June 1, 2006 § Leave a Comment
The scenario itself is so stupid you can hardly believe it: One group of people spends about 12 hours a day and is paid 10 cents an hour to manufacture goods that another group of people tosses drunkenly at each other as they flash their private parts during a big, outdoor celebration. The items end up tossed in the garbage after the party. Sure, it sounds silly, but that’s what happens every Mardi Gras. David Redmon’s “Mardi Gras: Made in China” is a bold piece of documentary filmmaking, with Redmon tracing Mardi Gras beads from the naked chests of drunken coeds to a factory line in China comprised of teenage girls, and managing to maintain humor and a sense of fairness amidst the obvious immediacy and potential for grim subject matter.
Redmon takes his camera to both the Chinese factory that produces the beads and the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where they are put to use. Even when juxtaposed to the degradation of a Chinese factory worker, the scenes from Mardi Gras stand out as much more alien and disturbing. Still, Redmon manages the near impossible feat of tapping into the humanity of the drunken revelers on occasion — for every soused lout who ignores the question of “Do you know where the beads come from?” by bellowing something about a party, there is another person who shows some sign of remorse, not only because deep down they already know the answer, but also quickly own up to the fact that the beads are disposable garbage.
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April 13, 2006 § Leave a Comment
When artist Brandon Graving fled her New Orleans studio as Hurricane Katrina hit, she had no idea when she would see her hometown again. Now that she has returned, she spends her time picking up the pieces and learning to find some beauty in destruction. “The trees are blooming, the ones that didn’t die from the flood waters,” said Graving, “and stuff is kind of optimistic and pretty, but very strange as well.”
Graving, who divides her year between her hometown and as master printmaker at the Contemporary Artists’ Center in North Adams, returned to New Orleans in January.
“I needed to really allow the city to be a little less wild,” said Graving, “because I’m a single woman and things were pretty much like the wild, wild west here. Even when I first got here, it just felt very raw.”
Just because Graving had escaped the worst of it didn’t mean that there weren’t reminders everywhere. Boats and cars were still trapped in trees — a few blocks from her studio, there is a boat shoved inside a house. The city is crawling with out-of-town contractors who roar through town and who are known for ignoring stop signs — many stop lights don’t work.
When she first arrived, there were hardly any operating grocery stores, though a few have opened since. There was mail delivery once every two weeks, though it shows signs of being weekly now. No packages can be mailed out, but stamps can be purchased to send letters. Garbage pickup has ceased and debris is piling up on the streets.
The city also has been expending much time and effort on body recovery, sending out crews of cadaver dogs to go through debris before more is created by bulldozing unsafe structures or by watching them fall down on their own.
“I expect that this is not the healthiest environment,” said Graving. « Read the rest of this entry »