LIVES: Elizabeth Hand, novelist

Omnium exeunt in mysterium: all ends in mystery.

Most of my writing stems from a single intense emotional experience, usually recalled long after the fact; maybe even just from the nuances of a single emotion.

I’m less concerned with plot than I am with creating characters capable of channeling what I felt, so when I work, I try to tap into that emotion again.

I trained as an actor, and the one thing I think I kept from that experience is the ability to immerse myself in a character’s emotional life and recreate it, on the page rather than on the stage.

Laurence Olivier said: “I scavenge for that tiniest little bit of human circumstance. Observe it. Use it.”

That’s what I try to do.

When I’m working, especially in the early stages of developing a character, I’ll listen to music compulsively -- obsessively -- until I hit on a song that evokes that character or the emotional experience associated with her/him.

It’s never the song I was listening to at the time the original event occurred, and it’s not the Soundtrack From My Life, say, fifteen years ago, or five; it’s whatever music makes me feel wistful or furious or exultant right now.

Once I’ve hit on that one note, I’ll just play it over and over while I’m writing or driving around; say, twenty or thirty times a day. Maybe more. It’s like scoring the soundtrack to a film – an individual character will also have a theme, or theme songs. I tend to use popular music rather than classical; “Tristan and Isolde” is a bit beyond my reach, so I wouldn't presume to channel Wagner.

A short story or novella might have one song, or two or three; a novel has an entire soundtrack.

Once I’m finished with any individual work, it can be difficult for me to listen to that piece of music again -- the connections are too intense.


My writing rituals are pretty much what I described above, listening to the same music obsessively. My routine consists of getting my kids off to school, then getting down to my cottage to write.

If I’m doing my normal day-to-day writing -- i.e., if I’m not writing a particular scene or chapter that’s ‘scored’ by an individual song -- I listen to Nick Drake’s album FIVE LEAVES LEFT (less intense than BRYTER LAYTER) and Paul Westerberg’s FOURTEEN SONGS.

I’ve been listening to these two albums every day for years and years. I set myself a quota of 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I do more than that, rarely less.

I write very intensely, and a lot of the time it’s emotionally draining material, so those five pages can really tap me out.


Most of what I do is drawn on real events or real people. I’m not good at making stuff up, but I’m pretty good at taking earthbound material and ornamenting it so that it takes on a more resonant, mythic sensibility.

“Waking the Moon” was in many ways the alternate take of certain events in my life, with characters inspired by friends of mine; ditto “Black Light”.

I did a reading from “Mortal Love” several years ago, when it was still a work-in-progress, and people in the audience began to laugh as they recognized various characters, because they knew their real-life counterparts.

As for the major difference between fiction and real life, I’ll quote Richard Thompson on this one --

“Life is just as deadly as it looks,
But fiction is more forgiving.”


The most startling thing anyone ever said to me was “don’t be a victim”.

This was from my friend O.J., the model for Oliver in “Waking the Moon”. We were in college, I guess about nineteen years old.

He looked at me one night and right out of the blue said, in this really chilling tone, “Don’t be a victim.”

I was very taken aback. I didn't understand what he meant. I hadn’t been behaving particularly melodramatically -- certainly not any more than usual.

We had an intensely close, almost psychic friendship for a few years, but that was so strange, because it seemed out of context, almost like he was making some oracular observation.

But I took his words very seriously, and I’ve always tried to live by them, to take responsibility for my own life, refuse to let someone else dictate the terms by which I succeed or fail.

A few years after O.J. said that to me, I was abducted and raped – I’d been with him just minutes before it happened, and he and my boyfriend were the first people I saw when the police came.

I always wonder if he somehow saw what was going to occur. In the aftermath what got me through was remembering that one phrase: “Don’t be a victim.”

I’ve never forgotten it.


If I were an album, I’d be the Replacements PLEASED TO MEET ME.

In a more general sense, if I got to pick an alternate artistic arc, I’d probably choose that of Paul Westerberg, former lead singer of the Replacements.

The way his youthful career careened between great, crazed, drunken Fuck You excess, and beautifully disciplined, restrained songs like “Skyway” and “Sadly Beautiful”, and his later Prozac-tinged ballads remind me of the way
I work, and the way I was, once upon a time.

He’s an artist who now faces the realities of middle age, but he’s still able to tap into the energy and rage and exultance that fired his youthful work.

He has an intensity and an integrity that I find genuinely inspiring; his music has been firing me up since about 1987, and I still listen to it about every day. So he’s obviously doing something right.

For a more specific discography, these are the songs or albums I associate with various novels and stories:

WINTERLONG: Love & Rockets, EXPRESS; Replacements, PLEASED TO MEET ME; Strawbs, “Autumn”, from HERO & HEROINE

“Snow on Sugar Mountain”: Phillip Glass, GLASSWORKS

“The Have-Nots”: “Elvis Bought Dora a Cadillac,” Wall of Voodoo

“Snow on Sugar Mountain”: “The Welcome,” Fred Frith (“The Welcome” was the original title for this story)

GLIMMERING: “Pepper,” Butthole Surfers; FOREVER CHANGES, Love; “The Man Who Sold the World”, Nirvana

WAKING THE MOON: “Northern Sky,” Nick Drake; “Ignoreland,” REM; “The Beautiful Ones,” Prince; “She Lives,” John Wesley Harding; “I Have Always Been Here Before,” Roky Erickson

MORTAL LOVE: “20th Century Man,” The Kinks; “Waterloo Sunset,” The Kinks;
“Fade into You,” Mazzy Star; “April Fools,” Rufus Wainwright; “Danny Boy,” Rufus Wainwright; MOCK TUDOR, Richard Thompson; SUMMERTEETH, Wilco

“Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol”: “Danny Says,” The Ramones; “That Happy Feeling,” Bert Kaemfert & His Orchestra; “Welcome Christmas,” Love Spirals Downwards; “Morning of Our Lives,” Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers;
“I Just wasn¹t Made for These Times,” Beach Boys; “Round the Bend,” The Beta Band


“Bibliomancy” is a collection of four novellas, so the individual works came first.
I just liked the word.

It’s actually taken a bit out of context -- bibliomancy is an act of divination using the Bible, whereas stichomancy, technically involves divination by the written word.

But “Bibliomancy” scanned better as a title.


John Gardner said the most important thing is for a writer to marry money, or to inherit it.

I agree: the freedom not to have to do something else for a living is critical.

I think discipline is crucial as well. The ability to get up day after day and just do it, knowing you're not going to get paid, or paid enough.

And being well-read -- I teach writing workshops and am consistently amazed by how poorly-read people are -- and these are people who want to be writers!

There’s a Beach Boys song called “Hang on to Your Ego.”

If you don’t have an ego, I suggest you buy or rent one from a reputable source.

You can’t be thin-skinned in this business, and you have to have a very, very strong sense of yourself and the value of what you’re doing. Because you can’t depend on anyone else to value it as much as you do -- not a publisher, or a reader, or an editor.

Ultimately it’s the work itself that has to sustain you. So it had better be good.

There are a few things I wish someone had told me before I started out: that it would be a really good idea to learn how to touchtype.

And that it was going to be a lot more important for writers to look like movie stars -- or to be movie stars -- than any of us ever imagined.

Also, there was one thing that surprised me most about my last book: how long it took for me to write it -- almost five years. And how much I loved writing it.

There was one morning in early 2002 when I realized I was going to finish “Mortal Love” within the next few months (I completed the first, close-to-final draft on July 4, 2002) and it hit me, that I was writing a novel I absolutely loved.

I’d never really had that happen before, except with “Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol,” which was a very short novel and so no quite as much an investment in time and energy (though “Chip” did took me two years).

Favorite authors: Laurie Colwin, Robert Stone, John Crowley, James Salter, M.John Harrison, T.H. White, Vladimir Nabokov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Hope Mirlees. Shakespeare -- I’m constantly rereading Shakespeare. And I’m currently on a John Fowles kick.

Books I wish I’d written: Too many to list! Laurie Colwin’s “Happy All the Time”, because it’s such a perfect domestic romance. I reread it at least once a year. John Crowley’s “Little, Big”. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

On popular culture: "The very first movie I ever saw, when I was about three years old, was Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio”. I cried at the end -- I thought it was so sad that he turned into a real boy. It was so much more interesting to think I lived in a world where puppets could be alive."

Favorite quote from fiction:
“It is all one long day.”
- James Salter, “Light Years”


If I meet someone who interests me, I make a point of getting to know him, or her. So, most of the strangers in my life have ended up as friends: “We only truly regret the things we haven't done, not the things we did.”

I did meet Tom Stoppard when I was about nineteen, but I was too shy to say anything much more than “hello.”

I’m trying to think if there’s any marvelous stranger who ever got away...

I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway. There are definitely one or two people out there in the ether I’d like to know better, in realtime. They know who
they are.


The biggest myth about being a writer is that it’s exciting.

Mickey Spillane said the essence of writing is “Get your ass in a chair. A miserable, lonely life.”

If I wasn’t a writer, I would definitely be: depressed all the time, instead of just in the winter.

No, in my dream life, I’d be a classical archaeologist, studying Mycenaean culture. In real life, I’d probably be a hospice nurse. I’ve worked as a home health aide, living with people who are terminally ill. It’s something I’m good at, and it’s an important job, so I’d probably do that.

Before I die, I’d like to: Continue having an interesting sex life. And have a really big party with everyone I’ve ever known and loved, or even liked, all together at one time in the same place. I’d also like to see Paris. I guess if I had enough money, I could combine all three of these.
Author bio: Elizabeth Hand is the author of "Mortal Love" (July 2004), "Bibliomancy” and numerous other works. Her first novel, “Winterlong” was published in 1990, and followed by “Aestival Tide” and “Icarus Descending”.

Contemporary fantasy “Waking the Moon” won the Mythopoeic Society Award. That book was followed by science fantasy “Glimmering” and contemporary fantasy “Black Light”.

Hand’s story collection “Last Summer at Mars Hill” includes the Nebula and World Fantasy award-winning title novella. Among more recent short fiction, "Cleopatra Brimstone" (2001) won the International Horror Guild Award. With longtime friend Paul Witcover, Hand created DC Comics' post-punk, post-feminist cult series “Anima”. She has also written numerous movie and TV novelizations.

More about Elizabeth Hand:

Funniest movie I’ve ever seen: “To Be or Not to Be” (the original, with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard). Or “The Navigator” -- I adore Buster Keaton.

Saddest: The very first movie I ever saw, when I was about three years old, was Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio”. I cried at the end -- I thought it was so sad
that he turned into a real boy. It was so much more interesting to think I lived in a world where puppets could be alive. More recently, I thought “Lost in Translation” was lovely and heartbreaking.

Favorite downtime reading online: The New York Times, The Onion, and The Maine Emergency Management Agency Weather Page, so I can keep up with blizzards.

What I’m reading right now: Rereading “The Collector”, John Fowles
Other interests: I’m an armchair archeologist.

Interesting fact that nobody knows about me yet:
Except for some things which will remain private, anything interesting about me is in my fiction. So everybody knows it already. Or will.

Life is: unutterably mysterious. Omnium exeunt in mysterium: all ends in mystery.

Hand comments on her latest book, "Mortal Love":

"Mortal Love" isn't so much a decadent novel as a Symbolist novel; not a book about the thing but the thing itself. Algernon Swinburne is a supporting character, and really upstages everyone else when he's around. The central female figure is a sort of avatar of the White Goddess; at least that's how mortals see her: her true nature is something else entirely...

This interview is also cached in the June 2004 archives of the "Arte Six" site.

FILM: Filmfest München
June 26-July 3

Maybe one of the most laidback, casual film festival scenes around. Sort of like an Oktoberfest - with films. Beat that.

It's also the second-largest annual film festival in Germany, after the Berlinale.

About 180 films screen this year, including "The Saddest Music in the World" and "The Motorcycle Diaries".

Film festival venues along the Munich Movie Mile stretch from Rio-Kino to Gasteig, theaters in Forum am Deutschen Museum, to the MaxX and finally to the Munich Filmmuseum - but they're all well within walking distance.

On the program this year, German feature films and TV movies, new French cinema and American indies. This year's retrospective honors the somewhat oddball work of Finnish directors Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, both of whom will attend the festival.

The Kaurismäkis collaborate frequently with musical co-horts"Leningrad Cowboys", a Finnish rock 'n roll band which started out as a joke and, inexplicably, turned into a real band. A real strange band.


"The Motorcycle Diaries"
In 1952, two young Argentines, Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado, set out on a road trip to discover Latin America.

Ernesto is a 23-year-old medical student specializing in leprology, and Alberto, 29, is a biochemist. With a highly romantic sense of adventure, the two friends leave their familiar surroundings in Buenos Aires on a rickety 1939 Norton 500.

The bike breaks down in the course of their eight-month journey, but they press onward, hitching rides along the way, eventually arriving at Macchu Piccu, and then a leper colony deep in the Peruvian Amazon. Their experiences at the colony awaken within them the men they will later become, by defining the ethical and political journey they will take in their lives.

Based on the journals of both Alberto Granado and the man who would later become known to the world as "El Che," "The Motorcycle Diaries" follows a journey of self-discovery, tracing the spiritual origins of a revolutionary heart.

"Grand Theft Parsons": Based on the true story of musician Gram Parsons, who died of an overdose in 1973.

Parsons and road manager Phil Kaufman made a pact in life that whoever died first would bury the other in the Joshua Tree National Park. Parsons' death prompts Kaufman to fulfill his promise and a very odd road trip ensues.

"The Saddest Music in the World": It's 1933 and damn cold in Winnipeg. The Great Depression is in full bloom. But beer baroness Lady Port-Huntly(Isabella Rossellini) has other fish to fry; she announces a self-indulgent competition to determine the saddest music in the world.

Woebegone producer Chester Kent and his amnesiac girlfriend Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros) bounce home to Kent's native Winnipeg to vie for the prize.

The scenario devolves into a mélange of melodrama and loopy social satire, but despite the lunacy, it all gets sorted out in the end.

Find it: Various venues, but fest central is the Forum am Deutschen Museum
Museumsinsel 1
Munich, Germany
Hours: June 25-July 3, 9am-7pm
Get there: Take any S-Bahn in the direction of the Ostbahnhof to Isartorplatz
Get info: +49-89-381904-0

Find more film festival listings in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


FILM: Los Angeles Film Festival
June 17-26

The Los Angeles Film Festival is a bastion of independent cinema in the heart of the Hollywood.

The festival has premiered numerous films including "Kissing Jessica Stein," "Dancing at the Blue Iguana" and "Washington Heights".

Close to 200 films will be screened this year, including 83 features representing 31 countries.

Guest director Mira Nair will attend opening night, and present a special screening of films that have inspired her work.

On the program: features, shorts, music videos, free screenings.

For star-gossip lookenpeepers (you know you’re out there), Halle Berry and Samuel Jackson recently signed on as festival celebpresenters. Well, it’s Hollywood territory, after all.

“Invisible Light”
Directed by: Gina Kim
June 22, 23

Korean-born filmmaker Gina Kim's narrative debut is an intense and hypnotic examination of female depression, anxiety, and cultural identity that breaks new ground in the portrayal of Korean women on film.

“Ju-on: The Grudge”
Directed by: Shimizu Takashi
June 24

In a quiet Tokyo neighborhood, there lies a house that may be the most terrifying place on Earth and anyone who enters it is marked with a ghostly curse in this Japanese horror sensation.

Directed by: Shaz Bennett
June 20,22
Everybody is afraid of something. Shaz is afraid of tunnels.

Find it: Various venues, including ArcLight Cinerama Dome, John Anson Ford Theatre, Regent Showcase and the DGA. Call for screening locations.
Get info: (866) FILM-FEST

[Visual shown: "Ju-on/The Grudge"]

Find more film festival listings in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

DANCE: NYC: Pilobolus
June 21 - July 17, 2004

They're baaa-aack. Pilobolus returns with its what-the-hell blend of physicality and illusion.

In the first new work, Pilobolus goes over the top with "Megawatt", a full-tilt, full-throttle, full-company piece, blending startling energy with multi-body elements that scoot, zip, flip and zoom - not to mention music by Primus, Radiohead and Squarepusher.

Next up, a new work set in the Caribbean to an original score by Ed Bilous reinterprets the tale of Orpheus' tragic love triangle - from his wife's perspective.

The final new piece, a duet ("Tsu-Du-Tsu") can't even be put into words; it's wild, even for Pilobolus. And that's saying somethin'.

Find it: The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street
New York, New York 10011
Get info/showtimes: 212-868-4488
[Photo credit: John Kane]

Find more dance events in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


DANCE: Cali: "Digging in the Dark"
June 18, 19, 25, 26, 8pm

Springing from geological concepts and the geophysical technology, “Digging in the Dark” explores the nature of stability, vulnerability, change, memory and the human need to make the invisible visible.

The journey that begins on the Earth’s crust moves through the mantle, outer core and arrives at the inner core.

Obsessed with the mechanics of the human body as well as machines that propel the body through space, Capacitor artists have become masters of rigging systems and large-scale props designed to stretch the limits of physical poetry.

Find it: Alice Arts Theater
1428 Alice Street (near corner of 14th St./Alice Street, downtown)
Oakland, California
Get info: (415) 345-7575

[Photo credit: Edgar Lee]

Find more dance events in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


DANCE: "Blanc d'Ombra/White in the Shadow"
June 25

French sculptress Camille Claudel (1864-1943) spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum, the starting point of choreographer-performer Marta Carrasco's work about this fascinating artist.

In "Blanc d'Ombra/White in the Shadow", the remnants of Claudel's past life, stacked in a corner, conjure up the shadows of her days in Paris: fleeting memories of fellow artist Auguste Rodin, and her sculptures.

The work also references Claudel's lifelong stuggle to continue her work, defying nineteenth-century conventions to establish herself in a field dominated by men.

For U.S. audiences, this is a rare opportunity to see "Blanc d'Ombra/White in the Shadow". Following her Ford engagement in June, Marta Carrasco will appear at the Avignon dance festival in France.

Artist bio: Barcelona-based choreographer Marta Carrasco started her dance career at the late age of 17. She worked with European choreographers Avelina Argüelles, Angels Margarit and Ramon Oller. Marta struck out on her own with her first solo production, "Aiguardent/Firewater" in 1995.

Find it: Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Get info: (323) 461-3673

Find more dance events in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

MUSIC/Disc series:"Mylene"

Every morning, singer/songwriter Mylene Pires goes to a local Rio de Janeiro bakery for coffee and inspiration, watching to see what happens in this picturesque environment.

There was a time when her friends wondered about her rushing home without notice to write down an idea for a song or poem. It wasn't until after her friends had already resigned themselves to this odd habit saying, "oh well, it's a writer thing" that Mylene started carrying a notebook in her purse at all times.

For her debut album, Mylene intentionally sought out the universe of what a new generation of Brazilian musicians was creating, melding it to the experience of everyday people.

"I went to various raves and traditional Brazilian parties, I talked to DJs and producers," says Mylene. "I read a lot of poetry by contemporary writers and I went to Lisbon, too, looking for our roots."

"I searched for a possible reconciliation of Portuguese and Iberian music with Brazilian music, since we were colonized by Portugal and this influence and all its inherent peculiarities got kind of hidden in the corners of our history," Mylene says.

One of the biggest myths about 'creatives' is that they're eccentric, she says. But everyone has a ritual that works for them: "I have to organize all my office stuff before writing. I need a lot of quiet time. I have a favorite sofa where I lie down to relax and cleanse my mind. Sometimes," she says, "I dream melodies while I'm sleeping --that's why I always keep a tape recorder on the nightstand next to my bed."

For instance, the first part of "Clareou," which means "It Lit Up," came to Mylene in a dream:

Tua pele que eu acho t�o rara
Foi feita s� para mim...

(English translation:
Your skin that I find so rare
Was specially made for me...)

Mylene's songs are based on her poetry.

"Sometimes it takes just few minutes -- when that happens, the melody seems to come, pre-made. Sometimes I never finish the song. In general, I write the lyrics before the song."

While producing an album is difficult, Mylene almost never experiences creative block. "I believe it happens, but I've never experienced it. What happens to me is a kind of excitement that interferes with the process, that doesn't let me work well."

Although none of her songs are laced with the quality of confessional navel-gazing common in many singer/songwriters, most of Mylene's songs are actually inspired by real life.

"My trip to Lisbon is described in the song 'Rio-Lisboa'; my wanderings on the streets of Rio de Janeiro at night are captured in the lyrics for 'Longa Longa Noite'":

� t�o longa longa a noite e suas luzes
Meu rumo
Um sinal qualquer nessa cidade que me pare
Eu fumo
E eu liguei a luz do seu olhar e acendeu�

(English translation:
Such a long, long night and her lights
My route
Any traffic light can stop me
I smoke
I lit your eyes and they brightened�)

Some songs on the album grew out of more internalized personal credos or experiences, like "Clareou", "Promessas", and "Pipoca Contemporanea".

� quando a areia se espalha que eu penso em voc�
porque o gr�o se separa sem se arrepender...

(English translation: It is when the sands spread that I think of you
Because the grains separate with no regrets...)
from: "Pipoca Contemporanea/Contemporary Popcorn"

"I think some people are born with an innate 'music skill' and can either develop that with time and practice, or choose not to. Others have to study music and find out their own way to express their art," she says. "Music is the language of God; in general, artists express in their art something that they can't express in any other way."

The song "48 Horas" combines Brazilian and Moorish sonorities, subverting its Spanish roots in 6/8, with a meeting between Brazilian regional northeast instruments and samplers and electronic programming. This is reinforced by the drama of the lyrics that speak of jealousy, anguish, fear, and the wait for someone who never comes.

"Rio-Lisboa" makes the connection between Brazil and Portugal, this time turning colonization inside out.

The lyrics tell two crisscrossing stories, an imaginary meeting of Portugal's Tejo River and Brazil's Rio de Janeiro.

O meu amigo, ele tem uma janela
E ele v� o Tejo e o tempo passar por ela
E l� na frente virar mar...

(English translation:
My friend has a window
From which he watches the Tejo river and time passing
Flowing into the sea far ahead...)
From: "Rio-Lisboa/Rio-Lisbon"

On "Coracao Tonto," which translates to "Dizzy Heart," Mylene makes her way into a mantric dub with a lot of open space and 1970s-style keyboards.

"Nela Lagoa," or "Lagoon Along Her," integrates drum 'n bass with the samba-reggae that is characteristic of Bahia.

Ela novela
Eu novelinho que ela desenrola...

(English translation: She's a novel
And me, the skein that she unwinds...)
from: "Nela Lagoa/Lagoon Along Her"

The song is inspired by the African legends of the Orix�s and Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion. Mylene calls on Oxossi in search of a lost love.

Featuring an exotic blend of traditional samba and bossa nova, mixed with folkloric elements and electronica, Mylene sings the soul of Brazil itself.

Read more about this music artist in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

DANCE: Insight: Choreographer Jodi Lomask, on "Digging in the Dark"

"Digging In the Dark" is about probing the layers of the Earth as a metaphor for probing the human mind and heart.

It is dark down there, it is dark in there. We search dark places for artifacts we can bring back or out.

I was interested in exploring how we relate to the Earth and the ways we get to know each other and ourselves.

The show takes its structure from the layers of the Earth, from the atmosphere, to the crust, the mantle, the outer core, the inner core, and back again.

We talked a lot in the Capacitor Lab process about what modern scientists know and don't know about the layers of the Earth and what many of them think lies below as much of what scientists think is in there is unproven.

We used these descriptions to create movement, as well as metaphors.

For example, many scientists believe that the inner core of the earth is crystalline. So I created a quartet of performers binding together in a crystalline fashion...with angles and symmetrical lines.

When the economy was booming and Y2K was approaching, culture's energy was expansive -- people were looking up and out. That is when we created "Within Outer Spaces", about Earth's relationship to outer space.

Now that people have less money, we have been involved in a war in which oil has played a large role, we are feeling uncertain about our future as a global community, culture's energy is contracting.

We are feeling the costs -- people are wanting to go in and down, to find out what really matters and are re-examining what is really necessary.

[Shown above: "Digging in the Dark"]


I grew up around a lot of scientists and artists, so in a way, we tend to make work from what is familiar to us.

I think that the childlike curiosity you need in order to make great scientific discovery is similar to the curiosity you need to make great art. You need to want to get into things, you need to wonder how they work.

I think art and science at their best are hard to distinguish, but I am not sure that I would call them the same thing.


Recently, I've been reading "A Land in Motion, California's San Andreas Fault" by Michael Collier. I've been using "Seismic Data Processing, Theory and Practice" by L. Hatton/M. Worthington/J. Makin to gain exposure to modern mapping technology.

I really enjoyed "Earth: Portrait of a Planet" by Stephen Marshak, with contributions from Donald Prothero.

I've been watching documentaries on earthquakes, volcanoes, and the earth's interior as well.

I am exposing myself to these sources of 'brain beef' searching for elements of excitement; for example, that a great earthquake can result in a sudden increase of gravity which makes the body feel like it weighs five hundred pounds. This idea is something I find fascinating as a dancer, as a motion artist, as a person whose job it is to feel deeply.


This was an email I received after our beta test of "Digging In the Dark":

"I'm a geophysicist at UC Berkeley and saw [excerpts from] "Digging in the Dark" last year. I was thoroughly impressed! It should be required for all geology students."

Other scientists came to the beta test and filled out questionnaires that I could dig up later. In general, scientists who are involved in the creative aspects of their field find a lot to relate to in our shows.

Their minds are open and they are not precious about the subject matter. They're pleased to see people engaging with it in a new way, offering other folks a portal into their world.


I hope "Digging in the Dark" is more refined [compared to prior works]. This is my goal -- to make the work more and more clear, more honest, more pure.

I have always had a lot of great ideas and refining them is where I need to focus.


The core philosophical theme in the work, essentially, is that a small change on the deeper layers can result in huge consequences on the surface.

Four inches of annual motion in the mantle results in the entire continental shift we experience on the surface, which means all of the earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, and flash floods.

A small adjustment to one's perspective on a deep enough level can change the course of one's life and all of the elements within it.

"Digging in the Dark" explores the nature of stability, vulnerability, change, memory and the human need to make the invisible visible.

[Comparisons can be drawn between] scientific principles of stability, vulnerability to stressors, necessary change, and the same principles, and experiences, in human nature.

About this group: ca-pac-i-tor: n. a device for accumulating and holding a charge of electricity.

Capacitor is a San Francisco-based performance group that creates multidisciplinary performances through intensive collaborations and in-depth dialogue with a community of artists and individuals from widely varying fields of study.

Capacitor's mission is to explore science and technology as a portal for delving deeper into human nature and as a means for creating a new lexicon of images and movement collages that reflect shifts in the contemporary world.

To cultivate new and relevant performance concepts, Capacitor developed the Capacitor Lab, a think-tank of artists engineers, scientists and philosophers who exchange ideas, share knowledge, and ignite each other's imaginations, spurring the creation of innovative performance pieces.

About this artist: Jodi Lomask founded Capacitor in 1997, with the idea of exploring non-traditional combinations of arts and sciences through movement. Since that time, Lomask has directed and choreographed five full-evening performance pieces including "Within Outer Spaces", "Avatars" and "Digging in the Dark". Her choreography has been produced at the Cowell Theater, ODC Theater, Dancer's Group, Somarts Gallery, and Alice Arts Theater and has toured internationally.

Lomask trained at the Royal Ballet Academy, Merce Cunningham Studio and the Rotterdam Dansacademie. She has performed with Project Bandaloop, Kneejerk, Erica Essner, and Capacitor.

[Shown/header image: "Digging in the Dark"
Photo credits: Edgar Lee]

Read more artist profiles in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


SCI/TECH: "Clubbing with Orwell"

Clubbers in Spain are choosing to receive a microchip implant instead of carrying a membership card.

It is the latest and perhaps the most unlikely of uses for implantable radio frequency ID chips.

The Baja Beach Club in Barcelona offers people signing up for VIP membership a choice between an RFID chip and a normal card. VIP members can jump the entrance queues, reserve a table and use the nightclub's VIP lounge.

"The RFID chip is not compulsory," says Conrad Chase, managing director of the club. But he says there are advantages to having it.

The obvious one is that you do not have to carry a membership card around with you, but also it means you can leave your wallet at home. This is because the RFID can be used as an in-house debit card, says Chase.

When drinks are ordered the RFID is scanned with a handheld device and the cost is added to your bill. The chips, called VeriChips, are produced by US company Applied Digital Solutions.

Courtesy: NewScientist.com

Read more science news in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

ART: "Imaginary Geography"
Luigi Ghirri retrospective
Through July 24th

Photographer Luigi Ghirri had a knack for photographing not only the tangible and present, but the intangible and absent.

His tableaus of simple everyday scenes have an element of expectation in them; many of them are mildly puzzling, as if the human figures in the landscape are present but not able to be seen.

Ghirri’s visuals often seem to be bookplates to accompany a well-worn phrase by Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery does not consist in searching for new lands, but in having new eyes.”

His works focus mainly on details picked out of landscapes, elements of architecture, candid snaps of ordinary people. Apart from that, his work is not really reducible to simple terms, as it contains a deeper, poetic quality beyond the visual captured on film.

There’s an element in his work which is present in the most intriguing works of photography; the dichotomy of memory versus documentation, the exterior versus the internalized, history versus the physical place, the private versus public, the "two categories of the world", synthesized by Ghirri.

But never the one without the other: images delineate an ‘imaginary geography’; not a map of an imaginary place, but kilometer zero for the imagination -- space that stops time, fixity that moves.

It is through this journey of the intensified (the telescope, replaced by the camera) that we learn how to use our mind’s eye to fill in the rest of the story. This exhibit includes more than sixty of Luigi Ghirri's photographs.

Find it: francosoffiantino artecontemporanea
Via Rossini 23
Torino, Italy
Get info: +39 011 837743

Find more art events in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


ART:LA: "The Summer Show"

June 26-July 31
Reception: June 26, 7pm

Just in time for beach season, sixspace opens an exhibition featuring sunny, playful new works by three emerging artists: Jen Corace, Caroline Hwang, and Deth P. Sun.

Illustrator Jen Corace makes her Los Angeles debut with new acrylic and pencil works. LA-to-NYC transplant Caroline Hwang showcases her unique assemblage style sewn pieces that incorporate fabric, thread, and paint.

Deth P. Sun presents larger-scale paintings on canvas of his sometimes cute yet mostly deviant characters.

Artist bios: Jen Corace, based in Rhode Island, has done record covers for Red Square Records and web design for public art commission, “The Color of Palo Alto.”

Caroline Hwang was born in Minneapolis, but has spent the majority of her life is sunny SoCal. Finding inspiration in everyday things, including crafts, graphic arts, quilting, films, and music, Hwang’s tactile assemblage style incorporates fabric, thread, and paint to create collaged images that communicate raw human emotion, self-reflection, and the dynamics and difficulty of human relationships.

Deth P. Sun’s work has been included in exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles and London. His artwork has been featured in and was recently on the cover of Asia cult-pop magazine, “Giant Robot”. He enjoys the work of: Takashi Murakami, Inka Essenhigh and James Jarvis.

Find it: sixspace
549 West 23rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Get info: (213) 765-0248

Find more art events worldwide in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

ART:NYC: "Scarlets in Ghent"
Through June 12th

In contrast to the booty queens and misogynist rap-masters of our day, Xiomara De Oliver's new paintings are symbolically and literally filled with praise of the feminine.

She paints her female figures in decadent settings: beaches; luxurious rooms; lush, ambient gardens. Painted in a manner that balances the naive and the expressionistic, her work demands to be read intuitively.

Depicting only women, and surrounding them with metaphorically female objects, she creates realms that are visually opulent and sexually charged. Seemingly utopian, her paintings engage the viewer with their beauty, only to belie their intensely psychological content.

In “Queen Me”, (2004), the central figure (self-portrait) is attended to by smaller figures, her portrait on the wall mirroring her place in this self-enclosed society. She is adorned with a rose on her ankle and eats rings of calamari, testament to the sea, which emphasize her significance as a source of creation.

Similarly fertile is Xiomara's use of color, as evinced in “I Never Got to Do a Spa Weekend in Palm Springs”, (2004). A vivid field of blues and greens creates an atmosphere reminiscent of Qing Dynasty landscapes. This undulating space is dotted with female figures indulging in bright red strawberries. Mirroring this opulence are flowering trees, beds, and red bathtubs.

This is the artist's third one-person show at RARE. De Oliver exhibits regularly at MW Projects in London and at Galerie Anne de Villepoix in Paris.

In the accompanying “Rare Plus” event, Karsten Krejcarek creates a tableau of calamity, half-scaled, in which a lone female figure lies sprawled on a green tennis court with racket and tennis balls by her side.

Her diminutive size and disjointed posture implies a crestfallen state of tactical emotional withdrawal.

Using tennis as a metaphor for interpersonal relationships, the installation suggests the nature of botched adoration, the demoralizing quality of loss, and the resulting incapacity for reconciliation. This is Karsten's first
one-person exhibition at Rare.

Find it: Rare
521 West 26th Street
New York, New York 10001
Get info: (212) 268-1520

Find more art events worldwide in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

SCI/TECH: "Losing Face: Redefining Identity"

A US medical team has requested permission to perform the world's first face transplant.

Researchers from the University of Louisville in Kentucky, have requested approval to carry out the complex and controversial operation. The team is about to submit a lengthy document detailing their plan to a university ethics committee.

Skeptics have questioned whether such a transplant would be worth the side-effects of anti-rejection drugs, and whether the family of a donor would recognize their loved one in the face of the recipient.

The Louisville team has carried out research that, they claim, indicates such obstacles can be overcome. The team has been using the faces of bodies donated for medical research to practice the groundbreaking operation and the results suggest that a transplanted face will not be recognizable as either the donor or the recipient - in effect creating a third face.

“New Scientist” magazine is running a six-page spread about the topic, but so far, no one has addressed the cultural implications of, let’s face it, swapping something that goes a little deeper than flesh and bone.

Geography used to play a huge role in defining tribal or national boundaries and traditions, in isolating gene pools, the development of language. With technology came a greater level of evolution, freedom and rapid change.

‘Identity’ was no longer so clearly defined.

But what continues to be the primary stamp of verifiable ID?
Look at your driver’s license. Even if it’s a dorm-room special. Or your passport.

Sure, biometrics has moved on, to include retinal scans and digitized fingerprints. The whole “Gattaca” scenario might not even be as far away as we realize.

Transplanting your face. Hmm. Does a new face give you, by default, a new identity? If you add a new screensaver to your computer screen, does that significantly alter anything about the underlying system?

And, given the popular appeal, also, of movies like “Face Off”, how much experimental scientific research is influenced by pop culture, and vice versa?

Just a random queritorial from “Arte Six”, to ponder over coffee. Or the next Café Scientifique.

Read more cutting-edge science news in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


BOOKS/WRITERS: "Bombshell: Writing action-adventure that rocks"
Writers Bloc series
Featured columnist: Natashya Wilson

“Bombshell: Writing Action-Adventure that Rocks”
by Natashya Wilson
Senior Editor, Silhouette Bombshell

Are you writing about kick-ass women who don't hesitate to jump in with both feet and go after the bad guys?

Well, the time for women’s action-adventure stories has never been better, with authors such as Janet Evanovich, Patricia Cornwell and J. D. Robb taking center stage on the best-seller lists, shows such as “Alias”, “Cold Case” and “Tru Calling” heating up television and heroine-led movies such as “Kill Bill Vol. 2”, “Taking Lives” and “Charlie’s Angels” lighting up the silver screen.

That’s why Silhouette Books is launching the new Silhouette Bombshell series, featuring four brand-new women’s action-adventure books every month starting in July.

Strong, intelligent heroines are taking action, saving the day and getting the bad guy – or the good guy.

Here are some tips about creating a kick-ass heroine from Natashya Wilson, associate senior editor of Silhouette Bombshell:

1. Create an appealing heroine.

Your heroine should be both appealing and inspirational to readers. Reading about her should give readers a feeling of empowerment in their own lives, as if they too can achieve their goals and never give up.

The heroine should be someone exceptional with exceptional skills and expertise but should also have human flaws that the reader can relate to.

This is a woman readers want to know -- or be. She has fears, desires, and other human qualities we all share. She also has the ability to get things done and the guts to act on instinct.

No matter who your heroine is, whether she’s a tough-talking woman from the streets, a smooth, sophisticated operator or an ordinary woman caught in extraordinary circumstances, she should be someone the reader can relate to on some level.

2. Create your heroine’s personal world.

No one lives in a vacuum. Give your heroine a background, childhood, friends and family (depending on her situation) and a home.

Figure out what she’s gone through, what her motivations are, what makes her the woman she is in the present.

Show your reader who your heroine is through her home, her clothing choices, the people she respects, the people she does and does not get along with. Does she have a child? A pet? Any phobias? Does she have a romantic relationship? What kind of vehicle does she drive? What does her work space look like?

Ask yourself these questions and more to bring your character to life for the reader.

3. Give your heroine a special skill or quality.

Your heroine should have a quality that gives her an edge. She could have one or more physical skills, such as dexterity, weapons skills, speed, great eyesight, or martial arts training.

She could have mental advantages, such as a photographic memory, an instinct for character, or far-above-average intelligence. She could even have a superhero quality.

Or, her quality could be a trait such as courage, stubbornness or insatiable curiosity. Or all three!

Whoever she is, she’s got that certain something that keeps her from giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

In July, Silhouette Bombshell’s heroines include a former military officer, a forensic scientist, a police officer and a CIA agent. Needless to say, their array of skills is diverse.

4. Surround your heroine with other compelling characters.

If your heroine has a love interest, be sure her hero is worthy of her. She may not know at first if he’s a good guy or a bad guy, but the man for her has got to be her equal in his own way.

Secondary characters should also be fully developed, not simple caricatures.

Think about creating a villain with depth, someone who challenges the heroine and isn’t a one-dimensional, all-evil person. Explore your characters’ motivations and make them realistic.

5. Create a plot that will challenge your heroine -- and grab readers’ attention.

Part of creating an action-adventure heroine is throwing her into a situation that will challenge her, surprise her, put her through the wringer and reveal to her something new about herself. The stakes may have anything from personal to local to worldwide implications.

Whatever your heroine faces, whether it’s something that’s right up her alley or something that will push her far outside her comfort zone, it’s got to be something that can resonate with readers, make them care about the situation and cheer for your heroine as she does what it takes to bring some justice to the world.

6. Give your heroine an emotional stake in the conflict.

Take your heroine a step beyond being involved because it’s her job or because it’s the right thing to do.

Maybe she’s avenging the death of a friend or family member. Maybe she’s redeeming herself after a previous failure. Maybe she’s become a criminal’s personal target. Maybe she has to work with a former lover or sworn enemy. Maybe she has to overcome a fear.

There are endless possibilities. When you give your heroine an emotional tie to the situation, you give your reader even more reason to care about the outcome.

7. Include a romantic subplot.

Romantic emotion is universal, something almost every reader can relate to. In Silhouette Bombshell, every book includes an intense romantic subplot. Although the relationship is not the focus of the story, the heroine and her hero do take their relationship to a new level by the end of the book.

Not every action-adventure story includes a romantic element, but including one can give your story an extra edge. The amount of romance should be appropriate for the characters and the situation.

For example, if your hero and heroine are in the midst of a tense sting operation, they aren’t likely to stop and contemplate their feelings for each other.

If they’re going down in a plane, they probably won’t have time or be in a frame of mind to have sex.

However, if they’re stuck together on a long stakeout, they might have more time to explore their emotions and physical attraction.

8. Make the plot and the romance unpredictable.

Keep your heroine and your reader guessing as long as you can. Perhaps the villain isn’t who we think it is. Perhaps the problem the heroine thinks she’s facing is just the tip of the iceberg and further complications arise as the book moves on.

Perhaps the man the heroine is most attracted to seems to be the bad guy. As soon as the heroine and the reader think the situation can’t get any tougher, throw something new and even bigger at them.

The twists you use to create suspense on all levels will keep your reader intrigued and compel her or him to keep turning pages.

9. Use your own areas of expertise.

Familiar with firearms? Like to solve word puzzles in your spare time? Maybe you’re an expert at accounting, or a legal wizard.

Whatever you know, put it to use to make your heroine and her situation believable. Writing about something you know well will infuse your book with credibility. And if you’re writing about something you don’t actually have experience with, research, research, research.

Learn everything you can about the world your heroine lives in—make the book ring true, make your reader believe your heroine knows her stuff.

Follow the above points and you’ll be on your way to creating a multilayered, compelling and unpredictable read with a captivating action-adventure heroine who’ll (figuratively speaking) blow your readers away.

Columnist bio: Natashya Wilson is the senior associate editor of new Silhouette series “Bombshell”, which launches in July 2004. Wilson holds an M.A. in magazine journalism from the S. I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University. She started at Harlequin Books in 1996, when she became an editorial assistant for the Harlequin American Romance and Intrigue series. She has also worked with McGraw-Hill and the Rosen Publishing Group.

When she’s not reading Bombshell submissions, which is almost never, she can be found reading other books, riding her Anglo-Arab mare, or honing her own Bombshell skills in her martial arts classes.

About: The Writers Bloc series is an ongoing column featuring practical advice for writers. Nope, not a support group. Not until someone busts out the tequila, anyway...

Read other Books/Writers features in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

ART:NYC: "Convergence"

June 3 – 19
Reception: June 3, 6pm
Artist discussion: June 5, 1pm

“Convergence” is an exhibition where new media art and communications technology challenge traditional concepts of portraiture, art, and gallery space.

“Convergence” tells of a new role for technology in contemporary art, one where the boundaries are blurred between old and new media and between digital and physical realms.

In the traditional museum and gallery setting the visitor is an observer who is physically separated from the artworks. “Convergence” invites Museum visitors to touch and manipulate the works which brings them to life.

In this way, the artworks foretell a future in which more democratic and powerful modes of communication allow a greater multiplicity of people to express themselves and share ideas freely.

The exhibition features the innovations of nine visionary artists, designers, engineers, programmers, and musicians from the U.S. and Europe.


“Infinite City”
Artists: Jean-Marc Gauthier, Miro Kirov,
James Tunick

Infinite City is an interactive multimedia installation that transports audience members
to a futuristic 3D cityscape.

Surrounded by a 30-foot immersive projection display and a multi-channel surround sound system, viewers establish control of their surroundings through ultrasonic sensors.

Hand movements guide a virtual camera through the 3D world and alter the spatial position of ambient sound.

Artist: Daniel Shiffman
Swarm is a live video installation that implements the pattern of flocking birds
(using Craig Reynold's "Boids" model) as a constantly moving brush stroke.

Taking inspiration from Jackson Pollack's "drip and splash" technique of pouring a continuous stream of paint onto a canvas, "Swarm" smears colors captured from video input, producing an organic painterly effect in real-time.

“Interactive Sound Installation”
Artist: Konrad Kaczmarek
This installation piece transforms fragments
of conversations into rhythmic and melodic patterns.

As the participants approach the installation, the relative sound level of their conversation triggers individual words and phrases to be recorded into the mix, producing live music keyed into the current environment.

“See-Through Wall”
Artists: Dana Karwas, Gabe Winer

"See-Through Wall" is an interactive video art work that redefines of space by blending the real architecture of the gallery space with virtual architecture, giving viewers “x-ray” vision to see through the walls of the gallery and out into a virtual urban landscape.

The "See-Through Wall" collects what is present in reality, reinterpreting it within a virtual space, and recontextualizing reality through
the process of architectural projections.

“Convergence” is being produced in conjunction with the current exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum, “Surface Tension”, curated by Manon Slome, which addresses the influence of technology on contemporary painting.

The exhibition is part of the Project Room program series and “Introductions” workshops in the arts and technology produced by Nina Colosi with the Electronic Music Foundation.

“Introductions” is a series of discussions with leading artists in music and art and technology who perform and/or demonstrate their ideas and techniques in working with computers, software, synthesizers, video, and other technologies.
The June 5th discussion focuses on the issue
of – guess what -- convergence.
Find it: Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street@11th Ave.
Get info: (212) 255-0719

Read more art news in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

DANCE:NYC: "The Impersonation of Mr. Peacock"

June 16–19, 7pm

Nancy McCaleb presents two new works, performed by her powerful and stunning company of six.

“The Impersonation of Mr. Peacock” takes its inspiration from visual artist/collaborator Francis Alÿs who is known for his ‘paseos’ through cities that chart the terrain of urban life. “The Impersonation of Mr. Peacock” is an engaging meditation on the dynamics of day-to-day public interactions.

The work explores chance meetings, fleeting encounters, and unexpected turns of events, creating a poignant look at human interaction within a transient landscape.

Also on the program will be “Verdigris” (2001), a work inspired by Symbolist painters and poets whose exotic dreamscapes were often spurred by absinthe and its psychotropic effects.

“Verdigris” is a high-powered work marked by moments of lush physicality. On stage, real time and dream time merge into one.

About the artist: Nancy McCaleb trained with Betty Jones and other veterans of the Jose Limón Company in NYC. Her first professional performances were with Simone Forti in Paris. She founded McCaleb Dance in 1997 after a decade as choreographer, dancer, and artistic director of Isaacs/McCaleb & Dancers.

Find it: DTW - Dance Theater Workshop
219 West 19th Street
New York NY, 10011
Get info: (212) 924-0077

Read more dance news in the June 2004 issue of "Arte Six".