Aliens and Encyclopedias

March 31, 2010

posted and written by caroline picard

I’m in the middle of finishing up my thesis–that novel about hipsters in Philly that I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. In any case, my advisor asked me to write another 75 pages which has been great. I’ve got about 12 to go, but I think I’m going to call it quits for the moment. In any case, I included this story–like a story within a story, which is more or less the style of the book. This story is told by a character called Anna. It was originally told to me, almost word for word, at a dinner party by a woman I’d never met before. There were a number of us at the table and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy, as far as thinking about narratives and reliable narrators and how, especially in a dinner party setting, it is presumed that everyone is telling the truth.

“OK. So my parents used to go on these drinking binges. I have like a bunch of little brothers and I’m the oldest, Tobias, but so most of the time I thought it was kind of cool because like I’d get to take care of everyone. And, you know, my dad was pretty much always a real shit so it was cool that he’d be out of the house and I didn’t have to worry about him being a dick and hurting someone.

“My parents would take off—they’d leave for like a night usually. But sometimes they’d leave for a weekend. No big deal, they’d basically get a couple of cases of beer and then take off to the beach for a weekend. I guess it started when I was like nine or something but then it started happening more frequently when I was like 12 and then this one time they left for a whole week. It was like they were just gone. And my brothers and I we just kept going to school and I like cooked for everyone it was pretty simple. I knew where there was spare money in the bedroom drawer of my parents’ room and we had a ton of mac and cheese and beans and stuff so it wasn’t really that big of a deal—I mean of course now, I’m like what fucking bad parents, but at the time, I felt like, you know, I could take care of things.

“So then our folks come back on Sunday, and we’re like, ‘Where were you?’ and they’re like, ‘We went to the beach, you knew that.’ And we’re like, ‘But you were gone for a whole week.’ And then they didn’t believe us. You can imagine too, like if your folks don’t believe you about something like that, then you start to wonder, kind of, but I knew and my brothers knew—at least my oldest brother. And so like whatever, you know, you kind of just forget about it.
“Then I’m 13 and my parents go away again and they’re supposed to be gone for the weekend but again they’re like gone for a whole fucking week. And then they’re gone for a week and a half, so like Sunday comes and goes and still no parents. And I start getting really freaked out, what if something happened to them, how will I know, what will I do? That sort of thing. I’m worried we’re going to run out of money. I worry that I’ll have to tell someone and they’ll split up the family. I mean like, fuck, right? Crazy shit.
“On Wednesday our parents come back. Just like that. They’ve got their beach blanket, the dogs are super excited to see them. They’re kind of pissed at me that the house is such a mess. They don’t remember being gone for more than a weekend. The school calls because the school got worried and I feel really guilty like they’re going to be mad at me for getting caught, but then our folks are just like, wow. That’s nuts. I guess we got so drunk we blacked out for a whole week. And they like promise never to do it again.
“Then my mom wakes up in the middle of the night and there’s an alien standing over her bed. And she realizes suddenly that the were abducted by aliens. They didn’t black out at all. And she has all of these flashbacks about how she’d been probed and the alien is standing over her bed and it like wants to take her with it up into the space ship. Luckily she knows that—and this is good for all of you to know, actually—she knows that if you just say “NO,” very fiercely and very strongly, aliens can’t abduct you, kind of like how vampires can’t come into your house unless you invite them. So she goes “NO NO NO NO NO NO” and wakes Dad up and they’re both sitting there going NO NO NO NO NO NO until the alien goes away.
“And the way they proved it? They proved it because the next day the alien stole the Tu-Wi Encyclopedia and the telescope.”

posted by Caroline Picard

Hey! We got a write up! check out the whole thing by going here…what follows is an excerpt-

Isolated Fictions at FLUXspace–our collective memory

By libby | March 2, 2010

You have a few days left to get to Isolated Fictions, an evocative exhibit at FLUXspace of work related to the publication of The North Georgia Gazette, a beautiful reprint of an 1821 shipboard journal, by Chicago’s Green Lantern Press.

Bookmark/postcard from nowhere to nowhere, that comes with the North Georgia Gazette. Like this bookmark, everything in this bookmark is thoughtful and artful.

Green Lantern Press is the artist-run organization that also publishes the Phonebook, a national directory of artist-run spaces. (The most recent edition, 2008-2009, Philly’s artist-run spaces are severely underrepresented, but then even we can’t keep up.) And of course this show is at an artist-run collective space. There’s a theme here.

The story behind the book goes back to when a British fleet of exploration ships got stuck in the Arctic ice while searching for the Northwest Passage. Trapped for eight months, waiting for the ice to melt, they published a ship’s journal, The North Georgia Gazette, on orders from the fleet’s Captain Parry to keep spirits lifted. No whining allowed.

Amanda Browder, Installation, 2010 and Nike Desis standing there for scale

posted and written by Caroline Picard

While sitting around a table last night I learned that Adrian Balboa has a real burial plot at the Laurel Hill Cemetary. It blows my mind–particularly when it’s in a cemetary with other, ‘real’ dead people and particulary when Adrian’s shows no distinction, i.e. that her death would be fictional, as compared to the surrounding others. Instead the existence of her headstone hypothesizes that the death of a fictional character is as legitimate as the death of any other person. And of course any number of jokes could be made (vying for the rights of such marginalized and culturally diminished characters as Popeye, or Allen Bauer (Splash), or arguing that Pessoa’s heteronyms are as independently vital as anyone else, perhaps deserving to vote etc), yet at the same time it says something, I think, about the culture we live in, Adrian’s character and Philadelphia. Or more importantly, who Rocky speaks to.

In the latter aspects–her character and her audience, she probably gets more visitors than any number of the other graves–in other words, it’s likely that the Laurel Hill Cemetary would get more visitors (and possibly income?) because of her, and therefore it would be in their best interest to play along, so to speak.

And Rocky has always been a point of pride for Philadelphians. Sylvestor Stallone had a life-size model of himself (as Rocky) fashioned from bronze. He donated this to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to be installed at the top of their stairs–they tried to refuse it, South Philly took it and set up the stature in football stadium, there was much outcry, the museum relented and put the statue at the base of the stairs by way of compromise. Meanwhile, people are running up and down those stairs all hours of the day, whether to excercise (as Rocky did), or as tourists to pretend to be him. And why not, he’s the one that wasn’t supposed to be famous, the one who had been overlooked most of his life, a child of circumstance, talented but generally going nowhere (except by a fluke intervention of chance).

So. It makes sense that people would identify with Rocky. It would make sense that they’d identify with Adrian as another kind of hero–after all, Cambden is right across the river. A town where 44% of the city’s residents live in poverty, the highest rate in the nation. As of 2006 the median household income was of $18,007. A few years ago, Cambden closed the public library and opened a prison! Its shocking, especially when one imagines the history of this part of the country, its roots of decadence and colonialism. So again, no wonder Rocky is a hero. (His posters still litter the streets of the Italian Market–purchasable at any number of establishments, most of which otherwise sell food and sundry goods).

Ok. But. As far as how it relates to our culture, this for me is the most interesting point. I feel like something profound happens when a culture is moved to perform burial rites for a character. It says as much about the importance of said character as it does the meaning of death to the culture. It is as though death itself is treated as a kind of fiction or surface, one unequivocally significant to ideas as to material. Or, in another way, to the surface of a person (i.e. the role Talia Shire played) as it would Talia Shire. While that might seem to legitimize the surface in one sense, it undermines the idea of an authentic self.

Similarly, when Michael Jackson died there were all kinds of rumors that his death was a hoax–a celebrity stunt for publicity, where, like Elvis, any number of sigtings would ensue until he eventually put out another album and went on tour to throngs of disbelieving fans. Here again, there was an element of disbelief around death. The idea of celebrity (and capital) seemed almost to rise above and against death. In such a way that, had Michael Jackson survived (looking peculiar but ageless) our cultural experience of death would have changed drastically.

I think about this stuff because I can’t help feeling like death and mortality are two primary and fundamental extenuating circumstances that afflict and inspire humanity–defining the way we see ourselves and define ourselves in the world. While such a view is as tenable as the application of any other critical view (i.e. feminist theory, marxist theory, etc), it highlights such instances as these. Which is always pretty exciting.

polarsketch by rebecca grady

posted by caroline picard

Remember how we went to AS220 with “Isolated Fictions?” Now we’re taking the North Georgia Gazette to Philadelphia! The following artists are going to be in a group show based on the book. You can go here to get a copy!


featuring the work of Amanda Browder, Nick Butcher, Jason Dunda,

Rebecca Grady, Devin King, Carmen Price & Deb Sokolow

Exhibition Dates: February 6 – March 6, 2010

Opening Reception: February 6, 2010, 7 – 10 pm

Gallery Hours: Saturdays 12 – 4 pm or by appointment

FLUXspace is pleased to present Isolated Fictions, a group exhibition featuring work by Amanda Browder, Nick Butcher, Jason Dunda, Rebecca Grady, and Deb Sokolow, and curated by Caroline Picard, Founding Director of Green Lantern Gallery & Press (Chicago, IL). Isolated Fictions is an Independent Project of Philagrafika 2010, Philadelphia’s international festival celebrating print in contemporary art. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on February 6, 2010 from 7 – 10 pm. In conjunction with the exhibition, FLUXspace will also host a temporary reading room in the gallery and launch a new project, the yet-to-be-named archive.

About 200 years ago, a fleet of English ships got stuck in the Arctic ice for a year. Their Captain had them run up canvas, covering the ships’ masts. They battened the hatches, so to speak, and watched as the sun set for winter’s entirety, waiting with unimaginable patience for spring. They waited for their passage home to melt. Under Captain Parry’s orders, the fleet printed a newspaper: the entries of which were solicited from the men on deck, under the condition that nothing depressing be published. These men also put on plays.

Chicago’s Green Lantern Press is proud to announce the re-release of this manuscript, The North Georgia Gazette. Touring the country along with this book is a group exhibition, Isolated Fictions, featuring contemporary artists from the publication. The book has been published in an edition of 250 with original silk-screen covers and features excerpts from the Captain’s Journal, the newspaper in its entirety, an essay by contemporary Arctic explorer John Huston, end notes by transcriber/poet Lily Robert-Foley, original artwork by Daniel Anhorn, Jason Dunda, Rebecca Grady, and Deb Sokolow, and a limited edition 7″ record by Nick Butcher. The North Georgia Gazette will be available at FLUXspace for $30.

Isolated Fictions features works on paper by Deb Sokolow that address the second person, incorporating that viewer into the Arctic landscape; large gouache paintings of impossible wood towers by Jason Dunda that parallel the newspaper’s impossible success; maps of the Arctic, as well as a sculpture of an ice floe by Rebecca Grady; and a 7” record made of wood glue by Nick Butcher that plays on repeat.

The Newspaper itself functions as a metaphor for an inherent aspect of humanity: whether the Arctic is a devastating place, or a place wild with imagination and longing, it represents the unknown. That unknown can exist in the world, between neighboring communities. But often that unknown space is within oneself, and though it is essential to try and communicate those territories—to study them and map them out, they maintain a mysterious ground. And it is in the failure of exposing everything, or knowing everything, that we accomplish great heights of beauty.

In conjunction with Isolated Fictions, there will also be a reading room in the gallery space; books, magazines, newspapers, and a variety of printed ephemera will be on display and available for perusal. The reading room will be part of a new project at FLUXspace, the yet-to-be-named archive, which aims to collect printed documents from Philadelphia’s visual art scene, and also books and magazines of general interest.  We hope to build this archive over time and would welcome submissions from other art spaces. Materials included in the archive thus far: Arts Exchange, Green Lantern Press, machete, Megawords, New Art Examiner, and various Philadelphia exhibition postcards and printed materials.


Caroline Picard is the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery & Press, and a Co-Editor for the literary podcast The Parlor ( Her writing has been published in a handful of publications including the Philadelphia Independent, NewCity, Ampersand Review, MAKE Magazine, the Chicago Art Journal Review, and Proximity Magazine. Twice a year she meets with a performance group and records improvised music under the collective alias Thee Iran Contras. She continues to paint and exhibit her visual work.

Born in Missoula, MT in 1976, Amanda Browder currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Amanda received her MFA/MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2001, and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2001-07. She has exhibited nationally and internationally at the Nakaochiai Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Lothringer 14, Munich, Germany; White Columns, New York; Mixture Contemporary Gallery, Houston, TX; The Missoula Museum of the Arts, Missoula, MT; Gallery 400-UIC, and The Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL. She is also a founding member of the art-podcast:

Nick Butcher is an artist and musician living in Chicago, IL. Since the summer of 2006, Butcher has run a studio space/printshop with Nadine Nakanishi called Sonnenzimmer. While the focus is poster design and printing, they also host exhibitions and art events. Recently, Butcher completed a solo-album called “Bee Removal.”

Jason Dunda received his BA in Fine Arts from York University, Toronto and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives and works in Chicago. Jason has previously exhibited in Toronto and Chicago.

Rebecca Grady is a Chicagoan by way of Alaska and Maine. When she was too little to walk, she was pulled around on a sled by a German Shepherd called Namer. When she grows up she wants to be a sailor. Meanwhile, she is an MFA candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she also teaches drawing. Mini comics, mix tapes, tropical storms and more can be found on her website:

Devin King is an artist who lives and works in Chicago, IL. Using text, music and performance as a coalescent medium, King has performed a variety of one-man operas, including most recently “Hadyn’s Head and Madame X,” as part of The 2010 Rhinoceros Festival. His long poem, CLOPS. is due out spring of 2010 with the Green Lantern Press.

Carmen Price’s work creates new relationships between familiar visual elements to express joy in contemporary culture. His celebratory drawings use personal symbolism and a strong faith in the accidental to form occasionally narrative and often confusing scenes. Originally from Kansas City, MO, Carmen Price currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

Deb Sokolow’s recent projects include site-specific installations at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, MO and at Inova [Institute of Visual Arts] in Milwaukee, WI. She is an Illinois Arts Council Visual Arts Fellowship recipient, and her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, IL. Sokolow received her MFA in 2004 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

The Green Lantern Gallery & Press is a 501(c)3 non-profit gallery and paperback press dedicated to the study, presentation, and archive of contemporary art practice. Because we believe that independent cultural production and idiosyncratic effort is the fount for meaning and friendship, The Green Lantern also hosts monthly art exhibitions for emerging artists and publishes limited-edition books by new or forgotten writers who are making significant contributions to today’s cultural landscape. With a focus on the visual arts, The Green Lantern establishes paths of accessibility between the work and its audience by contextualizing its events through writing, a literary reading series – The Parlor, video, performance and music. For more information please visit

FLUXspace is a Philadelphia based 501(c)3 contemporary arts space which provides artists, curators, and instigators the opportunity for unrestricted and uncensored experimentation, professional presentation, and critical dialogue for the purpose of exploring and creating new art practices and media.  FLUX consists of an exhibition space, an artist residency program, as well as public programming including artist lectures, panel discussions, workshops, movie nights and performances.

Defensive Communicant

December 25, 2008

posted & written by Caroline Picard


Once Bridget took a train from Pittsburgh to Philly, took the train to see what it was like and was surprised by the vast distance between the two cities, surprised at the girth of Pennsylvania. Between sleep and conductor stories of loose pythons—a passenger had a python for a therapy pet and brought it on the train where it escaped and lived in the vents, eating mice and Triscuits supposedly—she’d read Black Spring her first Henry Miller that she’d plucked up because someone said his hookers were optimistic and even happy. She read about the adulterous wife, who in her imagination wore nothing but slips or worn silk and reveled in promiscuity. It took her husband years before he realized she was sleeping with all his poker buddies and then when he fucked her he stuck dollar bills in her cunt for a lark.

Bridget had always wanted to be a boy.

Gender seemed a difficult territory when alongside the ugliness that was also something fantastic about the horror: like a full-rich pulse. Fantastic in the willingness of people, all people, epic terrible Henry Miller people or naval cadets or coarse sorority drunks with pointy shoes and skinny legs that wobbled from too much tequila: they flourished a willing sex—it was all so easily horrible, from the position of any class, any caste, any body type and yet it was so easily adopted, the yoke of perpetuation, donned so quickly through some absurd faith of endurance and meaning.

In Philadelphia she had found an Italian market, watching for hours the strung up pigs and lambs that hung in the windows, strung up in a grimace of death, their corpses bleached, clammy and flayed. She wandered into a spice shop crowded with bottles and bins and handwritten labels that claimed the worldwide. She touched the saffron curry, amazed by its color, and ingested the full flavor of its scent. It was the taste of dust, but its color reminded her of silk and China and rivers in the Far East that decorated porcelain and china pots. Her childhood came back suddenly.

On the street she had continued farther, walking down the stretch of 9th Street, past the gun shops, the butchers, an ill-placed boutique From the Ballroom to the Bedroom with a discount special for Prom and one foot in front of the other into an isolated island of nostalgia where she saw the way it must have been. Old crones’ eyes watched her from everywhere, so still you could hardly see them from their respective shades, they sat, these old Italian women, fanning themselves in strict frowns, wearing cotton dresses with floral prints, their arms hanging out, oblique and freckled with liver spots, their necks sunk into the frame of their shoulders in weariness. They frowned and chortled under the shade of vinyl roofs, staring into the relentless bright of noon and brownstone, blinking intermittently, pointlessly, staring into such extremes that they saw nothing at all, except perhaps the blurred intuition of an automobile. They sat like grumpy potted plants, before and after an endless sea of time. Doomed to live forever.

They cooked turkey on Thanksgiving and ham on Christmas and always with rigatoni and calamari and always they would feed the same boy they’d fed for 46 years, the only bum on the block, born a cripple with a mullet and tennis shoes, he was the only grifter tolerated in the neighborhood because they’d seen him raised, they knew his mother and they shared the same shadows.
Bridget gave him a dollar, even though he looked well fed.

She’d bought their telephone at a thrift store full of old computers, radios and walkie-talkies.

On the way back to the train, Bridget passed a house, and in the dark saw a single light that cast a halo in from the back. Smoke came from the windows, and she saw the movement of strangers beyond it, stealing through the presumable safety of a run down habitat, lighting fags in secret arson. One of them was smoking a cigarette. Both dreamed big insurance dreams. The smoke streaming out of the windows grew thick.

That summer she had lived in Pittsburgh with the other boys. Her mother called her then, “Come back home,” her mother had said, “It’s your father’s last summer.” Bridget had gone to Philadelphia instead. When she got back to Pittsburgh, travlling on the same train, she placed their phone.