Tim Youd’s ‘Drawings of Paintings’ Are Great Literature Turned Visual Art

 

 

If you happen to be in the general vicinity of Yuma, Arizona between now and May 30th, and are looking for something to intrigue (and possibly startle), you may want to detour to the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. There you’ll find artist Tim Youd under a tent in the intense pre-summer heat, typing Cormac McCarthy’s 352-page novel Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness of the West, first published in 1985 but set in the mid-nineteenth century West. And he’ll be hammering away on an ancient typewriter, not a computer.

There is logic to this masochistic madness. This artwork is part of series Youd calls 100 Novels, and Blood Meridian is number 62. For each, he selects a major literary work, which he then types using the exact same typewriter the author used, a project that takes weeks and that Youd considers a performance.

As significant, the performance is always public, taking place in a significant location from the novel itself. To wit, one of the most violent and unforgettable scenes in Blood Meridian is one where a rope ferry crosses the Colorado River and the protagonist’s gang massacres the Yuma Indians.

 

 

Youd’s performance does result in the creation of a tangible art object. He inserts two pieces of paper into his typewriter, one on top of the other, and he types the entire novel on these two sheets. The top sheet, of course, ends up quite blackened, and in many places torn, resulting in typing on the bottom sheet, which also is filled with typing indentations. Youd then mounts and frames the two sheets side-by-side as a finished product. Clearly, chance plays an enormous role in determining this art, and the work can certainly be described as highly conceptual.

If you cannot make it to Yuma, you’ll be able to see the sheets from that performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson in the fall of 2020. In addition, the exhibition will include paintings and drawings by Youd.

More immediate, you can currently see Youd’s drawings at the there-there gallery in Los Angeles. The colored pencil and graphite works on paper replicate Youd’s Typewriter Ribbon Paintings, which he first showed at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2015. The drawings replicate the stacking of used typewriter ribbons which constituted the “paintings.”

 

Tim Youd, Drawings of a Painting, is on show until June 30 at the there-there gallery, 4859 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Eerie New Society of the Silver Cross Video for ‘The Mighty Factory of Death’

Image by Lucas Mobley

 

 

For us, World Goth Day has never been quite sufficient – after all, 24 hours is never really enough goth. Thus we’re always happy to give it at least another day or week’s extension.

And so it is that BlackBook premieres here the particularly eerie new video for “The Mighty Factory of Death” from those dark Seattle rockers Society of the Silver Cross (SotSC, if you will). Consisting primarily of Joe Reineke (formerly of The Meices and Alien Crime Syndicate) and life partner Karyn Gold-Reineke, their spiritual travels through India have left them crafting a musical manifesto that can perhaps best be described as “yogic metal.”

 

 

Indeed, on this track, Middle Eastern and Indian influences (nice harmonium) give further weight to their languid psychedelic hard rock, while the pair intone foreboding lyrics like, “When it’s time / Falling like the autumn leaves.” (Think: Dead Can Dance with rockist tendencies.) The accompanying video has a definite funereal quality, imaging a man watching images of his life passing before him as he prepares to be committed to the ground.

“The playful and childlike nature of the dollhouse allows for perspective and reflection without crossing into the macabre,” explains Karyn. “The video is steeped in metaphor throughout, and the scene sets the stage for the viewer to ‘observe the observer,’ or become consciously aware of the dramatic play which is life, watching someone watch their life flash in front of their eyes.”

SotSC‘s debut album debut album 1 Verse will be released June 28.

BlackBook Interview: Ingrid Chavez on Her Stunning New Album ‘Memories of Flying’ and Paying Poignant Tribute to Prince

 

 

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there seemed to be an inordinate number of up-and-comers whom the press were labeling “Prince protege.” It wasn’t really much of a surprise – after all, who wouldn’t want that title? But one in particular, Ingrid Chavez, arrived on the scene in a most arresting manner, a young Hispanic girl from New Mexico, of absolutely breathtaking beauty – and, like her mentor, also remarkably adept at shrouding herself in mystery. Which only heightened her allure.

She and His Purpleness recorded a poetry album together in 1988, which was temporarily shelved. But 1990 saw her pop up playing the love interest in his beloved film Graffiti Bridge, while “Justify My Love,” the slinky-sensual song she co-wrote with Lenny Kravitz for Madonna, shot straight up the charts.

Her debut album, titled May 19, 1992, soon followed, curiously actually released in fall of 1991; and an adoring public swooned to such irresistible singles as “Elephant Box” and Prince’s “Heaven Must be Near.”

 

 

During that time she also met the romantic British post-punk crooner David Sylvian (formerly of the band Japan), and thy were wed in 1992. The enigmatic couple moved to a farm in New Hampshire, had two children, and Ingrid for all intents and purposed dropped out of music. They separated in 2004, and, returning to music, Chavez’ 2010 album A Flutter and Some Words simply did not get the attention it deserved.

Now she’s back for real. And new album Memories of Flying sees her at her most visceral and self-assured. From the sultry, opening/title track, with its chilling observation, “The lines between Heaven and Hell are a blur,” to the cosseting beauty of the affectively sanguine “Light Rays,” to the haunted, enigmatic synth-funk of “Driving to the End of a Dream,” to the hopeful “Let the Healing Begin,” with its striking harmonies, lush atmospherics and lyrical proclamations like, “I’ve been broken / But I’m still open,” it’s a work of remarkable emotional complexity, and equally accomplished musically. She is without a doubt at the height of her creative powers.

We caught up for a chat with Ms. Chavez about this new chapter of her life, and how she came to write a moving tribute to Prince, “You Gave Me Wings,” which is a particular highlight of the album.

 

 

You won accolades for your debut, and seemed ready for certain stardom. What made you decide to disappear from music for nearly a decade?

When I set out on my path as an artist and musician at 19, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find myself caught up in the whirlwind of Prince’s world. As exciting and life changing as it was, it was overwhelming. The excitement quickly waned, as my record on Paisley Park was not getting the attention it deserved from the label. The movie, Graffiti Bridge, was getting a bad rap, and then there was the very public feud between Lenny Kravitz and me over credit for “Justify My Love.” I was getting a bad taste in my mouth about the business of music. On a European publicity tour for the movie, I interviewed with a German magazine in Paris; the journalist asked who I would most love to work with in the future, and I said David Sylvian.

Then you actually met him.

That interview set a course in action that would find me working with David within a few months and eventually married to him. I made a decision then and there to put all of my creative energy into making a family with David and living vicariously through his music. That was enough for me for about eight years, but as the girls got a little older, I started to miss that part of myself that I had set aside.

How much did working with Prince shape you as an artist and a person?

I always incorporated spoken word into my music, even before meeting Prince; but for me it was not something I had considered a focus stylistically. When he put me in Studio B at Paisley Park soon after meeting him, I recorded “Cross The Line” – that was his introduction to me as an artist. That first recording became the piece that was played during intermission on the Lovesexy tour. He was the first person to really encourage me to use more spoken word in my music. He asked me if I would like to make a poetry album, and because of that collaboration between the two of us, I am known for that style.

 

 

What are you wanting or needing to say with Memories of Flying?

Memories of Flying is the newest chapter in my life. By now, my life is measured out in songs and albums, and this is a record about healing and trying to hold people up. Every record I’ve ever released has elements of light and darkness, joy and sadness. Ingmar Bergman asked the question, “Isn’t art always to a certain extent therapy for the artist?” I write to communicate, and to heal myself and the listener.

What is the significance of the title? Are you trying use music as a way of soaring to some higher place? Spiritually? Creatively?

It comes from the idea that when you are weighted down by the world and feel heavy, it is a temporary state. If you can remember what it felt like to fly, to be weightless and easy, it can give you strength and courage to push through the hard times.

There is a noticeable signature to your sound. What did you try to differently on this record, sonically and aesthetically?

I don’t overwork my vocals. I record myself. There is a rawness and an intimacy that I am able to capture by being alone. The recordings can be messy and a nightmare for someone mixing my vocals. What is lost in quality I hope is made up for in the capturing of a moment. This album, in particular, was a bit more of a challenge because I worked with five different co-writers/producers. I had to have faith that my voice and words would be the thread to pull it all together and make it a cohesive collection of songs.

 

 

When you’re writing the words, is it more as a poet than a lyricist? 

I write as a lyricist, but I don’t see a big difference.

On the title track, there is the line, “You smoke to think straight / And drink to stay numb” – is that a confession of sorts?

This song was to and about a friend. Songs are like letters to me. I talk to people I care about through my songs.

When you proclaim, “You deserve all the love in the world” are you addressing yourself?

I am proclaiming it to myself and to everyone who needs to hear that. Again, this is a song that I wrote to a friend who was coming out of a bad relationship that had left them broken inside, and I wanted them to see themselves through my eyes. We are all a little broken inside and sometimes that is all we can see of ourselves; but if someone loves you and you can see yourself in their eyes, it is healing.

“You Gave Me Wings” – is it about Prince?

Yes it is. An artist named Ganga out of Denmark had sent me a track to write to that I had been sitting on for a few weeks, so I decided to take it for a drive. It was April 21, 2016. I stopped at a cafe to grab a coffee for the drive when a friend of mine called to ask if I had heard about Prince; she thought it might be a hoax but within seconds both of our phones started blowing up with calls. I knew it was true; he was gone.

 

 

And you reacted to his death by writing this song?

I did what I do, I just started driving with no destination, until the words came. I was listening to Ganga’s track, and through tears, the words came. They speak of our winter together, me writing the poetry record and him writing Lovesexy.

“Let the Healing Begin” and “Spread Your Wings” seem to suggest a desire to move on from trying or difficult times. Did you find the writing and recording of this album particularly cathartic?

“Let The Healing Begin” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. I wrote this song driving from Jacksonville, Florida to Orlando, at a heavy time for me. There are two songs on this album that refer to me as a child; this one and “Calling Out The Thunder.” I am always attracted to music that has a little heaviness to it; it forces me to dive a bit deeper. I always say it’s the sad songs that I love the most and although there is often a tinge of sadness to my music, there is always that redemption, that light at the end of the tunnel.

You can hear that on both tracks.

“Spread Your Wings,” again, is a letter to a friend. Writing a song is like summing up all the swirling of emotions, finding words and melodies to make sense of it all. Yes, writing and recording this album was cathartic, it sums up the past four years of my life, a closed chapter, and now the book of my life is ready for a new one.

The musical landscape has changed radically from when you first came on the scene. What do you hope to get from making music at this time in your life?

I would never want to go back. I am comfortable here in this new geography where I am able to navigate my own way through it. I was never good at playing the game. I have managed to stay true to who I am no matter the climate. And I feel blessed to have gotten the big label experience of the early ’90s – what a ride.

 

 

 

It’s World Goth Day: The 10 Most Goth Excerpts From the New Book ‘Bauhaus Undead’

The curious and curiouser thing about goth, is how many of its musical progenitors have felt the need to distance themselves from its lugubrious tenets…even as they mostly clung steadfastly to its aesthetic and stylistic codes (let’s be honest, has Robert Smith ever not looked goth?)

The members of Bauhaus, arguably goth’s cradle of civilization, have generally gone along with it through the years, rewarding the unshakeable loyalty of their dark-hearted minions with dada-esque reunion performances and a steady flow of caliginously packaged re-issues. And now a striking new coffee table book by drummer Kevin Haskins, titled (what else?) Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy (released in 2018 via Cleopatra), gloriously celebrates the band’s exalted place at the throne of the most steadfast subculture in all of modern history.

A deliciously decadent collection of anecdotes and images, it strikingly serves to remind of Bauhaus’ conceptual and confrontational pretension/brilliance, as well as the visual and intellectual depth of their oeuvre. It all makes for an appropriate sensory overload, a sublimely arranged cataloging of a their unimaginably influential manifesto of the macabre.

To celebrate today being World Goth Day, we asked Haskins (who last year formed POPTONE with former bandmate Daniel Ash) to choose ten of the most Bauhaus-y – in other words, “goth” – moments and images from the book.

“The bats have left the bell tower…”

 

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

One of my favorite posters (pictured above) announcing the release of our first single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” This was screen printed by guitarist Daniel Ash and his father, Arthur Ash. Arthur was a sign writer and had a workshop in a shed at the bottom of his garden. I recall driving around in my Morris Minor in the dead of night, surreptitiously plastering up the posters with glue made of flour and water.

The Hearse

We were recording our third LP, The Sky’s Gone Out, at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, Wales. One day, venturing into the nearby village of Monmouth to stock up on supplies, Daniel and Peter happened upon a hearse that was for sale. This would make a very fine means of convenience for touring, they both thought, and after consulting with David and I, the next day the sale was made. Following the deal, we drove it with great excitement back to the studio and showed it off to the studio owner’s teenage daughters, who immediately asked us to take them for a spin. The girls took up their positions in the back, where normally the coffin would be placed. With Peter at the wheel we all set off with gusto around the narrow country lanes of Wales. Peter decided to test the capacity of the engine for speed and endurance, and as our lives flashed before our eyes, we went careering around the narrow bends and curves, over humpbacked bridges, and on several occasions, ironically, almost meeting our keeper. The poor ladies were being thrown from side to side of the rear compartment, screaming with both fear and delight! Fortunately, we eventually made it back in one piece.

bauhaus-book-the-hearse

Soiree Vampires

Plan K is an intriguing venue. Housed in an old sugar refinery in Brussels, at six stories high, one had to navigate a maze of floors, rooms and narrow foot bridges to explore its industrial interior. The night that we played there on April 5th, 1980, they named it “Soirée Vampires!” Before we took to the stage, they screened several films from a 16mm projector including: La Fiancée Du Vampire, Le Masque Du Demon and Mensch Und Kunstfigur, the latter being a documentary about Oskar Schlemmer, an artist and teacher associated with the Bauhaus art movement.

bauhaus-soiree-vampires

Pressure & Strain

Drawing on blank page of our 1983 UK tour itinerary. This was drawn by me only days before Bauhaus first disbanded. One can clearly see that the pressure and strain was finally getting to me.

bauhaus1983-tour-itinerary

‘Mask’ Photo Shoot

Picture taken of me during the filming of the video for Mask. After shooting the bulk of the video in an abandoned Victorian shoe factory in our home town, we drove to the middle of the countryside. We each daubed on makeshift makeup and, lit only by car headlights, we completed the filming. It was mid winter and about four degrees below freezing point. This is me adorned with a scarf of brambles after I had just crawled through an icy stagnant pond.

bauhaus-book-kevin-haskins-photo

‘Exquisite Corpse’ Game

Exquisite Corpse drawing. A parlour game invented by the Surrealists was one of our favorite ways of dealing with the boredom of life on the road. It’s a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, without viewing what the previous person has written or drawn. Once the last person has finished, then the piece is revealed.

bauhaus-exquisite-corpse

‘The Resurrection’

This was it… After all the telephone calls, meetings, rehearsals, and the huge anticipation, we were about to take the stage again almost two decades after our “final show,” for the first date on The Resurrection Tour. As the opening chords of our first song “Double Dare” rang out, I can clearly remember a great feeling of confidence and invincibility! Bauhaus were back! The passion, vitality and the energy of the band was still intact and, coupled with the fact that three of us had been performing together for the past fifteen years, we could all actually play much better.
Coffin shaped poster by artist Allen Jaeger for The Resurrection Tour.

bauhaus-coffin-poster

Hanging Upside Down at Coachella

In 2005 we were asked to play The Coachella Music Festival, and the promoter Paul Tollet asked us to create a spectacular show. Having always had a leaning towards the theatrical, we set about brainstorming our grand entrance. One of the first ideas we had was to release thousands of bats from the stage. On inquiring as to where to obtain said bats, we learned that it would actually be illegal to release them at the time when we would be on stage. A little dismayed we set about brainstorming again. Eventually Peter came up with the brilliant idea of the inverted hanging man, based on the Greek archetype Hermes in connection to alchemy. Peter would be the hanging man, or vampire bat as it was also naturally interpreted.

 

bauhaus_book-coachella

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!!!!

The SO36 Club is situated in Kreuzberg, Berlin, in the heart of the Turkish Quarter. During the 70s, it was a squat which morphed into a legendary punk rock venue. David Bowie and Iggy Pop were often seen there during the time they were living in Berlin. Today it has been renovated, but back then it was cold, bare bones, rough and ready. The first time we played there was on the second gig of our first European tour on March 29th, 1980, and it was quite a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, there was a certain element in the crowd who had come only to listen to one of the local support bands, The Giants, who were a Rockabilly band. The Teddy Boys were yelling profanities and threatening the kids who had come to see us.
The dressing room was situated half way down the hall, so to access it one had to walk, or in our case, run through the audience. Well the Teddy Boys knew this, and on our way back there, they attempted to attack us! We managed to arrive relatively intact, along with the promoter and our two-man crew. At the rear of the dressing room was a big stack of wooden chairs. To our surprise, the promoter suddenly began smashing them to bits! Had he gone mad? We soon learned the reason for his bizarre behavior when he gave each of us a chair leg to use as a defensive weapon.
Grabbing the door handle he struck a rather dramatic commando like pose, yelled, “Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier”…and boom! We were now running through the audience towards the exit, wielding our makeshift clubs! Thankfully, the Teds were too alarmed to engage and we made it safely to a waiting mini bus. We endured a rather frigid journey back to our lodgings though, as they had smashed every window on our bus.

bauhaus-ein-zwei

Billy’s London

During January and February, 1980, we landed a five night residency at a club called Billy’s in Soho, London. The club stands on the site where King Charles II would visit his mistress, Nell Gwynne, and in the 30s it housed the radical Gargoyle Club, which attracted the likes of Noel Coward, Francis Bacon and Tallulah Bankhead. I guess you could say that we were in good company. As each night progressed at Billy’s, we attracted more and more followers clad in black leather and lace, witnessing the seeds of the Gothic movement beginning to germinate. There we were, standing at the beach head, unwittingly inventing an entirely new genre of music.
On one particular night, as we stormed through our set, I was convinced that I spied Tony Wilson and Ian Curtis at the bar. It transpired that Joy Division were in London recording their second album Closer at Britannia Row in Islington. After our set, we approached Ian who told us that Tony had left early because of his dislike of bands that wear makeup. Ian went on to tell us that he enjoyed our set and was inspired to see us play live after hearing our records.
It came as quite a shock, just three months later, when we learned, with great sadness, that he had taken his own life.

 

bauhaus-book-billys

Björk Releases Hallucinatory New Video For ‘Tabula Rasa’

 

 

What we’ve come to particularly appreciate about Björk, is her ability to stare our stark, bleak reality in the eye, and then artistically interpret it into something seemingly so magical and fantastical. But with her particularly visceral 2017 single “Tabula Rasa,” it did appear as if she’d been philosophically pushed to the limit of late, and was coming out metaphorically swinging.

And despite the song’s pensive, ethereal sonics, her lyrics genuinely do not hold back in the least. Indeed, one can easily imagine them directed at any number of the so many cultivators of corruption and purveyors of perpetual injustice who are so perniciously choking our ideological air at the moment. “We are all swollen / From hiding his affairs / Let’s put it all on the table / Let it all out / It is time / He mustn’t steal our light,” Björk bewails with the force of a dozen hurricanes.

 

 

Now she’s released a rather hallucinatory new video for the single – and it is, as we’ve come to expect, like nothing we could have ever imagined. Directed by Tobias Gremmler, in it we see her floating, and relentlessly shapeshifting, as if unsure exactly what form to settle on. There’s an almost eerily beautiful quality to it all, as Björk appears part human, part flora, sprouting, and even seemingly giving birth, just as she utters the words, “Tabula rasa for my children.”

Of course, “tabula rasa” is Latin for “clean slate.” And considering the prodigious failures of men, it is surely time for a woman of her unstoppable force to step in and attempt to reset our reality.

“Break the chain of the fuckups of the fathers / It is time / For us women to rise and not just take it lying down / It is time / The world is listening.”

We are indeed, Ms. Guðmundsdóttir – we are indeed.

(N.B.  Björk and her label One Little Indian recently re-released all nine of her albums as colored cassettes; and she completes her final three shows at The Shed in New York this week.)

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Sara Kendall’s Alluringly Medieval Video For New Single ‘Fantasies’

 

 

As if it even need be said, few things command our immediate and full attention as a woman in a chainmail headdress. And Brooklyn based model-songstress Sara Kendall dons exactly that in the video for her new single “Fantasies” – though with strings of stark black beads cascading down on either side, and her clutching a pair of broken chains, she’s admittedly a particularly intimidating presence.

The lyrics tell a story of pushing on through a poisonous relationship, something which probably hasn’t changed all that much since the 13th Century. And indeed, Kendall complement’s the song’s sultry, sensual trip-hop aesthetics with a chorus of rather medieval-sounding harmonies.

 

 

“I’m in your claws every single night / You toxify me / ‘Cause you can’t deny me,” she alluringly intones, an undeniably willing player in this lascivious drama.

“‘Fantasies’ is about knowingly indulging in the consequences in a toxic relationship,” she explains, “And the video visualizes the concept of persevering through pain and conquering it, taking control of the outcome of the situation. The idea was for the camera to pan out and up, the watcher ultimately being dominated.”
The track is taken from her October 2018 EP Comply, which, she tells us, “is all about self-preservation.” Which, it would seem, explains the chainmail.

BlackBook Interview: Kenneth Branagh on His New Film ‘All is True,’ and Why Shakespeare Still Very Much Matters

 

 

You can put him in Harry Potter films, or convince him to direct superhero flicks (as he did with 2011’s half-a-billion-dollar-grossing Thor) – but Kenneth Branagh will always belong to a somewhat more rarefied realm, one whose characters dispatch with one another via noble swordsmanship or by-now-archaic methods of poisoning. Like Sir Laurence Olivier before him, he is inarguably his generation’s most exalted Shakespearean actor (both on stage and screen), who also just happens to be equally adept with a pen or a camera.

To give it proper contemporary context, his 1993 film version of Much Ado About Nothing boasts a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – and his 1996 Hamlet goes and bests it at 95%.

But perhaps having taken all that he can for now from The Bard’s sprawling oeuvre, with his new Sony Pictures Classics film All is True (written by, directed by and starring Branagh, in theaters May 10), he instead chooses to dramatize him.

In it he plays a newly retired Shakespeare, who’s come back to Stratford-Upon-Avon surely to put things to right, after a prodigious and prestigious career that has long kept him in London and apart from his family. He gives a viscerally nuanced performance – especially in regards to dealings with his fervent and resentful daughter Judith (acted with the force of a hurricane by Kathryn Wilder), and the 17-years-past death of his son Hamnet…which turns out to have been scandalous, when it had never before been presumed to be so.

 

 

Judi Dench, more than 20 years Branagh’s senior, plays his wife Anne Hathaway with a stoic power, mediating between her husband’s considerable ego and her daughter’s at long last unleashed anger. Ian McKellen brings radiant comic relief in the form of the Earl of Southampton, whom Shakespeare had so ardently admired in his youth; and a bitingly sardonic humor resurfaces throughout the film precisely when it is most called for. (Will’s lacerating tongue lashing of the cantankerous Sir Thomas Lucy is utterly priceless).

We had the privilege to chat with Branagh about the film, and about why The Bard‘s work still matters in these contemporary times. If it need be said, he was as thoughtful, and charming, as you’d have ever imagined him to be.

 

 

I was talking with Roland Emmerich after the London premiere of Anonymous in 2011, and he opined that Shakespeare ultimately now belongs to everyone. How do you feel about that?

“I would agree with him – and I really, really enjoyed his film. Interpretations are open to all, but for All is True I wanted to start with what we knew about the man from Stratford – I wanted to see specifically if I could find a version, as it struck me through the plays, of Shakespeare the man meeting Shakespeare the genius. We know he returned to that small town in 1613 when his theater burned down completely. And I had actually gleaned a lot from being in the plays: the emotional territory, his obsession with twins and the loss of a child, issues of status. Those are the things that I wanted to explore.”

There seems always to be this tendency to put the genius on a pedestal. Was your goal to sort of bring him down from that perch?

“Humanizing him, yes. Sort of de-deifying him. It seemed to me that a central virtue of his work was to render exactly that same process, whether it was Julius Caesar or King Richard III or the II. He took historical figures in spectacular situations, for instance the Battle of Agincourt for Henry V – and for me the transformative element was the sense that human beings were always at the center of it all. And even in heightened circumstances, were doing things and behaving in ways that were very much reflective of our own lives. A play like Macbeth, for example, can help us understand the most extreme version of succumbing to the lure of ambition. Always he brought the work into a very human, humane and often humorous dimension.”

 

 

The foibles of the spectacular?

“Yes, yes! That’s a perfect way of putting it. Of the last three or four plays Shakespeare wrote on his own, finishing maybe with The Tempest, many people read into the end passages that he is done with it all. And he also uses magic to make happy endings, almost as if he’s run out of human ways to do it. Of course, fairytales are not the real world, those more imaginary worlds are not what represents real life. And now he’s going back to his home life after being probably totally spent from the last twenty years writing, acting and producing thirty-seven plays. And there is something I think he wants to set right at home – to face up to the consequences of his absence.”

Well that’s the eternal question, isn’t it? Do we forgive the questionable morals of geniuses? After all, Picasso was not a very good person.

“Yes, there are plenty of questions to be asked about the behavior and morals of the greats. He comes across as…”

A man searching for morality? The plays were rife with moral examination, obviously.

“That would be a good way of stating it. He’s looking for the right thing to do ultimately.”

History does suggest that his son Hamnet died of the plague. But you’re taking a bit of liberty with the story?

“The facts are accurate in that on either side of his death in 1596, there were only three other infant deaths…”

So it’s possible that your version is correct?

“It’s at least legitimate speculation.”

Founded speculation.

“Yes, that at least stretches back into what you see in some of the plays. In The Winter’s Tale, the suggestion is almost that the boy Mamillius dies of a broken heart, because of the actions of his father. So that seemed like a Shakespearean leap to take – based on the bare facts of no actual cause of death given, and when the quantity of deaths seems to indicate this was not a period of plague.”

 

 

It appears that Will is trying to learn from the women in his life. Anne Hathaway seems, if not terribly outspoken, at least a very much self-possessed person in the film.

“Well she’s reflected a little by our experience with the character of Paulina, also in The Winter’s Tale, who is often quoted by actresses as being their favorite character. She does not let Leontes off the hook at all, puts him to the sword about his actions. You must understand, Shakespeare’s options were very wide at the time; but he chose to come back home.”

Maybe to at last better understand who his wife and daughters really were?

“Well, it was kind of a modern thing to offer to women who were disempowered through illiteracy a chance to have a voice. If nothing else there were acres of gaps to fill in. So much of what he writes about in the late plays is the resolution of these issues, trying to make the end of family life happy; the transitions, the passings.”

Which is perhaps why he turned to magical solutions in his final works?

“Yes, statues come to life, incredible quirks of coincidence happen. He turns the last four plays into fairytales, which is an interesting style to arrive at after the psychological realism of Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello, all dark, gritty and remorseless.”

That maybe helps to explain why some people find God later in life.

“I guess, yes. Looking for some spiritual solace and some sense of it all…”

Through magic. Because God is magic.

“Yes, God is magic; and magic is legitimate theatrical currency for the dramatist. Though you might argue that it’s weak for the psychological realist as a tool. But maybe he got to there through a certain amount of heartache, and melancholy. That is expressed as he explores the separation of twins, the problems that daughters have with their fathers…”

 

 

As in King Lear?

“That was an inspiration as we built to the arguments and tensions, and unleashed what’s true in most family relationships. Tensions in the here and now are often linked to something that happened many years ago.”

It’s an absolutely chilling moment, when Judith bitterly concedes to her father, “A daughter is nothing, destined only to become the property of another man…or fade away.” She is explosive.

“Right, Judith carries an absolute pack of hand grenades.”

Finally, you’re arguably an icon of this classical cultural line. Do you feel as if the culture now is finally speeding away from all of this, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster – will it all be lost to our new short-attention-span reality?

“I don’t know about lost. But you’re absolutely right, culture is speeding away from it.”

Or it is maybe dissipated in its ability to…well, Shakespeare has somehow remained a part of the cultural zeitgeist for centuries. Is that perhaps coming to an end?

“I think it’s a very good question, and I think the jury is out.”

It’s always been somehow comforting to know that it still matters.

“Yes, it matters because it helps us to understand.”

 

BlackBook Art View: Yuji Agematsu Turns Trash Into Treasure

 

Detail, Zip: 01.01.03 . . . 01.31.03, 2003, mixed media in cigarette pack cellophane wrappers on wood backed acrylic shelf, latex paint, 26 1/2 x 34 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches, courtesy of the artist and the Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; photo: Stephen Faught

 

Yuji Agematsu is perhaps creating the most unique work of any artist active today. And he now has a show on view at the Miguel Abreu Gallery on NYC’s Lower East Side.

Not only is the work unique, it is unquestionably some of the best art being made today; which is interesting, of course, because Agematsu’s fabulous tiny sculptures are actually made of…trash.

Since the 1980s, he has been taking daily, dedicated walks in different New York City neighborhoods, collecting select items of debris and initially putting them into a zip-lock bag. After 1995, he replaced the plastic bag with the cellophane wrapper from his cigarette packs. Collected items include chewed gum, lollipop sticks, condoms, cigarette butts, wire, stones, hair, string, fragments of paper, twigs and leaves. The walk and the collected junk were then meticulously recorded in small notebooks, one for each month, a facsimile of which a collector gets upon acquiring a piece.

 

 

Detail, Ziploc: 12.01.95 . . . 12.31.95, 1995, mixed media in Ziploc bags (31 units), magnets, oil pen, on steel, 29 1/2 x 31 x 1 3/8 inches, courtesy of the artist and the Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; photo: Stephen Faught

 

Generally, Agematsu assembles his findings into miniature sculptures shortly after collecting them, laboriously gluing his “treasures” together and into the cellophane, thus transforming the mundane and unwanted into the most fantastical compositions, and breathing new life into discarded and decaying material. Sometimes his individual pieces suggest landscape; other times they are anthropomorphic, or resemble miniature still-lifes. They can be witty, comical, peaceful, tired, sad, unsettling, or tragic.

Since Agematsu initially rarely exhibited, there was no prescribed way for displaying the work, although it was always presented in calendar increments of a month or a year, but on any kind of shelving. In the last few years, the work has been displayed on plexiglas shelves, each unit representing a month and the works arranged in a calendar configuration. The earlier work in zip-lock bags is mounted on a metallic plate and held in place with tiny magnets that match the precociousness of the art itself.

 

Detail, Zip: 01.01.03 . . . 01.31.03, 2003, mixed media in cigarette pack cellophane wrappers (31 units) on wood backed acrylic shelf, latex paint, 26 1/2 x 34 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches, courtesy of the artist and the Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; photo: Stephen Faught

 

Everything about his art has the delicacy of a bonsai. When one buys a work, for example, the days of the month, each in its cellophane containers, are neatly laid out in a box resembling a large shoebox, with an empty cigarette pack separating and protecting them.

Agematsu, who lives in Brooklyn, is 62 and essentially an untrained artist. He came to the States during the 1980s from Japan, where he was born. But as mentioned before, he did not show his work with any regularity…until about 2015. Each succeeding year has resulted in an enormous jump in the number of  exhibitions, and thusly also his acclaim.

His breakout show was the group exhibition The Keeper, at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York in 2016. He and Helma af Klint were perhaps the most talked-about artists in that groundbreaking show. In 2018 he had a solo exhibition at the prestigious Power Station in Dallas. And also in 2018, he had an entire year displayed at the Carnegie International, 57th Edition. His current show at Miguel Abreu is titled 1995 & 2003, because each of those years is presented in its entirety – 1995 with zip-lock months, and 2003 with cigarette-pack-cellophane months.

Yuji Agematsu, 1995 & 2003, is currently on view at the Miguel Abreu Gallery, 88 Eldridge Street, New York, until June 21.

 

 

Detail, Zip: 06.01.03 . . . 06.30.03, 2003, mixed media in cigarette pack cellophane wrappers on wood backed acrylic shelf, latex paint, wrappers, each approx.: 2 1/2 x 2 1/8 x 1 inches, courtesy of the artist and the Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; photo: Stephen Faught
Ziploc: 12.01.95 . . . 12.31.95, 1995, mixed media in Ziploc bags (31 units), magnets, oil pen, on steel, 29 1/2 x 31 x 1 3/8 inches, courtesy of the artist and the Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; photo: Stephen Faught

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Marieme’s Poignant Video for Soulful New Single ‘Ask For Help’

 

 

We first feel for Marieme in early 2018, when her fiercely revolutionary track “Be the Change” perfectly coincided with the ethos and determination of the March For Our Lives.

Now the New York based Senagalese singer and one time refugee is back with an absolutely shiver-inducing new single, “Ask For Help,” which definitively affirms that she is one of the truly great new-generation soul singers. Philosophically, it could not be more relevant; indeed, in these times of rampant chemical quick-fixes, it is an impassioned plea to throw aside one’s pride and to not be afraid to seek solace in those you love and who care about you.

 

 

BlackBook premieres here the accompanying video, which shows her offering consolation to someone in need, set to the lyrical accompaniment, “You don’t have to cry by yourself / You don’t have to lie to shield yourself / Yes, you can ask for my help.”

“Music saved my life,” she explains, “and that is what I hope to achieve with ‘Ask For Help.’ We’re all human and are all going through things, whether we show it or not. It’s important that we start to break down those walls so we can begin to thrive and not just survive. If this song helps at least one person, then we’re on the road to healing.”

Marieme‘s debut EP is due out sometime this fall, with a full album to follow in 2020. We can hardly stand the wait.