Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Blarg No. 69: Jenna Duncan

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had a hell of a time coming up with this edition of The Blarg. Sometimes they flow, and sometimes they don’t. This time it REALLY didn’t flow—no matter how many chips I ate, or how long I stared at the screen, so this one is going to be pretty brief, but don’t let that reflect on the episode, because it’s one of my favorites so far.

I do have a couple of things to plug if you’ll permit me that indulgence. I’m not really sure why I phrased it that way, because I’m about to do it regardless. The Blarg isn’t really democracy, is it? I write something, and either you read it or you don’t. That’s the way it should be.

This Thursday, January 25th at 7pm, I’ll be sharing a story as part of the lineup for this month’s Storyline Slam at the Phoenix Changing Hands location. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 at the door. The theme is “music.” I may have a story or two (thousand) that fits in.

Last week, I went on at length about my feelings regarding the way the Insight II project went down. Outside of those feelings which had to do with the venue and the way the organizers failed to communicate the affiliations of that venue or their politics, I’m actually really proud of the work I did in collaboration with artist Ryan Parra. If you want to see/read that work, you can pick up the chapbook published by Four Chambers Press. Pick up any of the other 17 chapbooks containing the writer/artist collaborations for this project while you’re at it. The work is stunning—focus on the work.

You may know Jenna Duncan from her work for JAVA magazine, her participation in storytelling events around the valley (including Untidy Secrets and Chain Letter), or more generally for her integral role in the Phoenix arts scene. In addition to JAVA, you can read Jenna’s work in the anthology The Grey Alley: Vol. 2 from Empty City Press; you can also see her on Check Please, Arizona on PBS on January 25th at 7pm (available now for Arizona PBS Passport members); and she will be taking part in a reading on February 3rd at 7pm coinciding with an upcoming art sale for Phoenix Nasty Women Unite benefiting Planned Parenthood (location TBA, though probably Grand ArtHaus or {9}).

This show with Jenna is a long one. I tried editing it down, but on listening back to it there wasn’t much I felt I could cut (except for all the “you know”s—I said that a lot this time, sorry about that). This conversation with Jenna is one of the easiest, most laid back ones I’ve ever had on this show, and that’s saying something, because this show can be pretty laid back.

Listen to LE 69 – Jenna Duncan

Best,
Jared

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LE 68: Amy Young and Ashley Naftule

Happy New Year, everyone. We made it!

Not shitting anyone, I was going to write this entire blarg about optimism and determination. That was the plan. Then, something came up, and now I feel like I have to talk about that instead. Maybe I’ll try and sneak some optimism in at the end.

This month, first Friday, Four Chambers Press published a series of chapbooks which was the culmination of the collaborative efforts between 18 artists and 18 writers called InSight II (in case the title didn’t give it away, it the follow up to last year’s InSight). I am one among those 18 writers, and my collaboration was with artist Ryan Parra. I’m really proud of the finished work, and this weekend should have been a celebration of the efforts of all those involved. Instead, it all collapsed into a horrible, stinking shithole. New City Studios, the gallery where the work is currently on display, instructed the curators of InSight to remove one of the artist’s pieces (incidentally, the artist, Malena Barnhart, is the person with whom Ashley Naftule, one of this episode’s guests, collaborated for the project) for what amount to religious reasons—specifically that the work is overtly sexual.

I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to respond to this, and if I’d written this immediately upon receiving the news of the work’s removal, I would have written a venomous tirade all about theological fascism. Given some time, this is what I’ve distilled those initial feelings of outrage down to in a much more constructive and objective fashion. Personally, I am vehemently anti-censorship. Additionally, while I am not anti-religion—as I believe that would be hypocritical on my part, I am against the idea that religious institutions have the right to impose their values on anyone who does not choose to subscribe to those values, and that extends to their creative output. New City Studios purports to “[exist] to serve and flourish the arts scene of downtown Phoenix. [We] make a point of promoting local art and artists across as many mediums as we can support.” These words and two other similarly worded expressions of community support are the only elements of text outside of external links that exist on the studio’s site. Nowhere on the website is the fact that the gallery is owned by New City Church reported, nor is there any wording which would suggest that the gallery’s support of the Phoenix arts scene is dependent on that art’s alignment with the church’s views. To use words the church may be familiar with, this presentation of the gallery to the community is both overtly and covertly deceptive. To use words that I would in any normal conversational context, this is really fucking far from okay. If the gallery is a part of the church, and it has become blatantly obvious that it is, then the way to support the arts community is not to deceive it. Even something as simple as the addendum “…so long as the work coincides with the church’s views and beliefs” would serve as an honest attempt to convey the gallery’s aesthetic to any artists who may find themselves involved with the gallery to make an informed decision. I know that would have been enough for me to decide that I did not want to be involved with such an establishment, nor have my work on display. I know that my statement as a writer and creative type is that I will only work with and contribute work to an establishment that is honest, inclusive, and truly supportive of an artist’s right to express themselves without restriction. In other words, not a bunch of theological fascists.

Ultimately, things come down to a breakdown in communications between organizers and artists, and as usual, it’s the artists that take the brunt of the negative consequences. All the hard work and collaboration that went into this project is currently being overshadowed by the sensationalized news story surrounding it. The possibility of this was overlooked by the determination of the organizers to see the project come to fruition regardless of the cost to the artists and writers involved, and I’m not talking monetarily, I’m referring to personal ethos and feelings surrounding the work contributed. As I said earlier, I’m immensely proud of the finished work. I feel like my response to Ryan Parra’s art, and his to my writing, speak to each other in a shared language developed without us ever having worked together in the same room. As a result of the events surrounding what should have been a joyful occasion, I cannot feel good about sharing or promoting the completed project. For me, the whole thing has fallen under a cloud of negativity and resentment. My heart goes out to any other artist or writer who contributed to this project and feels the same way.

Fuck.

Right, onto something much more positive. Amy Young and Ashley Naftule came over to the house to talk with me about their new film podcast, Prizefighting Kangaroo, and we sort of managed to do that. I won’t speak for them, but I had a blast. Our conversation went all over the place, and I haven’t laughed like that in a long time. I think I said during our conversation that I was going to edit a bunch of it out, but I didn’t end up cutting much, because when I was listening back to it, it was all too much fun. I hope you enjoy the chaos.

Amy Young and Ashley Naftule are both deeply ingrained in the Phoenix arts and culture scene. Their new film podcast, Prizefighting Kangaroo, is produced by Yab Yum Music and Arts, and you can hear it on Bandcamp, or via Yab Yum. You can also catch Amy and Ashley hosting Triviadome: Cinema and Culture Trivia over at Valley Bar on January 30th, and curating a new monthly series at Film Bar called “Gateway Drugs: A Director’s Showcase” beginning on February 1st. More info on those events here.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 68 – Amy Young and Ashley Naftule

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If you listen to us on iTunes, we could really use some ratings and reviews love there.

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