NYC: May 2008 Archives

we were never alone*

CORRECTION: I've corrected the text for screening location

ACT UP veteran Deb Levine is viewing the entire ACT UP Oral History Project videos from start to finish in a performance project she calls "ENDURING ACT UP". She is inviting us to join her.

Levine has been working on her PhD. in Performance Studies at NYU and is writing about ACT UP for her dissertation. She says she's focusing on one aspect in particular:

. . . how collectively people took care of each other during meetings, demonstrations, in committees and affinity groups, and especially as members became ill. I am most interested in the ways in which those relationships became an ethical and political practice - a topic that is not often foregrounded in other histories of the organization.

While she has been watching the interviews recorded by the Oral History Project, which was undertaken by Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, and I assume she's been through them all, she says that what she is missing is the opportunity to turn around and discuss what appears on the screen with others who witnessed and were a part of the phenomenon of this remarkable band of AIDS activists in the 80's and 90's.

The screenings began this morning at 10 at 721 Broadway on the 6th floor, room 613. They will continue through June 15. For a complete schedule and more information, go to the project's web site.

the image is from the ACT UP protest at the National Institutes of Health [NIH] in May, 1990, when we “stormed the NIH” to protest the slow pace of research; things picked up a bit later (the troublemaker seen in the foreground is Brian Keith Jackson)

[Donna Binder image from NIH library - yes, the NIH!, and the site has much more about medical activism]

untitled (chain links) 2008

Despite its lively diversity, Bushwick isn't always as colorful as this "palette" sighted next to a building which houses a number of artist studios near the Morgan stop.

Oh, and in spite of its appearance to the contrary, the painted board is actually in perfect focus.

sorta unlovely, compared to the Brooklyn, but still pretty majestic

With ordinary views like this from 19th-century streets paved with Belgian-blocks it's no wonder DUMBO has become such hot real estate, but how do the tenants of all those new "luxury apartments", including all those little kids bumping around in strollers, survive the continual 24-hour racket of the Q train?

do it yourself

Those who know us are already aware that Barry and I like to eat well. Okay, I know this may sound absurd these days, but we actually dine, at least on most evenings. We often go out to performances and such, so those evening meal times would not seem strange to most Madrileños.

But, for any number of reasons, those hours being one of them, we don't dine often enough with friends. Fortunately I like to cook, I like thinking about and planning meals, and shopping for the food. Most surprising (even to me), I even like cleaning up afterward. All of that can take up a larger part of the day than most people can spare: We know we're lucky we can enjoy the time I have for both of us since I was able to "retire" almost a decade ago. Since I'm also distracted by so many other interests I can't blame my insufficiently-frequent blogging on our eating habits alone, but maybe I can use that connection to help justify this particular post.

We eat very well, meaning we sit down for a leisurely meal and use real napkins. There's great music, amazing conversation and sometimes exceptional (but usually inexpensive) wine. Of course everything in the room has to look really good. Sometimes there are birds singing out in the garden, even very late at night. Wow. That does sound good, and it's only about 6 o'clock right now.

There's no fast or junk food (unless occasionally ordering good pizza or Mexican dishes from trusted neighborhood sources counts), the ingredients vary hugely, and all their sources as natural, organic, seasonal and local as I can find. We don't include meat of any kind very often, and then it's in pretty small amounts. Cooking fairly regularly these days, I find I'm able to incorporate any extra any amounts of fresh ingredients and condiments, and any leftovers, in succeeding meals, so very little is wasted. I'm also getting better at letting what I find in our local Greenmarkets, and even in daily visits to the several decent food stores near our apartment, determine what the evening meal is going to be. I look for sales from meat and fish vendors. I'm improvising more.

I know I'm talking about habits and opportunities which are unimaginable luxuries for most New Yorkers today - and perhaps for most Americans anywhere, even the wealthy. We try to invite friends over as often as we can, but it's never often enough as far as we're concerned. Part of the problem, at least for me, has always been my difficulty in visiting with anyone while I'm busy in a small kitchen not set up so guests could hang out. We tend to concentrate on any number of baked pastas prepared ahead of time when friends sit down with us in our home the first time, but I have to feel that's pretty restrictive in spite of how good those recipes are.

I thought sharing in this space what some of the more successful (and particularly simple and easily-prepared) one-course meals we've enjoyed alone recently might not do any harm, and it could conceivably encourage me to expand my range as host. Of course not every meal's a winner; I jotted these notes down after meals we liked especially over the past month or so:

Saturday, April 12
Sicilian-sautéed swordfish steaks
Boiled parslied red new potatoes with olive oil
Grilled ramps

Sicilian Munir Bianco 2006

Thursday, April 17
Grilled marjoram-stuffed baby squid with a sauce of lemon, hot chilies and olive oil
Boiled new potatoes with olive oil and thyme
Boiled and sautéed spring green beans from Georgia

Galician Albarino, Rias Baixas Salneval 2006

Friday, May 1
Ligurian baked Cod with potatoes
Grilled spring scallions

Vermentino di Sardegna

Monday, May 6
Lemon-and white-wine-braised pork chops,
finished with fingerling potatoes and Marjoram
Grilled spring scallions

Spanish Rueda (Naia)

Sunday, May 18
Small marinated eye-of-round steaks
Oven-roasted potato chips (wedges) with rosemary, finished with parsley
Roasted whole carrots, finished with thyme

Cotes du Rhone (Estezargues Grandes Vignes 2006)

Wednesday, May 21

Grilled duck sausages
Rosemary-roasted fingerling potatoes finished with spring garlic
Grilled ramps

Austrian (Burgenland) Blauer Zweigelt Nittnaus 2006

[images, starting at the top, from esterlange; room 9; deep sea news; wildeducation; encore editions; oceansbridge; tunisia info


you now

It was just past midnight, midweek, and three excited friends were returning to Manhattan from Bushwick. I looked up from our conversation for a moment and spotted this bank of passengers sitting across from us. They were as wonderful, intriguing, smart, colorful and beautiful as every other group on the train I saw that night, or on any other night.

I love the subway; I love Brooklyn; I love New York.


two stills from "Wild Combination"

I saw the New York premier of Matt Wolf's first feature-length film, "Wild Combination", at the Kitchen last night. It's an amazing documentary on the life and music of Arthur Russell, the innovative downtown musical composer/performer who just couldn't stand still and wouldn't be pinned down, even for his own visions of his art.

Unable to be really understood by most of his contemporaries, perhaps partly because of his own inadequacy with conventional communication, Russel's cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary music never had a large audience, before his early death from AIDS complications in 1992. But twenty years later his music sounds as modern as today - or tomorrow. It now appears to be moving from an honored place in the memory of his fans and collaborators (and on thousands of reels on dusty storage locker shelves) into something like cult status among a new generation of listeners and artists which, like Russell, routinely ignores the false separation of genres and thrives on the offspring of musical cross-fertilization.

Wolf, an artist and filmmaker barely in his mid-twenties now, began his career in 2002 with "Golden Gums". It was the first in a series of three relatively short experimental films, the others being "Smalltown Boys" in 2003 and "I Feel Love" in 2004. Their subjects were, in order, the young auteur's own plaster dental cast offered to boyfriend as love token, a young teenage girl who seems to be the daughter of David Wojnarowicz, and the strange story of Andrew Cunanan's hotel maid's sudden celebrity. Only after "Wild Combination" could I imagine that each of these might be its own unique and perverse twist of the traditional documentary form. I'm not sure however if I might be able to read this into the filmmaker's history only because his latest creation is clearly a documentary. But it's certainly much more; it's an imposing accomplishment and an exceptionally beautiful film in which one artist's demonstrated imagination and fancy is directed toward showing the compelling musical beauty created by another.

But it doesn't really matter, since all of these works do very well standing on their own. I only know for sure that I'll be looking forward to wherever Wolf decides to go next.

"Wild Combination" will be screened elsewhere in New York later this year.

The Kitchen has organized a tribute to the music of Arthur Russell this weekend with performances tonight and tomorrow. The blurb on Time Out New York's site includes this on the performances:

On records such as 1986’s World of Echo and the posthumous Another Thought, Russell married joyous pop to muted, inward reflection. But this “Buddhist bubblegum” (much of which has been reissued this decade by Audika) will make up just a fraction of this three-day program, which also offers a rare chance to hear his large ensemble instrumental pieces played live. On Friday, Russell colleague Bill Ruyle conducts “Tower of Meaning,” a minimalist work for brass and strings. Saturday will find Ruyle, trombonist Peter Zummo and bassist Ernie Brooks participating in “The Singing Tractors,” an ensemble trance work that incorporates improvisation.

Here's an Amazon widget which will let you sample some of his music:


John Schaefer's WNYC Soundcheck program interview with Matt Wolf

Sascha Frere-Jones writing about Russell in The New Yorker in 2004

Andy Beta's piece on Wolf's film in the current The Village Voice

Audika Records Arthur Russell catalog

Amazon's Arthur Russell listings

Schedule of festival screenings

[images, the first from "Terrace of Unintelligibility" by Phil Niblock, courtesy of Audika Records, are both stills from the film and courtesy of Matt Wolf]

Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (1954)


I couldn't think of anything I might be able to add to the encomiums which have followed Monday's announcement of the death of Robert Rauschenberg. Then this morning I saw and read the NYTimes obituary in the print edition. While growing up, and even for many years later, I remember seeing pictures of a beautiful young man whose work was more than capable of shaking up a post-war art world already conditioned to, maybe even bored by change. the Times, like too many other media sources in the last few days, showed us only pictures of an older artist, and many photographs I've been seeing portrayed a Rauschenberg weakened and partially paralyzed by a stroke.

Although he remained handsome and productive all his life, it was in the early years of his career that he produced most of the innovations for which he is now known and revered. I thought that we should all be able to see now what the strong, vital artist who changed so much of the world we inhabit today looked like while the revolution was underway. He was once very young and almost painfully beautiful, but he was never old.

The photograph here is of the artist relaxing in a studio with Jasper Johns. It was taken probably in the late 50s, the period in which they lived together downtown in various lofts around Coenties Slip and Pearl Street (the neighborhood of my own first New York home 25 years later). It's interesting, although not surprising, that in his long obituary for Rauschenberg published in today's Times print edition Michael Kimmelman describes their personal ties in "genteel" terms more familiar to readers of fifty years ago than to us today:

The intimacy of their relationship over the next years, a consuming subject for later biographers and historians, coincided with the production by the two of them of some of the most groundbreaking works of postwar art.
For a little more candor, see Jonathan Katz.



"bobrauschenbergamerica" in tears

Paul Lee at Audiello

Lawrence Weiner at Pocket Utopia

UPDATE: Shortly after I did this post I found this wonderful early image on Newsday's site:

Robert Rauschenberg in his New York studio in 1958

[top image, a photograph by Rachel Rosenthal, from mettaartlove; added image from Newsday]

This page is an archive of entries in the NYC category from May 2008.

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