“I met Patti [Smith] about three years ago in the Philadelphia Train station,” Adam Whitney Nichols tells me recently, “it was a very serendipitous encounter.”
Mr. Nichols, 24, had been visiting family in the sixth borough, as had legendary singer Patti Smith, and when the computer system in the station went down, they waited, patiently, and chatted over the next few hours.
“It was life changing and Patti is a remarkable person; she’s incredibly generous and kind and brilliant and incredibly industrious, which is what lends so much to her brilliance. Our relationship is that she’s my mentor, it’s invaluable.”
It was Mr. Nichols’ relationship with Ms. Smith that helped birth Fortnight Journal, a web project launched this week that documents the promise of the millennial generation. The site’s inaugural fourteen contributors will submit one work per two week cycle, revealing a new multimedia moment by a different person everyday. Then a luminary – the first, Patti Smith – responds critically or creatively to one piece. The site contributors rotate quarterly. The project is a publication of Fourteen Foundation, Inc., “a nonprofit public initiative devoted to reviving cross-generational mentorship by documenting and sustaining dialogue on traditional forms of practice,” who are currently in the process of obtaining tax-exempt status.
On November 11, 2010 BrooklynTheBorough.com will partner with Southpaw to host a benefit performance to raise money for Fortnight Journal to pursue its mission documenting the millenial generation. The evening will feature rising Brooklyn stars Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers and Outernational on the same bill with the legendary Ms.Smtih and guitarist Lenny Kaye.
Mr. Nichols’ partner in the new media endeavor is Samantha Hinds, 25, a fellow classmate at Sarah Lawrence College – though their friendship sparked after graduating – who ran the school’s stalwart newspaper The Phoenix, while Mr. Nichols founded the upstart, rebellious Sadie Lou Standard.
Last winter, at the urging of mutual acquaintances, the pair met up for dinner and that’s when the seed was planted. “We had a very generative conversation at the Redhead, a southern divey joint, over a large plate of rather unsatisfactory chicken,” says Ms. Hinds. The site launched nine months later to the day.
“Adam and I had parallel trajectories in college, and became very quick friends because we shared a dedication to the pedagogy that was present there, namely a system devoted to one on one mentorship, and because we both shared an affinity for classical form in several genres and for traditional practice in the apprenticeship mode.”
Ms. Hinds is the Executive Editor to Mr. Nichols’ Creative Director, and together they have recruited a premiere cast of young people, curating their ideas as a way to foster a dialogue to better understand their new media-savvy generation. Last winter the pair teamed up with art director Sarah Daley, 33, and began chugging along to launching the sleek and savvy site, meeting and assigning tasks around the dining table in Ms. Hinds’ loft in Williamsburg.
“The millennial generation gets a really bad rap,” says Mr. Nichols. “We really see our generation entirely differently. There are so many incredible young people out there who are really doing great work in all disciplines and Fortnight is multi-disciplinary – it has more to do with the individual then what discipline they’re a part of – and we wanted to start documenting that experience. Basically, providing a modest rebuttal to the critique that has come to our generation.”
One of the loudest criticisms they say is lobbed at their generation is its failure to launch. Ms. Hinds suggests it’s rather a ‘hunger for authenticity,” a “wanderlust” timed with “a reaction to the disintegration of the traditional career path.”
“Knowing and seeing around me that there were incredibly talented, prescient, self aware individuals who are trying to create this counter example to 1970s culture of gloom and doom,” Ms. Hinds adds, “for Fortnight we have a central thesis, but for me and for my own emotional and intellectual investment it’s especially rewarding to see content, produce content and expose content that supports a stronger and more optimistic narrative.”
For instance, one of the young people featuring ideas on the site at its inception is Anh-Thu Nguyen, 27, a first generation Vietnamese-American classics major from Georgetown, who got her law degree, became a war crimes tribunal lawyer, all before founding her own NGO to market textiles made by formerly trafficked Cambodian women. On other days in the Fortnight sequence, an anonymous British-Iranian contributor will be reporting on his experiences in Ramallah, Palestine, alongside the work of East Village poet Adam Fitzgerald, 27, and Spanish graphic designer Xavi Garcia, 24.
The most interesting and unique aspect of Fortnight Journal is the dialogue with the mentor generation, which can be creative or critical on their part. The response is given by a luminary at the end of the sequence – the inaugural luminary, of course, is Patti Smith, though her response has not yet been unveiled.
“It’s incredible that one day you’ll be able to see a video art piece and the next a journal and experience in Ramallah,” says Mr. Nichols, adding, “It was not difficult finding these people. These people are not anomalies; these people are emblematic of a generation, and that I think is the strongest response to what has been said about our generation.”
That said, it’s been a challenge to mitigate unforeseen circumstances in Fortnight’s birthing process. “We had a lot of contributors who had to leave the project,” says Mr. Nichols. “We went through a string of people who were in the military at the time and then the McCrystal scandal broke out; and then a memo went around the military that saying you can’t deal with the media at all, so they all pulled out one after another. Our contributors are incredible people and they take wild risks and as a result of that we’ve had to do a lot of crisis management.”
Not to worry, Millennials are used to it.
Watch the trailer for the Fortnight Journal documentary.