“We as musicians were at the South by Southwest music festival, and just playing around with words, we thought it would be dope to do a South by South Bronx but do it our way: without corporate sponsors and free for the community.” On Friday and Saturday, that community was out in full force. A crowd of mostly local residents, ranging from young kids to older women and men (some adorned in Black Spade or Zulu Nation jackets) browsed a number of booths outside the main auditorium, at which artists sold shirts, C.D.s, and DVDs. Alongside them activists handed out leaflets opposing the Fresh Direct or speaking out against stop-and-frisk.
The next few performances were a bit of a blur, either incredibly short or incredibly subtle, which meant coming across like background noise amid the din of the crowd. At one point, in a strikingly good imitation of Ben Stein, actor Elliot Brown read some comedic poetry composed by Zach Steinman and Ben Tear. There was a lot of talking as he did so. “Some people listened,” he said to me later. “It’s a tough crowd. Poetry is tough.”(2)
Ligon’s stepmother, Charlene, was hovering around “Nov. 6, 2012,” (the piece is titled One Black Day). I asked her why she thought it wasn’t lit up like the others “I was thinking,” she said, “Oh, Glenn. That means he'll light it November 6th when the right person is in office.” “Do you know what November 6th is?” a woman nearby wondered aloud. “It’s election day,” I said. A friend of the woman jumped in. “So why is the title One Black Day?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer he walked over to Ligon to ask the artist dieectly.
Wendy tried her best to cool down the crowd, Wendy being Matthias Hollwick and Marc Kushner’s huge courtyard installation and winning entry of the museum's annual Young Architect’s Program. The giant blue starburst structure, encased in a cube of scaffolding, dwarfed the whitewashed stone square at the front of the outdoor space. Every five minutes, from one of its top spikes, water dumped onto the crowd below, providing welcome relief to the 92-degree humidity. A brave few stood mid-stream and got completely drenched, while most looked on and laughed.
“I can’t say I’m proud of everywhere I’ve ever been… or anyone I’ve ever done, “Febos continued, the "anyone" another sly punchline, “but I don’t have a lot of shame about it.” In celebration of Pride Week, Febos was moderating a reading featuring fellow queer writers—Katrina Del Mar, Kelli Dunham, Pamela Sneed, Rachel M. Simon, Ariel Levy, Shelly Oria and Laurie Weeks.
But this wasn't a book party, or a reading, or the launch of the latest issue of some literary magazine. It was a consciousness-raising. At least that was the intention; technically, it was a fund-raiser for VIDA, the advocacy group for women in the literary arts, sponsored by the Penguin imprint Riverhead.
The slideshow, at least, was an impressive piece of archival handiwork. In 1970, Cornell Capa (who later founded the International Center for Photography) asked Arbus to give a lecture for a group of fellow photographers. The result was a casual, revealing presentation of her work and her ideas. After Arbus’s suicide in 1971, an audio recording of the talk was acquired by her estate—and in 2005, to coincide with the traveling retrospective Diane Arbus Revelations, the estate reconstructed the slideshow, matching her words with the photographs and clippings they describe. The result is a master class from beyond the grave, which has been shown publicly only a handful of times.
The crowd was gathered at Columbia University for “Does the Brain's Wiring Make Us Who We Are?” featuring two leading lights in the field. The debate, the second annual event hosted by the science-writing collective NeuWrite, had sold out weeks ahead of time.
At BookCourt in Cobble Hill Sunday night, Aleksandar Hemon and Nicole Krauss went to bat for translated literature, eviscerating American publishers for their neglect of work from abroad. (The commonly cited statistic has it that only 3 percent of books published in the United States are translated from another language.)(2)
Are Asians black? It seemed less strange to ask Tuesday night, when, sitting in the large white events space at the Museum of Chinese in America Tuesday night, a freestyle Jadakiss jam filled the air and chef and food media personality Eddie Huang burst into the room, rapping along with the money rhyme, "Yeah you know I'm in the hood like Chinese wings!"
“Humor is life’s lube,” photographer Tim Davis deadpanned to the audience Sunday afternoon, before launching Blind Spot’s photography and humor event at the Cabinet event space in Gowanus with a story about an nauseating roller coaster ride and the commemorative photo he was sold right after. (The punchline, better seen than described, is Davis’ dismal expression as those around him scream with joy).