Episode 456 – Zoe Beloff

Virtual Memories Show 456:
Zoe Beloff

“I’m a story scavenger. I’m not like a novelist who comes out with stories from scratch. I find stories, whether of real people, or just a scrap of film or old postcards. They’ll tell you stories. I think of myself as a voice through with people speak. They’re my partners.”

With Parade Of The Old New, artist Zoe Beloff has created a panoramic history painting documenting the depths of the Trump years. We get into the impetus for that project, its enormous scale (140 feet long), its Brechtian roots, and its reproduction as a 19-foot accordion book (available only from Booklyn). We talk about notions of rights and responsibilities for artists, the debate over displaying Philip Guston‘s work, the angry e-mail Zoe received from a white male Marxist that critiqued her for “her own benefit”, and why Parade Of The Old New is getting exhibited in Europe & Russia but not America. We also dive into her fascination with artists and thinkers of the interwar era, like Bertolt Brecht & Walter Benjamin, her family’s refugee history and why it left her feeling like a Rootless Cosmpolitan, the ways she interweaves painting, film, installation, picture-storytelling (or cartooning) and other forms, the vision of NYC that brought her to the city in her 20s from Scotland, and why being a story-scavenger rather than an inventor means she gets to live in the worlds of her art. Also, we talk about her new multimedia project to celebrate essential workers, my no-fly list for pod-guests, why telling her mother and grandmother’s refugee story is the closest she’ll come to autobiography, and a LOT more. Give it a listen! And go check out Parade Of The Old New!

“I think I realized around age 12 I wanted to be an artist because the art room was the only place where people didn’t tell you what you had to do, and there was no right or wrong answer.”

“I believe in everyday stories. Not everybody is a hero. But I’m interested in what everyday people have to do to survive and what it takes.”

“The workers, and the ambulance staff, and the people outside our house lining up for food: I want to paint these people, I care about these people. Somebody should represent them in paintings. If it had to be me, it would be me.”

“Do we only show the triumph over oppression, or do we also show the oppression?”


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Zoe Beloff is an artist, filmmaker, writer and rootless cosmopolitan based in New York. She aims to make art that both entertains and provokes discussion. With a focus on social justice, she draws timelines between past and present to imagine a more egalitarian future. Her projects often involve a range of media including films, drawings and archival documents organized around a theme. They include proposals for new forms of community; “The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926 – 1972” and “The Days of the Commune”, projects that explore relationships between labor, technology and mental states in “The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff” and “Emotions go to Work” as well as the exploration of the origins of cinema from a feminist perspective in “Charming Augustine” and “Shadowland or Light from the Other Side”. Many of her projects also go out into the work as books. “A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood” which explores films they were never able to realize and how we can think about them today. Most recently she completed, “Parade of the Old New” an allegory of America in dark times, a panoramic painting reproduced as a forty panel accordion book accompanied by her essay “The Troublemakers: History Painting in the Real World”.

Zoe’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and screenings; include the Whitney Museum Biennale, Site Santa Fe, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. However, she particularly enjoys working in alternative venues that are free and open to the community for events and conversations. These have included in New York City; The Coney Island Museum, Participant, Momenta and The James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently working on a documentary public art project “The Song of the Essential Worker” in collaboration with her long time cinematographer and all round partner in crime, Eric Muzzy.

Follow Zoe on Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Zoe’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Zoe by me. It’s on my instagram.

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