represents a huge untapped potential. The contrasts, the paradoxes, the cultural interactions really offer a very rich source of creativity.

KS So you’ve been thinking of this project since grad school? How long has this process, of creating STYRIA, taken you? From script-start to now, how long has this journey been, and what stage are you in now?

MC It’s taken close to six years. We spent a lot of time researching the story. Then, two years writing the script.

MD We shot the bulk of the film two years ago, and we’ve been working on the cut, pretty much by ourselves. But one thing that feels very satisfying is to know that STYRIA has our hand prints all over it. It’s a genre film, but it’s fueled by complex ideas and it’s visually very charged.

KS You are currently running a Kickstarter pledge to finish the film, could you tell us a little about that, what the money would go towards and what they’d get in return?

MC The film is locked, but we are doing a kickstarter so that we can finish a few things, namely, sound design, score, a few video effects, color correction and music rights.

MD Yes. It’s unbelievable how expensive music rights can be! But we feel strongly about connecting the 80’s Goth sound to the Gothic storyline and we’re going to do everything to keep that vision alive.

MC All of the pledge categories and gifts are listed on our Kickstarter page. So we hope your readers will watch our video, the official movie trailer and then decide to support local independent filmmaking! We invite all of you to join us, and be part of STYRIA.

KS What’s next? What are you thinking about/working on after this film?

MC Interestingly enough both of us have been developing projects connected to San Diego.

MD I’m working on a script called Demon Sands, about the “desert fathers” (saints and prophets from the Bible) and the demons that tormented them as they sought divine revelations about the human soul. I’d like to shoot it out in the desert region of San Diego, Anza Borrego. It’s such a beautiful area, and I don’t feel like I’ve seen much of it on screen.

MC The working title for my script is El Tiburón (The Shark). It’s a psychological thriller about a young couple who take a road trip to Baja and end up in one of those very creepy all-inclusive resorts. It’s a layered story that explores themes of control, manipulation, deception, and ultimately, heartbreak.

But before we get carried away, we’ve got to finish STYRIA!

MD We’ve given this film everything we have, and really want to stay focused and be true to our vision to the very end. It’s really inspiring to realize how close we are to making it happen.

—-

Watch the STYRIA Trailer on vimeo
Keep up to date on STYRIA though the website and facebook page
Donate on their Kickstarter (before Oct 14th) to get copies of the DVD, Blu Ray, Posters, Scripts, Screenings, and more.
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The Photo Palace, A Photo Darkroom on Wheels

Interview with Anton Orlov — An Analog Crusader in the Digital Age

By Katherine Sweetman

Try this: Create a mobile, fully functional photographic darkroom and printing studio then drive it around the country to show the world (starting with the US) that analog photography is not dead! That is what Anton Orlov did this summer.

Ahhh, THE DARKROOM. Do you remember darkrooms? Whatever chaos was happening in the outside world, when I entered a darkroom everything slowed down. The faint humming of a drying fan, the subtle sounds of running water, and the red lights would lull me into a place of calm and quiet meditation. Ok, now mix that darkroom experience with a cross-country road trip. The ups and downs– adventures and engine trouble, open spaces and strange encounters, the wind in your hair and the stresses of being in a cramped space with your companions. The road trip and the darkroom– who would think to mash these two experiences into one thing?

Anton Orlov would. And he calls it The Photo Palace Bus.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the pleasure of working in a darkroom. In fact, before going to check out The Photo Palace, it had been something like 12 years since I did any printing. All the labs at all the schools that I used to work at have now shut down their darkrooms and traded them in for a single black and white printer. It seemed, to me, that darkrooms had all but disappeared from the face of the earth. Until, that is, I stumbled across this exciting project. The guy has fully converted the interior of a vintage, 35-ft, yellow school bus into a classroom, darkroom, workshop space, and it’s mobile. I had the pleasure of interviewing him, Anton Orlov, just after he had returned from a nation-wide, inaugural tour with The Photo Palace, and he’s already gearing up to go again as soon as he can afford it.

What follows is an interview with Anton Orlov (AO) Interviewer Katherine Sweetman (KS)

KS Ok, so tell me about the Photo Palace. What is it? Where was it built and, if I may ask, how did you get the funds to build this amazing vehicle?

AO The Photo Palace Bus is a mobile darkroom dedicated to creation and preservation of traditional photographic art. Built inside a California Classic 1978 Gillig school bus, it hosts two-enlarger workspaces capable of producing B&W prints up to 16×20 inches from up to 4×5 inch negatives. The front portion is a presentation area where public can view historic and contemporary handmade photographic works. It’s design will eventually allow 3-5 people to travel continually and create art while providing lectures, demos and analogue photography workshops. While originally in 1997 it was just conceptualized as my personal mobile lab, over the years of watching the slow demise of film it became clear that it could be a powerful and greatly needed educational facility.

The first stage of the conversion took place in Santa Cruz mountains at the house of Lee Kalem, an electrical engineer whose son Ryan is, like myself, an alumni of San Jose State University with a photography degree. With Ryan’s help and guidance from Lee it took three and a half months of 14-hour days to conclude this first stage. The [second stage] final vision is to be complete as soon as the funding can be made available and will be a second story with two bedroom spaces and a fold-out Portrait Studio on the side of The Bus.

Originally, I was hoping to get part of the construction funded through Kickstarter, but my modest goal of $16K was met only half-way and no funds were transferred. I am very thankful to those donors who chose to re-pledge after the unsuccessful ending of the campaign and transferred a total of $3000 directly through PayPal in exchange for the same rewards that were initially offered. That comprised exactly 10% of the total spent so far on construction. The rest of the funding came directly from my personal savings made over the years while working as a photographer.

On this inaugural journey, I relied heavily on Ryan to provide half the funds needed for diesel in order to cross the country. It was decided that the first trip would be unplanned and uncharted and that we would have just enough money to go around the country, get to know the bus and gather publicity and experience. However, after he decided to leave the project two weeks into the trip, I had to improvise and sell a lot of my photo prints just to make it back to San Diego. After 80 days and 9.300 miles I made it back with a quarter tank of gas left and $37 to my name.

KS Even though your inaugural journey had some speed bumps, you still made an incredible distance, and I imagine you shared the project with tons of folks. Can you tell me where you went and some of the best public engagements experiences you had?

AO The trip started off with a pretty quick drive to Tennessee where this years 41st annual National Rainbow Gathering was taking place. I have been attending and documenting these sub-culture events for the past 15 years, and it was actually at my first one, in 1997, that the idea for a darkroom-bus came to me. There, I gave away about 300 8×10 gelatin silver prints that I had taken at previous gatherings — as I have done for the past many years. I also engaged a few interested souls in a hands-on workshop involving cyanotype sun prints.

The next good exposure opportunity came in Baltimore at this years Artscape event. I sold many prints and had a great time convincing the public that analogue is not dead and that Kodak is a not out of business.

During the trip I found myself visiting the town of New Paltz, New York twice because a friend of mine lives not too far from it, and I was able to find a little refuge from the road at her house. The people of New Paltz were very receptive to my art, and I had dozens of visitors come through the bus. There, I also received the first small donation of chemistry and equipment. I intend on building a large storage area on the roof of the bus behind the bedrooms to be used as a free redistribution center for used darkroom equipment.

During my visit to the state of New York I visited the holy grail of all photographic museums — the George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film (GEH). It is the oldest photography museum in the world and houses some amazing examples of early analog photographs and equipment. I was fortunate enough to meet Mark Osterman — the main conservator and instructor of the classes offered through the museum. These classes give the public a chance to learn many, if not all, of the historic photographic processes. Mark gave me a quick tour of the darkroom facility located in the basement of the museum and showed me a few extremely interesting examples of vintage and modern photographic works created via various manual methods. He was a true wealth of knowledge and a delight to talk to. My passion for learning was reignited by the visit to GEH, and in the future I plan on going back there as many times as needed to learn everything that Mark has to teach.

I went to Buffalo, New York and tried my best to raise the necessary funds to take an ambrotype workshop, which happened to be offered in three days. In the next two days I only raised about 60% of the funds needed, but fortunately, I happened to meet Rob McElroy — a modern-day daguerreotypist [see: daguerreotype] and a true analog and history enthusiast. Our meeting sticks out in my memory as one of the brightest highlights of the entire trip, and it also provided the opportunity for the learning experience of a lifetime.

During our first meeting we spent nearly 9 hours in his studio, study and garage with every moment filled by Rob pulling out some obscure piece of photographic history from the stacked flat-files or camera-filled boxes. I was amazed and enchanted after holding in my own hands such relics as photogravure-filled volumes of Camera Notes magazines, full-plate autochrome plates, fantastic daguerreotypes and many more objects about the existence of which I have only read in art history books.

My second visit to Robs involved something I could have only dreamed of — a complete demonstration of the making of a daguerreotype image with The Photo Palace Bus and me as subjects!

This high honor was completely unforeseen, and I am eternally grateful for that fantastic opportunity and Rob’s magnanimous generosity in presenting me with one of the two resulting daguerreotypes. I spent a total of 11 hours watching over his shoulder as he went through every step involved in making a photograph using this historic method. From polishing and sensitizing the plate to mercury-fume development and framing the final image Robs love for the photographic craft was evident through his meticulous attention to detail and clear in-depth explanations of every step of the process. This is the second of the two frames that Rob produced from our photo session and the one he kept for his collection. Daguerreotype emulsion is the slowest emulsion of them all, and I had to hold this pose for one whole minute. As soon as financially possible I would love to make my way back there and take a full workshop in daguerrean photography from Rob McElroy, and I encourage everyone interested in contacting him for a workshop or a portrait session of their own as he is a true pleasure to work with.

Salem, MA saw the bus parked on a pedestrian promenade in front of Peabody Essex Museum where a beautiful collection of prints by Ansel Adams was on exhibit. I convinced museum staff to let me park Gilli [the name of the bus] there and give the interested public an idea of the environment where Ansel created his silver prints that they just viewed.

My arrival to Portland, ME luckily coincided with an art-walk event there and again I had droves of onlookers come through The Palace, and a lot of them walked away with some of my prints in hand.

Providence, RI saw me doing a little lecture to a group of high school students through New Urban Arts — an organization committed to providing after-school arts education. Here is a link to a video. [by Providence Journal]

Another good opportunity presented itself serendipitously in Topeka, KS. I was approached to do a photography workshop through The Villages Inc. — a place where troubled youth is rehabilitating outside the juvenile courts system. I had four students who experienced the joy of developing and printing black and white images by hand and walked away with 8×10 prints of their own portraits.

The rest of the time I was pretty much guerrilla marketing myself in various towns desperately trying to keep the tank full of gas and making documentary images during my spare time. I visited quite a few camera shops along the way and was warmly received in all of them. Many store owners also bought some of my art and some just contributed donations large and small out of pure goodness of their hearts. I was also overjoyed three times during the trip by having people recognize The Photo Palace Bus from having seen it on Kickstarter 7-8 months ago. Their enthusiasm and sense of incredulity had greatly helped buoy my spirits.

KS Ok, so, In an age of digital, digital, digital, why do you feel its so important to keep these analogue photography techniques alive?

AO The trend of faster plus cheaper plus easier equals better is bothersome to me. I personally feel that investment on the part of the artist of their patience and skill is important, and in the end it speaks through their final piece of art. When I see a finely produced gum bichromate or a gelatin silver print, I know that a certain human being was behind its creation, putting time and effort into that particular tangible object. Do you think Rodin would have worked on 3-D printers? Do you think Rafael would have used Adobe Suite? Would their works withstand the test of times as well if they did? I don’t think so. Today billions of images are created daily, a vast majority of them with little or no thought. In years to come – who will value this onslaught of media? Who will take time to go though all the Flikr, Tumbler, Photobucket etc? A Renoir painting was recently bought as a lot at a flee market for $50 – it is worth over $100K. That work is unique and tactile. It withstood the test of time because of those qualities, and I know that every print I make will be there, appreciated or not, for generations after I am gone from the face of this planet. I also think that a certain level of conviction and dedication is asked of an artist when they decide to make even a simple gelatin silver print. I would hate to see that aspect of art get lost in lieu of mass produced images inundating our reality today. Every image that I produce is TOUCHED by me – that’s what matters most. When it hangs on the wall of the home of someone who bought it, a part of ME hangs there with it. I think that’s the most important point that makes me continue spending countless hours in the red ambiance of the darkroom.

I have seen multiple companies with a slew of wonderful products go under the digital hammer, and I would like to see, at least those that are left, offering artists of the future an opportunity to create something with their own two hands. The technology behind some of techniques of the olden days is now so far gone that people can not reproduce it no matter how hard they try. Thanks to Rob McElroy I was lucky enough to hold in my hands a few Autochrome plates during this journey. Their intrinsic beauty struck me to my core – the look is absolutely unique and every image is a singular work of art. I understand that a very rich man in Texas has been desperately trying for the past many years to revive this technology, with no success at all. The technique of Bromoil printing all but disappeared in the 50s-70s, only to be revived slightly during the 90s, but now is in danger of becoming completely extinct because bromide papers are no longer manufactured. Look at Polaroid. For years people didn’t think twice about the chemical magic that went into each and every image. The Polaroid color pallet is so unique and wonderful that today people, who are used to seeing hundreds of images a day on the screens of their computers and mobile devices, are astonished and enchanted when they are confronted with a real Polaroid SX-70 image. Now it’s turned into a hipster fad led by The Impossible Project – a company with an extremely savvy advertizing department, yet struggling to come up with a single decent product that can come close in comparison to the original Polaroid quality. By god, I hope Fuji doesn’t stop making their instant films — though they have a completely different presence than the old Polaroid films, they still offer the permanency of those films and at least some instant fun with decent results.

KS I know you are still recovering, but what’s in the future for the Photo Palace? If money was no object, what would you do with it and where would you go?

AO If I found a sponsor and money was no object at all, I would continually travel the US providing first-hand opportunities of learning about the rich history of photography to middle and high school students– offering printing workshops myself as well as hosting other artist that work with techniques that I am not familiar with. I would get the second level [second story of the bus] complete for a crew of a couple of helpers who would be in charge of logistics. I would redistribute photographic equipment and help people and organizations set up their own darkrooms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered a free darkroom set during this journey and then in the next town I meet someone who can’t afford to get one but would love to. I would get the studio set up and provide portraiture workshops using various cameras and natural lighting styles. That studio would also be used to create an egalitarian cross-cultural portrait series with free prints provided for anyone who stepped within its bounds. And THE BIG ONE – I call this “My 2020 Vision” – by the year 2020 I would love to have enough experience and financial backing to take Gilli around the world — up to Alaska and across the Bering Straight to Russia, China, India and on and on to Europe. I have had some really warm response so far from the European arts community, and I’d love to give them a pleasure of seeing this baby roll down their streets.

For now, I am looking for an administrative helper — truly inspired artists I know are not the best self-promoters and tend to be shy and reclusive. I am looking into a possibility of establishing a non-profit for The Photo Palace so large grants would be easier to apply for. But, really, I would love to have continuing sponsorship from companies dedicated to analog photography such as Freestyle, Photographers’ Formulary or some larger artistic venues, like Getty or ICP or NYMOMA — I can dream right?. So all we’d have to do is worry about finding new interested audiences and providing them with engaging material and not have to constantly think about how we (me and my imaginary crew) can fund this whole thing.

By myself I am hoping to organize the next trip to start in a couple of months (or sooner if something good happens) and take it MUCH slower. This trip would be just around California (it’s warm in the winter here) and would last for a few months until I can go East via the South. Actually, if money wasn’t a problem I would do the exact same thing, but I would be able to PAY someone to join me and would not have to rely on finding a volunteer as crazy as I am.

KS What can people do to find out more about The Photo Palace, where it will be, how they can get in on some workshops, and find out more info about you and your work?

AO You can check the blog http://thephotopalace.blogspot.com/ to see what’s happening, read about the conversion process, and hear of the trials and tribulations of the first cross-country trip. Everyone is welcome to befriend me or Photo Palace Bus on Facebook and follow us on twitter–@thephotopalace. They can send me direct e-mails to thephotopalace@gmail.com as well as my personal photo website (which is desperate need of updating) with a 100% analogue work is orlovphoto.com

KS In closing, I want to say that interested parties can contact Anton Orlov about photography classes on the bus and as well as in a more traditional darkroom environment in North Park area. Classes and Workshops available. Donations can also be made to the Photo palace Bus project at http://thephotopalace.blogspot.com /p/donate.html

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Sharpen your Conceptual Claws, World: UCSD Open Studios

A simple subjective experience

By Katherine Sweetman

“The Visual Arts Department at UC San Diego encourages experimentation, innovation and risk-taking in scholarly and artistic production. We provide a unique environment for learning and research that crosses the boundaries between history, theory, and practice in the visual arts.”
- from Vis Arts website

Last Saturday the top graduate art program in San Diego opened its doors and gave the public a glimpse into the world of the MFA Visual Arts’ program. Coinciding with the Open Studios event was the department’s annual PhD conference, this year titled New Institutions, and a gallery exhibition with the same name curated by Lara Bullock, Sascha Crasnow and Elmira Mohebaali. From roughly 1-7pm a steady stream of (mainly) “arts insiders” mingled through the Visual Arts Facility on the UCSD Campus that houses the individual studios of the graduate students. Brave guests also ventured into the conference, held in the very-black Black Box theater next to the gallery, where panels and keynote speakers discuss topics like contemporary art and the constructs of Art Institutions.

By the Marcuse gallery’s entrance, the first piece to catch the public off guard was this one by Joe Yorty and John Brady:

Untitled Trailer pieces for San Diego (That's a top heavy boat there) Joe Yorty and John Brady

The concept, explained on the interior gallery wall along with a video projection, spoke of the performative and labor intensive collection of the objects. The mattresses, couches and pillows piled onto this trailer were collected, one by one, from streets and alleyways of San Diego, and the overloaded trailer imitates the familiar (to this region) over-stuffed trailers traveling from San Diego to Tijuana. This trailer however, ended up traveling to La Jolla (in some respects an antithesis of Tijuana), to be put on display as a single art object. While pausing to take a few photographs, I overheard viewers discussing subjects such as American wastefulness, bed bugs, and “Is This Art?”.

Untitled Trailer pieces for San Diego (That's a top heavy boat there) Joe Yorty and John Brady

 

Another attention-grabbing project in the Marcuse Gallery was a video segment by artist Frankie Martin. The project became more appealing, to me, as I learned the piece in the gallery was a smaller segment of a larger video project titled: WE ARE WILD DOGS WITH TURQUOISE FUR LAUGHING AT FULL MOONS (vimeo trailer here).

From website: “This movie is an exploration of the meaning of/desire for context while at the same time creating a context for fellow artists and musicians by including their work in the video. In this way, the project is largely a curated exhibition. Participating artists include; Frankie Martin, Brianna Rigg, Berglind Tomasdottir, Aquapuke, Emily Sevier, Adrienne Garbini, S4E, Extreme Animals, Narwhalz, MEN, Bob Pierzack and Juiceboxxx.

Installation in Marcuse Gallery, Frankie Martin

Installation in Marcuse Gallery, Frankie Martin

The Artist’s studio was dressed up for scenes of her in-progress video. Pictured below is Tattoo Parlor backdrop.

Frankie Martin (right) in her studio with actress from her film

Another artist worth mentioning is Emily Grenader. During Open Studios she exhibited the creation of a very interesting participatory project (similar to one that can be seen here) in which she invited the viewers to pose in front of a green screen for a few moments of video-capturing. She then layered the video into a video crowd portrait– part of her Crowd Painting series.

Emily Grenader in studio working on (digital) Crowd Painting

Emily Grenader's (digital) Crowd Painting in progress

Her practice showed a methodical visual progression from actual crowd paintings, which were also on view in her studio, to this new digital crowd portrait video.

From statement on work: “Her “crowd portraits” bring people together based on unusual circumstances or common details in order to shed new light on different relationships and show comparisons on a single plane.” -http://ucsdopenstudios.com/2012/artists/emily-grenader/

Emily Grenader, example of Crowd Painting (with paint)

The studio to draw the largest crowd was probably one belonging to artist J Noland where an hourly (I believe) performance took place with two members of a marching band and a soft-serve ice cream machine (see below).

Interior of J Nolan's studio, UCSD Open Studios 2012

Interior of J Nolan's studio, UCSD Open Studios 2012

Interior of J Nolan's studio, UCSD Open Studios 2012

And then of course there was this:

Blake Stimson, keynote speaker for New Institutions conference

 

By all accounts (that I heard… or created myself) the UCSD MFA Visual Arts program kept up its appearance as an institution that is encouraging “experimentation, innovation and risk-taking in scholarly and artistic production”. By employing artist/students running the gamut in production techniques, the department will certainly never leave a visitor bored.

I’ll close with a few more images:

by Adrienne Garbini

A small, beautiful video piece by Adrienne Garbini (pictured above) where small ceramic, smiling faces were dropped and shattered, one after another.

Ela Boyd

Artist Ela Boyd standing in front of one of her many intricate projection pieces (pictured above)

Blake Stimson's keynote discussion

Blake Stimson, from UC Davis, pointing out some of the inclusionary memes this photograph has created.

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San Diego Loses an Important Figure in the Visual Arts

[Obituary]

RIP Dennis Paul Batt (1952-2012)

Reported by Katherine Sweetman

"Dennis" Painting by Jen Trut..

Selections from Dennis Paul Batt personal website:

Dennis was a Past-President of the San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild and a former trustee of the San Diego Museum of Art (2000-2002). As Guild President he developed the first democratically juried art exhibition for the organization at the Boehm Gallery in Palomar College and by changing outdated policies, helped grow the Guild membership from 140 to over 600 artists during a two year period. During his tenure with SDMA he started a policy of sharing with other institutions. The Guild joined the Oceanside Museum of Art as a circle member and he worked with the California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum on a strategic planning committee to help reopen the museum after it was closed by the city. He is also the author of “The Living History of the Guild” and was the creator of and contributor to a cutting-edge online magazine called the Artists Ezine.

A long-term resident of Carlsbad, California, he was the co-founder and co-managing trustee of the Outdoor Art Foundation. He served on the board of the Synergy Art Foundation and worked with the committee of the San Diego Visual Arts Network. He also served on the board of COFAC (Consejo Fronterizo de Arte y Cultura – Border Council of Arts & Culture) and worked with the committee of the Oceanside Museum of Art Artists Alliance. He was the founder and web-person for the San Diego Visual Artists Guild, and aided in the creation of a cooperative artist gallery in downtown San Diego (1098 9th Ave.) called the SDVAG Fine Art Gallery.

Dennis was the founder and the executive director of a charitable organization called, the Museum Artists Foundation (MAF). As director of MAF, in accordance with its policy of sharing with other organizations, he presented an elegant fundraiser called “Façade” in conjunction with the Small Opera of San Diego on May 21, 2005. He helped create and designed a multi-phased curated Wildlife Art Exhibition & Sale, which was open to all regional artists, in the San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa Park, dates August 12, 2005 – January 1, 2006. He assisted in the creation of two Carlsbad Masquerades, held on February 25, 2006 and February 24, 2007, to benefit the Outdoor Art Foundation’s Outdoor Art Initiative. He also partnered with Doctors Offering Charitable Services (DOCS) to create “The Unveiling” an Art and Opera fundraiser held on May 19, 2007. He created and keeps current a comprehensive database of over 2,900 regional visual artists including 2,000 email addresses. This database has been shared with several organizations looking for artists to donate work or enter exhibitions. It is growing, kept current, and is made available on request for museums and qualified art organizations.

In January 2007 Dennis launched a new business venture called Virtual Fine Art. He was the owner and President of the company, which features a 3D Interactive Virtual Art Museum. Dennis was a member of the executive steering committee for a local think tank, Imagine Carlsbad. In May, 2007 Dennis was invited to join the San Diego Group Leaders, a multi-organizational networking group of professionals and leaders of various charitable organizations. He was then put on the Campbell Networks with his own events list, which provides information on events for artists, fans of art and those who wish to support the arts, primarily those with an interest in the visual arts.

Since then, Dennis assisted Martin E. Petersen, curator emeritus of the San Diego Museum of Art, to publish his manuscript called “Alice Klauber”online. He was also the curator of a new art gallery, part of the New Village Arts Theater, in Carlsbad. He created the website for San Diego’s Movers & Shakers in the art world.

Dennis was the artist/curator for an exhibition in the Parker Gallery of the Oceanside Museum of Artcalled Commesso: Made in America “Gemstone Fine Art.” The show ran from March 2 – May 1, 2009. This is the first art museum exhibition of commesso di pietre dure e tenere created by American artists. He talked about the exhibition to a standing room only audience on April 25, 2009. In 2009 he joined the Pink Party team and became their art curator and webmaster. In 2010 and 2011 he was the art curator for the Crime Victims Fund annual benefit.

Recently Dennis joined with the House of the Future to create and promote incredible art happenings. He is assisting the Oceanside Museum of Art, and Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair with promotion of their events. Dennis is also working with the San Diego Botanic Gardens Sculpture in the Garden program.

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Art Fair Vital Necessity

Miami Art Scene

Art Fair Vital Necessity and Dirty Whore

By Katherine Sweetman

Each year thousands of patrons (65,000+ this year) make the pilgrimage to Art Basel Miami Beach and/or the countless other happenings, satellite fairs and parties that intentionally overlap this weekend of art-flavored events. This was the 10th year for the Miami fair that’s billed as “the most prestigious art show in the Americas“, and the rumors are that attendance is up, sales are up and rich folks think that art is a better place to stash their cash than Wall Street.

The Art Fair knows its role as both vital necessity and dirty whore. It is necessary to keep art glamorous and trendy in the eyes of the outsider (and stock holder) in order to keep the arts economically viable, but the concept of the Art Fair is inherently problematic and, dare I say, dirty — dressing up the art and hoping for a high bidder to take it home. The fair(s) takes something that is supposed to be pure, like art (or sex), and puts a price tag on it. The fear is that artists become corrupted by the knowledge of what sells and then become “sell outs”– a good phrase for dealers but a bad phrase for artists. But it is when this duality is made apparent, when the art-commodities at the fair point to the fact that commodification of art is dirty, THIS, in my opinion, is the most interesting situation at the Art Fair.

Jonathan Horowitz, Art Delivers People, Art Basel Miami Beach

Jonathan Horowitz, Art Delivers People, Art Basel Miami Beach

While I paused to take these photos (above), very few people stopped to watch Jonathan Horowitz‘s  Art Delivers People, 2010. The piece is a play on Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman’s early 70′s video, Television Delivers People, that effectively critiques television– informing the audience they are the product TV is selling; they are the product that the advertisers are purchasing. Horowitz replaces the critique of television with that of the ART WORLD, and now the fair goers walk by a critique of the art market at that same art market’s most sacred event. At first I thought this was a brave move on the part of Sadie Coles, London (the gallery that paid for the wall space where Art Delivers People was hung), but perhaps collectors enjoy this dichotomy. A prime example of this was seen elsewhere this weekend in Miami, at the Rubell Family Collection‘s exhibition held in conjunction with Art Basel Miami Beach aptly titled American Exuberance. Bert Rodriguez’s The True Artist Makes Useless Shit for Rich People to Buy, 2008, seems to let us know that collectors, at least the Rubells, are in on the joke.

Bert Rodriguez, The True Artist Makes Useless Shit for Rich People to Buy, Rubell Family Collection

The Flash Art magazine booth, back in the Art Basel Miami Beach proper, had one particular item that was selling like hotcakes. The 20$, “Fuck Art Fairs” T-shirts (done in the Art Basel font) were flying off the table. There was actually a line to buy them, and yes, I was in this line. I bought one, and wore it all day Saturday at: Scope, Red Dot, Art Miami, SEVEN.

Booth selling "Fuck Art Fair" T-shirts at Art Basel Miami Beach

On the topic of ironic T’s, I thought I would throw in an image of fair goer (below) sporting a T-shirt with a famous quote from Nazi playwright Hanns Johst (although may be bad translation). Phrase is often attributed to the ultra-evil Nazi henchmen, Joseph Goebbels, but upon closer inspection, it seems the shirt is a commemorative souvenir from another ultra-sheik curated art exhibition, The Venice Biennale.

"When I Hear the Word Art I Reach for My Gun" T-shirt seen at Scope Art Fair

Venice Biennial 2009 Souvenir?

Self reflexivity abounds at the art fair(s) as evidenced by Simon Thompson’s Fuck Off Art Cunts series. I should mention that these images (below) are not from Art Basel Miami Beach but from Scope Miami. An easy tell could be that the booth selling “Fuck Off Art Cunts” prints is a local Miami gallery, the Robert Fontaine Gallery. Art Basel Miami Beach includes very few local galleries. The vetting process is beyond my comprehension, but of the 260 galleries allowed into Art Basel Miami Beach, only three are located in Miami.

Simon Thompson, Fuck Off Art Cunts (in the back there), Scope Miami

Simon Thompson, Fuck Off Art Cunts, Scope Miami

Artist Paulo Nazareth was a big hit at Art Basel Miami Beach this year. His piece may be one of the most cited and photographed works in the fair, but I have yet to see anyone giving any sort of critical overview of the situation. Perhaps the situation is to obvious to analyze. The installation, paid for by the São Paulo-based gallery Mendes Wood, included a rusty VW bus filled up with one-ton of ripe bananas– spilling out onto the convention center floor. The artist seemed to always be on hand, and he became part of the installation.

artist Paulo Nazareth (left)- notice sign (left wall), photo credit: Barbara Revelle

He had a few hand-drawn signs with him. Thursday’s sign said (in Spanish), “Soy un hombre extraño en sus ojos? Saca un foto conmigo por Q1″. Translation: “Am I an exotic man in your eyes? Take a photo with me for 1 Quetzel” (1 Guatemalan Quetzel equivalent to about 12 cents US). The sign was inspired by one of the artists’ photographs of an indigenous-looking Guatemalan man with the same sign obviously posing somewhere tourists frequented. Now, the artist is the hombre extraño in the eyes of the art collector and fair goers.

(detail) "Soy un hombre extraño en sus ojos? Saca un foto conmigo por Q1"

I watched people interact with the installation and the artist, and I saw many of them stop to pose and have their photo taken, but I didn’t see anyone really fork over the Quetzel. Perfumed, face-lifted, white ladies with their older husbands paused and spoke with the Brazillian artist. Lots of people smiled and laughed, “what an interesting installation,” they remarked as they took photos. The artist’s objectification and the critique on class, wealth, and power became a critique on the fair goer and the fair itself. Nazareth’s work was the closest to performance that I witnesses inside the Art Basel Miami Beach fair although some performances were moved outdoors to be part of the Art Public (Public Art mainly in a beach-front park separate from the fair). The only performance that I happened across was by new york artist Jen DeNike from the same São Paulo-based gallery as Paulo Nazareth (Mendes Wood).

Jen DeNike, Lemanjá, Art BAsel Miami Beach- Art Public

Jen DeNike, Lemanjá, Art Basel Miami Beach- Art Public

I read that the piece was about the worship the Brazilian sea goddess “Lemanjá”, but the highlight of this performance, for me, was the backdrop because typically when I see performance art with pretty girls in pretty dresses my brain shuts off, and an 80° South Beach day in December was breathtakingly beautiful. I wondered why I didn’t skip the art and go grab my bathing suit and a Piñacolada. (Actually I did have that Piñacolada.)

I believe that for most people, self-included, Art Basel Miami Beach, is eclipsed by the other events and happenings around Miami during this weekend. The Wynwood area events, for example, are an amazing and sprawling collection of galleries, warehouses, public and private collectors’ spaces, pop up galleries in vacant properties, parties in parking lots, live street painting, and general parties with live music, fashion shows and art backdrops.

vacant lot, pop up gallery, featuring Art Cream Truck

Art Cream Truck (above) in a open lot in the Wynwood Arts District.

“I got tired of waiting for you to come to my galleries so I decided to bring my art to you…” from Art Cream Truck website.

Wynwood Arts District

 

Bride as art, Wynwood Arts District gallery

Although these murals (below) were not made for this particular iteration of Miami Basel, Wynwood Walls featured many of the famous street artists, the ones that now sell work for millions of dollars.

Shepard Fairy mural at Wynwood Walls ... (done in 2009)

Ron English Mural (2010)

On the topic of pop culture, and street artists… Absent from Wynwood Walls, but showing very strong in both Wynwood and in Miami Beach was Mr. Brainwash. He had two large events during Basel weekend. I only got into one of them.

Mr. Brainwash takes over a building in Miami Beach, photo credit: Barbara Revelle

Mr. Brainwash poses for Reviewer Magzine

 

In closing, the Art Fair is necessary and dirty. Some might argue the same traits apply to the prostitution industry. Either way, it was a fabulous experience. And I think I would do it again.

See more images at my personal blog

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Meet our Arts Editor, Katherine

[Announcement]

Introducing The New Reviewer Magazine

Contributing Art Editor, Katherine Sweetman


Katherine Sweetman

Reviewer Magazine welcomes the smart and savvy writer, artist and filmmaker, Katherine Sweetman as the new Arts editor.

Katherine’s intriguing list of accomplishments include; directing 3D Reality TV shows on such provocative topics as strippers and amateur cage fighters; running art galleries in Tijuana; inspiring boycotts of the San Diego Union Tribune; teaching courses on visual culture, media and art at The University of California San Diego, San Diego State University, California State University, San Marcos, and Southwestern College.

Katherine is known for her sharp tongue, her interesting friends, her unconventional work and her skillful writing. Her credentials include a MFA from UCSD in visual arts, a BA in Arts and Technology, and a certificate from The New School University. She has written previously for San Diego City Beat, San Diego Visual Arts Network, San Diego Entertainer Magazine, Pros* Journal, Artweek, and more.

Reviewer Magazine is excited about her upcoming interviews, reviews, and opinions on visual art. “I am beyond thrilled to have Katherine assume the art editor’s position here at Reviewer,” said Reviewer Rob, Editor-In-Chief. “She’ll be working the art beat, locally (San Diego, Tijuana, LA), and nationally. Katherine has so much talent my expectations for her are unlimited,” he said.

Look out for Katherine’s upcoming reports on her trip to International Art Fair, Art Basel Miami.

“I’m very excited to write for an open-minded publication that’s not afraid of what I might say,” Katherine said.

Art denizens and malcontents to the status quo can send their ideas for arts stories to Katherine at
me@katherinesweetman.com or through Reviewer Magazine at editor@reviewermagazine.com.

Katherine wielding the documentary video camera.

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LITTLE SHIVA

[Artist Profile]

Little Shiva interview

By Anne Sophie

Who are you?

I’m Little Shiva. I do image and design, instigate trash-awareness events with The Visible Trash Society, and publish Fingerpainting on Mars. I grew up traveling since my dad was in the US Navy: I was born in 1964 and we moved every two years, taking long, scenic road trips from coast to coast each time we moved. In 1972 my dad was sent to Athens, Greece and in 1974 to Brussels, Belgium, so I spent 6 years in Europe.

We traveled a lot over there too, and seeing so much of the world during all those formative years really shaped my non-attachment to “place” and my sense of being connected to anywhere and everywhere. My parents were very fun and encouraging, so I had the confidence that anything was possible. We came back to the States in 1978, just in time for me to start high school in Coronado, California. My mom got diagnosed with cancer around the same time, so that’s when I started living with death over my shoulder. Fuck death!

We moved to Eugene, Oregon for my last year of high school, then in 1982 I took off for NYC and Parsons School of Design. I loved school and had some really great teachers, including Cipe Pineles, Lance Wyman and JC Suarès. I also did a short apprenticeship with Reba Sochis and a longer one with Keith Godard before starting my freelance biz, The Ministry of Fun. Nowdays I just call it little shiva dot com. I chose to freelance when I realized that school was the set-up for a career as a corporate tool – screw that! I decided to work for myself, my friends, and projects I believe in, with as little concession as possible. So far, so good!

I stayed in NYC for 17 years, then left in 1999 to live with my Danish grandma in Charlotte, NC. You can read about that on Weird Charlotte, a site I made towards the end of my 7 years there. Being in such a culturally uninspiring place turned out to be a great motivator for me to do my own thing: I published a zine called QZ made an art car I called The Dotmobile had a column in the local alt weekly for a few years called Hot Linx. Then I fell in love with Thierry Tillier and moved to Charleroi, Belgium, which is home base when we’re not traveling.

What is the Visible Trash Society?

It started when I met Judith Selby-Lang, her husband Richard Lang and their trash-covered truck “A Feather on the Breath of God” the day after they got married at Burning Man in 2004. My pissed-offness at sloppy, wasteful people combined with Judith and Richard’s story of trash-art activism ignited a spark, and when I got home I started a slow-growing blog where I post pictures and links to artwork and art-related actions I like, on the very general theme of trash. By that I mean all the stuff we discard and overlook. I’m inspired by the big visionary work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Jo Hanson and Patricia Johanson who’ve applied design thinking and artistic vision to concrete problems like pollution and our endless stream of waste. I also love Rolando Politi, Yanbuki and founder of Trash Worship, and Pam Longobardi who makes beautiful things from sea debris. I’m awed by the energy of Leila Darabi who I call the Queen of Trash for the sheer volume of good, original content she keeps flowing through her blog everydaytrash.com. And there are many others I’ve met along the way. Knowing these people are out there helps me keep a shred of faith in humanity, which on some days comes dangerously close to being lost.

As for my own trash activism, it’s still pretty low-key – I think of it as incubating. I make costumes, jewelry and other accessories from all kinds of discarded objects, and have done guerrilla performance. I’d like to curate a show called Visible Trash – Art Into Action with artists I’ve been following over the years, and as soon as I can find an art space with a bit of a budget, that can happen. I have a mail-art call out now to gather materials for one part of that show. I developed a character called Trashbaby who serves as an inspiring alter-ego, and did a photo essay as work-process.

What is Fingerpainting on Mars?

Fingerpainting on Mars is a time capsule, a “contemp’art maga/ZINnnn-thing” that I produce once a year. I gather content, edit, design, print and finance it as a labor of love, then distribute it via the mail, by going places with it myself and via a small but dedicated group I call TEAM DISTRO. These are people who like the project, who’ve manifested their presence along the way, and who serve as reliable contacts in faraway (from me) places. I don’t seek them out, I just sense them as they appear. Distribution is one of the most important parts of the project: after all, I’m not doing all this work and paying all this money so the magazines can sit around in boxes in my office! I’m aiming at a good mix of high and low: I want the magazine to appear in classy cultural institutions, galleries and museums as well as in places where culture isn’t being packaged and presented but is happening spontaneously – living and vibrant – by the people, for the people. I’ve gotten my foot in the door at some of both and have a few reliable spots which I mention on the website. So I cultivate this network, weeding and growing it each year, and in no hurry because I see this as a long-term project.

I self-finance because I don’t want to be bothered spending energy begging for money, and I certainly don’t want to have a sponsor who’d want a say in what content I publish, how I lay it out, who can advertise and so on. And so far, no one’s volunteered to pay for it and let me do as I please – I might not say no to that! I do a postcard edition once or twice a year which serves as a fundraiser: people buy in and get 500 high-quality postcards of the image of their choice. It’s a small art edition, and there are usually some extras, or else people let me keep some of the 500, so I put those out here and there as I travel around. Again, it’s all DIY distro. People can also advertise in the magazine, make donations on the website in any amount they choose, and can order copies by mail as well. I call all that “supporting the space program” and am very grateful when people are generous and participate like that. So far I’ve never even covered the costs of doing all this, and because it’s just a once-a-year thing it takes longer to build momentum and participation, but I believe that as the project goes on, more people will begin to appreciate it and get involved financially or by helping with distribution.

As for content, I include stuff I like, stuff that moves me, stuff I’d like other people to know about. The outside of the sheet has the covers, the intro and two feature stories per issue where I go deep into a subject, complemented by a translation (sometimes) on the website as well as extra pics and linx. The magazine is mostly in English, but I have a lot of French readers as well, so now a little more French is creeping in. In Europe this isn’t unusual, but the Americans freak out about it sometimes. Issue 02, the current issue, has an entire feature story in French, and some of the smaller stories too. I’ll try to get translations on the website someday, I promise. Since translating is one of my least-favorite activities, it’ll take a while. I do it well (EN/FR) but it’s a pain in the ass. I’d much rather be playing with pictures.

The rest of the content consists of smaller single-page features, a section of snippets of info about stuff I like with web addresses for reference, then news and more news: that’s the time-sensitive stuff, and I let my helper gather that. It’s always current at the time of publication, but it doesn’t bother me one bit to be distributing the magazine on into the year with out-of-date news – that’s part of the time capsule concept, and anyway, what’s old news to some is still good news if you’ve never heard about it, so who cares? “Old news, still good” is one of my favorite sayings. The visual anchor for each issue on the inside of the sheet is a feature I call “radiant linx,” a one-page visual feature where I do some big image surrounded by radiant URL’s to sites I find interesting and whose addresses aren’t too unwieldy to print. The links are really fun, and someday I may make the effort of translating ‘em to web so they’ll actually be clickable.

The reason I call it a “magaZINnnn-thing” is because content-wise I see it as a cross between a magazine and a zine, and design-wise it really is a THING, an object, not like a traditional magazine at all. It’s a big poster-size sheet of paper printed on both sides then folded a few times so the final presentation is A4 (the european version of US letter size), and it’s pretty like candy.

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