Monday
Jul252011

Teengirl Fantasy I: Tavi Gevinson, Collage, The Importance of the Altar 

[ED: I never had a subscription to Sassy. Like most timid baby gays in the early 90s, I subsisted on furtive library perusal and the companionship of cool girls with cool moms who did. Tavi Gevinson is totally that girl.

This post is a continuation of themes touched on in the post "Youth Culture in the Bedroom" from February, and the first in a pair on spaces created specifically by and for teenage girls. While it's increasingly strange to see my own formative obsessions reflected back at me by someone half my age, I remain fascinated by teenage bedrooms as a site of individuation, and find Tavi’s inspiration and execution posts remarkably focused and insightful.  Her brief discussion of The Virgin Suicides' Libson sisters as libidinal foils is particularly worth reading.

More teenery of note can be found here, at teenagebedroom.tumblr.com, in these photographs by Olivia Bee, and in the still so worth reading monograph In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedrooms by Adrienne Salinger.

Also, it’s summer, and I made a mix.

Again, also, if you find yourself free and near Brooklyn this Wednesday, July 27th, Tavi, a via-Skype Jane Pratt, Ira Glass, Janeane Garofalo and Marisa Meltzer are hosting a tribute to Sassy at Littlefield in Boerum Hill. It might be sold out, but if you're creative you'll make some phone calls and work it out.]

 

"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image." - Joan Didion, taken from "In the Islands," The White Album, 1979

"Rather than sticking things on sheets of paper, which is what I’ve done in the past, I decided to take this 'collage your life' mentality (that may or may not be a mentality I decided was real when I was watching Twilight Zone reruns on 4 different meds, so you probs shouldn’t change your life for it) one step further. Even further than Ezra Pound himself took it. I’m making one of my bedroom walls into an enormous collage with layered poetic meaning and more glitter glue than is advisable in any circumstance, ever. Knowing, as I do, that this is a very cliched thing for an overwrought teenage girl to do, I have created the collage to reflect the chaotic, cluttered, conflicted psyche that is so frequently associated with adolescence, with a spectrum ranging from the dark, complex, and sophisticated to the bright, traditionally feminine, and happily childish. There are still some fun juxtapositions, however. There are blurry baby pictures next to photos of multiplying lung cancer cells. There is album art next to poetry. There are plastic flowers next to weird garbage that I found in my dresser. If I liked it, it went on the wall. The adolescence thing is pretty much just my excuse for turning one of my walls into a 3-d, Technicolor dump." [1]

"A shrine (Latin: scrinium "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French: escrin "box or case") is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated. A shrine at which votive offerings are made is called an altar. Shrines are found in many of the world's religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Chinese folk religion and Shinto, as well as in secular and non-religious settings such as a war memorial. Shrines can be found in various settings, such as churches, temples, cemeteries, or in the home, although portable shrines are also found in some cultures.

Historically, in Hinduism, Buddhism and Roman Catholicism, as well as in modern faiths, such as Neopaganism, a shrine can commonly be found within the home or shop. This shrine is usually a small structure or a setup of pictures and figurines dedicated to a deity that is part of the official religion, to ancestors or to a localised household deity.

Small household shrines are very common among the Chinese and people from South and Southeast Asia, whether Hindu, Buddhist or Christian. Usually a small lamp and small offerings are kept daily by the shrine. Buddhist household shrines must be on a shelf above the head; Chinese shrines must stand directly on the floor." [2]

"What sorts of things go on an altar? Lots of times a Witch will have statues of the Lord and Lady, or a picture of something that they feel represents the Witch’s idea of God. Often we have a representation of each element, candles to see by (called illuminator candles), and any object that has importance to us. We try not to let our altar get too cluttered. To keep the altar from getting crowded with our special things, many Witches have a shrine area in their sacred space too. Although Witches offer prayers at a shrine they do not normally use the shrine surface in the same way they use the altar.

Since the altar holds great importance in our religion, we don’t put anything on the altar that isn’t holy or sacred—no cups of juice, cans of soda, homework papers, half-eaten cookies, books from school, makeup, sports equipment, or bits of odd clothing. We also don’t let anyone play around on our altar, fiddle with what we’ve put there, or allow other people to remove things from it. This, I know, can be hard if we have curious parents, siblings, or friends.

If you think you will have a problem with others where you live, keep in mind that your altar doesn’t have to look like an altar to be one. For years I kept the main altar in my own home looking like an unusual collection of interesting items, just so visitors to the house would not give me or my family any grief." [3]

"From Weetzie there’s a collage she made and put in a gold-leaf frame painted with pink and blue roses. The collage has pressed pansies, rose petals, glitter, lace, tiny pink plastic flamingos and babies, gold stars, tiny mirrors and hand-colored cutout photographs of my family. In the center there’s a picture of me and a picture of Charlie Bat goofing in this top hat and it looks like we’re holding hands. Something about our smoky eyes and skinny faces makes us look like a real grandfather and granddaughter." [4]

"Temples to worship the gods were built throughout the Roman Empire. Temples usually always followed the same building pattern. The roof was triangular shaped and supported by great pillars. Steps led up to the main doorway that was usually built behind the pillars. The inside of the temple would have been very well decorated and there would have been a statue of the god in it. There would also have been an altar where a priest would have served the god and made sacrifices. People called augurs could also be found in the temples. These people used the entrails of the dead animals to predict the future. The Romans took these predictions very seriously and few ignored the advice of an augur.

Each family home would also have a small altar and shrine. The Romans had personal household gods or spirits called 'lares' which were worshipped every day at home. The shrine contained statues of the 'lares' and the head of the household led family prayers around the shrine each day. The service was considered so important that family slaves were also invited. It is believed that most Romans were more keen to please their 'lares' than the public gods such as Jupiter." [5]

JOAN DIDION TEXT CITED IN PASSAGE; TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM GRRRL STYLE, "THE COLLAGIST AESTHETIC IS EATING MY BRAIN", JULY 5, 2011; TEXT [2] VIA WIKIPEDIA, "SHRINE" ENTRY; TEXT [3] TAKEN FROM TEEN WITCH: WICCA FOR A NEW GENERATION, BY SILVER RAVENWOLF, 1998; TEXT [4] TAKEN FROM MISSING ANGEL JUAN BY FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK, 1995; TEXT [5] TAKEN FROM HISTORYLEARNINGSITE.CO.UK, "ANCIENT ROME AND RELIGION" ENTRY; ALL IMAGES VIA TAVI GEVINSON/STYLEROOKIE, TAKEN FROM "ROOM PART 1", "ROOM PART 2", AND "HEY HEY GUYS LOOK AT ALL MY STUFF"

Tuesday
Jul122011

Eiko Ishioka I: "Closet Land"

[ED: Eiko Ishioka is perhaps best known for her costume design. Her work on Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula won her an Oscar in 1992, and her designs for The Cell were nominated for multiple other awards.

Though her work as a stage designer for theatre is extensive and well documented in her books Eiko on Stage and Eiko by Eiko, lesser known is her credited work as a production designer for film, as there is little to speak of: Paul Schrader's Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters, a single episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, and a shamefully unseen 1991 film called Closet Land starring Madeleine Stowe and Alan Rickman.

What follows is the first in a series on her work.]

"Closet Land is not based on a play or a book. It is my original work. From the get-go, I conceived of it as a film, and I wrote it as a screenplay. I fully intended it to debut as a film—not as theatre or as a book. Because film is the only medium fully equipped to take the audience directly into intense emotional states—be they of pain, or of joy. Closet Land, which indeed deals with torture and physical abuse, deals with pain. What my best viewers have also understood is that my film, despite being about torture, also deals with the exhilaration of freedom and the power of human imagination—because my film is not only about torture." [1]

 

"Set in an unspecified country, Stowe's character is taken from her home in the middle of the night, accused of embedding anarchistic messages into her book, entitled Closet Land. The book is a story about a child who, as a result of bad behaviour, has been locked in a closet as punishment. While in there, the child is greeted by a group of childhood ally archetypes who innocently attempt to comfort the scared little girl. The seemingly simple content is questioned by the government, which accuses the author of encouraging and introducing anarchism among its audience of naïve children.

While the interrogator is obstinate in his belief that the author is guilty of hidden propaganda, the audience is convinced of the victim's innocence. The audience later learns that the novel was actually created as a form of escapism, providing a coping mechanism for the author, who endured sexual abuse as a child. Near the end of the film, the interrogator claims that he was the man who had sexually abused the author in her childhood. But one cannot be entirely sure he was the one who abused her, as the film suggests he was just using the abuse against her as a way of breaking her down." [2]

 

"Before starting a project, I have to fully understand its content. That involves analyzing and breaking down the script, and talking with the director, producers, actors and other crew members to really grasp the important points of the film. My first task once I begin designing is to face a blank piece of paper and let my mind wander limitlessly through what I want to express. When I have settles upon a direction, I will gather resources as necessary. Research materials are always merely hints for further developing ideas. Period pieces and historical stories naturally require thorough research and an understanding of the visual world of the specific time period, but here too, I will "recook" the historical cues to create my own tableau.

After first listening to a director's vision about the characters and then analyzing and digesting this information, I begin building ideas through a process of trial and error. In other words, I try to avoid handing a director detailed material right away, making my initial idea sketches a way of communicating my genera concept rather than presenting a polished design. Sometimes I make several intermediary sketches before producing detailed, large-scale drawings; other times I jump directly from the initial sketch to the final design. As you might expect, final drawings need to depict every single detail clearly defined and in color, and—above all—convey a unique and compelling design." [3]

"Production designer Eiko Ishioka (Broadway's Madame Butterfly and the Paul Schrader adventure film Mishima) makes the torture chamber/womb that is Closet Land's sole set a monochromatic mixture of decors: classical marble pillars, futuristic black-slab desk/operating table, a primitive chair barely held together by frayed leather bindings, and deep, floor-level drawers that contain nasty tools and information. Like memory, this hard place is a grab-bag of styles, a black-gray-white setting in which a scarlet smear of lipstick or the sullen red of a fired-up barbecue grill signals the reenactment of a child's rape. Or of that wound - every Eve's loss of innocence - that may or may not become the raw material for full-fledged sexuality, character, even art.

Stowe's wound is like Hester Prynne's scarlet letter, an advertisement of gender-based existential guilt. Her old fall permits flying only in the mind, on the green wings of a cat, one of her comforting kiddie-lit animal characters. In the story that has brought her to the attention of The Authorities, a little girl is locked in the darkness of a closet by her mother. Lonely and frightened, the child imagines that the coats and shirts hanging above her are transformed into a friendly menagerie, including the winged cat and a friendly rooster that play with her until her mother returns. In his therapeutic guise, Rickman probes the significance of this core story and its origins: What did your mother not notice? Why was the child locked in the closet? Stowe resists with all her might, insisting her stories are just "cotton fluff". The white magic of her fictions must be preserved. She cannot countenance the eruption of dark forces there, of less-than-sanitized animal life. Flying is only possible if one never looks down. Rickman's gynecological torture - including a crude grope to see if she's menstruating, the application of a red-hot skewer and electrical shocks - forces her to focus on blood and pain "down there", the primary associations that divorce her spirit from her body." [4]

ALL STILLS TAKEN FROM THE FILM CLOSET LAND, DIR. RHADA BHARADWAJ, 1991; TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM AN ESSAY BY RHADA BHARADWAJ, VIA CLOSETLAND.COM; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA; TEXT [3] TAKEN FROM AN ESSAY BY EIKO ISHIOKA, FROM THE BOOK COSTUME DESIGN BY DEBORAH NADOOLMAN LANDIS, 2003; TEXT [4] TAKEN FROM "FOREIGN PARTS" BY KATHLEEN MURPHY, ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN FILM COMMENT, MAY-JUNE 1991, VIA ALAN-RICKMAN.COM

Monday
Jul112011

In The Waiting Room: Non-Place, Distance, Purgatory

"If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place. The  hypothesis advanced here is that supermodernity produces non-places, meaning spaces which are not themselves anthropological places and which, unlike Baudelairean modernity, do not integrate the earlier places: instead these are listed, classified, promoted to the status of 'places of memory', and assigned to a circumscribed and specific position." [2]

"Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Knocked over glass of water onto waiting-room floor. Put down Foucault and pencil, mopped up water, refilled glass. Sat down to read Foucault with pencil in hand. Stopped to write note in notebook. Took up Foucault with pencil in hand. Counselor beckoned from doorway. Put away Foucault and pencil as well as notebook and pen. Sat with counselor discussing situation fraught with conflict taking form of many heated arguments. Counselor pointed to danger, raised red flag. Left counselor, went to subway. Sat in subway car, took out Foucault and pencil but did not read, thought instead about situation fraught with conflict, red flag, recent argument concerning travel: argument itself became form of travel, each sentence carrying arguers on to next sentence, next sentence on to next, and in the end, arguers were not where they had started, were also tired from traveling and spending so long face-to-face in each other's company. After several stations on subway thinking about argument, stopped thinking and opened Foucault. Found Foucault, in French, hard to understand. Short sentences easier to understand than long ones. Certain long ones understandable part by part, but so long, forgot beginning before reaching end. Went back to beginning, understood beginning, read on, and again forgot beginning before reaching end." [1]

GARBAGE [FT. TRICKY]: MILK

"Val Vista Location Waiting Room", by Valley Women for Women OBGYN, via Flickr

"Tinted Waiting Room", by Toncu, via Flickr

"Dr. Chu's Waiting Room", by southpasadenadentist, via Flickr

"Waiting Room 3", by veggieosage, via Flickr

"Read on without going back and without understanding, without remembering, and without learning, pencil idle in hand. Came to sentence that was clear, made pencil mark in margin. Mark indicated understanding, indicated forward progress in book. Lifted eyes from Foucault, looked at other passengers. Took out notebook and pen to make note about passengers, made accidental mark with pencil in margin of Foucault, put down notebook, erased mark. Returned thoughts to argument. Argument not only like vehicle, carried arguers forward, but also like plant, grew like hedge, surrounding arguers at first thinly, some light coming through, then more thickly, keeping light out, or darkening light. By argument's end, arguers could not leave hedge, could not leave each other, and light was dim... Thought of question to ask about argument, took out notebook and pen and wrote down. Put away notebook and returned to Foucault." [1]

"Totnes Waiting Room", by relex109.com, via Flickr

L: "Hell's Waiting Room", by Sir Twilight King, via Flickr; R: "Waiting Room" by stevelyon, via Flickr

"Manhattan Adult - 346 Broadway - 3rd Fl. Waiting Room" by NYC Department of Probation, via Flickr

"The Waiting Room", by maskingtape, via Flickr

"The Waiting Room", by Donna JW, via Flickr

"Understood more clearly at which points Foucault harder to understand and at which points easier: harder to understand when sentence was long and noun identifying subject of sentence was left back at beginning, replaced by male or female pronoun, when forgot what noun pronoun replaced and had only pronoun for company traveling through sentence. Sometimes pronoun then giving way in mid-sentence to new noun, new noun in turn replaced by new pronoun which then continued on to end of sentence. Also harder to understand when subject of sentence was noun like thought, absence, law; easier to understand when subject was noun like beach, wave, sand, sanatorium, pension, door, hallway, or civil servant." [1]

"IL-Wood River - waiting room", by plasticfootball, via Flickr

"Before and after sentence about sand, civil servant, or pension, however, came sentence about attraction, neglect, emptiness, absence, or law, so parts of book understood were separated by parts not understood. Put down Foucault and pencil, took out notebook and made note of what was now at least understood about lack of understanding reading Foucault, looked up at other passengers, thought again about argument, made note of same question about argument as before though with stress on different word." [1]

"Waiting Room Chairs", by mixie on film, via Flickr

ALL IMAGES VIA FLICKR, CITED IN CAPTION; "MILK" BY GARBAGE [FEATURING TRICKY]; TEXT [1], "FOUCAULT AND PENCIL" BY LYDIA DAVIS, TAKEN FROM THE COLLECTION ALMOST NO MEMORY; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM MARC AUGÉ'S NON-PLACES: INTRODUCTION TO AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF SUPERMODERNITY

Monday
Jul112011

Sound and Vision: These Fields 

[ED: These Fields is a project edited by Mathias Renner. All images via These Fields]

Luis Barragan, Casa Gilardi, 1976

L: Setsuo Kitaoka, Twilight Nightclub; R: Shiro Kuramata, Axis Building/Hishinuma, Tokyo

Carlos Cruz Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965-2011

Sol Lewitt, 140 Franklin Street Lobby, New York

David Hockney, Set Design

Dan Flavin, 1986/89

Tuesday
Jun212011

Certificate of Absence: "Marvin's Room" and Fiona Apple's "Criminal"

▶ TEYANA TAYLOR: HER ROOM [MARVIN'S ROOM REMIX]

▶ JOJO: MARVIN'S ROOM [CAN'T DO BETTER]

▶ ROCHELE JORDAN: MARVIN'S ROOM

ALL SCREEN CAPTURES VIA YOUTUBE, TAKEN FROM THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR FIONA APPLE'S "CRIMINAL", DIRECTED BY MARK ROMANEK, CINEMATOGRAPHY BY HARRIS SAVIDES; ALL REINTERPRETATIONS OF DRAKE'S "MARVIN'S ROOM" BY TEYANA TAYLOR, JOJO, AND ROCHELE JORDAN RESPECTIVELY

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