WFMU out of Jersey City is like a shining tower on a hill broadcasting the amazing creative potential of free form listener-supported radio to the world. Sandy opened up some kick-ass on them as she was passing through, taking down both of their FM transmitters and frying a bunch of computers and equipment. They were down for a couple days but didn’t take long to brush their shoulders off and get back on air.
Unfortunately, their annual Record Fair was canceled since the venue where it was scheduled was without power, meaning one of their biggest funding sources for the year was gone, like the dough they laid out in advance to organize and promote it.
But listeners have rallied to help out and it could have been worse. Some kind of aural providence kept these blessed stacks good and dry.
Even their collection of glitterized album cover art was spared.
Photos by Brianna Wilson
And, thank heavens, their cassette copy of The Rudy Schwartz Project’sYodelin’ Satan. Still, the months ahead at WFMU won’t be easy without a little help from their friends. Good thing they’ve built quite the cache of goodwill with all the weirdness they’ve infused into the airwaves lo these many years.
INTERVIEW : ALEKSANDRA MIR ON THE FREDDIE ON THE PLINTH PROPOSAL
Aleksandra Mir is an artist based in London. Without slowing down her own prodigious output, she has taken it upon herself to spearhead an initiative to bring the iconic bronze statue of Freddie Mercury in full rock god regalia — stationed in Montreux, Switzerland — back to London. The monument was commissioned by the remaining members of Queen after Mercury’s passing and brought to life by a master of figurative sculpture and artist behind some of the great lost monuments of the Cold War era, Irena Sedlecka. In 1991, the Westminster Council rejected the statue and it found a home in Montreux, where it’s become a shrine for Mercury fans from around the world.
The Freddie on the Plinth proposal would bring Freddie, on loan for a year, to the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, “to honor both Freddie Mercury’s and Irena Sedlecka’s artistic legacies, as an exploration of the connections between socialist realism and glam rock, to contemplate the void created by all silences, and to channel love through the celebration and sheer expression of life.”
We caught up with Aleksandra to ask her about the petition and her take on the predestined meeting of the sculptor and the rock star.
Have you received any response from the Westminster Council since the Freddie on the Plinth proposal and petition were launched?
No, but the petition is not yet finalized and has formally not been filed anywhere. It is an open ended, unsolicited project, so anything can happen and that is ok.
How do you think Ms. Sedlecka’s earlier work, creating heroic statues in the socialist realist style, informed her vision of Freddie Mercury? It seems to have some of the hallmarks of that era, minus the compulsory stodginess.
Irena was trained as a classicist. She had a remarkable education in Prague after WWII which involved rigorous study of the human form, but she was also expected as an artist to move beyond mere naturalist depiction — to edit, to exaggerate, to abstract and to bring both her subjects and her own character into the work. There is both anatomical perfection and soul in her bronze of Freddie. This kind of training is completely lost today. So when Queen’s management discovered her as, what they thought, the most skillful sculptor working in Britain, her work had been obscured in the art world for almost thirty years. She still had it all in her though and she took it on with great enthusiasm. What you have as a result, in my mind, is a masterpiece.
Freddie Mercury himself seemed to cultivate an image that in some ways mimicked the “cult of personality” employed by Europe’s 20th century (male) leaders — or at the very least his mustache did. He might have been the perfect subject for her art form.
Yes, they proved to be perfect for each other. As a very young artist, Irena had been making work on a monumental scale, which only the regime of her day could have supported. As she says, it seemed a good idea at the time — to celebrate communist heroes, considering they had beaten the Nazis and that her generation had just emerged from war so had enormous enthusiasm for the new socialist model. Fast forward and most of her work was later destroyed in the Velvet Revolution. At the same time, in the West, secular mass worship had taken on the form of stadium rock. And Freddie, one of its greatest heroes, became the perfect subject for a memorial depicting him at the height of his powers at Wembley stadium.
Are any of Sedlecka’s sculptures from the pre-Velvet Revolution era still on display in their original location? We’ve heard that her monument to the victims of fascism in Melke Mezirici in Moravia is.
The Moravia monument still stands. A large portion of Socialist Realist work was actually dedicated to ‘common people’, anonymous characters that suffered the war or that were mythological representations of the human plight — mothers and children, workers, elderly people. It seems these artworks had more of a chance of surviving the post-communist era than named ‘heroes’ that ended up being rejected by history.
Oscar Wilde was famously persecuted in London but he’s now memorialized by a statue at Charing Cross. His took 98 years though, do you think Freddie’s will take that long?
Who knows? This is a work about two people, both Freddie Mercury whose life story and fame is omnipresent, and Irena Sedlecka, who works in quiet. It is an amazing tale of an artist’s productive life that covers nearly a century of European upheaval and shifting ideologies. What I learned is that the political winds can change very drastically and unexpectedly from one day to another. It is impossible to say today what would eventually prompt a return of this rejected statue and masterpiece to London.
Emily Baker’s an OG jewelry designer, universe-maker and inspirational mover-shaker we’re lucky enough to call a neighbor and a friend in Portland, Oregon. Her line of jewelry, Sword + Fern — and the shop where it grows as thick as moss — acted as a catalyst for Portland design back in the day. We love watching her world expand — with sweetheart, Lovers synth-programmer and performance artist Kerby Ferris — into a life-giving and electro-sparked atmosphere in a league of its own.
Tonight, Emily takes over room 205 at Ace Hotel Portland for Content 2012, creating a sound installation with Kerby that will blow your fucking mind. Tickets can be picked up at Ace Hotel Portland, and $5 of each goes toward New York Cares to aid in hurricane relief efforts. Below, she gives a glimpse into what’s in store for us and talks about her new F/W collection, Memorizer.
The new jewelry collection, Memorizer, is inspired by the ancient Pacific Northwest First Nations myth of Copper Woman, the First Mother of civilization — her warrior training traditions, wisdom and the power of intuition. I let my senses rule my process; my most beloved way to work is gathering materials by happenstance and sponteneity, messing up and leaving it, then coming back to it again. I found fluidity, the concept of water logic, and the secret world of my own tiny joys came to the surface while I was working on Memorizer.
The alchemic imperfections of hand-cut copper, hand-dyed wood in ombre chakra tones, engraved graphics on leather, silkscreened scarves, cast concrete and cut mirrors all blend together to tell the story of a secret society’s traditions and their visions of women’s ancient wisdom, power and strength, taking the wearer on a joyride to the space alive inside their own personal landscapes.
YOUJOY in room 205 will be a sensory exploration of shape and sound. Kerby’s bandmate Emily has been immersing as of late in Shambhala Buddhist teachings from Pema Chödrön and Chögyam Trungpa — and her current mantra, YOUJOY, emphasizes these principles of finding happiness just by being yourself. Kerby will create an interactive sound installation that will weave in and out of the new Memorizer pieces as well as the new Sword + Fern sculptural line, Water Logic — mobiles, wall hangings, textiles and other jewelry for the home.
Trinidad-born Mursi Layne, co-founder, with Alexis Casson, of The Artchitects, spun with Tom Tom Magazine at Ace New York during October — and she’s back on the decks Monday night at Bembe in Brooklyn. A turntablist who prefers the wheels of steel to all that audio digitalis, she’s been mixing her bad self into a wider range of roles as deejay, documentarian and voice for her communities. We talked with her about Hands On mini-ball DJ MikeQ, being homesick, and the hats she wore back in the day, including some that she’s still wearing in the here and now.
What age were you when you arrived in New York and what song, sound or smell reminds you of that moment?
My first visit to NYC was at age 13. My mom and dad had already lived here for at least 8 years. My dad was a driver back then and every time he picked me up, he had a cassette tape with steel drums playing. I was into Dancehall and Soca, so I really couldn’t take the steel drums for too long. However, it reminded me of home — Trinidad — which I missed. I don’t hear steel drums often, so when I do it takes me back to my first time in New York.
The term Afropunk is a part of the lexicon for a wider audience, especially since Afropunk Fest hit Brooklyn in August. You’ve been involved — it’s a website, it’s a festival, it’s a lot of bigger things. What is it to you?
The Peculiar Kind has partnered with Afropunk to be the LGBT voice on the AP network. We also had a booth set up at the festival this year. To me, the term Afropunk has become synonymous with “community.” Although most New Yorkers are much more open-minded than some, there’s still a sense of hatred toward others for being “different.” Whether it be because of skin color, sexual orientation or any way you present yourself to the world that isn’t considered the norm. It was amazing to see such a diverse crowd together in one space celebrating art, music, love and life.
You’ve been getting around the globe quite a bit for work. What’s the most exciting regional sound for you right now?
This is really tough because I have so many sounds that get me going at the moment. My DJ sets are like a melting pot! I can go anywhere from cunty beats like MikeQ-produced tracks to Stuttastep tunes such as DJ Kiva’s remix of Erykah Badu’s Out My Mind, Just in Time. At some parties, I have to throw in some Soca and Dancehall, naturally, because I am an island girl. Speaking of regional sound, I am super excited to guest DJ this Monday at iBomba, a monthly party where deejays spin a fusion of Global, Bass, Digital, Cumbia, Future and Dancehall.
You’re working on a documentary for The Peculiar Kind with The Artchitects. Tell us about it.
The documentary is based on a web series where Alexis Casson and I, known as The Artchitects, have candid and unscripted conversations with queer women of color about issues within the LGBTQ community. The ultimate goal is to build awareness and expose the world to a subculture that is often misunderstood. You can get it on DVD, and you can arrange screenings through our website — Season Two of the web series will begin production in Spring 2013.
Celebrating a decade of incredible work, Roman and Williams' Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch signed copies of their new book Roman and Williams Buildings & Interiors : Things We Made with some friends and a gallery of shots in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York last week — you can grab signed copies of this beautiful tome on our shop. We’re old friends with Robin and Stephen, and our studio director, Eric, and interiors maestro Loren worked on the Roman and Williams team when Ace Hotel New York was taking shape. They had a chance to sit down with Stephen and Robin amidst the mayhem to ask about the book, their work together and the subconscious.
Robin and Stephen, you still appear from time to time in Eric and Loren’s dreams. Do you find that creative collaboration spiked with a sobering dose of real business tends to dye the subconscious in this way, and do all the collaborators and team members you’ve had continue to affect your psyche?
Well everything that’s difficult tends to dye the subconscious and work itself into dreams, and we are and always have been difficult. We are proud of that tradition. Easy things are forgettable and have no impact –- no staying power. No dream or haunting qualities ever came from something easy.
The title Things We Made speaks to a sort of portfolio of finished products, however we know how important the process of design is, and how imperfections in that process go into your work, aka “fucking things up.” Will readers get any insight into this rebellious stance?
We hope so! We really put so much work into creating a book that would give insight into our ethos –- where readers could get a sense of us as people, not just our projects. We included hundreds of drawings –- we even drew on the drawings. And the text is a series of conversations, rather than just descriptions.
The book celebrates a “decade of design” — what do you hope the next decade will bring in terms of your studio and practice?
Even more humanistic, careful and unpretentious design. We hope to spread the warmth that the Ace embodies. We’d love to design an airport or a hospital in a way that would move people. The International Style, and what it has bred, and benign contemporary design have made for boring, dreary places that need to me be made more interesting –- interesting for everyone, and not just for architects and designers.
We love your beautiful spot in Montauk — how did the garden do this year? For the green thumbs out there, what’s your favorite vegetable to grow?
It was a hot summer and the garden was absolutely prolific. This year, we built eight-foot tall towers for our tomatoes and we grew eight different varieties. We have been harvesting them well into late October. We never thought they would grow that high – but they did –- they could have grown another few feet even! Our peppers also did well this year because of the heat.
We love growing cabbages, artichokes, and brussell sprouts -– vegetables that take two years to harvest. It is fascinating to watch the process -– how the vegetables grow over one summer, how they retract over the winter and then explode the following spring into super vegetable power.
We’ve also love growing medicinal plants like Angelika, Wormwood and Echinacea, which we like to use. We could go on …
In the act of making things there are many people involved in the process, especially with international projects internationally. In your experience, are Americans still good at “making things”?
Absolutely. American manufacturing almost disappeared — another price of the post-war obsession with cheapening architecture and design. It focused on zero craft and lack of detail. American manufacturing is known for being meaty, strong, simple and good. Things we love. We try to support American craftsmanship as much as we can. It is hard to convince developers and owners to pay more for things made in this country, to pay for things that last longer, but we do the best we can. Whenever we build something for ourselves, this is always the case.
We blessed to call you family and we’re honored to call you friends — excited to see what the next decade brings.
We feel the same about the Ace team. The world is a better place with Ace in it. Thank you. So proud to have had our book party in the Living Room! It’s the project that’s closest to our hearts. Thank you!
MEN is a Brooklyn-based band and performance collective that focuses on the radical potential of dance music. They’re touring the Pacific Northwest this month and we asked member JD Samson to present us with a photo essay from the road.
+ The first song you fell in love with.
+ Your role model.
+ Favorite thing to see in the audience from onstage.
INTERVIEW : BIG FREEDIA THE QUEEN DIVA SENDS HER BEST WISHES TO NY
It’s not quite clear if New York will have to weather the Sandy aftermath with or without Big Freedia — who we realize needs no introduction here. The Nola Bounce Queen Diva’s scheduled Halloween show at Brooklyn Bowl is looking likely — but nobody can make any promises. We got in touch with her Monday in the Crescent City via phone, where she chatted with us about the music and politics of bounce and sent her prayers from storm country.
There’s been a couple darker records to come out of New Orleans post-Katrina — like Juvenile’s Reality Check comes to mind. But overall New Orleans music is pretty joyful — especially for having been through something like that. Why is that? What makes it so resilient?
Well, definitely Bounce music is more of a happy music, and then you know we have all other other types of music here in New Orleans — the Jazz and Brass bands and even the Hip Hop, some of them keep it positive. We have a lot of versatility here and we use that.
Yeah, it seems like that can’t-keep-it-down energy is just engrained in the musical culture, sort of like a jazz funeral. How do you feel about the term “Sissy Bounce”? The piece in the New York Times a couple years ago said the artists didn’t really like it — not because of the word ‘sissy’ but because they just didn’t want to be separated from Bounce music in general.
Right, we don’t separate it here in New Orleans. It’s all bounce music. There’s no such thing as Sissy Bounce. We have some gay artists who do this music but we don’t separate it. There’s a lot of straight artists, [many who came before] the gay artists who feel offended when people be saying Sissy Bounce because it’s not Sissy Bounce, it’s Bounce music in general — New Orleans is really open to all artists.
Does it ever get competitive in Bounce? Are there battles like there are in other genres of Hip Hop?
Oh definitely (Laughs). We get competitive in many ways. When there’s a hottest artist all the other artists are trying to get to that point and they’re definitely gunning for that artist.
Any battles you’ve had you want to talk about?
No, but I’m always battling. That’s why I’m always on stage.
Are you still doing interior decorating?
Yeah, every chance I get I am.
As you tour more does it get harder to do that?
Yeah, it does. I’m touring a whole lot more and it’s been a challenge to try to decorate and perform at the same time. When I’m not here though I send out my staff and they go take care of it.
The more you tour and do shows around the country, is the vibe at a Bounce show becoming more similar to the way it is in New Orleans?
Yeah, it’s changing a lot. They’re learning the music. They’re jamming even more. They’re learning the dances. It’s feeling more and more like home everywhere I go.
How do you feel the rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going at this point?
I’m very excited with the way that the city’s coming back. It’s amazing what they’re doing. It’s an uplift on the whole city — it’s a slow process but it’s definitely changing.
Do you feel like the music scene is back in full swing?
I would say yes. It’s gotten back to where it needs to be at. It can always get stronger and bigger and better.
Quintron mentioned you in his shortlist of New Orleans artists when we interviewed him a few weeks back. Have you played with Quintron and Miss Pussycat?
Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve performed together before. When I first started touring a lot, Quintron was a big help with that. Yeah, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him.
We have our own storm situation here as you know.
Yes and I’m very disappointed. I’m praying for you guys that the best happens, that God takes control over the whole situation. We’re a storm city here so we’re definitely praying that you guys will be safe.