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How the Bombay Beach Biennale Brought Art to a Toxic Wasteland

James Ostrer (seated) with Joseph Walsh of the San Francisco Ballet at Bombay Beach Biennale 2017. (Photo courtesy of Bombay Beach Biennale)

Just a few hours south of Los Angeles there’s a tiny desert town called Bombay Beach– though its geographically close at hand to many millions of people, it might as well be another world.

One of several beachside settlements on the shores of the Salton Sea, the town was once a booming resort spot popular during the prosperous post-War years when more than a million vacationers traveled there annually. But the sea– actually a sprawling, shallow lake– and the dusty desert expanse around it, have since lost their appeal, slipped out of range, and essentially vanished from the minds of many Southern California residents. “I’d never heard of it,” filmmaker and LA native Tao Ruspoli explained in a recent interview.

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Watch: John Lydon Hits Strand in Chef’s Whites, Announces New PiL Album and Tour

After tearing through St. Vitus on Tuesday, John Lydon settled into one of the Strand’s big leather chairs to rap about his new memoir, Anger Is an Energy, with Buzzfeed Books editor Isaac Fitzgerald. First things first, he announced that Public Image Ltd. is putting out a new album titled What the World Needs Now… and will tour in October and November. Then he explained the chef’s outfit he was wearing: “We were on our way to an interview and I seen the store that said ‘Uniforms Going Cheap’ — not kidding: $30.”

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JJ Brine is Absconding From New York City, Satanic Gallery May Be Doomed

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

I met with an old friend of the blog, JJ Brine, last night at his Satanic gallery on the Lower East Side. Thankfully, it was a warmish evening, otherwise the busted picture window would have made for a very drafty Vector Gallery. Instead, it imbued the place with a different sort of vibe, distinct from when we last visited– something JJ also acknowledged– the sounds of the street became part of the experience. I no longer had to guess that people outside were talking about the strange happenings going on inside. Gaggles of teenagers intermittently giggled and gasped, pointing at a flower-crowned JJ and the eerie, reflective and neon decor, all visual terrorism.

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Do You Dream of Snow Cream? Here’s Your Dream Come True

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

(Photo: Daniel Maurer)

First rice burgers and now… snow cream!

Snowdays Shavery, the latest of the East Village’s many sweets spots, is bringing the LA craze to East 10th Street next week. As the name implies, snow cream is a creamier version of Taiwanese shaved ice: Snowdays shaves a block of frozen organic cream into cups and then crowns the fluffy goodness (which takes longer to melt into mush than shaved ice does) with toppings and drizzles.
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Alex Prager Used 20 Tons of Sand (and Her Sister) to Stage This Beach Scene

ALEX PRAGER Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013 archival pigment print 59.5 x 92 inches, 151.1 x 233.7 cm 60.5 x 93.56 x 2.25 inches (framed), 153.7 x 237.6 x 5.7 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

ALEX PRAGER Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013 archival pigment print 59.5 x 92 inches, 151.1 x 233.7 cm 60.5 x 93.56 x 2.25 inches (framed), 153.7 x 237.6 x 5.7 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Alex Prager is not especially intimidating. The Los Angeles-based photographer is often smiling, rather petite and generally endearing. So it’s amusing to envision her atop a cherry picker, directing hundreds of actors like some sort of omniscient being, which is precisely what she did for her latest body of work, Face in the Crowd. Shot over four days on a sound stage in LA, the project features a slew of universally relatable locations (bleachers at a sports game, the beach, an airport, a generic looking rec room) populated with Prager’s friends, family and countless extras styled in flamboyant wigs and exaggerated makeup.
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