“One Nation under Glass”

—Steve Gerberich


By Kim Sloane

Every so often what is called the sideshow, like a chrome heart shining in the sun, can eclipse the main event. Such is the case right now at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, where some 480 artists currently have work on view in the exhibition “Sideshow Nation”. This is not the first time it has happened. In fact, every year for the past thirteen or so years, this event has taken place, though the number of participants has grown each year. If you haven’t seen, you haven’t lived. Get yourself down to 319 Bedford Ave between now and March 3rd.

This annual event is not strictly speaking curated, nor is it an open call. It cannot even be properly called a group show. It is is a coming together, a gathering of the tribe, a celebration of a community whose members are citizens of this great nation, the Sideshow Nation.

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Transgression from the 80’s: A Festival of Films by Nick Zedd

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By David Lagaccia

With films ranging from fuzzy eight-minute clips, to 90 minute-long scratchy features, a festival of New York’s cinema of transgression started Tuesday night at Glasshouse (246 Union Ave.) in Williamsburg.

A tribute to underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, Tuesday night’s opening attracted a large crowd of viewers, where seats ran out and some had to pull their coats tighter while viewing the films from the street under a canopy of cold drizzling rain.

Zedd, who was in attendance along with artist Kembra Pfahler, and film curator Michael Chaiken, is an underground filmmaker who started his work in New York in the early 80’s, and helped start the film movement know as the cinema of transgression. These films were low-budget, and focused more on avant-garde narratives and experimental film techniques.

Pfahler, a musician, performance artists, and fashion designer is based in Manhattan’s “Alphabet city,” a neighborhood that like SoHo and Chelsea, was a haven for artists, twenty, thirty years ago, but because of rising apartment rents, has since seen the rise of commercialization and the fall of the arts. Her punk/glam band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, combines music, costume, and performance art and was the subject of the first feature shown, Butterfly Witch, directed by Amber Dawn.

After Dawn’s half-hour feature, and Zedd’s eight minute short, War Is Menstrual Envy, the gallery also held a panel discussion with Zedd, and Pfahler. Talks ranged from their work, to how Kembra and Nick were first introduced to each other, the beginnings of Zedd’s directorial career, and the current lack of funding in the city for experimental artists.

“I like performances and films that are completely transformative top to bottom, from floor to ceiling,” Pfahler said.

“When I got to New York [in 1976] I was kind of disappointed I didn’t see the kind of counter culture I was hoping for,” said Zedd. Quiet, and dressed in a long black coat, he said he named it the movement the cinema of transgression in his zine, the Underground Film Bulletin in order “to get the attention of the media,” “If you put out the name of a movement, it kind of gets the media’s attention, he said “

Glasshouse will screen the films of Nick Zedd, along with many other films from the transgressive film movement, including works by Amber Dawn, Nicholas Abrahams, Mary Jordan, Casandra Stark, and many others. Other influential films by experimental filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger will also be screened. The features, which were originally filmed with 8 and 16 mm cameras, are being projected digitally over the five day event.

A newer Williamsburg gallery on Union Street, Glasshouse’s philosophy is that “Art should be experienced in a place that allows staying.” Run by Lital Doten and Eyal Perry, the two artists are from Israel, and have held spaces in San Francisco, and are involved with the noted performance artist Marina Abramovic.

The gallery regularly holds nights with performance art, and art events that are more experimental including tributes for the work of such artists as Ana Mendieta and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

One notable difference about Glasshouse is how it is presented; a gallery attached to an apartment, the space starts at a gallery storefront and winds up and down stairs and into a contemporary New York apartment, giving the viewer an original experience on viewing art.

“Well, as for the reason of bringing the cinema of transgression to Glasshouse, I guess it felt very natural,” said Doten. “We are trying to promote critical and radical culture that is not aiming to be part of a mainstream, but rather behaves as a TAZ (temporary autonomous zone). Coming here only several months ago we try to also invest time in locating some of the relevant movements and personalities of the past and present, honor them and invite them to participate in the Glasshouse operation. We especially hope that these events would be relevant to the younger local artists, and guide them through their own practice and critical thinking, as it influences our own practice.”

Films of the cinema of transgression can at times be surrealistic or even challenging to watch, especially the films Vienna Action artists. To get an idea of what these films are like, all you have to do is go to a quote by Zedd about the spirit of the underground movement: “We propose that all film schools be blown up and all boring films never be made again.”

The qualities of the films reflects the spirit of ultra-low budget filmmaking and are naturally crude; but they also feature a generation’s worth of New York underground film expression that has never achieved widespread release, but non-the less has documented the ideas and attitudes of underground artists and filmmakers from the late 80’s.

“I came because I’m a friend of Nick’s,” said Berd Naber. “It [cinema of transgression] shows that side to show the other side. It’s very humanistic and it shows the vulnerability of life. [Nick] likes to show that other side.”

“The cinema of transgression was a kitschy take on underground cinema and Andy Warhol’s films and because it was so kitschy, it allowed for better expression,” said Miles Pflanx, an experimental filmmaker and part owner of the Bushwick gallery, Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics.

Nevertheless, the movement was an entry point for such actors such as Steve Buscemi. Mainstream directors such as Martin Scorsese, John Waters and David Lynch have also found influence and expressed admiration for works like Kenneth Anger’s.

The screenings at Glasshouse are free and will run every night from the 15th to the 19th starting a 9pm and ending, as they put it, “very late.”

Fortune Telling at Pete’s

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Have your past, present and future revealed to you by candlelight in the witching hours of Wednesday by famed psychic astrologer to the stars, Winston Ludlow. We invite you to put your skepticism aside, indulge your curiousity and find answers to the questions that trouble you most Winston assures us that this will present no danger to the person being read, but to himself alone. In-depth Tarot readings $5. All information confidential and all readings end on a postiive card.

Winston Ludlow has studied occult, Tarot and Hebrew mysticism since childhood. He also moonlights as a pet psychic.

Fortune Telling by Winston Ludlow / Wednesday, January 16th / 10pm – Midnight @ Pete’s Candy Store / 709 Lorimer, Brooklyn, NY

We’re All Hipsters

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By Albert Goldson

For many years the mainstream media has verbally eviscerated hipsters as if they’re some kind of Ebola virus. Hipsters are vilified, accused of destroying the social and moral fabric of America with their off-the-grid lifestyle and perceived sloth to being the Fifth Column in the gentrification and displacement of working class folk by collaborating with Gordon Gekko inspired real-estate developers. Unless you’re a wealthy, celeb hipster, you’re a target.

Many of America’s movie stars portray hipsters who included Dustin Hoffman as the 21 year old, silver-spooned Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967) and Sam Elliot as the 32-year-old Bohemian lifeguard Rick Carlson in Lifeguard (1976). Both characters rejected corporate offers in plastics and as a Porsche salesman respectfully.

The irony of the anti-hipster hate campaign is that the movie audience loved and rooted for post WW II “rebels” beginning in the 1950s with James Dean who eschewed the corporate life and societal expectations. But even in the so-called more liberal 21st century if Bob or Joe pursue the same lifestyle as our bygone celebs he’s considered a bum or worse.

Hipsters never impose their lifestyle or values on anyone and welcome anyone to join but they won’t be put out if they don’t. They are bold urban pioneers occupying nabes that were lost, forgotten, abandoned, left to rot and fester. The same media who crowned the hipsters as saviors by resurrecting down & out nabes yesterday blame them as the cause of these same nabes becoming Millionaire Row today.

The two-faced media demonizes hipsters yet lauds those middle-aged corporate executives who parachuted (or were thrown under the bus) who now pursue a simpler lifestyle to run a non-profit creative firm, become teachers, run an organic farm or help inner-city kids read. Ironically hipsters are doing the same thing and are doing what most people always wanted to do from the get go.

The root cause of this mindless diatribe is society’s unrelenting intense envy of hipsters’ youth and lifestyle. In the eyes of the media, Williamsburg is considered the global hipster rebel base populated by vegans.

Yet youth is not a prerequisite for being a hipster, rather it’s a mindset.  Those so-called older folks trapped in the corporate Twilight Zone pine for the chance to lead such a lifestyle although no one wants to call it that. Financial firms tout investment products to their clients so these clients can pursue the very same activities in retirement as hipsters are engaged in today.

The prolonged economic depression has reduced or eliminated hipsters’ employment choices. Even if hipsters found a corporate job there are only short-term prospects with killer work hours, zero security, no pension, and worthless stock options.

It’s almost as if today’s college educated youth can’t do anything right. If they pursue an MBA or JD they’re accused of becoming greedy materialists. If they pursue work in a community arts center they are labeled unambitious and a drain on society.

Hipsters represent the genuine bulwark against repressive corporate conformity and governmental mandates, and are the vanguard of creative growth and an eternal youthful spirit. So don your Bohemian fashion and change the world.

my experience of letting the public look through my phone.

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Nick Hugh Schmidt

When first proposing the idea of having my phone on display, I felt a sense of excitement. I thought about others looking through my phone and wondering if they would have a sense of voyeurism. For me, to have complete strangers looking through my phone, and reading my everyday life, gave me a thrill. That was not the only thrill that I would feel while doing this project.

When I first left my phone in the gallery for viewers to look at, I was not worried. I believed that the people coming to the gallery were respectable, and they believed in the art that I was doing. I trusted the gallery director would keep it safe, and I was on my way. But, not long away from the gallery, I realized that I rely on my phone more than I could imagine. I walked to the L stop and proceeded to get on the train to Manhattan. But before I knew what was going on, I was going deeper into the depths of Brooklyn. I had gotten on the wrong train. Second nature kicked in and I reached for my phone to orient myself and see where I was. My phone wasn’t there of course. I realized in that moment that I rely on my phone to do the simple tasks of reading and understanding basic directions. That’s when my self-imposed circumstance became apparent and the reality hit me.

Here I was, in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, without a cell phone, with the feeling that there was no way to get in contact with anyone. My direction skills suddenly diminished because  now I was phoneless. When anxiety kicks in, a person’s mind starts to run in directions that they would not have considered when calm. I started to wonder if people where going to delete important things on my phone, or if I was going to get some important message from my family which I would not see because I was phoneless. The phone was my safety blanket, and now it was gone. I had a hard time functioning without it, but then a voice inside my head told me, “Nick this isn’t the first time you have thought like this.”

I have lived in New York now for two years. When I first moved here, I didn’t know no anyone. I had the same anxiety then, as I do now. I was roaming the streets not knowing where I was going even with the phone! I soon enjoyed it though, not knowing if I was going in the right direction, all on my own in this big city. I soon took that approach in this situation as well. I just walked the streets of New York, free from the wireless world. It was invigorating. All the anxiety that I had before went away and I began to feel the thrill again of doing this project. It brought out a variety of emotions that I was not expecting, but that is the point of art. To feel something you never thought you would.