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Celebrating 50 years of global impact, last weekend Amnesty International held its annual General Meeting and Human Rights Conference, entitled “From Moment to Movement,” at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. The event was cross-generational, encompassing high schoolers, college students, young professionals and older adults.

The three-day conference consisted of keynote speakers, town hall-style meetings, voting for board candidates and informational programing. Workshops consisted of various talks on topics such as race, gender, national security, torture, international relations and police brutality. Among the various panels, Art for Amnesty announced the official re-launch of its initiative.

Art for Amnesty celebrates the role of artists in human rights and works with artists and musicians who use their voices to inspire people to act. The panel highlighted a number of artists on the front line in the struggle for human rights. Although all were inspiring, one artist in particular moved the crowd. Brandan Odums and a group of fellow artists were able to transform an abandoned Florida public housing project into a reminder of our past and inspiration for our future by painting its walls with murals that depict heros of the Civil Rights Movement.

After the artists had talked about their work, internationally known figures took to the stage to share their experiences as both artist and activists, including Laura Poitras, Nursat Duranni, Piper Kerman, Annie Lennox, Jessie Williams and Harry Belafonte.

The panel focused on the impact art can have in the fight for human rights. Belafonte said, “Art is the radical voice of civilization.”

Moderator Ari Melber stated that artists have a certain responsibility to their fans. He commented on Rihanna’s approximately 40 million Twitter followers and how the vastness of her reach is unparallelled. He noted that being able to reach so many people with the information they share gives artists a certain amount of power.

With regard to the unfortunate events that unfolded in Ferguson, Mo., actor Jesse Williams spoke about how the silence from celebrities and prominent artists was “deafening” in the aftermath.

The panel noted that oftentimes the general public looks to celebrities and media as a sort of social regulatory device. The speakers determined that well-known celebrities have access to an all-encompassing audience and that they sometimes have the power to influence how and what people think.

Arts for Amnesty recognizes the power art can have in society and looks to the artists to make a difference for the better.

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Greetings! As Women’s History Month and MS Education and Awareness Month winds down, Absolutely Live presents “Cassandra Wilson: A Celebration of Billie Holiday” at the Apollo Theater Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Wilson salutes the superstar and legendary songstress Billie Holiday during Lady Day’s centennial celebration week. Timed with what would have been Holiday’s 100th birthday, Wilson will release “Coming Forth By Day,” an album celebration of Holiday. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Apollo Theater box office, by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or online at

The Apollo Theater will gather artists, activists and leaders from around the globe for the New York premiere of “WOW: Women of the World Festival,” which is being presented in association with the Southbank Centre London June 11-14. 

We also report with sadness and appreciation the passing into ancestry of our beloved Pan-African historian, educator, prolific author and warrior scholar, the late Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, who came to his final rest March 19 at the age of 97.

“Dr. Ben” will be forever remembered for his fearless scholarship, teaching and profound love for African people. Our condolences to his family, extended family, friends and students here at home and abroad. Final arrangements will be forthcoming.


The Classical Theatre of Harlem proudly announces its 15th anniversary celebration and benefit concert this spring, featuring songs from the eagerly anticipated musical “Witness Uganda,” winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2014 Richard Rodgers Production Award for Musical Theater; a free summer production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”; and the winter holiday world premiere of a new CTH-commissioned musical “The First Noel.” Visit and follow CTH on Twitter @classicalharlem, Instagram @classicalharlem and

Billie Holiday Theater Executive Director Marjorie Moon presents Wendell Pierce in “Brothers From the Bottom,” written and directed by Jackie Alexander, now through March 29 at 1368 Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y. Call 718-636-9018/19 or visit

“The Tallest Tree in the Forest,” a celebration of legendary performer and political activist Paul Robeson in song and story. March 22 to March 29, Tectonic Theatre Project. Written and performed by Daniel Beatty. Directed by Moisses Kaufman. Call 718-636-4100 or visit

“Motown: The Musical,” with book by Berry Gordy Jr., is now playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St., between Eighth Avenue and Broadway. For tickets, visit or

“Kinky Boots,” featuring 2013 Tony Award winner Billy Porter, is at the Al Hirschfield Theatre, 302 W. 45th St. Visit shows/kinky-boots.


“Masters of Ceremony,” a one-night-only reunion of old school hip-hop’s royalty featuring DMX, Mobb Deep, EPMD, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Kid Capri and others, Saturday, April 4 at 8 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, One Center St., Newark, N.J. For information, call 888-GONJPAC or visit

Blue Note presents the “James Moody 90th Birthday Celebration” featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, James Carter, Jon Faddis, Najee, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker and more. Now through March 29. Call 212-475 8592 or visit

Join WBLS in welcoming Angie Stone for a special performance at B.B. King Blues Club in the heart of Times Square, 237 42nd St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. Visit

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Liverpool International Music Festival is to return for a third year with a packed programme of events, culminating in a free show by Echo and the Bunnymen and the Philharmonic Orchestra in Sefton Park.

Taking place across Liverpool from August 27 – 31 2015, LIMF will play host to some of the biggest names in pop for Summer Jam, a three-day free outdoor bank holiday extravaganza on Sefton Park.

Headliners include Basement Jaxx, Labrinth, Katy B, Naughty Boy, Laura Mvula, and Becky Hill marking an unforgettable end to the summer season.

Kicking off Saturday’s proceedings is veteran dance duo Basement Jaxx, responsible for hits such as Romeo and Where’s Your Head At?, supported by Garage legends Artful Dodger.

Sunday takes an urban pop flavour as singer, songwriter and producer Labrinth takes to the stage along with Queen of Dubstep Katy B. Joining them is the of the moment chart topper dance music vocalist and now solo artist Becky Hill, plus producer Naughty Boy who has been responsible for hits with Emeli Sandé, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran.

The itsliverpool stage will celebrate local talent in the form of 1970’s soul group The Real Thing, up-and-coming Scouse Louis Berry, plus acts from LIMF’s very own music academy.

The three-day festival will also see other phenomenal Liverpool legends taking to LIMF’s main stage including, Echo and the Bunnymen performing live with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in their 175th Anniversary year.

British soul-singer Laura Mvula will also play along with Rae Morris and Bipolar Sunshine.

Representing the city are bands Space and Hooton Tennis Club.

There will also be four specially produced commissions including:

Routes Jukebox led by Grammy winning producer Steve Levine and BBC Radio 2’s Janice Long with filmmaker and photographer Mark McNulty, exploring the cultural impact of music from the Americas

The Revolution will be Live: A Tribute to Gil Scott Heron curated by Malik Al Nasir and Rich McGinnis and featuring veteran rapper Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def.

Echo  the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch
Echo the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch

Next Stop New York

This series of events will explore the unique association between the city of Liverpool and Black American music, and its huge impact on the region and its people.

DJs Greg Wilson, Les Spaine, and long running hip hop crew No Fakin’.

This will be preceded by an exhibition in Liverpool city centre including Horace Panter of The Specials, and a party on the Friday night will be followed by a weekend of activity and exploration; featuring broadcasts, DJ sets, the Independent Record Label market (Monday), and interactive discussions and Q A’s with key figures, including members of the Chants and the Real Thing, Bernie Connor, and original Cunard Yanks.

Global Roots International Mixtape

The Global Roots crew comes together to celebrate the sounds of the DJ’s mixing it up around the world. Thris Tian Blackfoot Phoenix of NTS/Boiler Room invite their selector, DJ and A+R friends from across the Globe to make the ultimate mix – created in a relay style.

Some of the names involved in the project include Lena Wilikens– Comeme (Berlin); Hannah Faith – Soulection (London); Clap! Clap! – Black Acre Record (Toscana); Ebbo Kraan -Rwina Records (Amsterdam). The project will culminate in a live event that will be broadcast on NTS.

There will also be a partnership with The Bluebird at The Bluecoat Project – celebrating the special relationship between Nashville and Liverpool through the art of song writing, by bringing the world famous Bluebird Café’s Listening Room to Liverpool.

As part of the project two specially selected local songwriters were picked after the competition was launched in the Liverpool ECHO. The two musicians are in Nashville to write and perform with greats at The Bluebird as part of Tin Pan South songwriters festival, returning to Liverpool with key global figures to facilitate workshops and culminate in a live event at LIMF 2015 curated by Bob Harris.

There will also be a partnership event called The Record Producers Live In Liverpool with special guest record producer Lamont Dozier at The Epstein .

Steve Levine and broadcaster Richard Allinson present a Live version of their acclaimed and award winning BBC radio series The Record Producers.

This unique event will consist of an in depth analysis and discussion of rare archive amp; original session tracks of some of Holland-Dozier-Hollands’ classic recordings, including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. Lamont Dozier will talk about his songwriting and production career followed by a QA. LIMF is an inherently different festival representing the latest chapter of an ever evolving global music city.


The Commissions

Thursday 27th August The Revolution Will Be Live, St George’s Hall, Saint George’s Place, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 1JJ 6.30 – 12.30pm Tickets: Price TBC For more information:

Friday 28th August Routes Jukebox, The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ 7.30 – 11.30pm Tickets: £10 + Fees For more information:

Saturday 29th August Liverpool, Next Stop New York Launch Party, The Palm House, Sefton Park 8pm – 1am Tickets: FREE For more information see

Sunday 30th August Liverpool, Next Stop New York Interactive Weekend, The Palm House, Sefton Park 12noon-6pm Tickets: FREE For more information see

Global Roots International Music Mixtape, Palm House, Sefton Park 9.00pm – late Tickets: £10 + Fees For more information see

Monday 31st August Liverpool, Next Stop New York Exhibition, The Palm House, Sefton Park. Times TBC Tickets: FREE For more information see

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Bright and early one Saturday morning in June 2000, around 25 men scuttled down a castle stairway, into the long corridor of a stable. Each buck naked save for a ragged pair of shoes, neck collar, and set of clanking leg irons, they tripped and stumbled as a line of imperious, gorgeous young women, clad in leather fetish gear, caned them with a gauntlet of long rods. Suddenly, the men burst forth into the warm, sunny air and started to fan out, scattering across an open, 2-acre field. Then, quick on their heels, about 35 new women, likewise clad in domination getups, marched out after the men, carrying with them rods, riding crops, and dozens of eggs.

As the shackled men scrambled through muddy ponds, trying and failing to climb little hillocks, the women lit out after them, hurling eggs left and right. Every time a cold, hard shell smacked into the soft flesh of one of the running men, he stopped, turned, and crawled back to the woman who’d pegged him, sometimes licking or kissing her boots before being dragged back to a holding pen. Once inside, the detained men obediently let the women whip and smack them—and with each blow, the struck man breathlessly and profusely thanked his cajoling, laughing striker.

Few people ever got to witness this bizarre spectacle. Known as the Slave Hunt, that year it was one of many such events commemorating the Celebration of Female Dominance, an annual festival in the self-declared and exclusive sovereign nation known as the Other World Kingdom. Over the years, the celebration featured many types of events, ranging from whipped-ass competitions judged on a woman’s stylistic delivery of blows, to slave auctions in which ladies used the Kingdom’s currency to buy and sell humble men, singing, dancing, and running laps to prove their virility and merit. There were also public trials against men who broke the nation’s rules—failing to bow to the land’s female residents, taking off collars that marked them as chattel inferiors, or in any way displeasing one of the Mistresses of the realm.

Every event served to highlight and reaffirm the central values governing the day-to-day affairs of the OWK: Women are the superior sex. Men, although of varied ranks and class, under the Kingdom’s laws are all regarded as “slaves,” destined to servitude. And women of the OWK must control men with forceful punishments—humiliations for which the men will thank them.

To those of us living ho-hum lives in this publicly vanilla, overwhelmingly patriarchal world, stories about the OWK sound too outlandish to be true. Many accounts of the realm are written in the lurid, purple prose of slash fiction. When I first ran across them, in the obscure culs-de-sac of the internet many of us only visit in the curious insomnia of the wee hours, I too suspected they were amateur pastiches of seminal sadomasochistic erotica. I thought I saw elements of Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, Pauline Reage’s The Story of O, Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden, and other works painting images of alternative worlds where notions of pain and pleasure and the balance of our social order get turned all about.

But the OWK wasn’t fantasy. It was a real place—a micronation (or self-declared state within a state) that managed to operate under its own laws for more than a decade before shutting down. Whereas most micronations are scams or jokes at worst and protests or libertarian communes at best, the OWK was a singularly bold experiment. It attempted to create a society around inverted gender norms, inspired by the principles of a type of BDSM—an overlapping abbreviation that stands for Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), and Sadism and Masochism (SM)—known as female domination, or “femdom.”

Almost by definition, femdom has traditionally been a marginal and transgressive identity worn for an hour or two in special places, and then taken off as people walked back into the real world. But the OWK took that ephemeral, transitory lifestyle and brought it out into the open as the normative, permanent, and legal basis of an intentional community. Even though in hindsight such an audacious, idealistic project seemed destined to fail, the place became an enduring icon, testing the limits of sexual and political identity by probing the way people integrate compartmentalized fantasies into their everyday lives.

The Rule of Superior Women

Though the OWK was ultimately shuttered in 2008, many dominant ladies and slaves recorded their experiences of the Kingdom in excruciating detail (the tale of the Slave Hunt, for example, was written down by a slave of an American woman who goes by the name Mistress Troy in the femdom world). Because the Queen and her government used their castle as the setting for many BDSM porn video shoots, there’s also an extensive visual record of the Kingdom and its rituals. And despite the intense privacy of many participating in the lifestyle, a few femdom women and men are willing to open up about their personal experiences with the Queen and her government, speaking under their in-lifestyle names rather than their everyday identities.

Many of these accounts seem fanciful or subjective, to say the least. Many of them disagree on a point here or there. But underneath the florid verbiage, these records begin to coalesce into a consistent and concise image of the state—an oral tradition, or a CIA World Factbook profile for a country that never quite was. Here are the most essential facts about the Kingdom that diverse accounts converge upon:

Created on June 1, 1996, near Cerna Hora, a town of about 2,000 people in the eastern Czech Republic, just off the highway from the city of Brno, the OWK claimed about 8 acres of land. An absolute matriarchal monarchy, it was dominated by the seat of the Queen—a 31-bed, 31-bath cream-colored castle, with a burnt-orange roof, built in 1580. Beyond the castle lay the Black City, a collection of chateaus equipped with stables, libraries, and banqueting halls (as well as prisons, torture chambers, sadomasochistic night clubs, and restaurants), which served as the Kingdom’s capital and sole city.

After a year of renovations costing 2 million euros in today’s money ($2.34 million), the Queen opened the OWK in 1997, inviting all dominant females and willfully submissive males to join her. The dominatrices came from all walks of life, although given the location and expense of the OWK’s facilities, many of the micronation’s denizens were Europeans and people of means. Each female citizen was theoretically required to possess at least one slave.

As for the men who gave themselves to the OWK, some came with a Mistress, often paying her way, though remaining subservient. Some came alone and fully self-funded, or worked off their stay with labor under the Queen or an assigned Lady. Those who came with a woman would often remain kept in her private room, and might not have gotten to know the other slaves much. But the lone men, often caged together or left in the fields to labor out of sight and for hours on end, made friends and bonded illicitly, getting to know each other and joking around about the peculiarities of their submissive existence.

One man, who wrote his account of a fortnight spent as a working slave at the OWK in 2001, recalls how when the Mistresses were out of earshot, he and the other maintenance-work slaves would whisper about their lives, using their real names: Garry was from Texas, but had Czech family roots. Steve was a Kiwi who’d never been further than Australia before this. They all knew this fraternizing was punishable by a brutal flogging.

“The guys that were paying to be slaves were constantly watched by women guards so there was no masturbation,” says Lady Femina, a former citizen of the OWK, recalling the control (and pleasure therein) slaves experienced. “I had a great idea for a little side business: If just outside the [Kingdom] there was a little jerk-off booth. These guys must have been crazy by the time they got out of there if they were really having a good time.”

Slaves and “doms,” each played their part in pursuit of the Kingdom’s explicit goal: “to get as many male creatures under the unlimited rule of Superior Women on as much territory as possible.”

Femdom in the Wild

BDSM is a deep grab bag of concepts, but essentially boils down to defining any sexual practice that plays around with power dynamics and the continuum of pleasure and pain. It’s a malleable and fluid lifestyle, with different practices from partner to partner, or encounter to encounter. (This variability has necessitated the creation of a culture of express consent and comprehensive communication.) For some people, it’s just about the pain, but for many it’s about escaping or recoding mainstream social boundaries, playing with taboos, or rewriting power dynamics in a safe way.

That can be fun, but it can also be political, or therapeutic. Ingrid Olson, a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia, notes one telling case where a wheelchair user dominated an able-bodied individual, an inversion of elements around living with a disability. Yet despite the convention-bending potential of BDSM, gender norms still prevail, with up to 89 percent of kink women taking on submissive roles and 71 percent of kink men assuming dominant ones. This makes femdom, a BDSM niche in which a female (dubbed a Madame, Mistress, Dominatrix, or Lady) is dominant while a male is submissive and worshipful, a minority lifestyle within a minority lifestyle.

“Some people find this incredibly sexual,” a dominatrix told Danielle Lindemann, a rare femdom-focused sociologist, in a 2010 article. “To me it’s erotic but I find it mostly stimulating from the neck up. To me it’s an art form. I have to know that I can step on a person without breaking a rib. I know that I have to be incredibly careful and delicate because something could bruise when it’s not supposed to and do real damage when it’s not supposed to.”

“It’s aesthetic for me,” a submissive male told Lindemann on a separate occasion. “So I always want the tough positions that I’m put in to be photographed.”

The dominatrices at the core of the scene break down into two categories: “Professionals” who dominate paying clients and “lifestyles” who live femdom ideals in their personal relationships. A lifestyle Lady isn’t necessarily a professional, and a professional Lady is not necessarily in the lifestyle, although those who take on femdom in both their personal and professional lives tend to stay in the scene longer. These days, non-lifestyle pros are becoming increasingly common and many devotees fear that this trend is ruining the culture.

“They look good in some tight clothes and they could try to boss a guy around by being generally mean,” a submissive male told Lindemann of non-kink doms. “But it’s always sloppy and anybody looking in can tell you, that knows something about the scene—they can just tell that it’s a hodgepodge mixture of unorganized actions, and it’s usually pretty terrible-looking.”

But even the most committed dominatrices and submissives can’t live in that mode of domination or servitude all the time. The belief in the supremacy of women may lie within them at every waking moment, but they can’t always express it openly in day-to-day life.

The Femdom State

There have always been spaces for kinksters to get together—meetups, events, clubs—and since the advent of virtual realities, kink subcultures have established internet-based societies around their values. Yet no matter how immersive or safe the environment, these realms remain secretive and often small places one slips into temporarily.

That didn’t sit well with a Czech dominatrix known as Patricia. According to those who met her at the inception of the OWK, she decided that there should be a space where people could live a femdom lifestyle not just in snippets, but full time. This, she decided, would necessitate more than the temporary suspension of societal norms—it would require the creation of a whole new society in which the social and political system inculcated and protected femdom values.

Patricia carefully crafted a comprehensive state system for her new reality. She created a flag—a female gender symbol inside a white shield placed within a field of colored triangles—and coat of arms (a golden crown with a whip, chain, female cross, and shackle). Her currency, the Dom, was pegged to the U.S. dollar, and was to be used for all purchases inside the Kingdom’s grounds. Finally, she named herself Queen Patricia I, the Sublime Supreme Administer of the realm.

Patricia also devised a legal code (mostly concerning proper attire and conduct for men, but also determining payment of taxes for the use of OWK facilities, and outlining regulations regarding citizenship), complete with an appointed Chief Justice overseeing bi-annual court hearings. Furthermore, she delegated a Queen’s Guard—a cabinet of Ladies dedicated to tasks like managing the state library, prison, and correspondences. The legal code also differentiated Sublime Ladies, the inner circle of citizens and the Queen’s ruling nobility, from visiting Ladies and other outsiders. Most intricately, she wrote contracts requiring men to declare themselves slaves in the OWK and to seek a status as close to servitude as possible under external legal systems.

“By signing this contract the male creature slave becomes a slave under the Laws of OWK,” reads a copy of one such contract. “The slave becomes immediately, fully, irrevocably, and unconditionally, the property of the Sublime Lady … The signing hereof is the last act of free will of the slave. The slave is understood as a creature, who on the basis of his voluntary decision, made in writing, has relinquished all human rights to the benefit of his Lady Owner.”

There was no space for non-submissive men, all men entering the Kingdom had to be some kind of slave. A complex caste system differentiated various levels of servitude. State slaves helped to run the facilities. Prison slaves lived in abysmal conditions, constantly. And slaves who were bonded to a visiting or citizen Lady were required to adhere to the rules and norms she set out for them.

Patricia wasn’t the first person to dream up a nation in a bedroom, but even by the standards of the world’s 400-plus micronations, this setup was unique in its form and rigor.

Granted, there’s a lot of variation among all of the world’s micronations, but the vast majority are either jokes (like the Republic of Uzupis, built in Lithuania around Frank Zappa), scams (like the Dominion of Melchizedek, which sold fake passports at inflated prices), or bids at bringing in a little tourism money (like the Republic of Saugeais in France). Those that aren’t jokes tend to be protest statements (like the Principality of Hutt River, a big “fuck you” from rural Australian farmers to grain production quotas) or political withdrawals (like the Principality of Freedonia, which tried to set up a libertarian utopia). Most micronations that become serious get shut down—the Republic of Minerva, which usurped some unclaimed reef islands in the Pacific to found a libertarian state, was quickly conquered by the little nation of Tonga.

It’s pretty telling that the most well-known micronation is the Principality of Sealand, a homestead created on a World War II-era British fortification in international waters by an eccentric in 1967. Surviving by chance as much as anything, Sealand has tried its hand at turning itself into a haven for numerous shady ventures over the years—its 30 or so residents mostly use the place as a way to turn a quick buck on their patriarch’s impulsive nation building. 

Queen Patricia’s autonomous enclave had no parallel in the micronation community—both in terms of its complexity and its steadfast determination to turn a sexual lifestyle into the basis for a whole system of governance. And she was in the right place at the right time to start her own country. The mid- to late-1990s was a time of intense micronation proliferation and increasing publicity, eventually culminating in The Lonely Planet Guide to Self-Proclaimed Nations.

The mid-1990s was also a great time to get experimental in the Czech Republic. Land was cheap—a five-bedroom house might have run for about 35,000 euros in today’s money ($41,000) recalls one of the Queen’s associates. And farmers living on depopulated communes around dilapidated castles, like the one near Cerna Hora, were eager to unload the properties to anyone offering to help develop them, infusing a little money and business back into these teetering communities.

“The [surrounding village] people didn’t question things,” says Lady Femina. Femina, an American dominatrix who used to feature at The Loft and Hellfire Club in New York City in the 1980s, was an early associate of the Queen. She was the first American to visit the OWK and attain citizenship in 1997. “They kept their noses out of other people’s business for the purpose; that’s just how they were raised.”

“For these older people, they went through Nazism and then Communism. I think they just sloughed [the OWK] off as another phase of a political entity that was going to be changing their lives. And there was not a great deal of communication with the local people, except that [sometimes] guys harnessed pulling carriages with mistresses in them [would go] right through the town. But the townspeople, they just looked the other way. It was just very bizarre.”

A Grand Coronation

Lady Femina and her submissive husband, scene-name Tony, learned about the OWK like many in the pre-Google era: thumbing through publications at an adult bookshop. The duo, then living in Amsterdam, found an ad for a magazine called Other World Kingdom News No. 1, which purported to be the glossy and pornographic chronicle of a real-world femdom empire. The couple was skeptical, but they liked the fantasy, so they ordered a copy and perused the outlandish world within.

“The magazine featured Women ordering around male slaves on their knees, crawling through the mud, living in dog kennels and being punished in an underground jail,” Lady Femina later wrote in an article for Other World Kingdom News No. 4, chronicling her eventual introduction to the Queen. “The Women featured were beautiful and young—almost too beautiful and too young—but they did seem to have a truly regal demeanor about them.”

Other World Kingdom News No. 1 also contained an invitation to the Queen’s coronation event, held in 1997 from May 30 to 31.

The couple was skeptical—it all seemed like some gimmick. But they wanted to see post-communist Prague, having been there before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the OWK was supposedly just an hour or so away, so they figured they could check it out and retreat if needed.

“My husband even said, ‘As we enter the front door, we’re going to see some old farmer with a pitchfork and he’ll just say, “What are you doing here”,’” recalls Lady Femina, chuckling. “But it was certainly legitimate.”

After knocking on a great wooden door, the duo was met by a male slave in a prisoner’s uniform and led into a long corridor lined with women and more slaves leashed up like guard dogs, lit by torches set into sconces in the walls. Exploring the grounds, they witnessed Queen’s Guard members whipping slaves working in the damp, cold showrooms filled with custom-made leather goods engraved with OWK symbols. They saw the State Power Station where men turned a giant wheel under the whip, just to generate enough power for the Lady mushing them on to see her handiwork—the ultimate teleology of femdom manifested in the movement’s stronghold.

“It all had an air of normalcy,” the Lady wrote in her Other World Kingdom News article at the time. “Normalcy for the OWK, that is.”

Later, they entered the Queen’s throne room, with a hundred other dominatrices and slaves from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. They witnessed the Queen striding over a human carpet to her throne, showered with flower petals and flanked by a bowing Queen’s Guard and state slaves as she went. The Queen took her seat and the government of the OWK was officially in place, something the dominatrices celebrated with champagne and a performance by a dance troupe from Prague. The slaves celebrated by sleeping in the warm halls of the castle rather than in their prison cells, for that night at least.

Over the coming days, the dominatrices enjoyed all manner of creative events designed to humiliate the men around them.

“I hosted a dinner party [in my suite],” recalls Lady Femina. “I had this big, round table with a hole in the middle, where the slave would pop his head up and we’d do stupid things like stick french fries in his ears and smash peas in his face and throw food at him.”

By the end the dominatrices and the slaves were exhilarated, high on the potential of the OWK.

“It is not just a visit, it is a life experience,” wrote Lady Femina in her article, full of eager hope. “You may never think the same about where you living [sic], once you visit the OWK.”

She went on to predict that within five years a visit to the OWK would be an annual must-do for every dominant woman in the world, and approached the Queen to plan the logistics to start yearly familiarization trips, introducing North American femdom practitioners to the OWK. With a website under construction (a novel marketing move circa 1997) and tons of marketing in femdom-friendly shops around Europe, everyone believed for a moment that the Queen’s dream of a permanent femdom society would come true.

But it didn’t happen.

Harsh Realities

Despite all the excitement and advertising around the OWK, the Kingdom almost immediately started running into some very serious logistical problems that precluded doms and slaves from moving there in droves—much less even visiting on a regular basis. Chief among these roadblocks were the poor location of the Kingdom and the cost of operations.

“I think that people just didn’t want to move to this obscure place,” says Lady Femina, who also works in the travel and luxury industry. “Most of the people who came there are Europeans. If they’re going to move to a holiday village, they’re going to move someplace warm with sun.”

It was also a new environment in an uncertain political, social, and economic context.

“Nobody quite knew what was going to happen,” adds Lady Femina. “Nobody wanted to make an investment.”

And no matter when one came, whether it was dead and boring with only a skeleton crew of slaves on the grounds (most of the court went off to Prague when there weren’t any events going on), it still cost quite a bit to use the facilities. The place used hotel prices throughout.

Accordingly, the OWK increasingly became a themed resort more than a society, focusing on festival days though remaining desolate otherwise. The magazine and various femdom porn movies became the big money earners, and by the late-2000s a good number of doms were coming to use the place and its facilities as an icon in their own shoots, but not to live and commune there.

It didn’t help that the Queen was especially sketchy about the business side of the OWK either. No one I spoke to could tell me where the money for the Kingdom came from, although there were murmurs here and there that Russians were involved somehow. And even with people trying to do business with her, like Lady Femina and Tony, Patricia could be haughty and closed off.

“I wouldn’t want to offend Queen Patricia because she was very gracious with me and she was fine,” says Lady Femina. “But I think that mistresses tend to be a bit egotistical, as you can imagine, and she took that to the nth degree. I think that she rubbed some people wrong.”

“We found that she wasn’t prepared to really answer detailed questions about logistics,” adds Tony, recalling a meeting they had to discuss organized trips for North American groups. “Such as what kind of insurance the place had, was it listed as an actual hotel, what was its relationship with the Czech state, and so forth. So the concept [of our yearly trips] went nowhere.”

The imperious Queen also wound up making some weird judgment calls about what it meant to be in the femdom scene, imposing an incredibly hardline, brutal form of female domination that didn’t sit well with many dominatrices and seemed to run counter to the idiosyncratic and negotiated dynamic at the heart of femdom (and BDSM in general). Going by the accounts of some slaves and dominatrices, this may have been an attempt to reverse the trend of male-dominated BDSM sessions, aggressively reasserting the dominance of the woman in femdom relations and making sure that only submissives who got joy from being submissive joined the Kingdom. But no matter what the intent behind it was, it got pretty dark.

“Some of the slaves were treated in such a cruel manner that they were just getting gruel for food,” recalls Lady Femina. “They were getting held in the cages, maybe with 3 inches of cold water. It was more concentration camp-ish and a lot of the slaves were even in this sort of concentration camp garb, which I found particularly in bad taste. The slaves were getting ill.”

The Queen inculcated this harsh sensibility into the very fabric of the community by staffing her original court not with dominatrices, but with beautiful Czech models brought in from Prague (many believed it was a cheap bid to sell magazines early on). Not lifestyle femdom practitioners themselves, the Czech models wound up studying the Queen’s punishment style and becoming functionary brutalizers.

“They were just nasty,” says Tony. “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘nasty.’ They were businesslike. They were dominant with the guys, but they never convinced me they were really femdom.”

To her credit, the Queen made sure that every slave and Lady who entered the OWK knew the kind of punishment they were walking into and that they had the express consent of those arriving. Real, in-lifestyle dominatrices rotated in periodically from all over Europe and the Americas to host events too, adding some credibility to the experience. The Kingdom’s establishment also respected the rights of a light-pain submissive like Tony, who came not alone to be punished, but as the escort of Lady Femina. And other slaves, like one under a certain Madame Loreen, testified that the Ladies were professional and good at finding the spot just before abuse.

“I found that the practices were extreme,” admits Tony, “but the guys there seemed to like it. I mean … I didn’t see anybody running away or crying or complaining.”

Ultimately, the Queen created the OWK based on an image of femdom as she saw it in an era before the internet helped practitioners to realize the immense variation of lifestyles in the scene. Though she seemed not to have realized, or maybe just didn’t care, that her vision and regime of extreme violence appealed only to a minority in the already minuscule community. And the number within that minority who would want to live that cruelty full time—that is people perpetually remaining in-lifestyle, individuals who Lindemann, the dominatrix sociologist, dubs “role-engulfed”—was a smaller minority still.

I asked Lindemann how many role-engulfed dominatrices she knew, and she said she’d never met any, but she’d heard stories from her contacts in the scene. All of them viewed these permanently dominant women as too intense—saying that their dominatrix personas weren’t meant to be inhabited for more than a few hours, or perhaps overnight at most, and their everyday relations with men and with the rest of the human population ought to be significantly different.

Everybody was on board with the general concept of the OWK, say Lady Femina and Tony, but in the end the extreme punishments were just too much, too silly, and too long-lasting for most doms.

“To work in a real femdom society, you can’t do that constantly. You have to have some kind of give and take in it,” says Tony, hitting upon one of the big precepts of BDSM: the need for a fluidity and dialogue, grounded in mutual respect. Foundational cultural elements, of consent, of individuality, of negotiation, were eaten away by the state’s unilateral imposition—one vision of an inverted existence turned into an unyielding new world order.

Nobody’s quite sure what the final straw was—the inability to find a better property (apparently they were looking into lots along the French Riviera or in Spain), the costs, the ideological issues with Queen Patricia’s extreme punishments, or just the global financial crisis—but in 2008 the OWK folded as a nation. They put the castle up for sale for 8 million euros ($9.37 million), billing it as a potential hotel, personal residence, or even a home for the elderly.

First Mistress Madame Gabrielle, one of the Sublime Ladies, tried to save the Kingdom by refashioning it as The Femdom Republic, creating a shareholders’ representative government. For 300 euros ($351) a share, you could own a stake in the nation (she hoped to sell 20,000 shares). But she managed to sell just 3,000, and on April 25, 2011, the OWK and all of its furnishings were sold off after three years of being on the market.

The OWK didn’t disappear entirely. The website set up back in 1997 still boasts tens of thousands of members and posts 15 new photos a day, sending out email lists about femdom movies, and publishing new editions of the Other World Kingdom News and Under Her, another femdom magazine. Soon after the closure of the physical space, some of the staff created a mirror of the castle in the online virtual world Second Life, voting on a new Queen serving a three-month term, granting citizenship to those who spent at least 10 hours in the virtual nation per week, and charging enough to sustain the Second Life simulation and subsidize the OWK publishing house. But these digital spaces are no replacement for the real thing.

“It is more than just another failing concern,” says V, a slave of Mistress Alexia Jordan, writing plaintively on the submissives site Sissify. “It is a symbol. It is [a] magical place in our minds whose halls harbor millions of feverish dreams held by and cherished by submissives imagining a place where who and what they are has a purpose. [Hearing about its closure is] like telling a child that Neverland has been flooded with toxic waste … Or Hogwarts has gone Condo.”

As for Queen Patricia, she melted away into the mists. Careful readers of OWK literature were sure to notice that the Queen took great pains to retain her anonymity, never showing her face in public photos and never listing any of her details. Femina and others were unsure of her background. Most at least agree that Patricia was Czech, and some suspect she may have chosen the location because she had roots in the area. Others think there must have been some kind of connection to Russian wealth somewhere in her history, although that’s more speculation than anything else. Some suspect she just retired, thinking her job was done, and moved to warmer climes, basking in the anonymity of her real-world identity and leaving the OWK behind.

That meticulously maintained anonymity has made it extremely difficult for anyone to track the Queen down. After many conversations with doms, deep dives further into notes and records of the OWK than I’d ever thought I’d go, and a series of dead-end emails and phone calls either ringing out or picked up by bemused Czech men, I too came up with nothing. It’s a frustrating disappearing act, given how much remains unknown about her intentions, her finances, and the deepest inner workings of the OWK. But in a way it’s fitting. All these lacunae leave us with a mythic decline of what still seems a fantastical parallel world.

Until Kingdom Come

The OWK was destined to fail from day one. As a business, it was doomed by all the dull pragmatics of money and leadership. But as a political entity and a full-time society, it never really even managed to make it off the ground, for the simple fact that it was a utopian space built around the forceful elevation of one very niche and uncompromising form of identity over all others.

Humans are humans because we are complex—full of shifting, fluid identities, which we switch between on a whim. We often choose to present ourselves and read the world through one or more dominant identities: “I am Christian,” or “I am kink,” or “I am a goddamn lumberjack.” But such acknowledgements, although varied in their extent, never excoriate the rest of who we are. A man may define himself as one thing above all else, but if kink is also part of his persona, then it’s pretty likely that, even if he never tells a soul around him, he’s still seeding his life with the scene’s subversive values and modes of communication.

Unfortunately, not every identity lines up with the mainstream world we all inhabit. This sense that the world will crush or oppose one’s main sense of identity is the force that leads some groups to withdraw onto communes, creating new worlds in which they feel more comfortable.

Kink especially, as an identity explicitly built around the dismantling and rearrangement of the world, often grates up against the realities and existing power dynamics of everyday life. Admittedly, through bestseller-turned-blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey (which most in the kink world dismiss as coercion and manipulation, rather than real-deal BDSM), kink clubs and parties at colleges, and similar open, public discussions of BDSM, it’s getting easier to publicly admit to being a part of kink culture. Yet much of BDSM also seems to require a blank canvas—a dungeon or a club or even an appropriated bedroom, a workshop for the crafting of one world apart from another. It’s a state of perpetual creation and destruction. But there’s only so much you can do in a little rented basement with a leather pony in the corner, or with a group of local, small-town kinksters. That makes the idea of an entire world tailor-made to this underfed part of one’s identity exceptionally attractive.

The OWK, seen from afar, was that ideal for femdom. A place where a woman in leather gear could ride through town atop a carriage pulled by a shackled man, through fields of lounging dominatrices twiddling their whips as men bowed, scraped, and groveled nearby. One could stay in character as long as he or she wanted, use a vast number of resources, and commune with kindred spirits to explore an infinite number of ways to realize this inversion of gender dynamics as openly, blatantly, and freely as one might desire.

But that’s not what it became. Queen Patricia didn’t open the ultimate safe space for people to explore femdom as they saw it. She created a society bound by laws and rituals that interpreted and autocratically enforced her own version of the culture. The Queen’s world didn’t just dictate the contours of femdom to a world used to idiosyncrasies and negotiations. It left almost no room for people to openly express their other identities. It implicitly preached a type of role engulfment that encouraged people, literally shut behind the gates of a castle, to excoriate the rest of themselves while they were there. The space didn’t allow Other Worlders to slipstream between different aspects of their being—to momentarily interact equally with a partner-in-fantasy in the aftermath of a satisfying domination tableau, or to take on a different persona to discuss something other than femdom for a bit.

And yet the OWK is still an important, unmatched social experiment, mourned by those in the BDSM world. It was a fantasy-become-reality that fell back into the realm of fantasy. And maybe that’s the ideal role for the OWK today: to be the flickering blue light on a screen, spinning tall tales of revelatory microcosms, captivating and strange. Maybe the OWK works best as a ruin, an empty castle on a hill, inviting people to imagine it as it could have been—a space where gender norms held no lingering weight, where marginalized identities could be expressed without fear, and where individuals could live out their own fantastic visions of other worlds.

Photos courtesy of Other World Kingdom

Illustration by Ana Benaroya



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A light drizzle fell, but the downpour eluded us. That felt like the story of South by Southwest Music 2015.

Sure it rained, but never enough for me to bust out the plastic poncho I kept in my back pocket all week. While weather forecasts predicted severe wetness throughout the music portion of the Festival, what actualized were two days akin to being in conversation with someone who spits when they talk.

The magnitude of the citywide convergence that emanates from SXSW also transpired less dire.

“It feels like the South by Southwest of the Nineties,” said many a Conference veteran, pleased to be surrounded by others with similar occupational interests rather than vomiting spring break co-eds.

Of course, not being overrun by that ilk or industry hipsters is a double-edged sword. Club owners, bartenders, and pedicab drivers across the board informed “Playback” that their earnings were down this year compared to the spoils of tourist dollars from the recent past. SXSW has long been considered “Christmas” for Austin’s Downtown service industry.

Happily, the number of “You’ll never believe what just happened!” moments remained proportionate to a festival with a global slice of musical genius.

“Dude, I just saw Bushwick Bill jump up onstage and rap!” was a common phrase last week when the half-pint cyclops invaded any platform in sight. Since this year’s narrative arced across 30 years of hip-hop, Too $hort to Joey Bada$$, the Geto Boy joined the scrum by collaborating with a quartet of locals: Kingdom of Suicide Lovers, Amplified Heat, T Bird the Breaks, and Brownout, who seamlessly slipped into “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

The Festival’s glitziest surprise arrived on Thursday when tabloid pop star Miley Cyrus appeared alongside Mike Will Made-It at Fader Fort, lending vocals on sneaker jam “23″ and enthusiastically announcing that she was, indeed, “high as fuck right now!” Additional celebrity sightings included Ghostbusters and zombie killers; Bill Murray took in performances by Best Coast, Ghostface Killah, and the Zombies, while Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride of The Walking Dead were caught rocking to eternal punks the Damned.

Lyle Lovett and Gary Clark Jr. were both spotted strumming guitars on the sidewalk, likely part of an Esquire photo series devised by Andy Langer, who also provided the Austin Music Awards‘ most caustic moment. After being presented with a bottle of tequila in thanks for past AMA hosting duties, the local deejay and journalist, who doesn’t drink, remarked, “That felt like a ‘Fuck you.’” Wednesday’s local prom sold out on the promise of ATX mythologizing – from the Texicana of heartfelt opener Billy Joe Shaver to head-spinning covers of Blaze Foley, Kris Kristofferson, and Lucinda Williams in the Viva la Diva segment
– ultimately crowned by E Street Band guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt igniting the all-star Bump Band tribute to late Small Faces/Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan.

Less evocative was Snoop Dogg‘s keynote interview led by Ted “what’s a follow-up question?” Chung, aka the MC’s manager. While the well-attended conversation mostly resembled a promotional event for the veteran rapper’s new album and TV series, it did include a priceless story about Willie Nelson out-smoking Snoop while kicking his ass at dominoes before the two buds shared a 20-piece bucket at a KFC in Amsterdam. Word is Menace II Society co-director Allen Hughes was scheduled to host the interview but got snowed in.

SXSW Film was flush with big-screen soundtracks: the startlingly intimate Kurt Cobain doc Montage of Heck, Neil Young‘s re-edited 1982 comedy Human Highway, and the late, great Les Blank‘s recently licensed A Poem Is a Naked Person, a 1974 portrait of Leon Russell, who earned a reputation as a good tipper after he dropped $50 in local singer-songwriter Wendy Colonna‘s jar during SXSW.

The Jones Family Will Make a Way, a film chronicling a family band and their No. 1 fan, wise-ass rock critic Michael Corcoran, came to life with a soul-stirring SXSW showcase on Thursday. Asked if he thought Corcoran, an atheist, would go to heaven, the gospel group’s patriarch Bishop Fred Jones smiled broadly.

“Yeah, we gonna get him there.”

At SXSW, heaven is hype. By that measure of success, SXSW proved divine for Aussie rock songstress Courtney Barnett, Fort Worth vintage soul man Leon Bridges, and acoustic guitar explorer Ryley Walker, all of whom staked claim among critics as the next big thing. SXSW’s huge hip-hop sector, so many of whom repeatedly implored audiences to “turn up” or “get turnt up” to the extent that I never wish to hear that term again, cast additional ranks of buzz artists between the extremes of Mississippi rap brethren Rae Sremmurd and British hip-hop poet Kate Tempest.

Among that genre’s artists on the buzz bubble, there were indications of bright futures and dead ends. Toronto-based, locally managed MC Tory Lanez proved himself a live dynamo, literally walking atop the crowd at his packed showcase. Conversely, Kanye West‘s recent G.O.O.D. Music signee Holt was utterly laughable, prefacing his set with warnings of how crazy the pit was about to get before launching into a limp mixture of Eighties New Wave beats and rap-singing that elicited zero crowd response.

As impossible as it might seem for underdogs to make a ripple in an ocean of 2,200 bands, influential ears were present at SXSW. That much was evidenced by The Washington Post hailing local punks Flesh Lights – specifically drummer Elissa Ussery – for a gripping Beerland set and similarly praising the Whiskey Shivers‘ “sweat and menace.” The latter band likewise amused Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, who tagged along with “Playback” to see A Giant Dog. Music-rag-gone-website Spin demonstrated local love in championing the fashion sense of Holiday Mountain.

No fireworks concluded the appreciably mellow Music Conference. The final night’s Latin music fiesta at Auditorium Shores got canceled due to wet grounds, and the mainstream yearned for a Kanye appearance that wasn’t going to happen. SXSW tried unsuccessfully to book the hip-hop superstar, who also bailed on a Jimmy Kimmel Live! taping Friday at the Long Center.

As it played out, the hottest ticket in town Saturday was North Carolina’s J. Cole, who stoked a packed Moody Theater with tracks from his recent chart-topper 2014 Forest Hills Drive. (A review of which concluded five nights of online coverage at Earache! austin After inhaling Cole’s potent smoke and witnessing the intimidating inspiration of gangster Freddie Gibbs at a later club show, I closed out my SXSW watching Irish noise rockers Girl Band through a window outside Latitude.

As the young band on its first U.S. tour waged nervy sonic war on a capacity crowd, the most important man in Austin that week stood behind me watching their set. Presumably, SXSW co-founder and Managing Director Roland Swenson could’ve found V.I.P. accommodations anywhere in town.

“What’s wrong, you couldn’t get in?” I joked.

“This is a good spot, man,” he replied.

SXSW Police Blotter

Run the Jewels were attacked at the Spotify House on Monday. During a performance, an assailant stormed the stage and attempted to punch rapper EL-P before being bounced by Killer Mike and their bodyguards. Killer Mike sustained a torn rotator cuff during the incident.

Austin’s Public Assembly and Code Enforcement (PACE), along with Austin Fire and Health departments, issued 42 citations to event organizers during SXSW for infractions ranging from overcrowding to obstructing fire exits. In total, 24 events were shut down, though many were allowed to reopen the same night. Records show a verbal warning was given to an “unknown band playing the back of a van” in the Wendy’s parking lot on Thursday.

I found a half-gram of molly on the sidewalk Thursday night, indicating that some still can’t differentiate SXSW from Bonnaroo.

A brawl broke out at Gypsy Lounge on Thursday evening, requiring pepper spray from on-site constables. The venue closed for the evening, displacing several performances, but reopened the next day.

SXSW showcasing artist Yung Gleesh is wanted in Austin for sexual assault. The Washington, D.C., rapper stands accused of forcing himself on a passed-out woman at a mutual friend’s house on Friday. He fled on foot before police arrived.

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With the aim to try and mitigate Bengaluru’s perennial traffic problem, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Wednesday that would see them collaborate on a number of research projects to bring in the concept of smart mobility.

The two institutes have earlier been actively involved in collaborations in various fields of sustainable transportation. The MoU will see them take up issues under topics such as urban complexity as well as pilot projects on bicycling.

Eberhard van der Laan, the Mayor of Amsterdam, in his speech on the occasion talked about a number of challenges such as sewage disposal and provisions for the homeless
that needed to be dealt with to achieve the goal of ‘smart city’.

“On our way here from our hotel, we were stuck in a traffic jam of nearly two hours,” he said, elaborating on the challenges that Bengaluru needed to tackle.
Laan said that 7,000 Indian expats who are presently residing in Amsterdam have taken well to the bicycle riding culture of that city.

Clearly one of the main aims of the ‘smart mobility’ project is to try and replicate the success in Bengaluru. A number of papers were presented on the topic. An officer from the Directorate of Urban land Transport (DULT) highlighted the agency’s plan to popularise cycling in the city by making it the preferred choice for last mile connectivity, for neighbourhood trips, tourism, etc. “We are trying to do this by creating a demand through various means like Cycle Day events and by creating infrastructure,” he said.
PacoBunnik from Amsterdam’s Urban Planning department also talked about the gradual change in his city’s traffic when the concept of bicycling was brought in.

Alphonsus Stoelinga, Ambassador of the Netherlands to India, J M Chandra Kishen, Chairman, Centre for infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) of the IISc and Prof Peter Sloot from the University of Amsterdam also spoke.

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Crime Netherlands Top Stories

Amsterdam squatter demonstration ends with 19 arrests

In front of the last Tabakpanden location cleared by police officers. March 25, 2015. (photo: Politie_Adam / Twitter)

The last of several squatted buildings in Amsterdam Centrum was cleared by police Wednesday evening following an hours-long standoff between the officers on the ground and the squatters. By early afternoon at least eight people were arrested, with 11 more suspects processed by nightfall. Local artist Peter Klashorst was among those led away by authorities.

Officers gathered in a metal container are hoisted onto the Tabakpanden. March 25, 2015. (photo: Politie_Adam / Twitter)

Officers gathered in a metal container are hoisted onto the Tabakspanden. March 25, 2015. (photo: Politie_Adam / Twitter)

Trouble began Tuesday night into Wednesday morning when 40 to 80 protesters broke into the Tabakspanden group of buildings, pulled bricks from the street and set fires in the middle of the Spuistraat to create roadblocks. German guests staying at a hotel across the street said they “heard some popping, and shouting and loud music,” adding that it “was a restless night, yes.” Though cleared by police on Friday, the buildings were squatted since the eighties. Squatters protested the decision by building owner De Key to renovate the property, and turn it into 69 apartments and 2,000 square meters of office and retail space.

Amused police look on as colleagues return in a paint-bombed water cannon truck. March 25, 2015 (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Amused police look on as colleagues return in a paint-bombed water cannon truck. March 25, 2015 (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Throughout the day, paint bombs rained down upon armed police officers clad in riot gear, their transport units and battering rams, as well as the journalists gathered in front of the recently-occupied Bungehuis to cover the unfolding events. Police responded with water cannons in an attempt to knock back the squatters.

The bombs were similar to balloons, and filled with paint, glass shards and rocks or concrete. At one point, heavy fireworks and several flares were lobbed at the officers. The projectiles mainly came from the fourth story of Spuistraat 217, and from either the fifth story or the rooftop of the building across the street.

At least 150 police officers were involved at the beginning of the operation, with relief gathered in front of the Royal Palace on Dam Square. The back-up cops broke out in laughter at 10 a.m. from the site of their colleagues driving a paint-soaked water cannon truck onto the square.

Squatters taunting police atop the Tabakpanden. March 25, 2015 (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Squatters taunting police atop the Tabakspanden. March 25, 2015 (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

“I did not expect to see this in Amsterdam,” said Supriya, tourist visiting from India and staying in a hotel on the block. “It sounds like I’m back home,” she said, referring to the loud noises overnight.

As police announced orders to vacate the buildings over loudspeakers, the squatters replied with blasts of music ranging from “Holiday in Cambodia,” by the Dead Kennedys, to the N.W.A. hit “Fuck the Police.” A group of squatters wearing balaclavas gathered on the roof of Spuistraat 219 to taunt police, chant, dance and smack their street signs spray painted with logos like the anarchy symbol against one another.

After police took a lunch break on the scene, they moved in on the squatted buildings at about 1 p.m., beginning with Spuistraat 199, then 201 and on up to 217, where eight people were arrested. Amongst those led from the scene was Amsterdam artist Peter Klashorst.

More paint bombs were thrown at police, with each met by bursts from the massive water cannons. With each bomb that struck police equipment, many in the gathered crowd let out a cheer though they were kept at bay by the police line.

Police enter Spuistraat 199, the first of the Tabakpanden cleared on March 25, 2015. (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Police enter Spuistraat 199, the first of the Tabakspanden cleared on March 25, 2015. (photo: Zack Newmark / NL Times)

Police progressed across Wijdesteeg to enter the next set of buildings. A crane was brought in to place a converted shipping container on the rooftop of one building, with several officers waiting inside.

By 3:15 p.m., officers were lifted by crane onto a second rooftop, Spuistraat 231. The operation hit a snag when officers evacuated the building reporting the smell of natural gas. A team from the fire department measured an excess of gas in the air, and a crew from infrastructure firm Liander was brought in to shut the gas main into the building.

Squatters were told to leave the building because of the gas leak. When the operation resumed, authorities told reporters that barricades made things harder for police once they entered the last building sometime before 5:40 p.m. But it was completely cleared, police said, by 7 p.m.

All told, 19 people were arrested in the demonstration. Their nationalities are not yet known.

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The initial interest in castle-inspired structures on American soil owes a great deal to two prominent architects of the Late Victorian period. Named for England’s Queen Victoria, the Late Victorian period spanned from 1850 to 1910 and introduced into American architecture several connected styles riffing on those of previous British and French eras. One was the Chateauesque style that began gaining ground in 1960, incorporating cylindrical towers capped with roofs, dormer windows, and distinctly French elements. Credit for bringing this style to the U.S. goes to architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, who upon his return designed the base of the Statue of Liberty, the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the block-long Hostelling International building on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City, replete with dormer windows along all sides, and several long-demolished mansions for millionaires like the Vanderbilts and financier Henry G. Marquand. His contributions are concentrated on the east coast, in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, including the Grey Towers site in Milford, PA. Constructed in a Neo-Norman style to reflect the French ancestry of the Pinchot family who commissioned it, the residence is true to form: dual circular towers frame a hipped roof with a trio of dormer windows, the building entrance has a row of seven arched doorways, and a third tower sits at another corner. While many buildings built in the Chateauesque style were mansions, a large number were municipal buildings not intended for private residence.

The Scientology castle.

English architect Norman Shaw helped popularize the Victorian style from the 1870s through the early 1900s. After he published a collection of ink sketches in his 1858 book Architectural Sketches from the Continent, the trend for Queen Anne Victorians?itself a revival of the style of architecture that existed during its namesake’s reign in the early 1700s?began to take off. Local architecture historian Merry Ovnick points to the 1876 Centennial Exposition for enabling such a deeply British style to make inroads across the Atlantic: a house designed by the architect was featured as a part of the British exhibit. Suddenly they began to crop up across the U.S.. Marked by towers, an asymmetrical exterior, an irregular shape, and the use of a variety of materials, Ovnick notes that “some of these houses were made of stone, others of wood” and several exist across Los Angeles today. Though the Queen Anne trend lost its steam in the U.S. around 1910, Ovnick adds that “in the 1900s to 1920s, even many small houses had ‘castle’ features. In the 1930s, many apartment houses were built of wood-frame stucco with turrets, too.”

That explains many of the castle-like apartment buildings that sit on streets like Westmoreland Avenue off of Beverly Blvd or on Argyle Avenue heading toward the hills. Still, many of the most prominent castle-like buildings in Los Angeles encroach upon mansion territory, occupying full blocks and missing only the royalty. Hunt’s influence never reached this far west and the buildings are too grand to be drawing upon Victorian houses for inspiration. The inspiration for these mammoth properties comes from another direction entirely: the film-making boom.

In designing sets, filmmakers needed to communicate realism and depth to viewers in as condensed a space as possible. (Film sets, as Ovnick explains, were often made in four-fifths scale or less to save space, construction costs, and the amount of time it would take actors to move through unused areas of the set.) “They did this by crowding a sufficient number of identifiers (e.g., castle motifs, tenement trappings, etc.) into the frame of the picture,” Ovnick writes. “In a film set in medieval times, the castle behind the actors would offer such identifiers as a moat and a drawbridge, maybe crenellations and a turret?all packed within the frame of the picture.”

Hollywood Tower

The appearance of castles on screen led to many of them being built around town off screen, on freshly purchased land lots. “Southern California architects with and without set-design experience won lucrative commissions from stars and directors for movie-set-formed notions of how a mansion ought to look,” explains Ovnick.

While during the 1920s castles lined Franklin Avenue, now there are just remnants, including a very prominent chateau on the corner of Bronson Avenue, one of the city’s most visible urban castles even if it’s shrouded in the privacy of lofty trees. Nestled in the hipster mecca that is Franklin Village, Castle Élysée is just across the street from a host of shops, cafes, and the notorious Upright Citizens Brigade. It is kitty-corner from the upscale grocery store Gelson’s Market. The castle’s angular turrets, steeply hipped roof, and towering presence are of the past; the signage, advertising weekly movie nights and daily public tours, is more modern.

Chateau Beachwood

The building belongs to the Church of Scientology, which has called this chateau its home—or rather, the home of its celebrity members—since 1969. While the church transformed a former hospital into its headquarters less than two miles away on Sunset Boulevard, the church re-envisioned the castle-like former hotel as its Celebrity Centre.

Commissioned by former actress Elinor K. Ince, widow of Thomas H. Ince (known as the “Father of the Western” and creator of the Inceville Studio, after which current movie studios are modeled), Château Élysée was built in 1927 and said to be inspired by a castle in Rouen, France. Seventy-seven units strong and seven stories tall, Castle Élysée’s past includes affairs, a shooting, an alleged cover-up, hush money, and William Randolph Hearst. The gossip has it that Charlie Chaplin and Marion Davies were discovered in the throes of passion on Hearst’s yacht, Hearst (who was also involved with Davies) brandished a gun, and Ince intervened and was shot. While all involved denied the events, broadsheets ran with it as a front-page story. Hearst was said to have paid off the mortgage on Château Élysée in order to procure Elinor Ince’s silence.

The Château Élysée was seen as a residential apartment for talent flocking to Hollywood just as movie studios were cropping up across the city during Hollywood’s Golden Age. While it operated like a hotel, it attracted long-term residents such as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant, along with a host of other actors, actresses, and composers; enough to fill the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Even today, many floors of the building are reserved as temporary dwellings for members.

While many of the area’s castles draw inspiration from films and the opulent glamour and fortunes that went along with the industry, another castle, the Hollywood Tower complex, inspired Hollywood in turn. Also located on Franklin Avenue and just a stone’s throw from the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre, the Hollywood Tower has 52 units. Like Château Élysée, its main purpose was to house those in the filmmaking industry, and it also drew its castle inspiration from the French Normandy style. 

The Castle Love

Hollywood Tower is said to have been the inspiration for Disney’s Twilight Zone of Terror ride across several of the theme park’s locales in California, Paris, and Tokyo. The ride itself is based on the Twilight Zone TV series, but the building clearly culls its design from Hollywood Tower, right down to its signage. While the ride’s premise is heavily indebted to the Twilight Zone TV series, the ride itself went on to inspire a movie, the 1997 television movie Tower of Terror, starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. Both the ride and the movie operate around the premise of a malfunctioning elevator in a replica building, but in reality, the elevator at the real-life apartment complex leads you not only to the various units, but to a penthouse terrace that offers an unobstructed view of the Hollywood sign.

“The Hollywood Tower has always been a beautiful historical building in Hollywood, but not until 2009 when new ownership saw it for what it was did the history of the building finally come alive again,”says Hollywood Tower business manager Chad Vasquez. “Tourists come by daily to look at it because of the Disney ride. Everybody who comes to tour our building asks about the relation as well.”

Film stars aren’t the only ones with a strong link to the urban castles of Los Angeles, but musicians, too. For a period of time beginning in 1966, Arthur Lee of the band Love called a Spanish-inspired villa on Cedarhurst Circle in Loz Feliz home along with four of the members, referring to it as “the Castle.” Bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Doors and Frank Zappa?part of Love’s sphere?could often be found hanging out in the residence. The home went on to serve as the basis for the song “The Castle” on the group’s Da Capo album. “Much of the Arthur Lee mystique is derived from his residency in The Castle,” explains John Einarson in Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love. “Although he and his bandmates lived in the house for less than a year, The Castle nonetheless remains crucial to the image of Love and of Arthur as a rock potentate, holding court to all who were deemed worthy of passing through its gothic entrance gate.”

Wolf Castle

After Madonna first moved to LA, she took up residence at Chateau Beachwood, a grand castle located on the appropriately named Scenic Avenue where it intersects with Beachwood Canyon Drive. The front of the building features a pair of circular towers with dentils under each cone roof, chimneys that mirror each other on either side, decorative corbels under both balconies and shed dormers that protrude from the multi-plane, hip roof. Originally sub-divided into individual apartments, it was renovated into condos in 1989 after a rich history in which it played temporary home to many an actress since being established in 1937. And for the past four years Moby has called a castle on Durand Drive home, the former residence of Hollywood developer L Milton Wolf, nestled next to Lake Hollywood. He recently flipped the property for a six million dollar profit, selling it to an undisclosed buyer.

Many of the city’s original castles have the fallen to time and demolition permits, such as the castles of Franklin Boulevard and a stretch of mid-Wilshire along West Adams Boulevard, all lost in the 1970s. While key to the history of the city, their demolition makes sense in light of residents’ changing tasts, just as a change in taste allowed for the inaugural castle revival of the early 1900s. But just as movies and the Hollywood industry are a part of the culture and history of Los Angeles, so are the urban castles that remain, scattered across the city, standing as monuments to an era so integral to Los Angeles’ emergence. While their aesthetics might not be authentic in the sense of the castles that inspired them, the history behind how they came to stand on the city’s streets is.
· Curbed Features [Curbed LA]
· Castles [Curbed LA]

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Jan. 7 — Officials warned the public that a Disneyland visitor may be linked to at least seven confirmed cases of the measles throughout California and two in Utah. Six of the seven California patients were not vaccinated for measles. Doctors suspected the first infected person visited the park sometime between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, 2014.

Jan. 8 — A Utah Department of Health spokeswoman said both cases in their state were not vaccinated.

Jan. 9 — The Orange County Healthcare Agency reported five more people who visited Disneyland parks were diagnosed with measles. The number of cases in the state goes up to a dozen.

Jan. 10 — Colorado health officials confirmed one patient was diagnosed with measles at a Colorado Springs hospital after visiting a California theme park.

Five Disneyland Employees Contracted Measles

[LA] Five Disneyland Employees Contracted Measles

Nineteen people from three states (16 in California, two in Utah, and one in Colorado) contracted measles, health officials said.

Jan. 12 — The Long Beach Health Department confirmed one measles case in the city.

Unvaccinated Students Told to Stay Home After Measles Exposure

[LA] Unvaccinated Students Told to Stay Home After Measles Exposure

The California Department of Public Health said 26 people in four states have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak.

Jan. 13 — The state health department warned residents of three new cases, two in San Bernardino County and one in Long Beach. At least 22 cases have been linked to the Disneyland visitor in December.

Jan. 23 — The Ventura County Star, citing bank officials, reports that an employee at a Citibank branch in Camarillo contracted the virus, possibly infecting others who visited the bank.

Jan. 16 — Seven new cases in San Diego were linked to Disneyland outbreak. Two of six infected siblings had visited the park.

Jan. 17 — Health officials reported at least 51 measles cases have been diagnosed since the December outbreak. All but nine were connected to Disney theme parks. Forty-five of those cases have been in California.

Jan. 19 — Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo Urgent Care is closed as a result of a suspected case of measles.

Jan. 20 — After the Department of Health confirmed a student with measles was at Huntington Beach High School sometime between Jan. 6 and Jan 8., administrators told 23 unvaccinated students to stay home for 21 days, the incubation period for measles.

Jan. 21 — Orange County confirmed two new cases of measles, raising its total to 20.

Disney said it will consider refund requests on a “case-by-case” basis.

San Diego County has three new cases, a total of 13.

California health officials say California has now 59 cases of measles this year, 42 of which are related to an initial exposure at Disneyland.

Five Disneyland employees are diagnosed with measles. The Orange County Healthcare Agency said there is still “ongoing measles transmission at Disneyland.”

Jan. 27 — The number of reported measles cases in California has grown to at least 73, with 50 of them linked to the Disney theme park outbreak, state health officials said.

Jan. 28 — California State University, Long Beach confirms that a student has been diagnosed with measles. The student, who lives in Orange County, may have exposed at least 20 other students to the virus during an off-campus field trip with the university. It was not immediately clear whether the Long Beach student’s case was linked to Disneyland.

Feb. 3 – Los Angeles County health officials confirm 21 cases of measles, 17 of which are linked to the outbreak triggered at Disneyland.

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All photos by Jane Bruce

All photos by Jane Bruce

At last count, there were too many artists in Brooklyn to be counted. So the counters gave up. (If a reliable figure were to exist, however, you could at least count on it being extraordinarily high, yet less than 2.6 million.) Among those (almost) incalculably many artists there are, without doubt, a great many very good ones. Many more than a great many, really. And by that we mean a great many more than just a handful. Nonetheless, this is the time of year when we select five Brooklyn artists on whom we have been keeping an eye, and on whom we recommend you do as well—if you don’t already, that is.

The Brooklyn artists we’ve chosen to profile this year are Letha Wilson, Matt Freedman, Liv Mette Larsen, Maia Cruz Palileo and Osamu Kobayashi. They live and work in various areas of the borough, they are active within their creative communities in multiple ways, and their works encompass a broad range of mediums and approaches: from Wilson’s photographically sculptural interventions that both explore and invigorate notions of landscape indoors and outside; to Freedman’s sculptural installations and narrative performances that reconfigure spaces and folklores into spectrally humored metaphors; to Larsen’s gracefully staid, painstakingly prepared abstractions of her belovedly buzzing, crashing, and rusting industrial environs; to Palileo’s mixed-media albeit primarily painted meditations on familial settings, affiliations and uprootings; to Kobayashi’s lushly chromatic, formally calm yet undulatorily stirring canvases that make him a paintbrush’s—not just a painter’s—painter.

We think you’ll like their work. We also think you’ll enjoy reading their thoughts on what it’s like to be an artist in Brooklyn.


Osamu Kobayashi

Give us a synopsis of your studio practice, a glimpse of how you get into your work.
Ninety-five percent of my time is spent worrying and thinking about what I’m going to paint next, and five percent is execution. I realize this sounds a lot like procrastination, which might be the right word for it, but I need that build-up because it focuses all of my concentration onto the work when I go to make it. My best work often comes out of giving the paintings this undivided attention.

You’ve lived, worked, studied and exhibited in many places, but you’ve also been tethered to Brooklyn for quite a while. What first brought you here? What are some of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed over the years?
Like many artists, I wanted to be a part of the art discourse. Living in Brooklyn has allowed me to engage with the artists I admire, see their work, and attend the art events I find important. Unfortunately, the most significant change in Brooklyn since I’ve been here is a continuing and detrimental one, and that is the rising cost of rent. Seeing good artists having to cut back on their studio practice or leave NY altogether is a serious blow to the art community here. I for one was forced out of my studio after my lease was cut short and had to work out of a couple of temporary spaces for over a year. It was a really disruptive period for me. Unfortunately, my situation is not uncommon. Organizations like the Artist Studio Affordability Project have been fighting on behalf of artists to prevent issues like mine, and they need all the support they can get.


What do you feel is particularly great about living and being an artist in Brooklyn? Have any favorite galleries or art events? Restaurants or bars?
My favorite galleries in Brooklyn are 247365, Centotto, Janet Kurnatowski, Know More Games, Life on Mars, Outlet, Sardine, Storefront Ten Eyck, Transmitter, TSA, Underdonk, and Ventana244. As for restaurants, I tend to eat on the go, so you may catch me grabbing a slice at Anna Maria or Vinnie’s Pizzeria, both on Bedford Avenue.

Any current or forthcoming exhibitions of your work you’d like to tell us about? Other shows you’re looking forward to?
This summer I’m having my second solo exhibition with A+B Contemporary Art Gallery in Brescia, Italy.

Name five other artists, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, on whom we should keep an eye.
EJ Hauser, Jonathan Allmaier, Maria Walker, Thomas Martin, Tracy Thomason.


Matt Freedman

Give us a synopsis of your studio practice, a glimpse of how you get into your work.
I work all over the house—sometimes at my desk, sometimes at the dining room table, sometimes in the library or a coffee shop, sometimes even in the studio. It depends on what I’m doing. Right now I‘m writing and drawing in preparation for a series of performances with Tim Spelios. It’s too cold in the studio, so everything is piling up on the old psychiatric couch in the living room. My part of the collaboration consists of telling long loopy stories while drawing on a pad of paper. The stories are produced by a very questionable research system. I follow ideas and stories I hear and read along until they overlap with another story or idea that I hear or read about. Pretty soon I have a pile of ideas that somehow link up, at least in my mind. The latest one always seems most interesting, but there’s no logical reason it should be. I’m just easily beguiled, I think. Unfortunately, I forget the ideas almost as soon as I think of them, so if they are at all worthwhile I have to go back and rediscover them all over again. Once I have a substantial amount of ideas in my head, I try to juggle them into some coherent narrative. It’s a pretty terrifying process. A high percentage of failures is guaranteed.

You’ve lived, worked, studied, exhibited and held residencies in many places, but you’ve also been tethered to Brooklyn for quite a while. What first brought you here? What are some of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed over the years?
I came to Brooklyn with Jude Tallichet in 1991, because a friend found a factory floor for us in Williamsburg. Five years, $1,500 a month, 5,000 square feet. We had been living in Philadelphia, which was actually a much harder town to break into, back then, than New York. In Philly, you had to squeeze into the few commercial galleries that showed contemporary art. In Williamsburg, everyone was putting on shows. It was hard to keep yourself out of galleries. It’s the same way now in Bushwick and Ridgewood. Brooklyn has been lucky so far that the people who do interesting things here have been able to adapt and reinvent the place in wonderful new ways over and over again. I hope we haven’t gotten to the end of the line. That seems doubtful, but some days you wonder. The best part of being here is walking down the street and seeing friends everywhere you look. That takes time. I know I’ve settled into a neighborhood when I can let my dogs pick the route of our evening walk, and I have no idea where they will go, but I will know every place we pass.


What do you feel is particularly great about living and being an artist in Brooklyn? Have any favorite galleries or art events? Restaurants or bars?
This gallery list won’t make any headlines and it’s not close to definitive, but I like Air Circulation, Art Helix, Centotto, FiveMyles, the Humanities and Salena Galleries at LIU, Lorimoto, Mellow Pages (books count too!), Momenta, Pierogi, Robert Henry Contemporary, Schema Projects, Studio 10, Outpost, Valentine and Temporary Agency. A couple of Ridgewoodians in there, but it’s all in the neighborhood. And I’m still hoping Flipside makes a comeback. I like the local coffee shops where I can work: Rudy’s, Norma’s, El Cafecito, Trans Am, Fair Weather Bushwick, Julia’s.

Any current or forthcoming exhibitions of your work you’d like to tell us about? Other shows you’re looking forward to?
Jude Tallichet and I have a show, “Billionaire’s Island,” at the Humanities Gallery at Long Island University in Downtown Brooklyn through March. I am currently doing a two- person show with Tim Spelios at Studio 10 in Bushwick. It features eight performances, one every Friday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm through April 5.

Name five other artists, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, on whom we should keep an eye.
Some good young artists I’ve been in contact with recently are Laura Bernstein, Claire Bidwell, Adam Chad Brody, Paz Ortuzar and Megan Velong. I know what seems like an infinite number of really good artists in Brooklyn.


Liv Mette Larsen

Give us a synopsis of your studio practice, a glimpse of how you get into your work.
I usually start working after breakfast. My best days are when nothing else is planned. I never listen to music while painting, only for doing preparatory work. I prefer it quiet—with the exception of the industrial noise of Bushwick, which I find reassuring, somebody out there also working. I try not to open my laptop before achieving something in the studio; the time spent in front of the screen seems like a waste. I enjoy concocting my pigments with eggs, dammar, linen seed oil, and water. All my pigments have a different personality—stubborn, smooth, strong, weak. I spread my forms and fragments with brushes on the linen. Clear lines and forms. I never use tape; I want the edges to have the touch of the movements of my hand. Since I work in series, I like to have at least ten canvases already stretched and sized when I begin a new one. I work out the images in my sketchbook, ideas taken from my place of residence at the time: buildings, people, interiors, cityscapes or countryside. In Bushwick I have painted series of works derived from the scrap metal heap I see from my window, the chaotic bundles of electrical cables, the Bushwick skyline or the wooden floors in my loft, where I live and work, which show traces from a century of industrial use. An idea can come from anywhere. I like to live and work in the same space. A first glance at works in the morning, a last one before going to bed.

You’ve lived, worked, studied, exhibited and held residencies in many places, but you’ve also been tethered to Brooklyn for quite a while. What first brought you here? What are some of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed over the years?
I always wanted to come to New York, to stay for a while and work here. In 2010, I rented a loft in Bushwick for four months. Brooklyn was, in a way, familiar to me. My grandmother had lived here for about ten years, with her mother and three sisters, before she met her husband, a chief officer on the Norwegian America Line, in the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Red Hook. He brought her to Oslo, my hometown. My aunt Louise, who had a hairdresser salon on Flatbush Avenue, came back to Norway after World War II. The others remained. After more than 30 years in Berlin, it felt right for me to be here. People were friendly, helpful and interested in my work. As I got the opportunity to take over the loft, I did. I had come to stay. Having studied and spent many years living and painting in lofts in Berlin, a divided city, still marked from World War II, it felt natural to live and work in a mixed up neighborhood, partly industrial, like Bushwick. When I came here there was one coffee shop and one restaurant in my neighborhood, and few people in the streets. Five years ago the L was almost empty after Lorimer Street. All the young people now filling up the new cafés, bars and restaurants, walking through the neighborhood with coffee, dogs and phones, have changed the street picture.


What do you feel is particularly great about living and being an artist in Brooklyn? Have any favorite galleries or art events? Restaurants or bars?
I would principally say I can work everywhere. I always find something inspiring me no matter the surroundings. I’ve been lucky with my loft though, being on the third floor, with windows to two sides. I have a beautiful view over the roofs in Brooklyn. The vast sky and seagulls remind me that Brooklyn also has miles and miles of beaches. From a tree outside my window, I even had a merlin watching me paint two weeks ago. I love my scrap metal neighbors, the heavy trucks, the lack of modern and slick. I like to know there are interesting art events happening in walking distance, even if I choose not to attend them all. It feels good to know that others do, and that if I could, I would. I can’t pick any galleries in particular. I think they are all important, the more variety the better. I usually visit all the restaurants around here, but one of my favorites is the tortilla factory, Los Hermanos, for its good, simple Mexican food, the option to bring your own wine, the very friendly people working there, and the space itself. My other favorite is Mominette. Good French-American food, a music level where you can talk instead of scream, and a wonderful small garden in the backyard.


Any current or forthcoming exhibitions of your work you’d like to tell us about? Other shows you’re looking forward to?
This fall I will bring my “Neighborhood” series, ten paintings from Bushwick, to Berlin for an exhibition. I’ve previously shown paintings from the “Scrap Metal” and “Big Men” series there. It’s interesting for me to show work from Brooklyn in Berlin, the other city I lived and worked in for so many years. The paintings seem to be on a trip—visiting, informing the Berlin gallery visitors about my life and my surroundings here. I also really enjoy participating in and working on a yearly exhibition at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg. This year the title was “Sideshow Nation: Circle The Wagons,” and it had around 600 artists. This gallery is one of the last of its kind over there; real estate is taking over Williamsburg. Hopefully it will take some years till we have to ‘circle the wagons’ here in Bushwick. It’s always the same pattern: artists come around looking for affordable spaces, then comes the rest. My hope is that parts of Brooklyn will still remain affordable to artists and art venues. The borough would lose a lot of its personality without them. Part of this personality is the yearly Bushwick Open Studios, which I think is an important event for the art community. I enjoy the compact, electric atmosphere, even if I hardly get around myself since I started to arrange shows in the garage adjoining my building. Last year it was a group show, ”Bushwick Open: Twenty-three Artists From Here and Around”. This year I’ll collaborate with the motorbikers, who have now fully taken over the garage. Last year they all helped. This year we’ll do another mix.

Name five other artists, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, on whom we should keep an eye.
How about six? Art Guerra, Susan Mayr, Gwendolyn Skaggs, Lawrence Swan, Larry Lee Webb and Doug Young.


Maia Cruz Palileo

Give us a synopsis of your studio practice, a glimpse of how you get into your work.
At the moment, I’m splitting my time between my studio at chashama at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Lower East Side Printshop where I am half way through a year long Keyholder residency. When I’m at my studio, I generally work from 9 to 5. I make coffee, get into my sweats, put in earplugs or headphones, and pick up wherever I left off. Usually it starts with putting things away, shuffling through source material, or mixing paint. I try to get started on a task with the hope that it will help me get present. It’s not always smooth sailing, it’s definitely a grind. At the Printshop, I’m learning as I go. I’ve been making silkscreens and etchings. I make a lot of mistakes and I like that. I love all the steps involved in each process. To me, printmaking is magical. It’s also a shared studio space and I’ve met a lot of new and inspiring artists, fellow Keyholder Residents, which makes me feel like I’m a part of a community; it’s very different than being alone in my studio. It’s cool to see what other people are making, and to get influenced and inspired by their energy and ideas. It’s a good balance.

You’ve lived, worked, studied, exhibited and held residencies in many places, but you’ve also been tethered to Brooklyn for quite a while. What first brought you here? What are some of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed over the years?
When I first moved to New York I lived in Manhattan for a year, and then moved to Greenpoint for cheaper rent. Then I moved to Flatbush to be closer to Brooklyn College for grad school (and cheaper rent). One significant change that comes to mind is that people used to say things like, “who’s the man?” or “lesbians!” while I was walking down the street holding hands with my partner, but that rarely happens anymore. When I think about it, it’s actually hard to believe, because it used to happen all the time. That’s a positive change. For a while, I rented a studio in Industry City, where they kicked out all the artists and hiked up the rents a few years ago. Luckily, I found a studio through chashama’s Studio Program at the Brooklyn Army Terminal right before that all happened.


What do you feel is particularly great about living and being an artist in Brooklyn? Have any favorite galleries or art events? Restaurants or bars?
I like the concentration of artists and people in the arts in Brooklyn. I live across the street from Prospect Park. I’m not far from BAM, the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanical Gardens, and I’m 20 minutes away from the beaches—Coney Island, Brighton Beach, or Manhattan Beach—which reminds me that it will someday be summer again, which reminds me of one of my favorite memories of an art event. It was ten years ago (!), when I lived in Greenpoint and they had just opened McCarren Pool, and Noémie Lafrance choreographed a performance there. In my neighborhood, I went to the NoHomme, which is a house on Lincoln Road, and saw Diane Cluck, which felt very DIY and under the radar. I don’t know if they are still operating. To get current, the last few shows I saw in Brooklyn were Arlan Huang at Trestle Gallery in Gowanus, Chitra Ganesh at the Brooklyn Museum, Respond and a screening of the documentary “Through a Lens Darkly” by Thomas Allen Harris at Smack Mellon, Matthew F. Fisher at Sardine, and Dawn Clements at Pierogi. Favorite restaurants? I just recently became obsessed with De Hot Pot on Washington Avenue, which is described online as a “straightforward joint offering casual Caribbean classics including stuffed rotis doubles.”

Any current or forthcoming exhibitions of your work you’d like to tell us about? Other shows you’re looking forward to?
I am getting ready for a solo show opening on April 16 at the Taymour Grahne Gallery, which I’m very excited about. The dates are April 16 to May 22. I’m also in a group show at the Lower East Side Printshop curated by artist Dahlia Elsayed, called “No Rush, No Dawdle,” which is going to be up from March 18 to May 17. I’m looking forward to seeing the Kehinde Wiley show that’s up now at the Brooklyn Museum, then Zanele Muholi there in May.

Name five other artists, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, on whom we should keep an eye.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Cecile Chong, Gretchen Sherer, Otto Neals and Xinyi Chen.


Letha Wilson

Give us a synopsis of your studio practice, a glimpse of how you get into your work.
My studio practice is just one aspect of my work that also includes taking trips out in nature to take photographs. This often happens while visiting my family in Colorado for a few weeks in the summer, or in tandem with an artist residency somewhere out of NYC. Back in New York, I print my own color photographs at a darkroom in Manhattan, and those prints then come to the studio in Brooklyn, where they get treated to a variety of semi-destructive processes. For the past few years I have been refining a technique where I pour concrete on top of and around these prints, in works that often hang on the wall. I like to try out new techniques, materials and tests in my studio as I work out a problem, so often several ideas are happening at once in there.

You’ve lived, worked, studied, exhibited and held residencies in many places, but you’ve also been tethered to Brooklyn for quite a while. What first brought you here? What are some of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed over the years?
I moved to Brooklyn right after finishing undergrad at Syracuse University. In school I was told if I was serious about being an artist, I needed to move in NYC. I have lived in several neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan, but I always felt most comfortable in the more industrial neighborhoods of Brooklyn—Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint. After living in many different locations about every year (flooded apartments, landlords renovating, evictions, etc.), I decided to move to Bushwick in 2008 because it was a neighborhood where I felt I could (at the time) afford to both live and have a studio in close proximity, and a lot of my fellow Hunter grads were already out here. Bushwick was the first neighborhood where I felt a real sense of a community of artists, which can be surprisingly difficult to find here. As for changes, they are just a constant. Perhaps that is the worst and best part of NYC.


What do you feel is particularly great about living and being an artist in Brooklyn? Have any favorite galleries or art events? Restaurants or bars?
The number one greatest thing is the people, friends, colleagues, and conversations here. I love that energy. And in Brooklyn you still get the perks of Manhattan—access to museums, galleries, openings—but the ability to hide away at the end of the day, or ideally all day long in your studio. I love those days when I don’t even have to go into the city. Restaurants and bars only have a small window of time before they get too popular, even in Brooklyn, so I hesitate to list my current faves. But my love for the Cobra Club has endured a few seasons. I get my lattes in the morning, and my happy hour and pool games after studio. Oh, and they show NFL football too!


Any current or forthcoming exhibitions of your work you’d like to tell us about? Other shows you’re looking forward to?
I am about to open a solo show at LightWork in Syracuse on March 16, and a solo show at Grimm Gallery in Amsterdam in early June. I’m very much looking forward to Kate Steciw at Retrospective in Hudson [April], Carolyn Salas at Koenig Clinton in NYC [June], and Brian Bress at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver [January 2016].

Name five other artists, Brooklyn-based or otherwise, on whom we should keep an eye.
In Brooklyn, Nyeema Morgan, Stacy Fisher, Richard Tinkler, Nat Meade. In LA, Cammie Staros.

You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio

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