Reflections Of Northern Brazil: The World Cup 2014

Reflections Of Northern Brazil: The World Cup 2014 by Lucas Reckhaus

 photo

 

The airplane is packed with Mexicans. Oversized Sombreros, eagle feathers and

wrestling masks stick out above of the seats of the plane.

Beneath, vast fields of grass and sugarcane have given way to a deep green forest.

We’re on our way to Natal—the city of  nativity—and one of the most northern

host cities of the World Cup. Getting this far already involved a missed flight out

of Newark—resulting in our missing luggage—a miraculous dash to JFK onto another

plane, and a layover in Sao Paolo before three more hours to Natal.

 

As the plane touches down, the Mexicans erupt like an Aztec volcano: a spontaneous

symphony of drumming, singing, screaming and clapping, all in perfect harmony. A

tear wells up in my eye…I’ve made it.

 

Our missing luggage turns out to be a blessing in disguise.  The uncle who picks us up

is driving a car the size of a shoe-box; not remotely big enough to fit the two giant

suitcases, filled with tools, wheel-chair parts, clothes and presents, brought along by

Tony, plus the giant suitcase of his daughter Camilla, and my own bag.

 

The air is hot, the sun bright, the earth red, the smell is sweet. We leave the airport

along an unfinished highway—cobblestones along the edges are missing, grass and trees are yet

to be planted, unpaved earthen roadways branch off every so often—it was ‘finished’ only three

days ago.  After the tournament, few expect it to be completed.

 

Natal is almost an hour away we’re told. There is a functioning international

 

airport right next to the city, but that was closed down in favor of building the new

terminal at which we arrived, far out in the middle of the jungle. Word on the street

is someone with political connections owned the land and made a hefty profit.

 

The towns we pass through are covered in yellow, blue and green. It is the first day

of the tournament and Brazil plays in one hour. Everyone is on their way to watch

the game. Three people packed on a motorcycle (barefoot) with a Brazilian flag

flying behind them pass us. We grace them with a loud honk!

 

Watching the game at at our host’s place, you can feel the excitement in the air.

Every touch of is met with groans and shouts from the neighborhood, watching in the

street. When Brazil scores, explosions sound.

 

Natal is changing. It is obvious as soon as you drive into the heart of town. The

center is filled with residential high rises, and our hosts are quick to point out one

of Brazil’s largest malls. Yet the city is not particularly compact, most people live in single

storey homes, protected by walls mounted with broken glass.

 

The stadium is dubbed “Las Dunas” for the famous orange-yellow-red dunes that

surround the city, and lead down to the sea. At night, when lit up, its resembles a

glowing sea-shell. Our game is a dud, neither the Greeks or Japanese can create any

kind of rhythm in their game. The Japanese fan block is great though, inhaling and

exhaling in a single breath with every move of their team, drumming non-stop.

 

Outside the stadium security is average. There are fan activities, and a Coca-Cola

sponsored charity event where poor children are sent a kind of party/care bag

signed by you, the privileged attendee… a pittance of a gift compared to the 11 billion in spending the

government chose to lavish on the tournament, instead of hospitals and education.

And then there is the rain, every day a monsoon for several hours. After two

straight days in the apartment we jump ship on an overnight bus to Maceio.

I’m sitting next to a boy of 12, he’s traveling alone to see his father. I’m impressed.

We talk through my broken Portu-Spanish about American popular culture, what video games are cool, TV

shows, etc. It’s the usual big names, though I struggle to understand his pronunciation at times. Outside the

bus passes through an endless landscape of small towns and houses along the road. Every so often people

gather together at a lone gas station or late night bar.  Our own bus stops in time to watch the second half of England

against Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus, the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

The Entire bus floods into the rest-stop, everyones eyes immediately scanning for the TV.  For half an hour the place is

filled with people doing their best to watch, eat, and drink, all at the same time.  The score is tied 1-1, but low and behold,

the Italians prove more cunning than the English and score.  In the World Cup, history provides the guide to future success

and failure.  English fans know this better than any.  As we leave, I can see the waiters’ pace slowing back down to their

usual late night norm.

We reach Maceio around six in the morning.  My little friend says his father will pick him up,

but he doesn’t have a number for him. He is surprisingly calm. We leave him with a “best of luck” wish.

Maceio is the chosen home of the Ghanaian soccer team. Their hotel is next to

our building. The beachfront is lined with posters welcoming them as guests. I’m

impressed by the location. After the tournament however, it comes out that their

football association had been cutting costs, and that the team was unhappy with

the accommodations, oh well.

 

The best part of the beach is the reef. At low tide small boats will sail you out to the

shallow water teeming with fish. The full bar and grill with swimming waiters is the

kind of genius that only exists outside of America. The interior of the city is mostly lower middle class,

but it has all the amenities one would expect. Still, the action is down by the water.

The Festival Sao Juan is taking place. There is a competition in which dance teams

from all over the north perform. The story boils down to that of a shot-gun style

wedding between a bride and groom, capped by the appearance of the bandit.

The men carry toy guns, the women knives. The costumes and choreography are

exquisite. After each show, at least one dancer falls unconscious. Medics quickly assist them.

We order kebabs. The old women promptly takes them off the serving stick…last

year someone was stabbed and now they can only be presented that way.

 

Our bus ride back has a layover in Recife. At four in the morning, the bus stop is a

grim place. Its hot, flies circle the people at the one open bar. Stray cats roam in

plain sight. The entire second floor is closed off and looks like its been that way

for years. The exterior of the building is covered in soot. Later I read an account

of the child prostitution going on nearby, and how allegedly taxi drivers have been

advertising to tourists they pick up at the bus station….

After a brief return to Natal we navigate our way back to the wayward airport in the

jungle outside the city, and catch a flight to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil’s first capital,

and the African heart of the country.

Salvador lies on a bay. The old city is divided into two parts, high and low. A great

white elevator connects the two areas, and is one of the celebrated landmarks of the

city. In reality, the city is not divided between high and low, so much as rich and

poor, with a middle class navigating the world between the two.  The “Arena Fonte Nova” sits in the intersection of these three worlds, with favela’s looking down into the colossium on two sides, while a park and the city’s new elevated subway grace the other two.  Illegal venders selling beer and water line the ramparts leading to the arena for a half-mile.  Fans move in to the stadium as if sucked in along veins leading to a pulsing heart.  The Fonte Nova becomes dubbed the “The Stadium of Goals.”

In the tourist center, colonial buildings stun with their beauty, and sadden by their

abject state. Often only the façade is still standing. Centuries of dirt, graffiti, and

neglect are evidence of the longstanding disinterest of the government in maintaining

the historical past of the city. Yet new buildings have faired no better. The business part of town looks

apocalyptic at night. Not a light on, no one walking the streets, not a store open.

The buildings equally dirty. We are parking our car there en route to the barrio alto

for another carnival festival. As we look for a spot, people jump out at us to “assist,”

and “guard” our car. A common occupation in Brazil, but here the competition is

particularly fierce.

 

In the old part of town, high up on the hill overlooking the bay, the scene changes.

We emerge into a square packed with people dancing. Beer and Caipirinas flow

along the five hundred year-old cobblestones, music is booming out from a giant

stage, while in the center of the packed crowd, an island of vendors are selling food

and drinks. We stick together in a tight pack lest we be separated.

A street leads down-hill from the main square to an open area.   Another music stage is set up.

I’m told this was once the place where slaves were publicly punished.  Now it’s the scene of a dance.

photo 6

Jeff Koons reviewed by Beth Morgan

Jeff Koons and the Re-weird Function

 

This relationship between play and sexuality is referenced all through the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes with inflections of the ominous. Koons’s series The New is an example of a happy appearance of this theme.

The series includes several sculptures made from brand new appliances in various interactions with fluorescent lights. A toaster rests vertically against a bulb as if drawn to it. Vacuum cleaners are stacked in Plexiglas boxes, illuminated by horizontal bulbs. In this context, upright, perky, and bathed in hygienic light, the vacuum cleaners look almost cute. Koons frequently plays around with marketing concepts, and this series stresses the please-please-take-me-home aspect of products in a store window. Some of the appliances are reclined over the horizontal light-bulbs as if on a tanning bed. The whole thing looks humanoid, but cartoonish instead of uncanny. The section label for The New series quotes Koons saying, about his thought process during the creation of the series, “Vacuum cleaners to me were anthropomorphic . . . They had this sexual reference, having orifices and a sucking power, and their shapes can be both masculine and feminine.”  Koons used the word “virginal” to describe the light inside the boxes, and it’s an important word. The shade of the light is remarkable. It’s so clean. It would feel completely different were the light yellow instead of white. The boxes seem like a joyful riff on a more sordid scenario involving a glass-partition, something like a peep-show booth in a back room. On the other hand, Koons’ series Banality has very different undercurrents. This series does engage with the uncanny and the eerie, better than any other series in the retrospective.

There’s a piece in Banality called Bear and Policeman, which depicts a man in a police uniform embraced by a wide-eyed bear. The bear holds the policeman’s police whistle in his paw, as if about to blow it. There is nothing explicitly sexual about the situation except the generally sexual feeling to it. And the bear’s eyes are awfully wide. The same is true of Naked, a polychrome sculpture of two naked children holding a flower from which emerges a phallic-looking stamen. This time the erotic message is less difficult to decode. Each of the figures depicts some sort of childlike scenario with subtle sexual overtones. The famous piece Michael Jackson and Bubbles is a rendering in kitschy porcelain of Michael Jackson holding his pet monkey, Bubbles. Michael Jackson is practically shorthand for ‘childlike with subtle sexual overtones.’

Every series in the Koons retrospective at the Whitney has its own brand of sensuality. What’s great about this series in particular is that it recreates the shadowy feeling of that time during childhood where the presence of sex in adult lives can be felt, but not quite understood. In which the weight and importance of sex are influential in a way that a child can sense without knowing the specifics. The figures of Banality seem so strong because they re-weird the world by mimicking things we think we know, and perverting them slightly. The kitschy, fakey-fake forms recall an amusement park, or even a Chuck. E. Cheese. It made me remember the time, when I was eight-years-old, that a friend showed me her anatomically correct baby doll. It was incredibly realistic, indistinguishable from a real baby in every way (including miniature male genitals) except for its lack of movement. This was a different kind of thrill than I got with normal toys. Because I didn’t completely understand anatomy at the time, the doll had a creepy, dissonant appeal that was terrifying at the same time that it was fascinating.

Celebration is not Koons’s most recent series but it’s certainly the most compelling of those at the Whitney right now. A massive sculpture, Play-doh, dominates the center of the room. It depicts a huge, ten-foot-tall stack of Play-doh. The texture and shape of the Play-doh (some of the blobs retaining a shape that suggests it has just been taken out of the canister), is crafted to scale so convincingly that in a photograph, it might be mistaken for the conventional size.

The famous Balloon Dog (Yellow) is also a part of this series. It’s an enjoyable irony that the dog weighs a literal ton. The piece took six years to realize since Koons wanted the illusion of hyper-realistic near-weightlessness, taking into account even the knotted joints where the rubber of the balloon animal twists.

Air and circulation of air are thematic, sensual aspects of structures such as Balloon Dog (Yellow), the vacuum cleaner sculptures of The New, and a handful of pieces in the Popeye series. These include Seal Walrus (Chairs) and Seal Walrus (Trashcans). In these pieces, pool-toy inflatables intertwine impossibly with plastic folding chairs (price stickers still attached) or metal garbage cans. It takes a good minute of inspecting the inflatables to realize that they are in fact made of polychromed aluminum, not inflated plastic. The inflatables absorb the chairs/trash cans in the same way that a hologram might, but are still plausible enough in texture and detail to be taken for the genuine article. It completely changes the feeling towards the work once you understand that these aren’t purchased items, like Duchamp’s readymades, but constructed readymades, with meaningful deviations that distinguish them from the real thing. Like some of the smaller balloon animal pieces, including the 1986 work Rabbit, the sensation of looking at the pieces changes with the realization that they’re not filled with air.

Other less interesting pieces, such as Lifeboat and Aqualung from the Equilibrium series, also play with the idea of the paradoxically heavy inflatable. These pieces are constructed from bronze and are more abstractly than visually engaging (the idea being that any life-vest or life-boat made from bronze would sink rather than save you).

More disappointing was Made In Heaven, an infamous series that features several photographs of the artist in graphic sexual positions with Italian personality and porn star Ilona Staller, his wife at the time. The visual extravagance of the makeup and butterfly graphics are attractive, but without the 1990s context in which these works were conceived, and unaccompanied by some of the other, racier photographs in the series, they aren’t as legible or engaging as expected. I kept looking around for the dirtier pictures and found a poodle sculpture instead. I can’t complain though because the poodle was great.

A notable common feature of every single piece in the retrospective is the ostentatious perfection of the artwork. There is frequent mention in object labels of the fantastic amount of people involved, years spent in construction, rare processes used, and obscure scientists consulted in order to execute the marvel upon which you now gaze. Apparently, the collage prints in the Easyfun-Ethereal series were actually made using computers. Heavens.

But perfection in Jeff Koons’ work isn’t just a side-effect of a driven person attempting to produce the most excellent work possible. It’s a concept explored and glorified and sometimes inverted. There’s one particular piece I didn’t notice at first, because it’s one of the least colorful works and even though eight feet tall, seems small compared to the mammoth works around it.  Gorilla, which was cast from a miniature toy souvenir of a gorilla, is conceptually my favorite piece. Like so many of the other sculptures, Gorilla has the nicely confusing effect of enlarging an object while preserving all of its attributes. The toy itself was nothing special, a mass-produced piece of plastic with the seams of the mold visible. The toy may not have been marvelous but Gorilla is, because it retains all of the original toy’s flaws, including the seams of the mold. It’s the sloppiness of the shape, exaggerated by scale, that makes this piece so compelling. Koons takes the un-special qualities of the toy and renders them momentous. He converts the imperfect into the perfect, in the same way that Play-doh is so good because the structure seems spontaneous, even if it’s anything but.

The relationship that Koons’ work has with perfection might best be synthesized in a quote from a recent profile of Jeff Koons in Vanity Fair. He’s discussing the Made in Heaven series, with its exaggerated pornographic scenarios and poster-ready poses. Speaking about one of the more graphic prints, he says, “What I really like about it are the pimple’s on Ilona’s ass.” It’s all self-consciously artificial, but no matter what, he makes sure the texture is right.

While walking through the charismatic pieces at the retrospective, it’s worth keeping in mind that this year Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for 58.4 million, the highest price ever paid for work by a living artist. Koons engages with marketing concepts in a very real way, not just intellectually. His work doesn’t mock capitalism so much as dance with it. His search for aesthetic perfection is so exhibitionistic and so obsessed that it verges on fetish. The massive, revenue-producing machine that is Jeff Koons, who has over 100 people working for him and produces fewer than 20 pieces annually, recalls certain other companies obsessed with form, like Apple. The difference between the two probably has a lot to do with temperature. The word for Koons’ work isn’t accessible, it’s more like “welcoming.” Just as I was drawn to Gorilla, there’s sure to be something at the Whitney for everybody.

Koons is not an excluding or cold artist, he’s a supernatural intersection between big and small, playful and colossal. The reason he’s special is because it’s so rare to see un-serious things done so seriously. Like products in a display case, his work wants to be liked and wants to arouse. In this sense, Jeff Koons is a gifted salesman.

 

Momenta Art presents Kathleen White

Kathleen White

(A) Rake’s Progress curated by Rafael Sánchez

August 8-31, 2014

Opening reception:

Friday, August 8, 6-8pm

Sound Texts: Sunday, August 31, 7pm readings performed by Jim Fletcher, Joey Gabriel, Rafael Sánchez, Kate Valk, Kathleen White

 Momenta Art is pleased to present an installation of the work of Kathleen White.

The exhibition, (A) Rake’s Progress, is comprised of the complete polymorphichrome drawings produced by Ms. White outdoors in the summer of 2009. The cycle of pastels on paper, a progression numbering 71 works, were created in remembrance of Ms. White’s late brother Chris White.

Chris’s suicide of 2007 was unreconcilable. Gripped by the shadow of loss, I spent a year studying the colors in my Ludlow Street courtyard —the wild garden was transformed from a derelict garbage heap by Rafael and myself. Knowing also that the garden would soon be lost to the high rents plaguing our city -as “the lost decade”, “the fear decade”, “the greed decade” turned 9 -this physical exploration of color through its endless grinding, its proliferating combinations and intense contact onto the page is at once a stance of grace and defiance against the all the world’s insults.

The “glut” of information which prevails over the pursuit of knowledge and feeling in modern times is of particular distress to Ms. White who often utilizes the phrase, “Get out of the way, hobo!” to refer to the state of our present culture’s pervasive, implosive, subtly celebrated, corrosion of empathy. As in the artist’s earlier installations over the past three decades this presentation is in keeping with Ms. White’s practice of creating spaces of reverence, connection and love.

The choice of the pastels was made during a conversation with Mr. Sánchez, “I want this to be an installation of color and sound.” The two artists who have collaborated on numerous acclaimed projects looked to this body of work that has lain dormant for five years. The inclination toward sound comes from a more recent body of work by Ms. White, Sound Texts, which will be represented by the recorded sounds of her instrument of choice during their production: the typewriter.

This “allusion soundtracking” of one group of work with another is an intentional experiment in creating a conversation that might not otherwise exist but through its performance in time and space. The bodies of work are thus considered as characters or beings unto themselves …bodies that are allowed to engage as in a play. The gesture is also intended as a commingling of aspects through pure intention in their simplest forms: “Here …these colors and these sounds.” The Sound Texts will be performed on site by readers on the last day of the show, Sunday August 31.

The show’s title, (A) Rake’s Progress is a multilayered reference to the 1732-33 series of paintings by William Hogarth, (considered to be one of the first storyboards in western art history). The inclusion of an actual rake within the installation refers to the garden where the polymorphichrome drawings were created and thus also serving as a readymade reversal on Hogarth’s tale, signifying the passage of time.

A twist on the rake as not only the individual lost in their desires is also suggested, offering the possibility of the rake as a symbol of the world itself that proceeds in an escalating progression of squandered morals.

(Text written by Rafael Sánchez / edited by Momenta Art)

Solo exhibitions of note by Kathleen White include The Spark Between L and D (Straight Line Studios, 1987); Spirits of Manhattan (Apex Art, 1997), Devotion (Participant Inc, 2004); Palettes (Charlois, Rotterdam, 2010); Her 1993 Hair Suitcase was also included in Familiar Feelings, on the Boston Group, Centro Callego de Arte Contemoranéa, Santiago de Compostela, Spain in 2010.

Kathleen White studied painting at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has created sets for Bolshoi Ballet, prepared costumes and participated with NYC performance legends including The Lady Bunny, Flloyd, David Dalrymple and has appeared as a subject in iconic photographs by Nan Goldin, David Armstrong and Linda Simpson. In recent years she has performed and collaborated with Rafael Sánchez on numerous projects including Double-Bill (Art in General, 2010); Somewhat Portable Dolmen (The Street Files, El Museo del Barrio, 2011); alLuPiNiT, the new york city environ mental magazine (Millennium Magazines, MoMA, 2012). The two artists have operated their (set up the) Table Project (break it down) an outdoor bookstand at 579 Hudson Street, NYC since 2004.

Ms. White is a 2014 Pollock-Krasner Grant recipient. Kathleen White (A) Rake’s Progress at Momenta Art marks the artist’s first Solo Exhibition in New York in a decade.

Robin Williams and the Art of Listening by Vennila Kain

Robin Williams and the Art of Listening
By
Vennila Kain

Robin Williams, more than anything was an impeccable listener. Yes he could talk a light year a minute, but even then he listened.

He listened with utter concentration not only to content, accents, inflections, tonality, mannerisms, which he could then miraculously and hilariously reproduce, but also to the space in which something was being said to find the humour in the apparent tragic self-seriousness in manner that many adopt as an approximation to actually living. In this space of intense listening, the realm of the absurd revealed itself generously to him, which he then shared with us in all crudeness, delicacy, sensitivity, spontaneity, rawness, dexterity, sparkling wit and sheer bonhomie. His humour was devoid of cynicism and outrage. But all the more powerful then in the presenting of truth. I recall an interview, where he narrated that a German TV interviewer once asked him why the Germans did not have a sense of humour, to which he had responded with ‘well, have you considered that you had tried to kill all the funny people’.
In this regard he was the ultimate listener. His listening so complete, there was no opposition to what was being encountered, rather in the space provided, that which is being encountered can encounter itself and understanding inevitably arises. And humour. Hilarity and the general ridiculousness in all that  we take to be so true and sacred, and serious, and tragic, incorrigible and locked in an eternal wrestle, ever making war with what actually is.
He listened actively, while performing, assessing the landing of his performance and to the subtle receptive cues from the audience and passively to all that happened around him, on a constant basis, allowing for the absorption and the delicate transformations which would then pour out of him in a micro moment’s notice.
Like many I had seen Mrs. Doubtfire and enjoyed his performance immensely, but it was while watching Good Will Hunting that I took real notice of him, in his incredibly sensitive and deeply restrained performance. There was this scene in which I think he is sitting by a bench in a park, and there was this subtle, subtle shift in his eyes, that conveyed a whole world of immensity, of pathos, that I sat up and thought, oh! This is acting. It was holy. It was sacred. It was profoundly human.
So then, it was with great sadness I heard the news of his death. And  in paying my tribute vicariously by reading much of what was being written about in the media, it grieved me even more greatly to read the posthumous re-publication of an interview from a few years ago with The Guardian’s Decca Aitkenhead. The pervasive feeling reading, of course in the context of his tragic death, was that of his not being listened to, and the writing laced with a subtle seeming mockery of his even wanting to talk, actually talk, and be present in all his human dimension, rather than parrot, posture his way through an interview, like any odd celebrity, ought to. In the article, she clearly implies that he wanted to talk about things meaningful to him, that were personal, yet so very universal, and she seems profoundly incapable of listening to it. I do not blame the journalist for her inability to listen and be present to the interview that was happening, although that is the kind of interview she admits journalists want,  but hardly ever get, for it is only indicative of the world at large that seems to have lost the simple art of simply listening. Besides wanting what it does not have, and ignoring what is being present, just right then. But that is another topic for another day.
We go through the rehearsed motions of our everyday interaction, so that we might actually avoid encountering any actual emotion. In this infamous interview, Robin Williams was raw, vulnerable, bravely exposed, warts and all, sans the armor of performance, entertainer or not, everybody dons, day in and day out, ever hiding the real face of our very selves, even from our very own selves. Having undergone an open heart surgery, he was willing to let go, be naked without this fake face,  he was willing to experience the landscape of his interiority and god forbid, share this space as he found himself in, with someone ostensibly interested in ‘inter-viewing’ him.
Real listening is profoundly sacred, in that it is thoroughly healing. If not in a tangible and medical sense, but in an ineffable but thoroughly experienceable way. In this listening, you listen as a whole being, completely present to what is being said and left unsaid, without any preconceptions or prejudices, without any running commentaries in your mind, judgments or pronouncements, or preparations for a response.
This kind of listening is available to all of us. We all did that as children, say listening to our bedside stories. Such wide-eyed listening is still available to us. We are all capable of doing this. But rarely do. It is not something that we have to do in some big way for the sake of others, because, such real listening is beneficial to both listener and the listened to. It cleans out the illusory cobwebs of our minds and prevents them from becoming so dense as to be almost impenetrable to its own illuming light. In a healthy society such listening is as normal and common place as breathing. Nothing too esoteric about it. Although being this way in a regular manner is quite likely to bring in the realm of the numinous into the mundane, making all things sacred and worthy on their own accord, as is.
It is not just a coincidence that along with the tragic news of the suicide death of Robin Williams, came the report that 1 in 10 in the UK were utterly friendless, and 1 in 5 felt unloved. This is a sad but true commentary of our lives in this modern world. One can talk and debate over the numbers and causes and cures to no end about this, but I wish to humbly propose a very small idea, in honour of Robin Williams and the countless others who might wish to be heard, listened to, in a real way.
(I am by no means suggesting that somehow being listened to might have prevented Mr. Williams’ tragic fate. I have no intention of speculating the cause of this tragedy or that listening might be anything more than what it is, or that it might be a cure for the many forms of mental illnesses that plague the modern world.)
Having said that, here is my idea which is more an appeal really.
That we each take at least 15 minutes a day and set it aside for another to be given completely over to, in listening. Just listening. Not offering solutions. Not sympathizing. Not empathizing. Not trying to convey the feeling of being listened to, to the other person. Not trying anything at all. Not even trying, to listen. But simply listening. Actually, listening. In this listening, you are not ‘giving’ your attention ‘to’ the other person, but holding Space that is alive with your complete attention for the other person to say whatever it is that they are saying, however it is that they are saying…simply being present to the interaction, and responding from the depth of the space, as spontaneously, genuinely, guilelessly and artlessly as possible. Just fifteen minutes a day. With whomsoever you wish to. The train conductor may be. Or the grocer. The annoying talkative office colleague. Your lover. Your child. Your neighbour. The aging bag lady in the park.  Your parent. The opportunities are endless and all around. And the practice enriching, self and society.
As I was ruminating about this world, I was envisioning a whole cadre of participants, who do this silently, facelessly, randomly, fearlessly and sincerely all over the world. All working to create and offer metaphoric ‘space’ for some random other, where there was initially none, filled with the ceaseless effluvia of self-seeking. And in this way, in such a map of relentless thinking, spaces created for the other in and with our minds, bloom like many flowers, enriching the environment for all. As we continue to offer this service quietly, hopefully our circles of listening extend, overlap and accommodate those who are in need of such listening, which might actually, not surprisingly include even our own selves.
And as we learn to listen to each other and be present to lives happening in that short span of time, we develop our abilities and our environment to a state, a culture of listening, where you can walk into a cafe, one day, don say, an yellow armband, a la, a Red Cross medic, and instantly let the environment know that you are available to be spoken to, and that all that you have to offer are your ears, but wholehearted ones at that. But until then, rest assured in hope that one’s very willingness to be of such service will bring the best suitably most in need of such service. The very offering is its own value.
The civic minded in me, envisions, such listening booths in street corners, in churches and community centers, where people know they can walk into and simply be heard. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Just a little secular(as in being present to that which is), apolitical, agenda less space, being held individually for that one person, by this one person, a sort of triage for the soul in a very very small and simple way. For what its worth. Just as.
Might we not atleast give it a try?

Lee Klein reviews Jeff Koons

Is as he is even better than real thing or does or did offer the semblance of an unreal thing as the real version of the unreal thing while having the real thing as the real thing which as it is the real thing combats all the unreal things. Moreover all other caramel based pop beverages attempted to come back to ask the same question now once again posed by her grace Lady GAGA of Central Park South.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pco91k…roVgQ

I want to punch back from behind the punchlines after reading headlines and meet all deadlines. It would not be that one is saying that the art is so cold as to be dead but to look backwards and then to took look ahead. One of the heads of this time is mine and another is named Jeff Koons and not Lee Michael Klein, tough into his reality this ready made Gucci sunglasses misplaced in he must climb and help to define.

Even better than the real thing,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrch66gdjjk&feature=kp

So as is as he a consumerist Dadaist, with a license written by both corporate branding and Duchamp himself to say hey where is, what is the commodity here…… Is he a real Dadaist or neo dadist or neo neo dadaist or are he and Daman H. even better than the real thing? And who is the real thing? David Hammons of course (who is a dog in a blanket Duchamp wrapped up in Beuys)? Robert Gober? Not Bidlo? But we all live for the applause , plause we live for the pause, pause …

So we walk into the Whitney as the cement land bridge over the downstairs well of Breuer’s brutalist structure become the virtual platform of our shifitng artworld reality as the museum itself switches venues to the meatpacking district’s new Piano packaging.
.
We have to move historically from print ads to the enshrined vaccum cleaners which are headliners who once picked things up like hop on hop off tourist buses do (even if the guide does not). Floating basketballs submerged in fish tanks will always be his it is all here like a family reunion of narcisstic pop. Even the balloon dogs are staged as if for catering. So Warhol pointed us in the direction the obvious that the stars were products made by the machine which also had to produce the ready mades.. And so down the road there would still be ready mades yet to find and then ready mades which would have to be combined.

Koons has oft stated that growing up as a boy his father was an interior decorator and he observed how things were placed and this has played into the practice of his art . Here the placement of these pre-placed within themselves works were in turn placed by Scott Rothkopf who has been lauded for his placement of them among others the New York Times Roberta Smith. However placing them into history comes from an entirely different place in itself so perhaps people and the placement of things is what it is abou;t but are they better the real thing copies of plastic objects are flesh made plastic untouched by the artists hand but what about an art which takes us out of that real and returns us to touch or the sense of tactility of texture?

September 5th the Stoop Poetry Workshop begins @ A Gathering of the Tribes

Featured

Friday September 5th, 2014!

on Gander.TV! 6-8pm

Prof Steve Cannon and Bob Holman will be workshopping. Take a gander at these geezers as they make poems out of air & give ‘em away for free.

Stoop Poetry Workshop @ A Gathering of the Tribes
w/ blind professor Steve Cannon & non-blind professor Bob Holman, Artistic Director of Bowery Poetry Club((The Stoop was the MFA (Make Fantastic Art) writing workshop of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe from 1991-5. Founded and led by Professor Steve Cannon and Bob Holman, it aimed to give a free space for new work for the poets who were making a name in the heady days when the Cafe just reopened and Slam, Hiphop and Multiculti all settled in at the Friday night slams. Roll Call went something like this: Paul Beatty, reg e gaines, Tracie Morris, Willie Perdomo, Dael Orlandersmith, Ed Morales, Ra, Edwin Torres, Dana Bryant, Mike Tyler. Tune in LIVE at this link: A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES – “The Stoop” Workshop With Steve Cannon & Bob Holman 9/5 6PM-8PM
http://www.gander.tv/event/gathering-tribes-stoop-workshop-steve-cannon-bob-holman-95-6pm-8pm

OR drop by live 745 E 6 St #1A, or phone in your poems 212-777-2038. Friday Sept 5th, 6-8pm.))

This will be ongoing! 4 wks. Starting Friday Sept 12, 6-8 pm
$200 prepaid, check/cash/money order/paypal (payable to A Gathering of the Tribes & tax-deductible)
Send all your poems to gatheringofthetribes@gmail.com with a letter introducing yourself. Workshop limited to six poets, so you’ll get lots of personal attention. This workshop will be broadcast live on Gander.TV so you’ll get plenty of public attention, too.

Patricia Spears Jones reviews Dawoud Bey at the Mary Boone Gallery

DAWOUD BEY: THE BIRMINGHAM PROJECT Mary Boone Gallery, May 1—July 19, 2014 Dignity and Candor: Diptychs by Dawoud Bey

By Patricia Spears Jones

2014 is an important year. Many anniversaries are being celebrated or acknowledged. But none more important for Americans than the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the year in which the Civil Rights Movement was in full defiant mode. Freedom summer, protests, murders, riots — 1964 had it all. But what was happening had much to do with what had happened in

Birmingham, Alabama, a town where Black people’s lives were under constant threat and where a series of explosions gave the city the nasty nickname, “Bombingham”. On a Sunday in September, 1963, four Black girls were murdered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (Denise McNair was 11 years old, while Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson were 14. And hours later two black boys, Virgil Ware, 13 and Johnny Robinson, 16 were killed in separate racist attacks. In 1963, I was 12 and I so identified with those girls.

Dawoud Bey also identified with those youngsters, although he was growing up in New York City. His people, however came from the South and so clearly understood and conveyed the brutality of entrenched Whites and the courage and danger faced by Blacks. Those deaths haunted him. And so he found a way in The Birmingham Project to bring his immese artistry and skills to bear on a series of portraits that honor the memory of those girls and boys, and shows the capacity of African Americans to carry on, indeed to thrive, in the face of so much hatred. Diptychs by Bey were on view at the Mary Boone Gallery on Fifth Avenue early this summer.

Over the past two decades, Dawoud Bey, an award-winning, accomplished photographer and professor at Columbia College, Chicago, has chosen as his subjects, people are often portrayed by others in either banal or sensationalist ways such as adolescents, particularly Black teens. Bey’s perspective is as an African-American artist deeply committed to allowing for the full complexity and sophistication of Black people, including their dignity to be expressed in his work. His teens may be sullen, but they are not banal. His street people may be poor, but they are not stereotypes. He looks for a humanity that other Black artists, from Langston Hughes to Clifford Brown, have sought and found, and he brings a perspective that in the hands of a lesser photographer would be simplistic and didactic. He is not a lesser photographer. He is an artist working at the top of his game.

After several visits to Birmingham over six years, Bey developed a strong rapport with the local community including several prominent Blacks involved in civil rights archives; in local activism and culture. He contacted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a reluctant shrine to hatred and hope. With an invitation from the Birmingham Art Museum, Bey developed a project in which he paired elder Black Birmingham residents who would be around the age of the murdered girls and boys with young people who were the age of the children who died. These black and white sitting portraits are elegiac and celebratory—a rare feat. The installation at Mary Boone is careful—in a way almost too careful, I think. But the calmly painted walls and understated lighting focuses the eye on the pictures. Viewers take in the whole of each portrait and then their sum in a sweep of large-scale framed photographs — each diptych measures 40×64 inches. While not as large of some recent photographs I’ve seen, these works pack quite a visual wallop.

Indeed, while these pictures were up at Mary Boone Gallery, others were hanging on the fourth floor of the Whitney as part of the Biennial, along with Dawoud Bey’s portrait of President Obama.

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One can only imagine what it must have been like to have seen these photographs in Birmingham at the Museum. The photographs were taken at the museum and at the Bethel Baptist Church over several months. Two of these diptychs showcase the power and beauty of Bey’s endeavor. This photograph of Mary Parker and Caela Cowan illustrates the artist’s strategies—these are all sitting portraits. Gestures mimic, but may not be identical to each other. Neither subject smiles, but Ms. Parker hints at some mischief. Her young cohort is serious. They share a powerful legacy and yet Ms. Parker lived that history while Ms. Cowan has to deal with the legacy.

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Another impressive pair is two males: Don Sledge and Moses Austin. They sit in identical chairs — a paired profile. An old man looking back, possibly, a young man looking ahead? Both are full of their own strengths and vulnerabilities. Bey’s portraits are never quite so easy to read and why should they be? Birmingham is a place of great pride, great loss, fear and possibilities.

Bey’s response to this invitation was to give the citizens of Birmingham and enthusiasts of portrait photography powerful images that capture that mixture of pride and loss. The choice of elders and children reflects his ongoing exploration of generational evolution. The connection to the South and to Southerners who stood up against deep oppression and violence is palpable. Bey finds a way for his camera to extend a story that continues to unfold to this day. In an era when much is ironic and empty, his work thrives on an earnest regard for his subjects, superior technique, and a willingness to go wherever and work with whomever to reclaim the human fact that history often obliterates. He has honored those girls and boys. He has honored the Black citizens of Birmingham. And he has continued to join a sustained assault by many photographers of color against racist imagery. Dignity and candor are difficult to convey but in Bey’s camera eye–those qualities abide.

Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project is at Mary Boone Gallery, 545 Fifth Avenue, May 1-July 18. All photographs are copyright Dawoud Bey, 2012. Each photograph is 40×64 pigment print. For more information on the accompanying exhibition catalogue go to

http://www.birminghammuseumstore.org/info.html and for more information on
Dawoud Bey’s work and career, go to www.dawoudbey.net

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Patricia Spears Jones is author of three collections, most recently Painkiller (Tia Chucha Press)) and four chapbooks including Living in the Love Economy (Overpass Books, 2014) and two plays commissioned and produced by Mabou Mines, the acclaimed experimental theater company. Her new collection: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems is due out from White Pine Press, Fall 2015. Poems are anthologized in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (W.W.Norton); broken land: Poems of Brooklyn ((NYU Press) and Best American Poetry: 2000. (Scribners) and the bilingual anthology, Mujeres a los remos/Women rowing: An Anthology of Contemporary US Women Poets (El Collegio de Puebla, Mexico) and several additional ones. She is editor of and contributor to Think: Poems for Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Day Hat http://bombsite.powweb.com/?p=2944 and Ordinary Women: An Anthology of Poetry by New York City Women and is a contributing editor to Bomb Magazine. She is the recipient of awards from The Foundation of Contemporary Art and The NY Community Trust (The Oscar Williams and Gene Derwood Award),the Goethe Institute and grants from the NEA and NYFA. She served as a Mentor for Emerge Surface Be, a new fellowship program at St. Mark’s Poetry Project and is a Senior Fellow at the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank. She is a lecturer at LaGuardia Community College.

Just Read the Damn Poem (A Performance Piece)

Just Read the Damn Poem

(A Performance Piece)

What, I think…as I practice each day

SHOULD be more important…

the verbalization of my message

…so that it will be clearly heard

when doing spoken word…

or the way…that I visually perform

there are some who believe that it is

far easier to understand what the poet said

when he or she heeded the unofficial

hell…even the blind oracle can see

that in the end…the only damn thing

I’m not trying to win no Academy award

just wanna be recognized as a new age bard

so I refuse to allow gesticulations…to take

precedence over my metaphoric articulations

after all…I AM A POET…NOT AN ACTOR

and performance shouldn’t be the main factor

that I, a serious artist…will ultimately be judged on

pits and all…into the microphone

some may think my shit was weak…

lacking a certain punch…while others may

think dat shit was heavy and phat…

and I don’t mean the way you feel

a lot of intelligent thought goes into my poetry

and it shouldn’t get lost in some fucking

theatrical delivery… no I’m sorry …but

of that Def Poetry Jam bullshit…cuz,

I don’t want the audience or judges overlooking

heckler’s advice …and just read

that really matters is the POETRY

after I have spit my life…

after an all U can eat lunch

I’m not getting caught up in any

the vicious bite of my acerbic wit

giving it to them raw …without the performance grease

Yeah, yeah …I know when the scores

are all tallied up I might end up with the least

…all because I dared to read my piece…

now don’t get it twisted…I ain’t hating on the others

who bravely shared this stage…I’m just saying tho

…at my age…memory is one of the first things to go

so fuck it…if I don’t make the cut for the slam team

I’ll just move on to the next venue…

still following my dream, just hope that I left

some poetic thoughts in at least one person’s head

…who didn’t care if it was performed or read

so if I must…I’ll accept defeat

as long as I got you to think

and no matter what

I ain’t buying into the notion

that my shit stink…

but for those who still feel

dis was bullshit and it stank

…I ask you to do this…the next time you hear a poet speak or perform …

close your eyes and listen to the spoken word

picture the imagery that is meant to be heard

and if the poem strays too far from the norm

you might get lucky and hear the voice

of Steve Cannon…the unofficial heckler….shout out

and for that priceless piece of advice

“JUST READ DA DAMN POEM”

I feel that we all owe him.

A review of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon by Nancy Mercado

A review of
The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon
by Nancy Mercado

Penguin Books, 2014

Willie Perdomo’s latest collection of poems, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, published by Penguin includes four sections that interplay voices and characters, the language of music, street jargon, Spanish and English and Spanglish.

As a Nuyorican poet who emerged on the scene in the 1990’s, Perdomo is comfortable in meshing a variety of elements that may have no business being together but come out clean and intelligible in the end. His book is a fusion of street culture, life in the halls of learning, dual languages, dual homes or no home that resulted in a multifaceted life.

In the first section of his book: How I Came to My Name, the book’s main character, Shorty Bon Bon describes himself to the reader in the first person. In adjacent poems another character (perhaps a spirit) describes Shorty to Perdomo in past tense. The language used includes musical terms in both English and Spanish much of which is slang. In juxtaposing the communication between the characters, between the reader and the poet, in Perdomo’s particular use of language and in his creation of instantaneous mixtures of images, the complex and fast world of Shorty Bon Bon is made vivid.

A musician by trade, Shorty is also a slick street hustler. His hustle has found a home in his musicianship. Shorty learned his craft by listening to the masters not by attending school. He is so sure of his greatness, he is arrogant:

So cool

     That I chased God like he was on the run.

 […]

So cool

     That when Puente heard my speed, I made him bite his

     Tongue. I’m saying—I made the Mambo King bleed.        (12)

Rather than being distasteful however, Shorty’s arrogance is amusing. Besides, his greatness is validated by the spirit who addresses Perdomo.

In the second section; To Be with You, gone is the “spirit” character who communicates with Perdomo and introduced is Rose; a singer who is Shorty’s girl. Here, Rose’s tumultuous relationship to Shorty takes precedence. Their separate accounts of their struggling liaison and of one another, sustains the play of communication established in the first section. Rose addresses Shorty through a series of letters while Shorty addresses Perdomo directly. The language Perdomo uses is again a sofrito of English, Spanish, Spanglish, street talk and proper terminology e.g., the use of the word pubis.

The greatness of Rose as a singer is a metaphor for her amazing intellect, beauty and female power. Rose is a formidable challenge to Shorty. So much so that regardless of Shorty’s coolness she leaves him in the end.

The third section of the book; Fracture, Flow, sees Perdomo melding into Shorty. The communication here is between the poet and reader; the voice in the poem is the poet’s and that voice is Shorty Bon Bon’s. Set in Puerto Rico, in this group of poems, Shorty recounts life on the island vs life on the mainland, the treatment of Puerto Rico by the United States and the island’s political state. Through the use of metaphor, Perdomo refers to such historical events as Columbus’ treatment by the natives when he lands on the island, the dignity of Puerto Rican nationalists, the Ponce massacre, how the island and mainland are treated with the same brutality by those in power, the selling of the illusion of freedom.

The final segment of the book; The Birth of Shorty Bon Bon  45, realizes the death and rebirth of Shorty Bon Bon. Just like the poet himself, Shorty has died and is reborn anew. His transformation played out on a metaphoric 45 vinyl sides A and B.

Telling the story of one character throughout a book of poems is a risky proposition; a tool usually reserved for novelists and short story writers. But the persistence of a character among the sewn shards of language and colliding metaphors throughout Perdomo’s book, unifies the work and gives pause to the reader to ponder; is Shorty Bon Bon really Willie Perdomo?

The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon is a must read for anyone seeking a poetically visceral experience of what it is to be an amalgamation of things which, in the end is truly American.

________________________________________________

Nancy Mercado is a writer, editor and activist whose work appears in dozens of anthologies and literary journals. Most recently, she presented her work at Casa de las Americas in Cuba. Mercado is an Assistant Editor for eco-poetry.org and an Associate Professor at Boricua College in New York City. She authored the collection of poetry titled: It Concerns the Madness. For more information go to: http://www.pw.org/content/nancy_mercado 

Tribes announces….. Tribes 2.0- Live from Steve’s couch

We are announcing Tribes 2.0: Live from Steve’s Couch —as a way to keep the old Tribes spirit alive  — and keep a flow of new energy into the 6th St space. So Gander TV put in a camera and mic in 6th St for us.

The working dynamic here is that since Steve left 3rd St and the open door, every night a performance policy there, there has not been the kind of flow-through energy that sustained him and Tribes for a couple of decades. This is an attempt to find a way to find some new Tribes energy, to enter the digital world, and to have some fun with art.

You don’t need to do anything different than what you always do here at Tribes, shoot the shit, heckle and read to the blind guy. The only thing that will be different is it’ll be taped for people to watch live! (And there will be future events which we are in process of developing)

We will be setting up times and dates for people who want to participate. If you’re interested please send us an email at gatheringofthetribes@gmail.com