Category Archives: Intimacy

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VENUS AND THE MOON’S Albatross

RUINS PRESENTS A HAUNTING NEW MUSICAL COLLABORATION FROM RAIN PHOENIX AND FRALLY HYNES, FEATURING RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, CHRIS STILLS, AND A UNIQUELY FRENCH TWIST.

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enus and the Moon’s Frally Hynes and Rain Phoenix are two prolific singer-songwriters who have no penchant for idle hands, and thrive in spartan settings. Their title track “Albatross” was composed in an empty house on Mulholland Drive. The minimalist Katie Davison-directed video – exclusive to RUINS – was shot in a raw industrial space in downtown Los Angeles. The piece echoes of the intertwinement of emotional engagement, both light and burdensome, often entangled and evolving.

Venus and the Moon was born at a birthday party when, upon meeting, a creative spark born of mutual recognition was ignited between Hynes, who grew up in Australia, and Phoenix, whose childhood harkened back to Venezuela. They began to compose other-worldly siren-like harmonies together, laying down the tracks for “Albatross” and “Hungry Ghost” before embarking on an international tour with Cat Power.

While Phoenix has been performing on notable stages since childhood (at six, she performed with Crosby, Stills and Nash at the Hollywood Bowl), Hynes had a quieter evolution as a pianist and poet, having lived between Nashville and Los Angeles, and recorded her first album in 2010.

With both singers recognizing the bonds they share with their brothers, fathers and past and present paramours, the duo made a conscious decision to expand upon the feminine origin of the band’s concept to create a new album honoring the great men in their life.  Phoenix produced the upcoming album Brother, Son (July 2016) and recorded it on her late brother River’s 4-track, bringing her musical process full circle. The new album will be released in July.

See Venus and the Moon live in Los Angeles at the Hotel Cafe on July 13th, and at the Bootleg Theater on June 15th.

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Hello & Goodbye

The sunny spectacle of hello and goodbye
used to rule this place.
Now, the airport gate is empty of emotion;
it’s no longer where an old Jamaican lady
sees her grandkids for the first time
or a couple from Kansas fight off their first parting
with a torrent of French kisses.
Now it’s only ticket holders staring at each other,
waiting for something to happen,
wishing for the days
when the Leavers and the Left Behind
gathered together every hour or so
to make magic.

You think that’s a loss,
but it’s even worse when your plane lands,
when you walk down the jetway and
into the bright white light of another airport gate,
and you are like a baby being born in an empty room.
Your father isn’t there, or your mother, or your friends.
You realize then that no one will ever kiss you
hello at an airport gate again,
or tell you goodbye,
because this is the way the world is now —
you don’t get to see strangers crying or touching
or hugging one another, not anymore,
and you have to walk further
to get to the people you love.

Image: USA. Utah. Salt Lake City airport. 1996. Airports & planes. © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

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Do Ideas Have Sex?

Futurist and modern philosopher Jason Silva reveals his caffeinating thoughts behind metaphysical intercourse and digital cities.

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efore the modern wonder cure—herbal supplements, synthetic Soylent Green and gluten free everything, the rage in 17th century British cities was for an exotic bean drink of Turkish origin that was said to prevent everything from melancholy and indigestion to miscarriage. As it evolved from medicine to mass consumption, spreading from Oxford University student environs to London, coffee gave birth to a new urban culture of spirited debate, news consumption and invention—The Enlightenment Age. Before losing ground, in the late 18th century, to private clubs and other exclusive drinking establishments, the British coffee shop left an undeniable mark on the British city, framing it as a space for invention and discourse.

“The rise of the coffee shop led to radical innovation,” explains Jason Silva, the host and creator of the web series Shots of Awe, “because people were tightly knit in close quarters, drinking lots of caffeine instead of alcohol, and ideas could percolate. So cities, naturally, are extensions of the coffee shop.” Today, says Silva, the utility of the coffee shop has moved online giving us the power to have these spirited stimulant-fueled interactions on an unimaginable scale.

“One of the things the internet has given us is the ability to transcend the usual Euclidian restrictions of time and space.” says Silva, “So with the internet, we find ourselves having serendipitous collisions through hyperlinking.” This uploading of consciousness, Silva believes will lead to a future where the urban agoras—coffee shops, bars, town squares—and by extension big cities, becomes less important and we instead live in high-tech habitation hubs, “little islands,” spatially apart from each other yet intimately linked through the net.

Inventing a kind of social-media shamanism, Silva’s web series combines spiritual doctrine, pop psychology and social criticism given to you in the form of rapid-fire videos. With 316,628 YouTube subscribers and growing, Silva’s appeal comes from his ability to distill vast existential concepts into short bursts of manic energy.

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he handsome 32-year-old Venezuelan-born filmmaker, philosopher and actor also enjoys quite an extensive female fan base. This appeal has helped propel him into gigs at Current TV and the National Geographic Channel—among others—where Silva hosted Brain Games, one of the highest-rated shows to ever appear on Nat Geo at an astounding one million viewers for the first two launch episodes.

But don’t worry, Silva’s vision of an exurban tech utopia—or more likely dystopia—is still far off: “We haven’t fully uploaded our consciousness yet.” says Silva. “We’re still interfacing, it’s just the rudimentary square screen, so I think humans—our mammal body still craves the physical presence of other people. So we haven’t completely graduated from cities yet.”

“What really inspires me lately,” Silva tells Ruins, is the book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson. In it, Johnson delves into “the ecology of thought” and his assertion that ideas can have sex. As he explains it, in our minds there’s a space for dynamic change, a “vertical integration for general related industries.” It’s this organic collision, and the density that exists in cities that leads to heightened creativity and the birthing of ideas and effects.

As anyone who has ever gone down a digital click-hole knows, there are many winding paths in the internet city. Wandering leaves you open to chance inspiration. While Silva believes these types of digital cities are the wave of the future, we still have a way to go. Singularity is the hypothetical state where artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces have evolved to the point of greater-than-human intelligence.

Silva believes that the seeds to the cities of the future already exist in our current metropolises. “I think a city itself is a physical technology,” explains Silva. “The city is a piece of technology—the city is congealed imagination! The city is…agency! Think of all the signals that are around us at any moment. Everyone who is punching fingers against their phone screens are sending signals that traverse around us and through us at any given moment and a thousand times, a million times a day. I mean, if we could see those wavelengths—if we could see those frequencies, holy moly, that spectrum of activity, that agency and intent that surrounds us at any moment—it’s mind-boggling! That’s the chemistry of life, of oxygen of air—we’re buzzing, everything is connectivity, and we’re living in a hurricane of activity.”

Silva has resurrected Baudelaire’s concept of the flaneur, one who walks the city, and updated it for the digital age. “I get caught up in the digital rabbit holes. On the internet, especially if you’re adept at search combinations, the results just get weirder and weirder. You can really stumble upon some obscure, brilliant thought. All these links and random articles and random things are going into a kind of salad, and later it all comes down into my videos.”

This leads to Silva’s broader philosophical question: How do you filter out the meaningful from the non-meaningful? The street noise from the conversation? “We have to be careful.” he says. “Of course you have to filter the non-meaningful from the meaningful, but if you get too good you might miss out on something that’s unexpectedly relevant. A creative person can’t just dismiss everything. The creative person has to be open to surprises, which means those filters have to be permeable. So you sometimes have to go down that rabbit hole to plant some piece of data in your brain that’s going to connect to something else later. I think that the real world and the internet are becoming similar in that you can go down [digital and intellectual] pathways, and walk down similar pathways in a city. People should let themselves wander around the internet in the same way.”

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Jason Silva. Illustration by Coll Hamilton
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Zoe Cassavetes + Sebastien Chenut

Zoe Cassavetes + Sebastien Chenut

Talking Walls is an intimate glimpse into the lives of creative couples as they casually document a day in their life and interview each other.

Our inaugural piece explores the creative partnership between Zoe Cassavetes, the award-winning filmmaker, and her French husband Sebastien Chenut, the soundtrack producer, as they discuss their recent collaboration on Cassavetes’ new film, Day Out of Days. The film focuses on the plight of the aging actress in the sunny but unforgiving terrain of Los Angeles, the city which they both call home.

IN CONVERSATION: LISTEN

IN CONVERSATION: TEXT

Sebastien: How did we come up with the idea of working together?

Zoe: We came up with the idea because we actually met for a job, for your band. You needed a music video director and we got set up on a meeting, which funny enough turned into a love connection. I think it’s natural. I think our jobs really go together a lot. I’m sort of the visual to your audio.

Sebastien: It’s true.

Zoe: Besides me and how we work together, what’s your daily process when you do your music?

Sebastien: There’s two different aspects of working with projects because if it’s a commercial where there’s a client issue, they want something special that you have to do as well. Then we have to follow with the same concept that they want for the music.

Zoe: It’s not the same as when you work for a director?

Sebastien: No, because when you work for a director you can bring some ideas and you have your personal opinion because that’s why they call you. They call you because you have some ideas about the music you can do for them, for their footage, for their story. The music could be a new character that they need to have for a scene that varies a lack of tension, a lack of emotions. You’re going to fill that space with that experience that you have with the music.

Zoe: We work at home a lot together. A lot of times part of our work may not look like working a lot, but actually it is. I mean it’s fun work. I edit it and then you watch, and then I listen to your music, then we put the two together. A lot of time when we’re home, we’re watching films, or we’re listening to music, or we’re looking at certain images. I guess now after being together so long and working on so many projects together that we have such a trust that we talk about the direction, and then we can go our separate ways, and come back. I would say a strong portion of the time I totally don’t want to change anything, or fix anything, or maybe just a slight adjustment here or there. I guess people sometimes ask, do we fight when we work together?

Sebastien: Yeah we fight sometimes because we are sure about something that we did and sometimes you need to impose a some stuff, and then at the end of the day, sometime you come back and you were right, or we were wrong, but it’s not very easy all the time of course.

Zoe: And you’re French, so…

Sebastien: And I’m French.

Zoe: So sometimes your idea of having conversation and Americans’ idea of having a conversation is two different tones completely.

Sebastien: Yeah.

Zoe: We just moved to L.A. about a year ago. I grew up here and haven’t lived here for, I don’t know almost 20 years, but now we’re back for the time being. How do you like it? Do you find it’s a better place to work creatively than Paris?

Sebastien: There’s nothing you can do in L.A. Is there?

Zoe: You can go on a hike, play tennis.

Sebastien: Yeah, you can go on a hike or you can just…

Zoe: Get a juice.

Sebastien: Talk about jeans, and drugs, and juice, and SUVs, and vacations you won’t ever take. It’s very interesting for us to work here because it makes us concentrate on what we do. One thing I like are wide spaces, it’s very large. It makes you have a lot of decision before getting into the studio and work. I have a window and I can see a lot of spaces from that window, so it’s very helpful to work in here I have to say.

Zoe: I’m more of a fan of seasons and a New Yorker in my heart, but it’s great to be here, and for other reasons like all the work is here. There’s tons of creative people, and tons of jobs, and everything is moving really fast so it’s great to be in the epicenter of the business that you want to succeed in the most.

Sebastien: Do you feel less original than when you were in Paris?

Zoe: No, I feel more original actually. I don’t know.

Sebastien: It feels like in Paris it’s like you feel that people are doing some movies and stuff. Like in this business where I’m going to the direction of making them and it’s like you feel it’s a job, like they don’t care about the … situation. We’re just doing a job as making some money. We could be working in a garage, or we could be actor/director. We don’t feel the vibe of contributing to try to make something very original, or very …

Zoe: I think there’s a bunch of people in LA that would love to do something original and deep or whatever. Look how hard it is to find money to make things that are creative. I think one of the interesting things about coming back here and making this movie, for me is that I know now what I need to make the movie. I have all the great crew, I’ve got my great composer, I’ve got all these things. You need the funds and if you just … not be afraid to ask. You know, as artists we never want to ask for help because we think that we can do it all ourselves, or it has to be created from the inside, and nobody can understand that. In fact, in collaboration the more you realize and the more you open up to collaboration, the better your piece of art that you’re trying to put out in the world is going to be because you have your eyes, and your ears, and you have mine.

We don’t just work on my movies together, we work on commercials together, I make music videos for you. Sometimes we don’t work at all but sit down, we’re in the car or whatever, and I get to hear your new record. Then we get to talk about it and things that we like. Being a couple that’s creative together, but not necessarily in the same business, but business that complements each other is a really lucky thing.

Sebastien: I guess as a writer you wanted to be … and you working outside in the … do you like to work at home?

Zoe: No, I like to work at home. I’m really a home body anyway so I like to sit at the dining room table, or anywhere there’s a big surface, and spread out, and have my tea, and my water, or my candy, and my lip balm, and all of those things. Then sometimes when I’m writing, I’m acting out the dialogue, and I’m a really terrible actress, as we both know, and you’re a really good actor.

Sebastien: That’s not true.

Zoe: No, you have something that’s really comfortable. I’m just totally Marsha Brady. Sometimes I’m acting out the scenes, and I’d rather be in my own privacy. I wouldn’t mind having an office, but I feel like as the writer it’s probably easier to find a little nook and make it mine. What would be the dream project to work on together?

Sebastien: Something tragical.

Zoe: Tragic?

Sebastien: Something tragic. We would put our style into 100 percent of what we can do, for sure.

Zoe: Maybe you should write the movie and I should write the music.

Sebastien: Anyway, any kind of movies challenge you for the style you are choosing to do. I love doing commercials, as well you know, because they force you to be creative with some recipe that you never use and you never felt comfortable with. At the end of the day, when you come back to your own menu of creation, finally it brings you difficult tricks to transfer into what you like to do. It’s never a bad thing to do something that you’re not used to because, just like … is about your creation, I think it’s kind of cool. Do you feel comfortable when you know you’re going to do a commercial that we’re going to do music for?

Zoe: The difference between making a commercial and making your movie is, well, obviously you have a lot more creative control about what you’re doing if it’s your own thing. I think in general I don’t, probably because I’m married to you now. People think of the music last, all the time. We always talk about there’s no budget for music in a lot of things, or whatever, but actually music is so much like another character in the film. It’s like another element, and it’s an essential element of the film, as much as the sound, as much as the way it looks, and the actors, and the words. Everything is the music unless you specifically don’t want to make a movie with music which, I might one day, who knows?

Sebastien: Are you more confident when you know that we’re going to do the music? Like this, you know that you’re going to have your expression 100 percent secure?

Zoe: Luckily, the stuff that we worked together has worked really well. We don’t want to kill each other too much when we do it, but I think I’m a little nervous, in a good way, every time I start a project, any kind of project. When you’re not, that’s means it’s the kiss of death. I think that having you there, and knowing that we can talk about it, and that you have my best interest, and I have your best interest at heart on top of wanting to do the best work, makes for interesting collaboration.