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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Think Anomalous


The Anomalous Duo - T. Remington & AleXander Hirka
• click on image to enlarge •


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The End of Gatekeeping?

      We recently watched the fascinating documentary Finding Vivian Maier which employs the always satisfying strategy of solving a mystery to explore the life of an enigmatic woman who, serving as a nanny to families from Chicago to New York to Minnesota, took literally hundreds of thousands of street photographs over the course of her life. Most were never developed or printed until some flea marketer’s kid bought a trunk of her undeveloped negatives at auction.
      While the story charts her course from family to family, uncovers her family background and shows lots of her work, it skims over a couple of troubling aspects of the story. One is what appears to be Miss Maier’s mental and emotional deterioration as experienced by her young charges. It could be a case of untreated and progressively more dangerous mental illness, but that story thread doesn’t get much juice. The other dark and, yes, unjust aspect is how the established gatekeepers of the art world, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, have declined to sanctify the work of Miss Maier as Really Being Art. 
      We are mad little creative fiends from the start. All of us. But the gatekeepers are there early on as well to determine who has “talent”, who gets to keep making art. The thinning out sometimes begins even with parents who had their own creative joy starved in the service of Something Sensible. Any of us who defy these early attempts to stifle our creative impulses will sometimes find an ally. An art teacher, an English professor, someone who conspires with us to keep making art.
      Eventually, however, we find ourselves submitting our gems, our babies, our joyfully, fearfully, delightfully, carefully created art to the real gatekeepers. As a writer, the first question I get is “Really? Cool! Have you been published?” 
      And here we have it: until MoMA, The New Yorker, a literary agent, a gallery owner, an authority tasked with only letting the Real Art pass, gives us the gold star and lets us in, we are not Really Artists.
      So here is a woman who spent her entire life capturing the most beguiling, arresting, humanly fascinating images and then didn’t even try to get most of her film developed. A woman who compulsively made incredible art and who died alone in a nursing home without having even seen most of her own work. 
      Today she could have had her own blog, a page on Tumblr, her own way to share the images that grabbed her heart and eye. Are the gatekeepers on their way out? They don’t think so, obviously. MoMA rejected Vivian Maier’s work on the basis that she hadn’t printed the work herself; something that is apparently not a problem when it comes to other, earlier (and yes), male photographers. The museum, gallery, auction house cartel has a vested interest in keeping control of who is and who is not creating art worthy of their vaunted attention and money.
      But we keep at it. We scribble away and post on our blogs. We create and invent and cast spells that have to be cast or we wither into eating-sleeping-shitting-fucking things that simply keep moving from paycheck to paycheck. There will always be gatekeepers, judges, critics, crossed spears that signify that thou shalt not pass. At the end of the day, if I’m creating it with an eye on the gate, what I’m creating is a commodity, not art. Still, is it too much to ask for a world where Vivian Maier could have seen her own art?


Value Established" 
another "portrait" of T. Remington by AleXander Hirka
click on image to enlarge

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Where We Come From, What We Want

     Family myth has it that Great Grampa Nick, Dominic Salvatore Scalfaro, was the illegitimate son of a wealthy land-owner back in Italy. According the story we were told as kids, Grampa Nick’s rich daddy had a number of children outside of the bonds of holy matrimony, not an uncommon occurrence in the 19th century. Rich Daddy was probably considered enlightened, generous, and smart by his peers since he paid for his illegitimate progeny (presumably only the males, of course) to attend a trade school and he then bought them a one way ticket to America. Problem solved.
      The story goes that young Nick arrived at Ellis Island at the tender age of 16 with less than $20 in his pockets, took one look at the New York City of nineteen-oh-something, and got the hell out of town. The story gets a little muddled here. According to ships’ manifests, he came back to New York City again from Italy two years later. Most of his story died when he did at the age of 104 up in Silver Creek, New York attended to by his young bride (she was 65 and he was 98 when they wed without saying anything to the family. Surprise!).
      Who knows if the story is true? It sure sounds good, though, right? Most of human history is the endless, convulsive story of movement, emigration, refugees, adventurers, and new arrivals and the resistance that usually greets them. The very word “immigration” has become a flash point in today’s larger conversation with images of desperate brown people fleeing from every direction of the globe to several perceived havens. And here we are, living in the big daddy of perceived havens, The United States of America.
      I began my current rent career last summer, drafting and revising letters of recommendation for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability seeking to work in the United States for three years on an O-1 visa. Now I write the actual cover letter, or legal argument, pulling together all the evidence of extraordinary abilities (press is always good; lots and lots of clippings) into a compelling narrative argument that will sway some poor, worn out Immigration Agent sitting in Vermont and get this deserving young film director, sculptor, photographer, editor, actor, dancer, musician, comedian, magician, stylist or graphic designer the highly prized visa. I marvel at the hoops these hungry young people are willing to jump through (and the scads of money they’re ready to pay) in order to have their shot at the Big Time. And I just happened to be born here; easy peasy.
      We’re all hungry to hit the Big Time; we just have different ideas of what that looks like and how to get there. I grew up with visions of taking the New York City art scene by storm although by the time I was painting murals of the Cleveland skyline (three, count ‘em, three skyscrapers!) on a series of barroom walls, my ambitions were deflating. And, thinking about it, I have jumped through some pretty tight and even pricey hoops myself to get where I am today. Just ask Sallie Mae.
      Today I consider myself successful, even wildly successful. I write for a living and look forward to my work. I have fantastic friends and am no slouch myself in that department. My partner and I share life and art and sex and adventures and creativity and good food and afternoon naps and great films and long walks. And I get to use my talent to possibly open doors for other people who just want successful lives………..lives and definitions of success that are probably very different from my own. What is success to you?


"The Veil of The Manna-hata Immigrant" 
a "portrait" of T. Remington by AleXander Hirka
click on image to enlarge

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Doing It Because I Can’t Not Do It

       In 2007 I earned my BA in Literature Writing (aka Creative Writing) from Columbia University’s School for General Studies. I was working as an editorial assistant at the Journal of Orthopaedic Research based out of the Hospital for Special Surgery and chose to keep that good paying part time job and use the paycheck to subsidize my fiction-writing. I then picked up another part time editorial assistant gig as well as a part time editorial coordinator for an online wellness-based series of websites. And, somehow, with three part time, non-writing jobs bringing in the bacon, I found time to write.
       I have had six stories published since then and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011. I didn’t make it into the anthology and I’ve never been paid for any of my stories. Writing short stories isn’t what keeps Sallie Mae from garnishing my wages. Part time work that I didn’t hate and that didn’t hog up all my time paid the bills and allowed me the luxury of making up stories. This plan worked pretty well up to a point.
       In 2013 I was given a year’s notice that my position at the JOR was being eliminated. That other editorial assistant position had been a five-year gig that ended in 2012. Then the editorial coordinator position turned into a straight up contract job with a corresponding drop in pay. Since July 2014, I have been astonishingly lucky that my partner in art, life, and crime (artist AleXander Hirka) has a steady, decent paying, stable job as I have been through at least half a dozen crappy little jobs and a couple of real fairy tale good ones in that time.
       I didn’t plan a career change, but last summer I got a $15 per hour job at an immigration law firm down in the financial district seeking a creative writer to draft and revise letters for artists of extraordinary abilities seeking to enter the US on O-1B visas. Four law firms later, I find myself writing for a living. The current employer is an immigration law firm fourteen blocks from where we live in Harlem. I go up and review cases, lug the various evidence back here and write. And write. And write! I love the work; it’s challenging and satisfying and just hard enough to do that I feel a real sense of accomplishment.
But. Yeah, but. I haven’t had the time or juice to write a single story all year. Who knows when I will have that luxury again. Writing up these cases, compiling evidence into a compelling case for actors, creative directors, comedic writers, and an enormous array of young talented people from all over the world sort of scratches the itch. But not quite.
       AleXander suggested that I get my own work up here on our long-neglected blog on a regular basis and that is just brilliant. So here’s the plan: On Sundays going forward, I’m going to write something. Movie reviews, random observations, letters I never intend to send, whatever and combine it with AleXander’s art to keep the Anomalous Duo creating and trying new things and not stagnating. 
       Earning a living by writing is a rare and amazing opportunity that can also easily kill the gift of wonder, curiosity, and creation. I thank AleXander for setting up this blog in the first place and nudging me to get back to my own work. Stay tuned! A number of friends follow our blog and will get updates. Go on, sign up. See what we come up with this year!


"The Night Plays Tricks", a "portrait" of T. Remington by AleXander Hirka.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dali Dolly's New Year Dream




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  photo-montage by aleXander hirk
a ~ text by T. Remington & aleXander hirka


It’s right there; Dali Dolly can taste the dust and is sure she’s back out in that surreal swirl of heat and color and wide flat spaces. Lunar. It's recurring - and Dali calls it her Ninth Dream; the anomaly this time around is this wandering goat. Eyes on the edge of opening, Dali remembers some Christian thing about goats and sheep. Horned beasts and cloven hooves. Somewhere in that dream fog an iron bar hits an iron bell nine times, ringing out over and through alkaline dust that has coated Dali’s raggedy old dress nine times. Nine, in Mandarin, sounds like Longlasting. But nothing lasts forever.  The inside of the eyelid sky lights up and fireworks shake the ground and a celebration is on. The lunar new year rings out across the lunar landscape but Dali has to rouse herself; a new waking day is awaiting.
                                   ______________________________

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gender Dance




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  photo-montage by aleXander hirka ~ text by T. Remington

From above, miles above, the dance is a red froth that heaves and turns in on itself in frantic tidal rhythms, defying the very terms of its existence. But come in closer. No, just a bit closer. Are you seeing it yet? Don’t be like that; get right down into it and play your part.  Surely you know your steps. Your role. Wait. Not like that; you can’t move that way. And what were you thinking wearing that? We all have our important and well defined steps in this dance and anyone who deviates risks wrecking millennia of carefully designed work.

You want to confuse everyone? You go out of step and the next thing you know, everyone is stumbling into each other, no one knows what their part is anymore and, worse, no one knows who they’re supposed to be dancing with! Stop that. Get right over here and fall into step. The swans will show you how it’s done. Even the toreador in the ring has the exquisite sense of precision and grace that is required to bring his part of the dance to a satisfactory consummation.

See? You were built for this; your very musculature is imbued with the vibrations that will summon your partner, the right partner, the one and only one who can respond to your summons.

Wait. What are you doing? You cannot move that way! Put away those peacock feathers and behave, dammit. Oh what a disaster you are. No one can say that I didn’t try. Go. Go on and prance around like a ninny; see if anyone will want to dance with you. I wash my hands of you!


     ______________________________


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dragonfly Pentacost

 
 


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  photo-montage by aleXander hirka ~ text by T. Remington

I dart. We dart and we all peer down at you. Fleshy, grinning and, it would appear, completely ignorant of our adornments; a crowd of happy imbeciles. Poor, earthbound, heavy and stuck. We hover above and offer gifts. Horned, both you and we, but where we are winged, you are legged. Where we soar and shimmer and do gravity one better, you are pinned tight. We feel so sorry for you and would offer more than fine head-dressings, but really what would you do with wings?  You strut and shine and show off the horns you all sport now, poking and curving and meaning nothing. Meanwhile we dart above you and you cannot hear our laughter. You wave and shout, bowing and dipping finely ornate heads that could count for a beginning, a first sprouting of something magical.  But really we cannot in good conscience
 waste the brilliance of free flight on the likes of you.  You would never, not in your wildest dreams, be ready to be birthed to the new day of rising into the wind.

     ______________________________

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Urban 3.0

During the last few months Tammy was hired to provide narrative descriptions of the water colors of New York artist Emily Stedman and to be part of her current exhibition at NOHO / M55 Gallery in Chelsea running from January 27th to February 14th, 2015.

For the month of February, once a week, we will feature a new photo-montage by AleXander, with Tammy applying her wordsmithery to it.

click on image to enlarge

AleXander is working on a project of images for an urban planning white paper being put together in China, and Tammy extrapolated on one of the pieces.


"I look across from my perch high above as the spectators gather across the bridge, all of us peering down to river traffic and a dizzy whirl of change. Before the last barge disappears around the bend, a bewildering array of bristling new construction leaps up on all sides. The noise, the frantic momentum, the determined push of the new that relentlessly shoves all out of its way. Walls of windows claim former horizon lines and even the stretching bridges are hemmed in, confined to small roles that defy old devils and convey the new gods to the other side as they hurry to very important appointments. Propulsion fueled by serial explosions of growth as progress holds sway and strikes down anything in its path. The bravest of new days is fleeting and before you know it, another generation of wonder construction becomes demolition sites. Somewhere above there is a sky and it barely notices any of this."