Archive for September, 2014


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014


— Some years ago, anticipating my mother’s fiftieth birthday, I decided to track down a film she had been in, and which she had never seen. She remembered one detail: she had worn her own clothes, a long skirt with flowers.

We had always kept a few black and white stills from the shoot, on which was inscribed, in white capitals letters “MIGRATION, A FILM BY AHMED RACHEDI.” My mother said she was the lead actress.

No other physical evidence — but a few clues from memory:

My mother spent her entire salary from the film on a trip to Lisbon, with some Situationists, to be present for the Carnation Revolution. So the film was shot in 1974.

Her scenes were shot in Paris, one around an elevated Metro station, and the other in a police station. (In the film as she recalled it, an Algerian immigrant arrives in Paris, meets a young Moroccan women—her role—on the Metro, and they get into a fight with a racist gang. While they were filming the fight, my mother left real scratches on the faces of the racists.)

The film must have been completed and released, since Scherazade (a sister of her sister-in-law) had recognized my mother one night while watching Algerian TV.

1994. The 50th birthday is coming fast. I find the director in the Paris telephone directory, and go to his office on the Champs-Élysées. He doesn’t remember my mother. Not very expansive, he informs me that he has no copies of the film, not even a VHS tape. The only way to see it would be for the film lab to strike a new new 35mm print. He hands me his business card, assuring me that will suffice as authorization for the lab.

At the lab, bad news: a print would cost thousands of francs, the equivalent of several month’s rent. All I wanted was a VHS tape. What would I do with a film print anyway? I had to abandon the project, and the surprise gift for my mom.

A few years ago. I am looking around IMDB and MIGRATION is not in Rachedi’s filmography. In 1974, nothing. In 1973, A FINGER IN THE GEARS, a political documentary on migrant workers; in 1978, ALI IN WONDERLAND. Was it a TV movie? An oversight? Maybe the title had been changed?

Or was the entire story one of the “family myths” I had learned to appreciate and take with a grain of salt. If so, my mother is probably in the film for 10 seconds — although she remembers spending days, weeks working on. My dad, an equally unreliable narrator in family memories, says it was a rape scene in the subway. What to believe?

Today, I am finally in a position to get to the bottom of it: I’m the founding director of the Tangier Cinematheque, North Africa’s first cinema cultural center, and one day soon, I’ll convince my colleagues to put on a retrospective of the films of Ahmed Rachedi. On my mother’s birthday.

Yto Barrada was born in Paris in 1971 and grew up in Tangier, Morocco. Her work engages with the peculiar situation of her hometown Tangier. Exhibitions of her work have been shown at the Tate Modern (London); the Renaissance Society (Chicago); Witte de With (Rotterdam); Haus der Kunst (Munich); MoMA (New York); the Centre Pompidou (Paris); the 2007 and 2011 Venice Biennale; Whitechapel Gallery (London), and the New Museum (New York). Barrada is the founding director of Cinémathèque de Tanger. In 2011 she was the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year, and is presently a recipient of the 2013-2014 Harvard University Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography. Her first comprehensive monograph was published by JRP Ringier in 2013.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014



The song was on my walkman; it was nighttime and everything was quiet and dark in the house. My father bought the soundtrack to ‘Say Anything’ and I stole it from his car. I lay on my side on the landing above the stairs. The first beats did not sound like a good song. I hated drum machines. The first line, ‘I could live without so much/I can die without a thing/sun keeps rising in the West/ I keep on waiting for a curfew.’ I thought it was, ‘I keep on waiting/but I’m confused.’ I understood that feeling, ambiguous, poised, some kind of unknown you wait for. ‘Live without your touch/die within your reach.’

I do not know who I could have imagined into that image. The sweeping arpeggio, the strange circular sounding guitars; ‘Live without your touch/die within your reach.’ Who was I thinking of? Leo, the overgrown looking 7th grader who wore sweats everyday, had a big nose, freckles and got in trouble a lot? Did some nascent pant already desire the bumping hang of 7th grade manhood doongling there below grey sweat shorts? Did I imagine the hairy school newspaper editor who first played me Danzig? Were these the boys for whom it would have been enough to simply die near them? I remember some feeling of knotted anticipation for something without a name that lay out there, knowing even then it was not Leo or the editor, or not just them anyway. A part of me knowing it was enough to die within the reach of that, as pedestrian as it sounds to me now. Alleyway typical teen. If I am honest: the only thing that keeps me going now (call it pathetic, adolescent, solipsistic, sophomoric, dingleberry-ish or what have you) is the same deal. The unknown thing out there, the best it can be, and whatever that is.

I was 11, my mother must have been at work. She worked night shifts at grocery stores, security companies, convalescent homes, miserable night shifts. I know this because I lay between our two rooms on the wooden landing of the stairs. I would not have done this if she had been home. Fur and piles of the tiny grey rocks of cat litter collected in the corners of the hall. A rope of vacuum tubing lay coiled by the built-in wall vacuum that trailed to some catch-all. We had lived in this house for 4 years, and I had vacuumed against 8 cats and two dogs and had never heard or seen a trap a catch-all being emptied. I just lived with the idea that somewhere in the house was an awful container filled to overflowing, with the years of fur and litter and detritus. Perhaps it just sucked the dust and tangle out into the yard. The socket used to disgust me. One of my daily chores was to vacuum the stairs and the stairwell. Directly at the base of the stairs was the only litter box in the house. The gas of Murphy’s Oil Soap and feline urine, the crumbed nebulas of fur and sand: everyone has chores, but this was my chore of piteous union, my chore of extreme unction.

I think about it with a sense of giddy triumph that I will never have to see that or do that ever, ever again. I have no Dylan Thomas fondness for the golden afternoons of childhood. Each day after the 8 cats would ‘do their business’ and make their way up and down those wooden stairs, a fresh cloud of fur and sand would settle there and I would begin again: a Sisyphus with stairs instead of a hill, instead of one giant rock, endless, cyclical shards of cat sand and shit. On my knees working each step at once checking corners, desiring to explode and explode the stairs and the house. Rolling minor tumbleweeds of non-specific feline origin: if I didn’t catch it with the vacuum tubing, they would collapse into greasy slicks of dark hair and oil soap and I would fetch them with tissue.

It didn’t bother me as much then, as it does in memory. ‘/Die within Your Reach/’. I have no pets.

Elisa Ambrogio is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and one third of Magik Markers. Her solo album, THE IMMORALIST, is out on Drag City on October 21st.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014


— While some might know me for my fixation on birds, I’ve also explored, from time to time, the world of insects. This started over 20 years ago while working in an old barn in the buggy woods of Upstate New York. In this new environment, my curing epoxy resin inadvertently acted as a giant glue trap for errant bugs and a number of my works were ruined by collisions with them. I eventually decided to embrace these new conditions by hauling my canvases outside into the night where I would aim bright lights at them in order to draw the insects to the work. When the cloud of bugs was at it’s peak, I would pour resin onto the surface of the work, where they would stick and die in random formations.

It was a collision between nature and technology and a kind of snapshot of the nighttime atmosphere. These “chance operatives” (Thank you, John Cage) formed the beginnings of pictures that I would deliberatively work on during the rest of the summer.

Shortly after my period of buggy, upstate summers, I was able to get an old house in Brooklyn that came with a feral backyard. For years I’ve been struggling to turn its gray, dead dirt into something resembling a garden and some of what I grow ends up in my artwork in the form of dried and pressed plant material. Gardening has taught me to appreciate the benefits of spiders, ladybugs, moths, butterflies, worms and fireflies. These creatures pollinate the flowers, aerate the soil, and eat pests. It may be a somewhat dysfunctional urban ecosystem, but I do the best I can, and it can be a great place to hang in the heat of the summer.

There is, however, a fly in this particular ointment, and it has come in the form of the invasive Asian Tiger Mosquito. These aggressive daytime biters first arrived in the US through a shipment of used tires into Houston in 1985. They then began to spread through the southeast, finally arriving in NYC in the late 90’s or so. They seem to love my body chemistry, swarming me mercilessly and delivering painful, super-swelling bites. They’ve turned gardening from an activity of pleasure into an activity of total Darwinian torment. Due to our new warmer winters and hotter, soggier summers, the conditions for mosquito proliferation have only increased year by year. I had to do something to fight back.

After considerable internet research, I eventually purchased a Sentinel Mosquito Trap from an entomological research supply company. This device, which looks a like a cross between an IKEA hamper and a Noguchi lamp, uses a chemical attractant that works mostly on mosquitoes and has a small fan which then sucks the hapless bloodsuckers into an escape-proof bag.

Every couple of days or so, I remove the bag of angry insects and place them in the freezer in order to kill them. I then dump the contents of the bag onto a paper towel and arrange the mosquitoes into a grid in order to count their corpses. I write the date and a body count on the paper towel and take a picture of the day’s total. The following photo’s are for the month of July, 2013. The 466 mosquitoes I killed that month are just a fraction of the thousands I continue to annihilate.

A lot of my artwork has been influenced by my non-art hobbies. Drugs, utopianism, music, literature, birding, sociology, and gardening are among the many interests that didn’t start out to be part of my work, but they got in there anyway. Counting my mosquito kills might be the first time a hobby has been influenced by my art or about the history of art. While this endeavor may share some of the impulses that led to my insect works of the 90’s, and it has a passing resemblance to the flat-footed procedures of 70’s conceptualism, I still consider it just a hobby. Funny thing is that my friend, Lawrence Weschler, has linked this daily activity to the daily quality of my ongoing NY Times Project. And he might be right. While I don’t make a NY Times work every day, it comes out of the daily ritual of reading the paper. If it’s a nice day, I might be reading the paper in my garden. When I’m finished, I usually stroll over and see what’s in the trap….

Fred Tomaselli was born in 1956, in Santa Monica. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2014) and the University of Michigan Museum of Art (2014); a survey exhibition at Aspen Art Museum (2009) that toured to Tang and Brooklyn Museums (2010); The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2004) toured to four venues in Europe and the US; Albright-Knox Gallery of Art (2003); Site Santa Fe (2001); Palm Beach ICA (2001), and Whitney Museum of American Art (1999). His works have been included in international biennial exhibitions including Sydney (2010); Prospect 1 (2008); Site Santa Fe (2004); Whitney (2004) and others. Tomaselli’s work can be found in the public collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art; the Brooklyn Museum; Albright Knox Gallery; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Regarding my occasional, and short, meetings with the master above masters, Karlheinz Stockhausen, in Cologne. I happened an adventure viz., he was making then Telemusik, preparing its performance in 1967. I came into the studio where he was working. There was a couple of engineers standing by him, dressed in suits and snow-white protective aprons. They were struggling with a problem. They were using a radio receiver and wanted to get signal out of short waves as a source to transform other sound, but did not want the sound coming out of the speaker, as it was disturbing the composer who couldn’t concentrate. I came in and he asked me: “Mr. Rudnik, maybe you could help?”.

The receiver was facing the wall and the back cover was removed. If I may say so, the group of engineers couldn’t cope with it. I had just bought myself a beautiful pair of pliers–a tool used to cut wires–and I just happened to have them on me. I approached the receiver and cut off two thin wires connected to the speaker. It simply resulted in turning off the speaker. It was a shock to all of them, none of the Germans would have ever come up to such idea. According to them, if something was once constructed it had to be deconstructed and not with the use of scissors.

After this performance, which I regard as a prefiguration of the Polish saying Polak potrafi (can-do Poles), or at least a performance fitting of the saying, first occurred in the 70s, Karlheinz Stockhausen then said, “Good then, you will work with me. We are going to Spain next week and I warn you that they have 60Hz in their power network.” He asked, “What is your family like?”–Well, like this and like that–“In that case please phone up Dr. Tomek (the chief of contemporary music), to find you an apartment here and you will work with me”.

Regarding didactics, I have been given the chance to teach at least four outstanding students, which was… the greatest total failure of my life. One female student, a university graduate, married a plumber, is a mother of four and lives in Paris. The second genius student did not get a pass in Russian language and was expelled as a result. The third one, a versatile musician, plays sax Tango Milonga in a motel in Wyszków, truth… and then there was one more absolutely talented woman. She now works in an accounting department. As far as I am concerned I have suffered from a sufficient number of failures and have therefore decided to save the world from one more type of failure.

Photos by Boleslaw Blaszczyk

Eugeniusz Rudnik was born in 1932, in Nadkole, Poland. He is a composer and pioneer of electronic and electroacoustic music. He was the first engineer of electroacoustic music in Poland, from 1955 associated with Polish Radio. Between 1967 and 1968 Rudnik worked in the Studio for Electronic Music of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne, where he cooperated with Włodzimierz Kotoński on implementation of Klangspiele. While in Cologne, Rudnik also worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Peter Kotik. As a composer he has created about 95 works, in electronic music studios in Warsaw, Stockholm, Cologne, Paris, Bourges, Baden-Baden, Brussels and Ghent.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2014





I was given a camera in Baghdad. My mother recorded many of the twelve exposures. She was behind the window in the black and white picture, framed along the side of our house, which was under construction at that time.
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I snapped pictures in every direction. I turned numerous, collecting synchronous realities in the months just before the Iran-Iraq war. Our rawest forms and feelings multiplied, pitting chaos theory against red army fractals. New totems arose in a desert province.
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I take a picture of a drone, detail of the new American imagination. Totems replace totems. Ours is an international landscape where bombs and book delivery services are indistinguishable. I’ve lived here all my life.
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Rheim Alkadhi was born in New York, in 1973. She grew up in Baghdad until 1980, and lived in the United States for the many decades leading up to a practice based variously in the Arab Region. She currently lives in Beirut. Recent projects include the commissioned digital work PICTURE CITY BODY for the New Museum’s New Art Online program; the object-based exhibition HERE IS MY LIFE WHICH I DEVOTE TO LEARNING ABOUT YOU at Darat al Funun in Amman; and the social intervention COLLECTIVE KNOTTING TOGETHER OF HAIRS in Palestine for the 2012 Jerusalem Show. Her work was also included in HERE AND ELSEWHERE, a major exhibition of contemporary art from and about the Arab world, at the New Museum.