Author Archives: Barlo Perry

TRISHA LOW — SOCIALIST REALISM

Should I go home?

“There is no home here,” wrote the novelist and transplant Christopher Isherwood of his adopted Golden State.* Its horizon split open by the sun, its ground lurching with rolling yellow dunes. California is a strange harmony of desolation and hope, a paradox of signifying garbage and pristine landscape. The streets of Berkeley are lined with hippy-spiritual hookah stores, and across the bay, in San Francisco, are swarms of tech-boom man buns and telecommuting laptops. The soil upon which all this is built: quietly soaked in indigenous genocide, a bloodstained project that continues into the present, gently mutating into gentrification and the forced displacement of black and brown people from their homes.

And yet, because we’re in California, everything remains edged with bursting flora by the wayside and its eternal succulence. From the student protests of the sixties and seventies to antifascism today, the Golden State spans decades of generational hope, even if you can’t tell which way it’s marked. Fading community murals, graffiti deriding cis-hetero-patriarchal capitalism, everything spun into oblivion by the yearlong sunshine—it’s a jumble of radical promise, both emerging and obsolete. “California Dreamin’.”

It’s May Day. We’re hungry. We’re marching because we want just-not-this, or literally-anything-else. José Esteban Muñoz was my teacher, and he liked those extremes. He taught me that it was ok to be a punk and still believe in believing. He taught me that it was ok for my nihilism to be utopic, for my politics to also be a sensibility. “Queerness is not yet here,” he cautioned us at the beginning of Cruising Utopia. “The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.” —Trisha Low, Socialist Realism

Winner of The Believer’s 2019 Book Award for non-fiction, Low’s SOCIALIST REALISM is available from Coffee House Press.

*Christopher Isherwood, from Exhumations, 1966:

An afternoon drive from Los Angeles will take you up into the high mountains, where eagles circle above the forests and the cold blue lakes, or out over the Mojave Desert, with its weird vegetation and immense vistas. Not very far away are Death Valley, and Yosemite, and Sequoia Forest with its giant trees which were growing long before the Parthenon was built; they are the oldest living things in the world. One should visit such places often, and be conscious, in the midst of the city, of their surrounding presence. For this is the real nature of California and the secret of its fascination; this untamed, undomesticated, aloof, prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth. “You are perfectly welcome,” it tells him, “during your short visit. Everything is at your disposal. Only, I must warn you, if things go wrong, don’t blame me. I accept no responsibility. I am not part of your neurosis. Don’t cry to me for safety. There is no home here. There is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds. Understand this fact, and you will be free. Accept it, and you will be happy. 

Trisha Low, Socialist Realism (2019), photograph and book cover image courtesy and © the author and Coffee House Press.

José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, 10th anniversary edition, image courtesy and © the author’s estate and New York University Press.

HOW CAN WE THINK OF ART AT A TIME LIKE THIS?

HOW CAN WE THINK OF ART AT A TIME LIKE THIS?—curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen—is an online exhibition featuring the work of (from top), Dread Scott and Jenny Polak, Zhao Zhao, Judith Bernstein, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Aziz + Cucher, Amir H. Fallah, Janet Biggs and Kathe Burkhart.

Images courtesy and © the artists and curators.

ARLENE SHECHET

SKIRTS—an exhibition of new work by Arlene Shechet—is open in Pace Gallery’s Online Viewing Room.

ARLENE SHECHET—SKIRTS

Pace Gallery Online Viewing Room

Arlene Shechet, Skirts, Pace Gallery, New York, opened February 28, 2020, from top: Deep Dive, 2020, glazed ceramic, painted hardwood, steel; Ripple and Ruffle, 2020, glazed ceramic, hardwood, sand cast brass, steel; Grammar, 2020, glazed ceramic, steel, painted hardwood; Magic Matters, 2020, steel, painted hardwood, silver leaf; Day In, Day Out, glazed ceramic, painted hardwood, painted plywood, powder coated steel, steel; The Crown Jewel, 2020, glazed ceramic, painted hardwood, cast bronze; Touching Summer, 2020, glazed ceramic, painted hardwood. Images courtesy and © the artist and Pace Gallery.

KUNLE MARTINS — A WINDOW VIEW

Kunle Martins’ current show—portraits of friends and colleagues—is on view in its entirety through the window at 56 Henry.

KUNLE MARTINS—WHAT’S UP FAM?

Through March 22.

56 Henry

56 Henry Street, New York City.

Kunle Martins, What’s Up Fam?, 56 Henry, January 24–March 22, 2020, from top: Baby_seal777, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Nick/Beatrice, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Chaos/Control, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Dill/Waters, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; NaN/Mike, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Barry, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Kader/Roddy, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; Mark, 2019, graphite on found white cardboard; images courtesy and © the artist and 56 Henry.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS is Eliza Hittman’s third cinéma vérité feature, starring Sidney Flanigan as a young woman from rural Pennsylvania traveling to New York City for an abortion.

The film screened earlier this month at a Film Independent Presents event in Culver City, and is now playing in Hollywood and on the Westside, opening next week in Pasadena.

The spark for my new film came in 2012, when a woman named Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning in a hospital in Galway after being refused a life-saving abortion. Out of devastation, I naively began to research the history of abortion rights in Ireland. In a country where abortion was criminalized, I became fascinated to learn that women who needed abortions were forced to travel from Ireland to England. 
 
I began to read more and more about Ireland’s hidden diaspora and saw a compelling untold narrative about ‘women on the run’ traveling with the unbearable burden of shame. These migratory abortion trails also exist within our own country from rural areas with limited and restrictive access, past state lines and into progressive cities. Through extensive research and interviews over several years I developed this script. After premiering Beach Rats at Sundance in 2017 and following the inauguration of Trump, I felt an urgent need to make this film now. The fate of a woman’s fundamental right to access is at risk. If Roe v. Wade is attacked and abortion made illegal nationwide, how far will we have to travel?
 
Savita Halappanavar’s death revolutionized Ireland. It unified feminist groups throughout the country and galvanized a movement to reverse the cruel Eighth Amendment that recognizes the life of a mother and a fetus as being equal. They were activated because her identity was not anonymous. She had a name, a face, a warm smile that the country could feel and mourn. The abortion ban was historically repealed last May. 
 
 Amidst such a fraught moment in U.S. history, it’s hard not to ask myself how I am doing in my artistic practice can create change. Women’s issues are global issues. By taking a social and political issue and demonstrating its impact on one individual or character, my goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against this stigmatized subject and open people up to confronting difficult realities. 
 
 As an extension of my body of work, the film balances realism and lyricism, beauty and horror, fear and hope. It is infused with intimacy, discomfort, tension and truth. It will ignite controversy and conversation. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is ultimately a story about resistance and will perhaps even inspire change.Eliza Hittman

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS

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Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), from top: Sidney Flanigan; Flanigan; U.S. poster; Talia Ryder and Théodore Pellerin; Flanigan. Photographs by Angal Field, images courtesy and © the filmmaker, the actors, the photographer, and Focus Features.