Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mysterious Gifts

A guest post from my friend Brooke.

I work at the Seattle Children's Theater, and I don't normally try to push our productions on my friends and family, and usually don't feel like I need to. SCT is a jewel, and anyone who knows anything about the arts in our city knows that.

However, I really wanted to make sure that everyone knows about the show that we are currently putting on. Mysterious Gifts: Theatre of Iran is part of a project titled Connecting Stories which is an international collaboration of artists creating theatre for young audiences from the United States, the Netherlands, and Iran. Each country has committed to hosting a performance for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012. The SCT show is the very first performance in this series, and Iranian artist Yaser Khaseb has created such a beautiful show of puppets and movement. After just two weeks here, the show will travel to Tempe and Minneapolis, and the Iranian theater company will have a chance to connect with artists and production staff at each theater. The performance is simply stellar, the whole Connecting Stories project is powerful in so many ways, especially in that it is giving people an opportunity to see the Iranian culture in a brand new positive light.

During opening night of the show this past Friday, the audience, myself included, was captivated. What these artists are sharing is truly something special and unique. Our friends from Iran are only here for a short 4 weeks before they must return home, and the show runs only 2 of those weeks. I am telling you now, you do not want to miss it. It is truly amazing.

Large and Local

A few gallery shows in town featuring local artists which are well worth your time.

Sculptor Scott Fife uses shredded cardboard, paper pulp, and wood screws to powerful effect. His new show at the Platform Gallery, American Beauty, compares the King of Rock & Roll to the King of the Dinosaurs. As always, Fife's work is simultaneously clever, crude and graceful. Despite exposing every element that goes into the work - you can see the tracks of wood glue down the surface of his sculptures- you can't help but wonder how the hell he does it. Up until October 10.

At Belltown's Sumaya Space Seattle sculpture artist Dan Corson has installed a hypnotic new piece called Grotesque Arabesque. Corson, who is known for public installation works such as the Wave Rave Cave beneath the Highway 99 Viaduct and the green and black striped spires at the Sound Transit Maintenance Facility, has assembled a room-sized sculpture of mirrors and electroluminescent strips on bent steel that transform the gallery into a disorienting labyrinth of light. Up until December 18th.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Wheels North

Seattle's Book-It Repertory Theatre, well known for their theatrical adaptations of assorted literary treasures, is partnering with 4Culture’s Site-Specific program to present their version of the historical novel Two Wheels North - the true story of two teenage boys who cycled from their home in Santa Rosa, California to Seattle, Washington in 1909. Roads hardly existed along most of the route at the time, and the boys rushed headlong into natural and mechanical challenges of all kinds in pursuit of a promised $25 prize from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The book, by Evelyn McDaniel Gibb, granddaughter of one of the cyclists, received the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Nonfiction Book Award in 2003. The dramatic re-telling will be presented free of charge at venues throughout King County beginning September 25. See here for full schedules.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nat Damm

Nat Damm is a Seattle native and poster-designing wunderkind who has been designing posters for the Northwest music scene since he was a whelp of 14 years old. Now, at the ripe old age of 28, Damm is featured in a retrospective show of more than 100 silk-screened posters, art prints, T-shirts, etc. The show is up for two days only - Sept 26 & 27 at Cairo Gallery on Capitol Hill.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Local Geniuses

Gurldoggie joins the chorus in offering hearty congratulations to two remarkable Seattle artists who were recently recognized with well deserved MacArthur "genius" grants. The filmmaker James Longley ("who explores Middle East conflicts with portraits of communities under stress") and poet Heather McHugh ("a poet known for her syntactical twists") will each receive $500,000, spread out over five years.

Longley's film Iraq in Fragments remains the bravest and most moving film I have yet seen about the war in Iraq, and may be one of the best documentaries on a war-in-progress ever made. Youtube has a great interview with Longley about the making of the film, and while it cuts out a little soon, it's still very inspiring to see the combination of guts and humility that went into creating this unique film.

Heather McHugh is a local poetry goddess, twisting words and phrases around each other like licorice ropes. She studied with Robert Lowell, has won a considerable number of major poetry prizes, and now teaches in the poetry MFA program at the University of Washington.


There, a little right
of Ursus Major, is
the Milky Way:
a man can point it out,
the biggest billionfold of all
predicaments he's in:
his planet's street address.

What gives? What looks
a stripe a hundred million
miles away from here

is where we live.


Let's keep it clear. The Northern Lights
are not the North Star. Being but
a blur, they cannot reassure us.
They keep moving - I think far
too easily. September spills

some glimmers of
the boreals to come:
they're modest pools
of horizontal haze, where later

they'll appear as foldings in the vertical,
a work of curtains, throbbing dim
or bright. (One wonders at
one's eyes.) The very sight
will angle off in glances or in shoots
of something brilliant, something

bigger than we know, its hints uncatchable
in shifts of mind ... So there

it is again, the mind, with its
old bluster, its self-centered
question: what

is dimming, what is bright?
The spirit sinks and swells, which cannot tell
itself from any little luster.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cine Seattle

Yet another excellent film festival is set to open in Seattle this week. The first Latino Film Festival in these parts, CineSeattle, runs from September 24-27 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, Northwest Film Forum, Cinerama and the Harvard Exit.

The festival screens 44 films over 4 days. The movies, which hail from Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Uruguay, the US, and Cuba, range from stories for children (La Luz del Bosque) to documentaries on the Mayan women of Chiapas (No Son Invisibles) to stories of violent passion (Te Amo Ana Elisa), as part of an ambitious program aiming to recognize the extraordinary richness and diversity of Spanish-speaking filmmakers around the world.

The festival closes on Sunday at the Cinerama with the American premier of Uruguayan director Adrian Biniez’s Gigante, which won the Silver Bear Award this year at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Find the full schedule here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

First Day of Autumn

Thoughts on the coming season from Frank O'Hara.

Hunting Horns

How nice it is to take up
a familiar sound again
and draw new lines
from the traditional mouth
to the still-wet ear

They were always hearing you
go by as a vague menace
or the rustle of leaves
above the lovers where they lay
and the cold husband returning

A slightly military funeral
resembling the setting sun
with children running into it
they still hunt but they don't
blow the horns any more

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hormiga Libertaria Recap

One hell of a show on Saturday night at the Underground Events Center. The Hormiga Libertaria crew out of Mexico City, working with the Cascadia punk network and members of 206 Zulu put on 6 straight hours of extraordinary entertainment.

Alternating stages throughout the night, Silver Shadow D kicked things off, followed by Krakatoa and a BLISTERING set from Orbitron who not only rocked the mic for more than a half hour with his cousin Moses Lateef, but the two then took over the dance floor for an astoundingly energetic b-boy performance. The Mongoloid Men, Tulsi & RVIVR kept things lively until well into the morning, with the always appropriate Specs Wizard leading a group toast to the destruction of property. "It takes all kinds yo. Me, I like to write on your walls. Here's to vandalism."

It may have seemed like an uneasy combination at first, combining the furious energy of punk with the smooth subversion of hip hop, but the whole night really WORKED. The Underground was just packed with talented and hardworking artists with something to say and the passion to say it. It was a real testament to acceptance that the punks gave it up for the zulus, and the b-boys stuck around for the hardcore. It was an experiment well worth trying, and dammit we're gonna do it again.

Did the Mexican Anarchists raise enough money to buy that printing press? Hell if I know, but it sure was fun. More about Hormiga Libertaria here. More photos from the event here and here. Watch this space for upcoming shows. Peace.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Camera Obscura

If you're in downtown Seattle on Saturday, check out the giant camera obscura in Victor Steinbrueck Park. Sculptor and science teacher Thaddeus Jurczynski received a grant from 4Culture's Site Specific Art program to install a large tentlike structure in the center of the city, built of lightproof fabric, with a tiny pinhole in one wall. The first camera obscura was built by scientist Abu Ali Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haitham, sometime around 1000 AD. He was attempting to study the way that light travels, and his discovery (followed by several centuries of more extensive experiments) led directly to the invention of photography. As described by less an authority than Aristotle, light rays cross each other as they pass through a hole in a space and create an upside-down, inverted image when they hit a surface. See for yourself this Saturday from 2 to 6 pm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The World According to Arp

Today is the birthday of sculptor, painter, poet & philosopher Jean (Hans) Arp, born September 16, 1886.

Arp was born in Strasbourg, and showed great promise at drawing and poetry from an early age. Enrolled in the Strasbourg School of Applied Art, he soon grew tired of what he called "the everlasting copying of stuffed birds and withered flowers," and by the age of 18 he had left the school and was living in Paris, practicing modern painting. In 1911 he helped organize an exhibition in Lucerne under the title "Moderne Bund" which showed his works and those of Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and others. The same year he visited Kandinsky, met the artists of the Blaue Reiter, and was soon contributing to their exhibitions and publications.

Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement in Zürich, and in 1920, along with Max Ernst and Alfred Grünwald, he set up the Cologne Dada group. His work also appeared in the first exhibition of surrealism at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. At this time, Arp's work was composed by laws of chance as much as from the workings of the unconscious - the cardinal principles underlying early Surrealism. By the late 1920's Arp broke with surrealism to found "Abstraction-Création" which was a much more open movement, embracing many kinds of non-figurative art, including Arp's increasing fascination with biomorphism and geometrical abstraction, which would last for the rest of his life.

Arp was a pioneer of abstract art and a founder of the most consequential art movements of the 20th century. He prefigured both junk art and the Fluxus movement, and his investigations of chance and accident proved especially influential in liberating art from conscious creativity. He died in 1966 in Basel, Switzerland.

Until the end of his life, Arp wrote and published poetry.

The Air is a Root

The air is a root.
The stones are filled with tenderness. bravo.
bravo. the stones are filled with air.
the stones are watery branches.
on the stones replacing the mouth
grows the skeleton of a leaf. bravo.
A stone voice face to face and foot to foot
with a stone glance.
the stones are tormented like flesh
the stones are clouds for their second
nature dances to them on their third nose.
bravo. bravo.
when the stones scratch themselves, nails grow
on the roots. bravo. bravo.
the stones woke to eat the exact

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FAME Festival

The annual FAME Festival is underway in Grottaglie, Italy. Grottaglie is best known for its centuries-old ceramics tradition, but a collective of international artists known as Studiocromie are now using the walls and traditions of this ancient town for new artistic purposes.

Festival organizers invite a dozen street artists each year to Grottaglie, and host them for up to 4 weeks as they create new works. They have the cooperation of local artisans and craftspeople as they create pottery and limited edition prints, and the artists have several walls around the city at their disposal for painting and installation, with a special concentration in neighborhoods that are impoverished or artistically lacking or both.

The line-up of artists this year is simply awe inspiring - Pictured above is a new work from Italian street artist Erica il Cane, who is joined by fellow Italians Blu, Clio, and Dem, Americans Judith Supine, David Ellis and Mark Jenkins, British artists Word to Mother , Slinkachu & Lucy Mclauchlan plus artists like Sam3, Jr, Vhils , Conor Harrington & Dolk from across Europe and beyond. At the end of the 4 week period, every artwork created will be showcased in a group show in the oldest ceramics workshop in the region.

The name of the event, FAME, is an ironic comment on the different meanings of the word in Italian and English. In Italian "fame" means hunger, while in English of course the word suggests honor, status, success, etc. - things for which most graffiti artists can only hunger.

Studiocromie finances this project strictly through personal means and sales of artwork, steadfastly refusing corporate or government sponsorship. The FAME Festival opening is set for September 19th.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jim Carroll

Just learned that Jim Carroll died this week at the age of 60. Carroll was the prototypical NYC punk rocker - the man who made the model that generations of people strived to emulate. He was the poet laureate of CBGB, leader of the last great punk band, and the writer of the life changing memoir Basketball Diaries about his double life as a young basketball star prostituting himself to support a heroin habit. As a teenager in upstate New York in the 1980's, I bonded with like-minded kids over our awe and fear of Carroll's dangerous, self-destructive and gritty aura, and his achingly intelligent and volatile art. There are just no other contemporary cultural heroes who so perfectly embody the Rimbaud-like ideal of a provocative intelligence coupled with a restless spirit. His departure shines a glaring light on how much we've lost with the passing of our punk pioneers, and how much we should miss it.

This is the final stanza from a poem Carroll wrote on the death of Kurt Cobain. Full poem here.

8 Fragments For Kurt Cobain

If only you hadn't swallowed yourself into a coma in Roma...
You could have gone to Florence
And looked into the eyes of Bellinni or Rafael's Portraits

Perhaps inside them
You could have found a threshold back to beauty's arms
Where it all began...

No matter that you felt betrayed by her

That is always the cost
As Frank said,
Of a young artist's remorseless passion

Which starts out as a kiss
And follows like a curse

Great photo of Carroll with Patti Smith via If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bicycle Film Festival

There seems to be an end-of-summer bike thread going on here...

Keeping to that theme, the Henry Art Gallery has upgraded and expanded its Bicycle Film Festival for this year. Taking a cue from prolific bike film archivist Brendt Barbur, founder and director of the New York City Bicycle Film Festival, the Henry is showing TWO full days of glorious bike related films. This Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11 & 12, you can catch no less than 7 different programs featuring everything from Tall Bike Jousting, to Track Bike competitions, to BMX demonstrations, to travelogues, to Critical Mass documentaries. Highlights include the film "Made in Queens" about Trinidadian immigrants and their bicycle sound systems, and “I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes,” a documentary on the influential BMX builder Steve Crandall and his crew. Plus all manner of short films from directors as diverse as Mike Mills, Jonas Mekas, Swoon and Michel Gondry. Full schedule here.

Still need convincing? Then by all means, check out this splendid little trailer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blu Bikes

Incredible new stuff from Argentine graffiti artist Blu. These murals showed up on the walls of the Lambrate Rail Station in Milan. More images here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Of the Soul, De La that is

I VERY much enjoyed seeing De La Soul at Bumbershoot. Saturday night was the 20th birthday of De La Soul's huge first release 3 Feet High and Rising. Rather than simply playing the many hits from that record, De La made the kind of unexpected move that they're known for by taking the audience back in time to hear the many musical influences that went into the making of a hip hop classic. In an 90-minute long set, Plugs 1, 2 & 3 sampled or quoted everyone from Stevie Wonder to Grandmaster Flash to George Benson, and did an extended riff on James Brown's "Pass the Peas." The few of their classic songs that they showcased were updated and rearranged, often for the purpose of revisiting them with an older point of view. Plus they were hella tight, funny as hell, and shit ya'll I hope you were there.

They opened the show with an inspired cover of "This is Radio Clash," reminding us that Punk and Hip Hop were born at the same moment in the same place - Punk downtown and Hip Hop uptown - from the same rebellious explosion of creativity. Word up.

Thank you Drake Lelane for the photo!

Say That They Called You ‘Honky.'

Last year Chicago journalist John Conroy was assaulted, seemingly at random, while riding his bike. Knocked unconscious during the incident, he tried to piece together what happened, and more importantly, why. Despite advice from all angles, he doesn't come up with any easy answers.

"We was playing basketball at school, and then we got off the train, and one of the guys said, ‘Let’s do somethin’.’ ‘Like what?’ ‘Like beat up somebody.’ Thirty seconds later you came riding by on your bike....Seeing the way it happened, I had no feeling. Didn’t know what to feel....If it was any other person in that state of mind we was in as a group, it would have happened to anyone. . . . Really wasn’t no reason. Just kids doing kids."

The full story is here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Van Peebles Baadasssss Song

Legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles is on his way to Seattle for a rare appearance at the Northwest Film Forum. In addition to introducing his latest film "Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha," Van Peebles will be teaching a director's masterclass on Monday, September 7 and hosting a Q & A on September 9.

After making a series of short autobiographical films in the late 1950's and early 60's, Van Peebles became suddenly and widely known for his uncompromising 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. The film - directed, scripted, edited, scored and marketed by Van Peebles - was also privately funded with a combination of his own money (including a worker's compensation payout after Van Peebles contracted gonorrhea during shooting) and a $50,000 loan from Bill Cosby. The film went on to gross more than $10 million and became a seminal document during the 1970's Black Power movement. The film - which tells the story of a ghetto hero on the run from the white authorities, and is dedicated to "Brothers and sisters who have had enough of the Man" - is cited by many film scholars as the single most influential movie in the history of Independent Black Cinema.

Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha is based on Van Peebles' 1982 Broadway musical "Waltz of the Stork," and stars who else but Van Peebles as the main character from childhood to age 47. It plays the Northwest Film Forum from September 8 to 14. The trailer, below, is irresistible.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Camper Bike

Brooklyn based artist Kevin Cyr built this pedal-powered camper for one in April 2008. The camper sits on a modified bike frame with two back wheels and holds everything you might need for a solo bike tour. Awesome.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Benefit for Hormiga Libertaria

Anarchist publishers Hormiga Latina out of Mexico City are raising funds to buy a new printing press and supplies. They've come up to Seattle, sombrero in hand, asking for help. Together, Seattle punk networks, hip hop crews, and the Underground Events Center are pulling out all the stops to get these hard working anarchists the capital they badly need to spread their message of peace, cooperation, and taking down the government.

On September 19, 4 punk bands, 3 MC's, 2 DJ's and crew of break dancers share 2 stages at the Underground. There'll be a taco truck in the parking lot and plenty of beer to go around. Gonna be one hell of a party. Tickets are ONLY available at the door, and in true anarchist fashion the price for entrance ranges from $5 to $15 depending on what you and yours can afford.

Punk bands include Samothrace, Death Raid, RVIVR & Krakatoa. Hip Hop performers include Tulsi, Orbitron, Silver Shadow D, Specs Wizard, & Scratchmaster Joe.

More info about Project Hormiga Libertaria right here. See you at the show!