September 25, 2012
Take a curator-led tour of the gallery, or learn to make your own renewable-frame drum and play a few beats on it. Of course, some of us may need a little help finding a groove. Luckily, Chinatown’s Ping Pong Dim Sum will be there providing specialty cocktails to release your inhibitions. And DJ Spooky will be spinning a plethora of musical genres with a live string accompaniment against the backdrop of the black and white films of 1940s movie star Anna May Wong.
Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, is not afraid of words. Very much the Renaissance man, this DC native brings a literary bent to his sound, and has expanded his horizons beyond the turntable, into writing, lecturing and teaching. He shared his thoughts with me via email below:
As a child you were struck by the fact that the Public Enemy/Anthrax collaboration “Bring The Noise” “blew holes in the neat categories that kept this genre separate from that one.” Now you’re extremely liberal in your sampling of genres–do you look at this as a way to educate the listener, or are you simply pulling what sounds the best?
We live in a non-linear world. News of an event gets remixed (edited clips of Romney—see what a remix can do to a campaign?!) collaged, and taken out of context, and the material from any part of the digital media landscape can be edited, transformed, spliced and diced. But that’s the point–that’s the way we live now. I loved the way that the last couple of years have made everything from footage from the Iraq War (remember those weapons of mass destruction?) on over to the way right wing types refuse to believe in climate change–everyone has their arsenal of facts and fictions. Let’s play! Museums are usually places that people go to get away and see art in an isolated context–I want to change that, and make the museum a place of irreverence towards the fact that the objects can now be copied. I’m first and foremost an artist, and I play off the idea of the way music is about impermanence and sampling, and collage play with memory. But first and foremost, it should all be about having a good experience. That’s what I go for when I sample material–visual or audio. Sample away!
You often cite literary influences on your work, like William S. Burroughs and Zora Neale Hurston. Are you trying to evoke more of an intellectual reaction, as opposed to a visceral one, from your listeners?
Yeah, so many musicians think it’s all just about being cool, hanging out, etc. I grew up in DC and both my parents were professors. My dad was Dean of Howard University Law School, and my mother is a historian of design–she writes about the history of African American women designers. So I was always kind of into literature. I grew up near Dupont Circle, and went to bookstores like Kramer Books, and P Street Books, and now I love places like Busboys and Poets. So yeah, Dj’ing a good situation is like creating an essay of sounds.
So what are your guilty pop pleasures, then?
I really like the “Gangnam Style” video by PSY. Super cool!
You keep a very busy schedule, complete with DJ’ing, teaching, photography, lecturing and book projects—so what’s the next on your artistic horizon?
This year, I’m the first artist-in-residence at The Met museum. The basic idea is to remix The Met and give a different emphasis on how performance and art are in dialog. I love doing projects like that! I’ll be artist in residence for a year, doing everything from remixing the collection to setting up art/music happenings.
As a DC native, what kind of place does Smithsonian hold in your heart?
Recently I took a studio to Antarctica to do a project about the sound of ice (global warming is a really, really, really loud sound). I made a book out of it, and called it The Book of Ice. But the first glimpses I had of these kinds of places was in museums like the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. That kind of place expanded my horizons and made me think about so many of the places that kids from places like DC never get a chance to check out. That plus watching the space shuttle launches on huge screens at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was super cool!!!
What can we expect to hear from you during your set this Friday night?
It’ll be a situation where I have a wonderful Korean ensemble (Danielle Cho and Jennifer Kim). It’s gonna be a wild scenario of the history of one of my favorite Asian-American film actresses, Anna May Wong, with hip hop, techno, dubstep, disco, and everything in between–all remixed, live with her films. She was super cool! We look at the history of Asian-American cinema, and build bridges between the different communities. It’ll be a fun, big blow out!
Asia After Dark: Asian Soundscape will take place this Friday, September 28 at the Sackler Gallery and Haupt Garden at 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Tickets are $25 in advance (online) or $30 at the door and include one free drink.
February 28, 2012
The Hirshhorn Museum‘s new exhibition, “Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space,” is something meant to be experienced. Installations by five Latin American artists whose participatory works tease the senses while incorporating the viewers’ own perceptions into the final experiences breach the theatrical fourth wall. The works literally draw you in and from within, a drama unfolds.
The international group of artists operated on parallel innovative paths, and even served as precursors, in some cases, to the Southern California-based Light and Space art movement of the late 1960s. Alma Ruiz from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is serving as guest curator for show.
“For me, the most important aspect of the exhibition is to show how avant-garde these artists were at the time–how they conceived art in a different way.” said Ruiz. “It was a different dynamic between the audience and the artwork.”
The works are best experienced on a first-hand basis, just as the artists desired. “They wanted to actually make that space between the viewer and the object disappear,” said Ruiz. “They wanted people to really immerse themselves in the art.”
Step into the ever-changing disco ball light show inside the mirrored cave of Argentinian Julio Le Parc’s 1962 Light in Movement (refabricated 2010) and it becomes easy to linger. The rotating mirrored panels send beautiful, ever-changing light across the interior of the installation. It’s like stargazing indoors and watching the universe slowly revolve around you.
SHAKE YOUR BOOTIES:
“It’s about the color saturations,” said Hirshhorn curator Valerie Fletcher, of the 1965 Chromosaturation by Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez’s (refabricated 2010). A visually intense experience, the blindingly white walls, ceilings and floors inside the structure provide a sharp counterpart for the striking florescent color grids of blue, magenta or green fixed to the ceilings. Help keep things clean and throw on a pair of the protective booties provided by the museum before entering this room.
THE BLUE FOREST:
Venezuelan Jesús Rafael Soto creates a sense of artistic whimsy with his 1969 Blue Penetrable BBL (refabricated 1999), as the viewer steps into a sea of hanging blue rubber strands–a virtual cerulean spaghetti forest. Like the brushes in a car wash, the rubber grabs at you and engulfs you as you make your way through. The best part? Looking up while standing in the middle and seeing only blue lines.
LAY DOWN, TUNE IN:
Need a place to take a nap? The very informal atmosphere of the early 1970s is recreated in the 1973 Cosmococa: Program in Progress, CC1 Trashiscapes (refrabricated 2010), by Brazilian Hélio Oiticica and collaborator Neville D’Almeida. Bedrolls are strewn throughout the dark room, and viewers are encouraged to chill out, relax, and listen to Jimi Hendrix while slide show imagery is projected onto the walls. You might want to bring your toothbrush and stay awhile.
UP IN THE AIR:
And don’t forget to look up while riding the escalator to the third floor of the Hirshhorn. Crane your neck and follow the white neon tube abstractly winding its way through space overhead. The ever-changing perspectives of Italian Argentinian Lucio Fontana’s 1951 Neon Structure for the IX Triennale of Milan (refabricated 2010) is like a three-dimensional diagram of an atom gone haywire.
“Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space” will be at the Hirshhorn Museum through May 13, 2012.
February 10, 2012
The National Museum of the American Indian’s annual “Power of Chocolate Festival” returns this weekend, February 11 and 12, longer and stronger, and with more cacao muscle. Participants will be able to create their own chocolate beverages old-school style, grinding up cacao seeds under the expert eye of Mars Chocolate’s Rodney Snyder. And Mitsitam Café’s Chef Hetzler will be there to discuss the use of chocolate in cooking both savory and sweet dishes.
Catherine Kwik-Uribe, the director of research and development for Mars Botanical, a scientific division of Mars, Inc., works hard to give you all the more reason to eat chocolate, and she’ll be speaking about that on Saturday. Kwik-Uribe researches the different ways that cocoa flavanols–the specific mixture of phytonutrients found naturally in cocoa–can potentially maintain and improve cardiovascular health. Her favorite candy bar? Dove Dark, of course.
In honor of this weekend’s festival, Kwik-Uribe assisted me in coming up with some of our Top Ten Surprising Facts About Chocolate:
- Americans eat almost half of the world’s yearly supply of chocolate.
- The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus gave the cocoa tree its scientific name , Theobroma cacao, which means “Food of the gods.”
- All cocoa products contain theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine but far less potent–we can trace chocolate use in Mesoamerica by the presence of theobromine in pottery.
- Chocolate can be potentially fatal for dog, since canines are unable to break down and excrete the high amounts of fat and theobromine as efficiently as humans.
- Mesoamerican peoples have been reported to have used cacao for over 34 centuries.
- George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin all drank chocolate.
- Amelia Earhart had a cup of chocolate during her record-setting flight over the Pacific from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland on January 11, 1935.
- The world’s largest chocolate bunny was constructed by South African artist Harry Johnson in 2010, and was 12 feet, five inches tall and weighed in at more than three tons.
- The Aztecs considered chocolate to be an aphrodisiac, and ruler Montezuma reportedly consumed 50 cups of the chocolate beverage, xocolatl, per day.
- An average cocoa pod contains about 40 cocoa beans–it takes over 1,000 cocoa beans to make one kilogram of chocolate liquor, the key ingredient in milk and dark chocolates.
For the full schedule of chocolate-flavored events this weekend, click here.
January 10, 2012
Step into the Hirshhorn’s Black Box theater and you’ll find Turkish video artist Ali Kazma’s “O.K” (2010) showing on seven small screens arranged across the wall. Looped and played in real time, each shows a different perspective of the hands of a notary public rapidly stamping piles and piles of paper with extreme expediency. The cacophony of sound and the repetition of imagery becomes more and more hypnotic the longer the viewer stays in the theater.
“I sought someone out who was really fast and had nice hands,” Kazma told Art in America this past September of his subject. That well-manicured, faceless worker smartly dressed in a slim-fitting gray suit becomes a highly efficient machine in “O.K.”–with no assistance from rubber-tipped fingers or the stationary equivalent of steroids. Just a man, his piles of paper and a stamper.
“We, especially in the art world, are always talking about the idea that the world has moved on, that the world has become a superhighway of information, that it’s mobile.” Kazma continued. “But I wanted to remind us all that we still live in a world where such work as stamping papers exists.”
The blitzkrieg of rapid-fire sound and movement in a generic office setting immediately triggered my memories of the classic 1980s Federal Express commercials featuring motor-mouthed John Moschitta. And watching detailed images of people at work brought to mind Eadweard Muybridge’s early photo studies of human movement.
“The work is mesmerizing but also redolent of the caffeine-infused work-a-day tasks we all hope we accomplish as masterfully,” says Hirshhorn curator Barbara Gordon. “Kazma seems to ask us to slow down, to sit and take in, to appreciate and consider the process, and progress of as well, the so-called fruits of our labor.
“Black Box: Ali Kazma” will be on display at the Hirshhorn Museum until April 2012
November 25, 2011
“Blume is a longtime champion of children’s education and advocate of intellectual freedom,” says Barbara Tuceling of the Smithsonian Associates. “She’s given a voice to young people coming of age that they may not have otherwise had, and she’s done so with honesty and great care for her young readers.”
Blume is best-known for her work in children’s and young adult fiction, with books such as Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Forever and Tiger Eyes. With identifiable characters that readers could relate to, she has unflinchingly and realistically dealt with coming-of-age issues like menstruation, bullying and teen sex. Her books have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 31 languages. Now 73 years old, Judy Blume is currently at work on a young adult novel set in the 1950s. “I like the 12-and-under set,” she wrote in a recent email to me. “and also the adult voice. Yet here I am writing a long, complicated novel from various viewpoints, all of them teenagers in the ’50s.”
Following the presentation, Blume will reflect on her career and discuss today’s children and the challenges of the American family, as seen through the lens of her work, with NPR arts correspondent Lynn Neary. Be sure to check out my interview with Blume in the upcoming January 2012 issue.