Interview: YACHT

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Los Angeles, California

YACHT is:

  • a musical band
  • post-internet mysticism
  • a multimedia dance sermon
  • a geo-specific iPhone app

The beautiful aliens of YACHT sat for a spell to talk to us about the sound the Universe makes and other real things.

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You guys have a predilection for getting to the bottom of things: “The earth is on fire, Put a beautiful thing in a container and it ruins it.” If you had to write some new laws of physics based on the everyday science of contemporary experience, what would you propose?

This is such a great question. These are the YACHT laws of (meta)physics: 

  1.  The Universe is completely indifferent to all human pursuits.
  2.  The Universe is infinitely expanding. Ergo: any human can lay  claim to being the center of the Universe.
  3.  You are the center of the Universe, but so is everyone else. 
  4.  That means nobody can reasonably tell you what you can (or can’t)  do. 
  5.  It also means you can’t dictate anyone else’s reality.

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What are your favorite sounds that are not musical in nature?

The crazy-making hum of overhead power transformers, the boing of a doorstop, the inquisitive chirp of a domestic cat. 

Is there a natural phenomena that you feel has the most bearing on the human psyche? 

The solar wind. 

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What is the best thing to see in the audience from the stage?

Faces lit up from below by an ocean of tiny screens.

I once read about a Light Chamber in the midwest or maybe it was Florida that was essentially a little box of meditative sounds and flashing lights that was supposed to cure neurological disorders. The man that built it was at least 100. Do you feel there are healing properties in an exacting combination of light and sound?

We are in the constant pursuit of the most physiologically pleasing music. There must be a frequency that is universally healing, universally enjoyable, on a neurological level that bypasses all individually subjective taste. There are many conspiracy theories and crackpot hypotheses about this kind of thing—many people believe that 432 Hz tuning is the fundamental “beat” of the planet, a kind of God note pushed out of conventional music by the New World Order. We don’t buy that, necessarily, but it’s a subjective idea. YACHT strives for universal, collective experience. That’s why we make music you can dance to. 

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What is your favorite city and what do you love the most about it? 

Los Angeles, because is it the seat of all myth-making in the West. There are qualities to this city — light, color palette, dimensions — that anyone weaned on cinema is already innately familiar with, which makes it always uncanny to new visitors. At the same time, it has no real or central identity, which means it’s pliable to any individual’s vision or experience of it. We also just really, really like tooling around on the freeway, taking in the visual language of Los Angeles. It’s endlessly inspiring in its simultaneous ugliness and beauty. 

What is your favorite new slang or the most common words in your lexicon?

You know that slightly resistant, mutely flocked kind of rubber that seems to cloak a lot of handheld technologies these days? We call that “shark-dick.” Discovering it in the world is a joy. 

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Is there an architectural or synesthesic element to song-making? 

Every song is different. At least for us, in process. Some are highly technical —they come together from meticulous piecing-together over the course of months. Others just happen, in a moment, with elements that emerge from nowhere and feel universally right to everyone in the group.  

How do you make the time to create/dream/ponder/wander/do everything/nothing/eat/sleep/love when you’re on the road? What is your time-management energy-font secret?

We have no choice. Being on the road is a state of being that you have to accept as a baseline before you can build anything else on top of it. Once you are accustomed to a perpetual condition of flux, then it’s just like regular life: you eat when you’re hungry, you seek out experiences that will make the whole thing memorable, you love and dream while the world passes by your windows. We support one another and bond closely while we’re on tour. And every night is different, an influx of people and their energies who are there to experience the thing we’re doing, which is really galvanizing. 

How do you stay so inspired on tour? 

We have each other. 

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Angelenos: You can download Claire and Jona’s app to your pocket television and see your city like they do. 

                                                        All photos of YACHT were found here.


INTERVIEW: KEN BURNS, PART II OF III.

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Last week we posted the first part of our very own Kelly Sawdon in conversation with the luminous Ken Burns. His new seriesThe Roosevelts, is wrapping up on PBS about now. Here’s part two. 

You create complex narratives very successfully. How do ethics play into your vision or execution as a filmmaker?

I think there’s a very complex dynamic with regard to ethics. It’s very hard to articulate because what we’re doing is we’re taking still photographs and archival evidence from the past, and trying to figure out how to tell a story. Take for example our civil war film. It’s eleven and a half hours long.

Most of the time there’s battles going on and yet there’s not a single still photograph of battles taken during the civil war. So, we had to invoke some sort of frenetic approach — a quick cut, a detail on the cannon, and troops marching, and the glimmer of bayonets. If you cut them well enough, it gives a semblance of battle, the sound effects and complex narrative.

We’re serving a larger truth, but you’re on an ethical line and you’re constantly struggling. It’s really terrific, but if it’s too much we’ll pull back or we’ll say you know what, let’s not do that.

We made a film on Louis and Clark and those photographs or even paintings of the Indians when they saw them visiting, but there are later paintings and there are later photographs, which we used. Even though there’s a temporal dislocation of 60 or 70 years, it was more important to represent what the Shoshone tribe looked like than not do anything or to do some God awful reenactment. If you’re going to do reenactments, you might as well just make a feature film.

You spent considerable time investigating your subjects and after spending seven plus years on those topics, do you still find them fascinating? Do you continue to study them after you’ve completed a series?

You know it’s interesting; they’re like your kids. I feel so privileged that working in this way, being able to focus for as long and as intensely as we do. The great question people ask, don’t you get bored — it’s exactly the opposite. The more I work on something, the closer and closer I get to it. Just like the kid you send off to college, they’re on their own, they’ve got a life of their own.

The film’s released — it’s basically what’s more important right now is your feelings about the film, not mine. Yet, we stay with them and we learn more, and ever more you think about it in different ways, you actually go back and look at the film and see aspects of them that you may not have been consciously intended, or given off by the film. That’s very exciting to me.

Then after you’ve finished a series, has a fact that you weren’t aware ever come to light that would have impacted the direction you took on that subject matter? 

Yes, it’s happened in a few instances and I’ve been very, very relieved as… a lot of contemporary documentaries are relatively temporal. Michael Moore’s Roger and Me is essentially for the General Motors of the ‘80s. That’s limiting in some ways as he presents it as universal.

I made a film on Thomas Jefferson and it was soon afterwards discovered that he was 100% confirmed, or 99.99% confirmed, that he actually had children with his slave mistress, Sally Hemmings. Our film dealt with the controversy, it’s been brewing since 1802. It started a continual whispering behind Jefferson throughout his life and throughout American history. The DNA analysis confirmed it.

Our film made the larger point that some people said look he did, no he couldn’t of, but it was mitigated by the great historian, the late John L. Franklin. He said it didn’t matter, he owned her. I think that in our late 20th century, early 21st century tabloids mentality, did he or didn’t he is really just a sexual fascination. That in fact the more important thing was that he owned her. Somebody could have said, “Where’s Sally?” He could have said, “I killed her, she displeased me,” and there was not a law in America that would have protected her. That power relationship is in fact much more important than the sexual one.

They’re very complicating things. I’ll make it more difficult for you right now, which is, Jefferson’s wife had died, Sally’s was the product of a house slave that he had inherited from his father in law. She, Sally, was also the product of not only a house slave, but his father in law. This is a young girl that was the half sister of his wife, who looked close to what his wife might have looked, only a dark skinned or a mulatto version of that. He had been lonely for a long time — I’m not excusing it. He owned her, she was a teenager when their relationship began, but that complicates the story. That’s what we did in our film is take the simplistic judgments that we like to make of people, like Oh, he’s all bad, oh, she’s all good and say, well actually a little bit, it’s not as simple as that.

Yeah — a lot of grey. So, the Roosevelts — no other family has touched so many American lives with so much exposure. Was there anything you came across prior to the film that was particularly unexpected?

I think everything was unexpected. I think it had to do with the struggles of each of them, how each of them were wounded people. Each of them overcame their adversity, either in childhood or later in life to serve other people. I think when you get into that dimension, you know the outer events that we thought felt familiar, take on a different task.

When you’re thinking about trying to lift the whole country up with the New Deal and they’re realizing that Franklin Roosevelt can’t lift himself up, you begin to understand the dimensions and the dynamics of his polio. You have an even greater appreciation. So, to me it’s not so much the gotcha.

We’ve got lots of new scholarship and then we interviewed a woman who was the wife of the person Eleanor said she loved the most, David Gurewitsch, at the end of her life. They all lived together in a tree of one. She never appeared before in films, so made great use of the scholarship that was made available first to Geoffrey Ward, my writer, about his distant cousin, Davey Stekley, who was as close to Franklin as anybody’s every been. Not sexual, but the deepest friendship that he had. He confided stuff that he didn’t even confide to Eleanor. You’re learning aspects of Franklin’s life that even Eleanor would say, oh no he never expressed disappointment. Well, you’ve got lots and lots of letters in which he did to Davey. That opens up and gives dimensions to a notoriously opaque personal life Franklin Roosevelt. 


INTERVIEW: KEN BURNS, PART I OF III.

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The films of Ken Burns take an America as their subject that resists, as the man himself says, the bold-faced way we look at culture. In a world where it seems all the information is available, it takes discipline and a steady hand to handle honestly a history that in the midst of so many shortcomings is singular in its vision and meaning. Mr. Burns’ new series, The Roosevelts, begins its run on the air today on PBS — and back in July, we had a sparkly preview screening of the film at The Theatre. Our very own Kelly Sawdon had the chance to chat him up in the interim. 

Okay, first, what is it about the US specifically as a subject that keeps you coming back?

Well, you know I think that if I lived to be a 1,000 years, I’d never run out of good stories in American history. My brain is filled with them. I’ve already planned out ten years in the beginning to plot the ten years after that.

Lincoln referred to the United Stated as the last best hope. There’s lots of things that we do badly, but we do represent one of the best experiments of human kind. I think it’s within the tension between our best selves and our worst selves, between what Abraham Lincoln called our better angels and those lower, that they’re just amazing stories.

Roosevelt points out that these are within ourselves. That heroism is not perfection, but a very interesting negotiation. Sometimes the war between somebody’s obvious strengths, and maybe their not so obvious weaknesses.

Your style as a filmmaker manages to be both new and familiar. From your perspective, do you have a singular style?

Yeah, I think that if you analyze what the word style means, it just means authentic application of technique. Everybody in whatever medium they’re working, somebody’s painting, or dance, or theater, or whatever it is, film, you develop a recognizable style because you’re using the techniques of your medium authentically. That’s the only thing that matters.

People often say, well why don’t you, won’t you change your style up? Change for change sake is nothing. It’s being fashionable, it’s not being anything else. I don’t want to be fashionable, I want to have my own style.

While I suppose if you took a look at all my films from a distance, they’d seem similar. If you go up, each one has a kind of unique set of solutions to whatever the issues were in that film. We may be engaging the same elements, the still photographs and first person voices, and archives, and things like that. I pride myself on resisting temptations.

I think the whole idea is that style isn’t something you just sort of settle upon and that’s it. There’s a lot that goes into the formula. I think style is actually a very complicated obligation to oneself. Not just to be authentic to the process, but also to be constantly critical and trying to engage the thing you do at a higher and higher level.

Well put. One of the greatest strengths in your films is how round the texture of your characters are. As an artist, you work in a genre laden with perceptions of what is real or true. With so much information out there on the subject of your films, what makes you handle these people so evenly?

It’s funny — you’re absolutely right. We’re sort of bombarded, cascaded with information, and what we do with all that information is kind of shut down. We adopt sort of simplistic, conventional wisdoms about people. That’s part of the reason why we don’t have any heroes because we can have a simplistic definition of heroism that is perfection and then when we don’t see anybody perfect around us — and there are none — we’re then rubbing our hands and saying where are all the heroes.

What we decided to do was go back to the past to examine these people and see their complexity. All of the sudden, that superficiality, that conventional wisdom, sort of evaporates. It’s useful. The Roosevelts become deeper, one appreciates them a little bit more. They’re complex, they’ve got undertones, they’re not without flaws. In some ways, that doesn’t in anyway diminish their strengths, it actually puts them in sort of stronger place and I think it also helps make people realize that they’re human.

Too often, in a bold-faced culture, we don’t see that, they’re just on a pedestal. What I like is that the Roosevelts are among the most-bold faced, political names. In our film, they feel like the rest of us. They have divorces, they die, they get sick, they overcome difficulty, there are betrayals, there’s great love, there’s great passion. All the things that we feel and now the onus is taken off of them because we are presented with a side that makes them human, and not just the cardboard cutout expectations of what we think we know. That’s what we try really hard in our films to do. 


Portland, OR
FIVE THINGS:
Last week, public mural project Forest for the Trees brought twenty artists to Portland, handed them a couple of buckets of Miller paint, a pair of coveralls and a blank wall — and asked them to paint the hell out of it. FFTT organized bike tours and distributed treasure maps to the murals in media res, so the city could play a part in its own magic-making — each splatter, stroke and rattle-can shake along the way. These large-scale pieces transform our daily commute — concrete and steel rectangles soundly rounded at the edges, fitting in with and also against nature a magic moment at a time. 
Artist, illustrator, sculptor, cartoonist and all-around shining polymath Maryanna Hoggatt painted one such mural on the corner of 59th and Sandy in Northeast Portland. The mural is an extension of Maryanna’s Animal Battle series — drawings and sculptures of cartoonish animals primed for a whimsical fisticuffs and armed with all the trappings of storybook war — star-lit lanterns, a quiver of heart-tipped arrows, wooden swords and an earnest, easily-digestible valor. A little bit Jim Henson, a little bit Roald Dahl, Animal Battle weaves a fantasy narrative in an effort to unearth our self-flagellating, masochistic and fearful tendencies and remind us of the immense reservoir of untapped courage in our wild hearts. We caught up with Maryanna to find out how she fights for her dreams.

How does your work relate — if at all — to the world in which us humans live?
We all have our personal struggles. My work is about our internal battles to bring dreams and ideas to life. Sometimes the dream is as big as pursuing what we feel is our destiny, some ideas are as ordinary as finding the courage to ask someone on a date. Through my fantasy world, I want to encourage people to overcome those fears.

Fear is a feeling that all of us — animal and human — are confronted with in various ways throughout our lives. Is there a way your work explores differently fear and doubt anthropomorphized, that is more effective than other expressions?
I’m strongly influenced by the fantasy books and films that inspired me as a kid, and in almost all of those narratives Evil was represented by an animal or creature. When you assign a tangible identity to an emotion such as fear, it’s much easier to look it in the eye. The next time you hesitate to do something, either because you are unsure or scared of the outcome, imagine plucking that emotion from your head, placing it in your hand, and telling it, “No.”
I think subconsciously I’ve expressed this narrative through animal soldiers because, while my work is meant for all ages, it’s really meant for children. I wanted to take a complex concept and be able to distill it into simple visual terms that a child can understand: find your courage, be brave, and face your fears. I’m sure there are other ways to express this, but for me, it’s the most natural way. Plus I apparently like to play with paint and clay, so that helps.

You just completed a mural for Forest for the Trees in Portland. How did you approach your work in terms of place? Did you get to have input on site/location? Did thinking about the neighborhood and place affect your process?
One of the best things about this event is that its organizers take care of all the leg work — the permits, supplies, and scouting for walls — so that all you have to do as an artist is show up and paint. We were offered a certain wall and had the option of selecting a different one, but most people take the first choice. I was given my wall (at BTU Brasserie, on NE 59th and Sandy) because it was my first mural and one of the smaller walls.
The other great thing about this project is that the business owners are aware of its intent and have faith in the organizers and their artists. I was allowed to create freely. The location did not affect my idea, but I think it helped that it was nestled into a neighborhood full of families and longtime residents. I had many visitors come by, some with their children, who were really excited about my mural and the project. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Do you have any good luck charms?
No. I’m the kind of person who will work really hard and hope for the best. Luck is just icing on the cake.

What’s one fucked up thing?
There are so many fucked up things. I’m easily overwhelmed by the fucked up things. But I think part of my job is to remind people of the good things.






Animal Battle is on view at Portland’s Hellion Gallery through August 30. 

Portland, OR

FIVE THINGS:

Last week, public mural project Forest for the Trees brought twenty artists to Portland, handed them a couple of buckets of Miller paint, a pair of coveralls and a blank wall — and asked them to paint the hell out of it. FFTT organized bike tours and distributed treasure maps to the murals in media res, so the city could play a part in its own magic-making — each splatter, stroke and rattle-can shake along the way. These large-scale pieces transform our daily commute — concrete and steel rectangles soundly rounded at the edges, fitting in with and also against nature a magic moment at a time. 

Artist, illustrator, sculptor, cartoonist and all-around shining polymath Maryanna Hoggatt painted one such mural on the corner of 59th and Sandy in Northeast Portland. The mural is an extension of Maryanna’s Animal Battle series — drawings and sculptures of cartoonish animals primed for a whimsical fisticuffs and armed with all the trappings of storybook war — star-lit lanterns, a quiver of heart-tipped arrows, wooden swords and an earnest, easily-digestible valor. A little bit Jim Henson, a little bit Roald Dahl, Animal Battle weaves a fantasy narrative in an effort to unearth our self-flagellating, masochistic and fearful tendencies and remind us of the immense reservoir of untapped courage in our wild hearts. We caught up with Maryanna to find out how she fights for her dreams.

How does your work relate — if at all — to the world in which us humans live?

We all have our personal struggles. My work is about our internal battles to bring dreams and ideas to life. Sometimes the dream is as big as pursuing what we feel is our destiny, some ideas are as ordinary as finding the courage to ask someone on a date. Through my fantasy world, I want to encourage people to overcome those fears.

Fear is a feeling that all of us — animal and human — are confronted with in various ways throughout our lives. Is there a way your work explores differently fear and doubt anthropomorphized, that is more effective than other expressions?

I’m strongly influenced by the fantasy books and films that inspired me as a kid, and in almost all of those narratives Evil was represented by an animal or creature. When you assign a tangible identity to an emotion such as fear, it’s much easier to look it in the eye. The next time you hesitate to do something, either because you are unsure or scared of the outcome, imagine plucking that emotion from your head, placing it in your hand, and telling it, “No.”

I think subconsciously I’ve expressed this narrative through animal soldiers because, while my work is meant for all ages, it’s really meant for children. I wanted to take a complex concept and be able to distill it into simple visual terms that a child can understand: find your courage, be brave, and face your fears. I’m sure there are other ways to express this, but for me, it’s the most natural way. Plus I apparently like to play with paint and clay, so that helps.

You just completed a mural for Forest for the Trees in Portland. How did you approach your work in terms of place? Did you get to have input on site/location? Did thinking about the neighborhood and place affect your process?

One of the best things about this event is that its organizers take care of all the leg work — the permits, supplies, and scouting for walls — so that all you have to do as an artist is show up and paint. We were offered a certain wall and had the option of selecting a different one, but most people take the first choice. I was given my wall (at BTU Brasserie, on NE 59th and Sandy) because it was my first mural and one of the smaller walls.

The other great thing about this project is that the business owners are aware of its intent and have faith in the organizers and their artists. I was allowed to create freely. The location did not affect my idea, but I think it helped that it was nestled into a neighborhood full of families and longtime residents. I had many visitors come by, some with their children, who were really excited about my mural and the project. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Do you have any good luck charms?

No. I’m the kind of person who will work really hard and hope for the best. Luck is just icing on the cake.

What’s one fucked up thing?

There are so many fucked up things. I’m easily overwhelmed by the fucked up things. But I think part of my job is to remind people of the good things.

Animal Battle is on view at Portland’s Hellion Gallery through August 30. 


Downtown Los Angeles
George Evelyn’s steadily approaching the silver anniversary of his Nightmares on Wax sobriquet — 25 years of beats, rhymes and life — and he’s not slowing down any time soon. We’re lucky enough to have him Upstairs tonight at Ace DTLA — going back to basics for a stripped-down DJ set.

George is a worldly guy, so we thought we’d get the skinny on some quick travel tips.


What’s the best piece of travel advise you’ve ever got?

Always go off the beaten track. The high street or the city will never give you the real taste of how people live.

What things do you never go on a trip without?

Music, books, sunglasses and swimwear.
What’s your favorite airport? 
Schipol airport, Holland.

Favorite film?
Magnolia

Plane, train or automobile? 
Plane

Downtown Los Angeles

George Evelyn’s steadily approaching the silver anniversary of his Nightmares on Wax sobriquet — 25 years of beats, rhymes and life — and he’s not slowing down any time soon. We’re lucky enough to have him Upstairs tonight at Ace DTLA — going back to basics for a stripped-down DJ set.

George is a worldly guy, so we thought we’d get the skinny on some quick travel tips.

What’s the best piece of travel advise you’ve ever got?

Always go off the beaten track. The high street or the city will never give you the real taste of how people live.

What things do you never go on a trip without?

Music, books, sunglasses and swimwear.

What’s your favorite airport?

Schipol airport, Holland.

Favorite film?

Magnolia

Plane, train or automobile? 

Plane


Palm Springs, CA
INTERVIEW: AARON DE LA CRUZ
Aaron de la Cruz is currently mid-mural-painting on the Commune wall at Ace Hotel & Swim Club as part of Desert Gold 2014. The San Francisco-based artist’s background is rooted in street art, and the way he shapes and improvises movement in his work gives it wonderfully deep texture and context. Through his use of lines and space he manages to evoke a unique intertextual roadmap by connecting the dots between modern linguistic text along with pre-Columbian Mayan art and contemporary life on the west coast. That is, we’re very proud to be working again with him. His mural is almost ready for you to vibe on all year long at Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

Part of your process seems to involve being in the moment when you are painting some of your site-specific work. You’ve spoken in interviews about letting your feelings, thoughts and the environment around you influence where you take your work. What sort of preparations do you make leading up to putting paint to surface? Do you have a color palate?  
It really depends on the project as far as how I’m going to determine the outcome of the piece I’m going to create. For this project, I really wanted to focus on my ethnic background — being of Mexican descent. My source of color palette inspiration was a cup of fruit that you would buy from a vendor on the street in Mexico. After spending the first day here on location, I got to meet some of the staff here. Most of them happen to be Latino (or part-Latino) and I knew I had made the right decision. 
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Does your work have an agenda? Do you have a goal or focus as an artist?
As far as my work having an agenda I would say that I really try to push myself to work within a limited amount of mediums. For now I like to challenge myself to see what I can do with that. Having a goal and a focus as an artist is a must. I am always trying to find ways to tell a story with my work that has to do with my family or myself. The more I become dependent on my works supporting what I do, the more I feel it’s only right to share what I have with an audience who wants to listen. I would like to see my work become more three-dimensional (architectural/industrial design) and even do some earthworks as well. 

What is your process for navigating your own artistic concerns or goals when it comes to doing commissioned pieces? Is having constraints helpful in your work, or a hindrance?
For the most part it’s been really easy to work in commission pieces. I find that while most people I work with are really open and let me do what I want, I do give them a sense of direction that I will be going in. I enjoy some pushback at times as it causes me to work in an uncomfortable setting that I have to make right. I have worked with Ace Hotel before on a print we did along with Arkitip, and the response was great, so making this mural project happen wasn’t difficult at all. 

Lots of people will be walking by your mural over the next year, taking photos with it, tagging it online. Is there anything you’d like to have these people take away from the mural — something connective, or a feeling? 
I want the working staff of Ace Hotel & Swim Club to know that this is their mural and it’s influenced by the culture of their community that they have created. The designs I’ve chosen for this mural were influenced by the style of architecture here, and I wanted the designs to have a sense of calm, since my color palette was so loud. As for people taking pictures and capturing a feeling, I guess I will let nature takes its course and see what happens! 

Palm Springs, CA

INTERVIEW: AARON DE LA CRUZ

Aaron de la Cruz is currently mid-mural-painting on the Commune wall at Ace Hotel & Swim Club as part of Desert Gold 2014. The San Francisco-based artist’s background is rooted in street art, and the way he shapes and improvises movement in his work gives it wonderfully deep texture and context. Through his use of lines and space he manages to evoke a unique intertextual roadmap by connecting the dots between modern linguistic text along with pre-Columbian Mayan art and contemporary life on the west coast. That is, we’re very proud to be working again with him. His mural is almost ready for you to vibe on all year long at Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

Part of your process seems to involve being in the moment when you are painting some of your site-specific work. You’ve spoken in interviews about letting your feelings, thoughts and the environment around you influence where you take your work. What sort of preparations do you make leading up to putting paint to surface? Do you have a color palate?  

It really depends on the project as far as how I’m going to determine the outcome of the piece I’m going to create. For this project, I really wanted to focus on my ethnic background — being of Mexican descent. My source of color palette inspiration was a cup of fruit that you would buy from a vendor on the street in Mexico. After spending the first day here on location, I got to meet some of the staff here. Most of them happen to be Latino (or part-Latino) and I knew I had made the right decision. 

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Portland, ORINTERVIEW: DANNIEL SCHOONEBEEK
Danniel Schoonebeek’s poems take back roads and veins to an American place filled with secrets in your ear. Where the barn behind you is lit with the most eerie Gregory Crewdson-like light.  
Last Saturday Ace New York hosted Bound by Chance. Danniel wasn’t there, but his words were. People used them to make stories and bound those stories into pamphlets. Tonight, Danniel reads from his book in Portland at Crema Coffee + Bakery before he sails back home to Brooklyn. It’s going to be an after hours poetry party. 
You recently completed a poetry tour in support of your first book, American Barricade (YesYes Books). Independent musicians tour all the time to support themselves. What was the experience like as a poet?
When I was seventeen I left high school and toured in a van with four other guys. We were a band, I was the drummer, and we toured the country for a few months, living in the van with our instruments. What’s startling to me is that I did this again ten years later. This time I was alone, I was reading my poems and not hitting a snare, and I took the trains across America instead of riding in a van. The tours were alike in that they were both these depleting, chaotic bursts in which you learn more about yourself than you knew was possible. You aren’t working hard enough are the words I came away with when I was seventeen. Our last date on that tour was at CBGB’s, and there was this holy feeling like we’d arrived. But nobody gave a shit about our songs, not the bands, not the people. I think that experience taught me that you have to demand to be heard, like a list of demands is heard in a hostage situation, and that list of demands is work. 
The tour I just finished leaves me to this day with jubilee. In some ways it was like playing a chess match against my own life. I’d just been kicked out of my apartment, I’d just been laid off, the love life was in the gutter. I booked the tour myself, no agents, no help from my publisher. I needed to see if a poet could do it alone. Friends came out to read and see me off, let me sleep on their floors. Strangers opened their doors to me, handed me their keys, helped me hunt down venues. These people are part of my life now, and they handed me small tokens along the way, tchotchkes and mementos, a little scratch some nights. The trains are their own crash course in how much American disgust you can tolerate within yourself. If you don’t have the constitution within yourself to wash your hair in the sink on a moving train, or deal with drunks, or fall asleep hungry on a dinner of tic-tacs, don’t get on the trains. But there was something unbelievable about waking up on the train, feeling like shit, drinking a styrofoam cup of coffee, and watching the landscape of America peel away outside while you’re surrounded by all these families and drifters and bulleting your way to a poetry reading in a different city each night. It was like not being a citizen anymore. 
I’m finishing a book about this last tour and that’ll come out soon. I’m working with two editors who are challenging the work and pushing it in directions I’m thrilled about. I can’t say who yet, but it’s coming. It’s called C’est La Guerre. 
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The poems you write have a lovely ability to at once feel very intimate—even small—while also having ragged edges that touch on archetypes that deal with American culture and values. What’s your creative process when you sit down to write? Do you have an agenda? A guiding principal?
I try to always keep myself unsettled. I hate flying, so I work on poems while I’m a mess in the sky. Or sometimes I’ll wear nothing but a blanket and wake up in winter and write in the kitchen. I always write poems if I have a nasty fever, or I like to cast out lines aloud if I’m standing, never longhand if I’m sitting. I write a lot in bed, the classic pose, we all do. I would like to write a poem while hanging upside down from the lintels of a doorway. So my process is to always throw a wrench in my process. I’m opposed to regimens, culturally and artistically, because they fail to do justice to the changing face of what composes them. American ways of life, as our culture defines them, always fail the people who are actually living their lives in America, never nuanced enough and always leaving someone locked outside. In the same way, I think having any guiding principal about poetry is a failure to language, how nuanced language is and how fast it changes and disrupts us. I try to always undermine myself, disrupt myself, refuse myself. The terrifying part for me is that undermining yourself, disrupting yourself, refusing yourself—these are also regimens that need to be undermined, disrupted, and refused.

Portland, OR

INTERVIEW: DANNIEL SCHOONEBEEK

Danniel Schoonebeek’s poems take back roads and veins to an American place filled with secrets in your ear. Where the barn behind you is lit with the most eerie Gregory Crewdson-like light.  

Last Saturday Ace New York hosted Bound by Chance. Danniel wasn’t there, but his words were. People used them to make stories and bound those stories into pamphlets. Tonight, Danniel reads from his book in Portland at Crema Coffee + Bakery before he sails back home to Brooklyn. It’s going to be an after hours poetry party. 

You recently completed a poetry tour in support of your first book, American Barricade (YesYes Books). Independent musicians tour all the time to support themselves. What was the experience like as a poet?

When I was seventeen I left high school and toured in a van with four other guys. We were a band, I was the drummer, and we toured the country for a few months, living in the van with our instruments. What’s startling to me is that I did this again ten years later. This time I was alone, I was reading my poems and not hitting a snare, and I took the trains across America instead of riding in a van. The tours were alike in that they were both these depleting, chaotic bursts in which you learn more about yourself than you knew was possible. You aren’t working hard enough are the words I came away with when I was seventeen. Our last date on that tour was at CBGB’s, and there was this holy feeling like we’d arrived. But nobody gave a shit about our songs, not the bands, not the people. I think that experience taught me that you have to demand to be heard, like a list of demands is heard in a hostage situation, and that list of demands is work. 

The tour I just finished leaves me to this day with jubilee. In some ways it was like playing a chess match against my own life. I’d just been kicked out of my apartment, I’d just been laid off, the love life was in the gutter. I booked the tour myself, no agents, no help from my publisher. I needed to see if a poet could do it alone. Friends came out to read and see me off, let me sleep on their floors. Strangers opened their doors to me, handed me their keys, helped me hunt down venues. These people are part of my life now, and they handed me small tokens along the way, tchotchkes and mementos, a little scratch some nights. The trains are their own crash course in how much American disgust you can tolerate within yourself. If you don’t have the constitution within yourself to wash your hair in the sink on a moving train, or deal with drunks, or fall asleep hungry on a dinner of tic-tacs, don’t get on the trains. But there was something unbelievable about waking up on the train, feeling like shit, drinking a styrofoam cup of coffee, and watching the landscape of America peel away outside while you’re surrounded by all these families and drifters and bulleting your way to a poetry reading in a different city each night. It was like not being a citizen anymore. 

I’m finishing a book about this last tour and that’ll come out soon. I’m working with two editors who are challenging the work and pushing it in directions I’m thrilled about. I can’t say who yet, but it’s coming. It’s called C’est La Guerre

Read More


London, UK
A few weeks ago, New York based humanist photographer and filmmaker Cheryl Dunn came to London to present her latest documentary, Everybody Street — a homage to the lives and works of iconic street-photographers in NYC, from Bruce Davidson to Joel Meyerowitz, to Jill Freedman, to only name a few. We asked Cheryl to answer five questions about herself by picking images.
How do you see yourself?
I definitely see myself in motion, sort of weaving through crowds. I have a dance background and have a strong sense of physicality and this is always on my mind when I work and in life. I am very conscious of how I move through an environment and how I physically handle my tools that I use to shoot. With documentary practices, my aim is to be fluid and make things appear effortless as to not draw attention to myself so my subjects stay as natural as possible. A really unrealistic fantasy dream would be to be a Pina Bausch dancer. So here is a shot of one of her dancers that I took in Wuppertal, Germany. (above)
How do you see the others around you?

In a wider sense sometimes I see people as objects in a composition. And sometimes I put on headphones and go out and shoot street pictures and really study people and try to guess what they are thinking and get in their heads.
What was the last place you dreamt about?

It was definitely a fantasy world. Sexy with good music…
What you feel when you hear your favorite song/band?

Ha that dream… Sometimes I feel transported to a location and sometimes I think of a person I love or a visualization of the first time I heard that tune.
A secret power you would like to have?
              
To time travel to the past. I’m a little afraid of the future…
All photos by Cheryl Dunn.

London, UK

A few weeks ago, New York based humanist photographer and filmmaker Cheryl Dunn came to London to present her latest documentary, Everybody Street — a homage to the lives and works of iconic street-photographers in NYC, from Bruce Davidson to Joel Meyerowitz, to Jill Freedman, to only name a few. We asked Cheryl to answer five questions about herself by picking images.

How do you see yourself?

I definitely see myself in motion, sort of weaving through crowds. I have a dance background and have a strong sense of physicality and this is always on my mind when I work and in life. I am very conscious of how I move through an environment and how I physically handle my tools that I use to shoot. With documentary practices, my aim is to be fluid and make things appear effortless as to not draw attention to myself so my subjects stay as natural as possible. A really unrealistic fantasy dream would be to be a Pina Bausch dancer. So here is a shot of one of her dancers that I took in Wuppertal, Germany. (above)

How do you see the others around you?

In a wider sense sometimes I see people as objects in a composition. And sometimes I put on headphones and go out and shoot street pictures and really study people and try to guess what they are thinking and get in their heads.

What was the last place you dreamt about?

It was definitely a fantasy world. Sexy with good music…

What you feel when you hear your favorite song/band?

Ha that dream… Sometimes I feel transported to a location and sometimes I think of a person I love or a visualization of the first time I heard that tune.

A secret power you would like to have?

              

To time travel to the past. I’m a little afraid of the future…

All photos by Cheryl Dunn.


Portland, Oregon
INTERVIEW: NICOLAS JAAR & DAVE HARRINGTON, DARKSIDE
Darkside is the collaborative project of electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. Based out of New York City, the duo just hit the road in support of their first full-length record, Psychic, released a few months ago on Jaar’s own record label Other People. Despite their different and eclectic backgrounds, they managed to create a compelling sound unto themselves — a unique mix of psychedelic rock, electro, and jazz founded on a shared vocabulary of improvisation. While they are now just reaching the West Coast — they play at the Doug Fir in Portland tonight, making their way South — right before leaving, Nicolas and Dave were kind enough to enlighten us on their creative process, the organic birth of a project and the need for space in artistic expression.
In a few days, you are going to embark on a world tour. How are you feeling about it, how are you preparing for it? I’m sure you have been rehearsing technically — practicing — and it’s all good. What about mentally?
Dave: Our friend Will Epstein, who is opening for us on the American leg of the tour — his project is called High Water — started referring to it as The Great Journey, and I think it has really opened my mind. Touring and playing shows is the best thing, it is what I love doing and what I want to be good at. So, I’m always excited and a little bit nervous but Will has been calling it The Great Journey and I really like that way of thinking about it. Great in terms of important but, maybe there is something cosmic around the edges if we set off that way.
Nicolas: I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s funny. So it’s The Great Journey. How am I getting prepared for that? I’m not getting ready for it. I’m not ready for it. I’ll be ready for it when we pop the champagne bottle in front of our tour bus in Greenpoint and everyone waves goodbye as if we are leaving on a boat in the 1920s. I’m leaving for five months, because I’m also playing [solo shows] in between the Darkside tour, so I’m leaving for a long time.
Maybe that implies suffering as well. At least to me, “The Great Journey” sounds like going through rough times.
Dave: Well I think there always is some of that in any kind of travel, and certainly touring. You get into modes of problem solving, you always encounter a little bit of anger and challenges and going through that can be exciting. If it was all easy, it would be considerably less interesting.
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It would definitely not be exciting anymore after five months, that is true. Besides Darkside, you both have your own projects and you also tour with them. Do you think this first tour experience with Darkside is going to impact your own work or is it something completely detached?  
Nicolas: Yes, it always has. Playing with Dave influences me a lot because of his way of thinking. To me, the most exciting thing is to explore and continue to explore. That’s what Darkside is all about: see what things we can come up with.
Dave: These songs are going to sound different from night to night, and from the beginning of the tour to the end of the tour, they’re going to evolve, because that’s how we play live. We improvise. 

You’re going to travel a lot, you’ve already traveled a lot in the past. Nicolas, you were raised between Chile and New York, the record was recorded between New York and Paris. Do places matter on your creative process or is it more “whatever happens happens?”
Nicolas: I think so. I’m very lucky that I get to travel and that I get to do what I do. I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. We’re going to have a studio in the bus. I was talking about it to a friend and his reaction was “wow you’re going to be driving through all these different energies, and the ghosts of those energies are going to go into your music”. Going through little energy tunnels in the middle of America, without even being aware of it, that would be amazing.
Is that how you both have been composing, without being aware of it? Without forcing things? From an outside perspective, it seems like you have been experimenting a lot and decided to settle down on particular sounds to make the record. What are the rules of improvisation, if there are any?
Dave: The esoteric idea of what the rules of improvisation are is kind of the infinite question of playing improvised music. In terms of how we compose, how we were working on the record and how we work on playing live, I would say that we write through an improvisational mindset, and sometimes that means jamming, in the way that a band jams — the conventional 4-5 persons band jams. I think that improvisation is something that is crucial to both of us. It requires a certain openness and a certain freedom to explore ideas. On our best days, we take that into a studio where it is just the two of us so we can try any idea.
When you are experimenting, when do you stop on an idea, how do you keep on experimenting when something works?
Dave: Well, I think at a certain point, if improvising is about sensing out the moment, and what it needs, contributing to it, sometimes even in a live context, sometimes that means not doing anything and it means that your contribution has to be silence. And at a certain point, the song presents itself or the piece of music presents itself as complete. It sounds very rudimentary but in a way, while it’s very simple to say that part of improvising is knowing when not to play, it is actually incredibly hard.
When listening to the record, one can feel a symbiosis between the both of you. There is a responsive relationship in the songs and I certainly think this comes from improvising and not planning everything in advance. How did you get to that relationship where still improvising, you know how to listen to each other?
Dave: Part of the reason why we do what we do and the way we do it is because we first met improvising in a room. It is literally the first thing we did: I got recommended to Nico to be the guitarist for his live show, we booked a studio, I went with my guitar and pedals and we jammed. And then we played together touring for a year. The first time we did a Darkside thing, it was the same process. We didn’t even know it was called Darkside, we just started by making a song together.
On a more visual side, I was wondering if there are any images that your music makes in your brain? Or if you picture anything when you are playing?
Nicolas: No — I get asked that question a lot, and weirdly, I surprise everyone by saying that for me my music is music. It is sound and that’s the way I see it. I am glad and happy that people see images. All I see is colors, for sure, but there are no shapes, no people, no landscapes. There are only colors.
It’s really interesting to see how you feel about it. When I listen to your music, it is very enchanting and engaging, also on a visual level. Therefore, I started thinking of the Darkside project as its own world, its own concept, very defined. The name Darkside, the title Psychic, the artwork and the sounds evoke magic, mysticism and even religion, in a way. But this world might have not been created on purpose. I was wondering if it was something you had thought about together, or if it was something that had come up naturally, that just happened.
Nicolas: Yes it is. Mysticism and religion, these are things that can be seen as very powerful but also clumsy and very kind of ridiculous at the same time. And I guess that was the most exciting thing for me about Darkside. It was a music that could maybe feel religious but at the same time could completely be lost and seen as something purely musical and purely weak. In New York City, there are a lot of psychic shops where they give you a palm reading. To me, that was what I thought of Darkside as. In our world today, we are going back and forth between things that are very real and things that are very cheap. 
Dave: The concept, what has developed as the idea of Darkside started from us just using the word “darkside” on tour as kind of an adjective or like an adverb. This is a “darkside moment, song, or thing”. It was this feeling that had to do with intensity, noise and mysticism and it has developed gradually. In terms of the visual elements and the lyrics, Nicolas is the lyricist — I have input from now and then but he is singing so he is writing and I think that’s how it should be — but in terms of the visual element  and the way you can paint those pictures, whether it is literal or in people’s minds, I like room. I like music and performances that create room for the spectator to explore on their own, not something that necessarily gives you all the information you need. I like things that have space inside of them. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life I just saw a couple of weeks ago. It was Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramović that they did at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, with Antony and Willem Dafoe. It was this majestic piece of performance art where there was so much space. Even when Willem Dafoe was down stage, yelling at the audience in a German accent, covered in scary make-up. He was this tiny little speck on a giant black stage. There were these tableaux, where I felt like I needed to engage, to contribute, in order to realize what the piece was. And for the same reasons, I feel something weird when I look at Dan Flavin’s light bulbs, I feel something deeply mystical when I stand in a gallery and I look at those light bulbs. The same light bulbs that you have at a doctor’s office, and that’s very exciting to me. The reason why I bring it up is because it has something to do with the fact that it requires a spectator to become something. And it is different from a classical painting, to me. If you look at a beautiful landscape from the 1800s, it is all right there. And it is not a qualitative difference, it is just a difference of experience. It is right there on a canvas and you can look at it or not look at it. And then there are these other ways of working, and they require the object, whether it is the sound or something else, it needs a force to be activated, a body basically.

And so how are you able to do that in your music?
Dave: I didn’t say we did that, because that would make me sound incredibly pretentious. The goal is creating space that let people figure out what they want to do. My favorite records, to bring it back to music, are records that I listen to over and over again. They are the ones that I have integrated into my life, beyond the fact that I just like listening to them. I have this one Tom Waits record that I love. I only want to listen to it, kind of late at night, maybe alone. I never put it on as background music. I want to have one drink and listen to side A of this record. It’s a very specific ritual. It has been integrated into my life. The idea is that in that record there is just enough space for me to walk around it. I made it this thing and it now is this very particular thing to me. I don’t know if that this is what we have been able to make with our record, but I have definitely heard people say that they hear different things when they listen to it. To me that’s very cool. Some people hear it as this, some people hear it as that.
Speaking of leading people to different musical experiences, I believe Nicolas you said that you wanted to take dance music to another level, the chore of it being to create a space where people are happy because outside of that space, people are not as happy. And that was the reason why you wanted to make music initially. What is the thought behind that? Is the real world not a happy place, not satisfying enough to you?
Nicolas: I don’t know. I guess, like everyone, I go through times where I think that the world is a pretty dark place and then sometimes I think there is some hope for us. So when I feel like the world is a dark place, I go inside a club and I try to make a pact with everyone to say “ok guys, let’s try to forget about it, because that’s the best we can do.” But when I am more idealistic, and I feel like the world is a place where we can see progress, then I go into a club and I say “guys, lets try to get to this new place — lets try to progress together.”
So if it wasn’t for music, how do you think you would do that?
Nicolas: I would not do it. I would probably eat all day.
Thats a good solution, eat birthday cake all day.
Full tour schedule.Photo credits: Isolde Woudstra, Pascal Montary and Antony Crook.

Portland, Oregon

INTERVIEW: NICOLAS JAAR & DAVE HARRINGTON, DARKSIDE

Darkside is the collaborative project of electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. Based out of New York City, the duo just hit the road in support of their first full-length record, Psychic, released a few months ago on Jaar’s own record label Other People. Despite their different and eclectic backgrounds, they managed to create a compelling sound unto themselves — a unique mix of psychedelic rock, electro, and jazz founded on a shared vocabulary of improvisation. While they are now just reaching the West Coast — they play at the Doug Fir in Portland tonight, making their way South — right before leaving, Nicolas and Dave were kind enough to enlighten us on their creative process, the organic birth of a project and the need for space in artistic expression.

In a few days, you are going to embark on a world tour. How are you feeling about it, how are you preparing for it? I’m sure you have been rehearsing technically — practicing — and it’s all good. What about mentally?

Dave: Our friend Will Epstein, who is opening for us on the American leg of the tour  his project is called High Water  started referring to it as The Great Journey, and I think it has really opened my mind. Touring and playing shows is the best thing, it is what I love doing and what I want to be good at. So, I’m always excited and a little bit nervous but Will has been calling it The Great Journey and I really like that way of thinking about it. Great in terms of important but, maybe there is something cosmic around the edges if we set off that way.

Nicolas: I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s funny. So it’s The Great Journey. How am I getting prepared for that? I’m not getting ready for it. I’m not ready for it. I’ll be ready for it when we pop the champagne bottle in front of our tour bus in Greenpoint and everyone waves goodbye as if we are leaving on a boat in the 1920s. I’m leaving for five months, because I’m also playing [solo shows] in between the Darkside tour, so I’m leaving for a long time.

Maybe that implies suffering as well. At least to me, “The Great Journey” sounds like going through rough times.

Dave: Well I think there always is some of that in any kind of travel, and certainly touring. You get into modes of problem solving, you always encounter a little bit of anger and challenges and going through that can be exciting. If it was all easy, it would be considerably less interesting.

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RADIATING SPHERES OF MEANING

GUEST INTERVIEW : TAVI GEVINSON WITH DAVID HILDEBRAND WILSON

The Museum of Jurassic Technology looks like a humble little storefront on a street in Culver City, California. Upon entering, however, you find yourself in a maze of oddities — a row of microscopes on mosaics made of butterfly-wing scales, a hall of flower X-rays, tiny sculptures displayed literally in the eyes of needles (the sculptor timed his carvings by his heartbeat). At first it feels like being transported to another world, until you see what a loving representation it is of the wonders of our own. You might suspect some of the displays are made-up, or that footnotes, names, and the plaques and pamphlets sitting in the gift shop are fictionalized, until you come to love the ways in which the museum inspires that very act of questioning. Lawrence Weschler wrote in his 1995 book about this place, “It’s that very shimmer, the capacity for such delicious confusion, Wilson sometimes seems to suggest, that may constitute the most blessedly wonderful thing about being human.”

If you are among our devoted readership then you know that Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine is a friend and collaborator. Here, she guest interviews David Hildebrand Wilson, the founder of the MoJT, in honor of her stint at Ace Portland during PDX Fashion Week and our upcoming annual Content installations November 9 on the second floor. Tavi will be in town on a book tour to promote Rookie’s second publication, Rookie Yearbook Two, with Reading Frenzy at the Q Center November 8. Read on, get misty-eyed, and remember to leave your house this week for both of these events.

How would you explain or describe the museum to someone who’s never heard of it?

I think typically what we say is that we’re a small museum of natural history, history of science, history of art, and then everything else that comes along. We’re inspired by older museums — 200, 300 years ago, a museum wasn’t a museum of a particular thing, it was a museum of everything. We don’t think all museums should be that, but we think there’s a place for that kind of museum, kind of an encyclopedic museum.

Would you say then that there’s anything in particular that unifies everything you have on display?

There are definitely underlying, unifying principles to what we do, but sometimes they’re kind of hard to discern, or hard to define. We have a motto, which you actually almost never see in the museum, but it’s “Un translatio nature,” which means “nature as metaphor.” That doesn’t really sum things up so much, but it actually is meaningful to us, because the kinds of things we like to put in the museum tend to be either natural phenomena or man-made — which, you know, there’s no real distinction between what’s man-made and what’s natural, because humankind is pretty natural as far as I can tell. We find ourselves gravitating toward material and phenomena that have meaning in and of themselves, and that also suggest other levels of meaning — kind of radiating spheres of meaning.

It’s interesting what you said about the line between man-made and the natural world being sort of blurry. To many people — and I always kind of thought this until I went to your museum — science and art are mutually exclusive. Some say it’s science’s job to tell humans that we’re not important and art’s job to declare that we are. How do you make them work together?

Essentially it goes back to a 17th-century or even earlier designation of artificialia and naturalia — what is artificial and what’s natural. It’s kind of an act of hubris or pride, I think, that things that are made by humankind are in some way out of the natural order. We’re certainly, absolutely, profoundly part of the great glittering chain of being. I mean, look at birds’ nests — are they artificilia or are they naturalia? A bird makes this gorgeous nest, and that’s considered a natural artifact — so why is that different for humans?

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