Sunday, September 10, 2023

Slowdive "Everything is Alive" & US Tour: Sept 25 - Oct 15

This past decade has curiously become the locus of the nascent 1990s spacerock and shoegaze sound, with not only new albums, and tours, but improbable bands reforming and reactivating after decades of silence. We were not only witness to the third domestic tour since their reformation by My Bloody Valentine but the first new album in 22 years, "MBV" which finally manifested after years of legend and rumor. Equally unexpected, the return of LOOP after decades of its founder Robert Hampson claiming if you weren't there to witness their staggering volume and endurance-testing live performances in the 1990's, then you'll never quite know what the band was about. 4AD label dreampop confection, Lush also joined their ranks. Spring 2016 saw the band's first live shows in 20 years since the unexpected death of friend and drummer, Chris Acland, Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson and Phil King spoke with The Quietus for their "Mad Love: An Interview with Lush". An era for the band that both initiated and concluded within the course of the single tour cycle. To only be reborn in-part, as Piroshka the following year. Marking a similar path, these ranks were also bolstered by the immensely influential Ride, who themselves have multiple new records and tours this past half-decade. All of which pursuing courses forged down precluding pathways by Scottish dream-pop progenitors Cocteau Twins, and the later British bands following in the druggy astronomical haze of Spacemen 3. This set of compatriots in shared sound fast became a who's who of the best of UK underground rock of the early 1990's. The most improbable of them all, was the announcement that Slowdive would be performing a one-off at the Primavera Sound Festival in 2014. Following in the wake of the massively received event, the band recognized the ongoing dedication of their fanbase in interview with The Quietus, "There Seems To Be A Lot Of Love Out There: A Slowdive Interview". Finding an enthusiasm for performing and writing again, suggesting the very real possibility of a reformation as the "Slowdive Reunion Expands with More Shows, Possibility of New Music" and following in rapid succession, "Slowdive Announce North American Tour, Reunion".

For followers of the band, after the breakdown of the mid-1990's, the last thing one would expect to hear is that it's their overlooked final album created in mid-rift, "Pygmalion", which stands out as an obvious point of stylistic reference amidst the sonic concoction of this new live incarnation. This was made all that much more surprising for Neil Halstead's often-expressed sentiment that that era of his music was definitively closed and it was his 4AD released project Mojave 3 and solo work that would be his larger legacy. Halstead is not the only member with a vital and prolific post-breakup creative arch away from the path carved by Slowdive. The work of drummer and sound designer, Simon Scott is equal to the group's sonic summits. One only need hear the atmospheric, jazz-informed ambient tonescapes of his excellent "Bunny" for the Miasmah label for it to be made clear that the adventurous pop Scott created with Halstead, Rachel Goswell, Nick Chaplin and Christian Savill, decades before was a point of entry, rather than a final destination. In 2017, all members of the band reassembled for the first new recordings in 22 years on the magisterial and surprising "Slowdive", for Bloomington Indiana label, Dead Oceans. This album singularly giving momentum to, "The Unlikely Renaissance of Slowdive", ascending to heights of popularity never previously seen by the band, riding the wave of the "Jewel-like, Spacious Return" of their sound. The development of this new work detailed for Stereogum by guitarist, Rachel Goswell "The Only Goth in the Village", who along with Halstead, was the primary architect of 1995's "Pygmalion", stating that his time out the group dynamic was all important, offering; "It's poppier than I thought it was going to be,". "When you're in a band and you do three records, there's a continuous flow and a development. For us, that flow re-started with us playing live again and that has continued into the record". After multiple Us tours, and five years, they return to this process for "Everything is Alive", which Neil Halstead speaks with NPR on the subject of their new album, and the coming tour of "Exquisite Songs from the Comeback Kids of Shoegaze".

Sunday, September 3, 2023

"Dark Dreams: The Original Film Noir Series" at SIFF Cinema: Sept 27 - Nov 30

A major setback to repertory cinema in Seattle came in early 2021, with the elimination of the position that Greg Olson held as film programmer at Seattle Art Museum for half a century. By removing Olson as the programmer of the longest running film noir series in the United States, and author of definitive books on the subject of David Lynch, Seattle found that the "Fate of SAM Film Series Unclear as Museum’s Longtime Film Curator Laid Off". It should also be noted, that in addition to the loss of Olson specifically as one of the most influential programmers of his generation, the position has remained unfilled at Seattle Art Museum. Now almost three years later, the programmer and author brings the longest continuously running series of its kind to SIFF Cinema. Following on the heels of the successful relocation of his relaunched Fellini retrospective, “Life is a Feast: The Cinema of Federico Fellini" earlier this year, SIFF Cinema Egyptian will play home to, "Dark Dreams: The Original Film Noir Series". Now in its 44th installment, the series opens with two all-time classics from Billy Wilder. The first of which features Gloria Swanson in a career great in "Sunset Boulevard", and Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in Raymond Chandler's brilliantly subversive adaptation of "Double Indemnity", from the novel of the same name by James M. Cain. The series continues with two solidly constructed noirs from the classic studio era by Robert Siodmak and Roy William Neill in "Criss Cross", and "Black Angel". From this same period, Nicholas Ray delivered one of the most darkly hued and nuanced of noirs, "In A Lonely Place", featuring career-defining heights for both of its stars, Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. A more conspirational and paranoid brand of 1970s color neo-noir infuses the world of Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston in Roman Polanski's "Chinatown". Swinging to the other end of the spectrum, if there ever was a comedy neo-noir, it would be Joel and Ethan Coen's "The Big Lebowski", and diametrically opposite, the brother-director team adapted the terse pragmatism of Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men", starring Tommy Lee Jones in one of his most memorable roles. Ending in solidly psychological thriller territory, the series concludes with "Eyes Wide Shut", the final film by Stanley Kubrick. One which takes its inspirations as much from Arthur Schnitzler's "Rhapsody: A Dream Novel", as it does the great cinematic dreamer of the late 20th century, David Lynch. On this subject, early in the new year we can anticipate the second major book from Greg Olson on Lynch, with the publishing of his, "Black Coffee Lightning: David Lynch Returns to Twin Peaks", focusing on the expansion of the world of Twin Peaks since the release of the 2017 miniseries.

Friday, September 1, 2023

"Dust of the Material Universe: Piotr Szulkin's Apocalypse Quartet" at The Beacon Cinema: Sept 1 - 22 | "The Last Years of Soviet Cinema" | The Guardian

The Leonid Brezhnev era of the Soviet Union was, in Mikhail Gorbachev’s words, “the period of stagnation”. However, the new emphasis on stability gave a paradoxical prominence to youth uprising as a symptom and cause of personal and social unrest, and the generational expression of alienation. Social deviance was far more prominent in 1970s Soviet cinema than during the decades before; look no further than the Czech New Wave for reference. In the following decade, Glasnost under Gorbachev accelerated this preexisting predilection, rather than initiated, a stark view of Soviet reality and its expression in the arts. Until recently, the films of the USSR’s last decade were mainly a specialist cinephile interest. But this has begun to change, starting with retrospectives like "Generations: Russian Cinema of Change" at the Barbican, London in 2019. This gave an exhilarating introduction to nine major films by young late-Soviet directors, as covered in The Guardian's, "'There are No Different Truths': The Last Years of Soviet Cinema". The retrospective made clean that Polish cinema of the decade had its own aesthetic, political, and thematic detractors. These followed on the groundbreaking generation of films that came in the late 1960s and 70s, as represented in the extensive restoration undertaking by the Polish Film Institute of, "Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema". This era Scorsese spoke further on with The Guardian at the time of the restoration project, "My Passion for the Humor and Panic of Polish Cinema". In the ensuing decade, Polish cinema went through a brief period of creative oppression, following the Polish political crisis of 1968, which had strong parallels with the concurrent movement of the Prague Spring.

Writer, director, screenwriter, novelist, theatrical director and painter, Piotr Szulkin was born of this time, before the waves of Perestroika would come and sweep away all the restrictions and socio-political prejudices of the Soviet era in the mid-to-late 1980s. His body of work filtered 20th century philosophy and Polish medieval literature through speculative fiction, neo-noir, and grotesque, sometimes comically absurd allegories. Best known for his tetralogy of wildly iconoclastic science fiction films, "Golem", "The War of the Worlds: Next Century", "O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization", and "Ga-ga: Glory to Heroes'', Szulkin regularly faced censorship from the Communist regime of the late 1970s and early 80s for his unabashedly political works. Whether viewed as existential tales, absurdist parables, or premonitions about society’s hostility and inclination towards totalitarianism, Szulkin's films continue to resonate with truth about our modern-day world. The Lincoln Center overview of his work in 2015, "Sci-Fi Visionary: Piotr Szulkin" offered a selection of new digital restorations and imported film prints, as well as the rare, "Interview: Piotr Szulkin" for Film Comment. From this, and the new restorations offered by both Vinegar Syndrome and Radiance Films in the form of Piotr Szulkin's Apocalypse Tetralogy, and The End of Civilization: Three Films by Piotr Szulkin respectively, this month The Beacon Cinema has programmed, "Dust of the Material Universe: Piotr Szulkin's Apocalypse Quartet". Eschewing critics of the time referring to him as a science fiction filmmaker, Szulkin himself called his genre, "asocial fiction", revealing his dismay at modern society's destruction of community. Which by no means was limited to the communist era. In as much as what came before it, Szulkin's work can be read as a criticism of media-driven consumerism as well. And as Michał Oleszczyk writes from, "Things to Come: Piotr Szulkin’s Homespun Apocalypse", is not far removed from the worlds depicted by his western contemporaries of the 1980s, such as those seen in the films of David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

SWANS “The Beggar" & US Tour: Sept 2 - Oct 1

After two rescheduled tours due to the extenuated factors of the global pandemic, Michael Gira returns in September with another new iteration of his towering rock band, SWANS. Having led the outfit through numerous manifestations over the decades since its inception, including a brief phase as the folk ensemble The Angels of Light, change and transfiguration have been one of their great constants of Michael Gira's lifelong music endeavor. The cartography of this four decades-spanning terrain was mapped for Exclaim in Dimitri Nasrallah's "Michael Gira: from SWANS Uncompromising Sound to Ethereal Angels of Light", and in greater detail and intimacy by friends, fellow musicians and peers in Nick Soulsby's recently published oral history of the band, "SWANS: Sacrifice and Transcendence". At the end of their previous incarnation, with the grandiose heights scaled in "Soundtracks for the Blind" and "Swans are Dead", they took celestial ascension and physical bombast to literally epic durations and dynamic magnitude. The post-reform precision and (relative) brevity of 2010's "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky", the more variegated and nuanced "The Seer", the extended forays heard on "To Be Kind", and rapturous hypnoticism of 2016's "The Glowing Man" ascend to, and even expand upon similarly Homeric heights. "Michael Gira on ‘Dangling Off the Edge of a Cliff’ for SWANS Epic Final Album" for The Observer maps the musical trajectory's Oroborous-like path back to itself, as SWANS of the 21st Century has birthed a supreme amalgam from its own DNA. One that encapsulates the totality of their 40-plus year trajectory. From brutalist no wave minimalism, to musique concrete and extended tonal and drone compositions, to electric rock, psychedelia, blues, folk and Americana. The Guardian's John Doran postulates how it came to pass that SWANS produced the best work of their career so far. Where so many other bands of a similar vintage have retread familiar ground, revisiting the formula of past successes, Gira and company chose to instead stake everything on a fresh roll of the dice. They took a genuine gamble on creating new art rather than trying to recapture past glories and in doing so, they conjured an, "Enduring Love: Why SWANS are More Vital Now than Ever".

The albums and live performances of this past decade, spanning 2010-2018, were the fruit of an extended, ever-evolving recording process. "A Little Drop of Blood: Michael Gira of SWANS Interviewed" for The Quietus describes the often arduous writing, rehearsal, touring and recording in a dynamic creative systole and diastole. The undertaking of then translating these recorded works to a marathon live experience documented in an interview with Pitchfork of 2014, "Michael Gira Talks about How SWANS Returned without Losing Any Potency". Even more personal and confessional, The Quietus have produced a lengthy interview on the explicitly spiritual, transcendental nature of their live incarnation, "This is My Sermon: Michael Gira of SWANS Speaks". 2018 was to see another of these metamorphosis for the band, as Gira took a second brief hiatus to reconfigure SWANS. Issuing a statement through his Young God Records site, the author and musician has established this period as an interstice between iterations of his dominant musical project. SWANS last return and reformation after a 15 year hiatus, in which they became remanifest in the most powerful and expansive iteration to date, there was no doubt that their return after this much more brief hiatus would be one of renewal, reinvention, and creative metempsychosis. So here we are again, with this newest formation, following on the hypnotic and repetitive krautock-inspired grooves of 2019's "Leaving Meaning.", in which Gira enlisted Australian avant-jazz luminaries, The Necks, organist Anna von Hausswolff, and Icelandic electronics sculptor, Ben Frost, to enhance their tapestries of sound. The tour for that album was disrupted and eventually cancelled altogether, with Gira releasing a statement about the next work in progress and the fruitful recording sessions held in Germany. The album that came from those sessions, "The Beggar" would finally be taken on tour, and enlisted many individuals from the band's previous lineups, including; longtime percussionists Larry Mullins and Phil Puleo, Angels of Light bassist and keyboardist Dana Schechter, Ben Frost again in a more prominent role as "sound manipulator", and mainstays of the band's 21st century incarnation, Kristof Hahn and Christopher Pravdica. Of the sonic topography found on this "Dark and Unsettling, Purifying and Beautiful" album, Gira has said that "My vision changes according to the unfolding of random events found in the music that we play together", and as with each release before it, "SWANS Just Keep Swimming" towards some unknown and distant horizon.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Boris and Melvins “Twins of Evil” US Tour: Aug 24 - Oct 14

Showing no signs of a sedentary codification of their sound, or a deceleration of their recording or touring schedule, Boris sessions for the 2017 album "Dear" for the Sargent House label generated nearly three albums of new material. Following on this prolific period, in rapid succession they then delivered, "LφVE & EVφL" as well as a set of domestic LP reissues for Jack White's Third Man Records in 2019. In the trio of years since, they released the stellar "NO" on their own label, a collaboration with post punk band, Uniform, and the dub-inspired release, "W" both for Sacred Bones. Not satisfied with two albums titled "Heavy Rocks", they then created a third this year for Relapse Records, and this fall, "Boris Announce Tour with Melvins" spanning late August to mid-October. Indeed, from this evidence it's clear that, "For Boris, Heavy is a State of Being". The most recent tour marks a decade of semiannual domestic visits to North America in which they have manifested an ever-mutating mix of doom metal, heavy psych, warped J-pop, willfully dysfunctional indie rock, and even their own thrilling take on dreampop and shoegaze. The latter we first glimpsed on their "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" 7" series, which was then refined on "Attention Please", from which they then pivoted to the guttural psyche assault of the second "Heavy Rocks". This prolific inundation culminating in the tri-album recording release of late 2011, topped by their upbeat pop-assault of the generically titled, "New Album". Following this deluge was the more atmospheric Metal-oriented tour album "Präparat" and the mainstream riffs of 2014's "Noise", with its pronounced college-rock sensibilities. The band themselves perceive this stylistic shift as just another stage in their assimilation of influences towards an all-inclusive Boris sound, in an interview for The Quietus the feedback-worshiping trio state, "Noise is Japanese Blues': An Interview with Boris". The sonic realm which they have created for themselves was first carved out with 2005's "Pink", and the brand of lyrical guitar squall of collaborator Michio Kurihara heard on the companion album "Rainbow". Typical of the abundant recording sessions which have produced each album, the recent domestic reissue of "Pink" features a previously unreleased companion album of "Forbidden Songs". Comprising overflow from this era that ended up on the cutting room floor, their interview for Invisible Oranges delves into this phase of high production and new inspirations. The March 2016 issue of The Wire recaps the trio's decades-long recording and touring process, which brings them back into contact with legendary noise extremist Merzbow on the 150 minutes of new music appearing on the interchangeable double LP set, "Gensho". Its depths sounded by Masami Akita in his interview for The Quietus, "Razor Blades in the Dark: An Interview with Merzbow", which acts as a preface of sorts for their second studio album collaboration "2R0I2P0", released in 2020 on Relapse.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Alabaster DePlume and Joshua Abram's Natural Information Society at Sunset Tavern & The Neptune Theatre: Sept 6 & 14

Two of the pivotal outfits describing the new jazz sounds of London and Chicago and specifically the artistry of the International Anthem label find themselves at Sunset Tavern and The Neptune Theatre in early September. Gus Fairbairn had his beginnings as Alabaster DePlume in the early 2000s as one of the players around the locus of London's Total Refreshment Centre. The venue enjoyed a recent anthology on the legendary Blue Note, the venerable label capturing "A Complex, Thrilling Moment in a Fast-Expanding Musical Community". The venue and its players are central to the new British jazz scene, as covered in The Guardian's primer to this contemporary body of musicians, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook". In the fist of his releases for the International Anthem label, Fairbairn released a gently enveloping suite of instrumentals, "To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol.1". The album stretched over eleven tracks of Fairbairn’s tentative, breathy sax melodies laid over downtempo, atmospheric chord voicings and chamber music compositions. Described in the pages of The Guardian as "The Stress-Busting Jazz of Alabaster DePlume", Fairbairn's latest project, "Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love", continues and expands upon that emotional ethos and its swooning gently flowing musical surfaces. Recorded over the course of two weeks at Total Refreshment Centre and employing Fairbairn's practice of having different band arrangements playing on each session, the resulting pieces have also been mixed by different producers and employ self-sampling and structural techniques from his prominent label-mate and drummer, Makaya McCraven.

These two artists are among the 21st century body of musicians effectively "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", who have produced bountiful collaborations on an array of top-notch labels. Most notably releases from Chicago's aforementioned International Anthem, New York's Eremite, and the UK's scene represented again by the Total Refreshment Centre and Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings. Culled from all of these, London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation, fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. Representing a similar locus for the Chicago scene, bassist Joshua Abrams‘ and his large ensemble, Natural Information Society, are joined on his most recent outing "Since Time is Gravity" by Ari Brown, the 80 year old tenor saxophonist and Chicago legend whose work is central to the album. Their release on the Eremite label is the prime meeting of Abrams previous discography of Steve Reich-like trance inducing patterned minimalism and the new addition of a more swooning and fiery saxophone compositions which share a lineage with Charles Mingus' mid-period albums. Touching on these disparate points, "Natural Information Society Discuss the Inspirations Behind 'Since Time is Gravity'", and their amassing a larger ensemble which includes saxophonist Mai Sugimoto, titanic percussionist Hamid Drake, and cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, as "Natural Information Society Celebrates its Idiosyncrasies, Warts and All". A central component to their live incarnation is the environment that they invoke, largely supplied by Abram's wife, artist and musician Lisa Alvarado, and her creations both on and off the stage, "Natural Information Society Make the Stage a Home and Vice Versa".

Thursday, July 6, 2023

"The Dirty Stories of Jean Eustache" at SIFF Cinema: Jul 14 - 23

In an atypical move, SIFF Cinema have adopted the totality of the retrospective of "Jean Eustache: A Rarely Seen French Director", from the premiere of the Janus Films series run at New York's Lincoln Center. As the Film Society at Lincoln Center put it; "Few filmmakers have captured the sheer sorrow and humor of being alive in a time and place more majestically than Jean Eustache. A fellow traveler of Cahiers du Cinéma in the late 1950s, Eustache was a satellite figure of the ascendant Nouvelle Vague while it was revolutionizing the aesthetics and aesthetic politics of narrative cinema. But he emerged in the second half of the 1960s as a singularly formidable filmmaker in his own right, directing several fiction films and documentaries before producing one of French cinema’s all-time masterpieces, the titanic and epochal "The Mother and the Whore". This film is considered the centerpiece of any Jean Eustache retrospective, “It’s a historical marker in a way that few other films are,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader; “not only the nail in the coffin of the French New Wave and one of the strongest statements about the aftermath of the failed French revolution of May 1968, but also a definitive expression of the closing in of Western culture after the end of the era generally known as the ’60s.” At the time of the release of this new restoration by Les films du Losange, Richard Brody wrote for The New Yorker, "'The Mother and the Whore', Newly Restored, Still Overwhelming". In which he states; "It’s overwhelming in its length and in its emotional intensity. It’s a self-consuming masterwork that seems to burn itself up as it passes through the projector. It’s a film of rage and self-punishment, of arrogance and humiliation and, ultimately, of ferocious irony about pleasure and power, desire and submission. What’s original in its style is the sheer profusion of dialogue, which exceeds in quantity, density, and tone even the talk in contemporaneous films by Éric Rohmer."

Richard Brody continues by saying; "Where Rohmer’s cinematic language is dialectical, Eustache’s is torrential. The characters in “The Mother and the Whore” don’t so much talk with each other or even at each other as bare their souls verbally and pour out confessions in soliloquies - especially the movie’s protagonist, Alexandre, as played by Jean-Pierre Léaud." In this "Threesome and Then Some", as it was put by The New York Times, Léaud's Alexandre is a creature of impulses and monstrous in his insistence. Adopting and discarding attitudes, he is given to absurd, self-hypnotizing rants that fascinate Veronika, charm Marie, and repulse the viewer. He conceives himself as a dandy who reads Proust and listens to Édith Piaf, and his obsession with the past, mainly the aborted revolution of 1968, is the focus of his delusions. Yet, as established by Roger Ebert in his 1999 review; "The first time I saw "The Mother and the Whore," I thought it was about Alexandre. After a viewing of the newly restored print being released for the movie's 25th anniversary, I think it is just as much about the women, and about the way that women can let a man talk endlessly about himself while they regard him like a specimen of aberrant behavior. The film made an enormous impact when it was released. It still works a quarter-century later because it was so focused on its subjects, and lacking in pretension. It is rigorously observant, the portrait of an immature man and two women who humor him for a while, paying the price that entails". Here in this series, framing the above masterwork SIFF presents the totality of , "The Dirty Stories of Jean Eustache", which features the titular "A Dirty Story", alongside, "Robinson’s Place", "Le Cochon", "Numéro Zéro", "The Virgin of Pessac", Eustache's own remake "The Virgin of Pessac '79", and "My Little Loves". The latter, on which The New Yorker's Richard Brody weighed in again, offers a summation of the series as a whole; “In Eustache’s loamy, holistic vision, the events are shaped less by the demands of drama than by the meanderings of consciousness itself."

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Seattle Art Fair at Lumen Field Event Center: Jul 27 - 30 | Jónsi "FLÓÐ" at The National Nordic Museum: Mar 17 - Jul 30

After a two year hiatus, Seattle Art Fair returned in the summer of 2022, with a new artistic director under the aegis of Art Market Productions who announced that they would continue as sole owner and producer. This was due to the passing of Paul Allen in 2018, wherein the future of Allen's founding of numerous cultural and arts institutions, and significant philanthropic contribution to the city, were made uncertain. By 2020, it was established that Allen's Vulcan corporation would no longer be investing in their cultural branch, with the explicit message sent by the shuttering of their arts and entertainment division, and the layoff of all related staff. This would of course translate as "Vulcan Closes its Arts + Entertainment Division, which Includes Cinerama and Seattle Art Fair". Producing a cascade of concerns related to arts funding and the venues under Vulcan's purview. Most significantly, the question of the  Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters in the world still capable of showing three-panel Cinerama films, project 70mm celluloid, and present digital ultra-high resolution films in Dolby Atmos Sound. This threat to the longevity of the almost one-of-a-kind venue was only resolved this past May with the announcement in the Seattle Times that, “SIFF Buys Cinerama, Plans Reopening", through a deal with the Paul G. Allen estate, reopening of the cinema is scheduled as soon as this fall. In the case of Seattle Art Fair, it is now wholly run by Art Market Productions, after the inaugural success of its four year run under Vulcan Arts + Entertainment. On the eve of the fair's 2015 launch, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers with an emphasis on the Pacific Rim.

The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and ArtNews "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry. All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture.

As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" on the occasion of the fair's second year. Continuing the trend of atypical and non-traditional gallery works, the fourth annual Art Fair presented Mark Pauline the founder of Survival Research Laboratories, joining influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, notably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?". The cultural and economic landscape that Pauline operates in now is quite different than that of the early 1980s, presenting a new set of challenges to his performative art. So there's logic at work in that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of its presentation. As Wired said, "artistic respectability doesn’t so much beckon as envelop", in response to The New York Times' "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery". The 2018 installment also saw artistic director, Laura Fried, succeeded by Nato Thompson. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, for the 2019 edition which featured works and talks by the Center for PostNatural History, largescale video artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, architecture and installation creators, Bigert & Bergström, and choreographer Morgan Thorson. For Seattle Art Fair's seventh installment, artistic director Nato Thompson returns, with this year's edition looking to present a series of specific works by Lauren Bon, Jeffrey Gibson, Eunsun Choi, Sasha Stiles, Marita Dingus, Sharita Towne, Tariqa Waters, Catalina Ouyang, Fox Whitney, and a installation by Dinos Chapman, a prominent artist from the Young British Artists movement. As a duo with his brother Jake Chapman, Dinos work has been characterized by Wired as, "What if Satan and Hitler Opened a MacDonald's in Hell?". The final weekend in July, "Seattle Art Fair Pushes the Boundaries of Artistic Expression", with a voluminous body of galleries, more than 70 in total, along with on-and-off site discussions, projects and and open studio events. Elsewhere in the city on the weekend of Art Fair, there are six major satellite events to take in representing regional work, including the return of the Forest For the Trees exhibition. And across town, the National Nordic Museum hosts the immersive audiovisual installation space "FLÓÐ" by Sigur Rós member, Jón Þór Birgisson through the end of the month. Photo credit Pinault Collection.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Godflesh "Purge" & US Tour: Jun 18 - Jul 2

This month the new album, "Purge" arrives with an accompanying tour from one of the all-time defining industrial and hardcore acts of the 1990's, Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green's Godflesh. The duo reformed in 2013 to play some of the most punishing, loud, assaulting music ever created by man and machine. While this may sound like the typical hyperbole of music press in response to anything on the heavy end of the spectrum, their (then final) US tour for the 1996 "Songs of Love and Hate" album established them as a band of very few equals in this realm. That release made its way onto albums of the year lists for magazines as disparate as Terrorizer and The Wire, and its companion " Dub", was a convergence of the purity of metal assault of earlier Godflesh with a growing fascination with the weighty rhythms and hooks of dub reggae and hip hop. The latter coming to explicitly inform Justin Broadrick's splinter project with The Bug's Kevin Martin through the late 1990s and early 2000s as Techno Animal. These varied convergences of dub, electronic music, industrial, shoegaze, hardcore and metal have been channeled into Broadrick's ceaseless musical reinvention in solo and splinter projects in the last decade. Resulting in the trio of Zonal, his solo industrial techno JK Flesh project, Pale Sketcher's sublime ambience, and Jesu's spacious drone rock. As an entry point into his multifaceted pursuit of sound, Broadrick's meeting with Pelican's Trevor de Brauw in 2013, to discuss Jesu's , "Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came" acts as an exploration of the past, present and future of the Godflesh guitarist, "When Pelican Met Jesu". Broadrick has been outspoken and generous in recent years, offering insightful interviews on art, life, parenthood and hardship, "Quite Annihilating: A Chat with Justin Broadrick of Godflesh", for The Quietus, "Extreme Language: An Interview with Justin K. Broadrick", and "Songs of The Flesh: The Strange World of... Justin Broadrick", as well as talking with Bandcamp, "As JK Flesh, Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick Finds Peace in Solitude and Techno". Absorbing all of the varied explorations of the decade before, the new sound of Broadrick and G.C. Green is one which encompasses their breadth but also reasserts the weight of Godflesh's singular sonic impression. This sound can be heard on a set of albums beginning with "A World Lit Only by Fire", and "Post Self", as well as the two anthologies, "Long Live the New Flesh", and its companion, "New Flesh in Dub". Their newest arrives on the eve of "Godflesh Announces North American Tour" beginning in the Southwest at Austin's Oblivion Access Festival, and then continuing on to the west coast with a date at Seattle's El Corazon.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Criterion Channel Presents 25 Film Method Acting Showcase: Jun 1 | "Don’t Censor Racism Out of the Past" | The Atlantic

In his piece for The Atlantic, Thomas Chatterton Williams professor of humanities at Bard College author of "Self-Portrait in Black and White", and "Nothing Was the Same: The Pandemic Summer of George Floyd" speaks to the inherent dangers in altering our perception of the past, as it is represented in fiction. Specifically in reference to the depiction of racist stances and language, and the negation of social and historical realities in an attempt to engender the artistic work to contemporary attitudes, a kind of condescension is engineered. From his article, "Don’t Censor Racism Out of the Past" in which Williams states; "James Baldwin famously argued that “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Axiomatically, a history of racism that is not preserved cannot be faced. The people and institutions who attempt to wash away all past ugliness are condescending to audiences, and the audiences who accept these erasures are self-infantilizing. In the most extreme instance, we all grasp why Holocaust denialism, what the French call négationnisme, is morally reprehensible. Society is duty-bound to remember certain ideas and experiences, attitudes and perversions. Such negationism is obviously insidious because it ignores hatred in order to preserve it. But what we might call “positive negationism” is nearly as disturbing." In the article, he further reflects; "We cannot accurately gauge how far we’ve progressed as a culture since 1845 or 1971, or even the beginning of the 21st century, when epithets against minorities disappeared from common utterance, without an honest record of that cultural progress. Creative expression of any quality, which is to say efforts that go beyond the merely propagandistic or ideologically motivated, must perform several important functions that are not reducible to advocacy - even and perhaps especially when it comes to groups that have been mistreated."

"Setting aside the idea that intellectuals and artists ought to be free to state even ugly and mistaken sentiments, it is downright odd to presume that any idea conveyed within a work of art benefits from its endorsement. The cliché exists for a reason: Art holds up a mirror to society, one that does not and ought not merely reflect back its most flattering aspects. Through honest engagement with impure reality, we can perceive and also confront our deepest failings." William Friedkin, the director of "The French Connection" was certainly aware that he had cast Gene Hackman to portray an unsavory character from “grungy, pre-gentrification New York City,” as NBC described the era in a 2021 article. Friedkin told NBC that rewatching the film on its 50th anniversary had transported him back to that challenging moment. “I lived for a long time in New York,” he said. “About six months before I made the film, I rode around with the two cops (who inspired it), one in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the other in Harlem. It was devastating … The film reminds me of the different nature of New York back then. Nothing about the city was embellished in the film.” For The New York Times, Niela Orr writes, "What's Lost When Censors Tamper with Classic Films" and in the pages of The Independent, the writers and actors of the film also weighed in on the subject, and the Walt Disney Corporation's presumptions about audience and perception, when they chose to edit and censor the film in question as featured in this month's Method Acting showcase on The Criterion Channel. Writer Sam Adams remarked; “The uncensored "French Connection" should be the only one in circulation, whether on TV or in theaters. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Friedkin knew exactly what having his detective protagonist use it said about him.” Film curator Alexander Woell pointed out that Scheider “specifically said the scene resonated with audiences at the time”, adding: “Cultural context is an important part of media literacy. Historical revisionism is not the answer.” The film's lead actor Roy Scheider recalled that a Black audience in Harlem had expressed satisfaction when Hackman uttered the now-censored dialogue on the big screen. Finally, a reality they knew to exist was being acknowledged, a bittersweet confirmation of a painful experience. Today, the patronizing assumption we make to our detriment is that they wouldn’t be able to handle it."