Stipend Finalists Announced

Excerpts from the applications of our finalists can be found below.

A More Perfect Union

A short video I’ve been working on for a number of months needs a score.

I brought together about 40 people, dressed them in teeshirts each printed with one letter on the front and one on the back, and choreographed their movement to spell out the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. This is the latest, and largest, in a series of similar videos that I’ve been working on for a last few years. I borrowed a school gymnasium, rented lighting equipment, and hired a cinematographer. A film editor volunteered to cut it for free. The only missing piece is the music, and I’d like to commission something original, so I don’t have to worry about legal problems that might come up if I use something already written. I’m thinking banjo or acoustic guitar. I have a couple composers in mind.

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Ames Versus Davidson

wo novelists are going to box each other in the ring – they say they’re going to box lightly – but why and how did one of their noses get broken in the last fight?

This is an unusual sports story about boxing at it’s climax are two novelists Jonathan Ames and Canadian novelist, Craig Davidson – fighting each other in a real, non-fiction boxing ring at Gleason’s Gym on July 24th. This is a story about the art of boxing, novelists, the dangers of fighting someone ironically, broken noses, broken promises, fear, and feeling the need to hide things from your parents even when you’re 43.

Our main character is writer/fighter Jonathan Ames who draws inspiration from the greats – Plimpton, Mailer, and Hemingway.

Known in the ring by fans and opponents as ‘The Herring Wonder’, Jonathan has had one official amateur fight against a performance artist named “The Impact Addict”, in what they called a “Box Opera” an event started by the members of the World Box Opera, a small fight club for artists who want to punch things.

This last fight was 8 years ago. It was supposed to be a performance piece more about artists and the art of boxing than boxing itself. They weren’t going to hit each other in the face. Especially since just 9 days earlier, Jonathan had his nose broken during sparring practice. The Impact Addict was aware of this.

But when they got into the ring, something went wrong. They got really caught up in what they were doing. They wanted to hurt each other and the fight ended badly with Jonathan’s opponent hitting him square on, breaking his fragile nose for the second time in 9 days.

And so that was the end of Jonathan’s amateur fighting career. He promised his parents and himself he would not get back into the ring.

The memory of pain being short and the excitement of being in the ring quite great, Jonathan decided to break his promise. A couple of months ago he was challenged and accepted a fight with the young, strapping Canadian Craig Davidson, who is promoting his book ‘The Fighter’.

Oddly, the set-up to this fight is very similar to the last one. It is only supposed to be only “for show”. Jonathan thinks the outcome will be different from the last fight. He met his Canadian opponent a few weeks ago, they shook hands, and, like the last time, they agreed to fight lightly.

But will something go awry again? Experience says it just might. Jonathan said it best, “The legend is you don’t see the punches you get hit with. This, I am finding, is quite true. And it is a good metaphor for life. We don’t see anything coming.”

Ames is taking his punches at Gleason’s Gym, known for its rich past as the home of many successful fighters and the setting for Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby.

And in an interesting twist, Jonathan’s old opponent, The Impact Addict, is helping Jonathan train for this second fight.

This documentary asks the questions: How thin is the line between ironic and real boxing? Can fighting ever really be ironic? Or is there something in our animal selves that wants to punch and be punched if put in the right circumstances? Most of us have fantasized about punching someone, but what is it actually like? And what is it like for a successful writer to hit a peer as hard as they can?

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Additional information:
The Herring Wonder

Experimental Devices for Performance

Experimental Devices for Performance are wearable and handheld devices used for media interaction in experimental performance.

Click. Buzz. Drone. We are communication. We are Ourselves and We are Each other and We are interpretation of languages and movement. We are now able to break Ourselves up in to determinate numbers of pixels and ship Ourselves one by one across the city, across the country, across the world in less than no time. We are representations and We are imitations. We are color values and cold cathode tubes. We are fiber cabling and radio waves. We collide, We parse, We packetize, and We come out the other side different from when We went in. Or worse, We get lost in transmission, We get interfered with, We get dropped. As We move steadily toward the future, We fulfill prophecy of what We thought We might be like. We invent, We futurize, We design Our next selves. We curate the digital Us. Crackles and buzzes. Whirrs, fuzz, and static. Moving kitschy and twitching.

+ EXPERIMENTAL DEVICES for PERFORMANCE reifies this notion by placing technological media over the body, masking the layer that masks the layer that interprets our corporeal devices of communication (our senses). EDP is a suite of five wearable devices examining our state of communication. Small screens cover and confuse the “truths” of the mouth and the eyes. Sensor-embedded shoes map footfalls to soundtracks. A camera-coated hat only displays its cameras’ signals when the wearer’s head comes in contact with a television. A Polaroid picture is taken every time someone blinks. In order to control the media, a performer must also control his/her body in artificial ways. The performer controls the media controls the performer.

I have developed and (for the most part) built all of these devices over the past 6 months, but am still missing a few key components.

The main issue is with the PROLIXUS (described below). After spending a considerable amount of time and money developing the two helmets, I was sad to learn that the two wireless cameras actually interfere with each other. Both cameras cannot be operational at once, which, renders the pair of helmets only half functional. I can put my mouth on your face, but you can’t put your mouth on my face…what good is there in that? I would plan to use the funds to replace both of the cheap-o wireless cameras with two higher-end wireless cameras that can send their signals on separate channels. Both can be on at once. Then it’s my face your face our mouths wherever we want them!

I have included a description of the entire set of five devices here because I feel they are stronger when presented together. Please feel free to visit my site for video samples and more information.

+ PERFORM 0 SHOES are a pair of sensor-embedded New Balance s. A performer dons the shoes and straps the wireless modules around her calves. Based on the performer’s flex of the foot, height of the foot off the floor, and tempo between footfalls, audio (voice modulation), video (backdrop) and lighting (midi-controlled lighting dimmer) are manipulated specifically to the performer’s movements. Get really good at moon-walking.

+ BLINK CAM. Every year each of us lose about 192 hours of valuable visual sight time to blinking. That’s eight days of blink. BlinkCam explores this problem by taking a Polaroid picture every time you blink. Further, BlinkCam turns this solution on its head by pointing the camera back at the wearer. Not only does a user of the BlinkCam recover valuable lost time, but they also get to see what others see when they blink – frozen forever in an instant of prefabricated satisfaction. The BlinkCam uses custom-built soft conductive thread and conductive fabric switches that shoot 5 volts through the eyes directly to the camera to trigger the shutter. Every picture s a bad one, the wearer in mid-blink.

+ FACEMASK This device demands that the user force his head against a hard object in order to be operational. That is, in order for the mask to work, the user slams his head into a television, literally. The FaceMask consists of three mini black and white security cameras arranged to focus on the right eye, the mouth, and the entire face, respectively. A performer makes quick temporary connections between the camera attached to the face and the display. Their head becomes a video switcher as different cameras are activated by forcing different parts of the head against the television. An active way to get yourself on TV.

+ TWITCH SET Wave your hand to click to the next slide. Cover your mouth to start a sound cue. Pump your fist to make the lights go out. The TwitchSet roots itself in a deep desire for the intuitive and invisible control of media. They are a pair of sensor-embedded gloves and ankle bands that map media control to the gesticulations of the performer. The performers limbs become the device become the sensor. It s like the Wii but for real life.

+ PROLIXUS makes it possible to say things to yourself as other people. If you are wearing a Prolixus and a girl that you like, but who does not like you, is also wearing a Prolixus you can look at her and see your own mouth on her face, asking you if you d like to get a whiskey sometime over at the Continental after class. They are a matching set of interactive video mouths to be worn over the users own mouths. The screens display either the wearer s mouth or the matching wearer s mouth. Switching between the two mouths requires the users to either slam their heads into something hard, or slap their own or each other s helmet. Speak for someone else literally

My multidisciplinary work attempts to critically investigate human and technological interdependence. I see this interdependence as both emotional and physical. We are all infinitely removed from everything, everyone, and more so, from ourselves. Our inners do not connect to our outers with any sort of transparency. Language separates us from the experience of the real. All of us is filtered. We are performing rather than living our lives everyday. We as humans seem to have countered this predicament with technology. I am interested in highlighting this concept through the magnification and extension of the themes of inability and dependence.

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Website: Experimental Devices for Performance

Hybridized Utensils

These hybridized utensils comment on genetically modified foods that most people consume unknowingly; by modifying the flatware in unexpected and problematic ways, the table setting visualizes what otherwise goes unnoticed.

Eating implements are a beautiful combination of both form and function. They have been designed for presentation as well as utility, and have been specialized over the years for varying foods and uses. This serves to both elevate the activity of eating, as well as pay special attention to the foods offered. By disrupting the expected table setting I hope to allow the viewer to contemplate the purpose of what would be eaten with such strange implements and why.

Because eating is a very social interaction for most people, the next phase of this piece is to create enough place settings and service ware to host a picnic/ dinner party where everyone will be using the hybridized flatware to eat with. This effort will be filmed as documentation of performance and will accompany the objects for future installations.

This work uses existing pieces of tableware and is created using traditional silversmithing techniques.

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Phono-graphic Novel

We are seeking funding for our phono-graphic novel, a work that fuses opera buffa and comics.

You may be puzzled by the above reference to a phono-graphic novel. It is a term we have coined to describe our collaborative project: a two-act opera buffa (operatic comedy) conjoined with comics to create a different sort of beast altogether.

First, a little about who we are. Jason Cady (composer) has been writing music, especially opera, for more than a decade. Many of his pieces have been performed in New York, including the opera “Post-Madonna Prima Donna” and “Odi et Amo”, a cantata based upon the poetry of Catullus. Nadia Berenstein (libretto, comic book) writes fiction, draws comics, and occasionally writes articles (mostly about feminist topics). She begins graduate studies at NYU in the fall. Both of us live in Brooklyn.

We have been working on this project together for nearly a year. Presently, we are in the midst of writing and drawing the second (and final) act.

In February, we premiered the first act (as a work-in-progress) at The Stone in the East Village. The singers and musicians performed the score, with the corresponding page of the comic projected on a backdrop. We paid the performers and shouldered all other costs (reproducing artwork onto slides, for instance) ourselves. Yet, in order for us to stage the completed work in the form that we envision, it has become clear that our own resources will not stretch nearly far enough. In particular, the analog slide-carousel we used was both noisy and inadequate to the task of smoothly integrating the images from the comic into the performance.

A little about our motives: the idea to combine opera and the graphic novel originated with several considerations. First, both mediums are interdisciplinary: opera is music and drama, and comics fuse art and literature — which makes our work an example of meta-intermedia (!). Second, both opera and comics suffer from some degree of popular misapprehension or neglect. That is, opera is all too often enshrined in the mausoleums of serious art and is thus rendered inaccessible; meanwhile, comics are generally dismissed as infantile, and thus unworthy of consideration. Our hope in bridging these two mediums is not only to reveal their hidden affinities, but also to restore both to the realm of thoughtful popular entertainment. Finally, we plan to eventually release this recording as an LP inside a 12″x12″ graphic novel, which happens to combine two traditional collectibles: comics and records.

The plot for our still-untitled comic opera was outlined collaboratively. Briefly, three down-on-their-luck young women, who are friends and roommates, discover that an elixir of human happiness can be distilled from the mucus of the great reticulated slug. They market this Euphoressence with tremendous success, although with money comes problems. It has a happy ending.

A word about the libretto: Much of the text has its origins in our own improvised (in character) dialogues. The recordings of these sessions were then edited to suit the piece and the action, but without removing the repetitions, stutters, verbal litter, and solecisms that are natural to colloquial speech.

Our estimated budget at this stage of our project is $2,400. While several other grants we are pursuing are restricted toward costs associated with hiring musicians, the Macktez summer stipend would allow us to truly fuse the performance with the artwork. The $500 from this stipend would help us buy a digital projector. We considered renting a digital projector, but the rental costs start at $100 per day. After several rehearsals and performances, the rental costs would exceed the cost of a new machine.

Thank you so much for your consideration. Please don t hesitate to contact either of us if you have any questions, or need any additional material, such as recordings, scores, or images from the comic.

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A Structural Photographic Study of One Grand Army Plaza

A structural photographic study of Richard Meier’s One Grand Army Plaza, its context and aesthetics

The construction of One Grand Army Plaza, a grand 15-story complex of condos designed by Richard Meier Associates, has just been completed. It is situated on the northeast corner of Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, and among local groups it has revived issues surrounding New York urban planning and contextual development that have been latent since in the late-1950s.

I pass this building twice a day or more, once in the morning when the blue glass is slatted by morning light; and again in the evening, when, more often than not, the dormant, bleached rooms are lit and visible through floor-to-ceiling windows, bordered by wraparound balconies. From the benches on Park East, the building rises, slightly pivoted, from dirty brownstones retrofitted with bundles of cords for cable TV, or bulging with window units. Meier’s carelessly contemporary architecture, a little flimsily designed, is anyway a rather impressive and somewhat temperamental addition. From the park entrance at the peak of Grand Army Plaza, the building’s face is pristine and impeccable, effortlessly becoming a part of the strange view of traffic structures, the Grand Army Arc’s stone eagles and the almost fascist facade of the Brooklyn Library. From Washington Avenue, barely visible down the row of houses, it looks clownishly ineffective; its scale diminished by distance and humiliated by the waves and layers of grit and mossy dirt that has accumulated on this edge of Crown Heights. Each of these angles gives not only separate perspectives of the building, but contributes individually a deeper understanding of exactly its relation to its neighbors. From the range of these perspectives it seems clear that traditional argument, that the building interferes with the personality of the neighborhood, is not so much wrong as it is maddeningly simple. There are a lot of interactions going on, and though it may be politically effective, it’s hopelessly narrow to shoehorn the phenomenon into a coarse modern-historical binary.

For the last few months I have taken notice of particular locations that most characterize the building and best describe this spectrum of differing impressions: once, having found such a spot on the walk home from work, I took a photo with my Nikon FE2, and then another the next day at about the same time. Over the next weeks I started to accumulate these, and then, almost unconsciously, was moved to start organizing them: by time, location, by what they seemed to say about the building and its environment. Whittling the locations down to six, and their most typical instances down to six, I end up with six modules of six, an organization which I find tends to gather interpretation into three distinct dimensions. These dimensions are most easily described by historical analogy, though their motivation is not explicitly referential:

1. The first dimension is formed by the comparison of aspects of a single structure and its arrangement in strict order, and might be most easily compared to the typological studies of the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) specifically the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, who photographed hundreds of European framehouses and arranged them into spare but visually rich documents of architectural history.

2. The second dimension takes account of the aesthetic characteristics of places as they change through time, and brings to mind Impressionist landscape studies, in which identical scenes would be rendered unique by conditions of light.

3. The third dimension draws attention to the qualities of genre, anchored by the context of their relationship to the static elements of the environment (here, the Meier building): the most direct comparison may be found in the tradition of Edo-era printing series, most clearly the Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji by Hokusai Katsushika.

Once the thirty-six frames are culled and organized, gridded and framed, then I hope to create an online gallery that will furnish even greater clarity to this complex and intricate material. Through various modes of presentation it will provide topographical illustration, and will encourage both immediate comparison between frames and a study of each high-resolution photograph’s individual details. At present I have started accumulating the raw material, but there still remains a great deal to do. What might best help me see this to conclusion is simply assurance of: in largest part, film and printing costs, equipment costs (a better tripod), and, incidentally, fees associated with webhosting.

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