٠ IT sounds like western music, therefore… ٠

M0013743 Hearing aid for constant use© Wellcome Library, Hearing aid for constant use. Two light cornets of imitation tortoiseshell joined by metal spring forming a head-band. Introduction of this form of instrument attributed to Napoleon’s surgeon D. J. Larrey (1776-1842).19th Century.

‘Authenticity’ is a matter of interpretation which is made and fought for from within a cultural and, thus, historicised position. It is ascribed, not inscribed. […] Thus, rather than ask what (piece of music, or activity) is being authenticated, in this article I ask who.

[…] In rock discourse, the term [‘authenticity’] has frequently been used to define a style of writing or performing, particularly anything associated with the practices of the singer/songwriter, where attributes of intimacy (just Joni Mitchell and her zither) and immediacy (in the sense of unmediated forms of sound production) tend to connote authenticity. It is used in a socio-economic sense, to refer to the social standing of the musician. It is used to determine the supposed reasons she has for working, whether her primary felt responsibility is to herself, her art, her public, or her bank balance. It is used to bestow integrity, or its lack, on a performer, such that an ‘authentic’ performer exhibits realism, lack of pretence, or the like. Note that these usages do not mutually exclude one another, nor do they necessarily coincide, and that all are applied from the outside.

[…] For Richard Middleton, any approach to music which aims to contextualise it as cultural expression must foreground discussion of ‘authenticity’, since ‘honesty (truth to cultural experience) becomes the validating criterion of musical value’ (Middleton 1990, p. 127). In rock discourse, this validating criterion is reinterpreted as ‘unmediated expression’, by which is assumed the possibility of the communication of emotional content (inherent possibly in the music itself, but certainly at least in the performance) untrammelled by the difficulties attendant on the encoding of meaning in verbal discourse (Moore 2001a, pp. 73-5; 1814).

M0013744 Speaking or conversation tube© Wellcome Library, Used by the very deaf to obviate the need for the close approach of the speaker if the trumpet type of hearing aid is used.19th Century.

[…] The expression I am discussing here is perceived to be authentic because it is unmediated – because the distance between its (mental) origin and its (physical) manifestation is wilfully compressed to nil by those with a motive for so perceiving it. This is thus one basic form of the authenticity primality argument put forward by Taylor (1997, pp. 26-8), wherein an expression is perceived to be authentic if it can be traced to an initiatory instance. This argument surfaces most clearly in academic folk discourse. For Philip Bohlman, identification of the ‘authentic’ requires ‘[the] consistent representation of the origins of a… style’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 10), such that ‘When the presence of the unauthentic [sic] exhibits imbalance with the authentic, pieces cease to be folk music, crossing the border into popular music instead’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 11). Thus, for Bohlman, authenticity is identified by a purity of practice, whereas for Grossberg, it is more clearly identified by an honesty to experience – a subtle distinction perhaps, but one which remains potent. Starting from a very different point, Steven Feld develops a similar line, arguing that ‘authenticity only emerges when it is counter to forces that are trying to screw it up, transform it, dominate it, mess with it . . .’ (Keil and Feld 1994, p. 296), equating authenticity to a concept of genuine culture dependent on the anthropology of Edward Sapir. Bohlman’s identification has found its way into rock discourse, in that proximity to origins entails unmediated contact with those origins: ‘Real instruments were seen to go along with real feelings in Springsteen’s rise: a certain sort of musical and artistic purity going hand in hand with a sincere message’ (Redhead 1990, p. 52). The constructed nature of this interpretation is clarified by comparison with Bob Dylan – in order to achieve the same result in his early work, the ‘real instruments’ he had to employ had not to be amplified, contra Springsteen.

Walser (1993) insists that this is one of two clear types of ‘authenticity’ that can be observed in rock in general, wherein technological mediation (whether a reliance on signal modifiers, ever more powerful means of amplification, and even technical mastery in many spheres) is equated with artifice, reinstating as authentic/inauthentic the distinction between ‘vernacular’ and ‘trained’ or ‘professional’. There is thus a relationship here with an alternative category developed by Taylor, which he terms authenticity of positionality (Taylor 1997, pp. 22-3). Through this, he identifies the authenticity acquired by performers who refuse to ‘sell out’ to commercial interests. Weller exemplifies this again, as do Taylor’s examples of non-Western musicians involved in ‘world music’ – for such musicians, ‘selling out’ appears to equate to ‘sounding like Western musicians’, i.e. by adopting the style codes of pop/rock (which codes, in such an analysis, would be seen as inherent within the individual rather than open to appropriation. (see Moore 2001b)

[…] What unites all these understandings of authenticity is their vector, the physical direction in which they lead. They all relate to an interpretation of the perceived expression of an individual on the part of an audience. Particular acts and sonic gestures (of various kinds) made by particular artists are interpreted by an engaged audience as investing authenticity in those acts and gestures – the audience becomes engaged not with the acts and gestures themselves, but directly with the originator of those acts and gestures. This results in the first pole of my perspective: authenticity of expression, or what I also term ‘first person authenticity’, arises when an originator (composer, performer) succeeds in conveying the impression that his/her utterance is one of integrity, that it represents an attempt to communicate in an unmediated form with an audience.

excerpt from MOORE, A. (2002) Authenticity as Authentication. Popular Music, Vol.21, No.2, pp.209-223.

٠ Locating the (in)authenticities in country music ٠

37574-303r_288_Dolly_Parton© Henry Horenstein, Dolly Parton, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-513rBWneg_11© Henry Horenstein, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Nashville, TN, 1974. Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-519rBWneg_Conway_6_adj© Henry Horenstein, Conway Twitty, Annapolis, MD, 1975S, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

Describing country music as a storyteller’s art is no mere attempt to give it an intellectual Benjaminian chic. Its self-conception as “a storyteller’s medium,” widely recognized by scholars, is even clear from the way that “other song elements are generally kept simple to highlight the story. The chord structure is simple and predictable, the melodic range is slight, the rhythm is regular, and the orchestration is sparse or at least clearly in the background so that the words can be understood.” In the words of one country singer-songwriter, “If you can’t hear each word, it ain’t country, son.” Country’s words get their importance not from their specific poetry but from the stories they embody, stories that can capture an audience far beyond those who prefer country’s simple melodies and rhythms. Challenged about his taste for country music, jazz great Charlie Parker replied that he simply loved the stories.

Country’s narratives succeed not only through the elements of tradition, orality, and life-experience that Benjamin notes. Narrative form itself intensifies the pathos and comparative authenticity that country deploys. The progression, development, and anticipation that constitute all narratives contribute to the build-up of emotions. The archetypal commonality of country’s stories (with their focus on fundamental feelings of love, failure, and mourning) serve to trigger emotional memories that reach both deep and wide. And this same archetypal, formulaic simplicity of story-line permits extreme plot condensation, thus promoting emotional intensity by forestalling fatigue of attention.

Condensation and credibility are further enabled by the fact that country’s sung stories are often recognized by listeners as biographically linked to the singer, allowing them to imaginatively enrich the tales through details they know (e.g., George Jones’s bouts of drinking and Garth Brooks’s marital infidelity and reconciliation). To heighten its power of pathos, country thus productively blurs the presumed division between art and life, artistic persona and real individual. Finally, the narrative frame that country deploys is most useful for making contrasts of comparative authenticity that are emotionally charged and hence more convincing. Narrative temporality provides not only the retrospective memory of country’s older days of purer authenticity, but suggests the ongoing struggle to develop or recover greater authenticity in the face of present corruptive pressures.

excerpt from: Shusterman, R. (1999) Moving Truth: Affect and Authenticity in Country Musicals. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol.57, No.2, pp.221-233

37574-597rBWneg_9© Henry Horenstein, Patron, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-500rBWneg_6_Adj© Henry Horenstein, The Willis Brothers, Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-320r_416(2)_RalphStanley_lesscontrast© Henry Horenstein, Ralph Stanley, Coeburn, VA, 1974, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

٠ Gaspar Noë’s appropriation of Paul Sharits’ or the love for ‘formal processes and psychedelic modifications’ ٠

“[…] What I am calling “vulgar appropriationism” is this: the way in which pop/commercial media today often appropriate formal structures from more-or-less “high art,” or even avant-garde art, of the 20th century, and use them in ways that negates the aesthetic or conceptual radicality of those structures.

Another example is Gaspar Noë’s recent video for Animal Collective’s “Applesauce”. This video appropriates its background from Paul Sharits’ 1968 “flicker film” N:O:T:H:I:N:G. […] As it says on the youtube page: “N:O:T:H:I:N:G is a film being deplenished of all, of any signified stance and involved only in the manner of film itself. Just the drawing of a bulb, the projector light and a chair remain in the space of the screen. But these are just random disruptions of monochrome frames.” Or elsewhere: “Sharits’ works reduce the process of filmmaking to its most basic components – the projector, the filmstrip, light and duration.”

Even though Gaspar Noë is himself evidently interested in formal processes and psychedelic modifications of the sensorium, from a high modernist viewpoint you could only say that he has destroyed the essence of Sharits’ work. Not only has he turned it into video, but he has used it as the background against which we see the silhouette of a female figure, in extreme closeup, eating a mango (I think; eating a mango comes up in the lyrics to the song, and it sort of looks juicy like a mango, but it is not possible to tell for sure). Now, the shadowy figure is extremely sensuous, as we do sort of see her lips, and the bites she takes, and the juice dripping from the fruit. Noë instructs viewers to watch the video in otherwise total darkness; so it is fair to say that he seeks to provide for digital/electronic media, an ecstatic equivalent to the effect on Sharits’ film in its older medium. Nonetheless, I still think that we have to say that Noë has eliminated the self-reflexivity, the materialist rigor, and the conceptual lucidity of Sharits’ work; he has replaced a Kantian (or Clement-Greenburgian) purity with an aesthetics of hedonism, and has denatured the meditative essence of Sharits’ film by reintroducing those very elements of moviemaking (the human figure against a background, an implicit narrative, a sense of representation) that Sharits had taken such effort to get rid of. (Not to mention that, as a music video, we have a soundtrack that is a pre-existing song; as opposed to the silence of the Sharits film — even though the latter supposedly gives a visual equivalent of a Buddhist prayer drone)

In any case, the point I am building to is this: I vastly prefer Noë’s work to Sharits’, just as I do Kahn’s to Tunick’s, precisely because these recent music videos are hedonistic, impure, unrigorous, and filled with the figurative and representational content that high modernism sought to get rid of — in short, I like these appropriations precisely because they are “vulgar.” They present themselves as part of the everyday world that high modernism took such pains to separate itself from; they have none of the negativity that Adorno demanded of art in a capitalist, commodified age. The only claims that I can make for them politically are ones that occur on the level of content (e.g. Kahn and Minogue are evidently supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians). Nonetheless, I think it is highly significant that music videos like these (and I think there are many other similarly interesting works) are engaging in formal invention without such invention implying either self-referentiality, or negativity, or a purist rejection of “mere” content or “mere” representation. I’d like to say that these works are (finally) escaping from the prison of sublime modernist aesthetics; they no longer seek to maintain modernism’s self-proclaimed distance from the “Real.” They embody a new sort of immanence, or actualism.

excerpt from a text by Steven Shaviro about what he calls “vulgar appropriationism” in The Pinocchio Theory.

sharits1© Paul Sharits, Study for Frozen Film Frame of “Frame Study 15” (1975)

٠ A photographer’s affair with the music scene ٠

consultorio© Vera Marmelo, Consultório, Community art space in Barreiro

luis_02_1000© Vera Marmelo, Luis

Vera Marmelo (b. 1984) is a photographer that came to be very well known in a specific art scene, particularly in the music subsystem of the Lisbon area. She was born in Barreiro, a city facing Lisbon from the other side of Tejo, a city with a very strong sense of community and strong comprehension of how important autonomy and individuality are to redefining culture. So, it could be stated, the natural conditions of her environment conditioned the nest of social relations she started to care for. There is a fizzy underground scene and young people are organized in a community that seems to come together to support each other. They show up in events, bars, concerts, assemblies, etc.

It’s not like this is an ideal place, but these people have strong roots. They’re from a land that is used to resistance and to put of a fight. Needless to say, there is a leftist ideology behind it all. So what makes Vera’s photographs appealing? I suggest it is exactly her proximity to her subjects and the sense of joy and bond her photographs portray.

Writing for the “On the Side Project”, Vera, a professional engineer, explains how photography came into her life: My friends played music and I was around, with a camera in my hands, just for fun, just to give me a reason to hang out with them. […] What started out as an hobby, a reason to hang out with some people and meet new, ended up being a second job, a second life. From 8.30 am until 5.30 pm I am an engineer and then a Photographer for the rest of the day. Weekends don’t exist and I use my vacations to photograph and edit the work.

5492712619_1424623cd8_b© Vera Marmelo, Tiago Sousa

5340531552_c5762cee60_b© Vera Marmelo, Baltazar Molina

Vera photographs a lot. I mean, really a lot. She does the promo shots, she is there for the videoclips, for the side projects, she goes to concerts, she does portraits and she hangs out on weekends with musicians even when no music is playing. And she has cameras and now there is the digital snapshot so there are hundreds of photographs taken by her that you can glimpse at. I’ll put it up front, that’s not what I’m interested in, though this unedited archive will be very relevant as a document of the music and art scene in the Lisbon area in the beginning of the 21st century.

What interests me is her portraiture, specially the one shot on film. The so-called promo shots. Not only are these the ones I can relate to, as photographic objects, but also because they are the ones revealing the thought behind her process of relating to her subjects. The life of these photographs is not on their indexical signs or their configuration, but on the illusion they create. And this illusion is nothing but a document of a reality which, portrayed like this, leaves out the mundane and small verities of the people in them. So these ambiance which Vera shows us, is put up front as a chimera. Vera is a dreamer, no doubt. A believer and an achiever. She gives us happiness, sense of togetherness, wholeness, there’s no strong sense of individuality (not to be mistaken with style or with the jargon of individuality), as if that was never needed.

minta© Vera Marmelo, Minta

samuel uria© Vera Marmelo, Samuel Úria

Of course it’s not everybody’s dream and it references a iconography that is perhaps overworked, but its influences are the same shared by the musicians so it seems genuine. Yes, it’s the same old America, the Christian style, the Brooklin style, the Californian style, the multicultural New-York style. It’s all that but with our Mediterranean light and a clumsier sense of style. Vera’s photographs are so attached to their signifiers that it is as if they don’t have the risk to be over-stylized unless the people in them do.

norberto 14_1000© Vera Marmelo, Norberto Lobo

nick nicotine© Vera Marmelo, Nick Nicotine

Vera should be praised for her commitment to her lifestyle. What these photographs sell is exactly that: a sort of life that is “cool”. And that’s what her public (within the art scene she portrays) wants. She mastered the moment of desire and she managed to find subjects that seems perfectly comfortable as objects of desire. And we get to be witnesses of that exclusivity and that exclusivity is the ultimate price: the privacy of their relation. 

It’s not about whether you studied photography or arts, but about your willingness to challenge visual culture. And how can one do that? If you commit to show people as authentic as they are. Well, of course there are other things beside the notion that you are “selling” a lifestyle. The use of old films, blurriness, appeal to the sense of nostalgia and temporality, so they dislocate our memories to the place of our childhood, for the smiles, the colors, the smilingly genuine happiness in the air.

32c_1000© Vera Marmelo, Orelha Negra

2_1000© Vera Marmelo, Orelha Negra

Things are never about what they are because they are nothing beyond the cultural notion of what convention told they should be. So Vera’s photographs here shown, though beautiful and extremely honest on their own, are a promise of a chimeric land where music will always live.

More of Vera’s work can be seen here and here

٠ Varda’s feminist tableaux (l’une chante, l’autre pas) ٠

urllunechante_01L_UNE-CHANTE-L_AUTRE-PAS-copyright-CINE-TAMARIS-r270Feminist performance, the Engelian way


La double journée
pauvre maman
c’est bien épuisant
et c’est mal payé

Friedrich Engels l’avait dit
dans la famille aujourd’hui
l’homme est le bourgeois
et la femme est le prolétariat

Il avait raison
papa Engels
il avait raison
car à la maison
l’homme est le bourgeois
et la femme est le prolétariat

C’est papa le chef
pauvre maman
le seigneur du fief
le roi tout puissant


┐ I Will Swim to You └

I’ve said it here before: Jason Molina is my favourite musician. I’ve said it here before: he was an alcoholic. Jason Molina died last Saturday, 16th March, aged 39. I’m lost for words, not because this is overwhelmingly sad but because it just builds on anger. He was an extraordinary soul and his premature departure was to be expected. In the statement from his label Secretly Canadian one can read “Without him there would be no us — plain and simple” and that’s something I share entirely. Without his music I wouldn’t be the same. That’s not tragic but the memories I would have loose if not for his music are. I’ll have a glass, well a couple. Here’s to Jason Molina:

┐ Bertolucci and The Sculptural Moment └

If in doubt about cinema being as much of an art form as drawing, painting and sculpture are, just watch Bertolucci’s art trilogy “Stealing Beauty”, “Besieged” and “The Dreamers” (1996, 1998 and 2003) and see how harmoniously all art forms join in to become One.

┐ For the blue coin won’t you bring back all those colors to my dreams └

online str**ming here

“Craig Bartholomew tracks down Sixto Rodriguez, the second generation Mexican who, with his 70s album Cold Fact, radicalised South African youth. What he found was Gandhi with a guitar.

It’s five o’clock as I wait at Cape Town international airport for a man I think I know well but have never met, one Sixto Rodriguez – mythical guru and serendipitous soothsayer of the 70’s “hey man wow!” generation, and creator of the long-selling cult album, Cold Fact – A man once lost, but now found. Every time an airport announcement is made, fate’s fat fingers play an arpeggio up my spine. The simple problem is that I have no idea what to expect, especially after a death such as his. Never before has one man died so many times in as many ways, and still survived. Not to mention being blind, murdering his wife (at least twice) and all that while performing a host of other heinous crimes – in rumour at least.

What, therefore, would pass through the metal detector at customs? The Bionic man? A walking resurrection? Or simply an impostor? The personal quest that had led to this moment – as I now loiter on the terminal – all began in 1996 when, after browsing through the liner notes of the newly released “Coming from Reality” CD (originally released as After the Fact in 1974), I stumbled across the words which asked if there were “any musicology detectives out there” to find the man, dead or alive. Even though I had already been seduced by the poetry of the man with lines like “It started out with butterflies on a velvet afternoon”, it was the line, “How many times can you wake up in this comic book and still plant flowers?” that made me commit to the search. Without realising it, this line had struck a sympathetic chord with the new, yet-to-be identified, Generation X.

My first stop, naturally, was the record company. Not even they could not tell me the fate of the one artist that had never made it to the deletion bin, even after 26 years of solid sales. (Who cares when you’re coining it?). Next, I climbed into his music and scrounged between the words, searching in vain for even just one single clue, a hint, a mere trace of where the man could be hiding. Many little leads led me nowhere. In “A Most Disgusting Song”, for example, he sang of playing every kind of gig there is to play: From faggot bars to hooker bars, to motorcycle funerals, to opera houses, to concert halls and even halfway houses. He referred to a host of characters almost by name: a girl who has never been chaste; a bearded school boy with wooden eyes; a man who is shorter than himself; and even a teacher who will kiss you in French! But nowhere could I find a direct reference to a town or place that could have blown his cover. Rumour had it that Polygram did not even possess the master tapes to his music, pressing the “Coming From Reality” CD from a good vinyl copy of the album (quite audible, if you listens carefully, is the sheer proof of analogue decay – static, scratches and even a cat’s paw.)

Then, finally after a nine-month long search comprising 72 telephone calls, 45 faxes, and over 140 e-mails, I managed to trace Mike Theodore, the credited arranger of the Cold Fact album. With this breakthrough, it barely took a week before a voice on the other side of the line answered, nonchalantly, “Yes, it is I, Rodriguez, so tell me about yourself?” Then, slowly but surely, the information I had so long sought, started to trickle in. Born in Detroit, this second generation Mexican single-handedly, without even realising it, changed the way South African youth saw things by releasing his album Cold Fact in 1972 (it flopped practically everywhere else). While hippies around the world hummed “ommmm…” in yoga-like poses, the seventies youth of South Africa chose only one mantra to represent their generation, “I wonder, how many times you’ve had sex”. This was not surprising from a country where simply thinking evil thoughts led to swearing which led to smoking which led to drinking which then led to Dagga which led to hard drugs and which finally led to satanism. And before you knew it, you were dead.

Prevalent on the album, was a philosophy that decried the anomalies of social reality, and which the youth bought into whole-heartedly. It was this cynicism – parents called it ‘hate-mail on a record’ (“but don’t bother to buy insurance, because you’ve already died”), or ‘poetry concealed as vinyl’ (“the wind splashed in my face, can smell a trace of thunder”) that actually set the youth free. A simple honesty which became the axiom on which they would base their thinking. A young Mexican who sang unashamedly about drugs and life on the streets (My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted). Ironically, the man who once sang the words, “the mayor hides the crime rate, the public forgets the vote date”, has actually run for political office on no less than seven occasions, and fathered three daughters and a son (Brian’s note: the son, Aaron, is actually his first wife’s from her second husband).

A 1972 brochure on Detroit referred to the young political candidate ‘revolutionary absurdist, a creative anarchist, and even a leftist guitarist?’ Furthermore, it states that he is legendary at “always brewing or perpetrating something”. Like his Heikki’s Bus Tour no. 2, a guided busload of Inner City wildmen who careened out to the environs to take snapshots of the natives and to communicate. Strange as it may seem, Rodriguez has recorded only 25 songs in his lifetime and had no idea he was even famous here. Finally at quarter past five – with only the mental picture of Rodriguez seated cross-legged in the pearl bubble off Cold Fact – I spot a youthful, well-built man who looks no more than 40. I am at first not sure that this is he but when I see the guitar, I know it is. Suddenly, all the words he ever sung rush before me in cool colour psychedelia. Unreal-surreal! Poetic-myopic! And as my senses rollercoaster-ride in sympathy with the part of my brain that deals with reason, a warm hand shakes mine. “Hi”, he says unassumingly. As we walk off, I realise that this is the most humble artist I have ever met.
Gandhi with guitar.
A man who, after all is said and done, would probably prefer to leave the past behind him and someone who, it transpires, has the problem that every time he opens the door to get the milk, fame tries to creep in.”

from the article In search of Rodriguez: from hooker bars to opera houses, published in The Sunday Independant, 8th March 1998

┐ Ravi Shankar, teaching by example └

“If one hears this music without any intoxication, or any sort of drugs, one does get the feeling of being intoxicated. That’s the beauty of our music. It builds up to that pitch. We don’t believe in the extra, or the other stimulus taken, and that’s what I’m trying my best to make the young people, without hurting them, of course, to understand.”

Shankar refused the label of anti-drug preacher or social reformer. “I have nothing to say. No, it’s the people’s business if they want to drink, or smoke or take drugs. All I request is that these people just give me a couple of hours of sobriety or sober mind. That’s all I request of them. Whatever they do before or after is not my business.”

via The Guardian

┐ Matthew Niederhauser’s “I can” portraits └

20090410_color_full058_newpantssing20071124_color_full010_guantou20090308_color_full047_shrguitarsound_kapital_1a© Matthew Niederhauser, all photographs from the series Sound Kapital

“The project first began when I got back into Beijing in October 2007. I was moving back from New York, and I had a friend from college who was out here unexpectedly, working on the soundboard at this music club, D-22.

I made a point of going to the club as soon as I got in. I went up there one night with my camera and I was completely blown away by the music. I saw this band called Joyside, and another band called The Subs. I went up there for 2-3 nights straight, and I was just so impressed. Lots of times when I had seen live music in China, in 2004 and 2005, it was certainly nothing to write home about. But everything had really stepped up.

I approached the club and said I wanted to hang out and take photos. They had this office on the second floor and I decided I was going to go in there and shoot some portraits of this band that needed images for their MySpace page. And that’s when I first took one of the ‘red wall portraits’. That was with a band called Hedgehog. It’s one of the most well known of those pictures now – the girl with the boxing gloves.

It was such a great photo and I imagined at that point that I would start shooting everyone who came through D-22. I’d create this consistent look with the photographs, while also showing that so many different music scenes were moving through this one club, whether it’s rock, or electronic, or punk, or folk, or experimental.

I did that for about two and half years – I still do it now. Shooting hundreds of performers from all over China. The club basically paid for my taxis and gave me free alcohol – and that was it.

What’s occurring here is a very international collaboration or community of people who are interested in that, and whether it’s artists, curators, or gallery directors – it’s a very eclectic mix to say the least. I feel that the contemporary art scene is much more Chinese, but people are thinking on a global scale now and trying to interact with international artistic communities. And in that sense there’s definitely a bi-lingual nature to it.

The music and the arts scene are what have kept me here. I moved back here in 2007 thinking I might stay a year but there’s been such a creative explosion I can’t leave. You also see a lot of the more experimental musicians, like Yan Jun, run in a lot of the same circles as the contemporary Chinese artists. A lot of their theoretical positions on creativity are very close.”

excerpt of an interview Christen Cornell. continue reading here

More of Matthew’s work here

┐ “we forget what is flesh blood and bone” └

Giving into love and sharing my time
Letting someone into my misery
I told it all step by step
How I landed on the island
And how I swam across the sea
And it crosses my mind
That I may wake to a knife in me
No more breath in my hair
Or ladies’ underwear
Tossed up over the alarm clock
Blood dripping from the bed
To a neatly written poem
A heartfelt last line reading
There is no more mystery
It it going to happen my love

It’s all in your head she said
Morning after nightmare
You’re building a wall she said
Higher than the both of us
So try living life
Instead of hiding in the bedroom
Show me a smile
And I’ll promise not to leave you

It happened under a rainy cloud
Passing through the dark south
We went into a big house
And slept in a small bed
I didn’t know you then
As well as you of me
We talked of our sad lives
And we went off separately
I found your overseas souvenirs
Holiday greeting cards
And some long forgotten high school fears
It’s all in my head I said
Banging a piano
I’ve not been so alone I thought
Since kicking in the womb
I drank so much tea
I wrote my letters in kanji
Around the block I walked and walked
Pretending you were with me
Not wanting to die out here
Without you

The hurting never ends
Like birthdays and old friends
We forget what is flesh blood and bone is human
Turning phone lines to airlines
Unwilling to face
The love is found on the inside not the outside
And like a medicine bottle
In the cabinet I’ll keep you
And like a medicine bottle
In my hand I will hold you
And swallow you slowly
As to last me a lifetime
Without holding too tight
I do not want to lose
The thrill that it gives me
To look out from my window
And scowl at the houses
From my world in the bedroom
It’s all in my head she read
In her girlfriend’s self-help book
It’s all his own making
A war with himself
Like two sides of a wall
That separates two countries
He shuts out the world
And wants only to love you

Not wanting to die out here
Without you

┐ Xaviera Simmons └

© Xaviera Simmons, One Day and Back Then, 2007

© Xaviera Simmons, Landscape (2 Women), 2007

© Xaviera Simmons, If We Believe In Theory, 2009

“Simmons, as an artist, doubles down. She captures the fiction/truth dialectic as well as anyone, disarticulating assumptions about the quietly composed and staged images she makes. She’s a Brecht of the photographic endeavor. In her work, Simmons is not so much documenting the performance before the camera, but the performance itself. In one image from the series If We Believe in Theory, Simmons captures a young girl in the woods dressed like Little Red Riding Hood. It’s an example of Simmons using the suggestion of performance to capture the explicit and contradictory nature of individuality. Her subject becomes herself, and also a dismembered characterization of what we’re accustomed to look at. Still, it is not simply Simmons’s understanding of the imagistic theater of photography that is useful, but her way of using form to acknowledge that image is at the center of the creative construction of collective and personal histories. Simmons is a lexicographer who fuses live material and conceptual conceit; she deconstructs and retains a relation to specific times and places. Perhaps paradoxically, she often achieves this through unabashedly excessive detail, like in One Day and Back Then (Standing), where her character stands in a field of sea reeds in blackface, looking out at us, wearing all black (including stiletto boots), ready for a night out on the town.”

excerpt of an article by Adam Pendleton, in Bomb. continue reading here

┐ the Man at work – Crobijn’s portrait └

Klaartje Quirijns’ insightful feature-length profile of Anton Corbijn offers an exploration into the pain of creation while also being a thoughtful examination of one of pop culture’s most iconic photographers and, more recently, film directors.

The taciturn Dutch subject, best known for immortalising artists such as Ian Curtis, Iggy Pop and U2, gives filmmaker Quirijns the opportunity to shine a spotlight on to the darkest corners of his intensely private life.

The narrative alternates between Corbijn’s personal and professional personas, highlighting the perpetual loneliness of man who is adored by many. Corbijn freely discusses his past while retracing the footsteps of his youth. However, family members raise concerns about his present schedule, declaring that he is clearly happiest when at work.

Corbijn notes that both the films he has directed are about isolation and contain protagonists with a lonely soul. Although he has been known to be somewhat reclusive, he doesn’t see too much autobiography in those films. His comments lead Quirijns to adopt a voyeuristic approach to capturing Corbijn’s private life as she explores themes of solitude and seclusion.

However, for all the small revelations, Corbijn is continually in control of each conversation, conducting each discussion like one of his shoots. He exposes little emotion and always keeps Quirijns at a safe distance.

Corbijn is clearly a man deeply immersed in his passions: photography, filmmaking and music. However, behind the focused lens, there is clearly pain and isolation. What could have been a fascinating study of an exceptional and mysterious individual is little more than a static Polaroid with layers still to be fully developed.

review by Russell Ford in Little White Lies

┐ A Curva da Cintura └

One of the reasons for my absence. A journey to watch this project live. It brings together Brazil and Mali, with Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra e Toumani Diabaté. Absolutely worth listening and seeing. Songs about struggle, love and how the arts, music in particular, can bring people together…

┐ So long sadness, see you in another life └

© Sarah Waldorf, the cry project, 2012

© Alex Mirutziu, Tears are precious, 2007

original music and lyrics by Fernando Tordo. Cover by Linda Martini

Adeus tristeza, até depois
Chamo-te triste por sentir que entre os dois
Não há mais nada pra fazer ou conversar
Chegou a hora de acabar

┐ Prinzhorn Dance School └

@Gabriel Green

All their videos very much worth seeing!

They named themselves after Dr Hans Prinzhorn, a German psychiatrist whose book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill, led to the coining of the phrase Art Brut. After positive feedback from friends, they mailed CDs to five labels, all of whom, they say, wanted to sign them. Not everybody has given them such a warm reception. “Some bands have slagged us off in the press,” snorts Prinz, adding: “If we come backstage at one of your gigs and smack you in the face, you haven’t really got any cause to complain.” Horn concurs. “We don’t go looking for fights but we can look after ourselves.”

┐ Bernardo Sassetti └

@ Bernardo Sassetti, ascent

@ Bernardo Sassetti, ascent

Bernardo Sassetti is a very gifted pianist and composer, but apart from that he is also very passionate about photography and was currently working on publishing a book. He passed away today, at 41, after falling from a cliff, while photographing. Portugal keeps paving the way for a greek tragedy…
His music, his gift

can’t help but wonder: at the same time, I was photographing in another cliff

┐ Jason Molina └

Now and again I wonder what has happen to Jason Molina, my favourite singer/songwriter, since for the past few years no records have been released. As I was looking for some classic black & white portraits of musicians I came across a statement from Magnolia Electric Co. that reads “Over the last two years Jason has been in and out of rehab” and “is currently working on a farm in West Virginia raising goats and chickens for the next year or so”. The press release also asks for support (monetary and other). Besides the fact that I hope he has the willing to create again, I wonder why there are no photographers out there doing him justice. Given the fact that I can’t do anything about that, I take the opportunity to post a video of one of my favourites “It’s hard to love a man”, from the album “What comes after the blues” and hopefully do some sort of justice by bringing his work to someone new.