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March 13, 2010, 2:30 PM

The Lure and Blur of the Real

Participants: Barbara Browning, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), John Cameron Mitchell, Rick Moody, David Shields (moderator), Fred Tomaselli

"Who owns the words?" asks a disembodied voice throughout much of William Burroughs's work. For that matter, who owns the music and the rest of our cultural output? The answer may be that we all do, although we don't yet know it. Reality can't be copyrighted. Living as we do in an unbearably manufactured world, we yearn for the "real," or semblances of the real, and many artists want to pose something nonfictional against all the fabrication. This may take the form of autobiographical frissons or captured moments, which in their seeming un-rehearsedness possess at least the possibility of breaking through the clutter. Thus, an artistic movement, organic and as yet unstated, is taking shape, characterized by deliberate unartiness, seemingly unprocessed or unprofessional "raw" material, randomness, spontaneity, and serendipity. Artists that work in a variety of media are exploring questions of "truth," provenance, appropriation, and quotation, and arguing for emancipation from genre constraints. This roundtable discussion seeks to articulate the ars poetica of a burgeoning group of interrelated but unconnected artists who are incorporating larger and larger chunks of "reality" in their work.

Barbara Browning teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Her scholarly and ethnographic writing, Samba: Resistance in Motion and Infectious Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the Spread of African Culture has experimented with personal narrative and lyrical voice, while her forthcoming novel, The Correspondence Artist, incorporates various forms of "evidence" to substantiate the reality of her fictional characters. Her articles have appeared in anthologies and in such publications as Dance Research Journal, TDR, Dance Chronicle, and Women & Performance. Browning also makes chamber choreographies on YouTube.

Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky,That Subliminal Kid, is a writer, artist and musician who lives and works in New York City. His 2008 book, Sound Unbound, follows his award-winning 2005 Rhythm Science. Miller's work has been exhibited at museums throughout the world. He has performed in a wide variety of venues, including The Tate Modern, The Guggenheim Museum, and The Herod Atticus Theater at the Acropolis, and recorded both on his own and with collaborators ranging from Metallica to Steve Reich. His latest CD is The Secret Song.

John Cameron Mitchell directed, wrote, and starred in the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), for which he received the Best Director and Audience Awards at the Sundance Film Festival. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor. He was executive producer of Jonathan Caouette's award-winning documentary Tarnation (2004). His improv-based film Shortbus was released in 2006. He's presently in post production on Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. He has directed music videos for the bands Bright Eyes and Scissor Sisters.

Rick Moody is the author of four novels, including The Ice Storm and The Diviners, three collections of stories, and a memoir, The Black Veil. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, Esquire, The Atlantic, Harper's, and many other publications. As a musician, his releases include Rick Moody and One Ring Zero, and two albums with The Wingdale Community Singers—the eponymously titled first album, and its recent follow-up, Spirit Duplicator. His new novel, The Four Fingers of Death, will be published by Little Brown in July 2010.

David Shields is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestseller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Black Planet: Facing Race during an NBA Season (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity (winner of the PEN Revson Award), and Dead Languages: A Novel (winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award). His work has been translated into German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Turkish, Farsi, Korean, and Japanese. The chair of the 2007 National Book Awards nonfiction panel, he has received a Guggenheim fellowship, two NEA fellowships, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation grant, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. His essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Yale Review, Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and Believer.

Fred Tomaselli is a visual artist whose hybrid paintings, drawings and collages have been shown in numerous exhibitions worldwide including the Whitney Biennial, Berlin Biennial, Lyon Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, and the Site Santa Fe Biennial. Solo shows include the Irish Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris; the Albright Knox Gallery; Site Santa Fe; the Palm Beach ICA; the Rose Art Museum; and the Fruit Market Gallery. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Hirshhorn Museum, The Tate Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and numerous other institutions worldwide. Tomaselli is the subject of a mid-career survey that originated at the Aspen Art Museum and is currently at the Tang Museum until June 6th. It will travel to the Brooklyn Museum later this year. A book that details the last 25 years of his work has just been publish by Prestel.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


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