Archive for April, 2016


Thursday, April 14th, 2016

When I moved to NY in 1999 I was doing mostly art with photocopying text. As such I didn’t have much of a studio practice, so to pass the time I would write short stories, essays and prose poems. A few of these started working their way into my art. In my recent show, Time Stopped, Time Started, I presented a painting upon which was attached a series of drawings done in the early 2000s that came from one of these texts. The story was called The War pt.2. I recently looked through my digital archives of these early writings and found The War pt.1 and The War pt.3.

The War pt.1

We were shuddering, shoulder to shoulder, and shouting out at them. We were drunk on plum wine and all that had happened these past two years was finally coming out. All that we were commanded to repress, unconsciously or not, was surfacing. That is one of the few things drink is good for, and we were partaking in its glorious function. It was smuggled in by someone and we should not of been drinking it at that particular time, considering what kind of a situation we were in, and where we were at. It was complete grounds for dismissal. Not that they would of done something like that– they needed us. They needed us more then we needed them that is for sure.

Suddenly the earth shook. And my hat boggled on top of me head. It’s metal lip covering my eyes for a second, bouncing up and down like a go-go dancer, like a video of some stripper, dunk dunk dunk. My hand unconsciously went to the crown of my forehead, and my arm wrapped around my rifle. We got up and started running down the trenches, to the command-post-out. Dirt was flying everywhere, sideways like they had invented some new gun to use against us. Foundation deep somehow.

Clunk our feet went, he was leading our way and I had my hand on his back as not to lose him. The air was suddenly thick with green smoke, and hardly could I see a thing at all. We heard shouts of liberty, but it wasn’t us. It echoed almost louder then the bombing shells, and we couldn’t figure it out, waving our hands in the air.

I shot out when we paused. Something had hit something and our trench was no longer going anywhere. It just stopped. It was quite abrupt and we wondered if they had built a new gun that redirects our trenches to confuse us and get us lost. If so they were way smarter then we. Out of the trenches, into the trenches, forward forward. That last night I was with.

Click image to view larger

The War pt.3

There were three of us this morning. There were two of us this evening. I took my gun and vanished. I was sent to the forward front. I’d spent years behind the lines. I was in school. I was from the school. We had books and papers and we learned by fire light at midnight. And we thought that we must go on. We bridged frontiers of acceptance, and of kinderedness. And the rains did come. And pour on the cement floor. It came down in sheets. And I remembered hearing that before, ‘coming down in sheets’ and now I was seeing it, and now I was saying it. There was dirt on the ground it muddied quite quick and thick. The wind, the wind was blowing. I was talking with a partner and showing off for everyone, “Nancy was here before and she said to take what she can and why not ask for more.” I was going on and on. An alarm claxon went off, we were startled, and we threw our helmets on and headed out. We knew the line to the front like the lines on our hands. We were turned into legacies. A bomb went off and we turned into dust. We fizzled. We clutched our ears and clenched our eyes. The bomb went off far enough away that we weren’t hit with any shrapnel or debris but the sound was deafening. I heard a vague whistle and looked over, it was the sergeant and he was motioning us on, yelling, and his mustache zipping all over. I felt like I was underwater, I couldn’t hear a thing, shots went off like small pops. Like popcorn. I nodded vaguely, still in shock from the bombing. It seemed like the sky was still lit up, orange and pink and sometimes blue. We ran forward and body parts lay upon the ground. It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen. Arms and legs and just mashed bloodied pulps. Men where kneeling down and taking razor blades to their arms, just cutting themselves clean. The blades slipped into muscle, through skin and nerves, and trickles of blood leaked out. One man took the blade to his eyeball, and clear liquid spewed out. I was almost vomiting and still I couldn’t hear, and still I felt like I was underwater.

“Why are they doing this?” I shouted.

Not to anyone in particular, and I am not sure who I meant by ‘they’. And I am not sure what ‘this’ was either; was I doing ‘this’? It was ghastly and ugly and bastardly. I took to the air. I hadn’t even fired a single shot and I turned and ran. But then I realized not where I was going to wasn’t really there. I was confused and sick. I looked around for my companions but they were lost in the fog. I saw silhouettes, the skies were still afire, but they all had the same hunched back and round head and stinking smell.

Suddenly Shots rang out full speed. In all the confusion I hadn’t noticed that no one had been really firing, but now after the bomb had blown the enemy had repositioned themselves for a frontal assault. We were caught completely off guard. I heard shouting uncontrollably. I was relieved when, upon mumbling to myself ‘at least it isn’t me’, that I realized, at least, it wasn’t.

I had my canteen and opened it up. I had a nice three-quarter of opium spirits and downed it. We all drank it then, someone came over, then another. We sat hunched together, our backs to the fire. Our opium turned into the water and someone joked about Jesus, someone else said, “no, that’s wine” we laughed. The smoke was clearing out and we realized that we were close to the base, and there was our Sargent motioning us back. We went, all too happily, and he was warm and concerned. It the most sincere voice I’m sure he could muster he said, “everything’s fucked, the transport ships are located back, (he motioned with his thumb, very military like) get out there.”

Later when we were on the ship he began to play the clarinet and he was awful. There was a boy with a guitar, and this girl that would kind of hum/moan to his melody, but the sarge shut them up with a smack and a “what? I saved you and this is what I get?” Then ran through his scales and we were to applaud. It was unbearable.

Suprisingly enough we got all our men onto the ship before it took off and we had suffered few casualties. Our spirits were high and we were going to another line.

Richard Aldrich was born in 1975 in Hampton, Virginia, but grew up outside of Dayton, Ohio. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


Thursday, April 14th, 2016

— I have a terrible memory for names, and often faces too. It seems that my brain memorizes someone I come into contact with through something other than their physical makeup. What my brain does remember often has very little to do with the person but more with the entire scene in which I am interacting with that person. So the color of the wall behind someone I meet for the first time might become the color of their eyes, a high ceiling could come to stand in for tallness. I’m exaggerating, but something close to this–I believe–is happening in my brain. I have likened people who look nothing alike, had a name burned into my memory for someone who is called something else, and then with others, the name is solid, fixed in place correctly, never to be lost again, and it has nothing to do with the nature of the relationship I have to that person. I have once forgotten my own family name for at least one minute.

I am fixated on what I do remember. How an instance that is conjured is slipping away the moment that instance has passed with something else materializing in its place. Ever since I can remember, any memory I have lingered on that has come to replace an event grows more and more distant from the original event that it no longer even bares a resemblance to it. What is replaced is sometimes dull, others times red, milky, pulsing, bright, black and white or slow with all kinds of smells and surfaces, and from time to time I have the ability to observe an emotion as pure action.

Sitting across from someone I was having a conversation with at a bar recently, it occurred to me that I was day-dreaming. That I had taken a nose dive into a memory that had been triggered subconsciously and was swimming deep in it’s oceans but I could neither remember the faces that belonged to any of the people in my hallucination in a space that was meant to be the outdoors but felt like a vacuum with the air still, the sky flat, the roads unpaved, the sounds distant. It was neither urban nor rural, and when I emerged above water in what must have been under 10 seconds, I picked up the conversation to casually drop on the table that perhaps no conversation was ever a direct exchange but that each participant was in their own world.

The four videos below are four of my memories.

Basma Alsharif is an artist and filmmaker of Palestinian origin. She was born in Kuwait, raised between France and the United States, and is currently based in Los Angeles. Basma’s work centers on the human condition in relation to shifting geopolitical landscapes, natural environments and history. She works in cinema, photography and installation. Major exhibitions include: les Module at the Palais de Tokyo, Here and Elsewhere at the New Museum, the Jerusalem Show, Yamagata Documentary Film Festival, the Berlinale, the Sharjah Biennial, Videobrasil, and Manifesta 8. She received a jury prize at the Sharjah Biennial 9, the Marion MacMahon award at Images, and received the Marcelino Botin Visual Arts grant. Basma is represented by Galerie Imane Farés in Paris, distributed by Video Data Bank and Arsenal.


Thursday, April 14th, 2016

I’ve been clearing up my study, a ritual activity conducted when I’ve finished a book and begin to feel like I might start on another. One of the best things I found was a crop of handmade books and zines made by my friends.

Lili lives in Devon now but right through our twenties we were inseparable. We grew up together, she was my partner in crime. When I think about her now I think about that line in Michelle Shocked’s song Anchorage: Hey Shel, we was wild then. She grew up on a remote farm in Wales, it was part of her myth that her family were practically bandits and ruled the valley. This is a book she made for me, with her drawings. One of the photographs is of her in an incubator, and the other is of the calves in the barn at Llanant being fed.

The first time I met Sherri was in Boston a few years back. I went to a friend’s for dinner, and there she was, sitting on the couch. We could have talked about pretty much anything: one of the things I most love about our friendship is the sense of a hopscotching conversation, resumed whenever we’re both in the same country at the same time. We once met at the Met to see a performance and just stood on the steps for hours talking about the ins and outs of designing the 9/11 museum, a project she had a hand in. You can see part of what’s so exciting about her in this zine, which documents driving around Deming, New Mexico with Johnny Dark, a counter-culture photographer who was best friends with Sam Shepard. She’s so curious and focused and meticulous and patient. I love these pictures.

Sarah is my cousin, and we often collaborate. I’m in love with one of her cats, so I go round for dinner every Thursday and try to woo him. She’s a filmmaker, but she also makes fantastic handmade books. The Dictionary of Lost Languages is an A to Z of languages that have been eradicated, but it’s also about resurgence and resistance and is weirdly joyful. And Mars is a book about violence and images and the relationships between them. It includes some of our grandfather’s photographs, taken during the Second World War in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon. It’s nice, working with someone who comes from the same place as you. It saves having to explain.

This is another one-off, made by my friend Tony. He’d just spent a winter in Estonia, making films, and was experimenting with these books with pages dipped in wax. He mostly works in prisons now, but his own stuff is so beautiful. There was one film in an abandoned building where he made the shape of a bird on the floor out of tiny pieces of coal. He filmed it being broken up, by a hair dryer or something, and then played it in reverse. This black bird, assembling out of nothing.

Olivia Laing is the author of TO THE RIVER, THE TRIP TO ECHO SPRING and THE LONELY CITY. She’s currently working on EVERYBODY, a book about embodiment in the 21st century.


Thursday, April 14th, 2016

— I shot this footage on one of my Super 8mm cameras when I was visiting a friend at the beach a few summers ago. More than anything it’s a document of motion and repeating form—something I return to often, particularly in music… the sound component came about earlier this year after I dug up the film and got it processed. I multi-tracked some guitars until a pattern began to emerge from the repetition… not a raga, but a monotonic system all the same… The tools aren’t so important; an Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer for the drone and a Color Sound Fuzz Wah for the majority of the guitar sound, with an old Memory Man echo and a cheap tremolo thrown in for good measure… The amp was 60s Silvertone, I don’t recall which guitar I used. A lot of the edits were done in-camera, but it’s not entirely ‘as is.’ I reversed some of the sound and picture, and added some more flicker to create a repetitive visual stimulus.

R.I.P to Tony Conrad, who passed away last week (April 9, 2016)—an inspiration in approach and spirit.

Ocean waves
Super 8mm film (2011)

Sound waves
Guitar improvisation & drone loop (2016)

Tres Warren was born in Texas in 1978 and has lived in New York for the past 15 years. He is a songwriter, guitarist and filmmaker and has been involved in a variety of musical collaborations most notably his band Psychic Ills.


Thursday, April 14th, 2016

20 East 65th Street, July 5, 1998

“The more arduous and the more complicated it got, the more desperate we became, and the more morbid-minded we became. We wanted to kill her.”
— Kenneth Kimes

When Irene Silverman rented the ground floor apartment of her 65th Street townhouse to a man purporting to be Palm Beach businessman Manny Guerrin, she had owned and lived the building for nearly 50 years. Although she was initially hesitant to accept the stranger as a tenant without a thorough check of references, Silverman acquiesced when Guerrin was able to immediately produce the first month’s rent ($6,000) in cash. Silverman would become increasingly suspicious over the next four weeks; her boarder would not allow cleaning staff access to his rooms, he was evasive, his footprints were repeatedly found outside of her office doors and bedroom, household staff had caught him spying on Silverman’s private phone calls, an unusual middle-aged woman regularly visited him wearing a variety of bizarre disguises. Silverman disappeared on July 5, 1998, the day before mother and son duo Sante and Kenneth Kimes were caught with a bag that contained falsified identification cards for Manny Guerrin, Silverman’s house keys, passport, checkbook and pay stubs, a red wig, power of attorney forms and a notarized deed with Silverman’s forged signature transferring ownership of the property to the Kimeses. Though Silverman’s body has never been found, in 2000 the Kimeses were found guilty of her murder as well as those of David Kazdin and Sayed Bilal Ahmed.

34 East 62nd Street, July 10, 2006

“You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to rubbish digger. You always wanted me to sell the house. I always told you ‘I will leave the house only if I am dead.’ You ridiculed me. You should have taken it seriously.”
— Nicolas Bartha in an emailed suicide letter to his ex-wife

The building at 34 East 62nd Street had a storied history; it had been one of the first townhouses constructed on the Upper East Side in 1862, a Neo-Grecian jewel box that had been used as a war room for FDR in the 1940s. Nicholas and Cordula Bartha had purchased the house in 1980 after decades of scrimping and saving, but from the outset, life inside was far from ideal. Nicholas was cruel and controlling, a workaholic who frequently referred to his wife and daughters as whores, decorated the inside of the home with images of swastikas and hoarded newspaper clippings about pedophilia and abortion. When Cordula finally filed for divorce in 2001, the house became the object of a vitriolic and protracted legal battle that would rage for nearly five years. In 2006, a judge initiated the eviction of Bartha and ruled that the property be sold with all subsequent proceeds split evenly between both parties. Bartha had made repeated reference to the fact that he would vacate the home only in the event of his death, and on July 10, 2006, he opened the gas throughout the house, lit a match, and razed the property to the ground with himself inside. Though Bartha survived the initial blast, he died six days later of his injuries.

Dorrian’s Red Hand, 300 East 84th Street, August 26, 1986

“Use these with someone else, because you’re not going to get the chance to use them with me!”
— Robert Chamber’s unidentified 16 year old girlfriend upon throwing a bag of unused condoms at him on the night of Jennifer Levin’s murder.

Robert Chambers was 19 years old in the summer of 1986. Addicted to both cocaine and alcohol, the former alter boy had fallen far from the life that his working-class mother had tried to construct for him. He had never been able to align himself with the privilege that surrounded his classmates at the various prep schools that he attended via scholarship at her behest, and he had been failing in more and more profound ways. He’d been arrested for stealing, he’d been sent to rehab, he’d been thrown out of Boston University and fired from his job. On August 26th at Dorrian’s Red Hand, Jennifer Levin watched as Chambers’ underage girlfriend broke up with him at the bar. Levin and he had been intimate before, and she immediately took the opportunity to tell him that it had been the best sex of her life. They sat and drank until 4:30 the next morning, eventually leaving together and making their way to Central Park via the 86th Street entrance adjacent to the Met. Several joggers had seen the couple having sex in the grass- one remembered hearing a woman yelping in pain and had stopped, some distance away, and asked if everything was alright. “We’re fine,” Chambers yelled to him. At 6:15 am, Levin’s body was found. She’d been strangled and was lying naked in the grass; Chambers was observed standing at the stone wall by the museum watching the police attend to her body. Though he would subsequently claim that the scratches evident on his face and body had come from a cat, he would eventually make a partial confession, claiming that the two had been engaged in rough sex gone terribly awry.

424 Hudson Street, September 28th, 2006

“It looked like he had a bad night, I can tell you that.”
— Passerby Ralph Costanza

It was close enough to Halloween that witnesses had walked past the body attached to a wrought iron fence outside of 424 Hudson Street for several hours before anyone thought that something might be amiss. Dressed in chaps, a leather vest, spiked leather gloves and a hood, the figure appeared to be an early decoration, a life-sized spooky prop attached to the fence by a dog collar at the neck. Was it murder? Was it an accident? I’m not sure- the news stories dried up relatively quickly. I have never even been able to learn his name.

700 Avenue C, August 19, 1989

“Is it soup yet?”
— Phrase scrawled on the apartment door of Daniel Rakowitz, The Butcher of Tompkins Square

In 1989, drastic cuts to social welfare programs in New York triggered an economic crisis that left a huge swath of the low-income population on the brink of total disaster. With unemployment skyrocketing and a conscious lack of state intervention, the city had an estimated 80,000 residents that were without both homes and recourse. Daniel Rakowitz was small time drug dealer and self-proclaimed devil worshipper who had become a well-known figure to many people in Tompkins Square’s Tent City, an improvised community of homeless New Yorkers who took up residence in the park. In August of 1989, Rakowitz began bragging to Tent City inhabitants that he had murdered and cannibalized his roommate, Monica Beele, a 26 year old Swiss woman who had been a student at the Martha Graham School of Dance and a performer at Billy’s Topless on 24th Street and 7th Avenue. Though his claims were initially dismissed as fantasy, a tip-off eventually led police to a locker at Port Authority Terminal, where Beele’s bleached skull was recovered. Several witnesses would subsequently claim that Rakowitz had served soup in the park, playfully claiming that it contained Beele’s brain.

Crime enthusiast and writer Alissa Bennett was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1980. She is the author of DEAD IS BETTER, a twice-yearly zine dedicated to celebrity death, criminal behavior, and the American television program Intervention. Bennett lives and works in Brooklyn.