Monday, May 30, 2011

Tonya Foster Reading at SEA

Photograph by Erica Kaufman

Tuesday, June14th
(in conjunction with the SEA exhibition Contemporary Slavery)
Suggested Donation: $5. Cash bar.
EXIT ART, 475 10th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Street), NYC

The SEA Poetry Series emphasizes diverse ways in which poets address social and environmental issues in their work. Presented in connection with specific SEA exhibitions, the series aims to investigate and expand the exhibition theme through the lens of contemporary poetry. After each reading, an artist from the exhibition or a community member working within the exhibition theme briefly responds to the poet. Past poets in the series have included Jonathan Skinner, Marcella Durand, Laura Elrick, James Sherry, Julie Ezelle Patton, Ed Menchavez, Phil Metres, and Michael Leong.

Panelists responding to Tonya Foster's work are photographer Jesse Pesta, whose photographs are featured in the Contemporary Slavery exhibit at EXIT ART, and Professor Salamishah Tillet.

Tonya Foster is the author of poetry, fiction, and essays that have been published in a variety of journals from Callaloo to The Hat to Western Humanities Review. She is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna Press) and co-editor of Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art. She is currently completing a cross-genre piece on New Orleans, and Monkey Talk, an inter-genre piece about race, paranoia, and surveillance. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. A recipient of a number of fellowships, notably from the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and City University of New York, Foster teaches at Bard College. A native of New Orleans, she writes and resides in Brooklyn.

Salamishah Tillet is an Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization in 2007 and A.M. in English from Harvard University and her M.A.T. from Brown University. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania where she received her B.A. in English and Afro-American Studies. She is a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellow for Career Enhancement and is currently a visiting fellow at the Center of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her book Peculiar Citizenship: Slavery and the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (forthcoming Duke University Press) examines how contemporary African American artists and intellectuals reimagine slavery as a metaphor for post-Civil Rights citizenship and as a model for racial democracy. With Hua Hsu, she is the co-editor of the forthcoming, The Day that Martin Died: Music, Memory, and Martin Luther King, Jr. She is an associate editor of Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. She recently co-edited the Callaloo Special Issue on Ethiopia and has published in Callaloo, Novel, Research in African Literatures, and Women Review of Books. She is currently working on a book-length project on the civil rights icon, Nina Simone. She is also the co-founder of the gender violence prevention and expressive arts organization, A Long Walk Home, Inc., and a regular contributor to the online magazine, The Root. Her research interests include twentieth-century African-American literature, film, and popular music, cultural studies, and feminism.

Jesse Pesta is a writer and photographer and a Page One editor at The Wall Street Journal.
He has lived and worked as a journalist in New York, India, Hong Kong and small-town America, where his family published a more-than-century-old local newspaper.

SEA Poetry Series support provided by Poets and Writers Inc.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FRACKING followup: Jacques del Conte's Response

Photographer and filmmaker Jacques del Conte was kind enough to share his verbo-visual response to the poems that Michael Leong and Phil Metres read at the FRACKING reading at EXIT ART on February 1st:

In the spring of 2010, Christopher Bateman at Vanity Fair magazine, asked me to come along on a research trip to North East PA. I would make photographs and video while he interviewed litigants and activists for his VF piece on Hydro-Fracking.

I am going to try and relate Michael and Philip’s poems to some of the photographs from the series.

I would like to start with the line from Michael’s poem

“from beneath a bony tongue, I heard the clink of the coin’s Charonic currency.”

To me this line describes well how the Cabot Oil and Gas company took advantage of a very desperate people.

Norma is poor. She lives in this ramshackle home, she has very little. Her son and grandson do not have much of any money either.

Norma was the first one to be blatantly effected by the gas drilling. On New Year's Day, when returning from visiting family, she came home to her water well having exploded because so much methane had built up inside of it.

But Norma did not have recourse, because while her neighbors received hundreds of thousands of dollars for their land, she had sold the mineral rights under her land for a mere $600. But to Norma, $600 is a lot of money.

This image also reminded me of the same line.

This is Ron and Jean Carter. Their daughter was pregnant and living with them, when the water in their home began to reek so badly of gas that they worried for the safety of her unborn baby.

They had numerous tests done, which they had to pay for out of pocket, only to have Cabot deny any help. Ron ended up spending over $7000 on water filtration systems.

Mind you, they live about 1000 feet from a drilling site.

From Michael’s poem:

“I heard a vampiric hand writing out a venomous verticality, I heard crystalline molecules loosening and unlocking the hiss of incessant itineraries”

This section reminded me of a constant battle and struggle, one of those moments in life when everything seems to just get worse every day.

This is Craig and Julie Sautner. Craig works for the local telephone company. The two bought there home as an investment years ago, they put everything into it.

The smell of methane in their water started to become so strong that their daughter had a rash and would pass out from the fumes when taking a shower. Well testers came, and alerted them to what all of their neighbors would eventually learn, that their water supply was filled with methane and other hazardous chemicals.

All of their clothes had been stained, their dishes ruined. They had to buy bottles and bottles of water. Their home has lost all of it’s value. They feel absolutely hopeless.

From the line, again in Michael’s poem:

“a homophonic hymn homing in on its nomadic home”

and from Philip’s poem:

“The body beneath the klieg lights is ethered but breathing”

Their lines reminded me of the sound these sights make. It feels like everywhere you go around Dimock, PA, there is a constant Humm. All of the machinery, trucks, fluorescent lights.

From Philip’s poem:

“In the dream of the body, men in the white mask. The gleaming instruments upon the table”

This line evokes very beautifully the feeling that earth itself is being dissected and mined for organs by these hideous companies.

This also evokes

“The sound of them like mandibles of ants”

For everywhere you go, is a constant business of trucks. Every street and parking lot and field seems to be covered in trucks, scurrying around like busy ants.

The line from Philip’s poem “and the blood, she sees it all now as if through a hole in the sky, beyond the blue ether”

made me think of this photograph, taken from our car. This idyllic farmland with a hint of corruption peaking out from beyond the barn.

And finally “And the water is a river, coursing beneath our feet”

This is a photograph of a pipeline. One of the veins of this beast. They want one of these to run all the way up into Canada now, which I believe is being battled in court right now.

These are the fighters. The Demascus Citizens for repsonsibility. They are the forefront of the battle. Pictured here are Joe Levine, Pat Carullo and Jane Cyphors.

Thanks to Jacques for sharing this response with his stunning photos!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Michael Leong & Phil Metres Reading at SEA, 2/1/11

Tuesday, February 1st
(in conjunction with the SEA Exhibit entitled FRACKING)
$5 suggested donation. Cash Bar.
EXIT ART, 475 10th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), NYC

Michael Leong and Phil Metres will be reading their poems from the FRACKING exhibit along with other pieces, followed by a response from, and panel with, artist Jacques del Conte. There will be time for the audience to ask questions and get involved in the discussion. Please plan to hang out in the bar following the formal presentation.

Michael Leong is the author of two books of poetry: e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009) and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions / The Brooklyn Rail, forthcoming). He's also written a translation of the Chilean poet Estela Lamat, I, the Worst of All(BlazeVOX [books], 2009), and several chapbooks and broadsides including The Great Archivist's / Cloudy Quotient (Beard of Bees Press, 2010), Midnight's Marsupium (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2010), and The Lung of the Poet (Splitleaves Press, 2011). He lives in New York City and contributes to the literary blog Big Other.

Philip Metres is the author of To See the Earth (2008), Come Together: Imagine Peace (2008), Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (2007), Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein (translation, 2004), and A Kindred Orphanhood: Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky (translation, 2003). He has also published two chapbooks, Instants (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006) and Primer for Non-Native Speakers (Wick Poetry Series, 2004), and has three forthcoming in 2011: abu ghraib arias, Ode to Oil, and Thirty-Five New Pages. His work has appeared inBest American Poetry, and Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry and has garnered an NEA, a Watson Fellowship, two Ohio Arts Council Grants, and the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2010. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. For more information on his poetry, click here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Julie Patton Reading at SEA, 8/24/10

Tuesday, August 24th
(in conjunction with the SEA Exhibit entitled CONSUME)
$5 suggested donation. Cash Bar.
EXIT ART, 475 10th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), NYC

Julie Ezelle Patton will be reading, followed by a reading/panel with local food activists, including James Subudhi, Environmental Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Inc. (WE ACT), Ed Menchavez, and others to be announced. There will be time for the audience to ask questions and get involved in the discussion. Please plan to hang out in the bar following the formal presentation.

Julie Ezelle Patton is the author of Using Blue To Get Black, Notes for Some (Nominally) Awake, and A Garden Per Verse (or What Else do You Expect from Dirt?). Julie’s work has appeared in ((eco (lang)(uage(reader)), Critiphoria, and nocturnes. "Room for Opal,” a sound/text installation that Julie created as a Green Horizons Fellow at Bates College, is lovingly explored in Jonathan Skinner’s “Listening with Patton” (ON: Contemporary Practice, 2008). Julie’s performance work, featured at the Stone, Jazz Standard, and noted international venues, emphasizes improvisation, collaboration, and other worldy chora-graphs. She has shape-shifted into a cat-witch for Sop Doll: A Jack Tale Noh (written by Lee Ann Brown and Tony Torn), Desdemona in Othello Syndrome (Uri Caine’s 2009 Grammy nominated CD), a ring-tone (Ravi Coltrane’s At Night), and “Onyx Blackly’s” voice of doom for Barnaby McAll’s Triplum. Her publik dissertation, “Chateau in z’ Ghetto,” is an ArkiTextual dwelling space foregrounding creative utilitarian projects, ill-literacy, ritual maintenance work, neighborhood love-economies, and the familial philosophy of “Making Do” in the urban desert of Cleveland, Ohio. The writing of this “home-ek” project is exhibited, litter-ally and artifactually, in its own Salon des Refus├ęs. Spin-offs of this season-based (unreel) reality show reflect Julie’s practice as a native plant and green space advocate (“Let It Bee Gardens,” “Rockefeller Park Project,” “Poet Tree Mitigation Works”), market gardener (“Sun Raw”) and eco/arts educator (“Old School”). Julie is a recipient of an Acadia Arts Foundation Grant (2008), and a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (2007). Julie has taught at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art, Naropa, Teachers & Writers Collaborative and Schule fur Dichtung (Vienna, Austria). She lives in the “East Pillage” of New York City.

James Sherry Reading at SEA

Tuesday, July 27th
(in conjunction with the SEA Exhibit entitled ECOAESTHETIC)
$5 suggested donation. Cash Bar.
EXIT ART, 475 10th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), NYC

James Sherry will read the essay, "Climate Change and Poetry" and the poem "Passive Voice: Forcing Amaryllis."

Following the reading, The Canary Project, the photographer Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris, whose work is featured in ECOAESTHETIC, will respond to the reading. There will be time for the audience to ask questions and get involved in the discussion. Please plan to hang out in the bar following the formal presentation.

James Sherry is the author of 10 books of poetry and criticism. His work on Environmental Poetics, both prose and poetry, is widely published in magazines and websites. He is the editor of Roof Books and founder of the Segue Foundation. He lives in New York City.

Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris work with photography, video, writing and installation. Of primary concern are contemporary efforts to develop ecological consciousness and the possibilities for art within a social activist praxis. In 2006 they co-founded The Canary Project - a collaborative that produces visual media and artworks that deepen public understanding of climate change ( Works from The Canary Project have shown in diverse venues, including: art museums such as The Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver and the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse, NY); science museums such as the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL); universities; public art projects; magazines; city halls; etc. In 2008-2009 Sayler and Morris were Loeb Fellows at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. They are currently teaching in the Transmedia Department at Syracuse University.

Sunday, June 27, 2010



James Sherry
Tuesday, July 27th
(in conjunction with the SEA Exhibit entitled ECOAESTHETIC)

Julie Ezelle Patton
Tuesday, August 24
(in conjunction with the SEA Exhibit entitled CONSUME)

Time: 7:30pm

More to come.
See you there!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Artists Reviewing Poets: Adam Simon on Laura Elrick

There are a considerable number of examples of poets reviewing artists. Frank O'Hara and John Ashberry immediately jump to mind, even Peter Schjeldahl, the New Yorker art critic was a poet (and still may be?). However, it is rarer to find an artist reviewing a poet.

Last night, we launched a new format at the SEA reading. It mimics the format of Human/Nature, a visual arts series that I have co-curated with Amy Lipton, co-founder of ecoartspace (and at one time with Molly Northrup and Jake Kheel too): Laura Elrick read her poetic text to accompany her film Stalk, which was followed by Jess Levey, a visual artist in the America For Sale exhibit, and Adam Simon, an artist and founder of Four Walls, Fine Art Adoption Network, and most recently AVATAR (A Visual Artist's Temporary Actor Replacement) responding to Laura's work. They both had many thoughtful things to say about didacticism in political art, alternative economies, and other aspects of the work, but as a final gesture Adam brought out his written response to Laura's work. I have pasted it in its entirety below because it is a very apt reading of her work and this rare example of an artist reviewing a poet.

For all of you who missed the reading last night. It will give you a little taste of what's to come at future SEA readings.

I joked with Laura when I met her that this is the second best work I know on the subject of how a citizenry is dissociated from the political realities that shape the conditions of its existence. My choice for first prize went to the play Aunt Dan and Lemon by the playwright and well-known character actor, Wally Shawn.

But Stalk offers a lot that the Wally Shawn play doesn’t. It offers a kind of invention that a playwright doesn’t get to partake of. For one thing it is almost impossible to define. Tonight it is being defined as poetry which I think is completely legitimate and yet an aspect of the work that I became aware of only after first identifying it as performance, then as video.

To say that Stalk is layered sounds almost ironic, it is such an understatement. It is incredibly complex. I tried to describe it in a single sentence to a friend as a video documenting a person dressed as a Guantanamo detainee, handcuffed and shackled and hooded, walking through Union Square and other locations in New York while almost no one reacts, and my friend responded by saying, “I hate that kind of art.” It reinforced my feeling that this work is much more than what a single sentence could describe.

For example, my description did not take into account the delicate tapestry of voices that Laura has woven, from an interrogation log appropriated from the U.S. Department of Defense to actual quotes from a collection of thinkers that manages to include Baudelaire, Vito Acconci and Herodotus, to the voice of the artist herself as performer in the role we are in the process of watching.

And then the layering gets deeper. The Interrogation Log is a particular voice in the tapestry because it is written with an extreme degree of detachment. Given that the detainee referred to in the log is identified in our minds with the walking subject of the video this affect of detachment becomes transferred in our minds to the passing crowds, heightening their apparent obliviousness. But wait, the Interrogation log is transmitted to us in a voice that seems to contradict its content. This voice is female as opposed to the beauracratic male voice we associate with this type of text. It is modulated, soothing, almost seductive. The affect is disorienting. Uncomfortable.

Or, consider the camera. The camera is curious, much more so than the people it passes. It lingers on objects, buildings, the sky. It sometimes seems to find its walking subject almost coincidentally and is happy to allow it peripheral status. The camera is also intelligent. It dissembles. A view of the sky reveals itself to be a reflection in a car windshield. A woman entering the subway repeats, a visual hiccup, and only on the third hiccup do we see our detainee behind her.

And there is another aspect of this piece that I am not even sure was intended. There is a way in which it is not only about gitmo or bringing uncomfortable realities home to a complacent citizenry. I realized at some point that I was identifying with this walking detainee, not through political awareness or empathy but because it reminded me of when I first came to this city as a 17 year old and spent solitary weekends and evenings walking the streets, wondering why no one seemed to notice me.

--Adam Simon