Philip Glass

Maintaining Tibet's Culture

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For the past few decades legendary composer Philip Glass has been a key figure in raising awareness for the Tibetan Independence Movement. Through the annual Tibet House Benefit Concert, which has been held at Carnegie Hall for the past twenty-odd years, Glass has aided in raising money and attention with the aim of salvaging the culture of a country that has been at war since 1950. The musician talked to us about his involvement with the movement, the importance of preserving Tibet, and what this year’s concert will have in store.

 

The first time I came in contact with the Tibetan Independence Movement was in 1967, but the uprising had taken place in 1959 after the Chinese had moved into Tibet. The Dalai Lama had fled, along with 200 thousand other people, and they ended up living in refugee camps in Northern India, which are gone now. I first saw these refugee sites in December of 1966. I wondered, “Who are these people? What are they doing here?” At the time we didn’t even know where Tibet was, and it turned out to be the beginning of a huge exodus of people. Because of the diaspora some of those people moved to America and to South America.

 

There’s a very well established Tibetan community here in New York City, where they have Tibetan language classes for their children and they do what people have always done who want to hold on to their culture. They go back and visit relatives, many of whom are in India. Some of them go back to Tibet. They’re not disallowed automatically; people can go back to Tibet if they’re going for personal reasons or if there’s no political connection. It’s not like North and South Korea where people are not allowed see each other.

 

But things have actually gotten quite a bit worse because the Chinese no longer want Tibetan to be taught in schools at all. For a while they taught Chinese and Tibetan, but now the latter is being left out. China is currently in a phase where they’re trying to assimilate the Tibetan people into what they call the Greater Family, which is the Chinese family. The response I’ve heard from the Dalai Lama, which is quite interesting, is, “Well, I’m not really angry at the Chinese. The only trouble with the Chinese is that I’m Tibetan. I’m not Chinese.” The same thing happened in Vietnam and in Mongolia. The Chinese have that problem all over borders, where they see themselves as the parent country of all these little countries, but those people don’t feel the same way.

 

I’ve been aware of it for more than 45 years, although we didn’t do very much about it at the time. When I came back from Northern India people like Bob Thurman were just starting to run Tibetan Human Studies, and it wasn’t until 1990 when we had the first concert. The first time we held the concert at Carnegie Hall was in 1994, but there were four concerts before that. This will be the 25th year. The very first concert was at Brooklyn Herald of Music, the second at The Beacon Theater in Manhattan, and the third and fourth concerts were at Town Hall. We stuck to Carnegie Hall as of the fifth concert.

 

By that time the concert had achieved a kind of personality, because I began to put them together with usually eight or nine soloists. It was a concert with an array of artists, and different kinds. We always had people who could sell tickets. We needed that. For example, Iggy Pop is again singing with us this year. Sharon Jones will be there. Gogol Bordello will be there. Twiggy [FKA Twigs] will be there. We’ve had Laurie Anderson, who was not the pop star that she is now when she sang at the concert. One of the things that has always been interesting about the concert is that these people will often do things together. Caetano Veloso did a duet with Laurie Anderson in Carnegie Hall which, if you weren’t at that particular concert, you didn’t get to hear, because we never recorded the concerts. Those were the kinds of recordings that were a little bit too expensive to do then.

 

Most of the money that comes from the concert goes to Tibet, but in the last ten years since Katrina a fair amount of money goes to disasters that happen in other parts of the world. The Tibetan culture is on its feet, so to speak…at least outside of Tibet, and we do help with that, but there are other humanitarian and cultural issues which we can also address. We’re very happy to help. One was a Farm Aid concert. One was a Katrina one. I think I’m slowly getting money for Kathmandu, Nepal, and the Tsunami. Every year there’s a catastrophe.

 

The Tibet House Concert has a very good lineage now; you would be astonished by all the people who have performed there. David Bowie was there twice. Emmylou Harris has been there twice…a lot of people came and then came back. Patti Smith was there many, many times – she is almost a regular, having done eight or nine years in a row. This is probably Iggy Pop’s third time playing with us. When he first participated in the concert it may have been his first time playing at Carnegie Hall, but a lot of these people perform in stadiums and arenas. It’s a very impressive list of people who’ve come here, and it’s a bit of a range.

 

At this point we all pretty much know about Tibet, but in the beginning we had to educate people. People know it has to do with culture – with faith in a culture and with remembering that part of the world and its people. Did you know something like 300 languages disappear every year? Languages are just lost, because people stop speaking them; it can happen in New York still and it can also happen in cultural institutions. What we’re trying to hold on to is the culture, and having that live through.

 

Artwork: Anthony Gerace for NeueJournal

 

The Tibet House Benefit Concert will be held on February 22nd. Purchase tickets here

Richard Kern

New York Girls

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It’s surprising to find that Richard Kern is a self-proclaimed shy person, seeing as his repertoire is the complete antithesis. Having first entered the underground art scene of New York City in the 1980s, Kern became a pioneer of the Cinema of Transgression – a movement that blended low-budget productions with humor and provocative themes, including sex and violence. Throughout the years, the artist became widely known for his work, including music videos for the likes of Marilyn Manson and Sonic Youth, and photographs of mostly nude girls. In lieu of the re-publication of one of his best known – and most notorious – books, New York Girls (TASCHEN), Kern sat down with NeueJournal to give us insight into the man behind the camera.

 

 

NeueJournal: When you first published New York Girls some of the material was too explicit for publication. Why do you think the perception of this has changed? Do you think the concept of “too explicit” still exists in this day and age?

 

 

Richard Kern: I don’t think the perception has changed. I think the rules are more relaxed; I’m sure it has a lot to do with the Internet and things not being so shocking. The original book came out in the U.K. and was going to get seized for obscenity, so they shipped it to Amsterdam. It was sitting in this warehouse until Benedikt Taschen stepped in and bought it because he didn’t care about the rules. There’s a lot of stuff in the new book that isn’t in the old book – mainly vaginas. At the time when it came out there had been a long period with no nude books for sale.

 

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Linda Wet on Floor, 1992, photo by Richard Kern (Courtesy of the Artist)

 

NJ: When you first started creating work it was underground and incredibly provocative. Do you think the initial intention or reaction with which you made those oeuvres has changed because the audience that responds to your work has changed?

 

 

RK: I think the people that respond to it now have no idea what I’ve done in the past. I think there is a certain group of people that know, but most people have no idea. The original work I did back then was mostly film and video, which were definitely made just to be provocative. I still do it on Instagram. I try to hold myself back, but it’s still provocative. I get a lot of weird followers.

 

 

NJ: You’ve collaborated with some incredible artists – some of which are infamous for their wild reputations. Who was the wildest one and what’s the craziest thing they did?

 

 

RK: The first one that comes to mind is Lydia Lunch. When I think about it now everyone I work with is pretty tame, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. Back then, though, Lydia was pretty hard to take – she would get right in your face. Lucy McKenzie, who used to be a model and is a pretty well-known artist now, would do pretty much anything I asked. There is a shot of her with her head in the toilet – basically doing a handstand. We were trying to do these things of people flushing themselves down the toilet and it all seemed so corny, but then she did it and was like an athlete.  She said, “sure,” and just did it. Those kind of people are pretty great.

 

 

 

NJ: What is the first film you remember having an impact on you?

 

 

RK: One was Barbarella because of the sexual awakenings I had when I was watching her on screen. I remembered her being naked all through the movie, but I watched it again recently and she’s never naked. You don’t actually see anything – you only kind of do. Another one was this art film by a Polish director, Ashes and Diamonds. The hero died at the end and I was like, “What!?”.

 

 

NJ: What is your go-to karaoke song?

 

 

RK: I don’t like karaoke, I’m too shy. That’s why I hide behind the camera.

 

 

NJ: If you could work with any other provocateur – dead or alive – who would it be and what would the dream collaboration look like?

 

 

RK: There are a lot of people that I would like to meet and do music videos for. It’s hard to say though. I’ve met my heroes a couple of times and it’s not as fantastic as you think. I want to say David Bowie. I watched his new video for “Lazarus” and I wished I could have done something like it. I would also love to work with people nobody knows.

 

 

NJ: What makes you irrationally angry?

 

 

RK: Jealousy of other people’s work. That’s the big thing. I’m jealous of anyone who is making a good living, because if you’re not doing something super commercial it’s a struggle.

 

 

NJ: What is usually the first thought you have in the mornings and the last thought you have at night?

 

 

RK: I wake up thinking about some girl I know. It’s always somebody different. When I look at my phone I feel lucky and I think, “Wow they texted me.” It sounds corny but it’s true. The last thought is usually, “oh I must have fallen asleep while I was reading.” I read spy books all the time.

 

 

NJ: What is the sexiest photo prop that people wouldn’t normally associate with being erotic?

 

 

RK: A toothbrush or a hairbrush – something like that. The most erotic thing is when girls are brushing their teeth and brushing their hair.

 

Photography: Andrew Boyle for NeueJournal 

Emily Wells

Euphoric Notions

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“I’m mostly euphoric,” Emily Wells tells us, fresh off her performance at NeueHouse Madison Square. The multi-instrumentalist musician has many a cause to celebrate, with the release of her newest EP Promise (the first under her own imprint, Thesis and Instinct), already garnering positive reviews and putting her back on the road. Having picked up an interest in music at a prodigal age (she began playing the violin when she was four), Wells has firmly established her place in the music industry. After 17 years of breaking the mold, Wells’ performance and newest album prove that she’s nowhere near done surprising us.

 

NeueJournal: What is your current state of mind?

 

Emily Wells: I’m mostly euphoric and I’ve been focusing on a lot of details lately, which is not my favorite thing so I am in a brief state of relief. I’m getting ready to leave for three months so all of the normal traveling stuff mixed with a tour and releasing an album…things going right, things going wrong etc.

 

NJ: Is the glass half full or half empty?

 

EW: It depends on the time of day. It’s overflowing now. Last night it was the dregs. I think when you are in a state of thinking about too many things at once they all start to conflate so one piece of misery taints the whole batch.

 

NJ: How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

 

EW: I’m indifferent, but I have a sweetheart so I’ll probably do something really sweet for her because I’m not going to be with her that day. It’s gonna have to be through the mail or a serenade. She’s really into funny jokes and grandiose gestures so I think I should probably hop on that.

 

NJ: What is the meaning of life?

 

EW: Come on! I don’t know what it is, it’s too much. There is no meaning.

 

NJ: What is your motto?

 

EW: Stay curious. Stay present.

 

NJ: How do you define success?

 

EW: Just getting to keep doing what I’m doing and I hope that I can really feel that every day. I wasn’t able to conceive of adulthood or success, but I was always driven to play music. I love playing music for people; it’s an incredible experience and there is nothing like it – my father has it too.

 

NJ: What song best describes your work ethic?

 

EW: Maybe ‘Working On A Chain Gang’ by Sam Cooke.

 

NJ: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

 

EW: Hmm, I have to think about this one. I’m picturing every conversation I’ve had with my mother. I think just to remember the highs.

 

NJ: What’s a fun fact about you that people might not be aware of?

 

EW: I’m recently getting into crystals and stones.

 

NJ: Do you get upset if they are touched? I know there are theories about the transfer of energies, etc.

 

EW: No, I like it…but I want to give you permission to touch. It’s like a woman with a pregnant belly; you can’t just go running over and rub her belly. You have to have access granted. I carry some crystals in my pocket although they’re not on me right now. It started kind of as a joke. My girlfriend is really into that stuff and I would always tease her and make fun of her, but then she would read to me about stones and it was like a lullaby. Now I’m really into it.

 

NJ: Who are your real life heroes?

 

EW: My dad and my mom for very different reasons. They are both very brave in different ways, and I admire that.

 

NJ: Who are your fictional heroes?

 

EW: Well gosh, I am drawing a blank. We have a joke…I say I’d go gay for Don Draper. Everyone knows what he is, but I wouldn’t call him a hero. There is a hunchback albino little person called Olympia in this book called Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I named my dog after her.

 

NJ: If you could have any super power what would it be?

 

EW: Not to give a fuck what other people think.

 

NJ: What natural talent would you like to possess?

 

EW: Just sort of an athletic nature, I’d love to be really light on my feet.

 

NJ: What situation makes you feel the most uncomfortable?

 

EW: Probably when I’m playing and there’s some asshole talking near by. Like a room full of quiet people and then two people chatting – it makes my skin crawl and it makes me detach from the performance.

 

NJ: In what situation are you the most content?

 

EW: When I am squished between my girl and my dog. Those are the moments when I am like, “this is a good moment.”

 

GIF: Mr. GIF x Ira Chernova for NeueJournal

The Dream

Fictional time-code for a nocturnal rumination

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Novelist and playwright Veronica Gonzalez Peña creates an original piece for NeueJouranl — a fictional time-code for a nocturnal rumination.

 

In the dream we are in the back of a station wagon—like children, little kids— it’s ample and we are lying down in that long rectangular space, like a coffin. When we arrive, we step out; who has been driving us? I look at you standing there and I am you. We are so alike. And then we are in your room. I’ve never seen it, of course; it is your childhood room, where you’d tell stories to your younger sister, deep into the night. It is small and cramped, just as you’ve described it. But in my dream it is long too, rectangular and narrow, like the back of that station wagon, like that coffin I can’t stop thinking about. And so I wake from your room, force myself awake. My heart. I wake up panting, and my heart, it is racing.

 

You read, curled up like a cat in one corner of the couch. You read voraciously. Once in a while, as you read, you make low noises in your throat, sounds you are probably not aware of, but which I note. They say something to me about you.

 

Sometimes you get up from the couch and sit at your small desk and start typing, writing and writing. You work on a typewriter because it gives you some distance, you say. It keeps things from getting too intense. The sound of the letters hitting the page, the time it takes them to get there after leaving your fingers, the sound of it when they land, the clacking. It’s the only way you can write, you say, distance. I sit at my computer, my desk across the room, my back to you; my writing is silent by comparison. Sometimes we work like this for hours and hours on end. I leave the room more often than you, leave the apartment, go outside to see the light, and when I return you are still there, hunched over the noise of those letters hitting the page.

 

This is when you are happiest, you say, our backs to each other, both working away. Or else when we are in bed, in each other’s arms, telling each other things, talking in whispers though we are alone. After you father died,your sister would come into your bed and you would tell her stories, things you’d make up. You would work hard to make the stories turn out okay, though what was driving you at your core was terror. You never told her this, how hard you worked to make those stories okay. She would settle into sleep, and you would be overtaken by that deep dread.

 

Often, I fall asleep before you do. Though I sometimes wake in the middle of the night and look at you there, all curled up like a baby, curled up like you do on the couch when you are reading.

 

The first time you disappear I am terrified. I call your sister and she says there is nothing I can do. When you come back, days later, I am angry and you tell me you just do this sometimes.

 

“Well, I don’t like it,” I say. You turn to me, “Of course not,” you say. Of course you don’t. It must be terrible for you. You are so tender as you say it. I can see that you know it is awful; I can see your concern. Why can’t you help yourself?

 

I am not quiet. I know of quiet people, writers who extricate themselves from life, who live in the woods, or near the sea, and work and work and think. I want to be like that. I want to be like them, but I am not. I get angry. I scream and cry. I throw myself at you.

 

This was not a dream: We were in a group, people drinking scotch and champagne. It was a celebration. You were sitting with your hand on her knee and though I didn’t know you yet, your fingers were long and when you kissed the side of her head. I looked away.

 

Your eyes are big and dark, they are black, almost, and even when you smiled at me at the end of that night, those heavy lidded, deep-set eyes looked a bit sad.

 

You rushed at me at the end of the night. I had just met you. And as I was leaving, you came from out of nowhere and grabbed my arm and kissed at my cheek and said good night. I was putting my coat on. You were excited and you just missed my mouth. “I really enjoyed talking to you,” you said. Though we had barely exchanged a word. “I hope I run into you again,” I said. “You never know,” you replied. “You never know when I’ll show up.” And then I finished adjusting my coat and when I turned toward you, you were gone.

 

Did that really happen? How could you appear and disappear like that? My coat partially on and the place dense with music and talking.

 

We end up together. We drive to the desert. You say you knew this. At that bar. That we would some day be together. In the desert you tell me about your father. I want to say I’m sorry. I want to take you in my arms, but I know that there is nothing I can say or do to match what you have just told me and so I lie still and silent there next to you. At some point I reach for your hand, and you let me take it. And like this we lie on the hood of your car, looking at stars, for a very long time.

 

Sometimes when you have to do things, the things a son must do for a father who died long before his job was done, your rage turns inward and you become gray and flat. The grayness fills our car as we drive delivering his paintings to a collector two states away, a seven hour drive. The collector will want to talk about your father. You will avoid this. The flat gray is palpable in our car, but I know I cannot say a thing and so I stare out the window, wanting to cry. How will you ever move beyond it if you cannot speak it.

 

Once in a Japanese restaurant, the couple two tables away from us sat quietly fighting. It was strange, for it was a silent battle they were fighting. In a crowded restaurant where everyone else was talking. My eyes were drawn to that woman’s eyes, which were red and wet with tears. The man just stared at her, for long periods at a time, every once in a while trying to wipe her face for her; she wouldn’t let him, kept pulling herself away, her black shoulder-length hair falling onto her cheek, dipping into her mouth. I tried to look away, but couldn’t. I ignored my meal, ignored you, in order to stare at the two of them.

 

It is me. I am crying and talking, with you looking on. Yes. I remember now. I am angry. I am louder than I should be, in a restaurant where everyone else is quiet. You keep trying to reach for my face, to touch my face, my long, dark hair wet and sticking to the side of my face.

 

You remove a strand from my cheek. “I don’t like it when you disappear,” I say. You turn to me, “Of course not,” you say. “Of course you don’t.” You look into my eyes. I am crying. “It must be terrible for you,” you add. You are so tender as you say this. I reach my mouth up to you and you kiss me for a long long time.

 

In my dreams, these dreams I have, I am either dying with you, or I am on a boat and you are sinking deep into the ocean below me, and I know I can- not pull you up. This, or else you are leaving; you are far out of my reach. I do not chase you because I know it will not make a difference. I am passive at your leaving because I know there is nothing I can do. Still, I want to be able to chase you. I want it to make a difference. Better yet, I want to be the one who gets chased. I want to say no, and have you run beside me begging me for words. I want you to tell me your terrifying stories and for you to know that I can take it, that I can listen and absorb your dread. But I am not really like that. I am not a silent listener. I am not kind and gentle. I am not merely receptive. I yell at you to wake up, I tell you that you must, I am not patient in your slow death, I am not quiet in your self-imposed coffin.

 

Artwork: Josephine Meckseper, Untitled (Coors Light), 2014 © Josephine Meckseper. Image courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

SENSORY DUALITY:
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO &
URS FISCHER

Shifts and perception between music and memory

Artwork by Urs Fischer | NeueJournal Issue 1

Esteemed composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of contemporary music’s most inventive visionaries, so establishing a creative pairing between him and Urs Fischer’s masterful artwork was nothing short of perfect. Sakamoto, who has garnered international acclaim for his soundtrack composition for the Oscar-nominated film, The Revenant, explores the musicality in painting in a commentary for NeueJournal. Alongside Fischer’s pieces, Sakamoto’s words come to life, creating a flow as melodic as his music.

 

There are certain pieces of art—in genres other than music—which to me feel quite musical. What do I mean?

 

Take paintings, for example.

 

Musicality in paintings does not depend on a painter’s particular love for music, or whether or not he or she intended for such musicality in the act of creation.

 

On the other hand, there are pieces of music or sounds that evoke an image. Whether or not a certain song feels visual, however, depends on the depth of the listener’s visual sensibilities.

 

Similarly, whether or not a person senses music in non-music depends on the depth of his or her musical sensibilities.

 

It is quite possible for some to hear a melody in a mere utterance of a word, while others may not perceive such music. A slight shift in perspective could reveal poetry in a cut-and-dried weather report.

 

Artwork by Urs Fischer | NeueJournal Issue 1

 

Duchamp demonstrated this with his concept of the readymade—the foundation of art in the 20th century. To think this way could reveal poetry, music and art underneath the mundane everyday.

 

A mass may be experiencing the same performance or piece, but ultimately the affective quality of the art depends on the receiver and his or her present state—an obvious and logical conclusion.

 

So, with that in mind, what do I mean when I say some pieces of art possess musicality and others do not?

 

Take La Monte Young’s piece composition 1960 #5, for example—a piece close to my heart. It’s not actually a composition per se. Rather, it is simply a text-based set of instructions, common in the era of conceptual art. The performer must open the doors and the windows of the performance space and let loose one or any number of butterflies. When the butterflies all leave the performance space, the piece ends. I have felt a deep musicality in this piece since I was a teen. Why so?

 

Music is not solely an intellectual structure (or, archi- tecture in flux over time). Music has poetry, is visual, and communicates complex memories and emotions. The poetry is tied to the visual, and music is composed of these elements, which continually change from moment to moment.

 

The flutter of the butterfly evokes my teenage years, the view of the cabbage field in front of my house, the smell of the dirt, the absence of my mother, playing alone, and some concert halls. And, as always with music, these memories ultimately fade.

 

I have not seen or heard composition 1960 #5 to this day (I would like to eventually), and yet it is music that is special to me.

-Ryuichi Sakamoto

 

Artwork: Urs Fischer