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Brian Bruegge

Scott Stedman and daughter Louise Stedman take part in the festivities at Northside Festival 2011. (Courtesy of the L Magazine)
Scott Stedman and daughter Louise Stedman take part in the festivities at Northside Festival 2011. (Courtesy of the L Magazine)

By BRIAN BRUEGGE
Asst. Arts & Culture Co-Editor
Published: May 2, 2012

Summer is fast approaching and already the city is actively gearing up for the season’s constant flow of events. The summer is always a time for excellent concert series in New York, from events like Central Park Summerstage to free shows on the Stuyvesant Town Oval all season long. One of the most exciting of these events, the Brooklyn Northside Festival, is just around the corner. From June 14-21, the neighborhoods of Bushwick and Williamsburg will become home to this festival of music, films and panels.

Though it is only in its fourth year, the Northside Festival has gained a lot of publicity for bringing in some of the best musical acts, both locally and from around the globe, to its relatively small patch of Brooklyn. The quality of the musical acts that the festival is able to bring, both unknown and familiar, have many music critics warning other festivals like Austin’s South  By Southwest (SXSW) to watch closely. This year will be no different, as well-known acts including Of Montreal, Questlove and Screaming Females have already been scheduled to appear.

In addition to music performances, there will also be four days of film screenings, both old and new. Another exciting aspect of the festival will involve over 100 visual artists in the area opening up their studios to the public to exhibit their work and promote creative collaborations.

The festival is concentrated in several venues that are only a short walk from the L or G trains.  The close proximity of all these venues is convenient, because with more than 350 bands playing more than 70 different shows, you won’t want to be hopping onto the train and wandering all across the borough to get to the next show.

The Northside Festival is presented by Northside Media Group, which also publishes periodicals including “The L Magazine,” and holds other events in the area. According to Northside Media Group’s CEO Scott Stedman, “Brooklyn has become an adjective for ‘what’s next,’ and Northside Festival defines and showcases that adjective for a regional and national audience.”

Much like SXSW or NYC’s own CMJ, you will be able to purchase badges that grant access to any show of the festival or buy individual tickets to each show. Although the festival runs for a full eight days, the different events are not spaced out equally among these dates. The concert series will run from June 14-17, at which point the film festival will begin and run until the entire festival ends on the June 21.

For anyone who will be in the city this summer, the Northside Festival promises to be one of the best cultural offerings of the entire year.

IF YOU GO

Brooklyn Northside Festival

When: June 14-21; detailed schedule pending

Where: Venues across Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. All venues are within short walking distance from stops on the L or G train.

Price: Badge prices range from $40-$250 or tickets can be purchased for individual events.

More Info: http://northsidefestival.com

 

 

(Courtesy of Unsound Festival)
(Courtesy of Unsound Festival)

By BRIAN BRUEGGE
Asst. Arts & Culture Co-Editor
Published: April 18, 2012

The city will be diving into some experimental waters from Wednesday to Sunday as the Unsound Festival returns to New York for its third year. Rated as April’s number one music festival by Resident Advisor (residentadvisor.net), the festival brings musicians to the city who push the boundaries of genre and sound to display an eclectic mix of noises.

Several venues across Manhattan and Brooklyn will be hosting a range of shows ranging from minimalist electronic music to a solo cello performance, as well as events such as artist discussions and related film screenings.

The festival will be next door to Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) on April 19 at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium. At 8:30 p.m., the dub-influenced duo Peaking Lights will be performing lo-fi electronic music incorporating elements of krautrock, dance and pop music. To kick off the night, LXMP will offer a percussive interpretation of the classic Herbie Hancock album “Future Shock.” The show begins at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to get there early; the free events tend to fill up.

Nihal Ramchandani, FCLC ’13, has attended Unsound since its first year in 2010. He described the festival as an exciting place to hear music that doesn’t usually get represented in a city like New York.

“It’s generally all forward thinking, experimental and fresh,” Ramchandani said. “You’ll have string quartets and things like that in the evening, and then you’ll also have club nights that have DJs playing, but it’s all interesting music. A lot of artists also have their North American debuts at the festival who wouldn’t otherwise come.”

If you’re willing to hop on the subway, there’s no shortage of events scheduled a bit farther afield. On Friday night, the festival-commissioned piece “TRINITY” will be given its world-premier by Norwegian ambient artist Biosphere and LA artist Lustmord. The inspiration for the piece came when the pair visited the early atomic weapons test sites around New Mexico and they incorporated the experience into their work.

“Lustmord is very dark, and Biosphere is the opposite of that,” Ramchandani said. “They’re doing a collaboration for the first time which is really exciting.”

Another highlight will be Saturday night’s Bass Mutations show, which has been billed to feature a smattering of trailblazing artists in bass music from both sides of the Atlantic. The show will also feature a live A/V show and DJ set from established New York City based artists Praveen and Dave Q.

Though relatively new to New York, the Unsound Festival has been around since 2003 in Poland where it began, and continues to grow in popularity. Originally an underground event, the festival has become a big name that has curated events across Europe. From these beginnings, Unsound Festival New York began in 2010 and has already become an established annual festival.

To get a feel of the music to look forward to this year, tune into the official festival playlist provided by the music blog Hype Machine (hypem.com). The full event lineup and a venue map for this year’s festival can be found online at unsound.pl.en. Tickets will be distributed by the individual venues hosting the events, and can be purchased directly from them.

A collection of Weegee's photographs, on display now at the International Center of Photography. (Weegee/Courtesy of International Center of Photography.)

By BRIAN BRUEGGE
Asst. Arts & Culture Co-Editor
Published: March 7, 2012

He was known as the “official photographer of Murder Inc.,” a gang of hitmen that haunted the streets of New York City during the 1930s. Arthur Fellig, better known by his pseudonym, Weegee, became one of the most infamous and influential photojournalists of all time through his gritty black and white photographs of murder, crime and all else hidden in the dark underbelly of Depression-era New York City. His work as a freelancer fed all of New York’s tabloid newspapers as well as a number of national publications with the sensational images that made him so riveting.

Now the International Center of Photography (ICP) is putting many of these images back on display with a new exhibit titled “Weegee: Murder Is My Business.” The name comes directly from a self-curated exhibition that Weegee held at the Photo League in 1941. ICP channels many of the elements of that show into its own exhibition, even including some of the pictures that Weegee took of the gallery.

What you get to see is quite extensive, as it should be given the tens of thousands of Weegee photographs and negatives that the ICP holds in its collection. The work of Weegee is dark, vivid and personal. He preferred to capture sensational subjects, and manages to do so in a way that is utterly captivating in its genuineness. Weegee brings us to murder scenes, brawls, courthouses, bars and tenements capturing all of it in his signature dark style.

In a sense, Weegee preempted the noir aesthetic through these stylistic elements. Especially in his staged photographs, such as his 1944 self-portrait, darkness becomes an enveloping presence. In the photograph, Weegee sits in his car at night and the only light visible is from the dim glow of headlights and a washed out silhouette of his face.

The subject matter is equally shadowy. There are several photographs of bloodied corpses sprawled onto the street. Weegee once bragged that he was paid $35 by LIFE Magazine for covering two murders— a little extra for the one with more bullets. Another print is an image of the police pulling an ambulance and its driver up from the bottom of the East River.

While the exhibition also features newspapers, films and interactive displays, the focus of the show remains on the photographic work of Weegee. In particular, it is mostly a documentation of the first ten years of his rise to prominence, much as the original “Murder Is My Business” exhibition was.

During this period, Weegee worked at night from a small apartment across from the police headquarters. He spent these evenings listening to crime reports on his shortwave radio. Whenever news arrived of something worth capturing, Weegee would set out to be the first one covering it, often arriving before the police did.

It was also at this time that he made ties with many of the biggest criminals in the city including Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano and Legs Diamond. This connection sealed Weegee’s association with coverage of crime, desperation and murder. He claimed that dead subjects were the easiest to capture: they never moved.

From the mid 1940s until his death in 1968, Weegee branched out, experimenting with writing, film and more avant-garde styles of photography. However, it is for these early images of urban scenes that he will be most associated with.  By focusing on this period, ICP pays homage to these formative years, and to the world of news photography that it inspired.

IF YOU GO

Weegee: Murder Is My Business
When: Now through Sept. 2, 2012
Where: International Center of Photography, 1143 Ave. of the Americas (at 43rd St.)
Price: $8 with student ID; voluntary contribution Fridays from 5  – 8 p.m.
Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ; Thursday & Friday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. ; Closed Mondays


View International Center of Photography in a larger map

(Natasha Mahadeo/Fordham Observer)
(Natasha Mahadeo/Fordham Observer)

By BRIAN BRUEGGE
Asst. Arts & Culture Co-Editor
Published: February 11, 2012

On a summer day a few years back, an artist named Dread Scott walked down Wall Street with an apron of bills pinned to his shirt. “Does anyone have any money to burn?” he asked repeatedly to those around him. Their amused curiosity turned to shock when Scott removed a lighter from his pocket and began to set fire to the money, one bill at a time. A few people even took up his proposition and handed over their own bills to be set in flame.

Scott was eventually arrested for disturbing the peace, but the entire performance was captured on tape. The video, titled “Money to Burn,” is now being shown as part of “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid,” an exhibition now on display at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY). The show features artwork that is meant as a commentary on the economic crisis, and frequently critiques capitalism. Though not officially associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, the two were born from the same environment and reflect many of the same sentiments.

Perhaps the most curious part about the exhibition is that it’s being housed in the Austrian Cultural Forum — a branch of the Austrian Consulate. The stated goal of the ACFNY is to serve as the “cultural embassy of Austria in the United States” by housing artwork and performances from Austrian artists. Due to the fact that several of the artists involved are of Austrian descent, the ACFNY was happy to house the exhibition.

One piece that demonstrates this is Linda Bilda’s sculpture, “Labor and Capital,” which depicts capital as a shark engaged in an awkward dance with labor. The two make an uncomfortable partnership; the large and unmanageable shark causes labor, depicted as a female dancer, to struggle to hold up the sheer weight of capital. A light shining on the sculpture casts a mysterious shadow onto the opposite wall that obscures the sculpture’s form.

“I look at art as a tool to change things,” Bilda explained. That sentiment accounts for the heavily political messages that are found throughout all of her work on display. Another of her pieces is a mural, depicting corruption as the result of disjointed thought, speech and actions. “I want to dedicate my work as a political tool,” Bilda stated as she talked about the meaning of the work.

While most of the art carries this weight of political commentary, a few pieces on display take a more ambivalent look at the economic downturn. Julia Christensen’s “How Communities Are Reusing the Big Box” looks at how the buildings for large retail stores like Wal-Mart and Target become used for other purposes after the stores go out of business.

The most engaging work is often that which is most subtle, as is the case with Jan Peter Hammer’s film, “The Anarchist Banker.” The 30-minute film has the appearance of an unscripted news interview with a member of the high finance world. In fact, it is a carefully scripted discussion in which the character of the banker discusses his view that lawless greed is the ultimate expression of freedom. The way the interview unfolds subtly critiques this Randian viewpoint, as we slowly become aware of the extreme consequences of the banker’s philosophy.

The work on display comes from all different parts of the world in response to the global financial crisis, so it is strangely appropriate that they are now being displayed together in Manhattan, the birthplace of the Occupy movement. Gregory Sholette, one of the exhibition’s co-curators who has also been active in the Occupy movement, is especially enthusiastic about the timing. “When we started the concept of the show, we [said] that somehow we need to push back against the crisis and these artists represent one attempt to do that.” When the Occupy Wall Street movement started, “it was almost like… we got our wish,” Scholette described.

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If You Go
Austrian Cultural Forum New York

Where: 11 E. 52nd St. (Between Fifth and Madison)
When: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily
Admission: Free
More Information: www.acfny.org

By BRIAN BRUEGGE
Asst. Arts & Culture Editor
Published: December 7, 2011

Keith O’Shaughnessy was one of two poets to read his work at POL. (Ai Elo/The Observer)

As Quan Barry read aloud one of her poems, she painted with her words a vivid and somber night scene in the South American city of Arequipa.  Her poem was inspired by a trip she had taken to southern Peru’s “white city,” located at the foot of a dormant volcano. The reading was part of the Poets Out Loud (POL) reading series, a monthly live poetry-reading event put on by the Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) English department.

The most recent POL reading, the event at which Barry presented her work, was held this past Wednesday, Nov. 30, on the 12th floor of the Leon Lowenstein building. The other featured poet of the evening was Keith O’Shaughnessy, whose poems have recently enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity. Much of the work read by both performers described scenes of foreign lands, filled with engaging wordplay and double meanings. Their words brought the audience to locales such as Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico and the Old West.

Barry, who was the first reader of the evening, was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother and an African-American father. She gained her M.F.A. from the University of Michigan and is a current faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When introducing Barry, Heather Dubrow, professor of English and one of POL’s organizers, described her as a master of the “art and craft of juxtaposition.”

Barry’s poetry selections brimmed with picturesque imagery and jarring expressions. Often equally curious were the topics her poems covered. As an example, one poem, “The Canon,” was written during a period in which she had become fascinated by syphilis. The poem concerned a smattering of historical figures thought to have contracted the infection; figures such as Nietzsche and Gauguin.  Another poem titled “Synopsis” was just that: a poetic synopsis of the Clint Eastwood film “High Plains Drifter.” The most interesting of all came with her comparison of teleportation in “Star Trek” to the Olympic long jump. Strange enough, it made a lot of sense.

Reading second, Keith O’Shaughnessy, a Rutgers graduate and teacher at Camden County College, stepped up to the podium. O’Shaughnessy’s first book of poetry, “Incommunicado,” was released earlier this year and has gained a significant amount of attention, winning the Grolier Discovery Award. His poetry presented scenes of bullfights, festivals and the calm spaces in between. It is what Dubrow, in her introduction, described as a “quasi-Mexican dreamscape.”

O’Shaughnessy’s poems, while meaningful on their own, are also intended as part of a larger narrative. The poems of “Incommunicado” draw comparisons to movements in a musical symphony, each having a unique character that also plays a part in the greater structure. Certain poems set the scene, while others introduce characters in the narrative or told stories.

The poems also featured a great deal of wit in their wordplay, drawing attention to the double meaning of words or the rhythmic character of certain phrases. One poem about the moon, used words such as “lunacy,” “wax,” “wane” and “tide” among other words, while simultaneously holding a different meaning.

In the reception following the event, audience members were given the opportunity to speak with the poets, purchase their books and have them signed. There was also a series of drawings in which several audience members won books prizes.

The Poets Out Loud reading series will continue next semester beginning on Monday, Feb. 6. Readings are held at 7 p.m. on the 12th floor of Lowenstein. A full schedule of POL events and more information about POL can be found on the Fordham website.