Richard kostelanetz

Polyartist: An Interview with Richard Kostelanetz
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
February 27, 2012

Richard Kostelanetz is an exceptionally prolific artist and writer.He began publishing essays in the 1960s, including a much-reprinted critique of identity politics in American art, “Militant Minorities,” which originally appeared in theHudson Review in 1965. Since then he’s gone on to create avant-garde art in a variety of genres. He’s written more than 100 books; he also makes prints, produces work for the radio waves and the theater, and works with tapeloops (audio) and pixels (video). He’s completed artist residencies in places as diverse as New York, Stockholm, and Jerusalem.

He’s been called the “king of the avant-garde,” perhaps because two seminal texts in the field bear his name; Kostelanetz authored A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, and edited Avant-Garde Tradition in Literature. In recent years, he’s come to perceive Jewishness as a subtle theme woven throughout his oeuvre. In this interview, we spoken about polyartistry, Jewish identity and what makes Sephardic culture unique, the avant-garde, and what relevance he hopes can be found in his work. Though he stops short of drawing a direct connection between Jewishness and the avant-garde, I can’t help seeing a link. The avant-garde pushes the growing edge of culture, skating comfortably past the edge of what’s comfortable or mainstream.

There may not be a causal relationship between Jewishness and an avant-garde sensibility, but Jewish communities have given rise to some terrific avant-garde work. Or maybe Jews just tend to be comfortable outside the mainstream, which is often where the most interesting creative work flourishes and finds its home.

Your written work ranges from lengthy essays to single-sentence stories. When you begin a new piece, do you have a sense for its ideal size or form? How do your works take shape?

Sometimes I begin with an extreme constraint regarding length. Epiphanies, Openings & Closings, and then Complete Stories were all no more than a single sentence long; my micro fictions are no more than three words long; my Miniature Aphorisms are no more than four words long. Recently I’ve produced several kinds of poems with only one word. I like constraints for forcing me to produce radically different work.

Your Seven Jewish Short Fictions consist of strings of numbers artfully arranged. How did that piece come into being? Was it an intentional gesture toward the Jewish hermeneutic tool of gematria?

I’ve long respected the radical principle that truly Jewish art should observe the proscription against graven images. That’s the point implicit in telling a story entirely in numbers while suggesting a wealth of experience such as rise and decline, accumulation and dispersal, or any other way you choose to read those numbers arrayed. One unusual quality of our films about the Great Jewish Cemetery of Berlin is that no talking heads appear, though people are heard on the soundtrack. The visual theme is that the gravestones in a cemetery tell a more important story than any faces. Gematria is too obscure for my taste. In general, I’m opposed to obscurity in art and writing. My work tends to be simple, if different.

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www.richardkostelanetz.com

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Zina Saro-Wiwa


Mourning Class
Installation View at Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, 2015

Multi-channel video installation, 20mins 32secs.

The Mourning Class series is a set of video performances that explore mourning rituals and address the role of performance in grieving. The first in the series is Mourning Class: Nollywood. This piece arose from Zina Saro-Wiwa’s interest in Nollywood and the African emotional landscape. The close-up of crying face is a classic nollywood trope. A trademark of the genre. The sobbing female figure, a grieving widow, a repentant woman of the night, the dutiful, but put-upon, wife, the performance of pain – close up – forms the emotional backbone of Nollywood film.

For this installation, each actress was asked to sit in front of the camera – baring their shoulders and covering their heads – and cry when prompted by Zina. They needed to produce real tears and engage with the camera as much as possible during the process, turning their emotions into a true performance as well as a test of endurance. The work explores the role of performance in expressing grief, drawing the viewer into the territory between the emotive and the emotional. The minimal, ghostly sound leaving room for the viewer to engage with the physical performance of grief. The lack of narrative and context but direct engagement of the subject also draws out the viewer’s own personal narratives engineering a form of catharsis.

Mourning Class: Nollywood has been shown at Location One Gallery, The Pulitzer Foundation, The New Museum, NYC for Transition 50, Museum of Art and Design, NYC, Arles Photo Festival and was chosen for the back cover of The Progress of Love catalogue.

http://www.zinasarowiwa.com

Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party, 1974-1979
Brooklyn Museum

Judy Chicago’s original concept for The Dinner Party was multi-faceted in that her goal was to introduce the richness of women’s heritage into the culture in three ways; a monumental work of art, a book and a film because she had discovered so much unknown information. The work of art, that was eventually housed at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, consists of a series of Entryway Banners, the ceremonial table representing 39 important historical female figures, the Heritage Panels, which elucidate the contributions of the 999 women on the Heritage Floor, and the Acknowledgement Panels that identify Judy Chicago’s assistants and collaborators. Together, these components celebrate the many aspects of women’s history and contributions.

Through an unprecedented worldwide grass-roots movement, The Dinner Party was exhibited in 16 venues in 6 countries on 3 continents to a viewing audience of over one million people. The Dinner Party – which has been the subject of countless books and articles – is now permanently housed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum where it draws thousands of visitors from all over the globe.


Christine de Pisan plate, china paint on porcelain, 15 inch diameter


Ethel Smyth plate, china paint on porcelain, 14 inch diameter


Installation View of Wing Three, featuring Margaret Sanger and Natalie Barney place settings


Installation View of Wing Three, featuring Virginia Woolf and Georgia O’Keeffe place settings

http://www.judychicago.com

Tom Konyves • Channeling Gertrude

Film by Swoon for the poem ‘Channeling Gertrude’ written and read by Tom Konyves
Words & voice: Tom Konyves
Concept, treats, editing & music: Swoon
Thanks: Arlekeno Anselmo, Dava Bonta & Qarrtsiluni

There are 5 principal forms of videopoetry, including a combination of any of these:
KINETIC TEXT
VISUAL TEXT
SOUND TEXT
PERFORMANCE
CIN(E)POETRY

KINETIC TEXT is essentially the simple animation of text over a neutral background. These works owe much to concrete and patterned poetry in their style – the use of different fonts, sizes, colours to create unusual visual representations of text.

VISUAL TEXT, or words superimposed over video/film images, presents the most significant challenge to the videopoet – to integrate the 3 elements. The role of the videopoet is to be an artist/juggler – a visual artist, sound artist, and poet combined – to juggle image, sound and text so that their juxtaposition will create a new entity, an art object, a videopoem. Text can include “found text”, i.e. text as image.

SOUND TEXT, or poetry narrated over video/film, is the videopoem without “superimposed text”. The “text” of the videopoem is expressed through the voice of the poet, accompanying the video/film images on the screen. Of the five forms of videopoetry, SOUND TEXT – with or without music – is the most popular; essentially, this is due to the facility of working within the traditional form of video/film, i.e. using the narrative techniques of the medium – without the additional difficulty presented by visual text – to illustrate a previously written poem. Once the illustrative function is removed, the work appears as the non-referential juxtaposition of sound and image.

PERFORMANCE is the appearance of the poet, on-camera, performing the poem. Some poets will mimic the MTV-music video style of presentation.

CIN(E)POETRY is the videopoem wherein the text is superimposed over graphics, still images, or “painted” with the assistance of a computer program. It closely resembles VISUAL TEXT, except the imagery is computer-generated, not captured by a motion picture camera. The term was introduced by George Aguilar, who works most often in this form.

– Tom Konyves

http://tomkonyves.com
Videopoetry: A Manifesto

Pipilotti Rist

Meet the sensuous Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, whose work full of colour and playfulness. She here argues that videos can have painterly qualities and tells the story of one of her most famous videos, where a woman smashes car windows with a flower.

“There is no rule for when and where I get my ideas – some are survival tactics, some are psychotic tics, some are very well thought over.” The video ‘Ever is Over All’ (1997) was Rist’s response to a chief editor, who wouldn’t let her do the things she wished to do – even though he had given her a carte blanche. She felt like smashing his car, but instead chose to make a video, which challenged and even altered her aggression: “That was my catharsis.”

“I’m not more colourful than life is.” The screen is like “a moving glass painting” to Rist, who enjoys the playful use of colours. Moreover, she feels that a lot of people distance themselves from colour, even finding it intimidating. Rist, however, wants to fight for colour: “They call it superficial, but actually it’s dangerous.”

Elisabeth Charlotte “Pipilotti” Rist (b. 1962) is a Swiss visual artist, who works with video, film and moving images, which are often displayed as projections. She takes her name from Pippi Longstockings, heroine of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s much-loved series of children’s books. Early on in her career she began making super 8 films, which generally last only a few minutes and contain alterations in their colours, speed and sound. Among the themes her work centres on are gender, sexuality and the human body. In 1996 her work was first featured in the Venice Biennial, where she was awarded the ‘Premio 2000 Prize’. Other awards include the ‘Wolfgang Hahn Prize’ (1999), the ‘Joan Miró Prize’ (2009) and the ‘Cutting the Edge Award’ at the 27th Annual Miami International Film Festival (2010). Rist’s works are a part of prominent museums worldwide such as MoMA in New York City and Tate Modern in London.

For more about Pipilotti Rist see: http://pipilottirist.net/

Pipilotti Rist was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Hayward Gallery in London, November 2011.


Gravity Be My Friend


Pixel Forest


Mercy Garden

http://channel.louisiana.dk

Olafur Eliasson

The Undertain Museum

A visual exploration of Olafur Eliasson’s large-scale interactive installation, “The uncertain museum” at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art. Eliasson’s work explores the relationship between spectator and object. “When preserving the freedom of each person to experience something that may differ from the experience of others, art will be able to have a significant impact on both the individual and society,” said Eliasson. The installation is part of the museum’s permanent collection and will be on display until September 30, 2012.

Film & Assembly: D.L. Anderson
Text: The Nasher Museum of Art
Featuring: American Dance Festival faculty member Gwen Welliver and her composition lab students,
Soundtrack: “Symphony of The Planets 2” | Recordings from the Voyager spacecraft | NASA (http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2009/09/15/symphonies-of-the-planets/)

Olafur Eliasson, The uncertain museum, 2004. Steel, painted wooden floor, wire, motors, glass/mirror disks, spotlight, projection foil, 9 feet, 8 inches high x 14 feet, 7 inches diameter. Purchase, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University Fund for Acquisitions and funds provided by Blake Byrne, T’57, Monica M. and Richard D. Segal, Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill, and Bill and Ruth True. 2006.4.1


The Weather Project
Tate Modern Installation


Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011 – ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark, 2011

http://olafureliasson.net

Steve Reich

Steve Reich was recently called “our greatest living composer” (The New York Times), “America’s greatest living composer.” (The Village VOICE), “…the most original musical thinker of our time” (The New
Yorker) and “…among the great composers of the century” (The New York Times).. From his early taped speech pieces It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) to his and video artist Beryl Korot’s digital video opera Three Tales (2002), Mr. Reich’s path has embraced not only aspects of Western Classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. “There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them,” states The Guardian (London).

In April 2009 Steve Reich was awarded the Pulitzer prize in Music for his composition ‘Double Sextet’.

Performing organizations around the world marked Steve Reich’s 70th- birthday year, 2006, with festivals and special concerts. In the composer’s hometown of New York, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center joined forces to present complementary programs of his music, and in London, the Barbican mounted a major retrospective. Concerts were also presented in Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Baden-Baden, Barcelona, Birmingham, Budapest, Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen, Denver, Dublin, Freiburg, Graz, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Paris, Porto, Vancouver, Vienna and Vilnius among others. In addition, Nonesuch Records released its second box set of Steve Reich’s works, Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective, in September 2006. The five-CD collection comprises fourteen of the composer’s best-known pieces, spanning the 20 years of his time on the label.

In October 2006 in Tokyo, Mr. Reich was awarded the Preamium Imperial award in Music. This important international award is in areas in the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize. Former winners of the prize in various fields include Pierre Boulez, Lucian Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Richard Serra and Stephen Sondheim.

In May 2007 Mr. Reich was awarded The Polar Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of music. The prize was presented by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Swedish Academy said: “…Steve Reich has transferred questions of faith, society and philosophy into a hypnotic sounding music that has inspired musicians and composers of all genres.” Former winners of the Polar Prize have included Pierre Boulez, Bob Dylan, Gyorgi Ligeti and Sir Paul McCartney.

In December 2006 Mr. Reich was awarded membership in the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and in April 2007 he was awarded the Chubb Fellowship at Yale University. In May 2008 he was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Born in New York and raised there and in California, Mr. Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University in 1957. For the next two years, he studied composition with Hall Overton, and from 1958 to 1961 he studied at the Juilliard School of Music with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Mr. Reich received his M.A. in Music from Mills College in 1963, where he worked with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud.

During the summer of 1970, with the help of a grant from the Institute for International Education, Mr. Reich studied drumming at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana in Accra. In 1973 and 1974 he studied Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan and Gamelan Gambang at the American Society for Eastern Arts in Seattle and Berkeley, California. From 1976 to 1977 he studied the traditional forms of cantillation (chanting) of the Hebrew scriptures in New York and Jerusalem.

In 1966 Steve Reich founded his own ensemble of three musicians, which rapidly grew to 18 members or more. Since 1971, Steve Reich and Musicians have frequently toured the world, and have the distinction of performing to sold-out houses at venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the Bottom Line Cabaret.

Mr. Reich’s 1988 piece, Different Trains, marked a new compositional method, rooted in It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out, in which speech recordings generate the musical material for musical instruments. The New York Times hailed Different Trains as “a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description….possesses an absolutely harrowing emotional impact.” In 1990, Mr. Reich received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Composition for Different Trains as recorded by the Kronos Quartet on the Nonesuch label.

In June 1997, in celebration of Mr. Reich’s 60th birthday, Nonesuch released a 10-CD retrospective box set of Mr. Reich’s compositions, featuring several newly-recorded and re-mastered works. He won a second Grammy award in 1999 for his piece Music for 18 Musicians, also on the Nonesuch label. In July 1999 a major retrospective of Mr. Reich’s work was presented by the Lincoln Center Festival. Earlier, in 1988, the South Bank Centre in London, mounted a similar series of retrospective concerts.

In 2000 he was awarded the Schuman Prize from Columbia University, the Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College, the Regent’s Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley, an honorary doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts and was named Composer of the Year by Musical America magazine.

The Cave, Steve Reich and Beryl Korot’s music theater video piece exploring the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac, was hailed by Time Magazine as “a fascinating glimpse of what opera might be like in the 21st century.” Of the Chicago premiere, John von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The techniques embraced by this work have the potential to enrich opera as living art a thousandfold….The Cave impresses, ultimately, as a powerful and imaginative work of high-tech music theater that brings the troubled present into resonant dialogue with the ancient past, and invites all of us to consider anew our shared cultural heritage.”

Three Tales, a three-part digital documentary video opera, is a second collaborative work by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot about three well known events from the twentieth century, reflecting on the growth and implications of technology in the 20th century: Hindenburg, on the crash of the German zeppelin in New Jersey in 1937; Bikini, on the Atom bomb tests at Bikini atoll in 1946-1954; and Dolly, the sheep cloned in 1997, on the issues of genetic engineering and robotics. Three Tales is a three act music theater work in which historical film and video footage, video taped interviews, photographs, text, and specially constructed stills are recreated on computer, transferred to video tape and projected on one large screen. Musicians and singers take their places on stage along with the screen, presenting the debate about the physical, ethical and religious nature of technological development. Three Tales was premiered at the Vienna Festival in 2002 and subsequently toured all over Europe, America, Australia and Hong Kong. Nonesuch is releasing a DVD/CD of the piece in fall 2003.

Over the years, Steve Reich has received commissions from the Barbican Centre London, the Holland Festival; San Francisco Symphony; the Rothko Chapel; Vienna Festival, Hebbel Theater, Berlin, the Brooklyn Academy of Music for guitarist Pat Metheny; Spoleto Festival USA, West German Radio, Cologne; Settembre Musica, Torino, the Fromm Music Foundation for clarinetist Richard Stoltzman; the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Betty Freeman for the Kronos Quartet; and the Festival d’Automne, Paris, for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Steve Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta; the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas; The Ensemble Modern conducted by Bradley Lubman, The Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by David Robertson, the London Sinfonietta conducted by Markus Stenz and Martyn Brabbins, the Theater of Voices conducted by Paul Hillier, the Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Spano; the Saint Louis Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin; the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Neal Stulberg; the BBC Symphony conducted by Peter Eötvös; and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Several noted choreographers have created dances to Steve Reich’s music, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (“Fase,” 1983, set to four early works as well as”Drumming,”1998 and “Rain” set to “Music for 18 Musicians”), Jirí Kylían (“Falling Angels,” set to “Drumming Part I”), Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet (“Eight Lines”) and Laura Dean, who commissioned “Sextet”. That ballet, entitled “Impact,” was premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, and earned Steve Reich and Laura Dean a Bessie Award in 1986. Other major choreographers using Mr. Reich’s music include Eliot Feld, Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Maurice Bejart, Lucinda Childs, Siobhan Davies and Richard Alston.

In 1994 Steve Reich was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in 1995, and, in 1999, awarded Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et Lettres.

http://www.stevereich.com