When filmmaker Avery Willard didn’t use the penname Bruce King, he developed his films under the title of Ava-Graph Films. These pieces weren’t for commercial use, they were the kind of art he would create in his apartment specifically targeted for a small audience, then tucked away in a box until now. This coming weekend, In Search of Avery Willard will screen with a rare full program of Willard films, Unveiling Avery Willard, at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, January 26th and 27th. More…
Tag Archives: Art and Autobiography
Art & AutobiographyNews & Updates
Interview with Jonathan Caouette by
Jonathan Caouette is a filmmaker from Texas. His first film, Tarnation, debuted in 2003. In Tarnation Caouette incorporated over twenty years of footage to tell the story of his growing up and his relationship with his mother, Renee Leblanc. The film was executive produced by Gus Van Sant and John Cameron Mitchell. He also directed the 2009 documentary All Tomorrow’s Parties, on the British music festival of the same name, and the experimental short film All Flowers In Time, starring Chloë Sevigny. His third film, Walk Away Renee, debuted at Cannes Film Festival in 2011. Walk Away Renee conveys the story of the voyage Jonathan and his mother make to move her from Texas to New York City, where Jonathan has lived for many years. The film begins its New York theatrical run tomorrow, November 30th, at IFC Center.
Kyle Tidd: Hi Jonathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. This was my side of our imaginary conversation, feel free to respond however you want, it can be totally unrelated, as you please.
Jonathan Caouette: Oh thank you, I am more concerned about passing out at the moment…I’m on pain medication from a fall last week, I’m waiting right now for a lot of test results to come back…I hope it’s nothing too bad…I just turned 40 and had to cancel my celebration plans and have made two doctor’s visits and two trips to the ER just in time for the opening of Walk Away Renee.
KT: Whoa, I hope everything’s ok! I’m only going to ask you a few questions then you should rest. Is there a connection between the title of the new movie and the 1966 song by The Left Banke?
JC: Yes, The Left Banke is one of my favorite bands of all time. My mother turned me on to Walk Away Renee (the song) and Pretty Ballerina when I was a baby. Also, if it weren’t for The Left Banke there would be no Belle and Sebastian…
KT: Would you say Walk Away Renee is to Tarnation kind of like what Amnesiac was to Kid A, i.e. material salvaged from the first work that elaborates further on the relationship set up between you and your mother in Tarnation?
JC: I love that analogy, yes it is! Well, actually in a nutshell—and I’m half joking about this—but for me, in a sense the film essentially feels like it could be an opulent DVD extra, an easter egg, on disc two, for a 20 year DVD (or whatever the format will be in 2024) anniversary of Tarnation…that I somehow traveled forward in time and stole it from myself just before I put it on that disc two DVD and then came back and just, well, presented it now in 2012.
KT: You’ve mentioned H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine before, and I’ve also heard you’re working on a film about time travel.
JC: I kid you not, and I’m not trying to sound like James Franco or anything, but I have seven projects in development, all of which are going to come down the pipeline as it were in beautiful even-keeled paced succession. One of these is in fact a narrative film I’m writing and directing about time travel.
KT: Can you talk a little more about your interest in time travel?
JC: Yes. Long story short, I wish I had a time machine so that I could leave this time and go back to, I don’t know, 1950 and live until 1986. I love the subject and I am really interested in exploring it in a way that I don’t necessarily think has been done before; the idea of completely personalizing that story really excites me.
KT: And the relationship between time travel and cinema?
JC: Well, I feel a bit like John Cusack in High Fidelity. I associate specific memories and directly correlate the memories to music and films that I had seen during particular times in my life.
KT: I realize that Walk Away Renee was made in relation to certain practical considerations (the need to move your mother to New York from Texas), but it my understanding that you have always wanted to make a classic roadtrip film. Would you say a roadtrip is like time travel in some ways? Your mother moved to New York in part because she was receiving inadequate medical care in Texas. There seems to be an undercurrent in your work between cinema, time travel, and story-telling. Could you talk about that?
JC: YES, but if I answer that all the way right now honestly and detailed I would be giving away the plot of the film, which I can’t do right now.
KT: I understand. Apparently there was a segment cut from the film that had to do with a Wilhelm Reich cult group called the Cloudbusters. Are you a Kate Bush fan?
JC: Huge, huge huge fan. She is like my demi-goddess. I grew up listening to the likes of Kate Bush, Lene Lovich, Nina Hagen, Le Rita Mitsouko, etc.
KT: Why were the Cloudbusters cut from the film?
JC: That scene, coupled with a lot of other scenes coupled with a structure that I could not properly and comfortably digest, was screened at Cannes. The Cannes version of Walk Away Renee is an entire book in itself. For me it was the right film but the wrong version at the wrong time at the right festival. I was so unbelievable gobsmacked grateful beyond words to have the opportunity to show the film as the work in progress at Cannes. But that version became re-tooled about three times just after that showing. The new and final version will be present at IFC this Friday, November 30th. My family and I will be at the last showing of the night. I’ll be on crutches!
Art & AutobiographyNews & Updates
Carlos consists of three vignettes, three windows into the life of a struggling art student. I made the film as my final video project for a college class on narrative filmmaking. The film stars my best friend Carlos Diaz, and my grandmother, Margaret Kavoussi. Carlos is entirely autobiographical – I majored in Studio Art at a small, isolated liberal arts college. I spent a great deal of time there frustrated, insecure, and alone, typically in my studio, and there were days when the only person I’d speak to would be via the phone or internet. Carlos is my attempt to show the beauty of a nuanced “artist” life.
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My Father, My Boyfriend, and Their Admirer by
An introduction to the males I’ve been spending the most time with this summer: my father in the suburbs and my boyfriend in the city. This video is a condensed portrait of the two characters and places. You will be seeing more of my father and boyfriend as I document them through the summer, hoping to present their simple tasks in a way that reveals more about them.
All Letters Are Queer: Jonathan Kemp on “Twentysix” by
One of the central ideas at the core of Keep The Lights On is that we must be committed to talking about the secret behaviors which we’ve learned to keep hidden from the world. UK-based author Jonathan Kemp’s new book Twentysix is one of the most dynamic illustrations of this idea I’ve read in some time. The book is a slim yet dense collection of 26 gay sexual encounters told in unsparing detail alongside philosophical observations that try to get to the core of the narrator’s pursuit of pleasure. Like Georges Bataille and Jean Genet before him, Kemp’s prose is titillating, dark, and honest to its core. I spoke with Kemp this past weekend about his influences and how he created such an involving and unusual piece of writing. More…
Meet The Artists: Ira Sachs by
What To Do Until The Poet Comes, Part Two by
The second installment of poet William Leo Coakley’s autobiographical essay about his life with actor and writer Robin Prising takes us from the couple’s move to West 4th street to Jane street, then from New York to Rome. Along the way scores of legends make appearances – Jack Wrangler, George Barker, Djuna Barnes, James Merrill, Franz Kline and Iris Tree, to name but a few. Check back next week for the conclusion!
When I first came down from Harvard to the Village I lived at the corner of West 4th and West 12th (only in New York, I thought). I remember sauntering hand in hand through the pre-Stonewall Village with my charismatic mentor and friend the English poet George Barker. He was 99% straight, having many mistresses and more children, but the soldiers and sailors of World War II had been his lovers too and he was the body in Willard Maas’ 1943 film Geography of the Body. He had such dynamic energy that just walking and talking with him was a sexual experience. “Go and do it, Baby,” he urged me on to poetry, “Go and do it, Dirt.” He said that to strengthen my poetry I must listen to the “compulsive recurrence in the little matter of fucking.” I later found out that Robin had independently known him in the 1950s in London. There is a fabulous picture of the two of them in the 50s staring at each other over cigarette smoke (that lost aphrodisiac), the sexual vibrations, never consummated, alive in the air between them. When we lived in London and Europe in the mid-60s George was amazed to discover we had found each other and that cemented our life-long friendship with him. When he visited us in New York around 1966 we stopped by the writers’ bar the White Horse Tavern for a drink—and were barred at the door by a bruiser of a bouncer: we were not accompanied by “ladies.” The police were cracking down on gays in bars. George told him to go fuck himself, pulled out his wallet with pictures of his was it 13? children—and put a curse on the dive. It must have worked: the place is foolishly known as the bar where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death and now only tourists congregate there to stare at tourists. More…
Creative Punishments: Juan Betancurth on Faith, Pain, and Pleasure by
Since abandoning a lucrative advertising job in his native Colombia and moving to New York six years ago, Juan Betancurth has set about making work exploring the intersection of his sex life and Catholic upbringing. His latest project “For Faith, Pain and Pleasure” is a series of peculiar sculptures made out of vintage household objects that can be used for a variety of purposes, both kinky and holy. I met up with Juan earlier this week to explore the dual sides of his work.
You do a lot of different things in your practice. How would you describe it?
Honestly, I have a kind of hard time describing my work because of that. Sometimes I feel that it’s really complex. It has to do more with personal experiences, things that I want to do. My work depends on an idea or situation that I want to recreate.
Have there been similarities in the experiences you like to recreate?
It has to be experiences from my past that I want to overcome or understand. For me my work has always been a way to try and understand my reality and find out who I am. And I feel, if I have something from my past that’s limiting me, I just bring that out and put that in an installation, photograph, video, that I think is necessary, and it helps me out. It’s a tactic. More…
Walking With Ghosts by
The meatrack is a small forest tucked behind the beach and sand dunes of Fire Island. It bridges the gay and queer summer communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove. It is where people go to meet, have sex and make art. It is a place where dry bones breathe.
The first time I went through the meatrack I followed the sunburned neck of pioneering contemporary artist AA Bronson. I was working as his assistant; accompanying him and artist Ryan Brewer as they scouted locations for an art project they were doing involving rituals, and the use of a long black, Victorian Comme Des Garcons skirt AA had recently acquired.
As I kept on eye on AA’s long white luminescent beard, I struggled to take in everything. I had been hearing about Fire Island my whole gay life – the adventures of Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Christopher Isherwood, as well as how, according to Larry Kramer, the island and it’s hedonistic vibe was the sign of the gay man’s demise. It was heady to be walking on the shifting ground, moved by the intense weight of emotions washing over me. As soon as I stepped into the rack I felt very unalone. More…
A Room of V’s Own: Mx Justin Vivian Bond at Participant Gallery by
This summer I attended a farewell party at Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s apartment in the East Village. Actually, let me rephrase that. I attended a farewell party for Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s apartment in the East Village. From early afternoon through the midnight hour, friends and loved ones of V came to drink, dance, and bid a warm and sometimes angry farewell to a beloved loft space where over the course of 2 years, the adored NYC singer, author, performer and artist flourished. Within days of the party, the apartment would be vacated to make way for a new condo complex called Avalon. A few weeks ago the contents of Justin Vivian’s loft settled into a new home at the Participant Gallery for V’s gallery show The Fall of the House of Whimsy. I sat down for a drink with Bond to discuss the show and the increasingly autobiographical direction of V’s work.
Adam: Tell me about your new show at Participant.
Justin: It’s called The Fall of the House of Whimsy. I chose that because it’s opening on Halloween, and you know, in Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher this house that this artist is living in disappears into a mist at the end. And, my house that I’ve been working in is disappearing in the mists of Avalon, literally, because the developers that have done the Avalon Complex are turning my part of the building into a 12-story condo unit. The original tenants will each get an apartment for like $10 each, but for the rest of us, we’re out on our asses. My intention had been a show of my watercolors, but shortly before we had to move out in spring I was lying in bed one morning and the light was so beautiful that I just got out of bed and started photographing my apartment. I really started meditating on how creative I had actually been in the two and a half years that I had lived there. I produced my record and did the Jackie Curtis book with Hilton Als. I did my ReGalli Blonde show at The Kitchen, and we rehearsed it in that loft, and we rehearsed the Christmas Spells shows in the loft. I wrote my book Tango, had amazing parties and met amazing people in the loft. More…