Invisible Faces is a photography project that seeks to create a public face for youth homelessness.
With more than 14,000 homeless young people in Massachusetts alone, this significant social issue experiences surprisingly low visibility. This project attempts to address the awareness gap by collecting 140 portraits of homeless youth, which will then be printed and exhibited in collaboration with local outreach groups and the subjects themselves.
Near Death is a two-night festival of performance art dealing with the “infinitely small territory we claim between life and death.”
Hosted by Fourth Wall Project in Boston, the exhibition is organized by artist/curator Vela Phelan with a mixture of local and international participants.
As a form of art practice with little commercial viability, performance art programs can be difficult to fund. Factor in the necessity of the participating artists’ physical presence, and the cost is daunting. By turning to Kickstarter, Phelan is looking for support from the Boston arts community to make these curatorial ideas possible — and help artists make a small living in the process.
The DocYard is Boston’s premiere documentary screening and discussion series. We’re also proud to say that it’s our Project of the Day. They’ve shown over 20 films to date, with titles ranging from award-winning documentaries to forgotten classics. Their mission is to transform an ordinary trip to the movies into a thought-provoking, community-building event — so come one, come all, and don’t forget the popcorn!
Rafael Salazar’s short film Camillo screens tomorrow, 9/17 at the Urbanworld 2011 Film Festival @ AMC Theater on 34th. Click here for schedge and tix.
The We Promote Knowledge & Love parade hits Harlem Sunday, 9/18 from 1-5p. Meet up at Frederick Douglass Circle located at the intersection of 110th Street and Frederick Douglass Avenue.
Sunday 9/18 @ 4p (as aforementioned!) the Brooklyn Book Festival features a Kickstarter Conversations panel discussion with KSR co-founder Yancey Strickler and authors Ted Rall, Nelson George, and Meaghan O’Connell.
I recently stopped in for a studio visit with Moore Pattern project creator Jeff Lieberman. As Jeff describes it, the Moore Pattern is a “kinetic optical-illusion sculpture,” a meditative piece of rotating wall art that Jeff’s offering at $150 a pop. With three days left in his Kickstarter campaign, Jeff is nearly 200% over his goal with 182 backers pledged for 192 sculptures. Not sure if I was drawn to the hair, voice, synthesizers, sculpture, or achingly silly vibe, but some combination of the elements made me think, “hey, I happen to be in Boston, and I would like to shake this man’s hand.”
I quickly learned the hair (and voice) are fake; the electronica and trippy sculpture are only 2 of approx. 200 awesome creations, the goofiness is really just a cover for other-worldly enlightenment, and shaking Jeff’s hand turned out to be one of the top 10 casual decisions of my life.
Like many artists, Jeff’s studio doubles as his apartment, and it is flooded with light. The Moore Pattern spins (non-stop for the last five years) next to his front door, and amidst a sea of original artwork and recording gear is an immaculate upright piano, which Jeff has been playing since age 14. He’s currently working on Chopin’s first ballade with the hopes of “effortless mastery.” (He’s pretty close. No.Big.Deal.) Across from his kitchen sink is a framed array of 30 pink plastic doll hands, each one with a different note on it written in ink, apparently recreating the 30 notes Jeff had jotted down on his hand the 30 times his best friend saw him before his 30th birthday.
Next to that glass box of paws is a massive piece of construction paper with the kind of brainstorming web I hadn’t seen since middle school, except instead of “5 paragraph essay” connecting to thought bubbles like “intro” and “thesis,” “Life” is mad philosopher-scientist linked to “Evolution,” “Self/Ego,” “Thinking/Thought,” “Perception,” and “Happiness.”
Jeff has received 4 degrees from M.I.T., where he studied for 10 years and was influenced by artists like Arthur Ganson, whose Gestural Engineering exhibition (permanently on display at M.I.T.) made Jeff realize he didn’t have to choose art or science, he could just make art that involved science! He developed and starred in the Discovery Channel series Time Warp, a show that used slow-motion photographing technologies to reveal the limits of perception that otherwise prevent us from seeing the truly magical biology, chemistry, and physics of things (like the popping of a champagne cork or a boxer’s jaw as he’s getting clobbered).
Limits of perception and revelation are key concepts for Jeff, who sees his technology-based art as a means to bring people to meditation, which he describes as the act of “trying to think of everything you can until you give up, and that’s the moment when you let go and actually start to see.” He believes we are in the midst of an epic Renaissance right now (“—you mean in music?” I offer. “I mean in everything!” he exclaims). He refers to the arduino as “the new paintbrush” and open-source access as “the model everyone will be working off of within the next 30 years.” (The Moore Pattern is an open source project, as is everything Jeff does, and he is about to release his own arduino library for strobes.)
Jeff believes “celebrity will disappear, and all that will be left are micro-cultures” (cough Kickstarter projects cough) that can and will sustain themselves. He believes that for an artist, it’s the process not the product that is the art (cough Kickstarter projects cough). Jeff says the process of his art is to “find two forms of magic and combine them. Then wait to reveal the second one.” For me, the first was the Moore Pattern. The second was just Jeff.
The Moore Pattern project ends at 6:40p ET this Sunday, May 15th. Click here to support it.
We could all learn a lesson or two on brevity from project creator Daniel Danger. Just take the intro for his pitch video: “Hi, I’m in the movie Independence Day. I have a giant guitar. I got it from somewhere I can’t really explain. My plan is to bring it to a field, put a bunch of drums and amps in front of it, and just see what happens.” BOOM. And just like that, you’ve got us hook, line, and holy-crap-massive-exploding-guitar.
Mr. Danger was aiming to create a three minute HD music video out of this fiery, “nothing-could-possibly-go-wrong” excursion, and he recently posted a sizzle reel (non-movie slang: “preview”) for the finished piece:
This video celebrates a very important moment in the filmmaking process where we all said together, as one voice, “I cannot possibly wait any longer to start showing people this giant burning guitar.” You see it? Do you see all that fire? It’s right there, man!
What else can we say? Now let’s all practice some brevity together, and just hit #%@*ing play (man).
Boston-based hip hop phenomenon Mr. Lif has been rapping and making beats for the last two decades, with heated political rhymes and complex rhythms that make you want to stomp in a very good way. On this new album he’s throwing insurgent lyrics over the rebellious gypsy horns of Brass Menažeri, a Balkan brass band from San Francisco. Their Kickstarter project is powerhouse collaboration that will surely shake the powers that be. The revolutionaries took a brief pause from the glorious uprising to answer a few questions.
How did you become aware of each other’s music?
Mr. Lif: Devon Leger, the curator of the Seattle Folk Festival, is the person that first approached us about working together. He called me up and said “Lif, I want you to come play a folk festival in Seattle…but I want you to rock with a Balkan brass band.” I thought about it for a second and said yes. I love opportunities to push the boundaries of my imagination, and this sounded like exactly what I needed at the time. When I finally got to meet Brass Menažeri face to face on Dec. 11th, 2010, the chemistry was automatic. We had a 7-hour rehearsal that went by quickly due to the excitement we all had catching glimpses of our potential. We carried an optimistic and explorative energy to the stage on Dec. 12th, and it became evident to us then that we needed to get into a studio as soon as possible to fully realize our combined sound.
You mentioned playing in an old coffin factory in your project video…Go on…?!
Brass Menažeri’s Peter Jaques: That was where we had our one and only rehearsal. Briget (of Brass Menažeri) had been looking for a rehearsal space and ran across a website advertising one for a reasonable price, so she booked it. When we got there we discovered the ad had been more than flattering. We found puddled concrete floors, no heat, a million drafts, definitely no PA — and finally a sign announcing the founding of the coffin manufacturer once contained there. But we got a heater and an amp and got going. Perhaps it was the influence of the departed souls, or perhaps the crypt-like atmosphere, but we came up with something born from beyond any of us.
What distinguishes Balkan brass from say, the New Orleans sound? Can you describe what makes it “gypsy” style?
Jaques: Well, in a literal sense, what Brass Menažeri plays is directly rooted in the music of Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Bosnia, and strongly identified with the Roma (“Gypsies”) there. It’s hard driving music, frequently in odd-metered rhythms (e.g. 7/8, 9/8, etc.) and commonly uses Eastern musical scales, especially Turkish/Arabic scales. Here’s an example by one of our favorite bands, led by Dejan Avdić from southern Serbia, performing in 9/8 at the championship Guča Brass Band Festival. (Apologies for the mediocre sound quality, it was shot from the crowd.) Pretty much a completely different sound from American Brass!
Mr. Lif, what about rapping over horns vs. beats? How have you found a balance among all the boisterous sounds?
Lif: I’ve sought out big sounds all throughout my career. Even in my early days of self-produced beats, I was mainly drawn to sampling horns. There is something indescribably magnificent about a well-orchestrated horn section. I feel like this opportunity to work with Brass Menažeri presents the best of many things I’ve been seeking in terms of sound. I get commanding drums to accompany the horns, and I also get to rock over the up-tempo boisterous swing that Balkan brass provides. When we get the opportunity to be in a recording studio together, we’ll explore a vast array of options to fuse the best of what I do with the best of what Brass Menažeri does. It hasn’t been a struggle to find a balance at all.
Why are you drawn to Balkan music? How does it work with what you rap about?
Lif: Balkan brass music is rooted as the sound of the Serbian and Macedonian people rising up against the Ottoman Empire. My lyrics will be a powerful combination over Balkan sounds because I think the times we’re living through do call for an uprising of sorts. The uprising I seek is that of humankind elevating its collective mind to step away from the caustic ways of the “civilized” world we have created. I plan to speak from the heart on the humility and resilience brought about by hard times. I want to implore that intense spiritual growth can be sparked by listening closely to one’s instincts. What better music as a backdrop for this than the music of rebellion and liberation?
Who and what else are you listening to lately?
Jaques: Turkish 70’s psychedelic rock! Erkin Koray was brilliant. It’s exactly what that description makes it sound like, complete with electric saz and too much spring reverb. Also Kayhan Kalhor and Mohammed Reza Shadjarian, master Persian musicians. Some of the most soulful music anywhere. BDP — KRS One is a master. Always Beethoven, Marika Papagika (Greek singer from the 1930’s), and lots of Balkan brass!
What made you decide to use Kickstarter?
Lif: To answer this question, I turn again to the history of the Balkan Brass sound. ”People uprising to overthrow their rulers.” That’s a powerful concept, a powerful thought. For people to accomplish something like that, it requires unity, determination, and focus on a common goal. Within the context of the lyrics I’ll be writing for this album, we may all have to identify our own perspective as our main oppressor. The willingness to make challenging but fruitful and sustainable change must come from deep within. You’ve got to really want it. So Kickstarter is perfect for this project because if the people want to hear these sounds, if they want to explore this path with us, they have the power to contribute funds to make it happen. They’ll be able to come sit in the studio with us and see what they have contributed to. They’ll have their names in the album credits. It’ll be a unified team effort to do something unique and fulfilling. That’s the type of art I want to leave behind when I’m gone.