ISSUE NINETEEN | JULY/AUGUST 2015
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
The Bushwick Collective
Brooklyn’s Street Art Mecca
ANGEL SNOW • AURIE STYLA • BRETT SALSBURY • PING WANG MIKE SALISBURY • VANBOT • NEIL FULWOOD • SNEHA
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
The Artist D MANAGING EDITOR
Paula Frank CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Ann Marie Papanagnostou MUSIC EDITOR
Fourculture features artists who are unearthing the underground. Are you one of them?
Paul Davies LITERARY EDITOR
Mensah Demary COPY EDITOR
Christine Blythe Annie Shove MUSIC/ART STAFF
Serena Butler Adam D Paul Davies Marguerite O’Connell Mark Sharpley Mark Simpson Michael Stanton
music Send your EPK/press release to us at email@example.com. Don’t have those things? Please tell us about yourself and link us to your music. We want to hear you.
We accept mp3 files with the appropriate tags for general rotation. Visit our FC Radio page to learn about our diverse show lineup.
Emma Dewald Patrick McAllaster Derek Warwick Matt Wessels CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
visual arts | photography We feature artists of all mediums on our website and in our magazine. Samples of your art/images with a brief bio can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
literature Fourculture Magazine is now accepting literary submissions for publication. Accepted submissions will either be published on our website or included in an upcoming issue of our magazine. For more information and to submit, check out our Submittable Manager.
COVER PHOTO BY ANDREW ASHLEY © 2012-2015 Fourculture Magazine Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 2 www.fourculture.com
becomes us and art stacks itself upon with death. The artistic are the most tragic to die as they were in the middle of something. A haunting ghost often sneaks up behind me and reminds that one day I won’t be able to finish one of my many artistic creations. We creators are always doing something. The writers are always in the midst of the next greatest book. The painters are almost through with their breakthrough canvas. The poets have at least another 200 poems in them to go. Artists are always in the middle of something. When we finish one thing we are on to the next and thinking of ways to better convey the art. Artists are never finished. We’re an eclectic group of people whom would likely live forever if given the chance. I know I would. In fact, that is sometimes why we are such passionate artistic creatures. We know nothing lasts forever and hope that memorializing via art we may get us a glimpse of immortality. Every day I see on the scrolling obituary walls of social media that someone else has died. The flames are extinguished at a rapid pace due to the flames being born. We are a steamroller of life churning, flattening, rolling towards an unknown completion. Art is immortality. Art is learning from each other to influence more art. The best crack at the fountain of youth is making an indelible impression upon other human vessels. Without humans to carry our sparks we are dusty scraps in the corner of another yard sale. It is uniquely important to connect with others via every outlet there is and carry spark to spark onward to the great bonfire. The artists I have had the pleasure of knowing and the people we have had the pleasure of sparking make up the great artistic momentum of humanity. Those who have left us within the pages of Fourculture are carried on by the artists and observers who were lucky enough to experience them. This we could say for our very own columnist and contributor Felicia Waters from Two Piece & a Biscuit whom will be missed greatly from our Fourculture landscape. No matter how many come and how many go we the artists must carry on. It doesn’t matter if it is here or there, but somewhere every creative spark needs to burn because burning the fires of creativity is the only way.
Follow The Artist D: @theArtistD
features Angel Snow........................ 6 Aurie Styla.........................14 Brett Salsbury................... 21 The Bushwick Art Collective.......................... 22 Vanbot.............................. 40 Mike Salisbury.................. 46 Neil Fulwood..................... 49 Ping Wang........................ 50 Frank Cotolo..................... 63 Sneha............................... 64
THE CREATIVE PATH OF
ANGEL SNOW BY MARGUERITE O’CONNELL
Angel Snow is a rising star on the singer-songwriter scene in Nashville. And just so there is no mistake, Angel Snow is her real name. It was chosen by her three and five-year-old brothers when she was born. Originally from Chickamauga, Georgia, she came to Nashville by way of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Philadelphia. She didn't plan the journey. Rather, Angel just followed her heart and always believed that if she continued to do what she loved — writing and playing her songs — her path would reveal itself to her. Funny enough, that's exactly what happened. Angel first came into the public eye after a serendipitous introduction to Americana and blue-grass star, Alison Krauss. When Krauss and Union Station were working on their Grammy award-winning album, Paper Airplanes, and Angel was working her day-job as a Nashville nanny, the two were introduced. After hearing Angel's songs, Krauss arranged a meeting with her brother, Viktor Krauss — a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, and the bassist for Lyle Lovett. The two had incredible creative chemistry and three of their songs were used for Paper Airplanes. “Lie Awake” is featured on the regular edition, and the other two tracks, “These Days” and “A Place Outside” are featured on the album's deluxe edition. Viktor Krauss and Angel continued to work together and Krauss produced her self-titled sophomore album, Angel Snow, which was featured on No Country’s Best Nashville Records of 2012. Angel is presently in the studio working on her third album, for release later this year. When she first arrived in Nashville, Angel wanted to make music with a more ambient, layered sound than her first two LPs have had. So for this album, Angel is experimenting with the creative process and combining percussion and ambient tones and she released her single, "Secret" as an introduction to the new sound. It is currently featured on the Spotify Nashville Indie Spotlight 2015 playlist. An uplifting, empowering track, "Secret" is propelled by a thumping bass line, Angel's smokey vocals, and a more full, layered, indie-rock edge than her previous albums had. It's a good sound for her dulcet vocals and she told me that she is having a blast in the studio working on her next release. We also talked about her winding road from Georgia to Nashville, having her songs recorded by Alison Krauss, and her new LP. I was able to listen to one of the new songs that you recorded for your upcoming LP called, "I Need You." It is gorgeous, and heartbreaking, and I really can’t listen to it without hitting repeat. Tell me about the inspiration for the song. Thanks. I wrote that song when I was involved in a very co-dependent relationship with someone who suffered from addiction, and I thought that I could help him. I thought that I could actually save this person. But I finally realized that getting better is up to the individual and that no matter how much I loved him; I couldn't break him free of his addiction. I just realized I couldn't help him, is what it comes down to. And the song stems from the way we think we need people in our lives when they actually only bring us down. So "I Need You" is essentially about that. "I need you like holes in my head. I need you
like lit candles in my bed" – the lyrics are kind of self-explanatory, right? [laughs]
produced the album after he and I had written some songs that were recorded by Alison Krauss. So I kind of, sound wise, ended up in the whole Americana world. And I love the music and I love what Alison was able to capture with our song, but when I first moved to Nashville the sound that I actually wanted to pursue was more like the music I'm doing now. But when I met Alison, I was brought into the acoustic, Americana sound. And while I am so grateful I got to do all of that, I'm excited to be creating and exploring with all the different tones and sounds right now. And Sorted Noise makes music for television shows, films, and commercials. So working with them, the hope is that "Something's Got a Hold On Me" will be licensed for a show or something. Just being able to be creative like that and being in the studio working on my record, I really am having a lot of fun right now. You were born in a small town in Georgia and your two older brothers exposed you to a wide variety of music while you were growing up. Do you think they influenced you musically? Oh, they absolutely influenced me. My older brother Jonas got into heavier rock music when we were kids. He was a creative type and he would call me up to his room and play songs from The Doors, Metallica, and Anthrax for me. He would ask me what I thought about the songs, and though I didn't really know what was going on in the music, I was intrigued by it and by how much he liked it. I wanted to understand why that music did so much for him. I mean the music affected me emotionally, but not anything like it did him. And my other brother, Canon, was more interested in singer/songwriter type artists like Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, and Tori Amos. The two of them introduced me to a wide variety of music so I was able to pick out the things that I liked and just go with it. I really love the creativity that Trent Reznor offers in his music and I also love the ambient sounds of Brian Eno and the people he has worked with, like Peter Gabriel. I'm just so interested in that otherworldly, ambient sound and the process whereby you can create sounds on your own.
I love the lyrics. And the melody being in a minor key makes it all the more haunting and emotional to listen to. Yeah, a lot of my songs are in a minor key and go to that sad place, but then I bring them back to a more hopeful place by the end. At least that's what I hope I do. Was there a particular moment, or a particular artist or song that you can look I found your song, "Something's Got back on and say that's what inspired you A Hold On Me" on the Sorted Noise to pursue music? Soundcloud page and I loved it. Sorted I would say it was when I was 15 years Noise is a studio that markets music for old and I learned my first three-chord propictures. Tell me about that connection. gression that I knew that music was defiWell, it's interesting because I am just nitely what I wanted to do. Just knowing exploring this whole new creative process. that I could go from one chord to another My last album was very much a singer/ — from C to D to E minor — and that it just songwriter driven collection. Viktor Krauss worked; that I was able to write a song from
that. I was like, "Oh, my God, I can totally do this!” I was able to take all the poems and stuff I'd been writing for years and turn them into songs. When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents were getting divorced. It was a really difficult time for me and as an introvert; I just kind of pushed all my feelings aside. But once I discovered that I could put those three chords together with what I had written down in my journal and create songs? That was when I knew I could do this, I could write songs and really express myself. It always amazes me to hear a singer/ songwriter describe themselves as an introvert. How do you balance the introversion with getting on stage and laying it all out for people, essentially baring your soul to a room full of strangers? There is a performer that just comes out in me and I feel like I can express myself when I'm making art. I can just get lost on the stage, in the music. I feel like I was put on this planet to help other people and I think this ability to write and perform songs was given to me so other people know and feel what I've felt before; that they know I can relate to them on a personal level. I
know deep down that I am making some kind of an impact even if it’s just to say, “I know where you are coming from.” But once I leave the stage, I would much rather go in the back room and sit by myself and be away from everybody (laughs). I hear you. I find interacting with others exhausting, no matter how much I like whatever I'm doing, and I need a lot of alone time afterwards. Hence, I’m a writer. [laughs] Oh, yeah. I mean that's how I recharge. If someone asks me to go to a show and then go out afterwards and socialize I'm like, "I can do that, but I'm going to need my alone time before we go out." And I do get sick to my stomach before some performances, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed emotionally, but once I get into the performance I'm able to push through it. I haven't run off the stage during a show, yet. [laughs] Your journey from Georgia to Nashville took kind of a winding road. Tell me a little about how you eventually landed in Nashville.
Well after high school, I went to a small school and got a two-year degree in psychology before I set off on a cross-country trip. I was just trying to find myself and took these random jobs — I worked in Yellowstone National Park for two summers and in Yosemite for one summer. I love camping and being outdoors, and I made friends from all over the world, so I was happy while working those jobs. Once I headed back east, I decided to move to Philadelphia. I moved in with some friends that I met working at Yellowstone and slept on their couch. After a few months I found my own place outside Philly and I lived there for about one year. I would take a Greyhound in to New York City just to play some open mic nights, dive bars, and gigs like that. At one point I thought New York was where I would eventually live, but big city life wasn't really for me. And then I fell in love with a guy that lived in Nashville and when he asked me to move there, I said yes. Our relationship didn't work out, but I have no doubt that we were meant to meet and I was meant to move to Nashville. And it's funny because when he asked me, I was hesitant to move there. I really felt like New York would be a better fit for me and was worried that I wouldn't fit into the Nashville music scene. But once I moved there, I found it has a wide variety of people and that some of my assumptions about it were wrong. I’ve been here going on nine years, now. I read somewhere that you had to convince people that your real name was actually Angel Snow and that they all thought it was your stage name. Is that true? Yes! Angel Snow is my real name. My brothers — who were just three and five years old at the time — actually named me when I was born. But no one believed me. I didn't think my name was that unique growing up, but once I got out into the world and people started making comments about it, I was like, geez. [laughs] Okay, so tell me about Alison Krauss recording your songs for her album, Paper Airplane. How did you two meet? I had been in Nashville for 3 years and was thinking about taking a job teaching English in South Korea. It wasn't that I no longer liked Nashville, but that I'm not the type of person to knock on doors and beg for a record deal or network to find the most effective manager out there. I'm not that person. I knew that I had strong songs and I believed in my music and myself. But I just wanted to play gigs around town, which I did, and I also took random day jobs to help pay the bills. I was a substitute teacher and I took occasional babysitting jobs. One of those jobs was helping my friend Nancy
with her 7 year-old triplets. I knew that Nancy was friends with Alison, but never really gave it any thought. I have always just believed that my path would be shown to me at some point as long as I kept doing what I love. I'm not the type to buy into it when people say, "You should try to give her your CD." I've always believed in allowing my path to go in the direction it is supposed to, and trust that it will. I've just always had that sense of knowing that, “It will be what it's going to be” and just lived my life. Anyway, one afternoon before I went to pick up the kids from school, Alison came over to Nancy's and we had a really nice conversation — though I was kind of in shock that I was talking to her. We even talked about my wanting to pursue teaching English in South Korea. Then Nancy mentioned that I was a singer/songwriter and Alison was like, "Oh, really?" And as I had a CD of my first album, Fortunetellers with me, I gave it to her. When she left, my only thought was it was very cool that I was able to give my music to someone like Alison Krauss. I had no idea she was going to call me an hour later and tell me she loved my music and wanted to talk to me about recording some of my songs. We actually developed a friendship and she introduced me to her brother, Viktor Krauss, who is a songwriter, producer, musician, and plays bass with Lyle Lovett. Viktor and I just clicked
and ended up writing a song together the first time we met, "Lie Awake," which ended up being on Alison and Union Station's last record, Paper Airplane. She also recorded two other songs Viktor and I wrote that were both on the deluxe edition of the album. Had you ever collaborated with someone on songwriting before you worked with Viktor? No, I hadn't. Not before Viktor. He was the first person I actually had songwriting chemistry with — where he would just play music for me and the lyrics would just sort of develop and a story emerge. We had really cool creative chemistry and it just flowed so naturally. Were you nervous about writing with another person and not having complete control of the process? Not with Viktor. I felt comfortable with him pretty immediately. I have had those feelings since then, with other people I’ve written with. I think it is very rare for it to happen like it did with Viktor and me, where you run into a person with whom you feel immediately okay. But his music just spoke to me and I was able to let go and flow with it.
He definitely did have an affect on me. While working with him I was able to explore so many new ways to express myself as a musician, rather than just with my acoustic guitar as a singer/songwriter. Sometimes he would just pick up an electric guitar and start to play and I would sing over it. He showed me how to make sounds with my voice, to make my deeper register sound even more androgynous, and just to be more creative in my vocals. Going in and adding more reverb here or distortion there. I just think it is so cool what you can do with your voice in the studio. Lyrics are important to me, but I also want to be able to convey emotion through sounds and harmonies. And he and I would get behind the vocal mikes and just add layers and harmonies and color. So definitely, working with Viktor showed me how to find the many different wormholes of creativity that I could use as a musician. And there were abilities I didn't even know I had that he helped me to find and learn to use.
Your first two albums definitely have a more acoustic, Americana-folk sound than your new single, "Secret." To me, the new songs still focus on your vocals, just with more layers. You use more Do you think getting to work and record sounds in a more complex mix; not so with Viktor Krauss had any affect on you much as to be labeled electronic, but definitely more than you hear in Americana as an artist and/or on your music?
or singer/songwriter music. So I have to ask, how would you describe the sound or the genre of your new LP? The LP is not finished yet and I'm still experimenting with tones and sounds. But what I really hope to achieve is something that reflects me as an artist. For instance, I love percussion and want to combine interesting percussion samples and sounds with different colors of ambient sounds. I want the raw emotion to still be very much present lyrically, but I also want to express emotion through the use and combination of different tones. Because that's what Brian Eno did for me — even just his instrumentals have had a huge emotional impact on me. And I want to be able to do that through my songs. And when I do sing lyrics, I want the lyrics and my vocals to relay the story through feelings. After the album is released, do you think you will tour with a band in support of the album? I'm hoping that my next tour will be with a trio: a lap steel guitar player, someone at a loop station, and me. That's the idea at
the moment, anyway. [laughs]. Where are you in the recording process on the LP? The LP is still in the process of being made. We've made a lot of progress as far as winnowing down the list of possible tracks, but we haven't decided on the final track listing yet. Neither has a decision been made about whether I’ll work with more than one producer. I’m hoping the LP will be ready to release in September, but it might not be. I'm not going to rush the process. I want to make an LP that is truly authentic and I want to do right by each of the songs, so we are taking our time with it. What music have you been listening to lately? Right now I love the band The National and listen to them pretty much non-stop. I love Radiohead a lot. And I saw Atoms for Peace — Thom Yorke's new band that he put together with Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nigel Godrich — I love their music. It's real experimental. I have also been listening to a lot of PJ Harvey’s older stuff. Oh, and I really love the band,
alt-J. They’re kind of the more modern group that I'm into right now. I saw them perform not too long ago and they are incredible. What was the first concert you ever attended? In 4th grade I went with my friend to see Hank Williams, Jr. in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I wasn't really into it though. I thought it was too loud and I didn't absolutely love the experience. If you could travel through time and write a song with any artist from any time, who would that be? Well, I would love to sit down and write a song with Nick Cave, but I wouldn’t have to travel through time to do that. So someone I would love to write with, if I could travel back in time, would be Leonard Cohen. Name four things you don't ever want to live without. I don’t want to live without my books, my toothbrush, my sweaters, or the people that I love.
http://angelsnow.net www.fourculture.com 13
BY ADAM D www.fourculture.com 15
hey say 'good things happen to those who wait'. I say 'they' have never met Aurie Styla. This 27-year old Londoner knows exactly what it takes to make something of yourself, because he's doing it. Aurie is one of the hardest working, most inspiring young people you could ever wish to meet. It was my great pleasure to do so recently, catching him in a semi-break in his day to talk about how he got started, where's he's at and where he's going next. In this day and age of social media overkill, you are probably tired of clicking on links to clips where you are promised that 'you will not believe what happens when this man asks his wife to take out the rubbish in sharkinfested waters' along with a comment from someone who helpfully says 'wait til you see what happens at 1:59. It will change your life!'. But listen when I tell you this: please click on the link to his website and enjoy. Follow him on Instagram to get a snapshot into his ever-whirring mind. Tune in to his radio show on Bang FM. Better yet, go and see him live! Do one or all of these things, but don't ignore him. That's enough from me. Okay, apart from the questions. But please allow me to introduce you to Aurie Styla, the son of an entrepreneur businesswoman mother and a DJ father. It perhaps can be no surprise that a drive to succeed and a love of music have combined in his work to date. What kind of turned you on to the idea of performing? When you're younger in school, being the funny guy in your class or year equates to you being the cool guy and, I dunno, I was always trying to be Mr. Cool. I got used to the idea of making people laugh. I wanted to do it from when I was really young. I definitely wanted to be an entertainer. When I left school I started doing music. All my music was comedy music, jokey stuff. It was me trying to delay the inevitable of trying to get into comedy! This is not the last time you'll hear that hard work can combine with a bit of 'being in the right place at the right time'. But you make your own luck, and Aurie certainly does. So music was like the first vehicle for your comedy. I was a big fan of Grime. It kind of peaked when I was growing up as a teenager. For young people in London it was their way of expression and it was their music and I wanted to jump on it, so I did. But Grime has quite a lot of negative connotations behind some of the content of the artists and I wasn't really about that. I didn't really fit in in terms of the music, but I was very talented at writing it. I was good at clashing people only because I had a funny perspective. I made funny anecdotes. There were many Grime, UK hip hop artists. In 2003/4 it was still underground and it hadn't found itself. I didn't flourish in it, and didn't stay in it too long but I was around a lot of artists in that period.
But you've also done other things prior to turning to a career in comedy. You ran your own clothing company. Not many people can say that! At Middlesex University I saw a lot of people starting clothing lines, so I wanted to do it as well. I studied marketing so I thought it would be a good project to get myself into. So from 2008-2011 I was at uni but I had a clothing line. It was something I enjoyed doing but it wasn't a passion of mine. I dabbled in all the things I could do, to express myself and keep that muscle of entrepreneurship and entertainment going. I sold the clothing line on in 2010, the same year I became a comedian. Once I got the balls to get up and do comedy, I knew I didn't need to do anything else.
Are hecklers something you have had to deal with much? Hecklers are fine. They're ok. They are just people who have a lot to say. But they don't realise you're someone who's trained in what you do. So they feel that they can join and be a part of the show and they get more offended when you have a great reply. They forgot that this is what you're paid for. It's not so much the drunk people that are the problem. Some people just have a vendetta. Some people come out to shows angry. They may look wrongly at you, like the ones who you may just say to 'you alright darlin'?' and they will go off! Watching your clips and having seen you compere a music gig, it seems you perform with the audience, not to the audience. Some comedians don't do this so well. If you perform to the audience, it becomes a set with no interaction where you are almost delivering a speech. People laugh more when there is something they can relate to. I like to get the crowd involved more. They have to be able to relate to what you're saying. If they don't then the crowd has to create that relation, and in that time you will have lost some people. So do you have to read the audience at all? Of course. You can't go on stage blind. You can't go on stage and talk about motherhood to a young audience. They can't relate to it. Vice versa you can't go on stage to talk about some new music with an older audience because they won't get what you are saying.
At this point we then talk about the 'sniper pose'. This is perhaps the most well known of all of Aurie's on line clips, and it came from a BBC gig he performed. So you moved from a running a clothing It's far better to have you watch it now and then to come back to this piece. I company to performing on stage? do Aurie such an injustice as to I've been on stage since I was 15 or 16. won't just describe it to you! Poetry, rapping, doing comedy, but all the other things besides stand up. When you're 18, that's not the first thing that comes to Speaking about reading an audience, mind, doing stand up. You don't go 'ooh, I you can see there's older people laughing. I think part of this, there's a physical should do stand up'. At the age of 22 I did my first stand up element that can draw people in even if set which was at the Inn On The Green in they don't get the reference. Ladbroke Grove, London. I wasn't actually With that show, the clip only shows the meant to. I was there doing something else, last part of the set. There are two older midand I did a set for 5 minutes and I never dle class gentlemen sitting in the front, and looked back. I'm talking about music that people in their It does take guts. The audience reaction 30s would appreciate. They were execuhas to be something you feed off. With mu- tives. But the 15 minute set warmed up to sic, you put your creation on the line. If people that finale. At that point they were already don't like it, fine. With comedy, you put yourself engaged and so by that time they were preon the line. It's you they do or don't like. That's pared to sit and think 'ok, let's listen to what why it hurts when it doesn't go well. this guy has to say'.
Music is an important part of the act. It never seems to be far away. You're clearly bringing your personal enjoyment into the act. My favourite artists are like, reggae dancehall, and a bit of old skool hip hop, and UK artists I really support as well. Bounty Killa, Capleton, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes. Grime. A whole lot of the UK artists I grew up with and have worked alongside and support them because of that. There's a young guy, Sox, from Birmingham. I've never met him, but musically I enjoy his stuff and I post it up. He recognised me as a person who does comedy and he reposts my stuff too. So it's not so much the artists and their content, it's their drive as well. You can see what someone's work is by how much work they put into it. You host a show on Bang Radio, too, right? At this point I have to apologise and say I've never caught it! Everyone's in bed when the show is on! Most people only catch the back end of it to be honest. Well, you're often to be seen on Instagram early in the morning or late at night. You do a lot of hours on a lot of different things. Is it like going to the gym, if you don't put the hours in you won't get the benefit? Pretty much. You may not see it now, but putting in all those hours comes back to you later on. Like you haven't even heard the radio show but you know I am one of the guys who does the breakfast show on Bang. If I put in only half the amount of hours it may not really establish itself in your mind. Entertainment is my full time job. I don't do any other job. I don't have to any more. That's because I put so much work into what I'm doing that it does pay back afterwards. I'm not upset about that at all. I lose a lot of hours because I'm always working, in that sense, but I see what it does for you in the long run. You can't fake it or cut corners, and you can tell when other people have. Exactly, it's like putting a roof on a house. If you've only done ten minutes work on the foundations, it may look alright for now but it won't sustain it. If you lay your foundations strong and firm, and put in all the hard work you need to do on the ground, then every other level you do above that is sturdy. You don't have to worry about what's below. It's easy to rise quickly and drop quickly. It's hard to drop quickly if you've worked your way up slowly. You'll only fall one level rather than all the way back to the ground. Does the work you do get you the audience you 'deserve'? You get known for 18 www.fourculture.com
being the person who performs about certain things, so it attracts those people, whereas at the start, you'll get anyone coming along as they don't know what to expect. So you refine your audience as you develop your act. Has this happened to you? It's hard to say. Ever since that video went viral, even though it was the same stuff I was always talking, loads of people from different planes and walks of life who related to the video started to come to see me. Some of them are quite eclectic and contemporary people that i'd never really seen in my audience before, and when they've started to come they found something to relate to, I guess. But on the other side of it, if you continue to do the same thing all the time you're going to refine your audience and you will see the same people coming to your show. But it's going to be difficult to have your career advance and you don't either grow or change. With that growth and change will be a new set of people who are interested in what you're now doing. You go to another level, and where people may be on that level, or what those people relate to, they may be more attracted to you for that. Like if you change your act and perhaps go more political, those who liked you for your more domestic comedy may start to wean themselves off you. Whereas others that
are interested in more politics will be more into it. But that's natural growth. I'm not a father yet, but when I become one I'll have stuff to talk about as a father where some of the younger people may not want to hear that. So growth and change becomes natural and I think that will categorize your audience into 'people who enjoy this type of humour or people who enjoy that type of humour'. The trick to it is to have all those kind of accessible to you so that when you are in front of that audience you can deliver for them. Which comes back to the whole 'reading your crowd'. Cultural identity seems important to your act, and comes out very clearly. 100% Is the audience making a connection because they are young and 'get' your humour, or is it more about race and traditional culture? So you mean, is there a 'young London' culture, or is it still 'young black, young asian or young white' lines? There are still evident communities, but now that you go to schools and shops where everyone can go to, where you have areas that have been through gentrification, like Brixton or Notting Hill, or what Harlesden's going through now, you are forced to live amongst other people.
After a while of dropping your guard, you become accustomed to different cultures around you. So the new generations that come through don't know that things were 'departmentalised' earlier on in the history of the area, and culture they were in. All they see is, 'well that's my friend Vladimir' or 'that's my friend Francisco'. They don't see segregation, it's just now 'my area of people that I know, and the age group of people I'm around now'. So it's less about race now in terms of what you see culturally, and age is a big factor. Jamaican influence comes through a lot. People maybe now don't know that there didn't used to be mixing before. People learn a lot more about other cultures from acts such as yourself. It's much harder to ignore it even if you wanted to. Time has moved on since Lenny Henry had to complain about getting described as a 'black comedian' given that his contemporaries weren't described as 'white comedians'. I can understand the frustrations. When you get categorized that way, it's harder for everyone else to take that off you. If you go to a comedy show and you're seen as either the black, asian or female comedian in the line up. Rather than looking at the content, some people will only book you because of the necessity in their eyes of having you in the line up. They'll be thinking â&#x20AC;&#x153;ok, we need to mix it upâ&#x20AC;? Like the Benetton poster. Exactly! So when that happens it's less about your content, and it becomes evident that your content isn't really worth much to those who are trying to market the shows that you are on. And when that does happen you become in conflict, 'why am I writing this if no-one is going to listen to this, all they are going to do is take me for what I look like' Like a 'novelty act'. Yes, and who would want to be the novelty act? It's only as good as it can be until the novelty wears off. You shouldn't be booked because of what you are, but because of what you say. Is this where Comedy Mania came from? A frustration from not getting the right kinds of bookings? There was a part of me that wanted to make my own opportunities because other people weren't going to make them for me. But Comedy Mania came out because I understand the importance of understanding the business of comedy just as much as
the entertainment side. If you spend all your time in front of the mic without ever standing behind it, you are going to have to have a team of people who take on the rest of the work. With a team of people, comes a splitting up of the money that you make or the empire that you build. It's now not just you, it's the other people that you have to have otherwise you would struggle to continue. I knew how important it was to have a show like that where I could create a headquarters for those who are my fans to come and see me, rather than wait for me to get booked on someone else's show. It's like the difference between renting and having a mortgage. If you do someone else's show you are renting that audience but you don't get anything from renting it. You had them there, and then they're gone. But if you have a mortgage, that's a house, a loan you've taken on. That loan is yours and you have to pay it off, the same amount you're paying for rent, but you're paying it off bit by bit. You have an investment, you have a relationship. So with that house you now have options you can do with it. It's yours, rather than just going in, having it for a few minutes, then them going again.
and asked if I wanted to be a character on the show. It wasn't a big part, I just dressed up like a dog and danced at the end of each show! Ever since then I've been on their books. That was just a matter of hard work and being in the right place at the right time. People saw there was a buzz about me and I got the gig on the back of that. You also interviewed Eddie Murphy on your radio show. How was that? Yes it was a phone interview. We were trying to let it sink in. When he first called we were all saying 'is this really Eddie?' He was very cool, very humble, a very nice guy to talk to. It was kind of surreal. This is someone I grew up watching as a kid. He had been doing comedy before I was even born. To interview him just brings it home again that everyone who you talk to who does what they are doing, they work hard to get there but they are still just regular people. Which means that you can get there. I mean, ten years down the line maybe I might be in America with someone trying to phone interview me, who knows!
Do you have a desire to 'crack America'? I will go over there to perform. I don't You are always so busy on social media, think I'd want to live over there. I like home! and as soon as one Comedy Mania tour Or I would have two houses, one over there finishes, you seem to be advertising the and one here! It could happen, but I wouldn't next one. Demand is clearly out there. want to move over there entirely. I knew how I was marketing the event. Comedy Mania is a very good event in Finally, you hear musicians talking about terms of how we set it up, but it takes a the 'difficult second album'. Where are lot of work to run. I am going home now to you on your trajectory, do you think? set up the September events. I give myself Are you still celebrating the first album? a three month turn over. As soon as the In terms of comedy, the first big 'whoo!' March events were done, I started organ- moment has gone. Then along came the ising June onwards. So in that respect it BBC gig, which was almost like a mixtape I doesn't stop, and it becomes a salary based didn't intend to record. Then all of a sudden career. I may not see my pay every month, my name went out quite widely, worldwide but when I do get paid it's pretty much an of- actually, because of it. Then after that I put fice worker kind of salary. But my hours are on the Comedy Mania tour of five shows in different! People see me on stage and think one month in different cities....This is prob'ah, you're getting paid for just 20 minutes ably the fourth album that I'm on now, of on stage' but you don't realise how much it about eight or nine that I'm going to do! Who takes to set up behind the scene. Literally knows? But when you want to do something as soon as one's finished, I have to promote there's never a limit of how many albums the next one. It has to be fresh in your mind. you want make. Think of how many albums I have to carry the hype from the last one. Michael [Jackson] put out, or how many songs Bob Marley wrote. There's no limit. You've just finished recording a series You just keep going. Until the wheels fall off! with Javone Prince from Phone Shop. How did that come about? Something tells me that even if the The producers wanted someone to do wheels did fall off, Aurie would figure the warm up for the show, to keep the audi- out how to get around. After all, he also ence laughing in between takes. My name goes rollerblading when he can. Just was buzzing around the office because of another facet of this driven, humble the BBC show [sniper pose] I had done re- and funny young man. Catch him when cently. So after that I went and did the show. you can. After the first night, they were all blown away
ARE YOU LISTENING?
A Cure for Migraines by Brett Salsbury I liken my self to a housefly, he said, in my sensation with corners and my interest in sand and the way I hide in the closet and the way I haunt the sides of bricks. I exist in fours, those little pieces of dirt that seem to collect on the desk, a will-o'-thewisp circling the bookstack, a smidgen of which taps on the bottoms of lightbulbs. May I sing a song, he said; no you may not, she said: we haven't an audience and I need some Ibuprofen.
Brett Salsbury is a writer who lives in the brightly-lit Las Vegas Valley. He works at UNLV. His work has appeared in Words Dance Publishing, Canyon Voices, and the Blue Island Review, and is forthcoming in Foothill, Jab Magazine, Poetry City, USA and The Odd Magazine.
The Bushwick Collective
Brooklyn’s Street Art Mecca PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREW ASHLEY
rson Street L, Joe Ficalora played ffe Je the off t jus , 15 20 6, ne Ju y, On Saturda llective Block Party. Now in Co k wic sh Bu 15 20 e ibl red inc er oth host and curator to an give people something to ply sim ve cti lle Co t Ar n kly oo Br its fourth year, Joe started the od. He talks about his back rho bo igh ne his to me ca y the en beautiful to look at wh ernational artists year int d an l na tio na al, loc in ng bri to story as well as what drives him titled Born & Bred. after year in a short documentary en artists as well as vendors and rap d an s DJ s, ist art ce an rm rfo pe The event included s the 30+ street artists wa e, urs co of t, en ev the of t gh hli free face painting, but the hig : Sexer1, LiHill, Giz, Damien ed lud inc s ist art e Th . ate cre to a who came to the are dez, Jorge Tellaeche, an rn Fe sic Da , ion str Ma lle nie Da Mitchell, Solus, Lexi Bella, Lola the Illustrator, e, fac rk Je s, su Je De lle nie Da , Ellis Gallagher, Shiro Buff Monster and many more. urs exploring and documenting the ho few a t en sp y hle As w dre An â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fourculture out the event through his eyes. k ec Ch ry. lle ga r -ai en op s thi in s mural
Photo by Jake Vรกrley at Mars Station www.fourculture.com 39 www.mars-station.co.uk
VANBOT navigating through a perfect storm
BY MARGUERITE O’CONNELL PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARA ARNALD
Swedish electronica artist Ester Ideskog, known by her stage name Vanbot, recently released her sophomore album, The Perfect Storm. The album had a long and rocky road to release, but the collection of smooth electro-pop tracks — with its rich dark electronic tones, club elements and dance beats — proved well worth it. Produced and mixed by Johannes Berglund (The Knife, I Break Horses), the album combines catchy melodies and warped synthesizers, with euphoric vocals and evocative effects. Ester grew up in the small Swedish village of Österskog. She eventually moved with friends to Stockholm, where she adopted a cool, big-city, alter-ego named Vanessa, and released her self-titled debut album in 2011. Despite almost no promotion, Vanbot was wellreceived and generated a lot of buzz. She soon followed it with several singles in 2012 and 2013. But although she announced a fall 2013 release for a follow-up album, it never happened. Instead, just before the scheduled release date Ester found that she was not satisfied with the recorded tracks. And rather than release an album she didn't feel was right, she decided to scrap the entire project and begin again. Ester describes the circumstances that gave birth to her latest album as "the perfect storm." Because only after shelving everything she'd written and recorded in 2013 and taking a lengthy break, was she able to really focus on, and clearly visualize, what it was she wanted to create. Once she was ready to get back in the studio, Ester was determined to push outside her sonic comfort zone. She experimented with a new, darker sound, as well as with new beats, effects, synthesizers, and vocal layers. The result is an album that is a synth-heavy set of hook laden tracks. But don't let the smooth and seductive simplicity of its crystalline sound fool you. This is an immaculately produced LP built on a foundation of introspection, sweat, and tears. It's also an album on which Vanbot comes back harder and stronger than ever. She took some time to answer our questions about the process of making this album, as well as the origins of her stage name, and her plans for a tour. Read on to find out what she had to say. When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in music? I remember a specific moment: I was out for a walk, when for the first time; I dared to say the words that I wanted to record and release an album. That was huge for me. I had been writing and recording music for years, but still didn’t believe that it was even possible for me to release an album. I have been singing and playing instruments since I was a child, but that moment was when it became real for me. Where I come from, you’re not supposed to stand out from the crowd, so it took a while to overcome that obstacle of what people expect of you.
attention. That can be anything from Tears for Fears to Chemical Brothers.
It’s VERY different in every way. I grew up on a small farm, playing in the forest and hanging out with the calves. I really, really miss the dense forest and the closeness to animals. Österskog is a place where everybody knows each other, and you’re never anonymous which is beautiful, but I think that sometimes limits people. You’re not supposed be different or remarkable, and the typical Swedish law of Jante is very present. I love Stockholm, and I’m falling in love with this city more and more. I love to ride my bike over the bridges and it is so beautiful. I love the music and art scene, the possibilities to just sneak in to galleries and small shows. But there’s also a cold side of the city, we don’t really speak with each other and I think it’s pretty tough to get to know new people here. So I guess I have mixed feelings about it. Where do you find the inspiration for your songs? Tell me about your creative process. As I mentioned earlier I love to ride my bike in Stockholm, it’s super silly, but that’s when I write most of my melodies. I record them on my phone and get yelled at by bystanders, as for some reason people don’t think it’s appropriate to sing and bike. The tricky part for me is the lyrics, the easiest and most obvious ones come tightly coupled with the melodies and often set the theme for the song, but many come out of late nights with wine and lots of scrapped attempts. After you released your self-titled debut album back in 2011, you spent over a year working on a studio album that you shelved just before it was due for release. At what point did you realize you were not going to finish or release the album? It was inevitable. We had been working on the album for over a year, and I had a feeling that something was missing. We reworked the songs, made new mixes and even attempted some new productions, but after a while it all felt so watered down. I was fed up and I realized there was no return. At that moment I had a meeting with a person I really trust, someone who’s always been very supportive, and that person was very clear that I can do so much better. That really encouraged me. I guess I’m very easily challenged because after that meeting, I started writing new songs like a crazy person — I think I wrote five songs every day. My mind was constantly focused on melodies and from that moment there was no return.
What is your musical background — do you play any instruments or have any formal training? I’ve been playing and singing as long as I can remember. I played various instruments when I grew up — piano, guitar, cornett, and bass. I was always singing and my family was pretty fed up with that. There was one rule: no singing by the dinner table — I guess that rule only concerned me. Otherwise I sang most of the time. When I moved to Stockholm I studied music for two years, and that’s when I took my first vocal lessons, What artists or bands have had the but for the most part I've learned by doing. greatest influence on your music? Wow, that’s a tricky question. I’ve al- How is living in Stockholm different from ways been very influenced by specific living in the village of Österskog where elements in music, rather than a specific you grew up? If you had to choose, How is this album, Perfect Storm, differartist. I have a big passion for melodies and would you prefer to live in a small town ent than the album you didn't release? PHOTOGRAPH ALEX LAKE synthesizers, so that’s what captures my or big city? When I trashed the albumBYand started
reason for this? How is the music scene in Sweden different from that in the U.S. or in other countries? I have been asked that question before, and I still don’t know how to answer it. For me personally, I think I had some really good examples to show me the way. Since I could see other Swedish artists who have made it, I dared to believe I could make it, too; that it isn't impossible. And also, I think music lovers across the world expect Sweden to have great music, so people will hear you out and give you a chance. Stockholm has so many great songwriters and artists; I think and hope that we encourage each other. What can your fans expect next? Are there any plans for a tour? Yes, we’ve been doing some touring in Sweden, UK and Norway. More shows will be confirmed soon. I’m also starting to have a vision for the next album, starting to collect fragments. I'm really longing to start writing again.
writing all over again, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I didn’t want to write the same kind of songs again since it didn’t work out, so I tried to work outside my box. I started working with new beats, new synthesizers, new layers of my voice. I think the new album has more contrasts and a much darker vein. Do you ever think about releasing or re-visiting the music recorded for that album? The thought has actually crossed my mind to release, The Trashed Album. But that’s probably a very bad idea.
focused on trying to enhance the contrast of every element in the music. The sweet and the salt if you will; catchy, but with a stroke of darkness. I love the contrasts. What is your favorite track on Perfect Storm and which was the hardest for you to write for the album? My favorite track is definitely "Perfect Storm Part II." It has a very strong symbolic value for me. We wrote and recorded that song after sixteen hours of final mixing. The very last night before mastering the album. We wanted it to be an abstract reflection on the album as a whole, and it was so easily created. The hardest track to write was "Seven." I didn’t have the right feeling when we recorded it, I wanted to drop it before we even recorded the vocals. So I thank Johannes, my producer, for pushing me.
How and why did you pick the stage name Vanbot? It started as a joke. When my friends and I moved from the countryside to Stockholm, we made up silly alter egos and Vanessa from the City was my alter ego. Vanessa was that cool, daring, Stockholm city-girl that was the perfect complement to me. So when I needed a new artist name, I thought about Vanessa, how she actually reflected some parts of me, and how as Vanessa I felt more confident and bold. In the beginning it was almost like playing a role, but nowadays I think Ester and Vanessa have melded together. It’s harder nowadays to say where Ester ends and Vanessa begins. If you weren't making music, what would you be doing instead? I would probably be a gardener. I love to dig in the dirt and to plant seeds. That’s when I feel totally relaxed, it’s my meditation. My balcony is overloaded with flowers and plants and looks like a crazy old woman’s balcony.
How would you say your music has changed since your debut album and can fans expect a darker side to your sound now? I think that people recognize some What are your four favorite things? typical Vanbot elements, especially when it My bike, my balcony, my woolen socks, comes to the melodies. But as I mentioned and my mini portable studio (I bring it earlier, on this new album I worked outside Sweden has produced so many electro- everywhere I go). my former comfort zone. I have been very pop stars — what do you think is the
www.vanbotmusic.com 44 www.fourculture.com
Fourculture is proud to announce its first music compilation featuring 20 amazing independent artists from around the globe
FEATURED ARTISTS: Noblesse Oblige
My Personal Murderer
The Autumn Stones
Proceeds from Fourculture: Beyond the Mainstream will support OnAirTunes.com, the network who hosts Fourculture Radio. www.fourculture.com 45
The Baldwin Brother Theory of Birth Order by Mike Salisbury
Your First-Born Is Alec Baldwin.
Your Third Child Is Billy Baldwin.
It’s easy to start with Alec Baldwin, he’s the most successful Baldwin brother whether Billy agrees with this or not (he does not). Your first-born will be like Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwins are considered natural leaders and high achievers; see Alec’s Emmy, his Oscar nomination, and marriage to Kim Basinger. Your Alec Baldwin could be Tim Burton’s Batman, unless he turns it down. Alec Baldwins can be know-it-alls. Sometimes that means they choose to be The Shadow, and tell you that’s what they really wanted in the first place, to be their own person, win or lose. Sometimes Alec Baldwins say things they don’t mean, like for example, "What trash my brothers were. They’d play whiffle ball in the driveway for six hours, and I worked. I was Abraham Lincoln to them, and they were all John Wilkes Booth." It’s natural for your firstborn to feel superior, to view the world looking up into the barrel of an assassin’s pistol. Alec Baldwins will be bossy but responsible. They’re adultpleasers and sibling-downers. A first born will dig a hole, cover it with leaves, and call his siblings over — "Hey, I got something to show ya" — while waiting on the other side of the trap. How you treat your Alec Baldwin will determine many things, it might cause you to be a by-the-book parent, prone to extremes. This could cause your Alec Baldwin to become a perfectionist, always striving to meet and exceed your expectations. When they make mistakes, they will be slow to take responsibility, pretending it never happened; see divorce to Kim Basinger. Someday your Alec Baldwin might call you and leave you a message, call you a pig, tell you things you don’t want to hear. It’s okay, firstborns are high strung. With high achievement comes the stress of the climb. They will tell you this, both through words and actions. This is natural.
Billy Baldwins tend to be the most free-spirited due to their parents’ relaxed attitudes towards parenting this time around. Billy Baldwins are risk-takers, outgoing, and creative. Their competitiveness is only hampered by how easily they become bored. Billy Baldwins by definition like to be pampered; they’ll have a sense of humor about this. This is good, because they’re also self-centered. Somewhere right now, in a sea of cable channels, Backdraft is on. If you are at a dinner or office party, an event of special occasion, dressed up at a cash only bar, and someone asks what’s the best Billy Baldwin movie: the correct answer is Flatliners. Although Billy Baldwins sometimes only play a supporting role, remind them that they are still in it. Use Flatliners as an example: its cast of young stars could fill a night sky; say to your Billy Baldwin, “You’re among the stars.” Remember this when your child rides the pine or is regulated to the choirs. Tell them sometimes you get cast in that role as a contributor, like Billy Baldwin in Flatliners. Your Billy Baldwin is going to take risks. It’s important to prepare for the occasional fallout. There are going to be some things out of his or her control, too. Like being short-listed to play Batman in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. Success in your family can be defined by how many family members pass or are passed over to play Batman. Remind your Billy Baldwin sometimes it’s nice just to be a part of the conversation. It’s natural to want to be Batman even though your big brother didn’t want to be.
Your Second Child Is the Forgotten Baldwin. The middle child is the forgotten child. Do you know who the middle Baldwin is? Didn’t think so. This mystery Baldwin is Daniel, best known for his role on Homicide: Life on the Street. But maybe is best known for being a Baldwin. Being a Baldwin is its own kind of success. The Forgotten Baldwin is flexible, easy to fold into your memory, i.e. forgettable. This is why they feel like life is so unfair, because it is. No one wants to be the Daniel Baldwin in your family. Your Daniel Baldwin doesn’t get a say in this or anything else. When you run into trouble with your Daniel Baldwin, tell them, "Don’t be like Daniel Baldwin." When they ask who is that, say, “Exactly.” Moreover, as for your Daniel Baldwin’s behavior around your other Baldwins, he will play the role he’s given. If left to choose, your Daniel Baldwin will climb into obscurity, believing it’s better, wishing it wasn’t. Daniel Baldwins often feel left out and a sense of, "Well, I'm not Alec. I'm not Billy. Who am I?" The more you feed into this, the worse it will get. At times, you will love/hate your Daniel Baldwin. You will secretly wish they were more like Alec and wonder why they are not, and then you will feel bad for ever thinking such a thing. It is natural to wish for more from your Daniel Baldwin.
Your Fourth Child Is Stephen Baldwin, or What Is Sometimes Referred to as, "Child of the Family." When you add a Stephen Baldwin, things get complex. Stephen Baldwin will try to understand all the Baldwins as a whole. He will consider everyone’s happiness. Your Stephen Baldwin is the family barometer. Stephen Baldwins tend to be very expressive and loving. They seek peace amongst family members and are known to be the requester of group hugs. For everything good your Stephen Baldwin does — The Usual Suspects, for example — he or she will do something bad or quasi embarrassing — write a book called The Unusual Suspect or start a Christian ministry to facilitate the gifts and calling of himself. Your Stephen Baldwin will not be short on self-esteem, in case you wondered. Your Stephen Baldwin will chase the spotlight, or build one on his own if need be. Do not worry — your Stephen Baldwin is the "Baldwin of the Family.” It’s natural to worry about your Stephen Baldwin and the rest of your Baldwins. Where your child places in the Baldwin birth order will have an impact on the rest of their lives. This applies to both “typical families” and “dysfunctional families.” No two children are ever the same; neither are Baldwins. Parents should treat each of their Baldwins as listed here, applying the Baldwin theory where necessary.
A Michigan native, Mike Salisbury’s fiction has appeared in Avery Anthology, Black Warrior Review, Crab Orchard Review, Bombay Gin, and The Emerson Review. Mike is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Pacific University. He lives and works along the Front Range of the Rockies. www.fourculture.com 47
Nobody Ever Says Thank You by Neil Fulwood Desk-shackled thirty-seven and a half hours a week. Colleagues who don’t even smoke drift outside for fag breaks. Absenteeism totals more work days lost than points in a game of Words with Friends if you played it as a triple word, the “B” placed on a triple letter. Your sanity break: the iPhone and its colourful clamour of games downloaded for free. Until the Deputy Team Leader catches you at it and mouths off ahead of next month’s appraisal. Your granddad would have quit the factory for less and decked the prick on his way out. A smidge under the living wage for this: keying in customer comments, hitting save on half-hearted homilies, trending the tendency of the general public to rely on parrot-like phrases: What did we do well? Everything. What could we have done better? Nothing. Which member of staff made your visit memorable? Not you, friend; not the data entry clerk marginally less well regarded than the guy who replenishes the water cooler, hoisting those outsized plastic containers, latching them in place, upside down and gurgling out
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, UK, in 1972. He is the author of film studies book 'The Films of Sam Peckinpah'. His poetry has appeared in Nib, Art Decades, Full of Crow Poetry, Butcher's Dog, The Black Light Engine Room and The Morning Star. Neil's married, holds down a day job and subsidizes several bars.
PI N G WA N G BA L A NCI NG EAST & W EST BY T H E A RT IST D
Born and raised in Beijing, China, Ping Wang is a photographer living and working in New York City. His photos strike upon the delicate balance of the East & West presented to the world in visual representations. From a militant background Ping is learning to break the rules that may encompass some of our minds. www.fourculture.com 51
Where does your love of photography come from? Tell me what drives your passion as a photographer? Talking about inspirations, I have to mention Michael Jackson. He is the first western artist came into my world. The first time I saw the video of his “Billie Jean” performance in his concert, I was fascinated by his stage lighting and the way he controls the rhythm of the performance. That made me start to be interested in music videos and stage arts. Since then I began to explore the dramatic stage setting and the way to present the climax of the scene. You were born and raised in Beijing. At what age did you move to New York City and why did you choose to move there? What do you think that upbringing adds to your photography in the States? I was born and raised in Beijing, the single child in a traditional military family. No one in my family has any background in art. Actually, my family still does not really understand exactly what I am doing now. I moved to New York in 2013 to study for my master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts. Now I live and work in New York City. My photographic work is a delicate balance between Eastern and Western visual culture, resulting in a personal style characterized by drama and restrain. My emotional sensitivity drives me to focus on the subtleties of light, architecture and the moments that often go unobserved. The military community in Beijing is a relatively closed, rigorous and secure place for me. That environment influenced me a lot in the form of my work. You could see very few people in my work, in a clean and precise setting. New York helps me to be fearless. Being with so many talented artists in New York, I feel free and bold to break the “rules” in my mind. Your recent work of LUÒ HÓNG is visually striking and even more so after reading the story behind it. Would this sort of work be well received in China or is it something that would be perceived as scandal? LUÒ HÓNG is a project derived from my “Virginity Complex” experience. It’s a kind of self-mockery because I felt shamed to someone who I once hurt before. I am not sure if LUÒ HÓNG will irritate the sensitivity of the Chinese people or not, but I am afraid of my family seeing my work because of their traditional military background. In terms of that, I guess it’s not that hard to imagine reaction from others. If you could have one wish for humanity, what would that be? My wish is quite simple, which is being curious and proud of where you come from. Meanwhile, never regret or fear that you are really care and love.
“Luo hóng”, meaning “seeing virgin blood” in Chinese, is an obscure way to describe a woman bleeding from her first sexual intercourse. In ancient China’s marriage culture, “luò hóng” represents female’s chastity and the value recognition of women to their potential husbands. The bride and the groom would spread a white sheet on their wedding night, and when “luò hóng” occurs, the husband would keep the blood stained sheet and show it to relatives and guests. That it is the evidence of their wives virginity. If a woman does not have “luò hóng”, they are considered as not chaste, ranging from being ridiculed to heavy punishment. — www.pingwangxin.com Read more about “Luo hóng” here.
e and r u t a r e t i . l x , o c i b s e u h t m f , t de o u ar i s o t y u s o g e n i v r i l at re b Fourcultu g societal views th compellin es! u s s i s u o i prev r u o t u o Check
ALOTTA DESIDERATA BY FR A NK COTO LO
When I was a little boy, curious, innocent and already refusing to be corrupted by mediocrity, my Uncle Bertrano would take me into the attic of his huge home on Long Island in New York and show me items from his vast collection of memorabilia. “My name means ‘brilliant ravin,’ and that’s just what I am,” he said loudly, making me laugh like a banshee. Then he unlocked one of the many large metal chests he stored in the attic. Each one was filled with strange and often disturbing things he had collected during his many travels. “I don’t show these to just anyone,” he said to me the first time he allowed me into the attic for a personal show-and-tell time. “Most people would think I am sick to possess some of the things I will show you. But those people don’t know that my name means,” he paused, took a few beats and then shouted, “brilliant ravin!” I laughed and laughed. Uncle Bertrano made a face that told me he liked making me laugh. Then he began to display objects from the chests; a yellowed human femur he claimed was from the body of the Sheik of Araby; a Walther P38 Nazi Zero handgun he claimed Hitler used to shoot Eva Braun but tossed aside when it jammed; a black skullcap worn by a British barrister thought to be Jack The Ripper; and other esoteric pieces. The day I remember the most is the day he took out a brown leather folder that was severely cracked but able to hold a few ragged pages. “This,” he said in a rare soft voice, though it was throaty, “is my prize possession. No one knows this exists except me and now you.” “Whatever could it be, Uncle brilliant ravin?” I said smiling from ear to ear. He told me that the handwritten text between the weathered leather covers was a prose poem that inspired a well-known iconic piece called “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. At the time I had not heard of “Desiderata.” Nor had I heard of Max Ehrmann. In fact, I did not know that anyone could have Max as a first name. “It’s true,” Uncle Bertrano said. “Max is short for Maximilian. It’s Latin …” “But I don’t know what Latin means either,” I said, dribbling sputum from the left
side of my mouth. “Let’s just say that the name means to be the greatest. Three Roman emperors were named Maximilian.” “Which ones?” “There was Maximilian the first, Maximilian the second and Maximilian the third. And there were saints named Maximilian.” “I bet you one of them was Saint Max for short?” “You are such a bright boy,” my uncle said, slapping me gently on the cheek, though gently for him mad me fall over from my sitting position and tumble twice. It would be years before I sat at Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed with some friends as we waited for the statesman’s demise and wagered if it would come before the official release of the “Beatles ’65” album. When Stevenson died, a copy of “Desiderata” was at his bedside. While crying ensued, I sat in a half-lotus position in the corner of the room and read it. Uncle Bertrano left me the dusty folder in his Will when he died mysteriously from the puncture of an ice pick in the base of his skull at the age of 78. All of the other contents of his chests were donated to the Smithsonian, whose research crew has spent, so far, a decade trying to verify their authenticity. I began a search for the author of the text in the folder. The name scribbled at the bottom seemed to read Eustis A. Brewster (but it also could have been Benjamin C. Tykepole, Herman German, Samuel Clyde Mountainview or Odysseus Paramour). I never found him. Here is the text, as best as could be seen from the frail pages in the battered folder: Go louder through the noise than those making the noise and pound dearly those attempting to be noisier than you. As far as I know, and that is far more than you will ever know, you will never come to terms with all persons and let’s face it you won’t even try. Have you truth to speak or is it the same
dribble you have always passed off as wisdom? Listen to others because even the dull, ignorant, boring, morbid and mental cases have stories that won’t put others to sleep as quickly as your stories. Avoid moments that allow you to express yourself to others, since most others are way more expressive and will laugh at you and when you die, they will paint stick figures performing obscene acts on your tombstone. Should you compare yourself to others, be sure those others are dead and have no positive testimonials available from the living to make you realize that if you compare yourself to others you are wasting your time, the time of others and all of the time Jesus Christ spent suffering on the cross before he died for your sins, ingrate. Be happy with what you have, which is nothing. Exercise caution but exercise because not to do so is to become carefully obese and die so young you cannot finish reading the rest of this inspirational document. Be yourself. However, if you have an identical twin of the same sex, fool people into thinking you are one another. It’s fun. Whatever you do, don’t smoke. Under no circumstances should you feign affection or be affectionately feigned. Neither be critical about love nor lovingly critical and always believe there is an Abominable Snowman . As far as possible, as long as possible, without surrender and on good terms with all persons, never share a pair of socks. Be humble with others, you may get into their Wills. Whether you know it or not, the universe is way bigger than your ego. Above all, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be; even if you conceive Him as a Her or if you think He sounds as if He has a lisp and She has too deep a voice to be a female or if there are many vexatious characteristics to the deity; and even if you feel there is not one but a board of higher powers, like in a corporation, and They all sit at a huge table made of marble and steel where They render all of the creatures on all of the planets as dumb as anvils. Strive to be happy. It takes work and it takes love and it may interrupt your breakfast but hey, it is better than the alternative. Remember that although others may fuck you, you should go fuck yourself as well. www.fourculture.com 63
SNEHA is a landscape architect/artist living in Philadelphia, PA. Her works relate to the aesthetics of ecological, historical, and cultural interfaces that are influenced by urban growth and transformation. Most of her processes are based upon the environmental and tranquil designs that invite viewers to dwell in a world of ramshackle and fragility. Part man-made part natural, the work she churns out is inclined towards the notions of the blossoming and collapse through fine lines and rickety, spatial layers.
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES