Issuu on Google+

Creative Spaces

M 071085902 ÂŁ 6.50 MILIEU.indd 1

13/05/2012 22:29


mi·lieu noun \mil-iye(r), -’yü, -’yœ; ’m’l-’yü\ plural mi·lieus or mi·lieux

The physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops: environment French, from Old French, midst, from mi middle (from Latin medius) + lieu place, from Latin locus

X

MILIEU.indd 2-1

1

X

Milieu is an arts & culture magazine about creative space. By focusing on the creative environments of innovative people, this publication intends to expose spaces and objects as reflections of meaning, ideas, identity & culture. We are interested in people and we like to share their everyday stories, as well as creating & sharing our own.

13/05/2012 22:29


‘I don’t believe in self expression. I can’t stand that stuff.’ Vito Acconci: Misunderstood Legend, P52

CONTENTS

PROFILES Alena, P08

IN-DEPTH

SPECIALS

Vito Acconci: Missunderstood Legend, P52

Shelf Life, P22

Roxanne, P36 Olga, P42 Emma, P68

Carlos, P26 The Chelsea, P78

Look and Move On, P92 Office Space, P94

Labours of Love, P28

Cover Image This Month: De-constructions Series, 2007 - 2010 by Alejandra Laviada - Mexico City

M

Issue 01

MILIEU.indd 2-3

Alejandra’s work mixes photography with other artistic media such as painting and sculpture. Using only objects she finds in sites which are in the process of demolition or redevelopment, her images reflect places in transition and alter our view of everyday objects. www.alejandralaviada.com

13/05/2012 22:29


ad

Dear Readers, It is with great happiness that we welcome you to the first issue of Milieu. Producing this magazine has been a great (and hectic!) journey and we have met a lot of wonderful, talented individuals along the way. For its launch edition, Milieu interviewed people with a variety of creative and cultural backgrounds, each of them interesting in their own way. These included Russian born photographer Alena Jascanka at her whimsical warehouse in London, English illustrator Emma Houlston at her dynamic studio in Shoreditch and jewellery designer Olga Noronha at her transitory apartment in Farringdon’s jewellery district. We also had the chance to do a little bit of travelling. While exploring the cobble neighborhoods of Lisbon, we found a lovely little bookbinding workshop owned by a humble man named Carlos, where we spent the afternoon getting to know him and learning about his work as a lost craft. The next stop was New York, where Milieu had the utmost pleasure of meeting our guest of honour: the ever-so brilliant architect Vito Acconci, at his spacious studio in riverside Brooklyn. It is hard to put in words just how fascinating this man is. At 72 years old, Mr. Acconci has lived through a lot: essentially a writer, he started his artistic career as a poet, editing 0 TO 9 with Bernadette Meyer and throughout the 70s he moved onto art performance and video creating the infamous piece Seedbed, which caused a great deal of controversy due to its extreme sexual self-exposure. His intriguing personality is exposed in the feature VITO ACCONCI: Misunderstood Legend, as he discusses his past and current work, music, film and culture. While in New York we took a stroll through 23rd street, where we were emotionally marked by the presence of the legendary Chelsea Hotel of which inevitably inspired the piece The Chelsea. What was once a haven for remarkable creative personalities such as Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and William Burroughs - the hotel has recently been sold and has undergone some drastic changes. To find out more, we talked to Chelsea resident photographer Rita Barros about the hotel’s creative past and it’s unfortunate present. Read and weep. We were also lucky enough to have journalist and filmmaker Darren Foster as a contributor. In his personal piece Look and Move On, Foster shares a great story about one of his travels that led him to the discovery of an unforgettable book in the middle of Africa.

June 2012 Editor

Isabel van Zeller

Creative Director & Photographer

Isabel van Zeller

Designer

Mwape Ndilila

Contributors

Dima Markova Darren Foster

Thank you to: Alena Jascanka Carlos Darren Foster Dima Markova Emma Houlston Kari Rittenbach Maria Branco Olga Noronha Paul Tierney Robert de Niet Roxanne Werter Tito Mouraz Vito Acconci

We really wanted to produce something that evoked personal reflection, and we hope that throughout the following pages we have developed a creative space that feels special for our readers.

The door is always open. X

MILIEU.indd 4-5

4

X

X Isabel

13/05/2012 22:29


MILIEU.indd 6-7

13/05/2012 22:29


Alena

9

X

X

X

MILIEU.indd 8-9

8

X

Alena Jascanka is a very sweet girl. She’s also an extremely talented photographer. Using mostly analogical cameras, her pictures always feel extra special, full of intimacy and beautiful textures. Never seen without her loved £20 Pentax Me (50mm f/1.7 lens) she got from e-bay, Alena has worked with publications such as Vogue UK, VICE, I LOVE FAKE and Vrag. She has also worked with musicians including Sean Lennon, and has recently taken part in the Don’t Walk Charity fashion event in Scotland’s St. Andrews (where, she was delighted to find out, ‘Will met Kate!’). Alena also has a beautiful collection of unpublished, personal photographs of her friends, her surroundings or just everyday moments magically captured. Milieu went to visit her at the amazing warehouse where she lives, and where she does most of her shoots.

13/05/2012 22:29


01

02

01, 02, 03 I like to watch people sleep, ongoing series. Courtesy of Alena Jascanka

04

04 Alena Jascanka for VRAG magazine issue 8. Courtesy of Alena Jascanka

03

MILIEU.indd 10-11

X

X

11

X

X

10

13/05/2012 22:29


MILIEU.indd 12-13

13/05/2012 22:29


A

lena lives in a warehouse with 19 other artists. Their living space is huge, astounding and represents perfectly the creative spirit of the house. We really are a community. We all cook together, converse a lot, throw parties – sometimes huge, other times just with our closest friends’ she explained, grabbing two cups hanging by a string from one of the giant trees dominating the kitchen. Small parties? They’re a group of 20 already! Alena led the way into her bedroom, apologized for the mess and sat down on her pink bed. ‘You pick the music. I’m not really into music these days. Well, I am – but I like drum n bass, trance you know? I suppose this isn’t really the time for that!’ There is something about Alena that leaves one feeling immediately at ease and suddenly very cheerful – maybe it’s

advertising and photography. After realising her artistic abilities and finishing her finance course, she went to Milan to study graphic design for a year. However, she didn’t find it thrilling enough and finally changed to photography. ‘I had gotten into photography since I was 18 -it was already a part of my life. So I applied to St. Martins and I got in! But I’m so old already and everyone in London starts so early, it’s crazy!’ she laughed. Alena usually has a lot of work, and is open for all sorts of projects. However, she doesn’t get paid much and there are times of frustration, ‘Yesterday I was crying on my bed because I didn’t have any work lined up. And I’m always fucking broke. ‘On this day however, she had suddenly been offered lots of exciting jobs. ‘That’s a photographer’s life. You never know when you’re going to get your next job. It’s

‘I fucking love photography more than anything!’ sometimes scary, but I don’t care. I fucking love photography more than anything!’ She yelled out as she fell back on her bed, blonde hair covering her face. Alena’s inspiration is her sister, who really showed her that you have to take risks and do what you feel passionate about, ‘My sister was working in London for McKenzie and getting paid a lot. She worked so much - too much. She wasn’t happy, so she quit and went back to Belarus, where she lives in a farm with her husband and son. She started making her own soap and selling it. She’s so much happier. She convinced me to follow my dream.’ Wondering around the house, you see all sorts of objects: old dusty TVs, dolls, huge cards hanging from the trees, artwork spread all around. The more Alena talked about their parties, their life in this house, the more I imagined Warhol’s factory – but in a more organic sort of way – and the more I wanted to be a part of it. ‘You should come for one our dinners! Or come with me to one of those wild trance parties in the woods, oh please!’ she told me before I left that magical place. Suddenly everything else seemed a little more boring. M

MILIEU.indd 14-15

X

15

X

X

14

X

her huge comforting smile, or her bright blue eyes, or the honest, friendly way she talks to you, as if you’d known her for years. It’s no wonder she got accepted into the house immediately when she came for her first visit a few months ago. ‘I really wanted to live in a warehouse, so I was checking ads on gum tree everyday. I’m so happy to have found this one – everyone is so cool. We just got along straight away.’ She explained, while casually ashing her cigarette onto her bedroom floor. Supposedly she could only stay for 2 months, but suddenly another room was available: ‘I got another girl’s room because she got married to the guy next door. It was the first wedding of the house!’ Now 26 years old, Alena has moved around quite a lot. Originally from Belarus – the landlocked Eastern European country – she moved to Poland at age 13 because of the country’s totalitarian government. Alena started living alone when she was just 15, and during her finance course at university, she was awarded the chance to take classes in New York, and represent her school. She chose to delve into completely different areas from finance: she studied drawing,

13/05/2012 22:29


MILIEU.indd 16-17

13/05/2012 22:30


MILIEU.indd 18-19

13/05/2012 22:30


MILIEU.indd 20-21

X

X

20

13/05/2012 22:30


MILIEU.indd 22-23

13/05/2012 22:30


rt curator and freelance writer Kari Rittenbach has started Primary Work Surface, as a means for organising independent curatorial projects. Rittenbach, who has recently worked on an architecture exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery, wanted to curate something on a smaller scale that would allow for research, collaboration and exchange on a more personal level. The first exhibition project, which will last until midsummer, is Shelf Life: Every week Rittenbach displays the work of artists on a wooden shelf in the kitchen of her flat which she shares with her 4 four roommates in South London. The chosen artists are at different professional stages and haven’t had much coverage in London. Creating a wonderful and friendly atmosphere, visitors can enjoy tea and cake during openings on Saturday. We got into contact with Kari to find out more about this brilliant unusual project.

been contemplating; they should arrive in the next day or so! And I’m still discussing various ideas and objects with Fia Backström and Hayal Pozanti, who will appear later in the program -- I don’t want to reveal too much in advance!

M: How do you feel about exposing your private space? K.R: Shelf Life takes place only in my kitchen, so it’s not spread throughout the whole of the house as domestic exhibitions are sometimes organized. In this sense the kitchen is a pretty public space, too; there are 5 of us who live here and we all have friends over, dinner parties, bbqs, etc so in fact the space feels very friendly and convivial I think. I also wanted this to be part of the project and how the work is experienced. That is, the viewer is coming into a home and there is a particular set of objects which help to initiate and structure (though not limit) a conversation. So I hope the space is welcoming! At the same time, I’m mostly publicizing the project through friends and by word-of-mouth; I haven’t really written a press release or specifically contracted listings or other media coverage though essentially it is open to anyone who bumps across the website.

Milieu: What motivated you to start Primary Work Surface? Kari Rittenbach: Shelf Life, the first exhibition project for Primary Work Surface, is really like a labor of love in this regard; I contacted a handful of artists whose work I admire and proposed the shelf / domestic space as a context for the display of a particular (I hope dialogic) kind. I didn’t ask that finished works be shown but rather objects or thought pieces or leftover materials from other projects which might influence their working practice; in this way, perhaps some of the ideas behind their artistic production gain greater prominence in my kitchen, which is also a working space for me and my many flatmates at various moments. So far different artists have reacted differently to my ‘brief’ and visually it can be difficult to distinguish between what might be a draft, test-print or recycled piece when its installed. Manuela Barczewski included glossy digital test-prints of deceptively-architectural photographs she had recently been making of polyurethane foam, for example; Morag Keil left mail which was forwarded to her at our address on the shelf along with a painting recycled from a series she’d exhibited at a public gallery in Wales; Nina Canell loaned hardened, stale ends of bread-loaves she’d saved from a residency

M: How do you select the artwork that is exposed in your space - what kind of art work do you look for? Do you get contacted by artists wanting to participate?  K.R: For Shelf Life I chose to work with artists ranging from quite young to those slightly more established - a number of whom don’t show especially often in London. I wanted to strike a balance between the artists I know and sometimes work with here, particularly those who live down South, and the type of work they make -- and international artists whose work I feel is certainly underrepresented in this area but who are significant or interesting or emerging in contemporary art circles abroad (Barczewski is German, based in London; Keil is Scottish, momentarily based in Paris; Canell is Swedish, based in Berlin; Rose is American, based in New York; Quinlan is American, based in New York; Backström is Swedish, based in New York; Pozanti is Turkish, based in New York) By bringing them into my house it’s as if I and/or the viewer can look at something which seems far away and possibly unfamiliar in a space which helps to contextualize it,

she did in Istanbul which appeared or were cast as objects into later sculptures; Rachel Rose reorganized everyday D-I-Y materials she picked up in various hardware stores in Manhattan to create a ‘landscape still-life’. Eileen Quinlan is sending me some filtering materials she’s been working with in her photographs recently and also some images she has

in conceptual terms rather than in terms of ‘exhibition value’ or other such abiding factors when one encounters art in commercial gallery spaces.

M: Do you get many visitors?

X

25

X

X

24

MILIEU.indd 24-25

01 Manuela Barczewski, Grains Against Time, March 2012 Courtesy of Kari Rittenbach

Considering the scale of the exhibition and distance from the center of London, I’d say there have probably been as

X

A

Shelf Life

13/05/2012 22:30


many visitors as might traffic through a modest gallery space in Central London; there have been only a few repeat visits so far though I hope others return through the summer and more come, as well!

ideas or themes later, after all. Anyway I imagine the shelf will become functional in our kitchen afterwards -- to hold cookbooks, newspapers, stray keys and wine bottles, etc. So the ephemerality is really a big part of it as well. The next projects for Primary Work Surface probably won’t look anything like Shelf Life, and they won’t be situated in my home because contextual framing is something I am very sensitive to as a curator. I’m still developing a few ideas but lately I’ve been considering the problem of distribution for work made by artists on the internet or at least influenced by interactions and/or imagery online and how this could be actualized into a discursive viewing space -- so I hope the next exhibition will be able to address the vagaries of these issues in some way. Stay tuned ... M

M: I read that future Primary Work Surface Projects have been planned outside your home. Can you tell me more about that? K.R: Shelf Life is the only show I’ve conceived for the house so far; part of the reason why I decided to do it is because the space where I live allows it! We’ve been here for more than one year now and the house has been really good to us. The kitchen is extra generous -- in summer we can open three doors out onto the terrace and back garden -- and I always want to share it with others. Previously my flat was so small that I could barely have friends stay over from out of town, a kind of nightmare bed-sit. So I just thought the kitchen space would be able to accommodate something experimental. At the same time, showing work in domestic settings is not at all a new idea. (The 19th Century salon, etc)  But Shelf Life is also short-term, in that I don’t aim to create a permanent gallery space within my home. The title refers to decay, breakdown, or inconstancy with regard to the ‘shelf life’ of perishable goods. I’m of the opinion that good projects must be conceptually rigorous and often this means they must end -- it’s always possible to revisit or revive particular

www.primaryworksurface.org.uk

02

01 Nina Canell, Bread, April 2012 02 Morag Keil, Young-Girl, March 2012 03 Rachel Rose, The Forest Creeps Back, April 2012 Courtesy of Kari Rittenbach

01

MILIEU.indd 26-27

X

X

03

27

X

X

26

13/05/2012 22:30


Carlos Walking through the cobble streets of Bairro Alto, - a creative neighborhood in Portugal’s city of Lisbon - I found Carlos’ humble workshop and ended up spending the afternoon watching him work. Carlos is a bookbinder and has been working in this same place for over 30 years. ‘Bookbinding is an art’. He believes this will all his heart. And after seeing the wonders he does with leather, I believe so too. Not everyone can do what he does: it takes a special kind of touch and precision – ‘either you’re born with it or you just can’t do it right. My son unfortunately wasn’t born with it.’ he told me. There are only two professional bookbinders in Lisbon: him, and this other man who Carlos tells me is a ‘filthy swindler!’ – I nodded in agreement. Carlos is the real deal. He told me he had banded books for Her Majesty The Queen of England, and for Monaco’s royalties. His workspace was filled with different kinds of leather, ‘all of the best quality, most of them from Italy.’ There were photographs of his family on the wall, as well as some of his work. ‘I just bought a camera, I’m trying things out with it to document my work.’ Carlos may charge up to 1000 Euros for his duties but sometimes he doesn’t ask for

kids.’ He told me, as he prepared his tools and drank a sip of Brandy from a hidden glass. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Carlos, and he is never without a visitor. People seem to trust and respect him. He is always in this tiny room surrounded by classic machinery and tools – ‘All these machines are about 70 years old and they’re still the best. Sometimes trying to improve techniques ruins things.’ – Or maybe you’ll find him just sitting at his doorstop, smoking a cigarette. During my first visit, this man came in with the strangest look on his face and didn’t say a thing. Carlos knew who he was and simply carried on with his work. After a couple of minutes, the man looked calmer and said hello to us as if nothing had happened. Carlos whispered to me that this man, Felipe, had just suffered one of his ‘occasional fits.’ Felipe then joined in our conversation about the ‘lovely song’ playing on the radio. It was ‘The Power of Love’ by Celine Dion. M

anything - especially art students that come to bind their portfolios, ‘Sometimes I’ll charge them very little or nothing at all. They’re good

MILIEU.indd 28-29

13/05/2012 22:30


Labours of Love MILIEU.indd 30-31

13/05/2012 22:30


W

hile there has been an ongoing global discussion concerning the print verses digital realms of publications, an increasing amount of independent magazines are being produced. There seems to be a growing appreciation for print, as more events and workshops are being held devoted to the discussion and celebration of magazines. A lot of these gatherings are organised by independent bookshops, which in turn have become more than just a public place: they are developing into creative spaces and forming a kind of community devoted to the love and admiration of print. A few months ago, the V&A organised ‘Dead wood: The future of magazines’ – an evening lecture put together to discuss the prospect of magazines in the midst of the expanding digital era. Contrary to what the name suggested, the general feeling of the event was that print is actually blooming, as smaller publications are pushing the boundaries of creativity and beauty. Alan Rutter, an experienced editor and iPad Projects Manager at Conde Nast UK and one of the speakers that evening, thinks that ‘Independent magazines have more opportunities to succeed than ever before, and this will make the scene thrive. But thinking innovatively is the key.’ What makes most of these independent publications unique, is the passion and tremendous care put into creating them - as Rutter explained, ‘A lot of indie magazines are side projects produced out of love, rather than for the money.’ Many of them are based around very simple, obvious ideas but then approached with a much more sensitive, personal point of view. Jeremy Leslie, founder of the very popular magazine blog MagCulture, explains this clearly: ‘One of the features of independent publications is that they tend to develop as an alternative to what’s already there in the mainstream’. Plant Journal is a very good example: created and based in Barcelona by Cristina Merino, Isabel Merino and Carol Montpart, Plant Journal is a magazine that explores the bond between people and plants. It is beautifully put together, filled with personal stories, creative recipes and touching interviews, and has a lovely provincial appeal. Another interesting example is The Green Soccer Journal – a football magazine with a difference. Created by design studio Junior Junior, this publication looks at the subject of football with a profound poetic eye by presenting stunning photography and intellectual discussions in a brilliantly designed layout. However, while this magazine is about football, it is quite unclear who exactly picks it up - is it football lovers with an appreciation for design? The same goes

but if successful will invoke a far more passionate relationship with that audience than a more mainstream magazine might. They are labours of love, and such a passion and obsession is easily shared, both by fellow publishers and by readers.’

for the plant Journal – are gardeners buying this magazine? Maybe so, maybe not - but regardless of their subject matter, magazine devotees are buying and celebrating them even if it is simply because of their beauty and originality. Leslie agrees that independent publications can have a very powerful connection with its readers: ‘They’ll reach smaller audiences

Elias Redstone, New York Times writer and creator of Archizines – a passionate online project that promotes independent architecture magazines – explains the nature of this increasing appreciation, partly blaming it on the digital age: ‘As opposed to flicking through websites, people still enjoy magazines that are well designed and contain

01

‘A lot of indie magazines are side projects produced out of love, rather than for the money.’

02 do you read me?! Bookstore, Berlin doyoureadme.de

Alan Rutter - Conde Nast, iPad Project Manager

X

X

02

33

X

X

32

MILIEU.indd 32-33

01 Magazine Library 2010, Tokyo magazinelibrary.jp

13/05/2012 22:30


‘purchasing magazines is an affordable luxury and a way of collecting new creative work’

MILIEU.indd 34-35

X

success with this online archive, Biemans has recently produced an independent magazine featuring a choice of covers from 2011 and interviews with magazine designers such as Arem Duplessis from The NY Times, and the widely known George Lois. If you’re in New York before the 14th May, MoMA in New York is now showing Millenium magazines – an exhibition of a vast collection of international titles that concentrate on all sorts of subjects. Displayed suitably across long desks with benches all around them, it invites the public to sit and appreciate the beautiful art of past and recent independent publications. These include print projects such as Little Joe, Playground Magazine and the Middle East’s Bidoun. As Leslie concluded, ‘Magazines have always been great vehicles for creating and maintaining communities of shared interests. They are discreet worlds in which readers can lose themselves and the more unique, the more engaging they can be.’ M

03 Magazine Library 2010, Japan. Image by David Guarino A Zillion Ideas

35

X

X

34

with their audience, and – absolutely crucially – live events are something that can’t be replicated online. It’s one thing to watch a TED talk on your laptop, it’s quite another to go to the TED Conference in person’, clarified Rutter. This point brings us back to the Internet – which although having provided a challenge for magazines, it has also supplied a way for this passionate community to discuss publications. ‘There are plenty of blogs and websites devoted to sharing great magazine content, covers, new designs, and advice.’ Rutter confirmed. The already mentioned MagCulture is a great example. Leslie updates the website very frequently with topics such as industry news, event announcements and magazine reviews in a very clear, organised manner and has gathered an army of followers. Coverjunkie - born out of an ‘addiction to magazine covers you want to lick’ - is another very admired website. Created by art director Jaaps Biemans, it focuses on the most recent magazine covers and their designers. In fact, after so much

X

beautiful, considered content. Publications as designed project. Launched in 2009 by French born David Guarino objects.’ The economic decline also plays a big part, ‘at the from A Zillion Ideas, the travelling magazine library exhibits same time a global recession has haltered larger cultural more than 1000 magazines, art books and independent projects. Publishing is a relatively affordable way of having a publications and has attracted more than 50 000 visitors. creative output for designers, photographers, architects and Its 10th edition which will run from the 3rd until the 23rd other disciplines. And while people have less cash to throw May at Tokyo’s Hillside Terrace, will include numerous rare around, purchasing magazines is an affordable luxury and a works displayed in a beautiful and engaging manner and a way of collecting new creative work’, Redstone continued. variety of live events. With this rise of publications there is suddenly a boom of A lot of events are also happening at independent bookstores events happening that gather magazine voyeurs together, ‘… around Europe, as they are turning their space into more than events – and any other activity that enhances the community just a shop. do you read me?! Shop, a reader’s heaven in the around magazines – are becoming more important.’ Rutter booming city of Berlin conceived by graphic designer Mark explained. ‘Events are becoming more important to all Kiessling and bookseller Jessica Reitz, has a delightful little magazines – whether it’s small magazines attending things ‘reading room’ used for quiet reading, as well as ‘lectures, like Print Out, or very high-end magazines like Vogue or exhibitions, discussions and all those slumbering ideas and WIRED hosting expensive projects.’ Kiessling explained conferences and events.’ that ‘Some magazines really Print Out is an event hosted do have an impressive and by Steve Watson of STACK loyal fanbase, while others magazines – a brilliant service are quite new in the scene that sends members a surprise but nevertheless manage to independent magazine each attract a certain group of month – where professionals highly interested people. It tell the audience stories depends on the topic [of the about topics such as their event] - the fashion crowd process of work, or their latest is often easier to get.’ Their theme: their all time favourite clientele has developed into magazines. ‘We’ve kind of a community, however they Elias Redstone - Writer, New York Times built a community here. The are still trying to reach a more point really, was that there diverse group of people: ‘We were lots of really good magazine events in London, but are still working on opening up a new, open-minded do you nothing that was really friendly…and we did it!’ Watson said read me?! community together with the people we invite during the last event held at The Book Club in Shoreditch. step by step’, clarified Kiessling. Another event, which happened recently, was Facing Pages Torpedo Press and Bookshop is another place very much in Arnhem in The Netherlands. Formerly entitled O.K. Festival driven by events. Situated in Oslo, Torpedo is a non-profit when founded by Joost van der Steen, William van Giessen organisation and it is both a bookshop and a publisher. It and Tanja Koning, it is believed to be ‘Europe’s biggest event hosts a series of intellectually stimulating panel discussions on independent magazines.’ and debates as well as more relaxed occasions such as Offering magazine lovers tons of inspiration and a great concerts and exhibitions relating to book launches and opportunity for networking, Facing Pages is a weekend publications. long biennial festival that includes exhibitions, lectures by Redstone informs that ‘The last decade has seen many renowned magazine makers and evening parties. This year, bookshops large and small disappear. The Positive result of the programme included presentations for magazines such this trend has been a focus on independent bookshops that as MONO.KULTUR and Slanted, as well as talks about topics have survived and they often become hubs of activity for such as the business side of magazines, and an insight into interested and like-minded people.’ publications from the 60s - 90s. All of these gatherings are also crucial for the publications: Japan’s Magazine Library is another extremely exciting ‘These events provide a way for magazines to engage directly

13/05/2012 22:30


MILIEU.indd 36-37

13/05/2012 22:30


MILIEU.indd 38-39

13/05/2012 22:30


Roxanne

It is an exciting time for feminists as more and more creative projects are being formed to celebrate girl power. This includes the production of magazines such as Berlin based I Love You, the very popular publication The Gentlewoman, as well as online projects such as Girl Core and The Ardorous, which support the work of female creative professionals. Roxanne Werter, a 20-year-old film student and photographer, is one of the artists featured in The Ardorous. She was born in Romania but wants to be English. Bored of her hometown, she moved to London to study film and explore her creativity. She is now living in Farnham. Inspired by erotica, she creates beautiful, provocative images of herself - a theme she developed on her most recognized project, Smutless.

MILIEU.indd 40-41

X

X

41

X

X

40

13/05/2012 22:30


01, 02 Smutless series Courtesy of Roxanne Werter

X

X

43

X

X

MILIEU.indd 42-43

02

01

42

13/05/2012 22:30


M: Where do most like to be? Well, I spend most of my time in my room. But I’ve started going out more, getting drunk more. I used to be shy, now I talk a lot. I love to go to the park. There was this one time, when I had a breakdown because my teachers didn’t like this idea that I had been obsessing about for ages. So I just got 2 bottles of wine and some cinnamon thingies, and went to the park, into the middle of a field. We just sat there, drank and ate and it was really good because it was a full moon that night. Lots of people do that here – they just go out into the fields to drink and then shout out whatever is going through their mind. I find it really good to release your emotions like this. It’s very inspiring as well.

Milieu: What inspires you? I don’t really know what inspires me, to be fair. I look at a lot of erotic photography and I have my own blog called art-porn. It’s my database of photography that I like, and actually through that I met a few photographers. I wanted to do t-shirts with their photography, so I had to talk to them and ask for their permission. But I actually have no idea how I got into erotica. When I was younger, I used to get inspired when I was depressed and got all these ideas. But now it’s more random things, and experiments. Oh, and dreams! M: What about them? Well, I sometimes have weird dreams. The other day I dreamt I was at my grandparents, and there was a blue bird sitting on a chair. I then sat on the chair and killed it. And I started crying, trying to get it alive again. There was all this blood around me. When I woke up, I really wanted to draw that blue bird. I got really obsessed about it.

M: What kind of music are

you into? I haven’t really been listening to music lately, to tell you the truth. And I don’t feel that need to search for new music. When I do listen to music, I listen to old stuff like Joy Division, Susie and the Banshees. Mostly 80’s punk and other things I listened to when I was younger. Oh and a friend of mine gave me this really good playlist with electronic music.

M: So when did you

really start using erotica in your work? I think it was like a year, two years ago when I started having this desire to take erotica pictures. But this year one of my teachers encouraged me to explore my fetish, so I just started experimenting different ideas. All my pictures are kind of self-portraits, because I’m always in them. It was hard finding guys for the pictures though. I had to use my flat mate for the Smutless project. He had a girlfriend at the time so it was pretty weird. But we didn’t make out or anything.

magazine and invited me to join the team. But I don’t know if I should take it seriously or not. I mean, he never met me how can he just invite me like that? It’s weird. Plus my horoscope says my big career will start in June, so I’m going with that.

M: How did you get involved with The Ardorous? I was looking on vice, and they had this thing on new wave of feminism and they mentioned some blogs. One of them was Petra Collins’ blog – she’s Richard Kern’s assistant and I love him. I was so jealous of her work! (laughing) She’s younger than me, and does all this stuff already. I saw she was the curator of The Ardorous, so I wrote to her and sent her my work and she said she really liked it!

M: So you believe in that stuff? Well, kind of. I used to do tarot cards a lot when I was younger – to myself and other people. But then I realized that I kind of got obsessed with it. I had a friend who used them as well, and when she was having relationship problems she wouldn’t stop using the cards to get answers – she really got addicted to them. They sort of gain energies, so the more you use the cards, the more they know you and tell the truth. But sometimes they show you want you want to see – so you can’t always trust what they say. They once told me I would get accepted in the university I wanted, so I was really confident. But then I was rejected. This happened twice, so I gave up on them after that. Although I found this girl’s blog, where she gives you advice by reading tarot cards and I use it sometimes. It’s pretty cool. I’ll send you the link.

M: What are your plans for the future? I don’t know! I actually just got offered a job today by one of the photographers I talk to through my blog. He’s starting a

We ate Sainsbury’s ham & cheese sandwiches and took a walk though the fields, her favourite place. The sky was grey but the trees were ‘as green as ever.’ M

M: Which sort of movies do

you enjoy watching? Umm…I like Asian movies a lot. China and Korea have some really good films. I enjoy some European films as well. But I’m very picky about movies. M: What was the last film you watched? Hmm, let me think. Oh! I watched DIRTY DIARIES: 12 SHORTS OF FEMINIST PORN – all the shorts are made by Swedish feminists. It was quite interesting to experience this unusual view of porn. M: Are you a feminist?

long that I appreciate it so much. Especially when you’re stuck for ideas – I just went to my flat mate the other day asking for some kind of enlightenment, and she was like ‘Okay, let’s tie you up.’ So she tied me in this piece of string she had lying around, and then added some flowers she found on the floor. It’s also nice to bitch about other people.

I’m not a radical feminist, but I am a feminist. I think every woman is, in a way but not all of them acknowledge it. Like when I told my mum I was doing work involving feminism she was like ‘oh, I think you shouldn’t do it, there’s no point. I don’t think you’re going to find anything worthwhile.’ I thought that was stupid. Especially because she is a feminist

X

45

X

X

44

X

M: Do you like living with other people? Yeah it’s nice. I think it’s because I lived on my own for so

MILIEU.indd 44-45

in her own way. She’s really strong, and I think that really influenced me. She was like the boss in the family; I remember she ordered my father around. My dad cleaned the house and cooks as well. And she was always the problem solver. I got more involved in it when I started getting more interested in erotica. When I did this erotica video, my mum was really against it, and I started thinking about how parents and people accept female sexuality. If you do think about it, porn is thought of as mostly for men. I think some guys from my class are actually quite scared of me, because they have this idea that I’m some kind of sexual maniac since all my projects are related to nakedness. They think I’m kind of a weirdo.

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 46-47

13/05/2012 22:31


Olga Olga Noronha is a 21 year old jewellery designer, however she also deserves some sort of medical diploma. For several years now, Olga has been examining the relationship between ‘bodies, attitudes and surroundings’, by studying the anatomy of the body, and exploring the hidden beauty in medical paraphernalia. Constantly pushing the boundaries of beauty, her creative use of materials transform into exquisitely unconventional pieces, making it impossible to deny her raw, individualistic talent. Always working, always moving from one place to another, Olga found the time to meet with Milieu at her home and creative space in London, just before her flight to her home town, Porto. While she packed and melted wax, we talked about her childhood, her fantastic use of surgery equipments and her current research on intracorporeal jewellery.

MILIEU.indd 48-49

X

X

49

X

X

48

13/05/2012 22:31


O

lga lives in a small, modern apartment in Farringdon, ‘I love how some buildings in London look quite old on the outside, but then have such a modern interior’ she said walking up to her door. She lives conveniently close to London’s jewellery district: ‘I love it here. I am friends with so many of the jewellery shop owners now, which is great because they’re very picky about their clients.’ She was wearing a long, tight, grey dress, accentuating her voluptuous Latina figure, and red stiletto heels: ‘A woman should always feel special!’ She declared, when complimented on her look. She is one special woman alright. Olga was only 7 years old when she begged her parents to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, where she could search for special stones to make jewellery with. Her dream came true, and from then on her life changed: ‘I wouldn’t get out of my room, I wouldn’t eat. All I wanted to do was make jewellery.’ As she said this, her eyes grew wider and filled with emotion. Born and raised in Portugal, Olga moved to London to study jewellery design at Central St. Martins, where she was offered a scholarship for her foundation year at age 17. She worked her ass off, always the last to leave the university building: ‘I just wanted to keep working overnight, but they always kicked me out. That’s where I felt best, in the studio.’ The hard work paid off: St Martins bought her final

foundation project – a jewellery collection inspired by the act of blowing your nose – and at the end of the course, she was awarded best student. Her apartment isn’t filled with her personal belongings, even though she’s been living here for over a year – a couple of dvds and books here and there, a few photographs of her friends stuck on the wall and an aquarium with her pet fish and snail seems to be all. This is because Olga is constantly on the move – at only 21, she gives lectures in a design school in Portugal and sometimes in Scotland, as well as occasionally teaching a class in California, while still completing her scholarship masters at Goldsmiths university in London. ‘Yes, I guess you can say I’m addicted to my

‘I just wanted to keep working... That’s where I felt best, in the studio.’

work!’ she said, laughing. What her apartment is full of, is medical equipment. Since last year, she has been feeling inspired by medical objects and materials. ‘My parents are orthopaedic surgeons, so I’ve always been kind of involved with medical matters.’ Last year she used leather and actual medical tools to create her rejection/attraction collection, which included a cervical collar (the chin section is made with silicone ‘it feels like your chin is comfortably resting on a boob, which creates intrigue’) and earrings that resemble needles, ‘I’m so scared of needles! But that’s exactly what I wanted to convey with this collection. I wanted to change that scary concept we have of these objects to a concept of pleasure and desire.’ For her masters, she is taking the medical theme deeper. Literally. She has started performing scientific research

the help of biomedical engineers, and investigating the acceptance of the public towards this eccentric possibility. ‘The best part about this project is the relationship I have developed with my dad. We work brilliantly together’ she exclaimed. Final words? ‘If there’s one thing that I strongly believe in, is that you have to take risks in order to be successful’. M

with her father, to find out if she can create a prosthetic instrument, used for hip replacements for instance, and make it into a kind of intracorporeal jewellery. ‘I want to undermine people’s conventional notion of jewellery being worn to be shown off. In this way, jewellery becomes a sort of hidden treasure.’ For now she is trying out different materials with

MILIEU.indd 50-51

X

X

51

X

X

50

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 52-53

X

X

53

X

X

52

13/05/2012 22:31


01

01 Hip replacement walking stick Conflict Rejection Collection 02 Syringe Needle Earings Conflict Rejection Collection 03 Prosthetic cervical collar & wrist restriction piece Conflict Rejection Collection 02

MILIEU.indd 54-55

X

03

55

X

X

54

X

Courtesy of Olga Noronha

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 56-57

13/05/2012 22:31


Vito Acconci: Misunderstood Legend

MILIEU.indd 58-59

X

X

59

X

X

58

13/05/2012 22:31


V

ito Hannibal Acconci sounds like a rock star. Now 72 years old, his voice is rough, some might even say scary (his middle name doesn’t help). But it’s also gentle and reflects a life of hard work and struggle. His eyes show pain and wisdom, and he hardly looks directly at you – he looks down at his hands and has a hard time standing still. Vito is an architect. He formed Acconci Studio in the late 80s with just one other architect and now works with a team of young designers in his studio in Brooklyn, right by the river. However, before forming Acconci Studio he was a poet, a performance and video artist. His performance work in the 70s, which included Seedbed – where he hid under the floors of a gallery and masturbated while expressing his desires into a microphone as people walked over him – caused a lot of controversy and, according to him, ruined his career: ‘People never moved on from that like I moved on.’ Visiting Vito’s studio felt like entering his life. He has a personal library of what seemed like 20 000 books, surrounding his space in a beautiful towering manner. All the work he has ever done has been documented in some form, and obsessively labeled and filed inside hundreds of cabinets. He did it all himself. What was probably most interesting, was the way Vito’s past – represented by the files of work as well as old objects like cameras, magazines and newspaper tear sheets – is constantly around him and blending in with the half finished building models lying around, the project sketches and the notes that reflect his present. Maybe he simply likes being surrounded by his history, or maybe there is the chance that Vito hasn’t really moved on from his early work like he says. Maybe he’s still holding on to the desire of being understood as an artist, as a person. ‘We don’t do art. I can’t stand art. I don’t like the word art.’ Vito stated, as he sat down on a bench with one leg folded under him. He doesn’t want to be an artist, he wants to be recognized as a designer: ‘But I guess maybe that’s never gonna happen.’ The Acconci studio focuses on theoretical design and building. They have designed things such as the United Bamboo store in Tokyo, ‘Mur’ island in Graz and the Seoul Performing Arts Center - yet Vito believes that people don’t take his label as a designer seriously – ‘For some reason it [his early work] seems to have… to have…it seems to have embedded in that time, you know? I’ll always be the person who masturbated.’ Vito says this in a very calm manner, as though he holds no resentment to this quite unfortunate realisation. ‘I’m glad I did it because I saw what came afterwards too. Other people don’t, they can’t be forced to.’

MILIEU.indd 60-61

X

X

61

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 62-63

X

X

63

X

X

62

13/05/2012 22:31


York. I came back in the mid 60s, when it was probably the first time I realized that art galleries were around. Well, it’s not like I didn’t know modern art, but I certainly didn’t know about contemporary art. I was really struck by Jasper John’s paintings, and thought that I had to catch up to the time’. As Vito talks about his work, about his life, he reveals a very complex mind. He intensely jumps from one point to another, many times stopping mid-sentence as he changes subject. He has so much going on in his head that sometimes he gets lost in his trail of thought. But it doesn’t really matter too much because his words are always intriguing, and somehow they always seem to make sense in that moment.

‘We don’t do art. I can’t stand art. I don’t like the word art.’

01

Vito showed his naked body in many of his early works: his video installation ‘Trademarks’ (1970) shows Vito sitting in front of the camera contorting his nude body into different positions, biting into his arms, legs and shoulders while leaving teeth marks on his skin. He then covered these impressions with ink and used them to stamp different surfaces in order

art because the way I’ve done things throughout the years is, I’m working on a certain kind of thing and then I realise I’ve taken myself, maybe purposefully taken myself into a kind of dead end. When I came back to New York, (from Iowa, where he attended the Writer’s workshop at Iowa University) I thought there was something about the quickness of New

to show the body’s attack on itself, and as a way of criticising the social institutions of art and the economy with the focus of branding oneself. In another video piece, Conversions (1971), Vito focuses on transgender illusions by manipulating his own body parts to propose sexual transformations. This included burning hair from his chest in order to create the

MILIEU.indd 64-65

X

65

X

X

64

01, 02 Trademarks performance piece, 1970 Photographs by Bill Beckley

X

However, one can’t really deny that Vito’s early work wasn’t art. But in one sense, his opinion of art contradicts his early work - weren’t his performances and installations considered a form of art? Vito seems to be more concerned about the mood of the times and how he can reflect it through his work: ‘Well, I considered my early work art. I considered it

02

13/05/2012 22:31


03 Kiss Off Performance piece, 1971 Courtesy of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

X

X

X

MILIEU.indd 66-67

04

67

X

03

66

04 Room Situation piece, 1970 Courtesy of Vito Acconci archives

13/05/2012 22:31


idea of having female breasts. Looking through these works beside Vito is quite an intimidating experience, however he takes no notice. Even though Vito showed himself in a very raw and revealing manner, the moment you start talking to him you realise that he was just playing the role of an artist. In fact, he has always kept very much to himself. ‘I didn’t particularly like parties. I was an only child and probably always will be. I’m more attracted to solitude.’ Vito doesn’t even consider his work an exposure of himself: ‘I want my work to have nothing to do with me. I don’t believe in self-expression. I can’t stand that stuff.’ This seems to contradict with an artist’s work - isn’t art inevitably a form of personal expression? ‘No, not really. Once you point there’s no longer self-expression. I mean, it was important to me at the beginning to turn in on myself because I thought how else can I start? Also the reason I worked like I did was because this is what the time was doing. It was a time when the common language was finding one’s self. Also the music of the time was very important, it revealed a lot. No longer short songs but long songs. Single voice. Van Morrison, Neil Young. A long song where the solo voice is trying to almost revolve around the song. So I thought this was the model of the time.’ Vito believes that the music of now is electronica: ‘Now I’m much more interested, for the first time, not so much vocal music but electronic music because I think that’s what the time is – that kind of digital music. We definitely need to be embedded in computers.’ Vito seems to be obsessed with time and how things evolve, always wanting to keep up. Ironically, his computer looks about 10 years old. But Vito doesn’t seem necessarily interested in owning the latest technologies – he is more interested in the process of how things evolve and in creating work that reflects the mood of the time. This, he explains, is why he finds it hard to talk to painters, ‘because they

or horizontal. It’s not automatically 28 inches high. You did it, you know? And when people refuse to believe that kind of stuff…I mean I don’t think I believe or trust intuition.’ Although Vito felt uncomfortable speaking to other artists during the 60s and 70s, he associated with people that were doing similar kinds of things as his. ‘Dennis Oppenheim and I were close friends, and at one point Dan Graham and I.’ These days there appears to be more opportunities for artists to get their work seen, more ways of announcing events. During Vito’s early work, art magazines were crucial for people who wanted to know about the art scene. ‘At that time, the existence of little magazines was very, very important. Especially Avalanche which featured an artist’s face on every cover. It tried to make a point that it wasn’t going to be critics writing about art, it was going to be the artists voice.’ As he spoke, Vito walked over to one of the grand shelves filled with perfectly ordered magazines and, very slowly, stood on a stool and took out an issue of Avalanche. It was from 1973, and he was on the cover. ‘I should be proud of this. Not because I’m on the cover, but because this issue was all my stuff.’ One of the pieces mentioned in the magazine was his infamous performance Seedbed. Although Vito has talked about it too many times, he doesn’t mind discussing it once more. ‘I mean, I know where it came from, but it doesn’t mean other people necessarily know or understand it’ he explained. ‘That time was very male oriented, but I was convinced women were much more interesting than men. In some ways, I had this jealousy of women. This stuff that I was doing, a lot of people took it - and maybe they’re right, I hope they’re not – as very male. But I wanted to, I mean I chose to get into this vulnerable position.’ He explains that through his other performances he had developed a kind of personality cult, and wanted to do something that he could be

never know what they’re doing. You ask them, “Why do you do it that size?”, they say “Gee, I don’t know”. I can’t stand that answer. There’s a reason people do things, I mean it doesn’t come out of nothing. Especially if you’re starting with a canvas – it’s not automatically vertical

physically involved in, but without being seen. ‘What I hated all the time was that everyone that knew a piece of mine, knew what I looked like. If I didn’t want to be seen there were three possibilities: I could be behind the wall, I could be above the ceiling, I could be under the floor.

‘It was a time when the common language was finding one’s self.’

MILIEU.indd 68-69

13/05/2012 22:31


I didn’t want to be above the ceiling because I didn’t want to be above anybody else. Under the floor seemed possible, so that’s how the piece started. And then I had to think what I was going to do under the floor. The situation always comes first. It has never really started with the content.’ Vito’s work was very dependent on space – he needed to know the gallery space before starting his creativity process. Therefore, it is important to him that every piece he did could only be suitable for one single place. This interest in spaces was a major focus in a piece he did in the 60s entitled Room Situation, which related to the meaning of the artist’s studio and an artist’s home. ‘I lived in a very small apartment in the West Village. I started to ask myself: “Can’t the city be an extended apartment?” There was a point where I organised all my mail to be delivered to MoMA, so any time I wanted mail, I had to go the museum.’ Vito, not only as a writer, has always given a lot of value to words, and they were and still are a starting point to his work. He considers Roget’s thesaurus to be the most important book he owns, which he uses to search words that lead him

cried. If it was anything that had to do art or literature he was overjoyed. That was all that meant anything to him. So that’s why my father was really very important me.’ Vito’s transition from artist to designer obviously took some time, although he believes that in some way we are all designers. ‘Everyone knows architecture; you’re always inside architecture - You can’t not know architecture. I mean, there’s no place you’re in where it’s not architected space.’ Vito explains that he turned to architecture because he started realizing he wanted his work to be more public, but there was one specific moment of which he remembers vividly, when he not only made the decision but completely internalized the fact that he was going to be an architect: ‘I did a show at MoMA in 1988. The show consisted of some sort of revised version of some pieces that had been done outside and I called the show Public spaces. So outside MoMA there was this large banner with the words VITO ACCONCI PUBLIC SPACES, and at the moment I remembered the famous essay by Jean Paul Sartre on Jean Genet. He talked about this incident when Genet was a child and he had stolen a loaf of

‘when I saw that banner at MoMA, I thought to myself “I can’t turn back.” So right then, I formed Acconci Studio.’

06 Mur Island, Austria 2003 Photograph by Petr Svarc

05

MILIEU.indd 70-71

X

bread because he was starving, but he was caught and called a thief. According to Sartre this was a traumatic moment in Genet’s life – once Genet was called a thief he decided, “I am now going to commit myself to be a thief.” So when I saw that banner at MoMA, I thought to myself “I can’t turn back.” So right then on that show, I formed Acconci Studio.’ After years and years of creative unrest, Vito is still very much involved in his work with Acconci Studio, as well as teaching to ‘earn some extra cash.’ He is not ready to quit just yet, ‘I’m not tired. I might think we’re not doing the right thing yet.’ He believes that in the future, architecture is going to be mobile: ‘People are gonna carry their house with them like a turtle. You never have to go home. I think the future is

know? But my father used language the way Marx Brothers movies used language – where words fall apart. My father used puns as second nature.’ Vito let out a sweet, honest laugh when he talked about his father. ‘The great thing about my father was that if I had ever said to him ‘‘When I grow up I wanna be a doctor or a lawyer’’ he probably would have

Nomads.’ As Vito waved goodbye with a bewildered look I suddenly had a vision of Martin Landau playing Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s biopic movie Ed Wood. They both had tired eyes and a hopeful stare of a misunderstood character. What a genius. M

71

X

X

70

into new creative paths. ‘I don’t know if it’s the best way to think but when I’m stuck I need to resort towards Roget’s thesaurus. When you have some idea for what you’re looking for, it takes you to a number of places. The great thing about this rather than a dictionary is, a dictionary is mechanical, whereas this takes you to analogues of words, it gives you fields of words – it never defines them necessarily.’ This obsession with words was very much influenced by his father, who was an extremely important person in his life. ‘He never really went to school, possibly high school. But he was totally involved in art, literature and very involved with puns. It was really important to me because when you learn a language in school, you learn it as if it’s some kind of law, you

X

05 Vito Acconci, 1986 Photograph by Peter Bellamy

06

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 72-73

13/05/2012 22:31


Emma Emma Houlston is an extremely talented – and tall! – illustrator from Kingston, Surrey. She is very busy at the moment with her ongoing collaborations with Mulberry - she’s responsible for the cute golden monsters on the last LFW’s tote. Emma has a wonderful way of creating stories and moods with her illustrations, and through her strokes she has established a very unique style - a style she maintains through every kind of project: apart from Mulberry, Emma has also collaborated with clients such as the BBC, The V&A, Harvey Nichols, as well as having produced illustrations for publications like Dazed and Confused, Nylon magazine and The New York Times. Milieu went to visit Emma at her studio in Shoreditch where she talked about her work, her inspirations and her love of hats.

01 Monster prop by Emma Houlston for Mulberry FW 2012-2013 collection. Courtesy of Emma Houlston

MILIEU.indd 74-75

X

X

75

13/05/2012 22:31


02

02, 03 Illustrations by Emma Houlston for Monster exhibition held at Hitherto Gallery, Glasgow penandthepixel.com

MILIEU.indd 76-77

X

X

77

X

X

76

03

13/05/2012 22:31


I

’m very chatty. I might not stop talking. Tell me when to stop.’ Emma warned me, as we sat down on the terrace of the Shoreditch studio, which she shares with 4 other artists. ‘I have to work with people around me because I think I would explode if I had no one to talk to!’ she admitted, followed by a cute, slightly nervous laugh. ‘And everyone that’s here have done it all. If you get into trouble, they’ll help you out and give you advice. It’s a nice little community!’ The sun felt lovely up there, as we watched people underneath us run back to the office after lunch. ‘Yes, it does get very hot up here. We tried to fry an egg on this stone floor. It didn’t work.’ She giggled. Emma has been working in this studio since 2007, ‘I think I’m quite happy here. We’re behind the craziness of Shoreditch, it’s like our own little haven.’ The Big Orange studio, as it is called, has existed since the 80s when things were a little bit more wild, ‘All these buildings around us were warehouses really, and they were all kind of linked together and owned by the same landlord. Some guys from the Royal College of Art, they were all illustrators I think and

they used to throw big parties for all these art directors, big orange parties – people still talk about them now! They would promote their illustrations this way. But none of the founding members are here anymore.’ Emma explained enthusiastically, while taking sips from her can of ginger ale. ‘Oh, and while we were cleaning this place up the other day – it was pretty chaotic – we found some paintings left behind by some other artists that used to work here. I think that’s quite cool – it’s like a community of people that come and go in a sense, who trust each other enough to leave their stuff behind.’ Emma is originally from Kingston, and started off her studies at Kingston University before going to Glasgow School of Art – ‘I fell in love with Glasgow. I didn’t want to stay in London, I wanted to branch out and go somewhere else. I wanted to go the furthest place possible actually! Glasgow was really nice. It’s such a brilliant city, it’s got so much going on and it’s not as big as London but it’s not too small either’. During her studies at Glasgow, she got the chance to travel to New York, and do an exchange programme at Parsons School of Design, ‘Parsons was so good. It kind of knocked me into

they were like four or five of them, they started the studio and they had like a ping pong table in there and stuff. And

shape, business wise. Those American students, they work so hard. I was shocked!’ She said, giggling again.

MILIEU.indd 78-79

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 80-81

13/05/2012 22:31


‘a lot of my work comes from

Emma seems to be quite modest about all her hard work she stays in the studio working long hours everyday including weekends, but that’s the way she likes it. ‘When someone asks you to do something, you just get a weird impulse to just get it done, and work really hard at it.’ When she does get time off, Emma hangs out at pubs with her friends and loves meeting new people, ‘Actually a lot of my work comes from chatting to random people at parties and pubs. This work that I did for the V&A’s children museum happened because of one night at a party, where I spent the night speaking to this graphic designer guy. He worked for the V&A and said that they needed an illustrator, so I gave him my card and he actually gave me a call soon after. So yeah, talking to different people is good. You never know.’ The sun was in fact getting too hot. Emma got back to her desk. Her workspace was surrounded by all kinds of beautiful masks, ‘They’re my favourite object’ she explained. ‘I’m sure you could analyse this in all sorts of psychological ways! I Just really enjoy making them and putting them on. It’s like fancy dress. I’ve actually made some animal masks that were used by the BBC.’ Making these masks, she admitted, is also one of the ways she relaxes and gets inspired, ‘I read somewhere that if you give yourself a task and switch your conscious mind off, (like making masks), then your unconscious mind switches on and gives you ideas. I find Sitting on the toilet is also good.’ M

to random people at parties & pubs’

MILIEU.indd 82-83

X

83

X

X

82

X

chatting

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 84-85

X

X

85

X

X

84

13/05/2012 22:31


The Chelsea

MILIEU.indd 86-87

X

X

87

X

X

86

13/05/2012 22:31


A

lthough I had heard the songs, watched the documentaries, looked at the photographs, I had never actually seen the legendary Chelsea Hotel in person. It was one of those gloomy, rainy days in New York when the city is overshadowed by grey skies. In one respect, it was the perfect day to visit this 12-story landmark: the dark mood seemed suitable since it reflected the current dismal situation of the hotel. Walking along 23rd street, I thought about the remarkable people that make up its history. In the 60s and 70s it was a haven of genius creativity: It was home to Mark Twain and a kind of rehabilitation residence for Brendan Behan. It was where Rothko used the old dining room as a studio, where Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A space Odyssey, where Bob Dylan wrote Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

01 01 Janis Joplin, 1967

MILIEU.indd 88-89

X

X

88

13/05/2012 22:31


‘Stanley Bard was the reason the Chelsea was the Chelsea.’ Rita Barros, Hotel resident

Taken under the wing of the much loved hotel manager Stanley Bard, the artists felt safe and accepted. Bard was obsessed with art and filled the building’s walls with paintings given to him by guests, sometimes as an alternative to rent payment when money was tight. Over the years, he put up with his guest’s bohemian lifestyle which at times lead to harsh results: Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in his room; In 1978 Nancy Spungen was stabbed to death, in room 100, allegedly by her rock star boyfriend Sid Vicious; at some point, a long-term resident was found dead after overdosing on drugs. Rita Barros, photographer and resident of the hotel since 1984 told me that ‘Stanley Bard was the reason the Chelsea was the “Chelsea”. He was the one who decided who he wanted living there and created the spirit of bohemia that this ‘’former’’ hotel was known for. He made our life easier and understood when we were having problems.’ Barros, originally from Portugal, started photographing her neighbours after having been invited into their apartments: ‘I realized how unique each space was’, she explained. ‘I was interested in the coherence I saw in the way each tenant organised his/her space and how it matched their persona and their creativity.’ Realising she had put together a huge archive, she compiled

her photographs and published a book in 1999 naming it Fifteen Years: Chelsea Hotel. Her images were also published in various magazines such as Newsweek, Italian Vogue and Zoom. Talking about her time in the hotel, Barros recalls her most memorable experience: ‘I lived through a major fire. I thought I wouldn’t survive the whole ordeal but through some miracle I came out alive’. On a happier note, she remembers meeting fabulous people throughout the years: ‘Some were chance encounters: on the elevator, in the lobby. Others are long time friends. One person in particular was very dear to me – Arnold Weinstein. He was a writer, translator, librettist and an exquisite person.’ The Chelsea has been the focus of interest for many other photographers, as well as journalists and filmmakers. The hotel inspired Corrine van Der Borch, the Dutch filmmaker, after her first visit: ‘many years ago, I stayed there one night and fell in love 03 with the amazing stairwell and its artwork’, she told me. ‘While looking up, it has the grandeur of a castle, while looking down an almost suicidal feel to it. I thought I could capture life in the hotel as it unfolded in and around the stairwell, hopefully getting glimpses of the characters past and present who had wondered the stairs.’

02 02 Stanley Bard by Cellina von Mannstein 03 Ritta Barros in hewr room at the Chelsea by Linda Troeller, 2008

MILIEU.indd 90-91

X

X

91

X

X

90

13/05/2012 22:31


04 04 Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe by judy Linn, 1970s 05 Just Kids by Patti Smith, 2010

05

MILIEU.indd 92-93

X

X

93

X

X

92

13/05/2012 22:31


van Der Borch accomplished exactly what she had wanted. She made a documentary in 2010, choosing to focus on one particular resident: Bettina Grossman, a talented artist in the 60s and 70s who has been said to be the ‘most beautiful woman to have ever lived at the hotel.’ The documentary, entitled Girl with Black Balloons, won Van der Borch an award at DOC NYC. Their first encounter, van Der Borch recalls, was on the stairwell: ‘She had a mysterious look yet charming way of seducing me to talk to her. I was scared at first but slowly saw that it was more than just an encounter; I saw that she might be my film, and she saw that I might be her filmmaker! We sat and chatted in her hallway and after our second meeting she invited me into her space.’ What van Der Borch found when she entered Bettina’s room was the life of a recluse: ‘Bettina has surrounded herself with boxes, filled with works of art that have never left her studio.’ van Der Borch reflected. ‘An artist’s quest for acknowledgment can be extremely difficult. The Chelsea Hotel is her castle; behind bolted doors she sleeps on her throne, a gigantic key ring safely tied around her waist.’ van Der Borch believed Bettina was tough – a characteristic she noticed in many New Yorkers – but thought she was fragile as well, the exact balance she had wanted to reflect in her work. ‘Sacrifice, obsession and devotion are the words that floated around in my head when I learned more about Bettina. What made her so defensive? Her complexity made me curious’, van Der Borch described.

MILIEU.indd 94-95

X

X

95

X

X

94

13/05/2012 22:31


‘The Chelsea Hotel is her castle; behind bolted doors she sleeps on her throne.’ Corrine van Der Borch, filmmaker

06 Artist Bettina Grossman at the Chelsea Hotel Courtesy of Corrine van Der Borch

MILIEU.indd 96-97

X

X

97

X

X

96

13/05/2012 22:31


With so many important residents, you would expect the Chelsea to have been the most lavish of places. However, as van Der Borch mentioned, ‘Living in the Chelsea Hotel doesn’t necessarily mean fame and certainly not fortune.’ The quality of accommodations varied from big and grand to tight and filthy. In Patti Smith’s brilliant biopic novel Just Kids, Smith describes her first room at the Chelsea Hotel of which she shared with Robert Mapelthorpe: ‘Room 1017 was famous for being the smallest in the hotel, a pale blue room with a white metal bed covered over with a cream coloured chenille spread…We dwelled in our little room as inmates in a hospitable prison’ But the guests came to the Chelsea not seeking luxury, but because of its free, creative character. Over the years, everything has changed. After having been owned by Bard’s family since 1930, it was sold last year and Bard is no longer the manager. It has been closed for guests, staff has been fired and the 100 remaining artists are nervously expecting eviction. Barros expressed her sadness and worry: ‘we are going through a really tough time. The new owners’ plans are a disaster (a disco on the roof, etc. etc.) and we all fear for our apartments and our way of life. A lot of tenants have eviction notices and there’s already been a huge amount of demolition done in the vacant apartments.’ Meanwhile, as they have started cleaning up the hotel, it is still unclear what will become of it: maybe it will remain as a hotel; maybe they will turn it into luxury condominiums. But as resident filmmaker Lola Schnabel has stated, ‘all the spirit of creativity, all the poetry and the music that has

come out of this place has just been bleached out in a number of days.’ Van der Borch also expressed her grief: ‘The soul has gone. Stripping the inner life, the people and their baths and beds and just leaving the shell is what makes it so drastic. The baths, as old as they may have been, were filled with thoughts of famous poets and painters.’ However, when van Der Borch made her documentary, she says she could still feel its creative history: ‘there were still many creative individuals sitting in the lobby, each of them with an amazing life story. But to me, the one who sort of embodied the lost eccentric New York spirit was Bettina.’ She also felt, as is depicted in most of the documentaries about the hotel, an intense spooky sensation during her visits: ‘The Building has so much history, good and bad, you can sense it when you walk in and stay for a while. It’s hard to explain, but it’s very present. It’s definitely haunted by spirits.’ There it was. After all it has been through it still stands proud, its red brick walls looked new. As I treasured this moment standing across the street from the hotel and reminisced on a time that I wish I had been a part of, my heart broke when confronted with the word BARD written in big letters on one of the 8th floor windows. Reality struck. Forbidden to go in - clearly stated at the entrance door -I gazed in through the sliding doors: the walls in the lobby which had once been filled with paintings had been stripped down. All that was left were lingering memories and a creepy Papier-mâché doll hanging on a swing attached to the ceiling. M

07 Chelsea hotel staircase Image by Jess Petrella

MILIEU.indd 98-99

13/05/2012 22:31


Look and Move On By Darren Foster

I don’t really know what the book is about. It was out of print, but I managed to find a copy and then never bothered to open it. I’m afraid what’s inside might spoil it for me. The title is what I love - Look and Move On - and I can’t find any reason to read beyond it. It’s perfect, taught but full of possibility, and I discovered it by chance after a long journey that left me drained and not a bit unhinged. It’s been like a mooring ever since. If, as the filmmaker Werner Herzog once said, ‘filmmaking is athletics over aesthetics’ then the shoot in North Africa was an ultramarathon, a 3,000 km journey across the desert of Morocco, Western Sahara and into Mauritania. We were chasing the stories of West African migrants trying to make their way to Europe. Morocco was a popular launching pad for daring clandestine ocean crossings. At their closest point, less than 20 kms of water stand between the northern tip of Morocco and southern Spain. It’s a treacherous 20kms to be sure, but when you’re escaping things like war and crushing poverty it’s still tantalizingly close. When we arrived in Morocco, however, we learned that the migrants were being run out of town by the Moroccan military and driven further and further south. So we followed their trail, down a single lane highway along the Atlantic, past herds of camel, Berber nomads and the rusting hulls of cargo ships that had run aground on some lost stretch of coast. Our destination was Nouadhibou, a dusty fishing town in northern Mauritania, which had become the new staging ground for migrants making the ocean voyage to Europe. The border crossing between Western Sahara and Mauritania was as sleepy as they come, a clapboard hut with a couple of soldiers lounging around on cots. The toothless commander never moved from his reclined position. By way of welcoming us, he summoned one of his juniors to make us a camel meat sandwich, which was handed to us in an old piece of newspaper. And then we were waved through. Nouadhibou is a stark, desolate place. It’s streets

cloaked men seem to emerge from a different time. Livestock outnumber cars. Goats graze on rubbish piles because there are no fields, just sand. But beneath the sleepy exterior was a growing underground of hustlers, Nigerian smugglers and thousands of sub-Saharan Africans now trying to book their place on a boat to Spain’s Canary Islands. Instead of the 20 km trip from Morocco, it was now hundreds of kilometers across the open ocean. The journey was near suicide. Sixty migrants were being packed into wooden pangas designed for day trips for four or five fisherman. Boats were capsizing all the time. Migrants drowning en masse. Unlike many films I’d worked on, there was hardly a silver lining to be found. Most migrants had given up everything and survived unimaginable hardships just to make it this far. There was no turning back. In Nouadhibou, I felt like I was among dead men walking. And suddenly, I saw the nature of my job fall into sharp relief. I pop in and out of peoples lives, collecting what often amounts to very intense and intimate stories. And then, move on. The people left behind, I expect will carry on with their lives. For all too many in Nouadhibou, I realized, this would be the final chapter. The trip back was long. The story weighed on me. Back in Tangier, I retreated to the roof top cafe at the cheap hotel I was staying at. All around, backpackers were smoking keef. I found a book and began flipping through it. I came upon a short piece about the American author Paul Bowles who had settled in Tangier in the 1950s. Over the years, Bowles hosted other celebrated American writers like Truman Capote and Allen Ginsberg. But the story focused on his work with local Moroccan writers, one in particular named Mohammed Mrabet, who’s autobiography Bowles translated. I was reading the story with half interest until I came upon the title of Mrabet’s book, Look and Move On. The title immediately resonated like a mantra, a stripped down, utilitarian version of the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s famous line: ‘To be

permanently shrouded in a fine cloud of dust from which

an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.’

MILIEU.indd 100-101

101

X

X

M

X

X

100

01 Look and Move On by Paul Bowles, published 1989

13/05/2012 22:31


Tito Mouraz Office Space Throughout a period of two years, Portuguese photographer Tito Mouraz documented the developments of a marble quarry located in the South of Portugal. Having an extremely unique way of viewing the world, Mouraz was fascinated by the landscape’s transformation throughout time and wanted to portray ‘the hidden existence of man as a constructive, reconstructive and contemplative being.’ The results were remarkable. Capturing the wide empty space and its beautiful natural colours, Mouraz manages to evoke a dramatic sense of intimidating silence in the midst of ‘the falling rocks and machinery that alludes to noise, confusion and transformation….’ Until the photographer got what he wanted, he went through a long and thoughtful process: visiting the location in the absence of work activity allowed him to observe all the details, ‘the textures and the natural sounds without the presence of man.’ Bringing all these aspects to light in his photography, Mouraz reproduced this apparent desolate atmosphere into a stunning creative space. M Photography by Tito Mouraz

X

103

MILIEU.indd 102-103

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 104-105

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 106-107

X

X

107

X

X

106

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 108-109

X

X

109

X

X

108

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 110-111

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 112-113

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 114-115

X

X

115

X

X

114

13/05/2012 22:31


MILIEU.indd 116

13/05/2012 22:31


Milieu Magazine [Issue 01]