Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
I’ve known photographer Dan Farnum since pre-school in Saginaw, Michigan. We grew up sharing many of the same experiences, and in college we both turned to artistic pursuits. And although we hadn’t always remained super close throughout the years, we’ve kept in touch, mostly meeting up with friends back in town for the holidays. After seeing his photographs on his website, I realized that he was wrestling with many of the same issues that I was in my poetry: the American experience, landscape, and culture, especially as viewed through the lens of our hometown, which is poor and violent and stands in the shadow of a failed auto industry.
In his most recent series Young Blood Dan turns his eye toward Michigan’s urban youth. Over the years, he has shown his work in exhibitions and galleries in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from the University of Michigan, and is now a professor of photography at the University of Missouri. Recently, I caught up with him to discuss Michigan, skateboarding, and the art of photographing strangers.
Frontier Psychiatrist: Your Young Blood series features portraits of Michigan’s urban youth. Where did the idea come from?
Dan Farnum: As you know, I was born and raised in Saginaw and have personally witnessed how the economy affected family and friends. So I have an investment in this region that I feel allows me to view the location in a more intimate manner. I focus on youth in particular in this region since they are the primary people who either have the ability to change urban communities or perpetuate the problems. Something positive that is happening in some urban neighborhoods is community farming and gardening. On the other hand, my hometown is known as having the most violent crimes (per capita) in the country for almost a decade. Much of the crime is associated with young people.
My background as a skateboarder is also an influence. I used to skate in several of the places I now photograph. I feel as though I am documenting a personal history as well as making a broader cultural statement. There is a lack of supervision in these kinds of locations that is great for skateboarding, but tends to also facilitate mischief. My teenage experiences serve as a common thread to open discussions with many of my subjects. This ability to bond with people helps them feel more comfortable while I take their portrait.
For many American readers, In Time’s Rift will be the first introduction to the German poet Ernst Meister. Published by Wave Books, the collection consists of short, concise poems that “at once entice and irritate the mouth and mind,” as translators Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick write in their introduction. Staff writer Gina Myers recently sat down with Foust, who is the author of several collections of poetry, to discuss the new book of translations.
Frontier Psychiatrist: How did this project come about? Did you have experience prior to this book doing translations? What got you interested in translating this particular writer?
Graham Foust: I’ve been working on these poems since about 2004 because Jack Davis, this guy who lives in Canada and has something to do with sitting in fire towers during the summer, wrote me this letter because he had read one of my books and he said it was strange to see an American poet influenced by Ernst Meister, and I was like I have no idea who that is. So we corresponded for a bit about that. And it was funny, right after he sent me that letter, I read at Woodland Pattern, and I was looking at this wall of poetry books kind of overwhelmed, but I saw this British selected poems of Ernst Meister’s called Not Orpheus done by Richard Dove, who is this well known translator of German, so I bought it and read it, and was like, yeah, I totally get why he said that. I felt an immediate kinship with the book. But the translations seemed a little weird, or wooden, or not very poem-y. They seemed more like sketches for what a poem could be, so I just started teaching myself German and tried to retranslate the poems. The poems aren’t really in any order, but I didn’t know that at the time. So I would just kind of work on it when I didn’t have things of my own to do and that went on for several years, maybe six years. And then I met my dad’s wife’s daughter’s husband who is a German professor–that’s Sam. And I was like well this guy will surely have heard of Ernst Meister, and he was like I don’t know who the fuck that is. It wasn’t that he was uninterested, he was just like, who is this guy? So I sent him the poems, and he said they were amazing poems but the translations – eh. So he asked if we wanted to work together, and we did. And the focus of this was that no one had done a whole book of his in English before, they just sort of cherry-picked poems throughout his corpus. But his last three books are sort of a trilogy, so we decided to do the last three books.
Django Haskins is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for The Old Ceremony, whose fifth album, Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, was recently released on their new label, Yep Roc Records. With his side project, a tribute to iconic 70’s band Big Star, Django has also shared stages with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Ray Davies, and FP’s unrequited crush Sharon Van Etten. In anticipation of TOC’s Sept. 18 record release party at Santos Party House, editor Keith Meatto chatted with Django (whom he has known since they were students at Yale) about the new album, vibraphones and guitar solos, unreliable narrators and unusual holidays, mass avian death, politics, literature, and the power of stars.
FP: How is a fairytale a form of suicide?
DH: Well, the title isn’t meant to be taken too literally, but to me, the idea is that a fairytale (or a mythology) can either be an archetype that leads you toward greater things, a cautionary tale to keep you on the path, or — here’s where the song comes in — a hologram whose unreality you don’t always fully realize. It’s not that mythologies are inherently dangerous; but without a good understanding of the difference between real life and fantasy, they can be. You can kill someone with a glass of milk; it all depends on how it’s used.
FP: The new album seems to have a quieter and more subdued sound than previous records by The Old Ceremony, and perhaps some more country influences. Were these conscious choices?
DH: We’ve always had some country influences: my living in North Carolina and growing up with Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson means there will always be a bit of that. As for the subdued thing, I may not be the best judge, as I think of Sun Kil Moon as appropriate party music.
Chicago musician and tastemaker Tom Schraeder thinks he’s on the verge of something big, and he wants to tell the world. Despite being sidelined by major art markets like NYC, LA or even Nashville and Austin, Schraeder believes in the strength and uniqueness of the Chicago art scene, so much that he built a month-long fest showcasing the best and most diverse work we have to offer. Chicago, I Love You takes place at Lilly’s in Lincoln Park, and covers the entire month of September. We had a chance to talk with Schraeder about his work, his plans and what there is to love about Chicago.
FP: Chicago, I Love You is an excellent event for a lot of reasons. I’m relatively new to Chicago, and somewhat unlearned when it comes to the local scene, so this is a great opportunity to start my education. I’m sure a lot of people feel that way.
TS: Yeah, that’s actually perfect, and part of the reason we set it up.
FP: How did it come to be?
TS: Originally, it was supposed to be a fun record release show for some friends and me, but it started to grow, and we realized it was something much larger. The more people I reached out to, the more people responded eagerly to get behind what we’re doing. With all the positive responses I got, I realized I could and should make it about something much larger than just myself. Now, the CD release will come much later. So, what came from just a fun idea, became a collective event. We’re all in this together now, and it’s a joint effort to build Chicago.
Basically, we don’t appreciate that Chicago is referred to as second or even third to big art markets like New York and LA or even Nashville. Maybe it’s because the city is so spread out, and based entirely upon these neighborhoods, that its hard to get a center for our art, but that also makes it that much better. So, now, we’re taking art from all these different neighborhoods and heritages and showcasing it in one central place, at Lilly’s. It’s a genre-less fest, that’s more showing off what the city can do and create that community.
Chicago-based cartoonist Bernie McGovern is an idiosyncratic worldmaker. His work is a phantasmagoria through a jagged yet welcoming landscape populated with heartbroken archetypes as captivating as they are bizarre. It’s as if Hayao Miyazaki were asked to fill in on Peanuts.In his latest work, DemonTears (Hic & Hoc Publications), McGovern uses his breathtakingly peculiar imagination to tell the very real story of his struggle towards sobriety. Alternating between his daily humdrum life and his inner existence, which is anything but, DemonTears is a painfully honest and dizzyingly creative, if occasionally inscrutable, journey through addiction and out the other side. FP staff writer Jared Thomas recently sat down with Bernie McGovern to chat about DemonTears, independent comics, and catharsis.
FP: DemonTears is obviously a very personal book. It must have been a cathartic experience to create but what do you hope the reader will get out of it?
BM: It’s strange that the book is so personal yet wasn’t cathartic at all. Working on this story definitely stirred up feelings, but did little to change them or make me feel better. It would blow my mind If this book could help someone realize that he or she has a drinking problem. I would also like the book to stand as an experiment in personal myth-building. It’s something anyone can do. Invent characters to represent parts of yourself.
In The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, the debut short story collection by the Chicago-based writer James Tadd Adcox, the reader encounters suicidal appliances, people in search of prefab authority figures, couples failing in various ways, a house increasingly made up of tiny holes, and the sad, lonely lives of two archivists at the Hall of Classified Information. This collection of short fiction is at turns humorous, dark, mysterious, bewildering, and joyful.
Tadd, a Ph.D student in English at the University of Illinois-Chicago, recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Gina Myers over e-mail about his new book and his editorial project Artifice Magazine, and wound up talking about taxonomy and knowledge, plagiarism and postmodernism, the connection between weird music and weird literature, and communicating with readers over Skype.
The title The Map of the System of Human Knowledge seemingly sets a lofty aim to your collection of stories. Can you discuss where the idea for the title, along with all the obsessive cataloging/mapping of titles within, comes from?
The original “Map of the System of Human Knowledge” was a system of taxonomy created by Diderot and d’Alembert for the 18th-century Encyclopédie. It aimed to be a categorization of all human knowledge. I’ve always been interested in systems that attempt, in some way, to be universal–other structures I considered for this collection include the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress taxonomy. But I feel like the Encyclopédie’s map belongs to a certain moment of Western history, when the idea that you could contain all human knowledge in a single book didn’t seem totally insane. And there’s something about the crazy ambition of that that really appeals to me. Also, around the time I was putting this collection together, I was working as a taxonomist for an internet search-engine based here in Chicago. Being a taxonomist is not, as it turns out, as glamorous a thing as it sounds like, but it wasn’t a bad job for a couple of months.