Any year that begins with the caucusing of Republicans in Iowa and the sacking of Jim Hoberman at the Voice can come to no good.
Yet here we are embarking on a new venture, Hyperallergic Weekend, to see what we can make of it.
And in an election year, no less: a dubious prospect even in the best of times. If the pack of Republican challengers weren’t enough — an unprecedented stew of the duplicitous and the deranged — we’re already inhaling the toxins spewed from the Citizens United decision, with millions upon millions squandered on attack ads to seize the day in the politically negligible Hawkeye State.
And this week we’ve watched, agape, as some grumpy billionaire threw away $5 million on the spiraling candidacy of Newt Gingrich, who should have been disqualified on the sheer ugliness of his name.
It’s an easy slide into dyspepsia, and perhaps part of our mission will be to keep nihilism at bay.
It won’t be easy. The firing of Jim Hoberman from the Village Voice on the day after the caucuses has generated the requisite cries of execration and the inevitable handwringing about mammon over manna. And that is as it should be.
But the significance of the Voice’s disgrace for me was that, like many others, Hoberman’s column was the core of my film education. There has been much discussion of how lightly he wears his erudition, but more to the point is how potently such wry, understated scholarship can influence a reader’s perception of a piece of living art.
A film insists upon the immediacy of its stimulation, but Hoberman’s subtle interventions are equally insistent upon unthreading the nuance and detail of its various contexts. More importantly, they also create a platform for improbable futures, as new filmmakers build upon insights learned.
As the ever-reliable and overused Walter Benjamin has said, “the cameraman penetrates deeply into [reality’s] web,” and as we circle the web of cinema and life, Hoberman is arguably our most gifted guide and interpreter.
In the opening credits of Jean-Luc Godard’s prophecy-infused Weekend (1967), two title cards make an appearance: “A Film Adrift in the Cosmos” and “A Film Found in a Dump.” The twinning of these concepts sets a pretty steep bar, not unlike Hoberman’s sense of cultural commentary, in which nothing is too high or too low in pursuit of an idea.
And so it will be, I hope, with Hyperallergic Weekend. It will be a spot where art is always in the present tense, but resounding with echoes in a mirrored hall. And that’s all I can say for sure.
Many thanks to Hrag Vartanian and Veken Gueyikian for generously sharing Hyperallergic’s well-earned prominence and vibrant readership with us, and to my colleagues Claudia La Rocco, Albert Mobilio, and John Yau for undergirding this endeavor with their daunting talent.