Sunday, Public Fiction, 8pm, L.A.: TRINIE DALTON, RON REGÉ, JR. and CATHERINE TAFT

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RAINBOWS, CAPRICORNS, VIRGOS & ALCHEMY…
This Sunday March 13th please join us for a series of events at THE FREE CHURCH:

Beginning promptly at 8pm:
A lecture about rainbows by TRINIE DALTON:
Trinie will give a slide-talk about rainbows what they are, how they’re formed, and their roles in the history of art, spiritualism, mythology, and color theory.

at 8:45pm
A video screening curated by CATHERINE TAFT:
Catherine Taft presents a Capricorn/Virgo-inspired selection of videos by Dale Hoyt, Lauren Lavitt and Andrew Steinmetz

and at 9:30pm
RON REGÉ, JR. will read (and project!) comics from The Cartoon Utopia concerning the basic tenants of Alchemy and Hermetic Philosophy in Fairy Tale.”

This event will be situated in LUX, an installation by Maureen Keaveny

come!

Public Fiction in Highland Park
749 Avenue 50, 90042
http://www.publicfiction.org/

DIVERS DOWN: Animal Collective's Geologist and Deacon share the scuba experience with Morgan V. Lebus (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005), as a sidebar to Trinie Dalton’s cover feature profile


Photo collage of (and by) Geologist and Deacon

DIVERS DOWN
Animal Collective’s Geologist and Deacon share the scuba experience with Morgan V. Lebus

Arthur: When and where were these photos taken?
Deacon: We went diving off the east side of Marathon Key in Herman’s Hole. The visibility underwater was crystal. Herman is a very large moray eel who no longer lives in his hole–he’s relocated to an aquarium in Miami.

Isn’t scuba diving expensive?
Deacon: The toughest part is getting certified, which costs about $500. I was lucky enough to have a dive master friend who certified me for free. The most expensive part of scuba diving is the travel. You can dive almost anywhere, but unless you’re pretty gung ho about it, diving in the local quarry is less than choice. You want to go somewhere that has a a tropical vibe, with lots of reef life and clear waters. Once you’re there, a full day of diving with boat and and gear rental will run less than $100.
Geologist: While this is true, if you are into cold water diving, there are some good lake spots in New England. I’ve never done any cold water dives because you need to buy a dry-suit.

Your most fascinating underwater find?
Deacon: It’s all fascinating: scuba diving is the best drug ever. My first open water dive (off a boat, away from the shore) was in South Carolina. The visibility was low and we didn’t see much more than a few barrucada and some flounder (a flat bottom feeder fish with both eyes on one side of its head). On the way up the surface I couldn’t see the bottom or the surface but off in front of me about fifteen feet away was a jellyfish. A very simple translucent specimen, but I could’ve watched sway it for hours.
Geologist: In the Gulf of California I went diving off the coast of an island that was home to a sea lion colony. The pups had just been born and they were extremely curious. I also saw a seahorse there—they’re pretty rare. My big dream though, is to see whale sharks, mantas, leafy sea dragons, and a school of hammerhead.

If you could dive anywhere on earth, where would it be?
Geologist: The arctic or antarctic. The way the light filters through the ice is supposed to be amazing. I´d also like to dive in the Andamen sea off the coast of Thailand, but further north, closer to Burma.
Deacon: I think for me it is more a matter of when. Coral is being damaged at an intense rate and a lot of marine life is gone. I imagine that diving 100 years ago would have been a dramatically different experience, regardless of where you did it.

Your deepest dive, ever?
Deacon: South Carolina at about 68 feet down.
Geologist: Deep dives are not necessarily the best because your bottom time is extremely limited. With a normal tank rig you get about 15 minutes of dive time at 90 feet before you have to to a shallower depth and decompress. However, a 30-foot dive can have amazing stuff as well and your dive can be an hour long. My deepest was just above 100. The limit was 90 feet but it was a wall dive—the sea floor was about 65 feet and it stretches out from the island and then you reach the edge and the wall drops 6,000 feet! We swam over the edge and dropped to 90 feet and viewed the wall along our side. It’s an amazing feeling to look down and see nothing but darkness and try to comprehend the bottom being 6,000 feet below you.

NOT A KOOK: Trinie Dalton interviews HENRY DARGER doc filmmaker Jessica Yu (Arthur No. 15/March 2005)

Not a Kook
Filmmaker Jessica Yu explores the life and work of mysterious artist Henry Darger in an innovative new documentary.
By Trinie Dalton

Originally published in Arthur No. 15 (March 2005)

In the Realms of the Unreal opens with shots of artist Henry Darger’s dusty homemade books and scrappy art supplies, with actress Dakota Fanning relating how Darger sought solace in art after a childhood as an abused orphan. This bit of biography prepares audiences for Darger’s own summary, narrated by actor Larry Pine, of his life work—a cryptic 15,000-page epic novel detailing a war waged over child slavery—at first illustrated onscreen by stills of Darger’s startling art. But it’s when one of his drawings comes to life—a girl flaps her butterfly wings and flies away—that you realize director Jessica Yu has taken biographical documentary to a new level.

Using animation constructed from Darger’s artwork, Yu opens a door into Darger’s hermetic world of evil, adult Glandelinians and their captive Vivian Girls—cute, Shirley Temple-ish girls who sometimes sport horns, wings, tails and penises. Lightning flashes in stormy skies, soldiers fire guns, and monsters called Blengins circle through the clouds. These nightmarish scenes, it turns out, harken directly back to Darger’s own past: nuns, mean teachers, and childhood enemies from his early life reappear as Confederate army members, often slaughtered on the page as a way to recoup his mental losses. (One especially cruel bully morphs into General John Manley, head of the opposing regime.)

Henry Darger grew up in asylums for feeble-minded children, and spent his adult years as a recluse. A self-taught artist who made a living as a janitor, he lived in a small apartment in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, secretly recording the war between the Glandelinians and Vivian Girls, down to the last casualties and debts accrued. Incredibly, no one knew of his prodigious artistic talents until his landlords discovered Darger’s work upon his death in 1973 and began to share it with the public. Countless articles and several books have since been published on Darger, but never has his art been actively portrayed as it is here, embellished by a storytelling voice that sounds the way Darger’s voice may have sounded: gentle but curt, impassioned but matter-of-fact. Add in several interviews with neighbors, including one with Kiyoko Lerner, and you get a fascinating—if necessarily speculative—picture of Darger inhabiting his strange fantasies.

Animating someone else’s art is a controversial proposition, doubly so with Darger. His sincere, exacting artistic approach required that he dedicate every second of free time to perfecting his techniques. The boxes of pencil nubs, tall stacks of visual reference and piles of used watercolors that Yu’s camera scans across demonstrate that Darger was his own harshest teacher and critic. Fortunately, Yu’s animators kept the special effects to a minimum, going more for an old-fashioned, paper-doll like style rather than the gaudy Pixar look. The animation is charming and loyal to the work.

Yu’s last two films—the Academy Award-winning Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of John O’Brien and The Living Museum—also documented artists who overcame physical and mental challenges. She’s friendly and open, making it obvious that she’s doing what she loves. I interviewed her at her home in Los Angeles, as she was preparing to travel to Chicago, Darger’s hometown, for the film’s opening festivities.

In the Realms of the Unreal is screening in select theatres across North America through April.

Arthur: How did this film come to be?
Jessica Yu: I was giving a talk about my last film, The Living Museum, about a group of artists in a psychiatric center in New York. A reporter in the audience knew the Lerners [Darger’s landlords], and he asked me if I’d heard of Darger. The next day he took me to Kiyoko Lerner’s house. Kiyoko showed me some paintings, then she let me go up to his room by myself. Before this, Darger had been an abstraction to me. But I felt such a strong sense of his presence in his room. Everything in there said something about him. I wanted to tie together the feeling of that room with some comprehensible look at the work, so that we might get a sense of who this person was.

There’s so much great footage of his room in the film. Did you shoot that footage on your first visit?
No, I went back to ask Kiyoko about making a documentary. She was open, but cautious. She doesn’t want people to exploit Darger’s work. I wanted the room to substitute for Darger himself. To do this, I tried to get movement in all the shots, and we shot a lot from where he sat at the desk. I imagined how he might have looked at the room. He had his central point, gazing up at the stained glass window of the dove, sitting at the table surrounded by his work. It gives you a sense of how he lived.

Was your fascination rooted in a love for Darger’s artwork or with his tragic story? Or both? Continue reading

"Dizzying Heights": Animal Collective interviewed by Trinie Dalton (Arthur No. 19/Nov. 2005)

Originally published in Arthur No. 19 (Nov. 2005)

Dizzying Heights
How do the four humble critters that are Animal Collective make such wildly beautiful and beguiling sounds?
By Trinie Dalton

As pathetic as this sounds, I originally started listening to Animal Collective because they were an “animal band,” and I make a point of hearing all new animal bands because I’m obsessed with animals. There are so many animal bands these days, especially lupine ones: Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade, Wolfmother…I figure anyone who names their band after animals must like animals too, so we have something in common, and maybe they’re also into classic animal bands, like The Animals and The Turtles. So far, this theory for checking out new bands has worked, and I like most animal bands. But Animal Collective are by far the best. They’re King of the Jungle.

This is an especially lame confession because the members of Animal Collective barely even like having a name; they’d much prefer to be individuals who come together in various combos and in various locations to make intriguingly titled albums, like Danse Manatee, Campfire Songs, or Here Comes the Indian, sans band name. That’s one refreshing thing about Animal Collective: they aren’t glory hogs. In animal terms, they’re like prairie dogs, bees, or penguins—humble critters that understand the definition of teamwork. In the beginning, Animal Collective often wore masks and costumes hiding their individual identities, and they’ve always used nicknames to keep alive the secret society element of what they do: Dave Portner is Avey Tare, Brian Weitz is Geologist, Josh Dibbs is Deakin, and Noah Lennox is Panda Bear. Having a band name is too traditional, they say; they only have one because record labels have told them that listeners need to identify the group as a cohesive, named unit.

Which is important, because Animal Collective are one of those rare bands who sound completely different live and on record. Sung Tongs, their last full-length album, is infused with psychedelic wall-of-sound production, Brian Wilson-style. Sung Tongs is so classic it gives me chills. I imagine Sung Tongs on the cover of that Arthur issue 50 years from now featuring the best albums of the past century. The cool part is, I’ll recall how I nearly went deaf hearing tweaky live versions of harmonious tunes like “Leaf House” and “Kids On Holiday.” On headphones, certain Animal Collective songs sound sleepy and hypnotic, while live those same songs make the club’s floor vibrate from heavy bass and guitar distortion. Hearing Animal Collective live is nearly my favorite pastime. Recently, while living in Berlin, I was so dying to see them that I almost flew hundreds of miles to southern France to catch their gig. Getting a grip, I reminded myself that this was a little extreme, not to mention expensive. Each show is different, though: live versions of songs render them unrecognizable or mutate into new songs, so you can’t say, I’ll just stay home and listen to the album.

Feels, Animal Collective’s new release, is heavily injected with sentiment without being sappy. Dedicated to such lofty romantic themes as Love, Purple (the color of passion) and (they say) “synchronicity, or connections between people,” Feels is highly emotive. As opposed to Sung Tongs’ choral vocal layerings and druggy nods to Smiley Smile, Feels contains fewer vocal harmonies but compensates with an abundance of rock-out moments balanced by a “warm hum” of instruments. I can’t wait to see these songs performed live, since the instrumentation on Feels is so elusive. This new record also further distinguishes Animal Collective from the Freakfolk bands they’ve sometimes been lumped together with. I never thought they sounded even remotely folky; Feels instead sounds a lot more influenced by their early inspirations, My Bloody Valentine and Pavement.

Animal Collective are childhood friends. Noah and Josh met in second grade in their hometown, Baltimore. In 1996, Josh hooked up with Brian and Dave, who were also high school buddies from Maryland. They all hung out sporadically throughout college, and by 2000, they were all living in New York, where they recorded and released Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, which gave them their first taste of success. Since then, they’ve made several albums and started a record label, Paw Tracks, home to artists like Ariel Pink and The Peppermints. Prospect Hummer, their last record, is testament to all the European touring they’ve done; they met and recruited Vashti Bunyan in England for vocals on it. Three of the band left New York years ago—Noah for Lisbon, Brian for D.C., and Dave for Europe—so Animal Collective functions via satellite, in a way, until they convene for recording sessions and tours. Even interviewing them was a feat—I received four separate phone calls from around the world—although I really enjoyed it because Animal Collective were so friendly. Each man spoke highly of the others, discussing how the group sound has evolved instead of geeking out on who plays what. They gave uncannily similar answers, and Brian confessed that Animal Collective may know each other “too well.” I had this feeling before, but I know it now—Animal Collective are four best friends committed to experimenting and having fun.
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