Launch of The Happy Hypocrite – Freedom, Issue 6
edited by Lynne Tillman
21 September 2013, 7.00pm onwards
55 Walker Street
Yasmine El Rashidi
Ranbir Singh Sidhu
Robin Coste Lewis
Followed by a discussion with Lynne Tillman and participants.
To purchase this title please visit the Book Works website.
This new issue of The Happy Hypocrite challenges the restraining notions found in art and writing about who and what can and cannot speak. What can and cannot be said or thought. In part a response to Kafka – to that which we don’t know has damaged us – freedom is presented as an important and urgent concept, and a complicated word, in which and beside which hypocrisy also resides. (Hypocrisy can be construed as a freedom). The Happy Hypocrite offers its pages to ingenious fictional, nonfictional, and visual responses to the various meanings of ‘freedom’.
Contributions from Gregg Bordowitz, Paul Chan, Gabriel Coxhead, Lydia Davis, Yasmine El Rashidi, Chloé Cooper Jones, James Jennings, Allison Katz, Robin Coste Lewis, Craig Owens, Sarah Resnick, Ranbir Singh Sidhu, Abdellah Taïa, an interview between Lynne Tillman and Thomas Keenan, a cover by Susan Hiller, and archival material from Paranoids Anonymous Newsletter.
32 Selfies From Tahrir Square, via Buzzfeed
So many reasons to be cautious about Egypt’s immediate future, and little chance of an economically strong and politically stable country, but I can’t help love these images from Tahrir Square. They show something essential about the moment, and the spirit which was the moving force behind much of the Arab Spring. Real revolutions take years. Think of the all the turmoil that was the American Revolution and its aftermath. I can’t imagine that the current situation in the Middle East is any less complicated. It may be years before the region sees stability, but that’s no reason to consider these revolutions failures, or fail to celebrate these parenthetical moments of hope and optimism.
I made a wrong turn and ended up on 93 north when I’d planned to go directly east, to Great Basin National Park. The road led me up to 80 at the Utah border, which I hadn’t planned to go to. Whatever, there I was, so I took the highway east and then south along 6, down through the heart of central Utah. I found the whole place disconcerting, nothing like Nevada, where I’d felt welcomed at every stop. As soon as I crossed the border, I had a cruiser escort for twenty miles, the whole time he was riding my ass, and I only shook the cop when I pulled into a gas station. I was only there for a couple days, but in those days not once did I get a friendly nod from anyone. I’d walk into a diner and all heads would turn and the waitress carrying over my coffee would be visibly trembling. What did they think? That I was some sort of mad brown bomber? I asked for rates at a few motels and from the blank stares and useless responses I got, I couldn’t decide whether the attendants were stoned or inbred. And don’t get me started on the oversized houses that looked like bungalows on steroids. Sorry Utah, I just didn’t like you, and it seems you didn’t like me either, so I guess we’re even. I did end up taking a few snaps. Here they are.
The hundred or so miles around Tonopah, Nevada, offer the darkest skies in the continental United States. I didn’t know this when I was camping by myself in Saulsbury Wash, but learned it later when I drove into town. The owner of the local bookstore even gave me a star finder to use at night. He said he always gave these away free to visitors. The only other book he gave away was a Bible, he couldn’t see himself to making a profit on them. It was an eclectic bookstore, and not at all narrowly religious. There were large sections on science and evolution, and a small backroom of erotica. You entered this room through a seventies-style bead curtain, and were immediately met by the soft porn covers of old sex manuals. I liked the town, and the people in it, and thought if I was a different kind of person, not so wedded to cities, that this is exactly the kind of place I’d enjoy living. Before the moon rose during my first night camping out in Saulsbury Wash, the skies indeed were a blanket of stars. I could trace the faint line of the Milky Way. It had been a long time since I’d seen a night sky like this. I felt like a parched wanderer in the desert who’d finally come upon an oasis. I stayed in the area a couple more days, then took the road west, toward Death Valley. I was leaving Nevada after two weeks, and in those weeks had fallen in love with the landscape and the people. The state came as a great surprise to me, its beauty a shock. One day I hope to return.
For the last month, I’ve been staying at the Edward Albee Foundation, or the Barn, in Montauk, NY. It’s a retreat for writers and artists that is open only from late-May to early October. This time of year, when Rex Lau and Diane Mayo, two artists who live next door and take care of the place, get it ready for the incoming residents, the place is empty. The weather’s still cold, and the first week I was here it barely rose above freezing. I’d leave a glass of water on the kitchen table only to find a thin layer of ice forming an hour later. Cooking was physically painful, because it required using my fingers, and it hurt to touch anything due to the cold. My bedroom was heated, so I could work and sleep in comfort.
I was first here in 2007, at the end of the summer, and remember it as one of the more magical places I’ve stayed. There were five of us, three writers and two artists, and we got along remarkably well. From my desk window, I look out onto a forest, a stream, and often deer bending their necks forward to eat idly in the afternoon sun. Every single night I stayed here I had a series of incredible and vivid dreams, some of which still stay with me. This time my dream life has been subdued, and also I’m here alone.
What sets the Barn apart from other residencies, and in my view makes it stronger, is that it is largely artist-directed. There’s no welcoming committee, there are no set times for lunch or dinner, no stipulations for what you do with yourself beyond doing your own work the way you want to do it. When you arrive, especially if you’re the first to arrive for your scheduled month, you’ll find the door unlocked (it actually never locks), the rooms bare except for furniture, and the building entirely yours. You figure it out for yourself, pick a room, find sheets and blankets in the laundry room, set up your space, and get to work. For me, this offered a great feeling of autonomy and trust, and also ownership, and allowed me to enter the space of my own work much more easily.
With this set of photos, I’ve tried to capture the off-season feel of the place. It’s not inhabited yet, not made ready for the artists and writers who will work here. Winter’s still visible in the rearview mirror, and spring hasn’t fully shown itself. There’s a haunted quality, and a silence which pervades every room. It almost looks abandoned, and at times it feels that way, as if I’ve wandered here by accident and taken shelter under its high wooden eaves.
As a kid, one of my favorite television shows was called The Beachcombers. I don’t remember much about it, certainly not if it had any plot or who the characters were, but what I do remember is that it left me with an overwhelming desire to one day live by the ocean and spend my mornings walking the beach, hunting for what washed up on the shore. The beach is one of those Iiminal landscapes, a region of gorgeous exchange between land and water and sky. When you stand at the edge of a vast plateau, you don’t imagine all that lies beneath. It’s hard not to do that when you stand at the edge of the ocean, and know that a whole other world exists just out of sight and out of reach.
Montauk is kind of a dream beach town, and though increasingly it’s becoming infected with the wealth and aura of the Hamptons, it retains the feel of an old fishing village, especially during the off-season. I don’t have a car and walk the mile or so into town for groceries and to reach the beach. The section of road I live on was built originally as a Grand Prix track, so it has some wild twists and blind corners. I don’t believe it was ever used for Grand Prix races, which is a pity, as I’d loved to have seen F1 cars roaring along these roads. During the walk into town, there’s a final corner I turn, on Essex St, and there, at the bottom of the hill, I see my first glimpse of the ocean sandwiched between houses. It gets me every time. One of my recurring dreams as a child was walking down a street and seeing the ocean at the end of it. It was a potent dream for a child living in some of the rougher parts of London. But here I am, at least for a month or two.
I took these photos during a single walk, about two miles north along the beach from the main town, and back again. I’m showing them here in the order they were taken. I have a few rules when photographing. One: compose in the camera and never crop an image. Two: no more than three attempts at composing a shot (with almost all of these, I took a single image). Three: minimal manipulation (contrast, sharpness), the kind basic darkroom equipment would allow. The first of these rules I believed in when I used to shoot with film, and the others pay homage to that old skill. It would be useful for those brought up with digital cameras to adopt constraints. They train the eye and focus the mind when looking at the landscape, and can lead to surprising discoveries.
Late afternoon in October 2012, a walk home along one of Berlin’s many canals. I’d walked this route many times, at day and well into the night, but this was one of the few times I took photographs.
I don’t think of Berlin as being a true walker’s city. The street lights are designed for cars, to make sure they don’t idle too long. The result is that walkers often have to wait an inordinate amount of time to cross a street, and if there’s an island, the only way not to get stuck there and wait for a second light change is to run. For the elderly, this means almost always waiting, sometimes several minutes to cross a single intersection. It’s one of those silly Euro-eco ideas which means it’s much easier to drive around than walk. But that doesn’t take away from the rough-hewn beauty of the city. And it remains one of the most livable cities I’ve ever visited.
At night, the junkies take over the square. They are almost vaporously thin, like the dead even before they shoot up. They have ruined most of their veins and bend forward to stick the needle in the backs of their knees or other parts of their legs. The happy ones are curled up fetally, oblivious to everything. A tall South Asian man with a tense, fierce face asks me several nights in a row if I want anything. “Hash? Junk? Anything?”
Read the whole story here.
Over and again, when I asked about the precarious future of Greece, people gave me this response: “Greece has been here for thousands of years. It does not die, and it will not this time.” Walking the streets of Athens, I find myself marveling at the beauty and humor and energy of the graffiti I see everywhere, and also feeling dismayed, because it does mar the city, it does make it ugly, and it does make the lives of Athenians who have to encounter it every day that little bit worse. But I also think of that quote, and I know that cities, like people, go through periods of creative destruction. Who knows what will emerge out of the Athens of today, what city will stand on these shopworn foundations? But one thing is certain. The city will be here, and so will its people, and I suspect that much of the energy released onto its walls will also help to feed its rebirth. For in seeing the city so brought down, one can begin to imagine the city reborn.
Click on the images to view larger versions.
For additional photos, see the earlier post, “The City Painted, part one.”
All images copyright 2012 Ranbir Sidhu.