Archive for the ‘Beyond Borders’ Category

SistersIn 2011 I watched a movie on cable TV called Sisters. It’s a very early (1973) Brian DePalma thriller/murder-mystery about a local Staten Island journalist (played by Jennifer Salt) who sees a murder from her apartment window—my apartment window!

Well, my apartment window or the window of one of the other five apartments directly above or below me. What a strange experience to watch an actress (in my living room) look out a window (in my living room) while I’m sitting in said living room. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I kept watching for clues to location. Was it really my apartment? Soon enough I see the actress leave through the front door of my apartment building and get into her car on my street. (more…)

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I’ve just seen the 2008 movie “Skin,” based on the life of South African Sandra Laing. And what a life she has lived! Born in 1955 to two apparently Caucasian parents in Apartheid South Africa, Sandra has decidedly non-white features and a skin color several shades darker than her Afrikaner parents. At a time when DNA testing was not yet developed, the parents lived with rumors that the mother had slept with a black man, which, of course, would make the Apartheid-supporting, politically conservative father an especially insulted cuckold. (We now know that 11% of Afrikaners have non-white ancestors.) Rather than acknowledge his daughter’s clearly non-white looks, Leon Laing—who apparently loved his daughter very much—insisted on her whiteness and insisted on white society treating her as white. He successfully challenged the nation’s racial classifications and managed to get his daughter officially designated as white in 1967, but his daughter’s actual experience didn’t improve. People’s responses were based on what they saw and what they saw was a light-skinned black girl—a mixed race child. (more…)

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mobile garden examples

Mobile gardens are here, there and everywhere! On Staten Island, artist activist Tattfoo Tan is hosting a mobile garden “expo” where people can bring their mobile gardens to “ooooh” and “ahhhh” at the ingenuity and beauty of each other’s work, and then wheel their creations a few blocks to the St. George Ferry Terminal where the gardens will be “parked” in the taxi pick-up area for commuters to enjoy for a month.

Mobile gardens are projects that redefine “green space” on the micro scale. You can roll your mobile garden—planted in an old office chair seat, grown on a skateboard or cultivated in a rusting shopping cart—to the nearest urban sign post. Then chain it and leave it to flourish in the sunshine for all to enjoy. Get a large group of mobile gardens together in one place and you’ve got a temporary island of atomized greenery on wheels. If you get really ambitious—like artist Joe Baldwin—you can turn a train car into a mobile garden for commuters (more…)

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sebastian-brajkovic1The digital world and the actual world can bleed into each other in mind-bending ways. A recent example: the furniture sculpture of Sebastian Brajkovic. His chairs are planted solidly in the physical world yet appear to morph, at light speed, into virtual objects. In some ways this blurring / merging / mashing of staticness with motion can be traced back to the Futurists. They attempted to capture the mechanical speed of modern life in paintings and sculptures. Futurist artists were galvanized not only by first-hand experiences of speedy 20th century living, but also by its representation in movies and photographs. As a child of the 21st century, Brajkovic references computer-generated imagery. Though anchored in “meat space” by needle-stitched embroidery, fine fabrics and ponderous bronze frames, his chairs are transformed by our shared experience of the ephemeral digital trace. As to the usefulness of a Brajkovic chair for the purposes of sitting, who cares?

Photograph from Sebastian Brajkovic’s site.

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coleI’m planning my first visit to the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, so I checked out their web site. Happily, the museum is featuring one of Dave Cole’s American flags. Cole is a conceptual artist whose work is as strong on social and political commentary as it is on celebrating the physical side of art making. He is best known for his startling reinventions of the American flag. For instance, “Memorial Flag (Toy Soldiers)” is made entirely from red, white and blue “troops”; a bristling thicket of tiny soldiers that turn the American flag’s design into manufactured postures of war.

The Aldrich will be displaying Cole’s “Flags of the World.” “Flags of the World” is zigzag stitched from the red, white and blue scraps cut from 192 flags that represent the countries who are United Nations members. (more…)

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call-cuta-in-a-box-rimini-apparatI entered into the wrong room at the ornate Goethe Institut across from the Metropolitan Museum on 5th Avenue. I waited for the phone call that was apparently originating from a call center from India — a reversal of the dynamic in which one’s call to a U.S.-based corporation is rerouted to a cubicle located in India or elsewhere.

Perhaps it was deliberate on my part as I am more than reluctant to go to theatre pieces that rely on audience participation. I find them contrived, a kind of theatrical mad-libs: the audience is only there to fill in the blank, providing the performance with a verb, a noun, an adverb but never really guiding or transforming the narrative. I am fine with the fourth wall, and I like my experimentation on stage, not in blurring the distinction between performer and ticket-buyer.

But I’m a media studies person and a friend recommended the piece, regrettably entitled “Call Cutta in a Box.” The “intercontinental phone play” is devised by the German troupe Rimini Protocoll in collaboration with the Callcenter Descon Center Limited in Kolkata, India and coproduced in New York by the Under the Radar Festival and the Public Theatre. (more…)

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Sarah Palin’s qualifications for the second most powerful position in the land have nothing to do with her experience (or her lack of it) or the fact that she doesn’t know about the Bush doctrine. Indeed it has nothing to do with the realization that she never met a foreign leader until she visited the UN recently. It has everything to do with the tale she tells and the image she presents. Palin is a consummate performer who asserts her identity perfectly in her hairstyle, her eager grin, her wink, and the way her family—and even McCain himself–become props on her stage. While McCain is faltering, Palin is busy rebranding the Republican Party.

Palin was immediately recognizable to the American people as soon as she appeared at the Republican Convention. For the guys, Palin positioned herself as their high school sweetheart they shouldn’t have let get away. For the gals, Palin became the pal you have fun with on a girls’ night out. Even though she comes from Alaska Palin really emerges from the country’s fictional landscape. She is the mythic pioneer woman who will stop at nothing to protect her family–she can shoot better than any of the guys but still doesn’t mind being asked to dance when she puts on a frilly frock for the local dance. (more…)

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I live on Staten Island in NYC. Although the borough is loaded with artists, galleries have a hard time surviving here. The ones that do generally fall into two categories: the typical frame-shop / retail gallery and the funky done-on-a-dime kind of place. Naturally I love the latter, though I’m content to have the former for the occasional frame job.

One of the best galleries ever to “have a go” here on Staten Island was Tattfoo Temple of Art and Design, established by artist and graphic designer Tattfoo Tan and his wife, Ensze Tan, in 2003, just three years after their arrival from Malaysia. The Temple was established in an old factory loft that they cleaned up and painted white. (more…)

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Something is rotten in the arts and cultural state of OZ. At this point in time there is a critical need for arts, cultural organizations and venues (as providers of goods and services) to recognize that we in Australia have a moral and, more importantly, legal obligation under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act to provide reasonable and adequate services to people experiencing disabilities.

Of course we might forgive the general arts and cultural sector for its tardiness to comply, at least in the spirit of the act, given the dearth of ‘disability’ arts and cultural policies at a national and state level. Given that the arts and cultural sector see themselves as being on the ‘high ground’ in relation to cultural development, human rights, free speech and such matters, it puzzles that few in the sector are acting on the problems that people with disabilities face in accessing the diverse arts and cultural activities that most of us working in the sector enjoy. (more…)

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Yesterday I learned about another remarkable Russian woman from a documentary entitled Anna Marly, Russian Muse of the French Resistance shown at the first annual Russian Documentary Film Festival. Anna Marly (née Anna Yurievna Betulinskaya) wrote and performed the rousing anthem “Le Chant Des Partisans.” It became the theme song of the Resistance—during the occupation the French whistled the song to each other as a way of revealing one’s partisan loyalties.


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