Samstag, 24. Oktober 2009

Los Angeles in shock and grief

Beiträge auf ZEIT ONLINE.

Los Angeles in shock, grief and acceptance over Jackson’s

by Simone Kussatz

When the news came out that Michael Jackson (50) had died on Thursday June 25th, 2009 in Los Angeles, a Hispanic sales clerk in a grocery store in Culver City shed tears. “It’s so sad,” she said. “He was just one year younger than me, “one of her customers replied. About an hour after Jackson’s death was confirmed, news reporters from Eyewitness News, Fox and NBC among others were waiting for details from the press conference in front of the Medical Plaza at UCLA. Meanwhile, throngs of people were standing next to them in a daze, some were singing Michael Jackson songs, others were pushing themselves into the spotlight of the media. Not even the summer heat could prevent people, mostly tourists, from lining up on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to see the side walk “star” of Michael Jackson, to put down flowers and to speak a few words into surrounding cameras. A Jackson impersonator gave his usual moonwalk performance. This was not only filmed from the obvious cameras in front of the Chinese Theater, but also from a secret place on top of the Roosevelt Hotel across the street. Five days after the legend of pop music died, police officers are still guarding Jackson’s former mansion, which is blocked off with police tape, located, just a bit off Sunset Boulevard, close to UCLA Medical Center in
Westwood. Paparazzi and reporters are still eagerly waiting to see relatives and others getting in and out of Jackson's house. Unless VIP, people can only get to a memorial site on the corner of Carolwood and Sunset, where his fans left flowers, cards and candles for their beloved idol.

Yet is this collective grief appropriate, and did Jackson’s death deserve so much media attention?

Opinions diverted. Stefanie Sneed, a UCLA undergraduate student of Psychobiology and African American Studies thought that the media attention about Jackson was well deserved. “He was an icon, positive and theatrical,” she said. “Being a black person, I felt empowered by him, but I feel angry that the media is looking for the negative things in his life.” Javier Arteaga, a UCLA undergraduate student of Psychology, however, felt different about this. Arteaga was only a block away from the hospital on his way towards his friend’s apartment, when he received a text message, saying “they just brought in Michael Jackson in an ambulance.” Instead of staying with a crowd in front of the Medical Plaza that had built up from 10 to 20 to a 100, Arteaga hurried home to gather information via CNN. “I feel sad about Michael Jackson’s death, especially since he died at a young age, but I also feel that the media didn’t respect his family’s privacy. I was upset how people were bragging as to who was the first to set the traffic cone on the entrance to the hospital. It was unimportant. I feel Michael Jackson deserved more respect than this.” Lindsay Guzman, a hairstylist from Colorado who is currently visiting L.A. was not surprised about Jackson’s death “I thought he was actually sick for a while, but when he died, they had to say something.”

From the perspective of the people working for UCLA Medical Center, Jackson’s death seemed not so much a matter of grief as it was a matter of inconvenience in their daily lives. For one thing, their integrity was tested. A nurse at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center said “I can’t give you any information. Journalists are escorted out, if they’re found here.” Another nurse claimed it was too hard for her to get into the hospital. “For me, every patient is a VIP,” she said. A staff at Patient Services pointed out that employees of UCLA Medical Plaza are not allowed to give out any information about Jackson’s death, other than referring to Media Relations at 924 Westwood Plaza, a department that seems overwhelmed by the requests of reporters.

People who have been working in the Hollywood industry for a long time and achieved considerable success, stressed Michael Jackson’s great talent, and put the incidence in the context of current politics. Film-maker Henry Jaglom, known for “Hollywood Dreams” a film about a fame-obsessed person who becomes a tragic victim in a fame obsessed culture, said “Like everyone in Hollywood I was stunned by the news, but then with the flood of old videos on Television and the Internet I was grateful to be reminded how truly extraordinary he was, how profoundly talented a dancer, as no less an authority than Fred Astaire pointed out, how significant and influential an artist in developing a generation of children who would grow up so free of race prejudice as to vote Obama in as president 25 years later. Many of us had forgotten all that in recent years after being endlessly told about his eccentricities, his weirdness, his countless cosmetic surgeries and all the distorted sex stories, according to everyone I know who knew him well he was the sweetest creature who ever lived, good-hearted and naive to a fault, never having had a childhood so being obsessed with being with children and staying a child forever.” Composer, William Goldstein, who had scored all the episodes of NBC’s FAME and was brought under contract to Motown, as Michael Jackson, said “His death was tragic. He was a brilliant artist, very gifted, but a troubled soul. Yet, there seems to be a budding revolution in Iran and it was wiped out by the media.” Therefore, Michael Jackson’s death has been perceived as a great loss by most Americans. The media coverage about his death will still go on to a great extent, especially with the upcoming funeral, for which reporters have already driven up North to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, according to an ABC news reporter.

Written by Simone Kussatz. Freelance journalist. Los Angeles.

June 29th, 2009

Yesterday, Friday July 3, 2009, African American pianist Larry Nash of the Larry Nash and The Jazz Symphonics, played a tribute to Michael Jackson during the free Friday Night Jazz Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Nash gave a beautiful and sensitive performance of Jackson's "She's out of my mind." The concert was held outdoors underneath palm trees and a gradual sinking sun in front of LACMA's permanent outdoor installation of a large number of Los Angeles street lights, facing Wilshire Boulevard.

Written by Simone Kussatz. Freelance journalist. Los Angeles.
July 4, 2009

Mittwoch, 21. Oktober 2009

ART REVIEW - Sebastio Salgado

Sebastião Salgado’s “Africa”

by Simone Kussatz

Peter Fettermann Gallery, Santa Monica Bergamot Station

The interplay between pristine beauty and human suffering in the latest gallery exhibit of Brazilian humanitarian photographer Sebastião Salgado encourages us to take action. One feels moved by the compelling sights of white cattle herded together by Dinka tribesmen, zebras lined up at a river, faces of refugees and victims suffering from diseases and famine and the children of Africa. These stunningly beautiful black and white silver gelatin prints are a small selection of Salgado’s work photographed over the past four decades.

In a 24x 20” photograph, displayed in the first exhibit room on the left wall in the Fettermann Gallery, Salgado shows us an image of a woman blinded by sandstorms with a chronic eye infection who is waiting for food distribution. The light falls mainly on the woman’s face on her blind and infected eye on her left. Her other eye is covered by a dark veil. This particular angle suggests that one of her eyes is invisible to us as life is invisible to her through her blindness. The strong contrast in the picture derives from the white areas on the woman’s face, neck and arms caused by the light and the dark areas caused by her black veil that merges with the dark background, building one black unity. Standing in front of the image one feels her sorrows and pain. It literally invites us to learn more about Mali, a country that belongs to the 25 poorest in the world and had just suffered its second episode of severe drought, when the picture was taken in 1985. In its overall sensibility the photograph is similar to some of the etchings of women by German Expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz. Therefore, the real strength of Salgado’s photographs is that they show a deep care and understanding of the societies he presents to us.

Left picture:
Sebastião Salgado Blind woman. Woman blinded by sandstorms and chronic eye infections, this woman is waiting for food distribution. Goundam region, Mali, 1985. silver gelatin print 24x20”
Sebastião SalgadoDinga Group at Pagarau Cattle, Camp, Southern Sudan, 2006silver gelatin print 20x24”
Right image:
Sebastião Salgado
Dinga Group at Pagarau Cattle, Camp,
Southern Sudan, 2006
silver gelatin print

Mittwoch, 7. Oktober 2009

Interview with Daniel Rotman - Social activist in L.A.

London/China - Beijing Olympics

Olympic baton passed to LondonArticle and photo by Simone Kussatz Translated by Xu Ming

Thousands of people gathered around Trafalgar Square on August 24, 2008 to watch the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Inclement weather that varied between heavy rain and bright sunshine could not dampen the spirit of viewers seated around the giant screen in the center of the square.

The crowd was a colorful and enthusiastic mix of people from all over the world, including some of London's 60,000 Chinese residents.

Mr. Miao from Shenyang city in Liaoning province has been living in London with his wife and daughter for the past four years and said: “I feel better now. For a century, we were waiting for the Olympics to come to China. Now it has finally happened.” Chinese fans were delighted that the country garnered 51 gold medals. However, Mr. Miao conceded that Chinese athletes had an advantage over competitors from other nations: "They don't have as much of a support system." A female student from Hong Kong who studies at the University of Southampton, said: “The Beijing Olympics were well organized and I feel proud of my motherland.” A Beijing expatriate was particularly pleased about London’s effort to bring the Beijing Olympics to Trafalgar Square: “I’m glad I could see everything here and celebrate with all these fans.”

The crowds roared when the screen showed Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong at the side of IOC president Jacques Rogge handing over the Olympic flag to his London counterpart Boris Johnson. Perhaps the biggest applause came when soccer superstar David Beckham kicked a soccer ball from atop a red London double-decker bus.


Dienstag, 29. September 2009


Film review: Seraphine


by Simone Kussatz

Movie biographies can be tricky. We only get to see a fictionalized version of what has once actually been. To please the majority’s tastes, biopics often focus too much on the external, instead of getting down to a character’s core. Undaunted by such constraints, “Séraphine”, a film directed and written by Martin Provost in 2008, which is an homage to French artist Séraphine de Senlis (Yolande Moreau), won multiple Césars (France’s version of the Oscar), although sobriety and discretion are its dominant tones. In her César winning role as the former shepherdess and housekeeper turned painter, Belgian actress Yolanda Moreau slowly blurs the tenuous gap between artistic genius and madness.

The film concentrates on the later years of devoutly catholic Séraphine’s life in Senlis, France, where she works as a servant in the temporary home of German avant-garde art dealer Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), who is impressed by her artistic ability. With Uhde’s encouragement and financial help, Séraphine receives her first group show exhibit with her work being displayed alongside Henri Rousseau’s.

Provost’s nuanced portrait leads us gently into the inner worlds of Séraphine. With her eagerness to evolve, her sensuality and authenticity, her need for artistic expression and love for nature, which is her source for comfort and inspiration, we learn to understand how Séraphine’s vulnerability will also soon break her.

Séraphine sheds light on a unique friendship between two people, who exist on the fringes of society. Uhde, because of his closeted homosexuality and Séraphine, because her social class does not allow her eccentric behavior. She hugs trees and swims nude in the rivers other women wash their clothes in. Their friendship is broken, however, when Uhde can’t keep up with his promise to exhibit her work again. Distressed about the news, Séraphine meanders deliriously through the streets, where people see her dressed in a wedding gown. Diagnosed with a mental illness, she’s locked up in the Clermont-de-l'Oise psychiatric hospital, where she dies alone after numerous straight jacket treatments.

This aspect of the film is particularly interesting and disturbing at the same time, considering that Europe had not only been overshadowed by the depression, but faced with Hitler’s gradual rise to power with the understanding that the mentally ill and homosexuals were the first groups he wanted to exterminate.

Provost’s mise-en-scène seems slightly withdrawn. Costumes, upholstery and all other objects are kept in subtle colors, mostly pastels, except for Séraphine’s canvases, which are covered with warm and radiant colors. Most scenes are shot outdoors in the natural light of a lush European summer landscape. Film music is kept to a minimum; instead natural sounds prevail. For example, one hears birds chirping, wind rustling through trees and church bells ringing. This choice in mise-en-scène adds vast dimension to the overall tenor of the film, a complex depiction of a simple woman, who was also an artist.

(Edited by Aparna Bakhle-Ellis)

Managing editor of FABRIK Magazine Los Angeles

Film review - Sandra Vaghe Stelle Dell' Orsa


Vaghe Stelle Dell'Orsa, 1965 (a film by Luchini Visconti)
After a brief scene of a party given by SANDRA and her husband ANDREW with an international crowd of people, conversing in different languages and mingling in front of a grand-piano played by a classic pianist, the viewer witnesses a long scene of a fast ride in a convertible going through Geneva, the Alps in Northern Italy to Florence and Toscana to the small city of Volterra. During the scene of the ride the camera is positioned inside of the car, so that we don't see the occupants, but just their view, passing freeway signs, bridges, facades of buildings and everything that surrounds them.

Volterra is where Sandra grew up. There is the house of her childhood, the place where her mother betrayed her father and turned mentally ill, where her father was picked up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz where he died, where Sandra's husband Andrew finds out about her and her brother Gianni's incestuous games, it is Gianni's final destination, where he commits suicide, and the place where Sandra wishes to pay homage to her father through a bust of her father placed in the garden. As much as the incidents in SANDRA are gloomy and mysterious, so is the aesthetic of the film. Shot in black and white many scenes play at night, or in dimly lit rooms. In one scene, for instance, Sandra walks alone through a completely dark garden at a windy night towards the bust of her father covered with a white piece of cloth. As she is embracing the bust, and the white piece of cloth is lifting up in the air, one thinks she is embracing a ghost. The fast ride in the car towards Volterra seems symbolic. It is a journey from the present into the past, a dive into the subconsciousness where the tragedy is imprinted in Sandra's mind. The reference to Sophocles' Electra is obvious, although slightly modified. There is Sandra, Electra and Gianni, Orestes and their dead father epitomizing Sophocles' Agamemnon who was killed by his wife's lover. Although Gianni becomes mad as Orestes does, in Visconti's film he doesn't kill his mother but himself. In Visconti's version of Electra, The Trojan War is World War II and the city of Delphi Volterra. The film does not go into detail about World War II and Auschwitz. Therefore it doesn't serve, as many war films do, as a tool to overcome a traumatic past, but to provide the film with more complexity and an interesting perspective.

The interaction between the characters is more visual than verbal. The characters' eyes and body language tell us more than their words. Although furnished with antiques, Sandra's home leaves a void. Large rooms that have stayed unused for a long time express feelings of loneliness. The monotone sound of a ticking clock, only once in a while interrupted by classical piano music such as a nocturne by Cesar Franck adds to the sadness that accompanies the characters' lives.




Larry Johnson at the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art, Westwood

by Simone Kussatz

Celebrity culture is the main theme running through Larry Johnson’s retrospective exhibit. Johnson’s celebrities are faceless and shown to us in a most outré way. We see them through the eyes of their creators, the machinery of mass media, which not only profits from their early and tragic deaths, but, as the exhibit suggests, may have also caused them. This sinister and ironic view can be felt throughout the sixty-work show, organized by adjunct curator Russell Ferguson and spanning Johnson’s career since 1982.

The overview opens with Johnson’s reworking of a Paul Rand video in which the individual letters of the word “women” move up and down like the horses in a merry-go-round, accompanied by circus music. In the very next room, Johnson’s six-panel breakthrough work Untitled (Movie Stars on Clouds) (1982/1984) is installed high up on the wall, showing a light blue sky with puffy clouds and actors’ names — Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo — superimposed on them. From one’s earthbound perspective the names have a god-like quality to them but at the same time remind us of their unhappy lives, cut shockingly short like Michael Jackson’s, who died five days after the exhibit opened.

Cartoon-style animals appear in subsequent works, including a goat and a donkey with a bee stinging its rear. The four panels comprising Untitled (Land w/o Bread) (1999–2000), are ironically named after Luis Buñuel’s sober 1933 documentary Land without Bread. Two of the photographs show Johnson’s finger in front of the camera’s lens, admitting to the artist’s technical and conceptual imperfections. Johnson’s goat images, as noted by Christopher Knight and others, relate to Greek mythology but also carry a gay subtext.

What stands out most in Johnson’s display are his text-based works. Some of them feature bright, multi-colored or constantly changing lettering on colorful backgrounds, rendering texts artful and decorative, similar in approach to Jenny Holzer but deliberately more tasteful. Johnson’s fragmented texts derive from different genres and sources (some he appropriated, others he wrote himself). Since celebrities are made and known through the media, words logically play a key role in Johnson’s approach. As Johnson put it himself, “To master celebrity is to master language.”

Edited by Peter Frank

Peter Frank is Senior Curator at the Riverside Art Museum and Associate Editor for Fabrik and The Magazine. He was born in 1950 in New York, where he served as art critic for The Village Voice and The SoHo Weekly News, and moved to Los Angeles in 1988.

Larry Johnson,
Untitled (Winter Me)
Color photograph
45 1⁄2 x 61 in. (115.6 x 154.9 cm)

Edition of 3

Private collection

Astronaut Interview: Stephen K. Robinson

Quotes by Michael J. Massimino taken by Simone Kussatz July 14, 2009 at the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

"It's a chance of a lifetime to look at the world like that."

"There are no words to describe what it's like to be out in space. If you're in heaven that's the view, but it's more beautiful than heaven."

"Things go wrong. When it was dark, I broke the handrail off, which made me think of my uncle Frank and when I was 14 years old.......... but to overcome the obstacles that's the success. "

Full quote will come shortly.

Artist Interview: Melanie Pullen

Artist Interview: DANIEL BEN-HUR


Juedische Allgemeine: BAHMA & HENRY JAGLOM

Filmmaker Henry Jaglom

Book review: Nicole Krauss - The History of Love