Public Pictures: A Public Space Issue 16 Launch

1. The Public Space Family: Ashley Martin, assistant editor; Quinn Lewington, intern; Nishant Batsha, reader; Virginia McLure, reader. 2. Gus Powell, rejecting the podium to control his slides.

After hearing A Public Space’s founding editor Brigid Hughes speak at powerHouse Arena’s Brooklyn Indie Lit Mag Panel last week, I was eager to attend one of their events. I got the opportunity on Wednesday night at BookCourt, and I was not disappointed. Since its birth in 2006, APS has offered a stimulating mix of fiction, poetry, art, and arguments for curious readers. Issue 16 is no exception. The evening’s readers, Jon Cotner and Gus Powell, used BookCourt’s projection system to display photographs peppered with reflections, creating an evening of traveling and reflection without any of us having to leave Brooklyn.

1. Silvia Sitar, a friend and supporter of the artists; Claire Hamilton, Jon’s fiancée and collaborator; Jon Cotner, poet, artist, and walker. 2. A Public Space inhabiting BookCourt’s greenhouse space.

After Hughes’s brief introduction, artist and peripatetic poet Jon Cotner presented two pieces. First he read “Shandong Morning,” his contribution to the magazine. Cotner recited the brief poem in a slow deadpan that allowed its images of immobility — a car stuck in mud pulled by water buffalo, three generations of one family sitting in a crowded house with “two / three / bowls of rice wine / on the table” — to linger in the air. Next, Jon’s fiancée Claire Hamilton joined him to present Fire Island Slidehow, a travel diary of their walk through Fire Island. Originally published in The Believer, the piece used photographs and text to capture the “fleeting impressions and encounters” of their journey. By combining text and image to create what Cotner calls “serial poems,” the slideshows suggested an aesthetics of walking and travel.

1. Brigid Hughes, founding editor of A Public Space, hiding behind Gus Powell, photographer. I was embarrassed to take his picture with my paltry abilities. 2. Jon Cotner and Claire Hamilton, recounting their walking tour of Fire Island.

Gus Powell followed with “Negative Space,” a photo essay of Amsterdam. The essay began as a commissioned project to honor Henry Hudson’s discovery of New Amsterdam by allowing New York photographers to discover Old Amsterdam. The older city provided Powell with an alternative to the frenetic pulse that he normally captures in New York. Powell’s Amsterdam photographs present solitary pedestrians turning sharp corners, or tiny bursts of color against gray streets and taupe facades. In one, the glass doors of a large apartment building create a uniform, reflective sheet broken only by two men standing on a patio. Powell accompanied his slideshow with a series of commentaries that were both explanations and new interpretations.

When the reading ended, the audience lingered and drank beer by Brooklyn Brewery. Hughes implored us to buy a copy of A Public Space and to “bring it with you on walks to who knows where.” I bought a copy, but I’m ashamed to admit I took the subway home.

Ten Walks/Two Talks

by Jon Cotner


— Sam Gold is recovering from a herniated disk in his left lumbar region. After that, he’ll walk more.

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