(the first being this)
Cynthia Carr is one of my heroes. Her collection of Village Voice essays, On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century, expanded my ideas of what criticism could be and do. The (lost) world she conjured, the artists and work she had access to, the places she went (including, ummm, the GREAT Wall of China. Seriously. For performance art. Swoon.) …. well, forget it, I was hooked. Her criticism isn’t about thumbs up or down. It’s about ideas and politics and America and figuring out, on the page, a way to be, in one’s skin and in the world. Hooked hooked hooked.
One of the individuals profiled in On Edge is David Wojnarowicz, a fascinating artist whose too-short life (he died in 1992, of AIDS, age 37) touches on many of the themes which Cindy has so elegantly elucidated in her writing: the tangled politics of the Culture Wars, the brief East Village art scene, the AIDS epidemic … A couple of years ago, when the painter Garry Nichols invited me to organize a reading during his solo show at Yes Gallery, Wojnarowicz was very much in the news: caving in under criticism from the Catholic League and conservative politicians, the National Portrait Gallery had recently removed Wojnarowicz’s film A Fire in My Belly from one of its exhibit, which in turn sparked a firestorm of criticism and evoked eerie echoes of the Culture Wars.
Garry had given me free reign in designing the reading, which I wanted to be an evening of poetry and prose from three authors. I decided to go for broke in the heroes department: I asked Cindy to read some of her Wojnarowicz essay, and asked Ingrid Nyeboe, a friend and Jill Johnston‘s widow, to read anything she liked of Jill’s (she chose Jill’s marvelous letter to Jasper Johns from the unpublished Letters to the Living and the Dead: An Epistolary Memoir). But Cindy turned me down. She had a good excuse for not reading her essay about Wojnarowicz: she was racing to finish her book about him, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz.
And now, hurrah, it’s out, published by Bloomsbury (The fabulous Arts Writers Grant, which supported Cindy’s book [and this blog], has a great interview between Cindy and Kareem Estefan here) ! The official pub date is July 17, and you can pre-order now. Also, you have two chances to hear her read:
1. Tuesday, July 24 at the Fales Library, on the 3rd floor of NYU’s Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South. Just tell the guard you are there for the C. Carr book launch.
2. Thursday, July 26 at the Andrew Edlin Gallery, 134 Tenth Avenue, at 6. This event includes a brief reading, a conversation with the artist Amy Sillman and a screening of the Wojnarowicz film Beautiful People. (It’s part of the B-Out exhibit, which also features P. Club contributing writer Christine Shan Shan Hou)
I will, alas, be out of town for both of these. But I’ll be there in spirit.