All posts filed under: Sound, Film + Video

HMong & American & Artist: Tshab Her

I recently interviewed Chicago artist and second generation HMong-American Tshab Her, where we discussed her latest artwork, what it was like to grow up as a second-generation HMong-American, the process she took to create her newest installation, and what it means to create space through art and storytelling as a HMong-American artist.   To understand the HMong diaspora in America, we have to start when it all began during the Vietnam Conflict. Fearing Communist takeover, the United States government, under the leadership of the CIA, recruited the ethnic minority group HMong in Laos in the early 1960s-70s to fight in the Conflict in what we now know as the “secret war.” According to the Migration Policy website, in May of 1975, the United States began evacuating 1,000-3,000 HMong into Thailand and by December, 1975, when the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was formed, over 44,000 HMong fled into Thailand as refugees. As of 1999, official refugee camps were closed because the Thai government had never officially allowed HMong resettlement within its borders. Due to their involvement in the US-led …

My First Chicago Film: Bri Clearly

Chicago has long been a place for indie creators to get together and make something beautiful. The filmmaking community in the city is one filled with ideas galore and the determination to make it happen. Throughout the years, we’ve seen many writers, directors, and producers start and grow their careers here, always recognizing Chicago in the process, even if they move to the coasts to pursue entertainment.  Chicago Made Shorts, a new platform hosted on Instagram TV, provides a hub for said filmmakers, simply looking for a place for their work to get seen. Imani Davis, Founder and Creative Director of Chicago Made Shorts, is deeply curious about how people make their way through the film scene in Chicago and get that first short film made. What was the impact of that first project made here? Who was involved? Why Chicago? In this series, Imani dives deep into these questions as well as the stories and beginnings of five different Chicago-based filmmakers. Through these interviews, she’ll make her way through topics such as making your way …

Image: A photo of Tonina Saputo sitting on a rug while posing with her guitar. Photo by Danny Zones, courtesy of the musician and the photographer.

The Undefined: Tonina Saputo

Tonina Saputo is an out-of-the-box musician who doesn’t know how to exactly define herself or her music. Playing the upright bass, she might tell you she’s folk, but she could change her mind. Either way, she knows how to pull a crowd here in St. Louis, Missouri.  “This is my third,” “This is my fourth Tonina concert,” or, “I’ve lost count,” are pretty common phrases one might hear entering a Tonina set.  I went to my first (socially-distanced) Tonina concert in a sea of seasoned vets in the summer of 2020. I had never heard of her, but like the honest concert go-er I am, I made sure to listen to her music before. I was transfixed with her bold tones and spicy flare—and not because she sings in Spanish, but because her Latin music techniques are obviously brought into her English songs. She definitely brings a unique song and style to the St. Louis music scene, which she describes as “supportive” and “close-knit”. Her albums and singles go back and forth between strong alternative-like …

Two poster designs by screen printer Jay Ryan. The poster on the left contains two bears on bicycles holding tacos. The poster on the right says "I will hug you in the future."

Chicago Archives Dive: Chicago Music Posters with Jay Ryan

Chicago is home to a long tradition of printmaking. In this video, Jay Ryan, the artist behind Chicagoland’s print studio The Bird Machine, talks about his experiences learning his craft at Screwball Press, another print studio in Chicago celebrated for its innovative production of rock music posters since the early 1990s. This video was produced by artist Ryan Edmund Thiel of Sixty Inches from Center, in collaboration with Chicago Collections Consortium and Art Design Chicago Now.

Two poster designs by screen printer Alexandrea Pataky. The poster on the left contains a bird, a rabbit, and a fox all holding instruments. The poster on the right is an illustrated gig poster for The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band.

Chicago Archives Dive: Chicago’s Screenprinting Community with Alexandrea Pataky

From scientific illustration to rock music posters, artist Alexandrea Pataky, owner of High Lonesome Print, talks about her work, the screen printing community in Chicago, and being taught to print by Steve Walters of Screwball Press. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel.

We Series: Food

Journeys and weavings that we explore through cooking, eating, and sharing food. Sharing food with ourselves, our loved ones, and the ghosts we carry.  What is the comfort zone you need to create in order to take that journey?  ////////////////////////////////// The Beginning of the recipe starts at the table bickering with your family.  The Beginning of the recipe starts sprawled across a plush couch when a long twisting aromatic thread travels from the kitchen and tugs at your impatient hunger.  The Beginning of the recipe starts buried in a memory you left to tumble around in your mind and is now a glistening Fable.  As we peer at our Fable, Into the PRIMORDIAL SOUP of our creation Infinite worlds begin to form Some give us comfort     [wrapped in the wafts of atmospheric nostalgia] While others are  w h i s p e r s of possibilities     [adrift in the escapism of dreams] *Coalescing and creating a symphony of FUCKING DELICIOUSNESS* TAP, TAP, TAP. Are we ready?  Layer your atmosphere – a low hiss …

Chicago Archives Dive: Zine Festivals with Oscar Arriola

Oscar Arriola, a collector, curator, and photographer based in Chicago, talks about the power of preservation while also delving into the history of Chicago zine festivals. In particular, he talks about his role as an organizer of ZINEMercado, an annual outdoor festival devoted to zines and other DIY publications that takes place at Comfort Station in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. __Featured Image: A compilation of images of posters and promotional images from ZINEmercado. Images courtesy of Oscar Arriola.

Chicago Archives Dive: Underground Publishing with Julia Arredondo

Did you know Chicago is a mecca of underground publishing? In this video, Julia Arredondo—artist entrepreneur and graduate of Columbia College Chicago—talks about the political influence of Chicago’s zine culture while also sharing more about her zine product lines, including the counterculture entity Vice Versa Press and the more spiritual “Bedroom Botánica” Curandera Press.This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. ___Featured Image: A compilation of images of covers of zines by Julia Arredondo. Each cover has a different design–one with colorful flowers, illustrated collages, intermixed with text. Images courtesy of Julia Arredondo.

Chicago’s zine-makers: Liz Mason

For several decades, Chicago has had a rich history of artists making zines; independently published, low budget periodicals. Liz Mason currently manages Quimby’s Bookstore and has been making her own perzines (personal zines) since the early nineties. Her writing, which is often comedic and punchy, recounts personal anecdotes, relationships, and simply things she finds awesome. We interviewed her to learn more about what got her into Zines and some of the zines she has created over the years. This video was created in collaboration with Art Design Chicago and Chicago Collections Consortium, and was produced by Ryan Edmund Thiel. __Featured Image: A compilation of images of covers of Zines by Liz Mason. Each cover has black text printed on yellow paper. Images courtesy of Liz Mason.

Out of Site: Public Performance goes Virtual

Since its inception, Out of Site (OoS) has sought to create wonder through “unexpected encounters in public space.” Performances took place in unusual places, such as alleyways, parking lots, underneath the El tracks, as well as during the middle of Wicker Park Fest. However like many performance art groups and initiatives during the coronavirus shutdown, Out of Site pivoted to present innovative performance art through live streaming tools. Started by Carron Little and Whitney Tassie in 2011, this public performance art series has brought artists from all around the world and on to the streets of Wicker Park, Noble Square, and other parts of the city. Performances varied in tone whether it was two women, Elena & Erin, pushing a cabinet down Milwaukee avenue or Austin-based artists performing an underwater puppet show with a truck-sized whale in Ballenarca.  Taking performance art into the digital realm seemed like a natural step. Out of Site teamed up with Experimental Sound Studio’s (ESS) The Quarantine Concert series on May 26th to present Out of Site Virtual Performance. Donations …

Inaccessibility as Material: an interview with Alison O’Daniel

Alison O’Daniel is a visual artist and filmmaker whose ongoing project The Tuba Thieves interweaves elements of sound composition, sculptural installation, performance, and film. Beginning in 2011, The Tuba Thieves has been screened and exhibited in numerous iterations, expanding and complicating the notion of a filmic whole. Using a film as a site through which to explore how continuity, equivalency, and legibility intersect O’Daniel’s work complicates the presumption of normativity inherent in traditional cinematic and narrative modes. Building a vocabulary of missing information, misunderstanding, and processual aesthetics, The Tuba Thieves asks us to rethink differing sensory experiences as a generative and imperative storytelling force.  The following is an excerpt from a longer conversation conducted over Google Meet between the artist, Christopher Robert Jones, and Liza Sylvestre. Google Meet was chosen after discussing various video conferencing platforms and their inadequate accessibility features.  Liza Sylvestre: How do you wake up? Alison O’Daniel: My dog wakes me up. She comes in and punches the bed. She is a deaf boxer and she wakes me up every day at …

A Scene of Her Own: The Inimitable Vaginal Davis

Her blond hair perfectly flipped, a smile breaking across her warm and open face, Vaginal Davis takes the mic, satin blue nighty shimmying. Amidst a stage of fierce femmes of all shapes and sizes rocking back and forth in slumber party attire, Davis holds the center of our attention. Performing tonight as Graciela Grejalva—lead singer of Cholita!—she sings, she shouts, sweating, spitting rapid-fire lyrics, a pink swatch of fabric clutched in one hand. Her other hand gesticulates wildly, mirrored by the lingerie-clad woman to her left who cajoles in pantomime, pointing at, sometimes flipping off the audience, implicating and drawing them in. Black and brown women, including Alice Bag of Sad Girl and The Bags, play backup to our Blatino (half Black, half Mexican), intersexed, queer drag superstar, churning out a low-fi frenzied garage punk beat. “CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU MADRE!” they collectively sing in urgent, joyful unison. Go fuck yourself. Literally, go fuck your mother. Vaginal Davis, who named herself after Black radical Angela Davis with a queer, humorous twist, is not …

Recipes for a post-colonial kitchen: maize / Recetas para una cocina poscolonial: el maíz

I remember the days before smartphones when my parents would load me and my brothers up into our white, blue velvet interior, 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado to make the 2-day trip down south to visit our grandparents. It was always a hot summer, a 24 hour drive to the border, 12 hours to Durango, and a few extra hours here and there so my dad could sleep. This was usually somewhere just outside of Tulsa and after getting through Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo. I knew the path in my heart. No matter how far away we were, I felt the magnetic pull that snapped us from our house in Aurora, Illinois to the fig trees growing in the yard behind my grandmother’s kitchen in Durango. Mexico was my summer camp. As the in-car map reader, it was my job to make sure we took I-55 South through St. Louis so we could drive over that spectacular bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. My father, a former truck driver who is very familiar with this route, …

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

The Art of DJing: Miss Twink USA

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications; what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary “Catwalk” wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the question is an embarrassment to both art and fashion. Or DJing. To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a …

The Art of DJing: Morenxxx

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications––what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary “Catwalk” wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the question is an embarrassment to both art and fashion. Or DJing. To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a room …

The Art of DJing: Ariel Zetina

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications; what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary “Catwalk” wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the question is an embarrassment to both art and fashion (or DJing). To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a …

The Archivettes and Saving Herstory

After realizing that lesbian history was disappearing, Deborah Edel and Joan Nestle founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA) in New York City. And just like that, a 40 year project was born. Documentary filmmaker Megan Rossman created the film The Archivettes, which follows the story of the archives and the women who saved lesbian history. Rossman found out about LHA when a friend came to visit her in New York City. “She saw it on Google maps, which encouraged me to find out more about this archive that was in my neighborhood,” said Rossman in an email correspondence. After gaining an interest in filmmaking while working as a multimedia journalist at The Washington Post, she has worked on several documentary projects, and The Archivettes is her first feature-length film. The film will be screening this weekend in Chicago, where she has familial and personal ties. She says that screening the film here “feels like coming home.” The film opens with an emotional story about Melissa Saks and her partner Ellie Conant, who passed away at …

Captioned: An Interview with Liza Sylvestre

“The space of this film is expanding.” It is indeed. Liza Sylvestre, a recent graduate of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), captions 2001: A Space Odyssey on a perpendicular wall from Space is the Place, also captioned. These films roll with Sylvestre’s comments and captions coming with them for an interpretation of the two films. How do these two films operate in our culture? Who gets to access them?  This show at the new space, New Genres Art Space, in Rockford, Illinois, is developing programming around digital art, and its ability to be educational, therapeutic, and community-driven. The small gallery space has been used to the max with this exhibition, as these monumental films stretch floor to ceiling. There are captions that don’t match the films. Instead, they describe a separate narrative of the artist’s thoughts and experience watching the movies. I think these captions make the film more approachable highlighting the accessibility of the films.  This interview has been edited for clarity. Anthony Hamilton: Could you introduce us to your work and the Captioned …

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

Black Monument Ensemble: Looking Back From Now

“Please join me in welcoming the Black Monument Ensemble.” The crowd roars with claps, whistles, loud whoops, and yelps. Applause melts behind wind chimes and bells as the band, singers, and dancers make their way to the stage. The audience quiets in anticipation. The voice of Damon Locks resounds in the room before his body appears. “Knowing what we know now, the mind searches for reconciliation…”  Stationed behind the singers, dancers, and drummers, he stands near his keyboard speaking into a telephone receiver attached to a soundboard. His voice reverberates throughout the space, bouncing against the drum sounds and vibrations as he recites his “Statement of Intent.” The drum intensifies and reaches a crescendo. “Some things never change–Black monuments!”, Locks yells. Angel Bat Dawid begins playing her clarinet. The choir begins.  I become transfixed by the electric synergy that emits from the band to the dancers, from the dancers to the singers, from the collective to the audience. The voices of Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, and Lena Horne coil around and reverberate within our ears. Suddenly …

Arranging, Abstracting, and Transforming at Experimental Sound Studio

Entering Without Within at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in Ravenswood, you encounter a variety of sculptural objects comprised of glazed ceramic, cuts of wood, and metal panels made by multidisciplinary artist Mie Kongo. The pieces, an amalgamation of these natural materials, are combined so carefully and intentionally as they emanate a calm confidence. One piece features an amoeba-like, white structure that exists on top of a tree log that’s been cleanly chopped on top and bottom. Two rectangle tiles grow out of the amoeba and a small metal panel cleanly sits atop all of this chaos.  Surrounding this visual experience is the subtle influx of sound that oscillates between somewhat recognizable and minimal industrial sounds to more complex abstractions, created by sound artist Norman Long. This sort of arranging, abstracting, and transforming lies at the heart of the exhibition, curated by Ruth Hodgkins, the current Bentson Archivist and Assistant Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the exhibition, both artists take inspiration from the world around them but choose to adjust, amend, and …

Composition and Improv: Interview with William Pearson

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist William Pearson. Presented through Sixty Regional. In partnership with pt.fwd, a new series of contemporary music and sonic arts performances featuring new work by local and regional artists in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Sight Specific will be publishing conversations between the featured artists and pt.fwd director Eddie Breitweiser. William Pearson (Champaign-Urbana, IL) will be performing on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8pm at the McLean County Arts Center. All pt.fwd performances are free and open to the public. Follow pt.fwd on Facebook and Instagram for more information, including upcoming performance dates. Eddie: Part of the charge of pt.fwd is to find a diverse group of local and regional artists and musicians and to challenge them to bring something new to an open-minded audience. Would you mind speaking a bit about your background, your practice, and historically what we’re going to be hearing? What have you prepared for us and how does it both relate to your practice as a whole and indicate where you’re going next? Will:  Yeah. …

Featured image: Fawzia Mirza. In this medium-close-up shot, Fawzia looks directly and confidently at the camera, smiling with pursed lips and pointing at the viewer with both hands. Fawzia wears a long-sleeved denim shirt with a blue-on-blue, camouflage-like print and the top few snaps unsnapped. The cuffs of her shirt-sleeves are folded back, and she wears several bracelets and rings made of silver or wood. Photo by Bradley Murray, cropped to fit. Courtesy of the artist.

Beyond the Page: Fawzia Mirza

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Fawzia Mirza — actor, writer, producer, and “artivist” — about the relationship between her writing and performance, her creations’ many forms and media platforms, the role of comedy and collaboration in her work, and how she hopes her work impacts others. Our conversation took place remotely, with Fawzia responding via audio recording to a set of emailed questions. Find Fawzia on Twitter and Instagram @thefawz. “The Red Line” premieres on Sunday, April 28, on CBS. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: I first became aware of your work several years ago, when you emceed TEDx Windy City, at which two of my students were speaking. I thought you were such a charming, energetic, bold, incisive yet kind and generous host, and it was so lovely to officially meet you a few years ago and to discover that you’re just as smart …

Review: Reclaiming the Crown, The Footwork King’s Battle with Money Bail

It was spring 2016 and Devoureaux Wolf was on the rise. Also known as “King Detro, Chicago’s footwork king,” Wolf’s dancing career was taking off: he’d won numerous dance competitions, hosted a dance show on Wala Cam TV, and had just started his own program, Dance N Out, that aimed to steer youth on the West Side off the street and onto the dance floor. He never expected getting a ride home from a friend’s brother would radically alter his life’s course. But that’s exactly what happened. The car was pulled over and Wolf was quickly dragged out by Chicago police officers, who then arrested him and charged him with assaulting them. Though the driver had the foresight to film the encounter to disprove the police’s account, simply being charged landed Wolf in Cook County Jail with a $3,000 bond that he could not afford. Over the next three and a half months, Wolf would nearly lose his apartment, his hosting job, and his connection to his community. On top of that, Wolf’s uncle passed …

Little Village Through A Looking Glass: An Interview with Media Instructor Mario Contreras

As part of Chicago’s Envisioning Justice project to address community concerns around criminal justice through arts education, Open Center for the Arts in Little Village worked with teaching artists to bring specialized courses focused on immigration, incarceration, and political organizing to their students. Filmmaker and media instructor Jesús Mario Contreras was one such educator, teaching a series of filmmaking classes to youth and young adults from the neighborhood. He shared with me about his particular teaching philosophies of art as cultural communication, youth allyship, and the importance of self-reflection. Anjali Misra: How did you become involved with Open Center? Mario Contreras: Pepe Vargas from The Chicago Latino Film Festival recommended a friend of mine for  the job of instructor. Arlen Parsa, director of The Way to Andina, thought I’d enjoy the opportunity. AM: Can you describe your work with Open Center? What was day-to-day teaching like, and what were some highlights (best personal moments with students, staff, community members, etc.)? MC: I was one of many instructors that Open Center students worked with over the …