Patti Astor: Queen of the New York Underground

“New York is the only place where a girl can graduate from the Scarlett O’Hara School of Business and build an art empire held together with Aqua-Net,” Patti Astor told New York Magazine in 1983, at the height of her reign as “Queen of the Downtown Scene” and co-founder of the legendary FUN Gallery. Astor, who René Ricard famously called “the first natural blonde in town since Edie Sedwick,” has succeeded in doing just that. The Manhattan it-girl, underground film star, and groundbreaking curator tells all in her memoir, FUN Gallery… The True Story

“We did it, motherfuckers!” the diminutive Astor, clad in shocking pink, cried gleefully at her October 6th book launch party at Clic Gallery in Soho, pulling guests Lee Quinones and Charles Ahearn into a tight embrace. FUN Gallery began in 1981, when Bill Stelling approached Astor at an art opening and barbecue being held at her “hideous 65-dollar-a-month apartment” on East 3rd Street (attendees included Keith Haring, Jeffrey Deitch, Futura—who was painting a mural on Astor’s wall, and Kenny Scharf—who busied himself customizing Astor’s kitchen appliances with “cowboy and army figures and glitter”). Stelling had an East Village space that he wanted to transform into a gallery—and social butterfly Astor knew artists (did she ever!). FUN became the first gallery to give important solo shows to Scharf, Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Thanks to the ever-bubbly and vivacious Patti Astor, the gallery brought widespread recognition to graffiti as an art form, showcasing work by emerging street artists such as Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Zephyr, Dondi, Cey One, Jane Dickson and SHARP. In her memoir, Astor gives us an exclusive look at the glory days of FUN—that short-lived, magnificent, ever-transforming hodgepodge of glamour, sleaze, hip-hop, disco, punk, paint, glitter, knives, garbage cans and two-dollar beers—with the effervescent, unmatched spirit of adventure that made it all possible.

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Can you tell me a bit about how FUN Gallery started?

PATTI ASTOR: What I describe in my book is the path that led me to the opening of the FUN Gallery. I moved to the East Village in ’75 and when I first moved over there, all my friends said, “Oh my god, we’re never going to visit you, it’s too dangerous… See you!” And that wasn’t true at all. CBGB’s was the local bar, and Blondie and Talking Heads were the house bands. So we would go there every night… and this period, which covered from maybe ’75 to ’77, ’78… was sort of the punk rock band, the music period… and the film director who I went on to make two feature movies with, with Debbie Harry as a co-star, was Amos Poe. I met him at CBGB’s, and he had done this movie called Blank Generation, which documents CBGB’s. It’s a great movie to look at… if it was sync-sound, it’d be worth like 20 million dollars, but it’s not… but it shows the bands at CBGB’s. So I met all of those guys, and I was very young, about 25 or 26… drinking the two-dollar beers, and that was when I acted in my first feature. And so the next thing that came along after the bands was the underground film scene. Jim Jarmusch is probably the most successful person that came out of that period. Over the next two years, I would make over fourteen beyond-low-budget movies. In Rome ‘78, we’re all running around in togas… We shot Snakewoman entirely on location in Central Park, for five hundred dollars… it’s our homage to the 40’s jungle movies. So everybody was just doing these wild, creative things. What happened though, which is interesting, is that a lot of Underground U.S.A., which was probably my best role, the sort of Sunset Boulevard punk rock version, was shot in the Mudd Club. We couldn’t afford to rent the Mudd Club, so we just shot while it was open, but it’s a fascinating look at the club. Later on, when I did Wild Style, which is the ultimate hip-hop movie, it was the same thing—we were so broke that we just shot in the midst of it. So you get the real scene. All that existed—you’re not going to get some scripted thing. That came later. So I met Fab 5 Freddy…

GRAHAM: How did you meet him?

ASTOR: It’s a good story! It’s actually the pivotal story—this story is what I start the book with, because I just happen to be very lucky. I’m adventurous, so that helps. But I really think that our meeting was so pivotal. I told you about Underground U.S.A., which was playing at St. Mark’s Cinema—which now has turned into a GAP. But at the time it was the hip movie theater, and Underground U.S.A. was running as the midnight movie there for about six months. This is the end of 1980, and no one downtown had heard of rap music, break dancing or graffiti art. It did not exist. We had no idea it was going on. It was all going on in the South Bronx and in Brooklyn. Fab had dragged Futura and a couple of other guys down to see the movie. So the next day, I think it was… I was really hung over, I remember… Duncan Smith, who was a poet-philosopher, was having a big party at his loft for the 100th birthday of Stéphane Mallarmé, the poet. He was serving vodka and cucumber sandwiches. So we’re there, and I see this black guy… which was not that usual on the scene… with the porkpie hat and the shades and everything, and I’m like, “Woah, who’s that?” And of course, everyone was too cool to introduce us. It was a birthday party, so Fred took a little paper plate and he walked up to me and said, “Patti Astor, you’re my favorite movie star. Can I have your autograph?” And I said, “Oh, yeah, of course! You must be my new best friend.” And of course, that’s what he was, and that’s how it really all started. Fred said that I was “down by law.” That’s like the beyond-silver-platinum-American Express card in hip-hop. That means, like, Patti A. is cool. So that meant everybody would talk to me and everything. I got to know all of the guys, and this was when the clubs were all really big, and I was going into Peppermint Lounge. So now the uptown guys are starting to come downtown, they want to go to the clubs and everything. So Futura and Dondi and Zephyr were outside the Peppermint Lounge, in line waiting to get in, and they were like, “Hey Patti!” And I’m like, “Yo guys, what’s up? Come in with me!” Because I always went into the door, and, you know, as soon as they found out that with me they could get into any club in town, I was like double “down by law.” So then what happened was that Futura offered to give me a painting, because that was something that they would do.

By this time, I realized that it was cooler to have a mural, because a mural could not be bought or sold. So I was living in this hideous dump, a sixty-five-dollar-a-month apartment on East 3rd Street, across from the man shelter, which was… we called them “bums” then, but it was like a homeless shelter. It was an awful apartment, but everyone lived on that street. Eric Mitchell, John Lurie… all the stars. I always call it the Street of the Stars. So I said, “Listen, why don’t you just come over and do a mural on my wall in the morning, and in the afternoon we’ll all have an art opening and barbecue! It’s gonna be great!” And so Kenny Scharf also offered to join in, because… and this is what’s so fascinating, I don’t think it happens anymore—that we would just do something. We wouldn’t worry about, “Are we going to make money? How much is this going to cost? Is it going to be organized?” You know, we’d just do it. So Futura and Kenny did their art. Kenny was customizing my appliances… he took my blender and decorated it with paint markers, and glued all these little cowboy and army figures, and glitter and whatever… and then your appliance would be customized. He did that, I made potato salad and ribs, Futura was painting… and then in the afternoon we had the art opening and barbecue. So we’re all there, we’re drinking the two-dollar beers, and Keith Haring is looking out the window and he goes, “Oh shit!” So we all rush to the window, and we see Jeffrey Deitch, who’s one of the biggest figures in art—and was then, too, because he was the art buyer for Citibank—getting out of a cab with Diego Cortez. Even the bums—the bums would all come out when we had parties, they would sit on all the garbage cans outside and listen to the music—they were so impressed that they didn’t even bother to panhandle. So we were all like, “Jeffrey Deitch is coming to this little downtown party… There’s something going on here.” However, that had nothing to do with starting the FUN Gallery. At this point, I needed to get all these guys and all these beer bottles out of my apartment. So my partner Bill Stelling came up to me and said, “I have this little space that I want to fix up and make into a gallery, do you know any artists?” And I said, “Yes, I do.” People always ask me how we got started… we just started. It wasn’t even a graffiti artist at first, it was my ex-husband, Stephen Kramer. We had twenty colored pencil drawings—he was a genius, they were beautiful—he cut them out himself, and we were so broke that we couldn’t frame them, so we shrink-wrapped them like albums. We put them up and sold everything the same day; we made a thousand bucks.

GRAHAM: How do you think the gallery scene has changed nowadays? Had it been a different era, would the FUN Gallery have happened, or was it a product of the times?

ASTOR: You know, I don’t think it’d be possible today. When I did the LACMA show last year, “Art in the Streets,” I had a room that was the FUN Gallery original crew, the people who made the gallery what it was. Those were the men—and one woman—who had one-person shows in the FUN Gallery. I’m looking around now, and over half of those artists are gone. I’m here to make sure that they’re taken care of, that their reputations and their artwork are given the respect they deserve. I’m seeing a younger generation—but I think it’s so difficult now, and I don’t think people really have that spirit of adventure anymore. People are saying, “Patti, bring it back! Bring the FUN Gallery back!” What I really need to bring back is that spirit of adventure—because without that, it’s never going to happen. So find it within yourself. You can make a difference.

You can find Patti Astor's book FUN Gallery… The True Story at Clic Gallery & Bookstore, 255 Centre Street, New York, NY or online. Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

Something Season-Less: An Interview with Fanny and Jessy


Fanny & Jessy met in their first class at the London College of Fashion. For the past few years they have been making a name for themselves on the London indie fashion circuit with their incredibly unique label that mixes luxury sportswear with a fine twist of tomboy attitude. With collections entitled I Hope You Die Soon and Sea Foam In Your Eyes Fanny and Jessy embrace the ethos of rebelliousness and almost seem blasé about all the hullabaloo that is the business of fashion. I recently got a mass email invite to a party celebrating the launch of their new online store that started off with, “Dear...Blah blah blah….” You’d think they were being cheeky if Fanny & Jessy weren’t more concerned with making great, wearable clothes that hold a distinct element of individualism that stays true to the boundary breaking aesthetics of the designers themselves. Always forward thinking, Fanny & Jessy are expanding with their brand online with the recent introduction of an e-shop and they just released a string of short videos, one for each day of London Fashion Week, directed by filmmaker Danny Sangra for their new 2013 “something season-less” collection entitled Welcome to Uscopia. We recently caught up with Fanny & Jessy to discuss their new collection and what kind of plans they have in store for the future. Read interview and see more photos fromt their current collection after the jump. 


PAS UN AUTRE: Who is Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Two girls from Somerset that met at London College of Fashion and started a fashion label.

AUTRE: How would you describe the aesthetic of Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Sexed up tomboy-ish luxury sportswear.

AUTRE: What are some of your major inspirations?

FANNY & JESSY: Our inspiration changes each season along with our own tastes and interests but we are always hugely influenced by the idea of escapism and with the natural world.


AUTRE: Can you talk a little bit about the new collection?

FANNY & JESSY: It's a very natural progression from AW12, which we felt was the collection that best reflected us most as a brand. For SS13 we added in a few more feminine pieces; dresses and skirts, but still sticking to our original tomboy aesthetic. The inspiration was derived from magnifying earth scopes and unusual terrain, and the print was manipulated by our psychedelic print master friend Leif Podhajsky.

AUTRE: What is the best part about fashion?

FANNY AND JESSY: Fashion gives everyone a way to express the way they would like to portray themselves to the rest of society. You can read a lot about someone by what they wear, it is one of of our best communication tools we have so it's exciting to be able to contribute to that. For us having a fashion label also gives us a great sense of independence as designers, we get to work for ourselves and have the freedom to explore creatively.

AUTRE: Who is the one person you've always wanted to spot wearing Fanny and Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: We would love to see the 1960's Jane Birkin in Fanny and Jessy but we would be happy to settle with her daughter Lou Doillon or model's Freja Beha Erichsen or Abbey Lee Kershaw. They are all women with natural, effortless style that we adhere to.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FANNY & JESSY: We had a party last week which was the launch of our E-Commerce Store - so we are very excited about embracing the digital side of Fashion, we want to get closer to our customers and the Fanny & Jessy audience and there are so many ways now which allow you to connect more widely online. To start us off we released 5 film stings with film-maker Danny Sangra for each day of London Fashion Week - this is the beginning of many projects that we have lined up to support our new direction! Keep your eyes peeled.

You can visit Fanny & Jessy's online shop or website to see more. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 


Season In Hell: An Interview With Liza Thorn of Starred

I first learned of the band Starred after visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s website. After Hedi Slimane took over the iconic brand he did a top to bottom makeover of YSL’s entire image. This included a new website and in its place, up until yesterday, the day of Slimane’s first runway show for YSL during Paris Fashion Week, there was simply a splash page with some imagery of leopard print fabric and a song sung in a haunting melodic echo accompanied by an equally melancholic guitar. It’s the kind of song you hear and don’t know if it’s old or new. It’s the kind of song you endure tireless research to find out who its by. The guitar turned out to be Matthew Koshack’s and the voice Liza Thorn who together makes up the band Starred. Everyone who knows of Hedi Slimane (progenitor of the skinny jean look for men when he was at the helm of Dior Homme) knows of his romance with youth and rock n’ roll. It all started to come together. I remember seeing photographs of Thorn on Slimane’s website – a photographic diary which in itself is a hard edged, black and white love story to youth and rock n’ roll. Slimane also shot Christopher Owens of the band Girls and who was briefly a collaborator and friend to Thorn. Previous to the band Girls (which recently broke up), when Thorn was based in San Francisco, she had a band with Owens called Curls. Owens is now the face of Yves Saint Laurent’s new marketing campaign – all shot in Slimane’s signature monochromatic and tonal broodiness. From San Francisco, Thorn moved to Los Angeles where she met Slimane and where she met Matthew Koshak and started the band Starred – they are now based in New York City. The song I heard on the website was Call From Paris, from their first album (named after Arthur Rimbauds poem) entitled Season In Hell; the song will also be featured on their upcoming full-length album, entitled Prison to Prison via Pendu Sound, which is due out this Halloween on Itunes. You could liken Thorn’s voice to a whole host of references from Mazzy Star to Marianne Faithfull, but together with Koshak’s ruminating guitar riffs there is something entirely unique and refreshing. Immediately after I learned whom the song was by I tracked down Liza Thorn to ask her a few questions. Read the following interview below and see video for Call From Paris directed by Grant Singer....

PAS UN AUTRE: Who is Starred – how did the band come together?

LIZA THORN: Starred began in Los Angeles, California . I moved to LA from San Francisco to go to the Cass McCombs school of song writing. After graduating I  found Matthew Koshak and Starred was formed....born.

AUTRE: Where are you currently based?

THORN: New York City, baby...

AUTRE: As of right now, your song Call From Paris is currently playing on Yves Saint Laurent's splash page. Did you have a previous connection to Hedi Slimane?

THORN: I met Hedi because he shot me for a magazine - he came over to where I was living in LA and we became friends.

AUTRE: Can you describe that song Call From Paris?

THORN: Some one I loved was gone for too long and traveling the world and I couldn't reach him and it was written out of that frustration of trying to reach someone and not being able to when you love them so much.

AUTRE: What or who are some your major inspirations?

THORN: Leonard cohen, Neil Young, Jennifer Herrema, Lou Reed, Genesis P Orridge, George Harrison, The Doors (I just went and laid in Jim Morrison's grave.)

AUTRE: Whats next?

THORN: Our EP Prison to Prison comes out on Pendu Sound, two 7inches, and more videos, and a world tour.

Starred'sPrison to Prison is due out October 31st on Itunes and everywhere else on November 20, via Pendu Sound. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photography by Hedi Slimane

Father Strangelove: An Interview with Father John Misty

Josh Tillman's (Father John Misty/ J. Tillman / Fleet Foxes) new album, Fear Fun begs many questions and alternatives. To open the door or burn it down? Is there a battle between Good and Evil for which humanity is the fulcrum, or is it all a grey comedy on the stage of Life? Just as importantly, how does one make the most of their situation with such questions looming over their head? In the Book of Revelation, 'Babylon' represents a city containing every evil in the world. In his song Fun Times in Babylon, Josh refers to his newly-adopted home as a strange land to be conquered with revelry: "I would like to abuse my lungs/Smoke everything in sight with every girl I've ever loved/Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee-deep in blood/Look out Hollywood, here I come." I met with Josh in Los Angeles to talk about his album and how to survive as an artist in the pre-apocalocyptic world. Read interview by Marielle Stobie for Pas Un Autre. 

MARIELLE STOBIE: What would you say are the benefits of playing solo?

JOSH TILLMAN: The creative process in general isn't closely related to 'benefit'. I was pretty sure that when I made the decision to stop what I was doing before [Fleet Foxes], one of the chief understandings that I had was it may not be a beneficial decision. Those are usually the most liberating decisions creatively. I really kind of felt like the end of [the Stanley Kubrick film] Dr. Strangelove, like the cowboy on the nuclear bomb. It felt more like a reckless decision than a rational one. I will say that what I was looking for out of the decision I think I've achieved.

MARIELLE: So it was worth the risk…

JOSH: It still would have been what I had to do. And it still may go down… Even my first decision when I was 20 or something, to disconnect from the world of 'benefit' or rational decision-making or anything was all this one big decision that happened a long time ago and now benefit, or worth, or whatever, was disestablished a long time ago. I didn't really have any doubt as to whether or not it would be of more benefit to me. Whether it's successful or not is still to be determined. It was something that I had to do.

MARIELLE: You went on a road trip to write this new album, right?

JOSH: Well, no. I went on a road trip to stop playing music entirely. It barely even classified as a 'road trip'. It was closer to me like 'running and screaming' out of town. I did not foresee any of this [Father John Misty] at that time. At that time, I just needed to get as far from the distortions I had created around myself creatively. At that point it's like, the sound of an acoustic guitar made me nauseous. I just had to disassociate with myself. One of the by-products of that, for one reason or another, was writing this novel and under the process of writing that, I accessed my conversational voice creatively and was actually having fun writing the novel… Which begged a certain question: why had you never had fun in the creative pursuit before and what relationship does 'fun' have to the creative process? The music [I was playing] was so romantic at the time. I wasn't me, really. Whatever romantic singer-songwriter alter-ego I cultivated just didn't work. It was powerless to address my actual concerns or interests.

MARIELLE: Could you briefly address what the novel is about?

JOSH: The book itself is literally in the album. There are two posters with the {album}. It is in type six font.

MARIELLE: So you need a magnifying glass to read it.

JOSH: Just post-magnifying glass. The book is more or less a surrealistic trans memoir attempt at looking at the trajectory of humanity as a thing.There are two end points: One is a transcendence into whatever next plane of human consciousness we're in store for and the other is just apocalypse, self-destruction and how more or less every human life…collectively, is on a speed trial towards one of those options.This really ridiculous book about bed bugs, jet packs, sea otters, and shit…

MARIELLE: In a past interview, you mentioned that you were not a strong student growing up. Today, however, you come across as not only charismatic, but eloquently spoken. When did this transition develop?

JOSH: I think I wrote my first poem in fourth grade. I don't know if what I'd call what I have 'intelligence' so much as 'rigorous thoughtfulness'. Intelligence, as a metric, is determined by a culture. Being able to operate and flourish within the cultures' paradigm is (a lot of the time) determined as 'intelligence'… The reason I didn't do well in school was that I hated it. I hated everything about it. I didn't perform well.

MARIELLE: Before you became a musician, your career path was painted as one of a pastor. That has obviously changed…

JOSH: Has it, though? To describe what a performer does, or an artist, and to describe what a pastor does, but leave out all of the signifying language, it is very difficult to discern one from the other. The way I grew up, you don't decide what you're going to become as an adult or at the age of accountability. You are "called" to do something. For certain kids like me who are very loud and talkative and charismatic, whatever, these kids, they're 'called' to be a pastor or a used car salesman… I wasn't good at music as a kid, so that was the demand proposed onto me by weird adults in my life.

MARIELLE: So this is the "Father John Misty traveling road show of 'reality as you know it'"… Correct me if I'm wrong.

JOSH: I think that quantifying reality is the work of other people. I am really interested in truth. But truth, a lot of the time, doesn't always look like reality. Humans' ability to perceive is not determined by their idea of 'truth'. That's the trap door of any ideology and we live in a very ideologic culture. There's an innate trap door for exceptions to make it pragmatic for living. My version of reality is way bleaker than the music I'm playing.

Fear Fun by Father John Misty is available in stores and online. Text by Marielle Stobie for Pas Un Autre.

Art And Ecstasy: An Interview With Artist Sara Falli

The artworks of Florence based Sara Falli are both mythic and phantasmagorical. They tell visual stories with simple, but complex devices a chaotic, dark, and beautiful world of strange creatures, women seemingly contorted with desire, and the veins of stained water color that conjure blood and ritual. Falli is telling us secrets with her brushstrokes, but keeps them deeply hidden in a labyrinth of multidimensionality. Falli has also published an autobiography, entitled Vita di Saragaia, which hints at a dysfunctional past which adds yet another layer.   

PAS UN AUTRE: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

SARA FALLI: I began to think of myself as an artist in a very hazy way when I was 10. I noticed that art made me feel good and this happened before I even started to become aware of things... I really began without making a decision and it has become a need I cannot help but satisfy, otherwise I think I'd be a very sad person. However I started using the word "artist" to definemy status only ten years ago when I owned my first studio, after finishing my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts.

AUTRE: When did you start drawing in your current style?

FALLI: My style now is really just a stage that I am exploring, I do not know where it will take me, but I love to experiment and give myself new goals. I am very different when I work on canvas than when I work on paper, because as materials and type of paints change, I am very much guided by the impact of color now.

AUTRE: How would you describe your artworks?

FALLI: My works are anchors of an underground work that is within me. Those that I have been able to do are perhaps a thousandth part of what I would like to do; my job is to keep on trying to make visible to myself and others my underground world.

AUTRE: What are some of your inspirations/influences?

FALLI: I am inspired by everything that moves me and captures my interest. I place these feelings aside for a long time, then one day the whole or a part reaches out, always transformed by my use of color, for me the mediation through the matter is crucial, the ink pigments mixed with water, the smudge of graphite ... I do not know if I would be able to be a conceptual artist and never get my hands dirty, but one day it could be stimulating to try there too.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you are making art?

FALLI: When I create art I am either intractable or in ecstasy, almost "I can't draw a single line" or "I will do it, I am invincible". It takes me a while to find the right dimension, I need good music, space and time to "lose".

FALLI: In 2007 I wrote an autobiographical novel that was published by a major Italian publishing house. I had a very "offbeat" infancy, to use an euphemism, and I wanted to tell it. On the cover of the book there are 4 of my oil paintings; in that period I was painting people's objects, and those were my objects. Now besides painting I'm writing short stories.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FALLI: Then, for the future, I can only say that I will always be doing, never trying to reach a finality. I am terrified of finding myself at the finish, but the goal is not so much the finish, it is nothing but a mirage, you can see it only while walking.

You can find Sara Falli's book Vita di Saragaia here. You can also follow her on flickr to see new works.  Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.

Joie de Vivre: An Interview With Photographer Josh Farria

Josh Farria's photograph is a candid diary of his life in San Francisco. His images include a plethora of beautiful women smoking weed, hanging out in laundry mats, eating cupcakes on the toilet, and teasing the camera. There is a certain amount of joie de vivre in Farria's subjects as they interact with their surroundings that range from urban landscapes to intimate interiors. I got a chance to ask Farriah a few questions about his photography, art, and inspirations. Read interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: Why did you want to become a photographer?

JOSH FARRIA: Im not sure.. I never had any plans on taking photos at all. It wasn't until I moved San Francisco at about 23. I just really fell in love with the medium, I had a few friends that were taking photos and I decided to try it. As time progressed I wanted to learn more about it.. Especially by me being a film shooter, it takes patience and lots of trial and error. Before I started taking photos I would draw portraits. Looking back at my drawings, now I can see why I was so interested in learning photography. It makes lot's of sense.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first photograph you ever took?

FARRIA: Fuck.. I wish.

AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?

FARRIA: Most of the girls in the photographs are my friends. Some are models, and some are not. I like the balance of both.

AUTRE: What is your favorite thing to photograph?

FARRIA: Women and moments.

AUTRE: Who are some of your major inspirations?

FARRIA: As of right now I would have to say Hawthorne Headhunters, Charmaine Olivia, Metronomy, and Darlene Farria my moms.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the viewfinder?

FARRIA: A million things! Usually im thinking about how many exposures I have left. That's a probably a boring answer but it's true.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FARRIA: My first book, im aiming to release it before the end of 2012.

Follow Josh Farria on his tumblr diary. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Lucia Cuba on Gender, Strength and Politics

Can fashion be used as a medium for social change? If fashion is an artform and one of art's inherent powers is to change people minds then the answer is yes.  From 1990 to late 2000 the former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori was engaged in an alarming series of human rights abuses including the forced sterilizations of men and women as part of a family planning campaign called Contraceptive Voluntary Surgery.  As a result nearly 300,000, mostly indigenous, women were coercively or forcefully sterilized during these years. Medical procedures where executed without consent, using fake signatures and untranslated "agreements", and under unsanitary conditions. In most cases no post-operatory information and treatments were provided. This caused secondary effects related to the surgery, terrible complications that in some cases lead to the death of patients. Fujimori is currently serving a 25 year prison term for his involvement in the kidnappings and mass killings carried out by an established paramilitary group called the Grupo Colina death squad which was supported by Fujimori and former head of Peru's intelligence service Vladimiro Montesinos. But will justice be served for the victims of the forced sterilizations? In 2001, a brave group of 12 women from the town of Anta, in Cusco, Peru denounced the violation of their rights and after 15 years of protest the public prosecutor's office has reopened the case, but there is a risk it may be dismissed.  Peruvian social activist and designer Lucia Cuba, who recently graduated from Parson's in New York, has started Articulo 6, named after the statute in Peru's general health law that all persons should have the right to choose their own contraceptive method, as a way to give greater visibility to the case and to open a dialogue about issues of human rights, gender and justice. I got in touch with Cuba to learn more about the Articulo 6 and how she is using fashion design to broaden awareness.  

PAS UN AUTRE: You are both a social scientist and a fashion designer – what brought you to these two seemingly disparate paths?

LUCIA CUBA: I was brought up in a household that is very concerned with social issues, and highly motivated by the arts and sciences. As a child, this environment nurtured all sorts of creative impulses, and I remember making some of my own clothes from an early age. While in college I became interested in the social sciences and decided to study psychology. To my surprise in 2004 a group of people who knew I sometimes created clothes invited me to participate in an experimental runway show. At this time, I was beginning to focus on my practice as a social psychologist in human development and public health, however this re-encounter with design opened a parallel world I finally decided to fully explore. During this time, independent fashion and design in Peru were growing exponentially and the context was also very stimulating.

In 2005 I created an independent brand called LUCCO, while I kept on working as a consultant and coordinator in different projects related to the social sciences. I had the need to explore how both practices could connect, and how they could grow together, as one; I started to realize that if I could not find clear connections between them, I needed to develop my own. Everything that came after, took place in a very natural way.

Today I feel that both “sides” of my work have merged in a symbiotic, dialectical and very productive relationship. I can’t think of another way of approaching my practice, but from the understanding of social sciences as a foundation for fashion and design.

AUTRE: You just graduated from Parsons for fashion design – what are some of the differences between the world of fashion in the US versus Peru?

CUBA: Aside from the fact that fashion systems in the US are more internationally established and recognized, I would dare to say both worlds behave in similar ways: They are both fundamentally powered by the idea of fashion as a commercial project, object and experience, one that basically responds to in-depth research on consumer trends. Their foundation does not grow through critical thinking and social analysis, for example. They both urgently need a strong educational reform in the field so as to develop local understandings of fashion, advance theoretical research, and broaden the way we understand and accept different fashion systems.

AUTRE: You had an internship at Kenzo in Paris - can you talk a little bit about what kind of impact that made?

CUBA: My experience in Paris came right after I won a local “young designers” contest and when I had just started a PhD in Public Health. Until that point I was totally attracted to my new practice as a designer, but I was also very involved in my practice as a social scientist. With the award came Paris, and with Paris came experiencing the reality of something that had been, until then, an ideal of what I had heard fashion “was supposed to be”. This experience included a short stage at Kenzo and classes in a local fashion school. This was my first experience in a “formal” environment of the fashion industry. Until then I had been working as an emerging independent fashion designer in Peru.

Two special things happened to me during this time. I started my practice as an active speaker and researcher on fashion—analyzing emergent fashion systems in Peru—and I confirmed that, whatever I was looking for as a designer, I wasn’t going to find it in a formal, traditional or conventional fashion environment.

AUTRE: It seems like the first big socio-political project that bridged the world of art and design was Project Gamarra - what was the project about and what is the Gamarra Commercial Emporium?

CUBA: The Gamarra Commercial Emporium is one of the main clusters of micro and small firms in the country, a key regional actor in trade, production and development of the Latin American textile and garment industry. Gamarra is located in the district of La Victoria, in Lima, and is also a conglomerate of histories of entrepreneurship marked by important migratory processes that began in the 1960s, due to increasing economic and social crises that forced people to migrate to the capital city. Today, over 20,000 firms are located in Gamarra, spreading through 34 city blocks and employing 70,000 people. It receives over 60,000 daily visitors and reaches 800 million dollars in annual sales.

Project Gamarrais an activist-design project that aims to raise awareness about the importance of understanding the Gamarra Commercial Emporium not only as an industrial cluster, but also as an urban ecology—a site of creativity and a space of confluence of diverse peoples and cultural identities. This project also aims to promote open dialogues among designers, students, business owners, neighbors, politicians and consumers in an attempt to promote self-reflection, the strengthening of social cohesion and sustainable practices in this urban context. The idea is to re-think of Gamarra as a creative and sustainable space.

The project creates a number of small but highly visible projects created by designers, photographers, filmmakers, artists, etc., in conjunction with local firms and exhibited in public spaces inside and outside Gamarra, aiming to give these preoccupations great visibility among consumers, decision-makers and the local media. It’s main objective is to promote the commitment of local firms and authorities towards the advancement of creativity, cultural diversity and sustainable practices within Gamarra.

AUTRE: I'd like to discuss the Articulo 6 project - how did you first hear about the forced sterilizations and what was your initial reaction?

CUBA: The first time I heard about the case was in 2002. I remember reading about it on the newspapers, but also reading about other cases of human rights abuses that took place during Alberto Fujimori’s first and second term as President of Peru.

The second time I connected to the case was almost six years later, during my PhD studies in Public Health, and while having group discussions about the “social determinants of health”. My classmates and I decided to follow the case closely and chose it as a case study for the course. During this time I got to interview former congresswoman Hilaria Supa, and Maria Esther Mogollón, a journalist and activist on gender rights. They have both supported the victims of this case for more than 14 years, empowering them and helping them to pursue justice and reparation.

However, It wasn’t until the past presidential campaign in Peru in 2011 that the case returned to the public eye. The case acquired a lot of visibility and was strategically used as a key issue against Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, who was – ironically – running for president. I became convinced that I could take action, and use my work to give this case and the issue it brings forth, greater visibility. While I was geographically far away, I felt emotionally committed and connected to a case that exemplifies the situation indigenous women face in contemporary Peru.

I started to draft the project while processing the incredible amount of information that exists on the case, and connecting with people involved in documenting, researching and actively promoting justice for women and men affected by the sterilizations. I traveled back to Lima and Cusco that year to conduct research, and I had the opportunity to interview two very inspiring women engaged in a permanent search for justice. They shared with me very personal and horrifying accounts of their experiences. These and other testimonies have been essential materials for my work.

The name of the project Articulo 6 is chosen in ironic reaction to the General Health Law of Peru which sustains in its Sixth Article that “all persons have the right to choose freely the contraceptive method they prefer, prior to the prescription or administration of any contraceptive method, appropriate information on the methods available, their risks, contraindications, precautions, warnings, and the physical, physiological, or psychological effects that might be caused by their use”, and that “the application of any contraceptive method shall require the prior consent of the patient”. These are regulations that were completely ignored when the massive sterilization campaigns took place.

AUTRE: After 15 years, why did the prosecutor finally open the case? What is the status of the case currently?

CUBA: The case was conveniently “archived” in two different occasions, and attracted renewed attention in 2011 when it became a key issue during the electoral debates. Even though Ollanta Humala, Peru’s current president stood up for the victims during his campaign and even though he spoke loudly and clearly about the need for justice, the case has not being solved yet.

On March of 2012 the case was re-opened for a third time. The Association of Forcefully Sterilized Women (AMAEF) from Anta (Cusco), accompanied by activists, intellectuals, journalists and politicians approached the Attorney General, to yet again present over 2,000 testimonies and other pieces of evidence that have existed for years. However, all this evidence appears to be “invisible” in terms of the legal aspect of the case. At this point in time, the case appears to have lost its political importance, and we are afraid that it will be archived yet again.

AUTRE: Will the women who had to undergo these sterilizations finally have justice - in what form?

CUBA: As abstract as it may sound, I believe that justice is the least they deserve; yet perhaps the last thing they will receive, if things continue to move as they have in the past.

They know that the sterilizations are permanent, that they where subjected to harmful and inhuman conditions. They were disrespected and hurt. They have mourned and, as one of the women I interviewed told me, they have cried so much that even their tears are now gone. Another women told me that “they just want to be untied”, liberated from a kind of binding condition of injustice. It makes you rethink in what form should justice come. There is no amount of money that can compensate for their loss. Can one put a price on fertility? However, they do demand medical and psychological attention, but more importantly they are demanding to be treated with respect by health and government officials, to have the State officially recognize their loss and the violence they were subjected to. If this does happen, I believe a very symbolic and crucial healing process may begin to take place.

I strongly believe that justice should also come from all of us. All Peruvian citizens need to know that this happened, and they also need to remember it. We need to finally accept that this happened to all of us, and that the responsible one is not a single person, but a complex logic of vertical power and racist ideologies that unfortunately do not only stem from the State. Peru is a country defined by inequality and discrimination. We need to feel responsible, related, and act upon this.

AUTRE:Articulo 6 has a very important message – how will a fashion collection get the message out - could you produce this collection for stores or boutiques across the world?

CUBA: As a fashion designer and social researcher I will always struggle, trying not to let one of my sides win over the other. In this project I am very aware of the highly social and political issues I am raising in the form of garments, and that garments—as I conceive of them—can transform into bodies that advance and open debates as well as new understandings. One of the foundations of the project is to use fashion platforms to talk about the case, but also to discuss the narratives that can be touched upon while presenting it: issues of gender, strength and politics.

I understand garments to have agency, and that when they interact with people and things while performing themselves (in a runway, a photo shoot, a video, a conference, etc.) they may generate emotions, raise questions, foster divergent thought, and challenge established memories. If I know that the garments I created can make at least one person more familiar with the case, if I can move them towards it and prompt a reaction, a feeling and perhaps even an action, I will be satisfied. I strongly believe that we are all capable of letting people know more about this case, and to explore the ways in which we can all take part and change things.

The next part of the project does actually include the development of new pieces inspired in the initial garments and their trajectories as migrate and transform into more “public and commercial garments” that spread the message of the piece in numerous ways. I am aware that this project won’t solve the case. But it can definitely give it greater visibility. It can also let people know that we are all capable of talking out loud not only about ourselves.

AUTRE: Do you think fashion should be more of a medium for social change?

CUBA: I believe that it already is. However, it appears to suffer some sort of blindness towards its own powerful agency and the potential impact it could have if conceived as a device and a medium to transform and change things. In order to so we need to see fashion less in terms of material objects for consumption. We need more fashion that acts, critiques and reacts. We need design and actions for transformation, stronger activism and less narcissism.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CUBA: I am preparing to present Articulo 6 in Peru in August (in Lima and in Anta, Cusco). The idea is to engage in an open discussion about the case and its current situation, and not only about the project. In September I will be presenting the first collection of Articulo 6 in the New York Fashion Week. This experience in itself will constitute another “action” of the project. Later on I will develop at least 10 more actions that stem this work, and I am currently looking for funds to develop them. A total of 12 actions will be performed as part of Articulo 6. I want them to represent the 12 of Anta: the group of brave women that made the first formal accusations and that became a symbol for the case.

To find more about the project, its actions, and the case, and to pledge your support visit the Articulo 6 website. Photography by  Erasmo Wong Seoane, Model  Carla Rincón for IceBerg, styling by  Lucia Cuba & Yasmin Dajes, assistant production Joy Rosenbrum, hair by Olga Sonco. Text for this article by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Chanteuse Fatale: An Interview with Sophie Auster

Singer-songwriter Sophie Auster got her start at the age of eight, when a teacher spotted her potential, singled her “shaking little voice” out and gave her a solo in the school choir. At just sixteen years old, she had already collaborated on a record with musical duo One Ring Zero (using English translations of French surrealist poems and other famous literary works as lyrics) that was picked up and released in Europe. After that, it seemed, the writing was on the walls. Auster’s first full-length solo album, Red Weather, which she produced herself, is slated for released later this summer—the title pays homage to a Wallace Stevens piece, giving a nod to Auster’s literary upbringing (her parents are celebrated writers Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt). Though she has, inevitably, been dubbed an “It Girl,” the Brooklyn native (“I lived in Brooklyn when no one lived in Brooklyn, and I moved out of Brooklyn when everyone moved in,” she laughs) is not your typical 24-year-old singer/actress. Auster’s demeanor is gentle, poised, thoughtful, warm and quirky. Her TriBeCa apartment is filled with the trappings of an intellectual aesthete: books, paintings, photographs, guitars. She is well-spoken and well-read; a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied a mixture of philosophy and art history.

Auster’s stage presence is commanding, even disarming— she engages fully and passionately with her audience, baring her soul through a powerful physicality: Piaf-esque hand gestures, the soulful eyes and voice that have (not surprisingly) garnered comparisons to the likes of Fiona Apple and Dusty Springfield. Wary of being perceived as “too soft, strumming the guitar, dandelions in my hair and that sort of thing,” Auster explains that she gravitates towards grittiness and eclecticism in her music. She cites Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Antony & The Johnsons as some of her favorite lyricists; Nina Simone, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald as inspirational female vocalists; dreams and emotional states as sources of artistic fuel. It’s hard to believe that the steady, husky croon she has cultivated was once that “shaking little voice.” Auster’s hopes for the future? Just “to keep going.”

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Can you tell me a bit about your first experiences with singing and songwriting? How did you start out and how did you realize it was something you wanted to make a career out of?

SOPHIE AUSTER: Well, I started singing when I was eight years old in my school choir. I was always a kind of rambunctious kid, and I was always pretty creative, but when I was in my really early life, I thought I was going to be a painter or an illustrator or something like that; that’s kind of what I was gravitating towards. And then I really think that this one teacher helped me realize that I had this passion for performing. She singled me out and gave me a solo in the school choir when I was eight. I still have a recording of it, it’s like this… shaking, shaking little voice that… you can tell that there’s something there, but it’s quivering! [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: Because you were nervous?

AUSTER: So nervous! I thought I was going to die. I had never sung in front of anyone before; that was really my first foray into it. So [the teacher] told my parents that I should start doing music, start taking voice lessons and all this stuff. It really started then, but then I didn’t really know that I was going to be a singer-songwriter until much later. So I collaborated on a record when I was sixteen, and I would record during the weekends and my summer holidays, and that record got… through a family friend, the record got picked up and released in Europe, just accidentally. It was very lucky, and kind of before the record business turned. I think it was then that I started realizing that I could really do this as a professional thing. And I think that record, because I was only collaborating to some degree on that, so I wasn’t writing everything myself, and I wasn’t… I didn’t collaborate on the music, so I just stepped in as a singer and contributed lyrics and that kind of stuff. So that kind of pushed me into trying to find what kind of sound I wanted to make on my own, and I think after that experience, that was when I started taking it very seriously. So I guess around my late teens, seventeen, eighteen, was when I decided what I wanted to do. I always knew since I was a kid that I wanted to do something in that area, in the arts, but I didn’t know… if I had Broadway aspirations, if I was going to sing and act and combine everything together… so I didn’t figure out that I was going to be a singer-songwriter, until a bit later.

GRAHAM: And you started writing your own songs around your late teens?

AUSTER: Yeah. I had always written poetry and kept a journal, so I was always writing and penning things of my own, but then composing music and playing and putting it all together came a little bit later.

GRAHAM: Can you describe your musical aesthetic and style? Influences?

AUSTER: I think that when I was a kid, I really gravitated towards female torch singers, and this is what I really liked. Even the video [for “Run, Run, Run”], I think there’s some of that, bringing it back. So I really liked Roberta Flack and Nina Simone and Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald when I was growing up, and I sang a lot of Gershwin when I was younger. So I think these things kind of influenced me, and it’s the base of a lot of things that I do, but then obviously it’s developed, when I started branching out and listening to different types of music. As songwriters, I really like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen… Antony & the Johnsons is someone I really like… so my style would be kind of… it’s definitely eclectic, if you hear the mini-record I just made, Red Weather, there are a lot of different influences on it. I think that I gravitate towards something that’s a little bit more gritty, so I always had this fear that I would be too… because I had a “pretty” voice, that it would automatically put me in this category that I didn’t want to be in… Feminine, too soft, strumming the guitar, dandelions in my hair and that kind of thing. So I think I always wanted to get some kind of dirty thing in the music. I wanted my voice to contrast some of the musicality of the songs. I mean, there are actually literally trash cans on one of the songs. So there’s that kind of contrast that I like. I think it’s always developing. I do think that I’ve found where I feel comfortable, and I don’t feel like I’m all over the place anymore. I was writing all these different kinds of songs and they were in such different genres that it was a little like, “Who am I? What am I doing?” But I think it’s come more into focus now.

GRAHAM: How has it been working on your new album, Red Weather? Can you tell us a bit about it?

AUSTER: It was very difficult, I have to say. It was a lot of fun, the experience was very empowering… but you know, there were just hours and hours spent in the studio trying to figure out what I wanted, what kind of sounds I wanted. I produced it myself, which I’ve never… I’ve never done anything like that before, so I was really there alone in the studio with the musicians and the engineer, and then also stepping in and doing the vocals and listening back. Your ears get so much better after a while that you start hearing things that you weren’t hearing before. So it was a great experience. Would I want to self-produce again? Yes, but maybe not the next step. I would probably like to work with someone next time around, and then go back. I do feel like it taught me so much that I can now, if I do work with someone maybe more established, or who’s been doing this for many years, at least now I can have an in-depth conversation with that person, so I’m not just coming in completely naïve. It’s a whole different ballgame once you get in the studio. It’s one thing to write a song, and then to produce it, make it come out, all the things that you’ve envisioned in your head, to actually put that together is a totally different game. I’m really happy that I did it, and even more happy that I’ve gotten something that I was happy with. That was the main thing. But there was a lot of trial and error, and just figuring out what I wanted. I would go and listen to songs that I really liked and try to pick apart why I liked them, what instruments, what’s going on in the track, so that I could use that as some kind of inspiration.

GRAHAM: You’re also an actress. Do you feel that acting provides a different sort of creative outlet than singing? What do you get from each?

AUSTER: Yeah. I think that for me, my main focus is on music, just because I feel like I have so much more creative control than I do when I’m acting. But I love acting, I love the kind of communal thing that goes on, and these little families that are formed within a set, or a play, and I’ve always really liked being part of a group. I think it’s probably because I was teased as an adolescent, so I love being a part of things, so I always gravitated towards being a part of a little clan, a little theatre clan, or something like that. When you’re working with really great people, it can be a completely different kind of experience. I think for me, like music, I get a lot of catharsis out of what I’m doing, so I channel something that’s going on in my life into the creative thing… I think they’re similar in one way, but I do think that some of the obsessive control I have over my music… it’s kind of nice to relinquish that control when I’m working with other people in an acting atmosphere, because I have to trust the director and then I can just kind of do what I think I should be doing. It’s kind of nice not to be the director of everybody, telling people what to do, also making my music and all this stuff… so as much as I like that, I also kind of like just being an actor in something too.

GRAHAM: How do you feel about the creative atmosphere in New York?

AUSTER: I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit recently, and I always feel like it’s great to get away from New York, but it’s so good to come back. It’s this funny thing, because New York is so alive and there are so many different things going on that, you know, at any given moment, someone will be performing or having an art show… you’re constantly finding out about different things that are going on. Even the film that you and Sam were in… just that there’s this communal life in Brooklyn somewhere where all these films are going on… All these little subcultures are going on. So that’s a really nice thing, and especially that there are so many avenues for people to go. There are so many venues, so many things that you can do creatively… People play on the subway, people play in the street, people show their artwork everywhere. It’s a nice atmosphere for that.

GRAHAM: Do you think you’ll stay in New York?


GRAHAM: You grew up here, right?

AUSTER: Yeah. I grew up in Brooklyn, in Park Slope.

GRAHAM: How do you feel about Manhattan vs Brooklyn?

AUSTER: I always joke that I lived in Brooklyn when no one lived in Brooklyn, and I moved out of Brooklyn when everyone moved in. So, maybe just to be contradictory or something, I don’t know. [LAUGHS] I love Brooklyn. It was a nice place to grow up, I still like it, but for me I like being kind of in the middle of things right now. I think if I wanted to have kids and found someone I fell in love with, I might eventually want to move back to Brooklyn.

GRAHAM: If you wanted to have a backyard or something.

AUSTER: Yeah! I mean, I have been thinking about… I don’t know, in a few years, building a studio or something for myself and selling this place… I just don’t know where I would go yet. I like Red Hook, but there’s no transportation, so…

GRAHAM: Can you tell me about your musical-literary project, As Smart As We Are?

AUSTER: The musicians that I did my first record with when I was sixteen, they had a duo called One Ring Zero. The way we met was because they were doing a literary project using lyrics written by famous writers. So they got lyrics from my father [Paul Auster], who is a writer, and then made this project using different well-known contemporary writers. They came over to the house when I was in high school, and they were collaborating with my dad, who gave them some lyrics, and then we sat down and started talking about music. I think my dad told them that I was interested in music, and they were like, “Oh, why don’t you sing one of the songs on the record?” So I stepped in, sang a song, and that’s how that art project came about. They were like, “Oh, you’re a great singer, we should do something together just for fun.” So that record that happened just for fun actually turned out to be getting released. I found poems that I really liked, and put them to music with the guys, and also gave them a few of my lyrics as well. So that was a kind of novelty project that we did, and this record [Red Weather] is really my first record of all original lyrics and music.

GRAHAM: You grew up in a literary family. Did that influence your songwriting?

AUSTER: I think so, because I think that I had a big advantage because I grew up reading a lot, being around a lot of literature, knowing about a lot of writers that maybe a lot of people don’t know about. My mother also read to me for about two hours every night until I was about twelve, I think. I mean, we read serious books together, she used to read to me before I could read, and then once I could read we took turns reading to each other back and forth. But it went from The Secret Garden to, you know, David Copperfield. It was those kinds of leaps that really helped my writing a lot. I just think that the more that you read, the more you know, and if you have some kind of gift for language it just helps you even more.

GRAHAM: They say that if you want to be a writer, you should be reading a lot.

AUSTER: Yeah. And I think that a lot of writers don’t. A lot of writers have a few books that they gravitate towards, but they’re not devouring literature all the time. My parents are so well-read, they’ve just read everything. I have a lot of catching-up to do, but I did get a good background with that.

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite musicians?

AUSTER: Let’s see… I have to throw The Beatles in there.

GRAHAM: Who’s your favorite Beatle?

AUSTER: George Harrison, I think.


AUSTER: Because I like his solo stuff the best. The Who, David Byrne, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, I like Fiona Apple obviously… and… God, I have so much music going around in my brain.

GRAHAM: What inspires you?

AUSTER: For me… obviously there’s inspiration everywhere, but I find that emotional states influence me a lot, whether I’m really exuberant or really sad. I also find that I have very vivid dreams, and that usually finds its way into something that I’ve written. So I would say being an emotional person with all these different energies, as well as my subconscious.

GRAHAM: Any projects for the future?

AUSTER: I’m just crossing my fingers that I have a fall tour set up, and that I’ll start, you know, playing a lot. That would be what I’d really want right now. And that people buy my record and like it. Just to keep going… and make some money. That would be nice. [LAUGHS]

Visit Sophie Auster's website for more. Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre. 

Man on Fire: An Interview with Brian Duffy

The end of the 1950s saw a drastic change in fashion photography—a kinetic, freewheeling, rule-breaking “documentary” style pioneered by three unlikely East London working-class “bad boys”—David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy. Perhaps the most technically sophisticated of the three, the inventive and wildly acerbic Duffy initially picked up photography “as an easy way to make money” after seeing a few contact sheets in the office of a fashion magazine he was working for as a freelance illustrator. It turned out that his instincts were correct, for him at least—Duffy soon found himself at the forefront of a rebellious, groundbreaking new photographic sensibility that would document and reinvent the image of 1960s London.  Duffy, Bailey and Donovan, who quickly became notorious throughout London press as “The Terrible Trio” or “The Black Trinity” (the latter nickname bestowed upon them by photographer Norman Parkinson) ushered in the visual spirit of the “Swinging Sixties,” meanwhile completely changing the image of the fashion photographer established by the predominantly upper-class “gentleman” photographers of the 1950s like Parkinson and Cecil Beaton. As Duffy himself once said, “Before 1960, a fashion photographer was tall, thin and camp. But we three are different: short, fat and heterosexual.” The three even inspired Michelangelo Antonioni’s first entirely English-language film, the cult hit Blow-Up, about a jaded young fashion photographer working in mod London. Irreverent, short-tempered and wholly unafraid to take risks, Brian Duffy embodied the playful dynamism and vibrancy that would come to characterize the 1960s, replacing the static, untouchable ambiance of 1950s imagery.

Throughout his incredibly successful career as one of Britain’s reigning photographers, Duffy created revolutionary spreads for Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Esquire, Queen, The Observer, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. He generated some of the most iconic images of the 1960s and 70s—from the album cover of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane to some of the most renowned images of celebrities like Jean Shrimpton. Grace Coddington, Jane Birkin, Michael Caine, William S. Burroughs, Debbie Harry and others. Within the realm of advertising, the prolific Duffy lent his unique vision to two Pirelli calendars and shot award-winning campaigns for both Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff.

In 1979, Duffy grew tired of the business and decided to give up photography, going out in a characteristic “blaze of glory” as he spontaneously set fire to most of his negatives in the back garden of his London studio. Though a great deal of his images were lost, his son, Chris Duffy, has spent the past five years archiving those that remain—and this arduous process (which remains ongoing!) has culminated thus far in both the publication of a book of Duffy’s images and the openings of several retrospectives around the world. These exhibits showcase, for the first time ever, the oeuvre of Britain’s own enfant terrible: a visionary who created his own unique visual language, changing the face of commercial and fashion photography for good. I was lucky enough to sit down with Chris during the opening of the first-ever stateside Duffy retrospective at Clic Gallery in SoHo for a brief chat about his father’s legendary life, work and the infamous negative-burning incident…

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Your father captured and helped create the image of the “Swinging Sixties.” What about his particular method, style and personality do you think most set him apart from other photographers of the day?

CHRIS DUFFY: Ultimately… and it’s changed today, but I think photographers of the sixties had a lot of power. Clients came to them because they had a particular look and way of doing things. I mean, if you think of Helmut Newton pictures, no one else did that kind of picture, a Guy Bourdain could only be done by Gilles, and that was because photographers did have immense power, they could say how or what they wanted to do, which I don’t think really exists today. Most pictures that I look at, I mean I see hundreds of names all the time, but I couldn’t tell you one photographer from another. It all looks exactly the same. I think in part that has to do with technology, because the digital medium now has changed the game plan. I mean, in this period, in the sixties, all these pictures you look at are a fraction of time on a piece of film. The digital medium, with your recorder there, which is also a camera… if I take a picture of you, first of all, where does it exist? You can’t see it, taste it, smell it, touch it… so, I take a picture of you now, you email it to someone, they change the color of your hair on PhotoShop, they email it to someone else, and they put a background in, and then it comes back to me, where does it exist? There’s no way of knowing what the picture is, because you’ve extended the envelope of believability by digitally compositing elements. Now, traditional mechanical photography, the dynamic it deals with is a metaphysical condition, it’s about a slice of time, a moment in time. And a great picture is not a moment before that or a moment after that, it is that moment… and so it’s a very different, I think you need to differentiate between traditional-style photography and the new digital medium. So, in a roundabout way, in answer to your question about what made Duffy different, ultimately, it was a reflection of his personality. Every photographer infused and had different techniques to get people to react in certain ways or they had affections for certain styles, certain looks with cameras and lenses and techniques… it’s just a reflection of his personality.

GRAHAM: Which was?

DUFFY: Which was, well, he was a natural anarchist… he pushed himself very hard and always tried something new. I think that’s always risky, in a way, it’s much easier to be safe and keep producing the same kind of image, and people like that and you get paid for doing it, but he always wanted to kind of push it as far as he could go. He had a short fuse, he didn’t suffer fools lightly, and he was an incredible intellect; his depth of knowledge on so many subjects, from jazz to food to art to furniture to poetry… So photography was just one part of his makeup, really, I mean it was the medium that he expressed himself in.

GRAHAM: I read that he originally just picked up photography as an easy way to make money.

DUFFY: Well, yeah, originally, he started out, he went to St. Martin’s [School of Art], and he wanted to be a painter. And then what he realized in his class was that there were so many brilliant geniuses, so he went into the dressmaking department. So he had an innate understanding of fashion. Then he started illustrating and got freelance gigs for magazines like Harper’s, and it was when he was in the office of one of the magazines that he saw a set of contact sheets, and he said, “Oh, these all look the same!” and the fashion editor said, “No, no, if you look carefully they’re all different!” And then he realized at that point that that was probably much easier than sitting down drawing things. So he took up photography.

GRAHAM: And he happened to be good at it!

DUFFY: And he happened to be good at it. Well I think actually he would be good at anything he put his mind to.

GRAHAM: Yeah. It seems he was good at a lot of different things.

DUFFY: He was incredibly talented. He then went into film, into commercials, and then when he jumped out of that he’d always had a love of furniture and he was very good with his hands, at making things, he had an amazing workshop at the back of his studio, and he went into furniture restoration. I think by ’79, after working from the late fifties, he saw the writing on the wall, or what was going to happen with photography, and its demise.

GRAHAM: That was actually one of my next questions. What do you think sparked his ultimate disenchantment with the world of fashion and photography, and the burning of most of his negatives in 1979?

DUFFY: Well, I think that after being in the business that long, he felt that he wanted to go out while he was still at the top, and not just water down, you know, become a pale imitation of what he’d done before. I think he’d just had enough.

GRAHAM: He went out with a bang.

DUFFY: He did. I mean, you know, he actually burned a lot of his… well, we’re not really sure how much he burned, but there are big gaps in the archive where you look through and for example you get Job #900 and the next job will be #1008 or something, you know, there’s a big chunk missing. He just started arbitrarily burning things in the back garden on the bum fire to get rid of them. Luckily, he got stopped by the local council… we’ve got a lot of stuff, but I still keep finding things. There are archives around the world that have got pictures that I’m still uncovering. I mean, he was working every day for 25, 30 years. I worked for him from ’73 to ’79 and we just worked all the time, just continually. Nonstop.

GRAHAM: What was the experience of working for him like?

DUFFY: Well, you couldn’t have had a better apprenticeship or grounding. He was the ultimate craftsman. It was demanding, but in the end, a privileged position to be in… to fly around the world and work with a top photographer and meet incredible people and learn so much, really.

GRAHAM: This is the first-ever U.S. exhibition of Duffy’s work, right?

DUFFY: That’s correct. We had a small David Bowie exhibit last year, but this is the first solo retrospective.

GRAHAM: Now that you’ve been archiving his work since 2007, are there plans for more exhibitions in the U.S. and worldwide?

DUFFY: Well, we just got approached by a gallery in San Francisco, it’s the Modern Book Gallery, I think? So we’ll see how it goes. This year we’ve had… Gosh, I think this is about our eighth exhibition already this year. We started out at the Alinari National Photo Museum in Florence, and that’s been a major success, they extended it twice… We are in Monash Art Gallery in Melbourne, we just had the original Aladdin Sane dye transfer at the Victoria & Albert in London, we’ve got this show, we’ve got one in LA, and then we’ve got plans for Spain and Germany at the end of the year. We’ve got another UK exhibition at the Montpelier Gallery in Cheltenham at the end of the year, so it’s pretty full.

GRAHAM: Will those exhibitions show these same photographs?

DUFFY: Well, in the end, it’s up to the gallery, what they think works. For me, all of the pictures work in whatever way you want to put them together

GRAHAM: Do you have a favorite of your father’s photographs?

DUFFY: Well, there are so many pictures that I like… but one of my favorites is this portrait of William Burroughs over there, taken in 1960, with the soft machine and the typewriter, which actually William Burroughs offered to my dad for 15 francs… which he said he bought, but I haven’t found it yet. If I do, that will be an amazing feat… But he photographed him again in 1974 in London, and the portrait was Burroughs holding that picture, and it was shot for Rolling Stone, but he cut Burroughs’ head off. It’s just his body holding the picture of himself taken in 1960. It’s in the book. That’s one of my favorite pictures, because it’s just so anarchic. To take a portrait of someone, and cut their head off… I mean, if I told you I was going to take a portrait of you and cut your head off, you’d say I was mad.

Text by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

Duffy: A Retrospective of Photographs by Brian Duffyis on view until June 3, 2012 at Clic Gallery, 255 Centre Street, New York.

Strange Interiors: An Interview with Katrina Spectre

Twenty year old Katrina Spectre, from Germany, is one of those rare photographers who can capture life as if a dream. Under the moniker of Citlalicue, who is the Aztec goddess who created the stars, Spectre captures a child like world full of impenetrable psychedelic visions replete with stuffed bears, masks and strange interiors. See more photos and read the following interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: How long have you been taking photographs and what inspired you to start?

KATRINA SPECTRE: I've been taking photographs for about 5 years, but during the last few months its been very intensive. My hometown with its dream places inspired me [to start taking photographs].

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

SPECTRE: I remember a photoshoot at about age 14. I went to the woods with a very big plush bear by my side.

AUTRE: Your photographs have a very distinct would you describe your particular style?

SPECTRE: Full of dreams and emotions. In every picture should reside a little fantastic world.

AUTRE: Are there any artists, not only photographers, who have inspired you?

SPECTRE: I love Cocorosie and Lord Dunsany. Films like the Secret garden or Princess Mononoke. There is a lot that inspires me subconsciously.

AUTRE: Your photography name is Citlalicue - what or who is Citlalicue?

SPECTRE: Citlalicue is the goddess of the milky way, Creator of the stars, regent of the thirteenth hour of the day. I am one of her thousands lost children, who are waifs in this world.

See more of Katrina Spectre photography on her website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Suck them in with beauty, knock them out with the truth: An Interview with Kathe Burkhart

Clad in her signature all-black attire and plum-colored lipstick, with a pensive disposition and a laugh that can only be described as infectious, the artist Kathe Burkhart presides regally over the massive paintings and wooden haiku letters that fill her light-dappled, paint-spattered Brooklyn studio. Black-and-white stills from Elizabeth Taylor films, old love letters and lists of materials are pasted to the walls; tubes and cans of acrylic paint, mannequin parts and other random artistic accoutrements litter the desks and floors. Burkhart takes me on a tour through the studio—which is gargantuan by New York standards—first the room mainly occupied by her infamous Liz Taylor paintings, which are awe-inspiringly large in person; then the living room area, the walls of which are adorned with several of her nude photographs (mostly taken on a nude beach in Spain); then the bedroom, which houses her S&M Series—a collection of paintings of various medieval torture devices, each inspired by and named after a different ex-lover (“I stopped because I ran out of boyfriends!” Burkhart confesses); the “print room,” in which Burkhart keeps many of her prints, drawings and photographs from the pornography series (a collection of photos chronicling the changing window displays in Amsterdam’s red-light district sex shops). Since the mid-1980’s, Burkhart has been known throughout the art world and beyond as the original “bad girl” artist. Her work is political, nonconformist, deeply personal, acerbically witty and intensely provocative—one need only refer to her performance video piece American Woman (2001-2) in which the artist dressed herself in a burka made out of an American flag, then sat motionless in front of a screen onto which original footage from the September 11th terrorist attacks was projected; all the while blasting The Guess Who’s American Woman. Burkhart is arguably best known for her Liz Taylor series, a collection of iconic, extremely large-scale portraits of the notoriously audacious, often profligate violet-eyed screen siren (who Burkhart calls an “unapologetic hedonist”) interwoven with autobiographical elements from the artist’s own life. Drawing inspiration from actual film stills, Burkhart emblazons each Liz Taylor portrait with a different provocative phrase, making a tongue-in-cheek commentary on women’s sexual emancipation. Throughout the series, Liz oscillates between the roles of abject victim and dominatrix heroine, playing out each seemingly unshakeable stereotype that persists throughout Hollywood and the media. In Junkie, we find a middle-aged Liz on a street corner, draped in fur (made from dozens of real minks Burkhart glued to the canvas). On the dirty sidewalk surrounding Liz’s high-heeled feet, the artist has attached real syringes, used condoms, discarded heroin baggies, a Vicodin prescription label, pill bottles, razor blades, temporary tattoos, plastic croissants, a sterling silver spoon and cooker, an abortion flyer, a cervical cap and other miscellaneous paraphernalia. The word “JUNKIE” is stenciled in giant red block letters across the canvas. In Blueballs, Liz reclines seductively on a large brass bed with a dealt hand of tarot cards spread in front of her on the teal duvet. It’s the small, personal details Burkhart adds that bestow yet another layer of meaning upon the work— the ones I might not have even known were personal without speaking to the artist herself—the tarot card reading in front of Liz was Burkhart’s own actual reading; on the bedside table rests not only a stack of Burkhart’s own books but her then-boyfriend’s prescription for Cialis; in the upper right-hand corner of the wall behind the bed hangs a subtle framed painting that appears abstract upon first glance but is actually a scanned and printed photograph of what Burkhart calls “my strange hoo-hoo.” Burkhart is also a prolific writer—she has published three books of fiction and poetry (and, I might add, a series of chocolate haikus!) and has plans for a possible film project in the future—an adaptation of her novel Between the Lines, which she describes as “sort of the female Brokeback Mountain.” Much like her muse, Liz Taylor, Burkhart embodies the role of the noncompliant subject— utterly unapologetic for her own “unladylike appetites,” she breaks down accepted notions of femininity, reevaluating the role of the woman artist throughout her body of work.

ANNABEL GRAHAM: What is your conception of feminist art? How do you think perceptions of feminist art have changed since you first began your career as an artist, both for you and for the public?

KATHE BURKHART: Well, I think I’m an artist who happens to be a feminist. I don’t know what “feminist art” is anymore. I mean, it had a certain connotation in the 70’s and now, it just has a totally negative connotation…  I think that the more women are shown in the art world, we have more of a presence, but feminist issues, feminist art, feminism and the social field - the art world is just a reflection of the rest of the world. And we’re in a period of terrible retrenchment right now, where your generation has to think about the right to control your own body again, which to me is insane. In 1992, I did this installation called The Abortion Project, with the signatures of women who had had abortions, and you guys have to fight this still… On International Women’s Day I posted stuff on Facebook with it, I was like what happened in the intervening years, was the intervening generation asleep at the wheel, or what? What happened? George Bush, but women were still sexually active and maybe needed an abortion from time to time, no?

KENDALLE (Burkhart’s studio assistant): Not on his watch.

BURKHART: Right? [LAUGHS] That’s good! We’ll be putting that one in, Kendall… that was excellent… good call. So… I think that there’s a real negative connotation to the word [feminism], because we’re in a time of retrenchment, but that’s silly…

GRAHAM: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people equate the word “feminism” with bra-burning, men-hating…

BURKHART: That is so incredibly old-fashioned. I think that now we see feminist issues are being addressed in culture… in art, in movies, in literature, and the reason why is because women are consumers. That’s why. So parity will be built through that. But I do feel like the previous generation was maybe a little bit asleep at the wheel, because we have like half-hookers now, and that’s really sad. I would think that a young woman in 2012 would be able to buy her own cocktail, you know?

GRAHAM: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s quite the case yet.[LAUGHS] So what’s the climate like for women artists today? How has it changed?

BURKHART: We have more visibility but we still don’t command the same prices at auction as men do; women are still considered a “bargain.” You know what the new market is? Old women. So, if you don’t die, you’ve got a chance in your 80s to make a market.

GRAHAM: Wow. Okay. So there’s hope for us yet!

BURKHART: [LAUGHS] There’s hope! You can be Alice Neel. I always wonder, what the heck will I look like?

GRAHAM: It’s interesting to think about. You work with a number of different mediums; painting, writing, installation art. Would you say that you have a favorite, or one that you gravitate towards more than others? Do the different ones help you express different things?

BURKHART: Yeah. Different ones help me do different things. Come, we’ll take a small tour. So this is… we’re in the painting studio now. [We walk into the other half of the studio, where several of Burkhart’s photographs are hung] These are some of the nudes… This is funny. [She gestures towards a photograph of two men sleeping naked on a nude beach in Spain] These guys were sleeping… I went away, and came back, and they were still sleeping… [LAUGHS] Nice nuts, you know? So, having such a big space, I’m able to break up the bodies of work a lot more; I can really turn it into… [We walk into the bedroom. The walls are lined with paintings from Burkhart’s “Torture Series.”] TThese are all paintings from the Torture series, so these are all old boyfriends.

GRAHAM: So you title them with the ex-boyfriend’s name?

BURKHART: Yeah. First name only! There are more of these… but I stopped making them at a certain point because I ran out of guys. [LAUGHS] That could always change again. But I made these from about 1992 to 2000. [We walk into the next room].This is the “paper room,” where I have all my prints and stuff, but also photo prints are kept in here… This is the porno series… in Amsterdam. I started shooting them in the early 90’s. So I was really shooting porno shops in the Red Light district in Amsterdam, and the weird thing was that I had kept the negatives shelved because I couldn’t afford to print them for years, but I then I had access at NYU to make these prints, which was great, and I did a show with them in 2005.

GRAHAM: Wow. So you had no idea what they looked like until you printed them up?

BURKHART: I knew what they looked like, but not this big… and all the ones that were shot on film had to be meticulously cleaned, because they were full of dust and scratches… and then I started shooting digitally, and, you know, that took care of that. But the odd thing is that now, all of that’s online and there are fewer and fewer porno shops… they’re being overtaken by young clothing designers and stuff. The whole neighborhood’s being gentrified; people buy this stuff online now. So a whole visual culture is disappearing. Something that was at first kind of documenting my reaction to this, what seemed to be openness, but is really just commerce… started out that way, and then I realized, wow, I’m kind of documenting a moment in history that is going to disappear eventually as everything goes online. And now it looks like this. [Gestures towards a photograph of a “tasteful” window display in an Amsterdam sex shop] That was taken this summer, in that neighborhood.

GRAHAM: It looks like an installation piece, almost.

BURKHART: Doesn’t it? I know. Here we have your tasteful tit and ass prosthesis for rich trannies, or something. It’s got that… I mean, it’s still the surrealistic kind of mash-up, but it’s all… everything costs more. I’m going for a residency this summer at the Center for Contemporary Art in Majorca, so I’m going to shoot a ton more of these nudes. I’m going to be a photo machine. I am a camera.

[We go back into the painting studio through a secret passageway]

BURKHART: [Gesturing towards one of the Liz paintings involving a voodoo doll and pins] And this one has pins… Many many pins. You can really see how many if you look back here.

GRAHAM: Wow. Guess you have to handle that one with care. So… what’s your reaction to the perception of you as a “bad girl” artist?

BURKHART: Well, it really morphed into something that I didn’t intend very quickly. We didn’t have words like “gender nonconforming” when I was your age. You were gay or straight, or you didn’t exist, basically. Now, fortunately, we have that word, gender nonconforming, which encompasses sort of what I meant by being a “bad girl.” It was picked up and marketed… it was strange, it was like suddenly to be a bad girl was to be a lesbian. I didn’t get that, I mean, there are plenty of “good girl” lesbians. So, I wanted to represent a kind of woman who wasn’t represented, who wasn’t complicit, who was a noncompliant subject… and that’s what I meant by it, more or less. Gender nonconforming, a noncompliant subject with agency…  Liz Taylor’s a good container for me to dump all that personal history into, because she’s unashamed about having appetites… for sex, for food, for money… for all of the material things that we associate… with hedonism, really. So, in a sense, it was like an unapologetic hedonist, and a linking-up of a punk sort of resistance. It wasn’t about cowgirls, or lesbian mothers, or any of that… What happened was, I was on the cover of Flash Art, the article was called “Bad Girl Made Good,” it’s the first time that term was used in contemporary art. But then it was picked up on by the media and applied to artists like Lisa Yuskavage, Tracy Emin, etc...people who really wanted to be…'good'. So some women who basically wanted to be part of the tide seized upon the “bad girl” mantle, which also for me encompassed a bit of performativity; that the work would come out of the life, and for that to work,  the life had to be interesting. So it was all of those things and more, but it quickly spiraled out of control when the Bad Girl shows happened. So it was considered stupid… Laura Cottingham wrote an article called “How Many Bad Girls Does it Take to Screw In a Lightbulb?” and… it really spiraled out of control and became totally negative, of course. I mean, you say “bad boy” and people just snicker. Soon it became kind of feminist infighting. Like, “I’m not a bad girl, that’s stupid, whatever, I’m a prisspot intellectual. I’m neuter.” [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: Can you really be “neuter” as an artist?

BURKHART: There is that kind of position. There’s a neuter position, women who are not attractive and so they can’t factor their sexuality into it, because they don’t have it, so they’re not threatening. So, when you’re a young woman you can have a lot of success with your sexuality up until you’re about 35 and you have power. So then it’s like, you have a little bit of power and you’re sexual and good looking and smart? That’s really fucking scary. So they put you out to pasture until you’re like 50, and don’t pay any attention to you.  That’s how it is. Because they’re figuring that you’re going to breed and leave the field. And if you don’t breed and leave the field, or if you breed and make money anyway, after you’re about 50 and you’re not dead yet, then they can… then you’re harvestable.

GRAHAM: So it’s a bleak future.

BURKHART: I’m sorry.

GRAHAM: No, it’s good to hear. My next question is about your Liz Taylor series. Can you tell me a bit about the concept behind the series, and how it’s maybe changed throughout the process of these… how many are there?

BURKHART: Oh, god. I don’t know. Three hundred and something? It’s been 25 or 30 years… Crazy. I don’t know how many I’ve got. There was a photograph, an advertisement from The Little Foxes, which was on stage in LA, and that was the very first Liz painting.

GRAHAM: And then from there, did you have the idea that you’d do a series?

BURKHART: No… I guess that’s when I started to collect the images. And then I did another one, and another one… you know, and then I kept going. But I was doing other things at the same time, of course. I was taking pictures and making videos and writing.

GRAHAM: So what is it about Liz Taylor that merits such extensive exploration?

BURKHART: Well, it’s a way to talk about myself without being really solipsistic, and to talk about the woman artist. She really represents a woman artist who continually played herself, so it’s completely performative, and, that’s what I pretty much do as an artist, is kind of unpack my own life through the work, but also to talk about the limited range of roles and representations of women. Things have changed a little bit… but not that much, clearly. We don’t have stars like that anymore. I mean, who plays themselves every time? That doesn’t exist. They’ll just play whatever role for money. It’s not like you’re following the star anymore in the same way. The star system’s all over. But what it spawned is that now everybody is a star, of course. Everybody is for sale, for free.  So celebrity culture… I mean, who knew how it would open up, the way it has? So I think that the series, in a way, anticipated that… tracking of ourselves that we do all the time now, how we refract ourselves through culture, through the movies or through what we see in the media. There was no YouTube, there was no Facebook or blogs… I mean, for example, for the film stills, I would go to the still store; I had to collect them. Now I can just do an image search and print them out. Of course, I still get books and stuff like that, but… she’s provided a way for me to talk about myself and also about media, and also to be able to make paintings when you’re not supposed to make paintings. Conceptual artists aren’t really supposed to make paintings, so there’s that too. When I was in school, painting was like the worst thing you could do. It was declared “dead,” you know? At the same time, a painting appreciates faster than a photograph, and gets the highest amount of money at an auction. So it’s kind of a “thumbing my nose” at all of that monumentality, and ideas about mastery. Am I making sense at all? [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: You are! Definitely. [LAUGHS] You’re also a writer. How do you feel about writing versus visual art? What can you express through writing that you can’t through visual art?

BURKHART: The really personal stuff. [Painting] is a real process, I have to get the picture, and then I project it, and then there’s the painting part, and the collage part, and I have to put the word with it… but with writing, you know, I just write. I always go back and edit; I’m a fastidious editor. Writing’s great, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. It’s much lower maintenance.  I’m able to do stuff in writing that would be too graphic visually, you know, problematic… and wouldn’t work. I mean, the only way that comes together is in the Haiku series, and those are made with chocolate letters… and there are a few in wood. This one is going to be… “What I want to do/ what I have to do and what/ I don’t want to do". It's the id, the ego, and the superego. This one will be in wood letters, so it’ll last.  The chocolate will melt or discolor. It’ll turn eventually… the milk chocolate will get white streaks, and the white will… parts of it will yellow… the white lasts longer, it’s nothing but sugar. The dark and the milk die the worst.

GRAHAM: Do people ever eat them?

BURKHART: Oh, you know, people kick them and break them. It was very interesting, I did this solo show in Belgium in September, and there was one broken letter, and this museum curator that I worked with was doing a speech or something, and you know, we worked our asses off for this installation; I got there, they had the opening in the afternoon, so I was late to my own opening… and he just started harping on the broken letter. Oh, it was just like… Oh, god. Like it had a special meaning or something. The special meaning was that the letter was broken and we didn’t have time to get another one. [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: He was talking about it like it was supposed to be that way?


GRAHAM: That must have been interesting to listen to!

BURKHART: That’s why I try to teach my students to try and control the intention of your work, because of all these weird things that can happen that you totally cannot control. You can’t control what people are going to think anyhow.

GRAHAM: Yeah. People can read the weirdest things into art.

BURKHART: They certainly can. So in the haikus, I was able to find a visual form for the writing. That was important for me… but I can’t do it with narrative. I can’t do it with fiction. I write in between fiction and nonfiction anyway, and sometimes I write straight nonfiction. But the fiction is all drawing on life… it’s all true, so I guess it’s in between. I don’t know how I would use narrative in any other way than I have already. When [the Liz paintings] are all put together some day like they should be in a museum show, what will occur is that there will be a narrative of my life… and the people who really know me, who have worked closely with me, will know and will be able to talk about how the life informs the work. And that will be cool… and I actually had a thought, a great idea to do as a piece, to have an audio tour, but the audio tour would be just me reading stories from my books. I mean, it would be filthy sex,…  when I write about sex… I could never do it visually the way I write about it, or it would just look like… porn. And that wouldn’t work.

GRAHAM: Can you tell me a bit about your background? Where did you grow up?

BURKHART: I grew up in West Virginia. I should have never gotten out… most people never leave. It’s about an hour and a half away from Washington, in the Shenandoah Valley.

GRAHAM: When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

BURKHART: Oh, really young. Yeah. I mean, I learned to read early, so I started writing fairly early, and I started making art fairly early, and I directed plays that I wrote… so I guess that was the performative part of it very early on. I can’t remember why I stopped the play directing…

GRAHAM: Well, you can always pick it up again!

BURKHART: Correct. [LAUGHS] Well, there’s a movie in me yet. There’s one of my books that I’d like to adapt into a screenplay.

GRAHAM: Oh yeah? Which book?

BURKHART: Between the Lines, which is a book about my great aunt, who lived to be 100, and between 1927 and 1929 she received 79 love letters from a woman in South Carolina, so they had like a romantic friendship… or lesbian relationship, and I published a book in Paris with Hachette,and then a small section of it last year in Esopus… I’ll show it to you, it’s in the front… but it’s really like a female Brokeback Mountain story, so I’d love to make a real movie out of that. That’s a back-burner project. Gender radicals in the family, going all the way back.

GRAHAM: You should do it! So then how did you begin your career, where did you go to school…?

BURHART: Let’s see, I left West Virginia and went to University of Pittsburgh just for a semester… came back to West Virginia and went to Shepherd College, which has an okay art department, but it wasn’t big enough for me, so I applied to CalArts. I found out about the feminist art program… in the library of Shepherd College, I found this catalogue for CalArts, about the feminist art program, and I was like, oh, I want to do that! So of course the catalogue was old in the library, and by the time I called the school to find out if those people were teaching there, they were like, “Who? What program?” [LAUGHS] So there’s the answer to the feminist thing. “What? We only have men teaching here.” They didn’t say that, but that’s basically what it was. So, you know, I set my heart on that school and it was a total conceptual art boys’ club, it really was. There were very few women teaching there. You had to have a personal interview to get in… it was a big deal. They lost my portfolio, they rejected me the first time… so I went up there to meet with somebody and then finally they accepted me. So I guess I had two years of college, about, when I went into CalArts. I lost one year as a transfer student. And then I finished my BFA and got my MFA there too. So once I was there, it was like the citadel on the hill. I had an excellent studio, and I really developed my practice at CalArts; it was really hugely important in my development, and I still pretty much identify as what we call a “CalArtian.” [LAUGHS] There were two things that we called ourselves, the CalArtians and then the CalArts mafia. That’s still operative, because you have all of these wonderful people who came out of CalArts in those years. You have Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler, Steve Prina,Chris Williams, you know, they’re all guys, right? It’s crazy. Only a few chicks. Where are the women? So I get to be a CalArts token, kind of. There are other CalArts women, Ericka Beckman, etc..but we seem to get treated differently by the art world.

GRAHAM: And then you stayed in California for a while?

BURKHART: I stayed a year after school. And the scene in LA was really taking off then, and while I was in school I worked at LACE, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, which was a lot like artists’ space in those days, it was a very well-funded nonprofit artists’ organization. I started a bookshop there, and then I came to New York in ’85. I think I’ve had this space since ’86.

GRAHAM: Wow. So you live in the Netherlands part-time as well, what’s the difference between the artistic climate here and there? Can you compare the two?

BURKHART: It’s really different, and yet things are changing to make it more the same, in a sad way. You know, when all that “bad girl” stuff erupted, like ’94 or so… it’s funny because that was delayed… when that term was used, it was around the end of 1990, and then people picked it up around ’94. It’s funny how things linger, you know, in its original potent form, nobody wanted anything to do with it, but dilute it down a few years later and everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon, kind of. Around that time I left and started to immigrate to Holland. I was going back and forth, and spending more and more time there each year, and around ’95 I officially started to immigrate. And that’s when all that stuff took off here, and this market in figurative painting for people like John Currin, and all that stuff which I considered to be incredibly reactionary, and, you know, my work was too conceptual for that, it didn’t really fit in. So I found a lot of support in Holland, there’s a wonderful grant support there. I mean, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my studio in New York if I hadn’t gotten Dutch grants. So they were incredibly supportive, they understood the critique of American culture, the sort of political stance in the work, the anti-capitalist stance… they got it, you know? That you could be personal and political at the same time, that it didn’t have to be prescriptive. So that was really freeing and great for me… also to be in a place that was seemingly much much more tolerant than the United States, and much cheaper to live, with a higher quality of life and a lower cost of living. It’s kind of like an escape from New York, so that’s been good. But things are changing there now, and they’re dismantling the support system for artists, and the individual grants may well be gone in four years. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s very conservative there now, there’s a lot of anti-immigration sentiment there now, and that’s being extended to people who have dual citizenship, it’s being extended to artists… artists are the next to go, and that’s sad. I hope that the E.U. kicks in to put more money back into the system. Now they’re like, “We’re going to follow the American system.” I mean, what system? We don’t have one. So there, up until now you could have a career without having a big market. IT was possible. But now they want the market money too, and it’s kind of disgusting. It’s changing a lot. There’s a lot of support there though, because people are smart.

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite artists?

BURKHART: Louise Bourgeois… I just saw a beautiful Hans Bellmer show, can’t stop raving about it… Cady Noland, Barbara Kruger... and some of my favorite writers are Hélène Cixous and Clarice Lispector.

GRAHAM: Last question. What inspires you?

BURKHART: Popular culture, films, literature, daily life, relationships. Suck them in with beauty, knock them out with the truth…

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

I LOVED YOU: An Interview With Richie Culver

Richie Culver: provocateur, bearded mystic raconteur, tattooed romantic, enigmatic rising contemporary British artist. Culver falls in line with some of the great rebels of creative expression that have made the United Kingdom a landscape of artistic rebellion for the past 40 years in contrast to its powdered wig, high tea, keep calm and carry on reputation. From the social dissatisfaction that gave birth to the punk movement, Vivienne Westwood, to the gothic angst of new wave, to Damien Hirst, to Tracey Emin, Culver is part of a cultural evolution of artists with extremely unique and inspiring ideas. Art has treated Culver well – almost as soon as he started exploring art as a career he was featured in a group show at the Tate Modern and now his list of collectors and demand for new work is growing exponentially. Culver was also recently invited by Eastpak to design a series of bags to support a charity alongside other artists such as The Smiths' Johnny Marr. Pas Un Autre contributor Christopher Lusher caught up with Richie Culver to chat about everything from the current state of the art world, his passion for music and the difficulties of living ones life as an artist. Lusher mentions, "It's only a matter of time before Culver catches fire stateside." 

CHRISTOPHER LUSHER: Being an artist working in London what do you see as the differences in the contemporary art scene there as opposed to the one in the States?

RICHIE CULVER: There are many differences! London is very much stuck in a time warp, the 1990's. Its really sad to see. It depresses me in fact. We all know the artists in question. I'm not disrespecting them! (well not all of them) They are all old now, I'm not saying age makes a difference, cos it doesn't. Great art is great art but times are changing, musics changing, fashion is changing. The YBA's [Young British Artists] paved the way – but paved it for who exactly? The bigger major contemporary galleries seem scared to bring a new crop through & when they have attempted to do so have failed miserably. I personally am a fan of Damien Hirst ( hate me nor love me for that ) but I just like what he does, I like him as a person. He causes controversy what ever he does. He is a working class lad from Bristol done good, but in this country we love to slag the ones, the pioneers off once, they get to a certain level which is a shame. Hirst is Hirst, he does his thing. You have Coventry, Emin to name but a few. They are all just still doing their thing. Good luck to them I say but its 2012 now not 1993. (thank fuck) I'm not gonna divulge into Bacon etc. as I see there works in a totally different light....In America on the other hand the art world is scattered with really interesting people and works which translate into the modern world we live in. Also the curators are far more open minded and slightly more youthful, willing to take a chance of the likes of Dan Colen at the Gagosian Gallery. Dan is a fantastic painter & continues to do his thing. Once all that "Warhols Children" died down Dan continued to make strong work and shows. Scott Campbell for instance is another amazing young artist who is moving things forward. Of course you have the not so good artists such as Nate Lowman, whos work is neither here nor there. I'm sure he is s nice guy and all but his work strikes no chords for me. Agathe Snow is great. I'm not too clued up on Dash Snows work but I shall delve deeper. In a nut shell I see the NY scene as much more open to new ideas and the galleries & curators are much much more on the ball than over here in London. Their moving things in the right direction. London unfortunately is still stuck and wanking over pieces that were made over 20 years ago. LET GO FOR FUCKS SAKE! There are some realy cool artists & photographers living in London at the moment. To re cap ... Londons still in the ice age .. NY is daring to change the game and give young talented artists shows in historical galleries. The past is gone now. GONE.

LUSHER: Do you draw any inspiration from the young American art scene? If so, from who?

CULVER: I dont draw inspiration from anything but personal experiences. Being hung upside down from my ankles on the 34th floor was one of them....but back to young American artists, there's so many I hate (not personally)... I love as I said Scott Campbells work, always did even before we became mates. He is doing something totally different. My mate Jose Parla is doing his thing and such a lovely guy! Dan Colen is a great painter for sure! There used to be so many of them now I can only think of a few. Asger Carlsen is good. I'm not gonna even go into the street side of things. That's kinda joke at the moment. Even photographers, they're all way past their sell by date. It really is all in London now when it comes to artists / photographers under the age of 35 but they're not getting the scope they need. It's young and fresh. Like never before.

LUSHER: Do you find it difficult to earn a living as an artist?

CULVER: I was finding it hard for awhile but I now have a strong driven team behind me who all have the same vision I do. Since I had my Jesse Owens piece in the Tate Modern its all just fallen into place really quickly. My prices for my photography have rocketed so much its hard to keep up with. Same with my "I loved you" paintings!! It's unreal. I now only do a certain amount per year because the orders were getting silly. My main talent is painting. I've kinda kept that for last. I'm super excited for the world to see them. But no I don't find it hard anymore. I have a huge collectors list, ranging from musicians, art collectors, actors, government people and mates. As soon as word gets out I've finished a set of photos, collages or Polaroids etc. they have usually all sold which makes it hard to work towards the next show. I usually sneak off to my mates studio in the country side with no phone then hide them before they get hung. For whatever reason my work is in demand at the moment especially my photos, my collages and my "I loved you" painting. I'm bracing myself for my first collection of painting. That will be ready for next year though.

LUSHER: If you weren't involved in the arts what other career would you have chosen or has that ever been an option?

CULVER: If I were not an artist I'd probably be a stray street cat. Hustling and telling peeps I'm gonna be starting a band and stuff. Shoplifting, dead or in prison.

LUSHER: Describe your process. Is there any specific routine or is it more of a spontaneous action? How much forethought goes into your works?

CULVER: None. I get an idea and run with it down the street with a stolen TV in my hand.

LUSHER: Alot of your work has a relation to sports. What is the genesis for this or the ideas behind it?

CULVER: I love sport. Boxing. I love football too. I like bare knuckle fighting.

LUSHER: I know your a big music lover. What do you usually have playing in your flat or when you create? Any up and coming musicians we should know about?

CULVER: I'm listening to Death Grips new record, Charlie Parker, Kilo Kish, Joey Bada$$$, Capital Steez , Fila Brazillia , Bullet Nuts, Das Racist, Gil Scot Heron, Boldy James, Mr Muthafuck Esquire ,Waka Flokka, Danny Brown, ( shout out to my good mates now) - Eliot Sumner, Adele, Paloma Faith, Hurts,The Macabees,Tribes, Liam Bailey, Jack Penate, Jai Paul, The Weeknd, GG Allin, Miles Davis etc.

LUSHER: Whats lined up for the future for you project and gallery wise?

CULVER: So much. Shows in LA, NY, two shows in London, Berlin, Oslo, Rome, Barcelona. There's loads more but I can't remember! Thanks for having me! Fo real...

You can follow Richie Culver at his website. Text by Christopher Lusherfor Pas Un Autre.

An Interview with Bachelorette's Annabel Alpers

Bachelorette, aka Annabel Alpers, is one of those rare artists for whom it takes a few albums and a few tours around the globe to be recognized by a wider audience for the musical genius she is. She is also one of those rare artists for whom you are genuinely excited when you first discover her music, maybe because upon first listen its like swallowing honey in a rip-tide – powerful and unforgiving. Anomalous in the sense that she doesn't really belong to any one specific genre, her music is strangely universal. Whilst at turns sounding like some obscure, overlooked shoe-gaze album from another era, her music also sounds refreshingly unique and new. Perhaps better known in her native Christchurch, New Zealand, Annabel Alpers is quickly making waves across the states with her current tour opening for the Magnetic Fields. Alpers' first forays into the music scene were with New Zealand psychedelic outfits Hawaii Five-O, Space Dust and the Hiss Explosion. After completing post-graduate studies in computer-based composition, Alpers found her voice as Bachelorette with her first full album, entitled Isolation Loops, aptly titled because it was recorded in solitude in small hut by the sea in Canterbury New Zealand. To support the album Alpers sold her  1964 Falcon station-wagon to fund a tour in the US where she ultimate teamed up with the legendary record label Drag City. We caught up with Alpers, who is currently on tour with The Magnetic Fields, to support her current self-titled album which was released last year, to ask a few questions her music and inspirations. Read interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: In early 2006 you hid yourself away in a small hut by the sea, in Canterbury New Zealand to record your first album, can you describe that experience - do you write songs better in isolation?

BACHELORETTE: Staying in the hut was just a way for me to work on music without having to pay rent and to avoid any distractions. I get too easily distracted in cities. I lived very simply and had my little lonesome routines, finding ways to be as productive as possible with the writing and recording. I stayed in another little house by the sea to record the My Electric Family album. For the last album, I really wanted to train myself to be able to work on music in any environment, because I was touring a lot, staying with different people in different cities. I never got the hang of it though and resigned myself to the fact that I need to isolate myself to be able work on music. I ended up renting a guest house in the Virginia countryside for a couple of months to finish the bulk of that album.

AUTRE: How has growing up in New Zealand inspired your work?

BACHELORETTE: I listened to a lot of New Zealand music when I was a teenager - Flying Nun stuff like the Tall Dwarfs, the 3-Ds, Bailter Space... I think it was inspiring to see New Zealanders making original music that was valued internationally, who created some sense of a cultural identity that I could relate to. I'm sure I've been inspired by the natural beauty of the place, and by the large amounts of space and time available. There wasn't a lot to do there as a teenager, so I would listen to records a lot.

AUTRE: When was the first time you discovered you wanted to make music?

BACHELORETTE: I had a fantasy when I was about 9 years old of being a Pat Benetar type figure. I imagined performing in the Christchurch town hall with a choir of children behind me. I got more realistic about playing an instrument and singing around the age of 12, and joined my first band at school when I was 13. We played Beatles covers and I was on bass. I always wanted to be in a band.

"The computer is

my folk instrument."

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest musical influences or inspirations?

BACHELORETTE: Over the years: The Beatles, Syd Barrett, Tall Dwarfs, Cocteau Twins, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno... My mind goes blank when I'm asked these things. I've never tried to replicate anyone else's sound, but I know that what I've listened to over the years would have influenced the music I make in a less conscious way.

AUTRE: Your music is very unique - how would you describe your current sound?

BACHELORETTE: I've been calling it 'computer folk' for a while now. I feel like a folk musician in the sense that I'm not professionally trained and I just make songs about everyday stuff. The computer is my folk instrument.

AUTRE: You are currently on tour with The Magnetic Fields - how did you team up with The Magnetic Fields?

BACHELORETTE: I'd like to have an exciting story to tell you, but really my booking agent just ran Bachelorette past the Magnetic Fields as an option for playing support, and I guess they said yes... I feel really lucky to be playing with them though. I love their songs and can't wait to see them play a bunch more times.

AUTRE: Whats next?

BACHELORETTE: It's a mystery. I have some music I want to make that doesn't quite fit into the indie touring world. I also want to write songs for other performers... I'm thinking of ways that I can keep making music that don't involve touring too much. It's time for a change, music- and lifestyle-wise.

Vist Bachelorette's page on Drag City Records for more news, links, video, and current tour schedule. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre

Sex, Drugs, & Techno: An Interview with Camilla Storgaard

Danish born, Berlin based photographer Camilla Storgaard is a documentarian of her own life. Painted by desire and longing, her photographs chant the elegy of abandon and uninhibited in beautiful, seismic bursts of human expression. Erotic, but not blatant, her photographs are never sexual or exploitative, but examine sexuality using aesthetic meaningful contradictions. I had happened to come across her photography and was curious to learn more. 

PAS UN AUTRE: What inspired you to start taking photographs?

CAMILLA STORGAARD: I don't know if I can say that any specific thing inspired me to start photographing. I think like all artist I always had a need to express myself and my feelings and experimented with many medias as painting, poetry and music in my teenage years. But photography was the media that gave me butterflies in my stomach, so I continued in that direction.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

STORGAARD: I don't remember the first image I took because I was really young when I started shooting cheap disposable cameras. But I remember the first time I took a picture and realized it looked better on my camera than in real life. It was on a vacation with my family in Chicago when I was 16 years old. I just got my first digital camera that year and felt so free to be able to shoot wildly hanging out of the window of the car while driving into the city. That day I took a photo at the Willis Tower from the ground. The sun was sharp and I could hardly see the screen on my camera but when I covered it with my hand I saw how amazing the light was working with the glass-covered building I got this amazing feeling in my stomach that I never wanna let go off.

AUTRE: How do you set up a shot? What are some of the thought processes?

STORGAARD: After moving to Berlin I only shoot models. It started when I for the first time had the courage to ask a friend of mine if I could do some nude photos of her and she said yes. After that nudity became a main part of my work. I almost only shoot myself, my friends or people I meet through my friends at parties or other random places. If I have a friend or see a face I find interesting I just ask them. I always have an idea of an expression and the props I wanna use to get this expression out. I welcome the models to be freestyle but also model them a lot on the shoots, which I usually do in my attic. Using nudity in my work makes it really important to me to get the right expression. I wanna show sex, beauty and desire without creating anything that comes close to pornography. So I always have a main idea but the final expression comes from both parts. But when this is said my style also slowly changes all the time and I have lately started to put more responsibility on the models. To let them inspire me with their personalities, looks and own props and to have the shoots in their own homes.

AUTRE: How does living in Berlin influence your work?

STORGAARD: Living in Berlin has everything to do with my work today. My whole style is balanced around the tense sexual energy this city possess. Moving here I had so many inputs all at once I needed to process them in some way. Berlin is a wonderful little wasteland of sex, drugs and techno and to follow the contours of my friends slightly messy existences has become the biggest influence in my work. Also when I moved here I started working as the assistant of the Danish/Icelandic artist "Olafur Eliasson". Being surrounded by art every day was something completely new to me and made me notice all the little details.

AUTRE: Major inspirations?

STORGAARD: My major inspiration is the body itself and the way it expresses itself.

AUTRE: Whats next?

STORGAARD:  I never know whats next and I like that. When I get a chance, I jump it and it takes me new places. But I do consider to start studying soon. I put all my energy and love in my photography but in the world we live in today it's sometimes necessary to have a degree or diploma to get the good paid jobs. And I will probably learn a lot of new things about photography a well.

See more of Camilla Storgaard's photography at her website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.

Ciao LA: An Interview with Brandy Eve Allen

Brandy Eve Allen's Ciao LA is an amazing, intense photographic diary of her life during a self imposed expatriation in Italy. At the age of 21, tired of her life Los Angeles, Allen got on a plane bound for Torino, Italy (a place she'd never been before) and created a life for herself - photographing and documenting all along the way. At one point, as she describes in the below interview, Allen was is Paris and got a chance to photograph the poster for legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film The Dreamers starring Michael Pitt.  When she was 27 Allen moved back to LA and pieced everything together to create Ciao LA which she describes as “a memoir of a young girl on a journey through language, love, culture, art and the ways it fucks with the heart.” Allen's photographs in Ciao LA are raw and wrought with paroxysms of emotional ardor that are touching reminders of both life's beauty and fragility. Right now Allen is trying to get Ciao LA published and is having a solo show in Torino, Italy - she is also "trying to get the fuck out of LA again."

PAS UN AUTRE: You shot the poster for the great Italian director Berolucci's Dreamers - can you talk a little bit about that?

BRANDY EVE ALLEN: I'm was living in Italy and at 22 years old traveled to Paris and walked into the world of The Dreamers to photograph the actors for the poster. They were shooting the film at the time so I was fortunate to be on set and see how Bernardo Bertolucci creates an atmosphere. It fed me with inspiration and each actor brought their own essence for me to capture uninhibited. They're vulnerability made it that much easier for me to work with. Before beginning to photograph Michael Pitt, I felt like I needed to earn his trust and was up to the task. In doing so, I borrowed his guitar and started playing a little Pixies song I knew, from there he gave himself freely. Bernardo is so hyper aware of the youth around him and he engages you with only a glance. He did just that as I was sitting down, rolling a cigarette, he looks at me with an expression as if he knows, like I'm rolling a joint or something, but not this time, it was just tobacco. I remember laying on the bed to show each actor how to position they're bodies until we had this beautiful overlapping of figures and this ended up being the shot they chose for the poster. There was another photograph that they almost used that was my favorite which was taken really spontaneously when we were just hanging out between shots. (I attached that photo to this email)

AUTRE: You were in Italy for quite sometime and the moved back to LA - those experiences were a big influence for your new book - can you talk a little about Ciao LA?

ALLEN: CIAO L.A. is a photographic memoir of the three years I spent living in Italy and how it affected me both as a young woman and as an artist. I came to live in Italy after spending some years in LA, a city that I've always battled with, in search of something that would remind me of why I'm here on this earth. The beauty, the culture, the incredible people I came to know and love... and hate, how each of those experiences and the shit going on in my mind gave me so much to put down on paper and in a photograph. Even in a foreign country I could only get away for so long and then I ended up right back with myself. It not only was an honest account of my relationships during that time but also a dialogue about making art and trying to put it out there, the rejection, the recognition, the moments of pure satisfaction from creating something true and failing to do so. The coming of age challenges faced by young women in their late teens and twenties is relatively unexplored territory in modern literature, and I'm hoping to help fill that void with CIAO LA.

AUTRE: What specifically brought you to photography? Can you remember the first image you ever took? Major inspirations?

ALLEN: I've always been creative whether it was with music, painting, dance, video but it wasn't until I was 18 that I started to take photography seriously. I remember the exact time it really went down, my friend and muse, Samantha asked me to take some shots of her for a portfolio and I borrowed my friend's nikon and we took a couple rolls. I brought the film to Michel Karmen, a master printer and friend of mine who worked at A&I to develop the film. Once seeing the images, he encouraged me to continue and began letting me borrow books of great photographers to learn and be inspired by. Photographers such as Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin and Keith Carter. I felt like shooting what I knew best was a natural place to begin and turned the camera inside. I didn't want to show what things looked like, I wanted to show what they felt like. Just like the experiences are deep for me which each image, so is the process, so I use film. I need to use my hands and really get dirty with it, I like chemicals, I like playing with light and science. Photography is really intuitive for me.

AUTRE: Whats next?

ALLEN: Getting the fuck out of LA again....But seriously – I'm hoping to get CIAO LA published and about to have a solo show in Venice, Italy of my recent infrared series that I've been working on for the past couple years. Inspiration is never short and I'm continuing to finish and begin different photo projects that I'm really excited about. I'll be photographing at the end of the month to finish this one series called SONG OF SONGS, where I photograph nude women in different positions and then draw in what they're wearing and the different scenarios around them with pencil. A sample from that series was just featured in a show at Kana Manglapus Gallery in Venice, CA. But most importantly, what's next is me just trying to stay focused on what matters and not let my head get caught up in the bullshit.

See more from CIAO LA and check out more photography on Brandy Eve Allen's website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Life On Film: An Interview with Iva Cukic

It would be easy to mistake Iva Cukic's photography for film-stills.  Between posed subject portraiture that contains a strange, seductive quality and landscapes that sometimes stretch on verdantly into snowcapped mountains and meadows populated by flocks of sheep, you'll realize that Cukic's photography is actually a film about her life.   Cukic, who is based in Belgrade, Serbia, is also an architect and designer, and fell into photography almost serendipitously. Pas Un Autre caught up with Cukic to ask her a few questions about her photography and inspirations. 

PAS UN AUTRE: How has Belgrade inspired your work?

IVA CUKIC: Belgrade is special city. It has some unique energy. I love its cityscape, people I meet or already know, things I do, etc. But it’s not only Belgrade that inspires me. It can be any ambient or any person anywhere.

AUTRE: How would you describe the images you take?

CUKIC: Ordinary things that make my everyday life. My friends, my family, time we spend together or places I visit; I love to catch those moments. It is a kind of my visual diary. What brought you to photography? Photography was always magical to me. I remember few years ago, when my uncle forgot his Canon A-1 camera at my place, I took it and went outside to make some photos. I was playing with the settings, and even though I got most of the photos overexposed, I was so thrilled! That was how everything began.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

CUKIC: Yes, me with a phantom mask. It was the first photo I took with analog camera. Yet not the first ever in my entire life, that one I cannot remember.

AUTRE: What are some some of your thoughts as you look through the viewfinder?

CUKIC: I’m looking for an intimate moment; either I’m taking photos of people, or just of some indoor or outdoor space. When I want to take a photo I wait for a while so I could capture the instant when everything gets spontaneous and more natural. For instance, when you ask someone to take a photo of him, usually he/she makes a pose, but if you wait enough you can catch more natural expression.

AUTRE: Major inspirations?

CUKIC: Few days ago I watched movie Le Havre directed by Aki Kaurismäki and I’m still under the impression of its esthetics. Besides that, I would point out Michel Gondry, Stanley Kubrick, Nan Goldin, Lee Friedlander, Lukasz Wierzbowski.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CUKIC: Titled photos. That’s what I’m working on right now. Something like movie frames.

See more of Iva Cukic's photographs on her flickr. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 


On a bitterly cold day in mid-February, Winston Chmielinski is nestled in a giant armchair at a corner table in The Bowery Hotel’s plush lobby area, a room festooned with decadent tapestries, mahogany detailing, oriental rugs, large vases full of peacock feathers and multiple blazing fireplaces. Among the guests lounging in the lobby today are Charlotte Ronson and Emma Roberts, along with a number of other semi-recognizable characters involved in the arts (it is New York Fashion Week, after all). The lithe and statuesque Chmielinski is halfway through Gilles Deleuze’s The Logic of Sensation, a philosophical treatise on Francis Bacon’s work—having graduated recently from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with an interdisciplinary degree in philosophy and creative writing, he is characteristically intrigued by the theory behind the practice. A self-professed “painter’s painter,” the young Boston-born artist has already begun to carve out a name for himself within the vast landscape of the international art world. His sensual, evocative portraits feature broad, gestural swathes of vibrant color that serve to both define and obscure the forms he deals with. His work treads the line between representation and abstraction—his impulsive brushstrokes and purposeful censorship of those “recognizable” elements of the figures he paints contrast with the unquestionably lifelike quality he achieves in each work, creating a sort of harmonious discord—a dreamlike, ethereal ambiance tinged at the edges with a suggestion of the uncanny. I sat down at the Bowery with the contemplative, eloquent Chmielinski to talk about his artistic process, sources of inspiration, upbringing, passion for travel, and plans for the future (a residency in Antwerp may be in the works).

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Has your aesthetic developed and changed over time? Your paintings have this intensely otherworldly quality, and your forms are both defined and obscured at the same time. Has that developed or has that always been the style of your work?

WINSTON CHMIELINSKI: It’s developed on a subtle level. I think if you look at my work from high school until now, I’ve always concentrated on figures, and they’ve always been figures that I don’t know. But the way that my obscuring and defining has evolved, I think, is that I used to paint figures and then obscure them after the fact. And that was a way for me to rudimentarily censor out the recognizable elements of somebody, and kind of give myself the space within a figure, or actually on top of a figure, to have abstract explorations, to just kind of go for it and really involve myself with the process of painting as opposed to the rendering.

"Man Woman Bird," Winston Chmielinski

GRAHAM: So would you say the process is more of concern to you than the rendering?

CHMIELINSKI: I would say I’m a “form over content” person. So the way that that’s changed over time is that… as soon as I realized that it became more of a formula, you know, rendering a face and then putting something on top of it, or putting an abstract explosion around a face instead of painting the body, I wanted to incorporate all of that fluidity into the actual initial painting itself. So, you know, deforming a face. Or deforming a body, and using that blank canvas—that first impulsive brushstroke on a blank canvas as the final product, as opposed to polishing and polishing. So, to me it’s changed a lot. And I think that people—there is a divide within my audience, between people who really like the early work and people who like the later work. And one funny thing that’s happened is… when I first started, I would get approached for commissions, and people would see me as a portrait artist, first and foremost, so there would be people who’d be like, “Can you paint my children?” or “Can you paint my dog?” and I don’t really get that anymore… It’s amazing, I mean it’s interesting when someone thinks that you’d want to do that. They always get tedious. And I mean, I guess that’s the commercial part, like if you want to do commercial work and support yourself, but when you don’t want to paint something, it’s more than impossible, because painting is my whole language, so it’s like having to write, like, a sex romance novel, or something, when I’m into poetry… you know, it just doesn’t work. But that’s kind of changed. Now people know that I won’t flatter them to begin with, so I don’t really get too many commissions for that reason anymore.

GRAHAM: Who or what inspires you? Anything at all. Or rather, are there certain things that you think about when you’re beginning a painting? Certain ideas that influence your work?

CHMIELINSKI: As someone who’s always painted, I’ve been highly considerate of, you know, the role of painting within the art world and within my own life, and I think that I’m coming to a point now where I’m embracing painting as a very specific language that can open out onto everything. And it’s okay that I’m a painter. And I think it’s taken a lot of time for me just to reach that point, where it’s like, you know, painting is okay. It’s not stupid, it’s fine.

GRAHAM: Right. Because there’s so much pressure nowadays to do installation work, and video…

CHMIELINSKI: Exactly. And to just be a Renaissance man in a contemporary landscape. I think that the one thing that I’ve embraced also is that I’m drawing from everything that isn’t painting. So I’ve realized that… when I think of the art that I do for myself, as opposed to painting, which is like a face… It’s what people see… I have these strange collections of images I take of street trash and forms that to me are evocative, and all those things are things that I would never show people. You know, I just have these huge gigabyte drives of just images… weird images of everything, and I’m always snapping pictures and reading a lot… I find that my inspirations just kind of coalesce into this manageable 2D surface, in which I can just have a composition and have it completed there. But my greatest inspirations come from masters of… this is going to sound really abstract, but there are certain things I’ll hear… certain composers or musicians or films, that just come off as “perfect” for me. And I’m so inspired by this idea that within one piece of art there can be perfection. Just to name a few… there are [Francis] Bacon paintings… Of course he probably sees something that he would like to develop within his painting process, but to me that painting itself is perfect.

GRAHAM: Is there a specific Bacon painting you had in mind?

CHMIELINSKI: There’s this painting called Jet of Water. I mean, I love his work, how he places a figure inside of a plane and all that stuff, but I think with Jet of Water, this is one of his last paintings, he completely escaped the human figure and… it was like he reached another stage. He had this immense sensation and movement, but within a form that wasn’t human. I think that to me right now, as a figure painter grappling with the same idea of, “How do you paint something that isn’t narrative but that is full of sensation without being literal?” And he managed to do that with Jet of Water. That’s a goal for me as well… I can’t follow in his footsteps, but it shows that it’s at least possible. And it’s really nice.

GRAHAM: Can you talk a bit about your color scheme and what role color plays for you?

CHMIELINSKI: I think that for me, color is what texture is for other painters. If you see my paintings in person, they’re very thin…

GRAHAM: Do you paint with oil or acrylic?

CHMIELINSKI: I use both. For acrylics, I water them down to the point where they’re like watercolor consistency, and then I get an almost plastic luminosity from just the thinness of it, and the white canvas showing through. And then with oils, I’ve just started using oils on top of acrylics, where I know the paint’s going to be thicker and I don’t want it to look plastic. And also of course, the handling is different—with oils you can go back and really polish stuff, whereas with acrylics it gets… mucky and weird. But I would say that I’m more of a colorist, so a lot of what I end up doing when I’m painting is balancing extremes of color, and I think that that’s what gives my paintings dimension, because I really… I’ve never been one to slop paint on, I’ve always been quite reserved with the amount of paint, so the color kind of compensates for that.

GRAHAM: When you begin painting, do you set out with a particular idea in mind of what you think it might look like, or a color in mind? Or does it form as you go?

CHMIELINSKI: I do. I need a lot of guidance while I paint, so I actually try… I always use a source image, and I try to obfuscate it as much as possible so there are moments of me incorporating accidentals and leaps of faith while I paint, but in terms of having a kind of structure on which to kind of load that freedom while painting, I create source imagery from collages. So I’ll take a lot of elements and make sure that they work together, and what I’ve been doing recently is I’ll create collages… I think to go back to that idea of “perfect images,” there have been times when I’ve created something as a source image, but it’s been so cool on its own that when I tried to paint it, the elements that I liked were lost, and the things that remained were like a skeleton, and it didn’t have any of that movement that I like to keep or center things around. So now what I do is I make sure that the source imagery is great but it’s not perfect, and then I hope that in the translation, or the transliteration, it’ll kind of complete itself.

"Portrait 18" - detail - Winston Chmielinski

GRAHAM: What time of day do you work best? Morning, late night…?

CHMIELINSKI: This is actually a really big problem for me. [LAUGHS] I have no good schedule. I’ve found that my best time is in the morning, and that’s usually before I get a coffee, because coffee makes me want to listen to music. And then when I listen to music I want to dance or something, so I think if I wake up and have breakfast… that would be the best time to start painting for me. Also late at night, my contacts fall out, and I hate wearing glasses while I paint…

GRAHAM: Really?

CHMIELINSKI: Yeah. It’s so weird, like the little tiny things that you can see that are in your periphery kind of pull… they kind of weight the process. So even when I’m looking at my source imagery, if there’s a border on it, it completely changes how I would grapple with the composition. It’s just these weird things that I’ve started to become really sensitive to, and having your contact fog up or get sticky is probably the most distracting thing in the world for painting.

GRAHAM: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up, how did you “find” art, how did your love of art and painting develop?

CHMIELINSKI: I grew up in Boston, and originally… well, I played a lot of computer games, like a lot of computer games, and I had always been doodling, but I think while I gamed I was doodling a lot of swords, and elves and stuff, so I thought that I wanted to be a concept artist, and then… I don’t think that attraction to the fantasy world has ever ended. But maybe around when I was a junior in high school was when I first started painting, and it was because I was so lackluster at every other extracurricular activity. My school required that we played two sports out of the year, so I would do them, but I was so, again, lackluster at these things that… I wanted to be known for something, and I wasn’t, so when I started painting, it was the first time I ever got, like, a pat on the back. So there was that support from one teacher, and I kind of just went with it. I guess it was a good environment to latch onto something, and so I latched onto painting. I’ve always been really liberal with my colors, and I think that that’s one thing that doesn’t normally happen when you’re in this sort of classroom environment… you have cheap oils, and you’re told to paint this. There’s a kind of “high school brushwork” that’s very tiny and meticulous, and I’ve always been impulsive and impatient, so I just kind of went for it, and that’s turned into what I embrace now.

GRAHAM: So how did you begin to launch yourself in the world as a young artist? What was the turning point for you, when you went from being a student to being more recognized in the art world?

CHMIELINSKI: I would say having an online presence early on was probably what gave me the idea that I could do this for a living. I joined a few of those art portfolio communities, and I just got a lot of good feedback from them. My mother’s actually a pastel artist, and she’s involved in more of a local art scene in Boston; she does fairs and things… and in the neighborhood where I was living when I was in high school, Jamaica Plain, they have this monthly art open studio thing, so I kind of just submitted my art to the city arts council and they gave me a little show, and I sold work there for the first time. And it was insane, because my dad’s a lawyer, so he was like, “Okay, price it high.” And my paintings sold for quite a bit of money, and then this one collector bought like thirteen pieces… and all of a sudden, I had a savings, like a pretty nice savings. And so I ended up going… as soon as I graduated from high school, I took a year and a half and went to Paris, and there I kind of pretended that I was an artist. And I think that gave me the confidence to kind of just say, okay, I can go somewhere and just do this, and from the get-go, present myself as somebody who, you know, paints, and be taken seriously. And because I haven’t really done anything else, maybe it’s out of ignorance that I’m still doing it, I don’t know.

GRAHAM: When you went to Paris, were you doing a program?

CHMIELINSKI: I enrolled in a third-party study abroad program, and it was a French language, contemporary art kind of coursework thing. I ended up leaving the program because it was so overpriced for what we were getting, and worked in a bar… painted out of this really shitty apartment near Bastille on the fifth floor. It was a rooftop thing… I guess they call it sous les toits, or “under the roof.” I couldn’t stand up, I had to like sit down and shower. It was super intense, my parents of course were like offended… they were like, “How could you do this? This is disgusting!” But I painted there, and the one good thing was that I had this amazing skylight, so I always had really nice sunlight for painting. And so I just did that for a while.

GRAHAM: What bar did you work at?

CHMIELINSKI: I worked at a bar in the Marais called Le Feeling.Super tacky bar. I tell people now because it’s funny. If anyone’s ever been in that district, it’s like the one bar that you never go into. You literally walk by and you’re like, how could that place still be in business? And I got hired because they just lost their… they called it their “one ethnic employee.” So they were like, “Come in! You’re underage, that’s fine, just don’t tell anybody…” I learned a lot of really bad French there.  [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite artists?

CHMIELINSKI: Francis Bacon… I really like Kirchner, this lady Maria Lassnig… she uses a lot of white space too, and has these kind of deformed figures. I mean, they’re all within the same school, I think. I like some obvious ones, like Egon Schiele… I really like De Kooning. He has so many perfect paintings… he’s a painter’s painter. I saw his exhibit at MoMA twice. It blew my mind. It’s amazing… it’s also amazing how much these people have produced. I’ve realized lately that there’s no shortcut to developing your work. You have to do this every day, and you have to just keep going and going and going, and then you’ll find a way to satisfy yourself as you go along.

GRAHAM: Do you have one seminal piece of your own that’s your favorite, or you feel defines your aesthetic?

CHMIELINSKI: That’s actually a really good question. There are ones that I know people will like. So if I’m meeting someone for the first time, and I say I’m an artist, and they say “What do you do?” and I whip out my phone, I’ll probably show them this painting called Man Woman Bird, because I think it’s a good mix of. It was a very successful transition from rendering beautifully and having amazing interplay of colors and shapes and things. My personal favorite work tends to be… the subject matter tends to be a little bit abrasive. It’s funny to me because I definitely don’t arbitrarily choose the images that I do, but I tend to just deal with the forms and then when people see it, the first thing they see is something extremely sexual, or… and I think that it’s a good pointer for me because I want to get away from the literalness of what people can see in my paintings. So I recently did a painting for Envoy Enterprises, which is the gallery that I show for now, and it’s called… it was for this show called Containers. And I really like that painting, so I would say that, out of my recent work. It’s called Large. It should be on my website.

GRAHAM: What’s it of?

CHMIELINSKI: The image is of this lady… it’s a full figure, the only thing that’s cut out is the foot, part of the foot is cut off, but I really like that the whole figure is there, I think that, to kind of sidetrack a little bit, I think that when you have the whole figure, you can really  deform it, because you have all the parts. So it would still make sense that it’s a figure, whereas when it’s just a cropped bust, or a face… then it’s dead. You can’t deform it too much or else it won’t be anything.  But in order to do these full figures, you need space…

GRAHAM: What’s the scale of your work?

CHMIELINSKI: It’s getting bigger, it’s normally from like two or three feet on a side, all the way up to six feet. But the six-foot stuff, I’m just starting to do it now, because it involves making my own canvases, being in Boston, where I’m painting out of right now… but I never want to go back to being forced to paint small. I really, really like what you can do with a large surface.

GRAHAM: Any future ideas or projects that you have in mind?

CHMIELINSKI: Yeah. Well, I’m trying to get into residencies right now, so my idea is to leave New York, where I know that my lack of self-control is kind of… it’s delaying my development as an artist. And it’s been amazing, I’ve met good people, I joined the gallery Envoy, on Chrystie and Delancey, so that’s a liaison. So my next step is to get out… hopefully not have to pay for it, if I get these residencies, they’ll give me a stipend or whatever, and then just work on my art until I feel like I’m ready to get into an MFA program. I’d like to have that studio program, just because I’ve never done it, and I think that it is an important place to have a think tank of ideas and talk with other artists. In terms of actual specific development in my own painting, I think that I’m on the right track, so I just want to see where that goes.

GRAHAM: So you’ve been living in New York since you graduated from NYU?

CHMIELINSKI: I’ve been living here since NYU started, so… in total, it’s been five and a half years.

GRAHAM: Do you think you’d want to go back to Boston?

CHMIELINSKI: I think that I need to leave the United States. I’m trying right now to get into a two-year residency in Amsterdam. If that doesn’t work out, then I’m going to try for one in Japan. And then, for living after the fact, I’m kind of… I kind of just jump into things, so I’ve been looking at the artists and designers who live in Antwerp, and I know nothing about the place except that it’s small. I think it would be really nice, and I like how across the board of fashion and art, there’s a really nice embrace of both beauty and challenging ideas, and so it’s approachable but it’s also grappling… it’s also pushing the line subtly, which I think is also my inclination. I like that it’s small, and I can’t get too lost, and I also like that temperament there. It’s kind of like the Northeast, but it also has a richer culture.

GRAHAM: Last question. Do you have a few words that you would use to describe your aesthetic?

CHMIELINSKI: Yeah. “Sensation”… I have to throw “figure” in there. I don’t like the word “abstract,” so “exact,” “clean,” “painterly”… I guess… Oh, I hate that word actually. I hate the word “painterly.” But I really think that I am a painter’s painter. So I guess it’s painterly. But I hate the word.

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre. Visit Winston Chmielinsky's website to view more of his artwork.

(Annabel Graham is a photographer and writer who travels regularly between Los Angeles, New York, and Paris – she has worked for Interview Magazine as well as the Paris Review, and she is a regular contributor to Pas Un Autre and Autre Quarterly. Read all here articles for Pas Un Autre here)

"High Tide," Winston Chmielinski

Crime & Love: An Interview with Maxwell Snow

You'd think by the look of things that artist Maxwell Snow's outlook on life is decidedly grim, but amidst the decay and the funereal macabre lies a deep curiosity about what it means to really be alive. His artistic oeuvre is a documentation of sorts of life's constant and cruel reminder of its strange impermanence, from the grim-reaperesque portraits of hooded KKK members, to his stark black and white imagery of skulls, crosses, coffins, and girls tied to railway tracks, to a headstone in a recent series that reads, "Wish you were here." However, Snow, who is based in New York City, seems fastidiously intentional about his philosophies on life and death. There is a sense that Snow subscribes to the notion that the soul lives forever and the body is like a some sort of racing motorcycle and we're all blowing down the highway at 120 miles an hour and we might as well crash into the wall at full speed in a heap of burning metal than at a slow meaningless sputter. Snow's new series 100 Headless Women, which will be on view this March at the Kathleen Cullen gallery in New York, explores this notion further by turning the gallery walls into a mausoleum with a selection of ghostly mugshots, black and white photographs of statues of saints who were doused in acid to obscure their features, and a series of portraits of nude women with their faces blackened out with a whip of etching ink in order "[to wrap them] in a cloak of anonymity to seal their singular identities….[so] the viewer is asked to focus on the collection group and devise a story within." I got a chance to ask Maxwell Snow a few questions about death, life, the afterlife, his inspirations, and a run down on what his new show is all about. Read interview after the jump and see selections from the new series.

PAS UN AUTRE: A lot of your work seems to be seeped in the mythologies of death and the afterlife – where do these allusions to death and darkness come from?

MAXWELL SNOW: Death is ever present. Human beings for as long as they have been on this planet, have been fascinated with the afterlife. I would say for good reason. It is a part of almost every story. In mythology, heroes and saints are defined by how they die as much as by how they live, Artistic representations of the end of life stimulate my curiosity. As a child I was always interested in stories of great men and I continue to be inspired by the hero’s journey. Death is a mystery. Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Death is beautiful. No one likes to talk about it, people want to sanitize the idea of death because they are afraid of it. People fixate on the physical side of it and not the metaphysical. You cannot erase energy you can only change its form. The soul doesn’t die it just takes its clothes off at the end.

AUTRE: What do you expect the afterlife to be like?

SNOW: If its hell its Time Square but I imagine the conversation there will be more interesting than anywhere else.

AUTRE: You started to pop up on the gallery circuit around 2008 - have you always been such a consummate artist?

SNOW: Thank you for that but satisfaction with my work is elusive. There is no such thing as consummation. I am always striving for an imaginary plateau that can never be reached. Always looking for perfection, though impossible, I aim for it. I want to make things that resonate with the universe.

AUTRE: Where does the outlaw persona come from - what is it about the American outlaw?

SNOW: I suppose it has always been my nature to question authority. Crime and love go hand in hand.

AUTRE: Who are some of your favorite American outlaws?

SNOW: Billy The Kid.

"Crime and love go hand in hand."

AUTRE: There is a quote in the press release for your new series of photographs called 100 Headless Women that says something to the effect that death is a "territory unknown to the living, and thus can be whatever we make of it" - can you talk a little bit about that and the new series?

SNOW: It’s the ultimate mystery and who doesn’t love a good mystery? This series is about stripping perspective in order to force it into new channels of awareness. How do we see the other? What are we looking at? What are we looking for? Most importantly, what are we missing? When the eyes and face are taken away you are forced to redirect. You almost frantically search for an anchor for your view, a place for your eye to rest. The place where the information can be appropriated. The subjects are naked, eyes completely obscured. I expect that perhaps the viewer will experience is a form of cognitive dissidence that shakes them up. It puts you off kilter and off balance. The only way you can expand on your conciousness is to question the way you do things now.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?

SNOW: The surrealists and the old masters.

AUTRE: Whats next?

SNOW: The undiscovered country.

Maxwell Snow's100 Headless Women will be on view at Kathleen Cullen Fine Artsin New York from March 3 to April 7, 2012. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre

Adventure, Danger, and Romance: An Interview with Saint Motel

Photo: Liza Mandelup

I can't remember exactly where I first saw Saint Motel play, maybe The Viper Room in Los Angeles, but I certainly remember the show. How could I forget? It was electrifying. I found myself excitedly writing some form of this review in my head all the way back then. Every element of this band is like watching lightning – the lead guitarist (Aaron Sharpe) literally looked like he was convulsing as he played – and not in an embarrassing way, the drummer (Greg Erwin) slammed the drums like that monkey in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the bassist (Dak - great name) – the poster-boy of garage-nerd-pop – sewed each song together perfectly, and the singer (A/J Jackson) is the perfect front man – with a wide mouth that shouts intelligent, honey coated lyrics that pierce your heart all the way through your back and right back through again. Before five years ago, if you looked up Saint Motel in the yellow pages you might have found a cheap place to spend the night or take a hooker. The same might be true today, but if you google Saint Motel you'll find a torrent of small articles, much like the one you're reading now, celebrating the band with a laundry list of confusing genre classifications (garage-nerd-pop), but hailing the band nonetheless. With their soaring, operatic ballads of love and angst in the 21st century Saint Motel might just be the best band you've never heard of. That is of course unless you live Los Angeles. Saint Motel is arguably one of L.A.'s favorite bands. Its hard not to catch Saint Motel on the local indie radio there and its certainly hard not to miss one of their truly inspiring live shows. But fear not, Saint Motel is currently on the road and coming to a city near you to support the release of a new vinyl record with the singles At Least I Have Nothing and Puzzle Pieces. (interview with A/J Jackson, singer of Saint Motel, and the amazing music video for At Least I Have Nothing after the jump).

PAS UN AUTRE: How did Saint Motel come to be a band?

A/J JACKSON: It was right around that time when we were graduating from film school. We had all been playing music together in various bands and we decided to start something new.

AUTRE: Saint Motel has a really unique sound - somebody wrote (was it the Wall Street Journal?) that it's "garage glam" and the New York Times classified it as "reanimated power pop" - its seems like critics and music journalists have a hard time categorizing your music - how would you describe the band's sound?

A/J: I like the weird categorizations like dream pop and indie prog. But I've never been good at describing it by genres. I usually describe it like a movie. It's an action-packed thrill-ride of adventure, danger, and romance that is full of twists and turns but leaves you feeling real nice inside at the end.

"It's not always easy to sell shampoo

with lyrics about plastic surgery

or gender confusion."

AUTRE: There is a lot of story telling in your lyrics and a lot of existential rumination about love, money, art, etc - where do the lyrics come from – can you describe the process?

A/J: There are a couple different methods that I seem to use for this. One involves the gibberish I make up when I'm writing a song. Just filler to get the melody in place. Sometimes, the filler actually has a couple words that inspire me. A good example of this is one of our new songs, "Honest Feedback." I kept on saying that for some reason in the gibberish phase. Then, when it was time to sit and really write out the lyrics I decided to base the story around that. At first I was thinking, "oh man, no one wants to hear honest feedback" and then I thought, "wait, that's exactly why it's a good song topic!"  Another method is I go through my lists of song ideas that I just compile as things pop into my head. That's how "Puzzle Pieces" and "At Least I Have Nothing" came about. In all cases, I like to write lyrics that are different. Each song needs to have a raison d'etre and ideally each should be a concept that is interesting. A lot of times my song concepts aren't necessarily commercially viable. It's not always easy to sell shampoo with lyrics about plastic surgery or gender confusion.


AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

A/J: Oh thats a tough one. I know the first single I bought was Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry Be Happy." I know I was obsessed with 50's pop, Motown, and doo-wop when I was really little, and I know that the first piece of music to bring me to tears was Beethoven's 7th Symphony (2nd Movement). I feel like I absorb a little bit of everything I hear.

AUTRE: Your live shows are really exciting – really powerful – and there are a lot of aspects that make it like theater - including set design, I remember seeing potted plants and lamps - can you talk a little bit about your live shows?

A/J: We try to make the live show an experience that transcends the normal concert. We are constantly scaling up and scaling down our theatrics. We've decorated the stage to look like a living room, we've played shows in our underwear, we've done shows wearing lasers on our bodies, we've played shows covered in fake blood (and sometimes real blood). Never really been fully satisfied so it keeps growing and morphing to reflect our current state of mind.

"....we've played shows covered

in fake blood (and sometimes real blood)"

AUTRE: You just released your first vinyl record – what made you decide to put out a 7"?

A/J: We wanted to put something out before the full album. We also have always wanted to release a vinyl.

AUTRE: I remember going to some of your earlier shows way back in 2007 – I remember one specifically at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A. – what have been some of the biggest of changes for the band since then?

A/J: We're all jaded as #$%^ now. Nah, we're still those nice guys who just get some sort of cathartic release from playing music.

AUTRE: You guys are currently on tour - any crazy stories from past tours?

A/J: I'm not allowed to discuss crazy stories until the trial is over.

AUTRE: Whats next for Saint Motel?

A/J: New music, new videos, more touring, more clothing collaborations, new crazy show ideas, etc.

Purchase Saint Motel's new 7" here and check out their tour dates here.Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Ima Read That Bitch: An Interview With Zebra Katz

“Like a slaughterhouse I’m gonna bleed that bitch,” goes a line from the Zebra Katz track Ima Read. The beat is repetitive and the lyrics are like the visceral, aural equivalent of watching meat get pounded. If you haven’t heard Zebra Katz’s song Ima Read or seen the accompanying music video [see video after the jump] you’re seriously missing out. Ima Read, featuring Njena Reddd Foxxx on Mad Decent's Jeffree's Imprint, a brainchild of DJ and record producer Diplo, is Zebra Katz’s debut release. Katz, based in Brooklyn, who has a theater and arts background, is part of a new wave of hip-hop auteurs, bringing the medium back to its roots with a certain amount poetry, artistic predilection and originality that harks back to the heroin induced darkness and excitement of jazz. Starting off with artists like Spank Rock of Baltimore and more recently Tyler the Creator of ODDFUTURE out of Los Angeles and Harlem’s A$AP Rocky, the mainstream just isn’t cool or exciting anymore. Zebra Katz, aka Ojay Morgan, which seems to be less a pseudonym or stage-name and much more an alter ego, is definitely on the rise.  In the following interview Katz sheds a little light on the on his background, artistic influences, and hints at a debut album. After the jump: must see music video for Ima Read.

PAS UN AUTRE: Where are you from and where do you live now?

ZEBRA KATZ: I was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and now live in Brooklyn, New York.

AUTRE: Do you have a background in theater and art?

KATZ: My background in the arts come from attending a performing arts school from grade 6-12. My major was in theatre, but I minored in dance, visual arts, and communication.

AUTRE: When you did you become Zebra Katz and how would you describe your current sound?

KATZ: I started developing Zebra Katz during college and began playing shows two years after I graduated. I would say my current sound ranges from pure-punk-rage to the infinite depths of chopped and screwed crunk hybrids like witch house.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest inspirations and influences?

KATZ: Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Missy Elliott, and Andre 3000 (to name a few).

AUTRE: What is the song Ima Read all about?

KATZ:Ima Read is all about context, the art of reading, and the importance of literacy.

AUTRE: Where did the idea for the music video come from?

KATZ: Ruben Sznajberman wrote the treatment and directed the video. As a team we trusted each other’s creative visions and collectively made it work.

AUTRE: What’s next?

KATZ: I'm looking forward to touring with Njena Reddd Foxxx, new collaborations with brilliant artists, and working on my debut album.

You can download Zebra Katz's track here. Photography by Federico Cabrera. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.