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Ann Fensterstock is the author of the book Art On The Block. The book charts the history of the New York art world over the last sixty years. Unlike other cultural and business districts in New York, the hub of the art scene has had a tendency to pick up and move. Over the last six decades artists and galleries have moved from uptown to downtown, spread across lower Manhattan, and set up shop across the East River in Brooklyn. Art on the Block tells the story of this migration and explores why the art world doesn’t stay put.
Hannah Barrett is a painter based in Brooklyn. Her work draws from a range of subject matter including old cookbooks, vintage fashion, 1960s advertising imagery, characters from classic literature, and really anything else that strikes a chord in Hannah’s visual imagination. All these elements are brought together in portraits, still lives, and domestic scenes that blend the surreal with the everyday and seem to imply an entire world in each painting. To me, there’s something both familiar and strange about Hannah’s paintings, and it’s a quality that allows the viewers imagination to run just as wild as I’m sure Hannah’s does when she’s painting.
Video artist Janaye Brown makes single-shot videos based around the surreal and mundane moments of everyday life. In a four minute piece called Cocktail Hour, a room filled with fog slowly clears to reveal two figures sitting awkwardly in a living room as a clock is heard ticking off screen. In another video, called Late Spring, we watch for two minutes as insects swarm around a brightly lit bell tower. The Lynchian piece Rocks, With Salt frames a blank patch of sand on the beach that appears to be breathing.
This week on the show I speak with multi-media artist Orlando Estrada. Orlando creates installations, sculptures, and performances inspired by his years living in Florida, his background in queer theory, and experiences he had growing up in a family of spiritual mediums.
Stephen Fan is a designer and adjunct assistant professor in the Art History and Architectural Studies department at Connecticut College. His latest project is a traveling exhibition and book called Sub-Urbanisms: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns and the Contested American Landscape. The project studies the ways that immigrant Chinese casino workers in Connecticut have converted single family homes into multi-family communities. In his project, we see how the social and aesthetic norms of American suburban living are transformed and re-interpreted to suit the cultural beliefs and lifestyles of immigrant workers. For example, in these homes, a patio space becomes an extra kitchen for communal cooking, extra walls are added to the living room to create new bedrooms, and front lawns are repurposed as gardens for growing Chinese produce.
Mika Kaurismäki is the director of the new film The Girl King. The film tells the story of Queen Kristina of Sweden, who in the 17th century at the age of eighteen attempted to modernize Sweden and has become known as one of the earliest feminist figures in Europe.
Artist Roxanne Jackson has taken an unconventional approach to her life as an artist. Before going to grad school to study art she worked as a river guide in California, got a degree in botany and spent winters teaching snowboarding in Colorado.
Photographer Carolyn Russo has been traveling the world photographing the architecture of air traffic control towers. These essential, but often overlooked, structures are the subject of Carolyn’s new book and National Air and Space Museum exhibition Art of the Airport Tower.
Jenni Olson is the director of the new film, The Royal Road. She describes the film as a cinematic essay, and it’s structure is simple: patient static shots of urban California landscapes captured on 16 mm film, and a voiceover narration written and spoken by Jenni.
Photographer Brian Ulrich has spent the last 15 years photographing the landscape of American consumerism. After 9/11, when the Bush administration encouraged all of us to go shopping, Brian travelled the country making images of big box chains, thrift stores, and later the abandoned shopping complexes that started popping up as the economy slid into the Great Recession.
This week on the show I talk with filmmaker and anthropologist J.P.Sniadecki about his new documentary The Iron Ministry. J.P. spent three years traveling through China by train, and in the film, he weaves countless trips into one impressionistic journey of people, sound, and clanking metal. We talk about trains in China, non-narrative documentary, and what it’s like to make a documentary on a train.
Rodney Asher is the director of the new documentary, The Nightmare. The film tells the stories of eight people who chronically suffer from a terrifying disorder called sleep paralysis. During sleep paralysis sufferers wake up to find themselves unable to move or speak, and many experience extremely vivid and frightening visual and auditory hallucinations.
Michael Madsen is an artist and filmmaker. In his new documentary The Visit, he tackles perhaps one of the biggest questions of all: What would happen if intelligent life from another world landed on Earth?
Artist Rithika Merchant’s new series, Luna Tabulatorum, tell a story inspired by the moon. In the paintings human-like figures, animals, plant life, and other strange beings interact in symbolic rituals that evoke both religious and folk art tradition as well as the work of painters like Frida Khalo. Myths and Folklore inform a lot of the imagery in Luna Tabulatorum and Rithika is drawn to the fact that moon has played a significant role in the stories of gods, creation and the universe in ancient cultures from Greece to India. Rithika’s series is on view now at Stephen Romano Gallery in Bushwick, and last week Rithika joined me via Skype from Barcelona to talk about her work, the moon, and ways that woman and femininity are portrayed in art and mythology.
For the several years photographer Daniel Cronin attended The Gathering of the Juggalos, an annual festival for die-hard fans of the horrorcore rap group The Insane Clown Posse. In his photographs, Daniel depicts Juggalos of every stripe, likening his approach to that of early 20th century German photographer August Sander who made egalitarian portraits of his countrymen. These photographs have been published in a book by Prestel, and I spoke with Daniel over the phone from Portland about his experiences at Gathering, misconceptions about Juggalo culture and some of his other projects.
Fred Ritchin is an authority on the future of photography. He’s written several books on the subject, and his newest, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary and the Citizen, is published by Aperture. In the book Ritchin takes a critical look at the state of documentary photography and visual journalism in the twenty-first century media landscape. Richin wonders, do photographs still have any power in a world where billions of images are made, shared, linked, and liked every day? Bending the Frame also asks the question: how can photojournalists and citizens use photography to help solve some of the world’s problems, rather than just document them?
Photographer Ryan Spencer spent about two years watching dozens of disaster movies. As he went he photographed stills from these epic-destruction fests using black and white film and a polaroid land camera.
This week we speak with Jane Brown, editor of the new photo book Both Sides of Sunset. The book examines how photographers have documented the geography, landscape, architecture and people of Los Angeles.
Marc Fischer is the administrator of Public Collectors an online archive dedicated to preserving cultural artifacts that don’t get attention from libraries, museums and other collecting institutions. Marc is known for organizing events and exhibitions around the Pubic Collectors archive, but even if you’re stuck behind a computer screen the collection of digital images and PDF scans of weird books and zines is truly one of the gems of the internet. I’ve spent many an hour looking at stuff like photo collections of vandalized cacti, an erotic comic about amputees, and a heart wrenching book of drawings of by atomic bomb survivors.
Photographer Meryl Meisler grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, and in the 1970s she began photographing her family, friends and neighbors around her suburban home town. As a photographer, Meryl is drawn to the antics of everyday life, and in her intimate and often hilarious photos we’re treated to scenes like a man juggling cardboard boxes after the prom, her young cousin grimacing at the camera from atop a toilet seat, or an amazing image of a couple smiling to the camera from a bedroom decked out in butterfly print wallpaper and matching bedspread.
This week on Art Uncovered I talk with artist Sarah Rothberg. Her virtual reality installation Memory/Place: My House is part of the exhibition Memory Burn, on view now at Bitforms Gallery in New York.
If you lived in Romania in the 1980s and happened to catch a government sanctioned screening of a foreign film or TV show, your viewing experience would have been much different than someone watching in the West. Anything deemed western was cut: scenes with swimming pools, depictions of too much food, marital infidelity, freedom of religion. Even kisses could only last for three seconds on screen. The 80s were some of the harshest years for communism in Romania and the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was considered one of the most brutal in the soviet bloc. The secret police kept tight control over all aspects of Romanian life and cinema was no exception.
This week on Art Uncovered I sit down with artist Eileen Maxson. Her new solo show at Microscope gallery in Bushwick is called I was really gonna be something by the age of twenty-three, and it’s a collection of videos, objects, and installation pieces based on the classic 90s film Reality Bites. In our interview we talk about Eileen’s experience growing up in Houston, where Reality Bites is set, and how the film’s central conflict of corporate culture vs. authentic artistic expression has manifested itself in the 21st century.
Michael Kamber is a veteran photojournalist and founder of the Bronx Documentary Center. His is also co-curator of the BDC’s new exhibition Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography. The show comes at a time when Michael says the photojournalism profession faces a “crisis in credibility,” as illustrated by numerous high profile incidents of photographers staging images or manipulating their pictures excessively in photoshop. Just last year judges of the prestigious World Press Photo competition disqualified 20% of their semifinalists for altering their photographs. In this years competition the photographer Giovanni Troilo was disqualified for staging a photo of his cousin and his girlfriend having sex in a car.
Artist Danielle DeJesus was born and raised in Bushwick. About ten years ago, when she was in high school, she realized her neighborhood starting to change, starting to gentrify. She noticed “bodegas turning into swanky bars, supermarkets blaring english rock music instead of salsa”, and her mom was getting calls from landlords offering her cash to move out of her apartment.
In Japan 3/11 refers to the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown off the Fukishima nuclear power plant that occurred on March 11th 2011. That day the deadly tsunami wave killed more than 15000 people and radiation from the nuclear plant has left large swaths of land uninhabitable to this day. In The Wake explores how Japanese photographers have addressed the large scale death and distruction, as well as the impact it’s had on the Japanese psyche. The images in the show range from annonymouse family photographs, to images that speak to Japan’s complex history with nuclear energy.
This week on the show, artist Jessamyn Lovell talks about photography, surveillance and what it was like tracking down the woman who stole her identity. Jessamyn’s work is currently on view at CENTER in Santa Fe and SCA Contemporary in Albuquerque. Her new book, in which she chronicles her efforts to find her identity thief, is available now from SF Camerawork.
Carla Gannis, The Garden of Emoji Delights, 2015 This week on the show, Brooklyn multi-media artist Carla Gannis talks about some of her new projects. One is an interpretation of Heronimous Bosch’s 16th century painting The Garden of Earthly Delights made with emojis. The piece is on view at the Hudson River Museum. The second project is a series of self portraits that Carla calls “selfie drawings.” In our interview we touch on the language of emojis, the “gothic internet”, the singularity, and growing up in Appalachia. Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, circa 1450–1516 Selfie Drawing 33 “Dreaming the Singularity” Selfie Drawing 24 “AKIN” Playlist 00:00 Intro 00:50 Carla Gannis 03:10 Emoji Delights 06:40 Transcription 12:01 Discrete Emoji 13:31 Selfie Drawings 17:47 Singularity 21:45 Appalachia 24:35 Making Art 26:26 The Future 33:03 Finish
Sharon Shattuck’s father came out as transgender and changed her name to Trisha when Sharon was in middle school. As a kid just wanting to fit in in a small mid-western community, adjusting and understanding Trisha’s new identity proved difficult. It was also hard for Sharon’s straight-identified mother Marcia. In Sharon’s new documentary From This Day Forward she sets out to create a portrait of Trisha and to understand how her parents marriage endured such radical change.
In his book, Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Age, Robert Burley documents the infrastructure that for nearly 100 years supported film photography. Robert was granted access to shuddered film factories to photograph the massive machines and interior spaces where thousands of workers once made film in total darkness. He visited Dwanye’s photo lab in Kansas: the last photo lab in the world to process Kodak’s iconic Kodachrome film. And, for the most dramatic pictures in the book, Robert photographed the demolitions of film manufacturing buildings at Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester New York.
My guest this week is Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers. Jan broke out on the photography scene in 2010 when he published a book called Spomenik. The book documents the giant geometric sculptures that were built across the countryside of the former Yugoslavia in the 60s and 70 as monuments to various sites and battles from World War Two. Jan traveled to these isolated sites to photograph these alien-looking sculptures. Before Jan’s project these monuments were largely unknown except to the people in the small towns where they’re located.
When photographer Patrick Gookin moved to Los Angeles he found himself spending a lot of time in the car. Driving to work he began to notice how strange and out of place the pedestrians looked. Often alone, these figures seemed totally enveloped by an urban environment designed primarily for motorists.
Jonathan Monaghan makes short films that combine high end computer animation, with surreal and fantastical scenes drawn from religious themes, popular culture and history. In one of his pieces we watch a polar bear that resembles one of those from the popular coca-cola ad campaign, slowly staggering around in a shapeless black space, only to realize after three minutes, that we’ve been watching the bear as it slowly dies. Another piece, which Jonathan discusses on the show, features a lion, a black eagle, some medical devices, and a beheading. His piece Escape Pod was shown as part of a solo show at Bitforms Gallery here in New York.
In the 1960s singer Ros Serey Sothea was one of the biggest stars in Cambodia. In those days the capital Phnom Penh was the hub of a buzzing music scene, full of musicians who, like Ros Serey Sothea were combining traditional Cambodian sounds and themes with western rock and roll. There were surf bands, crooners, garage, punk and psych acts — all with a distinctly Cambodian character. As the scene grew through the 60s and into the 70s numerous bands clubs and record labels sprung up to meet the demand for new music. In fact, music was such a big part of Cambodian life that even the country’s leader Norodom Sihanouk, was an accomplished singer and performer.
Artist Tuur Van Balen is interested in the grey areas between art and science, biology and technology, mass production and the natural world.
Photographer Tessa Traeger has been using a trove of victorian glass negatives to create her new project The Chemistry of light. For the project she rephotographed these old plate negatives as still lives using natural light and mirrors to highlight the dramatic forms of chemical decay that have transformed the negatives over their hundred plus years in storage. The result are ghostly, dreamlike views of Victorian England. Some photographs in the project show everyday scenes like a crowd at the beach. Other images are abstractions in which the negative’s curled or damaged emulation creates a rainbow of color and folds of texture that nearly obscure the photograph’s subject. According to Tessa, the Chemistry of Light project is also about photography itself. She says that as chemical processes give way to digital technology, her collection of damaged and decaying photographs serve as a metaphor for the death of analog photography as a medium.
Julia Haslett is the director of the documentary An Encounter with Simone Weil. The film tells the story of French Philosopher and activist Simone Weil, who spent her short yet prolific life grappling with a single question: What response does seeing human suffering demand of us? Before making this film Julia had never hear of Simone Weil, but she was familiar with this question. She grew up watching her father struggle with depression, and when Julia was 17 he took his own life. The suicide left her acutely sensitive to people in pain, but it was many years later that Julia read these words that would lead her to make her latest film. This week I speak with Julia Haslett about the life of Simone Weil and how the philosopher inspired this personal documentary.
This week on the show, I talk with Brooklyn-based artist Sara Marie Miller. Sara works primarily in printmaking and her work explores the connections between perception and the subconscious as well as the tensions between figurative and abstract forms. When I visited Sara Marie’s studio last week, we talked about her printing process, “blind contour drawing,” alternate realties, and her experience translating a psychic reading into a new work.
San Francisco based photographer Jin Zhu’s project Endless Stream looks at California’s Central Valley. Jin has been documenting the ways that water — and lack of it — transforms the landscape and the ways that humans live on the land.
Amy Franceschini is an artist and one of the founders of Future Farmers, an collective of artists, designers, architects, and thinkers who share an interest in places and how we live in them today. Future Farmers projects come in many shapes and sizes from museum exhibitions, site specific installations, community projects, books, videos, you name it. Running through all this work is an interest in things like land use, agriculture, food traditions, pollution and development and how all these things impact communities.
Jill Bugajski and John Paul Murphy are the curators of the exhibition The Left Front: Radical Art in the Red Decade 1929 to 1940, on view now at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. The show looks how American leftist artists responded to the chaotic and uncertain decade between the beginning of the great depression and the start of World War II.
Australian artist Tega Brain is interested in re-imagining the systems, infrastructures, and networks that govern our technologically enhanced world. In her works she’s converted data into smells, searched for signs of climate change in images on Flickr, and constructed a hybrid eco-system that joins a coin-operated laundromat with a miniature wetland. This in addition to many other playful and throughout provoking pieces that ask questions like: how much could you get for an ancient artifact from the Metropolitan Museum if it were listed on craigslist?
This week on the show my guest is artist Doug Young. Doug has just begun a new body of work of paintings on glass, using a technique called reverse painting. The images in Doug’s paintings depict strange and fantastical places including a vintage Disneyland Attraction, a lethal injection room and a view of the Death Star’s equatorial trench which Luke Skywalker famously navigates at the end of the film Star Wars.
Creepiness by Adam Kotsko, Zero Books
The documentary My Brooklyn, directed by this week’s guest Kelly Anderson, examines the forces that are rapidly transforming the neighborhood of downtown Brooklyn, . The film centers around the Fulton Mall, a long-time African American and Caribbean shopping district that in the early 2000s was rezoned by the city to make way for luxury condos and chain retail stores. This rezoning, and others like it in the neighborhood, displaced many of the residents and small business who had been there for decades. At the same time, the development plan used public money to grant hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to wealthy residents and big developers.
How would you go about writing a 1000-year long piece of music? Jem Finer has figured out at way to do just that. The artist, musician and founding member of the Pogues began thinking about the idea of a long-running artwork in the late 90s when culture had turned it’s attention to the coming millennium. Jem found that among the hype and celebrations no one was really taking the time to think about what 1000 years actually meant. What is a millennium in terms of our every day lives? Why is it we give the passing of an arbitrary amount of time such significance? Longplayer is an attempt to get us to think aobut some of these questions. As a piece of music, Longplayer is constructed from a single 20 minute piece of source music, written for Tibetan singing bowls. When you listen to the piece you’re actually hearing six tracks of this source music playing simultaneously. Each version proceeds through the source score at a different speed and according to different rules, creating an ebb and flow of tones, harmonies that Jem likens to changes in the weather. After 1000 years the six simultaneous tracks will come together again and start the next 1000 year cycle.
Artist Fernando Orellana may have invented a device to help ghosts reconnect with the world of the living. In a new project called Shadows Fernando is designing interactive devices for the ghosts of the recently deceased. He calls them “techno effigies.” To make these devices, Fernando visits estate sales and picks a single item that he feels may have been important to the person recently passed. Then he constructs the device to help the ghost use the object. For example, one device called Her Bell is equipped with a simple mechanism that rings the brass bell Fernando found at the home of a deceased bell collector. To detect the presence of ghosts, Fernando’s devices continuously monitors the immediate environment for changes in temperature, infrared light, and electromagnetic waves — factors believed by paranormal researchers to indicate the presence of a spirit. If a a ghost is detected, the device is triggered.
This week on the show U.K.-based artist Sig Waller joins me to talk about her collage work and paintings. Through the use of found images and dark humor, Sig says her work explores the “dark corners of cultural excess” and asks the question, “How will future intelligence make sense of our times?”
Jenny Vogel is a new media artist working in video, photography, printmaking, performance and installation. She’s interested in the world as seen through communication technology — web cameras, morse code, fax machines — and the way we use these tools to overcome distance, alienation and loneliness. Her work exposes the glitches and limitations of technology and reveals the strange miscommunications it can produce. Jenny is especially interested in the video feeds from web cameras that are placed in city centers and homes around the world. These cameras broadcast ghostly pictures of places that seem to be devoid of human activity, and Jenny uses images from these broadcasts to construct her own narratives in her videos and prints.
Since ancient times, humans have been making images as a way to understand the cosmos. Our illustrations, maps, diagrams and paintings are a way of bringing the infinite into the realm of our senses, with the hope that, through picturing the heavens, we can understand how the universe works and our place in it.
New York-based artist Ross Racine creates aerial views of fictional suburban landscapes. This month his work is part of an upcoming exhibition at the International Print Center in New York. I met with Ross to look over some of his prints and talk about his drawing technique and his interest in aerial views and suburban geography.
Brian Belott makes collages, collects found audio, and is an all around great and talented dude. A while back he invited me to over to his studio in Brooklyn to hang out, chat, and listen to some of the audio in his collection. We talked about collages, Michael jackson, cassette tapes and lots of other good stuff. While you listen do yourself a favor and spend some time on his website.

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