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…]
Barbara Carrasco was starving. She had just dropped off her husband, the artist Harry Gamboa Jr., at LAX and driven cross-town to meet me at their old hangout, Phillipe’s. As we sat down with French dip sandwiches and talked about her life and work I realized that underneath the easy laugh and unpretentious manner there was an incredible strength that had allowed her to travel from the projects of Mar Vista, to the halls of UCLA, to battle the sexism and racism from both the Anglo and Chicano communities, to work with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, to get her MFA at Cal Arts and to beat cancer. [Read more…]
The myths have not left us even in a supposedly rational age. Especially in an imperial society what is past is prologue. With every passing year historical memory takes on a new gloss, and the darker shades are colored over with wishful thinking. In the United States the Kennedy family personifies the very idea of national myth. Chiseled in stone, the personas of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, both assassinated in their political primes in the 1960s, are equally romanticized and debated. Admired for their patrician air in a culture that worships opulence, yet deconstructed by scholars of realpolitik, the twin gods of American liberalism evoke a special allure via grainy photographs and film reels. It is the third brother, Edward Kennedy, denied his turn at the throne, who wanders under a shadow infused with that most bitter of phrases, “what could have been.” [Read more…]
Gusmano Cesaretti pulls a book off the shelf in his South Pasadena studio and hands it to me. The book is on Chaz Bojorquez, the Godfather of East L.A. graffiti. He opens the front cover and shows me where Chaz has written in beautiful stylish script, “To El más chingón. You started my career. Thank you. Chaz.” The story of how an Italian kid obsessed with American culture ended up documenting the birth of East L.A. graffiti culture is just one chapter in the crazy fairy-tale that is Cesaretti’s life. [Read more…]
by Christopher Michno
Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers work collaboratively to produce objects that are sensually appealing and refer to advertising, design, and glossy consumer products. Their work is intentionally ambiguous, mining objects for their capacity to mean different things to different people; and in this way, it operates both within a specific narrative, and as work about the nature of how we construct meaning. This Way Lies Madness (2018), their latest, a neon sign made for “Manifesto: A Moderate Proposal,” the exhibition at the Pitzer College Lenzner Family Gallery through March 29, adopts a line from King Lear. The sign reads “This Way Lies Madness Lies” and is shaped in a continuous circle. In a conversation in their Claremont studio, Myers and Berg discussed Madness, manifestos, and making objects that create space for dialog. [Read more…]
Agnieszka Holland’s provocative film, Spoor, challenges preconceived notions of animal dominion, gender equality, and the excessive use of power by the ruling class. A recipient of multiple awards, including three Academy Awards nominations, Holland is a masterful director who excels at weaving powerful and conflicting themes into stories. Inspired by Olga Tokarczuk’s book, Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, the title of the film refers to the tracks and traces left by animals, while its original title, Pokot, is a hunting expression referring to the count of animals killed after the hunt. [Read more…]
Based on the writings and adventures of best selling journalist Jay Bahadur, Pirates of Somalia is an enthralling ride into the reality of Somalia’s pirates, seen from the shores of a nation pillaged by foreign corporations. This film is a far cry from the dichotomies of Captain Philips and the media’s ennobling of Americans in stark contrast to the barbarism of the Somalis. [Read more…]
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” begins Charles Dickens’ epic A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens goes on to describe the novel’s period, set against the French Revolution, as an age of “wisdom” and “foolishness.” The context may have changed since those words were written, but the sentiment remains true. Here we are in 2017, arguably more conscious than ever to the plights of the dispossessed, yet somehow still stuck in the mires of narrow mindedness. Why do we seem doomed to repeat the errors of our ways? How can we better draw on lessons from history? In November, at New York’s Performa Biennial, these were questions at the heart of at least two South African artists’ commissioned performances. [Read more…]
Inspired by true events, The Divine Order tells the story of a housewife’s servitude and her quest for emancipation in a remote part of Switzerland. She rallies other women to fight for the right to vote, shifting the scales of power politically and domestically, while awakening to her own sexual potential. [Read more…]
On view at Matthew Marks, Los Angeles, are a selection of photographs from Nan Goldin’s hypnotic and haunting series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which in its original format is a 48 minute slideshow documenting Goldin’s life in over 700 photographs and 30 songs, the text of which, those songs, acting as the narrative for the “film.”
In her introduction to the book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Goldin writes:
I was eleven when my sister committed suicide. This was in 1965, when teenage suicide was a taboo subject. I was very close to my sister and aware of some of the forces that led her to choose suicide. I saw the role that her sexuality and its repression played in her destruction. [Read more…]
This is a sort of Cinderella story, if Cinderella was a 74 year-old man with a penchant for drawing fantastical landscapes, imaginary cars, trains and figures. William Hall may look like a character actor with Santa Claus on his resume, but he harbors an interior life that is far more unique than his appearance suggests. Outwardly there are no clues to imply the fullness of his imagination, nor his impressive talents, yet like the kernel of truth buried within any fable, his story reveals the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. [Read more…]
Rat Film, a riveting new feature by Theo Anthony, plunges into the dark recesses of Baltimore’s rat-infested streets; in doing so, it takes its viewers into the gaping breach of socio-economic segregation.
Once upon a time – because all tales innocuously anchor their footprints in reality – Anthony notices a rat desperately trying to jump out of the confinement of a trashcan. This momentary experience soon leads the director into the chaos of the human condition, which the film masterfully begins to explore while an eerily autocratic voice over (Maureen Jones) ushers us into behavioral neuroscience with references to Curt Richter’s experiments compiled into his book: “Rats, Man and the Welfare State”. [Read more…]