SASKIA HAHN, FROM 2013

Posted on July 23rd, 2013

ON THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION

By Emily Amodeo

 

In December of 2010, when Saskia Hahn riffed onstage with electro-rapper Peaches at Art Basil in Miami during the Peaches Laser Show, the mise-en-scène recalled a wormhole, with aliens spilling out from some distant galaxy, Mongo perhaps—if the costumes were any indication. The antics of the fans suggested the humans found conquest an intensely pleasurable act.

By that time, Hahn, musician, artist, and an autodidact with a fearsome and obsessive intelligence had already shown art in London and Berlin. Her inaugural New York exhibition, $ASKIA: ICONS!?, was to follow less than two years later. Hahn, a Berlin native, has toured with Peaches since they met on the Berlin music scene in 2008 and Dave Catching (Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal) has said of her: “One of the coolest women on the planet with chops from beyond time and space.” With her stern, soul-piercing gaze, there is something otherworldly about the artist, as if she knows a secret. The messenger may be soft-spoken, but her words, like her work, are unfailingly, sometimes painfully, to the point, often drawing the viewers’ gaze, with all the gravitational pull of a planet, to liminal terrains: linguistic subtexts within foregrounded objects, and ominous white voids, lag-spaces between the object and the frame, appearance and reality. The silkscreen and canvas worlds evoke pop art, street art, and abstract expressionism, with a siren note of rebellion that hearkens back to the punk movement in rock. Like her music, her art is a seductive invasion of the soul and the senses.

The following dialogue was conducted through a series of epistles over email during which I spent a fair amount of time spastically dancing around my laptop to The Teaches of Peaches, trying to think up ways of distracting the dedicated artist from her labors in her solitary Berlin studio. Her work has been likened to that of Andy Warhol and Jamie Reid. Shepard Fairey also comes to mind, for its controversial appropriation of historical figures and glowing splashes of color. A selection of the artist’s work—and the inspiration behind much of our exchange—is currently on view at the East Village art project space, Peanut Underground.

 

Emily: Peaches said that you used to take photographs while on tour. Was this the first manifestation of your urge to express yourself through a visual medium or did your relationship to art begin earlier than that?

 

Saskia: Yes, that’s true. I mostly took pictures of our everyday tour life: behind the scenes, different settings or situations, taken from different angles.

Almost everything inspires me. It can be a person with a certain look, a group of people, objects, parts of a city or nature, being photographed at a certain moment. But photography is just one of the many mediums I like to work with.

I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I was a child but music always came first until a few years ago. It wasn’t a certain event that all of a sudden made me jump up, grab the brushes and paint.

Being on tour and traveling the world inspired me tremendously plus Peaches and I always tried to make some time in between shows to go to new exhibitions or art openings.

I also took some time off in London, LA, and New York, to check out the local art and music scene. All of this had a huge impact on me and over time the urge to express myself through visual art grew undeniable.

My first exhibition was a solo show—a mix of abstract and op art paintings, digital photo collages, and an installation (LIGHTBOX)—at KIM in Berlin, Mitte. That was in October 2010.

 

Emily: Op art, as in optical illusion art? Which makes use of various techniques—e.g., geometry, lines, colors, patterns—to play with perceptual processes and manufacture illusions, of movement, hidden images, or unsettling effects like warping. The term first appeared in print in an anonymously written 1964 Time Magazine article, “Op Art: Pictures that Attack the Eye.” Although, since I wasn’t alive then, my first experience of it was through the magic eye painting craze of the 80s. Your installation, TRIANGLES reminds me of what Bridget Riley said about the way op art forces the viewer to acknowledge the connection between the eye and the body, “Even smells, noise, and so on have a visual equivalent and can be presented through a certain vocabulary of signs.”  Do you remember what first attracted you to this micro movement?

 

Saskia: I simply wanted to create artwork with more depth by painting on layers of objects instead of using a flat canvas. So I experimented with different colors and shapes and that’s how I created the STRIPES&SQUARES painting and TRIANGLES. I had a couple of ideas and this is how they turned out. I am not a big fan of over-thinking art too much. To me art is self-explanatory. Either you like it or you don’t. I would rather listen to what others are thinking when they look at my work. Art that needs a description bores me.

I like what Josef Albers once said about it: “The description of any visual art as ‘optical art’ is as senseless as speaking of ‘acoustic music’ or ‘haptic sculpture.’”

 

Emily: When it comes to the self-sufficiency of artistic expression, I think textual artists would agree with you, too. Flannery O’Connor said something similar about the short story as “a way to say something that can’t be said any other way,” and Leonard Cohen about the poem as, “just the evidence of life.”

Though I wouldn’t describe your work as retro, I do come away with a sense of nostalgia. Do you feel a connection to the art movements of the sixties?

 

Saskia: Yes, I appreciate the work of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Those artists inspired later generations of artists, like Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who wielded a powerful influence over pop culture. Not only within the sphere of art but also music. Just think about the eighties and the beginning of MTV. Their work is still everywhere today.

But I wouldn’t consider myself a nostalgic artist. I am always on the  lookout for something new, and different ways to experiment with materials and techniques. Since we’re talking about contemporary artists, Olafur Eliasson, Jeff Koons, and Gerhard Richter, as well as the street artists Nomad and Banksy, are also referenced within the bandwidth of my work.

 

Read more in 1 HOT ST.

 

© Holger Talinsky

© Holger Talinsky

 

INTERVIEW WITH HOT STREET, FROM 2013

Posted on July 23rd, 2013

FROM WRITING AT THE NEW SCHOOL

 

By Roberto Montes

 

Hot Street is a literary journal started by New School alumni Emily Amodeo, Elisha Wagman, Sarah Smetana, and Ian Brown. Their first issue is now available to order online. I asked the Hot Street editorial team about their first issue, the unseen obstacles of publishing, and the community they hope to engender.

 

Roberto Montes: What separates Hot Street from other literary journals?

 

Emily Amodeo: In terms of looks and personality, literary magazines are as unique as individual people. If Hot Street were a person, it would always remember to take out the recycling and have a library even bigger than mine with rolling stepladders and table lamps with green shades. It would read on the train, at night in bed, and when it’s supposed to be doing other things like cutting the grass or having sex.

In addition to being editors, we are also writers and we know what it feels like to work in isolation and then send the product of that mighty labor out into a void. As writers, we rarely get the encouragement and appreciation we need. At Hot Street, we collaborate during the editorial process and work with writers on fine-tuning their craft. In my experience, this isn’t a far-fetched model in literary publishing. Many journals do place their focus on building life-long relationships with writers and work with them on revising for publication. It’s a privilege for Hot Street to offer this kind of attention to each author that we publish. Coming from a background in commercial publishing, I love being in a position to edit writing that inspires me and spend the time on the work that it deserves. It is our belief that literary journals are still the place where the truly interesting things are happening, and provide a home for exploration of form and aesthetic. We’re dedicated to keeping that space open for writers in print and online.

 

RM: What is a moment or line in the first issue that you think exemplifies the Hot Street aesthetic?

 

Elisha Wagman: From “Black Silk, Black Milk,” by Merlin Ural:

Mahrus stood facing an unfamiliar grave with his head bowed in reverence. I could swear he was praying under his breath in Arabic for the soul that had long left the untended earth spreading before him. But then again he could have been rolling in his mouth one of his famous tongue-twisters: Se l’arcivescovo di Costantinopoli si disarcivescovisconstantinopolizzasse tu ti disarcivescoviscostantinopolizzeresti come si è disarcivescoviscostantinopolizzato l’ arcivescovo di Costantinopoli. “If you speak a language, you’d better speak the hell out of it,” he often said.

The editors at Hot Street embrace all literary forms and genres. We resist labels like slipstream, fabulism, psychological realism, language poetry, and free verse. Like the last line of the excerpt above, we believe that if you’re going to speak a language, be it poetry or short stories, you must do it as skillfully as you can, in a way that’s authentic and true to your own experience. That’s our aesthetic: well-told stories, and carefully crafted poems that transport our readers to a different place, or mindset.

 

RM: I noticed you have an interview up with issue #1 contributor David Lehman on hotstreet.org. Will there be additional content on the website that’s not in the issue?

 

Sarah Nicole Smetana: We are committed to the print format, but interested in exploring an online component as well. Because print is a slow-moving beast and we publish only two issues a year, we plan to supplement the print magazine with frequent online content.

Fostering a real-world and virtual community is important to us, both in the editing process before publication and involvement with our contributors through readings and other events after acceptance. It is in this spirit of collaboration that we hope to curate our web content. We want to stay connected to the writers that we publish in the magazine, and we also want to provide them with opportunities to stay connected to each other. The website will be a showcase for new and exclusive materials (and words of wisdom) from our phenomenal contributors—both established and emerging.

 

read the rest of the interview here

 

The Editors at AWP 2013

The Editors at AWP 2013

DAVID LEHMAN, FROM 2012

Posted on December 15th, 2012

ON BEAUTY, TRUTH, AND TAKING YOUR VITAMINS

 

David Lehman is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, the series editor of The Best American Poetry (which he established twenty-five years ago), and the author of such books as When a Woman Loves a Man and A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs.

 

HS: How did the poem “Sixteen Tons” (1 HS) come about?

 

David: In Ithaca on a September afternoon I heard the Bernstein composition on my car radio, and later that day, faced with the whiteness of a blank computer screen, I started writing the poem. The song “Sixteen Tons,” which I remember hearing a lot on the radio when I was a boy, is in an altogether different genre, but I love it, too. The refrain goes like this: “Sixteen tons, and what do you get? / another day older and deeper in debt. / St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, / I owe my soul to the company store.”

 

HS: When and how did you first know that you were a poet?

 

David: When I graduated from high school a “free man,” as I thought myself — college coming as a liberation — I found myself writing poems and combing old notebooks for snippets of verse that I recollected writing. And then that fall, in my first months at Columbia, I wrote a poem every day and my head was filled with poems. It had something to do with the amount of stimulation: this was my first experience of Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles in one class and Sartre, Ionesco, and Henri Michaux in another. Also, I had fallen in with the fellows at the “Columbia Review” magazine.

 

HS: What is your definition of good poetry?

 

David: I can quote and endorse Coleridge, Walter Pater, Auden and Wallace Stevens on this subject. But I, if pressed, would say that poetry is the agent that links beauty and truth and makes them inseparable in the mind of Keats contemplating the Grecian urn.

 

HS: Where and when do you write? Do you have any particular rituals for conjuring the muse?

 

David: I can write pretty much anywhere.

 

HS: Who are your poetic influences? Are there any poems in particular that never fail to inspire?

 

David: The list would be too long to give here. Why don’t I just mention some old favorites that I recently re-read: Yeats’s “Vacillation”; Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”; Coleridge, “This Lime Tree Bower My Prison”; Milton’s “Lycidas”; Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; Auden’s “Sonnets from China” and “New Year Letter”; Emily Dickinson, a whole group of poems; Ammons, “Garbage.”

 

HS: In addition to being a poet, you teach in the graduate writing program at The New School. Do you have any advice for other writers balancing a writing life and a day job?

 

David: Take your vitamins, drink plenty of fluids, and be patient with those who make legitimate demands on your time. “Be to their virtues very kind, be to their faults a little blind.”

 

HS: In your book, A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American songs, you elegize iconic American music. What kind of impact has music had on your poetry?

 

David: Music inspires me. I like writing with music on in the background. And I set store by some of the values that the great lyricists upheld. Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Leo Robin, Yip Harburg, Dorothy Fields—these writers were unbelievable witty and clever and they were formalists who balanced a love of the vernacular with an ability to fit the words into a set musical frame. I have sometimes written rhymed, patterned poems that are like lyrics in search of a Harold Arlen to set them to music.

 

HS: What is the last book you read?

 

David: Susan Sontag’s “As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980″

 

HS: At the moment, what project are you most excited about?

 

David: My “New and Selected Poems,” in the works.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Star Black

Poetry by David Lehman forthcoming in 1 HOT ST.

LOCKED IN A SMALL TOWN CAGE WITH MY SUPERHEROES

Posted on December 15th, 2012

(AND HAVING NO WAY TO GET AN MFA)

By RICK ROFIHE

Rick Rofihe (1 HS) is the author of Father Must, a collection of short stories published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Grand Street, Open City, Swink, Unsaid, and on epiphanyzine, slushpilemag, and fictionaut. Rick is Editor of the online literary journal Anderbo

 

MFA or no MFA, it takes a lot of stamina to become, and then continue to be, a writer. As an MFA professor at Columbia, I envied the talents of some of the writing students; also their sophisticated backgrounds which gave them much grist for the things they were writing, whereas I grew up in a provincial town which at the time had no bookstore and no library—no library even at school. I listened to “Superman” on the radio, read Uncle Scrooge comic books, and then, when the time seemed right, I began writing a short story, and it was accepted at The New Yorker.

 

 Fiction by Rick Rofihe forthcoming in 1 HOT ST.