New York

Steve Cannon, Whose Townhouse Was an East Village Salon, Dies at 84

Steve Cannon at his townhouse in the East Village in 2014 as he was preparing to move out. He had overseen a salon there, opening his doors and welcoming artists, musicians, poets and others to join a conversation that meandered for decades. Credit: Adam Golfer |

Steve Cannon at his townhouse in the East Village in 2014 as he was preparing to move out. He had overseen a salon there, opening his doors and welcoming artists, musicians, poets and others to join a conversation that meandered for decades.
Credit: Adam Golfer |

By Colin Moynihan

For years, Steve Cannon, a writer and publisher, maintained an open-door policy at his three-story Federal-style townhouse in the East Village of Manhattan, creating a salon that welcomed a revolving cast of visitors to join a continuing conversation.

Painters, poets, musicians and composers showed up. So did a grab bag of others who wandered in, some by pure chance. And presiding over it all was Mr. Cannon, who had lost his eyesight to glaucoma in 1989.

Mr. Cannon died on July 7 at 84. A half sister, Evelyn Omega Cannon, said the cause was believed to be septic shock following hip surgery at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan.

Mr. Cannon bought the townhouse, on East Third Street between Avenues C and D, in 1970. In the early 1990s he started a literary magazine there, A Gathering of the Tribes, along with an art gallery. Writers like Paul Beatty and Miguel Algarin contributed to the magazine.

The publication and gallery reflected the grit and creativity of the neighborhood in the 1990s, when the East Village, not yet gentrified, was still a bastion of the avant-garde.

Something always seemed to be happening at Mr. Cannon’s place. Annual festivals honoring the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker were planned there. Ishmael Reed, one of Mr. Cannon’s longtime friends, read his work at the gallery. Members of the experimental Sun Ra Arkestra performed in the backyard.

The artist David Hammons, another friend, once painted a wall inside the gallery as part of an installation. Among the regular visitors was the cornetist and composer Butch Morris, an East Village neighbor who had created a form of large-ensemble music built on collective improvisation.

Read the full article here.



(The Joke)

cannon fam 2.jpg

by Naomi Brown

I have a little brother,

He’s a new born baby boy

Such a happy, healthy baby

To the Cannons, he’s a joy!

As a child, he wasn’t lonely....

Seven sisters, five brothers, too...

They all made up the Cannon Clan,

Thirteen kids were in this crew.

They grew and scattered all around,

Our baby’s in New York City.

He established quite a following,

That’s why I write this ditty.

Steve is always on the go...

He rarely is at home,

Everyone wants a part of him,

He’s almost never all alone.

We wonder where he is sometimes,

Maybe Phoebe or Tracie might know.

Engaged in a lively discussion,

Can’t tell where he might go.

Checking on my email,

I was quite dismayed to see

That Steve fell down and broke his hip,

This is a definite concern to me.

Steve’s now in rehab, doing fine

Although his hip was broke.

He laughed during our conversation,

Taking it as his latest joke!

Do you know my baby brother?

Steve Cannon is his name.

But Steve’s not a tiny baby;

He’s now a full grown man.

He thinks that he’s a New Yorker

But New Orleans has a bigger claim.

His ancestry and genealogy

Both contributed to his fame.

Steve’s a writer and a poet,

A novelist and teacher, too,

Founder and publisher of a magazine,

And still he is not through.

He still puts pen to paper

But his pen’s in another’s hand.

Steve has been blind for decades.

This has never stopped this man.

He needs no tea or sympathy

His life is really full.

Steve Cannon is to be admired,

You can bet that there’s no bull.

“Blind Professor of the East Side”.

That’s how he is fondly known.

When I think of his accomplishments,

My mind is completely blown!

You think, “ That,s just Steve’s sister.

Who’s so generous with praise”.

But folks at “A Gathering of the Tribes”,

All agree in a thousand ways!

Camille Billops, Who Filmed Her Mother-Daughter Struggle, Dies at 85

Camille Billops in 1994. She was an internationally recognized artist, but she gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving her daughter up for adoption. Credit: Steve Walters | The New York Times

Camille Billops in 1994. She was an internationally recognized artist, but she gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving her daughter up for adoption.
Credit: Steve Walters | The New York Times

By Katharine Q. Seelye

Camille Billops knew from a young age that she did not want to be a mother. And when she had a baby, she gave her up for adoption, when the girl was 4.

Ms. Billops would go on to become an internationally recognized sculptor, painter and filmmaker. She held salons and created extensive archives of black cultural life in New York over several decades.

But Ms. Billops, who died on June 1 at 85, gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving up her daughter. She was resolutely unapologetic about the decision, even as society judged her harshly and wanted her to repent.

The movie, “Finding Christa” (1992), which she directed with her husband, James V. Hatch, documented Ms. Billops’s rejection of her daughter and their reunion 20 years later. Christa Victoria, a vibrant and artistic young woman who was raised by a loving adoptive family in Oakland, Calif., was welcomed back into the Billops fold.

Ms. Billops saw the lives of black women as endurance contests, struggles to survive abusive or alcoholic men, and children as part of the yoke that kept women from being free.

“I didn’t admire motherhood,” Ms. Billops said.

Ms. Billops was more interested in becoming an artist. She went to the University of Southern California to study art and occupational therapy. But she soon found herself pregnant. The father was a handsome Air Force lieutenant who said he would marry her — 500 wedding invitations were sent out — but who skipped town instead.

Read the full article here.

All best, and condolences to Camille Billops’s family.

Joe Overstreet, Painter and Activist, Is Dead at 85

Joe Overstreet with his painting “North Star” (1968). Joe Overstreet/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Eric Firestone Gallery, New York. - The New York Times

Joe Overstreet with his painting “North Star” (1968).
Joe Overstreet/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Eric Firestone Gallery, New York. - The New York Times

By Holland Cotter

Like many of his fellow African-American artists, he infused his work with burning political issues of the 1960s and ’70s.

Joe Overstreet, an artist and activist who in the 1960s took abstract painting into the sculptural dimension and later created a home in New York for artists who had been ignored by the mainstream, died on June 4 in Manhattan. He was 85.

His Manhattan gallery, Eric Firestone, said the cause was heart failure.

Mr. Overstreet belonged to a generation of contemporary African-American visual artists who came of age in the civil rights era and addressed the burning political issues of the day in a wide variety of forms and styles, from overt protest work to the subtlest geometric abstraction.

He was particularly notable for removing canvases from the wall and suspending them in space, giving painting a sculptural dimension. He saw such pieces as, among other things, experiments in how to situate art and viewers in physical space.

Mr. Overstreet’s work in the 1960s and ’70s coincided with debates about the direction African-American art should take. One side insisted that it should be direct in its political content; the other argued that cultural progress demanded that artists be free to choose their modes of expression.

Mr. Overstreet, who was deeply involved in the Black Arts Movement, negotiated the divide inventively. Even his most abstract-looking work had implicit political dimensions. His cultural references were often to non-Western sources, ancient and modern: Islamic design, African patterning, South Asian mandalas.

Read the full article here.

Gregory de la Haba Brings His Totem Poems & Wailing Reef Project To Monte-Carlo

The role of the artist is not merely to record history for future generations, but to enlighten society on the issues of our time. There is an artist from the Big Apple, whose origins go all the way back to Emerald Isle, who lyrically conveys sustainable tidings in his most recent exhibit.

Gregory de la Haba is a classically trained painter, writer, author, publisher, cum laude graduate of Harvard University, and Curator-at-large at Geuer & Geuer Gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany. Furthermore, the New York artist with his wife, Teresa, owns and operates the oldest bar in New York City, McSorley's Old Ale House, which encapsulates the authentic spirit of Ireland in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Marina Roeloffs Von Hademstorf, Gregory de la Haba, and Kira Roeloffs Von Hademstorf in front of The Three Muses of Monte Carlo (back wall)

Marina Roeloffs Von Hademstorf, Gregory de la Haba, and Kira Roeloffs Von Hademstorf in front of The Three Muses of Monte Carlo (back wall)

Throughout his artistic examination of current issues, Gregory de la Haba, has explored the ancient and sacred structure of the totem as theme while taking his love for the sea and the surf culture that surrounds it, as cue to create a new body of work that is primordial yet modern, familiar yet dashingly fresh.

The exhibition TOTEM POEMS that opened on April 18 in the Monegasque gallery META, located on 39 Avenue Princesse Grace, features de la Haba’s new sculpture, assemblage, and photo collage. This art show continues a tradition that began at META in 2018, with the OCEAN ART WEEK, to homage the sea. The gallery also showcased the conceptual and interactive Wailing Reef Project by Gregory de la Haba. This work references the abundance of plastics found in our waterways in the form of two totems reminiscent of bleached coral reefs — when the algae that lives on the coral dies —and all the reef’s magnificent color dies with it — leaving behind lifeless, white limestone beds.

Autumnal Moon _ Horizontal Waves Totem Lune Automnale _ Ondes Horizontales Totem Size_ 8’3” x 2’ x 3” Material_ Foam, Fiberglass, Resin, Paint

Autumnal Moon _ Horizontal Waves Totem Lune Automnale _ Ondes Horizontales Totem Size_ 8’3” x 2’ x 3” Material_ Foam, Fiberglass, Resin, Paint

The Vernal Chorus Totem Installation Le Choeur Vernal Homage to the Legendary LA Artist John Van Hamersveld 3 Panels (Photos) each 8’x2’ One Totem_ 8’3”x 2’ x 3”

The Vernal Chorus Totem Installation Le Choeur Vernal Homage to the Legendary LA Artist John Van Hamersveld 3 Panels (Photos) each 8’x2’ One Totem_ 8’3”x 2’ x 3”

Gregory de la Haba brought his creative pursuit to a higher level, by allowing guests to have a proactive role in the fruition of his artwork. Visitors were invited to scrawl their 'wishes and dreams for and of the sea' on brightly colored Post-it paper and to be like algae, colorful, and to bring their color to the work, to embed their dreams, wishes and light to de la Haba’s unique and masterful Bleached Coral Totems.

The artist’s statement was born out of his metropolitan life, observing the abundant consumption of waste in a big city, as he explains: “New Yorkers throw away on average about 25 pounds of garbage a week. That translates into almost 14 million tons of garbage being generated annually by nearly nine million people. Each day, over seven thousand sanitation workers with their thousands of garbage trucks pick up this waste from homes and offices where its brought to transfer stations around the city before being dispersed––by train and barge––to landfills and recycling plants across the United States and as far away as China. Garbage is big business. It also exacts a great, damaging toll on our environment. According to Oceana, the non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring our oceans, an estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastics alone find their way into marine ecosystems every year. That's equivalent to one full, plastic-laden garbage truck dumping its contents into the ocean every minute. That’s insane. And little wonder that while taking a stroll on a small stretch of beach in Queens I can fill up a buckets' worth of plastics in ten minutes. And here began the impetus for the 'Wailing Reef Project'.

The META Gallery, couldn’t be a more fitting venue for his inspirational work, since in ancient Greek 'meta' means beyond. This name truly epitomizes the gallery’s intent to serve as a platform of openness, freedom and elevation. TOTEM POEMS is an ode to this quest, as Gregory de la Haba’s artwork is bringing awareness of the damaging effects our societal habits have on our precious oceans and marine life. The power of creativity may lead the way to constructive change, as Gregory de la Haba says: “A collective cry just might help. It sure as hell won't hurt.

The Magic is Still Potent: Whitten’s Retrospective

The Magic is Still Potent: Whitten’s Retrospective

When I first entered this exhibit, I knew only bits and pieces of Whitten’s work - namely, his use of a “developer”, a handmade canvas-sized squeegee contraption that allowed him to make a painting in a manner of seconds. His developer paintings were on display, as were his homages, and sculpture from throughout his career.

The Sixth Borough

The Sixth Borough

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. And I almost made it in New York. The grand irony being that when I was finally strong enough to live in the city, I decided to leave it. The first half of my thirties were spent annulling the many mistakes of my twenties: the unavailable men, a daily struggle with bulimia, that phase in the fetish scene. By the time 33 rolled around (the exact age in which Jesus had died for our sins, according to my Catholic upbringing), I had learned to keep my meals down and my head up.


15 years in the Big Apple had afforded me a wild ride, but I was in danger of becoming rotten all the way through. Despite the perks of living a semi-glamorous life in Manhattan—being a wellness guru to celebrities and scions while living in a centrally located shoebox—40 was a threat, not a promise. I had become so good at distinguishing the married women from their lonely single counterparts on the subway, before ever looking at their fingers, only their faces, whether their eyes possessed a certain softness or not, that I avoided my own reflection in those train windows. I didn’t need to be married, but I was sick of being single.

Lee Klein on Cathedral of St. John Divine

The Phoenix's by Xu Bin fly through the hollow halls of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine like Dragons above the hallowed grounds of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, though the sculptural creatures are in fact stationary and fill up most of the overhead space.  Phoenixes mythically rise from the ashes and these were were created by the aforementioned Chinese artists detritus found at a construction site at which he witnessed conditions he deemed unsafe.  Perhaps these giant birds having taken suggested flight. Also speak to New York City's great unfinished cathedral or the Gotham after 911 soaring anew and then again most likely Christ arisen as per their being placed in the seat of the Episcopalian archdiocese of New York.  

Tell it Like it is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986 Feb 6-19



Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986
February 6-19
Includes work from filmmakers Pearl Bowser, Kathleen Collins,
William Greaves, Bill Gunn, Jessie Maple and Spike Lee
Collins’s Losing Ground (1982) will have its long overdue theatrical
premiere with a one-week theatrical run starting onFebruary 6
Cast and crew reunion screening of Personal Problems, with guests
including Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor and Sam Waymon

New York, NY (December 19, 2014) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center will present Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968–1986, a series of key films, starting with William Greaves’s seminal Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and culminating with Spike Lee’s first feature, the independently produced She’s Gotta Have It which launched a new era of studio filmmaking by black directors. This program includes major works by some of the great filmmakers of this (or any) era in cinema. During this time, activist New York–based black independent filmmakers created an exciting body of work despite lack of support and frequent suppression of minority film production. Programmed by Michelle Materre and Film Society of Lincoln Center Programmer at Large Jake Perlin, co-presented by Creatively Speaking. Tickets will go on sale Thursday, January 15, 2015.
Dennis Lim, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Programming said, “This is a landmark program that sheds overdue light on an incredibly rich, varied, and undertold chapter of American film history. There are many groundbreaking works here by many singular figures, and we’re proud to present this essential series here at the Film Society.”  
In early 1968, William Greaves began shooting in Central Park, and the resulting film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, came to be considered one of the major works of American independent cinema. Later that year, following a staff strike, WNET’s newly created program, Black Journal (with Greaves as Executive Producer) was established “under black editorial control” and as home base for a new generation of filmmakers redefining documentary. (1968 also marked the production of the first Hollywood studio film directed by an African American, Gordon Park’s The Learning Tree.) Shortly thereafter, actor/playwright/screenwriter/novelist Bill Gunn directed the studio-backed Stop, which remains unreleased by Warner Bros. to this day. Gunn, rejected by the industry that had courted him, then directed the independent classic Ganja and Hess (which has been remade by Spike Lee as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and will open in February),ushering in a new type of horror film, which Ishmael Reed called “what might be the country’s most intellectual and sophisticated horror film.”
Women filmmakers play a prominent role throughout the series, starting with the exclusive one-week theatrical premiere of Losing Ground, directed by the late Kathleen Collins, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman. Collins’s first film, The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy, also never released theatrically, will screen in newly remastered version created by the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina, along with a video interview with the filmmaker. Nina Collins will be on hand to present her mother’s films on opening night,February 6, along with co-producer/cinematographer Ronald Gray andLosing Ground star Seret Scott.
February 11, Madeline Anderson will present her films, including the classic I Am Somebody, her first documentary, as well as work fromBlack Journal. On February 13 filmmakers Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, and Camille Billops will discuss their work screened in the Women’s Work Program, a selection of films bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess. Trailblazer Jessie Maple, will be in attendance onFebruary 16 to present her films Will and Twice As Nice.

For their support and expertise, the programmers gratefully thank Pearl Bowser, Louise Greaves, Jane Fuentes, Marsha Schwam, Elena Rossi-Snook, Amy Heller, Dennis Doros and Ishmael Reed, and the filmmakers Jessie Maple, Charles Hobson, Madeline Anderson, Pat Hartley, Kent Garrett, Woodie King Jr., and Al Santana.
Thank you to Elena Rossi-Snook & Johnny Gore (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), Nina Collins, Ronald Gray, Chiz Schultz, Anne Morra & Mary Keene (MoMA), Lisa Collins, Mark Schwartzburt, Amy Heller & Dennis Doros (Milestone Films), Shola Lynch (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture), Kate Manion, Devorah Heitner, Brian Graney (The Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University), Seret Scott, Nellie Killian, Marilyn Nance, Judy Bourne, Livia Bloom (Icarus Films), Roselly A. Torres Rojas (Third World Newsreel), Kazembe Balagun (Rosa Luxemburg Shiftung NYC), Chris Hill, Rebecca Cleman, Kristen Fitzpatrick (Women Make Movies), Jane Gutteridge (National Film Board of Canada), Liz Coffey & Haden Guest (Harvard Film Archive).
For sale at the Film Society, beginning February 6, in conjunction with this series: Bill Gunn’s Rhinestone Sharecropping (a novel) and Black Picture Show (a play), published by I Reed Press, and How to Become a Union Camerawoman by Jessie Maple, published by LJ Film Productions.

Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street)
and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street)

Black Journal Program
USA, 1968, digital projection, approx. 70m
The first nationally broadcast black newsmagazine, produced by William Greaves and hosted by Wali Saddiq and Greaves, was home to a who’s who of producers, directors, editors and cinematographers—Madeline Anderson, Kent Garrett, St. Clair Bourne, Charles Hobson, to name only a few—working in a diversity of styles: interviews, skits, commentary, investigative reporting, all with a degree of creativity and experimentation still unrivaled for TV.
*Wednesday, February 116:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson, Louise Greaves, Kent Garrett, and Madeline Anderson)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy
Kathleen Collins, USA, 1980, DCP, 50m
Kathleen Collins’s first film is an adaptation of a series of short stories by Henry H. Roth about three young Puerto Rican men whose lives are watched over by their father’s ghost. New York’s Rockland County serves as the setting for the magic that the urban-born trio encounters when they meet Miss Malloy, an elderly widow who owns a house in need of some tender loving care. Never released theatrically, airing only once on cable TV, and then disappearing from view, the film has been rescued and re-mastered by the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina and Milestone Films. Screening with a video interview with Kathleen Collins. A Milestone Films Release.
Friday, February 6, 6:30pm (Introduction by Nina Collins and Ronald K. Gray)
*Wednesday, February 11, 3:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
A Dream is What You Wake Up From
Larry Bullard & Carolyn Johnson, USA, 1978, 16mm, 50m
Three black families, observed in their daily lives, their thoughts, values, and aspirations expressed on the soundtrack, and their different approaches to the struggle for survival in contemporary society and their methods of coping with the contradictory stresses placed on the individual in the family environment.
Screening with:
Black Faces
Young Filmmakers Foundation, USA, 1970, 16mm, 1m
A montage of faces from the Harlem community. Black Faces is courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
*Thursday, February 19, 5:30pm (Q&A with JT Takagi of Third World Newsreel and Elena Rossi-Snook of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
An Evening with Jessie Maple
A trailblazer and pioneer, Jessie Maple was the first African-American woman to gain entry in New York’s camera operators union, taking the case to court to fight discrimination after she was a member, and writing an invaluable book about her life and experience, How to Become a Union Camerawoman. After directing the film Will, and in need of a venue to premiere it, she and her husband Leroy Patton (also a cinematographer) built and founded the independent cinema 20 West in Harlem.
Jessie Maple, USA, 1981, 16mm, 70m
“I wanted to show the neighborhood—that everything was there, right in the neighborhood,” so says Jessie Maple in describing her feature debut. This is the story of Will, a basketball coach fighting demons, a full picture of dealing with modern urban life—uptown—is revealed. “No matter how low you are you can come back up. That’s what Willis. People can’t count themselves out that quick.” Preserved by New York Women in Film and Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Print courtesy of Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University.
*Monday, February 16, 6:30pm (Q&A with Jessie Maple)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Twice as Nice
Jessie Maple, USA, 1989, 70m
Maple’s second narrative feature uses an intimate story—the relationship of twin college basketball players—to examine the nature of sisterhood, competition, and friendship. As with her documentary work, Maple looks at everyday events and ponders the visible but especially the invisible.
*Monday, February 16, 8:45pm (Introduction by Jessie Maple)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Ganja and Hess
Bill Gunn, USA, 1973, 35mm, 113m
Screened at Cannes in 1973 before being recut against the filmmaker's wishes for its U.S. release, Ganja and Hess was first made available years later in its intended version by independent distributor Pearl Bowser, and, now restored, is considered a classic. Conceived as a vampire tale, Gunn’s film is a formally radical and deeply philosophical inquiry into passion and history. “A film that was ahead of its time in 1973, and quite frankly, is still very much so today… maybe the rest of world will eventually catch up.” – Tambay A. Obenson. With Marlene Clarke, Duane Jones, and music by Sam Waymon. Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the Film Foundation.
Saturday, February 75:00pm (Post-screening discussion with film scholar Pearl Bowser and Sam Waymon)
Sunday, February 8, 8:00pm
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Dick Fontaine & Pat Hartley, USA,1982, 16mm, 95m
James Baldwin retraces his time in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, reflecting with his trademark brilliance and insight on the passage of 20 years. From Selma and Birmingham, to the battleground beaches of St. Augustine, Florida, with Chinua Achebe, and back north for a visit to Newark with Amiri Baraka.
*Thursday, February 12, 4:00 & 9:00pm (Q&A with Pat Hartley and Rich Blint at the 4:00pm show)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
I Remember Harlem
William Miles, USA, 1981, 16mm, 240m
“What really made Harlem ‘Harlem’” is what renowned visual historian William Miles, set out to explore when he produced and directed this epic work. Harlem has since become an intersection of cultures, classes, and colors that still maintains a distinctive sense of identity, which Miles lovingly illustrates with his personal connection and commitment to this epicenter of African-American cultural life. We lost this great voice in May 2013 when Miles passed away at the age of 82. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
*Saturday, February 14, 4:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
In Motion: Amiri Baraka and The New-Ark
Amiri Baraka
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1983, digital projection, 60m
This video portrait, filmed in the days leading up to Amiri Baraka’s appeal of his punitive 90-day sentence for resisting arrest following an argument in his car outside the 8th Street Playhouse movie theater, documents Baraka at his radio show, at home with his wife and children, and performing at readings. It is a delicate vision of a revolutionary who has grown quieter—though never at rest, and as sage as ever.
Screening with a performance by Leroi Jones’s Young Spirit House Movers, broadcast on Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant (USA, 1968, digital projection, 10m).
Screening with:
The New-Ark
Amiri Baraka, USA, 1968, digital projection, 25m
Produced by Harlem Audio-Visual and part of the collection of cameraman and producer James E. Hinton at the Harvard Film Archive, this film, previously believed to be lost, depicts the activism, educational programs, and art taking place at the Spirit House community center in Newark, NJ. Digital preservation by Anthology Film Archives. From the James Hinton Collection at the Harvard Film Archives.
*Tuesday, February 17, 9:00pm 
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant Program
USA, 1968-1971, digital projection, approx. 70m
Produced by Charles Hobson and aired on WNEW (better known as Channel 5), this weekly show was originally conceived by Robert F. Kennedy’s organization and community boosters to counter images of black neighborhoods as presented in the mainstream news. It is considered the first African American–produced television series in the USA. Hosted by Roxie Roker and Jim Lowry, the program reflected the home of 400,000 people as it transitioned into a new era, featuring open and unscripted dialogues with residents, guest celebrities, and, most notably, a powerful public forum with Harry Belafonte. This program will feature a selection of episodes, presented by Charles Hobson.
Sunday, February 8, 3:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson)
Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads
Spike Lee, USA, 1983, 16mm, 60m
Spike Lee’s NYU Masters program thesis (and the first student feature film ever selected for New Directors/New Films) is a precocious work from a major artist, irrefutable evidence that its maker would go on to become one of the greats.
Screening with:
A Place in Time
Charles Lane, USA, 1977, 16mm, 34m
Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
*Thursday, February 19, 7:15pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Kent Garrett Program
Two docs made for Black Journal, examining the perennial outsider status accorded to those ostensibly on the inside. In Central Harlem, at the height of the Black Power movement, a policeman discusses his role in and out of the uniform, contrasted with the experiences of a colleague in the LAPD. For African-American soldiers in Vietnam, the contradiction of being expected to defend liberties not granted at home is evident. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The Black GI
Kent Garrett, USA, 1971, 16mm, 54m
The Black Cop
Kent Garrett, USA, 1969, 16mm, 15m
*Friday, February 13, 8:30pm (Q&A with Kent Garrett andKazembe Balagun)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
The Long Night
Woodie King, Jr., USA, 1976, 35mm, 85m
One night in the life of a young boy on the street, encountering the denizens of mid-1970s Harlem, while commenting on Vietnam, marital discord, paternal relationships, substance abuse, schooling, and unemployment—in short, the life of an American family.
*Thursday, February 12, 6:30pm (Q&A with Woodie King, Jr.)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Losing Ground
Kathleen Collins, USA, 1982, DCP, 86m
Finally receiving a long-overdue theatrical run, Losing Ground, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman, is a groundbreaking romance exploring women’s sexuality, modern marriage, and the life of artists and scholars. But most of all, it is a great film, one that firmly belongs in the canon of American independent cinema in the 1980s. Sara (Seret Scott) is a philosophy professor and her husband Victor (Bill Gunn) is a painter. With their personal and professional lives at a crossroads, they leave the city for the country, experiencing a reawakening, both together and separately. Also featuring Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead), the film is honest, funny, and wise. Losing Ground is a testament to the remarkable playwright, professor, and filmmaker Kathleen Collins, and a reminder of the immense talent that was lost when she passed away in 1988 at age 46. A Milestone Films release.
Friday, February 6, 1:00pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm & 8:30pm (Q&A with Nina Collins, Ronald K. Gray, and Seret Scott at 8:30pm show)
Saturday, February 7, 3:15pm
Sunday, February 8, 1:00pm
*Monday, February 9, 1:00pm 
*Tuesday, February 10, 3:30pm
*Wednesday, February 11, 1:00pm
*Thursday, February 12, 2:00pm 
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Madeline Anderson Program
Madeline Anderson’s classic documentary I Am Somebody depicts the strength of, and the hardships endured by, a striking group of African-American women in Charleston, South Carolina. The program also features Anderson’s first documentary, as well as work fromBlack Journal. “I was determined to do what I was going to do at any cost. I kept plugging away. Whatever I had to do, I did it,” she said of her career. I Am Somebody is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
I Am Somebody
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1970, 16mm, 30m
Integration Report #1
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1960, digital projection, 20m
A Tribute to Malcolm X
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1967, digital projection, 14m
*Wednesday, February 11, 8:30pm (Q&A with Madeline Anderson)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Namibia: Independence Now!
Pearl Bowser & Christine Choy, USA, 1985, 16mm, 55m
A revolutionary political moment is captured firsthand by two independent women filmmakers shooting inside refugee settlements in Zambia and Angola in 1985. Depicting the significant role of women in this struggle for independence, this film explores the lives of exiled women workers attempting to free their country from illegal exploitation.
*Tuesday, February 17, 5:00pm (Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Christine Choy, Al Santana, and JT Takagi)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
One Last Look
Charles Hobson, USA, 1969, digital projection, 60m
This rare film of Steve Carter’s play features many of the leading actors of the era before they went on to achieve international fame, was shown on WABC in New York, and has not been seen since. An emotionally charged drama of family, friends, and former lovers confronting the ghost of the family patriarch at his funeral.
Tuesday, February 17, 7:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson)
Personal Problems
Bill Gunn, USA, 1980, digital projection, approx. 110m
“What happens when a group of unbankable individuals tell their own stories? Actors who have final say over their speaking parts? A director found ‘too difficult’ for Hollywood? Two producers, who, having no experience, had the audacity to organize a production with the amount of money Hollywood spends on catering. Maybe less.” These questions by writer Ishmael Reed lead to the conception of this “meta soap opera,” the story of a Harlem couple, and their friends, made without “the middleman.”
Saturday, February 7, 8:00pm (Q&A with Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, and Sam Waymon)
*Tuesday, February 10, 1:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Let the Church Say Amen!
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1973, 16mm, 67m
Voices of the Gods
Al Santana, USA, 1985, 16mm, 60m
A program on religion and ritual, highlighting two opposite ends of the spectrum in the role of religion in the black community. These modern classics represent two examples of the influential function and position that religious observation occupies as an essential part of African-American culture.
*Sunday, February 15, 7:00pm (Q&A with Al Santana)
*Tuesday, February 17, 2:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee, USA, 1986, 35mm, 84m
The one that changed the entire landscape of independent film and announced a genuine director-as-superstar, and the defining film of a new generation of American directors. But most significantly, She’s Gotta Have It possesses a confidence, vision, and grandeur of style that is almost as absent from the current independent film scene as the New York City where it takes place, only existing on film, and in memory.
*Thursday, February 19, 9:30pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
St. Clair Bourne Program
Producing or directing more than 40 films in a 36-year career, St. Clair Bourne is inarguably the most prolific black documentarian of his time. Bourne authentically documented critical aspects of the black community—its culture, resistance, and activism—images of which would have been lost if not for his chronicling. If comparisons are necessary to understand the significance of Bourne’s work upon the broader landscape of independent film, think D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles, and Jean Rouch. The films in this program find Bourne documenting black and Irish solidarity, representation in the Brooklyn Museum, and the options granted to high school students who want to attend college. St. Clair Bourne passed away at the age of 64; he would have been 73 this February. Something to Build On is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The Black and the Green
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1983, digital projection, 45m
Something to Build On
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1971, 16mm, 29m
Statues Hardly Ever Smile
Stan Lathan, USA, 1971, digital projection, 21m
Sunday, February 8, 5:15pm (Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Crystal Emery and Sam Pollard)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
William Greaves, USA, 1968, 35mm, 75m
A docufiction, a narrative experiment, a film about making a film, a crew without a director, a time capsule of New York, a barometer of the culture: process, form, and personality collide in Greaves’s classic, about which no superlatives can be overused and whose influence cannot be overstated.
Saturday, February 7, 1:00pm (Q&A with Louise Greaves and special guests)
Video Program – Free Amphitheater Event!
A program of video-based works that used television technology to bring public attention to Black American identity, through intervention, documentation, and parody, as in Anthony Ramos’s About Media, in which the artist uses his Portapak camera to turn a news crew’s visit to his home into media critique. Co-programmed by Rebecca Cleman and presented by Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill.
Queen Mother Moore Speech at Greenhaven Prison
People’s Communications Network, USA, 1973, digital projection, 17m
About Media
Anthony Ramos, USA, 1977, digital projection, 25m
*Sunday, February 15, 4:30pm (Post-screening discussion with Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
William Greaves Program
One of Greaves’s greatest, From These Roots is a crash-course in Harlem history, told entirely through the use of still images—rarely has so much information been condensed so gracefully. Paired with two early, rare Greaves docs, showing the incredible range of his work. A tribute to the Harlem-born teacher, mentor, and filmmaker, who passed away in August 2014.
From These Roots
William Greaves, USA, 1974, 16mm, 28m
Emergency Ward
William Greaves, USA, 1959, 16mm, 30m
Wealth of a Nation
William Greaves, USA, 1964, digital projection, 25m
*Saturday, February 14, 8:30pm (Q&A with Louise Greaves)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Women’s Work Program
A program from exemplary women filmmakers who were an integral part of the independent film industry during the period covered by this survey. The content of these women’s films are culturally and community-specific, and they tell stories of universal human interest, with social commentary at their core, effectively bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess.
Teach Our Children
Christine Choy & Susan Robeson, USA, 1972, digital projection, 35m
Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People
Ayoka Chenzira, USA, 1985, 16mm, 10m
Ayoka Chenzira, USA, 1979, 16mm, 15m
Suzanne Suzanne
Camille Billops & James Hatch, USA, 1982, 16mm, 30m
*Friday, February 13, 6:00pm (Q&A with Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, Camille Billops and Neema Barnette)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award, whose 2015 recipient is Robert Redford. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, HBO, Stella Artois, The Kobal Collection, Variety, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
For more information, visit, follow @filmlinc on Twitter, and download the FREE Film Society app, now available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.

For Media specific inquiries, please contact:
Film Society of Lincoln Center:
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Steve Cannon's poem in Live Mag! NYC


Listen to me What it is No goddamned excuses Yawn, yawn, yawn Ask for more Yeah, yeah, yeah Fuck that shit I said, “No…” Well, excuse me Back and forth Working out good The blue shirt Tell the truth With open arms

_________________________Steve Cannon



The Two- Character Play reviewed by Carl Watson

In the Cage of Our Own Making:

The Two-Character Play by Tenessee Williams

At 292 Theater

(292 E. Third, NYC, April 2014)

With Regina Bartkoff and Charles Schick. Directed by Romy Ashby.


The Two-Character Play (originally entitled Out Cry, 1971/1973) is a late play by Williams; it is also what we might call a meta-play, in contrast to his more famous tragi/romantic works. It is William’s version of a post-modern psycho drama—a play within a play within a life in which the characters are aware both of being in a play that seems to repeat itself, but also that the play is their life, and therefore they cannot escape it. They interact both as if they are on stage and as if they are not. They know the audience is there, or rather that the audience is possibly, perpetually arriving, but they are unsure if they should be concerned about it or not. (Sound familiar?) Despite being a departure from his normal style, The Two-Character Play is considered to be one of Williams’ most personal plays, with the characters Felice and Clare being somewhat based on Williams himself and his sister Rose, both of whom were at some time in their lives comitted to mental facilities. Therefore madness and confinement are part of the dramatic equation here.


The plot, such as it is, revolves round a brother and sister, Clare and Felice (played respectively by Regina Bartkoff and Charles Schick) living a reclusive life in their old family home, which is also “a decrepit state theater in an unknown state.” They are, of course, actors and believe themselves to be “on tour,” even though they never leave the house/theater. Felice and Clare can indeed seem “mad” as they argue constantly over their “confinement”—should they should leave the building? can they? and, more importantly, what has happened there that keeps them from leaving? This “what” is the murder/suicide of their parents, of which we never get a complete explanation. The brother’s and sister’s witness to, and possible participation in, this traumatic event serves as the elusive backdrop to their dilemma. Who is technically guilty in these deaths and/or why they happened, however, becomes less important than who feels the shame and guilt, and in this sense the idea of original sin makes its entrance, along with a whole slew of possible Oedipal concerns.

            The play may well be the thing here but the play is a mystery constructed around layers of theatricality and purposeful confusion. There is a performance scheduled, but it seems the producers have pulled out, so it is unclear whether the play is actually supposed to go on. The “two characters” seem to be unsure if they are performing the play or rehearsing it as we watch it. Or are they merely talking about it? In any case, they edit as they go, cutting parts and disagreeing about what parts they should cut or whether they indeed have cut anything (kind of like editing one’s memory). They argue about the props and what use they are and what they might signify. They argue about the audience. Is the audience merely the outside world, i.e. the world outside their enclosure, which is the house/theater they live in, or is it us? The Two-Character Play provides plenty of metaphysical and psychological grist for the analyst’s mill, with both Existential and Freudian overtones, as well as some philosophical commentary on “theater” itself—what is its purpose is and how it can be distorted? All of this keeps the viewer intrigued as they try to figure it out.

Back to the core of the story, which is the crime that took place once upon a time. The audience is led at first to believe that the father murdered the mother (for reasons unknown). But the children think they should spin the story so that the mother has murdered the father and they would therefore be eligible for an insurance payout (I missed the logic behind this figuring, but it doesn’t really matter). As the play progresses, who killed who grows more ambiguous, and it is also becomes possible that the children have something to do with the murder. They have the gun (stowed in the piano, under a print of the Holbein Christ). and it is sometimes used as a threat between them—an end to their misery.

The narrative tension of the play comes from the character’s need to get through the day/week/year, while planning their “production” and carrying this incredible burden of guilt that is never resolved. In any case, it is this increasingly complicated psychological web that keeps them trapped in the house. Consequently, the two characters have little to do but spin their wheels in an endless cycle of repetition. In fact, repetition itself could be considered a theme, or at least a source of therapy, grounding the characters in a comforting routine. I’ll return to this idea presently, but for now it is worthwhile to consider a couple of ways to look at this murder/suicide as the center of their paralyzing vortex.

1) The murder/suicide may be the product of incest or abuse, between the parents or between the parents and the children. These types of hidden family secrets are common undercurrents in Williams’ work. The audience wonders what exactly was the dynamic between the parents leading up to the event? Were the children involved? Was it self-defense, retaliation? We will never know, and may well be misguided in thinking along these lines. But the aura of incest is there and seems to color the brother/sister relationship. (I am reminded here of the movie Shame, 2011). Returning to the theme of repetition, it is worth noting here that trauma often has the psychological result of trapping its victims in repetitive cycles of either reliving the traumatic event or repeating an imagined “alternative” scenario—both of which can be considered forms of theater perhaps.

2) Another way to interpret the murder/suicide (which does not preclude the first) is in the realm of metaphysics—a metaphor for the death of God perhaps (or some form of ritual sacrifice). In a pious Southern context, such a loss of authority would leave the pair spinning meaninglessly through their repetitive lives. It may seem a stretch to go all cosmic on the plot like this but there are precedents to do so, and we will address those precedents soon. For now I wish to reiterate that we cannot escape the importance of the role of theater, and we can even think of its ritual re-enactments, and the double life it provides, as an answer to our existential dilemma. Theater establishes repeatable patterns for reality and in doing so it tames the obliterating nature of time, providing a semblance of mean ing in an absurd and meaningless void.

It helps to remember that The Two-Character Play arises out of the Post War Era, and a traumatized Western culture which has also recently gone through significant social upheaval. As a way of contextualizing the above-stated issues, and perhaps providing a framework by which to analyze The Two-Character Play (1973), I will now briefly examine some works that preceded Williams’ play and which treat similar themes: Sartre’s No Exit (1944), Becketts Waiting for Godot (1953), and Bunuel’s Exterminating Angel (1961). While I will not claim that there is a direct influence, these works all deal with issues (guilt, the possibility of murder, suicide, the impotence of religion, existential entrapment) that recur in The Two-Character Play. Indeed, Williams could hardly not know about these works; he even admits to an influence by Beckett in his later career.

No Exit dates from 1944, and this is the play about which Sartre famously said, “Hell is other people.” No Exit might easily be called “The Three-Character Play.”  Three characters, Joseph, Inès, and Estelle, who are dead, are introduced to a nicely appointed room in the afterlife where they expect to be punished for their previous sins but are in truth only confronted with each other. The play centers on the eventual confession each one makes as to their moral failings, all of which have to do with infidelity and the damage it causes. Joseph’s infidelity causes his wife to die of grief; Estelle’s infidelity leads to the murder of her child and the suicide of her husband; Inès’s infidelity causes her lover to murder her husband. When the three characters discover the door to the room is open and that they are free to leave, they cannot, as they still feel bound to justify themselves to the others. Not only are suicide and murder part of the characters’ past, but they become issues in the present. However, death is turned into a joke when Estelle stabs Inès and there is no result (as they are already dead). Then, in a parody of suicide, Inès even stabs herself producing fits of laughter amongst all three of them. They could kill themselves over and over again; it amounts to nothing but talk—there is indeed No Exit. We can easily see some of the themes we saw in The Two-Character Play as being prominent here: the hidden crime, the impotence of suicide, the inability to escape due to the need to justify one’s existence. Might as well pass the time arguing, as Joseph says: “Oh well, let’s continue . . .”

The second and perhaps more obvious possible influence on The Two-Character Play would be Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1953), wherein two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, live the same day over and over again waiting for someone named Godot to show up. If you believe, as most do, that Vladimir and Estragon are in fact waiting for an ineffectual God, or authority figure, we can see how this waiting is similar to Clare and Felice’s anticipation of an audience which would justify their existence as actors. And just as Felice and Clare confront the dilemma of to be or not to be in the play, the Godot characters are also aware of the theatricality of their plight. This is reflected in Pozzo’s and Lucky’s stagey “performances,” but also in Didi and Gogo’s subtle “awareness” of an audience (often more prominent in actual staged performances). Argument as an attempt to fill the endless time, is also a theme in Godot, as when Gogo says “That’s it, let’s abuse each other,” entreating Did to join him in a dialogue of insults which eventually peters out. Even the idea of some past unspeakable crime such as murder and suicide, is part of the Godot discussion, albeit on a fairly abstract level. The idea of murder comes into play when, early in the second half, Estragon accuses Vladimir of murdering “the other,” which quickly becomes the “others,” or all the others, the murder of humans in general. In Godot this could be a reference to the recent catastrophic World War, but it doubles as a reference to original sin, and not the sexual sin of Judeo Christian theology but the “sin” integral to all life—that it depends on death.

Albert Camus once claimed that suicide is the only real important question that an individual faces in life. In other words, faced with the meaninglessness of life, does one continue to live or not; it’s a choice each of us has to make. In Godot, Didi and Gogo challenge each other to end their misery by hanging themselves. In The Two-Character Play, the siblings challenge each other to end their misery with a gun.

In both cases the suicide does not happen. In Beckett, the characters use the flimsy excuse that they just don’t have the right equipment—no appropriate rope. Williams’ characters simply can’t do it. It’s worth noting that there is another similarity between these possible suicides. Clare and Felice would use the same gun that was used in the murder of their parents, therefore re-enacting the annihilation of authority/comfort that once structured their lives. In Godot, the two hobos would hang themselves from a tree, thus re-enacting the death of their God (Christ), a god who should have provided structure and comfort for their lives, and whom they have replaced with the ineffectual Godot. Beckett puts this Christianity front and center, but in Williams, if it is there, it is obscured.

Lastly I would briefly address Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, which came out in 1961, roughly corresponding to the time that Williams began to work on The Two-Character Play. The plot of the film is a group of people who find they are unable to leave a dinner party at the lavish manor of their host, Señor Edmundo Nobile. There is no reason they can’t leave except that they seem to be trapped by their interactions with each other. Over time the party degenerates and more animal instincts come into play.  The guests become hungry and hostile, even murderous. One young couple, Béatriz and Eduardo, commit suicide in despair. It finally occurs to one of the guests, La Valkiria, that if they analyze their conversations and actions from when they first arrived, they may be able to free themselves. In other words, the trap is to be found in the development of their relationships, their need somehow to justify their existence to the others. The web that keeps them in bondage is their conversation and once these ties are exposed and unraveled they are able to leave and, in fact, they do leave. However, the fate accompli of repetition expresses itself when, in a similar situation, some of guests go to seek repentance for their sins in a local cathedral. Suddenly all the people in the cathedral realize, for some reason, that they are unable to leave. In effect, the situation at the Nobile manor is repeating itself; they might have left one enclosure but they are then trapped in another. Just like the endlessly repeating day of Vladimir and Estragon or Joseph, Inezs and Estelle; just like the repeating play of Clare and Felice—all the drama we produce is not only a trap, but it may well be a welcome one. Do we really want to escape? Is there even an existence outside of these traps?

While the other works discussed above share similar themes to Williams’ play, we can feel that they they may not be nearly as personal. They tend to be abstract meditations on the modern problems of human existence. What makes The Two-Character Play unique is the way Williams brings those psychological and existential issues close to the heart. He combines the cerebral with the personal, the architypal with the quotidian. The viewer cannot remain at a distance, as he or she is in the living room of the dilemma, feeling the anguish.  So while The Two Character Play may have been negatively received as too great a departure from the Williams’ ouevre, it is in fact of a piece with his other works, only with a different focus, a different perspective, something that all great artists strive for, if only in trying to understand themselves.

Bartkoff and Schick are obvious fans of Williams, especially little-know Williams, as evidenced by their 2012 production of In the Bar of A Tokyo Hotel, and they bring great passion and detail to the production. The Two-Character Play is seldom produced and Bartkoff and Schick are to be commended for bringing it to life. Thanks to Romy Ashby, Brandon Lim and Michael Aguirre, the excellent set design is appropriately surreal and claustrophobic—a perfect match for the play’s psychological landscape—and the audience sits so close they are implicated in the actor’s emotions. The walls are papered with magazine and newspaper clippings of the era, which gives the room an aura of psychotic nostalgia as well as lingering OCD. (Incidentally, the paintings on the wall are the works of the actors themselves.)

            I would be remiss here not to mention the comic elements in the play, a kind of self-aware absurdity, that the actors bring to life, fluidly switching between comedy, tragedy and psycho-drama. In this sense it is, like Godot, a tragi-comedy. Williams himself used the term “slapstick-tragedy” to refer to some of his later works. Both Bartkoff and Schick are comfortable and accomplished with comedy and so managing the shift between comedy and drama here is a feat they pull off effortlessly. My only comment on the acting (at least when I saw it) would be this: it could afford to slow down just a tad to draw out the weirdness and dreamlike qualities. I felt sometimes they were too caught up in a rapid fire dialogue. This was something the troupe was aware of and as the play ripened over the course of its run, the dialogue did slow down to a more natural pace

            That said, Charles Schick as Felice, channels various southern smarmy psycho cliches but he does it with a sense of self-aware, even self-mocking irony that makes Felice seem a thousand years old, while at the same time a child, and justifiably disengaged from this absurd situation he finds himself in.

Regina Bartkoff plays the traditional Williams role of the very breakable but potentially violent female albeit with a slightly manic energy balanced by a comic self-regard. She too has a kind of worldly been-though-this-a-few-times-before knowing smirk to her character. They both bring their characters a contemporary edge without sacrificing the Williams’ aura. It should also be mentioned that Bartkoff and Schick are a real life couple augmenting the aura of intimacy to this very intimate play.

The 292 Theater is everything the East Village used to be: scrappy, visionary, experimental and intimate. It is run by dedicated artists who love the work and do it “for art’s sake.” All in all, this is a truly exciting presentation of a play that is unustly obscure and we can only hope that this production leads to others









Eugene Hyon's Non-Ephemeral Moments Realized

Photographs Merging Urban Landscapes and Humanity:  Fine Art Photography From a Joint Exhibition @ A Gathering of the Tribes

February 8 - 15, 2014

The highly energized yet, at times, startlingly tranquil exhibition of art photography by native New York photographer, Eugene Hyon, organizer and curator at A Gathering of the Tribes on East 3rd Street in Manhattan, was an original artist's view of urbanites and cityscapes not to be missed. The gallery show entitled, Urban Landscape and People: A Symbiosis of Nature and Culture, was a joint showing of recent works by him and Multimedia Artist, Musician and Professor of Fine Arts, Pilar Viviente of the University Miguel Hernandez, Altea, Valencia, Spain.  Included in the week-long exhibition were art-evoked poetry recitals by Howard Pflanzer and Helen Peterson. There were also piano improvisations by Prof. Viviente and Richard Clements, enriched by the art.

Artistic and Photographic Styles and Methods of Exhibitors

In her abstract multimedia art works, Viviente strongly projects the message, "Save Nature, Save Culture!"  She reveals the symbiotic relationship between the two as primary factors supporting humankind's reliance on both nature and culture in building a healthful, functional and rewarding urban habitat.  Starting from stacked constructions of books and CD cases as model city scenes, she creates the familiar dynamics of brightly lit skyscrapers against dense night darkness.  With touches of color, she adds sparks of light to the ebony sky, and in some paintings, an over-glaze of translucent brush-strokes of color to lend a Zen-like mystique of reassuring continuity.

In sharp but pleasing contrast to her style, Hyon magnifies, demystifies and dramatizes the organic, pliable balances that underlie the urban environmental core and humanity.  By combining three distinctive modes of understanding and focus through his lens─spiritual, poetic and painterly, he artfully guides his viewers to a realization of these balances against the characteristic, somewhat predictable background of city buildings. Yet through his unique lens and vision, nothing is quite predictable or totally definable, and this is what makes his photographs at once arresting and reassuring.

Within his compositions, there is an outward appearance of simplicity, but after a deeper look are layers of subtle complexity that interplay with blatent verity in areas of seemingly opaque mystery.  By means of these creative balances and layers of death, destruction, decay, vibrant energy, vitality and extreme beauty, he very astutely and artistically shows us specific aspects of the totality of the active urban lifestyle, death mode, and the stages of existence and experience among them all.  We find ourselves absorbed and fascinated by these facets depicted, minus any tendency toward hesitancy or avoidance of viewing even the most destructive or disparaging scenes.  We delight in the lighter moments and grieve with or ponder on the darker ones.  As a highly accomplished artist, photographer and philosopher, he is able to guide viewers of his works through the complete essence and embodiment of each moment in time, human experience and artistic vision that he captures and conveys.

Eugene Hyon’s Artistic Journey Traced

Hyon’s personal involvement with photography began in the late 1960s, working with his father who was an independent commercial black and white darkroom/studio photographer focusing mainly on fashion, industrial and commercial subjects in New York City.  Quoting from him, "There is 'magic' in having a photographic idea and letting it materialize, then doing as many different things with it.  I have watched as this transformative process took on a life of its own." 

When discussing his art photography, he states, "My work has been described by others as down-to-earth, intimate, mysterious, evocative and visionary.  No matter the description, I seek to turn the everyday experience into an extraordinary 'non-ephemeral' moment from the very things that others take for granted."  He works with black and white, because it clearly communicates the barest essence of the idiosyncrasies and attributes of our environment and is most suitable for depicting nostalgia. He explains that use of color grasps and concisely conveys instants in the "here and now" modern surroundings.

His art photography has been substantially influenced by the late 19th and early 20th Century photographic works of Eugene Atget, Berenice Abbott, Andre Kertesz, Paul Strand, and Irving Penn. Additional interests of his include living as an integral part of nature and traveling to distant destinations, preferably on the fringes of society. 

Hyon’s Individual Art Photography Works on Display

Beard Street Slip   Beard Street Slip II

His works of art photography speak to us on different levels.  For example, in his fine art photographs entitled, Beard Street Slip and Beard Street Slip II, the use of sepia toning lends a touch of history and nostalgic warmth to the still, deserted scenes of factory buildings and open structures in Brooklyn built around the 19th Century behind empty boats moored at the weathered dock. What is especially evident is that the subtlety of the sepia tones in both works elevate unpretentious, ordinary and true-to-life scenes to classical levels of composition and proportion, as well as evoke by-gone days.  The viewers are transported into an alternate reality that looks back in time without having to leave the present.  If one looks closely within the photographs, there are only contemporary boats and cars along the docks and streets.

Mannequin On Van Brunt Street Slip

In the stark reality of the scene depicted in Mannequin on Van Brunt, the damaged yet stylish legs of a discarded mannequin dangle over the edge of a large industrial garbage bin.  On one level, these legs, though mud or blood-stained and grotesque in their embodiment of a life roughly lost, hint at a previous lifestyle of posed elegance and beauty.  Since the torso, head and arms are not visible, this former figure and existence may compel the viewer to imagine horrors underneath the pile of refuse.  On a second level, the whole picture takes on a completely surreal vision with half a woman's figure left dangling off the side of the boat. The third level deals with the actual context, which is the collection of damaged commercial artifacts inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.

Sunken Taxis

In Sunken Taxis, a large fleet of yellow city cabs lies dormant and half-submerged in a flooded parking lot. Their yellow exteriors are offset by the dark murkiness of the rising water engulfing them.  With a wide-angle lens, the diamond-like geometry of the grouping of taxis is exaggerated almost to the point of saying that even in state of being engulfed during a super storm like Hurricane Sandy, order somehow survives disruption and chaos. This makes one think that there still might be hope for society and culture in the face of ever more destructive and uncontrollable floods of the urban landscape created by Global Warming.

Cooling Off On Milton Street

In Cooling Off On Milton Street, a young man and woman in swimsuits enjoy the cool, forceful spray of water from an opened fire hydrant on a hot day in a city neighborhood.  Water, which is a theme that runs throughout the entire exhibition, is seen here in it's benevolent and most controlled form, completely in the service of humanity for pleasure.  In the background, the orange and white cylindrical warning barriers surrounding a parked heavy construction vehicle typify the constant mix of different residential and commercial/industrial environments, accessories and attitudes in city environments.  The human spirit, culture and social interaction are a reflection of the natural world, even if that natural world manifests itself in an urban environment.  Humanity shapes itself around the urban landscape as much as the urban landscape shapes humanity.

Greenpoint Welcome

Greenpoint Welcome shows the large, nearly street-to-rooftop sign on the side of an urban building.  Of prominence are the expansive block letters "BK" for "Brooklyn."  They are a curiosity, because of the difficulty in determining whether the ghoulish graffiti lettering was the original work of the artist or added by passersby afterward, as well as strangely reminiscent of European political propaganda posters of the 1930s.  The three figures rushing off with a baby-in-stroller down the sidewalk bring a sense of normalcy to the overall scene.

In the art photography displayed in this exhibition, Hyon has definitely transformed ordinary objects, scenes and experiences into bigger than life, non-ephemeral time segments.  With his choice of subject matter that is often overlooked or taken for granted by others, he artfully applies his unique spiritual, poetic and painterly perspectives to focus his lens.  The result is a visionary's diversified and complex, yet direct and concisely dynamic art photography.  The intimate and warm humanistic qualities of urban life merge with its stark, bold and often harsh realities.  With artistic expertise, he captures the very heart of the commercial-industrial impact on city dwellers and environments in subtle sepia, honest black and white or playful, emotional and infinite gradations of color.

Eugene Hyon's link:

Eugene Hyon, photographer, writer and collaborator with Ellen Gilmer.  Ellen Gilmer, writer, Culture & Art section, IMPress/International Press Association Publication, an online magazine. Article published March 6, 2014.

Jason Moran Live bei Tribes

A special post for our German friends. To view the details on Jason Moran's appearance at Tribes in English, and how you can secure your seat, go here.

Jason Moran Live bei Tribes 

Sonntag, 29. Mai, 17h00-19h00, 15 $ am Eingang

Begrenzte Platzzahl, bitte reservieren

Pianist, Komponist und Bandleader Jason Moran, dessen kühner und genre-übergreifender Jazz die unterschiedlichsten musikalischen Richtungen kombiniert, widmet Tribes ein Solokonzert am Piano. Moran wurde in Houston, Texas, geboren und zog mit 18 Jahren nach New York, um mit Jaki Byard an der Manhattan School of Music zu studieren. Nach seinem Abschluss bekam er einen Plattenvertrag von Blue Note Records, mit denen er seither acht von der Kritik gefeierte Platten produziert hat, darunter sein jüngstes Album TEN. Moran wurde 2010 mit dem McArthur-Preis ausgezeichnet und hat mit zahllosen Ikonen des Jazz zusammengearbeitet: Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd, Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Dave Holland, Paul Motian und vielen anderen mehr. Daneben arbeitet er mit zahlreichen visuellen- und Performancekünstlern wie Joan Jonas, Kara Walker, Adrian Piper, Glenn Ligon und Adam Pendleton zusammen. Mit Neuinterpretationen klassischer Werke und eigenen Kompositionen erweitert er die Grenzen des Jazz und spielt eine herausragende Rolle in dessen Entwicklung im 21. Jahrhundert.


The Museum of Now: on "Slavery in New York"

The Museum of Now: on "Slavery in New York"





I stare at a slave who's been dead a hundred and fifty years. Posters for the exhibit \work{Slavery in New York} show an old, snow-haired black man. He was the last slave freed in New York in 1851 and his eyes, hardened by the fear of death and the fatigue of life, ask "What did you do with your freedom."


I ride the subway to Central Park West to see the exhibit. It's a neighborhood where money layered on money has built invisible walls not found on maps but New Yorkers know by instinct. Usually I leave my streets, where men eye men for money, to relax within these walls, to feel security I can't afford and breathe in the quiet world of liberal privilege.


Today I measure the distance between me and the old man in the poster, between the life he endured and my unknown fate. The New York Historical Society opened the exhibit and though it closes March 5th the show raises questions about who we were and who we are. Slavery is centuries old but the reality of it lies beneath our feet. In 1991 construction workers drove the steel of modern New York into earth and hit bone. They found skeletons of slaves buried under the glittering surface of today.


Exhibit sponsor J.P. Morgan Chase wants to conceal the benefit they derived these skeletons. In 2004 a reparations attorney found J.P Morgan's fortune was built selling insurance to slave traders. Their funding is their down payment on the past. If they subsidize historical reviews of slavery they won't owe anyone victimized by their wealth today.


As I entered \work{Slavery in New York}, projected letters swirled on the floor as if caught in the ocean tides played on the speakers. The letters linked into a quote from a slave or slave owner then swirled again. The tearing apart of language signaled the centuries long silence to come.


The soundtrack of slavery, rhythmic moaning and iron smacking iron, continued as a video lit the faces of the audience. It explained how New York was financed by the slave trade that caused the Industrial Revolution. An older black couple sat quietly as if studying evidence while white women chatted nervously.


I hovered around the white women, listening for a racist remark to justify my anger, which may be older than any history. They noticed me and began speaking in tones of forced regret. I was left with little evidence just how they said "blah-aks" as if spitting bitterness out.


In the first room are wire sculptures of slaves. I touched one and wondered what history did slaves have to hold? A faint scar on my finger shined briefly as I turned my hand. Maybe they just read the truth written on their bodies by whip and work.


On the wall a map of New Amsterdam showed the forest slaves cleared for the colony. It shocked me because I've learned the myth of black laziness. Many myths exist about blacks that interlock into a maze, when lost I listen for voices to guide me out. History is their voice but it's not easy to hear, either its screams or whispers.


A panel showed the 1664 British take over of New Amsterdam. No shots were fired. No one cared as long as money made money. New Amsterdam was re-named New York and Dutch gave way to English but the ban against the black voice stayed. Slaves caught conspiring faced torture, so they hid truth in song and dance. The exhibit said such secrecy created "two New Yorks, one public and one private". The phrase echoed the "two New Yorks" campaign of the Democratic nominee for mayor, Fernando Ferrer. I laughed but a thought broke my smile. Are we so afraid of power we speak in hints and innuendo?


Nearby a video installation shaped like a well looked up from the bottom to four black women braiding their voices together. They talked of lovers in prison; magic cures for cracked hands and laughed as they admitted they just wanted a pair of white women's gloves. Only one held out, "I want new hands," she said and they hummed agreement. Their struggle to survive demanded they drop any illusions, one being that those in power will ever freely share it. Slaves knew this and a precious few acted on it. On the wall was a summary of 1741 plot to set New York on fire. Others disappeared and the ads for run-away slaves are evidence of their triumph. One described a woman's body in detail. Her crime being that she stole herself. 


The next display was a slave cabin and the master's house. The slave quarters were bare and small. It was only in times of chaos that blacks had freedom to move, as in the Revolution of 1776 when desperate armies recruited them.


I passed a video of two scholars detailing New York's grudging emancipation of its slaves. An old white man sat, mouth tight, hands folded in his lap. I wondered what he thought, having lived to see an invisible people become visible and whose unpaid labor was now seen as the source of his privilege. I didn't ask because I might lose my own comfortable answers and it was the comfort of self-righteousness that the exhibit was giving me.


By the 1800s blacks were out numbered by European immigrants, yet remained the symbol of enslavement against which the new arrivals measured their freedom and their "whiteness". By 1816 the American Colonization Society began urging blacks to move to Africa. They succeeded, not physically but aesthetically we've been searching for a way back for centuries. A lot of dread-locked brothers and sisters came to the exhibit, to learn more about slavery and why we twist our hair to look like exposed tree roots, to remember ancestors ripped from Africa.


We nod to each other. I asked one about the exhibit, "It's good but it doesn't go far enough," he said. "Slavery was bloody. This is too Disney." He took out a New York Post newspaper. "Besides," he said pointing to it, "Racism is here now. You got papers doing character assassination on the second non-white to run for mayor." He walked away. \work{Slavery in New York} delivers history but not, as it likes to advertise, why it matters. It did not show how each generation tried to unravel the knot of oppression and became bound again, to do so it must leap from the past to the present. Instead it goes from the public to the private. 


At the end is a booth with dark curtains; inside visitors confess feelings of shame and anger and guilt and their interviews play on video screens. I walked in and closed the curtains and watched myself in the dark screen.


I rode the subway to Bed-Stuy, came out and looked towards home. If we could see beyond our time and from that place look back, what would the exhibit \work{Race in New York} display? After the boroughs are gentrified will Marcy Projects become a museum? If so, it would hire black actors to stalk visitors demanding spare change, less for money than proof they're not invisible. It might display police blotters of those who decided not to ask anymore but just take and run.


They'd see our versions of the American Colonization Society; the Moors and Nation of Islam, the Black Israelites and Rastafari in the streets. Each group rips open the hurt caused by racism then promises a paradise that has not and will never exist. It can't because racism is not based in skin but in the soul, where fear of others and ourselves follow us no matter where we run.  


I remembered the installation of the woman at the well asking for new hands. If there was an exhibit of today, it'd show us buying new skin and new teeth. Visitors would see a people use clothes and jewelry to conceal the cheapness of black skin. They'd see a people who centuries ago could not testify in court, who spoke worthless words now glue gold and diamonds to their teeth. They'd see a people replacing their bodies with symbols of wealth, as if asking for new ones like a race of desperate cyborgs. 


Visitors could see stressed out mothers yelling at children, who grew up to be men screaming at girlfriends who have babies they yell at. They'd see women standing on corners through the night, waiting for men to buy them. They'd enjoy a video installation looking up from the cup of a homeless man talking survival with friends. The exhibit might remind them of neighborhoods they don't go to, where people live beyond invisible walls.


A black man stumbled up to me, "Boss? You got change?" he asks. I shake my head but look him in the eye while lying. I walk home looking at my empty palms; they are not scarred or calloused from work. They are new hands that could change my small part of the world and it seems change is what everyone is asking for.


I get in and take off my coat. In the bathroom I stand in front of the mirror and feel the immensity of time, the certainty that my hair will go snow-white and generations will be born after I'm gone and look back on me and judge. I realize in the mirror is a man who's been dead since he was born, dead because he hasn't done anything with his freedom.


      "Slavery in New York"

      October 7, 2005 through March 5, 2006

      New York Historical Society

      170 Central Park West at 77th Street

      New York, NY 10024