Sofia Coppola, Somewhere, 2010, stills from a color film, 97 minutes.

Sofia Coppola’s films have been praised as “sweet and sad at the same time” (Roger Ebert on Lost in Translation [2003]) and “highly theatrical and yet also intimate and informal” (A. O. Scott on Marie Antoinette [2006]). Her latest feature, Somewhere, is a tribute to Los Angeles’s Chateau Marmont, and in many ways it is also a reflection on her own experiences at the landmark hotel. The film follows Stephen Dorff’s lead as a Hollywood actor whose personal life and relationship with his eleven-year-old daughter, played by Elle Fanning, undergo subtle transformations. A trailer for the film can be found here.

Here, Coppola discusses her approach to crafting the script and the various tributes in the film. Last September, Somewhere was awarded the Golden Lion at the sixty-seventh Venice International Film Festival. The film opens in select US cities on December 22.

Ohad Meromi


View of “Rehearsal Sculpture,” 2010.

The Israeli-born, New York–based artist Ohad Meromi was recently commissioned by Art in General to create an installation in its sixth-floor galleries. In response, he has constructed an evolving rehearsal or workshop space in which participants can gather to create what he terms “ad-hoc group sculpture.” The show is on view until March 5, 2011.

IN THE PAST, I’ve worked a lot with architecture and based my installations on all sorts of dystopian sites: a border crossing, a classroom, a clinic. Eventually, a particular place began to stick with me: the stage—the place that can shift into all those other places. I began to think: How does one create a stage? Architecturally speaking, is it the divide between performers and audience? Would it be enough to point a camera and say “Action?” I’m thinking about what it signifies to designate a space for a type of ritualistic activity, and what that designation enables us to do. For this show I decided to simply paint the main part of the gallery black, and to think of it as a rehearsal room: a studio. The space should serve as an invitation for participation—and over the course of the exhibition, it will actually hold a series of rehearsals; I call it all “rehearsal sculpture.” As opposed to the installation mode of the piece where one could walk through it alone, the rehearsals are best experienced in a group, and the participants will become my troupe, so to speak. Social sculpture might be overstating it, but we could maybe call it ad-hoc group sculpture. As far as the objects go, there will be a small booklet with scenarios, and props such as boxes and ashtrays and large egg shapes painted on panels. These lead the viewer-participant to come up with motions, though that might require some creativity on his or her part. There’s also a framework of geometric wooden paneling that joins together to create a half circle of sorts, a concave backdrop that starts to set the stage and backstage apart from each other. I’m trying to look at actions that have a center. An accompanying projection currently shows scenes from a storyboard I drew, which I hope we can look at and say, “That would be a good moment we could bring to the stage.” I’m inviting a couple of friends—Anna Craycroft, Halsey Rodman, and Molly Smith, among others—to direct some of the rehearsals.

I stumbled upon Bertolt Brecht’s learning plays a few years ago and have used them directly in several earlier pieces. They’re short, didactic, and very brutal. What I really liked about them beyond their sense of direct commitment to an ideology is Brecht’s indication that they do not require an audience. I’m very interested in thinking about the performative as a site for learning rather then a show or a spectacle. Eliminating the audience allows one to think of relationship between the actor and the script—the actor and the idea. There’s also Augusto Boal’s term spect-actor, which has to do with the attempt to provide agency to the participant. As a twist on Boal’s book Games for Actors and Non-actors, I named the booklet of script excerpts I’ve created for the space Stage Exercises for Smokers and Nonsmokers. To me, smoking is always the first “non-action.” I’m not a director, so when I set up a performative space I need a lot of these non-actions. And then there’s also the American Spirit logo on some of the props in the space that I wanted to acknowledge at some point; in a way, it’s sort of a suppressed primitivist figure.

I’m fascinated by the idea of the model. You have some sort of different agency over the world when you decide that it’s a model. And in a sense this room remains a model of a room: A place for me to think about the black box as something that enables. Being in a model is something I imagine the modernists had in mind; they had us performing this new world, or perhaps the new man. These hyperideological moments are fascinating to me for their sense of relationship with the future. Of course each of these big “-isms” has its own set of problems. But what about them can be saved? Or, if we’re not rebuilding them, how can we create models that do preserve something of their ideology? It’s why I’m interested in modern ruins. (Kibbutzes, for instance, are a particular modern ruin I have a lot of interest in, having been born on one.) Perhaps if we can’t re-create the utopian democratic city tomorrow, we can at least work on a model for one, which could be a good place to start negotiating our ideals and hopes: a good place to think about us and about our future?

View of Surround Me: A Song Cycle for the City of London, 2010. Left: Change Alley. Right: London Bridge. Photo: Rebecca Garland.

Susan Philipsz is a Scottish sound-installation artist. She is the winner of the 2010 Turner Prize, and the first artist to win the award with an aural work. Her multisite sound installation Surround Me: A Song Cycle for the City of London, commissioned by Artangel, will play throughout the city of London until January 2.

SOUND, ESPECIALLY AN UNACCOMPANIED VOICE, has its own associations and can really act as a trigger for memory. In my installations, I am looking in to how sound can define the architecture and how you can experience the space in a new way. When you are listening to music you can be transported to another place. I think that when there are also these ambient sounds in the space, you're half-grounded in the work and half-grounded in the present. At these moments, your senses become heightened and you become more aware of the place your in. I believe people have these reactions in response to my work almost simultaneously.

When I first went to London with a view to finding a site for my Artangel commission, I was struck by how incredibly quiet the Financial District is at the weekends. I then discovered that the Financial District is actually where the old walled city of London was, and that the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange were at the epicenter of the early modern city. The Royal Exchange was there but all the real trading took place in the coffeehouses of Change Alley. I was interested in that history and through my research I discovered that in the sixteenth and seventeenth century the voice was a really strong feature of early modern London. Before the sound of machinery and traffic, it was all about the sound of the voice in the streets. At that time, the street traders learned how to utilize the acoustics of the streets because their voice had to carry over the other voices. When you read about it, you realize it could be cacophonous at times so they developed a technique where they could almost call in harmony with one another to be heard. They each would have their own particular cry and it sounded quite musical.

I started looking at these rounds and madrigals and learned that the street traders's yells really inspired writers and composers at the time. For example, Shakespeare often mentions these cries and a lot of the composers, like Thomas Ravencroft, were also inspired by the street traders. Ravencroft was my favorite composer because he used the real cries of the street traders rather than the idealized ones.

That was one of the inspirations for Surround Me. I was also enchanted by the idea of a song cycle because when you think of the old city of London, it was a walled city, so this idea of a cycle came in a circular motif. It is a project that spans six sites in the streets of London and I’ve arranged the works in a broad circle around the Royal Exchange so it takes you from Milk Street to Moorfields Highwalk right down to London Bridge and the Thames. This idea of the flow of water, which the river so powerfully represents, became an element in all the sound works; the themes of fluidity, circulation, and immersion are all reflected in the lyrics and sites, the flow of tears, drowning in sorrow. It's a series of interrelated sound installations in the financial district, designed to make you experience the architecture in a completely different way.

Susan Philipsz, Surround Me, 2010.

Left: David Ratcliff, Untitled Ghost Painting (titanic), 2010, spray paint on canvas, 64 x 48”. Right: David Ratcliff, Untitled Ghost Painting (void if detached), 2010, spray paint on canvas, 64 x 58”.

David Ratcliff is an artist based in Los Angeles who is known for using appropriated digital imagery in his large-scale paintings. His solo show at Galerie Rodolphe Janssen closes on December 23. Here, he discusses the new works in the exhibition.

THE “GHOST PAINTINGS” began as accidental tears and cuts in the masks of my previous paintings, places where the blade slipped or the paper caught on something and tore. My process involves making digital collages and detailed paper masks that I attach to the canvases, which are spray-painted. Sometimes these small cuts weren’t visible until they were “found” by the paint, and so I began to see them as free from the light and shadow of the photographic forms, and as welcome aberrations.

The first ghost paintings were made on black grounds, and the cuts appear as light shining through the canvas. When rendering photographic forms in paper, the X-Acto knife puts its own resolution on certain forms: A circle can only be so small before the tip breaks. Cut lines, however, are free, without resolution, continuous. They contain no light or shadow. When the paint is sprayed through the paper mask, it renders forms, but it’s almost like sunlight on dust, like something in the air. There is a completely different light in the ghost paintings than in my previous work.

I’m using standard office paper, and spray-can paint is relatively blunt, so a great deal of the painting has always been the result of accidental bleeding. In contrast to my other work, where areas of the canvas are left open and exposed to the paint, the masks in these works cover the surface almost entirely, leaving just about nothing visible beneath the paper. What I had previously held together with a degree of certainty has slipped into loss of control. I can’t see the paintings until after they are complete.

The ghost paintings are the closest I’ve come to using my own drawings, my own hand––but they’re really just tracings. The paintings resemble a kind of anemic cubism, something seen through water, fading afterimages. My earlier works started out as painterly versions of photo(copy) collages. The ghost paintings employ line in a way that defines them more clearly as paintings, as opposed to referencing photo-based print media, but they remain the result of a process that keeps my hand apart from the work. I can’t put my finger on exactly why yet, but I’ve got this sense that if I were to start using my own drawings, the work would cease to be history painting, and not only because the content would no longer be supplied by the public. It could have something to do with the feeling that our recording of events has not kept up with the increasingly faster pace at which events seem to be unfolding.

Right now I don’t think painting can be anything but history painting. My work does not support the idea of originality, so repetition is what’s left. All of the images are found, mainly from online sources. The earlier works were almost catalogues of types: types of gesture, expression, design, and identity. Groups. Examples.

I have a two-year-old daughter and have been reading about childhood development. Imagination is believed to be helpful in interpersonal relationships because it’s used in understanding and imagining the feelings of others. It is also essential in the construction of historical events. Included in the source images of the recent ghost paintings are children’s coloring book pages, specifically ones of the Titanic, a Native American, and a Bible story. There are also political cartoons dealing with migrant labor and aging, and soldier snapshots from the Vietnam War; however, like events unfolding around us, or specters from the past, the images in the paintings contain an inherent illegibility, multiple gravestone rubbings on the same sheet of paper.

The ghost paintings acknowledge the past as being immediate, one second ago, like the afterimage of a flash, washed out, frozen. In the past year I have been focusing on two bodies of work, the “ghosts” and portraits. Both involve drawings found online, though the ghosts begin with tracings of drawings, while the portraits use the drawings themselves, or digital copies. The portraits are very aggressive combinations of the private/personal and the public/political. There hasn’t been a time in American history where the private life of the average American has been offered up, been made so visible and with such political potential. It reminds me of stories you read about life under Mao, where marriages, likes and dislikes, and living arrangements were known by, and therefore necessarily approved by, the government. It is the subtle difference, and overlap, between the warmth and sorrow of biography, and the cold detachment of history. The portraits are very hard, the face, the mask, the edited “reality,” the infinite-resolution drawing. The ghost paintings are soft, the recession, the uncertainty, the copy, the fading echo.