THE ATOMIC CAFE (Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader & Pierce Rafferty, 1982)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
Saturday, July 13, 6:30
Series runs July 12-14
The time is ripe for a 4K restoration of the absurdist 1982 documentary The Atomic Cafe as President Trump deals with the nuclear capabilities and arsenals of Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty were searching archives for propaganda films when they discovered a treasure trove of military and government shorts about the atomic and hydrogen bombs and how the American people should face any oncoming threats. The three filmmakers, who will be at Metrograph on July 13 at 6:30 to introduce a special screening of the 2018 restoration, weaved sensational footage together into an hour and a half of clips that range from the hysterically funny to the dangerously outrageous. Young students are taught to “duck and cover.” Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets Jr. describes how easy it was to fly over Hiroshima and drop the bomb but then admits his shock over the eventual destruction it wrought. Presidents Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower discuss the impact of the bombs. A radio duo makes jokes about the decimation. Scenes of the horrific damage to Japanese victims are shown in silence. Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy defends the Bikini Atoll test, where island residents are assured everything will be fine — as are soldiers who will be in the vicinity of various tests.
While Russia escalates the Cold War — yes, they were our avowed enemy for quite some time, although the film includes President Richard Nixon joking around with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev — and a battle between North and South Korea looms, Americans drink “Atomic” cocktails and dance to “Atomic” songs. The execution of Ethel Rosenberg is explained in disturbing detail. A military officer tells the troops, “Watched from a safe distance, this explosion is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man,” and in a training film a military chaplain says to a few soldiers, “You look up and you see the fireball as it ascends up into the heavens; it’s a wonderful sight to behold.” Loader and the Raffertys fill the film with a vast array of black-and-white and color footage of nuclear bombs exploding into immense mushroom clouds, accompanied by a wide range of mood-enhancing music. It would be easy to dismiss most of the archival material in the film as ridiculous, outdated propaganda from a bygone era, but in this age of fake news, social media, lies from the White House, a war on journalism, and a president cozying up to enemies and taking issue with longtime allies, it’s more than a little bit frightening too. The Atomic Cafe is screening in the three-day series “Secret Histories: The Films of Kevin Rafferty & Friends,” which runs July 12-14 and also includes 1991’s Blood in the Face, 1992’s Feed, 1999’s The Last Cigarette, and 2008’s Harvard Beats Yale 29-28, offering unique looks at parts of the American experience.
CITY OF WATER DAY
Saturday, July 13, free
“What water is there for us to clean ourselves?” Nietzsche asked in 1882’s Parable of the Madman. If we’re not careful, we won’t have much clean water to do anything in the future, which is why City of Water Day has become such an important event. The twelfth annual celebration of H2O takes place on July 13, with special water-related activities in all five boroughs, with the South Street Seaport Museum as home base. The ever-popular Con Edison Cardboard Kayak Race is set for Brooklyn Bridge Beach on the Manhattan side at 1:30, but you can watch the kayaks being built at Peck Slip beginning at 10:30. The Waterfront Festival at Piers 16 and 17 features food trucks and booths from such organizations as Animal Haven, Billion Oyster Project, BioBoat, Earth Day Initiative, Hudson River Sea Glass, National Museum of the American Indian, NYC Winter Lantern Festival, Oceana, Shore Walkers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Untapped Cities, festival host the Waterfront Alliance, and others. Boat tours (free unless otherwise noted) include NYC Sightseeing Cruises at Pier 15; sails at 1:00 and 4:00 ($20) on the South Street Seaport Museum’s 1885 schooner, Pioneer; one-hour sails aboard the schooners Adirondack and America 2.0 from Pier 62; trips on the Fireboat John J. Harvey from Pier 66; a Lower Harbor Cruise from Pier 82 at 11:00 am; and a Landmark Cruise departing from Pier 83.
The second annual Jamaica Bay Festival, on Beach 108th St. and Beach Channel Dr., features kayaking, fishing, surfing, hiking, bird watching, art, nature, and more. Among the many other events are Boogie Down to the Sound at SUNY Maritime’s Waterfront Open House, a Bronx River Lake Paddle, Community Rowing and Birding at Hunts Point Riverside Park, a Mile Hike and Talk Along the Harlem River in Roberto Clemente State Park, Low-Tide Nature Discovery at Bushwick Inlet Park, Seining the River Wild at Pier 4 Beach, NOAA’s USS Monitor Trail Marker at the Greenpoint Monitor Museum, Shoreline Clean-Up at Sherman Creek Park, the River Project’s Wetlab at Pier 40, Outrigger Paddling from Pier 66 in Hudson River Park, Harlem River Community Rowing at Muscota Marsh Dock, a Sustainability Scavenger Hunt in Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, the Last Harvest Celebration with Solar One in Stuyvesant Cove Park, a Fishing Clinic in Gantry Plaza State Park, Flushing Creek Rising Sea Tours from the Flushing Bay Boat Ramp, a Hunter’s Point South Park Tour, Evening Kayaking at the Alice Austen House Museum, and a Lighthouses in Danger tent outside the National Lighthouse Museum.
Brooklyn Cruise Terminal
72 Bowne St., Red Hook
Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, $95-$390
Twenty-two drivers and eleven teams will hit the streets of Red Hook for the ABB FIA Formula E Championship grand finale, taking place July 13 and 14 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. On Saturday, the gates open at 7:00 in the morning, with practice on the Red Hook Circuit at 7:30 and 10:00, qualifying at 11:45, and racing at 4:00. On Sunday, the gates open again at 7:00, with practice at 9:00, qualifying at 11:45, and the race at 4:00. Tickets begin at $95 for the grandstand and $390 for the podium lounge. The family-friendly Allianz E-Village is open all day both days, with live performances (beatbox flautist Greg Pattillo, King Charles Unicycle Troupe, banjo and bass duo Coyote Crow, Emphasis Entertainment Dance Crew, others), stunts, technological innovations, autograph sessions, virtual reality simulators, Smorgasburg food, and more ($12, kids under twelve free with adults). Team DS Techeetah, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne and André Lotterer, are currently number one in the standings with 216 points, followed by Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler (Daniel Abt and Lucas Di Grassi) at 173, Envision Virgin Racing (Sam Bird and Robin Frijns) at 150, and the Nissan e.dams team (Sébastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland) at 139. During the races, watch out for Attack Mode, and you can vote to give five drivers a Fanboost.
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
Through July 21, $20
“Spare no expense to make war beautiful,” historian Anna Duensing says in Drill, referring to military history. Drill, a three-channel, twenty-one-minute video, is the centerpiece of German artist Hito Steyerl’s site-specific, wide-ranging multimedia installation of the same name at Park Ave. Armory, where it continues through July 21. Projected on both sides of three large screens in the fifty-five-thousand-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall, Steyerl’s film delves into the history of the armory, from its time as the headquarters of the Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, known as a silk-stocking regiment, to its exclusive use by the wealthy and its direct relationship to the founding of the National Rifle Association. Steyerl goes to the armory basement, formerly a shooting range, where bullet holes can still be seen in the walls; includes clips of speeches by antigun activists at a Washington, DC, rally; and follows the Yale University Precision Marching Band as it makes its way through the drill hall, playing music by Jules Laplace based on data sonification from casualty statistics of AR-15 violence and mass shootings, with choreography by Thomas C. Duffy. Among the participants are Nurah Abdulhaqq of National Die-In, Kareem Nelson of Wheelchairs Against Guns, retired school principal and proud gun owner Judith Pearson, and gun violence prevention activist Abbey Clements. A series of interconnected bulbs on the floor occasionally light up in white and red, linking the viewer to what is happening onscreen.
In her 2013 e-flux article “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?,” Steyerl wrote, “Data, sounds, and images are now routinely transitioning beyond screens into a different state of matter. They surpass the boundaries of data channels and manifest materially. They incarnate as riots or products, as lens flares, high-rises, or pixelated tanks. Images become unplugged and unhinged and start crowding off-screen space. They invade cities, transforming spaces into sites, and reality into realty. They materialize as junkspace, military invasion, and botched plastic surgery. They spread through and beyond networks, they contract and expand, they stall and stumble, they vie, they vile, they wow and woo.” That statement relates to several of the other works in the show, spread throughout the armory’s period rooms and hallway.
In the Parlor, Is the Museum a Battlefield? is an illustrated lecture projected on two screens and a box of white sand as Steyerl investigates the fascinating relationship between art museums and war, starting with a bullet that killed a friend of hers. The audience sits on sandbags, immersed in the narrative that involves the Louvre, the Hermitage, and other arts institutions. “Museums are of course battlefields. They have been throughout history,” she says. “They have been torture chambers, sites of war crimes, civil war, and also revolution.” Although the illustrated lecture was produced for the thirteenth Istanbul Biennial, it feels right at home at the armory, a building initially constructed for the military that now is an arts institution itself. That is followed by Duty Free Art, in which Steyerl delves into income inequality through art, business, and war via freeports, where collectors store their art holdings without having to pay taxes, impacting the global economy.
In the Veterans Room and Library, Hell Yeah We Fuck Die, named for the five most-used English words in songs on the Billboard charts, features concrete and neon sculptures of those words along with video of product testing on robots, while Robots Today ties together narration from Muslim polymath Al-Jazari’s 1205 Automata with shots of a Kurdish city destroyed by the Turkish military in 2016.
Broken Windows is shown at both ends of the central hallway; one end depicts Chris Toepfer and other community activists painting canvases and placing them over broken windows in abandoned buildings in Camden, New Jersey, while at the other end researchers in London test the sound of breaking glass for artificial intelligence. The title of the video takes on added meaning here in New York City given the NYPD’s controversial use of broken windows policing, which believes that targeting smaller crimes will prevent bigger ones.
The show also includes The Tower in the Mary Divver Room and ExtraSpaceCraft in the Board of Officers Room, which are like watching virtual reality video games, while Prototype 1.0 and 1.1 in the Field and Staff Room is a pair of blue robots made of foam-and-aluminum, one standing, the other lying on the floor, as if they had come out of Hell Yeah We Fuck Die after undergoing brutal testing. And in the Colonels Reception Room, Freeplots offers hope for the future amid all the technological mayhem, a collaboration with El Catano Community Garden in East Harlem that consists of flowers blooming in wooden planters filled with horse-manure compost, turning the crates that store art in the freeports into something positive for everyone. The exhibition requires a significant investment of time and concentration; the works are complex, and the videos run more than two hours in total, but Steyerl has a lot to say that is worth paying attention to, even if some of the delivery is less inspiring than others. On July 20 at 3:00 and 5:00 ($10), there will be a performance lecture by Anton Vidokle, Adam Khalil, and Bayley Sweitzer, “The Dead Walk into a Bar,” which promises: “As a staff of identical ushers draws back layers of confusion and pain, the freshly resurrected gradually become aware of the reality of their corporeal reinsertion: perhaps the world of the living is not a world at all; to be alive in this place may merely be an exhibit.”
Who: Dapper Dan, Elaine Welteroth
What: Book launch with talk and signing
Where: BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Ave., 718-636-4100
When: Wednesday, July 10, $20 event only, $40 with book, 7:00
Why: “It was a midnight like any other at the store. The lights were on out front, the door unlocked, the grate rolled halfway up. Dapper Dan’s Boutique was open. My night crew of tailors was in the back filling orders. Jackets, jumpsuits, parkas. Their sewing machines hummed into the wee hours. I was lying on my bed in the little apartment I’d built in back for myself. Most nights, you could find me there, rereading a book of philosophy or spirituality or trying to sneak in a nap,” begins fashion icon Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day’s memoir, Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem. “I had good reasons for never closing the shop and rarely leaving it. For one, a lot of my customers preferred late-night visits, for anonymity during the week or for the after-hours vibe of the weekends. I also had to keep an eye on my employees, who were backdooring my designs. It was my name on the awning out front, and in my world, your name means everything. It was my reputation, my brand, and people came from all over the city and beyond—from Philly and Chicago, Houston and Miami—because they wanted a Dapper Dan. I was the store, and the store was me.” On July 10, the seventy-four-year-old Dapper Dan, who has helped dress such figures as Eric B. and Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Mike Tyson, LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, Diddy, Naomi Campbell, and Jay-Z, will launch his book with a talk and a signing at BAM Rose Cinemas, presented with Greenlight Bookstore as part of the Unbound series. He will be interviewed by journalist, magazine editor, Project Runway judge, and influencer Elaine Welteroth, author of the new book More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are. Tickets are $20 for the event and $40 for the event and a copy of Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem.
Who: Janet Biggs and Scott MacDonald
What: Panel discussion and book launch
Where: Cristin Tierney Gallery, 219 Bowery, second floor, 212-594-0550
When: Thursday, July 11, free with advance RSVP, 6:30
Why: In his new book, The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama (Oxford University Press, August 1, 2019, $125), author and film history professor Scott MacDonald writes of visual artist Janet Biggs, “I first became aware of Biggs when she visited Hamilton College in the spring of 2017 to present a talk about her work. As she showed stills and clips from recent videos, I was struck by the fact that Biggs had traveled to and filmed particular far-flung locations that I had been introduced to by other filmmakers. . . . I was interested not only that multiple artists would be drawn to these precise locations, but also that, in somewhat different ways, these locations can be dangerous to visit. As I became familiar with Biggs’s work, I came to wonder why an artist would go through the considerable difficulties of visiting distant, potentially dangerous locations, not in order to produce films that might have substantial audiences, but to offer relatively brief visual experiences to comparatively smaller audiences within gallery and museum spaces. I came to realize that my experiences with Biggs’s work offered an opportunity to explore, at least in a small way, the issue of installation cinema versus theatrical cinema.” The book continues with an interview between MacDonald and Biggs that was conducted online.
On July 11, MacDonald and Biggs will be together in person at the Cristin Tierney Gallery for a discussion on film and art in conjunction with the publication of The Sublimity of Document and Biggs’s most recent exhibition, “Overview Effect,” the second part of which, Seeing Constellations in the Darkness between Stars, continues at Cristin Tierney through August 2. MacDonald’s book features interviews with Biggs and more than two dozen other “avant-doc” filmmakers, including Ron Fricke, Laura Poitras, Frederick Wiseman, Bill Morrison, Abbas Kiarostami, and James Benning. Biggs has also contributed the article “Fragility Curve” to the current edition of the Brooklyn Rail, writing about her experiences making her latest films, which deal with Mars. “The earth will remake itself and survive the legacy of its human inhabitants, but will we?” she asks. The conversation with Biggs and MacDonald will be followed by a book signing; in addition, Biggs, who has participated in two twi-ny talks, will be presenting the multimedia performance piece How the Light Gets In July 18 at the New Museum.