Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ars Subterranea at Anthology Film Archives (NYC) on March 24!

Ars Subterranea has several projects planned for 2008, and the first one will be a night at the cinema. We'll have the opportunity to view Tales from the Sanatorium, a graphic novel in-progress. Ars Sub Founder/Executive Director Julia Solis will co-present the evening and show us previously unseen work. Other works both old (Met State is a must see) and new (Julia's collaboration with's Tom Kirsch) will be shown. Co-presenter Ross Lipman will also be on hand to present The Disembodied Theater Corporation's work about the High Line, NO WAY OUT BUT ONWARD. It should be a great evening!

from the Anthology Film Archives press release:

video performance works by
The Disembodied Theater Corporation and Ars Subterranea
Monday, March 24, 7:30pm
With Ross Lipman & Julia Solis in person!

Anthology Film Archives presents an evening with The Disembodied Theater Corporation featuring dispatches, news, songs, and fragments from the Ghost City: the skeletal remains of abandoned towns, railways, and graveyards that stand as remnants of a lost society. Filmmaker Ross Lipman and author Julia Solis will present a haunting assemblage of ruins, rants, and shards of memory that paint a collective portrait of dystopia. The evening will feature two distinct presentations: NO WAY OUT BUT ONWARD, an adventure in psychogeography through New York’s High Line, and presentations by members of the arts group Ars Subterranea, DISPATCHES FROM THE WASTELAND: three short imaginary narratives set inside abandoned mental hospitals.

An adventure in psychogeography through New York's High Line

PowerPoint performance by The Disembodied Theater Corporation
Written and narrated by Ross Lipman
Suite for Bass, Viola, and Trombone by Laura Steenberge
Photos by Leigh Evans, Ross Lipman, Nina Mankin

The High Line is the abandoned elevated freight rail that runs through the west side of Manhattan. Soon to be the site of an aerial public park, it for the moment remains a haunted paradise above the city—a verdant wasteland inhabited only by occasional taggers, wanderers, and police. In October 2004 a ragtag group ventured up to explore. As they were to learn, it's a space with its own internal logic, interacting with its visitors in a way unique to each. NO WAY OUT BUT ONWARD is a recounting of that day's events, told in PowerPoint, the modern day equivalent of an old-time Magic Lantern performance.

Scene from No Way Out But Onward.

Presentations made by members of the arts group Ars Subterranea

Three short imaginary narratives set inside abandoned mental hospitals

Tales from the Sanatorium
Drawing inspiration from The Canterbury Tales, the graphic novel series depicts an imperious Nurse leading a band of disheveled souls through endless apocalyptic asylum landscapes, occasionally pausing to tell stories. In the first installment, the Nurse recounts her own tale, "Rubber Lullaby." A combination of derelict spaces with mixed-media collage and still photography created by Bryan Papciak in conjunction with Ars Subterranea, Tales from the Sanatorium is a graphic novel set in an abandoned mental hospital – staged like a movie, but photographed as a series of stills.

Scene from Tales from the Sanatorium.

Funeral Play
A surrealistic journey into a hospital bed, based on a forthcoming Furnace Press book by Julia Solis.

Excerpts from a postmortem diary by Tom Kirsch ( and Julia Solis.

Followed by:

Met State
(Bryan Papciak, 10 minutes, color/b&w, 16mm, 2001)
An award-winning experimental short film by exploring the graphic nature of derelict space through
an experimental study of an abandoned insane asylum.

About the presenting organizations and artists:

The Disembodied Theater Corporation is an amorphous performance entity devoted to the temporary manifestation of non-filmic cinemas.

Ross Lipman is an independent filmmaker, photographer, and writer who has presented work throughout the world at venues ranging from the Oberhausen International Film Festival to the Chinese Taipei Film Archive. His works have been collected by institutions and museums including the Sammlung Goetz in Munich. He is also one of the world’s leading authorities on the restoration of independent cinema, and was recently honored with the National Society of Film Critic’s 2007 Film Heritage award. In recent years he has been designing film, video, and performance works exploring urban decay as a marker of modern consciousness.

Ars Subterranea likes to play inside ruins and is comprised of artists, historians, and urban explorers working to create an intersection between art and architectural relics in the New York City area. Ars Subterranea’s aim is to instigate unique perceptions of New York's history by constructing narratives around the city's forgotten relics.

Julia Solis conducts archaeological parlor games and investigates ruined urban spaces. As the founder of Dark Passage, she started the creative preservation group Ars Subterranea in 2002 with the object of staging scavenger hunts and exhibitions in unusual locations in New York. She is the author of New York Underground: The Anatomy of a City (Routledge, 2004) and an editor of Furnace Press, which specializes in publications on urban decay.

Visit the project’s website:

More about Ars Subterranea:

32 SECOND AVENUE NEW YORK, NY 10003; (212) 505-5181

About Anthology Film Archives: Founded in 1970, Anthology’s mission is to exhibit, preserve, collect documentation about, and promote public and scholarly understanding of independent, classic, and avant-garde cinema. Anthology screens more than 900 film and video programs per year, publishes books and catalogs annually, and has preserved more than 700 films to date.
Directions: Anthology is at 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St. Subway: F or V to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker.
Tickets: $8 for adults, $6 for students & seniors; $5 for members.

Passenger series. California; December 27, 2007; 6:42:55 p.m.

vacation photos

Abandoned locations are of interest during my travels (even if I don't enter them), and sometimes they show up when they're least expected.

In December, I traveled to Arizona for the holidays. Usually, Ed and I climb Squaw Peak's Summit Trail (now Piestewa Peak's Summit Trail) when we visit, but this year we went to South Mountain Park . At the base of the road to Gila Valley Lookout, there were two empty dwellings. Below are photos of one of them; the other was quite kitschy and not as interesting. Although this is a touristy-y site, it was a nice fifteen-minute detour. There wasn't any information available anywhere at the site (or online), so I'm sorry to say that I don't know what kind of dwelling this replicates, what its purpose is, etc.

Downtown Phoenix itself has changed incredibly since I frequented the area to attend alternative art events. I was dismayed to see a "For Lease" sign on the Icehouse - I thought that it had closed - but happy to find out that it indeed continues on as an art space. I saw the best art at The Icehouse in the early-to-mid-1990s, and its work lives on. The second photo taken at the Icehouse is (part of) the area at which I saw Survival Research Laboratories' event A Million Inconsiderate Experiments right before moving to New York City in 1996. Memories...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

for the Oscars tonight

Photo by David Byrne, taken on July 4, 2006 and accessed at ran a story this week about Marfa, Texas and how two films nominated for Oscars this year were filmed in Marfa: No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

I haven't seen either movie yet, but I've noted that Marfa keeps getting great press, mostly for its connections to minimalist art and its Prada store, and now for being a thinly-populated town aesthetically friendly to film shoots.

Marfa's on my list of places in the United States to visit, but there are several places ahead of it on the list, including:

Yellowstone National Park - I think this would be a great family vacation, especially if we saw a geyser.

Walter De Mairia's The Lightning Field - I had the opportunity to visit The Lightning Field when I was in art school, and I blew it!

Coyote Buttes North - The Wave - I wonder how old a child needs to be to complete the hike to The Wave....

Applalachian Trail - I'd like to take a day trip to the Trail via the New York Metro-North stop.

The Everglades - I took the Shark Valley tram tour during the dry season, but I'd love to return during the wet season and do a lot of bike riding and spend quality time in the 'Glades.

I went for the abandoned buildings, and I got Iceland and community as well.

I'm a fan of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós' music - I own a few CDs but have never seen them in concert - but ever since hearing raves about Heima, I've been waiting for the opportunity to see the film on the big screen.

First, I heard that Heima was a great rock doc, and then I read the following sentence in press materials for last night's screening at Scandinavia House: They played in deserted fish factories, outsider art follies, far-flung community halls, sylvan fields, darkened caves, and the huge, horseshoe-shaped Ásbyrgi Canyon (formed, legend has it, by the hoofprint of Odin's six-legged horse Sleipnir). Wow! Since I've also been daydreaming about visiting Iceland, well, that's a lot of reasons to see one movie, right?

Heima was astoundingly beautiful and wonderful. The film documents Sigur Rós playing two weeks of gigs across its country. Each show is incredibly different: the concert in Reykjavík is a large, crowded outdoor event; the band plays at a community center in Kirkjubaejarklaustar at a Thorablod meal (extreme foodies take note!); a protest against a dam is the site of another show; etc.

The music was wonderful, and the movie does provide an overall context for the band's sound. At one point, one of the band members talks about the Icelandic need for "space", and SR's music definitely conveys Space (not the extraterrestrial kind, but the one of topological space, distance, area, and volume).

But moving past the music...the two sites featured in Heima most relevant for this blog are the abandoned fish factory in Djupavik and an artist's former home in Selardalur.

The band's tour journal describes the visit to the abandoned fish factory moderately well, and I'm sure that many of this blog's readers can appreciate the desire to crawl through the pipe leading to the site. (Is this how the audience entered the space?)

A detailed excerpt from the tour journal brings some intimate details:

the pipe is too small for the guitar amp to fit through into the tank and it stands outside in the grass pointing towards jonsi some metres distant. occasionally the gulls and arctic terns wheeling overhead outside are audible through an open square in the roof and these will probably be evident on the finished recording being captured by ken and biggi on the other end of the pipe.

once this is over, the band move to the factory for the first time, where they discover their gear is too tightly arranged between decaying and anomalous american automobiles in the dark concrete skeleton of dead building.

The fish factory looks like a hip nightclub in some shots, and the song's churchlike sound ends with a cacophonic burst of energy.

Performing in the abandoned fish factory. (movie still)

An internet search provides little information about the site in Selardalur, except that it is indeed a tourist destination in the West fjords area of Iceland. The concert segment is filmed at an artist named Samuel's former farmhouse. Looking at the site, I can't help but wonder how much longer that farmhouse is going to stand upright, hence GO VISIT SELARDALUR NOW!

This shot was on the screen for about two seconds, and there was no information about where it was located. (movie still)

Besides these two locations, I enjoyed two other things about the movie: the nature and audience shots. The audience at most of the shows was pretty diverse, age-wise. Senior citizens, infants, adolescents, teenagers, young name it. Everyone looks beautiful while listening to music. These concerts were community get-togethers.

The following notes reflect the nature seen in this film: strong sense of narration with the sea, waterfalls, fields, mountains, birds in caves, birds in sky, iceberg floating in water, footprints drying in the sand, landscapes of houses/boats/communities, fog & mist moving across mountains, stones, a man who makes instruments from rhubarb.

The trailer for the movie can be seen here.

These Sigur Rós videos were screened before the start of the movie:

Hoppipolla; Glósóli; Svefn-g-englar; Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa; Untitled #1 (aka Vaka).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Passenger series. Lake George, New York; February 18, 2008; 09:32:31 a.m.

Water tunnel workers memorial in Woodlawn

My neighborhood, Woodlawn in the Bronx, has strong working class roots, noticed by the presence of an AFL-CIO office and a bar named Aqueduct North, presumably after/for the workers who work on and in New York City's various water tunnels.

Sometime in the last two years, a memorial "for those who lost their lives in the construction of the Third Water Tunnel" was completed at Katonah Ave. & 241st Street. Done by New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), I think it's an appropriate and artistically interesting memorial. Below are a few photos.

There is also an annual memorial event honoring deceased water tunnel workers; I think it takes place in early spring. If I hear about it ahead of time, I'll post details. Please drop me an e-mail or comment if you hear info about a confirmed date.

The names on the manhole covers are a nice, simple touch.

This graphic shows the meeting of the three "watersheds": Croton, Catskill, and Delaware.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Furnace Press announces winner of Decomposition Series contest

A little while back, Furnace Press held a call for submissions contest for its forthcoming Decomposition Series, which focuses on "noteworthy abandoned sites in New York State".

I'm part of Furnace Press, and I saw the entries. They were good, and it was competitive. But a winner was picked, and by the end of 2008, Furnace Press will publish Elevator Alley: The Working Landscape of Buffalo's Ward by Michael Cook and Andrew Emond.

Michael Cook runs the website The Vanishing Point, which is personally of note for its detailed sections on Storm Drainage and Power Generation. (One of my favorite things that I did at Niagara Falls was the tour of the Sir Adam Beck 2 Generating Station.)
An interview with Cook ran on BLDGBLOG this last summer as well.

It'll be interesting to see what Cook and Emond do with Buffalo's Elevator Alley.

Photo taken from The Vanishing Point's "Falls Street Tunnel" section.