Arts+ Culture

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Eleven Excuses to Stay in New York for the Memorial Day Weekend

(Photo via Elsewhere)

Stuck in town this Memorial Day weekend? You’re better off avoiding the mile-long airport lines anyway, so consider yourself lucky. But just in case you’re tired of hitting up to Smorgasburg for the third weekend in a row or staring at your computer screen as you Netflix your life away, Bedford + Bowery has put together plenty of options to keep you entertained over the long weekend.

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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

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?

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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Pie an Artist in the Face and Then Eat the World’s Biggest Bagel and Lox

Imagine this bagel sandwich, but 50 times bigger. Photo courtesy of Acme Smoked Fish

If you’ve ever wanted to throw a pie in someone’s face, now’s your chance. Jennifer Rubell, the conceptual artist who built a giant cookie jar resembling Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit, is inviting you to fling pies at her during a performance at the new Meredith Rosen Gallery, opening next week. Or maybe you’d rather stuff your own face with bagels? Head over to Brooklyn’s Acme Smoked Fish next Friday, where they’re building a super-sized (we’re talking a few hundred pounds here) bagel sandwich in honor of National Bagel and Lox Day.

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How Pepe the Frog Tried to Get His Groove Back: The Musical!

When Pepe the Frog was coopted by the alt-right last year, the cartoon amphibian’s creator didn’t exactly think, “Feels good, man.” Instead, he set out on a quest to reclaim Pepe. That effort has now inspired a “meme musical experience” titled Passion of the Frogin which the internet’s favorite hate symbol goes looking for love.

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Don’t Rat Out the Mice-Size ‘Squeakeasies’ Hidden Around Town

New Bartender? (Photo by Diego Lynch)

Rats are no longer happy suckling at the rim of a cast-off PBR can. Like all discerning New Yorkers, today’s vermin demand a boutique experience. Hence the “squeakeasies” that Hunter Fine has placed around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The tiny tippling spots are strategically located near the city’s “rat reservoirs.” If you want in, wear earth tones and be about six inches long.

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Sifting Through City Reliquary’s ‘NYC Trash!’ Exhibit

Photo of the exhibit (All photos are from inside the exhibit by Diego Lynch, unless otherwise indicated)

One man’s trash is another man’s… museum show?

Through April 29, the City Reliquary, in Williamsburg, is hosting an exhibit that serves as a history of New York City’s waste management (or lack thereof) as well as a show of works by artists and nonprofits whose medium is garbage. Also featured are some of the unusual items Nelson Molina collectedduring his 30 years with the NYC Department of Sanitation.

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What Goes Bump in the Subway? Spooky New York Transit Tales

Entropy and much else haunts New York’s rapid transit system, one of the oldest in the world. The subway is fertile grounds for fear: the rats, the tons of dirt above your head, and the leaks you hope are water. And when you get home, you may find that bedbugs got off at your stop. Inspired, Andrew Duncan Farmer has written a collection of “Scary Stories to Read on the Subway,” with illustrations by Bats Langley.

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Brandon Harris Talks Gentrification, Race, and the Perennial Struggle of Making It in NYC

In his first book, Making Rent in Bed-Stuy (HarperCollins, 2017), New York-based writer and filmmaker Brandon Harris uses his memoir of “trying to make it in New York City” as the starting point for a complex, multi-layered discussion of race, class, and gentrification.

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Summer Streets Hits Astor Place: Food, Mini-Golf, VR, and… a ‘Smell Walk’?

A waterslide at last year’s Summer Streets.

The city’s popular “Summer Streets” program — in which seven miles of New York streets are temporarily turned into pedestrian-only parks — returns the first three Saturdays of August.

Our fair city’s government — or the program’s sponsors, anyway — have spared no expense. The smorgasbord of activities announced at a Department of Transportation press conference on Astor Place this morning includes crowd favorites like waterslides and ziplines — as well as some eccentric new additions, including a “smell walk”; an event described as “a silent disco, but for your tongue”; and the opportunity to bathe in a “giant washing machine.” Yet riding our subways is like participating in the Stanford Prison Experiment. Remarkable.

Anyway: This year’s theme is “the Five Senses,” hence novelties like the smell walk. Created by artist and designer Kate McClean, who previously created “smellmaps” in cities like Amsterdam and Paris, it’s described as “45 minutes of walking slowly and sniffing followed by a 15-minute visualisation exercise to communicate your smell encounters to those who missed the opportunity.” You can RSVP to be one of the 30 lucky smellwalkers here.

In keeping with the sensuous new theme there will also be a greater emphasis on food this year, with “food sessions” organized by New York chef John Mooney of Bell Book & Candle in the Village (known for growing vegetables on its roof). During the culinary silent disco, designed by Daily Tous Les Jours, a Montreal-based “interaction design studio,” participants will dine at a banquet while wearing headphones so their experience can be complemented by a soundtrack and narrator.

The “giant washing machine” will apparently be that — a 30’ wide by 50’ long inflatable washing machine filled with giant plates and utensils that participants run through while being splashed by jets of water. For the more pedestrian among us there will also be mini-golf, a dog park, bouldering walls, and the aforementioned waterslide and zipline, among other attractions.

Astor Place is one of Summer Streets’ designated “rest stops,” and several of the activities — including the “smell walk,” the mini-golf, the interactive banquet/silent food disco, and a virtual-reality tour of Mt. Everest — will be located there.

This is the tenth year of the Summer Streets program, noted speakers at the press conference this morning, who described the program as part of a broader shift in New York toward a more pedestrian-friendly, environmentally-friendly, and creative city. As last year, the main sponsor is Citi.

Summer Streets will take place from 7am to 1pm on Aug. 5th, 12th, and 19th along Park Avenue, Lafayette, and Centre Streets from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. All activities are free; some require advance registration.

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Art This Week: Printmaking in Protest, Robots Will Kill, Mexico + Staten Island

(image via Center for Book Arts)

Center for Book Arts Summer Exhibitions
Opening Wednesday, July 12 at Center for Book Arts, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through September 23.

This Wednesday, The Center for Book Arts will unveil their two summer exhibitions, titled “Protest Profest: Global Burdens” and “Animation + Printing.”  Though the institutions focuses on books (obviously), the exhibitions themselves span a variety of disciplines. “Protest ≠ Profest” is their annual Artist Members Exhibition, with the timely concept of showing work dealing with activism and “current societal concerns.” In order to narrow down the type of theme that could easily fill multiple rooms worth of art (and to keep with the book focus), works on display will either be artist’s books or works relating to the book arts.

“Animation + Printing” is predominantly a short film showcase, but all films have been created using techniques typically applied to the creation of books, such as  etching, moveable type, and silkscreen. A whopping 50-ish artists will be partaking, and the exhibition theme invites a cross-discipline experience for many, as several printmakers will be attempting animation and vice versa. Keep Reading »

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The Museum of Interesting Things Is a Roving ‘Speakeasy’ Run By a Quirky Curator

How did we watch films at home before Netflix and DVD? And before VHS? Denny Daniel will show you at his Museum of Interesting Things. This “speakeasy museum” pops up weekly at various locations in the city to show how our current-day technology is based on earlier inventions, often going all the way back to the late 19th century. From 1960s solar-powered walkie-talkies to carousel animations and parts of the original World War II Enigma machine, Daniel has collected a wide array of antiques and curiosa.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unbuilt East Village Towers Rise High in New MoMA Exhibit

(Photos: Daniel Maurer)

In October of 1929, a New York Times headline announced: “Odd-Type Buildings to Overlook Church.” Those odd-type buildings would’ve been New York’s first glass skyscrapers, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to surround St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bouwerie. Starting Monday, a meticulously restored model of his East Village towers will be exhibited for the first time in over 50 years, as part of a new retrospective at MoMA.

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