100 Colorado Creatives: Julie Carr
#15: Julie Carr
Julie Carr started out a dancer before turning to poetry in a long traversal from the raw artistic life in New York to the more structured worlds of academia, business and family. The award-winning author of four books of poetry, with more on the way, Carr now also teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But her literary and creative life extends still further: Together with her husband, Tim Roberts, Carr runs the independent literary press Counterpath, which also hosts free readings, art shows, video screenings and performances by artists who might not otherwise be seen or heard of outside of the academic world -- a pastime that earned the couple a Westword MasterMind award in 2013.
How does Carr balance a brilliant career with the grassroots quest to bring a curated selection of new ideas and works to Denver? Find the answers in her 100CC questionnaire, which follows.
See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Paul Moschell
Image by Luther Price.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Martha Gellhorn. T. J. Clark. Fred Moten. Miguel Gutierrez. Lisa Robertson. Leslie Kaplan. Luther Price.
Martha Gellhorn was a war reporter, radically independent feminist and fabulous letter writer. I'm interested in her grit and courage, and even more, I'm interested in what draws a person to engage with history as it's happening at the most immediate level.
T. J. Clark, art historian, recently published a book titled The Sight of Death. It's a diaristic meditation on two paintings by seventeenth-century French painter Nicolas Poussin and is therefore a study of looking, of what it means to make visible that which is usually not seen. At the same time it's a confrontation with death, with the silence of the corpse.
Fred Moten is a poet and African American studies scholar. His work, which I'm reading with a group of people slowly and carefully right now, is sonically gorgeous and politically radical. I'm interested in his concept of "study" which, for him, is an unending process with no interests, no outcome, no goals. I'm also fascinated by his description of the "undercommons" as a "maroon community" inside, under and alongside the community we recognize.
Miguel Guitierrez is a choreographer whose work "And Lose the Name of Action" I saw twice last year and have watched endlessly on video (not public, you have to actually go see his company perform!). I'm moved, excited, surprised, and generally blown away by his work.
Lisa Robertson is a Canadian poet. I love her work because it is intelligent and adventurous. It doesn't back away from true thought or emotion, but it's always pushing language and learning from its own sentences. The work doesn't settle for "telling" or for performing its own skillfulness. She is a genuinely experimental writer and a seriously feminist thinker, and she happens to be reading at Naropa on February 7.
Leslie Kaplan is a French poet who I'm currently translating (in collaboration with Jennifer Pap). The book we are working with, L'Excès-l'usine (Excess--The Factory), is a study of factory life; she worked in factories during the late '60s, and then, many years later, attempted to bring to language the alienation, distance and isolation that the factory invents.
Luther Price is one of my favorite living artists, who works in a visual medium: film and photography. One of his works is the cover of my new book. I saw his work for the first time at the Whitney Biennial in 2012 and have not been the same since. He came to town last fall and presented new work at Counterpath, a life highlight for me. What he does is capture human narrative, human suffering and human desire while working with the materiality of film, while being, at once, an abstract artist. He's interested in the grid, in repetition, in pattern -- which I'm also attracted to. The human elements in his work are often obscured, ghostly, fractured, damaged and pushing forward nonetheless. This is one of the qualities I most seek in my writing.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
I don't do writing collaborations (other than translations), so it'd have to be an artist from another medium. Right now, that should be a dancer. I already collaborate with the dancer I love most in the world, K. J. Holmes. I wish I could have collaborated with Trisha Brown. I would have loved to have danced for her -- but since that didn't happen, I could imagine making text for her dances, that would be a great thrill. Also, someone else who is still living, Ralph Lemon -- a dancer, artist and writer who makes fascinating and politically relevant multimedia works. Basically, what I'd most love to do, besides what I'm already doing, is make text for really great dance theater!
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I don't want any art to die. The only trends I wish would die are so harmless that it's not worth expressing my annoyance. I'm pretty much of the mind that if something is trivial, silly, shallow -- the truth will win out in the end. That said, I have observed that Denver tends to advocate vaguely humorous art with a witty nod to horses or cows or something like that. I wish we could have harder stuff to look at, work that pushes us to think and takes us to uncomfortable places, like the recent MCA show featuring the work of Heimrad Backer (curated by Patrick Greaney). Backer was a member of the Nazi Party in his early life and spent the rest of his life addressing that history through appropriative texts and photographs. I thought this show was incredible, and in general, the MCA is bringing us really interesting work. I'd like to see the rest of the city get on board and stop catering to the notion that art has to be "fun" to be worth looking at. Fight for your right to think!
What's your day job?
I'm an associate professor in the English department at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In other words, I read, talk and write for a living (and, as all professors do, sit on committees).
Destroy the NRA.
After that, I'd restore arts education to all the public schools, hiring all the great artists who are underemployed to teach children for two to four hours a day, while making enough money to support their art. Then I'd destroy the NRA again. Then I'd rent a bigger space for Counterpath, one that could house artists who need housing, one where great dance companies from around the world could perform, one that could support all kinds of radical arts projects for Denver. Then I'd destroy the NRA. Just to begin.
For myself, for my work, all I need is time and courage and a really good library. So maybe I'd buy myself out of a few courses. But I like my job, so I wouldn't quit.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
We need a venue (well-funded) for smaller dance companies. We have mostly venues for the richest dance companies, who tend to be pretty conservative and therefore, to me, not that interesting. We're not on the touring map for the most exciting work in dance. I want to see real dance innovation happen here.
"To reveal the fourteen windows," video by Christina Battle, text by Julie Carr.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Of the people you have featured, Christina Battle!
Christina and I collaborated on a video work called "To Reveal the Fourteen Windows" a couple of years ago. I loved working with her and would do it again (hear that, Christina?). I'm interested in all her work and also in her total commitment to being an artist.
Of all the artists in Denver, Tim Roberts! Poet, editor and the real mastermind behind Counterpath and Counterpath Press.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Two books coming out: RAG, a book of poems, is due out from Omnidawn Press very soon. Active Romanticism: Essays on the continuum of innovative poetry and poetics from the late 18th-century to the present, a book I co-edited with CU professor emeritus Jeffrey Robinson, is due out in the fall. I'm also working on the final touches of a book titled Think Tank, which will be out next January. Two other books are in the pipelines, one titled Objects from a Borrowed Confession, which is prose, and a mixed genre work titled Real Life: An Installation.
So I'll be giving a lot of readings from RAG around the country. In the fall I'm on sabbatical and am hoping to make it to France to work closely with Leslie Kaplan on the translation, and to read there and in Glasgow and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Counterpath, the press I run with my husband, the Tim Roberts mentioned above, is bringing out approximately six books, and so I'll be working on these -- promoting them, while also editing the ones coming out later. Our space Counterpath, a gallery/performance space/book store, will be hosting events at least once a week, sometimes twice or three times, all year! Should be a pretty exciting!
We also have three kids, so there will be some birthday parties, some basketball games, some parent-teacher conferences, a few plays and a thousand classical music concerts to attend!
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in 2014?
I can say who I hope will get attention, though poets, at least the ones I love best, don't tend to get a lot of attention anywhere. Still, I wish good attention on Mathias Svalina, Sara Marshall, Eleni Sikelianos, Selah Saterstrom, and my colleagues Noah Eli Gordon and Ruth Ellen Kocher -- if attention means they can be free to write, to take their work as seriously as they always want to, and if attention can be like a hand at their back, gently pushing them forward, but also following them.
I could name about 100 other people. There are stunning poets in this town.
Also, a shout out to Enrique Lasansky, the new director of the orchestra at Denver School of the Arts. He should get attention for the powerfully loving way he is leading that orchestra.
Learn more about Julie Carr and Counterpath online.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
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