Joie de Vivre: An Interview With Photographer Josh Farria

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

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

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

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

FARRIA: Fuck.. I wish.

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

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

AUTRE: What is your favorite thing to photograph?

FARRIA: Women and moments.

AUTRE: Who are some of your major inspirations?

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

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

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

AUTRE: Whats next?

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

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

Lucia Cuba on Gender, Strength and Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTRE: Whats next?

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

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

Chanteuse Fatale: An Interview with Sophie Auster

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Because you were nervous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


GRAHAM: You grew up here, right?

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

GRAHAM: How do you feel about Manhattan vs Brooklyn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite musicians?

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

GRAHAM: Who’s your favorite Beatle?

AUSTER: George Harrison, I think.


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

GRAHAM: What inspires you?

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

GRAHAM: Any projects for the future?

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

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

Man on Fire: An Interview with Brian Duffy

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Which was?

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

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

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

GRAHAM: And he happened to be good at it!

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: He went out with a bang.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Will those exhibitions show these same photographs?

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

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

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

Text by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

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

Strange Interiors: An Interview with Katrina Spectre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: It looks like an installation piece, almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: So it’s a bleak future.

BURKHART: I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Do people ever eat them?

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

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


GRAHAM: That must have been interesting to listen to!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Oh yeah? Which book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite artists?

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

GRAHAM: Last question. What inspires you?

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

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

Ciao LA: An Interview with Brandy Eve Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTRE: Whats next?

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

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

Life On Film: An Interview with Iva Cukic

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

PAS UN AUTRE: How has Belgrade inspired your work?

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

AUTRE: How would you describe the images you take?

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

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

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

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

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

AUTRE: Major inspirations?

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

AUTRE: Whats next?

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

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


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

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

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

"Man Woman Bird," Winston Chmielinski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: Do you paint with oil or acrylic?

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

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

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

"Portrait 18" - detail - Winston Chmielinski

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

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

GRAHAM: Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRAHAM: What bar did you work at?

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

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite artists?

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

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

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

GRAHAM: What’s it of?

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

GRAHAM: What’s the scale of your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"High Tide," Winston Chmielinski

Crime & Love: An Interview with Maxwell Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTRE: Who are some of your favorite American outlaws?

SNOW: Billy The Kid.

"Crime and love go hand in hand."

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

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

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?

SNOW: The surrealists and the old masters.

AUTRE: Whats next?

SNOW: The undiscovered country.

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

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

Photo: Liza Mandelup

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

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

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

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

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

"It's not always easy to sell shampoo

with lyrics about plastic surgery

or gender confusion."

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

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


AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

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

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

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

"....we've played shows covered

in fake blood (and sometimes real blood)"

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTRE: Whats next for Saint Motel?

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

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

The Revolution Will Be Sewn: An Interview with Maison Fin de Saison

Meet the new avant-garde revolutionaries of the high fashion set. There are not many designers that come around that cite 18th century philosophers as their main source of inspiration, but the duo behind the London based fashion house Maison Fin de Saison are not your typical designers. Calling them simply provocative or edgy might be a cop out and certainly an understatement. There is a definitive sense that the designers behind Maison Fin de Saison, which translates roughly to House, End of the Season, use their fashion house as a collective voice to experiment creatively with their deeply fascinating, beautifully contradictory beliefs and philosophies with roots in French 18th century romanticism and Eastern transcendentalism. Maison Fin de Saison in that regard is a hypothetically unsolvable Rubik’s cube of unending dualities that translate right down to the beautiful pieces they design. With applications of uncommon fabric pairings, unusual cuts, and studies in androgyny you could say that contrast is a part of the dogma of Maison Fin de Saison. What is that dogma exactly? Each new collection is presented with a black and white fashion film (see film after the jump) and even the brand itself is presented on a platform of black and white because, as the designers point out, a monochrome palette is essential in communicating their complex ideas. Their Fall/Winter 2012 collection, with pieces typically masculine in nature cut with feminine fabric, dip dyed ostrich feather trims, leather edges, and revealed shoulder pads, it looks like the uniform for some kind of ultra post-modern fashion army from the future sent to the present time to start an all out riot.

Maison Fin de Saison is turning heads in the fashion world. This month alone the fashion house will see the debut of their Fall/Winter 2012 collection, entitled MAN GARB, at two covetable events in London and Paris. The first of which, in mid-February, is an intimate invite only exhibition and presentation in collaboration with French Radio London during London Fashion Week, called ON AIR/OFF AIR–VISION MEETS SOUND, which promises to be an all out sensory orgy of stimuli – uniquely mixing a multitude of mediums including fashion and sound. The second of which will be Maison Fin de Saison’s debut at Paris Fashion Week presented by the venerable fashion showcase ON | OFF with an exhibition and a couple runway shows. I was curious to learn more about Maison Fin de Saison so I reached to Gigi, who is the creative half of the fashion house, who was gracious enough to take time out of their chaotic schedule to chat with Pas Un Autre.

PAS UN AUTRE: So, you are a brother and sister design duo with a background in design and law. Who has the design background and who has the law background? Can you please introduce yourselves?

GIGI - MAISON FIN DE SAISON: Yes, we have been educated in design and law, although opposites in relation to the type of 'human institutional' occupations, yet still sparsely co-related through societal philosophies. I am the creative half of Maison Fin De Saison with acquired interests in the arts and the fashions, my brother in law. We prefer to remain behind the Maison Fin De Saison persona and speak through its voice. I am Gigi and my brother is Jas Karan.

AUTRE: What brought you two together to create Maison Fin De Saison?

GIGI: Well, our common ground, our opinions on philosophies and the transcendental, this is something that has surrounded us from a very early age through our family background - North India. Maison Fin De Saison, was created as a propaganda of two individuals' obsessions on philosophies and our reactions to the notion of mankind. We see the body as a stage and it is a constant stage of opinions, judgements, assertions, choices and awareness or lack of. Interestingly these obsessions that we have are brought forward as artisanal but wearable 'garb' - dressing the walking stage. Mankind. Some how our opposing interests yet common perceptions bring together visions which come forward each season as thematic garb. Fashion was just a general interest, specifically in cultural context and this is how Maison Fin De Saison seasons come forth, the season is about the idea.

AUTRE: Is there a particular cultural connotation to Maison Fin De Saison that is lost in translation - can you explain the name?

GIGI: Maison Fin De Saison - the name was a vision in itself, translated into English 'House' End of Season. Our language is quite dense and the inspirations behind the seasons are executed in black and white film and capsule collections. You could call them abstract visions until they are solidified into reality, when this process takes place, yes, sometimes it can get lost in translation. Furthermore diluted when perceived through the other eye - the audience. Cultural connotation....Maison Fin De Saison is a proclamation to the condition of mankind as we see it - in the essence of now. Its a voice, its almost poetic, its about mankind and the avante garde relation.

AUTRE: The label has a lot of diametrically opposing ideas, philosophies, and even fabrics which is actually quite radical for fashion and I couldn't help but notice there were even a few pieces named after the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau - what kind of role does philosophy play and how important is philosophical thought to Maison?

GIGI: Everything Maison Fin De Saison creates and brings forward is an extension of philosophical 'obsessions' and our interpretation of these are, what brings hopefully the aura of authenticity and depth to our work. To answer your question - its invaluable.

AUTRE: If Rousseau were alive today what do you think he would think of todays culture - especially fashion and art?

GIGI: I see art as an extension of human emotion, the word 'fashion' falls under this world, unfortunately mass societal habit has a tendency towards being fed faceless attributes. I believe we are in an era that requires revolutions, however revolutions should start from within the sentient soul or else it would fail the cause of beginning. The revolution.... the condition of mankind, in order to begin a relationship with its body, we must either perceive it through the eyes of others in form of art, fashion, film or voice, else we may cease to exist in a stagnant culture - overly fed and hungry souls. In light of Rousseau, the word I will use is 'aloof'.

".....we are in an era that

requires revolutions...."

AUTRE: Why black and white films - why is black and white important - can you talk a little bit about the concept behind the new Maison fashion film?

GIGI: Maison Fin De Saison executes all seasonal film in black and white, which allows for dramatic contrasts, visually it focuses on the subject or the matter without interference. Because our inspirations can be quite thick, black and white allows the idea to live in a more liberated character and not to mention a more sombre approach to the inspiration. The film for this season titled: Mankind, was our reaction to a feeling through firstly the garb, conditions, movement, the human senses but in a dark and almost romantic motion. The film houses man, woman and the idea of maddened conditions through gestures and settings.

AUTRE: The new collection is called MAN GARB - can you talk a little bit about the new collection?

GIGI: In view of the season and its title, the collection has a a minimalist approach to silhouette, voluminous fabric layers, exposed layers and a combination of menswear suiting fabric such as Italian wool paired with feminine french tulle's. The collection is dark and has some very subtle trimmings such as - feather, nappa leather and french lace. You will also find the exposition of flesh in this collection. Although a womenswear collection, we titled the collection 'MAN GARB' in relation to the idea of - MANKIND which entails men and women. The collection is an extension of a feeling and I guess this is why you will see some bizarre use of interpretation and execution. Some of the current collection has been worn by presenters and editor's, we have also been asked if we have a menswear conceptual collection. This is something we are considering.

AUTRE: You are first presenting the new collection in London this month - can you talk a little bit about your collab with French Radio London and can you explain what the underground mantra is all about? Sounds fascinating….

GIGI: Well, from the start of Maison Fin De Saison, we had decided that any associations we have in regards to 'our philosophy' must be complimentary to the idea, including execution of work. The current season 'MAN GARB' is based on human pre-occupations, conscious sub-conscious awareness and conditions and radio is a fascinating means of communication - speech. French Radio programming is of an eclectic mix of music and houses some exceptional sounds. The collaboration is called ON AIR OFF AIR- VISION MEETS SOUND, its an intimate exhibit and is during London Fashion Week, it will consist of Maison Fin De Saison speech in interview, dialogue, static installation, live models and to take it a step further within their studio's. We are expecting quite an interesting guest list. Its the idea of authentic and revolutionary concept that suggests the 'underground mantra' and the coming together of two very unlikely mediums.

AUTRE: After London you are showing the new Maison collection during Paris Fashion Week with On/Off - thats kind of big deal - what can we expect during fashion week?

GIGI: On Off, have a very reputable name in the industry, this is Maison Fin De Saison's debut at Paris Fashion Week, we will be showing alongside other designers in exhibition and there will also be a few catwalk shows. The exhibition will be held at : Espace Commines, 17 Rue Commines Paris 75003 and will be through 29th February until 3rd March 2012; from 10.00-19.00. It's open to everyone and for more information you can also find us on

AUTRE: Whats next?

GIGI: The next season capsule collection, the film and New York. SS13 will be even more 'concentrated' in essence of Maison Fin De Saison and even more deeper in relation to ideas.

London Fashion Week: ON AIR OFF AIR- VISION MEETS SOUND (strict guest list) will be held February 15, 2012  atFRENCH RADIO LONDON. Paris Fashion Week: ON | OFF – Espace Commines, 17 Rue Commines Paris 75003 and will be through 29th February 29 until March 3rd, 2012. Visit WWW.MAISONFINDESAISON.COMfor more info.  

Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre


The editor-in-chief of The Paris Review, Lorin Stein, doesn’t watch Gossip Girl. He does, however, stand on tables when giving toasts—something he is quite adept at. Tonight’s is in honor of Pulphead, a new collection of essays published by the esteemed literary journal’s Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, or “JJ,” as Stein lovingly dubs him. Ever charming and poised, Stein relates from his lofty perch, to a mixed audience of bright-eyed Ivy Leaguer interns and lit-world “old boys” alike, the story of his trip to Scotland with JJ, their semi-successful hunt for the mythic beauty of Loch Lomond, and JJ’s baffling wildflower-picking excursion (“When I find a really good wildflower, I like to take a picture of it so I can look it up and identify it when I get home… don’t worry, I don’t use it in my writing or anything like that”). The first time I met Stein, he advised me not to go into the editing/publishing business (find out why in the interview below).

The second time, we ended up having an in-depth discussion about Gossip Girl as I photographed him sitting in an armchair in his spacious, book-lined office at the very back of The Paris Review’s Tribeca loft (the inside of which resembles the late George Plimpton’s living room, cozy and replete with books, framed black-and-white photographs and old Paris Review posters, oriental rugs and taxidermied birds—purportedly the addition of Philip Gourevitch, the second editor-in-chief, who Stein succeeded in April 2010). To be fair, the conversation arose in an academic discussion—but I was nonetheless surprised, and pleasantly so. With Stein, it seems there is never a dull moment. At just 39 years old, he is the third and youngest-ever editor-in-chief of the prestigious literary journal—and while he plans to steer the Review back in the direction of its Plimptonian, purely fiction-and-art roots, there is no doubt that he brings a fresh, unique and decidedly hip perspective to the table. His attention to detail in combination with a certain facetiousness make him into a perfectly Baudelairean mixture of the ephemeral and the permanent, the modern and the classic— much like the Review itself—and though (like George Plimpton) he enjoys a good party, the eloquent Stein radiates editorial dexterity and pure, joyful devotion to his work.

“They’ll of course use the smoking picture, won’t they?” he smirks when I ask him to hold the hand with the cigarette up for another shot. He drapes a leg over the arm of the chair, sipping his whiskey—and yet somehow, in his revelry, he remains utterly composed. About a week later, I was lucky enough to spend some time picking Stein’s enigmatic, highly coveted brain. We talked about the editing and publishing business, the future of print and the effects of technology on the literary world (and later, off the record, about Morrissey and David Bowie).

ANNABEL GRAHAM: When we spoke last spring, you told me not to go into the editing/publishing business. Can you explain why? Do you have any advice for young people who want to go into the literary business?

LORIN STEIN: Well, because… book publishing is contracting, and within book publishing, and within literary book publishing, the sales forces are contracting, but the editorial departments are also contracting, so I don’t think I would have had the kind of luck I’ve had if I were to do it now, and I’d hate to see someone spend three years… you know, slaving away as someone’s secretary, essentially, and then not even having the chance of a promotion. It was always true that most people who worked didn’t then get to become editors, but I think it’s gotten even trickier now.

GRAHAM: Are sales contracting?

STEIN: I don’t know whether sales are contracting, but in literary publishing, new literary publishing, it seems to me that there are fewer jobs. There are fewer books that are… there are fewer houses that are devoted to that… I think that there are fewer books that are in that kind of very special corner of the world of letters. I think the publishing business has pretty quickly gotten used to the idea that the future is going to be gizmos, and they’re getting smarter, quickly, about gizmos.

GRAHAM: You mean like the iPad, the Kindle…

STEIN: Yeah, reading devices. E-books. So, if you and I talk in a year… and I hope this won’t be true… it may be that the climate has changed.

GRAHAM: Right. Well, going off of that, do you feel that publishing is a dying art? Will print ever be obsolete?

STEIN: I think print is in more trouble than most people think. And less trouble than some people think. James Wood just wrote this very good piece about trying to sell off his late father’s library—in last week’s New Yorker—and he stumbled on this fact, which is that there isn’t really the market for second-hand books that there used to be. That market is changing so quickly, and nowadays what’s going on is that these used bookstores, these used book-dealers are buying up, very cheaply, they’re filling these warehouses full of these books that they’re making available online, but more and more, you can pay a low price—you may not get to see a photo of the book the way you have been able to do for the past five years, you’ll get a book in some condition that you don’t know what it is, maybe you’ll buy five copies before you get an okay copy, but right now the price of these books is very depressed, so they’re very available, but the shelf space, I think, is about to disappear, and in about 10 or 15 or 20 years, I think there are going to be books that are actually very hard to find. Which is really different from the way it is now.

GRAHAM: Yeah. You can find anything.

STEIN: You can find anything, which is not going to last forever, it’s going to be very hard in cases where you need the hard copy, and there are a lot of books that are not going to be easily found. And I know your question was about print, and presumably what you mean is new books or magazines?

GRAHAM: Well, no, I think what I was asking is whether you think the internet is going to completely take over, if for example in the future The Paris Review might be only online, or books may only come in the virtual form, like on an iPad.

STEIN: I do think that there will be more and more books that will only come in the virtual form. There’s a really good argument, one of the really good arguments, for The Paris Review to always put out a print edition, which is, do you have anything stored on CD? Emails or anything, stored on CD?I worked for a publishing house that, around 1999, started using email regularly. It didn’t happen all at once; different editors took longer to do it. You would still hear people giving dictation and typing when I started.


STEIN: And I had never had an email account. And my boss and I both learned how to use email together. And if you look at the archives of that publishing house, all of our correspondence—the company would delete things after 90 days or something—so we were keeping email files but we realized… I took my email files, the ones that I’d saved, I copied them and put them on a CD, so that I could have them… it turns out that CDs that you buy at the drugstore, they only last for a few years! And even just getting the email off my computer, it took someone who was an expert, really, because just in the 12 years I’d been there, the systems had changed so much. Now, if you put a book on a shelf, if you put a piece of paper on a shelf, it stays there until you tear the shelf down. If you store things electronically, you need always to be… what’s the word I want… every time you switch hardware, you need to re-save them, you need to transfer them to a new medium, essentially. And sooner or later, you’ve done it, you know? And that’s part of the reason for publishing stuff on paper, if you do care about the lasting value, I mean maybe you’re kidding yourself, but I don’t want something to have that—that as soon as the hardware finishes it will disappear. I want to be the hardware, I want to own the hardware!

GRAHAM: Makes sense. So… I’m sure you get this question all the time… How has The Paris Review changed since you’ve taken over? I understand that when Philip was the editor, there was a distinct move towards nonfiction and photography that created a bit of controversy, and that you have begun to steer the magazine back in its original purely literary and artistic direction, much like George Plimpton. Can you talk about that a little bit? What is your ultimate goal for the magazine, and where would you like to see it go?

STEIN: It’s true, Philip was interested in publishing pure reportage. And reportage just isn’t something that I know that much about. And I also think that—especially now—even on the web, there’s so much good reportage, that it would be hard for us to distinguish ourselves, I mean Philip could do it, I don’t think I can—and my real love, I mean, I think the thing that needs the most help, is short fiction and poetry. And essays. And by essays, I mean something very…

GRAHAM: Like what John Jeremiah Sullivan [the Southern editor of The Paris Review] writes?

STEIN: Like what John writes. Though he sometimes writes reportage. Some of what he writes wouldn’t be right for the Review. And I guess I think of reportage as things that are tied to matters of real concern in the world, the essays that John writes that we’ve published are more personal essays. I want the Review to be what I think it often has been, which is America’s literary magazine. I want it to be a laboratory for the best new fiction and poetry and this funny thing that you call the essay. And I want it to maintain its integrity of, especially, it seems like choosing the writers—I want it to reflect what we really think is important, not just what’s fashionable or what sells, but the writers who really interest us as writers. And I think that there’s more work for a literary magazine to do now than there used to be.

GRAHAM: How so?

STEIN: Well, the world doesn’t have much room for literary magazines. And, well… you and I could put out a web magazine tonight. And we could take a Xerox machine, and we could pretty easily distribute a magazine together. In fact, there are many, many magazines. But it’s become very hard to reach a large circulation—of people who really read it and care about it. And to make them feel the importance of what you’re doing, that’s what’s gotten to be hard, for lots of reasons.

GRAHAM: Especially since there’s such an inundation of stuff being put out, all over, you know, blogging, and…

STEIN: Bingo. And, well, a lot of it’s very good. There’s a lot of crap, but that’s always been true. The tricky thing is that people like you and me have some very good claims made on our attention. I mean, Breaking Bad is really good!

GRAHAM: Is it? I’ve been hearing that.

STEIN: It is. But the thing is, there are only so many hours in a day. And even—I’ve never owned a TV as a grownup. But now, on our computers, the very things we use to do our work... we have these distractions. That’s the trouble. It’s not the crap so much as it’s the good stuff… that edges out the kind of reading that happens with short stories and poems. And, for that matter, novels.

GRAHAM: Yeah. Did you always know you wanted to go into editing, and can you tell me a bit about the trajectory of your career, how you got started… and what you find to be the differences between editing books and editing short stories for the Review?

STEIN: There was a guy who came to visit my school when I was in second grade and talked about how a book gets made. And I thought that was what I wanted to do. And I started making books, I was always making books. I found it, just… the idea that you could just make a book was just such a big deal for me. I did think I was going to be a writer… I didn’t realize I was never going to be a writer, but… I went to a writing program, I tried to write a novel, and realized that I had absolutely no talent.

GRAHAM: Did you study writing in college?

STEIN: No. After college I didn’t know what to do with myself, and my college advisor said that he thought I could get a teaching fellowship in a writing program. Well, I’d been writing, of course I’d been writing in college. I’d been trying to write poems, and fiction… in high school too, I always wanted to write, and I thought… that maybe I could be a professor of English, and I got turned down from the PhD program that I wanted to go to, and… another PhD program called me and made an offer to me, and they said… maybe you’ve had this phone call… you have x number of years to finish, and just to be clear, you’re going to be working mainly on the 1890s, and also the 1840s, and I’m thinking, I can’t do this…

GRAHAM: So there were restrictions put upon you in terms of what you had to study?

STEIN: Well, no, it was my idea; I had applied. I’d said I wanted to be an Americanist and that the periods that interested me were the 1890s and the 1840s. Once it became an actuality, once it became an actual phone call, I thought, Christ Almighty, get me out of here! My advisor said, the only thing I can suggest is that I bet you can get into this poetry program, and it’ll be a teaching job, so you’ll be paid, and you’ll be able to see what you’re like as a teacher. Well, it turned out that I was a terrible teacher, and I couldn’t write, and… so I came to New York thinking I’d be a novelist, and couldn’t do that, so I got a job as a secretary, essentially, at Publishers Weekly, and started editing a lot of the little reviews. And because I was there, I got to know which publishing houses interested me… and there was one that I really, really liked, so I just decided that I’d get a job there.

GRAHAM: Which one was that?

STEIN: It was the one I ended up working at, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. So I tried to get different jobs that would make me more attractive to them, but no one would even give me a callback, because I was so obviously out of their… [LAUGHS]

GRAHAM: So how did you realize that editing was your calling, so to speak?

STEIN: I edited the literary magazine in high school, and in college, and when I was a kid my father hired me to edit for him.

GRAHAM: Was your father a writer?

STEIN: No, he and my stepmother ran a nonprofit in Washington, where I grew up. I think I must have been kind of good at it, because I loved it from the beginning; I loved it much better than I liked writing. I’ve always found writing very hard and I’ve always found editing a lot of fun. To answer your question, about the difference between editing short stories and novels, it’s very different. With a novel, you really live in the book for a few weeks, and a short story, you read it in a few minutes and think about it, and then you go back to it.

GRAHAM: This is a bit of a loaded question, but who are some of your favorite contemporary writers?

STEIN: Oh, I can’t tell you. Not unless you’re willing to become my bodyguard.

GRAHAM: All right, then how about a few of your favorite authors that have passed away already?

STEIN: Dead people? Recently dead, or long dead?

GRAHAM: Your choice. Either.

STEIN: Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about how hard it would be to explain to someone who’s not American how much Mark Twain means to us… and to me. I mean, I know that he’s a national hero and stuff, but it’s kind of weird that our national hero writer should also be our greatest writer, and to me he is. And he is an icon for us. And then… Proust matters a lot to me, Tolstoy matters a lot… David Foster Wallace, among the recently dead… I mean, it’s hard to answer that question, you know.

GRAHAM: What is your favorite aspect of your job, and the literary world in general?

STEIN: It’s a lot like being in college. I think I’ve been able to read more than I’ve been able to read since I graduated from college. It’s also like being in college in the sense that there’s often a gathering about to happen with people that you like, and I miss that about college. I think the amount of freedom, and also the chance to… put out a magazine. And a web magazine, too. It’s really fun. It’s all really fun.

GRAHAM: I think The Paris Review definitely looks one of the more “fun” literary journals. Serious, but also fun.

STEIN: We try. If it looks like fun, it’s probably because it is fun to do. We’re all very… we can’t help being serious, and we work very hard but there are not very many of us, its’ a very tiny team, so we’re always up in each other’s business, but it’s really great in the sense that our deputy editor is also in charge of the t-shirts, and that our associate editor, he used to be an assistant but he’s also the guy who organizes the interns and designs our advertisements and thinks about computer stuff.

GRAHAM: That’s nice… not so many fingers in the pot, like a lot of magazines and newspapers.

STEIN: Right.

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre. 

Visit the Paris Review for more.  

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


In the summer of 2010, a particularly dapper Yale sophomore, wearing a pair of distinctive, gold-crested Stubbs and Wootton slippers, encountered Kanye West while shopping at Barney’s in New York. As the story goes, West complimented Cassius Clay (no relation to Muhammad Ali—but Clay is, in fact, a descendent of the renowned abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay) on said slippers, introductions were made, a conversation ensued and email addresses were exchanged. One thing lead to another, and by the end of the summer Clay had taken a leave of absence from Yale at West’s request and moved to New York to become the rapper’s personal full-time confidant and right-hand man (he eschews the term “stylist” for its unsavory connotations; a more detailed explanation can be found in the interview below). Once the news got out, some were dumbfounded by what they perceived as an abrupt trajectory from diehard academic to celebrity stylist— envy, resentment and incredulity arose with fervor (one has only to peruse the anonymous commentary under any online article published in late 2010 about the Cassius/Kanye partnership to surmise this), yet the always-resourceful young aesthete seized the opportunity to help shape the rapper’s professional and sartorial choices, bringing his unique, quirky perspective to the table and turning the coveted job into an artistic and intellectual experience that furthered his education just as much as his missed year at Yale would have (though in a very different way!). If that’s not enough to convince the aforementioned internet haters of his academic seriousness, Cassius is now back at Yale and currently in the process of completing a simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degree, both in Art History—a hefty task for any college student, especially one with the unspoken responsibility of remaining impeccably dressed! I hadn’t seen Cassius since we attended Phillips Academy Andover together (I remember quite clearly the feather bowties, pocket watches and other striking accoutrements he sported—I don’t think I spotted him wearing sweatpants once during those three years, not even during finals week—as well as the memorization skills and admirable command of the English language he showcased during the art history class we shared). I spent a beautiful October afternoon walking around New York’s Nolita and Lower East Side with the poised, and drily witty Cassius as he shed some light on “the whole Kanye thing,” his plans for the future, his sources of aesthetic inspiration and his illustrious taste. 

ANNABEL GRAHAM: Tell us the story of how you initially met Kanye West and ended up becoming his personal stylist; what was the whole experience like, what kind of responsibilities did you have, what did you find most interesting/take away from it and how did it end?

CASSIUS CLAY: I met Kanye on several occasions during a summer I spent working at Christie’s in New York. We got along very well talking about fashion, art, film and the relationships between each of them. I was already great fan of his music, of course, but was most impressed by his ambition and the assiduousness with which he pursues those objectives. Those qualities alone convinced me I could learn a lot from working with him. He wrote to me that fall, when I had just started my second year at Yale, offering me a position to work with him on a series of projects related to the release of the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. I’m uncomfortable with the word “stylist.” The word risks either oversimplifying fashion’s broader significance to identity and aesthetics, or somehow glorifying dressing-up as some glamorous veneer du jour. I admire Kanye in that he collaborates with many people in realizing a vision, whether it’s a particular outfit, music video, apartment redecoration, or concert performance. I was a creative consultant responsible for working on many of those projects simultaneously, so seeing and developing the connections between those different endeavors was immensely rewarding.

GRAHAM: I’m sure you learned a lot about both the fashion world and the music business while working with Kanye West—can you talk a bit about that? Did it further or change your interest in either of those realms?

CLAY: In fashion-related projects I enjoyed applying academic approaches – research, analysis, criticism – to the generative processes of creative work. I think works that synthesize those modes are always the most successful. Though I’m a great fan of Kanye’s work and convinced of music’s power to induce and communicate a feeling, I must confess that I’m musically inept. My childhood attempts in learning to play an instrument were abortive, and I sidestepped the music requirement at my high school by taking music history rather than music theory. I found the different ways in which the fashion and music industries treat products or talent particularly interesting. The power figures in fashion are often on the critical or receptive end of production: editors, department store buyers, celebrity style icons, etc. In music, the creative side of star singers and major producers have more direct control on the popular outcome of an album or single. That is, I think that Vogue can have a greater impact on a fashion brand than Rolling Stone could have on a musician.

GRAHAM: As you told me during the shoot, you are in the process of finishing a simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degree (both in art history) at Yale. What intrigues you about art history in particular, and do you plan to do anything specific with those degrees?

CLAY: Many animals have means of communicating with each other – but creative representation is unique to humans, which makes art history very important. I like the idea of art being one of the only pure and universal forms of expression, mathematics being the other one. Artistic production continues to have meaning across centuries and cultures, irrespective of how unfamiliar its context of production is to the time or people that examine it.At the same time, art history is an instrument of social and political history by manifesting the questions, achievements, and fears of a culture. In that sense I think art history has plenty of applications to fields that are not strictly academic, advertising being just one example.

GRAHAM: What intrigues you about fashion? How would you describe your own personal style? Who are your favorite designers, and why?

CLAY:I’m curious about the way that fashion has evolved from something purely functional – Neanderthal necessity for warmth – to its more sophisticated uses today. It can indicate mood and personality, sexuality and sexual availability, wealth, class, or social alignment. Fashion condenses a lot of human civilization into a few bolts of cloth. I respect formality because it requires some effort, but also demand because that requires some thought. Collections by Antonio Azzuolo, Lanvin, Bottega Veneta, Burberry Prorsum, and Alexander McQueen usually achieve that balance. I’m not terribly interested in trends, and I don’t care much about comfort. I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t still wear most of the clothes I have now in ten or twenty years.

GRAHAM: We talked briefly during the shoot about your Halloween costume… I believe you said you were thinking about dressing as the Greek mythological character of Daedalus… did that end up working out? Explain…

CLAY: I ended up using things I already had in my closet, which probably suggests an unsettlingly close relationship between costume and daily wear. I went for pathetic and conscientious this Halloween: a bird in an oil spill. I wore black jeans, black button down, a crinkled Jil Sander blazer with a metallic petrol sheen, an inky coq feather Martin Margiela cape, gold leaf on my nose for a beak and drips of black face paint for the oil.

GRAHAM: Do you have any plans yet for what you’d like to pursue in the future? Or rather, what field intrigues you?

CLAY: Broadly speaking, my decision to do undergraduate work at Yale rather than Oxford was driven by a desire to study both the visual arts while taking courses in departments that are more explicitly political, like history and political science. I have competing interests in aesthetics, analysis, and ethics, I suppose. Still, I’d like to be able to reconcile all of them in some complementary capacity. I’m very keen on the economics of fashion and the art market – particularly in moments of downturn and recession. I’m interested in the dual nature of curation: literally “caring for” by definition, but also meaning critical assessment in practice. I’m sure I’ll be considering applications to law schools.

GRAHAM: What do you find most inspiring?

CLAY: I’m constantly assessing, planning, and thinking of contingencies, so surprises – rain, kindness, a mixed-up seating arrangement – are the most inspiring in that they force you to generate new ideas, reactions, and solutions. Travel involves all of these surprises.

GRAHAM: Do you have a favorite artist or work of art at the moment?

CLAY:My favorite young artist is Winston Chmielinski, based in New York, for his incisive use of color and ability to define and obscure forms in portraiture. The academic art of the 19th century and kitsch art of Soviet Socialist Realism in the 20th century need to be reassessed in most museums. I want to collect Albrecht Durer prints and drawings, sculptures by Lorenzo Bartolini, and paintings by John Everett Millais; I would have wanted Giovanni Boldini to have painted my portrait and William Morris to decorate my house.

Text and photography by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

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

I'll Take Van Gogh Any Day: An Interview with Sandro Kopp

Terence Koh

Terence Koh

I imagine Joseph Rolin calling me on Skype late at night – drunk perhaps – angry at something or at nothing, but the internet is disconnected and his face is frozen on the screen, the image is almost impressionistic in its disintegrated, pixelated abstraction. Joseph Rolin would never Skype me of course, because Joseph Rolin existed in the 19th century – a postal worker and friend of Vincent Van Gogh and regular subject of some of his most famous paintings. Its not ridiculous to imagine….or is it? I'm simply trying to put figurative art in the context of a post-modern tool, not only for communication, but a medium for portraiture.  Next week in New York artist Sandro Kopp will be exhibiting a series figurative portraits of subjects that include the likes of Haider Ackerman, Ryan McGinley, and Waris Ahluwalia. What is unique about Kopp's portraits is that his subjects were all painted during multiple hour sittings via Skype. Replace the chiaroscuro methods of the old masters with the faint cerulean glint of the millions of pixels of the computer screen and you have the brilliant electronic light that falls on the face of Kopp's portrait of actress Frances McDormand. With broad brush strokes you could say that Kopp's Skype portraits are a broad stroke of genius.  I always think of the portraitist as a spiritual barber of sorts – hacking away at the aura of our spirit with a paintbrush instead of sheers; the setting personal, comfortable, with perhaps a sense eroticism in the intimacy between sitter and artist.   However, in the fragmented and frenzied chaos of the collective pathos of the 21st century, a stage is set for mechanical or even electronic reproduction.  Moreover, figurative art and the notion of painting from real life – not from photographs – or more appropriately google images – is a seemingly old fashion notion. Or is it?

Ryan McGinley

Ryan McGinley

Kopp, who was born in Germany and grew up in Wellington New Zealand, has found a unique niche with the use of Skype to paint his portraits. Kopp, who now lives in the Scottish Highlands, might even find it a hinderance to paint the variety of his subjects without Skype. Fittingly, I caught up with Kopp on Skype, where he is in New York readying for his solo show, entitled There You Are, at the Lehmann Maupin gallery as part of Istanbul 74' whose goal is to bridge the gap of the art, film and fashion world to one of Turkey's major cities .  We talked about his earliest years and even earliest memories as an artist, we talked about his Skype portraits, and we talked about his inspirations and influences, but we also talked about the climate of figurative art in the 21st century.  Where before our conversation I was intent on the notion that figurative art is old fashion, I was enlightened when I realized that Kopp just might be part of a new wave of post-modern figurative artists hitting the major galleries and museums.  I think of the artist Alice Neel who lived in an almost netherworld for a female figurative artist of her era. Neel, who was born in 1900, had to wade through cubism, surrealism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, and pop art as female artist in a selective, male dominated arena.  It wasn't until the mid-seventies when her striking portraits of friends, fellow artists, poets, and lovers became appreciated and Neel became a minor celebrity. Neel died in 1984 and her fame steadily rose with a major retrospectives exhibiting her work within the last decade, as well as a documentary in 2007, and you can't help but imagine what would happen if she were younger and alive today?  Kopp, whose work could fall in the same vein as Neel, is in a new school of neo-figurativists like John Currin and Jenny Saville. Kopp, who is 33, has no definitive plans for the future except to keep making art and exploring his Skype portraits which he says on their own will evolve, with each exhibition offering something new, unexpected, and exciting.

Can you remember the first painting you ever painted?  I can not, no. But there are drawings in existence that I did at less than 2 years old…..around 1 year…..I started pretty early.  I have this page full of little objects which some are recognizable….some not…..and my mom has written beside what each one is….like, this one is a stone, this a snake, and she obviously asked me what's there and I wrote it down.  So I was cataloguing stuff back then. That was my cataloguing phase (laughs).

So, you've always been an artist? I've never had a proper job if that's what (laughs)…..

No, I'm an artist as well and i'm the same way….I can't remember a time that I've not been an artist… thats interesting. And I read somewhere that you had you're first solo show when you were seven years old?  What was that like….how did that come about?  The whole concept of gallery and showing art and everything for children is very different. I was kind of bemused by it, but didn't really understand what an exhibition was….and when I was little I found going to museums incredibly boring.  I still think its really important to take children to museums….I think its really great and one or two things will really stick. Its definitely more of a grown-up's game.

John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly

Do you remember going to museums when you were a kid….or anything that inspired you when you were younger? Yeah, although I have to say, and I think this is the way it goes, you're whole artistic sensibility matures with time and I was far more interested in natural history museums. Dinosaurs or paintings? Dinosaur skeletons…definitely (laughs).

And your Skype paintings….you've always been a figurative painter….you've always drawn, but do you feel like you found some kind of voice through the Skype paintings? Absolutely, yes. Well, voice maybe not, but I think I've found a very distinctive path to pursue…something really specific and to my knowledge I don't know anyone else who is doing specifically this thing, so I'm really happy that I found this and its been really interesting to me and it continues to be really interesting to me and its like I keep adding on another layer….I got this show in London in October and I'm going to be doing something slightly different along the same line…so its been a rich story to tell.

So, figurative art, especially in todays times almost seems old fashion, comparatively to other artists that are working today and are showing their work….I'm thinking of Damian Hirst and Jeff Koons who use big factories…..Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons do a lot of figurative work…

 Thats true, but in the sense of painting to canvas…portraiture is essentially old fashion, but you have sort bridged this gap between that and this post-modernist element of using Skype….Yeah, I think there are a lot of figurative painters that are out there.  There are not many at all, that I know of, that don't use photography as an intermediary step. I think a lot of figurative painting nowadays is based on photography in one form or another, like John Currin or Jenny Saville or Richard Phillips or also more abstract people like Peter Doig. I think there is a lot of figurative art out there….Chuck Close……but most of it has this step in between and in terms of people who really work directly from life....I know [David] Hockney does that sometimes…..[Lucien] Freud….god rest his soul…..he's no longer here, but he definitely did….he was the man when it came to that. Other than that, can you think of anyone?

Well, that is what I'm saying, especially Freud and Hockney, they sort of come from an old school of painting that was…..Well Freud yes, Hockney not so much….Hockney does whatever. I mean Hockney does large-scale video installations and working on Ipads and he uses photography a lot in his painting, but he also does work from life….he's out there in Yorkshire painting plein air…..old school….he does it all.

Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe

Do you take commissions? Yes.

Can you describe a typical Skype sitting? Sure, fix a time, fix a date….thats always very, very difficult and time consuming it seems (laughs). And it really depends on the sitter more than anything.  I sort of follow their lead in terms of how communicative or silent they want to be….I really like both….in a funny way if you have a very lively conversation going its easier for me, because there is something to distract my conscious brain going on and my body, my hand-eye can sort of take over and do its thing and my brain doesn't really interfere that much. Having said that, often the very talkative sittings aren't necessarily the ones that lead to the best paintings. Some of the really quite silent sittings are in a funny way more intense….maybe its purer experience….. this thing of sitting and being seen and seeing someone.  Its a relatively unique thing to do and if you allow it to be a silent moment I think that the specificity comes out more. Does that make sense?

Totally, that makes sense. I mean you do a lot portraits of friends and people you know, so the reason why I ask that is because it can be entirely different to paint a total stranger. Which I have done.

Do you have a favorite? Anyone thats been more engaging than anybody else? Well, I really like painting my friend Waris [Ahluwalia]….he's just super easy.  We just have this ongoing conversation while we paint….either from life or from Skype and he is not only very distinctive looking and therefore easy to paint but also just a very easy to talk to person and so we have a lot fun when we're painting, but in terms of sitters for the show….I painted Terence Koh….do you know who I mean?

The artist? And he was very….he was wonderful….he was very silent….very quiet…..very still….very focused and the painting as a result is pretty dope I think and its really….if I dare say so myself….a very powerful image and so I think the fact that he was so silent and so focused on the process really helped that. I was completely exhausted at the end of it. I mean there was no chit chat to keep me going and to keep me relaxed…..I needed to go and lie down after I finished that painting.

Waris Ahluwalia

Waris Ahluwalia

You said earlier that each one of your shows there is something different. What can we expect from your show next week? Well, one element to this show that I'm really happy with is recycling an idea earlier series called There You Are Dave, which is 20 paintings of the same guy…..its this guy David Le Fleming I painted from London who is a friend of mine….he's from New Zealand originally so we met there….we were in a couple of group shows way back when and then he moved to London and we re-connected and he was kind enough to sit for me 20 times…..I think his girlfriend really didn't like me at the end of it (laughs).  Then putting that together you become aware of different they all are…..they really are 20 different paintings and completely different people in the paintings although they are all the same person. Part of that maybe is in the inaccuracies of what I'm doing, but part of it is also just I think whatever chemistry was that was brought to us on any given day and tying them together in a block in a sequence and thats something new that I haven't done on Skype before and I really like that. I had written on my easel….I've scrawled in pencil: "Make new mistakes," which I think is really important and thats an opportunity to do that you just start again…do the same thing again…and you become aware of what you are repeating and then you can correct that and you can make a new mistake. I love working repetitively. Its always really great to paint the same person several times.  Its almost a sense of disappointment if I do a session with someone and it turns out too well on the first session, because I know the second one is not going to be as good as that if I do another one. Where if I mess up the first one up, I can do a second sitting and sometimes that can be a good one.

Did you go to school for art or study art or anything like that? I went to a school in New Zealand for a year.

Who are some artists you admire or are inspired by or influenced by?  Hockney is definitely a thinker and a painter that I really like…..he gets my mind reeling and I love a lot of his work.  I really like Ryan McGinley actually ….do you know who I mean?

The photographer? Yeah, the thing that I love about Ryan is the way that he is managing to do something with nudes…..I would love to be able to find something as powerful as he has with painting, but I think that with portraits its really easy to get a story because every person brings a story with them, but with nudes, especially painted from life, its much harder, and I'm working on that….I mean I've done a lot of nudes and I'm still working on that, but I don't necessarily show them that much and I hope in the next few years or so to crack that nut…..and come up with something really fresh to do with nudes….simply because you have to hold the same pose for three, four hours….there not much you can do with a naked body….there are some various but not holdable that amount of time.  So, its difficult to come up with something new, whereas Ryan goes out and throws people off cliffs or puts them in caves and has them interact with wild animals….so they're just full of life! You know?

Yeah, his work is really beautiful. Really wild. And who else? Ask me on any given day and I'll give you different answer. Marlene McCarthy is really interesting….she is someone who I just discovered again….she's does those giant biro drawings….she did a whole thing with apes….very sexy…..very weird….very kind of ethereal, but drawn with ball point pen on huge pieces of paper. She's awesome. John Currin, definitely. I mean there is just all sorts of great people out there. And I do absolutely worship the old masters….I'll take Van Gogh any day.  There is very exciting about seeing work by people who are still around. I really like going to galleries and discovering it a contemporary painter.

So you're interested exploring nudes. I mean whats next? I can't reveal my future plans yet…..for the mere fact that you say something and then life happens. Its a slippery slope to go down.  I can that there is more painting…..there will be a show in London in October…..and there is both do more using technological mediation in one form or another…..and actually heighten the use of technology, but I'm also looking forward to doing some stuff that does't involve technology as a kind of sideline. I'm going to do both. And it will be more figurative painting…

ISTANBUL’74 presents There you are, an exhibition of new work by Sandro Kopp at Lehmann Maupin Gallery on view 25 January – 4 February, 2012 at 201 Chrystie Street. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre

Kirsten Dunst and Sandro Kopp

Kirsten Dunst and Sandro Kopp

Good Times: The Photography of Ben Pobjoy

You  could say that the photographer Henri Cartier Bresson was a punk, because he didn't give a fuck.  The punk ethos is all about not giving a fuck. Its not all about breaking the law per se, and its not all about not giving a fuck, but its the notion of changing the order of things. Its about upholding the sanctity of the holy shades of grey. Henri Cartier Bresson was a punk, because he saw the world in a passionately different way. His photographs are vibrant, stark, and violent depictions of his time told from a voice of artistic and spiritual dissension. If you look up the word punk in the dictionary you'll find a number of definitions: prostitute, novice, beginner, young man, petty gangster, hoodlum, ruffian and so on. A punk is a soul on the edge – on the precipice of an infinite, metaphysical abyss. Ben Pobjoy could be any of those things or none of those things, but the ethos of punk is very much alive in his photography. Pobjoy, a photographer from Montreal, is a fervent documentarian of the human experience and his images are an attestation to his seemingly intense curiosity.  From his portfolio of photographic essays, a zine, called The Tourist, the current issue of which featuring over 40 pages of exclusive photographs of Justin Bieber, and a digital adaptation, called The War of Spoils, of a journal kept from his raucous days in a band which includes polaroids of drug induced debauchery, destroyed hotel rooms, and lots of nudity – it is plainly clear that Pobjoy is practicing dissent on the same precipice.  His photographs tell the common story of our downfall, our vulnerability, our vice, and our eventual hope with the piercing and blinding vision of some kind of silver lining. But most of all – like all prophecies of the great punks before us – Pobjoy's photographs are a telling reminder of the true circumference of the iceberg that will destroy us all. Read interview and see more photos after the jump.

Can you remember the first image you ever took?  Truthfully, I can't remember the first image I ever took- only because I grew up in a home where my Father practiced photography as a hobby so there were always 35mm SLRs sitting around the house. While I don't remember the first image I ever took, I do fondly remember being real young- like being 5 years old- and going on walks in a local marsh with my Father and him occasionally passing his camera to me to let me fire off a few frames. Despite being real young, I was fascinated- that with a camera- you could venture off into the world and document it however you wanted to.

Your style seems much more photo-documentary than tableau vivant or studio, what do you think led you to to a more candid type of photography? When my Father was in his early 20s he was a paratrooper in Great Britain's Royal Air Force. He served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and carried a SLR without permission. When he was patrolling- and he wasn't under attack- he would photograph the patrols, his peers, arms dumps, arrests and beyond. While he never boasted about the images he shot (he was actually very private about them), they were in an envelope in our home, and I'd look through them every now and then when I was a kid. I liked that that they were filmic, had a narrative and that I could ask him about the people, places and things within the images. While I was too young to grasp what I was looking at, I was obviously looking at documentary photography and it made a deep impression on me. Combined with my Father's subscriptions to National Geographic and Life, I just grew up loosing myself in documentary photography and photo essays. I just loved how transportive they were in that they could take me to worlds beyond my immediate world.

A few years later, my Mum worked as a set stylist in a production house where they created 'sets' for magazine shoots. Every now and then she'd bring me along and I'd observe the whole process of sets being styled, lighting systems being set up and models being directed then photographed. I remember thinking how orchestrated it was, and basically well, how phoney it was. It was such a departure from documentary photography which was so much more off-the-cuff and natural.

Hilariously, I started doing 'hand modeling' at the production house where I would be photographed holding game pieces for board game packaging. I remember being like 9 years old and having to hold a chess piece above a board for like 30 minutes and my arm started to tire and the photographer kept barking at me to keep my hand raised and steady. It was so unenjoyable and artificial that that sort of 'production-heavy' photography made such a poor impression on me- something I've never been able to get over.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences? When I was a young teen, I got into punk and loved zines like HeartattaCk and Maximumrocknroll because they documented the scene I was a part of. The energy inherent within the live music photography intrigued me so I really liked the work of Glen E. Friedman, Gordon Ball and Ryan Russell. However, it didn't really satisfy my appreciation for visual storytelling as most of the images were- despite being fabulous- just these 'one off' live images or portraits, and I didn't have much of a personal interest in shooting music photography. I then started to get into the work of documentary photographers like Robert Frank, Martin Parr, James Nachtwey and all the Magnum photographers. Thereafter, my appreciation widened to encompass fine art photographers like Nan Goldin, Larry Clark and others who utilized reality as the basis within their works.

However, my appreciation these days has widened to encompass many fashion photographers since I was gifted with a medium format camera last year, and began to experiment with studio photography (just to expand my skills). Because of this, I started to look at the work of Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, David Bailey and others of that ilk in a whole different light. In one way or another, I've cherry picked something from all of the above. Basically, I aspire to shoot documentary photographs that hopefully possess a degree of style that is commonly associated with fashion photography. I just like honest images that are stylized, and by that I mean possess a 'look' that people would can associate with the photographer that shot them.

You are just about to release the second issue of your zine called The Tourist which features exclusive photos of Justin Bieber. It isn't so much about Justin Beiber as it is a treatise on fandom and child fame, right? Can you tell me how The Tourist zine came about and shed a little more light on the current issue? By day, I'm a Creative Director at a creative services company I co-founded with my best friend Shawn Butchart who is also a Creative Director. We have a sister office in New York City that is run by Jamie-James Medina who is himself a Creative Director, Photographer and a Director. Medina is a photographer for The Observer in the UK and often- typically over late night dinners after working on projects together- we'd discuss photography. He'd often speak about the state of photography, and specifically how long form photo essays were increasingly being given less real-estate in print publications due to the rise of the internet and the fall of print publications. Unfortunately, photo essays mostly now exist as slide shows online and it's just such a terrible, cluttered format and experience (i.e. you're trying to look at an essay and it's surrounded by blinking ad banners or intrusive ad vokens). So, Medina was the real impetus behind launching the Tourist as a collaborative interoffice publishing project where we'd essentially put one photographer on the road with one musical act and have the work contextualized by an intro by a cultural luminary. While we could've released each issue as a coffee table book- as the content is of that quality- we opted to release it in a zine format so it would be affordable to everyone and just really unique overall.

The Teen Issue - which features images of Justin Bieber on tour taken by Alex Sturrock - is a really different look at Bieber. Sturrock's images are very frank - capturing things as they are. That's not to say that the images are unflattering- because they definitely aren't- it's just that they show how intense Bieber's touring life is, and how fanatic his fans are. While the issue revolves around Bieber- to me- it's more about the relationship between child stardom and the general public's intense mania of, and fascination with, celebrity.

War of the Spoils is a really interesting site. What was the impetus behind it? Last year I turned 30 and randomly revisited all these journals I maintained in my teenage years where I'd shoot a polaroid, write an anecdote and glue it into a book. Between August 1998 and January 2007 I ended up creating 9 volumes of the journals that housed over 2000 polaroids. For years I ignored them- they were just so stupid in terms of the images and the anecdotes- and I was kind of embarrassed by them. However, looking at them as an adult I realized that the journals are unique documentation of youth and all the insanity and chaos that goes with it. I decided to start a blog called War of Spoils and post a polaroid along with its corresponding anecdote each day- mainly as a way to share the old photos with friends that I grew up with (but who are now strewn all over the world). However, the reaction has been really crazy- people beyond my small group of friends have gotten a real kick out of War of Spoils and publications are really interested in writing about the blog. In a universal way, I guess we all do stupid stuff as kids and people seem to really relate to the content.

You seem to be using the internet to your fullest artistic advantage in order to get your work out there.  What are some of your thoughts on art, more specifically photography, in the digital age?  I think the internet can be a fantastic platform for sharing work and accessing an audience that you could never reach with an editorial in a regional publication or with an art exhibition that takes place in a specific city during a defined time frame. The internet is basically this living, breathing repository of content that is accessible 24/7 wherever an internet connection exists anywhere in the world, and I find that really fascinating. If you're a photographer, why wouldn't you take advantage of it? I just think that the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for enlarging your audience, and this audience- at least in my experience- is loyal and takes interest in my other projects so it increases my value to publishers and curators so it's basically a win-win situation for everyone. I get to make more work, my audience gets to see more of my work and publishers and curators get to make increased money off of my work, and the internet is basically the 'driver' of this entire content 'food chain' scenario.

What's next? I'm currently at work on both The Apostate and Father, Son and the Holy Ghost which are two, multi-year spanning documentary photo essays. However- and this if the first time I've mentioned it publicly- but I'm also working on a new, currently untitled exhibition slated for 2013 that is a collaboration with artist and sign painterDave Arnold. Working under the alias Black Lung, Arnold and I are collaborating on a new body of work where I'm shooting high end, B&W medium format portraits of men and women in states of undress and Arnold is painting over the 35" x 35" prints. The 'process concept' is that I typically approach photography in a really raw, unplanned way whereas Arnold approaches his painting in a very planned, orderly way. For this collaborative project, we're both using our traditional tools (I'm working with a camera and Arnold is working with paint) but we're swapping approaches- as in I'm shooting fine, well-lit fashion influenced portraits and Arnold will be painting on them with mixed media in a very raw way. It's in its early phase right now but the initial works are pretty outrageous in that they're this highly visual bombardment. Dave Arnold and I are really excited about the new body of work, and we cannot wait to share it with the world as it's vastly different yet totally connected to the work we've previously made.

Visit Ben Pobjoy's portfolio, stay up to date with War of the Spoils, and stay tuned The Tourist zine.


Les Testaments Trahis: An Interview with Gian Cruz

Gian Cruz is an up and coming photographer from Manila, Philippines who is also studying art theory and criticism at university.  With hints of Daido Moriyama, Cruz's photography are a quotidian, photographic diary  of his life. Razor sharp grainy black & white images capture his subject often with their heads, arms, legs, face cut out from the photograph entirely.  Gian Cruz is definitely a photographer to keep an eye on.  See interview after the jump. 

PAS UN AUTRE: What brought you to photography?

GIAN CRUZ: There are a lot of things that brought me to photography, but the two major motivations would be my fascination with cinema and the inherent paradox with taking photographs which I got from reading [Milan] Kundera. Being a cinéphile led me towards this desire to render my quotidien into cinematic images or to fashion photos that I take as if they are from some film or collectively as if they are film stills. My aesthetic was much inspired by the films I’ve loved from childhood which were Wong-Kar Wai films and a lot of films from the Nouvelle Vague cinéastes.

As for the paradox that charmed me with photography, it’s something lifted from the pages of Milan Kundera’s Les Testaments Trahis that has gone to a state of hyperawareness each time I take photographs. He said something about remembrance as to not being the opposite of forgetting but rather a form of it. Ever since, I have read that, it hasn’t failed to escape my mind. As memory is often seen through images, I find photography as a means of forgetting or forging elsewheres. For instance, you could be having a difficult time in your life yet on the surface these photos look like images of utmost sophistication and as these images further themselves into reproducibility, it turns things into something else. In a lot of the things that I do, I often like to see it in this love/hate relationship, or in this ironic manner because I believe it’s something that makes your images richer perhaps with meaning or some other unspoken aspect that your spectator could fathom from them.

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

CRUZ: I can vaguely remember the first image I ever took. When I started taking photos, I wasn’t really too big on the quality of my images but things started to change when I started to find my photographs as a crucial means of self-expression and of exploring my identity. Probably, maturity and the things I exposed myself to over the years- films, books, etc. paved way to take photography more seriously.

AUTRE: How does living in the Philippines inspire your work?

CRUZ: Living in the Philippines present itself as some form of paradox. I often come up with this love/hate discourse about my country. Quite specifically, it’s more about Manila, the city I live in. At times, my images could be some declaration of love for Manila and the things I love about it. On other occasions, it is this profound accumulation of anguish of being in it and this difficulty of living in a city wherein you feel you’re always underrated because the things you love do not fall into the aesthetic canon of the public here. And in this sort of love/hate relationship, I find it enriching my creative process. I think if it was all about loving something, it would turn out to be a dead-end because there wouldn’t be a sense of self-reflexivity working its way. Irony is crucial these days or perhaps humourising yourself finds itself more entertaining.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest influences?

CRUZ: Well, in the domain of photography my biggest influences include Nan Goldin, Jeurgen Teller, Robert Doisneau, Richard Avedon, Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Evelyn Jane Atwood, Sally Mann, Inez & Vinoodh, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karim Sadli, Sofia Sanchez et Mauro Mongiello, to name a few. And quite recently, I’ve also developed a deep admiration for the photography of Sunny Suits because of the palpable intimacy resting on her images.

Photographic references aren’t necessarily an impulse for taking photographs chez moi. Other domains like art, music, dance, literature, and cinema often inspire me as well. A few names I find indispensable and always inspiring me would be: Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Georges Bataille, Patti Smith, Bertrand Bonello, Serge Gainsbourg, Paul Eluard, Wislawa Szymborska, Alain Resnais, Johannes Brahms, Wong Kar Wai, Jean-Luc Godard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Dries Van Noten, Melvil Poupaud, Jean-Pierre Melville, Yves Saint Laurent, Jacques Demy, Maria Callas, Grégoire Chamayou, Nicolas Bourriaud, Pina Bausch, Mehdi Belhaj-Kacem, Elizabeth Peyton, Michel Maffesoli, Jean Baudrillard, Susan Sontag, Merce Cunningham, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Marguerite Yourcenar, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, J.M. Coetzee, Marguerite Duras, Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, Alain Badiou.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you look through the viewfinder?

I often am intuitive when I take photos. I can easily get lost in the moment and get into this frenzy of taking one image after another. At times, it could also be this subject gesturing you towards these particular angles I’d find aesthetically pleasing. There’s really no singular thought that comes into my mind each time I look through the viewfinder, it is dependent on my mood, the subject, what’s currently going on.

You can follow Gian Cruz's blog here.  Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

AUTRE: Who are some of your favorite subjects to photograph?

CRUZ: My friends are often my favourite subjects to photograph. I like taking images of people I am in close terms with because you’d have a way of fashioning how the images would turn out to be that speaks of your relationship with them. That in itself already says a lot of things or would have the potential of taking your photos to some profound elsewhere. It’s like taking pride of being able to see things the way only you would. Often times, my bestfriend Mark Arvin ends up in front my lens and he humorously declares himself as my official muse. Other than my friends, I like taking photos of objects that create narratives of something in lieu of the person. I’m quite the romantic often taking interest in something like a photo of my belongings like the books I’m reading (I seem to even find them more charming when they’ve gained creases or the usual wearing out because I bring them along with me a lot) or the albums I’m listening to, a well worn article of clothing and many other possible objects as being able to tell more about yourself yet not giving everything away in a photograph.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CRUZ: By now, I ought to finish my postgraduate thesis on how death is being represented in contemporary Philippine art, as I am currently an Art Theory and Criticism major at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Other than that, I ought to pursue photography or fine arts overseas. Perhaps if opportunities come into place an institution in Paris, New York or London or elsewhere would do me good. I like the idea of moving to a new city, which would enable me to grow as an artist. Moreover, there is also this growing concern to find platforms on which to exhibit my photographs, as I’d like to share them to a bigger audience. And if there is some more time, I’d probably be painting self-portraits although a bigger dream project would be to extend my photography into a full-blown film since cinema has always been something I’m passionate about.

No Time For Flowers: The Photography of Andreea Preda

Andreea Preda is a young photographer based in Madrid.  Her photographs are delicate, intimate, glimpses of her own life. There is a richness in Preda's photographs that owe a lot to a sense of innocence and lightheartedness without the treachery of the mundane or quotidien.  Preda's commitment to the analog process also give a certain cinematic element to her images with a striking palette of colors and shocks of sunshine. Read interview after the jump.

Would you please introduce yourself?  I was born twenty-one years ago in the south of Romania but I grown up and still live in Madrid, Spain. I’m currently studying literature and I take photographs because it makes me a little happier and fulfills my desire to reveal myself to others without having to use words, which I distrust.

What inspires you the most? I enjoy looking through other photographer’s work, I guess a lot of inspiration comes from that, or at least a clearer idea of what I like to see on a photograph and what I don’t. Films and paintings are also a great source of inspiration. It’s all about images that come to my mind and give me the impulse of wanting to reproduce them in my own context, with whatever I have handy and adding to it my own emotions. Beautiful light is also crucial when it comes to pressing the shutter.

Can you remember the first photograph you ever took?My father used to take a lot of pictures when I was little so photography was neither a mystery to me nor something I found attractive for a very long time, as I was only playing the model. However, in the midst of my teenage years I started taking self-portraits as a way of expressing myself. I was very shy but still wanted people to know me better, to understand me. So I started taking pictures with shitty digital cameras or even the webcam, anything would do. One day I discovered a very old camera of my father and begin playing around with it. I totally fell in love with the results and since then I had stick to analogue photography. So, no, I can’t remember the first photograph I ever took but this is how it all began.

Favorite quote to live by? I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." Kurt Vonnegut said this.Not really a quote to live by, just a sentence I repeat to myself sometimes, when I find it difficult to see any bliss in life.

Whats next?Keep taking pictures and hope that someone will like them.


The World According to KEEFJNAK: An Interview with Alexander Keefe

"Playa Los Yuyos, Lima: una prueba perfecta cont. Ectoplasm enters in the messianic guise of the perfect proof, the ultimate ghost-effect, visual and haptic, a new monstrance at the very edges of the sensorium and its modern prostheses―it exceeds photography (it cannot be properly photographed) it exceeds touch (it can be touched but only with grave danger) — it can barely be seen — emergent like a spider’s web cocooning the medium in a sticky veil, a prophylactic balm to salve the wounds of materialism, Casaubon’s key to all mythologies."

You could say that, unbeknownst to us, some sort of kismetic spirt is colluding with our lives, telling us when to go when we don't exactly know the direction or telling us what to say when the words aren't quite there. You could also say that a certain sense of wanderlust is innate and inexorable–the eternal wondering about magical, faraway places that seem entirely painted by daydreams and travel writers before us. And when you combine these two forces, one more corporeal and the other a tad more phantasmagorical–two forces conceivably as tightly wound as the double helix of our genetic code–it is a catalyst for something else altogether. Tarrah Krajnak, a documentary photographer who was born in Peru in 1979 in an orphanage run by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and grew up in Ohio, and Alexander Keefe, an ex-professor who studied Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard Universities, and a freelance writer for publications such as Artforum and Bidoun magazine, crossed paths in Burlington, Vermont and the rest, as they say, was history. Their online travel diary, called Keefjnak–an amalgam of their surnames–is a collaborative effort to document the world around them on their journey in the great tradition of travel documentation.  A great travel writer such as Ernest Hemingway and any scholar of his would admit that his fantastical stories of seafaring adventures and bullfighting would not hold the same weight without his extensive real life adventures. On Keefjnak, Tarrah Krajnak's somber, yet liberating photographs of a dream-like South America are supplanted with Alexander Keefe's brilliant, poetic text and historical minutia to paint a portrait of the same kind seething wanderlust that all great adventurers share in order to remind us that life is happening to us whether we like it or not. 

Barranco, Lima: the perfect proof cont. And so there is always an anxiety about the nature of their evidentiary claims, the proofs offered by photography and recorded sound in the late 19th and early 20th centuries required not just display but performance, hypnosis, and scripting… argument to fend off the lurking potential for disbelief and “ridicule.”

What is the Keefjnak project? Keefjnak is the project that Tarrah and I started as a daily photo/text blog... kind of a shared project while we were traveling around the world for six months working on other stuff. We made a portmanteau of our two last names and thought it sounded cool. We also liked that it was the only Keefjnak on the internet: a tabula rasa to do with whatever we wanted. We weren't really sure what we wanted to do with it, so that was appropriate. We just knew we didn't want to do a typical travel blog...

How did you two meet? We met when our paths crossed in Burlington, Vermont. Neither of us is from there, but Tarrah was living and teaching there at UVM for five years. I spent a couple years there as a kind of break from life in New Delhi, India, where I'd been living and working for several years previously. We hit it off.

Where did your journey start from? It started when we left Omaha where we were staying for a few months while Tarrah did a residency at the Bemis Center.

“Like the radio, it picks up voices from beyond the vibrations of the human senses but unlike the radio, the broadcast comes from a world which is tuned to rarer vibrations than our own, stepped down, or transformed, to us through ether by the agency of this ectoplasmic substance.

You mentioned that you post your photos and Alex posts his writing without consultation, is it safe to say that your photos and his text are a representation of how a visited place affected you both? Actually there is some consultation... But it is pretty low-key and usually takes the form of a quick editorial suggestion. Sometimes I'll show her a text that I'm considering and say "should I cut that part out?" She almost always says "yes" to that question for some reason... Ha! But I like it. I think of the texts for Keefjnak as the product of a kind of reductive rather than additive process. As for the photos, if she's stuck on deciding between a couple of them, she asks which I think is better for the blog. As for the question of representation, I don't know if that is really what the text and photos are doing. The photos are taken onsite in the various places we go so at least on some level they have to be tied to place. But I think that in the same way that my texts and Tarrah's photos sometimes converge and seem to speak directly to each other, and sometimes diverge and seem to operate independently, that our trip and itinerary works the same way. That is to say, sometimes our location and trip enter into dialogue with the texts and photo in a direct or explicit way, other times not at all. We always wanted the Keefjnak project to be not-obvious and kind of dry, stingy and austere, even cold. We don't want the text, photo and trip to be engaged in some big long group-hug and we don't want people viewing/reading the blog to feel that way either!

Any harrowing stories thus far from your travels or a experience that stands out the most? Tarrah got food-poisoning from a salad in Wisconsin and then ended up getting an upgrade on a flight from Chicago to Mexico City to first class so she could be closer to the bathroom and puke in luxurious comfort while I sat alone in the back of the plane wondering what was going on. At one point in my ambien-fogged semi-sleep I heard a flight attendant ask over the intercom "Is there a doctor on the plane?" I was worried. Then it turned out it was for someone else.

What's next? Well we are in Lima until late January working on a couple projects: Tarrah is shooting portraits of elderly nuns from the Catholic order called the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They are German and have lived here in Lima at a convent in the back of a hospital for some 50 years. They also happen to run the orphanage that Tarrah was adopted from, which is how she got interested in the project. Some related work that she did in Reading, Pennsylvania at a retirement home for the missionary nuns is on her website: really affecting portraiture, some of it pretty harrowing, some more beatific. I'm working on writing an article on early video art for Bidoun magazine, a long-term writing project of mine that is being funded by Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation. After Peru, we're making our way to India to work collaboratively on a project related to video art and the Indian space program in the 70s. I'm preparing by collecting stamps related to Indian telecommunications satellites.

Stay tuned to Keefjnak to follow Tarrah Krajnak and Alexander Keefe's journey. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper & Abbey Meaker for Pas Un Autre. All photos and captions Copyright © 2011 Tarrah Krajnak and Alexander Keefe.  

“There is an age-long and invisible force, termed ectoplasm, re-discovered by modern science, which has met with ridicule from every walk of life."

Dreams Are Gone: An Interview with The Kloaks

"Welcome to hell," beckons the song Dreams Are Gone, a demo track by a new, promising act called The Kloaks. Consciousness derailed and youth lost – the Kloaks belong to that brand of the disenfranchised by-product of suburban, societal disillusionment....the outcast strangled to death by the zeitgeist and bled out by the scythe of artistic angst.  With satanic overtones, the Kloaks' sound is a cacophony of gothic melodies that paints the dim portrait of a smoky basement dripping with black candle wax and pentagrams and their demo Dreams Are Gone sounds like the kind of song left on the record player after your mom finds you swinging from the rafters.  I was eager to learn more about The Kloaks so I emailed the band and Darren Hanson (guitar and vocals) wrote back with some enlightening answers to a few of my questions. Read the interview and listen to Dreams Are Gone after the jump.

Who are The Kloaks?  We are Darren Hanson from San Francisco on guitar and vocals, Michael Vincent Patrick from New York City on bass and vocals, and Ben Lee from Taipei on drums.

How would you describe your sound? It's like frost on rough concrete in the morning light.

How did The Kloaks come to be?I knew Michael because he was a record producer so I sent him some music and he liked it so much that he wanted to collaborate on the project ideas as a band. We share a similar aesthetic for music so collaborating works really well.

Inspirations and influences? Sex, death, love, sorrow, rejoice. We talk about a lot of the darkness behind closed doors.

Any plans for a full album? We are working on an album now. Our first two singles should be out in early 2012, just in time for the apocalypse.

Whats next? Well, I was thinking about sleeping but I can't because of the drugs.