Silicone Sisters Rock Band From Brooklyn

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Anthony Moore of Silicone Sisters.

Photos and story by Luisa Caldwell

Silicone Sisters, the self proclaimed “rock band from Brooklyn” played on Friday night at The Local 269 on East Houston (the former location of the lesbian hip bar Meow Mix). There were several bands lined up, but I came in at Eye of the Dawn, a band made up of studio musicians and musical directors—they put on a good show and Aneurysm June, Europeans doing mostly Nirvana covers—they did them really well, by the way.

But I was there to see Silicone Sisters, a power duo with Anthony Moore on guitar/vocals and Babar Peltier on drums. Moore and Peltier met in bar in Bushwick less than a year ago, talked music the entire night, decided to jam together, formed a band. These boys love rock & roll. And they love it fast, no slow songs in their set. Which was fine by me because between the two of them they make a wall of sound (with fists through it). Peltier, a high energy driving drummer, has the ability to switch into “delicate” moments on cymbals, which was as much fun to watch as it was to listen to. Moore, bringing the rest of the sound on guitar and vocals, has a solid technique and tons of passion. I noticed how long his fingers are, chord changes made easy, he delivered rhythm and rauckus melody.

Set highlights were opening song Q/A.  Black History Month is also a beautiful song possibly the most “sensitive” and I really like Release the Hounds which can be listened to on their Myspace page. Moore has a beautiful tenor voice, sometimes sounding at the edge of strained which is super appealing actually. They play their respective instruments hard and independently, but at times haul off into a perfectly synched instrumental of the same thrashing rhythm. I liked these moments throughout the show—it unified the set.

Some comparisons were made such as Black Sabbath, AC/DC, The Melvins…but Silicone Sister has their own unique thing going on. Not too concerned about where the rest of the band is, they definitely carry it.

Silicone Sisters’ Anthony Moore and Babar Peltier.

Judge Rules The City Council Was Not Duped

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Sad, all those yellow 660 T-shirts gone to waste. In case you haven’t followed the local news the past few years, a quick refresher. The New Domino developer Community Preservation Corporation Resources (CPCR) said they would go 50% better than the “encouraged” 20% affordable housing component in developing the old Domino Sugar site to build 30% or 660 affordable units. They claim to be friends of the community and committed to affordable housing. They also want the benefit of the 25-year property tax abatement, a perk for adding affordable housing. Oh, and let’s not forget they want government subsidies even though they’re a not-for-profit lender for affordable housing.They really, really want to max out market rate housing on the eleven-acre waterfront/upland site. Project Manager Susan Pollock stated repeatedly in community meetings that in order to build this “generous” amount of affordable housing, huge zoning changes—vastly beyond those approved in the Williamsburg-Greenpoint 2005 waterfront rezoning—would be required. This translated into 16-story buildings upland (whereas the 2005 rezoning calls for no higher than six on upland blocks facing Kent Ave.), and 40-story giants on the waterfront parcel negotiated down to 34 stories, but still high enough to dwarf the towers of the Williamsburg Bridge.

They want, they want, they want, and last month they got: New York State Supreme Court Judge Eileen A. Rakower dismissed a suit brought by a small group of Williamsburg locals to stop the CPCR project on two basic grounds. The first is a flawed environmental impact study. The height and density rezoning would burden the community (think traffic, already stressed L, J, M, Z trains, schools, fire, police, hospitals—the infrastructure). The second is that the proposed 30% affordable housing, though a huge selling point in public testimony, was never guaranteed. Community Board #1 and the Borough President sought guarantees. None were given. Apparently, misleading self-promotional lobbying and adverts are not a point of law. City Council members stood behind the affordable component—in particular Diana Reyna (District 34), who stood shoulder to shoulder on the steps of City Hall with constituents in favor of CPCR’s The New Domino and the 660 affordable units “promised.”

So what? So the judge said, in dismissing the case, the City Council had the documents stating CPCR’s goal was to build 30% affordable housing—not a promise, not a guarantee (more like a spit and a prayer)—when they voted to approve the rezoned project. It seems it didn’t matter that nothing was written in stone—or even on a scrap of paper—stating CPCR would in fact build 660 units of affordable housing (along with the 2,200 + market rate units). In fact, no affordable housing is required at all. But CPCR got the rezoning they wanted based on what? Judge Rakower indicated the height and density bonus was not based on affordable housing, yet CPCR claimed that more market rate housing (density) would equal more affordable housing.

Now what? Reissue the pro-Domino T-shirts at 20% or 440 affordable units? Realize this: only half of those units would go to community residents; the other half by law goes into a citywide lottery. Or maybe blank T-shirts, since who knows what will be built, if anything? Say CPCR bails, flips the property, they would have zoning change advantages in place that far exceed those of any other developer in Williamsburg-Greenpoint.

And what do the locals get? Duped. And the people in the community who desperately need affordable housing? Double duped—by the developer and by their City Council representatives. Not to leave out the developer’s supporters—Paul Cogley of Churches United, Father Rick of St. Peter and Paul Church, Eugene Garden Acosta of El Puente, and Rob Solano of Churches United for Fair Housing, who all rallied support for the affordable housing. (Queries to most of the above went unanswered.) Council Member Stephen Levin (District 33) stood shoulder to shoulder on the same City Hall steps with anti-Domino crowds, leading the chant: “Affordable Housing, YES; Forty Stories NO!” What happened, why did he vote yes to all of CPCR’s demands? Council Member Levin has not returned a call to comment. Did he read the long CPCR document before voting, as Judge Rakower suggested the City Council members must have done in her dismissal remarks? Did 660 cheerleader Diana Reyna read it? She also has not returned a call to comment for this piece.

So, was the affordable housing scheme a ruse to get zoning advantages? A con or a housing mirage? Or, just business as usual, a sale’s pitch to our elected officials, who bought it, hook, line and sinker, in what certainly has the whiff of self-serving lies.

— Janyce Stefan-Cole

Everything’s coming up…diverse, delightful: the WG’s home show

the lovely entryway to the WG headquarters, complete with couch

Luisa Caldwell is a longtime W’burg artist; Mery Lynn McCorckle lived here from 1989 to 2001, when a certain real-estate nightmare (no heat, no electricity) gave her the final heave-ho (she currently lives in Georgia). Together, they united to curate the sort of weird-yet-it-totally-works exhibit we’ve come to crave in this great neighborhood. The theme, (wait for it!): flowers; the location: our own WG headquarters on Dobbin Street Mews.

the entryway to the WG headquarters, complete with couch

My wonderful Editrix, Genia Gould, marveled at my reaction to the first works in the show. “There’s Norma Markley,” I exclaimed. “There’s Greg Stone!” as though such ejaculations could pass for critical observation. “It’s like the artists, themselves, are in the room,” she said, “and you’re saying ‘Hi.’”

Well, okay, I’ll take that. One of the nifty things about “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (the show’s title) is that there are such clearly deserving—and diverse—artists included; artists who, when grouped together, create a visual and narrative dialogue that goes beyond the literal “flower” theme. Check out Caldwell and McCorckle’s tacit, non-discrimination clause in their curatorship: there are guys, here; like Stone, like Gary Peterson (pictured below)

Gary Peterson

whom most would think of as pure abstractionists. There’s another guy, David Kramer, who’s known for his sense of ironic humor:

David Kramer

Sollipsistic commentary on the artworld? Check. Pansy’s? None. (Turns out that Kramer’s Paris dealer wouldn’t release the flower images that were originally bound for this show. No worries. Here on New York City’s Left Bank we don’t need to be so literal, n’est pas?)

Meantime, there’s a guy artist from L.A., Roland Reiss, who actually does incorporate floral imagery in his collages.

Roland Reiss

There’s Caldwell’s own still lives and vanitas images that make shrewd formal use of those-little-stickers-you-find-on-supermarket-fruit.

Luisa Caldwell

There’s Catie LaPorte, a French national living in Rio de Janeiro who made prints that are dead ringers for postage stamps back in the early days of Photoshop, substituting the “Love” on the rose stamp for “Hate” (there’s even perforations to add to the ‘realness’ factor). (Not pictured.)

Claudine Anrather

What’s the takeaway? Media can get mixed. Themes can be loose. The curators wanted to create a dialogue across Coasts, and they did it. And, well, it is Spring.

(thank you to Ms. McCorkle for the installation photos.)

Marilla Palmer

Greg Stone
Dawn Arrowsmith

Norma Markley

Smack Mellons’ Derby Fundraiser

Artist Marci MacGuffie, and is that a race horse head hand bag?

Artist Marci MacGuffie holding racehorse head.

Last Saturday, May 7, Smack Mellon Gallery, the DUMBO art non-profit, held their annual party/fundraiser for Kentucky Derby Fans and art lovers.

The 137th Kentucky Derby was broadcast live on big screen to a well-heeled and hatted audience. “The long-shot colt “Animal Kingdom” surprised the world.

With a ticket purchase of $250, patrons were regaled with unlimited mint juleps, a cornucopia of southern style dishes including pulled pork, and a traditional Derby favorite, bourbon-chocolate walnut pie.

All ticket purchasers bet on a horse and had their names placed in a pool of names, and if lucky and one’s horse placed in the top three, were given the opportunity to select the work of art of their choice. “But everyone leaves a winner,” said Kentuckian Rebecca Graves who organized the event.

International artists including Eve Sussman, Anthony Giocelo, Mark Dean Veca, Robert Taplin, Rona Yefman Elana Herzog and countless others were represented in the Derby show.

In true Derby style, the fans came dressed to the nines—light-colored spring suits and frocks, and all sort of decorative hats.

Kudos to Smack Mellon Gallery for their programming with inner city youths and emerging artists and their very strong commitment to show mid-career non-commercially-affiliated artists.  More > >

I have seen the Future, and it was on Maujer Street: Augmented Reality Artworks!

Mark S. in a quiet moment at Devotion Gallery, Billyburg

How busy are you? I guarantee you that, no matter how much that may be, Brooklyn-based, new media artist, Mark Skwarek, is busier.

Mark S. in a quiet moment at Devotion Gallery, Billyburg

Not only does Skwarek teach 3-D gaming at NYU Polytech and pursue his own artistic career, the 33-year-old Bushwick native has also curated and participated in exhibitions across the globe that employ an amazing bleeding-edge technology called AR—augmented reality.

Mark demonstrates his AR project on his smartphone

Simply put, augmented reality is a software that allows 3-d images, sound, text, and animation to superimpose themselves over the live video feed that commonly comes through the lens of your iPhone camera (any smartphone or iPad will do). When you’re experiencing augmented reality, these days it probably means you’re walking down the street holding your smartphone up in front of you, at arm’s length, as though you were about to take a picture; instead, however, you’re reading, grooving, or otherwise listening to stuff you see on the viewscreen—while you’re viewing real life. (A word of warning: watch out for cars, people, and other bump-into-able things when you do this. It’s wicked cool.)

How Devotion Gallery looked through my iPhone4 before the show opened

Last month, Skwarek, and another amazing Bushwick AR artist and curator, Will Pappenheimer (who teaches New Media at Pace University) installed a show at Williamsburg’s Devotion Gallery called “Gradually Melt the Sky” with more than 20 AR-based artworks.

Will Pappenheimer, Pace professor and AR curator and artist

I had an amazing time checking out an even-more-real world through my iPhone4 viewscreen—including this project by Skwarek called “Parade to Hope” which you can see below through Mark’s Android:

Parade to Hope by Mark S.

[Below are a few excerpts from our talk. You'll have to get the print version of the WG around the 'nabe if you want to read the whole thing. Caution: deep dish stuff, this.]

Sarah Schmerler: Is all art that’s created with AR essentially subversive? It seems like AR artists are grooving on the medium’s amazing potential for making people blink and think twice about all sorts of stuff—social and institutional—they see around them.

Mark Skwarek: No. I think AR can go across the whole range of experiences. Eventually people with huge budgets of 20 million dollars are going to be producing things that are jaw dropping, with great resolution, they’ll be integrating with our reality so completely that it won’t be subversive.

Will Pappenheimer: Well, yes, I do think it has a strong element of subversion right now. The dominant artists that are doing AR would be the interventionists, and one of the reasons for that is that the technology, frankly, isn’t there yet. At an early stage, during the break of any new technology, artists when they get hold of it, often think up interventions or “culture jamming” or ways to challenge the technology. It’s like when the Portapak video camera came out in the 1970s.. When that accessible apparatus became available artists started taking it into their studios they started self broadcasting.

Artist John Craig Freeman sited his "Goddess of Democracy" in Tiananmen Square

Can you describe some of the elements that are marching right now in Mark’s “Parade to Hope”? Where do they exist right now, and where they might be going?

MS: Well, it started here with a canyon at the intersection of Maujer Street and Lorimer; that’s where the parade originally emerged, from a volcanic cloud, the one you saw. Then, on April 8th at 8:40PM at the opening we had a ribbon cutting, and the parade began to advance. The last it was seen it had entered a ramp of the BQE, and we currently think it’s headed towards I-95. But we know it’s heading towards Boston and the ICA where it’s part of a show we [are] doing there on April 22nd along with other members of our group called ManifestAR.

You’ve mentioned before that AR art is really quite physical, despite all this theory. Can you explain?
MS: You actually have to go to the site and install the work, you have to tweak it, document it, demonstrate it, engage with so many people. You go back and do a test run, check the signal. AR gets me out of the house a lot.

What can you tell the average reader is truly real and meaningful about AR? How can they relate to it, how can they internalize what you’re doing?

WP: What we do is being described both as being programming (technical), and also as being an event in the world. Lived experience is mediated. Lived experience is the same as the Online experience. So, for example, the “Parade to Hope” that Mark is doing is both the idea and the lived experience.

MS: There’s a lived experience and at the same time there’s a programmable experience. but there isn’t a just a machine and there isn’t just lived life. Both are the same. It’s like when you’re searching for something Online, you’re searching for something in your life. And the search of ‘hope’ is a universal search, a commonly held search. At the same time, it’s something you might search for on the Web. So, as the Parade goes forward, it searches for everything in its vicinity. As I understand it, it’s programmed to do Google searches for “hope,” and, as the parade passes the actual locations it’s in, it then incorporates the images the people it’s passing have have about “hope.” In the South, let’s say, people might associate “hope” with fireworks, so fireworks will join the Parade.

WP: Yes, that’s very true.

MS: Another thing I can say to people that I know is that when we ultimately find “hope” we’re going to throw a big party—it’s going to be great.

Will and Mark’s show, called “Gradually Melt the Sky,” was at Devotion Gallery, 54 Maujer Street

Phil on Fire: WG Making a Difference and more

In the last few months, I have been able to write about issues that would have been difficult to convince the daily citywide papers to publish. I have often been frustrated, after working for weeks on a story with a journalist, to suddenly, without explanation, have the story axed by their editor. The freedom to write about anything and the encouragement from the editors at the WG News + Arts has been tremendous. It has helped get important issues into the major dailies, including the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal; and online magazines including Curbed, BrownstonerGothamist, and The Huffington Post.

Our story on the problems regarding the construction at Northside Piers was picked up by the New York Post, and the result was that it opened a dialogue between the developers, the Toll Brothers, and the building’s board and residents. We suspect that it had larger ramifications, including possibly sparking a national class action law suit. I will be doing a follow-up story on this in the coming months and I hope to have good news to report.

Another way to get stories into the press, I’ve learned, is to cite celebrities. A recent story published here on the WG blogsite, I wrote about Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez who received a huge 421a tax break on his multimillion condo. That story was picked up, with my blessings, by the New York Daily News, where it ran not just as a story, but a cover story. And our report on Mayor Bloomberg’s failures in his third term was picked up by the Wall Street Journal. Several other WG stories also sparked coverage elsewhere, including our piece about the discovery of promises, but no guarantees, for affordable housing with the vote in City Council regarding the Domino Sugar factory, and the approval of a zoning change in order to build market rate housing. That was snatched up on the internet and appeared on the New York Observer’s website. It shows you the importance of local papers like theWG News + Arts. It’s great to know we are making a difference. Even in tough economic times the WG continues to grow and deliver ground-breaking journalism.

New School Chancellor, Same Mayoral Policies
Many are celebrating the recent decision by Mayor Bloomberg to replace the city’s school commissioner, Cathie Black, with Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis Walcott. One would think I’m happy with the decision because, in one of my recent columns, I wrote about my concerns regarding her appointment as chancellor.

But the truth is that replacing Ms. Black does little to change the way our kids are educated. Mr. Walcott is an equal advocate for all the same policies that cause grave concerns for parents, including the practice of teaching to tests, the policy of “Last in First Out” as a way to get rid of teachers based on their tenure, and favoring charter schools over public schools, with the end goal to privatize the whole educational system, with bankers controlling the schools. So don’t expect any changes to the Bloomberg school agenda. What Mr. Walcott might do better than Ms. Black is grease the skids for the Mayor’s agenda.

MTA Going Away, Making Way for Open Space
The MTA has finally agreed to move transit buses from a Commercial Street lot in Greenpoint to make way for a park (the site was designated for that purpose in 2005). Congratulations to City Council Member Stephen Levin for making this a reality after former Council Member David Yassky failed to secure the site. District Leader Lincoln Restler also held a rally at the mta site two months ago and deserves thanks for keeping the issue in the spotlight.

The residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint continue to be some of the most underserved regarding open space. This is a great step in meeting our community’s needs. But much still needs to be done!

Still on fire

Phil