Evelyn Drach : A Custodian Of Time and Memory

 Photo credit Manon Ouimet

Photo credit Manon Ouimet

Why do people keep fake flowers in their homes?

The question is posed by Evelyn Drach halfway through her set at The Box in Soho on a Monday evening in June where nothing else, not even the clouds or trees would give away the secret to the summoning of (pre)natural forces we are about to witness on a cabaret stage. The invitation to Evelyn Drachs 100th reincarnation requested, on entry, that the visitor bring with them a small stone. My particular stone was retrieved from a corner of the nearby Golden Square park, between a ping pong table and wooden bench. The stone itself was small and unassuming. It held a curved triangular shape and reminded me both in weight and texture of a small sweet I would eat as a child. Perhaps a slightly misshapen jelly bean. Before entering I remember remarking to a friend about my stone possibly being more embodying of myself than initially intended. A moment later myself and the stone found ourselves separated once again, my hands cleansed ritualistically over a basin of water and the stone (or more affectionately now that we’re acquainted, the pebble) discarded into a cradle with other discarded pebbles. I was given a square offering of food, I was now prepared to be ‘reincarnated’. I mention this ritual sacrifice upon entry to Evelyn Drach’s performance because in many ways reincarnation is defined in principle, not by what is born, but by what is left behind. Cultures with varying deities pronounce these exchanges as sacrifices or offerings, something of which Drach in her centennial incarnation seems keenly aware of instilling in her spectators.

This was then amplified by the sound installation crafted and performed by artist Sol Bailey Barker. These ‘living sculptures’ presided in a mirror-clad liminal space, hidden behind a door formed from a hollowed closet by the bar, but demanding you find it to be able to move on into Evelyn Drach’s stage space. It makes perfect sense to include him because Bailey-Barker as an artist works so keenly with mythologies, and especially these works themselves act like mirrors in which the soul belongs to a more cosmic space, visual amalgamations of raw mineral ore harnessed by the artists tools.

Each object expels a brief sound, the impact each observer experiences infers unto these sculptures a vitality, breathing in anthem. Their contours regard each new visitor ponderingly, and we regard ourselves in them as the artist himself using percussion sticks and an array of digital amplifiers and loopers conducts our mutual curiosities, sentiments and concerns with each other. It is the exact cosmological headspace needed to move on to the final station on our journey, The Box’s tiered cabaret stage, just as far from what is old as what is new.

 Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson

Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson

As a performer and a songwriter, Evelyn Drach exists in the moments between the old and new, the dead and the immortal. She appears on this stage in a wisp of smoke, moving her hands in both circular and static motions, exchanging happenstance ceaselessly.

In a time inexplicably before or after Drach proclaims on the single ‘Follow Me’, she’s buried on either the causality or prequel to an aforementioned point in time when the white mountain head of Seven Sisters, a series of rocks sat in meticulous formation. Her rumination of experiences had and observed in such settings, both supernatural, natural and domestic, and her ability to move so fluidly between them, bringing the visual imagination of her audience with her typifies the storytelling prowess of Evelyn Drach. Narratives exist on impact, at the exactly calculated yet wildly volatile and vulnerable point of the listeners reciprocation. Within the sonic four-walled fiction Drach creates, she is a mountaineer of wayward moments, whose sensibilities we rely on to walk unapparent paths, amongst the small creviced memories of us, her listeners.

 Photo Credit Sam Gregg. Evelyn Drach on the Seven Sisters.

Photo Credit Sam Gregg. Evelyn Drach on the Seven Sisters.

Throughout an approximate hour-long set filled with smoke and circular crevices, both physical and metaphysical, her mystical mothership finally touches ground with Drach’s most recent and catchy single ‘Never Let Me Go’, in which she delivers sultry remarks between winding distortions of synthetic compositions; a more pop-mindedly crafted composition of the message we have been communicated in different iterations throughout the evening; ’Time is for the keeping, not mine or yours’. As a final song which could suggest a new sonic direction for Drach in her next 100 reiterations, ‘Never Let Me Go’ serves as a final weight to anyone at this point still considering Drach’s preordinate song-writing and performance skills. In it she delivers the kind of two-punch one-liner usually reserved for iconoclast artists and lyricists such as Lou Reed, Jeff Buckley, Robyn, Burt Bacharach, Simon and Garfunkel; the kind of lyric that can appear mid-refrain and with the emotional impact of a waterfall hitting the ground, a moment of overwhelming newness and beauty married to an intimate recognition of a recurring tableux or memory. After sheperding us through mis-en-scenes from the Seven Sisters cliffs to a man’s sitting room flowers, she declares in an understated yet almost confrontational fashion; “Every year I grow older, but you don’t”. After an hour in her company, its evident that Drach’s relationship to time positions her in the role of a custodian. In performance and in presence, she as a character inherits the damage of broken memory through the musical ambitions of repairing them. They are hers and the music you receive in exchange offer a clemency for the needing, even and perhaps especially to those unaware of the need.

 Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson. Evelyn Drach live at The Box, London, Soho

Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson. Evelyn Drach live at The Box, London, Soho

The sonic landscape of Drach’s predicate themselves of the subtle ambience in the higher notes of piano keys, the furthest and most delicate strings of violin, the voice of Drach establishes the thick oil forefront of memory, history and emotion, each symphony culminating in the raw vocal storytelling accompanied by a choreography that mirrors the many arms of Pacific deities. As with all great paintings, the colours and shapes are subjective, oscillating in the central periphery of each viewer and like Caraviggio’s bleedings reds, begging for a body or mind to empty itself unto the canvas like running water, the very same water that drowned the stone which I separated from corpus upon entry. And so we return to the question Drach poses at our halfway point; “Why do people keep fake flowers in their homes?” Drach explores what incentive a solitary man in perhaps only his 45th reincarnation might have, and as with any perceptive artist, the audience is left sufficient silences between her own sonic oscillations to reflect on whichever reasons we may carry ourselves. To sustain life that cannot be sustained in its fullest potential? Because we have no choice but to appreciate the disruptive and beautifying effect artifice can have on our day-to-day lives? To commemorate the loss, or presence of a loved one without the fear of watching it welter away? A rumination the our societal reverence of beauty?

 Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson, Evelyn Drach live at The Box, London, Soho

Photo Credit Joshua Donaldson, Evelyn Drach live at The Box, London, Soho

The beauty Drach is proposing here is rather exact; in its purest form, it is simply life, a confusing apparition in which we much accept its capacity to be artifice and authenticity simultaneously to create such mythologies and stories as Drach is able to summon with her sonic landscapes. It is apparent when the performance is over and the artificial lights reclaim the space that what has occurred was catharsis not only for the performer but for the listener, in a democracy that is so commonly elusive in music, because such staging typically it calls for a kind of reverence that declares the performer as the only genuine flower in the room.

However, in Evelyn Drach’s presence, we are all shown to be flowers who in our heart of hearts believe our beings and our souls are real. Much like the replicants in Ridley Scott’s future vision ‘Blade Runner’, whether we are fake flowers or not becomes irrelevant in the face of our ability to will a memory and the concept of a soul into existence. In the presence of an artist like Drach in her 100th reincarnation (and don’t let any hipsters tell you they saw her in her 78th, she was deep in the woods at that point, making no public appearances), it becomes clear that our memories or experiences, whether collective or individual, subjective or scientific, are what enable us to experience the most authentic crevices and supersonic highways of shared human experience if shepherded by the right custodian. And that Evelyn Drach is very much an able and deserving custodian of that ability.

 Photo Credit Manon Ouimet

Photo Credit Manon Ouimet

Evelyn Drach will be playing a secret gig in Oakland next year, go to her website to sign up on her mailing list to receive an invitation to experience this extraordinary artist first hand.

Explore everything about Evelyn, from her music to press and upcoming performances on her website www.evelyndrach.com

For you all to enjoy right now, released only this weekend, Evelyn’s music video for Never Let Me Go.

Writers: Hugo Lucien Bou-Assaf and Hakon Lillegraven

Håkon Lillegraven and Hugo Lucien are graduates of Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins, London and independent curators and writers. Hugo recently curated the summer design show at the Lethaby Gallery and regularly publishes the photography zine Semaphore, which will materialise in an exhibition format this fall. Håkon is the exhibition manager of a new graduate show, Orbit and has held curatorial and engagement responsibilities at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Barbican Centre, and the Venice Biennale

Instagram handles @artfag_  @hugolucien

Editor: Harriet Poznansky

Nomadic Press
Poznansky is a British artist currently based between Oakland and London. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art London and School of the Art Institute Chicago. She currently works from her studio in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, making paintings, music, and writing short stories. www.harrietpoznansky.com

Blurred Library: Essays on Artists’ Books by Tate Shaw

Blurred Library: Essays on Artists’ Books by Tate Shaw

Tate Shaw points out that Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore claimed, “the book is an extension of the eye” (50). Shaw’s new book, Blurred Library: Essays on Artists’ Books, extends that claim to encompass the body and the psyche. So, if the medium is the message, then what, Shaw asks and explores, are artists’ books communicating? And how?

Read More

How to Change the World - On Sitting in a Chinese Garden

How to Change the World - On Sitting in a Chinese Garden

In the latest edition of the experiential review series "How to Change the World"  James Thomas takes us to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver, B.C. James thoughtfully observes the emotional qualities of the garden's architecture and reminds the reader to appreciate the wonders that often lie right under our nose or in this case, behind a wall: - The Chinese Garden is a little enclave of harmony planted in the midst of a city. It is the same way we are. Little organic bodies moving through an ecosystem of concrete, steel and fumes. The sounds of the city peek over the garden walls. The tall buildings look in from their deep foundations.The city birds perch on street lamps and perch in trees.

Read More

John Millei "From the Same Hill" at TI-155 Gallery

John Millei "From the Same Hill" at TI-155 Gallery

One hundred 10 x 8 Inch paintings by the highly accomplished American painter John Millei have for the past month been on display at the recently opened TI-155 Gallery, San Francisco’s new and exciting contemporary art gallery, exhibitions and public programs space on Treasure Island. The exhibition was curated by George Lawson and the exhibition catalog was created in collaboration with George Lawson Gallery and TI-155.

The transformative energy that can be felt at the heart of TI-155 suits perfectly the one hundred 10 x 8 inch paintings that wind their way through the gallery space; each painting containing a world encountering it’s own unique state of flux, each harboring it’s own energy for the viewer to be drawn into and decode yet together make up a network of information like a string of DNA.

Read More

How to Change the World - Sol Bailey Barker - "Between Night and Day"

How to Change the World - Sol Bailey Barker - "Between Night and Day"

The work of Sol Bailey-Barker draws its breaths from myths, legends and mathematics. He courts the earth with sculptures that balance like satellite dishes upon ancient cairns. His pieces evoke the stars and spectrums of deep carbon. Hollowness, balance and light fused with deep thoughtful meditations on being, change and symbol. In the latest edition of the experiential  review series "How to Change the World"  James Thomas takes us deep into the world of "Between Night and Day", Sol Bailey Barker's current exhibition curated by Kaleidoscope, Mayfair, London.

Read More

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr

The intimacy of reading a book can be likened to the experience of a confessional, be it in a church, at the bar with friends, or in bed with a lover. The telling is directed, often hushed, shared in implied confidence. The act of confessing creates a feeling of being chosen. And in essence, it is. In the moment you are reading them, the words in a book create this same sense—though hundreds, thousands, millions of people may be reading it, or have read it, or will read it. With reading, however, it is you who have done the choosing, of whose confession to receive.

Read More

Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems edited by Scott Wiggerman and Cindy Huyser

Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems edited by Scott Wiggerman and Cindy Huyser

I was drawn to Bearing the Mask, Southwestern Persona Poems for two reasons. The first is that I feel a reverent love for the Southwest. I spend many days each year exploring its canyons, rivers, and wild lands and have had the honor of hearing stories from many of its residents—white, Latina, indigenous. The second is that I feel personally activated by the movement at Standing Rock. It feels both timely and revolutionary to give light to a body of work that illustrates the relationship between people and their homeland with all its beauty and complexity.

Read More

Marys of the Sea by Joanna C. Valente

Marys of the Sea by Joanna C. Valente

If the current state of American politics has caused its public to become obsessed with apocalyptic imagery, then Marys of the Sea perhaps reflects Valente's vision of misogyny and rape culture as a zombie virus infecting the populace. Valente's narrator devours the world as retribution for the ways in which her own flesh has been metaphorically consumed.

Read More

Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None by Gary McDowell

Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None by Gary McDowell

The first thing I did after reading Mysteries in a World That Thinks There are None was look up works by Eric Fischl. I had not been acquainted with his work before and McDowell refers to him regularly in his poems. After an Internet gallery stroll, I felt like I’d been touring a family photo album, yet embedded in its snapshots were overlays of the human unconscious brought to light, filling it sometimes with violence and sexual innuendo that the eyes don’t often see in pictures reminiscent of a vacation slide show. 

Read More

Franklinstein by Susan Landers

Franklinstein by Susan Landers

How does one write about something that, in a way, resists the fundamental ways we often approach writing? As a glance at any of Franklinstein's blurbs will tell you, Susan Landers has written a book that is somehow history, memoir, and poetry all at once. In a kind of explanation of this refusal to be just one thing, Landers writes early on, “To come closer / to come to see / this writing must meander.” From the beginning, we know that Landers' writing is not only a telling of, but also a searching for, what has happenedto her and to the Philadelphia Germantown of her upbringing. By the end, it is not clear whether she has found what she's searching for; but what her searching has amounted to, you'll want to read and revisit again and again.

Read More

Death of Art by Chris Campanioni

Death of Art by Chris Campanioni

I’m drinking a glass of wine in a gallery and nothing means anything. There is work from 100 different artists up on the walls. The gallery is selling a recently published book of influential artists from North Brooklyn in full color. It’s going for $60 and it’s worth it. I’m in it. I don’t care. I’m getting another glass of wine now and scanning the room just to feel something. Just to make sure there’s nobody I missed saying hello to.

Read More

Some Versions of the Ice by Adam Tipps Weinstein

Some Versions of the Ice by Adam Tipps Weinstein

The essays in Some Versions of the Ice are erudite, intertextual, and jarring—they combine the complexities of the natural world with those of the perceptions of it made by minds prone to error. With topics ranging from touchable language (Braille) to the history of the collar, this work was one I could not stop reading, circling, returning to. Weinstein begins the essay “Graveyard Shoes” with a Yeats quote so appropriate, it could easily be used to describe his own work as well, “This organism is now acknowledged by naturalists as belonging to the animal world.”

Read More

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

At an Adamic level, humans have always, it seems, been destined to destruct or self-destruct. On an atomic level, the world once seemed scientifically determined to remain in certain composite, certain constitution, certain form or energy. Today, however, we know that to be untrue. Staying Alive, the most recent collection of bare(ing) poems by Laura Sims, is a documentation of sorts, a reckoning with the end as we may think it, predict it, and already begin to feel it.

Read More

Crave by Christine Gelineau

Crave by Christine Gelineau

Gelineau’s Crave does not require metaphor—reality is enough. This work is rooted in the clear, precise, deadpan truth of everyday life, be it marriage, death, crime, illness, love, birth, children, nature, beauty, passion, intimacy, or surrender—an entire spectrum of issues, none of which are glamorized or glossed over. These pages of memories and stories are also revivals of love, tenderness, pain, loss, closeness, devotion—things people desperately need, not only to feel alive, but to feel the point of it. This piece is as much a memoir as it is poetry. And yet at once it is astonishingly fresh, current, and relevant. These are stories that our high-speed, technological world needs to understand if it is to stay in balance.

Read More

The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor Edited by Andrew Ross

The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor Edited by Andrew Ross

Much has been written in recent years about the exploitative labor practices inherent to globalization, especially those pertaining to vulnerable migrant workers from the developing states. The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Andrew Ross and featuring a deep bench of contributors from the social sciences, labor advocacy groups, and protest artists from around the world, provides a distinct voice and a highly specific contribution to the conversation. Focusing on the labor systems and practices of Persian Gulf states and the massive investments those states have recently made in cultural institutions–landmark museums, Western university satellite campusesThe Gulf makes a compelling case for opportunities to shine light on both egregious conditions ongoing from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, as well as opportunities to confront and dismantle these oppressive systems.

Read More

Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones by Lucia Perillo

Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones by Lucia Perillo

I first encountered Lucia Perillo when I was an in-house poetry intern at Copper Canyon Press, in January of 2012. I’d been in the small, wooden archives, dusting new shipments of books, cutting satisfyingly thick paper for mail orders, and breathing in the heady air of dust and ink. Suddenly, I saw a cover with an erratic jumble of color across the front, Inseminating the Elephant across the spine. It became my lunchtime book that day, and the day after, and the day after. And now, it’s old enough to become a hard-time book, a bath-time book, a friend-time book. “The cover looks that way because it is actually a painting done by an elephant,” the managing editor had told me. “And welcome to the press.”

Read More

Sex and Death by Ben Tanzer

Sex and Death by Ben Tanzer

In a literary world already graced by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, one might wonder if we really need another book about the passions and anxieties surrounding Sex and Death's titular themes. The answer may well be yes, if that book is written by Ben Tanzer. With prose free of poetic frill and all the more dense in meaning for its formal compactness, Sex and Death is proof that Tanzer has his finger on the pulse of the still vibrant humanity underscoring the impacts of modern gender roles, familial relations, and technology on our experiences of intimacy.

Read More

A Book So Red by Rachel Levy

A Book So Red by Rachel Levy

Anachronies and displacements. Mismeanings or misunderstandings. Historical fictions or fictional histories. Aprocryphalism is at the heart of Rachel Levy’s A Book So Red.

What is natural?: “The people in the street asked, “’What are you?’” and “’Who the fuck made thee?’” (85) (to the lipsticked lamb in the street).

Read More

Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler by Juan Felipe Herrera

Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler by Juan Felipe Herrera

What does it mean to be American? As a writer on the margins? Juan Felipe Herrera’s Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler explores the question of writing in the embodied nation of an ethnic identity. Herrera illuminates the complexities and cargas of growing up Chicano in star-spangled soil and living to write about it in one’s own terms. Juan Felipe Herrera, former California and current U.S. Poet Laureate, has been a prolific writer, whose work spans at least four decades. In many ways, he is one of Chican@ / Latin@ literature’s seminal voices. This book seeks to give the reader and writer (especially the fledgling eagle-writer) a glimpse into the formative and explorative experiences that have shaped and endowed Herrera’s survival, introspection, and prominence in the field.

Read More

Pink Museum by Caroline Crew

Pink Museum by Caroline Crew

Caroline Crew's poetry collection, Pink Museum, is compiled of five poetic sections, including one named with the book’s title. The Pink Museum possesses a singular, recurring theme, which encompasses the rest. Crew's poems reflect a certain kind of feminine mysticism influenced by Victorian sonnets, particularly those written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Read More