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Art This Week: Diaspora, Borders, and Healthcare

(image via Aperture Foundation / Facebook)

Home Away From Home
Opening Wednesday, March 14 at Aperture Gallery, 7pm to 8:30 pm. On view through May 10.

For some people, home is the place they have lived for their entire lives. But for immigrants, it’s not always so clear-cut. Photographer Taysir Batniji is originally from Gaza, in Palestine, but he is also French and splits his time between the two places. Members of his family, on the other hand, have ended up in America, in places like California and Florida. Batniji paid these people a series of visits, photographing and interviewing them about their sense of home and experience living in America. His new solo exhibition at Aperture Gallery combines these new images with archival material, such as old photographs and sketches of their family home made from memory, creating a portrait of generational memory and history contrasted with current lives. Keep Reading »

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Oh Hi, Marty: Watch Tommy Wiseau Audition For Martin Scorsese’s Joker Series

Between touring The Room and promoting James Franco’s making-of-The-Room movie, The Disaster Artist, Tommy Wiseau probably hasn’t had much time to toss the ol’ football around. The international man of mystery is just days away from releasing his second feature, Best F(r)iends, out March 30And yet, not content to be a cult hero with the “How Did This Get Made?” crowd, he has somehow found the time to audition for the next Batman spinoff.

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Activists Say ‘Frack No’ to Proposed Pipeline as Cuomo Makes Renewable Energy Investment

(Photos: Ben Brandstein)

Environmental and community groups gathered outside New York University’s Kimmel Center this morning, rallying against a natural gas pipeline proposed by the Williams energy company. Meanwhile, inside, Governor Cuomo announced a $1.4 billion commitment to renewable energy programs. It’s said to be the biggest by any state in US history, but some protesters continue to say that Cuomo isn’t doing enough to stop fracking off the coast of New York City and elsewhere.  Keep Reading »

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Watch Harvey Weinstein’s Paper-Thin Apology, Sung By a Cut-Out Doll

Image courtesy of Lauren Maul / Shark Party Media

In the past year, numerous men in the entertainment industry and beyond have come under fire for their sexually abusive behavior. In attempts to save face or mitigate their impending PR crises, many of the accused have issued public apologies for their wrongdoings. Lauren Maul, a New York-based comedian and performer, was struck by the tone of the mea culpas, which range from ridiculous to horribly misguided. Inspired to create an album of musical interpretations of these statements, Maul constructed songs around the public apologies issued by men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. With accompanying music videos for the catchy songs featuring the apologizers as singing paper dolls, Maul hopes to bring a little bit of levity to what has otherwise been a sobering time.

Maul’s album “Apologies for Men” is now available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and more, with 100% of the proceeds going to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. The album features the apologies of Weinstein, Spacey, Louis CK, Matt Lauer and others, with a special instrumental piece for the men who’ve been accused but haven’t yet apologized. Check out her video of Weinstein’s apology, fittingly called “The Culture Then,” below our conversation.

Image via Lauren Maul / Shark Party Media

BB_Q(1)
I’ve seen some of your videos, from your Apologies from Men album, and they’re very DIY. They’re hands on, obviously, but they’re also really unique in their approach to this pretty serious subject matter. Why did you choose to make an album and videos with singing paper dolls? Did you immediately know that was something you wanted to do when you heard about these allegations and subsequent apologies?

BB_A(1)
When I was reading the Louis C.K. apology, I was like, “Ugh, this is so gross. But it’s also good that it’s coming out.” So then, I decided– I was at a concert– that I wanted to do a concert like this. Like a fun concert, with my friends onstage, singing and playing music. And I wanted to do it to this Louis C.K. apology. And then all of these other apologies came out, and I was like, “Oh, my god, it has to be a whole album. What did I get myself into?”

And then when it came to videos, I had just come off of making a web series [Amazon Reviews: The Musical!] that took a lot of people and a lot of crew, and just a lot of scheduling work, and it was just something I didn’t want to do again for a while. And so I decided I’d just make [the videos] all by myself in my office, and have them be paper dolls. So I can make them do basically whatever I want. And I thought it was fun to actually belittle these men, because they had so much power that they abused and took advantage of so many people. It was just a fun way for me to turn the tables. And I just wanted the men to really be the butt of the joke. I never want the survivors to feel like I’m making fun of them, I don’t take jokes about assault or rape lightly. People– like comedians and artists– have a big responsibility, that if you are going to talk about rape culture, you’d better do it in a non-triggering way. Because I don’t want to cause them any more pain. They’ve been through enough.

BB_Q(1) How can a more comedic approach to these pretty serious issues affect our discussion of them? Do you think that comedy can help us take a different look?

BB_A(1) Yeah. I love that art is like the mirror you hold up to society– and comedy is the funhouse mirror that you hold up. It’s just that if you’re able to talk about it and laugh about it, then you can learn from it and heal. And also, it helps people talk about rape culture. For instance, my mom showed my grandma the Matt Lauer [apology] video. It’s like, would they even be talking about sexual harassment [otherwise]?

BB_Q(1) I’m assuming that’s kind of what you’re hoping people can take away from your videos, right? This idea of entering into a conversation about sexual assault, because it’s being portrayed in a different light than what we’ve seen in the media previously. Is there anything else you’re hoping people will take away from your approach to this?

BB_A(1) Yeah, I just wanted it to be very accessible. And that’s why I did it very handmade, to show that you can also do this at home, too. It’s not rocket science. I want people to feel like they can make their own art in response to difficult situations. And also I want this project to sprinkle a little joy in an area where there was formerly no joy.

BB_Q(1) The album and the videos definitely take a pretty unorthodox approach to all of this. What would you say to someone who– maybe they’re a sexual assault victim, maybe they’re not– thinks that maybe this isn’t the right avenue for comedy? That maybe these crimes are so heinous that they shouldn’t be treated in such a lighthearted way?

BB_A(1) I would just say that, first of all, I never want to offend someone who is a survivor. I would never make them the butt of the joke. So far, the only people who have been offended are like, straight white dudes. And that’s fine. If I’m offending them– they’re not my target demographic. I would say that’s the role of comedy– to turn shit into glitter. And I’m trying to do a service by turning a terrible situation into something that we can talk about, and even laugh about, but laugh at these men. Because they did something wrong. But yeah, it is touchy. And that’s why I try to be very thoughtful with what I do. Of course I can’t not offend everybody, but there’s this great Ricky Nelson song that’s like, “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.”

BB_Q(1) So what are your boundaries? What is something you feel like, it’s not my place to make jokes about this, or include this in a bit?

BB_A(1) Well, one of the apologies that I did not include was the Olympics doctor [Larry Nassar], just because the magnitude and the sheer number of children he assaulted. Maybe someday someone will be able to make a funny musical about what a creep he was. But right now, his victims are still kids. And so, it’s like, I can’t– someone else may be able to go there, but I personally could not. It’s like, oh boy, this is too much. And plus, I have to really dig in to write these songs– I have to read the apology a lot, and do a lot of research on these men. And they all gross me out. But some of them, I’m just like– nope, can’t even touch, don’t want to go there. Too gross, too scary.

BB_Q(1) I watched the Harvey video earlier, and I think the contrast between his “apology,” if you could even call it that, and the DIY, eye-catching visuals is great.

BB_A(1) Thank you! It’s so funny how he just goes off the rails [in his apology]. Like, it makes no sense at the end. Each time, with each video I edited, I’d get to a point where I was like, “Yeah, this is done,” but with the Harvey one there was never a point where I was like “This is done,” because it was just always like, “This is too weird. Is it done? I think it’s done enough.” It’s just so off the rails.

The fun part was making his little childhood bedroom. Because [for the video] I just pictured him moving back into his childhood bedroom after all this– his wife left him, he’s just moving back. And I put these posters of infamous creeps on his wall– like Phil Specter, O.J., Jimmy Page. Like, yikes! So it’s kind of like, here’s his heroes. And here’s how well that worked out for him.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Last Call For Adult Dodgeball! Deadline For Manhattan League Looms

(Photo courtesy of Terry Hanahoe, shown holding the beer boot.)

You might think an adult dodgeball league is merely a Hollywood fantasy, like in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. But NYC Social has created a league that combines your passion for weeknight binge-drinking and throwing objects at your enemies. It’s not for anyone taking the game too seriously though, says Frank Del Cervo, a representative of NYC Social.

“We want people of every experience and skill level to feel comfortable in the league, even if you’ve never seen a dodgeball before,” says Del Cervo.

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Sesame Street Drag, Disabled Comedians, and More Performance Picks

Asia Gagnon’s ‘The Kind of Thing You Don’t Talk About’ at SipFest

SipFest
Now through March 14 at Wild Project, various times, various prices

The nature of live theater is that anything can happen at any time. Sometimes this is good, but not always. Spaceman, a high-tech play from Loading Dock Theater about a woman astronaut’s journey to Mars, was supposed to have a run at Wild Project currently, but had to be canceled due to an injury sustained by the lead performer. However, the venue will not be empty. A last-minute festival of original performance works by women and queer artists called Sipfest will run at the Lower East Side venue in its stead. There, you’ll find a solo show digging into how we discuss sexual assault, drag performances, femme ballads, a play inspired by the fanfiction epic My Immortal, and more. Keep Reading »

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The Fillmore East, ‘Church of Rock N Roll,’ Recalled By Those Who Helped Open It 50 Years Ago

During 1967’s Summer of Love, the Village Theater at 105 Second Ave. was New York’s premier rock music venue. The Anderson Theater, two blocks south, competed with rock acts in early 1968. But the landscape changed later that year when San Francisco promoter Bill Graham converted the Village Theater into the Fillmore East. Most of Graham’s technical staff defected from the Anderson, which soon closed. Graham’s “Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll” presented stars that included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

The Fillmore East’s March 8, 1968 debut show featured Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin a month after the band rocked the Anderson. The show also featured blues great Albert King and folk rocker Tim Buckley. Graham’s eclectic lineups exposed rock fans to the best of jazz, folk, blues, Latin and Eastern music and made the East Village the center of the rock universe. Competition from arenas like Madison Square Garden and increased salary demands from bands convinced Graham to close the Fillmore East on June 27, 1971. Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991.

The 50th anniversary of the Fillmore East will be celebrated tonight, March 8, at Theatre 80 in the East Village, and next month the Who will release a live album recorded at the Fillmore East in 1968. For an inside look at its history, we talked with some of the people who worked backstage and on stage at the storied venue.

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City’s First Night Mayor Will Be Ariel Palitz, Former Club Owner and CB 3 Member

Ariel Palitz (Photo: Nicky Digital)

Ariel Palitz will be the city’s first “night mayor,” it was announced today. The former Community Board 3 member and onetime owner of East Village nightclub Sutra will officially be known as the Senior Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife, and will act as a liaison between City agencies, the nightlife industry, and local residents. The goal is to “promote a safe and vibrant nightlife scene that benefits businesses and residents alike,” per the City’s announcement.

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Bowie Mania Continues With Ziggy Cocktails and Record Store Day Releases

From “David Bowie is” at Brooklyn Museum. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

The opening of the mammoth “David Bowie is” exhibit last week at the Brooklyn Museum left a lot of people nostalgic for the late Starman. Lucky for all the Ziggy Stardust acolytes out there, the Bowie love continues with a slew of new record releases in April and a batch of themed cocktails at Crown Heights bar and restaurant. So take your protein pills, put your helmet on and let the Bowie mania begin.

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The Best of Spring/Break, the Outré Art Fair in an Abandoned Times Square Office Building

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There are at least a half dozen contemporary art fairs settling in all over Manhattan this week and, if past years’ efforts are at all predictive, most of these are worth your time, your gaze, and, even in the case of the $47 Armory Show, your money.
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David Byrne Gets Political in Trumpland as He Launches First Tour in 8 Years

There was some irony when David Byrne played his new single, “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” last night for a crowd in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The former Talking Heads frontman had, in fact, come to their house— a handsome Art Deco theater, the F.M. Kirby Center— for the second show of his first solo tour since 2009. He’ll sing “home is where I want to be” many times before he returns to New York to play the Panorama festival on July 29. [Update, March 6: Byrne just added shows at Forest Hills Stadium on 9/15 and Kings Theatre on 9/17.]

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