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Inspiration Information Vol. 2: Undead Edition

As one of three interns this fall, I’m not around SPACE enough to hear about everyone’s cultural obsessions (besides, every once in a while we talk about things besides art…). So I emailed around some probing questions. Here are their answers. Agree, shrug, and hopefully find something new to get into for the snowed-in days to come.

What’s the first art/music/book/play/whatever that made a strong impression on you?

Anne: The first painting that affected me was Frida Kahlo’s The Two Fridas. It’s the one where Frida is married to herself and her self portrait on the left shows her chest busted open and her heart and cardio-valves and stuff exposed. I saw it in a slide show in seventh grade art class as part of a lesson on the surrealists. I think this was the first work of art that trapped me in that in-between space of wanting to look away and simultaneously being enchanted by all the beautiful details in the painting. That whole magic of being seduced by horror, it’s very visceral. All the work I’ve done as an artist since then has been about that phenomenon in one way or another.

Peter: Does Space Jam count? I saw it three times in the theaters. 

Sam: Sometime in middle school, my aunt gave me a copy of The Golden Compass, the first of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and I could not have been more enamored with a story that ultimately amounts to a pseudo-quantum-theory-based, steampunk, atheist retelling of Paradise Lost disguised as a young adult literature. It’s almost concerning how much I connected to the child protagonists who were intelligent enough to be particularly capable liars in a narrative that was much darker and philosophical than any other media I was consuming at the time.

Dora: Oh man, this is so ridiculous but seeing Green Day play live in 7th grade literally changed my life. I wanted to be punk so badly. A lot of art…but seeing Sol LeWitt’s retrospective at MASS MoCA really got me thinking about the power of a museum space and writing about Andrea Fraser, Alma Thomas, Betye Saar, and Félix González-Torres’ work in particular was really important for me as well. Not a “first” but Carrie Mae Weems’ show at the Guggenheim this year was incredible. 

Adam: I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows when I was in 4th grade.  The librarian at school put it in with the comic books I was checking out and I didn’t even realize it until I got home that night.  It was the first time a book transported me the way a good book can.  The daze that stays with you and makes you feel not quite present as you fade back into your own thoughts.  It was the first book that wasn’t a “kid’s book” and met me at my level.  I honestly don’t know if the book is even that good, but it was such a different reading experience that I’ve never forgotten it. 

What’s the best scary film (however you want to define “scary”) you’ve seen?

Peter: “The Late Great Planet Earth,” the movie version of Hal Lindsey’s quintessential Christian prophecy book (which has sold more than 28,000,000 worldwide). Live-narrated by a 65-year-old Orson Welles. Hard to pinpoint what the scariest part of the film is. Could be Orson Welles.  

Anne: Actually, it might be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which we just co-presented at the Saco Drive-In last week. It was my first time seeing it and it’s just an amazingly terrifying, brilliant film, and it hold up so well after being around for 40 years. It’s so much scarier than modern horror films. Other than that, I love Let The Right One In, which is a great Swedish film about child vampires. The story is good and the cinematography is gorgeous.

Dora: Buffy season 7. 

Sam: As much as I love horror movies, I rarely find them “scary” in the way that they’re intended. Often what scares me now are movies that punish the audience in such a visceral yet believable way that I appreciate them conceptually but can’t recommend them to people, such as Michael Haneke’s Benny’s Video, which I will not be rewatching any time soon. As for movies that would actually be located in the horror movie section at Videoport, I feel that it would be hard to pick a “best” that doesn’t retread on commonly known movies like The Shining or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Right now my thoughts are settling on this Spanish found-footage movie [REC] and its immediate sequel [REC]2.

Hannah: The only horror movie I would actually see again is The Orphanage, a Spanish movie. It’s beautiful, disturbing without being gory, and really sad. For horror films I admired but would never see again, Funny Games, which does a great job of getting under your skin and making you question your own complicity in watching sadistic violence. It also changed the way I think about lakes forever.

Adam: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, hand’s down. 

What painting, show, performance piece, etc do you most want to experience in person?

Dora: Beyoncé. I would kill to come across a Jenny Holzer piece by chance. And it would be amazing to see more David Hammons and Lorna Simpson.

Anne: I would go to extremes to see a show of The Royal Art Lodge. It’s a pipe dream though, because they don’t work together anymore. I’m always checking the internet in the hopes that there will be a reunion show in the states, but I’m always disappointed. The Royal Art Lodge was a group of artists from Winnipeg who made collaborative work in the nineties, mostly drawings but also genius costumes and dioramas. It was Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Michael Dumontier, Jonathan Pylypchuk, Drue Langlois, and some of their siblings sometimes. They disbanded in 2008. I’m a huge fan and follower of Marcel Dzama and Jonathan Pylypchuck’s artistic careers.

Peter: Kate Bush. I tried to get tickets for her London shows and failed. And cried. 

Sam: Right now, I would have to say the Robert Gober retrospective at MOMA.

Adam: James Turrell’s “Roden Crater” and Random’s “Rain Room

What was the best book you read this year?

Anne: I’m bad at bests. I just finished The Undead by Dick Teresi, which was a totally engrossing piece of non-fiction about the organ harvesting and transplantation industry. I loved it. It’s interesting to think about how we culturally define death. I feel like, in another life and with better SAT scores, I would have been a coroner or a pathologist.

Dora: Jazz, Toni Morrison. Also the Image Comics series Saga is incredible.

Hannah: Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa. It’s part mystery centered around two reluctant soldiers stationed in a remote village in the Andes, part absorbing stories about the lives of Peruvians caught up in the war between the ruthless government and the ruthless guerillas, El Sendero Luminoso. It’s also funny, in kind of a dark way. Also, Boy, Snow, Bird is lovely and unusual.

Adam: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didian.  

Nat: Euphoria, by Mainer Lily King. It’s the kind of book you want to race through but you slow yourself down and hold back so it lasts longer.

What’s the best thing on the internet?

Dora: One of my favorite Smith alumna’s blog is pretty incredible and important: Black Contemporary Art . Old news but Issa Rae’s “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” is amazing. 

Anne: Sometimes I like to Google image search random nouns strung together. “Dog with pickle” is pretty good.

Peter: Easy. The first 2 minutes and 7 seconds of this:

Hannah: This isn’t a new thing, but Take Away shows are fun.

Adam: The Victoria and Albert museum’s “Collections” site is amazing.  I can fall down that rabbit hole for hours. Plus – It’s Nice That, Like a Field MouseThe MillionsPrinted Matter. Also, I never miss Meghan Gilliss’s daily short fiction column – 30 minutes a day.  And though it’s probably impossible for me to remove my bias (we’re married), these super short stories are just as likely to make you laugh as they are to punch you in the gut (you know, in a good way). 

Nat: it just goes on and on and on

What music have you been listening to recently?

Peter: In the car or next to the turntable currently… Tom Kovacevic – Universe Thick as Skin. Lewis – L’Amour. Ornette Coleman – Friends & Neighbors. Lichen – Shake My Bones. if & it – Asleep in the Forest. Charles Ives – The String Quartets. Lisa/Liza – The First Museum. 

Sam: Ever since coming across Todd Haynes’ unauthorized animated memoir, Superstar, I have fallen deep into listening to The Carpenters. 

Dora: I’m obsessed with FKA Twigs’ new record, Kelela and SZA are both great too, I’m really bummed about Crystal Castles breaking up so I’ve been listening to them a lot. Le1f, TOKiMONSTA, and 90’s/early 2000’s hiphop are my go-to party jams. 

Hannah: Lately, Butcher Boy, Smog, Josephine Foster, The Smiths and Beirut.


Adam: I always get really into Goblin around this time of year. 

Which instagrams are you following?

​Dora: Ummm, I mostly use instragram to keep track of my friends and find out what baked goods Tandem is making that day or what kind of donut excellence to expect from Urban Sugar…I follow a lot of museums and drag queens and HONY is always fun. I really like Find Portland’s gram because they post their new finds for sale. Oh and Barbie just created a “style” instagram that is entertaining and cute. 

Sam: Aside from friends, family, and a whole bunch of drag queens, I recently was excited to discover that the Marxist artist and celebrity gay porn star Colby Keller has gotten a new instagram account [@kolbyceller] where he has been documenting his recent cross-country road trip as well as the art and (often titillating) ephemera he experiences along the way.

Adam: Atelier Bingo, Colin Sullivan Stevens, Pat Falco

Nat: jim_drain_, akakayrock, krehkreh, steveespopowers

What art do you have where you live? 

​Dora: Some of my favorites that I have are a print by my mom, a painting by my dad, fantastic grrl power prints by Grace Miceli, and the “Pineapple” prototype print from Emily White’s show at SPACE a couple of summers ago. 

Sam: While a lot of the art around my abode belong to my boyfriend (such as an obscure Marsden Hartley print), the general aesthetic is mostly comprised of found and salvaged objects. I do love this old poster I have of a sun-tanned nude beach babe windsurfing under the text “Hawaii…Naturally”.

Adam: My favorite piece is a small print by Coleen Kinsella (of the South Portland band Big Blood)


SPACE Reader

🕯️ The dance show of the summer is Scapegoat Garden’s Liturgy|Order|Bridge. The Hartford-based company calls upon Black church traditions and ideas of faith, nature, fashion, and experimentation in their limited performance run June 20-22. Tickets available now, presented by SPACE at Mechanics’ Hall. 🕯️