blue light, by christina long art

Rocking and Rollin’

Amazing. Last night’s show was a happening I haven’t experienced in years, where the music, people and venue are just right, and everyone is feeling the space towards a moment of transcendence- amassing together to push what music can really do.

christina long art 2014

Alesana at Webster Hall, NYC April 2014


The heavy chords of bass guitars mixing with emotional screams-sometimes controlled, other times relentlessly raw, reverberated through the bodies of the crowd, inspiring flight and full expression. I haven’t seen so many crowd surf since my college days in hidden pubs where a hundred kids would mosh and fight against the music.Those around me pushed and swayed to the grinding dark sounds, all hands were reaching upward-supportive and true-guiding bodies to the front of the stage, towards the bright lights.

Even the musicians were overcome, exasperated yet focused, pulling those floating above the crowd to the safety of the stage, leaping onto light fixtures and swinging from the low hanging ceiling with guitar strings between their teeth. By the time the show ended we were all old friends, hundreds covered in each others breath and sweat, exchanging lost wallets, keys, and cell phones. Happy grins shared in the truth of knowing none us would be able to hear again for days. This is my Rock and Roll.

christina long art 2014

Alesana at Webster Hall, NYC April 2014

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PUBLIQuartet and The Mighty Third Rail @ Symphony Space

Classical strings, hip hop beats, jazzy improv and spoken word narratives is what you’ll discover withing the The Mighty Third Rail. The show last night was a successful collaboration of sounds and styles exploring the kind of musical play I love best.

The theme of the musical selections revolved around a futuristic story about Adam and Eve that focused on the thoughts of Adam as his world transforms into something unimaginable once being thrown from the Garden.

This narrative came together in a piece titled “Changing Night” created by Violinist Curtis Stewart and Poet, Darian Dauchan.  Check out a rehearsal of the piece in the vid above. I’m no Anne Rice, so listening makes alot more since to me than trying to write about it how the piece sounded.

Personally what I find great about these performances is the fun and playfulness that comes from collaboration- especially when its a group of artists who each have different areas of expertise. A handful of seemingly different genres of music and musical history can still come together and create something Amazing. As a visual artist and musician myself, the performance made me realize how much I’ve missed being part of an orchestra chamber, and also how I’ve always been more drawn to musical creation rather than visual art making. Case in point, here in New York for the past 3 months I’ve found myself at some musical performance once a week, while only attending an art gallery twice this entire time…lol…I must admit that after decades of playing violin, I was attracted to printmaking because of its collaborative process and the sounds and rhythms of the printing presses.

I’m glad I was able to check out these groups and look forward to discovering more of this sort of play across musical ‘boundaries’…My one dream (which may just have to be created by me after all) is to find a band that combines the soulful sounds of R&B with the aggressive electronic rifts of Hardcore heavy metal. Think System of a Down meets Erykah Badu cursing out Miles Davis for not calling Tyrone. Yes! One of these days…

“The American Race Crisis” featured at the New School

Harry Belafonte, Raquel Cepeda, Phillip Agnew and Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad speaking at the New School on Feb. 26

Really great panel last night featuring activist Harry Belafonte at the New School, NY. The event was titled VOICES OF CRISIS: The Crisis Continues and is part of a lecture series connected to an exhibition at Parsons that features the school’s historical records of a Race Crisis symposium that took place on campus in the 1960s which featured guest speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and dozens of other activists of this time.

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

I have to admit I enjoyed the live panel discussion more than the gallery exhibition itself, mainly due to my interests in Africana Studies/Civil Rights for Women of Color. It makes me sad to see the lack of a female voices in such exhibitions as this, where stories and legends about profound moments in “the cause” or “struggle” are illustrated in a fashion that would suggest women did not share or participate in the conversation. Even if the 1960s media were dominated by male voices and all this talk of “I AM A MAN” you can’t tell me they weren’t at home discussing these ideas with the females in their lives or better yet, that women weren’t meeting amongst themselves to negotiate inequality  and how they could strategize a better kind of freedom for themselves and their families.

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Obviously the female voice is something I specifically search for in these public discourses and I understand there’s become a hierarchy to which freedoms should come first, or shall we say who’s freedoms should come first. Black women are STILL not too high on the list of priorities, as individuals with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness- apart from Men, Children and Family structures.

I came away from the panel with 2 ideas. 1# from Mr.Belafonte was the discussion that Freedom is still a abstract idea, especially if you’ve never really experienced it. And even if you did experience such a thing as freedom or equality, what would it look like? How would you when it had been achieved for you and yours? In this respect I see the failure of Afrofuture aesthetics. While its a great way to inspire Black culture and get us excited about ourselves and what we are capable of, it falls short of really questioning a future “freedom” and what that could be like for us.

#2 thoughts came from Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders. When asked about the apathy of the Millennial generation and whether social media could help bring us out of it, Mr. Agnew proposed his conditions for civil rights activity in a contemporary world. “Our revolution is a collective revolution. You can kill the heroes and the villains now because no one, including me is some leader that’s going to save you.” I found that a really important idea to bring home for many of the young folk in attendance. There is however a perspective missing from present conversations occurring in the younger generation and that to me is the lack of recognizing just how much we have accomplished and how much activism we are involved in. When it comes to propaganda I believe that activism or “agitation”, marching, protesting and questioning the status quo has been demonized as violent looters who will come through your town like a plague and destroy all you know. (See Detroit, 1968 for example right?) But that’s simply not true. I have lived in Chicago, Detroit and New York City. I can tell you with confidence that young adults between the ages of 18-30 are running non-profits, counseling youth, studying law and colonialism, and making strides in the arts and humanities. The narcissism of social media has divided us, but the collective hunger for equality keeps us moving in the same direction. Let’s keep doing the things we care about, but push collaboration and the sharing of our activities with each other even further.

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Voices in Crisis Exhibition View at Parson The New School, 2014

Parsons New School, NY

Lecture Attentive Alternatives

Those of you who know me well understand that when I arrive in a new city, the first thing I get excited about is….the lectures! The culture! The contemporary arts exhibitions! Yup, just geeky that way.

This week I was able to check out some free discussions around Manhattan, the first being Rebecca Walker at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the 2nd being an exploration of early Virgil Partch (Vip) cartoons at Parsons the New School for Design.

rebecca walker at the schomburg center for research in black studies

Walker Lecture at Schomburg

What I like most about lectures is their duration, they really are a matter of stamina for both the speaker and the audience. I appreciate moments where nationally touring creatives like Rebecca Walker get caught off guard or say interesting things off the record. Every speaker makes such mistakes if the event is held for long enough, so I made an effort to stay until the very end and was not disappointed. The weirdest thing about Walker’s talk involved the Q&A. Her debut novella Ade is what she calls “Autobiographical Fiction”meaning that most of the story is true but too personal to admit with a straight face. Sure, understandable that an artist wants a bit of distance between them and the critics, but guess who showed up at the Q & A? A couple of folks that had actually been mentioned in her reading of an excerpt from the book! Naturally, these folks hadn’t seen Walker in over a decade, and she certainly had no expectation that they would be at the event. In a firm but loving fashion, these visitors began to counter her retelling of certain parts of the new book as they could recall the actions that transpired from their own memories. Its one of those moments that solidifies a “fictional” story into Reality–something that made the rest of this promotional event feel odd. After all, the author invited us there to pay for a written fantasy, didnt she?

Cartoon by Virgil Partch

Cartoon by Virgil Partch

The Creative Director of Fantagraphics gave a detailed exploration of the life of cartoonist Virgil Partch at Parsons. Like many cartoonists who studied at Walt Disney Studios during the Great Depression, he was a very clever and witty artist with a desire to poke at the absurdity of the everyday. That experience only goes so far with me though, considering how much of the culture for the men of this time stayed constant (Race relations), while other things shifted greatly (such as income and the War draft). I know its a drag, but come on fellas, there were women drawing too- alot of times right next to you when all these cool ideas were coming out about animation lifting people up from dark realities.

Not to mention having to keep the 1930s-40s cartoonist in context because of all the “Otherness” they found so amusing during this era. Meh, maybe I revisit this another time.

And the lectures don’t stop there, for the rest of this week I’m set to check out further what the minds of New York are discussing after 5pm. What will they think of next?

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New York Living…Like Woah

Just finished my first week as a New Yorker! Its been so great catching up with friends from Chicago and surreal that so many of us from ‘school daze’ have migrated over to the Big Apple. I’ve actually spent alot of time in upstate New York before, but hadn’t really hung around the East coast city for such a duration.IMG_1562

It’s all good though. An opportunity came my way a couple months ago, to direct and manage web programming for courses within Columbia University’s Business School. After much deliberation and exploration of the community arts initiatives happening in NYC, I decided to take a chance and leave my Detroit projects for a later time.

I need to find a place to live! At the moment ‘certain’ parts of Harlem are looking awesome. It’s just been so much fun getting back into the art community and the ideas/conversations festering around contemporary art and its purpose. In a few months, I can see myself getting an art practice together here and having the opportunity to see how my interests and ideas could generate action. Of course there’s more to come ( as time permits) I’ve already hit the Studio Museum’s shows and want to discuss what I saw there so stay tuned!

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My friend’s cat Linden

The City Approaches! By C. Long Art

The City Approaches! By C. Long Art