Features

Selected feature stories, profiles, and essays.

 
 

illustration by Shan Stumpf

Artificer: Recent Decisions in The News & Observer’s Arts Journalism Expose the Downside of “Reader-Focused Coverage”

"Arts criticism's public-service value can't be measured in clicks. It isn't a vegetable you harvest. It's a seed you plant."


photo by Alex Boerner / design by Shan Stampf

jeghetto's afrofuturist puppet genius mesmerizes the masses and local kids

"He created his artistry from scratch, the evidence right there in his puppets, which are made from recycled materials, delicately wrought but left raw and open to show the magic of their jointure, where the uncanny illusion of life resides."

Jaybird O'Berski. PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER FOR INDY WEEK

The Life and Times of Durham's Own Daedalus, Jaybird O'Berski

"In one room, dark but for a single bulb, a sleeping man wakes up when I clap my hands. He scribbles a poem in an old book, rips out the page, hands it to me, and goes back to sleep."


PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER FOR INDY WEEK

Black Mama's Day Bail Out Aims to Reform the State's Racially Biased Ransom Demands

"The goal was not only to transform individual lives now but also to eventually transform what critics call an arbitrary, predatory, racially biased system in which the privileged can buy their pretrial freedom while the poor remain ransomed by the state for weeks and months, even for small municipal offenses."


PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER FOR INDY WEEK

Durham’s Best (OK, Only) Rare Tuba Museum Opens to the Public

"[The tubas] mass in serried ranks like brazen armies, bristling behind velvet ropes on poles in matching brass, their spherical capitals shining. The history of an instrument and the story of a family's life are densely packed into these thousands of feet of tubing." 

[1st Place for Arts & Entertainment Reporting, 2016 North Carolina Press Association Awards]


PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER FOR INDY WEEK

Durham’s new boutique hotels are selling the past. What do they say about the present? 

"At the front desk of The Durham Hotel a man in an undersize three-piece suit with a ringmaster's mustache wants to know where I got my shirt. It's a thin cotton button-down, navy blue, patterned with small white petals. I had changed out of a tattered Misfits T-shirt, hoping to blend in like a Ming vase. But with the elegant geometry of the dining room sweeping to my left and this bespoke figure standing before me, I suddenly feel déclassé admitting it came from Urban Outfitters."


PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE FOR INDY WEEK

The high-volume, high-sincerity Christian noise of Clang Quartet

"Were you there when the sun refused to shine? the congregation sings. Only one candle still burns. Scotty lurches from his pew. Above him, dusk shines in a window where Jesus kneels with his hands clasped and his face upturned. A footlight sends Scotty's shadow looming over the altar as he gets down on his knees and takes up his cross. A soft, eerie shriek picks up in the dimness."


PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE FOR INDY WEEK

a puppeteer tries to make a mainstream career and a case for cannabis With foam and felt

"The camera monitor shows only the puppets. It doesn't capture the 33-year-old Libertarian kneeling under the table, wearing a wristband emblazoned with pot leaf emblems and the words MAKE IT LEGAL, the message hidden in the puppet's throat. "When you hired Chris, you knew about The Green Report, right?" I ask McConkey. "Yeah," he replies, sounding a little defiant. I raise my eyebrows. He shrugs."

[2nd Place for Arts Feature (circ under 45,000 division), 2016 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards]


“Bahsir (Robert Gowens)” (Detail) by Barkley L. Hendricks. PHOTO BY PETER PAUL GEOFFRION/ COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, THE NASHER AND JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK

The Nasher turns TEN: How Duke’s obscure campus museum grew into a world-class mirror for Durham

"According to the lore, the botanist threatened the art collector with either a firearm or a gardening tool. It depends on whom you ask."


LOCAL universities play important roleS in virtual reality's visionary past and applicable future 

"Tiny ultrasonic speakers blast inaudible frequencies at directional microphones, working with gyroscopes and accelerometers to track my head position. Liquid crystal shutters fire in finely calibrated tandem with projections generated from my motion capture data. Offset pairs of images flash into my eyes at a rate of about 60 per second, my brain merging them into forms with volume on planes with depth. But knowing all this doesn't prevent me from reaching out to try and touch things that aren't really there."


Dayglow: Dance (almost) naked

"I had been on the grounds for only fifteen minutes before a sleepy-looking guy wandered up and asked me if I had any Molly."


PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE FOR INDY WEEK

Superchunk'S Laura Ballance bows out of touring, BUT not out of music  

"Ballance's public swagger as a performer is offset by a well-known aversion to scrutiny, a social nervousness. 'There's a reason these things have been done from Mac's perspective more often than mine,' she says of our interview. 'I don't enjoy being in the spotlight.'"


PHOTO BY JEREMY M. LANGE FOR INDY WEEK

Wesley Wolfe has catalyzed the lathe-to-turntable movement of local music 

"The archaic crackle of a stylus dragging dust through a spiral groove supplies a resonance of its own, unlike translucent and pristine digital formats. It's the difference between a silk purse and a Ziploc bag. But like any other mass-consumed product, most records are duplicated in remote factories by the thousand, rolling from a large warehouse onto record shelves."


LATE FOR LUNCH WITH COMMON IN CHICAGO

"Common is fond of food metaphors. “When we order this meal,” he tells me, “I definitely want to get something that’s good, but I want something that’s healthy too.” He’s talking about his balanced lifestyle—he was a vegan for three years—and his music, soul-inflected hip-hop that blends the sensuous with the instructive, the visceral with the spiritual."


PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON FOR INDY WEEK

Reunion offers Archers of Loaf the chance to reiterate their influence

"Eric [Bachmann] calls Randy over and says, 'Hey Randy, I want you to meet someone—this is Madonna.' And Randy says, 'Hi Madonna. Has anybody seen my toothbrush?"


Girl Talk in Oslo. PHOTO BY EIRIK LANDE FOR PITCHFORK

WHAT'S Up Norwegia: a report from oslo's Øya Festival

"Girl Talk eventually bounded onstage in a whirl of manic energy, big-upping Mayhem and the new Batman movie, saying he almost didn't make it because of the tornadoes in Chicago, and at one point—I'm not sure, but I think I heard this—saying 'what's up Norwegia!'" [More Pitchfork live reviews]