Preceding a collaborative film that will see the pair take on Benin for filmic project White Slave Trade, Genesis Breye P-Orridge and artist Hazel Hill McCarthy III have collaborated, fusing their individual works, McCarthy’s brass rubbings and P-Orridge’s collages, into a single piece titled Breaking Sex><X (Sigil).
The following is an interview conducted between the pair and Thomas Gorton for Hero Magazine on the collaboration.
Thomas Gorton: How did you two begin working together?
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Well I’ve been ‘breaking sex’ for twenty years now.
TG: And where did you come in, Hazel?
Hazel Hill McCarthy III: Well the artwork that you saw specifically was a collaborative piece between Genesis and myself, a sigil that we made in order to get us to Africa for a project that we’ll be doing in January, a film called White Slave Trade. Breaking Sex is a big part of the actual cut up collage that Genesis applied to the artwork as the collaboration.
GBP-O: Yeah, think of that as the root idea. It’s not just breaking sex, it’s basically breaking cultural icons, breaking habitual forms and finding new ones, or rediscovering old forms in new ways.
TG: You’re openly at war with culture, do you consider yourself to be at war with sex?
GBP-O: [Laughs] Sometimes. When I walk around the streets and see really fat people and wonder how they possibly make sex happen, yeah then I feel at war with it. It’s about identity though, not necessarily about gender or sex specifically. It’s called Breaking Sex because that was just a phrase that popped out first and that’s going to be a book that will hopefully get written next year. That book will try and analyse all the different implications but gosh, it’s a big subject now, it’s got huge, it’s sprawling.
HHMCIII: It’s getting bigger.
GBP-O: It’s become more about evolution, the possibility of human evolution and survival. We’re in a very very deep hole as a species.
TG: Do you think that? That we’re at the beginning of end times, so to speak?
GBP-O: Or that we’re at the beginning of an evolutionary choice. The human body hasn’t finished evolving, the human mind hasn’t finished evolving, but people seem to think everything’s fine and this is the perfect form but it’s not, it’s just a moment in the changing mutation. Without mutation you get inertia, with inertia comes destruction, everything disintegrates and then something else comes along like a dinosaur or vice versa. So that’s part of it, looking for the undercurrents that might be hidden in the culture around you and seeing what they imply, seeing how people are behaving, why they are behaving the way they are, how they’re hypnotised into being consumers of everything, addicted to technology and have stopped thinking.
TG: What’s your relationship like with technology? How do you feel about it?
GBP-O: Very suspicious. Very suspicious of Facebook, Twitter and telephones. We were just in a restaurant getting some food. We having dinner and eight people walked in, sat down and got out their phones. They didn’t even talk to each other. People don’t ring me anymore. I can’t remember the last time I got a phonecall. People used to write letters that they’d thought about, you’d get it, read it three or four times and consider your response. Letter writing used to take six weeks to communicate, now it takes six seconds.
TG: Do you think people are thinking enough about their communications?
GBP-O: They’re not critically thinking. They’re accepting it without thinking what the implications are for the brain. The pathways in the brain are going to reduce because of the lack of use.
HHMCIII: Everything is so impulsive nowadays because of the instantaneous gratification.
TG: That’s to do with the self. It’s an instant gratification of the self. There’s an unhealthy heightened awareness of the self that isn’t necessarily productive.
GBP-O: Like Facebook giving you instant or imagined celebrity?
TG: Yeah, a world of dreams, of self indulgence. I’m saying this as a person who has Facebook and Twitter.
GBP-O: So do I, I just make people do it for me.
TG: That’s the easy way out.
GBP-O: It’s a matter of how to use time, how to use it creatively. Am I going to do some new work or am I going to reply to people asking the same questions over and over again?
TG: How did you two meet?
GBP-O: We both had friends in LA, and we were trying to find someone to design Thee Psychick Bible, preferably for no money, ’cause there was no budget. Somebody recommended Hazel, we met and we immediately found a real connection. The first time we physically met was at a Throbbing Gristle gig at Heaven in 2007/8, somewhere around there.
TG: I wanted to ask about the X symbol. Everywhere I’ve been in Europe in the last month I’ve seen the X symbol, each service station I go to there’s an erotic market, XXX emblazoned on everything. It’s become a signifier that I’m very familiar with, I associate it heavily with European cities. It was cool to look at your work and see yet another X symbol, so I was interested in the significance of it.
HHMCIII: The XXX is a part of the markers on the waterways in Amsterdam, they run vertically. The X symbol is meant to represent trade and commerce over these waterways. In LA they do the same.
GBP-O: Hazel does a lot of brass rubbings of different types, using different symbols. Would you say it was one of your interests or obsessions?
HHMCIII: One of my practices I would say. I’d done this rubbing a few years ago, two parts of the XXX and I’d kind of forgotten about it. Gen was looking over some of my stuff, deciding what s/he wanted to put h/er collage on and s/he found the two parts of the XXX.
GBP-O: And we were thinking, ‘we can’t start until we have a story’. No point doing anything for the sake of making it. So we were looking at it and it just popped out, the x’s and the y’s as well. So then you have the genders and the variations of genders, so it seemed like a nice deconstruction, a story within a story and that was what set it off. And if that’s where we’re going, what else goes with it? Then came the Breaking Sex Rant, co-done by myself and Lady Jaye. Recently we found ourselves drawn to it as a texture, something that when you get closer you see that there’s actually ideas in it too. So according to how close you come, it changes. That’s something that’s always fascinated me, the idea of distance, changing the way that people perceive something, or people’s emotions changing when they find out the source of an image. For example, a long time ago we went to Auschwitz because we wanted to try and understand how that could ever happen. We used an image of the ovens at Auschwitz for Industrial Records [Throbbing Gristle's record label], changed it to black and white. Sometime later we happened to say in an interview we mentioned where it was from and there was outcry, their entire opinion shifts, just based on the information you’ve given them, which might not even be true. That borderline between acceptance and denial has always fascinated me, same as the borderlines between life and death, sleep and awake, all those very very vague boundaries that people make, they’re part of the way that culture works, male or female, black or white and so on. So that led us into that whole binary thing, how do you break that? Is there a way to find a new form? And as Hazel said, that comes from cut-ups. When Burroughs and Gysin worked together, they said it always came from another source, cut-ups, and they called it the third mind. What about if you go further and it becomes a third being? A possible future being. How would you do that? That’s how it began.
TG: You talk about X as a malicious cross for sex to bear. I’m interested in that malice, where does that malice come from?
HHMCIII: There’s a certain code in how each of us are made up and that’s in some way a burden. We’re made up of chromosomes, of x’s and y’s and it dictates a lot, the physical gender of who you are.
TG: A trap?
GBP-O: It contains instantly all the different histories and all the different possibilities for futures.
TG: Genesis, with Project Pandrogeny, are you still undergoing that and what relation does it have to the two pieces that you’re currently working on?
GBP-O: Lady Jaye is in it of course, and it was co-written with her. Everything is touched by it now, our daily life is ambiguous. Even when we’re not dressed up, which we rarely bother to do now, we don’t wear make up, we wear jeans and leather jackets and we still get called Miss and Madam all the time. Today we got three day stubble and it’s interesting how little touches like not bothering to shape your eyebrows can actually make people assume that you’re female.
People don’t see what’s in front of them, they don’t even look very hard and they don’t listen very hard, they’re missing all the signals, which is another sign of this closing down. People are talking in generalisations, talking in text messages. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that people have got upset over something innocuous in a text message, when the meaning has been misunderstood. That’s something that fascinates me, where these things blur, if there are any edges at all.
TG: Is it something that excites you? Are you excited by the challenge that your pandrogeny presents to people?
GBP-O: It’s something that excites me just as an idea, whether other people are interested or not. Two weeks ago we were on a panel at the Feminist Women’s Annexe at Brooklyn Museum. Just being invited to be on a panel, where all the rest were biological females, was really something. No-one had a problem with me being there. We were thinking that surely one of the feminists was going to say ‘what the hell are you doing here?’ But they were completely comfortable with it and said how inspiring and challenging it was in terms of making them think. That’s what’s exciting, when people say it’s made them think. At that talk, a middle aged woman with spectacles, kind of mousey, walked up afterwards crying and said ‘I haven’t written poetry in years but now I’m going to go home and write a poem’. That’s amazing, that makes it worth it, that one person who feels that shift in themselves to rediscover what their true sense of what they want to become is and they start to change again, revert to something more creative. It’s really about learning to think.
TG: Do you think Western civilisation has a healthy relationship with sex?
GBP-O: Well, we have a complex relationship with it. Most people don’t really think of it as complex, they think of it as a penis and a vagina and getting that short, sharp, electrical discharge. That’s why you see so many unlikely people together, they’d rather have that than not have sex.
For a while we were thinking, why is celibacy so important in so many different belief systems, from Tibet to Roman Catholicism? We realised it’s because of the lack of distraction and the refusal to be drawn into that biological way of viewing the self, becoming obsessed with just consciousness. Maybe there’s a way to remix it so it’s about constantly re-assessing. Am I doing this because it’s easy? Because I’m lost in true love? Because I just want to relieve myself and go to sleep? Why am I doing this?
HHMCIII: It begins to be like a game, Western thoughts on sex always seem to have a game element without a whole consciousness behind it. This penis and vagina, one two, on off. It’s really bigger than that.
GBP-O: It’s interesting that binary is 1 and 0, penis and vagina. We’ve still not figured out what that implies but we’re convinced that there’s something in there, buried very deep. When you go into all belief system, sexual behaviour or congress as a spiritual amplifier was always part of the system, but now it’s been separated as an action and it’s not necessarily thought of as a spiritual, mystical behaviour. A lot of people see it in a really mundane way and that’s a great loss.
TG: That game element in our civilisation is something that people want and is encouraged. I think it leads to sadness.
GBP-O: That’s part of what seems so interesting in the way that people have reacted to pandrogeny as an idea. The number of people who have suddenly rethought the idea of unconditional love. Jaye and I joked at one point because there’s all this psychology and therapy about how to not be co-dependant but me and Jaye wanted to be completely co-dependant, we didn’t want any separation. In Native American languages there isn’t a word for death, the word is separation. That implies that concrete over earth is a kind of death, redirecting rivers is a kind of death, everything that you separate becomes a form of loss, something to be mourned. By turning sex into a commodity, as well as a game, it gives control to those who choose the rules of the game.
Or you can include ritual or magic in its wider sense. You can use it as something to try and actually change the way you perceive, so the world then changes for you. That’s one of the reasons that we’re going to Africa, to see one of the roots of really ancient thought, in terms of human relationship with nature and with ancestors and so on. The ancestors part came because people couldn’t understand mortality, they didn’t even understand linear time for a long time. Eventually women discovered time because of menstruation and then they kept it secret because they knew it was a bad idea to tell the men about it. When the men found out about it, all they wanted was little boys that looked like them so that they didn’t die. That’s why men took over, became patriarchal and tried to control women, so they could make sure that they got sons, mini versions of them, so they felt that they were immortal. Of course all of this gets forgotten after hundreds of years and we’re left with just the robotic behaviours without the knowledge of where it came from and why. Some of it’s definitely about reinforming people.
TG: Do you feel that Breaking Sex is a confrontational art piece?
GBP-O: No, not specifically. Certainly at the beginning it was a bit more confrontational, personally for me. At one point we woke up and realised ‘you know what, we’re really so glad that we’re not so attached to being male’, because most of the male education we had in England, going to an all-boys school was twisted and miserable. They would always say, ‘You’re going to be the future leaders of this country and control it’, which was always disgusting. Everything was discussed in terms of power, be it girlfriends, cars or money, it was all seen in terms of power. We never wanted any part of that, we always found that uncomfortable, like ‘who the fuck are these idiots?’ Being more separated from that physically is exciting and it was not necessarily an aggression but a ‘fuck you’. You should think more, if you don’t think more, fuck you.
We give out embroidered patches and the last one we made says ‘Fuck ‘em all’. A couple of days before Lady Jaye dropped her body she said the next slogan should be ‘Fuck ‘em all’. So we made patches of it for people to put on their jackets. It’s a basic attitude. Don’t be controlled by what you want people to think, don’t try to please them for the sake of it.
HHMCIII: You’ll never win.
TG: Once you start subscribing to other people’s belief systems or try and be a version of yourself that they want they will only see through that lie and be disappointed. So nobody wins.
GBP-O: What’s used to make people agree or to control every society? Why is it any government or ruling body’s business what body you have, how you use it, how you adjust and change it? It’s none of their business and never should have been. They want to maintain power, that’s why they’re involved. They intimidate you and lay out the rules, if you don’t agree we’ll kill, torture or jail you. They run it with violence. How do you break that?
Burroughs said to me in 1971, ‘how do you short circuit control?’ We came to the conclusion that it was all built into the gender either/or structures of most societies. Why do we have so much conflict? Different ideas come together and they fight and then everybody suffers. Then we forget and we do it again and again. It’s insane, we have to wake up. I’m amazed that there was ever a second war. You would think that once somebody had had a war and seen mutilations, crippled people and lost loved ones that they’d say ‘never again’ and mean it. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s been thousands of years.
TG: That saying ‘mistakes we know we are making’. When you’re in the middle of mistakes and you know they are happening, but you let them go and the problem perpetuates.
GBP-O: It gets bigger and more complex the more you think about it. The implications keep growing. That’s why it’s still exciting for me. The realisations that you have to get rid of all these bureaucracies because they’re getting in the way, which makes you revolutionary in a sense and that’s when you have trouble with the authorities, but that’s a choice you have to make. How serious am I? Am I prepared to sacrifice what I have to say that I really think this? Of course as you know, in my case, yes.
TG: Yeah you’ve certainly fucked them all. Will you two continue to work together?
HHMCIII: Yeah, we’ve known each for a bit of time now, not quite ten years but we always come together when we find the right project and right moment and when it makes sense.
GBP-O: We know each other’s skills and strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes it’s just obvious, we’ll see something and say ‘yeah, that’s a Hazel and Gen piece’. And having dragged her into Thee Psychick Bible, how could we refuse to be involved in Hazel’s brass rubbings? God, we owe her.
TG: In any creative partnership you have to be aware of strengths and weakness, to know that about each other and be willing to edit each other. Working with someone creatively, it can be refreshing when somebody says ‘that’s shit you know’. You know that you know that person.
GBP-O: Of course, you need honesty. We never have any reservations about discussing anything with Hazel because we know that they’ll always get a fair listen. The only person we ever felt that comfortable throwing out ideas with was Lady Jaye, so it was a joy to discover Hazel. It works very well, it’s a very profound simplicity.
Calling Duncan X iconic within the tattoo world could seem like an understatement to some, as an integral part of Alex Binnie’s Into You shop in Clerkenwell Mr X has been turning out some of the most abrasive black work tattoos since before the shops inception.His severe appearance is completely authentic to his own art work and lifestyle. The completely original trademark style of tattooing that Duncan has so perfectly translated is solidly black and overwhelmingly brutal in its imagery. Reading almost like a cliche, stories of his progressive and intense life have quite literally been imbedded into his skin.To explore more about this fascinating man director Alex Nicholson has created an absorbing short film with Duncan revealing accounts of his life. The sophisticated nature of the film has meant that through special effects the director has let Duncan’s tattoos slowly appear and crawl over his skin as the film progresses.The film was revealed on Tuesday so to celebrate this we’ve created a short interview with the director to find out more..How did you come about making this film?Well I just wanted to make a beautiful looking short for my reel initially. Shooting an interesting a subject as possible.
Who has this film been made for? Who do you want to be watching it?It wasn’t made for anyone really. Me I’d say at a push. I want everyone to watch it. I didn’t want it to be just for people who like/have/want tattoos or people who know Duncan, I wanted it to be as accessible as possible for all viewers..How involved are you as an individual in tattooing?Not at all really. I do have quite a few and will continue to get more, as long as Duncan promises to be gentler next time.
What is it about Mr X that you find so fascinating?Everything! Ha! – Its more to do with the fact that as you get to know him over time, these stories leak out. The fascinating tales of a thousand lives lived within one mans life. Its the fact that he’s highly intelligent, very eloquent, a delightful personality and looks like a Barber-surgeon from the 1900′sA great mix.Was there a particular stance that you wanted to take with the film?If I was pushed, I’d say that you should never judge a book by its cover.
How did the decision to have all of Mr X’s tattoo re-appear through editing occur?I wanted his tattoos to slowly emerge during the film. For him to start naked of tattoos and end as he is, covered. When we got into edit, myself and my editor (David Stevens @ the Assembly rooms) simply pieced together the best story that we saw in there. The animations and tattoos suddenly became secondary to the fascinating Duncan X.
A discussion chaired by Daniel Neofetou with Dan Barrow, Rebecca Bligh, Adam Christensen, Karolina Szpyrko, Jonathon Vaughan, and John Walter at SPACE Gallery in East London taking place this Sunday. This event is also free.
“I know how just a thing like the ugly design of kitchen sinks destroyed my childhood… ’cause I had to fight with my sister all the time over who had to do the dishes. It was the ugliness, the ugliness of capitalism, making it impossible for anybody to live a life that isn’t made ugly.”
- Jack Smith
If Jack Smith is discussed today, it is almost invariably in reference to his 1963 film Flaming Creatures, a queer masterpiece which some would argue still retains its power to rupture the petrified facade of bourgeois complacency. However, towards the end of his life, Smith became ambivalent towards the film. While Flaming Creatures is often championed for its ambiguity, Smith himself came to bemoan this, posing that an artwork’s meaning is constituted by its concrete effects, and that the concrete effects of Flaming Creatures had been the economic gain of others. In the face of this he turned later in his life towards didactically political performance, in an attempt to attack capitalism and espouse anarchist-socialist notions in a manner which could not be misconstrued or misappropriated.
One such performance took place at Cologne Zoo in 1974, and documentation of it is currently being exhibited at SPACE. In this roundtable, the panelists will discuss what is lost and what is gained in the shift from a non-rhetorical political art to a more discursive mode of expression and more specifically the relevance today of the ideas which Smith sought to express: Ideas denouncing a pervasive capitalism, but also towards a society without governance or landlordism, wherein things would not be designed as according to pre-given rules ascribed by authority and manufacturers, and people would freely exchange their unwanted things with others’.
This talk accompanies the exhibition at SPACE Jack Smith: Cologne, 1974 which brings together photographs by Gwenn Thomas and a film by Birgit Hein, both documenting a performance by Jack Smith.
Find out more about this exhibition and talk here which runs until the 15th of December
White Marble Duvet Set by SAFE HOUSE USA
Keehnan Konyha is the founder and creator behind SAFE HOUSE USA, a bedding and home goods brand created around concept of street wear.
Konyha has recently been interviewed by a wide ranging selection of media all focusing on his collaborations with artists, affordable but cutting edge bedsheets and monochromatic prints.
However what seems most fascinating about SAFE HOUSE is why is no one else is doing this? And if there are others, why do we not know about it? The vast majority of contemporary interior designers seem to cater for a market over the age of 35 in a family orientated way. Konyha merges his Brooklyn lifestyle into his practice to great effect. In our recession fuelled times the prospect of investing in furniture or other areas of interior design is not always so realistic, especially for people under the age of 30. Most young people now share houses, or live with their parents, meaning that the bedroom is their only personal space. SAFE HOUSE caters to a perfect market, creating bedding sets and throws with impeccably fresh prints in a manner that can transcend any bedroom and be transported as frequently as your lifestyle pleases.
For Sang Bleu we have decided to focus on what Konyha’s inspirations have been so far in his life in regards to interiors and other areas of influence such as fashion, art, music and architecture.
Black Marble Duvet Set
FW13 Extension Collection, Drawn by Richard Haines
Where and what is your favourite bedroom?
I actually have to say mine right now, which is probably horribly vain, but primarily because I spend so much time here. It’s the one featured in the instant shots on the SAFE HOUSE site.
While we were apartment hunting last year, my boyfriend and I, really more as a joke, cast a spell to narrow down what we were looking for, and through curiously suspicious circumstance found it almost immediately and exactly. Call it luck, but if you’re looking for an apartment I say go with the spell, just in case.
What are some of your favourite sets from films?
Eiko Ishioka’s Closet Land and Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters
Eugenio Zanetti’s Flatliners
Scorsese’s After Hours
Stigmata, Production Design by Waldemar Kalinowski, Art Direction by Anthony Stabley, Set Decoration by Florence Fellman and Marco Niro. Patricia Arquette’s warehouse loft is an insane, over the top, one-hundred-percent-fictitious mix of 30s deco, industrial (musically and architecturally), yoga-cum-rave culture and inflatable furniture.
What is your favourite design movement?
Memphis, which is probably pretty obvious, especially Shiro Kuramata, though influences shift. Nostalgia cycles more rapidly. I might be less of a “movement” person, and more drawn to specific designers and visionaries; Tibor Kalman, Michel Graves, Terence Conran, Andrea Branzi, Joe Holtzman, Kelly Wearstler, William Morris, Ward Bennett, Gaetano Pesce, Billy Baldwin, Laurie Anderson.
I’m attracted to cohesion; to comprehensive themes and ideas; to extremes (simplicity can be it’s own extreme) followed to their logical conclusions. I try to stay open. What I find off-putting is typically what qualifies as “good taste.” There’s nothing compelling about good taste.
I think you have to be careful about what you allow in, about what you allow to influence you. It’s a constant, ongoing process of checking in with yourself creatively. Clearly I work with reference, with reappropriation and recontextualization, but I worry that we’ve outsourced our imaginations to an endless stream of reblogged, repinned content in an effort to easily aggregate, brand, and identify who we think we are, or who we dream we could be. My hope is that it’s entirely possible my favorite design movement has yet to happen.
What is your favourite art movement?
I’d be lazy and remiss to fall back on the past here. I love my friends and contemporaries, and New York is too full of preposterous talent right now not to list of them as many as I can:
Sam McKinniss, Ben Schumacher, Erica Bech, Colin Self, Alexis Penney, Landon Metz, Borna Sammak, Amos Mac, Alex De Corte, Kari Altmann, Richard Giglio,Richard Haines, Cody Critcheloe, Jaimie Warren, Travess Smalley, Boychild, Shayne Oliver, Desi Santiago, Scott Hug, BCALLA, Charlie Morris, Barrett Emke, Cyril Duval, Patrick Dyer, House of Ladosha, Juliana Huxtable.
I’m going to forget way too many names here and will absolutely regret it immediately.
Favourite movie from the 1980s?
Terrible and sublime at best, trashy and obvious at worst. This could probably be applied to my taste in almost everything. Anything John Carpenter, Adrian Lyne or Paul Schrader touched, unfortunately.
Favourite set/art direction from a music video?
Mark Romanek’s video for “Scream,” production design by Tom Foden, who also did Madonna’s “Bedtime Stories” and NIN’s ”Closer.” Flawless, untouchable song; flawless, untouchable visuals; still holds the title for the most expensive music video ever made.
Missy’s “She’s A Bitch.” Four years after the “Scream” video, it’s either an homage, the zeitgeist (I think zeitgeist moved slower in the late 90s), or just a straight lift (down to the opening, glossy-type’d shot), but what starts as typical Hype Williams (though w/ a gorgeous and atypical, monochromatic palette) fish-eye-in-a-box video becomes something completely alien and otherworldly around 1:50. Hype in top form, maybe his peak.
And again, Romanek’s video for Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” A dead-on shot at Steven Meisel’s banned spots for Calvin Klein; unfinished, shag-carpeted and wood-paneled basement rec rooms, plus over-saturated, red-eyed, morning-after polaroid filters. I could live in this video. I may have tried?
I’m originally from Seattle, so the first building that comes to mind is St. Mark’s Cathedral, along with the adjacent rectory and (what once served as) the Cornish campus. Though some improvements were made in ’97 by Olson Sundberg, it was never entirely finished or built to the original specs from the late 20s and early ’30s, so the interior is very utilitarian and box-like in its incompleteness, more basilica than cathedral; no transept, no ribbed vaults or pendentives. I’ve got a soft spot for the underdog. And Episcopalians, maybe.
And Jesuits?. Steven Holl’s Chapel of St. Ignatius, also Seattle. The interior light is as much a part of the building as its materials, and shifts dramatically and beautifully throughout the day, designed around the schedule of Jesuit worship. It has a silence, both architecturally and literally, almost impossible to find in New York.
NYC’s modernist Church of the Nativity in the East Village, redone by Genovese & Maddalene in 1968. According to Wikipedia, it’s been described as ”starkly institutional” and “a modern architectural cartoon exhibiting a gross idea with no detail,” but I find something elegant and honest about it’s brutality.
More NYC: Julian Schnabel’s Palazzo Chupi; literally what is there not to love? Any building capable of outraging the West Village while avoiding both the leaking starchitecture of Frank Gehry and the cardboard-and-glass Monocle-approved hideousness of new money loft conversion gets tens across the board.
Louis Kahn’s Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban building. I think it’s the only structure that’s ever made me weep hysterically, and I’ve never actually been there.
More from past blog entires:
Favourite interiors in a restaurant or cafe?
This is a rough one, considering the Roman & Williams, Brooklyn-via-Portland, be-edison bulb’d faux rustica prison of the last decade. I’m at a point where the fluorescent, blobject-y Karim Rashid feels of Pink Berry, Rice to Riches interiors have started to feel welcoming, though I’m probably just be jumping the gun on early ‘00s nostalgia.
Since I don’t eat out much, and have totally succumbed to the sad cliche of rarely leaving Brooklyn, I’m going to fold this into nightlife and general mood, rather than strictly decor.
I miss The Beatrice, though technically she was a bar, and sadly, actual documentation is slim. It somehow managed a perfect balance of exclusivity and warmly welcoming once inside, offering both a simple, you-should-be-at-home-here elegance and nightly house party. To the best of my knowledge, that feeling has yet to be recreated. Certain spaces come imbued with a special kind of magic that needs only to be coaxed and tended to, something like what I imagine Michèle Lamy’s Les Deux Cafés felt like.
Output in Williamsburg is incredible, maybe as close to The Hacienda as I’ll get in my lifetime; unreal sound. Bossa Nova Civic Club is also brilliant, hidden away under the elevated train in Bushwick; perfect dance floor, consistently interesting booking, and I’ll always go weak for any amount of Don Loper, Martinique Banana Leaf wallpaper.
Passion Lounge; if you know, you know.
Favourite description of a room from literature?
I think I bond more with, or maybe the passages or novels that resonate with me the most, are ones where rooms themselves become characters, or where the lines between the human metaphorical interior and the interior of physical space are blurred; Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled; Sylvia Molloy’s Certificate of Absence; Emma Donoghue’s Room; Adam Lehner’s The Rearrangement; James Purdy’s Narrow Rooms.
If I have to actually choose a passage though, this is taken from “Examples of Confusion,” from Lydia Davis’ Almost No Memory:
“The ceiling is so high the light fades up under the peak of the roof. It takes a long time to walk through. Dust is everywhere, an even coating of blond dust; around every corner, a rolling table with a drawing board on it, a paper pinned to the board. Around the next corner, and the next, a painting on the wall, half finished, and before it, on the floor, cans of paint, brushes across the cans, and pails of soapy water colored red or blue. Not all the cans of paint are dusty. Not all parts of the floor are dusty.At first it seems clear that this place is not part of a dream, but a place one moves through in waking life. But rounding the last corner into the remotest part, where the dust lies thickest over the boxes of charcoal sticks from Paris, and a yellowed sheet of muslin over the window is torn symmetrically in two spots, showing a white sky through two small panes of dusty glass, a part of this place that seems to have been forgotten or abandoned, or at least lain undisturbed longer than the rest, one is not sure that this place is not a place in a dream, though whether it lies entirely in that dream or not is hard to say, and if only partly, how it lies at once in that dream and in this waking–whether one stands in this waking and looks through a doorway into that more dusty part, into that dream, or whether one walks from this waking around a corner into the part more thickly covered with dust, into the more filtered light of the dream, the light that comes in through the yellowed sheet.”
What has been your favourite set design for a catwalk?
This is the dream job; a marriage of clothes and physical space, of sound and music and light. Twelve minutes in which you have the opportunity to transport an audience completely.
Daniel Buren‘s work for Louis Vuitton SS13 is total alchemy; a perfect example of every element working together to create an experience so much larger than its individual parts, though the individual parts themselves remain stunning. The stark, two-color palette; the checkered white-and-yellow floor, referencing the collection, Vuitton’s “Damir” print and Buren’s previous body of work simultaneously; the pure spectacle and anticipation of the models descending via escalator onto the runway; Einstein on the Beach. I wish “gesamtkunstwerk” had an english counterpart that didn’t sound as ridiculous.
That said, AMO‘s work for Prada menswear AW13/14 sent me into a jealous, raging tailspin for like, days, literally pacing around my apartment screaming, gesticulating wildly at nothing like a crazy person, questioning my life, my choices, my purpose. If good art is contagious, maybe great art produces temporary insanity.
The pastel scheme of the set, punctuated with primaries, framing the gentle, almost neutral palette of the clothes, also offset by an electric turquoise piece here or a subtle, checkered coral shirt there; the collars styled half-tucked and askew; the shifting views from the projected “windows;” THE CAT! The show is a living editorial, the definition of an aspirational If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now. For me, the seamless integration and introduction of OMA’s line for Knoll via domestic tableaus is as much of the presentation as the actual clothing. I think AMO’s devotion to concept, research and detail are always evident, but they totally outdid themselves here.
If you want to get in further inside of Keehnan’s head, SAFE HOUSE USA also commission regular mixtapes; you can listen to them here
Visit the SAFE HOUSE USA website here to find out more about their interiors.
Walking Mural, 1972
Currently being exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary is the exciting new exhibition about Asco, a group of performance artists based in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.
Asco (1972–1987) began as a tight-knit core group of artists from East Los Angeles composed of Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie Herrón, and Patssi Valdez. Taking their name from the forceful Spanish word for disgust and nausea, Asco used performance, public art, and multimedia to respond to social and political turbulence in Los Angeles and beyond.
They emerged from the Chicano civil rights movement of the late 60s and early 70s, which fought labour exploitation, the Vietnam draft, police brutality, and other forms of discrimination and deprivation.
Their work had a low budget look reflecting their circumstances – Gronk called it aesthetics of poverty. In the 70s, a Chicano artist was expected to paint murals – the Chicano Movement borrowed from the Mexican political mural tradition of the early 20th century. While sharing the Movement’s opposition to racial discrimination, Asco were also determined to free themselves from the straightjacket of muralism. They sometimes did this by parodying it. Examples of this include the pieces Walking Mural and Instant Mural which were outrageous street performances rather than paintings on walls.
Asco’s performances in and around East LA resembled scenes from movies that were never made – or fashion shoots, or promotional images of rock bands. They called some of these No Movies. Made in the shadow of Hollywood, yet in a community ghettoised from the wider metropolis, Harry Gamboa Jr’s photographs of Asco’s performances anticipate the staged photography of Cindy Sherman, Jeff Walls and other major figures in postmodern art working with photography. The imagery they used was linked to fantasy and fiction, Asco retained a dangerous political edge. Their actions were made without notice or permission in a public sphere fraught with political tension and police curfews. Some were made at sites where a violent incident had taken place the previous day – the site of a gang conflict or the fatal shooting of demonstrators by the Los Angeles Police Department.
This exhibition builds on Asco’s acclaimed retrospective, Elite of the Obscure, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Williams College Museum of Art in 2011-12, curated by Rita Gonzalez and Ondine Chavoya. It will later travel to de Appel in Amsterdam and CAPC in Bordeaux.
The exhibition will run until the 5th of January. Find out more here
Regeneración 2, no. 4, 1974 – 75, p.31, drawing by Patssi Valdez. Courtesy of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Library
A fascinating two day symposium to accompany the exhibition discussing the meaning of disgust across a range of practices, including art, literature, film and popular culture, activism, spatial practice and performance, from the twentieth century to the present day took place in November which can be watched on Youtube below. Taking part in the exhibition included Sang Bleu 6 contributor Dominic Johnson, Elizabeth Boa; Wayne Burrows; C. Ondine Chavoya; Harriet Curtis; Kirsten Forkert; Craig Fisher; Andrés David Montenegro Rosero; Marie Thompson and Myfanwyn Ryan.
“Olympia” is a 1938 film by the German director Leni Riefenstahl, who is best known for producing propaganda during the Third Reich. After Adolf Hitler invited Riefenstahl to the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, she used footage from the events in addition to shots of ruins in Athens to piece together what is now a famous film. Riefestahl’s film utilized many innovative techniques for its time, like tracking and slow motion. The opening sequence to the film, which juxtaposes the great ruins of Greece and the idealized bodies of Greek sculptures with the perfectly toned (and starkly white…) bodies of athletes easily evokes the art of the Third Reich and its twisted re-interpretations of Greek ideals and “masculine” altheticism.
Of course, one cannot and should not divorce the film from the dark period that produced it. Today, the tropes of propaganda as used in this film seem almost laughable. Its patriotic track and and bizarre shots of, say, the human discus thrower, a brutally obvious connection to the Greek scultpure, seem more hilarious than enlivening. Yet, as one blogger featuring this film astutely points out, we can only understand today’s propaganda by studying that of the past and properly placing it in its historical context. I don’t intend for anyone to enjoy this film as simply “a piece of art,” completely devoid of context, but I do think that it can be studied as the result of a particular period and set of (completely misguided) values for the tropes it employs. After all, 1936 likely won’t be the last highly-advertised and bigoted Olympics….
Canada’s Inuit have a long history of tattooing that stretches back several thousand years. However, once the Canadian Arctic was colonized, the practice of tattooing faded almost entirely after being discouraged by missionaries. By the early twentieth century, few Inuit were continuing the practice. After the introduction of graphic art to the Arctic in the late 1950s by James Houston, many Inuit artists began depicting, and therefore recording, cultural practices such as tattooing that were in danger of being lost altogether. These artworks now act, alongside oral histories, explorer accounts, and photographs, as documents of a once thriving cultural practice. Inuit tattooing is now beginning to see a contemporary resurgence, with a number of Inuit women, such as Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, getting their own facial tattoos. Nevertheless, drawings and prints by Inuit graphic artists have become an essential part of the recording this practice’s history.
Jessie Oonark, Tattooed Women, 1960
Pitseolak Ashoona, Tattooed Woman, 1963
Peter Pitseolak, Tattooed Woman, 1975
Arnaqu Ashevak, Tattooed Women, 2008