This week in New York Unsound, the avant-garde culture festival that began in Eastern Europe, debuts in the city, historian Garry Wills discusses the atomic bomb, a night with filmmaker Ross McElwee at IFC, Jamaica Kincaid and Gary Shteyngart on Becoming Americans, Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen speaks, Hot Chip performs, Projection: A Reading Series presents a multimedia show with David Levithan and Meghan O-Rourke, and Opium Magazine celebrates its 9-year anniversary.
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MONDAY 2/1: Bomb Power: Garry Wills in Conversation with Paul Holdengraber. In BOMB POWER: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills reveals how the atomic bomb transformed or nation down to its deepest constitutional roots by dramatically increasing the power of the modern presidency and redefining the government as a national security state. South Court Auditorium of the New York Public Library. 42nd St. @Fifth Ave. 7:00pm.
Indie Presses and Indie Music: Ugly Duckling Presse, Fractious and Franklin Bruno: Independent presses Ugly Duckling Presse and Fractious present their authors Rachel Levitsky, Kevin Varrone, John Cotrona and Buzz Poole who will read from works of poetry and fiction. Indie singer-songwriter Franklin Bruno will perform a solo set. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. 126 Crosby St. 7:00pm.
Frederick Wiseman Retrospective continues at MOMA with Juvenile Court. At the Memphis Juvenile Court, adolescents and children face charges ranging from shoplifting, drug dealing, and prostitution to armed robbery and the abuse of a minor. As Wiseman poignantly illustrates, the complex cases that come before this court cannot be remedied simply by meting out punishment. MOMA. 11 W. 53rd St. 3:30pm.
The Immigrant Experience: Becoming Americans with Jessica Hagedorn, Jamaica Kincaid, Norman Manea and Gary Shteyngart. To commemorate the publication of the Library of America’s Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing—an anthology that features letters, poems, journal entries, memoirs, essays and fiction—contributors visit the Poetry Center to read excerpts from the book and discuss their personal experiences. 92Y. 92nd St. @ Lexington Ave. 8:00pm.
TUESDAY 2/2: A Night with Ross McElwee: The director of one of my favorite documentaries, Sherman’s March, Ross McElwee will be on hand at the IFC Center to present two documentaries, Charleen (1977) and Backyard (1984). Charleen follows Charleen Swansea, a long-time friend of McElwee’s and one of the more memorable and charismatic characters of Sherman’s March, to deliver an intimate portrait of Charleen and, perhaps unwittingly, of McElwee. 323 Ave. of the Americas (6th). 8:00pm.
First Tuesdays Political Series at McNally Jackson continues with a rare lecture to the reading public by Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize-winning economist and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University. Sen’s latest book The Idea of Justice is “nothing less than a reimagining of justice theory and a dethroning of John Rawls in a book at once thorough, lovely and accessible.” The Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral Youth Center (Mulberry St. bet. Prince and Houston). 7:00pm.
WEDNESDAY 2/3: Opium Magazine Anniversary Party. Opium celebrates it’s 9th year. Come celebrate at Happy Ending, lower level. 302 Broome St. 8:00pm.
Publishing in the Age of Blah Blah Blah: This week Melville House’s new series focuses on the future of translation. Rumor has it that Americans are reading fewer and fewer books in translation. Certainly the big publishers are publishing less of it. Will new technology change that? Barbara Epler of New Directions, Dan Simon of Seven Stories, and Edwin Frank of New York Review of Books Classics talk to Dennis Loy Johnson about it. Melville House Bookstore. 145 Plymouth St. Dumbo. $5 (includes beer/wine/snacks). 7:00.
THURSDAY 2/4: Projection: A Reading Series. David Levithan (Love is the Higher Law; Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) joins poets Mark Bibbins (Sky Lounge; The Dance of No Hard Feelings), Katie Ford (Deposition; Coliseum) and Meghan O’ Rourke (Half-life) for this multimedia event, at which each author will read beside projected images of their text. Center for Performance Research. $5. 8:00pm.
Actors Reading Writers: In the spirit of artistic collaboration, 5 actors will read the works of 5 writers, including Anthony Crep reading “Matter” by Todd Zuniga. And enjoy the extra sweet happy hour deal. Three of Cups. 83 1st Ave. @5th St. $7:30pm.
Unsound Opening at Target. A celebration of innovative cross-border projects. Finland’s Vladislav Delay performs free form audio with video improvisation by Berlin video artist Lillevan. Sebastian Meissner + Kwartuldium = Solid State Transmitters links the electronic music of German producer Meissner with one of Poland’s most respected avant-garde groups, Kwartludium, reinterpreting music from US punk label SST Records. David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. Free. 8:30.
FRIDAY 2/5: To celebrate the Feb/9 release of their new album, One Night Stand, Hot Chip will play a free MySpace record release show in NYC at Highline Ballroom. 431 W. 16th. (via Brooklyn Vegan).
Part of Unsound’s Warhol series, an exciting presentation of live electronic music performed as commissioned soundtracks to two legendary silent Andy Warhol films. Detroit icon Carl Craig and Berlin duo nsi., both revered pioneers of contemporary electronic music, will perform live soundtracks on modular synthesizers and analog gear. The Film Society of Lincoln Center. Walter Reade Theater. nsi. plays with Kiss 7:30. Carl Craig plays with Blowjob 8:15.
SATURDAY 2/6: Groupshow with Empire: Groupshow (Jan Jelinek, Andrew Pekler, Hanno Leichtmann) perform a marathon 8-hour musical showcase to Warhol’s iconic Empire – a single shot of the Empire State. Part concert, part installation, the concept fits into the proto-fluxus conception of the band, whose goals and manifesto work against repertoire. Commissioned by Unsound and Goethe-Institut New York as part of the Warhol series. Le Poisson Rouge. Free. 12:00pm.
Dave Tompkins discusses his new book on the history of the vocoder, How to Wreck a Nice Beach, at the Unsound festival. The Wyoming Building. 5:00pm.
Lillevan’s screen tests studio: Inspired by Andy Warhol’s iconic Screen Tests, media artist Lillevan, invites festival organizers, attendees and passersby for a screen test. 2:00m. Following the screen tests, Lillevan will talk about his project Screen Test Revisited, discuss the background of Warhol’s original series, and explain his own technique. Wyoming Building. Free. 3:30pm.
SUNDAY 2/7: Panel Discussion on Music Journalism. A panel of working music journalists discusses issues related to the art of music-writing, as well as the changing practice of covering music in an eclectic and diversified world. When so much is available globally, how does one search for the new? Andy Battaglia and Simon Reynolds lead the discussion. Wyoming Building. Free. 2:00pm.
Sound Postcard Exhibit Opening: During 60s and 70s Polish communism when vinyl singles were rare, sound postcards became extremely popular. Bearing striking designs, they contained analogue recording engraved in a laminate layer. Sound quality was low, but they provided access to hit songs from the West. In Mat Schulz and Rui Silva’s exhibit, tracks are transferred to mp3s, revealing how recording technology changes over time. Devotion Gallery. 7:00pm.
ART: Winkleman Gallery inaugurates its new location with This Much Is Certain, the first New York solo exhibition by German conceptual photographer Ulrich Gebert. With selections from two series of his image-cycles, Typus (2005) and Life among beasts (2009), This Much Is Certain serves as an introduction to Gebert’s work in which he examines topics—such as racism and power structures—via unspectacular motifs presented in quasi-scientific and sometimes unsettlingly humorous arrangements.
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Original Notable New York Illustration © André da Loba
Other images in order of appearance: Film stills from Ross McElwee’s Charleen (1977); Ulrich Gebert, Life Among Beasts G, 2009; film still from Andy Warhol’s Kiss; Ulrich Gebert, Typus (tableau 9), 2005.