lower east side

L.E.S.P.I. presents "Chinatown: Lens on the Lower East Side" A Contemporary Photography Exhibit

tribes feb 27 post LESPI.jpg

Curated by: Carolyn Ratcliffe and Corky Lee

Contributors: Corky Lee, An Rong Xu, Edward Chen, Karen Zhou, Jook Leung

March 4 - March 26, 2019

Opening Reception and Book Launch: Tuesday March 5,  5:30-7:30pm

New York Arts Center, 78 Bowery, New York, NY

Monday - Friday 10:00am - 5:00pm, Saturdays 11:00am - 3:00pm

This contemporary photography exhibit is based on the work showcased in Lower East Side Preservation Initiative's recent book, "Chinatown: Lens on the Lower East Side,"  a collection of beautiful photographs of Chinatown's historic core - from Canal to Worth Street, Baxter to the Bowery.  The photographs capture the spirit of today's residents, workers, and visitors against a backdrop of the area's rich and wonderful historic buildings.  The book, accompanied by a lively local history, is intended to show how the neighborhood's streetscapes are not only beautiful and irreplaceable, but also serve to enrich and enliven everyday modern life.  Chinatown's streetscapes are now in danger: if the city does not protect them through landmarking or other means they will fall prey to demolition and overdevelopment. 

Read more about this exhibit on the L.E.S.P.I. website here.

John Farris, bohemian poet who chronicled life on Lower East Side

John Farris in a recent photo in the vestibule at Bullet Space, a former squat on E. Third St. Photo by Maggie Wrigley

BY SARAH FERGUSON | It’s hard to fathom a Lower East Side without John Farris. The beloved, if notoriously cantankerous, poet was found dead of a heart attack in his one-bedroom apartment at the Bullet Space artists’ homestead on E. Third St. on Jan. 22. He was 75.

With his sharp wit and abrasive personality, Farris was for decades an integral part of the Downtown literary and jazz scenes. He performed at a wide range of venues, reading wry, lyrical poems and densely crafted prose that both celebrated and satirized the people of the Lower East Side. He insisted that you listen to him — whether you wanted to or not.

Though he was constantly writing, Farris didn’t actually publish much — a single novel, “The Ass’s Tale,” put out in 2010 by the Unbearables collective, a slim volume of poetry, “It’s Not About Time” (Fly By Night Press, 1993) and some chapbooks — along with numerous poems, short stories and essays he contributed to magazines, art journals and anthologies. Yet his influence extends far beyond what ended up in print:

In 2008, the Howl! Festival named him poet laureate of the Lower East Side, and in 2013 he won an Acker Award for his novel, and in recognition of his life spent performing and mentoring other writers and artists — many of whom went on to achieve national prominence.

“His work was extraordinary. He plucked these gorgeous, surreal and very funny poems out of thin air,” said writer Darius James, who first encountered Farris in 1983 when Farris was living in the back room of Life Cafe on Avenue B and running a weekly reading series there.

James credits Farris with helping school him in his artistic roots.

“John was definitely part of the black bohemian scene that’s been in existence and largely undocumented since the 1840s,” said James, author of “Negrophobia” and “That’s Blaxploitation.”

“He knew all the black musicians, writers and artists who were prominent in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. He knew them from hanging out in places like Slug’s,” James added, referring to the old jazz spot on E. Third St. “So you had a sense of continuity from John. He was part of the Lower East Side bohemian spirit.”

“He was a great poet. He owned the streets. He really was of the neighborhood. A fixture,” said Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club. “He was also a synesthete, someone who could see sounds and hear colors, for whom the senses mix. You can hear it in a lot of his jazz poems. They are filled with crazily imaginative language that is like synesthesia.”

Though fiercely political — he was at one time a bodyguard to Malcolm X — Farris eschewed any inkling of black nationalism, hewing instead to a more universal aesthetic.

“John was the first black poet I met who didn’t talk about the black experience in his poetry, and I was impressed with that,” said renowned conceptual artist David Hammons, who considered Farris a muse.

“He had a sense of humor and I really liked that,” Hammons continued. “Wherever he went he could seduce the bartenders to give him free drinks. I watched him go from place to place — Life Cafe, Vazac’s, 2A, NuBlu. Everywhere he went, he’d sit at the corner of the bar and hold court. He would, like, own the bartender because of his mouth.” (Of course, that same mouth got him 86’d from most places, too.)

John Farris on the roof of Bullet Space, circa 2000. Photo by Hisashi

He also was a ladies’ man and a “prolific father,” joked his daughter Sienna, who lives in Brooklyn. He was married four times and fathered six daughters “that we know of,” she said.

A high-school dropout, Farris was remarkably well-read and would have enjoyed wider acclaim were it not for his determinedly outsider status and obstinate personality.

Part of that owed to his difficult upbringing. He was born in Far Rockaway in 1940 and raised by a single mother who was part Seminole and from the South. They lived with his two sisters and brother in a small apartment with a shared bathroom down the hall.

“The library was my refuge,” Farris said in an interview. He left home when he was 17 and began hanging around the coffeehouse scene in Greenwich Village.

 

I was born in 1940

on Manhattan, “Island 

of Hills”, “Place of Inebriation.” 

placer of muskrat, beaver

and mink. My ancestors built a wall

for the Dutch

to keep them contained, out

like a line in the sand, being

thereby kept both in

and out, effectively dividing them-

selves

against themselves for the patroons… 

— from “Heritage,” 1999 (for Ama-

dou Diallo)

 

“He was one of the original Beats in his way. He came of age among the Beats,” said Dalton Anthony Jones, an associate professor of cultural studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who considers Farris his stepfather. “When I was kicked out of school at age 13, he took me under this wing and mentored me,” said Jones.

If Farris found freedom in the counterculture, he quickly ran up against its double standards. In 1959, he was smoking a joint with a couple of white Beatniks on Bleecker St. when he got busted for trafficking marijuana. Farris said his friend asked him to pass a paper bag of pot to some guys, who turned out to be undercover cops

“I didn’t know what was in the bag, it wasn’t even my reefer,” Farris later said. Yet, unlike his white counterparts whose families could afford lawyers, Farris was sentenced to three years. While in prison, his mother passed away on the day of his 21st birthday.

“It was a big turning point in his life. He talked about that a lot,” said Jones. Another setback was the heroin overdose of his older brother, Philip, an artist and jazz musician.

Released from jail in 1961, Farris moved to a friend’s apartment on Avenue A, where he met his first wife, Chinyelu, a dancer for Babatunde Olatunji. They moved to Harlem, where he fathered two daughters and helped raise Sai, Chinyelu’s son from a prior relationship with actor Morgan Freeman. According to Chinyelu, they lived off her dancing and Farris’s poetry.

“He’d go to jazz shows or stand on the streets of Greenwich Village and recite poems, and people would give him money for it,” she recalled.

Though never a Muslim, he was inspired by Malcolm X and served briefly as one of his bodyguards. On the night of the assassination, Farris was in the Audubon Ballroom, assigned to guard Malcolm X’s wife, Betty Shabazz. Farris’s wife, Chinyelu, then pregnant, was sitting in the front row with their first daughter and Sai.

“When Malcolm was shot, the gunshots were going and they were all running from the stage to the back of the ballroom, and John was running after the shooters,” recalled Chinyelu. “I know he later felt guilty that he hadn’t done more, though he shouldn’t have. They were shooting like crazy. It was total chaos.”

Phoebe Farris, his second wife, said John related the story differently:

“John saved his first wife and their two children, who were in the front row during the shooting,” she said. “His first instinct was to save his own family, and he felt guilty later.”

Disgusted by all the political infighting in the black militant scene in the wake of the assassination, Farris migrated to the Black Arts Movement, then under the orbit of Amiri Baraka — though again he found himself on the outskirts.

“During that period of black nationalism, he never succumbed to the easy answers of racial essentialism, even though that often put him at odds with some of the figures of that period,” said Dalton Jones. “He always maintained his own center of gravity.”

In the early ’70s, he taught poetry to kids at the Children’s Art Carnival in Harlem, where he worked with Phoebe.

“He invented a poetry board game for children and the kids loved it,” she recalled. “But he was not able to get funding to market it.”

They had a daughter, and Farris sought to make a name for himself on the poetry circuit, reading at jazz and dance performances and literary events alongside people like Quincy Troupe, Steve Cannon, Ntosake Shange,  David Murray and Don Cherry.

His family describes Farris as a loving father, but quintessentially narcissistic and difficult to live with.

“He wanted to have the luxury of just writing and have others deal with the real world of paying the rent, etc.,” said Phoebe, who went on to become a professor of art and women’s studies at Purdue University.

“He was a creative genius and artist, but he made it clear to me he was devoted to his poetry and art first,” added their daughter, Sienna. “For him, it was like he had to make that decision.”

Following the breakup of his second marriage, Farris returned Downtown and assumed the role of poet full time. He had a remarkable knack for living rent-free. He lived with jazz great Ornette Coleman for six months in the early 80s. (“I was the doorman,” he quipped. “I let the ladies in.”) He also lived in back of the after-hours bookstore Neither/Nor on E. Sixth St., where he held a weekly reading series that fans say was not to be missed — hosting cutting-edge writers like Baraka, Kathy Acker, Miguel Pinero, Joel Rose, Catherine Texier and Patrick McGrath.

John Farris in a heavy costume of bones in “Barkelot,” a feminist performance piece.

 

When Neither/Nor closed in 1986, he took up residence in a squat at 539 E. 13th St., where he held readings at the second-floor Alchemical Theatre. (Drunks, crackheads and other vagrants from this period turn up in writings, morphed into animals — including Farris himself.) He also lived in the basement of the Living Theatre on E. Third St., where he served as a caretaker, staged plays and ran a midnight poetry series.

Dancer Patricia Winter recalled performing with Farris in her feminist performance piece “Barkelot” — she on a leash and Farris in a costume made entirely of cow bones.

“John was such a trooper,” she said. “He was naked in this bone costume that weighed like 50 pounds, and he was already kind of crippled then, so he was limping, but he loved it. It was just such a bizarre piece. [Painter] Al Loving did the set design and Frank Lowe, the saxophonist, played with us.”

When the Living Theatre closed in 1993, the artists at Bullet Space took him in.

“Bullet Space was a godsend for John,” said Jones. “He really did a lot of writing and readings there.”

In the 1990s, Farris also helped out at poetry workshops at the East Village’s Tribes gallery, and was an editor for the literary journals “Peau Sensible” and “Sensitive Skin,” deeply influencing that close-knit circle of writers.

“He was our loa, our Papa Legba,” said writer Norman Douglas, referring to the Vodou spirit trickster and elocutioner.

Still, friends say his obstinate personality often got in the way of more worldly success.

“He was definitely an antagonist. He was a difficult man. He ended up burning a lot of bridges,” remarked Jones.

Darius James recalled the time he persuaded Bob Guccione, editor of Spin magazine, to allow Farris to interview Sun Ra, with whom Farris was tight.

“The interview was great,” James said. “It still gets quoted in academic circles. But John got mad when Spin didn’t pay him in a timely fashion. So he went up to the office and was like, ‘Mo’f–kas, give me my money!’ So Guccione had them cut him a check right there, but that was it,” James said, meaning Farris had blown up a good connection.

Similarly, Tribes impresario Steve Cannon said that shortly after he published Farris’s first book, “It’s Not About Time,” he arranged for Farris to guest lecture at Rutgers University, where Nuyorican poet Miguel Algarin was teaching.

“Rutgers was going to pay him like $1,500 and buy 60 copies of the book,” Cannon recalled. “But when we went back in the storage room, we found all the books were gone. Farris sold them all to buy drinks at [the bar] 2A.

“He was constantly getting in fights with people,” laughed Cannon, a close friend. “Not only was he mean, he would kick someone’s ass if he got into a disagreement with them. I used to have to throw him out of Tribes all the time because he would antagonize these young poets I had helping me here. He got thrown out of the Nuyorican [Poets Cafe] for berating the poets there.”

Farris made no apologies about such behavior. He reveled in the flaws of others, and himself.

 

Two years past fifty & I’ve got a pot 

belly. 

My teeth, demolished bridges I can’t 

cross

anymore; the abutments list in weak 

gums

— from “Bridges,” 1993

 

Farris was also stubborn about not pushing to get his stuff in print

“It was a willful choice not to publish,” said Douglas. “Like Socrates, he felt it was more important to reach somebody through his voice in person, to imprint oneself via the oral, than through the written word.”

Some of the drawings that covered the walls of Farris’s apartment where he died. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

Drafts for Farris’s phantasmagorical novel, “The Ass’s Tale,” circulated around the Lower East Side for years before Ron Kolm of the Unbearables collective persuaded Farris to let them publish it. The book, which won a PEN Oakland Award in 2011, is a satirical play on the ancient Latin novel “The Golden Ass,” by Apuleius. It’s also a shaggy-dog tale about a down-and-out drifter who turns into a dog, suffused with punning references to jazz, mythology and pop culture.

“He mixes in all these pop references but the dude is actually a classicist,” noted Kolm, who said he was “in awe” of Farris’s writing.

Farris loved the Lower East Side; he said he found “everything” he needed there. His work captured the life and cadence of the neighborhood with meticulous detail. He found wonder in the most mundane, with funny puns that get inside your head and tug at you. “Sightings,” a chapbook he published in 2004 with Sisyphus Press, is made up of poems about sitting at his window watching a new building go up.

“He had a very photographic eye,” noted poet and publisher Steve Dalachinsky. “He told me he only wrote stoned. His drug of choice was weed. He smoked weed constantly, and he would smoke before he gave readings.”

You can google videos of him reading alongside jazz musicians that should be preserved on vinyl for future generations to venerate. “Flatting Third” — a film poem produced by Ed Montgomery in 2008 — features the voice of Farris juxtaposed against panoramic views of Loisaida, accompanied by the searing trumpet of Jumaani Smith.

A sculpture by John Farris made out of masking tape.

 

Partly on the suggestion of Hammons, who thought it would be a good way to earn money, Farris took up drawing in his latter years, producing scores of self-portraits and sketches that blanketed his walls, and sculpting heads out of plastic bags and masking tape. He had his first show in 2010 at Bullet, and sold several pieces to collectors.

 

I draw like a precocious ten-year old. I 

draw blacks and make vivid color

in black graphite, use self-portraits to 

suggest

blue, anger say, to suggest red. 

If I am brown, it is only in the context 

of the context, 

a wink to suggest the bright, the clever.

— from “Drawing,” 2015

 

But over the past decade, his health and his mobility declined markedly. Friends said he stopped drinking in 2000, after he suffered a minor stroke — or that’s what his family believes — it was never fully diagnosed.

“John always refused to go to the doctor. You could threaten to call 911, but he wouldn’t budge,” said Bullet Space co-founder Andrew Castrucci.

He had trouble walking and climbing the stairs to his fourth-floor apartment, so his fellow artists at Bullet helped care for him. Photographer/writer Maggie Wrigley frequently brought him meals.

“He was one of the most creative, challenging and inspiring people I have ever met,” she said.

“He was like our grandfather,” added Castrucci.

A drawing of a reader covered the screen of a Mac computer in his room. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

 

“I saw him the week before [he died] on Avenue C,” said Holman. “He was hobbling down the avenue on a double cane set, bent over like some kind of crazy happy beast. We joked about his getting back up on the bicycle. He loved to ride the bicycle. He would ride it even when he had trouble walking. I don’t know why he grew so old so fast.”

“He got more isolated in the last year,” Castrucci said, “especially after Tribes closed. He’d spend weeks up in his apartment without leaving.”

 

… All my musician friends are dying

Diz, Miles, Clifford Jordan, Philip Wil

son; Sun Ra is in Alabama

helpless with a stroke (O black world, I 

never imagined this 

life without Sun, without the stride 

piano, his sequined dance).

— from “Bridges,” 1993

 

Nevertheless, Castrucci believes he died happy.

“He didn’t die in the hospital. He drew every day. Right before he died, he was working on a new wave of poetry — some of his best stuff. It was all about drawing,” Castrucci said, sifting through the detritus of handwritten poems, sketches and loose tobacco mixed in with old bills and correspondence that littered the floors of his apartment.

“I’m finding unfinished novels in here.”

A memorial note to Farris on the front door of Bullet Space. Photo by Sarah Ferguson

 

Farris’s ashes will be scattered under the maple tree in the backyard of Bullet, in accordance with his wishes. A celebration of John’s life and work will be held on April 29 at Judson Memorial Church, in the Village, at 55 Washington Square South, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a retrospective show of his art and ephemera at Bullet Space in May.

 

**********

At last

I am

Making

Self-portraits

I can

Get myself

Arrested for.

The bridge

of the nose

will finally take me

to Brooklyn.

I’m back on

Positive

Identification. It

Balances

The sneer

of the lips

The eyes

Look you straight

in the face

With

Pure arrogance. Yes, I confess

— again,

I did that

I’m bad.

**********

I had tried being born again in 1940: no 

fanfare (flash photographs 

of the Child-Me-Asleep, Under the 

Madonna’s Adoring Gaze, Magi),

nothing

fancy (halo, my first shoes, bronzed, 

made into bookends)

— from “Born Again,” 1993

The Guerrilla Girls, After 3 Decades, Still Rattling Art World Cages

When you’ve spent 30 years wearing a gorilla mask, as the women known by the aliases Frida Kahlo and Käthe Kollwitz have, certain behavior becomes second nature. So there were Kahlo and Kollwitz, two of the pseudonymous founding members of the Guerrilla Girls, the activist, feminist art collective, preening and posing at their 30th anniversary party and retrospective in May. They sipped prosecco through straws (their gorilla lips wouldn’t allow much more) at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side, while guests gazed at walls lined with the posters protesting elitism and bias that first shook the art world in the 1980s. “Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum?” one provocatively asked. The Guerrillas’ name tags identified them as pioneering dead female artists (like Alice Neel, the portraitist, or Zubeida Agha, the Pakistani modernist) whose legacies they hope to continue.

After three decades as masked crusaders for gender and racial equality in the art world — and increasingly, everywhere else — the Guerrilla Girls have lately been enjoying a victory lap. Last year, the Whitney Museum of American Art acquired the group’s portfolio of 88 posters and ephemera from 1985 to 2012, documenting the number of women and minorities represented in galleries and institutions, including the Whitney itself.

Photo

The 30th birthday party for the Guerrilla Girls at the Abrons Art Center in Manhattan in May.CreditBenjamin Norman for The New York Times

“To me, they are art world royalty,” said David Kiehl, the Whitney’s curator for prints, who helped persuade the museum to acquire their work.

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis also bought the Guerrilla Girls’ entire collection of posters, in numbered prints, which were originally plastered on walls, phone booths and galleries in SoHo. And the posters still pop up in gallery districts, calling attention to disproportionate representation in the art world and wage inequality. The Walker is planning a Guerrilla Girls exhibition for January.

Olga Viso, the Walker’s director, discovered the group as an art history student in the 1980s. “I remember feeling such pride that there were female artists out there giving voice to these concerns that we were sensing and feeling,” she said, adding that coming of age with the Guerrilla Girls “totally shaped who I am and the artists I worked with.”

Gloria Steinem, too, is a longtime fan. “I think they’re the perfect protest group,” she said, “because they have humor.” One poster cataloged the advantages to being a woman artist: “Working without the pressure of success; knowing your career might pick up after you’re 80; getting your picture in the art magazines wearing a gorilla suit.”

Membership has fluctuated over the years, from a high of about 30 art-world women to a few handfuls of active members now. Some women left the suit behind, seeking recognition under their own names. Others became professors or real estate agents. But most have remained committed to anonymity, filtering in and out of the crew and fretting about what it meant to be part of the world they were lampooning. “Some of us wanted a piece of the pie, and some of us wanted to blow the whole pie up,” Kahlo said. “We agreed to disagree.”

They still exhibit and share work in places like Reykjavik, Iceland, London and Sarajevo — their next appearance will be in September at the Printed Matter’s N.Y. Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 — and lecture at colleges, where their campaigns are part of women’s studies and art history classes.

Today they seem prescient: They long ago took aim at issues that are flash points now, like gender bias in Hollywood, and racism in the gallery world (“Guerrilla Girls’ definition of a hypocrite?” read one poster. “An art collector who buys white male art at benefits for liberal causes, but never buys art by women or artists of color.”) Co-opting the look and feel of advertising, they were social media-friendly and selfie-ready before those terms existed. Though other activist groups, like the newly formed anonymous collective Pussy Galore, have taken up the cause, the Guerrilla Girls say their mission is far from over. “They’re as valid today, and needed today, as they were 30 years ago,” Mr. Kiehl said, “because what they’re talking about is still going on.” The June issue of Art News, edited by Maura Reilly, founding curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum and current chief curator at National Academy Museum, took stock of the state of women in the art world. It found that, despite some gains, the majority of celebrated artists are still white and male, and that discrimination exists from the top down in cultural institutions.

Photo

An anniversary recount sticker showing numbers from 1985 and 2015. CreditGuerrilla Girls

What follows is an oral history of the Guerrilla Girls and their big-footed leaps across the cultural world, recounted by the Girls themselves, their art-world contemporaries and younger artists they inspired, as well as curators, dealers and museum directors who were witness to their insurrection. These are excerpts from the conversations.

Dawn of the Apes

The Guerrilla Girls galvanized into action in response to a 1984 survey exhibition of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. Of 165 artists represented, fewer than 10 percent were women or minorities, they found.

KäTHE KOLLWITZ [NAMED AFTER THE GERMAN PAINTER WHO DIED IN 1945] The Women’s Caucus for Art, I think, called a demonstration. A couple of us went and we walked around the picket line, and no one stopped. No one cared. Everyone went right into the museum.

FRIDA KAHLO At that time, I think a lot of women and a lot of artists of color were taking their situation personally, thinking that they lacked something that the system wanted, not realizing that there was a systemic problem. The system did not want us.

ALICE NEEL We just knew that there was something terribly wrong, in our gut. Art in America had these annual reports [a national listing of gallery and museum rosters], and we sat and we counted. It was worse than we thought.

KOLLWITZ Suddenly we realized, people think whatever’s in the museum is the best stuff, and if you’re outside the museum complaining, you’re just a bunch of untalented people. And at that moment came this other realization: There’s got to be a better way, a more contemporary way, an in-your-face way, of breaking through people’s preconceived notions and changing their minds.

Photo

A poster from 1989. CreditGuerrilla Girls

KAHLO Käthe and I would sit in bars, and we realized that the more we laughed and made fun of the art world, the better we felt. And then we realized that maybe we should take this sensibility and start investigating the art world, just calling people out for discrimination. The first meetings were so empowering. They still are.

In April 1985, the Guerrilla Girls hung their first poster, naming (and shaming) the major artists who showed at male-dominated galleries; they were quickly branded rabble-rousers. In “Guerrillas in Our Midst,” a 1992 documentary by Amy Harrison, prominent artists and dealers decried the group as talentless, careerist victims. But they soon found a loyal audience and gained supporters, including the New York Times critic Roberta Smith, who was among the list of critics singled out in one poster for not covering more female artists, a failure Ms. Smith acknowledged. “The Guerrilla Girls are not art critics; they’re social critics,” she wrote in The Times in 1990, commenting on the group’s emphasis on numbers and disinterest in issues of quality.

KAHLO How can you really tell the story of a culture when you don’t include all the voices within the culture? Otherwise, it’s just the history, and the story, of power.

By the Numbers

The Guerrilla Girls arrived at a moment when the art scene was embracing a new theatricality and becoming more pointedly political, globally. Performance and street art were going mainstream. The Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher eras witnessed cuts in funding for public projects, including support for artists. The economic strategies contributed to the art-as-investment-and-speculation boom. Dissent was brewing.

As evocative as their animal faces and sticker crusades were, the Guerrilla Girls’ greatest contribution may have been in something simpler: the act of counting. They were not the first artists to employ data in their work, but they were among the most visible, and direct.

KAHLO One Sunday morning [in 1989], a group of us went to the Metropolitan Museum with little notebooks. We were going to count naked bodies and female artists. It was only when we hit the 19th century, that early modern period, when sex replaced religion as the major preoccupation of European artists, did we get our statistic: Only 5 percent of the artists were women, but 85 percent of the nudes are female.

Photo

A Guggenheim demonstration in 1992. CreditTeri Slotkin

They repeated the count in the modern wings at the Met in 2005 and 2012, and the numbers were hardly different. Other posters enumerated the number of women in solo shows in the city’s major museums (zero or one each in 1985; 1 to 2 in 2015) and blue-chip galleries.

MAURA REILLY, CURATOR They’ve greatly influenced the way that I think, in particular the idea that counting, the literal counting of male versus female, is a feminist strategy. And I know it’s much more complicated than simple statistics, but it’s a great way to open the conversation.

Has Anything Changed?

DAVID KIEHL, CURATORIAL STAFF AT THE MET FROM 1973-1992 [At that institution,] I don’t think these issues [of gender and racial parity] came up a lot. When I got to the Whitney [in 1993], the curatorial staff was heavily women; we would have meetings where they would talk about things like, oh, we need to do more African-American this or women that. The system has changed. The Met, that world has changed. Artists that I could never get into the collection they’ve gotten into the collection, younger artists.

KAHLO We go back to the Met because we expect that it’s going to get better. And the progress that we’ve discovered is that now, there are fewer women artists, but more naked males. [Laughs]

This summer, Pussy Galore, inspired by the Guerrilla Girls, reprised the group’s original gallery report card, finding that the Mary Boone Gallery, for example, which showed zero women artists in 1985, had upgraded slightly, to 13 percent women.

RON WARREN, DIRECTOR AND PARTNER, MARY BOONE GALLERY However they tallied up these percentages, it really doesn’t look at the full picture of what the gallery is doing. We’ve had a lot of women in group shows; our entire spring season this year has been female artists. To simplify it into percentages is really doing a disservice to the cause. We actually show a Guerrilla Girl [under her own name].

Photo

A projection on the new Whitney Museum shortly after it opened this year. CreditGuerrilla Girls

CINDY SHERMAN, ARTIST I remember all their posters, in SoHo, seeing them everywhere. It just opened my eyes more and more to being aware of how museums show less women. I definitely see that they’ve had an influence in the art world, but it still has a ways to go.

ZUBEIDA AGHA, GUERRILLA GIRL I think a lot of people think that this issue was solved. A lot of galleries have almost an equal distribution on their roster. But their one-person or two-person shows, they’re mostly male. All the women get stuck in group shows. So what artists really need to sell their work, to help their career, that is still going to the men.

Follow the Money

The Guerrilla Girls’ notoriety helped fuel debate but didn’t translate to financial success. Their work is in 60 cultural institutions, but even the full portfolios were priced at only a few thousand dollars. Most of their income comes from speaking engagements.

ROMAINE BROOKS, GUERRILLA GIRL Whenever we went on gigs, our expenses would be covered and we’d sell posters and sometimes we’d take poster money and have a nice meal. But nobody did it for money. We did it for the camaraderie and the thrill of it.

MS. REILLY Their work is essentially free. You can pay $20 and get a Guerrilla Girls poster [online]. There is no limited edition, which is antithetical to a museum collection. I had to propose [buying the posters] in an acquisition committee meeting at the Sackler Center and they were like, well, why does this have value? I had to make an argument as to why we had to have this work in the collection.

KOLLWITZ Now we’re the darling of so many museums, and it’s totally bizarre. Should we be happy and excited? Annoyed that it took them so long? I don’t know. We care more about the street stuff, but museums have a great audience.

Photo

A Guerrilla Girl poses in front of a billboard in 2002 that criticizes the Academy Awards not far from where they are presented in Hollywood. CreditGuerrilla Girls

In the spring, the Guerrilla Girls were invited to the opening of the Whitney at its new building in the meatpacking district, and they came, en mask. Not long after, they projected a message about income inequality on the outside of the building: “Dear Art Collector/art is sooo expensive!/even for billionaires/we totally get why/you can’t pay all your employees/a living wage.” (The museum had been tipped off to this act.)

KOLLWITZ We want our work to be preserved as an antidote to all the market-driven art that museums collect to make their trustees happy.

KAHLO We would always talk about whether what we were doing was politics or art. A lot of museums would ask that question, and we could never agree on it. We realized that 20th-century art has always been about politics. We didn’t want to take the place of individual, named women artists, but on the other hand, if they were willing to admit the problem and maybe even asked us to do something why shouldn’t we do it? We don’t accept every invitation that comes our way. We have to not feel compromised.

Behind the Mask

Membership in the Guerrilla Girls continues to be by invitation only; new members come in as others cycle out. But all must adjust to life as an ape.

ROSALBA CARRIERA, RETIRED GUERRILLA GIRL [NAMED FOR THE VENETIAN ROCOCO PAINTER] I’m the one who thought of giving Guerrilla Girls names [of dead artists]. I stepped back because my life got very complicated. I felt that the first years were most important, because that’s when we broke ground. When I started the Guerrilla Girls I had an infant son and I put the mask on and my son went, ‘Where’s Mommy?’ I’ve always felt like I was a spy. What I did as a Guerrilla Girl, I did as a Guerrilla Girl, not as myself.

OLGA VISO, WALKER ART CENTER They’ve figured out how to productively disagree, in ways that sometimes feel uncomfortable but can always be turned into something. Because after all those years they still challenge each other, and they obviously feed off that.

SADIE BARNETTE, ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE, STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM I was basically born at the same time as the Guerrilla Girls. I think it’s a really interesting time to be a woman artist and a woman of color, and what they did was a first step – just for them to point their fingers at the situation is a revolutionary step. It’s not a level playing field, but I don’t think of it as closed doors, because I think there’s a subversive power in making new doors.

KAHLO You know, wearing this mask gives you a certain kind of freedom to say whatever you want. I completely recommend it. If you’re in a situation where you’re a little afraid to speak up, put a mask on. You won’t believe what comes out of your mouth.

Authenticity City

AUTHENTICITY CITY Clayton Patterson and Elsa Rensaa

Outside In

Curated by Ted Riederer

Howl! Happening

June 19 – August 14, 2015

 

By Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

 

claytonshow_15

 

Pictured: Installation shot featuring Clayton Patterson’s “Blue Boy And Pinky In The House” 1976, Mixed media

Dressed in his signature Goth/punk regalia and sporting gold teeth and a long, gnarly beard, Clayton Patterson has the beaming mien of a gangster wizard — or a super hero of the urban spectacle.

Best known as a contrarian/documentarian for his important Tompkins Square Riot footage, Clayton Patterson is much more than a filmmaker and legendary freedom fighter. As you may know, he is also a designer, historian, publisher, archivist, prolific photographer — and, it turns out, a startlingly original artist. He and his long time companion, fellow collaborator and fine artist Elsa Rensaa, are the subjects of a blowout show at Howl Happening.

Patterson’s photographic documentation (he’s reportedly taken over 100,000 photos) is well known. This show included a sampling of those iconic portraits of exuberant adolescents, tattooed gang members, masked drug dealers and other denizens of the LES.

Patterson’s art speaks to the street. It’s as if he’s stitched parts of downtown New York into quilts. And he and Elsa have literally stitched designs (including his trademark skull) onto clothing and caps, recalling a motorcycle club aesthetic or military souvenir jackets.

Also in this show were a dozen or so impressive sculptures. Recognizing the entropic pressures on society, Patterson redirects the energy he encounters. First, he gathers shards of culture from the streets and then he creates new contexts for his found materials. Old steamer trunks, boxes, balusters and drawers become stages for operatic tableaux. Toy soldiers glow under a black light. Knives provide rhythms to chaotic juxtapositions.

These assemblage pieces combine Joseph Cornell’ fairy tale charm with the anti-sentimentality of Robert Rauschenberg’s “gluts” that “simply wanted to present people with their ruins.”

If Patterson incorporates the ruins, he also revitalizes them, resurrecting detritus and giving it new life. More recent affinities would include the Wunderkammer aspect of Joe Coleman’s freak art/museum collection and the Fusion Art of Shalom.

In one of Patterson’s pieces, a manikin recalls a boardwalk fortune- telling machine. A gypsy spirit pervades. Like magic portals in an arcade, these works suspend belief. They will draw you in to their mysterious overtures. One of them would look terrific in a museum. I could definitely see one holding up next to a sculpture by Louise Nevelson or Marisol.

 

Patricia Spears Jones reviews A Swarm of Bees in High Court

  Tonya M. Foster’s well-built house of words, A Swarm of Bees In High Court is a rather grand one with many rooms. Belladonna has placed these poems in a handsome volume with cover art by Wangechi Mutu. Max Ernst’s painting, A Swarm of Bees in the Palace of Justice at The Menil Foundation in Houston provided a jumping off point for her consideration of shape and color, colored by myriad experiences from an erotic encounter in which the speaker reflects while her lover sleeps his satisfied sleep to bullets and basketball. Bees argue in the rooms of this artful house. They question power. They find sweetness. Change direction. Upend expectation. Find the Queen imperious to pleading or lack of sweetness. Foster’s poems be like that.

In/Somnia is for this reviewer, the most emotionally compelling section of this book. The post coital lovers make for an easy apprehension, but then Foster is not interested in easy apprehension. “Again to t/his sweat. Now sleep./But not for her—sleep.” Words are cut up, punctuation is almost too precise. The speaker’s insomnia reveals or conceals depending on where one is in the poem, anxiety, anger, vulnerability, pleasure, like picking the cuticle—gross, but it’s your own finger.

Can running her

finger, like a hiss along

t/his clavicle trip up

parenthetical

affection? Full of sleep

 

This is a poet for whom sound is an important ingredient in the poem’s architecture. Finger . . . hiss—those short vowels and intense consonants. The sleepless lover is either remaking herself in her “dramas, get chased round the block/by rabid white dogs or “She’s come to take this/as survival gospel/for sub’urban souls”. In/Somnia is a great introduction to Foster’s formal structure—like many contemporary poets she uses tercets and word play is very important. The sounds, puns, how the stanzas are arranged on the page contribute to a holistic sensibility—one self-referential, but also abstract, a kind of first person/third person face off in which the reader is kept a discrete distance. We can see the figures, make out gestures, have an understanding the tableaux, but there is much I do see, hear, can’t make out. That wakefulness after love making is the blues in its greatest mystery—what did the lovers get, and what is always missing?

Color becomes a motif throughout the book, particularly red. Red for blood, for flower, for rage, for love. And with red, she explores couplets and quatrains (lyricism’s favored stanzas):

red culled from rubia or madder root lends the hermit majesty, (the woman infamy),

red culled from sawdust of the brazilwood tree primped a pope’s robes, pimped pus(sy),

red culled from clay, from crushed cochineal, kermes, from worms dried and ground,

red culled from cinnabar mined by the enslaved, the imprisoned, not-I’s,

(In/Somniloquies)

The color Black allows for an interesting contrast: “Blackity-black girl” who hears “Voice of a woman on tv offers her sick roommate medicine.” And another “Voice of a woman on a corner: “Stick your thumb up your ass. Smell it.” Black women as healers, soothers, aspirational shills (oh Oprah) in contrast with that “Blackity—black girl” who is simply tired of the shit, oh which will be that Queen? Who hears “the hive of sound/”As if beats blind us.”

Foster narrates the external anxieties meted out in communal theater—the streets, the basketball courts of Harlem, and other urban enclaves where Blacks mingle for good and ill. The “Bullet/In” section focuses on the missiles that meet too many bodies in urban spaces such as Harlem. Again, the poet effectively uses tercets. Her diction is high court street—one thing you learn living in this city is how well versed many young people are with the courts, with police procedure because all too often they have found themselves in court. As the poet notes, “bullets can/Blot a page, train an eye to/follow and often followed are “Bodies of young men—site specific installations—streets, stoops, corners, cells.” Black bodies male and female too often are found violated in this society. The ordinariness of this violence is enraging and Foster has found a way to explore that rage, “beats blind us.”

The Belladonna Collaborative is bringing out important work by African American women poets from highly diverse backgrounds including Latasha Diggs, TWERK and R. Erica Doyle’s proxy showing poets whose use of language is breathtakingly daring. Now, Tonya M. Foster’s A Swarm of Bees in High Court is added to this vital list.

Foster’s imaginative work glories in language’s ambiguities, discords, emotions and logic—she allows that imaginative thrall to explore race and gender and political dysfunction. Foster has taken from one work of art and found correspondences in a Harlem apartment, a New Orleans childhood, early morning television commercials, a lover’s sated face, the sounds of bullets and basket balls, bees, and the colors, red, brown and black to make a powerful debut collection that will be read and re-read for years to come.

 

 

 

Tribes in the NY Times!

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It was 1970, a year after Steve Cannon’s novel, “Groove, Bang and Jive Around,” was published, that he used proceeds from its sale to buy a three-story townhouse on East Third Street, just east of Avenue C, with a brick facade and a hospitable stoop.

Over the decades, that stoop became a gathering spot where Mr. Cannon and friends, including many from the nearby Nuyorican Poets Cafe, held wide-ranging conversations that lasted all night. Those freewheeling discussions moved indoors in 1991, when Mr. Cannon turned parts of the building into a gallery and salon known as A Gathering of the Tribes. There, he and others published magazines and organized readings and art exhibitions.

“It became a center for poets, musicians and artists from all over the world,” Mr. Cannon said. “People realized they could be themselves there because it gave the feeling of being at home.”

Faced with debt, Mr. Cannon sold the building in 2004, with an agreement that he could continue living and holding events on the second floor. That arrangement began to fray in 2011, and last year Mr. Cannon, 79 and blind, moved out of his home of more than 40 years.

The photographer Gaia Squarci spent several weeks documenting life inside the Tribes gallery. Her images show Mr. Cannon’s comrades arriving for final farewells, helping to pack books and using saws to remove a section of wall that had been painted by the artist David Hammons.

Mr. Cannon moved into an apartment a few blocks away. He has continued to organize readings, but they are now held in other places. Friends still visit to work on an anthology of art and poetry that Mr. Cannon is putting together or to discuss their own projects. Sometimes, he said, they reminisce about the good times on Third Street.

“It’s the same spirit here,” he said, “Only there’s less room and fewer people stopping by.”

see it here.

“V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life,” By Poonam Srivastava

“V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life,” at the Guggenheim Museum, until February 11, 2015

REVIEW OF THE SHOW BY Poonam Srivastava

“I work as an individual. I do not have a scientific point of view. It is mostly my total experience of life [and] nature that comes through me, that is manifested on canvas. For me, every painting I do is a miracle … It is my sincere belief in life, truth, God, whatever it is, that prompts me to paint.”1 Quoted in Polyphonic Modernisms and Gaitonde’s Interiorized Worldview by Sandhini Poddar. In: VS Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life, exhibition catalogue, published by Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Prestel Verlag, New York, 2014, pages 27-28.

I was fortunate to witness the Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde, VSG, show, “V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life,” at the Guggenheim Museum, October 24, 2014–February 11, 2015. The 45 paintings and drawings  in oil on canvas and ink on paper, span the years 1952 to 1998. The show of VSG’s works, left me centered and moved. His is the rare talent that opens hearts, minds, and souls simultaneously. The show touched me both as a person with great interest in art, but also as person with great interest and affinity for Zen Buhddism. I was moved as a South Asian woman, and also on a deeply personal non-nationalistic/historic level. VSG’s work reflected his life, 1924 to 2001 and brought to focus the recently discarded twentieth century with all its twists and contradictions; being modern and global while embodying ancient truths; the East - West / North - South dichotomy that was brought to light by the works of such scholars as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Edward Said. I am grateful that the Guggenheim for bringing his works to the attention of a greater public, and to my attention. Quite frankly the exhibit  left me wanting more. I not only wanted to see more of V. S. Gaitonde's work, I wanted to know the man.

I agree with the New York Times in their January 1, 2015 article about VSG's work: " It is by a 20th-century Indian modernist who looked westward, eastward, homeward and inward to create an intensely personalized version of transculturalism, one that has given him mythic stature in his own country and pushed him to the top of the auction charts." Charts and

 auction prices aside, the work I saw is the work of a true artist, one who transcends not only his geography but his historic moment to express the personal that is also the universal truth of life. His large canvases are monochromatic. There is a simplicity to them yet also a complexity. At first glance they are monochromatic studies of color. This draws you in and then you realize the world of detail that you have dropped into. The paintings are landscapes and portraits. For me they were uniquely Indian as well. The red one for example was an immediate connect to the myths of Kali and Durga and the female principle of the divine. There  was another large oil on canvas that had me literally tasting curry and smelling cardamon. Yet as a western viewer I saw clearly Rothko, Klee and others, even as I realized VSG was simply Gaitonde.

In the earlier work, before 1970 or so, one sees more clearly the classical Western approach to modernism. Even a cursory google search of VSG's life and art reveals him as a hard working, spot light shunning, man who painted in a one room apartment in Delhi that also functioned as his studio. He never married and never had children.  He worked in the community of artists and can be seen with his fellow painter chums, yet still worked outside of them. He reminds me of Henri Michaux that way -- with the Surrealists but not of them. VSG was a singular, rather solitary painter, well known as a member of the Bombay school of painting, not reflecting them but from within that bathwater marking his own strokes of genius. This then is what he offers.

Within the forty five pieces I recalled Moghul minatures, hindu temple art, flashed back to my visit to the cave murals of Ajanta, north of the city of Aurangabad, recalled Jain painting, and also the artists Klee, Rothko and many more. His oils include calligraphy from the written Indus Valley and Harrapan languages as well as compositions influenced by the Hill Korwa Tribe now extant as well .

Here is an artist who cast a wide net and then spoke in his own breath creating technique and producing works that put the words such as derivative, global, Western, Eastern, even modern to a special light. During a 1962 show at MOMA he said: my painting  “was done on wet white with a roller and painting knife.” VSG used a roller and a knife, pasting on rolled up paper that was painted several times, to give layers that showed the arguably Indian notion of simultaneous creation and destruction translated to fields of light, color and form. As he told MoMA, “I aim at directness and simplicity.”

Do not miss a chance to see this show at the Guggenheim. It ends the eleventh of February. Hurry. You may see me there again. I hope we will be seeing more of Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde’s works here.

Language Matters with Bob Holman film by David Grubin

YOU'RE INVITED TO A SPECIAL EVENT

 

Please come to a very special evening in honor of our new PBS documentary Language Matters with Bob Holman a film by David Grubin

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 6:00 PM at the National Museum of the American Indian 1 Bowling Green, New York City

What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language?

The one hour event will highlight excerpts from the film woven together with live performances by endangered language speakers, including Native American poets, a hālau hula (Hawaiian school of dance), the colorful legacy of Yiddish, and the tongue twisting poetry of the Welsh language. Afterwards, Bob and David will offer a short Q&A followed by a reception.

Please note: Language Matters with Bob Holman airs on PBS THIRTEEN onSunday, January 25th at 12:30 PM.

In partnership with THIRTEEN, Poets House, and the Endangered Language Alliance

For more information on events and airdates visit languagemattersfilm.com

Language Matters is a co-production of David Grubin Productions Inc. and Pacific Islanders in Communications. Produced in association with The Endangered Language Alliance. Major funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and philanthropic individuals.

Sony Hack Re-ignites Question about Michael Jackson’s banned song

Sony Hack Re-ignites Questions about Michael Jackson's Banned Song

D.B. Anderson

Filed to: 

SONY

As the Black Lives Matter movement grew in reaction to the lack of indictments in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Michael Jackson's 1995 song "They Don't Care About Us" was resurrected at the grass roots level in many cities including Ferguson, New York, and California.

Protestors dancing in the street at protest in Berkeley #EricGarner

Vine by Greta Kaul Read more vine.co

"They Don't Care About Us" was denounced by The New York Times even before its release, and did not reach much of its intended audience because the controversy caused by the New York Times article would go on to overshadow the song itself. Radio stations were reluctant to play it and one of the short films Jackson created for the song was banned in the U.S.

Bernard Weinraub, husband of Sony Pictures Chief Amy Pascal, was the writer of the Times article.

"They Don't Care About Us" was Jackson's statement against abuse of power and the political corruption that enabled it. Two key events inspired the song:

  • In 1992, five white police officers who stood trial in Los Angeles for the videotaped beating of Rodney King were found not guilty by a jury with no African American members. Then, as now, there were riots and protests about longstanding policies of racial profiling and systemic police brutality.

  • The following year, Jackson, who had not been charged with any crime, was forced to undergo a humiliating 25 minute strip search by the same LAPD. The Santa Barbara District Attorney and police detectives arrived at Jackson's home in Los Olivos, California with a photographer who documented his private parts on film.

Black man, blackmail

Throw your brother in jail

All I wanna say is that

They don't really care about us

Bernard Weinraub's pre-release story accused Jackson of having "bigoted lyrics" in the song. He described the entire HIStory album as "profane, obscure, angry and filled with rage."

His piece touched off a firestorm of other negative media coverage. The criticism was disingenuous, as the lyrics were taken out of context and Jackson was very clear about his true intention. The critics were overwhelmingly white.

Many of Weinraub's email messages to Pascal were exposed in the Sony hack; one advised her to fire an executive which she promptly did; another stated outright that he had special access and influence with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

Pascal was previously Vice President of Columbia Pictures, where Jackson, who wanted to star in films, had a motion picture contract that was never fulfilled. Later she became head of Sony Columbia Pictures. Jackson's recording contract was with Epic, a division of Sony.

Weinraub, who is now a playwright, was a respected New York Times reporter on the Hollywood beat until his relationship with Pascal created a conflict of interest that began to anger the subjects of his articles. Weinraub admitted to as much in his farewell column at the New York Times.

Weinraub's cozy relationships in Hollywood included David Geffen. Geffen had worked closely with Jackson, convincing him to replace his key advisors with ones hand-picked by Geffen, according to Zack O. Greenburg's Michael Jackson, Inc.

When the controversy over "They Don't Care About Us" arose, Jackson asked Geffen for public support, but he would not go on record. Jackson's manager, Geffen's pick Sandy Gallin, refused to speak on television. He fired Gallin and never spoke to either of the men again.

Geffen refused to be interviewed about Jackson for Greenburg's book.

Jackson and Spike Lee made two separate short films for "They Don't Care About Us." "He was not having good relations [with Sony/Epic]...there was friction there," said Spike Lee in a recent interview with Iconic magazine.

The first version, recorded in Brazil, features the Afro-Brazilian drumming group Olodum. If you're familiar with the song, this is the version you've probably seen. Already in production at the time of the controversy, it uses sound effects to obscure the objectionable words.

But the "Prison" version is a tour de force; Jackson had even more to be angry about. Jackson and Lee chose to film in a Long Island jail, said Lee, because "a lot of people in prison shouldn't be there. A lot of people are there for a much longer time too. In American prisons, there are more brown and black people than white."

All Jackson's frustrations seem to be on display in this raw and angry performance. Behold:

Jackson would not win though - at least not then: the Prison version was banned from American television.

Jackson would later go on to have a public feud with executives at Sony Music, accusing them of racism. His protests were eyed skeptically by many at the time.

One particularly vicious 1995 Newsday review of this song read in part: "When Michael Jackson sings 'They Don't Care About Us' you've got to wonder who he thinks 'us' is."

The Black Lives Matter protestors don't wonder.

*****************************************************************************

[Updated for clarity 11:16 PM 18 Dec 2014: Weinraub's article specifically mentioned that Jackson used the words "Jew" and "kike" in the song. Weinraub's article did not mentionthat Jackson also used the words "If Roosevelt was living, he wouldn't let this be" thus decontextualizing it. The media coverage left readers thinking that the song was the exact opposite of its intentions. Nevertheless Jackson did not want to offend so he apologized and re-recorded swapping out those two words.]

Jackson was comparing racism against blacks to the racism experienced by Jews in Nazi Germany. He invokes two political figures: Roosevelt who went to war against Germany, and Dr. Martin Luther King who led the civil rights movement. Here are the key lyrics:

If Roosevelt was livin' / he wouldn't let this be, no, no

If Martin Luther was livin'/ he wouldn't let this be, no, no

on Twitter @dbanderson1

Two Conversations by Jessica Slote

Two conversations, Friday, Dec. 12, late afternoon, dusk 1. Haitian cab driver, young man, beautiful

How are ya, thanks! This is terrific. Beautiful night…, where you from?

…I have two Haitian girls in my class—deux jeunes filles jolies, intelligentes, and ….how you say? funny!

Marant! Elles sont marant! …Been here since he was thirteen. Did some French school in Haiti. But here in New York he doesn’t speak much French. “I lost my culture.” Going to school again now. What are you studying? Oh he’s not studying in a school, just at the library. He goes there every day. Reads. So what do you study? Wanted to do criminal justice did two years in a school…. But realized there might be any jobs. Not jobs in courts, no jobs in police. Driving a cab now and studying on his own, not sure what, wants to learn something with his hands. He figures there’s always work for people who work with their hands. Tomorrow there’s a big march you know. Be terrible traffic. ? Millions March….. to protest the killing of black men by the cops…. He saw another march the other day, the traffic was stopped up and he got out of his car to see what was going on, he asked some people what was it about He doesn’t talk about that sort of thing with people…. you know I tell him I understand, he’s in the service industry Just yes sir, no sir….. I get it, that’s your business…. you make a living…. … So as we turn down 23rd st. at 8th Avenue he says, I gotta tell you a story. A friend of mine, my best friend, he drives a cab too and he was returning the taxi late one night to the lot in Brooklyn. There are so many taxis and so many cars of people who live there that often you have to park the cab far away, 10-15 blocks away. He parked the car and then he was walking to the lot. Two police cars pulled up one in front one behind they jumped out and one pulled out a gun. My friend he said, whoa like this he puts his hands up and the cops tell him to get up against the car. They ask him where he’s coming from and where he’s going and he says he parked his cab and he’s walking to the lot what is it what did I do? and they tell him that a store was just robbed in the neighborhood, they’re looking for a young black guy your age wearing jeans and dark coat. My friend he says something, whoa no that’s not me or something like that and they…. beat him. They beat him and they arrested him. They said he was resisting arrest. He was in jail for 6 weeks. At Rikers. I went there to visit him. Ohhhhhh that is terrible terrible place…. I was scared. They fined him fifteen hundred dollars. He had to pay. And they tried to take his license away, but the cab company didn’t do it. ….. OMG …. We pull up in front of the London Terrace Gardens. Thank God your friend is okay in the end thank God they didn’t take his license. He thanks me and says it was nice talking to you.

2. In the London Terrace Gardens visiting with Elsie and Teresa. We are drinking whiskey. Teresa tells the story of her son. Teresa: My oldest son he came here at 21 spoke no English nothing but he learn very fast and he study he went right into college today he is doctor, he is 40! But my younger son he was 12 when he came here. He real American guy. He study two years in the university but he didn’t want to do no more, so he decide he want to be a police. He want to help people protect them from bad guys. Now he a police! But Jessie, do you know anyone in police? My son he asked me, Mom I gotta get out of there. He work in housing project in Brooklyn. He only white face in whole place. All people hate him. He say he can see hate in their faces. He say everyone police get transferred out. But you got to know someone. He scared. I scared too. What he gonna do?

Text and photos: Jessica Slote, NYC, Dec. 12. 2014

Reflective Surfaces by Jeff Grunthaner

Reflective Surfaces

by Jeff Grunthaner

The paradox of Chris Ofili New Museum Show, “Night and Day,” is the way he makes you believe “great art” without quotes exists, while simultaneously quoting from the great tradition of art as it exists in the Western tradition. Ofili is a painter who will routinely astonish you with a painterly bravura, while yet relying on traditional almost conventional pictorial strategies to compose his work. The overwhelming question is can an artist as skilled as Ofili, a black Londoner, who from a very early stage in career found success via Saatchi and the artists he collected, actually relate to the cannon is a way that matters? It’s not like the New Museum show, which echoes a show recently exhibited at the Tate, will make or break his career, but how does it contextualize itself in \New York? Is there an audience here perhaps more or less responsive than those found in other institutions elsewhere?

Chris Ofili’s career is rooted in a kind of hybridity that makes his extreme inclination for the conventional—a centered figure, generally a portrait—into something completely else. The intrigue lies not so much in the materials listed with the descriptions placed alongside his works, as much as the way he uses the materials. One has NEVER seen glitter or elephant dung used in this way. Not in a painting. And to be honest, if you have it owes everything to Ofili’s pioneering artistry. Few painters are as sensitive to the sculptural qualities of their media (oil, acrylic, what-have-you). This is what makes his paintings so wildly present, so absorbing in a technical way that TRANSCENDS THEIR SCALE. The genius of Ofili lies in his artistry, the solitude of a painter laboring on canvas. In this respect, he is quite possibly without peer.

And yet the genius of specialization can only go so far. Ultimately, what one looks for in a work, whether one is a disinterested connoisseur or a curious newbie to painting, is whether the art lives and breathes beyond the confines in which you take it in. Market aside, it’s unlikely that anyone will leave the Chris Ofili show feeling transformed—despite the artist’s dedicated commitment to incorporating aspects of the tradition in novel, personally expressive, even visionary ways. For the New Yorker, whether she be poor and struggling or comfortable and bourgeois, the theme of a black figure on canvas is not a startling innovation, to say the least. We meet this everyday when we transfer trains, which is not to say that every artist can rival Ofili in skill (few can, in my opinion). Nevertheless, THE MESSAGE BEHIND THE WORK, if message there be, lies in some dimly lit ether-realm of the facelessness of black folk trying to adapt to a society that rebukes them for reasons purely based on race.

Otherwise stated, Ofili falls flat in relation to the political import of his work, Of course, he’s know as a “political painter,” incorporating black faces into a space otherwise reserved for whites, and doing this in a way that vies, perhaps even outshines, their venerable classical models (at least to the mediated gaze of contemporary eyes). But what exactly is the space he inserts his figures into? It’s one thing to liberate the black figure into a space already carved out for it by the cannon; it’s another completely to give such figures their own freedom. To be sure, Ofili’s figures are not thematically restricted to representations of black folk—religious and pop-culture iconography plays a heavy role. Yet everywhere he seems to casually place the image of blackness into his pieces, juxtaposing it easily into the classical maneuvers of sculptural and cubist precedents.

This makes Ofili’s work feel all to comfortable and all-too-distant is light of current events in New York and the world around. There’s a sheltered, studio-quality to the paintings that makes them as aesthetically delightful as they are innocuous. What we’re impressed by is their skill, the way they resolve themselves into compositional gestalts. We don’t really see the world through them (perhaps due to Ofili’s penchant for the visionary), nor do we even witness a world that’s a plenum of plurality. Rather, “Night and Day” gives us an extended survey of how one artist’s practice relates and reflects—not so much redacts—the tradition of “great painting” in Western Art. Not only are Ofili’s paintings wholly rooted in the Western Cannon, but despite their “exotic” materials—elephant dung, most notably, but also glitter and other reflective materials—viewers are left with nothing or less than conventions. Brilliantly wrought, but utterly traditional.

It is exactly the denial of the reflective that makes Ofili the artist that he is. His work revels in surface, in the incorporation of exceptional and even symbolic media (elephant dung, glitter) into a wholly foreign tradition. True to his inspiration in hip-hop and other areas of pop culture, he initially tended to literalize these materials—as when he performed a David Hammonsesque performance work, pandering elephant shit to a public either indifferent or excited (he sold a few pieces, and even developed a piece out of it: “Shithead” (1993). But in the end Ofili submerges his materials into something unrecognizable. To be sure, there is tactility to Ofili’s use of elephant dung that feeds into the sculptural quality of his work. But this is not a political gesture so much as an aesthetic one. What I mean to challenge is Ofili’s importance as a “political painter.”

The contrast boils down to the expressivity of faces in Ofili’s work versus their expressivity qua paintings. In a work like “The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (Third Version)” (1998), Ofili paints a drugged-out looking figure against a visionary-psychedelic backdrop. The figure could be a boxer, or James Brown. Either way, it’s only an inspiration. Hands of praise or struggle emerge towards the figure. There’s no trace of reality in the portrait. The real-life model whom Captain Shit is based on simply isn’t there. The painting doesn’t speak to this world, but the world of pop-culture imagery. This is less a political move than a gesture. Remapping the iconography of everyday life can only take protest so far. What’s needed is to unmake images, to locate their historical origins, not merely create a pictorial confluence of different traditions melding together. Ofili, for his nonpareil artistry, doesn’t deliver this.

 

Why Asian Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson

Why Asian Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson

by 

Two years ago, I found myself trying to break into my friends’ apartment.

I had coordinated their wedding a few days earlier, and they had since departed for their honeymoon.  A box from the wedding was supposed to go to one of the guests, only to end up in their apartment.  Now the guest wanted the box, and I, having a key to their home, needed to retrieve it.

My friends had warned me that the key had a tendency to stick, though that proved to be an understatement.  After 10 minutes of wrestling with it, my hands sore from twisting and straining, I gave up.  The box would have to wait.  But I thought about the maintenance man I had seen across the courtyard as I struggled with the door; surely he would have a functional key.

The request was ridiculous, I knew:  I had never seen this person before.  He had absolutely no reason to believe my reasons for needing to enter the apartment.  But I figured I had nothing to lose, so I waved him over and asked if he would let me in.

Much to my surprise, he did — no questions asked.  Even more shocking was the fact that he unlocked the door and immediately left, not bothering to wait around and make sure that I didn’t ransack the place.  He let a complete stranger into an apartment that wasn’t his and walked away.

As I entered the apartment and started looking for the box, I was incredulous — and I was never more aware of the privileges I have as an Asian American woman.

Would this person have ever let me into the apartment if I were a black man?  I’m not a betting person, but even I would put serious money on the answer being no.  I probably would’ve been asked to leave the premises, too.

Yes, I experience a host of disadvantages as an Asian American woman, but I can’t deny that I also have a number of privileges — one of which is that no one ever suspects me of wrongdoing.  Thus I found myself on my hands and knees in my friends’ living room, opening and closing boxes, let in by a stranger who was now nowhere to be seen.

****

Race is complicated, especially for those who don’t fit into the black and white binary that usually frames conversations about race in this country.  This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why I’ve seen such varied responses to Ferguson in my Asian American circles.  I’ve seen Asian Americans lamenting and protesting; I’ve seen Asian Americans declaring that no injustice was done; but more often than not, I’ve seen Asian Americans completely silent.

Race is complicated for us.  On one hand, we’re disadvantaged in many ways.  We’re perpetually seen as foreigners, as people who don’t belong here.  Our successes are often attributed our race instead of our own talent or hard work.  We’re overlooked for promotions, walked over in social and professional situations, openly mocked.  We’re reduced to stereotypes, our women hypersexualized and fetishized, our men emasculated.  Multiple laws have been passed to exclude us from immigration and citizenship.  Tens of thousands of us, in a stunning violation of constitutional rights, were forcibly removed from their homes, communities, jobs, and possessions and relocated to internment camps during World War II — and released back into society, years later, with nothing.  We’ve been the victims of hate crimes from vandalism to murder.  Like all people of color in the US, Asian Americans have been consistent targets of individual and systemic racism.

But as Asian Americans, we do have some privileges.  People generally assume that we’re smart and hardworking, which is reductive but infinitely preferable to people assuming the opposite.  We’re assumed to be good tenants, reliable employees, responsible citizens — not troublemakers.  Teachers and police officers — and maintenance workers — tend to believe the best about us and not to suspect or fear us.  The impact of these beliefs on how we experience the world cannot be overstated.  It’s not surprising that at 17, when I first heard in a freshman seminar that I was oppressed because I was Asian American, my first response was skepticism.

So when a conversation about race is framed in black and white terms — which, in this country, is the case more often than not — it’s not always clear who we should be identifying with.  We don’t have quite the same disadvantages or quite the same history of oppression as black people, but we aren’t fully accepted like white people, either.  Our experiences don’t always clearly dictate which side we belong on.

And then there are all the other cultural and social factors that influence how we respond to events like Ferguson.

For one, Asian cultures strongly value harmony and not creating conflict.  The American proverb says that the squeaky wheel gets the grease; the Japanese proverb says that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Thus, even in the face of controversial events, even when we ourselves are the victims of wrongdoing, many Asian Americans tend to remain silent.

This tendency is exacerbated by the fact that more than 90% of Asian Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants1 — people shaped by an immigrant mindset of keeping your head down and your mouth shut, even if the circumstances are terrible. Because you want to be welcomed and accepted here, and complaining usually creates the opposite response, even if those complaints are warranted.

Along with that immigrant mentality can come a need to survive at all costs — at least in my family.  My parents desperately wanted my brother and me to succeed in this country, and the only way to ensure that was for us to beat everyone else.  So they instilled in us a deep competitiveness, a need to be the best.  I grew up with a sense that I had to fight for my own success and not let other people or their problems drag me down, an attitude that haunts me still.

And then you have the anti-black sentiment that pervades Asian and Asian American communities. There are plenty of better-researched, better-written explanations for these attitudes, but in my experience, the human predisposition to stereotype and the fairly universal attitudes about light skin being superior to dark skin are exacerbated in cultures that are racially homogenous.  We see this in the US:  Communities that have very little diversity, where there is little contact with people of different races, tend to have the strongest stereotypes.  In Asian countries, where the overwhelming majority of people have black hair and brown eyes, it’s especially easy to generalize about those with different phenotypes, either positively or negatively.  And immigrants bring those attitudes with them to the States.

Once they’re here, they encounter the model minority myth, the erroneous belief that Asians have been more successful in America than other races because of inherent positive qualities.  Asians didn’t create this myth; it was created by a white sociologist who stereotyped Asians and other races without any sense of history.  But many Asian Americans have bought into it, and some propagate it themselves.  Because after all, it’s a story that serves us, at least on the surface.  It also aligns us with white people, the people with power, the people we want to accept us — and it can bring us comfort to think that we’re not at the bottom of the totem pole.  And sometimes we keep our distance from those at the bottom, consciously or otherwise, out of fear that others will lump us together.

So when you have all of these factors at play and something like Ferguson happens, it isn’t terribly surprising that many Asian Americans stay quiet.  People’s responses vary considerably, of course, but when you consider all of these factors — the cultural value of not causing a stir, the immigrant attitudes of looking out for ourselves and wanting to be accepted, not wanting to be associated with people lower than us on the social food chain — it’s almost remarkable that Asian Americans have spoken up at all.

Make no mistake:  I don’t think that any of these factors let us off the hook when it comes to speaking and acting against injustice.  I feel very strongly about what happened in Ferguson, the wider systemic injustices it reflects, and the need for people of all races to act.  But the events of the last few weeks, and the consequent responses (and lack thereof), have made me reflect on the many things that had to happen in order for me to become vocal about issues like these.

I needed to learn about the systemic racism that pervades our society, that manifests in things like the targeting of black men.  I needed to learn the ugly history that led to these realities, much of which I had not learned in school.

I needed to acknowledge my own biases and those of my family and community, to understand their origins, and to learn how to challenge them whenever they appear in my head, in conversations with others, in public forums.

I needed to learn that my only-out-for-myself attitude was ultimately not helpful for me or for anyone around me.  I needed to learn that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Martin Luther King said; that if one part of the body suffers, every part suffers (1 Corinthians 12.26); that ending injustice — all injustice — is a central part of what God wants to see in the world (Isaiah 58.6, Luke 4.18).

I needed to learn that some things are worth rocking the boat for — and that if I wasn’t proactive about fighting injustice, I was quietly perpetuating it.

So many things needed to happen in order for me to feel comfortable being vocal and active about issues of race; there were cultural and social barriers to overcome, things to learn, attitudes to examine.  And I still have a lot of work to do.  Again, I’m not excusing anyone for failing to speak up — but I acknowledge that being active about issues of race, for Asian Americans, often means swimming against a strong current.

So let me ask you:

What do you need to do?

———

1 Zhou, M., & Yang, X. (2005). The multifaceted American experiences of the children of Asian immigrants: Lessons for segmented assimilation. Ethnic and Racial Studies28, 1119-1152.  (Article available here.)

- See more at: http://thesaltcollective.org/asian-americans-might-talk-ferguson/#sthash.U14plIPf.dpuf

December 19th- Language Matters at Tribes

Happy Holidays from us and ours to you and yours!

 

One important event this month! Just one! Friday December 19th.

 

"Live From Steve's Couch" at A Gathering at the Tribes.
A Celebration of "LANGUAGE MATTERS with Bob Holman, A Film by David Grubin." This two-hour documentary will premiere on PBS (Channel 13 in New York, Sun., Jan 25 at 12:30 PM). Bob Holman will discuss endangered languages, and poetry in general, from the perspective of the oral tradition. With special guest Alhaji Papa Susso, Gambian griot, epicist/musician/poet, and keeper of the oral tradition in West Africa. Papa's poems appear in Bob's translations in Bob's newest collection, Sing This One Back to Me (Coffee House Press). Professor Steve Cannon will be on hand, to ensure that everything is on the up and up.Want to watch or be involved? you can stream it LIVE here from 6-8PM

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?

The Stoop continues every Friday in November!

Every Friday of the month!!

on Gander.TV! 6-8pm

Prof Steve Cannon will be workshopping (Bob Holman will be in & out due to traveling this month). Take a gander at this 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 www.gander.tv.com (We will post every weeks event the day of)

OR drop by live 745 E 6 St #1A, or phone in your poems 212-777-2038. )

This will be ongoing! 6 wks through November.
$125 prepaid for ALL 6 weeks, 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.

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