Errol Morris, one of the great documentary filmmakers, has sat down with men from the halls of power for years. In his new film, American Dharma, Morris faces Steve Bannon, one of the darker lingering figures of our very recent collective history. If some of the world’s major publications were a bit more astute they would have long ago tagged Bannon as the person of the year, if not the decade. An argument can be made that Bannon is the most dangerous man in the world. Known primarily as the odd right-wing firebrand who helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election, and before that as the head of the infamous website Breitbart News, Bannon’s shadow casts over every major gain by an emerging, new proto-fascism. In Brazil he consulted the campaign of Jair Bolsonaro, in Europe he rubs shoulders with Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Italy’s Matteo Salvini, power players united in their paranoid policies aimed at immigrants and leftists. What sets Bannon apart from the stereotypical Trump aficionado, if not Trump himself, is that he is an actual ideologue, a reactionary internationalist designed for a postmodern world. [Read more…]
For Sama is an extraordinary journey into war through the intimate lens of a woman who, in the course of five grueling years, also becomes a mother. From the 2011 uprisings in Aleppo, Syria, to her daily life in an area under never-ending siege, director Waad al-Kateab offers an unprecedented look into the lives of civilians held hostage under the oppression of what they refer to as “The Regime” — Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad regime — amid the shadows of global politics. [Read more…]
With the recent group exhibition Future Starts Slow at LAUNCH F18, participating artist Rose Vickers and I took the occasion to discuss her artmaking and extensive writing practices. Rose grew up in Australia and has spent time living and traveling throughout many regions of the world. Rose and I both discovered each other’s work through Instagram and followed one another for many years before finally meeting in 2018.
While many know Rose for her writing, which has been published in Mousse Magazine, Oyster, and Artist Profile among others, she in her own right is an incredibly talented visual artist. The way in which she views her subject matter has always stood out to me as an incredibly unique perspective. We began our conversation about her work and duality of her combined artistic practices and where throughout her process they converge. [Read more…]
At 77, the youthful fire inside David Crosby refuses to flicker out. The music legend makes this more than evident in the new, reflective documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. A chronicle of his highs and lows, Crosby impressively allows this to be a work of complete, sometimes stinging honesty. Directed by A.J. Eaton with renowned director and journalist Cameron Crowe producing, Remember My Name leaves few stones unturned in Crosby’s life. In a sense he is a survivor from that last generation of creative minds who were heirs to the Romantic tradition. Born in the shadow of World War II, finding a voice in the tumultuous 60s, there’s more to a personality like Crosby than the mere tag of “old hippie.” From his drug abuse to writing iconic music and touring as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before the group implodes amid intense squabbles, it’s all laid bare in this film. And that’s exactly how he wanted it. [Read more…]
Recently we interviewed the painter and printmaker Austin Stiegemeier, who is teaching fine art at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Stiegemeier grew up in the small town of Rathdrum in northern Idaho. He began studying art while still in elementary school, and eventually pursued his art education at two universities in Washington State, completing his MFA at Washington State University. Since then, Stiegemeier has taught at several U.S. colleges, including Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Our conversation concentrated on his pursuit of representational art, including narrative art and portraiture. [Read more…]
Nick Broomfield is now 71 years old, and while he has not lost the feisty, investigative energy of a born muckraker, he is now continuously traveling back into the past. In his memories, two figures have been manifesting themselves as of late: Leonard Cohen, poet, songwriter, almost mystical icon and Marianne Christine Ihlen, Cohen’s muse whom he first encountered on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s. Broomfield’s new documentary, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, chronicles not only Cohen’s development as an artist but his more intimate self as well, and the love affair that stayed with him until the very end. [Read more…]
Christina Quarles is at the forefront of a generation of millennial artists who are making ambiguity the aesthetic of our time. Few artists can incorporate as many painting styles as fluidly as Quarles does because few artists have the chops to paint and draw as well as she does. Even fewer have the philosophic rigor and intellectual muscle to upturn the cultural assumptions underlying the history of painting – and have such obvious pleasure doing it. [Read more…]
This Empty World, the latest exhibition by acclaimed photographer Nick Brandt (at Fahey/Klein, Los Angeles, through 27 April), is a captivating account of wildlife colliding hard against an endless tide of human encroachment and unchecked corporate development. Once roaming free upon endlessly expansive and entirely majestic lands, these now endangered animals find themselves wandering amid stands of cement walls, their destinies perilously disrupted by ditches, bus stations, construction sites, highways, dried river beds and, of course, people. So many people. Everywhere, locals — whose mere presence carries with it an indeterminable fate of doom — stare away from these gorgeous creatures, grounded as they are in their own sense of isolation and despair. When their eyes do seem to meet, at least in Brandt’s photographs, the encounter is altogether fruitless, for the two are equal victims of a global environmental destruction that churns-on despite local action. [Read more…]
Seeing Allred is a fascinating documentary about one of the most powerful and outspoken discrimination attorney and women’s rights advocates of our times: Gloria Allred.
Co-directed by Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman, the film gets up-close and personal with this formidable woman, from her high profile cases and strategic presence in the media, to her personal life, her feminist awakening, her dedication to civil rights and her passion for activism.
“There is a war on women. It’s real. It can be very ugly. Women depend on me to be strong, to be fearless, and to assert and protect their rights,” declares Allred. [Read more…]
Few ever dream of owning a masterpiece; even fewer know the intrinsic value of an art piece in today’s hyper inflated art market. Brilliantly directed by Nathaniel Khan, The Price of Everything is a fascinating journey into the personalities at the forefront of this phenomenon, from high-end investors to auctioneers, historians, art critics, collectors and artists. [Read more…]
Rupert Everett has basked in the glow of fame and recognition, and known the sudden shadow of obscurity. It is not surprising to find out that he is a great admirer of Oscar Wilde, an artist who produced work acclaimed in its day and beyond, yet the revelation of his sexual identity became the truth that began to set him back. Everett still believes it was his coming out that suddenly ended his streak of hits which includes The Madness of King George, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Shakespeare in Love and Shrek 2. Little wonder he felt connected to an artist from long ago, yet so contemporary. [Read more…]
Many of the great pop culture icons survive through the imagery of their youth, and the photos of their prime. Seldom do we reflect on the final chapters or the later years. That fleeting goddess Fama can favor an individual, but immortality is usually granted through the memories and artworks left after death. Nico, real name Christa Päffgen, was one of the stranger and at the same time most alluring visages to appear in the 1960s. Model, actress, singer, she appeared ever so briefly in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita before transforming into the underworld muse of The Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol, too, adored her and delighted in photographing her Nordic profile. Among her reputed lovers were fellow luminaries like Jim Morrison, who encouraged her to write her own songs. But for Italian writer and director Susanna Nicchiarelli, the more interesting chapter in Nico’s long journey is the end, when the looks have faded, the blonde hair is dyed black and what remains are painful reflections and haunted memories. [Read more…]
Raw talent. Sartorial splendor. Passion and rebellious spirit, breaker all the rules: words inevitably fail with Alexander McQueen, the brilliant British designer who revolutionized Fashion and its establishment. His life and complex persona is portrayed in the new documentary, McQueen. Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, the film is an ode to the prodigal son from a modest family who dared uproot conservative dogmas and whose influence is just starting to be fully understood. [Read more…]
Dark Money is a political thriller documenting the influence of corrupt money on the elections in a state, Montana, that is a microcosm of America as a nation.
Directed by Kimberly Reed, who is known for Prodigal Sons, an introspective film about the impact of her gender transition on her family and friends, the film takes a meticulous approach at tracing the hidden players involved in swaying our political future. [Read more…]
Unlocking The Cage offers an intimate look at an unprecedented battle to obtain the status of legal personhood for animals. Co-directed by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, the film follows attorney Steven Wise and his legal team, The Non Human Rights Project, into the courtroom and behind the scenes of this truly historic crusade.
From Don’t Look Back to The War Room and Startup.com, the acclaimed filmmakers are famous for their unobtrusive documentary style. One of the pioneers of Direct Cinema, Pennebaker was honored with a Lifetime Academy Award and Oscar nominated Hegedus received the DGA Outstanding Directional Achievement award. [Read more…]
Painter Ria Brodell has gained fame in the way they disrupt and update both the artistic cannon and history itself. In their painted series “Butch Heroes,” Brodell takes the form of traditional Catholic Holy cards depicting saints and martyrs, and instead paints “butch heroes” on a reinterpretation of the cards. Brodell highlights queer heroes from across the world and ages, showcasing and celebrating lesser-known, “butch” (female assigned, but masculine presenting) historical figures.
Brodell’s process is research-based in terms of uncovering these buried histories. Brodell visits archives and libraries, writing textual descriptions of hero and ensuring that these always accompany the images so that this history is also brought to light. [Read more…]
Amitis Motevalli’s Golestan Revisited project, now in its exhibition phase, has several aims. One is to perform a revisionist botanical history to “decolonize the roses.” Motevalli explained to me that the flowers originated in an area of the world now described partly as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Iran, where she was born. Ancient Persia’s flowers could be described as successful plant emissaries of cultural exchange during a period of trading along the Silk Road. But Motevalli questions the way these plants were collected, specifically during the era of The Crusades, and the reasons they were cultivated. She sees the flowers as having been forcibly taken, because in their journeys to Europe and widespread adoption as symbols in art, literature and culture, they were hybridized and their offspring renamed, their cultural histories and their poetries erased. [Read more…]
Samantha Fuller Speaks to the Life and Legacy of Her Father, Director Sam Fuller
A Fuller Life is a special tribute to maverick filmmaker Samuel Fuller, directed by his daughter Samantha. Fuller was a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. His raw and unbridled stories favored the underdog and dared to question and highlight the grim reality of war, racism and manipulation from experiences that he had lived first hand. Starting as a crime reporter, he enrolled himself in the infantry during World War II, exposed the horrors of concentration camps, and was awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery. His persona was bigger than life. He was known for smoking a large cigar and calling action by firing a Colt .45 into the air. From The Big Red One to Shock Corridor and White Dog, his indelible mark influenced countless directors. Scorsese once said of him, “If you don’t like the films of Samuel Fuller, then you just don’t like cinema. Or at least you don’t understand it.” [Read more…]
An Interview with Artist and Theorist Johanna Drucker
by Broc Rossell
Johanna Drucker’s newly published work, The General Theory of Social Relativity, addresses the fundamental question of how we are to understand the forces at work in the social world, and presents a radically innovative framework for thinking about social processes. A century ago theories of quantum physics and general relativity exposed the limits of Newton’s classical, mechanical, approach to explaining the forces at work in the physical world. But the social sciences, including critical aesthetics rooted in 19th century political theory, remain caught in a mechanistic paradigm. Drucker’s formulation offers a non-mechanistic approach to the understanding workings of the social world and the affective forces at work in non-linear politics and aesthetics.* Broc Rossell, publisher of The Elephants, spoke with author Johanna Drucker in Vancouver and Los Angeles last month regarding her new book with The Elephants, The General Theory of Social Relativity. [Read more…]
The recent documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World is a revelation, from Link Wray’s monumental influence on the landscape of music, to the legendary stars paying tribute to the songs and rhythms of indigenous cultures whose struggles were hidden from history for far too long. The line up of celebrities in this documentary is impressive: Stevie Van Zandt, Martin Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Georges Clinton, Tony Bennett, Taboo, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson and Steven Tyler, to name a few, including Iggy Pop, who owes his decision to become a musician to Link Wray’s infamous power cord.
Link Wray & His Wray Men, “Rumble” (1958) [Read more…]