Sound and Vision: An Interview With Eskmo

Brendan Angelides, better known by his stage name Eskmo, is one of those rare musical artists and composers that can combine the natural sounds of the earth and digital elements with a romantic, alchemical simplicity that is orchestrally abstract, but also extremely beautiful - like a soundtrack for a flying dream. Eskmo has used samples of field recordings from Icelandic glaciers, the rain falling in Berlin, tour bus fan noises while passing through the American Midwest, and parking garage construction in San Francisco. Indeed, Eskmo is a constant diarist of sound and vision. His latest album, SOL – which was released back in March – takes a slight departure from his previous albums, but still holds true to the lineage of using samples and drum beats – it is also rife with Eskmo’s discernible aural brush strokes that are cinematic and otherworldly. The only difference is the grandiosity of scale and concept behind the album – combining traumatic life effects (which is delves into details in the following interview) and the entire celestial body of the sun as conceptual inspiration. With SOL, Eskmo may have conceived one his most personal, but also one of his best albums – an album that sees him poking out of the drum and bass pigeon hole that music journalists and critics have tried to put him into over the last decade. It is also proof that Eskmo has many sonic avenues to travel. With SOL, you can hear the power of the album after the first note – like a magnetic flare bursting through the darkness of space. In the following interview, Eskmo talks about his artistic journey as a composer, the inspirations behind SOL, his entrance into the Echo Society (a collective of Los Angeles based composers), and the music he likes to listen to at home.

Joe McKee: First of all, why so long in between records? Four years might not be that long to some, but it’s a significant time to develop ideas and to work on new material. What was the reason for the gap?

Eskmo: Logistically, I actually wrote a bunch of stuff in 2011 and 2012, but it was so far from what my other album was that Ninja Tune wasn’t even into it. I sat back with that, and I decided to release that material as two EPs—quietly, digitally on my own label. Just to hold onto the stuff in case anything were to happen.

JM: What was the gist of those EPs? Can you give me an idea of why it was such a big departure from the previous album?

Eskmo: For me, it wasn’t that big of a departure. I think [the record label was] at a particular place in which I had a certain buzz around me at a certain time. I was working with Amon Tobin. I had done a couple of things where I think they had a very particular idea of what I would do. They put out the first one just to see how it would go from there. I think they had a particular idea of the aesthetic that I would keep going in, which wasn’t my idea of myself.  My new stuff sounded more like Peter Garbriel. I was like, “That’s awesome! Isn’t that cool?” But that’s not what they wanted. They’re focused on a particular aesthetic. For me, so many different things were happening in my life in 2011 and 2012—the songs reflected that. There were things that were way over there and some things that were way over here. Proper heartbreak, proper crazy travel.

JM: Being pulled in different directions, and the music follows that.

Eskmo: It was all genuine and very authentic. It was still melodic, still sound-design-y, but it was pulled in different directions.

JM: When you talk about sound-design-y, could you elaborate on what you mean by that? Are you talking field recordings involved?

Eskmo: Not even necessarily field recordings involved, but more so the idea of creating the craziest type of sound possible doesn’t inspire me that much at that point. I didn’t relate writing that material. I did a little bit before that. The Eskmo album, the one with “Cloudlight” and stuff, was very methodical, very clinical-sounding, very precise. After, it didn’t make sense to ask, what kind of crazy new type of sound can I create out of this? I was genuinely feeling more inspired by more simple melodies and song structure. I was like, “Oh, that’s engaging to me,” instead of trying to make some crazy-sounding thing.

JM: When, you’re creating a record, when you’re sculpting that world, what are your parameters?

Eskmo: I think I have a sound palette, to a degree. Over the years, I’ve refined my ability. Specifically drum and bass taught me this years ago. Here’s a tiny little box—what can you do with that box and be creative? Taking that as a formula and applying it, I have been able to do that in different ways. With this [current] album, contextually, I started out just wanting to write an album that sounded like the sun. I wanted this big sound. My biological dad passed. I had record label stuff. Big things in my life were shifting. So the first, initial impulse—the sun thing—happened. A couple of tracks came out of that—“Sol” and later “A Thousand Furnaces.” Then, as the year went by, as I working on more of it, stuff would come up. Oh, wow, this is clearly a heartbreak song. Here’s another one, this is a very human, heart-on-sleeve song. Another song, “Blue & Grey,” I’m literally singing about a blue heron—fucking get more hippie than that. It felt right to me. Looking back at it, that’s why I started to associate it with yes, the sun, but there’s also really human stuff in here. The idea of the moon coming in was in relationship to a female-personified figure.  It had to do with authenticity, too. At one point during that writing process, I was trying to force writing an album about the sun. Why am I writing these tender things? But I decided I needed to just do that and see where it goes.

JM: What does authenticity mean to you, musically?

Eskmo: My personal relationship to it is a sense of vulnerability, a sense of being honest with that process. My version of authenticity would be not controlling that pre-ordained narrative of needing a particular type of song, a particular type of aesthetic. For example, the show at MAMA Gallery—I wouldn’t have done that a year and a half ago, man. I’ve had a hard time, in the past, even inviting friends over for dinner, nevermind inviting 70 people come to the gallery and watch me sweat and struggle in these very vulnerable positions. For me, that’s the authenticity in my understanding of it. I’m pushing myself while being very honest. Participating in that dynamic actually fueled the record, too. The same type of thing that I was experiencing emotionally and psychologically during the photo shoot was part of the album-writing process.

JM: Exposing yourself, breaking down the walls that you build. Letting people in, letting people understand the process. It’s more of a naked process that way.

Eskmo: A band that’s inspired me for a few years now—it’s rad to watch them progress—is Future Islands. Samuel Herring—I view him as a very authentic, vulnerable human. He’s just wearing his heart out there. Combined with his charisma, that’s why I seem him excelling right now. You have this guy saying, “This is me.”

JM: Beautiful thing to witness. On that note of inviting people in and taking down those boundaries that you may have previously built, with whom have you been collaborating? Who is instigating those collaborations?

Eskmo: Particularly on the album, the album artwork—

JM: I love that artwork; it’s beautiful. What is it looking down at?

Eskmo: A feather sculpture. Check out her stuff—Kate MccGwire. Her stuff is rad. Some of her art installations have feathers coming out of a pipe, and going out to walls. Amazing, alien-looking stuff. Also, the back cover is a wooden sculpture by my friend Aleph Geddis. That’s become a huge, integral part of the album theme. We worked with it in the music video too—we projected the geometric lines of the shape onto it. I can’t say this yet, because we’re just talking about it, but we’re working on making hollow versions of his geometric sculptures—50 to 100 of them—to sell along with the vinyl as a bundle-package. Also, my friend Dean Grenier is working on the art direction. That collaborative process—allowing people to do what they’re good at—I thrive in it. I think, in the past, I wanted more control. Particularly around the album and how the tour is going to go, I’m being more open to other people’s ideas instead of being more controlling.  

"Looking back at it, that’s why I started to associate it with yes, the sun, but there’s also really human stuff in here. The idea of the moon coming in was in relationship to a female-personified figure.  It had to do with authenticity, too. At one point during that writing process, I was trying to force writing an album about the sun. Why am I writing these tender things? But I decided I needed to just do that and see where it goes."

JM: At what stage did the visual artists on the record come on board?

Eskmo: The album art was after. Aleph—I’ve been friends with him for years, and I’ve always loved his sculptures. I wanted to work with him. The other artists—I didn’t know how to make that happen, until I decided I wanted to work with Kate. That feather sculpture, she already made that. The aesthetic—the feather thing was organic, alien, clean, minimal—what would work in tandem with that? Some of Aleph’s photos one morning, holding a wood block over his head—I was like, “This is it. This makes so much sense for me.” That process has been step-by-step, seeing it progress.  It turned into a thing where I was literally using his shapes during the music video, too. I was integrating feathers into the music video, too, which hadn’t been a part of it at all. Also, working with Dylan, the actual animator that was doing—that process was letting him do what he’s really good at.

JM: There’s a performative element to it.

Eskmo: 100%, man. Coming out of a place where I hadn’t really done any collabs—I had turned into this lone wolf thing—right now, I’ve been breaking out of that. The collaborative process is still new for me. It’s only been a year and a half of breaking out of that shell. I’m step-by-step. When new things come in, I allow it to flourish instead of trying to control it into a very specific kind of direction. In some ways, I’m taking baby steps, to be honest.

JM: Okay, what is the Echo Society, what is it, and how did it come about?

Eskmo: The Echo Society is a collective of composers, musicians, and artists in LA. We’ve put on two events so far with a chamber orchestra. We had a couple of guests for each show. Everyone, essentially, writes one piece for the whole ensemble that’s put together. It’s all LA-based musicians. We had seen a couple shows in LA before we did the first one, before we started talking about it. Other musicians were brought in from New York and stuff. There was one particular show that inspired us to do something more LA-based. We were inspired to do something better, to be honest. So we started talking about it. This came organically out of hanging out with a bunch of music nerd bros. We were just going to Disney Hall, to the Greek, and we decided—what would happen if we just threw our first one? It organically happened. Most of the other guys are doing film stuff—aside from David, who is doing electronic stuff, too. It just happened.

JM: Sweet. Do you have any other artists that you consider your peers creatively? Particularly in LA, but elsewhere too. Are there people you’re in communication with regularly that you might feel in competition with? Or feel inspired by, creatively? It doesn’t have to be musically, necessarily.

Eskmo: I’m definitely inspired by Rob Simonsen, one of the guys in Echo. He’s become really, such a solid hope for me. I’m inspired by his work ethic, how he’s built the work he has. Watching him work on different films.

JM: What’s he been working on?

Eskmo: The last thing he did was Foxcatcher. He scored that whole thing.

JM: How did he get into that world?

Eskmo: Oftentimes, in film, you’re an understudy for another composer. You do a whole bunch of work for them. He was with Mychael Danna—he did Moneyball and Life of Pi. He was doing his own score, but working with him. Then, it gradually got to the point where he was offered his own role. He did The Way Way Back. He’s in a handful of things right now. He’s working on something for the guy that did Independence Day. I’m actually getting to work on my first film score now, too.

JM: What are you doing? I know you’ve done some scoring for short films. “Memory 2.0” is one that I saw. What else have you done, scoring wise?

Eskmo: I’m brand new. Just this one that I’m working on right now. That was the goal of this album—to move past the idea of being a hyper-sound pointing artist. I wanted to write some pieces that were thematic, ethereal, and cinematic in general. And I wanted to present that alongside the Echo Society to put myself out there, so that I can do that work here in LA. That’s the direction, at least. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

JM: Let’s talk about rituals. I noticed, before you started eating, you bowed your head and took a minute before you ate. What other kind of rituals do you have creatively? Is there anything you need to do before you enter this creative process?

Eskmo: I try my best to meditate every morning. I pray every morning. I give thanks for being able to breathe. Ritual-wise for music, there’s no specific thing I do other than grounding myself.  But I don’t even do that all the time. If anything, I try to tap into what’s happening in my life, which I think any other artist does. What’s occurring for me? How can I express this honestly? I just let that carry me. That 90% of the time what happens. The other 10% is methodical. What’s happening out in the world? How can I, potentially, do my own expression of that? But usually it’s, what am I genuinely feeling? How can I get this out? Later, I go back and contextualize it.

JM: Tell me about the deaf music program you’ve been putting together.

Eskmo: We haven’t actually started it yet, so I don’t know if I should speak on it. I did an AV show last April in a movie theatre with some guys. My friend David Strangeloop. We were standing in front of the movie screen, doing the visuals that were synced up to the music. I’ve been working with this company called Subpac, which makes these vibrating bass packs. We brought thirty of them into the theater, and had people sitting with them—watching the visuals, hearing the music, and then feeling the vibrating bass pack. it’s very specific too. The lower frequencies hit down and goes all the way up your back as it rises. From that, I got inspired to do a show like this, but for deaf kids, for kids that can’t experience music in the traditional way.

JM: That’s a really exciting project.

Eskmo: I’m stoked about it. For me, working with kids, using technology—the biggest thing for me is the conversation. There’s something in that that’s moving me forward.

JM: There seems to be a swing back—in the past couple years it feels to me—towards ambient, electronic sounds. Why do you think it is that particularly ethereal music is finding its place again?

Eskmo: I know my own personal reasoning behind it. It’s a response to the environment. It’s a response to the United States electronic scene. Not in a sense that I’m trying to change anything. When I sit down to write something, there’s a part of me that wants to sit in that space. The amount of noise with the Internet, the amount of noise at any festival. There’s not good music or bad music—sonically, there’s a lot. For me, on the album, I want to convey different sides of that. There are tranquil, piano pieces, but at the same time, “Light of One Thousand Furnaces” is literally trying to evoke a solar flare on the sun. They’re both a genuine response to the state out there.

JM: Are you trying to locate something organic in an otherwise seemingly industrial landscape? What I’m noticing in a lot of this music is that marriage or things that are organic and things that are synthetic. It’s a cyborg middle-ground, which is really interesting. I’m curious about that marriage and where it sits anthropologically-speaking.

Eskmo: Some of the stuff I go back to the most, when I’m at home—I always put on gentle, ethereal stuff, for the most part. I listen to a lot of folk, too. It depends on the timing. If it’s a sunny Sunday, I’ll probably throw on some folk. It’s a genuine expression to my relationship to my life at this point. I try to be very mindful of it. That’s something I think about a lot. When you start to create art that is a reaction to this other thing, you end up being owned by it. As an example, if I were to make music that was a counter to DDM, everything I’m doing is a reaction. I’m still owned by that thing, instead of it being a genuine expression of how I’m feeling. I don’t want to battle this other thing. It’s this rage against the machine thing.  

Eskmo's SOL is out now on Apollo Records. Click here to purchase in multiple formats. See below music video for the track "Mind of War" directed by Eskmo with stop-motion animation by Dillon Markey, filmed live at MAMA Gallery. Photographs by Trevor Traynor. Interview by Joe Mckee. Intro text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre magazine on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Momentary Masters: An Interview With Strokes Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.

Most people know Albert Hammond Jr. as the nicer dressed guitarist of The Strokes – with his signature curly-cue mop and cigarette cocked askew. After a little more than a decade of being in the band that defined a generation and kicked off a garage-rock revival, Hammond started exploring his own artistic journey, which has resulted in two solo albums – his third, Momentary Masters, is set to drop at the end of this month. This latest album is much more personal for Hammond – who is an artist realizing his place in the universe outside of himself. After emerging from the cocaine-dust-choked atmosphere of his youth, Hammond is learning about home, family and security. He has survived the shipwreck of his own self and is now clinging to newfound shoreline. In fact, his new album, which he calls “a love letter to my past self,” was recorded at his home studio in upstate New York, which has perhaps allowed Hammond the unique opportunity to open up like never before – with each song you can really feel it. The name of the record borrows from astronomer Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, which proposes that in the grand scheme of the things, we are all only “momentary masters” during the little time we have on earth, so you may as well enjoy the ride. In the following interview Hammond talks about moving forward, the process of making music at home and the importance of realizing the impermanence of everything. 

I want to talk about the Strokes, just because that’s such a big part of you as an artist. I remember vividly when that first music video came out for “Last Night” on MTV. It was the last hurrah of MTV premiering music videos. But everything was girl bands, boy bands, pop music. It was terrible, all the candy pop music. Then, your music video came on, and I didn’t know what to think. What do you think about when you look back on those days?

It was fun… Are there words to describe such a moment in one’s life? I said “fun,” and thought, “Wow, what a terrible word.” Yes, it was fun. It’s life-changing. I felt it beforehand and during and after, but I never really think about it. Maybe when I’m sixty I’ll lie down. I feel still like I’m reaching for the new. It was all new and exciting at the time.

So you’re chugging forward. You haven’t really processed, you’re just moving forward.

I love it. It always sounds negative. It always sounds like I don’t care about it, but that’s not the case. It’s amazing, but it’s more fun for people who weren’t in it to reminisce about it. If not, you get stuck in that. Sometimes, as a band, we’ll reminisce. It’s fun. You have old jokes.

I’m more thinking in the sense of how that music was breaking through what was going on at the time. It was pretty amazing.

I remember believing in what we made. The same way I am now—just so happy with what was there to promote. I felt like we had succeeded already. Everything else was out of your control anyway. All you could do was do the things you do.

What were some of your musical influences? What kind of music did you listen to when you were younger? I know your father was a musician. Was he a big influence?

I fell in love with music through Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, The Doors, a little bit of underground, David Bowie, The Stones, The Talking Heads, Jonathan Richman, The Cure, The Cars, Guided by Voices. That’s just the first round in my head. I got into classical music with Beethoven.

What is your favorite thing about making music? What is your favorite thing about music in general?

There are always points in music. You start with nothing. You create something that you want to share with people. Parts get better, maybe parts get worse. Then, you reach a new high point like you did when you first discovered it. You keep getting these new highs and lows. It’s a constant up-and-down feel. That challenge, and the overall outcome from accepting that challenge—I love that. I love when you get to the end of a song and say, “Wow, I can’t believe we made that.”

What’s my favorite thing about music? Music and movies broke me free, when I was a teenager, from thinking and living in a box. I was moving like a robot, and then it opened a new door into how to think about things. It affected me very deeply. It completely changed my life. It’s like that cheesy Jesus thing—he’s “always by your side.” Music has always been by my side. It’s my meditation, my reason, my understanding. It’s led me to many different outlooks in my life.

You grew up in LA, right?

I did, yeah. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. I enjoyed it as a kid because I lived in the suburbs, and you could ride your bike. LA has that city, but you can still be in the suburbs. But growing up, I didn’t like it. For me, it was strange.

"The record, if you listen to it, has layers. That’s how life feels to me. It has its strange moments. You end up thinking about stuff happening, and you realize that we’re all in the same boat."

Do you think New York is your home?

Yeah, I came here, things clicked. I live upstate now. Well, I tour and travel a lot, so “home” is a place where I go to regain energy. It’s easier to have a house and a yard. I can come to the city and use its purposes, but just as much, I don’t need to be there everyday.

You recorded your new album at your house?

If you have a studio, you’re going to use it.

Do you think it’s easier to record at home versus a studio that maybe you’re more unfamiliar with?

It’s definitely more fun to record at home. For me, to be able to say, “Take a break,” and not worry about it is great. I don’t think I could have done it the way I did it. The way you do it for a week and then come back a month later, moving all the gear into another studio, would be a nightmare. By the time you set up, you almost have to go again. I think that’s why people build studios—to have that quality, but also to have the time.  

I’m thinking about The Band—there were a lot of great albums that were recorded close to home. You can feel it in the music.

For me, recording, we’d wake up in the morning, we’d go for a run, and we’d eat meals together. We’d play music and then go back to the house. We always watched TV at night. Those are enjoyable things in life, whether you play music or not. Doing that made the overall experience more fun. And when it got to where we couldn’t break through, we’d walk out, take a second, and breathe for a minute. In a studio, you’re paying a bunch of money to play twelve hours straight. You try as much as you can, but you always walk in a little more broken.

In terms of influences for this record, I know sobriety has been a big part of your transformation.

It’s less of an influence and more what enabled the record. That’s the first step. There are so many things I did after that that led to the record. But without that first step, you can’t do those other ones. That’s why it always seems like the biggest one. It’s constant though. I fuck up left and right. You find new demons to exist. You find new ways to destroy things. But you confront it and fix it again. It’s not like, Yay! Happy! Done!

And you have to keep working through that. It’s a lifelong thing.

Yeah, exactly. [Singing] We’ve only just begun.  

A lot of people have these patron saints that come into their lives in many different ways. You talk about this girl Sarah, in terms of being able to open up your creative process. Can you talk a little about that?

At a time that I was figuring stuff out, she gave me new musical influences, new influences with writers. She had work ethic with writing—the idea of words. When I was playing with this band, I knew I wanted to try new things to see if it would work. It started to work, which gave me more time to work on melody and lyrics. In the two weeks spent with her I reemerged. At the time, I didn’t realize it was going to do that. I didn’t know. Those are things that happen in life, and you just try to be aware of them.

I’m looking at the cover right now. There’s a Bauhaus theme to the aesthetic. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I like the idea of light and dark, black and white. The idea that there are two sides to yourself. Everyone has projections of them, and that comes out in the record. Obviously, I wish I could have thought of that Day One, but it happened slowly. It took a while to evolve. Then this photo came out—it was perfect to explain that. The profile, the shadow of it, the way the lines work, and it looked good. It felt great. We had different album titles. Then when “Momentary Masters” came in, it seemed to help tie in the shadow theme. It offered a cool perspective to the record. Just two words—I kept repeating those words. I thought they were great.

And it’s based on one of Carl Sagan’s philosophies, right?

Yeah. The blue dot. You can YouTube the clip. He talks about Earth and everything we’ve ever known and done is in this one space. As he pulls away from the planet, you see how tiny and meaningless everything is. We create meaning. To me, that allows for change, allows for the human element, for mistake. It lets us learn. He says, “Momentary Masters” talking about how funny it is that people are fighting for a fraction of a dot to become momentary masters. Nothing is permanent. Even when it feels so permanent, it isn’t.

That’s why we need to keep making art, music.

You create your meaning around that. I still have things to say… You have to listen to it. It really relaxes me.

It’s comforting. A lot of people seem to do things for the sake of permanence. It seems a little bit desperate.


What do you want people to know about you as an artist that they don’t know already?

I don’t know if it has anything to do with words. What I want them to know is in this album and how I perform my live show. I’m at the stage where I feel like I don’t even know. If anything, that’s kind of what I’m saying and doing. The record, if you listen to it, has layers. That’s how life feels to me. It has its strange moments. You end up thinking about stuff happening, and you realize that we’re all in the same boat. The record means a lot to me. I made it with the idea of trying on my own two feet. I don’t know if I can move people, or entertain people, or both. That’s what I mean by “It’s in the music.” I don’t know what to say, other than, “Hear it.” Your perception, your writing isn’t as important as the music.  

"Momentary Masters" will be available July 31st, 2015 in the US/EU, July 29 in Japan. Pre-Order now and Get "Born Slippy" & "Losing Touch" instantly. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Autre Magazine. Follow Autre Magazine on instagram: @autremagazine

Tangerine Director Sean Baker Talks Monster Flicks, Shooting Feature Films on Smartphones, and His New Sex Worker Comedy

Tangerine is a film to celebrate, not only because it brings a bright beautiful shade of blooming reality to transgender issues, but also because it is a return to the inventiveness of filmmaking. Shot entirely with iPhone 5S smartphones, the film is a triumph of cinema’s capacity to capture the human condition using whatever means necessary. With past projects that include Greg the Bunny and Starlet, director Sean Baker could have gone with much more expensive cameras, but decided to stick with smartphones and all the inherent challenges – challenges that were worked out with special, newly invented rigs and filmmaking apps. The decision lends an atmosphere of spontaneity to Tangerine that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise. The film, which takes place on Christmas Eve, follows Sin-Dee (played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (played by Mya Taylor) as they search for the former’s pimp through a landscape of lascivious pleasure seekers involved in all manners of sins of the flesh – all among the neon hued and gum stained sidewalks of Tinseltown’s soiled boulevards. When watching the film, you are injected with a new enthusiasm about moviemaking – an enthusiasm that hasn’t been felt since Harmony Korine was using camcorders to shoot Gummo, or when Thomas Vinterberg was using handycams and mini-DVs to shoot the 1998 Danish film, Festen, or even when Richard Linklater was using 16mm to shoot Slacker on a shoestring budget. It seems that using unpredictable tools results in beautiful cinematic experiences. In the following interview, Autre speaks with the director of Tangerine, Sean Baker, about his falling in love with monster movies, transgender rights and why he decided to shoot his third feature film on smartphones. 

OLIVER KUPPER: When did you know that you wanted to make films? Was there a specific film that you saw that really inspired you?

SEAN BAKER: Yeah, it goes way back, actually. My mother brought me to the local library when I was in first grade. They were playing a 16mm of old Universal films—monster films. It was the burning hill scene in James Whale’s Frankenstein—that climax—that got me hooked. Up until then, I had always said, “I want to be a fireman! I want to be a construction worker!” I left the library that day and said, “I want to be a filmmaker!” From that point on, I knew I wanted to direct films.

OK: That’s amazing. I want to talk about your first effort in filmmaking. Your first effort in getting your work out there was Greg the Bunny, correct?  

SB: Well, yes, that was the first one that hit. My first film was a film called “Four Letter Words.” It was a look at guys in the suburbs. I’m hoping some day I’ll have the money to remaster it. It was shot on a 35; I made it in my early twenties. It was very much like a social-realist Kevin Smith film. Because in your twenties you see time in a different way, I let time fly by. I think I shot the film in ’96, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Matt Dentler (now he’s with iTunes, but at the time he was running South by Southwest) was the first champion of my stuff. When I was in post-production of Four Letter Words and trying to find this movie in post, two friends and I (Dan Milano and Spencer Chinoy) picked up a puppet one night. I realized what a genius Dan Milano is, when he started improvising with this puppet. The next thing you know, we have a public access show that gets recognized by IFC. Then, the next thing you know, we’re going to have some things on IFC, which lead to getting on Fox. We signed over with Seth Green, which is where we got most of our fan base. We went back to IFC, and then we had a spinoff on MTV. So I could say that this was a wonderful, happy accident that supported me through many years of making independents.

OK: You were an independent filmmaker, went to public access, made Greg the Bunny, and then went back to independent filmmaking?

SB: At my heart, my love is cinema.

OK: Your work deals with a lot of darker themes and cultures on the fringe. Where did these interests or appreciations come from?

SB: I think it’s a natural desire to explore the world, to try to understand and identify with people from different cultures, who have very different experiences and upbringings. For me, usually, it stems from a desire to explore a different location, first. Then, it’s finding the community within that location, and really taking the time to collaborate with them. For example, with Tangerine, it was about that unofficial red light district of Santa Monica. I knew of it because I lived close by. I had already been exploring sex work with my last film, so there was a natural progression. That area happens to be frequented by transgender sex workers. First and foremost, it was a look into that chaotic neighborhood. Then, it developed into exploring the lives of the transgender sex workers who are really in a place where they are forced to work the streets. They’re not given the same opportunities. Most of them are trans women of color who aren’t given opportunities because of bias, prejudice, and racism. Because of the cards they’ve been dealt, they’re living these lives. There was a natural desire to explore that. I had already had empathy and sympathy for them, but I wanted to get to know them on a human level. That was really what led to that.

"...We were shooting out on the street with very little money, so we wanted to keep our prints small. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We just didn’t have the money for security. We didn’t have the money to own location....Even with Donut Time, we paid them to be there, but we could never shut down their business. We had to work around real customers that were coming in and out. So what the iPhone did was grant us a low-profile."

OK: In terms of transgender and gay rights, do you want this film to be an important document of this time to humanize these people that have been on the fringe for so long?

SB: Yes, it’s most definitely in focus right now. Especially over the last few months with Caitlyn Jenner, the public television show which focuses on the trans individual, Transparent… When we set out to make this film over two years ago, it was something that was rarely talked about. I think it’s a sign that we’re all thinking the same way in terms of our society recognizing these individuals. I’m focusing on one very small—very small—sub-community. This film is not meant to represent all trans people. It focuses on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland where there happens to be sex work going on.

OK: And the movie was shot on iPhones. I don’t think that’s ever been done before in the sense of a feature film. Where did that idea come from?

SB: It came from a very organic place. I would be the first one to call myself out if it were done as a gimmick. I’m a cinephile, as I told you. If I was given the money, I wouldn’t have shot this on a 5s. But maybe I wouldn’t have made as good of a movie. I think in the end, the fact that we shot on a smartphone, there were so many benefits that came with it. At least for this story. I’m not saying for every movie. I actually hope my next film is shot on film. But for this particular movie, it helped in so many ways. Number one, we were shooting out on the street with very little money, so we wanted to keep our prints small. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We just didn’t have the money for security. We didn’t have the money to own location. We had, of course, insurance and permits. Even with Donut Time, we paid them to be there, but we could never shut down their business. We had to work around real customers that were coming in and out. So what the iPhone did was grant us a low-profile.

OK: And you were working with very green actors, right? 

SB: The second thing, and probably the most important thing… I was working with two first-time actors—Mya Taylor and Kiki Rodriguez. Those two were already aspiring actors and professionals. What I’ve learned from shooting other first-timers is that there’s always a hump they have to get through. They have to drop their inhibitions. Even with Prince Adu from Prince of Broadway—it took him a little while to get used to the camera. In this case, everybody has a smartphone. For example, these girls were taking selfies of themselves between takes with their own phones. There was no difference between what we were doing and what everybody else was doing. Their confidence level and their lack of intimidation was really there from minute one. They were on the same level as James Ransone and Karren Karagulien. It was wonderful, in that case, where suddenly I was able to jump in, and even first-timers became great actors.

OK: For someone who is a little more conservative or doesn’t understand this world, how would you invite them to appreciate this film?

SB: I would just say to give this film a chance. I have a feeling that, like me, you’ll fall in love with these characters. I fell in love with these characters. I think that no matter who you are and what your politics are, you will identify with these characters. They’re going through struggle, but we all are. Of course, they’re also dealing with hardships that we’ll never know. At the same time, Tangerine is about friendship. Tangerine is also about fidelity. We all have friends; we all understand friendship. And I’m pretty sure a large percentage of us have also had to deal with fidelity. Whether we’ve done it to our partners or our partners have done it to us, we all understand the consequence of fidelity. We all understand what jealousy is. If you go into the film understanding that this is not a “life of” movie, but is actually a human story filled with humor and characters that I think everyone will love—even if they are flawed. I’m not just talking about the two main characters, but also the characters on the fringe. Even the characters who might be a little crass in what they say are still lovable characters. That’s how I would invite the more conservative crowd in.

OK: If this movie were to play in a cult cinema double-feature, what would you play next with it?

SB: That’s a good question. I never had a double-feature in mind with Tangerine. Maybe the Estonian film Tangerine. [Laughs.] No, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe I can text you later with my answer.

Magnolia Pictures presents Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker, opening July 17, 2015 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, Landmark’s California Theatre in Berkeley. You can also see the film in Los Angeles and New York. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

The Cairo Gang Goes Missing: An Interview With Emmett Kelly

                                                          Photograph by Jim Newberry 

Emmett Kelly exists in many shapes and musical forms.  His immense talent and abilities have brought him into the studio to add licks to some of the last decade’s most interesting indie albums.  One of his main collaborators is Will Oldham, otherwise known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy – the great Americana balladeer with a Satyr’s cheeks and an Irish lumberjack’s facial hair. Some highlights from their collaboration, which has resulted in multiple full-length albums and singles, include a track created for a homage soundtrack album for the 1971 surf film Morning of the Earth and Billy’s 2006 album, The Letting Go, which was recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland by Bjork producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. However, Kelley has also been steadily putting out records under his own moniker, The Cairo Gang, which is a band he started back in high school and that still continues to take form and propulsion with each album that is released. The latest Cairo release, Goes Missing, seems much more full than previous records and much more well rounded, but Kelley’s voice is right there to punch you straight in the heart with brass knuckles and the lyrics are more biting than ever. It is truly one of this year’s best albums and it makes you want to listen to Cairo’s entire discography over and over again. Autre got a chance to speak with Kelly and our conversation ranged from talking about his stint living in Chicago and experiencing the experimental music scene there, his collaborations will Bonnie “Prince” Billy, his current album and where he hopes to take his music next.  

Did you have musical background? Did you come from a musical family?

Yeah, I came from a musical family. Both my parents were musical.

When did you know you wanted to become a musician?

I didn’t really know, ever. That was just how life was. I grew up in this kind of environment. Music always had a presence. I just sucked at school.

You’re known as a session guy, like a hired gun in the studio. When did that start? Did you have any early aspirations to be in a band?

I’ve always been in bands, since I was a teenager. I grew up in LA—I never thought of being a hired gun. I didn’t even realize that was a thing you could do, ever, as a job. Until I moved to Chicago and started getting gigs just being in a bar band, or whoever’s band. I was never really thinking about being a hired guy.

I grew up in Los Angeles, as well.

Where are you from?

I grew up on the West Side, a little bit of Hollywood. Everywhere. Where did you grow up, specifically?

In the valley… LA seems like a boomtown right now.

It does seem that way.

It’s definitely creatively booming.

It’s funny, there are a lot of artists and musicians moving there from different parts of the country, especially New York. A lot of these musicians and artists don’t like talking about it. They don’t like being part of this migration.

They don’t want to be part of the LA migration?

Yeah, they don’t want to be part of the trend or something. They’re too cool. But it’s a definitive migration.

Yeah, it’s so ridiculous because they don’t want to admit to having a good life, living in a beautiful place.


New York is chaos. I always forget about the chaos in New York. You’re surrounded by people in this giant, concrete prison. LA is beautiful.

You lived in Chicago for a spell, what prompted the move to Chicago?

It wasn’t a conscious thing. I was travelling. I spent the ages of 17 to 25 travelling. I was passing through Chicago just because my sister was living there. I heard some music and stayed another week, then heard some more music and got an apartment. It’s easy to live there because the cost of living is very low. And, at the time, there was really great experimental music. There’s still a lot of experimental music. But it seemed really exotic to me at the time.

What kind of experimental music?

The main one was this bar—a really crappy bar—in Chicago called Rodan. It’s a totally shabby-but-trying-to-be-fancy kind of market scene that serves fucked up champagne drinks. I was at this bar; there was this band that used to play there every Tuesday. They just played free, experimental music. It was insane. Just to see it infiltrate into a meat market. This incidental thing was blowing my mind. You would never see that in Los Angeles or New York. I stayed for another week and I learned that there was this bookstore down the street that had experimental music every week. That kind of shit—that’s absolutely where my head was. Instead of someone who wants to go to shows, more experimental things are way more exciting for me. LA and New York—everything tried to be really marketable in some way, even to a niche audience. But the experimental scene in Chicago was aggressively anti-having an audience, even. I think that’s really a cool way to be.

"It’s sort of why I ended up back in LA. I felt like the scene was starting to cave in on itself. It wasn’t as exciting anymore. But I feel like a lot of people in the city felt the same way. It’s hard for me to tell. Every place you go, when you start to get anxious to leave, you start seeing all this negative shit."

Going against the grain. There’s such a scene in LA, a scene in New York. “Scene” is such an overplayed word.

But it’s true. But there’s a scene in Chicago. The free, experimental community in Chicago is totally a scene. It’s sort of why I ended up back in LA. I felt like the scene was starting to cave in on itself. It wasn’t as exciting anymore. But I feel like a lot of people in the city felt the same way. It’s hard for me to tell. Every place you go, when you start to get anxious to leave, you start seeing all this negative shit. But who knows. People think of it as negative. They probably don’t if they live there. Chicago seems like a tormented kind of place.

I want to ask you, what have been some of your most fulfilling music collaborations?

Obviously, I spent a long time working with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. That was definitely the most comprehensive for me. He’s an excellent composer of songs, lyrical and melodic. His awareness of how he wants to practice in a band setting, in a collaborative setting is really in line with my philosophy on that as well. Improvising is very important to me. Whenever you play songs or make records—I never feel like there’s a definitive version of anything. If you play it live, it should always be changing. You should always discover something new about it. With Bonnie “Prince” Billy, it was amazing to realize that you could improvise a song. If you think about it, the song is really the lyric and the melody. You could always change it. There’s a million ways to do a song.

I read somewhere—I don’t know if this is true or not—but Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” a lot of those songs are improvised.

Yeah, that’s an improvised record. There was probably some preparation on his end, as far as what chords he was playing. But that record was done in the middle of the night with some of the best musicians in New York at the time.

It’s incredible. It just goes to show how far you can take that and still be so complex.  

Absolutely. I feel like it’s so stale, when bands go on the road a lot of the time they’re worried about re-creating the record, making something that when people see it, they see what they want. It’s assuming that an audience doesn’t ever want situational life in their music. It’s fucking weird. Obviously, it’s impressive. I just recently saw Magma play, and they were totally phenomenal. Of course, that music is so deeply composed that it’s impressive to see it happen live. But rock and roll’s about situational energy. So it’s ridiculous to think that you would come up with a sound and then stick with it.

Is there anything really exciting about the music industry right now?

Yeah, I think there’s something really exciting going on. No one can understand what’s going on in it. And that’s really interesting, I think. Everyone’s freaked out because their record business is failing. Or they’re freaked out because it’s killing. Everyone’s feeling this apocalyptic thing. I guess the thing that’s always in apocalyptic thinking is the idea that the end of something implies the beginning of something else. I’ve always had trouble with the music business, so I can’t say I’d be very sad if it died a miserable death. But at the same time, I’ve had a decent relationship with it. Hopefully, it’s not some rapture. One thing that was really great about my experience in Chicago was that people had fun playing music. I feel like you forget some of the fun stuff when you’re surrounded in industry. Being in LA… When I was a teenager, LA was the best place ever for a band. There were so many amazing bands. Every band that you’d hear, there was some horrible thing about them trying to get something going… I really don’t know. I like that there’s so much working outside of the record business. Hopefully, people stick with it.

And the Cairo Gang—is that a band or a solo project? Reading about it, every band seems to have the same cast of musicians. How would you describe the Cairo Gang?

The Cairo Gang, originally, was a band in LA back in high school. It’s kind of grown—anytime I wrote a song, I wrote it as part of that name, for some reason. And the name has grown in importance to me over the years. It’s been different bands. All the records are my doing. There have been a few people that have played some stuff on records, but I haven’t made a proper band album.

How is your current album, “Goes Missing,” different from other Cairo albums?

It was recorded in different locations. That’s a big thing. It happened at a different time. There’s a lot of things that I assumed I would never really use, like sound machine, for examples. I thought I would never use a sound machine on a record, and I did.

Last question—what is next? What do you want to explore next?

I want to play a lot of shows. I want to have a band develop and immediately make another record with them. I’m working on a lot of new songs, but they’re open for progressions. It would be amazing to have a band that was playing a lot. The band would be amorphous, sort of an interpretive group. We could go and make new music that is situational. I’ve been listening to this band, Gong, lately. I really love the spirit of that music. I wouldn’t want to make a record that sounds like Gong at all. But I like the fact that it comes out of a lot of playing.  

Buy The Cairo Gang "Goes Missing" here. Follow them on Facebook to stay up to date with new releases and concert dates. Interview and text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper 

photograph by Rachael Cassells

Nature Slut: An Interview With Sexual Mystic and Artist Bunny Michael

                                                                                     photograph by Katherine Finkelstein

Back in 2007, she was Bunny Rabbit – it was the era of scenesters, top eight, Internet party photos, seemingly blind vapidness and a generation of millennials desperately seeking a discernible identity. She sang about taking cocaine anally and smoking marijuana vaginally – with backing beats from trans MC and Coco Rosie beat boxer Black Cracker. Her album “Lovers and Crypts” garnered a lot of attention – Sasha Frere-Jones in a New Yorker article dubbed her “the original art rapper.” Today, she is Bunny Michael – after four years of self-realization and a recent sexual revolution she has found a deeper, more meaningful side to herself as an artist and a person. Her recent series of photographs, which are on view now at Alt Space in Brooklyn, are a testament to her evolution and elevation. The exhibition – entitled “The Etheric Double – is the artist’s first solo show and features portraits of the artist and her “spiritual twin” who is manifest as a higher consciousness and a conduit for “kindness, love and acceptance.”  In the following interview, Bunny talks about coming out, sexual revolution and the importance of finding your own spiritual twin.

You describe yourself as a “Nature Slut,” and as a “Telepathic Goddess of the Future.” Can you introduce your identity as an artist and explain what those terms mean?

I call myself a Nature Slut because it’s an identity I created. A few years ago, I was writing an erotic poem about having sex with a woman in nature. I realized that what I was trying to get at was the other woman being myself, a higher version of myself, a natural being. I realized that I had lost touch—or I had never been in touch—with the part of me that is Nature. Human beings, we often think of Nature. The sexual part of it is just wanting to be in touch with nature as a sexual being, being a creator. I don’t really see any difference; I think that sexual expression is the ultimate form of creation. We can’t take for granted—as females—the power to create another human being. I feel that there is power in the forgotten past of sexual energy, sex magic… There are multiple layers.

Doesn’t the word slut have a negative connotation?

It’s a reclaiming of the word, “slut.” It’s natural to have sexual desire. It’s not shameful. The shaming of it is what creates a lot of the pain around it. The history of shaming our sexual nature is, in my opinion, the reason why we have so much sex crime, sex violence. It’s because we have repress this energy. And we repress it because we don’t feel free to express it.  So, the word, “slut”—I was called a slut a lot when I was young, just being who I was. I didn’t even have a lot of partners, but kids at school still called me a slut. So I’ve always identified with that word, in a way. I want to reclaim it and say, “Okay, fine, I’m proud to be sexual.”

There seems to be a lot of repression in society, especially with women.

Of course with women. The sexual nature of women is an untapped, forgotten power that we have over men—great men, who are attracted to women. I think that’s why a lot of men feel the need to holler at a woman on the street or sexually degrade her. They feel overwhelmed by the power this woman has over them, and she doesn’t even notice them. We can just be walking down the street, minding our own business, but we exude a power that they don’t understand. It’s their way of reclaiming their power.

Where do you think this fear of power comes from?

I think it’s thousands of years of degrading women, ever since the Inquisition. Centuries of the genocide of females. There are villages in Europe that didn’t have any women at all because they had killed them off. There was this whole campaign against women so that religion could have more control. There’s a power that women are more sensitive to, that comes within their natural abilities. I think that’s very threatening to the establishment. We’re living in a time now where we have to bring back the feminine. It exists in both males and females, but I think the energy is feminine, especially with our connection to the earth. We’re living in a time where we’re remembering our power. The old ways aren’t working anymore. We’re getting that, we’re becoming more aware of that, we’re getting more in touch. The feminine is becoming more and more powerful.

What are some ways that we can level the playing field? How do we bring progress? Through art?

I think it’s raising your voice. Whether it’s through your art, through your discussions with your friends. To be honest, I think the number one thing is raising your own consciousness. There are a lot of activists out there who identify as being an activist. But I think it takes looking at yourself first, before you can claim that somebody else is wrong. Part of that feminine energy has a lot to do with compassion and understanding.

It doesn’t seem like it should just be women exploring that. Men should be taking these topics to light as well.

Men and women have suffered from the imbalance. This goes back to the racial thing too. Privilege isn’t always a blessing. I don’t want that to be interpreted the wrong way… It’s our struggles that make us stronger people. It’s the experiences that we’ve had, the worldly ideas that we’ve encountered. I’ve said this about growing up gay. The experiences I went through were hard, but they made me more important. And they made me more in touch with my sexual nature. If you’re living in a world of illusions—you grew up in a rich family, you went to school, you did what your dad did, maybe you have a lot of money… Is that what life is about? Life is about having joyous, fulfilling experiences. I don’t resent people who haven’t been put in situations that test their strength, because those situations help you grow.

Speaking of coming out and your family, did you have a lot of support from your family on your initial journey as an artist, as a person?

Initially, I didn’t really. My mom wasn’t born in this country, and my dad grew up with a lot of cultural influences, so they didn’t quite understand what they should do. They wanted to do right. In their mind, they thought it would be a hard life, so they didn’t want that for me. The crazy thing was that when I was young and coming out, I had a lot of friends’ parents who were really supportive. But on some other level, they were kind of spoiled kids. They got a lot of money, they partied all the time. Even though my parents, since they came from a different culture, didn’t understand that aspect, they understood something else that was very, very important. That was loyalty to family, which was a very valuable lesson. I don’t think that was a part of American culture. That lasted, and we’ve grown together from that. So I don’t regret any of those experiences with my parents. Now, they’re very supportive. We’ve all grown together. But the lessons they did instill in me were invaluable.

You do have to appreciate the positive aspects of what they appreciate. When did you know that you first wanted to make music? Was it music or art? When did you first start exploring your artistic side?

I started exploring my artistic side when I was in high school. I started doing a lot of LSD, and something just clicked in my head. Something literally opened up in my brain, some portal. I started doing a lot of drugs, my friends were all doing them. I was an actress then, too. I came to New York and realized, oh shit, you could do whatever you wanted. I still hadn’t done music, but I was dating somebody who was really good friends with the band Coco Rosie. We started playing around and making music. I started freestyling about a Bunny. They were like, let’s make a record. And the put out my record in 2005. It was called “Bunny Rabbit.” I did all the lyrics, but it was really a collaboration between us and another artist called Black Cracker. We toured a lot, we had a lot of success. But at the time I was very ego. I wasn’t able to really enjoy what was happening, and that’s why it fell apart. So in the past few years since then, I’ve been teaching myself how to make music and learning a lot of life lessons. This is my first solo project.

This is your first solo art show?

This is my first solo art show. The necessity for art came with the music. We made our own flyers, our own music videos. We did everything ourselves. That was a big part of the aesthetic of sound then. Now, I use that as the same mold, the same message. The visual art, the music, everything is connected to the same message.

You’ve been doing a lot of videos on YouTube in which you’re talking directly to artists, but you’ve also been talking about this sexual revolution after experimenting with plant-based medicines. Can you describe this revolution? How has this changed you as an artist?

I used to not be very open about it. I used to want to keep things private. But I’ve been practicing with ayahuasca. I know a lot of people practice with it now. The reason why I bring it up is because I don’t think anyone is talking about it. I had a sexual revolution from it that was totally unexpected. I expected to learn to love myself and all the things I had heard about it. But for me, it channeled all this sexual energy. I looked at my body for the first time and saw that I was this sexual form of nature. I started to really love that, for the first time. And I felt really comfortable in that. I saw that I was this animal, beautiful being. Then, I got really into sex magic. I started to feel very spiritual about my sexual practices. I started having visions during them. I think there’s a whole untapped world in that realm. And it goes back to ancient eastern sex practices. I am, by far, not the first person to experience this. There’s lots of books about it. We have this power within ourselves. It’s the power of creation. It’s not just about being able to create a child. We can manifest anything we want. Also, there’s the issue of the female orgasm and how unexplored that is.

Especially to American society, it feels like a complete mystery. It seems like our viewpoints since the Victorian era have not been that different.

There are still scientists who claim that it doesn’t exist. It’s really crazy to me. So I’m praying and hoping that my work inspires others to feel unashamed about their desires. I want them to feel comfortable in their expression.

I think we need that more than ever right now. Your group show—“The Etheric Double”—is a fascinating concept. Can you describe the idea of the Etheric Double?

On this journey that I’ve been on—which I feel a lot of people are on right now—is a journey of self-realization, awakenings, and awareness of self. Actually, I started going to hypnotherapy. I started visualizing myself doing things in those sessions, and that was very healing for me. So I started to develop seeing my spirit in meditations. She was myself, the form that I see in the mirror. It was very healing for me to know that this higher being, my spirit self, was looking after me. I felt her comfort. She was who I was outside of the form of this body. The way I saw her was as my twin. So then, I made one photo where there was two of me, and something just clicked. It was her. So I kept making these photographs of me and her with a dialogue. Some of the photos are kind of uncomfortable. There’s a push and pull between the two of us. Some days, I wake up and I’m not there; I can’t be the present person that I want to be. And then some days I’m right with her. I think we’re all going through that right now. We’re at this time of really big change, really big awakening. We can feel it about to happen, but we’re not quite there yet. We still have to do more work. So I was trying to illustrate that with the Etheric Double, that story, the domestic story of our relationship to the everyday. Everyday, just trying to do your best. 

That’s really interesting. You have a performance coming up in Sweden, in July. Can you talk a little about that?

It’s their pride festival. They asked to play, and I said yes, because a lot of friends of mine have played. Juliana Huxtable is a good friend, and she played there last year. I’m excited. I want to put myself out to the world, do a lot of traveling. I want to connect with people who have different experiences. I’m usually in a bubble, especially in Brooklyn. I’m really looking forward to going overseas.

Especially with last week’s ruling, that’s amazing. That’s a big, big step. My last question is, what do you want people to know about you as an artist that they don’t already know?

I want people to know that I am not about exclusivity. I’m about inclusiveness. The time of exclusiveness is over. It’s time for us to come together and realize what we have in common. We have to work together. It’s not going to be one person doing this alone. If anyone came in contact with me, I would want them to feel totally comfortable connecting with me. If they wanted to send me a message on Facebook, send me an email, whatever, they could. I don’t people to look at my art and see this untouchable thing. I want to be an artist of the people. I know they may not like the particular technique that I use, but I want the energy to be that of inclusiveness. That’s what I strive for.

Bunny Michael's first solo exhibition, entitled "Etheric Double," is on view now until July 12 at Alt Space, 41 Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn. See her music video for Gasolina below. Click here to purchase her 2014 EP Rainbow Licker. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Danger and Desire: An Interview with Elizabeth Harper, AKA Class Actress

Elizabeth Harper is petite, with cheekbones that could cut glass. As she sets up for her November show at Tammany Hall, on New York’s Lower East Side, her oversized trench coat nearly swallows her slight frame. After a meticulous sound-check, she asks demurely if the lighting can be changed and finally settles on a deep red—much like that in her music video for “Journal of Ardency,” a song about desire and desperation—to achieve a seductive, albeit tasteful, bordello-esque ambiance. The music begins, the trench coat slowly makes its way into a crumpled heap on the stage, and Harper’s unassuming daintiness takes flight, leaving only a slight trace—her stage presence is undeniably commanding. She exudes a confidence that is deliciously incongruous with her lyrics about longing, yearning, seeking and insecurity. She oscillates between girlish uncertainty and bold audacity—and this is just one of the qualities that makes her so interesting as a performer. Harper, who originally hails from Los Angeles, where she was a self- described “isolated teen in an army of cold social climbers looking over my shoulder at parties,” now lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a quickly-burgeoning artists’ hub just a few subway stops away from the fast-paced daily grind of Manhattan. Having taught herself to play the guitar and keyboards, she began her career as a slightly more traditional solo singer-songwriter, but as her sound gradually evolved, she incorporated Scott Richardson and Mark Rosenthal into what would become Class Actress. With Rosenthal and Richardson, Harper generates that rare breed of soulful, moving electronica characteristic of late-80’s Depeche Mode and Madonna (and she relishes such comparisons, saying, “I’m just glad my idolatry paid off…”), with the kind of swooning, lovelorn, self-indulgent lyrics that one might expect from someone who has of late earned the moniker “female Morrissey”— complete with titles like “Journal of Ardency” and “Adolescent Heart.” Harper’s delicate, heartsick croon overlays bass-heavy synth rhythms, delivering a sound that is both mellow and poignant—despite its classification as electro-pop, a genre which is generally characterized by neither of those adjectives. In short, it’s the anomalous kind of electric, energetic feel-good dance pop that one might also weep, write or paint to in solitude.

Can you talk a bit about the transition from your first musical project, to Class Actress, and from a more traditional folk-guitar sound to electro-pop? How did that come about, and what made the change? How has your musical sensibility changed over the years, and how would you define it now? 

It was a bit of a labyrinth but I found my way through the wilderness, some how I made it through… I would like to end this myth, I was never a “folk” artist.  If you listen to my first record yes there is one acoustic solo song on it, but the rest is electric.  I had just started writing songs, had a bunch of demos.  A friend of mine started a label, wanted to put them out, and so I said OK, why not. Back then I was into Elliott Smith and The Smiths, but as I grew up I wanted to dance, move, express myself.  People change; they find themselves, not everyone wakes up and says I am only this now and forever.   When I was a teen I loved techno, dance music and hip-hop, Then I had a short Elliott Smith/ The Smiths phase—which I am happy for because at that point my main goal was songwriting, not arranging, it was how to turn a phrase, say things in lyrical form....  then I got back to the synths. I am happy for the vast range of musical influences I’ve had over the years because they all culminated in Class Actress. Which is Pop music. Which by far is my favorite.

You taught yourself to play guitar and keyboards—how soon after that did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of music?

Right away.

What is your favorite aspect of living in Greenpoint? Artistically, how does it compare to Los Angeles, where you grew up? 

I like my friends nearby. I like not having to drive and having everything right there. In LA I was an isolated teen in an army of cold social climbers looking over my shoulder at parties. But sometimes I miss the beach, the mountains, the sunset, Mulholland drive, Malibu…

What’s the dynamic of the band? Who does what in terms of writing songs and composing music?

I write the songs.  Mark produced and recorded the record, Scott plays live and produces and does additional engineering as well.  Working with Mark is very hard to explain we have a very fluid way of working I bring him a song and we discuss the texture / rhythm / and then go from there.

Your sound and stage presence has been likened to that of early Madonna, “the girl version of Morrissey,” and Depeche Mode. What’s your reaction to such comparisons? 

I’m utterly flattered, these people are my idols. I love them. I’m just glad my idolatry paid off.  

What inspires you (in terms of musical style, lyrics, and your general aesthetic)?

Danger, weather, desire, acting motivations, Object Relation theory, my imagination...  

What’s next for Class Actress?

I would like to start making more involved videos that are more like short films. I want to take the cinematic quality of the music as far as I can.

This interview was originally published in Autre Issue 002 with text by Annabel Graham and  photographs by Amanda Zackem. Elizabeth Harper, AKA Class Actress, has just released her third EP, entitled "Movies," in collaboration with Giorgio Moroder on the Casablanca Record Label. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE. Additional credits: styled by by Shea Daspin, hair by Gabriela Langone, make-up by Alejandro Calvani. 

Out Calls Only: A Conversation With Virgins Founder and Singer Donald Cumming On Growing Up and Going Solo

Nearly ten years ago, Donald Cumming, the snarled-lip founder and front man of The Virgins, sang about stuck-up rich girls and other superficial fancies of youth and abandon. But that was a different time; downtown New York was grittier, cheaper, and less gentrified. Cumming grew up listening to old records above his father’s liquor store in Tribeca. Now, however, Cumming finds his inspiration a little farther uptown, where a piece of Old New York still exists. This shift of interests is not only indicative of a changing city, but is also symbolic of Cumming’s maturation as an artist. This evolution is also evident in Cumming’s astonishing debut solo album entitled Out Calls Only, released this month on the Washington Square Music label. Tinged with the same poetic, literary textures and existential questions of past musical efforts, the singer’s distinctive drawling voice harkens Jonathan Richman or Richard Hell on klonopin, Out Calls Only is heartbreaking, introspective, and incredibly raw. It is also boozy and beautiful, seemingly bathed in a warm, romantic red glow. From start to finish, the intimate album alludes to the self-assuredness of an artist who has learned from past mistakes and has a found a stage that is all his own. Autre had a chance to speak with Cummings over the phone from his apartment in New York – I could hear him dragging on a cigarette between questions with the sound of the city in the background, like a sweet symphony of chaos. In the following interview, Cumming talks about his time in The Virgins, an ever-evolving New York City, and his new solo musical journey.

Oliver Kupper: When did you first discover music? Was there a revelatory moment, or anything specific that you can describe?

Donald Cumming: I remember listening to the records my mother used to play when I was a kid. She played Springsteen and Linda Ronstadt. I was always aware of it and listening to the lyrics. I would misinterpret or put the words together in nonsense ways. But music was always playing. And I was always singing songs—the different songs you sing in school with the whole class. I was always really engaged with music.

OK: Your music has a literary edge to it, a literary layer. Are there influences of this nature in your work?

DC: I don’t know about direct influences, but I do read a lot. It depends on the material. I like a lot of American literature—particularly poetry, but also novels. I like Dos Passos. I like Mailer. As far as poetry, I love Franz Wright. I love Robert Lowell. There’s pretty much a wide spectrum.

OK: You grew up in downtown New York. How do you think New York has affected your work? Do you think there’s a major influence?

DC: Being from here and growing up here, obviously, most of my life experience happens here. So that has a big effect on things that I end up making. But as I get older, I think the influence is less. I’m not really engaged with the city the way I was as a teenager. I’m not really out running around like I used to be. I don’t really have the same kind of social life that I had when I was young. The city has also changed a lot. As far as being downtown, it’s unrecognizable. It doesn’t feel like a place that I have any emotional connection to beyond walking around and thinking about the past, or remembering people that aren’t here. It’s not an optimistic place for me. But when I go uptown—particularly on the Upper West Side or Central Park, that kind of area—still feels like New York. It hasn’t been demolished and rebuilt fifteen times in the last twenty years. That feels like a new place for me. I mean, obviously, I would go up there as a kid and as a teenager, but it didn’t interest me in the same way. Now, I feel like that might be the area that I find inspiring.

OK: Do you think that comes from age, too?

DC: It’s probably a combination of age and the way the city has changed. I feel more comfortable up there because it reminds me of the New York that I was around growing up. It hasn’t really changed that much, so it feels like it’s still this place that’s familiar. On the other hand, getting older, I have a different lifestyle. There are museums up there; you can go see Swan Lake on the weekend. That’s something that I enjoy a lot more as an adult.

OK: Do you think that change in New York also contributed to the disbandment of your band, The Virgins?

DC: It’s not something that I was ever thinking about when we were doing it. But yeah, definitely. The Virgins, when I started, I was at a very different place in my life. It was that mid-period—the city was half the way I remembered it and half this thing that was changing radically. Still, my peers were all around. We were making our way in the world, so maybe it felt like we were participating in the changes. Whereas, now, all my friends have scattered. The ones who are around are working. The city that I see when I open my window is like a college dormitory that I have no relationship to. For me, the second line-up of the Virgins comprised of all my friends. It was just them and me. We were working in the East Village, and we did hang out and go around. But at that point, they were younger. They were engaged with the downtown more than me. I was married, and that was not in that zone as much. So I think it changed the way we worked—at least the way I worked.

"....For me, it’s having freedom to do whatever I want. Obviously, I enjoy that. There’s also the fact that the songs have the freedom they didn’t have when I was in a band. There was always the pressure to have everybody be able to participate and have as much fun as possible."

OK: Your new record, which I’ve been listening to a lot lately, it’s really good— it has a sort of loungey, introspective vibe. How would you describe the new record?

DC: Out of anything I’ve made, this is probably the most personal album. Every song is something that came out of an experience. Not a remote experience that was then filtered through an additive or semi-informing a perspective, but directly. While I was making the record, I was going through some things that came out in the songs and were very much a part of the record. So it’s about this period in my life that is already over. But it felt, while I was doing it, really visceral. It was completely linked to what was happening. I’ve never done that before, not consciously. For me, I think it’s the best thing I’ve made. I don’t know if that’s because it’s so connected to me personally, or if it’s just because I have a better idea of what I’m doing. We’re not fighting now [laughs]. But I think it’s the best thing I’ve made, and I’m happy about it.

OK: It does seem really tinged with heartbreak and personal experiences. What is your lyric-writing process? Do you have a specific practice?

DC: Basically, I write a song, and I keep it. I had some experiences early on in which I would make these demos, and I would really put everything into them. And then, I would come to find out that, for whatever reason, the label would want me to re-record it. It could sound more high fidelity—whatever the reason. You end up chasing that demo and never quite nailing it the way you did. Something I learned from that experience was just to not work hard on demos. I write a full song—I write the lyrics and the melodies, and I either play it on a piano or a guitar. But as far as recording, I’m not making multi-tracking or making revisions. I record the song with one take.

OK: Is that different than what you did in the past? 

DC: In the past, in the second versions, I would take that tape to the band. We would practice it or play it live a few times, whatever. But for this album, there was no band. What I had instead was different friends who were booked to record with me, and I would bring the tape into the studio. Everyone would hear the song that day, we’d play it, and we’d start tracking almost immediately—as soon as everybody was confident with the changes. That spontaneous energy made it onto this record. It’s something I’ve wanted to capture for a long time, and I think it’s the direction I want to go in. That’s what I’m aiming to do—record these experiences that can’t be repeated. Find moments that are special, and preserve them. That was the process for this record. And even this record, at times, things started to flow maybe too much. I’d like to catch some more off-the-cuff stuff in the future.

OK: So there’s more? You’re going to continue on the solo trajectory?

DC: Oh, of course. I’m definitely not going back to being in a band. For me, it’s having freedom to do whatever I want. Obviously, I enjoy that. There’s also the fact that the songs have the freedom they didn’t have when I was in a band. There was always the pressure to have everybody be able to participate and have as much fun as possible. When you’re in a band, you want to play a loud fucking show, you want to have an upbeat song with a lot of energy. You’re thinking about all these other things when you’re writing. As a solo artist, the song can be whatever it wants to be. If I write a song, and the song makes sense as a piano song with me singing quietly, I can put that right on the record. I don’t have to worry about if it’s going to work with a guitar solo, or if it needs to have a faster pace or something. That gives the songs more freedom to be what they’re supposed to be. It makes them stronger.

Listen to our favorite track from Out Calls Only below. You can find Donald Cumming's "Out Calls Only" in multiple formats here.  Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. FOLLOW AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Psychomagic: An Adventure and Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky

An Adventure and Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky 


Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the great masters of surrealist cinema.  His trinity of violent, extraordinary and symbolic masterpieces – El Topo, Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre – have made him into an icon. Jodorowsky is not only a cult filmmaker but also a poet, author, comic book writer and spiritual mystic who holds on to the mysteries of the universe like tightly-kept secrets only to be shared with those worthy of his message. Born to Ukrainian-Jewish parents in Chile in 1929, he eventually moved to Paris to become a mime. There, he was first introduced to the avant-garde movements of performance art and cinema. His first feature film, Fando y Lis, about a young man and his paraplegic sister on an odyssey through a post-apocalyptic landscape searching for a mythological city called Tar, was beset by riots when it came out in the theater. His subsequent films proved to be midnight cult hits that earned Jodorowsky the status of legendary cineaste.  A spiritual guru, Jodorowsky heals deep-rooted psychological wounds with something he calls “psychomagic.” He has written two books on the subject; Psychomagic: The Sacred Trap and The Dance of Reality – an adaptation of which is set to start filming later this year.  Here is the story of my afternoon with Alejandro Jodorowsky. 


I’m locked out of the apartment I’m staying in in Paris.  I don’t have my wallet. I have one roll of film rolling around the bottom of my bag. It’s raining. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s apartment is one hour away and I have twenty minutes to get there. No money for a metro ticket, since my wallet is locked inside the apartment I am locked out of.  Like an angel from above, a nice French gentleman hands me a ticket. Small success. I run to the metro, but get lost. I find my way by memory.  The last time I visited his apartment was on a trip with James Franco and his producer Vince Jolivette to discuss a potential creative collaboration. During that meeting, he chose three Tarot cards for me, which to this day enlighten and heal a certain side of myself, and have further inspired my artistic vision. This time around, I’m alone to photograph Jodorowsky for this story and for a future photographic series.  I arrive at his building. I’m thirty minutes late. I ring the buzzer.


“Bonjour Alejandro, it’s Adarsha.”




He tells me to come to the fourth floor – in Spanish.  I walk up the same familiar dark winding staircase. Last time, I was nervous and laughing hysterically the entire way up the spiral staircase. This time I’m out of breath, wet as a dog, and completely out of my mind with jetlag. Light peeks under the door. The hallway smells a bit funny. He opens the door and greets me kindly. The light inside is warm. Yellow Paris lights. I look around. I remember all the books. He leads me into the office. Pointing to a clock, he diplomatically acknowledges my tardiness. “Why yes, Alejandro Jodorowsky, I was thirty minutes late.” He doesn’t really mind. We move on. I’m here to photograph. He sits by the window. There is not much light. Remember, one roll of film. It’s also gray and rainy outside – Parisian skies.  A little lamp suffices. I pull out my little Honeywell.  He laughs at my modest camera. It’s a laugh of camaraderie. After all, he is an underground filmmaker, and I could only imagine some sense of nostalgia rushed over him in that moment. Snap. Snap. Snap. I take some portraits. We talk about film, but other than that it is mainly silent – silent, but comfortable.  We move to a room of plants – orchids, succulents, and cacti.  He points to a giant Bonsai. “They were once tiny plants.” “Bonsai?” I ask. “Yes!” “Now they grow,” he says wisely. His apartment is a living testament to his creative endeavors. The original film reels from Holy Mountain and El Topo sit on the bookshelf behind him. I take a few more pictures. He hands me a book of his – in Spanish – artwork from a previous, botched albeit grandiose attempt to adapt the 1965 science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert.  Jodorowsky had planned to film the adaptation as a ten-hour feature starring Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson and Mick Jagger.  Dune was later adapted by David Lynch in 1981 and panned by critics and audiences alike. I wrap up shooting – the film is almost done. I take one final photograph of both Jodorowsky and myself – kind of a self-portrait – a reminder to myself that I was there, in that magical moment, with one of the greatest artists of our time. There are not many words to describe an artist – a man – like Alejandro Jodorowsky.  I leave his apartment – back into the Paris streets – past the opera house at Bastille – into oblivion and beyond. Once again, this magic man has further enlightened my path as an artist, without even trying. I asked him to choose three tarot cards for the future of art, and I hope in their mystical alliance you also find a token of inspiration to heal a side of yourself that may have been locked or dormant. I think silently, this is Alejandro’s wish as well.

What is it about cinema that is so important? 

Cinema is a goddess becoming a bitch for the industry. Just as Christ has been converted by the masked pedophile priests. In the kingdom of dreams, the Gods are significant. Being the supreme being of art and film, the one which encompasses all the other arts, which is vital for the rise of our spirits. But now it is poisoned. 

Can you remember the first moment you wanted to make films or what brought you to want to make films?

When I was seven years old I saw, The Hunchback of Notre Dame from the genius Charles Laughton. And Frankenstein, performed by the genius Boris Karloff. I wanted to become one of those two monsters; I spent the entire day making horrible faces.

How did your collaboration with John Lennon come about and what was it like working with him?

I never worked with John Lennon. He saw my film El Topo and he admired my work. Yoko Ono said I was a filmmaker ahead by thirty years. They decided to help socially and economically. Thanks to them I got to debut El Topo at the Elgin Theater. As well thankful for Alain Klein, who was his producer at ABKO, gave me a million dollars to do what I wanted to do.... I made Holy Mountain.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Lao-Tse, because besides being a poet he was a scholar. And Heraclitus, because besides being a scholar he was a poet.

Who do you admire working in film today? Is there anyone who you think is doing truly groundbreaking work?

Nicolas Winding Refn. Bronson and Drive.

What do you see as the most important lesson that a young artist can learn these days?

Don’t make movies to make money, but to find your soul. Never work for the bureaucrats in Hollywood.

"I don´t think with ideas, but with my testicles. I don´t search, I ejaculate."

What have been the biggest misconceptions about you and your films?

Sólo pedos de culos que se creen cerebros. 

How do you think of new ideas for your comic books? 

I don´t think with ideas, but with my testicles. I don´t search, I ejaculate.  

Can you describe an interesting anecdote you’ve encountered during your psychomagic sessions?

A guru who had many followers came to see me. He asked me for a remedy to sleep because he suffered from insomnia. Surprisingly, I took him into my arms and made him suck on a baby’s bottle. He then burst into tears like a baby. Nobody could silence him. I had to hypnotize him to make him sleep.

Can society today still learn from psychomagic? 

Obviously, the psychomagic of individuals is passed to the social psychomagic. The countries are sick, like children. We have to make them grow so we can be a planet.

What art forms do you think represent the now?

The spiritual kiss. 

What does the future look like to you?

There is no future. We live in the eternal present. And this present is marvelous. As the world is, not as the world has been. If a cup of gold has mud, gold still remains.

If you were to choose three tarot cards for the coming ages, for the future of art and film, which ones would they be?

18, La Luna. 19, El Sol. 21, El Mundo. 

Alejandro Jodorowsky's epic story of his emigration from the Ukraine to Chile amidst the political and cultural upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries is told in fantastical, mythic form in the new book Where the Bird Sings Best. Jodorowsky’s book transforms family history into heroic legend: incestuous beekeepers hide their crime with a living cloak of bees, a czar fakes his own death to live as a hermit amongst the animals, a devout grandfather confides only in the ghost of a wise rabbi, a transgender ballerina with a voracious sexual appetite holds a would-be saint in thrall. This interview was originally published in Autre Issue 2 (2012). Text, interview and photographs by Adarsha Benjamin. 

"To Hide To Show" A Group Exhibition That Explores the Nature of Hiding and Revealing: An Interview With the Artists

Opening tomorrow night in Los Angeles, MAMA gallery will present To Hide To Show, a group exhibition derived from a contemporary French social anthropological study entitled Montrer / Occulter, which loosely translates to the exhibition’s title. The artists chosen to represent the ideas and concepts behind this study, and its conclusions, experiment with the notion of concealing and revealing on a societal, intellectual and creative basis. These artists include Clara Balzary, Zoe Crosher, Nana Ghana, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Mattea Perrotta, Fay Ray, Lisa Solberg, and Johanna Tagada. The concept of hiding and showing lends itself as a true analysis of the assembling and dissection of the human psyche, in a constant battle between order and sabotage, between how we present our true self to the world and how we feel about inner self – the dark ghost that is always haunting from within. In To Hide To Show, the artists are interpreting these multi-dimensional, anthropological, psychological and metaphysical concepts using varying degrees of personal reflection, historical reference, visual language and controlled performance. To Hide To Show is the idea that concealment is to make something sacred and exposure of that sacredness is equal to degradation. To be revealed in this exhibition are the artists' artifacts of what they hold sacred while at the same time what they choose to defile.

Read the following Q&As to learn more about each artist in the exhibition…


                                                   photo by Jatinder Singh Durhailay

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? From a tiny village in east France.  Now based in London.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: Nature, daily life, feelings and traditions.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD:  A chance for "places"? My lover's arms; Nara in Japan and all the small villages near by; my grandparents’ farmhouse.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Painting. I also do drawing, photography, video, publishing, sculpture, textile and installation.

MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH: I enjoy very much working with all mediums mentioned above and I look forward to do more modular sculptures. In a conversation with LA based BOOK STAND earlier this year I said "It is important to question the physicality of the medium with which I am involved. It can be something difficult, for example, one of my main mediums is painting, which has such a big tradition, but that is also so often seen again and again as “dead.”  Push the reflection further, compose, question, endlessly, and yet keep it simple and understandable on various levels. I like to create a dialogue between the various mediums with which I am composing in my body of work. Every thing is connected, my paintings are like the roots, my photographs might reveal the seeds, my publications are the branches that are like traces of the growth of the tree, the videos and installations pieces are like the blooming flowers of my work that are only seen occasionally and that should be enjoyed together as a whole."


STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  What do you call "strange?" Here is something happy and unexpected: Meeting Yoshitomo Nara, one of my favorite artists and assisting him for his lecture on the occasion of his retrospective at the Dairy Art Center in London last fall.


WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? Positive feelings, happy memories.

WHAT’S NEXT? Épistolaire Imaginaire - Les Fleures du Japon: a solo exhibition and the U.S. introduction of my piece Épistolaire Imaginaire (it first premiered in Tokyo, July 2014) opening on July 11th at at IKO IKO x BUILDING BLOCKS (LA) in collaboration with BOOK STAND.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? Working on projects and exhibitions through which I can bring positivity to people's lives. I truly hope for my work to be a trigger, softly, like a warm hug pushing people to make positive and meaningful changes. Despite my soft and tender imagery, the ideals I pursue as a human, as an artist, require hard work and strength. For my artistic practice and lifestyle I am inspired by the way of life from my ancestors, I do best to apply this to the period of time in which we live. Such decisions for example imply saying no to mass produced food and clothes, creating my publishing work with acid free paper, binding them by hand, it's a little like being a Poetic "Punk". I am very attached to nature and I do not believe in a hierarchy system in which the human sits on top. Therefore life choices such as being Vegan are relevant to my body of work.




WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Venice Beach, California 

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?  Anywhere and everywhere. It’s all in the tiny details of what is existing in our peripheral, and what we choose to take note of. Curiosity inspires my work most. 




GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: Being comfortable sharing what is hidden. I often times have these moments and think, “what the fuck am I doing?” This is always a break through moment for me because I go deep into my unconscious when I work and lose sight of my reality. I work from emotion, pleasure and use my work as a vehicle to understand what the hell is going on around me. When I take a step back and leave my unconscious is when I’m tested. It’s what I’m revealing about my hidden emotions and seeing this abstract emotion painted on a tangible object is wild. Sometimes it works and can exist in my reality, and often times I’m not ready to share it. Vulnerability is difficult for me, but my work has helped me become okay with sharing what I’m hiding.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  Anytime someone asks you what your painting means.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? I won’t tell. We’re all hiding something, aren’t we? These things are what make us more complex and interesting individually.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING?  Life is very, very complicated. I’m trying to understand the absurdity and beauty of it all through my work. 

WHAT’S NEXT:  I’m currently at Al Maqam Artist Residency in Marrakech working on a new oil series for a fall exhibition. I’ll also be showing work alongside a handful of Moroccan and French Artists in San Francisco this October.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS: That’s difficult to say considering I barely know what I’m doing tomorrow. I only work when inspiration strikes. I hope to be traveling and understanding more about the world, being inspired from the places I visit and people that cross my path. The unconscious comes to me during these moments, and these are the moments that get me in the studio creating. I see myself working on large-scale paintings and working 3-dimensionally with plaster or wood. I’d love for these two mediums to have a relationship and co-exist in the same space.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top,” David Lynch.


WHERE ARE YOU FROM? I am from a coastal village called Bakaano in Ghana West Africa

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? I look for inspiration from everyday life, people, places and things.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: Favorite place in the whole world? Hard to say, there are many places I still haven’t been yet, I guess it be in the arms of my lover.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Performance art and filmmaking.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? The medium I like to be working in is exactly the medium I am in right now: performance and filmmaking

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: The greatest discovery thus far as an artist is that that the path of the artist is a spiritual journey.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE:  Strangest experience as an artist, like Jim Morrison said, “People are Strange.”


WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? Everything…take it all.

WHAT’S NEXT: Keep doing dope projects with amazing people and sending African Alien Mermaid vibes to ALL.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  In five years….Keep on doing what I'm doing but get to higher levels…Cause there are levels to this shit!

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Life is a feeling process…I love Feeling…feeling it all.



WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? Everywhere… boring, but true.


CHOSEN MEDIUM: Oil paint, ballpoint pen.



STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Saying I’m an artist.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? It would ruin the show if I said! 

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING: I like the unexpected.

WHAT’S NEXT?  I’m doing a performance based installation/strip club, pimping out a snowcat in Utah, exhibiting a new show at 24HR PSYCHIC, and continuing to write on the side.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  With a secondary studio on a bunch of land out in nature someplace.




WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: Books, films, and out the window.  

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: The south in the summer. 

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Photography. 


GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: That to dig deep into your own work isn’t always all that dissimilar from a 9 - 5 job. 

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Going on trips up north alone to take photos and realizing I hadn’t spoken out loud for days. 

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Boring light. 

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING: That Oooh heaven is a place on earth!

WHAT’S NEXT: Breaking away from shooting pretty girls by default. 

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? On the southern coast of Italy dressed like Truman Capote. 



WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Southern Califronia



CHOSEN MEDIUM: Photography

GREATEST DISCOVER AS AN ARTIST?  If you keep making work, you learn things about materials, process and meaning and if you stop making work you don't.


WHAT'S NEXT: I am in a group show in Miami titled Bananas at Gallery Diet in Miami from June 19 to September 5th

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS? My only hope is to still be making art and to be grateful for whatever is going on at the time.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY: Reward yourself often.


WHERE ARE YOU FROM: I was born in Santa Rosa in Northern California, but never lived there, growing up the daughter of a diplomat. I often describe my life as covering the Cold War Hot Spots - Germany in the late 70s, Moscow in the early 80s, Athens in the mid/late 80s. I spent the last few years in High School in suburban MD (years I have basically blanked out.) Then I did the rebellious thing of going to UCSC, while my parents went on to live in Seoul, Korea in the mid-90s, where I did spend a junior semester abroad. CalArts called me for my MFA, which is how I moved down to the Los Angeles area.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: It depends on what time of day and what day of the week! Generally cinema and architecture (particularly about Los Angeles, and particularly from the 70s and 80s) inspires me, as does work that collapses theory and inspiration. Really good art writing can light a fire as well. Ladies who own who they are, have agency and are generous in nature, who really find their own course, are an endless inspiration. Recently, I’m overwhelmingly moved by someone known only as “Madame” from Lotusland - Madame Ganna Walska  (please see here for more). I learned about her while doing a small residency up at the stunning garden in Santa Barbara. Just read her bio to see why I’m so inspired - she is noted for selling a million dollars worth of her jewels in the 70s to buy super rare cycad seeds to complete her gardens. She made her own clothes, staged her own plays, had numerous husbands, built out her fantasy world - she even wrote an autobiography called ‘There’s Always Room At The Top’. I think she even helped start the Audubon Society, to stop millineries from decimating birds for hats! Along with lady eccentrics, my current obsession right now is tending towards gardens - I’m thinking a lot about what gardens and art collections have a lot in common - constantly fighting entropy, chaos, decay, collecting, endlessly archiving, etc.

FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD: I’m defaulting to the Ice Hotel for some reason right now. Perhaps it’s a conversation from tonight, speaking to a lady who is getting married and on the fence about taking a honeymoon. It is something I didn’t do right after getting married, which I regret - and for some reason I always thought going to the Ice Hotel in Sweden would have been amazing (it harkens back to a childhood fantasy in Superman, when I fell in love with his crystal palace, appropriately called The Fortress of Solitude.)  I also default to a fantasy Italian villa that is rustic and perfect, complete with the food and wine that magically appears in between siestas, long walks and other distractions.

CHOSEN MEDIUM: Right now, I’m terming something I’m calling the IMAGIATIC - as opposed to the “photographic”. I come out of a photography background, but have always felt limited by the terms of it, terms which have in the last few years melted away. But instead of tending towards this sort of New Materiality that so many of the formerly photographically-inclined in Los Angeles do, I’m tending towards a more expanded field of photography that I am terming the IMAGIATIC - concerned with the imaginary, the image, etc. The medium itself doesn’t matter, it’s almost a conceptual conceit. Thus I’m engaged now in sculpture (natural bronze), fools gold dust, desserts, billboards, compositions, publications, and still of course images as photographs, anything that engages with the imaginary of Los Angeles. For it is not the medium that determines the message, it’s the imaginary that does.

WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? I’ve already jumped into it - and am learning an infinite amount right now about bronzing.

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: Walking into Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room at Robert Miller Gallery when it first was shown - before the Whitney, before its infamy. I was in NYC, somewhat annoyed and downtrodden about the commodification of Chelsea, when I fell into a line to go into this nondescript  trailer sort of thing. I remember being so annoyed at having to wait in line (and it was a very short line back then), then only to discover the life and mind-bending perfect art moment. Discovering that piece, discovering the potential of art, discovering the promise of Art, it was a joy I will never forget. And it is a joy that keeps me going through the dark days of the current art world.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? How angry I am at/with the extreme and horrendous level of sexism that exists in the art world. And how crazy it makes me that so many women with power perpetuate this sexism.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? My endless enthusiasm.

WHAT’S NEXT? Bronzing all these “blossoms” from various disappearing and rare plants from the Lotusland Garden. A lot of these incredible plants do a sort of last hurrah dance, with reproductive organs (sex parts!) that grow sometimes ten times the size of the plant itself, going full out right before the plant dies! I’m collecting all these blossoms, both male and female, from super small blossoms to super huge pieces - it’s been quite an amazing experience to work with these incredibly rare and extensive gardens. I am also continuing my conceptual mapping of Los Angeles, this time through its discarded palm fronds. Ideally this project consists of about a hundred natural bronze palm frond sculptures, all of which are unique and named according to where they were found in and around Los Angeles. There will be an exhibition of a handful of them at LAXART, opening on September 12th.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  Similar to my life now, but at a more expansive scale. I already have in mind the things I want to do and make, and I have tasted what is possible when there is real support behind a project. I think expansively, from huge, harrowing archives to cross-country billboard projects. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to get Swarovski involved in the crystalizing of one of the entropic Shangri-LA’d walls I’m commissioning, which I’d love to have produced all over the world (I want to see what a London florist will do vs. a San Paulo florist will do, when given the challenge to create their fantasy of Los Angeles, in any way they want, as a wall of flora and fauna.) I’d love to find the right place of support where the means and ways can catch up to what I already see and imagine in my head - and it is something I can’t wait to realize. It’s an inspiring time right now in my practice.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY?  Don’t confuse the personal and the professional - make sure your true intimates have nothing to do (or as little to do) with your work life as possible. In a time when so much is privately and publicly collapsed, it’s hard to tell why someone might engage with you. When it comes to your home and romantic life, take that ‘what can you do for me’ and whatever power question completely out of the running. Make your personal life about something more than what you do.


WHERE ARE YOU FROM: Pasadena and Venice California.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION: The more I think about it the more I realize that it’s very difficult to pinpoint. It’s not from being in my studio this I know, it’s from experiencing life outside of it, anywhere from attending a lizard convention, to a castle or a gun club. I would say that it stems from anything out of the ordinary, but even the ordinary can be really, really strange. If I am on a deadline and need to come up with something quickly I’ll go to places with a concentrated amount of information, i.e. library or museum, the optimal place being The Huntington Gardens that contains a bit of everything.



WHAT IS A MEDIUM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE WORKING WITH? Electricity. I would love to start making marvelous light fixtures.

GREATEST DISCOVERY AS AN ARTIST: That a painting can possess you.

STRANGEST EXPERIENCE: Last year I co-curated a show where I planned out a séance with Andy Warhol for the artist Jeffrey Vallance. Before the show, the medium, Joseph Ross and I got into a little quarrel.  We had originally agreed he would be dressed in normal attire (not actually normal he wears fabulous purple suits and feathers in his hats resembling a 90s pimp) but that he wouldn’t be in a costume of Andy Warhol. This was so that the audience wouldn’t think we were phonies.  Anyhow, an hour before the séance is to begin, he tells me that Andy has communicated to him that he refuses to be channeled unless Joseph gets an outfit and a wig. I couldn’t argue with a ghost, especially not Andy Warhol; so he got his way. Later I found out that Andy Warhol would sometimes have impersonators of himself do lectures for him at schools in his wigged disguise.

WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? The taboo, the kitsch, kinky, and strange. Darkness, death and mortality.

WHAT ARE YOU REVEALING? An attractive palate of colors that distracts the viewer. Only the curious realize there’s more to what the surface layer of my paintings conceal. Sometimes it’s a midget handing a zucchini to Snow White from an Italian Snow White porno, or a dead man that’s been so brutally murdered he has become an abstraction.

WHAT’S NEXT?  I’m illustrating a children’s book, recreating the vintage board game Snakes and Ladders and designing a few record covers I’m very excited about. I also have a solo show in Sonoma in a few weeks.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST IN FIVE YEARS:  Hopefully living in a hobbit / storybook home I’ve built.

A QUOTE OR SENTIMENT TO LIVE BY? My high school quote was “If you’re having a terrible day, just pour a bag of glitter in front of a fan and live in paradise”, and I think that’s still a pretty good quote to live by. Although I meant it literally at the time, I think it means that you don’t need much to be happy except for a little effort and a good attitude. 

TO HIDE TO SHOW will open on June 13th and will be on view until July 25, 2015 at MAMA Gallery, 1242 Palmetto Street, Los Angeles, California. Interviews by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Stay up to date, follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Traces In the Snow: An Interview with Photographer Isabelle Wenzel

German-based artist Isabelle Wenzel creates colorful sets on which to enact bodily performances, the evidence of which appear only as fixed photographs. These final images depict women’s bodies fragmented and abstracted like mannequines whose limbs have not yet been pieced together. Wenzel’s figures appear inanimate, like sculptures on a plinth, but convey a sense of action, like a dancer on the cusp of movement. This oscilation between animate and inamate invokes the uncanny, pulling the viewer into a space that is both visceral and psychological. In the following interview, Wenzel talks about her process, philosophies and next projects.

Abbey Meaker: There appears to be strong performative elements in your photographs; is this intentional, and if so, can you explain the importance of performance in your process/final works? 

Isabelle Wenzel: Actually I do have a performance background. Since the age of 6 I had intense acrobatic training. I discovered photography as a medium quite late at the age of 21. I like the idea of having a performance without an audience and just showing the material evidence of this event. So my everyday routine comes still very close to performance. While photographing I’m not really looking much into the camera, I try to shape a form with my body and use photography as a technical devise only. With photography I see myself able to create an illusionary room that at the same time witnesses an action that has happened in the past. I like that photography has this indexical character. Photographs are like traces in the snow where you know that these traces belong to someone in particular. I like that photography points back in time.

One could say I’m performing an act of trial and error. Even though that my outcome is a two dimensional image I’m personally more interested in the processes behind. You have to imagine me pressing the button of the camera, running in position, having some seconds time till it clicks. Then I quickly check the outcome on the screen and repeat the action till I get to a satisfying outcome. Certainly I could use a remote release but I like this pressure of time. It pushes my creativity.

AM: The figures in your images have a sculptural quality, and although they are often wearing skirts, tights, and high heels, the qualities we associate with sexualized images of women are basically concealed. These women are fragmented, uncanny in their inanimate-like poses. Can you speak to these themes? 

IW: On one hand I'm very concerned about the signs I'm using, on the other hand I do think as an artist you do not have to be politically correct all the time and it's also not my function to explain everything. I do create my images out of an inner logic and there is no right or wrong in a rational way. You could say that I catalyze things I see in my surrounding, especially things I do not understand; gender is one of these things. And yes; sometimes I do feel a discomfort about that, too.

"Most of the time I don’t know how to start, so I stop thinking about it and just get started. I work a lot with improvisation. I also often look at my own work and wonder how I can push my ideas further. It’s really difficult to explain where my ideas are coming from but mainly it’s about not getting stuck."

AM: Are there specific theories or philosophies that inform your work? 

IW: I don’t know. Maybe there are theories matching with my way of thinking. But this is nothing of primary importance to me. I’m busy with visual language and don’t think it’s possible to translate this entirely into spoken words. I do think I’m acting like a catalyzer of my surrounding. Also there is not only one truth, I do believe that there are several ways of how to interpret my work. Even for myself meanings are changing depending on how I look at it. Let’s say I do believe in a non-logical world or in a world, which is not always explainable with logic. What is true cannot always be seen, and what we see is not always true.

AM: Are there artists whose work have been influential to your art practice? How do their concepts relate to or differ from those you employ? 

IW: I appreciate a lot to meet other artists at their studio and vice versa. To talk about work process and the personal art praxis is as important as exchanging ideas and how to encounter difficulties. And certainly other works of art inspires me, too. It’s not important that they do have necessary something to do with my own work. For me the best works are those which succeed in making me reflect about myself and at the same time I’m not really able to understand the work or the intention behind it. If I see a work that triggers this feeling in me I get a strong desire to create something new. Most of the time I don’t know how to start, so I stop thinking about it and just get started. I work a lot with improvisation. I also often look at my own work and wonder how I can push my ideas further. It’s really difficult to explain where my ideas are coming from but mainly it’s about not getting stuck. Because movement is progress. If I’m stuck with my ideas I find a strategy how to trigger my creativity. For example with my current work I decided after five years of only working in the studio to leave it and to face landscape and public.

AM: What is next for you -- are you working on anything new that you'd like to discuss? 

IW: I’m currently working on a body of work that investigates the representation of my own movements. Before I often intended to capture the perfect moment in order to shape my body like a sculpture, now I intent to look at the intervals of a certain movement. It’s on one hand an investigation on movement in general and on the other how this fascination constitutes my work. And again I use the ‘photographic’ eye as an imagination machine where I double, triple myself mechanical without sticking to a chronological order.  The outcomes are instantaneous proofs of my actions.

You can catch Isabelle Wenzel giving lessons on how to create the ideal posture for portraits at Villa Zebra in the Netherlands. Her next projects include participation in the Platform Platvorm exhibition, which will be on view from June 6 until June 28, 2015 at BART INVITES Bloemgracht 2 Amsterdam. In the fall, you can see her new series, 'Transformations,' at the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam. text and interview by Abbey Meaker. FOLLOW AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM TO STAY UP TO DATE: @AUTREMAGAZINE

The Substance of Ideas: An Interview with Photographer Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen captures an almost unimaginable world and is a legend in the world of photography. For the last thirty years, Ballen has extensively photographed the fascinating and sometimes violent existence of people living in small villages, or ‘dorps,’ which are found in clusters throughout rural South Africa. With a doctorate in geology, the photographer oscillates between a poet and an anthropologist, exploring a deeper, stranger, and darker side of the human condition. Upon leaving New York in the early 1970s, Ballen expatriated himself to South Africa. To date, he has exhibited his photographs internationally and some of his images have become iconic in the photographic canon. Back in March, Phaidon released the second edition of his seminal book "Outland," which brings together nearly thirty years of the photographer’s work. An exhibition of Ballen’s current series entitled “Asylum of the Birds” is now on view at Galerie Karstan Greve in Cologne, Germany. The new series is pushing even further into the metaphorical from the more literal portrait work of the photographer’s early career. In the late 1990s you can see a clear shift beginning to emerge. In the following interview, Ballen discusses the strange world he captures with his camera, the importance of substance in ideas, and his new photographic series. 

Autre: So, I guess my first question – to dive right in – is when did you pick up a camera and decide to venture into the subject matter you have been exploring for roughly twenty years? 

Roger Ballen: I got interested in photography as an adolescent. My first attempt to try to express myself with a camera came in 1968. When I graduated from high school, my family gave me a Nikon camera. I remember taking that camera and going out like a bullet out of a gun, trying to find a way to make pictures. I was trying to emulate some of the Magnum people who influenced me, created a basic foundation for my work—Kertész wasn’t a part of Magnum, but Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwit. It’s been a gradual, step-by-step process. I guess I’ve been doing pictures now for fifty years. It’s one step leading to the next step. But sometimes the steps are bigger and some are smaller. The crucial time probably came in about ’96, ’97 when I was doing the Outland book. I started to see myself as an artist as much as a photographer, expressing my aesthetic rather than necessarily expressing the aesthetic of the subject matter itself.

OK: Speaking of big steps, what prompted your move to South Africa?

RB: In 1973, my mother died, and I was quite restless. I liked traveling.  But life in ’73 isn’t what it is now. I’d been in a plane a few times in my life, so people did travel in the same way, but you lived a much more sedentary existence. So I was going to go away for three months and I ended up going for five years. I hitchhiked from Cairo to Cape Town in ’74. I got here, I found it interesting, I met my future wife, and a few other things. Then, I ended up doing a trip from Istanbul to New Guinea by land. Then, I went back to the United States in ’77 to do a Ph. D. in the geological field at the Colorado School of Mines. I graduated there in ’81, and then I came back here. I found the country interesting, and my wife was from here. From the point of view of geology, the thing in which I had a profession, it was a great place to work.

OK: Discovering these areas where you shoot, were they difficult to stumble upon?

RB: From 1982-84 I worked exclusively in the countryside here. It wasn’t easy—the people in the towns here weren’t very well populated. You drove around trying to find subjects and peoples and places. Then, you’d have to get out of the car and talk to somebody. The key moment, and one of the most important moments in my career, came during the early ‘80s. It had a lot to do with these places not being very well-frequented by other people, and being haunting and cloudless. I used to drive around—I was in these places doing geology and photography at the same time. It was getting pretty boring sitting in the car with such a bright sun. You can probably find it in parts of California in the summertime. I then decided to knock on people’s doors, and I started to go inside. That was metaphorically and physically a big step. I found the motifs. I started using a flash. I found the subject matters. I started using a square format then. So this was the big step that happened in ’83, ’84 that created the foundation for the later work in so many ways.

OK: I’ve been a major fan of your work for a long time. Before I did this magazine, I studied photography. I remember growing up and looking at your books.

RB: That’s terrific. It’s always good to hear this. I’m on the bottom of the planet, here. One of the reasons I feel I’ve created a unique aesthetic is that I never really got that involved in the art world. I know the history of photography super well, art too. But it was really just a matter of myself relating to myself. I didn’t go to exhibitions. I was basically isolated.

OK: It reminds me a bit of William Eggleston. He wasn’t part of the art world. He wasn’t part of this world that was so ready to accept his work. He was from the South. So it seems when you’re too insular in that world, it’s difficult to develop a voice.

RB: It’s gotten more and more difficult, when there are trillions of pictures taken. I had a foot in two worlds. I had the pre-Internet world that I grew up in, the film world, and I developed that. I still use the same camera from 1982. I’m still using film—the same camera, the same format, everything. I go back to when I was younger—I travelled the world. Now, I go back to the same nail on the wall and try to knock it in deeper. People don’t have any patience. They want instantaneous results. The photograph itself is an instantaneous process—it’s not like chiseling away at a marble rock to make a sculpture. People don’t have a concentration.

OK: I think, eventually, it’s going to become a situation where there’s a direct delineation between everyone being a photographer and real photography. I think there’s going to be more of delineation between those two things. It’s going to be less saturated.

RB: Unfortunately, the problem is who judges. A lot of people in this business grew up in the newer generation and they tend to try to find new angles and edges that are basically technological, that are focused on just the idea rather than the substance of the idea. The substance of the idea, to me, is crucial to good art. You don’t hear about that too much. You don’t hear about metaphor, depth, indescribably parts of the psyche. It’s gimmick of the gimmick. That’s the problem—how we judge this stuff. How does something good in this situation, in this imagery, rise to the surface? It’s a real battle. I wouldn’t want to suggest to a friend of mine or my children to go into this battle without another profession.

OK: It’s a really interesting battle. And speaking of metaphor, I want to talk about how your work, in the beginning, was very literal, very portrait-oriented. In the ‘90s, it became much more poetic and metaphorical. What prompted that shift?

RB: It’s very hard to say. Maybe it was confidence. Maybe it was a step forward—one picture would build on the next picture would build on the next picture. I started to find my aim. It wasn’t that I saw some pictures and said, “I want to be like that.” It was really a step-by-step process. You can see that in the Outland book. If you look at the early Outland work in ’95, ’96, there’s less of a link to the plot of that work. It’s a lot more documentary and portraiture. And then beginning in ’97, there seems to be a “fear of the absurd” taking place. That’s where that break started to happen. I don’t know what lead to that break. I started to ask different questions. The central question was, is chaos more prominent in the human condition? I was asking a philosophical question, to myself in some way. Also, I guess if I had to say who influenced me—people always get it wrong. They think people like Diane Arbus or somebody like this. But it was actually Beckett. Beckett in the Outland period had the most influence in terms of what I was trying to achieve. I was trying to understand something absurd, trying to probe into the human condition, not necessarily probe into the social and political condition of poor whites in South Africa. 

OK: There’s a direct difference between what Arbus is doing and what you’re doing. It seems like there’s more of a vision; it’s less exploitative. What do you say to people that say your work is similar?

RB: If there is any link to Arbus at all, it stopped in ’97. And then beginning in early 2002, 2003, there’s zero. This word exploitative is pathetic. It’s actually pathetic. It shows an inability to understand anything about photography. What does anybody know about being the subjects? They could have gotten on their hands and knees and begged me to take their picture. They could have paid me to take their picture. What does anybody know about these subjects? You’re looking at a visual statement. You’re not watching a TV program on somebody talking about their life. It’s an instantaneous moment. Nobody else could have taken pictures like me. It’s transformative. You’re looking at a two-dimensional object on a piece of paper, and it’s giving you some insight into your own psyche, maybe some sort of insight into the deeper issues of human experience. Bringing up the word exploitative… I’ve always told people who ask me this question that the people who say are actually the most affected. Psychologically, in a deeper way, the pictures break through their repressions, and they come at me with a projection or some sort of defensive mechanism to blame me for the crack in their psyche.

OK: I love that. You’re creating a document that’s really important. Edward Curtis, that 30-year document of Native Americans—we wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for someone setting up their camera and spending that time to explore that subject matter. 

RB: I agree. People basically drop their pants when they talk like that. I think you know what I mean. They see, on the front of the newspaper, somebody dead on the street and the mother lying over the dead person crying—on TV, CNN, or in the newspaper. Is that great? What are you talking about? It’s hopeless. The pictures I take get into their head—that’s the difference. They’re blanked out about it. Just like going into the supermarket—four hundred dead chickens sitting there, nobody blinks an eye. But someone sees my Asylum of the Birds movie, that’s horrible. Look at the chickens’ heads being chopped off. This is what we live in. We could go on and on about predictions. It’s not even worth talking about.

OK: Speaking of your new series, “Asylum of the Birds.” I want to talk about that exhibition. What can we expect from those photographs? What can we experience with those photographs? 

RB: With Asylum of the Birds, it’s a much more abstract way of seeing the world. They’re layered, multi-dimensional photographs. They have opposite meanings. There’s the relationship with the birds, which have metaphoric symbols—it has basically the archetypal metaphoric symbol to it. And then there are a lot of drawings, which are hard to put a finger on what each drawing means, how each drawing relates to another drawing, how the drawings relate to the animals and the objects in the pictures. They’re very hard photographs to put words to. They have multiple metaphors. They’re very visual in nature. They’re hard to condense into any one way of deciphering. For myself, I wouldn’t want to say this or that. I commonly say that the best pictures don’t have words. If I do have words, the picture is not a good picture. I’m quite sure about that. People want to put a meaning of something into a package. If they can’t put it into a package, they get insecure.

OK: A lot of people are afraid of their own psyche. It’s really difficult for people to step outside of that. 

RB: Very difficult.

OK: And maybe the world would be a better place if people did.

RB: I say that the only way we’ll have an improvement in this world—this goes back to what I learned at Berkeley 40 years ago—people have to break their own repression, come to terms with their own interior, and become more integrated in their identity. Important art helps people do this in some way. But I don’t think art is the seer of the problem. It’s such a worldwide epidemic problem, and perhaps always has been. We can’t say that the chances for peace are any greater now than they were one hundred years ago. We live in a dangerous world, basically. 

OK: Is there anything else you’re working on now? 

RB: I’m working on two projects right now. One is a project that I refer to as “Apparitions.” Have you seen the Asylum of the Birds book. Look at the last couple of pages, you’ll see some of those photos. They’re two-dimensional photographs. They look like drawings, but they’re taken with black and white photography.

 OK: I love the Die Antwoord music video, by the way. I love that they were able to bring your work to a younger audience. Do you think was successful?

RB: It’s hard to believe, we got like 65 million hits. It’s incredible. I can’t believe it sometimes. It really got in people’s heads. I think it really worked well because most music videos are mono-dimensional in meaning. I think this had a multiple-level meaning that was accessible to people. There’s something deeper in it, but also something humorous in it. And the music fit the visual. It just came together. Some things just work out that way and sometimes they don’t. 

OK: It’s not the heyday for music videos.

RB: It’s terrible; it’s like photographs.

OK: It’s disposable. It’s consumable, and then that’s it. 

RB: That’s what I’m saying. People’s attention span is much different than it used to be. I don’t know. At age 65, I stopped guessing about the future. I don’t know one day from the next. I just take it as it comes and do my best and focus on what I’m doing. I can do my best to produce interesting art. The work has to have its own life. One doesn’t know what’s effective in all sorts of ways. I’m really satisfied that I’ve followed this career all those years. It’s quite fulfilling to see the work evolving over time. It’s like a diary.

OK: It’s a very rare, unique, and beautiful body of work. I really appreciate it. 

RB: Thank you. I really appreciate your time and interest. Be well.

Roger Ballen "Asylum of the Birds" will be on view at Galerie Karsten Greve Köln until August 29, 2015. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Healer of Civilization: An Interview With Pandrogyne Seer Genesis Breyer P'Orridge

After Genesis Breyer P’Orridge’s legendary “Prostitution” exhibition at the ICA in London – which included pornographic collages, bloody tampons, and prostitutes, transvestites, hustlers and punks intermingling with the audiences – P’Orridge was deemed a “wrecker of civilization” by House of Commons representative Nicholas Fairbairn. Coincidentally, at the same time that a debate was stirring in the Parliament and the House about the antics of P’Orridge and their neo-Dadaist art collective COUM Transmissions, they were in Kathmandu feeding and providing shelter for lepers, beggars and refugees at their own expense. Wrecker or healer – you decide. Indeed, Genesis has a mystical aura about them – they exist in a realm beyond music and beyond art, and they are truly one of this epoch’s great spiritual seers. Many people probably know Genesis from the brilliant documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which explores the artist's relationship with Lady Jaye and their pursuit to meld their identities into one using plastic surgery.  Genesis is also the founder of formative "industrial" bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. For Genesis, art and music are one commingling mechanism of their vast creative pursuits. In late 2015 and 2016, Genesis will have a number of major solo exhibitions from Zurich to New York. This weekend, though, you can catch Genesis at the Jackie Klempay gallery in Brooklyn where they will be holding a “Pandrogaragenous Avant-yard Sale.” Genesis will be blessing objects as they are purchased – objects like Lady Jaye’s “throne” for her late night joint (an Afghani bridal chair with matching end tables), Songe-power figures, a Balinese human-sized chicken cage in which Gen took many an out-of-body ritual trip, Lady Jaye’s Peter Fox shoes, designer platforms, bolero jackets, clothes galore, DVDs, CDs, 1960’s trinkets, guaranteed used dildos, whips and more. Autre was lucky enough to get a chance to speak to Genesis about rebellion, COUM Transmissions, the importance of the subculture, and more.

Oliver Maxwell Kupper: What were some of your earliest introductions to art? Was it a challenge to explore art where you grew up? Did you have to travel abroad, or to London?

Genesis P’Orridge: Actually, we didn’t get taught art at school after the age of ten. We had to do it all on our own. We used to persuade my parents to get one of these weekly magazines that creates an encyclopedia. It was the history of art from the Stone Age to Modern Art. We read that every week, and that’s how we educated ourselves about different forms and the historical trajectory of art. And then, we persuaded the art teacher of the young kids to let me use his studio space. He would make materials available, and that’s where we started to paint and make sculptures and objects. That’s where we really got much more into it. Through him, we found out about Dada and surrealism and got some Thames & Hudson books of all things. Basically, we got into it by trying to copy things. We did one surrealist painting to learn how they got that smooth effect. A lot of it was mimicking what we’d seen in order to learn the techniques at home.

OK: Was there any specific artists from that era—either Dadaism or surrealism—that inspired you?

GP: Yeah, Max Ernst was the one that inspired me to try my hand at collages. That’s one we’ve done all the time ever since. We still make collages regularly. The first big exhibition we had in New York was of collages—going back 30 years of collages. It was cool, 30 years of being cut up. So we’ve never stopped making collages and little objects and quirky little boxes with strange things in them. Since 2003, maybe a bit earlier, when we got to New York, we started to work with Lady Jaye and create the artist Breyer P’Orridge. We started to take photographs to document that. Then, we started to exhibit those as well. So it snowballed. Between the collages and the pandrogeny photographic work, we came back into the art world having been missing since the late 70s. Now, we make objects and multiples. We’ve got a solo exhibition in Zurich in September. In March next year, we have a solo show at Invisible Exports. Their booth at the Armory Show will all be Breyer P’Orridge, and the Rubin Museum will be doing a solo Breyer P’Orridge on our relationship with Nepal and Africa. Next year, we have a lot of art exhibitions happening.

OK: Going back a little bit to COUM Transmissions, there was a lot of political and cultural upheaval. Is there any one thing that you could pinpoint that created this atmosphere?

GP: That point of time in the 70s in Britain, and to an extent in the United States, was a time that was post-hippie. People started to look at these more cynically. You saw all the classic symptoms of something being wrong with society and culture. Bigotry, economic totalitarianism, racism, conditioning through advertising and mass media—the whole gallop, the haves and have nots. In Britain especially—we still have the class system with the monarchy. It was blatantly oppressive in every possible way. There were the very rich who were trying to maintain that at any price. Then, there were the people who were disenfranchised, who literally had no future that could be seen. You’ve got punk, you’ve got industrial—both sides of the Atlantic. It was a rebellion against inequality and domineering cultures in general with their techniques of control, usually intimidation.

OK: Why is the counter-culture important to you specifically? Why is counter-culture important to culture in general?

GP: It’s the think tank—always has been, always will be. In any culture, at any point in the history of our species, there are those who feel dissatisfied with the power structures, the dynamics of who has control over what resources, and who decides what the moral taboos are and are not. And all moral taboos and policing of sexuality are different in every country as you cross the planet. There’s no fixed truth. There’s no definite moral standard except try not to hurt anybody. Beyond that, it’s all arbitrary. As Burroughs used to say, “If you want to know what’s going on, look for the best at interest.” You can always find them. It’s really easy to spot people who like to keep things just the way they are, because they’re winning with that system.

"That attack was a cry of rage against all the hypocrisy and double standards and the ignorance of those who have power to change things for the better. We were pissed off. We wanted to confront them and create a dialogue, which did happen. But then things change. You can only do that for so long, and then it becomes just a formula. You’re doing what people expect—they come to see if you’re going to do something outrageous, and then it has no meaning."

OK: Some of your shows have had some pretty extreme reactions—arrests, outrage, deemed a wrecker of Western civilization. What was your reaction to these reactions?

GP: Actually, it was dismay. Not because we cared what they said, but because we could see how it could lead to us being restricted in what we said and what we did. Ultimately, that did happen with the government in 1991. We were told we couldn’t go home for seven years or more. We’ve got to be honest here, there’s a part of me that was kind of tickled. I thought it was really pretty funny that they were asking questions in Parliament about used tampons. There were editorials in daily newspapers trying to explain anti-art and performance art to the general public, and not doing it very well. One newspaper editorial said that Genesis P’Orridge is an evil monster who should be locked in a cage and the key thrown away. It went on and on like that, how vile and disgusting and evil we were. That’s a bit intimidating. Not so much when they say it, but you think, what happened to Johnny Rotten—he got attacked in the street because right wing thugs got wound up by what they read about him. There’s always that risk that somebody idiotic is going to attack you. But it comes with the territory, really. What can you do?

OK: Do you have any advice for artists pushing the envelope today? 

GP: Push it harder…Strategies change. COUM Transmissions was in the early 70s basically. That attack was a cry of rage against all the hypocrisy and double standards and the ignorance of those who have power to change things for the better. We were pissed off. We wanted to confront them and create a dialogue, which did happen. But then things change. You can only do that for so long, and then it becomes just a formula. You’re doing what people expect—they come to see if you’re going to do something outrageous, and then it has no meaning. Therefore, you’re not creating a dialogue, and so it’s failing. There’s sort of a curve of effectiveness for every strategy. You have to learn when to let go of that strategy and look at something else. We moved on to Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Magick, networking and setting up communities that were still outside the norm, ignoring the status quo. Saying, “What do we want to live like? What do we want our chosen tribe to try to believe? How do we want it to behave? How do we want to protect ourselves?” Then, you get to the point where you say, “Well, just looking after ourselves and building a little bubble where we actually live much more how we would like, how about everyone else who can’t do that?” You start to look at the world outside. That was when we went to Kathmandu and financed a soup kitchen for Tibetan refugees, lepers, and beggars at our own expense. For three months, we fed anyone who came—soup twice a day, with clean water and food. We got them through the winter so they survived. Ironically, that was when they were saying we were wrecking civilization and evil. They never mentioned, to this day, that we were working with Tibetan Buddhist monks in Nepal feeding and clothing people who had nothing.

OK: Improving the world.

GP: Yeah, improving the world. That’s what you get to. You realize, ultimately, it’s about evolution—how the species is going to evolve. Is it even possible for human beings to change their behavior and lose those immediate responses and ways of living? They’re so embedded from everyone’s culture inevitably—through the pressure of family, education, religion, and so on. You get to a point where it gets very spiritual and philosophical. It becomes a question of how we can modify human behavior in some way so that we stop damning ourselves as a species and do something fantastic, like colonize space.


OK: Do you think that’s where we’ll be in the future?

GP: If we don’t destroy ourselves first and end up like Mad Max. Those are the options, to me.

OK: Space or Mad Max… Music has been on the back-burner. Do you have any plans to get back to music or making music. 

GP: We just finished a tour, actually. We played a concert for peace in Kiev in the Ukraine. We played a concert for peace in Tel Aviv in Israel. We played in Italy and France and some other places. We’re even rehearsing tonight. We’re probably doing one concert this summer in New York, at Pioneer Works. And we’ll be touring again in the fall. We tour every year. We just released a brand new album called “Snakes” on Angry Love Recordings, which is our label. We’re still doing that, but we don’t make a lot of noise about it—no pun intended. We played with Aaron Dilloway two weeks ago, at the Red Bull Festival. We’re still out there playing away.

OK: You’re having a garage sale this weekend, and you’ll be blessing items. What can we expect from this event? Is there anything particularly meaningful to you that you’re giving away or blessing? 

GP: We’ve been to West Africa twice, to Benin. We’ve been working on a documentary about voodoo. You see the poverty. You see the inequity of Western cultures and foreign cultures. To have a surplus and look around my apartment and say, “Why have I still got all those things?” We just don’t see them when we walk around. They’re on our shelf, but we don’t look anymore. The clothes are in a closet, but we don’t wear them anymore. The books are on the shelf, but we’ve read them. Why are we bothering to keep those things when a) they could give pleasure to someone else and be reactivated, and b) the money could go to something much more positive and creative. It can make new things happen. So it becomes awkward having too much when you come from somewhere like Nepal where people have got nothing. You feel somewhat obscene. No matter how magnanimous and altruistic you are, no matter how much you try to help, you still realize that there’s never going to be enough you can do. So we tried, as a symbolic discipline for myself, to purge belongings and material things in order to a) remember that we’re so fortunate and b) to generate funding for new art program ideas, new videos, new music, whatever it might be. Or new charities—with Nepal and the earthquake. We’re going back in October in preparation for the exhibition next year. And what we find there is going to influence what we do and how we work with materials. And it will go towards, hopefully, building a bridge from the West to the Far East that will help in some way.

OK: It’s really devastating over there right now. 

PG: Yeah, it’s a tragedy. Those temples that are hundreds of years old—gone. Those can never be replaced. You can’t even rebuild them. They had hundreds of years of devotion and people trying to explore consciousness. Because of a lot of Hinduism and Buddhism, to find ways to expand consciousness and develop compassion, generosity, and kindness. Those should be encouraged. So it’s a real tragedy, to see those centers of energy destroyed.  

OK: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.  

PG: You’re really welcome, my friend. Tell everybody—come along. We have a little garden too, so we might have a little barbecue and snacks. We’re going to have little light shows and bubbles and psychedelic microfixtures. Bring back some colorful activism.  

OK: I’ll make sure to spread the word.

Genesis Breyer P'Orridge's Pandrogaragenous Avant-yard Sale will be open from Saturday May 30 to Sunday May 31, 2015 at Jackie Klempay Gallery, 81 Central Ave (1A) Brooklyn, New York. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Laid Back Luxury: An Interview With Sean Knibb Who Unveils A Series of Unique Carrara Marble Tables at ICFF IN New York

The Southern California spirit is infectious. It has seeped into everything, from fashion to art to music and even interior design. No one is immune to this spirit – native or non-native. Such is the case with designer Sean Knibb, who today is introducing a series of gorgeous white Carrara marble tables with incredibly precise details of crumpled t-shirts and jean shorts that are concepted in his studio in Venice Beach and carefully etched and sculpted into the marble surface by Italian artisans. The entire process takes 700 hours. Upon first inspection, you can’t believe you aren’t looking at white cotton t-shirts and jean shorts – that is until you notice the veins of the marble and feel the cold, hard surface. Down to the ribbing of the collar and the fringe on the jean shorts – all the minute details are there. It is a strange juxtaposition indeed – until you realize how beautiful and unique the tables are in all their complexity. The series of tables, entitled Casa Canova, are a testament to the designer’s inventiveness and creativity, which has been applied to everything from landscape design to hotel design. Knibb was actually applying his design prowess to the Line Hotel in Los Angeles when the idea for these tables originated – two of which can be seen at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which opens today in New York City. We got a chance to talk to Knibb before the fair to discuss the easy breezy influence of Southern California and the design concept behind his new marble tables.

Oliver Kupper: What was your first introduction to design? Was there anything specific that made you want to become a designer?

Sean Knibb: From an early age, I was always interested in making things. It’s always been a big part of what I wanted to do as a grown-up, or what I thought would be interesting to do. So I was always thinking about how to make something or make something for someone. My dad was into design and liked nice things. We grew up in that kind of environment.

OK: Did you grow up in LA?

SK: Yeah, my brother and I moved to LA when we were about five. We lived in Manhattan Beach. And then we moved to Playa Del Rey, Venice. We’ve been up there a long time. We bebopped around the place quite a bit. Pretty much, that’s been home for the majority of my life.

OK: You were originally a landscape designer. You went from landscape design to hotel design. How did that transition occur?

SK: It’s funny, before I was a landscape designer, I was a furniture guy. I made furniture. The jump was—for me it seemed—very gradual. I started doing these interiors for restaurants for friends. Then, over a couple of years, one of the restaurants got noticed. We won an AIA award. That restaurant was the catalyst for the hotel developers to look at my work. That was the project that actually brought the attention, but the desire to do that was there for a long time.

OK: California—Los Angeles particularly—has been a big influence on your design. Is there anything specific about California or Los Angeles that inspires your work?

SK: I think space. There’s a freedom in LA or in California that gives me the feeling of being able to experiment and being able to do new things without feeling whatever pressures you might be feeling in another location—whether it’s Europe, New York. There’s a general acceptance and freedom. I always say it’s like the Wild Wild West. It is the Wild Wild West. That, to me, is the freedom of the ability to express yourself—whether it’s garden or interior or furniture or rubber or Carrara marble. It makes more of a vibe of creativity. I think the movie business plays into that. People in the movie business used to say, “You’re only as good as your last picture.” Trying to always come with something fresh and a new take on things, but still have substance. It has that feeling.

OK: Your new series—t-shirts and jeans in Carrara marble—it’s a very interesting juxtaposition, contradiction, or dichotomy, if you will. I’m thinking of Ed Ruscha or John Baldessari—these artists that the vibe of California was the major influence on them. Even in jazz, too. It’s interesting to find out how LA inspires people in these different ways. Where did the idea for including jeans and t-shirt patterns in marble come from? Where was that inspiration from?

SK: I’ve been looking and studying—whether it’s Bernini or Canova—all of this stuff that’s happening in Europe and happened in Europe. If I’m going to be a designer, what am I going to use to tell my point of view now? So looking at all this stuff—they were carving the things that they saw—elegant women dressed in robes, all of the stuff that was happening around them. I kept looking around and going, “What the fuck are we doing right now? What’s the fabric of today? What can I pick up on?” For me, the whole idea of, “What do jeans mean?”—torn, cut off jeans, chicks in jeans, and guys in jeans. Then t-shirts and how we’ve morphed into $150 t-shirts or $200 t-shirts. We still have $5 t-shirts. What is this particular object? How do you go from 5 bucks all the way to 200 bucks when it’s still just a t-shirt? There’s the idea to play with the symbolism of it and to carve it into marble. That, for me, really personifies the ability to take a simple thing and turn it into an extravagant thing, to take these shapes that we really take for granted and to apply those in the marble or in the space.

OK: And that references where we are now?

SK: It does reference where we are right now, but also says, “Hey, what do you stand for?” Can I use these things that we take for granted in a way that brings some insight and some pause into what’s happening. Also, to use the fabric of where we are right now. I’m not in Italy with the acanthus leaves and the Corinthian columns that have just been formed. I’m in LA with all these icons and they’re wearing t-shirts, or the worker that’s wearing a t-shirt. Everything’s homogenized into one thing. Let’s use that. Let’s make that feel luxurious. That’s how it started. And I’ve been fucking around with figuring out how to take fabric—other people have been doing it too. They just bail it up and ship it to India or Africa. We were toying with how to make cool seating with it. Take the stuff that we’re using and throwing away and figuring out how to bring it back in. Not just recycling, but make it feel uber now.

OK: How long does the process take? How many people does it take to work on one piece?

SK: I do the compositions in the studio and then we send it over to Carrara. It takes about three months for one piece. It takes two guys to carve it. One is a rough carver and modeling, and the other person is more the detail. They work together and then we go back and forth about little details. It’s really two people that do it.

OK: Do you go there and hand-select the marble? Are you involved in that part of the process?

SK: No, it wouldn’t be wise for me to select the marble. They select the marble based on what the composition is and the depth of the relief and what we’re working with. The first t-shirts were a little bit looser so the marble didn’t have to be so perfect. For the jean shorts, because there are areas that don’t have any carving on the piece, we needed a really nice, crisp background, so a cleaner piece of marble was chosen. That’s something that I really entrust to the guys to work through.

OK: And they’ve been doing this for generations?

SK: Oh yeah, this goes way back to the beginning.

OK: From a practical standpoint, as a designer or interior designer, where would you recommend putting one of these tables? They’re functional, right?

SK: Yeah, they’re functional. It depends. It depends on your level of commitment, I think. It can be purely a decorative or occasional piece. Or it can be something that you engage with on a daily basis. It’s your level of commitment—whether it’s in your dining room or in your kitchen.

OK: Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into it. What are you trying to communicate as a designer? What’s your ultimate message? Is there anything blatant or not so blatant that you’re trying to communicate?

SK: I don’t, personally, go into it with a specific message in mind. It’s more about sensitivity and thought about whatever my current mood might be, or what’s at the forefront of my thinking. In design, for me, it’s not so poignant in every move. There are moments of poignancy, but I like the idea that it’s very individualistic. I don’t try to put too much wording and text and my point of view so heavily in the forefront. I let the piece be more dynamic and have its own life and own way to thread through whoever is looking at it or engaging with it. 

“Casa Canova” will be view from May 16 to 19 at Booth 1955 at ICFF, Javits Center, 655 W. 34th St., New York. Tables are available for sale by request. Text and Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

A Q&A With Enoc Perez At His New Exhibition 'Cut Shapes' @ Danziger Gallery In New York

Puerto Rico-born and New York-based artist Enoc Perez is an anomaly in the art world. He is a master craftsman and purveyor of fine arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, collage and other high-minded crafts transition from Perez’s mind to the canvas with shocking ease. But unlike some other modern masters, he doesn’t view technology, the Internet, or social media as an enemy; on the contrary, he approaches it with wide-eyed enthusiasm, “You kidding me?” asks Perez. “I love Instagram.”

Perez has found a way to marry his enthusiasm for the Internet and his tactile skills in his new show “Cut Shapes” at the Danziger Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. For the show, Perez sourced images from various women’s Instagram feeds and used cut out shapes to obscure the women’s faces and their more revealing body parts. What is left in the images is the essences of these women. By marrying digital imagery with tactile material, Perez proves that the two forms can most certainly co-exist, and even more so,  can compliment one another to deliver a fresh way of viewing the modern world.

In an act of curatorial savvy, show curator and gallery owner James Danziger noticed that Perez’s work mirrored a series of images by artist and photographer Inge Morath. From 1959 to 1963, Morath and artist Saul Steinberg collaborated by doing a series of portraits of friends with their faces covered up by intriguing looking masks. Like Perez, Morath utilized traditional materials to create a new way of looking at technologically produced imagery. The take away from the two different sets of work created decades apart being displayed together is that the best artists have always paid heed to tradition while still embracing new ways to create art.

I caught up with Perez at the opening of “Cut Shapes” to talk about the show, his excitement about technology and why he loves portraying the auras of women.

Autre: I love the juxtaposition of your work with Inge’s, was she an inspiration or did you guys notice a similarity with your work and hers after yours was completed?

Enoc Perez: James picked up on it. It was not something I saw. I was familiar with her work and I was a big fan. But I hadn’t seen that particular group of images.

Autre: It was an act of curation?

Enoc Perez: It was curatorial, yeah. It was kind of cool when you think about it. Usually they group you in generational shows, and sometimes you share more similarities with artists that are not of your generation.

Autre: What I find interesting  about this is that you’re applying tactile materials to digital imagery.

Enoc Perez: Yeah, of course, I’m a painter.

Autre: Are you a fan of the internet? Do you like being inundated with imagery?

Enoc Perez: I love it. It’s a new media and I think we are just trying to figure out what to do with it. It’s putting us in tremendous communication with the world. You can see what’s happening all over. The Internet can be like looking at art shows every day. With Instagram, you can curate shows in a way.

"It’s admiration; I love women. And actually to see the pictures that women post or take of themselves is far more beautiful than pictures of women that men have taken. Women get it, they know what works, and in a way they are more powerful.

Autre: And so many people that don’t have access to galleries, people from small rural towns, are getting turned onto amazing stuff through this new media.

Enoc Perez: Exactly, and it’s a way of representing yourself and how you want to be seen. Which actually relates to this work: all these pieces come from feeds of women that are posting themselves. This is how they want to be seen. To me, that’s a good place to start the collage: a co-existence of high and low culture.

Autre: Always the best when they are together (laughs)

Enoc Perez: I love low culture as much as I love high culture, so why not put them together?

Autre: One thing that I thought was interesting is the obscuring of the faces, the nipples, etc..

Enoc Perez: In a way, it’s a comment on the censorship of Instagram and other social media feeds. On Instagram, you have no idea how many of my posts have been taken down, it’s kind of silly but in a way they give us a starting point to make art and define the figure. Or not define it. So why censor it?

Also, I don’t know these women, so I have to be respectful, I don’t want their whole identities there. What I want is the figure, the essence, and the beauty that I love so much.

Autre: When you’re portraying women, is it romantic, is it sensual?

Enoc Perez: It’s admiration; I love women. And actually to see the pictures that women post or take of themselves is far more beautiful than pictures of women that men have taken. Women get it, they know what works, and in a way they are more powerful. As I started looking through these feeds, and I remember talking with Richard Prince about this, these feeds are gold mines of imagery. They are right there, in the public domain.

Autre: And Richard saw this happening years ago.

Enoc Perez: Yes, he did. We all have news ways of digesting and approaching new media. It’s all there, so why not embrace it?

Autre: And our accounts function as weird portals to our brains: our likes, our dislikes, our perversions and more.

Enoc Perez: It’s there, and so what? We can look; we’re not dead. It’s a way to see what’s happening culturally in the world right now. The reason these pictures work is because they look like today looks. 

Inge Morath 'Masquerades' & Enoc Perez 'Cut Shapes' will be on view until June 13, 2015 at Danziger Gallery. See more photographs from the opening here. Text, interview and photographs by Adam Lehrer. Follow Autre on instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE

A Q&A With Heather Boo and Emma Rose of the Band Beaû

Native New Yorkers Heather Boo and Emma Rose grew up in a creative environment, so it makes sense that they started a band. Calling themselves Beaû, a masculine term for beautiful, which loosely translates to handsome in French, the name sums up their tomboyish Lower Manhattan spirit. This week saw the release of the band’s self-titled EP, which is distinctly pop inspired, but with an Americana tinge and lyrics that would surprise anyone that didn’t know Boo and Rose are both in their early twenties.  Then there is their look, with their French New Wave style and urban, street smart savoir-faire, they have modeled for Opening Ceremony, run wild and nude for photographer Ryan McGinley, and caught the attention of the venerable French record label Kitsuné, who has released their music first on a compilation and now on an extended play album. Today marks the release of their music video for One Wing, a song about love, loss and friendship. Autre got a chance to ask Boo and Rose a few questions about their music, their new album and how they got their big break in Paris. 

Autre: How did you two meet? 

Beaû: We had known of each other’s existence since infant hood – passing each other in the same parks, neighborhoods and schools. Our mothers were best friends, and eventually we too followed in their footsteps.  

Autre: A lot of people like to put labels on things, how would you describe your music?

Beaû: Music for the soul

Autre: What music most inspires you? 

Beaû: Music that is honest and true, without being too perfect…Particularly blues and soul from the South, and popular bands from the 60's. Generally anything that we find riveting inspires us...From the way a stranger smiles at you, to the wallpaper in an old dusty bookstore. Everything that moves us is inspiring. 

Autre: You once travelled with Ryan McGinley on one of his epic adventures, what was that like?

Beaû: It was like stripping yourself of anything fake or unnatural. I learned so much on that trip about how to be secure in the nude when you have a naked forest surrounding you. It was one of the most exciting adventures I had ever been on and who knew it was just an introduction to many more. 

"...The strength of a good relationship can help you get through anything. We all make mistakes and it's important to forgive each other and it's even more important to stick together through thick and thin."

Autre: How did you team up with Kitsuné

Beaû: It was all about being in the right place at the right time and knowing good people. We ventured to Paris on our own a few summers ago with little money and few places to stay. We ended up meeting great people there who hooked up a show for us at a club, where we were introduced to Kitsunè. Later that week Kitsunè invited us to record a demo track somewhere in Paris. They liked it so we hopped on board. It has been an incredible experience since! Kitsunè has been so supportive! We've really become a family. 

Autre: What is your favorite thing about New York?

Beaû: The diversity of people, food, culture and the boundless opportunities are our favorite part of New York. 

Autre: The song One Wing is really powerful…do those lyrics come from personal experiences or a specific experience? 

Beaû: We wrote the song guided by a sentimental melody that touched us both. The lyrics represent friendship to us and how the strength of a good relationship can help you get through anything. We all make mistakes and it's important to forgive each other and it's even more important to stick together through thick and thin.

Autre: What is the ideal setting for song writing?

Beaû: Anywhere. 

Autre: What is your background…I read somewhere that your parents are painters?

Beaû: Yes it is true our parents are painters. We grew up in a world full of color and creativity, along with an 'anything goes' kind of attitude from our ex-hippie parents. 

Autre: What can we expect from your new album?

Beaû: Colors and dreams. 

Autre: What’s next? 

Beaû: How should we know? 

You can order Beaû's self-titled EP here. Watch below video for the track One Wing directed by Nautico. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Be sure to follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Art and Curiosity: A Q&A With Curator Sylvia Chivaratanond

Everyone in the art world knows that Los Angeles' art scene is going through a frenzied and near-maniacal renaissance.  But for the last fifteen years, curator and art historian Sylvia Chivaratanond has sewn for herself a unique place in this strange Shangri-La’s rich artistic tapestry, which dates back to the 50s and 60s with artists like Ed Ruscha and Billy Al Bengston. After seeing the landmark exhibition Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, which is widely considered to be one of the most important exhibitions of contemporary art, Chivaratanond switched her major from law to art history, volunteered to be a guard at MoCA, and began a long career organizing exciting exhibitions for institutions from the Centre Pompidou to the Tate Gallery in London. Recently, Chivaratanond has been brought on the curate exhibitions for After & Again, which is a contemporary art platform celebrating the craftsmanship of textiles. Merging art, design and fashion, the platform sources textiles from all over the world, which are then presented in unique site-specific installations. For the first installation presented by After & Again, Chivaratanond has curated an electrifying exhibition by established and leading contemporary Mexican artist Betsabee Romero, which explores pre-Columbian iconography, colonial imagery, and lowrider culture – it is currently on view at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Autre was lucky enough to catch the very busy Chivaratanond to discuss her beginnings in the art world and her continued thirst for exploring new creative landscapes – what you will learn is that she may just be one of the most important ambassadors for the Los Angeles art scene.  

Autre: What is your artistic background…how were you initially introduced to the world of art and can you remember a specific work of art that really set you off?

Sylvia Chivaratanond: I am originally from Los Angeles and was a pre-law major at UCLA. As a college sophomore I walked into the Helter Skelter show at MoCA's Geffen one evening, and that show single-handedly changed the course of my life. The following week I marched into MoCA to volunteer as a guard and intern in the Education Dept; switched my major to Art History and didn't tell my parents until six months before graduation day. My world was turned upside down when I saw the work of Charles Ray, Lynn Foulkes, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Lari Pittman, Jim Shaw, Meg Cranston, Robert Williams, Manual Ocampo, etc. Then I saw Sonic Youth perform at the Geffen outdoor plaza as part of the show and I was hooked. That work spoke to me on so many levels: viscerally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. And it had a rock star component, which spoke to my youth culture. It was then that I learned that many of those artists taught at the art department of UCLA and several colleges around the city, and I wanted to be even closer to these individuals' energy.

A: How did you get your start in curation and can you describe your first curatorial effort?

SC: After UCLA I went to earn a graduate degree from Leicester University. During my time in London I interned at the Tate Modern for two years and worked very closely with the curatorial department on several Modernist shows. It wasn't until the following year when I received a curatorial fellowship at the Walker Art Center that my expertise in the contemporary art world was cemented. It was there where I met the most creative minds working the field of contemporary art. I was the assistant of Richard Flood, then Chief Curator, and I worked on my first contemporary art show: Matthew Barney's Cremaster 3. In addition, I worked on the drawing retrospective of Robert Gober, Bruce Conner and the most comprehensive Arte Povera show to date. It was a phenomenal time at the Walker as it was a think tank and laboratory for ideas and artists; it practiced what it preached as far as cross-discipline approach to the visual arts. There was an incredible amount of freedom in our thinking and way of looking at art; there was no hierarchy in place. The director at the time, Kathy Halbreich (now Associate Director of MoMA) practiced a special generosity with regard to knowledge and her time that continues to be her ethos till this day.  

A: You most recently worked as a curator for the venerable Centre Pompidou…what was most exciting about working with that institution?

SC: The Centre Pompidou is known for its stellar scholarship and excellent collection of art. It was an honor to work with their director and curators on building their permanent collection of art with regard to American artists, a focus for the Centre Pompidou Foundation. I was instrumental in adding important American artists to their collection including Jim Shaw, Rachel Harrison, Cheyney Thompson, Erin Sheriff, Sam Falls, Mark Bradford, Sterling Ruby, Barbara Kasten, Analia Saban, RH Quaytman, among many others. 

A: I want to talk about your work with After & Again, which celebrates craftsmanship of textiles…what has your experience been with textiles?

SC: I recognize the importance of textiles in art as they have been part of the fabric of culture since the dawn of time! From what we wear on a daily basis to folk and tribal art to contemporary artists working w fabric such as Sheila Hicks, Ernesto Neto, and Yinka Shonibare. There are so many artists using textiles in their work whether directly sewn or worked into the sculptural object or simply as clothing to evoke an era or statement in a photograph such as Mickalene Thomas. In Mickalene's paintings, even though she doesn't use textiles directly, she makes specific references to them in her work in order to evoke a certain epoch or make a political statement. Do Ho Suh is another artist who comes into mind who weaves intricate sculptural installations from translucent fabric and resin. 

A: One of the first exhibitions presented by After & Again is a presentation of works by Betsabeé Romero, which will be on view at the Masonic Lodge, can you describe your connection with this artist?

SC: I have always admired Betsabee's work from a far but never experienced it until now. She is a legend in Mexico and Latin American and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to bring her work to audiences in Los Angeles. Her work in sculpture, photographs, drawings and installation bridge the gap between Pre-Colombian iconography and pop culture such as Chicano and lowrider culture. The notion of death as celebratory is also a big topic in her work. I have always gravitated toward work that both celebrates and draws attention death in our culture, not so much as a dark component, but instead using darkness as way to generate lightness. 

Installation view of Helter Skelter - the show at MoCA that changed curator Sylvia Chivaratanond's life forever

A: Can you talk about future shows presented by After & Again that you are curating? 

SC: We plan to choose the next artist by this summer in order to show in Los Angeles in the fall. The artist will also do an edition for After & Again and will somehow integrate that project into an installation at a location in the city. 

A: What type of art do you gravitate to the most…is there any type of medium or work that you are immediately drawn to? 

SC: I love work in all mediums across eras. I love Surrealist and Dada work and I also love strolling the Metropolitan Museum's collection galleries of ancient south east Asian art and art from the sub-continent from 400 B.C onward!

A: You recently curated a show of Devendra Banhart's work at Reserve Ames  - what is Devendra doing that is different than other artists? 

SC: I love Devendra's seamless fusion of visual art and music. He is the modern day dandy who understands the subtleties of our culture from the history of sound and the works of John Cage to the poetry of Ginsburg to the latest country music. He went to art school first then began his music career, in that order. 

A: What is the most exciting thing about art in LA – especially in the present – is there a boom or has there always been one continuous shock wave?

SC: Los Angeles has always been important to the scene of art since the 1950s and 1960s with Ed Kienholz and the birth of Ferus Gallery to all the artists in the now historical 1992 Helter Skelter show at MoCA. Los Angeles has always been in a strong position in the art world as this is the city with the most concentration of the best art schools in the country. The recent boom of art comes at the heels of the revitalization of downtown and with it affordable studios and housing in these dense areas of population. Everyone from New York City has figured out that LA has been inexpensive to work and live (not to mention unbeatable sunshine) so recently there has been a mass exodus of artists, galleries, and collectors from every major city in the world. Did I mention the outrageously delicious food scene here? It's out of this world with the most Michelin star restaurants in one city. Downtown LA is also the home to the most exciting museums from MoCA to the new Broad Museum, which will continue to bring fresh and new perspectives of art while broadening their audiences.   

A: What’s next? 

SC: For me: yoga and meditation somewhere far off. For art: continue the curiosity that makes art of our time. We must continue to support art, music and culture in any way possible. 

You can catch  Sylvia Chivaratanond's first curatorial effort for After & Again, featuring the art of leading Mexican artist Betsabee Romero at the Masonic Lodge (6000 Santa Monica Blvd - right behind Paris Photo) from May 2 to May 4, 2015. text and interview  by Oliver Maxwell Kupper


Installation of Betsabee Romero's exhibition at the Masonic Lodge, curated by Sylvia Chivaratanond

Live Long Enough to Live Forever: A Q&A With Cole Sternberg

photograph by Adarsha Benjamin 

Multidisciplinary artist Cole Sternberg is an explorer of the human soul, the American psyche and the paranoia surrounding global growth, change and ecological destruction. Although he is predominantly a painter, Sternberg also practices sculpture, photography, film and room installations. At Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015, Sternberg will present what may be one of his most exciting photographic journeys yet: a recreation of his grandmother’s den from her home in Long Island. Sternberg has exhaustively documented every inch of the space and the strange objects that live there: "...Late 19th century plein air impressionist American painting, a 1990s TV with really strange, hardly decipherable instructions for how to use it, her VHS collection, my grandpa’s ashes, a binder about a Parisian tourist trip they did—this real weird mix of things—pillows knitted with puppies yawning." Through collage and unorthodox photographic processes, “My Grandma’s Den” is a microcosm of a larger consciousness: an America afraid of itself, afraid of its neighbors, armed to the teeth and begging for spiritual catharsis. After Paris Photo, Sternberg will be exhibiting a site-specific work in the Hamptons and then he is off to travel the world aboard a shipping vessel to create works that deal with human minuteness and global trade. In the following fascinating interview, Sternberg discusses his practice, the fate of mankind and his grandmother’s den.

Oliver Kupper: What were some of your earliest introductions to art? 

Cole Sternberg: Well, my earliest ones that I don’t actually remember—but I’ve been told from family members—my parents and grandparents used to take me to a lot of museums. I guess I got really into certain, specific impressionist paintings when I was four years old. I would just sit and stare at these different textured oil works for—not a serious amount of time—but a serious amount of time for a little kid, three to five minutes or something. Just staring at them. And they thought it was kind of strange, but that was the first thing.

OK: That makes sense now.

CS: Yeah, it came together twenty years later…The first thing I really remember getting deep into was in middle school, my family moved to Germany for my dad’s job for a couple of years. They kept dragging me, again, to museums. But these were more iconic European museums like, the ones you would think—whether it be the Louvre, or the D’Orsay in Paris, or the Uffizi in Florence—you know, whatever, every big tourist museum. So I saw a lot of work. In a two-year span, I saw a ridiculous amount of important, historical work.

OK: Can you name three artists that really had a profound influence on you?

CS: I don’t know. It’s hard because I don’t think my work really related to any of those early influences super specifically. I mean, I’ve always really liked texture, and I would see that in a variety of works. I think when I was seventeen, I started learning more about abstract expressionism, and then Twombly. Things like that – you can see a little bit more in the work. But it’s weird because I can’t really piece it to one or two specific people. It’s kind of a blend. I love Joseph Beuys, and Sigmar Polke, and Twombly, and Mapplethorpe—all kinds of different people.

OK: Yeah, I meant in a sense of—not necessarily influence your work, but just had an impact on your creativity…

CS: Well that immersive environment of large abstraction. “Fifty Days at Iliam” is a Twombly piece in the Philadelphia museum that’s either eleven or twelve massive canvases that go together to tell the story of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The feeling sitting in a room surrounded by those big, powerful works, I think, drove me to actually create something. 

OK: Yeah, that makes sense. So, do you travel around a lot? Did you travel around a lot as a kid? Were you sort of moving around the world a little bit?

CS: Not really. We were pretty much in Northern California except for that few year period in Germany. But during that period in Germany we tried to travel as much as possible because it was a unique time and opportunity. And then from college until now I travel a lot.

"I like this idea of an ongoing search for some sort of truth. That truth could be very grandiose. How is the earth placed in the whole environment, in the solar system, in the universe, and so on. How is one person’s life relevant to the rest of us? I like these amorphous concepts of searching."

OK: You work in a lot of mediums—photography, sculpture, insulation, film—but painting has sort of become your main medium. What is it about painting that best expresses your creativity?

CS: Well, it’s kind of a selfish thing. I think I just enjoy painting the most. There’s an emotional connection to that, and a sort of visceral feeling about it that I really like. But at the same time, my recent body of work is all photography. And then my next project after this is a mix of photography and painting. So I don’t know. I don’t know how locked in I am on it all the time. But painting a large-scale painting is probably still my most joyful thing to create.

OK: Your work seems to be this grand exploration of humankind—evolution, civilization, culture, what drives us, what moves us. You recreated the Sistine Chapel on shipping crates and the last moments of Ray Johnson’s life, which is incredible. What are you hoping to discover? What are you looking for? Is there anything specific you are looking for?

CS: I don’t know. It feels like I’m looking for something, but I don’t know what exactly it is. I like the overarching theme of how humanity or humankind (in a more positive way) affects our environment around us—for the better or worse. Mainly for the worst, but it kind of depends. I like this idea of an ongoing search for some sort of truth. That truth could be very grandiose. How is the earth placed in the whole environment, in the solar system, in the universe, and so on. How is one person’s life relevant to the rest of us? I like these amorphous concepts of searching. Also, I like to subversively deal with social issues in the work.

OK: Where do you think humans will be in five hundred years?

CS: Oh my god. Well, the way it’s looking now, we’ll probably be turning into fossils slowly. Sometimes I buy into the Kurzweil concept of a singularity, the possibility that in five hundred years our consciousness will be, basically, where it is twenty years from now. We’ll figure out how to live forever. The idea of neurology and robotics and general science and technology combined to the point where every day automatically our brain is uploading to a cloud and we know exactly how the brain works. So if I got hit by a car one second from now, I would just download all my memories and experiences into a synthetic brain and synthetic body and be rolling again. If that works, then in five hundred years, we’ll probably have explored deep, deep into the universe and learned more truths about how small we are in the context of our world and others.

OK: Sure. That was sort of a curve ball question, sorry about that.

CS: I could go on forever about weird theories of living on.

OK: I love that. I think we’ll be downloadable, too. I think that we’re already becoming cyborgs.

CS: Oh yeah, it feels like it in the stupid connection with our phones.

OK: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. So, Paris Photo is coming up. This is really interesting to me. Can you describe your solo exhibition with MAMA at Paris Photo?

CS: Well the idea started with taking a room and recreating that in photography in another room—that other room being the booth or whatever space for Paris Photo for MAMA. I spent a lot of time in my grandma’s den, which is in a small town on Long Island. The den is really creepy—like every grandma’s dens. But it also has all these weird little components that, taken separately, can mean a lot of different things. Or, together, can be this symbol of the weird state of America and the world. So I got really into my grandma’s den, basically. It has everything from a late 19th century plein air impressionist American painting, to a 1990s TV with really strange, hardly decipherable instructions for how to use it, to her VHS collection, my grandpa’s ashes, a binder about a Parisian tourist trip they did—this real weird mix of things—pillows knitted with puppies yawning. I captured all that, shooting each square foot of it very specifically. I took it back to my studio—all that photography—and then started to figure out what I was really going to do with it.

OK: What did you do with it?

CS: What that ended up being is a series of collages that are manipulated in a kind of strange way that give it this destructive, rough feel—in black and white and color. Then, integrating text in with different images to give these little hints of what I’m thinking with each work. They address the environment in some way. My grandma has been a lifelong left-wing democrat. Suddenly, she’s a very right-winged person, which I don’t understand, except that my uncle has her watch Fox News a lot. I think maybe that’s brainwashed her. There’s these little hints of what happens to people when they get old and why their viewpoints change for no rational reason. Then, the bigger thing that came out of it is this agoraphobic tendency of my grandma, of me, and then of America in general. We really want to build walls and isolate ourselves, which, I think is super unfortunate. So a lot of the work ended up getting into more of this agoraphobia than anything else. 

Agoraphobic Tendencies of a Modern World (2015)

OK: Does she know that you are presenting this exhibition? Does she have any idea what’s going on?

CS: She loves art. She’s exposed me to a lot of art. She went to the Ray Johnson Hamptons thing. So she knows I’m feeling it. I’m pretty sure she has no clue of the dark side of it or the agoraphobic side of it, until she sees the work. Even then, I’m kind of hoping she doesn’t figure it out. She’s very sweet and fine lady. I don’t want to bum her out too much. It’s more about everyone than her specifically. So, we’ll see.

OK: You’re about to go on this massive trip around the world. Can you talk about that project? You’re about to travel the world, essentially, on a shipping crater.

CS: I love this project. It’s been planned in a variety of forms for three or four years, and finally, it’s not coming to fruition in what I think is, probably, the best way. At first, it was more in regard to Chinese trade, and America controlling the oceans, and what that meant to the world. Now, I have been more focused on it being about the journey itself and how small humans are within the scope of the ocean. The vessel stops three times in China, one time in Korea, then goes across the Pacific. That part of the trip is around 10 or 12 days. You cross one of the few dead zones that are left in the world—zones of the ocean where if you get sick or the boat has a major issue, no one will reach you in time. Dead zones are closing very quickly due to technology. So this is a last moment to really spend any time in one of those areas. Also, you pass by, to some degree, what’s called the “plastic island.” It isn’t really an island, just a massive amount of garbage floating around. You can’t really see it all of it on the surface at once like a normal island, but it’s another sign of disgusting human waste. And then the ship goes through the Panama Canal, stops in Columbia, and then goes up the East Coast of America, ending in New York. That’s more of a human ingenuity part of the trip. I think that might be more fun.

OK: So, what are you doing on the ship?

CS: On the ship, I’m painting. I’m creating all kinds of work—paint, photography, drawing, writing—and exposing the work to the elements in different ways. For instance, a watercolor might be tied to a pole on the ship, and then the rain and saltwater will eat away at the paint to some degree for the whole journey. Another piece might be sitting in the engine room for the whole journey, and the soot will slowly build up on the piece. I’ve never done that before—physically integrating the environment into the works in some way. I think it will be a mental and physical challenge.

OK: It sounds amazing. Now, are you exhibiting those works at MAMA? How long does that take? How long does something like that take?

CS: The journey?

OK: Yeah.

CS: It’s about a month—a few days in China on the front end. This production company is making a documentary about the journey and me, so we’ll spend a little time in China beforehand just doing things and wandering around. Then, the same on the back end in New York. So I guess the whole thing is about five weeks or five and a half weeks.

OK: It sounds incredible.

CS: I think it will be good. Hopefully I don’t jump off.

OK: Yeah, hopefully. So where do you see yourself as an artist in ten years? That’s my last question. It might be a difficult question.

CS: Oh my god. I don’t know. With every exhibition or project I do, I try to grow a little and push myself a little further in terms of process, and concept, and the ending visual too. If I keep doing that, as I’ve done for at least the last five years, I think the work ten years from now will be pretty interesting and pretty in depth in a variety of formats. I think that, through it all, that’s all I can really hope for, is the work itself. You can’t really predict what business opportunities or anything will come. 

You can check out Cole Sternberg's "My Grandma’s Den" at Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015, presented by MAMA Gallery, New York Backlot, Stand H3, Paramount Pictures Studios. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

photograph by Adarsha Benjamin 

Exploring Margiela's Genius: An Interview with Alison Chernick

photograph courtesy of Chernick

photograph courtesy of Chernick

How do you make a documentary about a subject who never shows his face and insists on being interviewed only by fax? When the subject is Martin Margiela and his eponymously named cult label Maison Martin Margiela, the legend alone is enough material. In the short documentary The Artist Is Absent, an obvious riff on Marina Abramović’s highly present retrospective performance at MoMA, documentarian filmmaker and writer Alison Chernick explores the myth, the legend, and the genius that is Margiela. Indeed, Margiela was a pivotal and controversial fulcrum in the world of high fashion – upcycling car seatbelts, blonde wigs and winter gloves, he created garments that defined sartorial rebellion and he made fashion adventurous. Starting with his breakout collection in 1989 and ending with his abrupt departure in 2009, the collections produced by Maison Margiela defied convention. The documentary, which has been produced by the Yoox Group, features the likes of Jean Paul Gautier, Raf Simons, and Geert Bruloot, who is largely credited with discovering Margiela and his talents. In the following interview, Chernick, who has created award-winning documentaries exploring artists like Matthew Barney and Julian Schnabel, talks to Autre about her first fashion documentary and her journey unlocking the mystery of Margiela. 

Autre: You’ve done a lot of documentaries about major contemporary visual artists, like Matthew Barney and Julian Schnabel, what was different about making a documentary about a designer versus making a documentary about an artist?  

Alison Chernick: A documentary on a fashion designer comes with an innate rhythm, a visual aesthetic, a beat that gives the footage fluidity as fashion is so much about body movement.  Fortunately for me he also is a complex and intriguing character so the film can also offer some deep commentary as well. A film on a visual artist is a totally different beast, often more esoteric with less of a natural rhythm.

Autre: What did you personally learn or discover about Margiela through the making of this documentary?

Chernick: What an original thinker he was. He was a leader, a provocateur, a maverick, a sentimentalist…the anti-designer. 

Autre: There has been a recent wave of documentaries about designers, why do you think fashion is being noticed more and more outside of the fashion world?

Chernick: Fashion is accessible to the masses and that’s why fashion films have such a large following. Everyone has to wear clothes; therefore each can connect to this material, literally, in some form or other.

Autre: If you were able to sit down with Margiela, what would you ask him?

Chernick: I'd chat with him about his new paintings - he's been painting and I look forward to seeing them.

A rare 1992 photo of Martin Margiela. Archives Villa Noailles

Autre: Have you always wanted to make documentary films?

Chernick: I sort of fell into it -- but there is an endless wealth of material to document, so there is never a shortage of topics -- its all pending accessibility

Autre: Can you name one documentary that really floored you, a documentary that made you want to make the same kind of films?

Chernick: How about docufiction? I often find that fiction can often get to the truth before documentary…I was floored by Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows. I’m also a big fan of Maurice Pialat. The Cove was pretty mind-blowing. Capturing the Friedmans was also was riveting. 

 Autre: Are there plans to making a feature length Margiela documentary?

Chernick: Not sure…not as of right now, but there has been talk.

Autre: What do you hope the audience watching the documentary will learn about the designer?

Chernick: I hope it will inspire artists to put fear aside and think outside the box, lead and don't follow. Follow your instinct. 

Autre: What’s next?

Chernick: Docufiction!

The Artist is Present will see its premier on Yoox – a premier fashion destination. There will also be selections from Margiela’s past collections available for purchase. You can explore Alison Chernick’s previous films on her website. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Lucky As Sin: An Interview with Lou Taylor Pucci

Lou Taylor Pucci in Thumbsucker (2005)

Very rarely do you catch an actor during that chrysalis phase between crawling out of the cocoon of one character and into the skin of another. This is exactly where I caught Lou Taylor Pucci, who is an innately gifted actor, well known for playing vulnerable souls and identity seeking characters, like the thumb sucking angst-ridden teen, Justin Cobb in Mike Mills’ 2003 debut feature, Thumbsucker alongside Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onofrio and Keanu Reeves. The role made him a fixture in mid-aughts indie cinema.

Then there is his most recent role as Evan in the genre-bending, sci-fi, love story horror film, Spring, which features a more mature actor grappling with demons that are both figurative and literal. In Spring, Pucci plays the heartbreaking role of a young man who loses his mother and decides to go on an adventure of a lifetime. The film, shot on the beautiful coastline of an ambiguous Italian village, shows his character searching for meaning, destiny, self, love…anything to quell the longing. He finds his purpose when he meets Louise, a beautiful young woman who is hiding a frightening, monstrous secret that far outweighs anyone’s definition of “baggage.”

The film is the second feature by inventive directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead who start the film off during the low tide of the character’s mourning of his mother and his stages of grief. As the tide rises, the film crashes beautifully on the coast of Italy, where slow motion drone shots and multiple minute long pans follow the character into a deep, dark world where every part of his psyche is pushed to the limit. It is a Kafkaesque tale that harkens elements and overtones of German Expressionist cinema with a little bit of Jarmusch-cool.

Pucci fits into these roles perfectly. He is an actor that is not afraid to be vulnerable, which is the mark of a great actor – if not a believable one. I first met Pucci, who is a New Jersey native from a creative, folksy kind of showbiz family (think the Carter family), before the premiere of Spring. He has grown a massive beard for his next role, as Romeo 'Prickface' Griggs, in Poor Boy – a film about two misfit brothers who try to survive in the desert. In the following candid interview, Pucci talks about his unique upbringing as an altar boy, his dichotomous entrance into the world of independent cinema and his future goals as an actor in the Hollywood machine.

How did you get your start?

I started in musical theater. I grew up in a, I don’t know what the word would be, because I can’t exactly say that I was in a poor family, but I was in a lower middle class family. There was not much money. But my dad was a musician and my mom has done modeling and she loved musicals. One of the first interesting memories I have of my dad was him up on stage at a fair playing guitar.

So it was in the blood already?

Well, yeah, my name – they named me Lou Taylor Pucci, because my mom and dad both thought it was a good stage name. They thought I was going to be a musician, which is hilarious.

That’s really thinking ahead.

So, yes, I grew up in a family that was based in entertainment and art. My dad was also a graphic artist and still is. He is actually still in bands now as well. He is in a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover band. He’s a great singer with a really high voice. So I was sort of born into that. I have two brothers and a sister and I was the first one, so they wanted me to do something. My mom wanted me to take dancing lessons.

Did you enjoy it?

You know, I was about 9 or 10 and I was in school and people were such assholes about everything, so it was literally, like, “faggot this” and “faggot that.” And it was terrible. I had very few friends that I could relate to in my regular school. But I did it…I took the lessons. It took about a year of fighting – then finally I was, like, “Fuck it, I’ll take the lessons!” I was basically given this option by my parents before I even existed. They would say things, like, “All you do is watch TV and go to school.” Then they said, “You can either become an altar boy at the church or you can audition for a community theater show and we’ll bring you there and give you ten dollars.” Basically, they really wanted me to be on stage. So, I decided, “whatever, I’m going to be an altar boy.”

Wow…what was that like?

I was an altar boy for about six or seven months. I was really up for it for a little bit longer than that. I loved it…the different colored robes and different colored belts. It was actually pretty funny. Finally, though, I decided that I couldn’t do this any more. You have to wake up so early. It’s the same thing every time. You know, I did grow up with church as a big part of my life. We didn’t go to church every day, but I did go to a Catholic school for my entire life. Even during high school…I went to an all boys Christian academy.

Finally you acquiesced?

Eventually I said yes, I took the ten dollars, and auditioned for Oliver! and I got into the show. When I auditioned, I was like, “Holy crap, I didn’t know I could do anything like this. I am singing and I’m dancing right now.” And this was just at the audition! They auditioned me to play Oliver…I got up to the last callback, but I faltered at the end because I had never read any script or had done any acting stuff in front of anybody.

Did you get a part?

I was a part of the ensemble anyways, not Oliver, but all of a sudden, it was like, holy shit, I have all these friends and there’s a bunch of girls in the show and they like this stuff and I like this stuff right now because I had all these people I could relate to finally. It was great.

"...I went from wearing a sailor suit

to playing this tortured hitchhiker.

I mean, I wasn’t even going to go to the

audition, because it was so ridiculous..."

Then what happened?

Well, I started doing Broadway [after community theater]. Amazingly, long story short, I ended up on stage doing The Sound of Music running around in a sailor suit as Fredrik Von Trapp for like a year and a half. I was about 12 when that happened.

That’s an amazing trajectory!

Yeah, it was. Well, I think there was a strange motivation my whole life that maybe I didn’t know about. All I saw was my parents fighting about money and so I just wanted to fix everything. I had this complex based on fixing or helping the family. As the first born, I felt this inclination to take care of my brothers and sisters. You have to be a part of their life. And I don’t know, my dad became a huge guy…he had a weight problem that was very insane. So, it was a real concern that he was going to die. Luckily, he has since taken control of his life, but I definitely came from a real weird, fucked up family and we didn’t have any money. But the only thing that they did have is an insane amount of ambition and love and they wanted me to do something. So, they would drive me to these community theaters and they would drive me to New York.

They were really dedicated.

They would take the bus to New York and the take the bus back to New Jersey to finish whatever they had to do and then take another bus to pick me up and take me back home. This was every day.

So, when did the movie thing start happening?

I think I was about 16 and I was still in high school and I was going to a lot of auditions. I was auditioning for about a year. So, I did the theater stuff and then I decided to take time off. I decided to go to high school. I wanted to be a real kid. I wanted to go to prom. I wanted to do things that normal kids do. Because I realized that I probably was going to do things that weren’t normal for the rest of my life. So, I went to high school and I was going to auditions, but I really wasn’t getting anything. I think I was not getting what film was. I didn’t know what it took to be in a film. I mean, I came from a theater background.

But you eventually booked something, right?

So, there was this one audition…for Personal Velocity….and Rebecca Miller wrote and directed the film and Parker Posey is in it with Fairuza Balk and Kyra Sedgwick. You know, Rebbeca Miller is married to Daniel Day Lewis and is daughter to Arthur Miller. The thing is, though, that I had no idea about any of this. It was just this opportunity that came up. I went to the audition and I went from wearing a sailor suit to playing this tortured hitchhiker. I mean, I wasn’t even going to go to the audition, because it was so ridiculous from what I knew that I thought I could only fail.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Fairuza Balk in Personal Velocity (2002)

But you didn’t fail….

My dad told me that I have to try it…don’t miss this opportunity. He was always like that. In fact, he was really the only reason why I went to the audition. And then I went in and something just clicked in this really weird way. I was so nervous to go to this audition in the first place, but that nervousness was actually a part of the character. He was such a tortured, biting his fingernails until they bled, character who would not make eye contact and didn’t have a lot to say, but has a lot to react to and so in that room, I had a lot to do and something happened where, all of a sudden, because I couldn’t say anything, I finally understood what I was trying to do. I sort of understood what acting for film was.

What did you learn?

Well, when I walked out of the room, I remembered having tears in my eyes and sort of feeling very sad and terrible. I was, like, “Holy shit, it worked it! Something happened here.”

And a lot of actors don’t get that experience, right, that seems very authentic?

Yeah, I think I scared the shit out of myself and it was great for that role. And I think that’s what all roles are sort of about…you have to find out how to trick yourself into being someone. Each character or role has a different formula on how to do that. Each one is completely different. And you don’t know how you are going to do it. Usually, you figure it out two weeks before you start filming. So, I’ve been attached to my next film for about a year. I have this big fucking beard. I’m playing a guy named Prick Face who is a dirty, southern, real hickish guy – but not trying to make fun of it. It’s about two brothers who are trying to survive, they are living on a houseboat and they don’t have any education and their parents have abandoned them. And even though I have all this knowledge about this character’s story and I look like this character, I still don’t know how I am going to play this part.

Is that scary?

When I get to Las Vegas to shoot the movie, something is going to happen, which always happens, where once you start getting all the dialogue memorized and you start saying the dialogue out loud to people, it’s almost like living in a dream. You start noticing things about other people and they start incorporating into you. And there will be a snap. And, again, you’ll be like, “Holy shit, I get it!” That may not be the case for the whole role, but maybe for certain pieces of it, like this is how he walks or this is how he talks. And it all comes together in such a way. That’s why rehearsals are such an important thing to me and my career.

Did you grow up watching movies…was there a specific movie, or actor, or scene that you remember really blowing your mind?

First two movies I remember seeing, honestly, are Batman and Terminator 2 at a drive-in movie theater. The truth is, that’s what I love. I love action, sci-fi, big productions. Not just spectacle, but come on, Bat Man and Terminator 2 are staples of our lives in the entertainment business. Terminator 2 was hands-down one of the best sequels. Bat Man was one of the darkest and coolest – Michael Keaton, Tim Burton – things ever created. Awesome music, awesome acting. They were turning a comic book into basically something real. And Jack Nicholson as the Joker – holy shit!

What about independent films?

Well, independent films are not something I seek out. It’s not what I go and watch. But independent films are important, because they have the freedom to be creative and original. Who knows, sometimes they do make a splash and become big. But big studio films now can’t compete when it comes to originality…they don’t even come close.

So, you’ve done a lot of independent films. Do you have aspirations to be in bigger actions films? What is your aspiration as an actor?

Sometimes people ask me, “What characters would you like to play,” and I don’t really know. I think there’s two: one would be Lestat de Lioncourt from the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles and the other one would be Link from Zelda. So I guess my whole life revolves more around nerd stuff and video games and sci-fi. You know, Interview with a Vampire is definitely one of my most favorite films in the entire world. So, I don’t know…what would I want to do? More action films or more independent films? I think the whole point, for me, and what has become the point in my life, has become having a diverse career and maybe that’s because I’m still sort of at the beginning of my career.

How would you define your career?

When I look at a career, I take it apart, and say, ‘Look, here are the people that fucked up, like Paulie Shore and other actors like that.’ I’m not saying that he is a bad actor, he is just not the actor that I want to be. I mean, he stopped getting films because he did one thing and it faded out. But the thing is that he couldn’t do anything else because no one would let him. So, how do I extend my freedom to allow people, or trick people, into thinking I can do anything. At the beginning of my career, just like act one in any script, if you are going to make a script that’s horror and there is nothing scary in the first 30 minutes and then the horror comes along, it’s going to freak you out, especially if it’s a comedy or something. I mean, if there is nothing funny in the first ten minutes, it will be hard to laugh when the jokes come along. This is why you have to build all those genre tones into your first act to make sure that everyone is ready for what is coming next…so that they are available to it and accept it.

Building those genre tones is what was so successful about your current film, Spring, right?

The coolest thing that they did was that they knew that our little love story, which is the second act and third act, is fun. Its not necessarily two comedians talking, but they wanted the audience to laugh…to laugh with us. So what did they do? They made the first twenty minutes fucking hilarious. Even though it’s a horror film, they put so much comedy and fun into this depressed guy’s life. So, that’s basically like act one of my life and career. I want to diversify as hard as I can. Play everything that I can, so that there is nothing that people won’t accept.

"I am lucky as sin that people will actually pay

for this art because there is so much art out

there that people pay nothing for...I get to have

a life that I want. It’s really not that complex: I

just want to be doing what I’m doing."

And that would be the best-case scenario?

I want to be able to do any role that I want. That would obviously be the best-case scenario for any actor: they find a role, they say that they want to do that role and then they are allowed to.

That also seems like a recipe for not being type-casted right?

That’s exactly what I mean. I am always aiming for the long term. How do I make this last for the rest of my life? I mean, I have always wanted to play old man roles in sci-fi films - like an old mentor. I always wish that that’s what I will look like one day. I guess that’s why I have this big beard right now. I mean, I have a serious baby face and it’s going to be a weird road trying to figure out what I can do.

So, what do you think of the business aspect of acting?

It’s a business. It’s a strange, strange thing. I go out on auditions sometimes just to appease casting directors. I want them to remember me. That kind of stuff sucks sometimes. You are going out sometimes for roles you don’t even want, but you better do a good job because otherwise that casting director might think you suck. So, it becomes a real career…a business….that you have to tend to. It’s like growing a flower…you have to check in and water it every day.

Yeah, and there seems to be two types of actors: the ones that let the rejection get to them and they go back home and then there are actors – excuse the morbidity of this example – like River Phoenix that don’t think too hard about the machine aspect of it and they go into it with such passion and energy that they burn out. What do you think about that tightrope walk?

It is a tightrope walk. Most movies that I do are tightrope walks. I feel like now I do all the movies that normal people are sort of afraid to do. Maybe because it doesn’t seem like it’s been done. One of the better examples of that is Story of Luke and I played an autistic main character and it’s a comedy. I mean, try pitching that. How the hell do you do that? How does the tone match up? Is there any possibility that people are thinking that we’re making fun of autism if the main character is supposed to be funny, but has autism? The tightrope walk is terrifying. Same thing with Spring…how much of a love story are you going to treat this as? How real should you be? And how entertaining should you allow yourself to be?

Lou Taylor Pucci in The Go-Getter (2007)

What’s your least favorite thing about being an actor or being in that world?

For one thing, I think the whole system is disgusting. We’re made to be celebrities that some how entertain people into sitting on the couch or on their phone and they’re not even doing what they want to do. But one of my best friends I met when I was putting some stuff into storage and the guy working there told me that he saw The Go-Getter and decided to go to Australia for six months. We ended up going to Jumbo’s Clown Room and talking about it for hours. That is by far my favorite thing about being an actor.  

But the fame part or the fame game is what really gets you down?

I am lucky as sin that people will actually pay for this art because there is so much art out there that people pay nothing for and hold to a very low regard. Yet, in this world, acting is held at such a high pedestal that I get to have a life that I want. It’s really not that complex: I just want to be doing what I’m doing. But there are a lot of actors that can’t. I guess that’s the real hard part. But with the new modern invention of YouTube and all these pilots, there are a lot more parts now. But because we have focused so much on celebrity and because producers have so much invested in the films they make, they need to have celebrities on television supporting their investments. So, all the main parts are going to be played by celebrities that you already know and they are going to make a bunch of money.

Was it always like that?

You used to be able to move to Los Angeles and go out on auditions and wind up in roles. But that is not really how it is anymore. Everything is outsourced. Everything is shot in different cities. Casting directors still cast the main roles in Los Angeles, but the rest of the roles are cast in Louisiana or Texas or even New York. So, as an actor, it’s more worth it to go to where the work is. As a new actor, those are the roles you are going to go out for…the smaller roles. As a result, though, you don’t really need to be in Los Angeles to make your break, which is the positive side of things. If there is anything to learn, it’s that you shouldn’t come to Los Angeles if you haven’t established yourself at all yet.

That’s great advice…is that advice you would offer to young actors?

Yes, don’t come to Los Angeles if you want to make it. I think there are some laws being passed that will make it easier to make movies in Los Angeles again. I think that Hollywood should be brought back to its original glory. That’s why we’re all here competing in the first place, right?

You can watch Spring on Amazon Instant Video and most on-demand platforms. It is also in select theaters, distributed by Drafthouse Films. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM to stay up to date with art, culture, and more: @autremagazine

Trailer for Spring

Music Fucks with Fashion: An Interview with Cozette McCreery

photograph by Nick Dorey 

I first met Cozette McCreery when I was trying on a flower and knit embellished coat and did a few twirls of delight. Her head nod of acknowledgment anointed me with a sense of cool that shook me up a little. After hours of online research I couldn’t get enough and I started to run off on tangents of whether or not to question her on her time as Lucian Freud’s muse or her stint in Israel as a shepherd in training. As one third of the design collective Sibling along with Joe Bates and Sid Bryan, Cozette is part of a special order of epic ladies whose stories from clubland can keep you wide awake and high… like a good Netflix binge. When I finally grabbed a moment with her during her preparation for the AW 2015 women’s Sibling show in London, I decided to ask her the hard hitting questions on the designer clothes, raves, and 80’s era Madge that fueled her. 

BJ Panda Bear: What was your most epic outfit of that rave era?

CM: Thankfully no one brought cameras or had smart phones as I probably looked like a sweaty mess! Not sure if it was ‘epic’ as frankly it was pre-raves when all of us club kids really dressed up (I’d wear Alaia, Gaultier, vintage YSL, full red Jasper Conran suits, Alastair Blair, Rifat Ozbek and Patrick Kelly to clubs. Trying to either be very Robert Palmer video or a Roxy Music groupie) and raves were just not the place for full catwalk looks. I’d be in a Shoom T shirt, Alaia leggings and Travel Fox. Or a full Conran multi-strap dance all in one, leather wrap mini (it was like a belt - to quote my Father) and Nikes. Raving was all about the music and dancing and getting really really sweaty, less about the venue and wether your lipstick had smudged. I was also listening to a lot of Hip Hop at the time so that influenced how I dressed too.

I didn’t get back in to dressing up for a club night until Richard Mortimer asked me to take over the door at Boombox. Every Sunday I had the chance to wear my new designer frocks (Gareth Pugh, Jonathan Saunders, Raf at Jil Sander, Giles) and heels. 

BJ: Last seasons epic homage to Madonna circa “borderline” tugged on all my happy strings. What music have you been listening lately to as inspiration for the new collection and life in general? 

CM: I was always a massive fan of Madonna, still am, but that period was the one I love the most and the one I tried desperately (seeking - haha) hard to imitate in my dress. I listen to music all the time and usually instigate the choices for both the men’s and women’s shows. For men’s AW15 I wanted something that sounded like it could come from a young guy’s music collection, played loud in his bedroom. As it was an evening show (and all pink!) I also wanted it to be a bit sexier especially as Matthew Josephs had cast these buff guys. Women’s AW15 is still to be decided as I keep listening to stuff and thinking yeah this is great then walk to it and think nope not going to work. That’s why it’s brilliant to work with Nathan Gregory Wilkins as he’ll offer ideas and we can bat things off one another and Phoebe Arnold our womenswear stylist has good suggestions too. 

As for my day to day listening well, it’s a bit random. I don’t tend to stick to one genre and try not to be a music snob so if I like the latest Ke$ha I’ll buy it. If iPod shuffle kicks out Rage Against The Machine, Odd Future, Prince and then One Direction and Selena Gomez I’m really happy.

Sibling S/S 2015 photograph by Lorenzo Cisi

BJ: How did you get into DJing?...Name your top 5 - 10 songs you love to spin? 

CM: My ex boyfriend Adam put me forward to this all girl DJ group called Hey Ladies. Funnily enough DJ Fat Tony tried to get me to DJ when I was in my late teens but I couldn’t see why I would give up working in fashion to do it. Probably not one of my best decisions ever as he has joked that I could have been massive by now! Anyhow, Hey Ladies started it and we’d DJ at these great parties and record launches. When the group disbanded I just kept going as I still had people booking me and I really enjoy it. I’m good at parties because I never have a set-list. The last one I did was a really mixed crowd: teenage boys to middle aged aristos and 90’s pop stars but I had them dancing at 4am to The Rolling Stones and Blur so I must have been doing something right especially as they then kept me (hardly forced to be honest as I was having fun) there for another hour. 

photograph by Terry Richardson

BJ: A lot of Sibling reminds me of all the great Kansai Yamamoto, famous for his work with David Bowie, with his knits, textures and color. You both have dressed iconic musicians, the Mariah moment is pretty supreme, who do you want to see wear Sibling next? 

CM: Why thank you. Kansai is quite incredible. Am really glad that he’s getting recognized himself beyond Bowie. Ha ha yes Mariah! Matthew Josephs our menswear stylist was with her in NY and was frantically texting me that she wanted to wear the dress to her album listening but I was drinking cocktails with friends and not looking at my phone. By the time I got back to Matthew she was in it and on Vine singing. AMAZING! And we’ve had similar with Pharrell and Harry Styles. Who would we like to see in Sibling next? EVERYONE! Maybe the person reading this. 

BJ: What new musicians do you see really being the center of the fashion scene right now? 

CM: I’m a big fan of Sky Ferreira, Alison Mosshart you know all the slightly tomboy rocking girls. Are they new? (Laughs) And Pharrell of course. And Bieber in his Calvins. Badgirl Riri covered in Nasir Mazhar. Joni Mitchell and Courtney Love in the Saint Laurent Music Project adverts. Patti Smith in Made By You Converse (of which I am also a contributor, gotta love us erm old birds! Little old me and Patti Smith, still can’t get over that) music and fashion are always a very good pairing. Whatever style and age.  

Visit the Sibling London website to explore stockists. Text and interview by BJ Panda Bear, who is a blogger, curator, DJ, fashion obessor, fixture of LA nightlife, and much more. Follow Autre on Instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE 

Pharrell in GQ shot by Terry Richardson