Archive: July, 2013
Photography is quickly evolving. The digital era has made us leave our cameras at home and opt to use the convenient iPhone for taking video, audio, and pictures anywhere. Ease of use, when it comes to capturing and sharing, has become a priority; and Instagram is, without a doubt, the easiest way to do both.
Many discredit forms of digital photography under the belief that it’s inauthentic. Digital has allowed users to doctor photos, sometimes on the spot, to their liking–usually to the point where it looks nothing like the original. But what makes a photo authentic is the unaltered context it focuses on.
Candace Karch, also known as sugarbeam, is one of Philadelphia’s greatest Instagram street photographers. She’s taken full advantage of the app’s ease of use and portability to document her surroundings, without using filters or tricks. Her photos capture characters and the unexpected that pass through her life on a daily basis. She photographs human as she sees them, completely unpolished. “I live in Fishtown and have been here for over ten years. Like most people, I carry my phone with me at all times. I am always ready to chase someone for [his or her] photo. It’s part of my daily routine.”
Amanda V. Wagner
The first thing you notice about Brett J. Hopkins is his mustache — a striking feature, perfectly sculpted, neatly twirled at the ends, and slightly reminiscent of Salvador Dali. Behind the mustache Brett, or Brettzo, as he’s known on stage, is apart of the roaring Philadelphia subculture known as boylesque.
Boylesque, or the male version of burlesque, has been popping up all over the neo-burlesque scene. Since the art form’s comeback in the mid 90’s, entire festivals and shows have been dedicated to the pursuit of manly thrills and frills, like Burlesque-a-Pades and the New York Boylesque Festival.
Traditionally, burlesque has been a female dominated world filled with busty vixens with seductive hourglass figures, and precisely placed pasties and tassels. The art can be traced back to the early 16th century. After gaining popularity in the late 19th century, the show was carried across seas to America. Since then, burlesque has evolved to include a wide variety of styles and themes, and draws in everything from cabarets to striptease.
With the influence of modern technology, music is evolving more rapidly than ever. The MP3 has all but replaced previous formats of music. Records are now more of a novelty and CDs are simply inconvenient to carry around. In a similar way, traditional concert venues are quickly going out of style. The appeal of these venues are dwindling in the face of a more financially and socially appealing alternative: the house.
There are countless musicians in Philadelphia, but finding spaces to host local bands has proven to be challenging. However, some Philadelphia residents have found a solution for this and have created their own space for performance. A house may not seem like an ideal place for a concert, but it has many benefits that a larger venue lacks. As Marshall James Kavanaugh, proprietor of the Dream Oven, a house venue in East Kensington, explains, “Big venues don’t have a personal aesthetic. They don’t really create a space. They have a stage, lighting and semi-good sound.” The aesthetic Kavanaugh describes is a subtle quality that comes from the multipurpose nature of a house. When walking into the Dream Oven, there is a lot more than just a band playing in what would be an empty room; the interiors are mesmerizing. Multiple dream-catchers hang from the ceiling, and the walls feature rotating exhibits of work by local artists.
These personal touches create an inclusive setting, and construct a sense of social comfort. Kavanaugh notes that in a big venue “people don’t really like talking to each other. At a house show, you have breaks, where people communicate. It’s a more engaging atmosphere.”
Amanda V. Wagner
Last week, news of Jay-Z’s pop up appearance in Chelsea’s Pace Gallery littered the internet with Vine video posts and tweets about the rapper’s six-hour performance of “Picasso Baby,” from his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail. The story’s circulation reached a new height when the queen of performance art herself, Marina Abromović, shared the stage with Hova.
The bizarre dance between the two seemed to press a stamp of approval on the stunt. Even notoriously combative art critic Jerry Saltz was surprisingly entertained and impressed by the piece, writing in Vulture, “I went in doubting. I left elated. Any performer who can get a room full of strangers chanting, ‘Picasso baby’ over and over again is good in my book. Better yet, Jay-Z even got me to actually start liking Marina Abramović. That's art.”
The crowd of participating art world luminaries shared Saltz’s supportive sentiment. “It’s great how he has really recreated the whole MoMA feel,” said artist Marcel Dzama to the New York Times, referencing Abromović’s 2010 exhibition, "The Artist is Present," which inspired the hip-hop mogul’s charade. While New York may be convinced that this act of appropriation is art, practicing artists view it as red flag.
Local musician Sean Hoots, of the Americana roots, Philadelphia-based band Hoots and Hellmouth, doesn’t have any upcoming music gigs, but you can catch him onstage performing in this year’s Shakespeare in Clark Park’s production of The Tempest.
The vocalist last released a two-song digital album by his band in November 2012. Since then he has taken on a new project—theater. Hoots had never worked in theatre, but he was game when director Adrienne Mackey contacted him asking if he’d want to get involved.
Describing himself as “already a fan of the bard,” Hoots wasn’t as familiar with The Tempest as he was with other Shakespearean plays, but that quickly changed. “Inspiration came from immersing myself in the text and context of the play, which led me down all kinds of interesting musical paths from runic magic sounds to island noises,” he said.
A family member once told me that the main reason he didn’t understand my generation was because of our obsession with ourselves. Why, he wondered, did we have so many pictures of our own faces in favor of scenes from trips we had taken or spectacles we’d seen?
Though “#selfie” may be a relatively new way of identifying these images, the human fascination with the self dates back to the first crude paintings and carvings of people ever created. Artists throughout history have created famous self-portraits—Kahlo, Raphael, Picasso, etc.—and having the money to commission a portrait has long helped individuals to project a wealthy and powerful image of themselves to the world.
From Face to Facebook, now showing at the Philadelphia History Museum, chronicles self-portraits through the ages. More info can be found here.
If you are interested in what’s on the minds of the most experimental theater makers, there’s no question that low and no-budget work is the place to look.
The relatively unpolished work presented is often the most experimental and revealing, exposing raw concepts artists are toying with. FringeArts is always a great place to look for this, but the exceptionally low budget requirements and friendly atmosphere the SoLow Fest puts artists into a particularly daring mindset.
Though every show I saw at SoLow was a unique experiment, there were certain similarities, which followed through many of them. If it is possible to draw conclusions from just six shows, below are three signs of what’s trending in our city’s most experimental theater.
“I did stand-up comedy for 18 years,” wrote Steve Martin in his book Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life.
“Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct. The course was more plodding than heroic.”
Of course, Steve Martin’s journey came throughout the 1970s. Now, as stand up classes and seminars continue to crop up, it appears that unlike many classic comedians, many comics are beginning their road into the comedy circuit in a class, versus on the mic.