Crossroads Cafe is a podcast that explores the intersections of art, spirituality, and social change. This week, we interviewed activist and songwriter Hollis. Listen here:

Keep Reading Show less
Culture Feature

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Grandfather of the Beats

"Every great poem fulfills a longing and puts life back together."

Poetry, often thought of as a stuffy and anachronistic form by modern youth, has historically been inextricably linked to revolution.

And rarely has a generation of poets been more subversive than the beat generation, the anti-establishment artists and activists who first began to emerge in the 1950s. In the center of the movement, particularly in San Francisco's North Beach, was Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his City Lights bookstore.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture News

European Panel Officially Rules that We Are All Banksy Now

Now that Banksy's "Flower Thrower" trademark has been revoked, anyone can profit off his work.

This week anonymous street artist Banksy officially lost the European trademark to his "Flower Thrower" mural.

The guerrilla graffiti artist had engaged in a prolonged legal battle with the small greeting card company Full Colour Black—which was selling products featuring the image of a Palestinian man throwing a bouquet of flowers. But now a panel at the European Union Intellectual Property Office has announced their decision to revoke the artist's trademark on the grounds that he could not definitively prove himself to be the mural's creator.

Keep Reading Show less
Music Features

Round Table: How Does Music Survive the Pandemic? (Featuring Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, and more)

Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, and Olivia Castriota share the trials and tribulations of life as a musician in the wake of mass quarantine and social-isolation due to the novel coronavirus

Amanda Palmer, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, Olivia Castriota, Adam Doleac

"I feel like a cross between a minister and a rock star..."

...reports punk singer and activist Amanda Palmer from isolation in New Zealand. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the music community has been in a frenzy of adaptation. Palmer, given her community-focused approach to music, has seen her usual skill-set suddenly become essential for thousands of performers. "So many artists are in need. I want to help them set up Patreon pages, and I want to make sure they feel safe asking for help. It's hard for artists to ask," explains the former Dresden Dolls lead singer and author of The Art of Asking, "I've been collecting people in emotional crisis on the internet since 2002. I'm right in my element. But, boy, does it feel strange."

Pivoting to crowdfunding may now be a saving grace for many acts. The overnight decimation of the live music economy, across all genres, has thrown a question mark over the income of countless performers. "Artists [don't make] money off digital streaming," clarifies Nashville-based country music singer Adam Doleac, "85% of [most artists'] income is live show pay and merchandise sales from those live shows. You're now taking 85% of an income, and it's gone for an undefined period of time."

Adam Doleac Famous COVID Adam DoleacPhoto by Matthew Berinato

"A lot of people don't realize how far 'not playing shows' trickles down. I got all these guys in my band that are no longer getting paid. They rely on that money, they've got families," the Sony/ATV signee continues, "It's whole teams that have been shut down. That's been the hardest part, figuring out how to keep those guys comfortable as we work out how to get through this time."

While signed acts and their support systems are all feeling the squeeze in the wake of the COVID crisis, how do smaller up-and-coming acts fare? "I've canceled shows with Sofar Sounds, live recording sessions with LeestaVall, and planning my summer tour has been put on pause," lists Olivia Castriota, a New York-based R&B singer. "As an independent artist I also finance everything myself [through side jobs]. In a matter of days, all of my Airbnb guests for the next eight weeks canceled and all Bars and Restaurants in NYC went to take out only, so... welcome to unemployment."

olivia castriota covid corona Olivia Castriota

"Without people working and having any significant income all around the world, art and music will suffer tremendously," adds Luka Kerecin, Croatian lead singer of prog-metal band Wings Denied and lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy. "I was supposed to be in the U.S. in March to play with Wings Denied at SXSW... but that did not happen due to corona." Whilst the recent broadening of unemployment benefits will hopefully help smaller acts in the US, the long term future is still uncertain, especially given the widely-reported difficulties many have had with signing up for unemployment benefits. Festival season, a crucial time for smaller acts, has been all but snuffed out entirely, with name-brand events across the globe canceling or rescheduling and younger festivals facing possible extinction.

However, social distancing has led to the now near-ubiquity of the Facebook/Instagram/Zoom live show. These formerly niche elements in the artist's promotional toolkit have now become a primary method of audience engagement. "I did a show on Instagram last night, [and] we played for more people than we would have played for at the actual show," enthuses Adam Doleac, "I think 45,000 people signed on to watch."

There are also issues related to the almost entirely digital marketplace we now find ourselves in, as pop-artist Caroline Romano points out. "I don't want people to lose the need for live shows," she cautions, "I'm afraid the number of Instagram and TikTok followers an artist has is going to become more important than ever because social media is the only way artists can get discovered right now." With online engagement already becoming a dominant factor in musician's lives (certain managers, bookers, publications, and labels will refuse to even consider talent without a certain baseline level of social media traction), live music was one of the last true equalizing factors.

luka kerecin wings denied covid corona Luka Kerecin of WIngs Denied

These sentiments are echoed by Kerecin. "For my band, Wings Denied, which exists in the more niche genre of prog rock and metal, live shows are the number one way to connect with fans," he details, "Other more commercially friendly genres have it a little easier as they can always pull through with sponsors, radio play, etc. but not being able to play and tour at this moment is a massive challenge for us."

Established artists are also not immune to the toll of the COVID fallout, as Doleac points out. "Bigger acts, Kenny Chesney and the like, they have their [support crew and bands] on salary. They have to continue to pay these guys, but without any money from shows," he explains matter-of-factly, "It's a lot of money going out, and nothing coming in."

Even artists still in high demand, like Amanda Palmer, have struggled with the sudden tectonic shift. "I've been asked to do a billion streams and casts, but I have just barely been able to keep my sh*t together... I feel so overwhelmed," she shares, "I was wrapping up the final week of a year-long global solo piano theater tour when the sh*t hit the fan." Though the singer only had to cancel one show, the timing of the crisis led to her and her family moving into an AirB&B in New Zealand on short notice, a stressful situation for all involved. "The house has a piano. There's internet," she says, reflecting on the positives of the situation, "I'm going to take a few days off for my mental health, and then I'm going to be a streaming machine." In the time since this interview, Palmer has become heavily involved in the Artist Relief Tree, creating the "Art is Alive" artist's resource guide and many more projects.

Amanda Palmer

The digital age being what it is, artists still have it well within their purview to create and release content. "Coronavirus shuts down a lot of things, but new music is not one of them," confirms Doleac, "I've got my EP Famous coming out April 17th, which I'm really excited about."

"I have my biggest project to date scheduled to release early summer," adds Caroline Romano, "It features an artist who I've been a big fan of for such a long time, and it's actually surreal to see my name on the song with him."

Similarly, Wings Denied have an album coming up in the near future. "The final mixes are in the works. Everything was recorded last year," says Kerecin, "Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect, Bonobo, Bomba Estereo) is, as you can imagine, an incredibly popular and busy guy, but thanks to the Corona situation, he has managed to find some time to polish the new record and we are incredibly grateful for that."

Olivia Castriota raises an interesting point about the new music cycle in this time. "It just feels like such an inappropriate thing to do [to be overly promotional] at the moment when it feels like America is crumbling. Everyone is losing their jobs and we barely have money to pay rent," she says somberly, "It feels like, why would anyone care about my new release at this moment in time when there are much bigger things at hand?" Though she does go on to add, "I'm hoping to put some makeup and a bra on in the next week and record some new selfie singing videos, but again finding the motivation is hard."

caroline romano covid corona Caroline Romano

The emotional toll and its effect on productivity is certainly not to be taken lightly, with the pressure on indie artists to be an active online presence now stronger than ever. Romano corroborates: "Every pop artist in the world is trying to promote themselves through social media. But, in a time when the entire world is online more than ever, it's so much easier to get lost."

Palmer sees continued output, coupled with compassionate outreach, as the only way forward. "This has always been our job as artists. Connect, connect, connect. And when things get hard and dark, connect harder," she declares with candor, "I've got a whole list of projects in my head: leading meditations and sharing sessions, teaching some yoga, doing collaborative songwriting sessions, chatting to people who are sick…"

Congruously, Kerecin sees the moment as one to seize and reaffirm public appreciation for the arts. "What is everyone doing right now when quarantined? Watching shows, movies, listening to music, watching live-stream concerts," he points out, "I think we all should lobby and push this narrative aggressively in the public space. Otherwise, people will start taking these live stream shows for granted, and none of us want that. There are years of blood, sweat and tears and ton of money and equipment behind every one of those."

lady gaga covid corona WHO world health Lady Gaga

So what does the path forward look like? There is a general consensus that many artists will be using this time to write and build up a reserve of materials for the future. Philanthropy is also on the cards, with megastar acts such as Lady Gaga partnering with the WHO to raise funds for much-needed resources for frontline healthcare workers. Smaller groups looking to bring affirming music concerts to essential workers have also started to crop up online, but, as Doleac points out, the few net positives of the situation are not strictly COVID related.

"I was at home for one weekend the entirety of last year," he explains, "This situation allows artists, or even just like a traveling parent who's always working time, to spend time with loved ones and work on relationships. I've gotten to talk to my family, and see my girlfriend a lot more than I anticipated. It's been a good reset button in that world." Amanda Palmer's social media feed reflects this too, which currently heavily features time spent with her husband, Neil, and son, Ash. "It's a really surreal paradox of existence," she admits, reflecting on the transition from touring life to isolation.

palmer ash covid corona Amanda Palmer and Son Ash in IsolationFrom Amanda Palmer's Instagram

Artist solidarity is also widespread at this point in time. "Most of [my friends] work in the music business, and I know a lot of [them] are struggling at the moment. I'm doing whatever I can to be there through all of this," Caroline Romano says compassionately. Olivia Castriota adds: "I hope this will bring us all closer as a collective. It is really beautiful to see people and companies come together supporting artists."

In typically optimistic fashion, Adam Doleac shares his prediction for the industry's long-term COVID outcome. "I bet we'll all be more busy than we would have been when this starts getting back up," he says, upbeat, "People will be excited to get out to concerts, see shows they've been wanting to see for three or four months. I think in the end it will be a victory for everybody."

When all else fails, come back to what you know, as Luka Kerecin imparts. "Music has been giving me hope," he says, "When the music stops giving you hope in difficult times, that's when you know the world has really gone to hell. I hope I never find myself in such a place."

Support and Follow these artists online!


Olivia Castriota is an independent soul and R&B artist. Her most recent release "Can't Wait to See You" will appear on her EP "I Need a Minute" coming out later this year. Since interviewing for this article she has begun releasing video content via her social media.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Adam Doleac is a country music artist signed with Sony/ATV. His upcoming EP "Famous" will feature several well-known tracks, including his hit single "Famous", as well as new previously unheard material such as "I Choose Lonely." It is set for release April 17th.

Follow him online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Luka Kerecin is lead singer and founding member of prog-metal band Wings Denied. Their new album is due out later in the year. He is also a lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy.

Follow him (and Wings Denied) online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Amanda Palmer is the former lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, long-time touring punk musician and activist, and author of the bestseller "The Art of Asking". She recently closed her "There Will Be No Intermission" tour, a four-hour-long piece discussing music, abortion, and radical compassion.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Patreon | Spotify

Caroline Romano is solo pop-singer. She has been played on Radio Disney, collaborated with Jacob Whitesides, and shared the stage with the likes of Kelsea Ballerini and Shawn Mendes. Her latest project is due for release in the Summer, and her most recent release "Stream of Consciousness" is available from all music outlets.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify
CULTURE

Is the "Mythmaker" Behind Pizza Rat Putting Cowboy Hats on Pigeons in Las Vegas?

The viral artist has made a name for herself with strange animal stunts, but does this latest one fit her MO?

Gothamist

In what world do pigeons wear cowboy hats?

Is it a world more beautiful than ours? A world where despised and filthy pests that inhabit our cities are recognized as–instead of scruffy outlaws—handsome little loners who puff out their chests and play by their own rules? All it took for the world to fall in love with a rat was to see it struggling to drag a slice of pizza down some stairs. So if a pigeon is a rat with wings, what then does a Pizza Rat with wings look like? A Cowboy Pigeon?

If Zardulu is behind the latest viral animal story out of Las Vegas, these are the kinds of questions over-serious art critics may soon be asking. As for Zardulu herself, she is a mysterious figure. She projects a sort of voodoo witch persona, but a more accurate description would place her somewhere between Banksy and one of those guys with a pet snake who charges tourists for pictures.

Pigeons Wearing Tiny Cowboy Hats Spotted in Las Vegas www.youtube.com

For a start, no one knows her face or her real name. When she allows herself to be photographed, she is always in an elaborate, wizardly costume, with her face covered by an unsettling mask or a macabre headdress. It remains unclear whether she's actually responsible for all the events she's claimed as her work, and what other work she's done that has gone unnoticed. We don't even know if she is truly a single person, or some kind of artist collective. And is "artist" even the right term?

Some have called her a performance artist, but what is her performance? In one sense you could point to training a rat to drag a slice of pizza down a staircase as a sort of performance, but that is only one aspect of her art. As an act on its own, that would hardly rank as a reject on America's Got Talent. Is she, as her Twitter bio claims, a "Sorcerer. Soothsayer. Painter. Sculptor. Writer. Disinformation Artist." Or is the better title for Zardulu the one she's chosen as her epithet: the Mythmaker. Because her real art was in making that rat go viral—making us pawns in spreading her work, and making us believe in 2015's Pizza Rat.

pizza rat Youtube

It had to be presented as a natural phenomenon observed and captured by happenstance. She couldn't take credit for it until after culture had already reacted. As a result, most people who've heard of Pizza Rat have no idea there was a person responsible at all—likewise for her lesser-known viral works, Selfie Rat and Raccoon Riding an Alligator. Perhaps that's why the newest strange animal story to go viral maintains a necessary air of mystery while erasing any doubt that there's a person responsible. Is Zardulu the one putting tiny cowboy hats on pigeons in Las Vegas?

Selfie rat snaps a photo www.youtube.com

If so, it's certainly an effectively viral moment. The pigeons look legitimately adorable in those hats, in a way that Pizza Rat could never hope to. On the other hand, if Zardulu is responsible, this might join the ranks of her unclaimed works, because there are both legal and ethical concerns. Does this qualify as animal cruelty? It's not clear how many pigeons have been cowboyed or what means were used to secure the hats to their heads. If glue was used, it could damage their skin or feathers, and regardless of how they're attached, as long as the pigeons are wearing tiny cowboy hats, their flight is likely impeded, and they may draw extra attention from predators.

Animal rescue workers from a pro-pigeon organization called Lofty Hopes are struggling to catch these pigeons in order to relieve the pigeons of their headwear. But if this is the work of Zardulu—and she decides to claim it—I suspect we'll find out that these are domesticated pigeons and that the hats will be safely and easily removed.

zardulu Sky News

Zardulu, we await your next proclamation.

CULTURE

Keanu Reeves’ Girlfriend Has the Most Beautiful Philosophy On Love

She's also an extraordinarily accomplished conceptual artist.

Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant appeared together on the red carpet yesterday at the LACMA Art + Film Gala, making their rumored relationship official.

standard.co.uk

Grant is a conceptual artist and painter who has collaborated with Reeves on several projects in the past. Yes, she's 46, but the fact that we're all praising Keanu to the high heavens for dating someone only nine years his junior reveals how low our standards are. Really, we should be praising Alexandra Grant because she seems like a genuinely extraordinary person, and we all know that our beloved Keanu deserves the best and more.

A little bit about her: Alexandra Grant moved around a lot as a child, living in Mexico City, Washington D.C., and Paris. She's always been an artist. In an interview with LA Weekly, she said, "'Artist' is the best word for all the things that I love to do and have been doing pretty consistently since I was a child: reading, staring into space, daydreaming, inventing symphonic-scale projects whether a chemistry experiment or growing seeds into plants, finding meaning in the patterns of bathroom tiles and cracks in the ceiling, believing in the goodness of people and love, drawing while listening to music, experiencing language as images and colors, and desiring to be solitary while doing most of the above."

She studied mathematics in college, then attended graduate school at the California College of the Arts in California. Currently, she is based in Los Angeles. Apparently, she can officiate weddings, and loves Toni Morrison, roller coasters, and Lana Del Rey.

Her work, which has been exhibited in galleries all over the world, "probes ideas of translation, identity, dis/location, and social responsibility," according to her website. Much of her work seems to probe the liminal space between words and communication, images and meaning. She works in dozens of mediums, from clay to glass, painting to sound. Past works include a series of collaborations with the philosopher Hélène Cixous, with whom she apparently has a "telepathic" relationship. One of their projects, called "Interior Forest," is dedicated to "transforming from participants into oneironauts, or travelers within a lucid dream space" and "exploring the peripheries of the collective unconscious."

Other works include a series of collage-like paintings called "Born to Love," inspired by the Greek myth Antigone. She also directed a film called Taking Lena Home.

artsy.net

She has many brilliant philosophies about art, storytelling, religion, and of course, love. In an interview with The Creative Independent, she announced her own three-pronged definition of love. "The first part of it is self love," she said. "I don't think that we can truly help other people until we've worked on our own healing, or else we are going to keep promoting inherited or naturalized belief systems that aren't useful within the work we do. Self love is the first step to being able to love others. The second is really just that sense of loving other people in our community, doing more than maybe we're comfortable doing. But it has to come from a place of self-healing first. The third is loving the responsibility we have to love others who are different than we are. Politics and business thrive from creating false differences between us. I think that we really are in a time where we need to love those who are different than we are, and take action and responsibility towards that."

Grant has applied her definition extensively in her own life. She's a philanthropist, and created the grantLOVE project, which funds arts-based nonprofits in LA.

In terms of her relationship with Reeves, Grant has been collaborating with the Matrix star for quite a while. Grant was introduced to Reeves through a mutual friend, for whom they later threw a joint birthday party, and they became close cooking steaks at the event. "From the beginning, we were collaborating," said Grant in an early interview.

Pinterest.ru

She later illustrated two of his books, 2011's adult picture book Ode to Happiness and 2016's book of poetry, Shadows. The latter book later became an interdisciplinary collaboration between Reeves and Grant.

According to the Shadows exhibition's press release, "Through a series of dramatic photographs, Grant captures Reeves' silhouette in a sequence of movements where his figure often blurs beyond the point of recognition, causing the final images to border on abstraction. After the shoots with Reeves, Grant manipulated the images to invert the images black for white, making the shadow itself the source of light. Despite their mysterious and elegant qualities, the images are narrative and figurative, supported by Reeves's poetic texts in the titles and accompanying book. Hauntingly beautiful, the images are also playful, allowing the viewer to sense the intimacy and exchange in the collaborative relationship between subject and artist." Essentially, it seems that Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant may have fallen in love while she took blurry photos of him as part of a project meant to explore intimacy. (Be still, my heart).

wmagazine.com


auction.catawiki.com


wmagazine.com


standard.co.uk


neuehouse.com

Collaboration and partnership seems to come naturally to these two human angels. In 2017, they co-founded X Artists' Books, a publishing house that publishes "unconventional, interdisciplinary and collaborative artists' books," according to the LA Times. "Thematically we're really interested in darkness and politics," said Grant of X Artists' Books. "We're also interested in marginal voices that are exciting, and in exploring the performative and experimental. I think a book can become a seed, a DNA for world-building."

So, it seems that Grant is just as socially conscious and spiritually awakened as Keanu Reeves himself. One would imagine that there's a roomy cabin somewhere in the California hills where they spend all their time creating, cohabiting space mostly in silence, stopping only to occasionally discuss their dreams.

wmagazine.com


standard.co.uk


Los Angeles Magazine


LA Mag


elle.com


Keanu Russian Club