CULTURE KLASH: Of Ice and Islam

By on February 7, 2017

Ski and art sensibilities coalesce on screen, and a book discussion of particular relevance.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In an embarrassment of riches, the weekend of the Banff Mountain Film Festival (visit for more info) has a bit of competition this year in the form of a one night screening of two arty ski films that break the typical ski flick mold. It’s a rare opportunity to see work by heavy hitter contemporary artists you’d be more likely to encounter at the Museum of Modern Art.

On Saturday the Center presents An Evening of Ski & Art Films featuring two films, Where the Wind Blows by Ari Marcopoulos and Frostheaves by Damon McCarthy and Benjamin Weissman. Both screenings are free.

Curated by Matthew Day Jackson, Camille Obering and Andy Kincaid, the films stand out because of their makers. According to the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Marcopoulos has exhibited his video work, the Holland native has been documenting American youth subcultures since moving to the US in 1979.

“His photographs and videos depict the brash vitality of underground music and the rebellious athleticism of extreme sports,” reads the Whitney’s website page on Marcopoulos.

Where the Wind Blows is a 60-minute film about Marcopoulos’ friend, snowboarder Craig Kelly, the “Godfather of Freeriding.” Kelly’s “riding style, ideas and passion helped define snowboarding and influenced the sport and industry in innumerable ways,” explained TransWorld Snowboarding.

He died in an avalanche in 2003.

“Ari’s film is a personal dedication from the maker himself,” Jackson said. “It has a different emotional tenor than a typical ski film. There’s part of it that is about loss.”

Filmmaker Damon McCarthy teamed up with California writer and visual artist Benjamin Weissman to make a film about their shared passions for snow. Weissman is the author of Headless and Dear Dead Person and Other Stories. He has exhibited art both solo and in collaboration with Damon’s father, artist Paul McCarthy, who Damon has collaborated with extensively.

Frostheaves, Obering noted, was made from b-roll footage from a major film McCarthy shot a few years ago. “It’s his vision of what really happened, which makes it fun,” she said.

Jackson, Obering and Kincaid’s curatorial endeavor with art ski films is the first installment for the Center’s newly established Campus Creative in Residence program. Jackson said their intention is to bring new meaning and ideas to bear on well-formed ideas about Jackson. “We’re definitely not being critical,” he said. “We hope these films broaden the understanding about ski filmmaking.”

An Evening of Ski & Art Films, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 11 at Center for the Arts, free. Check

Her friend the sheikh

Local writer Connie Wieneke was traveling in Moab, Utah, last fall when she encountered a book that caught her eye. If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power is the true story of a secular American journalist and an Islamic sheikh who become good friends. Wieneke had delved into Middle Eastern studies in college in the 70s and the book looked like a way to reconnect with that long-held interest of hers.

A secular person herself, Wieneke found the book challenging at many levels. “I kept thinking, this book is going to push a lot of buttons,” she said. “Even if you think you don’t judge other cultures and religious beliefs, you do. This book explores how you have a conversation when the other person’s beliefs are so different from your own. How do you stay true to your own beliefs?”

Given the ongoing misunderstandings surrounding Islam and its vast differences from Islamic extremism, Wieneke, who is also the assistant director for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, thought If the Oceans Were Ink would be a perfect book for discussion here. A limited number of copies of the book are available at the library information desk.

“People have all sorts of assumptions or presumptions about Islam,” Wieneke said. “They take what they hear about terrorism and ISIS, and they glom every Muslim together in their mind.”

The book, she said, explodes those myths. Power, the book’s author, has great respect for her friend, the sheikh, and she tells the story of their meetings in teashops to discuss the Quran. One of the insights Power learns from the sheikh, who is a scholar and college lecturer, is that humans can manipulate any religious book for their own purposes.

In one passage, Power writes about the Quran’s expansive influence.  “This power has also led to the text’s politicization,” she writes. “Waved before a crowd, it can inspire revolutions and wars. Burned or besmirched, it triggers diplomatic incidents and deaths. Quoted or misquoted, it’s been used to justify mercy, and mass murder.”

Wieneke was also captivated by Power’s exploration of faith, how it can act as a strong guide in someone’s life, and is something she indeed hungers for. The sheikh’s faith gives him an enviable calmness, Wieneke said.

Participants are encouraged to read the first eight chapters by the 10 a.m. meeting on Saturday, February 11. There will be a second discussion on February 18 when the group Skypes with the author. Check PJH

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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