Virtual Memories Show 456:
Zoe Beloff

“I’m a story scavenger. I’m not like a novelist who comes out with stories from scratch. I find stories, whether of real people, or just a scrap of film or old postcards. They’ll tell you stories. I think of myself as a voice through with people speak. They’re my partners.”

With Parade Of The Old New, artist Zoe Beloff has created a panoramic history painting documenting the depths of the Trump years. We get into the impetus for that project, its enormous scale (140 feet long), its Brechtian roots, and its reproduction as a 19-foot accordion book (available only from Booklyn). We talk about notions of rights and responsibilities for artists, the debate over displaying Philip Guston‘s work, the angry e-mail Zoe received from a white male Marxist that critiqued her for “her own benefit”, and why Parade Of The Old New is getting exhibited in Europe & Russia but not America. We also dive into her fascination with artists and thinkers of the interwar era, like Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, her family’s refugee history and why it left her feeling like a Rootless Cosmpolitan, the ways she interweaves painting, film, installation, picture-storytelling (or cartooning) and other forms, the vision of NYC that brought her to the city in her 20s from Scotland, and why being a story-scavenger rather than an inventor means she gets to live in the worlds of her art. Also, we talk about her new multimedia project to celebrate essential workers, my no-fly list for pod-guests, why telling her mother and grandmother’s refugee story is the closest she’ll come to autobiography, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go check out Parade Of The Old New!

“I think I realized around age 12 I wanted to be an artist because the art room was the only place where people didn’t tell you what you had to do, and there was no right or wrong answer.”

“I believe in everyday stories. Not everybody is a hero. But I’m interested in what everyday people have to do to survive and what it takes.”

“The workers, and the ambulance staff, and the people outside our house lining up for food: I want to paint these people, I care about these people. Somebody should represent them in paintings. If it had to be me, it would be me.”

“Do we only show the triumph over oppression, or do we also show the oppression?”

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Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Zoe Beloff is an artist, filmmaker, writer and rootless cosmopolitan based in New York. She aims to make art that both entertains and provokes discussion. With a focus on social justice, she draws timelines between past and present to imagine a more egalitarian future. Her projects often involve a range of media including films, drawings and archival documents organized around a theme. They include proposals for new forms of community; “The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926 – 1972” and “The Days of the Commune”, projects that explore relationships between labor, technology and mental states in “The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff” and “Emotions go to Work” as well as the exploration of the origins of cinema from a feminist perspective in “Charming Augustine” and “Shadowland or Light from the Other Side”. Many of her projects also go out into the work as books. “A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood” which explores films they were never able to realize and how we can think about them today. Most recently she completed, “Parade of the Old New” an allegory of America in dark times, a panoramic painting reproduced as a forty panel accordion book accompanied by her essay “The Troublemakers: History Painting in the Real World”.

Zoe’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and screenings; include the Whitney Museum Biennale, Site Santa Fe, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. However, she particularly enjoys working in alternative venues that are free and open to the community for events and conversations. These have included in New York City; The Coney Island Museum, Participant, Momenta and The James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently working on a documentary public art project “The Song of the Essential Worker” in collaboration with her long time cinematographer and all round partner in crime, Eric Muzzy.

Follow Zoe on Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Zoe’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Zoe by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 454:
Anne Cattaneo

“Most people want to be on the stage, but I don’t.”

Lincoln Center Theater‘s dramaturg Anne Cattaneo joins the show to celebrate her new book, The Art of Dramaturgy (Yale University Press). We answer the pivotal question, “What does a dramaturg DO, exactly?” and explore the tradition of dramaturgy in Europe and America, while diving into the phenomenon of good theater, and the existence of Theatrons, those mysterious particles that circulate from stage to audience and back when Good Theater Happens. We get into how a dramaturg can supplement the work of the actors and director, how plays change during rehearsal and over the course of production, the importance of intuition and collaboration (as well as a thick skin) for a dramaturg, the joy of discovering new plays (and lost plays, and out-of-fashion plays) and finding new ways to stage classics, and the treasures that can be found in archives. We also talk about the economics of regional theater and how it constrains what plays get produced, the deep research she did to help a pair of actors in Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia understand why their characters had an affair, the triumph of staging Mule Bone, a lost play by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, the impact of the pandemic on theater, the need to support older playwrights, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go read The Art of Dramaturgy!

“There are so many plays that can be discovered, that are just waiting.”

“America’s not a nation that a 300-year history of going to the theater, like Germany. . . . We have a theater tradition that’s just 50 years old; we forget how new it is.”

“The business side of regional theater has gotten bigger while the artistic staff got smaller.”

“When you understand another language, it helps you understand another culture, another way of life. Language reflects the reality of how people live in the world.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Anne Cattaneo is the longtime dramaturg of Lincoln Center Theater, and creator and head of the 25 year old Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. At the announcement of her 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship for Theater Arts, American Theatre Magazine saluted her as “a legendary dramaturg.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Anne’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. B/W photo of Anne by Brigitte Lacombe, other photos by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 450:
Robert McCrum

“People should be free to do Shakespeare anyway they like: in 5 minutes, 5 seconds, 5 days, 5 hours, underwater, in a desert, on a mountain. It’ll always work; he’s indestructible, in that sense.”

With his new book, Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (Pegasus Books), author & literary editor Robert McCrum uses Shakespeare’s plays, poems, life and history to examine how Shakespeare is a mirror of human experience, and why his lines continue to resonate 400+ years after his death. We talk about Robert’s history with the plays (beginning with his role as First Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the age of 13) and the 2017 performance of Julius Caesar in Central Park that inspired the book, the ways in which the Plays and the Sonnets complement each other, and how those works influence our understanding of the self and self-consciousness. We also get into the vicissitudes of literary reputation, the way Shakespearean fits as the capstone of Robert’s Disruption Trilogy, along with My Year Off and Every Third Thought, the first play Robert’s Shakespeare Club plans to see post-pandemic, the snobbery that drives Shakespeare denialism, how America became Shakespearean, and the urban myth that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during lockdown, as well as the ways plague influenced Shakespeare’s entire career. Plus: where I should begin with Wodehouse, what prompted Robert to finally finish Proust (and then re-read him), and the nightmare of interviewing Philip Roth! Give it a listen! And go read Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption (as well as My Year Off and Every Third Thought)!

“Any writer can tell you: if you write things down, you begin to make sense of things. If you’re surrounded by chaos and you begin to make notes, you begin to make sense.”

“It seems that Shakespeare and his contemporaries got used to the plague, so the plague references in his work are comparatively few and far between, and they’re not striking. And yet there’s no doubt of a connection between then and now.”

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Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Robert McCrum was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly twenty years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber, and then literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008. He is now an associate editor of the Observer. He is the author of Every Third Thought, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, six novels, and the co-author of the international bestseller, The Story of English. His new book is Shakespearean: On Life and Language in Times of Disruption.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Robert by Katherine Anne Rose for The Guardian. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 431:
Louis Menand

“Writing a book like this is like an advent calendar: each day you open a little window and there’s somebody in there. You hadn’t known about them before and you learn a fascinating story.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and cultural critic Louis Menand joins the show to celebrate his phenomenal new book, THE FREE WORLD: Art And Thought In The Cold War (FSG). We get into his process for chronicling the artistic, cultural, intellectual, technological and literary movements of the postwar era, the stories of the lives behind those movements and how he threads them together, what we mean when we talk about freedom, why writing can be like kicking open a rolled-up carpet, and the toughest art form to write about. We talk about the influence of John Cage (whose work we both dislike), the amazing creative lineage of Black Mountain College, the ~75,000 words he had to cut (the book is plenty hefty as is) and why he would have liked to include a chapter on Japan’s art scene, the role of the CIA in funding movement and artistic venues, and the one person he regrets not interviewing for this project. We also discuss his pandemic life, the One More Book he wants to write, his father’s anti-anti-Communist stance, the book’s original title and why it had to change, and why his students at Harvard seem more interested in the ’50s than the ’60s. Give it a listen! And go read THE FREE WORLD!

“The word ‘Freedom’ was everywhere, but then you start to think, ‘What does it actually mean?’ It could be used to describe a musical composition, or the condition of racial segregation, or what the US stood for in the Cold War. If you could use it for such varied purposes, did it mean anything?”

“The movement with the greatest impact was decolonization. We’re still living through in the consequences of that moment. It’s like a Big Bang in reverse. Between 1945 and 1970, dozens and dozens of countries came into being that were former colonies. That changed the geopolitical map forever.”

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“Our culture was so dominant, we could’ve conquered the world without all the deception of CIA funding and cutouts.”

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“What made the Cold War an intense period intellectually was that people didn’t really know what side they were on. There were a lot of intellectuals and artists who were sympathetic to the Soviet experiment. That fades with Stalinism, but doesn’t get replaced completely with capitalism.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Louis Menand is professor of English at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. His books include The Metaphysical Club, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians. In 2016, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. His new book is THE FREE WORLD: Art And Thought In The Cold War.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Louis by Matthew Valentine. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 423:
Leslie Stein

With her latest graphic memoir, I Know You Rider (Drawn & Quarterly), Leslie Stein reveals a piece of her life that she’d never shared with anyone: her decision to have an abortion. We talk about why she chose to tell that story, how her family reacted to the book, why she told the story in a direct, unmediated narrative, what it was like to have the book come out in the early days of the pandemic, and her one regret about the experience itself. We get into her pandemic life, and why her new comic (currently being serialized on her Instagram) portrays the exact opposite: touring the country in a van with a band and playing music in crowded bars. We also discuss her dream-book of a history of Green-Wood Cemetery, what it’s like to treat your life as content, and the one project that keeps making her run away into other projects. Give it a listen! And go read I Know You Rider!

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Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Leslie Stein is the cartoonist of the LA Times Book Prize Award-winning Present, as well as Bright-Eyed At Midnight and the Eye of the Majestic Creature series. Her diary comics have been featured in The New Yorker, Vice, and in the Best American Comics anthology. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her new book is I Know You Rider, from Drawn & Quarterly.

Follow Leslie on Instagram (she’s serializing new comics there!).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Leslie by Don Stahl.