Forest Primeval/Talking Book

~Alec Sturgis/June 14, 2016

forest-primevalWithin the past year, Talking Book – the independent audio book publisher – has facilitated more than a few literary projects of note. From working with the prominent Melville House, to showcasing an array of international and local talent on their blog, this new enterprise is pushing the creative limits of the audio book format and quickly becoming a force in the publishing world. Among their recent projects is “Forest Primeval,” an audio book of poems by Vievee Francis, read by the author herself, which is due to be release June 28th in collaboration with Northwestern University Press.

Francis’ poems breathe a modern pastoral air, warm with the archetypes of traditional American storytelling and the rich profundity of children’s riddles. While the work plays with some conventional themes of well known allegories, Francis eludes mere variation, re-constructing the language of stories to create spaces of reverie that are at once familiar, canny in their composition, and emotionally striking.

Francis’ own reading of the work is cool and conversational, at times breaking from the metric feel into what seems to be out-right dialogue. The experience of these poems as an audio book creates an extension of the author’s poetic voice, not only giving us insight into some moods and inflections within the work, but also impressing an awareness of space, breath and an intimacy in communication that only poetry can express. The fact that Vievee Francis has spent a good portion of her time recently teaching at Warren Wilson brings the intimacy of these poetic settings into even greater focus for those of us in Western NC.

For more information on “Forest Primeval” by Vievee Francis explore the links below and follow Talking Book on social media.

SHIRA SERVICE brings MUX to Asheville

~Interview by Stephanie Rogers/June 7, 2016


Artist Shira Service mimics modes of popular media to express her personal understandings and invite critical dialogue. Service is a millennial-generation artist who examines her ideological and aesthetic surroundings in order to create provocative durational artworks.

Service is also one of the organizers of MUX: Asheville Video Art Festival, taking place at various locations in downtown Asheville, July 1-August 6. The title MUX is derived from “multiplexing” and the website, explains that the event “seeks to expand the field for new media and video art, easing the imbalance between artists and exhibition platforms.”

Below is an extensive interview with Shira Service explaining the origins of MUX: Asheville, her own creative process and future plans for video  and digital media art in Asheville.

What brought you to Asheville?

I wanted to stay in New York for at least a year after school, just to challenge myself, but even Far Bushwick outpriced me, and it seemed silly to fight to stay when I couldn’t even afford to produce new work. I have a big family and many of them live in Asheville, plus I’ve visited multiple times per year since I was 5 years old. I told my sister and cousin, who had a house in Arden, that I was taking up their offer to do a “self-determined artist residency” in AVL. I ended up just staying and haven’t felt inclined to return to New York city (besides to visit), since. I also have important personal/artistic connections in South Florida, so I often drive there and spend time in the sun. Driving between FL and NC is much nicer than between FL and NY.

For an Asheville resident who has never heard of it, how would you explain Mux: Asheville? 

MUX: Asheville is a contemporary art festival, or art show, that is taking place between July 1st and August 6th downtown. The show will have somewhere between 10 and 20 artists, local and from around the world, whose works will be projected, shown on monitors, and perhaps installed sculpturally at the Asheville Area Arts Council Gallery, One World Brewing, and hopefully projected around town outside, in at least one location.

MUX’s is described as “a stereoscopic approach to curating new media that establishes perspectival depth through the formation of a body of work.” This description is the type of sprawling idea that I imagine would take several people with varying experiences to construct. What is the story behind how the festival was formed?

When I moved to Asheville the idea of establishing a video art community, or of starting a video art festival, was unavoidable. I mean, Asheville is exploding as a city right now, and it is just asking for new media art representation. It was not completely devoid of this community (The MAP has been foundational in Asheville and has supported my initiative for a while now; also UNCA New Media department had it’s first “Downtown Digital” show last year), but as I continued networking and discovering what else was going on in video and new media, I discovered we needed more in Asheville, and that it had to be specific to contemporary video art.

Alessandra Gomez is a curator in New York City, and a close friend, and we’ve had a dialogue for years. This seemed the perfect time to collaborate on a curatorial initiative, and she jumped on board with the idea of MUX right away. Alessandra and myself worked together to develop our platform, vision, and texts. Once in Asheville, Curt Cloninger (of UNCA) kindly joined our conversation and agreed to jury the show along with Alessandra and myself. MUX is my baby, but doesn’t it take a community to raise a child? We’ve had so much help, advice, and guidance along the way. Glory Loflin is an artist and mutual friend of Alessandra and mine who lives in Greenville. She is coordinating our exhibition installation. Jordan, my brother, is constantly in dialogue with me and we discuss the philosophies, ideologies, and structures of MUX to degrees that surprise even myself. Every decision or implementation we make has significance and I care very much to support artists and foster a community in a highly moral and positive manner, creatively, economically, structurally, and even spiritually.

Tell me more about the theme for this year – the relationship between the language of information and systems of connection, and how that relates to the Asheville community in your mind.

It’s easy to interpret the theme as being about types of data or processing systems, literally – but it actually refers to systems and information of any nature. Artists should ideally create the language that they express their ideas through – it is a sort of language creation for the purpose of information dispersion. A system of connection could be any body that functions to unite other bodies, be they computer processes, political bodies, social cliques, church communities, and so on. The reason for our broad theme is because it calls on artists to reference the methods through which they create – and there is an endlessly broad range of creative methods for artists to choose from.

When I hear the theme, I picture information networks or people networks. I picture a satellite image of North America’s lights at night. What is fascinating about Asheville is the mobility and growth of the city right now, making it a more active hub within our national network. It is almost bizarre – one second I think Asheville is suddenly a metropolis, the next I get the feeling it is a quaint town, which usually lasts longer. It reminds me of the satirical article that claimed that Asheville is an imaginary, non-existent town. It’s hysterical – you should take a look at it if you haven’t seen it yet.

Asheville has a reputation for being a quirky, artistic oasis in the South. But, everyone who does more than travel through here as a tourist knows that Asheville can look quite different from the inside out than the other way around. In your mind, what are the strengths and weak spots of the Asheville art and music scene? How does MUX add to what you perceive as the existing scene?

No other place has a creative scene and cultural scene made up of the same stuff Asheville has. I’ve always perceived Asheville as a place that homes the oddballs or outsiders who feel they don’t fit in elsewhere, but I also see Asheville’s creative strengths as being very united and specific. Music, brewing, and (I might get beat up for this) traditional appalachian mountain arts. What I mean by the third is that the dominant fine art mediums of Asheville continue to be painting, ceramics, and sometimes sculpture. There is definitely more than that, but those are the things you’ll hear about first. I was super excited to see how well Music Video Asheville has done. It’s the only music video festival I know of, and truthfully, it is a brilliant idea to develop a community around music videos considering how strong the music community is in the region, AND considering music videos are more popular than ever. They’re dominating YouTube. I love all of these other scenes, but they are just very different than video art, and I think Asheville is so ripe for it; even more than we realize.

Video art has a tendency toward big cities (like New York, LA, London, Jerusalem, Chicago..), because artists have turned to video much more rapidly than organizations have been able to create formats to represent and exhibit the video work, while maintaining profit. So the video art representation starts at the city-hub, and then mid-scale city video artists are forced to submit their work to a far off place. But if all the WNC video artists send their work to NYC, then NYC benefits from the access to the work, and WNC is devoid of the cultural development that its artists helped create. Asheville will benefit directly by having outside work accessible within its own walls, AND from having a platform that local artists can submit directly to.

What are you excited for this year for MUX:Asheville? 

This is the first year of MUX. I am excited because I had no idea how the whole thing would turn out, and it has already surpassed my expectations. We received more submissions from around the world than I had anticipated, and local support has been impressive, and it is only continuing to grow. The truth is, this show is just the beginning of what MUX will become, and I am only holding back on jumping into further ideas for the sake of not biting off more than I can chew in our first year.

Can you give any sneak peeks? (Totally fine if not) 

I want to form a nonprofit out of MUX that invites any artists who have been exhibited at a MUX show to join our collective, which will provide for a new media community and dialogue. The collective will be based upon an economic model that I’ve written about here which is somewhat radical to art world conventions, and somewhat simple and inevitable in progressing how we support new media artists. The essay provides some examples as to why a new model is important and highlights a few artists whose work relates to my subject. says its a 13 minute read… I don’t know if that is true or not, but the paper definitely sneak peeks MUX’s most exciting next steps.

I read a Junot Diaz interview the other day and this part struck me: “Spend three years out in the world and getting torn up and tearing it up, because there is nothing in our craft that needs to be pursued with such talmudic concentration, but what does need to be pursued in our culture…is a passionate engagement with the world.” What are your thoughts on the tension between experience and creation? How have you negotiated this in the past? 

I do think that an inherent calling on human nature is to create and to progress our world through conceptual and expressive progression; but I also think most people are unaware that they are called to this. For me, it takes a lot of boldness and faith to step into the creative authority that I feel responsible for. It requires ignoring much of what has been established in the world around me and expected of me as a person in our world; but the insights or stories that are born out of my experiences, and out my desire to develop understanding through cross disciplinary analysis and patience, are my responsibility to share. That’s basically the heart of it: creation is a process that yields the sharing of experiences, and our whole society is benefiting like never before because of increased accessibility and open-source trends.

a thing re | sembling a win • dow

windowIn a stunningly beautiful exhibition at the Asheville Area Arts Councilcurator Dawn Roe has created an show that asks us to consider that we only engage our thinking abilities when confronted with the unknown. She has gathered six artists whose work is without obvious prompts, asking the viewer to think about what the pieces are saying and to create meaning for themselves.

Works in the exhibition include sculptural fabrications, analog photographic process as material, durational painting reproductions, screen and digital prints, found object studies, archival audio works, and performance.

public reception will held on June 3 from 5-8PM.

A panel discussion and performance will take place on June 9 from 6-7:30PM.

More information.


Here’s the full press release:

Window (re/production | re/presentation) is pleased to announce an off-site exhibition, a thing re | sembling a win • dow, opening Friday, May 20th at the Asheville Area Arts Council in the Grove Arcade. A public reception will be held on Friday, June 3rd from 5 to 8 p.m., with a performance and panel discussion scheduled for Thursday, June 9th from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Part of the Asheville Area Arts Council’s Point of View series, this collective exhibition puts the practice of six local and national artists in conversation through the production of both new and re-imagined works realized in response to the ongoing public art project, Window (re/production | re/presentation).

Gilles Deleuze posits in the chapter, “The Image of Thought”, from Difference and Repetition, that the most general principal of representation is the “I think”, and that we truly think only when we have difficulty recognizing. The six artists in this exhibition deeply and inquisitively engage with ideas that inform the instigation and realization of their works, leaving behind interpretive prompts to guide the viewer, yet simultaneously embracing a certain illegibility, disallowing any sort of immediately perceivable meaning to rise forth.

As individually or collaboratively authored works, each grouping participates in self-reflexive dialogue around methods and modes of representation and reproduction as integral to their being – through such means as repetitive, durational gestures; material transformation and duplication; archival data assemblage and analysis; or directed investigations of image and identity. Yet, as a collective installation, these works form a distinct entity, with combined components reverberating and colliding against one another, where resemblance presupposes recognition, provoking the “I think” of representation.

Works in the exhibition include sculptural fabrications, analog photographic process as material, durational painting reproductions, screen and digital prints, found object studies, archival audio works, and performance. Included in the exhibition are Bridget Conn (Asheville, NC), McLean Fahnestock (Nashville, TN), Dana Hargrove (Maitland, FL), Anna Helgeson (Asheville, NC), Ursula Gullow (Asheville, NC), and Leigh-Ann Pahapill (Toledo, OH and Toronto, ON, Canada).

Dawn Roe (Asheville, NC and Winter Park, FL) founded Window (re/production | re/presentation) in the spring of 2013, and serves as curator for this off-site exhibition. A print-on-demand booklet including a curator’s essay, artist statements and installation images will be produced in advance of the public opening.

Summer Film Camp for Girls and Gender Minorities

fierce flix fistWho is your favorite female film director? How many women in film can you name? If you’re having trouble with these questions, you’re not alone. We talk a lot about the representation of women on screen – the Bechdel Test and discussions surrounding women on screen (only 30.8% of speaking characters in the top 250 movies of 2012 were women) are spreading beyond academia and into mainstream movie reviews. We talk about princesses and the role models (and gender roles) we set up for little girls. But the gender gap lives behind the camera, too. And a group of filmmakers in town have set out to address this, at Fierce Flix.

Fierce Flix is a summer day camp for girls and gender minorities ages 8-16 taking place June 27-July 1. Over the course of a week, campers will work in teams to write, direct, shoot, and edit music videos for the Girls Rock Asheville bands! The music videos will premiere at Grail Moviehouse during a public screening at the end of camp.

Each day, campers will attend video shoots, filmmaking instruction, workshops, and a mini-screening & talkback with a female or queer filmmaker. Throughout the week, campers are encouraged to work together, support each other, and foster one another’s unique creative abilities through positive reinforcement.

Although the first narrative film was directed by a woman (“The Cabbage Fairy” – Alice Guy-Blache, 1896), the first Academy Award for Directing wasn’t awarded to a woman until 2009 (Kathryn Bigelow – “The Hurt Locker”). It’s hard to imagine yourself in a career where you don’t see others like you. Every workshop at the all volunteer run, non-profit camp will be taught by a woman or gender minority. Campers will meet and work with professional filmmakers, cinematographers, animators, directors, writers, and artists. Every camper will be mentored throughout the week by role models and educators who share in the vision of equality in cinema.

But, this is about so much more than filmmaking – the mission is to empower young women and gender minorities to take back the screen, to use technology to share their voice, and to find and build community together.

Camper applications are still open, and can be found here:

If you’re interested in volunteering for the camp, information and volunteer applications are available online here: (No experience is necessary to volunteer!)

If you’d like to learn more about the camp, or about women in film, check out their website, or come say hi at the Fierce Flix Local Films Screening – this Saturday, 5/28, at Firestorm (610 Haywood St), 6:30pm!

Fierce Flix
June 27-July 1 / 9am-4pm
The Refinery
207 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Aritst Profile: Bridget Conn

~Constance Humphries/May 17, 2016

polaroid_me-259x300Bridget Conn creates chemigrams, which are photographs made with no negatives, no enlargers, pulling color out of black and white gelatin silver paper by applying an oil resist and then alternating the paper between developer and fixer, and back again.

Bridget has participated in over 100 exhibitions, nearly 30 of which have been solo. These include the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, Northlight Gallery at Arizona State University, as well as venues in Italy, Hungary and South Korea. She has been a resident at Elsewhere Artist Collaborative in Greensboro, NC, and the Hungarian Multicultural Center in Budapest. In 2014, she was the recipient of a Regional Artist Project Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council.

In 2009, Bridget moved to Asheville, NC where she taught at AB Tech Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, and Warren Wilson College, in addition to working as an arts writer, designer, and independent artist.  Her association with the Phil Mechanic Studios Public Darkroom starting in 2009 blossomed into the creation of The Asheville Darkroom, a non-profit art educational facility which she founded in 2012 and served as Executive Director and primary instructor through May 2016. Bridget will join the faculty of Armstrong State University in Savannah, GA as Assistant Professor of Art in August 2016, where she will focus on teaching darkroom photography. The Asheville community will miss her greatly!

More about Bridget: 

Don’t miss Bridget’s work in the upcoming exhibition:  a thing re | sembling a win • dow, Asheville Area Arts Council, May 20 – June 26, 2016.
Public Exhibition Opening: Friday, June 3rd 5-8 pm. Panel Discussion & Performance: June 9th  6-7:30 pm.

gesture2An interview with Bridget Conn by Constance Humphries

Q: Can you speak about how your new body of work came to be? And would you describe what chemigrams are?

About a year and a half ago, my student at The Asheville Darkroom and good friend Conner decided we should try out chemigrams, a process she had read about online. Chemigrams are made with traditional gelatin silver paper, but do not involve negatives or even safelights – chemistry is applied directly to the paper in normal room light to create abstracted or non-objective imagery. A variety of resists can be used on the paper to direct the flow of chemistry and control which parts become black, white, or even turn a variety of colors under the right conditions.

At the time, I had just put an end to a long-term body of work, Handcrafted Auguries, and had reached a really curious dead-end in terms of both my working process and the concepts I had been exploring. I had been making digital prints onto tea bag paper and dealing with ideas surrounding family and ritual, but it all came to an end with a final show at Converse College in January 2015. I didn’t feel the need to deal with that process or subject matter anymore, but I was nervously uncertain of what would come next. All the art I had been making in the past 15 years all seamlessly flowed from one project to the next, but here I felt like I had reached a definitive end. Chemigrams just clicked with me immediately because they seemed to be everything the Auguries eventually were not – immediate, quick, and full of discovery. They also tie in so strongly with all the issues I discuss when promoting The Asheville Darkroom and trying to justify its existence to people who think darkrooms are all dead. So I have been pushing form, gesture, and materiality with the chemigrams ever since.

Q: How does teaching contribute to your process?

I don’t really think I could separate out teaching from my art-making process, it feels like an integral part of the art-making cycle for me. Teaching means I have to stay on top of new discoveries, new artists, techniques and trends, if not just for myself but for the sake of my students. I have always felt that I get just as much back from my students as they hopefully learn from me – it’s actually an exchange, not a hierarchy. My involvement with teaching also roots me in a tradition as an academic artist, and the aspect of that which I enjoy the most is that I want my artwork to be an open educational experience that I can talk about freely with others, rather than feel the need to “hide secrets” about what I do so that others don’t profit off of it. I always tell my students not to worry about coming up with anything original in some entrepreneurial sense, it’s ALL been done before, but with time, practice, and introspection, eventually no one will make art the way they do. The educational realm allows artists to borrow, share, learn, and grow freely.

It’s my role as a teacher which is also resulting in my departure from Asheville later this summer. I have accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Art at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, where I will teach all darkroom photography. It pains me in many ways to leave Asheville, however, after years of teaching adjunct at multiple colleges, and directing The Asheville Darkroom as a volunteer, while housing prices skyrocket – it just forced me to have to look at broader options. I am extremely fortunate to have found a full-time position in a great city that isn’t too far from Asheville, to be able to focus my energies on developing just one program and nurturing those students, and to actually be expected to pursue my own artwork and have my efforts respected… it’s pretty much a dream scenario and I am extremely grateful.

Q: What does the convergence of digital and analog mean in  your work (and the work of others) historically and going forward?

Well of course the whole “analog vs. digital” discussion is really pertinent within photography, but mainly because most people can’t get past the use of photography as a technology rather than an art form. A Vandercook letterpress machine has not been viewed as a technology for generations, so no one is arguing that letterpress people should just convert to Photoshop already – it is understood that letterpress people love the process and materiality, not just the outcome. And the same will prove true within popular culture eventually for analog photography. I have always been very in favor of mixing digital and analog methods of photography, but again, eventually, as technology progresses, these titles will fade and people will see that they are just simply tools. One isn’t better than the other, it’s apples vs. oranges. Right now I am dealing with a mainly analog approach to photography with the chemigrams, although the project that will open at the AAAC this month does involve a digital interpretation of a chemigram that was transferred to a silkscreen. I don’t consciously make distinctions between analog and digital within my own work, although I do feel I point it out a lot for students who are still learning the language and context of art.

gesture1Q: You were recently part of a show at Penland called This Is A Photograph. How important was this show in terms of your own work, but also as a showcase of artists working outside the bounds of the general perception of photography?

I was incredibly honored to be included in “This Is a Photograph”, curated by Dan Estabrook. Not only was I among many artists who have been an inspiration to my work and are present in my teaching lectures, the pieces in that show really spanned the gamut of approaches to analog photography and were amazing to all see in one space. I feel like the work I made for many years up until my chemigrams was important for me to do, but my inclusion in this show was even bigger because it made me feel like I was part of a widespread cultural dialog and contemporary movement of just what IS a photograph now that digital processes have taken over for the technological aspects of photography. When photography itself was invented in 1839, everyone lamented that painting was dead, but instead, it actually freed up what a painting can be and paved the way for artists like the Impressionists and Picasso to take chances and redefine art. The same thing is happening now with photographic artists who are still working within the realm of analog, chemical, or physical photography (Dan organized a symposium on this topic at Penland in April of 2015 and we couldn’t quite settle on just one term!).

On a personal level, a gallery in Seattle that specializes in single editions of photographs has reached out to me as a result of the show, and we are organizing an exhibit of my work there later in 2016. So it has definitely helped in terms of visibility, but more than anything, I am excited to be part of this larger dialog surrounding analog photography… it makes me want to research everyone out there who is doing any kind of work in this realm and spend all day educating myself on what is happening out there.

Q: Tell us about the shows you have coming up and the work that you have in them?

The last several months I have been working towards a show curated by Dawn Roe called “a thing re | sembling a window”, which opens at the Asheville Area Art Council on May 20. The reception is June 3, with a panel discussion and performance on June 9. It’s been a great experience having a long-term dialog with Dawn and Ursula Gullow (also in the show) about issues surrounding representation and reproduction (the concept for this show is a response to these same concerns that drive Dawn’s project “Window” at Henco Reprographics in Asheville, which also exists in multiple venues nationally). I have been making a series of screen-printed chemigrams that will result in over 120 feet of a sewn sculptural installation. I’ve been dealing with what the specific chemigram gesture in this piece represents, as well as my interest in pushing my use of physicality concerning photographs.

I will also show some new lumen print/chemigrams in a one-day show at the Longshot Gallery in rural East Georgia over Memorial Day weekend. I am in some group shows this fall at East Georgia College in Swainsboro, at Living Arts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and will have a two or three-person show at Gallery 1/1 in Seattle in late 2016. I’m also slated to have a solo show at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia in April 2017. I’m excited to see where my work will be by then and what kind of crazy physical installations I may be able to execute in such a space.

LOVE = International Video Exhibition



~Constance Humphries/May 10, 2016

Along the lower end of London Road the existing buildings seem industrial — auto and plumbing shops, etc. However, recently, without changing the facades, artists and craftspeople have started to move in. At 22London, there is a space that looks like a machine shop from the street. Inside Randy Shull has created an envy-inducing studio/project/gallery space: white: walls, steel girders, ceiling-mounted gantry.  In my capacity as technical consultant on the first show in the space, Love, Devotion,& Surrender, I have been privy to it’s installation. I have one thing to say: DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!

Details from the press release:

The exhibition Love, Devotion,& Surrender presents an uncanny array of media-based works from a unique group of internationally recognized artists. The title of the show was borrowed from the 1973 recording by Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, a tribute to John Coltrane. Yet here, the central themes splinter to merge the cinematic with sensuality, social media with spirituality, spectacle with alternative realities. The artists include: Bill Viola (US), Tony Oursler (US), Petra Cortright (US), Clayton Cubitt (US), Jen DeNike (US), Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg (Sweden), Rafael Lozano Hemmer (Mexico), Jesper Just (Denmark), and Shana Hoehn (US). As one viewer penned about the album, the same can be said about this exhibition, “insanely knotty yet intervallically transcendent.”

Curators: Randy Shull and David Raymond
Creative Consultant: David J Brown

For more information and press inquiries, contact Randy Shull, (828) 216-1337,

Image: Tony Oursler, Invisible Green Link, 2007

Legendary artist comes to Asheville Butoh Festival


Artist Yumiko Yoshioka performs in Asheville this week as part of the Asheville Butoh Festival

The 10th Asheville Butoh Festival
April 7-10, 2016
BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville, NC

2016 marks the 10th Asheville Butoh Festival and twenty years of butoh dance in Asheville. In honor of this landmark year, renowned artist Yumiko Yoshioka will perform her seminal work Before the Dawn, a piece that represents butoh at its most profound level of movement exploration and philosophical inquiry.

Yoshioka was born in Tokyo and currently lives in Berlin. In 1974 she joined the women´s butoh company Ariadone, with which she performed the first butoh work ever shown outside Japan. According to her bio, the piece was performed in a Parisian cabaret in 1978 and was received “cooly…after only a single appearance the ensemble was sacked by the club´s owner.”

Butoh originated in post-WWII Japan as an artistic reaction to the chaotic climate in the country following the war and the uneasy shift towards democratic values. It is a postmodern movement in which formal dance technique is eschewed in favor of primal and idiosyncratic movements.

Yoshioka performs Thursday April 7 and Friday April 8 at 7:30PM. Additionally, she leads butoh and organic movement workshops on Saturday April 9 and Sunday April 10, 1:00 – 5:00 PM. Cost is $40 for each workshop or $75 for both.


Constance Humphries premieres Solo Party Dress. Costume collaboration with Nava Lubelski and music by Stephen Barnard.

The Asheville Butoh Festival also features work by local artists Jenni Cockrell, Sara Baird, Julie B. Gillum, Constance Humphries, Julia Taylor and composers Elisa Faires and Meghan Mulhearn.

Please visit for ticketing information and the full schedule of events.

New Black Mountain School opens this Summer

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.09.40 PM~Ursula Gullow/March 21, 2016

I’ve always had a particular interest in “firsts,” such as pilot episodes and first seasons of TV shows, first albums, first exhibitions, first books and world premiere screenings. So naturally I’ve been curious about how the first year of the new Black Mountain School will be structured. I sent some questions to the school’s founders, Chelsea Ragan and Adam Void who originally came up with the idea to establish a school on the same site as the legendary Black Mountain College, upon moving to the area in 2013.

Two summer sessions that each offer twenty-two classes and are nearly two weeks long are planned for 2016. The first session begins May 21st and the Black Mountain School is accepting student applications  until March 31.


Q. How is your school expanding upon, or updating the the original Black Mountain College tenets?

Black Mountain College created an ideal educational model with their faculty-led curriculum, non-hierarchical communal living setting, and requisite work/labor program that we seek to duplicate. Many of our faculty and founding members have taught in art schools, free schools, universities, K-12, etc. and found that the bureaucracy and limitations placed on educators does not serve anyone. BMC valued the relationship formed between teacher and student. They realized that education doesn’t just happen between the classroom walls, while sitting in desk, or between the hours of 8am-3pm. Also, the setting of the original BMC, not just the people, helped to create the avant-garde spirit that we still seek today. BMC’s work program helped to create a connection between the students and the land, as well as a value to labor that engages ones soul.

Q. Since this summer’s program will be the first of its kind, what can the inaugural class of students expect? What forms of media will they be working with?

A basic day at Black Mountain School will begin around 7:00 – 8:30am with a grab-and-go breakfast served in our main room. By 9:00am, students and faculty are expected to convene for the daily work/service program. Daily work will vary between volunteering with the Black Mountain Community Garden, Warren Wilson College’s garden & farm programs, preparing for lunch & dinner at the lodge, or basic sanitation around the school. Students will return between 11 and noon to prepare for lunch. The classes begin at 1:30 and will continue until 5:00pm. As you can see from the class schedule, the students can choose between multiple options of theory, studio, and exploratory classes, concentrating in a variety of subjects that are not offered at any other institution.

All students, faculty, and staff will eat dinner together from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Some evenings will have optional programming in the form of lectures, performances, or special events that will be open to the public. On other evenings, we will have optional night classes taught by computer from Australia, New York City, and beyond. And of course, the night has an education of it’s own in a lodge with 50+ other artists.

Q. I love the idea of “Solid, liquid, gas and plasma” classes.  How did this idea evolve? 

The Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma model was initially developed by foundational member, Andrew Lloyd Goodman. In an effort to find a structure that allows for diversity of teaching/learning styles, Andrew looked to the natural world for a guide.

SOLID classes follow a typical sequential curriculum structure based on learning  new skills and ideas.

LIQUID classes are more fluid, allowing for experiential learning in atypical settings and timeframes. They still follow the teacher/student model, but are more participatory, collaborative, and experimental in format.

GAS classes will be proposed, created, and lead by the students once the school is in session. Gas classes empower the student-driven learning experience, acknowledging the impromptu and the improvisational, while flipping the typical hierarchies of higher education.

PLASMA classes include lectures, workshops, and events, both planned and unplanned. They are free-flowing and fall into the category of the “happening”.


Learn more about the founding of the Black Mountain School, its faculty and classes at

Artist Profile: Ben Grosser

~Sara Baird/March 17, 2016

binary-portraitBenjamin Grosser creates interactive experiences, machines, and systems that explore the cultural, social, and political implications of software. 
Slate referred to his work as “creative civil disobedience in the digital age.” His work, Computers Watching Movies, is coming to Asheville, NC as part of Interlude and will be screened on April 19 at 8pm at 56 Broadway. Grosser’s piece shows what a computational system sees when it watches the same films that we do. The work illustrates this vision as a series of temporal sketches, where the sketching process is presented in synchronized time with the audio from the original clip. Grosser is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Faculty Affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications building an initiative in critical technology studies, and in 2016-17 will be a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study. More about Ben:


For tickets and information about Interlude please visit:

An interview with Ben Grosser by Sara Baird 

Q: For Computers Watching Movies, you developed the concept, built the software system, and produced the visual sketches. What was the most satisfying part of the process for you? What was the most difficult? 
The most satisfying part of the project is getting to see these movies from a different perspective. The clips I chose are all from movies I admire and know well; yet when I watch how the computer sees them, my own experience of the movies is changed. I see things I didn’t see, pay attention to transitions and framings I wasn’t focused on, and make new connections between the aural and visual material each film presents.
I suppose the most difficult part of the process may have been coming up with the idea in the first place. Not that this seemed difficult when I did conceive the work, but it took my entire life up until that point to lead me there. However, thinking more about the creative process of making the work, I’d say one of the more difficult parts was in selecting the clips. I tried many more clips than are seen in the final video. Interestingly, some clips I thought would produce something dramatic didn’t produce much at all. In other words, some of what I thought was interesting the computer did not.
Q: How does the computer “see” the movie scenes? Can the computer make viewing choices while it is “watching” a clip? If so, what type of choices?  
Where the computer “looks” is determined by simple artificial intelligence algorithms that give the system some degree of agency. It uses this ability to discern and look for areas of prominence. In some cases, this means it will use face detection techniques to find and track faces across the frame (the clip from Taxi Driver is a good example). In others clips, faces aren’t prominent, and so the computer looks for other patterns/forms that suggest importance (the bag in American Beauty or the exploding building bits in Inception are good examples). Prioritisation derives from the search for prominence: items deemed important are looked at, the rest is ignored.
I would suggest that these methods the software employs—namely, the search for prominence based on pattern—is not that dissimilar to our core vision-based methods for scanning a film (or any kind of scene). Yet we don’t see things the way the computer does, so what’s the difference? I contend that one thing this work reveals is how our vision of film is culturally developed. We draw on our understandings of narrative and our famililarity with conventions of filmmaking/cinematography just as much as we do our core vision capabilities. Without our cultural understandings, perhaps we’d see things more like the computer does.

Q: What level of control did you have over the sketching process? Was the final outcome expected or a surprise?
My primary methods of control over the sketching process is through the design of the algorithms for drawing (e.g. thickness/opacity of lines, how colors are chosen) and “looking” (what does it look at and how does it decide), and in the selection of the movies the computer gets to watch. However, while those methods produce much of the system’s potential, the output it creates can be quite varied depending on what the computer chooses to do.
I had general ideas of what this work might produce, but I was surprised by a number of aspects. 
For example, I wasn’t expecting the output to so clearly reveal differences in style between genres, eras, and directors. The more recent sci-fi clips show lots of rapid visual changes—for example, actors and objects are often moving quickly (or get moved quickly through frequent camera angle changes) in The Matrix and Inception. Yet the older clips, such as 2001, Annie Hall, and Taxi Driver, represent a different approach to film making, one with much fewer camera changes and much less active movement on screen. These don’t operate in isolation, however. I think the drawings lead us to infer differences in director style from, say, American Beauty and 2001 vs. Inception and The Matrix. In other words, it’s not just era that is revealed here, but compositional intent.
From an aesthetics point of view, I’m most struck by the drawing process of American Beauty, how it begins to mimic—through density of color, thickness of line, and placement of mark—the output of artists who draw by hand.
From a human vision vs. computer vision point of view, I think the results from Inception most clearly illustrate how humans can and do easily consolidate rapid changes in their visual field into singular events. The computer sees the explosions halfway through that clip as a series of small rapid changes, so many that its representation of those changes obliterates the drawings it created before that point. But when watching that clip myself, I watch mostly the origins of the explosions and as much as anything else, focus on those aspects of the frame that aren’t moving. I’m left wondering why I and the computer see things so differently?
Q: Computers Watching Movies includes selected scenes from: 2001: A Space Odyssey, American Beauty, Inception, Taxi Driver, The Matrix, and Annie Hall. Why did you choose these particular movies and scenes? Is there a connection between these six selections?
A practical consideration was that I wanted a chance for all viewers of the work to have at least one movie they had seen amongst the sources. So this is one reason the clips are varied in genre and age yet drawn from popular films.
Another reason for the variance in age of the clips is that I was interested to see how changes in film composition and direction over time might be revealed through the computer’s ways of seeing. If you compare the system’s output from watching Taxi Driver and Annie Hall—the two oldest films—to what it produces in response to Inception and The Matrix, you start to see radical shifts in in density, perspective, camera movement, and more. In this way, the range of clips, as seen through the system, start to illustrate changes in directorial style.
Finally, all of the clips I chose are in some way related to how we see and are seen, often in relation to machines and systems (broadly defined).  
Q: In this work, you remove a movie scene and replace it with the computer’s visual illustration of the same scene. The original audio remains completely intact and anchors the viewer’s experience. How does this crucial audio element affect the viewer’s interaction with the work? 
An important part of the experience of viewing Computers Watching Movies is that moment when the viewer draws a connection between what they see the system focusing on and their own visual memory of the same clip. It is at this moment that the viewer can most clearly draw personal comparisons between how they see vs. how the computer sees. For this experience to happen at all, the viewer needs some sensory clue that ties the abstract visuals they’re watching to their temporal memory of the original film. 
Q: What fundamental questions do you hope to answer through your artistic investigations?
We now live in a world run by software. For example, software filters our social media news feeds, determines if we get a loan, tells us what is relevant and available on the web, keeps our refrigerator up to date, guides the planes we fly on, and helps us find our life partners. Despite such broad impacts, many still think of software as neutral. Yet all software is designed by humans, and as such, reflect and project the biases and ideologies of those who write, fund, and direct its production. I create interactive machines, systems, and interventions that investigate how software functions in culture, challenging this assumption of neutrality. How does an interface that foregrounds our friend count change our conceptions of friendship? What does it mean for human creativity when a computer can make its own artworks? In what ways are computational surveillance systems altering how and with whom we communicate? These types of questions help elicit the role of software in culture and software as culture, all of which ultimately helps us better understand ourselves.

Stop Believing by Bary Center has the right touch of madness

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~Ursula Gullow/March 14, 2016

Yay! Mark Williams, aka Bary Center, has released a new tape on the Danish label Speaker Footage, called Stop Believing, which is now available for download, stream or purchase. I just put in my order for the tape cassette so I can listen to it in my car which is my favorite way to do tapes these days.

I like this album because it is not melodious, catchy, shiny or pretty. It’s loud, impatient, thick, with just the right touch of madness to compel the listener. The tape is aptly described as “a revolving door of submerged post-industrial sonics, distorted electro, Brutalist rave, and crispy, blunted colors.” Stop Believing is like the big hairball of gunk you pull out of your shower drain every six months – when you’re just like, wow, how did this happen? How horrible, how wonderful.

“Ledge” video by Jason Scott Furr.