Although I’ve lived in New York many years now, one thing that never ceases to amaze me — and that I love — is that, on any given day, you never know who you might meet. Walking down the street you might cross David Bowie. Or sitting in a café, you might look next to you and receive a smile from Natalie Portman, and then proceed to talk with her about the latest French cinema. But not only is it true you might meet a famous person, even one of your own personal giants, there are plenty of unknowns — unknown people, that is — who have crawled onto this island in one way or another to pursue a dream. New York City is an ocean of aspiration — and, as they say, a sea of flesh. Put the two together and you have the world’s greatest, scariest, and most wondrous density of striving and struggling artists…and those…who somehow make it. Walking down my street the other day I met one such dream-seeker, a young woman who I often see walking her dog but had never spoken to.
Her name is Niia, and she moved to New York City from Needham, Massachusetts to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music as a Jazz vocal major. The great part about her story is that while studying at the New School she met Wyclef Jean, who was so impressed with her voice and musical skills that he began working with her and later featured her on his 2008 single, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)”, which reached number 12 on the pop charts and took her all over the world to perform. All this I learned later, after we parted.
Photography by Derek Peck
From my regular column in AnOther magazine
This week in New York City is a busy one for Irina Lazareanu. Her birthday was on Tuesday, and today she hosts a star-studded benefit – something she pretty much threw together on the fly. It’s a release event for Corduroy magazine and a benefit for Kiva.org, a charity that provides micro-loans around the world to help alleviate poverty. Although the logistics were handled by event organisers, you can credit Irina for the main attractions. Can you imagine Pete Doherty and Sean Lennon jamming together on the same stage? Well, Irina can – and she can also call them both up and tell them to start rehearsing. They did so by emailing practice sessions back and forth across the Atlantic. However, getting Pete himself across the ocean proved more challenging. “I think the hardest thing was getting Pete’s visa,” Irina says. “When they asked if he’d ever had any infractions, we had to answer, ‘um, well, yeah, like 27.’” Apparently, it’s harder for Pete Doherty to get into this country than most would-be terrorists, even though he’s only ever veered toward self-destruction, not mass-destruction. But that’s a whole other matter best left to the tabloids. Besides, Irina succeeded at getting him in. So it’s all set for Thursday, the hottest ticket in town.
Photography courtesy of Jens Stoltze (Click Images to Enlarge)
is a photographer and editor-in-chief of S Magazine, a fashion/erotica bi-annual out of Denmark with a strong creative nexus in New York. He recently exhibited this work at the Dactyl Foundation in New York City, following a personal and photographic sojourn in Brazil. The show comes down today, May 24, so this is your last chance to check it out in person. Those interested in obtaining a print can inquire via the gallery at www.dactyl.org
Dactyl is located at 64 Grand Street.
Shirin Neshat Feature Film Still, Women Without Men, 2009. Copyright Shirin Neshat, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York.
From my regular column in AnOther magazine.
The day of my visit with Shirin Neshat, the internationally renowned Iranian artist, just so happens to be her birthday. I didn’t know this; she tells me upon my arrival at the Soho loft she shares with her partner (in life and art), Shoja Azari. Although Shirin and I have met a few times before and share friends in common, I feel bad about intruding on her special day for something as mundane as journalism. However, I soon realise she’s not much in the mood for celebrating it anyway. In fact, she seems even to be wishing it away. I don’t understand why people are making such a fuss, she says. I don’t really have time to think about my birthday this year anyway. We’re leaving for Toronto tomorrow and there’s still so much to do.
The “so much” Shirin is referring to has to do with pre-release events and official openings of her first feature film, Women Without Men, in various countries. There are emails and phone calls to answer, travel plans to arrange, screenings and parties to attend, and, of course, a deluge of interviews on the horizon. I’m so glad it’s you today, Shirin says, I can just be myself.
She takes visible enjoyment in telling me the story, over Iranian tea and a bowl of green raisins and walnuts. It’s the one thing that seems to excite her out of her birthday humbug and the apparent sense of anxiousness that must accompany such breakthrough periods in one’s life.
This famous image, which became known as “Earthrise”, is the first photograph of our world ever taken from space. It was captured over Christmas Eve in 1968, and was published about two weeks later in January 1969. It’s hard to imagine, in our era of infinite and immediate information, where we’ve seen and known already virtually everything there is to see and know, that this was the first time in history that humans had ever looked upon their home with any perspective, as a single, whole, and incredibly small world floating in space.
But it was.
And it was only a little over forty years ago.
Volumes can be written about the philosophical, spiritual, and mythological shifts that this new perspective, necessarily, forces upon us as a species. It was well noted that seeing Earth from this vantage point had a profound emotional impact on the astronauts who were there — as I imagine it must have also affected any human being on Earth who was able to absorb the simple, plain reality the image presented us with.
To me, it’s not surprising that Earth Day was founded within a year of the publication of this photograph, and then inaugurated about seven months later on April 22, 1970, marking the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
Photography courtesy of Kevin Mazur/Wire Image
Tuesday night, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I watched a 77-year-old woman perform a three-hour rock concert at full tilt. She danced, shook, shimmied, sang, screeched, howled, and cajoled and charmed the crowd, all while beaming with lightness and pixie playfulness — she even dropped some major doses of universal love and unity on us throughout the evening. Who was this enlightened septuagenarian banshee? Yoko Ono, of course.
The occasion was a multi-pronged celebration: Yoko’s upcoming birthday; 2009’s release of Between My Head And The Sky (which marks a new beginning for her and John Lennon’s seminal Plastic Ono Band); a reunion with some of the original band’s members after nearly forty years (Eric Clapton and Klaus Voorman!); her collaboration with son Sean; and life itself. Joining the celebration were the band’s new members — fairly evenly divided between cutting-edge Japanese noise pop musicians (Yuka Honda, Cornelius, Haruomi Hosono, and others) and downtown New York experimentalists (Erik Friedlander, Shahzad Ismaily, Michael Leonhart, to name a few) — along with a list of heavyweight special guests: Paul Simon, Harper Simon, Bette Midler, Justin Bond, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Mark Ronson, and Scissor Sisters. Needless to say, it was a memorable, possibly historic show.
Image via drury.edu
Howard Zinn was one of the great humanitarians of the 20th Century. His work had a profound influence on me personally and was a factor in shaping this magazine when I was formulating it in the late 1990s. We consulted with him for our Peace Issue in 2003, and wrote a piece on him in our Voices section in 2008. Also, click here for a link to the New York Times obituary. I haven’t always agreed with all his views, but his central ideas — that history should be told from the viewpoint of those its events have most affected, and that society’s duty is to organize our resources to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people — are important principles to keep in mind as we hurtle deeper into this Global Century. May his vision endure, and may he rest in peace.
The other day, walking down the street near my apartment in the Lower East Side, I came upon a trailer park, right on the corner of Stanton and Suffolk, which hadn’t been there before. By trailer park I mean a trailer, parked. Not an expansive terrain of trailers. But also, inside the tiny, silver Coachman Travel Trailer was a park — yes, growing plants, shrubs, and trees, a miniature cascading waterfall and pond, wood and concrete benches, and skylights to let in sunshine. I stepped in, and enjoyed the natural park setting, the sound of trickling water, the dappled sunlight on the outstretched plant leaves.
Originally commissioned in 2006 for an exhibit at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, Kim Hollerman’s Trailer Park is not new. It’s been written about before, and some of our readers may have seen it when it first exhibited (parked?) back in ’06. But for me, it was a fresh slice of genius on a sunny fall day.
Currently parked at NY Studio Gallery, 154 Stanton Street.
Just released today, Between My Head and The Sky is a continuation of Yoko Ono’s musical and artistic journey, but also represents the return of her Plastic Ono Band — this time with son Sean Lennon in a major supporting role, on guitars and also with his new label, Chimera. The album also touts legendary Japanese “noise” musician Cornelius on numerous instruments, including guitars, percussion, and electronic programming, and his influence is delightfully present. Throughout her career Ono has been pushing boundaries in art, music, and, of course, in speaking her mind. At 76, she’s still a vibrant creative force that deserves to be reckoned with — and, vocally, she can still channel her inimitable inner-banshee. On this track, “Waiting for the D Train”, Ono perfectly captures the maddening energy and tension of waiting for most any notoriously late subway line. (For all you Brooklynites, just insert an ‘L’.) Next time you’re stuck on a subway platform, make sure this is on your i-Pod, hit play, and…let go.
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – Waiting for the D Train
Friendly Fire Recordings
The Phenomenal Handclap Band is a collective out of NYC that specializes in combining elements of every major musical genre of the last forty years — rock, soul, psychedelia, disco, prog-rock, funk, new wave, and probably a few others I’ve missed. It seems like an unruly soup, but somehow they make it work in a mostly seamless rollick through the decades. And not only that, they get you dancing. Members have been involved in numerous notable projects, from TV on the Radio to Calla to Mooney Suzuki and others. They also happen to be friends, so over the last few months I’ve sat by as everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR, Spin to Pitchfork have gushed over this band. Lately, I’ve been thinking of a way to get into the game — but haven’t been sure what other superlatives I could add. Alas, their first video provides an opportunity. All this time I’ve suspected they’ve been up to no good; now it’s confirmed.