Eric Shiner is the man behind Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. He’s also this year’s Armory Focus curator, turning the Armory Show spotlight — now in its 100th year — to US-based artists of the now. As a curator, he has a very strong voice — he’s commissioned an on-site tower of Brillo boxes in tribute to Warhol by Charles Lutz, and light sculpture by Peter Liversidge — and he’s also orchestrating an installation and performance at Ace Hotel New York we’ll tell you about soon… Another distinguishing facet: if you Google Image search him, you find a lot of guys named Eric with black eyes. We recently talked with Mr. Shiner a little bit about the centennial and these last hundred years of art.
Is the centennial of the first Armory Show an inspiration or a long shadow that it’s hard to get out from under? If the lead-up to WWI was the catalyst for the revolutions that were going on then in art, should we just be happy our own malaise are tame by comparison? Does art benefit from adversity and how much adversity is enough/too much?
I can safely say that the first Armory Show is just one of the countless change agents that have occurred in the art world over the past 100 years, although it is certainly an important one. For me, it was simply a point of reference for the Focus Section of The Armory Show, and I am including one installation that makes a direct reference on Marcel Duchamp, whose work at the 1913 Armory certainly ruffled many feathers. War and political upheaval do indeed act as a major influencer on the art being made in that period, but it’s important to note that the Armory was in 1913, with World War I starting a year later in 1914, so there is no connection to that specific war, but more broadly to the cataclysmic social change that was unfolding on a number of fronts in Europe at the time. Art always benefits from adversity, and so too does art present a fair amount of necessary adversity to its audiences. I think that great art should always make the viewer somewhat uncomfortable, challenging them to think in new ways. So, in the end, too much is never enough.
As curator of the Focus section, the country you got handed was the United States of America. That’s a big, rich country. How do you even start to narrow it down?
Yes, indeed. America is a very big thing, both in terms of geography and in more importantly in terms of its psychographic presence in the world, both within and without its borders. It’s true that it is a big, rich country… for some that’s very true, but I think it is critically important to always remember that for many, it is a very poor country with millions of people facing actual need on a daily basis. America is nothing more than a continual series of juxtapositions, from Big to Small, Rich to Poor, Liberal to Conservative. One might even say it is a series of never-ending internal strife and conflict — something that keeps it alive, if nothing else. This being the case, I didn’t narrow anything down at all. I simply addressed some of the juxtapositions that make up this nation, and selected artists who make a career out of always questioning the powers that be, in one form or another.
Though you would never know it by the title or lead image of this post — actor, singer, DJ and performer Michael Cavadias is not, in fact, old. He is young, he’s fucking beautiful and he’s FULL OF LIFE. Michael aka Lily of the Valley (to some from a certain era) is one of New York’s most treasured gems, and we’re honored to both know him and host him on the decks in our lobby on a regular occasion. Never were more seductive tracks dropped mere inches below such a winsome mug. At long last, we asked Mister Cavadias to tell us a bit about his life story and his work. Catch him tonight in the Ace New York lobby and come bask in his glory yourself.
I spent a few years in the 90’s performing and working as “Lily of the Valley.” This name came from an improv when I was living with Antony (of…and the Johnson’s) when were were at NYU theatre school back then. Lily was a delusional woman who believed that dozens of angels were living on her toes and giving her messages. But the character changed considerably after that and Lily became an umbrella character for many different creative pursuits. She performed weekly at the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid in dark little plays and then at Squeezebox with a rock band many many times. It wasn’t traditional drag in any sense but a bit of a natural femininity and etherial presence. It was a great time exploring that character and working with so many inspiring people like Antony, Page (who passed away in 2002) and Dean Johnson (passed away in 2007). People who taught me so much about how to be your authentic self.
As an actor my favorite job would have to be working with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr. & Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys. I played Tony/Antonia Sloviak who was Robert’s date to a faculty party but he ditches me for Tobey and then I have a couple scenes with Michael Douglas. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and met some wonderful people like Jane Adams (Happiness, Hung) who is one of my closest friends to this day.
I can’t say I’ve had any truly nightmarish auditions — I suppose just times I was called in for things I just wasn’t right for. In the past few years, I’ve been concentrating on producing more of my own work. A show I wrote called “The Mystery of Claywoman” (directed by Rob Roth) finished a successful run in 2012 at Abrons Art Center and I performed as Claywoman at The Meltdown Festival in London in August, which Antony curated. Rob and I are also finishing a film called “The Doctors” where I play an evil physician. Other than that I’ve been working in other people’s projects a lot lately. There is a great scene of performers and actors, writers Downtown right now like Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Stephen Winter, WIll Janowitz, Antony & Rob Roth. All of whom I’m really excited to be working with.
DJing is actually a great way to tie everything together. I’ve always been obsessed with music. I’ll fixate on an artist and play their songs over and over again like a meditation. I’m fascinated by the progression of artists through their careers and how they change. I love looking at a DJ set as almost a score for a historical documentary on music, trying to weave the songs together so that the relationship between different songs of different eras and artists can sort of comment on each other as though there’s a narrative flowing throughout the night. Not that the listener would necessarily pick up on that, but it’s a fun way to put it together in your head.
We love you Michael, Lily and everyone else on your toes.
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.
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!
Photos from the Billy Farrell Agency
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.
+ Who is Pussy Riot?
+ Your best tour memory.
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.
Photo by Bon Duke for The Block Magazine