Port Issue 29

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Little Simz

10th Anniversary Issue Willem Dafoe / Brian Eno / Wole Soyinka AJ Tracey / Shon Faye / Tacita Dean George MacKay / Elif Shafak / Gavin Turk Sumayya Vally / George Sowden










The Porter Words Stephanie Sy-Quia, Dylan Holden, Nim Ralph, Felix Bischof, Billie Muraben, Kerry Crowe, Reiss Smith, Robin Choudhury, Jane Hall, Tom Bolger

37 The Hundred Faces of Willem Dafoe Words Rick Moody Photography Andy Massaccesi 76 86 94

Little Simz The musician reveals the creative and intimate forces that shaped her recent album Memoires di Panna Montata Designer George Sowden reflects on the importance of retaining human fallibility Design Profile: Sumayya Vally The acclaimed architect shares non-static ways of creating space

AJ Tracey Words Jesse Bernard Photography Silvana Trevale


Words Natty Kasambala Photography Liz Johnson Artur Words Deyan Sudjic Photography Alice Fiorilli Words George Kafka Photography Maite de Orbe

150 Art section guest edited by Gavin Turk 122 George MacKay Discussing acting as animal instinct with the magnetic British star 132 Tacita Dean The artist shares her design work for Wayne McGregor’s interpretation of The Divine Comedy

Words Claire Marie Healy Photography Jeff Boudreau Words Thea Hawlin Photography Muhammad Salah

Brian Eno: Another Green World Words Jeff VanderMeer Photography Cecily Eno


181 Part-Time Persona Photography Laurence Ellis Styling Stuart Williamson

Commentary Words Elif Shafak, Shon Faye, Hatty Nestor, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Raymond Antrobus


bebitalia.com bebitalia.com

design design Antonio Antonio Citterio Citterio


ELIF SHAFAK Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist who has published 19 books, including her latest novel The Island of Missing Trees. Her work has been translated into 55 languages, and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by the BBC among 100 novels that shaped our world. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she is an honorary fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford University. She is a fellow and a vice president of the Royal Society of Literature. An advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and freedom of expression, Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and has been awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

RAYMOND ANTROBUS Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, London, to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance, which won the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre, the Ted Hughes award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award and was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and the Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for his poem ‘Sound Machine’. His poem ‘Jamaican British’ was added to the GCSE syllabus in 2019. His latest collection, All The Names Given, is out now.

GAVIN TURK Born in 1967, Gavin Turk is a British contemporary artist known for his approach towards issues of authorship and value in art. Turk has several permanent public sculptures, including ‘L’Âge d’Or’, sited as part of the Sculpture International Rotterdam; ‘Nail’, a 12-metre-tall sculpture next to St Paul’s Cathedral, London; and ‘Axis Mundi’, Paddington Basin, London.

NIM RALPH Nim Ralph is a trans writer, educator, and activist. Ralph has led campaigns for trans and queer rights, environmental justice, and anti-racism in the UK, and works with activists globally. They are the lead trainer and designer of multiple activist training programmes, with an approach to education that centres relationship and connection. They have bylines in gal-dem and OpenDemocracy and were recently featured as a trans activist in GQ.


JANE HALL The inaugural recipient of the British Council Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship, Dr Jane Hall is a founding member of the London architecture collective Assemble, which won the Turner Prize in 2015. Hall holds a PhD in architecture from the Royal College of Art and is the author of two books that explore the intersection between gender and design: Breaking Ground, Architecture by Women (Phaidon, 2019) and Woman Made (Phaidon, 2021).

STEPHANIE SY-QUIA Based in London, Stephanie Sy-Quia is a writer, whose work has appeared in the White Review, the Guardian, the FT Weekend Magazine, Five Dials, Granta, the TLS, and others. Her debut, Amnion, will be published by Granta Poetry in November, and she is a Ledbury Critic.

JEFF VANDERMEER Jeff VanderMeer’s most recent novel is the eco-thriller Hummingbird Salamander. He is also the author of Dead Astronauts, Borne, and The Southern Reach Trilogy, the first volume of which, Annihilation, won the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, and was adapted into a movie by Alex Garland. He speaks and writes frequently about issues relating to the climate crisis. VanderMeer lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, Ann VanderMeer, where they have spent the past three years rewilding their yard to benefit birds and pollinators.

SHON FAYE Shon Faye was born in Bristol, and is now based in London. After training as a lawyer, she left law to pursue writing and campaigning, working in the charity sector with Amnesty International and Stonewall. She was an editor-at-large at Dazed, and her writing has been published by the Guardian, the Independent, and Vice, among others. Faye recently launched an acclaimed podcast series, Call Me Mother, interviewing trailblazing LGBTQ+ elders. The Transgender Issue is her first book.




In 2021, we mark Port’s 10-year anniversary. From the beginning, we have been guided by a love of style, craft, and knowledge, pulling the world’s foremost artists, writers, chefs, actors, and musicians into our orbit. Over the last decade, we’ve had the pleasure of keeping company with many of the greats – Jonathan Franzen, Dieter Rams, Tilda Swinton,

Deborah Levy, Zaha Hadid, Benicio del Toro, and Jeanette Winterson, to name just a few – and our fashion and photo reportage have led us from Mongolia to Ethiopia, Afghanistan to Iceland. Being independent grants us the freedom to take risks: We publish what we find remarkable and illuminating. To hail our anniversary, we have been decidedly ambitious, meaning the autumn/winter

issue has seven exceptional talents from music, art, literature, and film fronting its special covers: Brian Eno, Elif Shafak, Little Simz, Willem Dafoe, AJ Tracey, George MacKay, and artwork from Gavin Turk. Amidst the seismic changes of the last decade (and especially the last couple of years), we hope we’ve been able to offer a haven… a port in the storm. Onwards!


This is our winter 10th anniversary issue: Writing that feels good, and surreal. How did we get here during an apparent collapse of print media; through a global pandemic, and even a recession? Well, magazines are nothing if not communities, and community is a robust and hardy thing. We feel like we have built substantially on our community with this current issue. We are humbled and a little bit giddy to be working with legends (and legends in the making) for this special edition. I’m going to have to take a moment to celebrate our mind-blowing cover stories, because it just doesn’t feel right not to flex at this point: The cultural icon Brian Eno talks to visionary sci-fi author, Jeff VanderMeer, about nature, music, and his longstanding environmental activism; celebrated actor Willem Dafoe reflects on his films and craft, in conversation with old Port friend, Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm. Award-winning novelist Elif Shafak shares her thoughts on trees, freedom, and the importance of stories; whilst rapper AJ Tracey discusses staying humble and missing the electric pull of live performance. And it continues... The rising star of 1917, George MacKay, delves into acting as an animal instinct, and rapper and actor Little Simz muses on the intimate and creative forces that shaped her stunning new album. In addition, for the first time ever, we present an exclusive artwork on our cover, by acclaimed British artist Gavin Turk, who has also curated a special art section looking at environmental concerns and how we might move forward positively. Included are compelling pieces from writer and artist Jonathan Allen, filmmaker Dan Edelstyn, artist Hilary Powell, writer and curator Francesca Gavin, and political economist Ann Pettifor. Elsewhere Shon Faye shares an extract from her vital new book The Transgender Issue; Raymond Antrobus provides a

deeply captivating poem on police brutality; Hatty Nestor reflects on the twilight zones of sickness and health; Nobel-winner Wole Soyinka talks about his forthcoming work Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, his first novel in 50 years; and Stephen Jones examines the serendipitous ties between music and millinery... It’s a luminous selection of talents and I’m so thrilled to have them in the issue. There is so much more here too, so many great writers and artists, in the broadest possible sense, styling and shooting beautiful fashion shoots all over the world. Alongside, we also have the best ever issue of 10:10, our watch supplement, designed by Pentagram, making the case for great horology. We care deeply about literature, design, craft, and style; and I think it’s that which has kept our community going, and our print presses rolling. So thank you reader, for staying for the journey. It’s been emotional. And I don’t often say this, but thanks are also due to our many advertisers, small and large, who have maintained a passionate and creative approach to working with us over the years. Thank you all.

Dan Crowe – Editor



EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Dan Crowe DESIGN DIRECTOR Matt Willey FASHION DIRECTOR Mitchell Belk DEPUTY EDITOR Tom Bolger FASHION EDITOR Julie Velut ACCESSORIES EDITOR Lune Kuipers ART EDITOR Sophie Dutton DESIGN Matt Willey, Sophie Dutton, Adriana Ji PHOTOGRAPHIC DIRECTOR Max Ferguson JUNIOR PHOTO EDITOR Jodie Michaelides SENIOR EDITOR Kerry Crowe HOROLOGY EDITOR Alex Doak INTERIORS EDITORS Huw Griffith, Tobias Harvey ASSISTANT SUB-EDITOR Bella Gladman EU CORRESPONDENT Donald Morrison US CORRESPONDENT Alex Vadukul JAPANESE CORRESPONDENT Ryo Yamazaki AUSTRALIA CORRESPONDENT James W Mataitis Bailey SPECIAL SECTION EDITOR Gavin Turk WORDS Robin Choudhury, Jane Hall, Billie Muraben, Tom Bolger, Stephanie Sy-Quia, Nim Ralph, Kerry Crowe, Dan Crowe, Ayla Angelos, Dylan Holden, Felix Bischof, Reiss Smith, George Kafka, Deyan Sudjic, Thea Hawlin, Gavin Turk, Francesca Gavin, Jonathan Allen, Ann Pettifor, Dan Edelstyn, Hilary Powell, Elif Shafak, Shon Faye, Hatty Nestor, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Raymond Antrobus, Natty Kasambala, Jesse Bernard, Claire Marie Healy, Rick Moody, Jeff VanderMeer, Alex Doak PHOTOGRAPHY Alba Yruela, Aude Le Barbey, Tommaso Sartori, Lydia Wilks, Rebecca Scheinberg, Maite de Orbe, Alice Fiorilli, Sadie Catt, Muhammad Salah, Andy Keate, Ana Larruy, Dham Srifuengfung, Conor Clinch, Laurence Ellis, Klaus Thymann, Scott Gallagher, Adam Peter Johnson, Louise Thornfeldt, Julien T. Hamon, Hugo Mapelli, Liz Johnson Artur, Silvana Trevale, Andy Massaccesi, Cecily Eno, Jeff Boudreau, Graham Smith, Peter Searle, Petr Krejci

SENIOR EDITORS Fergus Henderson, Food Dan May, Fashion Samantha Morton, Film Hans Ulrich Obrist, Art Rick Moody, Literature John-Paul Pryor, Music Brett Steele, Architecture Deyan Sudjic, Design CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Kabir Chibber Robert Macfarlane Albert Scardino Stuart Williamson Alessia Vanini Lewis Munro Warren Leech SPECIAL THANKS The Production Factory Everyone who has ever worked at, or with, Port COVER CREDITS Willem Dafoe, photographed in Rome by Andy Massaccesi, wears ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Little Simz, photographed in London by Liz Johnson Artur, wears AMI PARIS Brian Eno, photographed in London by Cecily Eno AJ Tracey, photographed in London by Silvana Trevale, wears BURBERRY George MacKay, photographed in London by Jeff Boudreau, wears HERMÈS Ficus, 2021, by Gavin Turk, photographed by Andy Keate. Courtesy Live Stock Market Ltd & Gavin Turk, copyright The Artist

ARTWORK Fede Yankelevich, Seana Gavin, Gavin Turk, Jonathan Allen, Gerhard Richter Daniel Clarke HEADLINE TYPEFACE A2 Record Gothic by A2-Type (A2/SW/HK) www.a2-type.co.uk

PUBLISHERS Dan Crowe, Matt Willey ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Andrew Chidgey-Nakazono MANAGING DIRECTOR Dan Crowe ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Andrew Chidgey-Nakazono andrew@port-magazine.com ACCOUNTS Charlie Carne & Co. CIRCULATION CONSULTANT Logical Connections Adam Long adam@logicalconnections.co.uk CONTACT info@port-magazine.com SYNDICATION syndication@port-magazine.com SYNDICATED ISSUES Port Spain portmagazine.es Port Turkey port-magazine.com.tr issn 2046-052X Port is published twice a year by Port Publishing Limited Vault 4 Somerset House Strand London WC2R 1LA port-magazine.com Port is printed by Park Communications Founded by Dan Crowe, Boris Stringer, Kuchar Swara and Matt Willey. Registered in England no. 7328345

“Tradition is tending the flame, it’s not worshipping the ashes.” — Gustav Mahler

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HOLDING UP THE MIRROR: WOLE SOYINKA By Stephanie Sy-Quia. The Nigerian titan reflects on his first novel in almost 50 years

When Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, becoming its first African laureate, the jury described him as a writer “who in a wide cultural perspective, and with poetic overtones, fashions the drama of existence”. The prolific playwright, poet, and author of landmark works such as Death and the King’s Horseman has been jailed twice for his criticism of the Nigerian government. His first novel in almost 50 years, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, reprises his career-long critique of his home country, with a maximalist mix of caustic humour and rhetorical flair. To mark the book’s wider publication around the world after its initial release in Nigeria, Stephanie Sy-Quia spoke to Soyinka about the bonds of friendship, pessimism, and a new generation excavating history.

Illustration Fede Yankelevich


Stephanie Sy-Quia: Who did you write this novel for? Wole Soyinka: Nigerians. This is one of the reasons I was very anxious for it to come out when it did in Nigeria, just before the 60th anniversary of the so-called independence of the nation. When it was published, I was gratified that it commanded a widening readership among politicians. It’s amazing how many politicians kept requesting the book. Some of the characters – I mustn’t lie about this – are built on real politicians. Some of them came to the launch. To my surprise, they wanted to talk about the issues raised in the book. There’s a point where an unsympathetic character in the novel – a member of Yoruba royalty – says, “Our people [Nigerians] know nothing about beauty,” and she makes several disparaging comments more broadly about Africa and Africans. Do statements like this risk confirming certain people’s laziest assumptions? I think one of the targets of any serious writer is to report one’s society to itself. Many people tend to reduce the writer to a dissident against the state. But in fact, you often find that one’s own people can commit acts which can only be described as enemy action against themselves. The duty of the writer is to be constantly alerting, to always be saying, ‘Look in the mirror.’ You evidently take a Dickensian delight in delineating your characters and making sure that they have rich back stories. What is your process for developing character? There was one character who began totally on a fictional level. While I was writing, however, a real individual, through his own actions, brought himself very close to my creation. Well, it made my job very simple. I changed his name a little and shoved him into the portrait of that character – it was a perfect fit! The rest of the fictionalising emerged from the composite of the two. It grew and became something totally new. Sometimes the character already exists in fiction, and then somebody comes and inhabits the frame. Well, thank you very much. Come in. The writer has a responsibility not to malign the individual who has given impetus to the character. You can diverge, but not distort. This novel shares its basic premise with its two predecessors, in that you have a cohort of old friends who have high hopes for a modern Nigeria and then find them gradually dashed over the course of their lives. What is so compelling to you about this premise of a group of friends? In your memoirs, it’s evident that friendship is a particularly deep and potent force in your life. I’m a great believer in community; sometimes it’s just a community of two, sometimes three. In certain idealistic circumstances, it can be a whole village or town. But to me the most valued of these is the smallest: not something I started out with, but something I discovered over the course of my life. Friendship became a very crucial aspect of my world perception, the kind of friendship which survives even ideological disagreements. It’s the thing I value more than anything else. I believe in human bonding, as opposed to the religious, the ethnic, the national – to me the latter is the most grotesque. Much of your Nobel lecture is about apartheid South Africa, which feels pertinent to issues Britain is dealing with at the moment. The current government is trying


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to suppress decolonisation initiatives and any acknowledgement of colonial guilt. What do you have to say to that, and where do we go from here? It’s amazing on how many levels we find those who are afraid of history. We had a similar phenomenon recently, but cruder. In this case it was a sweeping declaration by those who were in power at the time, 2007, in which history was removed from the school curriculum in senior secondary schools. Many of us had of course left school ages ago, so we were not even aware that this crime was being committed against the young. Similar things have been going on in countries like Britain. Of course, the movement is being remedied by counter-action, like Rhodes Must Fall. This is what I call the ‘end of iconism’, whereby the icons of history, such as statues in public spaces or universities – all of that is being challenged by a new generation. The adventure of history is for each generation to keep quarrying, making sure they obtain their own holistic image of what their antecedents are. In a previous interview, you described your career as “one long dance macabre in this political jungle of ours”. Overall, your work leans towards pessimism. What is its value? Well, extreme and total pessimism is of course crippling. I don’t think I ever reached a level of total pessimism. Maybe that’s because of friendship. As long as you have a community, even as small as two, one’s faith in humanity keeps being restored. The greatest instigator of pessimism is Sisyphean labour: When an issue that you think is done with – sufficiently expressed, understood, and resolved – has to be resumed all over again years later. It extends to when your community says, “It’s not too bad actually; it’s better than the alternative,” or, “If we wait long enough it will correct itself.” And so when it returns, the dimension of it, the horror of it, has gone beyond the remedial energy that you put into it a few years ago. This is exactly what is going on right now. Anyone who is not pessimistic in Nigeria today is either superhuman or a super idiot. You’ve been a professor of comparative literature for many years. What has been your favourite aspect of that discipline, and of teaching it? Comparative literature crosses narrow boundaries, makes us re-examine not only culture as it evolves in societies, but how it is valued. It removes boundaries because it is an intellectual attitude that is the antithesis to a hermetic, isolated entity. When reading closely, multiple themes which are normally treated in isolation become part of a fuller, deeper understanding of humanity. This is the approach I take. I always call myself an unsuccessful teacher, because I get more out of it than I think I give. That’s not false modesty; I am fascinated by the responses that I get from people who are products of those different histories and cultures. When they contradict your own values and deductions, you are all the richer for it.

Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is published by Bloomsbury, September 2021


COORDINATES By Dylan Holden. Michael Anastassiades’ linear illumination

René Descartes liked to sleep in late. A hangover from his Jesuit teachers allowing him to stay in bed and miss early lessons due to frail health, this languorous habit continued throughout his life. One late morning, the French philosopher watched a fly crawl across his ceiling and was eager to pinpoint its placement. Using a corner as a reference, he created a system of x-, y-, and z-axes to accurately describe its exact location, or indeed, any point in the universe. Radically linking Euclidean geometry and algebra, the treatise he published in 1637 revolutionised mathematics, and has since been used to calculate, standardise, and control space. Cartesian coordinates are the creative touchpoint and namesake of Michael Anastassiades’ recent work with Flos. Originally created for New York’s Four Seasons restaurant, horizontal and vertical LEDs are configured in a sleek, rational tangle of intersecting lines. “I wanted lighting that also worked as sculpture,” notes Anastassiades. “Dynamic structure is created through linear layers of illumination – it is maximum impact with a minimal touch.” Lighting has long been a focus for the Cypriot-born designer. Initially training as a civil engineer before focusing on industrial design, he established his London-based studio in 2007. Typical of his practice, technology, function and materials are expressed covertly and confidently. Electromechanical connectors are hidden within to allow for seamless joins, while the lustrous aluminium rods are anodised with a champagne finish, cleverly cooling the gently diffused light through each axis. In part taking its cues from the poised mobiles of Alexander Calder, the collection is available as a suspended chandelier, ceiling-mounted luminary, lighting bar, vertical floor lamp, and repeatable module. Despite the formal strictness and hightech spec, all iterations possess an organic ambience and surprising dexterity for different settings, the grouped module in particular offering the possibility of a uniform or frenetic overhead structure with a simple 90-degree twist. “I wanted to relinquish some control as a designer,” explains Anastassiades, “and hand over creativity so that you can create something peaceful, or complex, tailored to your own space… Light is a wonderful, poetic medium. How it occurs in nature is irreplaceable, but I am hoping to capture some of the endless beauty that inherently exists.”

Photography Tommaso Sartori




The Porter

Photography Lydia Wilks

Hair Louis Byrne

Make up Billie McKenzie

THE TRANSGENDER ISSUE By Nim Ralph. Shon Faye discusses her vital new book, an urgent argument for justice

“I mean, I didn’t really want to write the book,” Shon Faye leans back and chuckles, while playing with her hair. Over the last decade in Britain, Faye is one of the few trans women with a public platform writing about trans issues. She has an enviable knack for being both ferociously smart and bitingly funny, in 280 characters, but her sharp wit and analysis extend far beyond Twitter. Faye’s writing moves with ease between topics ranging from Drag Race UK to Opus Dei. No matter the content, her subjectivity as trans and as a woman are often centred in an approach that’s both unguarded and refreshing. So, I ask across a glitchy Zoom screen, what changed her mind? Faye has a restless energy, shifting often; it feels like her mouth is trying to keep up with the speed of her brain: “There was never enough space in a column to actually talk about the things I want to talk about, the core issues of what is wrong for trans people. I want this to be a corrective.” Since Faye started writing in 2014, the UK political and social landscape has transformed. We now live in the long shadow of the ghastly Brexit referendum, itself a footnote in the modern global rise of farright populism. Anybody paying attention will know that trans people have become pawns in the broader ‘culture wars’. In the UK, this has seen rise to a particularly unholy alliance between far-right forces and a small but loud subsect of second-wave feminists, both intent on forcing trans people from public life. The British press have reduced the complexity of the assault on trans lives to what Faye summarises as “a Twitter flame war between us and TERFs” [trans-exclusionary radical feminists]. It is this that she hopes to correct. She cites Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, as an inspiration for taking the plunge, who as a Black woman frustrated with only being asked to speak on white feminism’s terms, wrote her own book. It wasn’t only taking back her power which inspired Faye, but also how she held that power once successful: “She just wrote a book, but she doesn’t go on Good Morning Britain when they need a Black woman – she didn’t become the ‘go-to Black woman’. I found it quite chic.” This reflects a key contention of The Transgender Issue: that representation and visibility won’t liberate trans people – addressing structural oppression and material conditions will. Though in publishing a book on the topic, demands to represent will surely increase? While Faye is careful not to disparage the urge for representation, she doesn’t want to position herself as the spokesperson for her community: “I’m not representative of trans women writ large; in fact, I’m quite unrepresentative in many ways.” Originally from Bristol, Faye gained a scholarship to public school, followed by Oxford, and spent her first years of graduate life as a lawyer. This, she says, is indicative of why we can’t correct the media with representation: “It’s the case across all minority groups in the media and publishing that it’s often the most structurally privileged ones who end up representing.” But, I wonder, in an internet age which doesn’t allow much space for public fallibility, if there’s some self-preservation there too. She trails off, “Eventually I would disappoint people anyway…” For those of us who are structurally and culturally disempowered, social media provides a blunt tool with which to speak with a wider reach than our material life provides. Being perceived as a representative can mean being attacked by those who don’t like your kind. It can also mean carrying the burden of a collective’s desire to be seen, heard, and understood perfectly. In the social media era, there is an idea that any kind of visibility as a trans person is “resistance”. Faye is critical of such exposure. “This kind of hashtag influencer style activism, which makes it very easy for allies, with ‘Trans women are women’ as a rallying slogan, has very much nar-

rowed the terms of what trans liberation actually looks like. You know, no one talks about housing or poverty as a trans issue.” This is the substance of the book: shifting the focus of trans lives from Twitter sound bites and reactive media to the real-life issues that shape trans people’s lives in the UK – healthcare; housing; work; sex work; prisons; immigration; LGBTQ+ and feminist spaces. Faye talks about all these areas with eloquence and ease, weaving them through our conversation. From the obsession with trans women in sports – “Everyone’s talking about trans women at the Olympics but no one’s talking about sex and sex workers. Well, globally, most trans women have done some kind of sex work, and very few trans women will ever qualify for the Olympics” – to poverty: “Universal Credit is a scummy austerity policy, and it affects trans people terribly.” To write about these things as a trans woman means that she’s often labelled an “activist”. I ask her about this: “I hate being called a trans activist especially because it’s got this pejorative use, it’s designed to reduce what I do. Yeah, I’m a writer, and my subjectivity is I can’t not be trans; we’re in the middle of this worldwide backlash, so of course I’m writing about it.” It’s a familiar trap, as a trans writer you’re expected to write about trans issues. But as a trans writer your subjectivity is used against you to undermine both your skills and what you say. Experienced in navigating this, Faye is clear The Transgender Issue is not a memoir, and she refuses to write one. Women writers are asked to write memoirs more than they are asked for analysis. It’s a perverse system of extracting vulnerability for pay-per-view consumption, a vulnerability trap many minoritised groups are familiar with. Vulnerability is demanded to legitimise your humanity, but the pieces of you shared are scrutinised at best, weaponised against you and people like you at worst. For trans women this is added to by the salacious interest in transition stories, while there’s very little space in public life for trans women’s real vulnerabilities. “I don’t define being a woman by suffering,” Faye states matter-offactly. “Sometimes the quickest way women bond is to talk about how men have screwed you over; it’s a classic thing that from a very young age girls and women learn to do. There’s almost a drive [for trans women] to share traumatic experiences because you feel pressure to prove that you have had these experiences because you’re a woman, and then ultimately, the way that transphobia responds to that, it’s just to be like, well no, I don’t believe you.” This can feel particularly acute when trans people talk about experiences of domestic violence (DV) and the needs of survivors. In 2018, 7.5 per cent of all women in the UK experienced DV, and 16 per cent of trans women had, but anti-trans feminists often divert the conversation to theoretical abstractions about men in women’s spaces. We well know the threat of being denied your own reality is one that keeps many survivors silent; movements have been built around the mantra ‘I believe her’. To be trans is also not defined by suffering. The book’s epigraph is a quote from performance artist Travis Alabanza: “When I say trans, I also mean escape. I mean choice. I mean wanting something greater than what you told me. Wanting more possibilities than the one you forced on me.” So, what would freedom and autonomy mean to Faye? “To be able to move on from trying to explain myself, or the community I belong to, or this political experience we call trans. Or at least, to talk about it in much richer ways, like things that bring me joy. I would want to give expression to that and to be able to rejoice in my writing.” And what would it be to be liberated? “It’s not just about trans people being liberated; we’d basically have undone binary gender and its bordering structuring principle of power and violence. In a truly liberated future I might not even call myself trans, that word would cease to have any meaning, nor would woman. It’s quite hard to admit that, but I think that trans liberation is actually abolishing ourselves because we wouldn’t need to exist in such a category.” Neatly, that is reflected in the first line of Faye’s book: “The liberation of trans people would improve the lives of everyone in our society.” What a great place to start. The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye is published by Allen Lane, Penguin, September 2021




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Photography Rebecca Scheinberg

Styling Lune Kuipers

HALF OF WHAT I SAW By Felix Bischof. East meets West as Canali travels with 8ON8

Reading through Li Gong’s answers, I realise tasking the menswear designer with choosing a favourite item from his Canali capsule collection may have been a circuitous ending to our interview: “Every design I created for this collection is my favourite,” Gong muses, “because I also project myself into them.” He can, however, be steered towards revealing which garment he is likely to wear most himself: a grass-green suit of soft construction (Gong advises to size up) matched with a white turtleneck. “It has a silhouette that speaks for modernity but is also comfortable to fit my work needs,” he explains. His is a casual take on Canali’s heritage. “For me, this collection is more like an experiment about how I interpret its iconic tailoring pieces,” he says of Canali Travels with 8ON8. The collection takes its cue from 13th-century Italy-to-China travelogue The Travels of Marco Polo, while whimsical motifs such as shooting stars and the Cafra Cat – a feline character Gong came across in the Canali archives and which first appeared in the 1950s – also pay tribute to the brand’s past. Made up of 11 looks, it includes tailored separates, knitwear, a silk pyjama suit, embroidered T-shirts and an oversized down jacket; a pair of loafers is fitted with transparent soles, and there is luggage too. A baseball cap references the hats of Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty; a drawstring silk bag shares details with coin pouches first used many centuries ago. Says the collection’s creator, “Just like with my own brand, I’m always talking about inheritance with a new point of view.” Gong, who grew up south of Shanghai in the port city of Ningbo, established his independent brand – its cryptic name, 8ON8, is the chance result of a printer jamming, thereby misspelling ‘Gong’ – in 2017. The designer trained at Central Saint Martins, where he was awarded the LVMH Grand Prix scholarship and completed the London college’s MA Fashion course. For his graduate collection, Gong fused tailored shapes with those of 1970s outdoor sportswear, such as panelled ski suits. And he was already studying Canali then. “It’s no stranger to me,” says Gong. “It has been synonymous with tailor-made Italian luxury for

decades. It has a rich history but is not burdened by it. And I am very fascinated by this house’s passion and openness towards innovation and culture.” Innovation and creative curiosity are indeed both passion-points at Canali; as is the forging of partnerships. The Italian brand first took shape in 1934 as a small tailoring workshop opened by two brothers – entrepreneur Giovanni Canali and Giacomo Canali, a tailor – in Brianza, an area situated between Milan and Lake Como. To direct the business, the Canali family has joined forces ever since, and there are also the day-to-day collaborations between the house’s many teams. “Throughout our more than 85-year history, we have cultivated and invested in our sartorial excellence and artisans, helping us to stay relevant as a leader in the creation of modern garments,” Stefano Canali tells me. The youngest of five children, Canali first joined the family firm in 2008, following in the footsteps of his father Eugenio. In 2018, he was appointed president and CEO of Gruppo Canali. For the brand, the collection marks a debut of sorts. “This collaboration is the first designer collection for Canali and the first of its kind between international luxury menswear brands and Chinese fashion forces. This is what makes it so special,” he explains. Gong was initially meant to visit Italy and work closely with the business’s tailors and makers, as well as research the brand at its origin. But when changing circumstances put a stop to international travel, Canali had to change tack. “The work was carried out remotely through video conference meetings in which Li Gong was able to talk with our product experts and craftspeople to identify the best solutions for the materials, fittings and final details,” he elaborates of the process. “Li Gong and Canali share the same tailoring language and passion for culture which has made this collaboration an interesting journey for both of us,” he adds. “Speaking the same language has made our joint work much easier than imagined. We are all facing difficult times, but we thrive on challenges that lead us to evolve our business.”



Top: Gerhard Richter, 24.07.2020. Courtesy the artist Bottom: Gerhard Richter, 23.07.2020. Courtesy the artist


BETWEEN TWO POLES By Billie Muraben. Eschewing clarity with Gerhard Richter

“As drawings and works on paper, they provide an insight into another dimension of working in abstraction, as Richter has done for decades,” says Cliff Lauson, senior curator at the Hayward Gallery, of the works in the upcoming exhibition, Gerhard Richter: Drawings, 1999– 2021. “Through composition and technique, and perhaps mindset, these works resonate with his paintings, but are also clearly artworks in their own right.” The show will be the first significant exhibition of Richter’s drawings in the UK, and the artist’s first at a major London gallery, since the expansive Gerhard Richter: Panorama, at Tate Modern in 2011. The new exhibition is more intimate in scale, and, in a way, more intimate in nature; a sort-of abstract diary of the last 20 years, concerned with formal investigation and methodological preoccupation, rather than feeling, or direct expression. Richter’s work often carries the sense of being in motion. It eschews clarity – in composition and intent – and teases our efforts to pin down meaning. Swinging between realism and abstraction, people, landscapes, scenes, and textures are captured somewhere between these two poles. His approach to drawing mirrors this principle, with swells of ink, thick paint, or a fog of graphite applied over precise line work and photographs. He has used slide projectors and mechanical handle drills to trace clunky reproductions and make jittery sketches; sought a balance of chance and intervention to make works that appear freely gestural, while occasionally dropping in an academic realist nude torso or drawing of a skull. The last catalogue raisonné of Richter’s drawings captured works between 1964 and 1999, and Gerhard Richter: Drawings, 1999–2021 – in the HENI Project Space at the Hayward Gallery – picks up where that left off, with a particular focus on a rich period of experimentation through 2020, and into 2021. Closely involved with the selection process, Richter focused on presenting a recent collection of drawings, interspersed with works that span

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a couple of decades. “Richter has brought together different series, some of which link to his abstract paintings through techniques such as smearing and blurring. Other sets reveal particularities unique to the graphic nature of drawing such as shading and layering, as well as the use of coloured pigmented ink. Altogether, the works provide a number of different approaches to drawing, showing its potential and malleability as a medium,” says Lauson. By turning photographs on their side, changing direction, or interrupting the structure of his own drawings, Richter goads expectations of coherence, representation, or precision that are so often applied to drawing. In a 2010 review of Gerhard Richter: Lines Which Do Not Exist, at the Drawing Center, SoHo, Holland Cotter wrote in the New York Times: “Mr Richter, early in his career, viewed drawing and its history as a vehicle for virtuosity with suspicion, if not disdain. The only way he could approach it was indirectly, by taking its conventions apart, exposing its artifice.” Over a lengthy career, he’s been renowned for challenging expectations through his process and broader intention. Seeking ambiguity over readability, Richter has been celebrated for making art for art’s sake, rather than work that’s determined by ideology or principle. It’s clear from his output that Richter is committed to his practice – one that doesn’t seek resolution, and can both embody a medium and question its vitality. His work is cool, in the truest sense. In sidelining expectations of clarity, or personal or political perspective, Richter shuns the premise that works of art should offer up their meaning on a plate. He has established a new critical and aesthetic space, and throughout his career has kept it moving – continuously shifting the boundaries and calling for his audience to move with him. Gerhard Richter: Drawings, 1999–2021 opens at the Hayward Gallery, September 2021



MORE IS HIDDEN THAN REVEALED By Kerry Crowe. Studio Formafantasma elevates X Muse with an elegant tasting collection

When it comes to culture, character, and creative inspiration, the spirit of choice is surely whisky. The history… the aging process… the rich conversation each malt brings from the land from which it hails… Could William Faulkner have similarly sung the praises of any other drink when he declared whisky an essential tool of his trade alongside “paper, tobacco, and food”? However, the team behind X Muse are out to challenge this with a new vodka label so rich in artistic influences it takes its name from an assumed ‘tenth muse’ (the pronunciation of the brand name), one so perfect she combines all qualities of the other nine Greek mythological muses in perfect harmony. Like its Scotch counterparts, X Muse is made from barley in Scotland; unlike any whisky, its root source is the pure water of an ancient aquifer within the Jupiter Artland sculpture park, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Honouring this provenance and deepening vodka’s often simplistic reputation, the brand has placed at its core the values of esoteric wisdom, transcendental encounters, nature, and art. Renowned design studio Formafantasma undertook the task of creating an elegant collection of objects with which to perform tasting rituals – as well as a complementary ‘temple’ space


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within Jupiter Artland – in order to evoke this alchemic mood in a unique contemporary context. “We wanted to highlight a ritual that was based on quality, on elevating vodka to a different level,” Formafantasma’s Andrea Trimarchi explains, “which could facilitate the understanding and development of the drink.” To do this they conceived delicate, intricate items crafted from timeless archetypal elements: “So the use of wood, bronze and crystal; the materials are not lacquered or treated in any way, but pure and natural, as much as the product.” The focus on the drink’s ingredients intends to leave behind conceptions of the spirit as a rudimentary alcohol vehicle, instead providing the depth of flavour palate normally associated with X Muse’s single malt compatriots, allowing them to be savoured slowly, neat. Virginia Woolf spoke of “two levels of existence” and “the slow opening up of single and solemn moments of concentrated emotion” – states X Muse has ambitiously set out to stimulate in its consumer. With the brand motto, Plura latent quam patent (more is hidden than revealed), the wide-ranging inbuilt origin story, and indeed even the name itself, this vodka is inviting us out of the cocktail bar and into the ineffable – a place of creative promise.

Photography Rebecca Scheinberg

Styling Lune Kuipers


TACTILE FEEDBACK By Reiss Smith. Naoto Fukasawa crafts a comfortable sculpture for B&B Italia

To the Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa, design is about observation, integrity, and ambience. The relationship a piece of furniture has with the space surrounding it is as important as its shape; its power lies in its modest expression and the mood it inspires. “I believe that design is attributing a countenance to an object,” he wrote in his 2018 book, Embodiment. “The countenance of this object engenders the surrounding atmosphere, and this atmosphere in turn attributes a countenance to the shape. It’s attributing an incarnation to an abstract, a physical structure to a soul.” These physical structures, more often than not, take simple, carved forms. A prime example: Fukasawa’s Harbor Laidback chair, designed for B&B Italia, which continues his exploration of an upsidedown, truncated cone shape imbued with calmness and gravitas. Fukasawa calls it a “comfortable sculpture”. He begins with a single solid mass of foam: “I like to sculpt like Isamu Noguchi,” he explains, “slowly scooping out material to create a surface that people can be relaxed and comfortable inside.” Where the original Harbor (released in 2017) was fixed, stoic, the Laidback has a gentle, unexpected movement. Although the proportions and height of the seat are designed for comfort while using a computer or tablet upright, hidden within the form is a complex mechanism which allows the seat and backrest to tilt rearward. This duality reflects the truth that many spaces must now encompass both the productive and the serene. “I think people used to focus on too many things at the same time,” Fukasawa says. His design practice is based on human observation, and he believes that recent events have brought about a clear shift. “Since the pandemic started, people in general try to find and be aware of details. They focus on harmony in the living space and notice any uncomfortable parts that damage it.” The Harbor Laidback, with its matching footrest and round tray-topped ottoman, is a symbol of this new lifestyle. “When you go back to the Harbor, to your home, you need your time to relax,” Fukasawa adds. “Harbor is your place and moment.” The flowing line of the chair – upholstered in leather or fabric with an elegant saddle stitch – is grounded by a solid swivel base and exposed zip closure on the backrest. The clever headrest is adjustable, balanced by a distinctive metal counterweight. There is a feeling of comfort, Fukasawa says, from the form enveloping your body, and a freedom “in every position of the chair”. “Your body feels the tactile feedback from the soft surface,” he adds. “Even before sitting on it, when you see the chair, you can feel that it is comfortable.” What more could you ask for?

Courtesy B&B Italia




STREET HEART By Robin Choudhury. Oxford University’s Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine on representations of our most vital and ubiquitous organ

Detail from MS. Ashmole 399, fol. 20r, courtesy Bodleian Libraries

A woman in black squints into the tilted screen of the rose-gold iPhone that she is panning across an already agitated room. She is oblivious to what is happening behind her left shoulder. There are gasps. A work of art is shredding itself within its frame. ‘Going, Going, Gone’, (for $1.4 million) still hangs on the wall of the Sotheby’s sale room. More precisely, it is partially shredding itself. Conserved, in the upper-right corner of the image, is a pink balloon in the form of a ‘heart’. But, remarkably, the automated theatre is more shocking than the notion of a small girl standing beneath the representation of an explanted human organ. The heart motif has become commonplace, a shorthand for a range of diverse, yet universally recognised emotions and states of mind. If you doubt this, consult the thirty-plus heart emoticons on your messaging app. Or take a walk through London or Lisbon; New York or Naples; Paris, Pondicherry or Phnom Penh. You will find street-art hearts enlivening the walls of each. Among the everyday broken hearts and arrows piercing crimson love hearts is a more mysterious icon: the heart with the black spot. What is it intended to represent or express? Where does it come from? The Bodleian Library manuscript, Ashmole 399, is one of the earliest known depictions of a human heart in any anatomical context. The figure is a draftsman’s interpretation of the ‘physiological’ systems of the Roman physician, Galen. In any modern sense it is full of errors, since the anatomical plumbing of the heart and vessels was barely understood. There was no knowledge of the circulation of blood; in Galen’s synthesis, blood was made in the liver and ebbed into the tissues to be consumed. But the physiological accuracy of the image is of only passing concern. Seated within the heart is a black spot. Scholars debate the significance of the nigrum granum (black grain). It is at once both the point of origin of the arteries and the seat of the spiritus. The accompanying text reads: “Procedunt autem a nigro grano quod est in corde in quo spiritus habitat” (Proceed from the black grain that is in the heart in which the spirit dwells). But the definition of the word spiritus, is not precise. It could refer simply to air or breath, or, more significantly, the entity that we now call the soul (anima), or the life spirit (genius anima). The Romans also described the genius anima as the source of seed in reproduction, a notion that is shared with passages from the Upanishads and early Judaeo-Christian texts.

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In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci went so far as to portray the heart in seed-like form, from which the vessels sprouted upwards and downwards, as if the heart were in germination. In his early anatomical studies, Leonardo had inherited the conventional teaching that the heart was the source of semen and, besides drawing seed-like inclusions in the heart, he also showed an imagined vessel that plumbed the heart directly to the penis. His later works were anatomically correct, because they were not based on someone else’s synthesis or intuition but meticulous observations of his own dissections. Clearly, none of this is a coincidence. There is no seed in the heart, no anatomical correlate – nothing that could be interpreted as a grain or node. The black seeds are an intuited human synthesis. The human heart tells a story of human ingenuity and intuition that defies scientific understanding, and few symbols are as ubiquitous in contemporary life. I have collected hundreds of street art images of hearts from around the world. The black spot is not so common, but it is not rare. Take for example the black cross in a heart on the wall of an alley on the Right Bank in Paris. A black cross. What does it mean? A modern mark on the soul? Or look to the vast expanse of hearts on the 2021 pandemic memorial wall on London’s South Bank. Among thousands of still hearts, broken hearts and still-beating hearts are more than a few with black inclusions in their core. Only once have I chanced upon a work in progress. On a walk with my son along a disused railway line in north London one damp Sunday afternoon, we witnessed the creation of a street heart, almost from the beginning. I struck up a conversation with the artist. Why was she painting a heart? Why not a brain? Why had she chosen to depict an anatomical heart rather than the simpler heart motif ? It was her first. She did not know. An hour or so later we passed again, on the return stretch. The finished work filled the brick alcove. Despite the anatomical jumble, it was clearly a heart; plump with blood, its surface mapped by the tortuous coronary vessels and the flimsy cloud-like atrium mounted at the top. Striped arcs to each side denoted the pumping movement of a living heart. I was shocked to see a black spot. “You’ve painted a black spot in the heart – why did you do that? What does it mean?” No answer.



Top: Marianne Brandt. Kettle 1925–26. Courtesy Tecnolumen and DACS Bottom: Pepper Mill, Salt Dish, and Spoon, 1949-50, by Trudi Sitterle & Harold Sitterle. Photography courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York and Scala, Florence


MODES OF PRODUCTION By Jane Hall. Fun, frivolity, and uselessness – countercultural strategies for a feminist approach to design

It is 1965 and ceramicist Trudi Sitterle is posing in her upper-New York State kitchen for a photograph to accompany her profile in the New York Times, while making a salad. Although Sitterle described herself as a housewife for the piece, she probably wondered what exactly preparing lunch had to do with her work, which, at any one time, involved the design and production of a 30-piece range of porcelain tableware manufactured by hand in her homemade basement kiln. Sitterle is one of the most respected American mid-century modern designers, her elegant, monochrome porcelain salt and pepper shakers now part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. At a time when not even condiment dispensers were left untouched by modernism’s all powerful reach, the duality of Sitterle’s identity, depicted in the profile as both housewife and craftsperson, with the former given precedent, is telling. It was permissible for women to work independently as designers in the postwar period, yet design itself was not expected to emancipate them from their core duty as caregivers. In this respect, Good Design has a lot to answer for. Proponents of the Good Design movement, in the 1950s, set out to change the material wealth of North American society through the advent of affordable furniture, product, and lighting design – serving to make the interior of homes look modern even if social structures weren’t. And yet Good Design was good for women as designers, on the whole. For the first time those such as fellow ceramicist Eva Zeisel and furniture designer Ray Eames gained visibility within the museum’s rarefied gallery spaces as part of a five-year programme of exhibitions. Promising affordability and utility for the masses, furniture design was something, it was thought, that women might actually know something about. The exhibitions brought widespread acclaim to designers like Eames, whose chairs have become a ubiquitous symbol of modernity, furnishing schools, offices and homes worldwide. However, with the legacy of Good Design now felt globally, driven by its focus on exchange rather than use value, it is unclear whether the original intention to transform society has simply become an aesthetic language for profit at all material and social cost. Back to that photograph. Intriguingly, while the New York Times asked Sitterle and her daughter to provide a recipe for publication alongside lavish descriptions of their social engagements both inside and outside their Croton Falls home, it also included an image of the whole family, Sitterle’s husband and both daughters, smiling and each holding an ambiguous (at best) porcelain sculpture, created collaboratively and playfully for the simple joy of making something useless. The gendered nature of the article legitimises family life for inclusion in print; a seemingly benign aside that works via the insinuation of frivolity, to undermine Trudi Sitterle’s professional

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accomplishments. And yet what it reveals is something of her design process, and, importantly, a further slippage: Sitterle had fun! The Sitterles in fact considered fun central to the production of their ceramics, believing that the spirit of art had become “depreciated by rationalisations” such as uniformity, durability and profit. So while Trudi Sitterle’s ceramics certainly play to Good Design aesthetics, this celebration of joy and uselessness in their making counters much of how the modern movement has come to be historicised, framed by a minimalist tendency to express efficiency in its production above and beyond everything else. And yet fun has been part of the story of modernism since its avant-garde European origins in early schools such as the Bauhaus, where celebratory parties organised by students proved to be a hotbed for much of the material and formal experimentation that found its way into the furniture, textile, and metal workshops. For example, Marianne Brandt’s oversized spherical metal objects created for her costume-like necklaces are a precursor to the curved forms that make her tableware so distinct. Foundational schools that subsequently emerged in America such as Black Mountain College in North Carolina were renowned first for the community and culture they fostered, before the work that was produced there. In both cases intentionally unusual and sometimes subversive activities were the mode of production, the process of making considered as significant as an object’s form in revolutionising the way we live. Despite its questionable journalism, in celebrating the Sitterle family’s silliness the New York Times article inadvertently elevates being with and caring for family as an indistinguishable part of daily life but also of design. Being a woman designer, concerned with what tend to be gendered marginal or minor activities, constitutes a form of difference that operates outside the misogynistic norms that govern design as a whole. Women, however, are often encouraged to deny their gender and its socially constructed context as a way of gaining parity professionally with their male peers; so insidious is the patriarchy, its greatest achievement is its ability to convince women that a position of neutrality is the most radical form of opposition to it that one can adopt. Taken seriously then, joy, fun, frivolity, laughter, and uselessness are just some of the many countercultural strategies that form part of a feminist approach to design, creating a broader vocabulary for describing non-commercial value, which will invariably be of benefit to everyone. Perhaps more national newspapers should report on what their featured designers cook for lunch. Woman Made by Jane Hall is published by Phaidon, September 2021



THE BLITZ KID By Stephen Jones. The serendipitous ties between music and millinery

When I was at boarding school in 1972, I remember buying the first Roxy Music LP. It was the first time I realised clothes could be an expression of self; something more than a ‘civilian’ or school uniform. I soon learned that everything, be it a white T-shirt or a hat, is a communication, a message. Moving from Liverpool to London to study was thrilling. It was where fashion was being reborn – it was the centre of the world. On my second day at Saint Martins, I met a girl called Shanne; she wore a black tuxedo and often had a tampon, coloured red, poking through her lapel. She invited me for lunch in Soho market with her boyfriend, and sure enough it was Shane MacGowan, who would go on to start The Pogues. My next-door neighbour in halls was a drummer called Kenny Morris, and I’d tag along to his first gigs (the band was Siouxsie and the Banshees). I was scouted at one of them to help style some bands, got to know the people at Stiff Records, and was even singing harmonies in a band called Pink Parts. Most importantly though, I’d fall in with Steve Strange, (who was behind the Blitz Club), as well as Boy George and Spandau Ballet. I was a club kid first and a fashion student second: It was the perfect environment to test out my designs. One of my earliest and most important creations was in fact for George: a Britannia helmet in silver lamé with white feathers. There was a vacuum left by punk, and the generation under me wanted something new. Bizarrely enough, something new was something old. Since WWII, society had been relentlessly focused on the future, the white heat of new technology, constantly moving forward. The crowd I was a part of, the new romantics, were concerned with an idealised, romantic vision of the past. At the time, having emerged out of events like the miners’ strike, the idea of a perfumed, dandified past might as well have been from outer space. That was somehow more shocking, more punk than punk. Music has often been serendipitous. Steve had a day job at PX Boutique, where there was a tiny disused basement. He persuaded the owners to let me use it, and within a year of leaving college, I had my own millinery salon. It was a quick jump for which I was wholly unprepared, but I had a steady string of clients from the Blitz. A couple of years later I was paid the handsome sum of £25 to star in Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ music video, which was a fortune then. I was decked out in a powder-blue suit and fez; blink and you’ll miss me. Jean Paul Gaultier asked


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me to be in his first-ever menswear show off the back of it, which was inspired by the Gran Café de Paris, in Tangier, circa 1940. I had twisted my ankle so was unable to do it, but months later, in Paris, I was invited to his studio and given an hour to sketch some hats. All I had was a Basildon Bond notepad, small, blue and one lined: something you’d write a thank-you note to your aunt on. We went through them together and he concluded by saying, “My assistant will be in touch about quantities.” After that, Paris knew my work. A hat is for the person you want to be, rather than the person you are. Whether you’re an established artist or a spotty teenager just starting out, you need a look. What you wear is a shorthand sign for the persona you are portraying. When Mick Jagger – who I have worked with over the years – puts on his brightly coloured satin shirt, he becomes Mick Jagger. Sometimes, you’re trapped by fans’ expectations from that projection, which is often disassociated from the real you. I have, however, been fortunate to truly get to know some of the artists I’ve collaborated with. I’ve known Kylie [Minogue] since she first came to England. I did a wonderful hat for her Aphrodite tour, all metalwork and showgirl plumes. When Rihanna was starting out, we bumped into each other at a Dior show and she was wearing one of my hats; she had bought it at Dover Street Market. It was a true romance from the off. I’ve made her everything from a durag to a bishop’s mitre. It’s been wonderful watching her grow up, though I’m not sure she’d be able to go shopping by herself now. Musicians often surprise you. I recently worked on a collection with Dior and the rapper Travis Scott. You wouldn’t imagine we would have much to say to each other – I’m 64, British, and gay. When his 6ft 8in entourage arrived, I felt like a subspecies. The funny thing is, we got on like a house on fire. He called me up afterwards and said, “Yo, the way you dress is cool. You’re the drip-meister.” Kim Jones said I should put that on my gravestone. As much as I love music, I have to sketch in complete silence. If I’m listening to anything with a guitar, it all goes Spanish and within 30 seconds I’m drawing red carnations. I can make exceptions for Felix Mendelssohn’s collected piano works, Songs Without Words, or perhaps Brian Eno’s Music for Airports; with them I get balance, and the work can sing. As told to Tom Bolger

Stephen Linard and Stephen Jones (R ) St Moritz Club, 1980. Photography Graham Smith



DISCREET CHIMERA By Dylan Holden. Dior and sacai splice identities

Born in the landlocked countryside of Gifu, Chitose Abe spent her childhood making clothes for dolls. Her mother was a seamstress, and, at the request of Abe, could often be found tailoring her outfits, adjusting hems to turn heads. Rural neighbours clucked and tutted, finding her uncompromising style and personal quirks “bizarre”. The metropolis of Tokyo beckoned. After finishing design school, she worked as a patternmaker under Rei Kawakubo at the avant-garde Comme des Garçons, eventually leaving to raise her newborn daughter. Abe would shake off her creative ennui in motherhood two years later by starting her own homerun label: sacai, a derivation of her maiden name. What began in 1999 as a modest offering of hand-knitted garments has since grown into a global beast. Renowned for its collaborations and hybridisation – splicing and juxtaposing cut and cloth – Abe’s stake remains at 100 per cent, meaning she makes what she wants, still does the accounting, and works with whomever she pleases. Kim Jones, Dior Men’s artistic director, is her latest design accomplice. “Working with sacai was a very personal choice because of our close friendship,” notes Jones. “I’ve known Chitose for a long time, and we’ve always had this conversation about doing a project together. Samples were sent back and forth between both studios and we spoke a lot. Everyone in Paris and Tokyo worked together. There have always been links between Dior and Japan, so I felt that it would be nice to reinforce a bond that isn’t physically possible at the moment.” Released this November, the duo’s 57-piece collection is a sharp assimilation of tailoring, couture, work-, and sportswear. Archetypes from the French house – overcoats, the Tailleur Oblique, floral motifs – are completed in signature sacai fabrics such as Japanese denim, nylon, and textured jacquard, while contrasting panels and utilitarian detailing lend a roaming asymmetry. The concentrated palette of white and near-black blue is offset by pocket and drawstring embellishments on the capsule’s standout saddle and duffle bags, dashes of olive and orange referencing Abe’s classic bomber jacket. From the soft berets courtesy of Stephen Jones down to the triple-soled Chelsea boots, each item is a considered synthesis. The two voices are distinct yet coalesce – illustrated by ‘sacai’ itself being embedded in the slender ‘I’ of Dior’s logotype; a testament to the exchange, and the independent spirit of Abe.


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Photography Aude Le Barbey

Styling Lune Kuipers

Model Thibault Painsecq



SILO: CLOSING THE LOOP By Tom Bolger. In an industry plagued by excess, Douglas McMaster’s zero-waste restaurant is an exercise in imagination

The lampshade above me is made from mycelium, a branching fungus grown with used brewing grains. Underfoot, the floor is carbon-negative cork, and the bar is comprised of leather shoe pulp. My plate was previously a plastic bag. This upcycling reverie is the site of Silo, the ambitious Hackney restaurant, perched next to the River Lea, by Douglas McMaster. It quietly states that there is another way to run a kitchen, namely, producing zero waste. In practice, this means hard graft: butter is churned by hand; retired beasts are consumed nose to tail, and anything not eaten is fed into an aerobic composter. There is no bin. “It all matters because everything comes from nature, therefore it has value,” McMaster tells me over coffee on a grey May morning. “We need to honour these materials in every way we can, every bit of energy. They deserve respect.” Originally from Worksop in Nottinghamshire, the head chef dropped out of school after years of struggling with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and being lost in an education system that was “as homogenous and sterile as a cardboard box”. Disillusioned further after placements in a string of masochistic Michelin kitchens, he would go on to find solace in the “safe haven and original expression” of Fergus Henderson’s St JOHN. Joining in 2008, McMaster was named Great Britain’s best young chef by the BBC a year later. A brief stint at NOMA soon followed, before he travelled and cooked in Australia, crucially meeting the artist and farmer Joost Bakker (pronounced like ‘toast’ with a ‘y’). Together they launched the world’s first entirely wastefree café, quickly winning hearts, minds, and awards. At the start of our talk, McMaster is keen to stress the creative concept of present-day Silo is indebted to the Dutchborn eco-activist, now one of his closest friends: “Zero waste is because of him. He had the vision and gave it to me on a plate – I ran with it.” Returning to the UK, he was determined to realise the circular vision he’d crafted down under, though with no business plan or money, he was laughed out of every bank he tried. McMaster rolled the dice and remortgaged his family home in 2014 to secure a warehouse in Brighton that he’d chanced across. “I wasn’t ready for London,” he confides, “so this first iteration of the restaurant acted as a seaside training dojo.” Silo made immediate waves by “swimming against the current”, employing what the chef dubbed “pre-industrial” systems. Wasteful, carbon-heavy suppliers were cut out – no middlemen meant trading directly with farms. No single-use plastic was used in-house or for transporting produce, only reusable containers such as urns or pails. Staff were trained to mill flour, bake bread, and the


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Photography Sadie Catt

art of whole food preparation, so that no flora or fauna was wasted. And, crucially, the dishes were delicious. The exhaustion from maintaining this operation, all while winning over critics and a loyal following, often led to McMaster sleeping on the floor. “There’s no rule book about how to open a restaurant,” he reflects. “And there is certainly no rule book about how to open a zero waste restaurant. It pushed me to the brink of sanity. I fell many times, but every trip has given birth to what it is now. I wouldn’t change that, but I wouldn’t go back. My attention to detail is meticulous now because I felt an overwhelming burden of shame for every single one of those mistakes. Through not being good at school, I have this burning desire to prove somebody that doesn’t exist wrong, this imagined shadow.” For a proposition founded on a tightly closed loop, it’s noteworthy that the chef sees creativity – which the Brighton restaurant had in abundance for its five-year lifespan – being fed by missteps and improvisation: “I was in an absurd flow, making sense of nonsense, stumbling across miracles. Vegetable treacle, plates made from plastic bags, sourdough miso – it was special to have somehow survived all that, and for those things to live on to tell the tale.” These small marvels now have their home in London thanks to a crowd-fundraiser greatly exceeding its £500k target. Opening at the end of 2019, the sleekly designed space by studio Nina+Co had its grand arrival disrupted due to the pandemic, but is now back to serving imaginative, thoughtful food. Standing on the shoulders of Brighton, an immense amount of discipline is evident in Hackney. Chefs work quickly and diligently, the coalblack kitchen extending out into the dining area like a ship’s bow. There is a formula for everything. How much salt goes onto the smoked Pink Fir potato, how long the tomatoes are brined for – all is preordained and fixed down to the exact gram and second. McMaster concedes it may not sound like the most glamorous way of cooking, but it has proved to be the most effective zero-waste hymn sheet to sing from. Balancing this control, the hyper-seasonal kitchen is at the whim of whatever is available from nearby farms. For example, a recent drought considerably altered its opening menu (projected onto the wall and updated in real time), and such limitations are embraced, encouraging experimentation. A vein of Asian techniques and flavours runs through its palate. Humble Lisbon onions are elevated with a richly aged fish sauce, while bavette steaks sing with Sichuan pepper. Koji, miso, and amazake recur throughout – due to their circular preparations


that maximise resources – while delivering decadent hits of umami. “If I ever opened another business,” McMaster notes, “it wouldn’t be a restaurant, but a fermentation studio. I want to upcycle all of that surplus into liquid gold.” The 34-year-old has realised, late in life, that his brain is wired differently. “I’m neurodivergent, which isn’t a disability,” he tells me. “It’s simply an alternative operating system. Now, I bask in that difference. I’m proud of it. I feel I’ve got this macro lens that allows me to detach from the nuance and look at the whole landscape, the entire ecosystem.” Indeed, McMaster’s sights stretch further than Silo. During the pandemic he launched an online cooking school, short videos ranging from how to transform Japanese knotweed into something edible, to making a sous vide alternative without plastic. A couple of days after our conversation, he will be delivering a lecture at Copenhagen’s MAD Academy, the school established by René Redzepi that aims to reform hospitality and our (currently broken) food systems. His talk will be a schematic of sorts, outlining how Silo’s structure can be applied to any restaurant if they are prepared for the added labour. This thinking was cogently laid down in his 2019 book – Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint – and I ask what’s needed to establish a healthier relationship between rapidly multiplying humans and the natural world? “Sustainability isn’t enough,” he replies. “We can’t sustain what we’ve got, because it isn’t enough. We need localised agrarian societies feeding people in the immediate area, as well as regenerative agriculture, to fix what we’ve done. Every person, chef and non-chef, needs to realise that the natural world is being depleted. Before we learn how to do simultaneous equations, we need to understand that nature is not an endless resource that we can keep pillaging. Composting, natural materials – these are all choices. When we buy new plastic, we’re choosing for nature to be suffocated.” If McMaster’s words sound dramatic, it’s because the situation demands it. Our lives are plagued by waste. Ten per cent of global carbon emissions are linked to unconsumed produce, and the enormity of the problem often leads to eyes glazing over – how do you compute 931 million tonnes of food waste per year? While the majority comes from high- and middle-income households – those with the material means to make the choices McMaster cites – a quarter of that figure derives from food services, highlighting the significant and untapped role restaurants must play in the coming years. What is the most effective means to counter this inertia and encourage zero waste? “Make it better than the alternative,” he states. “Make it beautiful, delicious. If it was the optimum way to live hedonically, more people would be attracted to it. I don’t believe zero waste or Silo is a trend. If it is, it’s also the future. It can’t be anything else.” ‘Silo’ comes from the Greek σιρός, meaning ‘pit for storing grain’, and doubles in business jargon as an insular cell withholding information. McMaster’s creation, as a storehouse and celebration of natural materials, is a poetic reimagining of the former, and a rejection of the latter. Because although the restaurant is in many ways standalone in its singularvision, it is concerned with our whole ecosystem – of how and what we eat, and the intricate play between these channels. It shares its learning because it truly believes in the alternative: that waste is a modern, man-made invention, and ultimately, “a failure of imagination”.


The Porter

Photography Sadie Catt



Tile moulds (trepes) for patterns line the walls of Huguet


The Porter

Photography Alba Yruela

LIVING MATTER By Dylan Holden. For Port’s 10th anniversary issue, editor Dan Crowe was invited to design a tile crafted by heritage Majorcan factory, Huguet

Hydraulic tile pressing first occurred on the banks of the Rhône in Viviers, France, swiftly spreading to Catalonia, Portugal, Cuba, Mexico, and India, among others. The inexpensive technique (metal moulds are filled with water, pigments, marble dust, sand, and cement, layered with the latter, then compressed with no heat), transformed flooring in the 19th century due to its durability and decoration. At the height of the method’s popularity, Spain had over a thousand factories producing intricately colourful tiles – now, it counts only a handful. Based in Campos on the Balearic Island of Majorca, Huguet is one such remaining artisan using the hand-crafted style, in which no two tiles are the same. “Some people think of the past only as dead time. For them, tradition is just nostalgia… To us, the past is made of living matter, architecture with character, with personality,” reflects Biel Huguet, who has run his family company for over two decades. Huguet’s grandfather Gabriel established the factory in 1933, passing on his baldosas hidráulicas trade to his son, who expanded its range to include concrete beams. Today, it creates a plethora of bespoke pieces – washbasins and baths, wabi-sabi facades, cobblestones that will last for 300 years, vast pavement slabs resembling Juanola liquorice pills, speckled terrazzo furniture – for some of the most esteemed contemporary designers and architects. Chosen by the likes of Herzog & de Meuron and David Chipperfield for their natural finish, noble materials, and depth of ageing, Huguet’s tiles line structures from Hong Kong to Milan, Washington DC restaurants to Polish philharmonic halls. Their slow but steady ubiquity calls to mind the antique method’s initial international conquest. Or, as its director puts it, “Our world is the world.”



The Porter

Photography Alba Yruela

Chromatic variety is part of the natural character of Huguet’s tiles. It is achieved by mixing cement with natural pigments dye, marble dust and water. Any quantity can be made to order, even a single tile

Tiles are made one by one, pressing three different layers to obtain the final result


In the past there were more than one hundred cement tile factories on the island of Majorca, however almost all disappeared by the 1980s. Huguet recovered the artisan process in 1997, updating techniques and designs since


The Porter

Photography Alba Yruela


Willem Dafoe


Willem Dafoe’s filmography exceeds a hundred films now. It’s the kind of résumé any working actor would aspire to. It includes work with iconic directors, movies for huge tent-pole franchises, but also the indiest of the indies, high art projects in which he plays the likes of both Vincent van Gogh and Jesus of Nazareth. And then there’s the stage work, which includes the innovative theatre productions and classics like Eugene O’Neill. Dafoe seems to have been everywhere, and worked with almost everyone. He is, at this point, the kind of stalwart actor’s actor who is universally admired, and who prefers work to basking in outsized celebrity. Talking with Dafoe, one is immediately aware of the voice: raspy, full of colour, indelibly recognisable, and vividly alive. Offscreen there’s an easy smile, a serenity and gentleness one doesn’t associate with an actor who has frequently brought deranged villains to life. I met Dafoe once before, many years ago, when we shared a cab home from a dinner with mutual acquaintances. We talked about T S Eliot, whose work he’d been reading in preparation for a role. This time around, in the maw of the pandemic, he seemed even more philosophical, but with the same sudden capacity for energetic laughter, enthusiasm, and generosity. We talked over Zoom, just before he was heading out to do what he has done so well, a hundred times before...

Rick Moody: How has your pandemic been? Willem Dafoe: I can’t say it was good. It afforded me a time to calm down for a little while. I was in lockdown in Italy. It was nice to be with my wife alone in quiet Rome, hearing only bird sounds in a deserted city with my days not so structured. Usually if I’m not working on something, I’m preparing for something. I got an opportunity to start thinking about, you know, what do you do with a day? I found a pretty good rhythm. Once things loosened up I started working again under Covid protocols, which aren’t ideal, but you adjust. I’ve been fortunate because in this time I’ve been able to work, and I’ve been with my family. Was it strange being far away from the US during the pandemic? Well, a lot of the time, I tend to shoot outside of the country. And, previously, with the Wooster Group, I was abroad a lot; so I’ve always had a little distance. Also, being a New Yorker, you normally have a distance. I admired the Italians for how they were dealing with the Covid situation, initially, as opposed to when I was in New York, where things were very confused. Later, there was a period where I was shooting Nightmare Alley in Toronto, and that was closer to the election. I got sucked into watching the news obsessively, and that was hard.


As an actor, I like it best when I’m the creature of someone who’s making a world… They’re whispering in my ear, and I’m trying to make it manifest



I feel very comfortable on the fringes… Home is always the place where I feel loose

Among your recent projects (Siberia, a horror story; The Card Counter, a thriller; Nightmare Alley, a psychological drama based on a classic pulp novel), you worked with Abel Ferrara again, and you also worked with Paul Schrader. You’ve worked on multiple projects with both these directors, and I wanted to ask about how that is meaningful for you, to work with certain film directors repeatedly. How does that long relationship create an impact with respect to your craft? You develop a shorthand; you develop a trust. As an actor, I like it best when I’m the creature of someone who’s making a world. They want to see something, and I’m a guy who gets fed into this world. They’re whispering in my ear, and I’m trying to make it manifest. You feel like you’re doing a service, and you get away from yourself. It’s someone else’s agenda. So that’s a nice way to work. Mostly, when you start a project there’s so much sniffing around and figuring, identifying what the project is and what the sensibilities are. If you don’t have that, if you have, instead, some basis, some history, there’s a lot more love. And there’s a lot more curiosity. And I think you can go deeper. I guess that’s all pretty practical, you know. I know Abel pretty well because we’re neighbours, and we have similar interests. Paul, on the other hand, outside of work, I barely ever see him. We’re close, but it’s always in the context of work. So it’s not just about working with friends; it’s working in a situation where you don’t waste a lot of time defining terms.


Both of these directors represent a particular idea of contemporary cinema, a kind of outside-the-studio model that is recalled in movies like Bad Lieutenant and Mishima. They are very different from the sort of spectacle-oriented model. I note that you have been a Marvel character and DC character (and will be in a Spider-Man film shortly), in various films, but these recent projects are far from that. Does that mean that you’re continuing to try to carve out projects that are outside of a sort of conventional mainstream movie making? I feel very comfortable on the fringes. I mean, there are pleasures to making big studio movies, but I don’t get to collaborate on the same level. They’re movies made with different intentions, different resources, and different people. I like to mix it up. Home is always the place where I feel loose. What are some examples of those past indie projects that resonate most strongly for you now? Recent films that come to mind would be The Florida Project or Tommaso. They are dear to me because they were shot in unconventional ways and with colleagues who aren’t always professional actors. It’s an interesting challenge to drop your professional performer mindset and come to a reality that is shaped by people that are in their element and not used to performing or making fiction from their experiences. Rather than you teaching them how to perform, they teach you how to be human.

I believe you know John Lurie, the musician (Lounge Lizards), actor (Down by Law), and painter (Painting with John, now on HBO), an incredible polymath who has a great new memoir out right now, which includes a photo of you and John in its pages. I always wanted to ask you, or John, what was it like ice-fishing together in that episode of John’s first TV show, Fishing with John. It looks so fun on-screen, if, uh, cold. Do you have recollections of that time? I remember. John and I have lost touch a bit, in his desire to sequester. But we had some very close periods. I’ve known him for a long time. Fishing with John was fantastic. John said he had some money, asked if I wanted to do it, and then he and Jim Jarmusch, myself, and I think Jamie Nares, went out fishing in Montauk to kind of play around with the idea, just to see what it would be. We didn’t use that trip for the series; it was part of the development process. He said, look, where do you want to go? We’ve got enough money that we can go anywhere. We go fishing, we shoot for three days; it is totally improvised, totally invented. I was super busy and I couldn’t do it right away. All the other guys chose tropical locations where it was very comfortable. Finally I was the last one to choose, and I thought, I’m not going to go to Thailand. I’m not going go to the Yucatán, Gulf of Mexico. It’s kind of a drag if, you know, it’s all one tone. So I said, how about Maine? I had a place there for many years. And so we went in the middle of the winter and filmed in the Allagash. It was




Every project is a dream project in theory, and you should try to approach all work as such, without preferential judgements

beautiful. We’d wake up at three o’clock in the morning, have a big farm breakfast. They would be warming up the snowmobiles. We would go to location on snowmobiles in the dark. And we had some wood, and we had to build a house, and we had to catch fish, and that’s about all that we had for scenario. I haven’t seen that show in a long time, but when I saw it, I liked it. I think it was fun and captured that kind of spirit of friendship. It’s not so obvious and kind of sweet in a way. What’s beautiful about John is that when he’s sweet it’s to catch and see a real artist with a real fluid centre. Is it correct that you have also recently worked on a solo theatrical monologue adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’? Yeah, I performed it already in two different cities (Antwerp and Naples). It’s a beautiful text. It’s basically the minister’s speech that he doesn’t make. This director is one of the best in the world, Romeo Castellucci, and this isn’t exactly typical of his work. This is more like a chamber piece, in that it’s only me. And usually he does beautiful visual things, spectacular things, high concept. He also directs a lot of opera. But this is simple. It was me dressed as a minister in a church, an actual church. In fact, I wear a black veil. You don’t see my face. The text has a lot to do with faith and ways of articulating faith. It’s a very poetic text written by his sister. I enjoyed performing it a great deal. It’s quite a complicated, poetic, and philosophical text. Every time I perform it, I have a different take, which is a beautiful thing.

Produced in collaboration with ZEGNA to celebrate their What Makes A Man campaign, a new platform for discussion on the meaning of modern masculinity. Photo assistant: Marella Bessone Grooming: Marco Minunno Make up: Samia Mohsein

The character in the Hawthorne story, Joseph ‘Handkerchief ’ Moody, is alleged to be an ancestor of mine, so I know the story well. It’s exciting to hear about your version and experience. Does the story seem different to you now, in the era of masking debates and fake news? I didn’t even think about it. You’re right. You know, I’ve been working on a lot of films with these Covid protocols and one of the most fascinating things about this whole mask thing is you can work with people for three months and never see this part of their face. And the interesting thing is your mind fills it in. You’re wearing a mask, but I know what you look like. My mind constructs a face. And then the day comes where I happen to be there as you’re eating, you take off that mask, and every time, wrong. Your mind needs to complete the picture sometimes. For better, sometimes for worse, always wrong. How important is theatre for you now? Right now my plate is full with movies; I’m not thinking about theatre as much. But I hope things get better for theatre. There’s always going to be a place for it. The audience may shrink, but there is that need to be in the room when something’s happening. It’s in our nature. Now there are people growing up, experiencing all their entertainment and art on phones and computers. But I still think it’s in the human DNA, a need to group around the campfire and have someone get up and do a dance or sing or tell the story. Richard Foreman, the avant-garde playwright with whom you have worked in New York, is

an obvious example of that kind of theatre, the truly live iteration of theatre. It seems hard to imagine how we get back to that during a pandemic. But it’s clear how essential it is. Richard is one of my gods. I’ve worked with him twice. I love him. He’s kind of in retirement now, slowing down. I’m never as happy as I am in front of an audience in Richard Foreman’s theatre. There’s nothing like it in the world. I love it. You have a reputation for roles that orbit around art and literature. Are there other stories in those areas that have been exciting for you lately? I was going to say that I don’t read that much fiction, or contemporary literature, but, really, that’s not true. I read a lot. It’s just usually connected with work. And I would say the same thing about the visual arts. I’m always so happy when I go to a museum. I really am. It’s always a great inspiration and adventure. But what am I excited about now? In a couple of days, I leave for Budapest to shoot a film based on a novel by the Scottish writer Alasdair Gray. That’s exciting. What does a perfect project look like to you now, if the world would open and permit something as unwieldy as a dream? Every project is a dream project in theory, and you should try to approach all work as such, without preferential judgements. I am always looking for situations and the company of people to be free and inspired enough to make something that goes beyond what we can imagine or plan. That is the pleasure of the adventure – a shift of understanding.


Defying categories with agile lyricism, the north London rapper’s latest work is her most personal and accomplished to date. From generational trauma to womanhood, Nina Simone to knife crime, she reveals the intimate and creative forces that shaped it

Little Simz


I know what I’m on, and I know where I’m trying to get to

Little Simz is a veteran. Though her cheeky downturned smile and sentences punctuated with the language of millennial London give a glimpse of her true youth (the rapper is still firmly in her 20s), everything else about the north Londoner’s demeanour suggests she’s not new to this music game at all. Her energy is calm, her answers careful and considered, and her ambitions firmly unbothered by external pressure, in that way that only comes with time and maturity. Releasing her first mixtape in 2010, Simz has been a name on lips for over a decade and in that time has had her fair share of hype and praise. Co-signed by everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Lauryn Hill, Damon Albarn to Stormzy, to call her your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper feels inadequate. Her intellectually agile lyricism, genre-dismantling versatility, and refreshingly individual approach to art has separated her from the pack since her inception. In the same breath however, her name is often brought up as one of the most underrated within the rap community, with some feeling her immense talent goes underappreciated by the wider industry. While it’s well-meaning, one of the best things about Simz is how little she concerns herself with such topics, instead choosing to carve her own untrodden path, and redefining what success can look like for a woman, or anyone, trying to make it in the genre. “I know what I’m on, and I know where I’m trying to get to,” Simz states simply. “I’m kind of done with focusing on who’s not picking up on me or talking about me or nominating me for this. There’s so much love and support out there for


me, and that’s where I like to focus my attention… And I think my face is bait man, whether you fuck with it or not, you know my name.” That quiet confidence hasn’t always been there, she admits, having fallen into the trap of being frustrated with how others perceived her. “But,” she adds with a laugh, “a part of me thinks, was I really that bothered? Because I still never conformed!” And that stubbornness eventually paid off. Now decorated with an NME Award and an Ivor Novello Award for best album, as well as Mercury Prize and MOBO nominations for her previous project GREY Area, the world is watching closely to see what Little Simz might do next. Despite her position as a UK rap mainstay, there’s always been a degree of mystery surrounding the person behind the music. Under Simz’ ‘personal life’ section on Wikipedia sit three short, distinct sentences (including one saying that she lives in London and another that she’s an Arsenal FC fan, which are pretty much truisms for any Islington-based individuals). But her latest project delves the deepest yet into the rich and textured tapestry of one of the UK’s most brilliant musical brains. Titled Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, shortened to the acronym S.I.M.B.I, a version of her real name Simbiatu, the album’s opener poses the question at the heart of the 19-track odyssey: “Simz the artist or Simbi the person?” Through the intimate voyage into subjects of knife crime, generational trauma, and womanhood, unveiling new aspects of Simz as she navigates through personal heartbreak and growth – alongside some of the most sonically ambitious music she’s ever released – the answer is emphatically both.

Up until now, the two sides of the Nigerian-British artist have remained distinct on purpose. “As much as I’m aware of who I am and where I sit in the world, I also just want to be able to have some things for myself,” Simz says of protecting her privacy. She’s also talked in the past about her reluctance to become a presumptuous spokesperson for the communities she’s deemed to represent: “I don’t claim to know everything at all; I’m still learning, so I have to be careful of what I say and what messages I put out there.” On S.I.M.B.I however, Simz’ personal and her political are endlessly entangled. The urgent and declarative single ‘Introvert’ lays bare all that’s wrong in Simz’ own world, with an accompanying visual that blends emotive choreography, protest footage and brutality within renaissance art, as she raps, “I’m not into politics / but I know it’s dark times / parts of the world still living in apartheid.” “I just want to encourage people to think for themselves, make their own decisions and – not in a patronising way – ask the right questions,” Simz explains. ‘Little Q, Pt 2’ is another breakthrough point in the project, written from the perspective of her own cousin, who Simz grew up with. “There was a period in life where we didn’t speak, you know, when you just get older and get your own friends and you just do your own thing. I didn’t see him for ages, and then we reconnected,” she says. “He was telling me all this mad stuff I had no idea that he’d experienced about his life and how he almost lost it. It’s just crazy; to anyone else he’d be just another Black boy, another number. But to me he’s my family and he’s so much more.” The song chronicles his

I just want to encourage people to think for themselves, make their own decisions and – not in a patronising way – ask the right questions




Poems can easily be raps; raps can easily be stories; stories can easily be films, like they’re all linked and intertwined

rocky path, as Simz compassionately unpacks the nuances of his experience, and those like him, as well as its sociocultural context: “We eat from a tree full of forbidden fruits / we all know the real criminals live in the suits,” she raps over a vintage-sounding beat reminiscent of early Kanye, complete with an exultant chorus singing a soul-soothing refrain. “I wanted to use my creative space to tell another story other than my own, because I think it’s just as important. Especially because it’s not just his story; probably a lot of Black boys in Britain can relate to this reality. So I wanted it to be shared, but I didn’t want the song to be depressing; I wanted it to feel hopeful and positive, like life gave you a second chance. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” That’s a consistent theme throughout S.I.M.B.I, one of hope and growth. One of the standout singles ahead of release, and Simz’ most personal yet, ‘I Love You, I Hate You’ unearths Simz’ relationship with her estranged father in her own attempt to break the chain of generational trauma. Of baring her insecurities in such an open way, Simz says, “It definitely felt scary but… it’s my truth, innit! I’m someone who’s very feelings led, and I believe you can’t argue with how someone feels… With every album, I just want to get better, whether that’s lyrically or better at opening up; so these are the steps I’m taking in order to do that.” The song is a heart-wrenching confessional of bottled-up feelings, as Simz speaks directly to him: “Hard to not carry these feelings even on my best days / never thought my parent would give me my first heartbreak / anxiety giving me irregular heart rate / used to avoid getting into how I really feel about this now I see

how fickle life can be and so it can’t wait / shoulda been the person there to hold me on my dark days.” Alongside the revelatory songwriting on the project, and in spite of the introversion suggested in its title, the musicality of the record is equally generous. From beginning to end, you’re pulled along on a vibrant tour of Simz’ thoughts, feelings, and influences. Filled to the brim with brass sections, strings, choirs, as well as switches to plucked guitars and electronic synths and chords, with exhilarating percussion throughout, the album defies categorisation with ease and conviction – soulful R&B, trap, classic hip-hop, rock, and everything in between lives here. Kicked off with an ominous marching band intro, the album delivers on that initial promise of a sensory feast. ‘I Love You, I Hate You’ combines its intimate storytelling with ambitiously widescreen production. The grandiose orchestra introduction fanfares the weight of the moment, almost harking to those classic blockbuster movie theme tunes of 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, or Universal. It takes you straight to sticky carpets, faint popcorn aromas, and that comforting anticipation that precedes an immersive, cinematic experience. Simz laughs in agreement when I confess the comparison: “I wanted this album to be very visual. As much as it is an audio experience, I want people to be able to visualise and see it too, so it was important for me to keep that thread throughout the album. And obviously being very heavily inspired by film, concepts, and stories… it’s all the same thing man!” She lists off passionately, “Poems can easily be raps; raps can easily be stories; stories can easily be films, like they’re all linked and intertwined.”

And it’s not only true in this case, but also proven – Simz has adopted many modes of dramatic storytelling. From theatre at her local youth club to starring in dramas such as Youngers and Netflix’s Top Boy, to this year getting behind the camera to direct her own visual for single ‘Woman’. Such multidisciplinary artistry translated neatly into the interludes woven into the project, narrated by The Crown’s Emma Corrin; mirroring the fantastical nature of some of the earlier album Stillness in Wonderland, Corrin serves as a spiritual guide, of sorts, through Simz’ journey of discovery. “I just thought she was sick,” Simz laughs, admitting, “Some days, I’d go to the studio and I wouldn’t even make music; I’d just watch The Crown. So it was cool to collaborate in that way, as opposed to being on screen.” Conscious of the sheer volume of her own voice on the project, Simz unpacks, “I knew I needed a voice to guide us through.” The flow of the record is just as deliberate. Simz explains, “I think people usually put their jumpy tunes at the top of the album, which makes sense. But because of how dense the album is, we thought it would be better to have it story led in the beginning and then pick up the pace.” The shift is tangible about halfway through – just as you think you’ve grasped what the project is, it changes tack altogether. ‘Point and Kill’ sees Simz team up with London-based Nigeria-born artist Obongjayar for a self-assured Afrobeat-infused mantra about taking no prisoners and living unapologetically. Simz sings affirmingly: “I do as I want / I do as I like / I no watch face / I no fear nobody.” The same outlook bleeds through to the following track ‘Fear No Man’ too. To hear Simz morph her swagger


Being independent for so long has forced me to step outside of a comfort zone that many wouldn’t dare

and energy so effortlessly in ode to her roots is exhilarating. “It was cool to be able to channel [my Nigerian heritage] in some way through my sound, and even though it’s Afrobeat, it still sounds like me.” At other points in the record, Simz tries her hand at other genres too. Disco-tinged ‘Protect My Energy’ is a synth-heavy tune that does what it says on the tin, creating a light and infectious lullaby to wash away your worries, at once totally unexpected and perfectly timed in the sequence. ‘Rollin Stone’ erupts with grimy, techno edges, before changing course halfway through for a slowed trap style and a pitched-up Simz alter ego as she talks some of her most braggadocious bars yet. It’s a red-eye flight from the streets of north London to the boulevards of Atlanta, Georgia, in 10 seconds flat. “The first half was me going back to ’09 Simz, and then the second half is definitely my evil twin pulling up for a sec, even just trying a new way to use my voice and maybe just say some shit that you wouldn’t necessarily hear from me before,” she says with a touch of coyness. What drives that experimental essence within Simz is a bold mix of freedom and necessity: “I have no choice,” Simz says. Having remained independent for her entire career, Simz is her own driving force most of the time, existing outside of label demands and requirements. “I think being independent for so long has forced me to step outside of a comfort zone that many wouldn’t dare, you know. I’ve never really had the...” she pauses for at least five seconds before gesturing wistfully at the air all around her and landing on the word “machiiiiine”, stretched out with heavy


Styling assistant: Rowen Webb Make up artist: Nibras Hair styling: Chantelle Fuller

implicit quotation marks. She continues, “The way I’ve had to grow my career and audience has been a totally different route to someone who’s been signed, maybe. So I’ve been forced to take these risks and try new things, but I’m also down for it.” That adaptable spirit is evident in her catalogue too, featuring collaborations with Gorillaz, alt-J, SAULT, Khalid, and endless other artists on the spectrum of sound. “As much as I like to keep other people excited, I also like to keep myself excited and on my toes, you know.” She even raves about a “badboy emo tune” she’s got in the vault that didn’t quite make the album: “It’s like, maybe I’m not sure how this is gonna turn out, but fuck it, I’m betting on myself.” It’s that singular, fearless approach to the process that elevates Little Simz as one of the least predictable and most exciting artists making music today; one who remains unphased and authentic at a time when formulas and genre tropes are more encouraged than ever, in aid of streaming success and algorithms that dictate our listening habits. In the making of this project, Simz was intentional in seeking inspiration outside of those echo chambers, immersing herself in a host of timeless classics: “[Me and my producer] were taking in all these different artists and just deeping that when Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Smokey Robinson were making these classics, they were basically my age, which I guess just put things into perspective.” On a wider artistic level, she cites Missy Elliott as one of the first and few women she ever saw herself in. “I remember feeling like, rah, I can just tell she’s being herself. The styling, the videos, it all just felt like her.” The


single ‘Woman’ was Simz’ own meditation on the beautiful variety of womanhood and all its definitions. She says, “I just need the next little Black girl that I once was to see that there are options. I can be super classy and femme and then next video I might be in a tracksuit.” Is that what womanhood means to Little Simz, something unrestricted and free? In short, yes. “I guess I’m still figuring it out to be honest; I think that’s what this album’s about. I haven’t conquered anything; I haven’t conquered womanhood. I feel very comfortable in myself and in my skin; it’s just owning womanhood in my own way and not what anyone else has told me being a woman should look, feel, sound, or be like. But as I get older, it’ll probably change with the times. I’m still evolving with the word, I think.” She pauses for a second before adding with a laugh, “but then it also might not even be that deep! Which I also have to tell myself.” That contrast feels like a pretty apt way of summing up the inimitable Little Simz, at this point in time, on this particular project. There’s a metamorphosis still in process that contains complex layers and emotions. Her world is one to immerse yourself in and perhaps find your own reflection in, one that doesn’t prescribe answers so much as raises interesting questions. But in the very same breath, there’s an uncomplicated immediacy to her too, making really great music for you to find joy and peace in. Like most things in life, it is both incredibly deep and not that deep, simultaneously. Ultimately Simz says, “I just want people to know that you can always be yourself, and someone will love you for it.”

A co-founder of the radical Memphis Group, George Sowden’s designs are freely guided by shape and eclectic colour. With award-winning work spanning computers, furniture, patterns, and ceramics, the self-professed ‘digital artisan’ reflects on creative complications, emotive decoration, and the importance of retaining human fallibility



Previous page: George Sowden working in his studio, Milan

Above: George Sowden’s dog Pango in the studio

When George Sowden went to work for Olivetti in 1970, the company employed almost 75,000 people, from Sao Paolo to Glasgow, designing and building technologically advanced computers, adding machines, and typewriters of remarkable elegance. It was a culturally sophisticated version of Apple with a social conscience, expressed in generous welfare provisions for its workers and a utopian company town called Ivrea, near Turin. Its factories were built by acclaimed architects Louis Kahn and Marco Zanusso, while James Stirling designed its training centre in Britain. Italian luminaries Carlo Scarpa, Gae Aulenti, and Ernesto Rogers did its showrooms. It employed iconic designers Milton Glaser and Herbert Bayer to create its posters, commissioned Henri Cartier-Bresson and even Le Corbusier, and famously paid to restore the four horses of St Mark’s in Venice. Failure to adapt to technological change, and some dubiously opaque financial engineering, has left it the shrunken and faded division of an


Italian telecoms business, reduced to putting its branding on point-of-sale devices manufactured in Asia. Yet it wasn’t this exemplary if doomed industrial giant that caused Sowden to pack up his family in a 12-year-old Ford Consul and drive to Milan. It was a piece written by Olivetti’s senior designer Ettore Sottsass for Domus, the Italian architecture magazine, which grabbed his attention. It was titled ‘Whipped Cream Memoirs’, which sounds better in the original Italian. ‘Memoires di Panna Montata’ was a celebration in words and pictures of the hedonism of the 1960s. Ostensibly a record of a single day on the streets of Soho and Chelsea, the article became a map for an escape route for Sowden – away from his frustrating and unfulfilling work as an architectural assistant into a new world free from the puritanical restrictions of modernism. After studying architecture at Gloucestershire College of Art, Sowden had moved to London to earn a living and found himself working

on big projects in far off places that he never saw. “In my spare time I did a series of drawings which I called architectural dreams,” he says. But there was more to his portfolio than delicate graphic speculation. Sowden had built himself a workshop in Cheltenham and made a vacuum-forming machine, “so I knew from very early on how to prototype a design.” Sowden belongs to a generation that felt genuinely oppressed by the deeply ingrained belief that there was a right way to do ‘good design’. Even as a school boy, he had begun to understand the giddying appeal of freedom. “I grew up in Leeds; my dad worked in a factory. When I was 13, our English teacher was ill; his replacement was amazing. On the second day he said, ‘We will write a poem.’ I asked ‘How do you write a poem?’ He replied, ‘I am going to tell you something you will never forget. I don’t know how. You will have to find out for yourself.’” By the time he had been in Milan for a while, Sowden fully understood what his teacher had

George Sowden, Sowden for HAY, collection

been trying to do. “I remember being on a jury for a design award once, judging laptops with a Swiss guy and a German. The Swiss guy started counting; he said, ‘Anything that has more than two finishes is not good design.’ The German added, ‘Anything with a radiused corner of less than five millimetres isn’t good design.’ I thought, if you run your life like that, it’s so much easier. Opening up possibilities gets you into deep water, but I like complications.” Sowden was fascinated that Sottsass, with his day job working on extremely serious and business-like industrial products, could simultaneously embrace such an entirely different version of what design could be. His combination of poetry and pragmatics looked like the path to freedom, and Sowden wrote to Sottsass asking for a job. He was amazed to get a reply suggesting that he come for an interview. Sowden has lived and worked in Milan ever since, first as an Olivetti employee in Sottsass’s via Manzoni studio, then working for himself,

most recently setting up the Sowden brand to make domestic equipment and lighting under his own name. It has taken him on a design journey from desktop computers and inkjet printers, to furniture, ceramics, and an absorption with pattern making. “You try to be relevant, and that means changing. Of course, the technology of manufacturing changes; what stays the same is the sensibility. It is static for some; they go on doing what they have always done. But that’s not so in my case.” Sowden’s recent work has included projects for companies at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum: Uniqlo and Valentino have both used his patterns for their textiles. He has devised a simpler version of the cafetière and the espresso pot in the shape of a ceramic jug with a fine metal filter, and has spent a lot of time on working on an alternative to the light bulb. At the Milan Fair this year, he is launching his newest product: “I wanted to do a really minimal light shade made out of moulded silicon rubber.”

Like so much of what Sowden creates, the project is really about the way that he approaches colour. “As a kid, I had six crayons in a box, and it wasn’t difficult to choose a colour. Now if you Google ‘colour’ you get 1,000,000 possibilities. A human eye can recognise 50,000 colours. I like that. I make choices; it’s the way that I think it should be.” The jelly-like shade indeed glows with luscious colours. The ceramic Sowden coffee makers have unexpected accents of colour, sometimes hardly noticeable, but it is as much a part of Sowden’s way of doing things as it is his way of shape-making. The pivotal moment in his career was the day in 1981 when Sottsass led his collaborators on the Memphis project into the middle of the Umeda Masanori boxing ring for the famous group photograph that defined the movement. Sowden is in the centre of the ring, cradled by his partner Nathalie du Pasquier. Around them are Michele de Lucchi (also working for Olivetti), Matteo Thun, Aldo Cibic, and Sottsass himself.


George Sowden, SowdenLight, 2010s, Pendant Lamp

Top Right: George Sowden, OFX 330 AC, Olivetti, 1990, Fax Bottom Right: George Sowden, Miram, Olivetti, 1988, Phone

Sowden’s contribution to that first Memphis collection included the D’Antibes cabinet – egg-yolk yellow legs, with what look like bright blue socks, a red façade and interior, with a decorative pattern silkscreened to the sides. The Pierre table with boldly striped legs also featured, while the Oberoi armchair was a piece of low-slung upholstery with a shape that could have been a cartoon version of the sort of modern throne favoured by Soviet-era authoritarians. Clocks and textiles were also included. Memphis was not a conventional group; its members did not share a studio or work together. Sowden called that first collection a “collage of work by individuals”. Everyone “worked separately and freely”, he says. “It was only during our meetings, mostly in the evenings, when we showed the drawings we had finished – and the selection of projects was made quickly – that we worked together,


criticising or praising, accepting or rejecting, and thereby assembling the collection.” The opening night of that first show in Milan was mobbed, and the reaction was immediate. Some people hated it; many loved it. The publicity was massive. For the first time since the modernists had taken command, the design world had a genuine movement in the same sense that art had pop and music had punk. The images of that collection looked easy to copy and then discard. But Sowden dismisses the idea that Memphis was a style. “There is no such thing as Memphis style. It is undefined. Memphis is an attitude. And it was our attitude, which became a movement, that has influenced the aesthetics and identity of global design since our first exhibition. It will continue to be discussed and criticised, added to, copied, and reinterpreted by generations to come. What design looks like will continue to change but the freedom that Memphis represents will remain.”

In the run up to the Memphis opening, Sowden had met du Pasquier, a self-taught artist with a remarkable gift for pattern. “Nathalie’s work was powerful; her graphics for Memphis were so original. She didn’t think about what she was doing; she just did it,” says Sowden. At the same time Sowden produced a flood of drawings: some delineated a dreamlike interior architectural world; others were elaborate patterns. “I had discovered decoration,” he says. “I thought that decoration was the purest form of design: it projects emotion; it represents history.” If participation in Memphis had given Sowden the platform to develop his own design language, his work for Olivetti was important too. “Olivetti was like doing a PhD in production. It was an extraordinary chance to learn how factories work. You recognise personalities; you can tell who the managers and the engineers are, and who are the ones that walk to work.”

Prototype for a Segis chair resting atop D’Antibes Cabinet

Sowden describes how he got to lead his first major project at the company in terms that make it sound like absurdist theatre, but knowing the personalities involved, might just be an accurate account of the genesis of Olivetti’s first desktop computer, the L1, in 1978. “Sottsass called us all into his office: ‘Stand by the wall. I need somebody really tall to do this job… George is the tallest: George, you go to Ivrea. They want to design a computer.’” According to Sowden, “Nobody wanted to design a computer; it was typewriters that were the cool thing to do at the time.” But he had what he called “a hunch” about reconfiguring the elements of computing. Against the advice of the engineering department, he separated the keyboard and monitor and produced designs for both that were based on careful ergonomic research. A large order from a Danish bank saw Sowden begin commuting to Copenhagen to install them. He soon became one of Olivetti’s busiest designers, winning the

SowdenLight Pendant Lamp hanging above the studio’s kitchen

Compasso d’Oro for his Olivetti fax machine. But he decided it was time to set up on his own. Sowden’s studio takes up one side of half a floor of one of those industrial, ochre-coloured Milanese courtyards. The other half is occupied by du Pasquier’s painting studio, which, filled with neatly stacked canvasses and the scent of oil paint, has its own front door. The two high ceiling spaces are connected by a generous kitchen with a long dining table. The Olivetti experience taught Sowden the potential of the computer as a design tool, but also made him aware of what is lost when fallible human decisions are taken out of the design process. “When I first got there, the Olivetti technical office had 100 people at drawing boards. Every person worked on a little piece of something enormous. The head of the office could see them all and how they fitted together. He could say, ‘Please move that,’ to make the small adjustments needed to make it easier to

assemble. People could make mistakes and fix them. If they could not screw it together, they could file a corner off. The constant adjusting for errors with computer-aided design means you can see if things fit together before that happens. You can tell when things are done by machine; they are too perfect.” It’s a perception that shapes Sowden’s own products. Outsourcing now makes it possible for him to design, make, and market products under his own name. There are three people working with him in Milan, an accountant in Yorkshire, and two people in China – one is an engineer, the other looks after the warehouse. It’s not exactly like being in command of Olivetti, but it’s a step beyond Memphis, and it allows him to be his own client, and to make his own decisions. “A lot of things are made by little companies – they depend on a lot of artisan work, even if they use computers. I like to think I am a digital artisan.”


Project 1: System L1

Client: Olivetti

Year: 1978–79

When Sowden was asked to work on a desktop computer, the rest of the Olivetti design studio was more interested in working on electric typewriters. But Sowden’s ergonomic approach kept the company competitive long after typewriters had become obsolete.

Project 2: SoftBrew

Client: N/A

Year: 2010

Sowden came up with a better way to make a decent coffee that doesn’t require an instruction manual. The secret is the perforated fine metal filter inside the ceramic jug. It does away with any machinery, and you can put it on the table to serve. Just decide how many spoons of coffee you want, and boil a kettle.


Project 3: Geometric Collection

Client: Uniqlo

Year: 2019

Client: N/A

Year: 1981

The fashion world has been recycling Memphis-era patterns since Prada used one of Nathalie du Pasquier’s textile prints. Sowden collaborated with Uniqlo on a T-shirt collection, which carries his signature on the label, and a range of his distinctive patterns.

Project 4: D’Antibes Cabinet

Sowden’s cabinet for the first Memphis collection launched in Milan in 1981 alongside work from Sottsass, Michele de Lucchi, as well as Michael Graves, Shiro Kuramata and Hans Hollein, in an explosion of colour and pattern.


Sumayya Vally’s design and research practice is committed to finding expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. She is the co-founder and director of Counterspace, the Johannesburg studio established in 2015 that occupies a place between pedagogy and praxis. Port talks to the youngest architect ever commissioned for the Serpentine Pavilion about mapping migrant experiences, being inspired by South Africa, and non-static ways of creating space

Material Histories


2021’s Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace

London is renowned for many things that echo beyond the M25 and around the world onto postcards and T-shirts: parks, palaces, pubs; towers, the Thames, taxis. Before even visiting the city, you can understand and imagine these things. But one thing that’s less known, less talked about, is the light. There are particular evenings, often during early summer, when the sky roars with colours we forget can exist on these grey isles. The light falls on bricks and concrete that are cast in pale pinks and soft blues, glimpsed as a sort of collective hallucination that seems rarely acknowledged beyond a few Turner watercolours or Ray Davies’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Sumayya Vally noticed the light. The Johannesburg-based architect of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion, unveiled in Hyde Park in June, spent much of the year developing the project by walking around the capital taking photos on her phone, and researching London in historic archives. The light caught her eye. “The colours of the pavilion are inspired by the different


qualities of light in London,” she explains, via Zoom, “especially the soft bleached colours that you get in the city. The light is quite special and very different to home; I wanted to reflect that.” This precise, lyrical attention to atmospheric detail is typical of the Pretoria-born architect, who once dreamed of being a journalist or an archaeologist, and it is but one part of a complex and multi-layered pavilion that has received near-universal acclaim from critics. Writing in ArtReview, Will Wiles observed a “deeply satisfying architectural richness”; while Edwin Heathcote described “a seductive space densely packed with surfaces for lounging in the shade, a pile of architectural memories and eye-catching shadows” in the Financial Times. This complexity, and its acclaim, are a rare feat for the pavilion commissions, always given to architects who haven’t previously built in the UK, whose structures typically rely on one-liners to create photogenic backdrops to café goers and exclusive events.

Vally’s pavilion is certainly photogenic, but behind those bleached tones is a deep engagement with the social fabric of London that is continuing to unfold. Going into the commission, Vally sought to build a structure that engaged with migrant experiences of London, one that reflected neighbourhood spaces far beyond W2. Thus in addition to her ambulatory research, she spent time at mosques, bookshops, libraries, and cultural centres from Dagenham to Finsbury Park and Notting Hill, before transposing structural details of those sites – steps, flutings, columns, and cornices – into a delicate spatial composition back in Kensington. “I worked on mapping them out and modelling them from photos, or drawing the spaces,” she explains. “They are very specific gestures, of generosity, or of thinking about how the body is held for conversation or for gathering.” The result is a curious and cavernous space that is open to the park yet fosters a sense of

When we see and perceive all the beauty in South African land and landscape, there is also a completely uncomfortable underside that we can’t see so much of

interiority, with different scales that can be adopted for performances, workshops, or close conversations. More than this, the structure extends back to some of the sites that inspired its form – small fragments of the structure have been installed at New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park; The Tabernacle in Notting Hill; The Albany in Deptford; and the new Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub at Valence Library in Dagenham, and Vally is developing ongoing collaborations with these institutions. “I’m thinking laterally about where the project fits into what the Serpentine Gallery is already doing and where it can have impact, or where there’s potential for new relationships to happen,” she says. Social relations, intelligent tectonics, delicate aesthetics: This combination, brought together in the object of the Serpentine Pavilion, is typical of the work of Vally and her practice Counterspace, which she set up in 2015 to “read, draw on, absorb, and translate the

phenomenon that I see in my own city and in my own context.” For Vally, who trained as an architect, the pavilion is her highest-profile building project to date, and much of her previous work takes the form of research-led installations. One example is Folded Skies which, like the Serpentine, distils highly complex social and atmospheric phenomena into a neatly designed physical form. In this case, the designed output is a set of sculptures installed at the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, east of Cape Town, in 2019. The sculptures are glass forms that appear as distorted circles: imagine looking at a CD through a kaleidoscope. Their surfaces are adorned with metallic spectrums of colour that run from deep purple to peachy pink and are designed to portray the extraordinary sunsets of her beloved Johannesburg. Ostensibly beautiful objects, they also pertain to highly toxic phenomena in the city’s social and material history of gold mining; those sunsets are the

result of pollution, dust, and chemical particles in the Johannesburg air, released and extracted via the labour of some of the city’s most vulnerable and marginalised Black populations. “When we see and perceive all the beauty in South African land and landscape, there is also a completely uncomfortable underside that we can’t see so much of,” she notes. “That’s the role of design and art and architecture – to highlight these things for us, or to allow us to read them in some way.” Folded Skies is but one manifestation of Vally’s research into Johannesburg’s mines, atmospheric conditions, and their relationship to the city’s racist histories. It’s an ongoing project that begun with her master’s thesis and can also be read through texts (‘Golden Plateaus’, for e-flux) and film (‘Ingesting Architectures’, available on the Counterspace website), which, aside from breaking vital discursive ground, reveal the heterogeneity of Vally and Counterspace’s practice.


I’m in love with buildings and architecture, but I think there are so many other ways of space-making in other traditions that are not only focused on the static

Another project, Material Histories, zooms in on social rituals in the form of recipes, to reveal historic flows of people and ingredients, and how they come to define certain African cities in the present. Commissioned for the 2020 Istanbul Design Biennale and completed alongside collaborators Sarah de Villiers and Haytham Nawar, Material Histories focuses on Casablanca and Cairo, and takes the form of large paper foldouts that contain the recipes, as well as rich visuals describing the materials and migrations that led to the development of certain dishes. For example, kushari, the national dish of Egypt, was developed by Indian soldiers of the British Raj who had carried lentils to Cairo in their pockets. As with the Serpentine project, Material Histories takes an interest in everyday spaces – migrant stores, informal eateries – where the foldouts are installed in Istanbul and eventually, pandemic permitting, back in Cairo and Casablanca. With her multi-disciplinary approach to spatial practice, Vally’s work can be read as part of broader shifts in the architecture industry. Born


in 1990, she is part of a generation of young architects and spatial designers around the world whose output transcends more orthodox understandings of the “capital-A Architect” who simply designs buildings. This is partly because of the types of work made available to young practitioners – commissions for buildings are hard to secure – but also comes from a place of active politicised questioning of how our environments are built, who they are built by, and who they are built for. “I’m in love with buildings and architecture, but I think there are so many other ways of space-making in other traditions that are not only focused on the static,” Vally explains. “If we think of many other ways of being – things like choreography; costume; ritual; how an atmosphere is created in a space – those become really integral forms of making space. “I’m interested in how the expanded definitions of architecture can also push the built form forward. In many ways, I think the conditions we have in Johannesburg, and in so many regions in the world, are so ahead of static architecture as we know it. People are able to

create and express their needs, desires, and aspirations despite architecture, not because of it. They are not assisted by architecture, or amplified or heightened by architecture.” This is an approach evident in the Serpentine and Folded Skies projects: Spaces of social rituals inform the built structures, rather than using the built structures to prescribe social rituals. Whether Vally can maintain this politicised approach going forward will be interesting to see. Her star is shining brightly – she was the only architect named in Time magazine’s ‘Time 100 Next’ list in 2021 – and has a number of major (as yet unannounced) building commissions in the UK and the Middle East forthcoming. With larger clients, the ability to weave political and social histories into the built environment can become more difficult, though there does seem to be a steadfast commitment at the core of her practice: “I believe that at the heart of the profession is this desire to reflect all of us, our stories and who we are, into the world, and to imagine what the future could look like if we are represented in built form.”

Project 1: Children’s Courtroom

Client: Play Africa

Location: South Africa

Year: 2019

Commissioned by the NGO Play Africa in 2019, Children’s Courtroom is an educational tool to teach children about their legal rights, as well as to gently prepare child witnesses before appearing in real court situations. The mobile installation was designed to resemble a stage set and comprises separate furniture elements that can be freely arranged and transported to different parts of South Africa – from Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill to more rural sites.

Project 2: Folded Skies

Client: Spier Light Art Festival

Folded Skies exemplifies Counterspace’s ability to make entrancing objects from complex and painful social histories. The sculptures are formed from interlocking mirrors that glow with rich colour spectrums reflecting the sunsets of Johannesburg – bittersweet phenomena whose beauty is the result of atmospheric pollution from centuries of gold mining. Mining dumps are a toxic presence in the contemporary city, affecting the nearby neighbourhoods of predominantly low-income Black residents. The sculptures are installed at the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.


Location: Stellenbosch, South Africa

Year: 2019

Project 3: Material Histories

Client: Istanbul Design Biennale

Location: Istanbul, Cairo, Casablanca, Turkey and Egypt

Year: 2020–2021

Client: Serpentine Gallery

Location: London

Year: 2020–Ongoing

Vally’s fascination with archives is on full display in Material Histories, a project commissioned for Empathy Revisited, the 2020 Istanbul Design Biennale, curated by Mariana Pestana. Building on her research in Casablanca, Morocco, the project explores collective rituals around food and practices of cooking and eating through particular recipes and their ingredients. Vally reads these recipes as embodied archives that “are not so focused on preservation, but are open to shift.” The project is displayed through large paper fold-outs, that can be installed as posters or used as tablecloths.

Project 4: Serpentine Pavilion

The youngest architect to receive the Serpentine Pavilion commission, Vally has received near-universal acclaim for her design, which is redefining the role of the pavilion, beyond Hyde Park and across London. Inspired by the spatial and social identity of migrant community spaces across the city, the pavilion is a composition of fragmented architectural parts designed to hold gatherings of different scales. Four smaller sculptures that mirror the pavilion design have been installed at social institutions elsewhere in the city. The structure itself is built from steel wrapped in sustainably sourced plywood, which is itself covered in microcement.



With the release of his second album, the west London rap star is hitting nothing but net. Continuing to prove his sonic versatility and ambition, the independent artist talks to Port about the beauty of basketball, staying humble, and the electric pull of live performance WORDS JESSE BERNARD PHOTOGRAPHY SILVANA TREVALE STYLING LEWIS MUNRO


At some point in our lives, we’ve all been short on cash and found ourselves bumping the train. Well, some of us anyway. For AJ Tracey this was a regular occurrence in his Mode FM days, back when he used to travel to the Enfield-based radio station from his home in Ladbroke Grove. Five years on, the British rapper feels as though he’s putting up Michael Jordan numbers, specifically those 1997 Finals: Game 5 numbers. We first spoke in 2016 at the now defunct Radar Radio, while Tracey was still doing the radio circuit on a regular basis. “Back then, I was doubtful if I was ever going to make it to a level that a lot of rappers that I look up to have been able to get to,” he reflects. It’s a rare treat to be given the opportunity to interview an artist more than once; you often get a sharp then-and-now perspective many don’t get to see. Tracey was hungry for a break, not just success – ravenous even. His only goal back then was to buy his mum a house, which he achieved, and he’s been able to buy himself one too. Anything else has been a cherry on the cake. “To be honest with you, success is determined by your own idea of it. Being able to buy myself and my mum a house is further than I imagined. So in that respect, I don’t have doubts anymore. I’m good for now, at least.” Our conversation, via Zoom, starts with a small back-and-forth showing mutual appreciation for The Last Dance TV series, which charts the Chicago Bulls attempting their sixth NBA title in eight seasons. “We have to represent here because guys aren’t into basketball like that,” he begins. Tracey has largely been known as a fervent football fan, dedicated to that ‘chicken on the ball’ team in north London, Tottenham Hotspur, especially since his 2016 hit ‘Thiago Silva’, with Dave. It’s basketball and Michael Jordan, though, that has recently given him fire in the belly. “The Last Dance gassed

me up too much, and I’ve always been inspired by MJ. He’s a Black hero; that’s what it is. He showed people that you can be at the pinnacle of your game regardless of the difficult circumstances that you grew up in. It was a lot harder for him and the things he managed to achieve as a Black man should inspire us. He set pace and said, ‘If I can do it, you can too.’” If MJ gave a generation of kids permission to dream, AJ Tracey is one of them. “Same way I say to people, if I can do it, you can do it too,” he adds. Following a slew of mixtapes and EPs dating back to 2012, and his self-titled debut album back in 2019, Tracey’s second studio album Flu Game is a nod to MJ’s infamous perseverance through food poisoning to beat Utah Jazz in 1997. It’s about triumphing through hard times, being able to show up and succeed. “Making a concept album hasn’t necessarily changed my way of working, but it’s given me another perspective as to how I can make music,” he notes. “I made the majority of this album during lockdown and the vibe wasn’t as energetic as I’m used to when recording music. I’m happy for the experience though, because now I know I can create in difficult circumstances.” Sonically, it’s an attempt at taking himself beyond the UK and going global, particularly with features from Kehlani, NAV, T-Pain, and SahBabii; but, at times, Tracey reminds us that he’s still very much local, with appearances from Digga D, MoStack and Mabel. ‘Kukoč’, one of the album’s more drill-leaning tracks, is about giving dues to the unsung heroes who allow success to happen, alluding to the legendary Croatian baller Toni Kukoč. Tracey knows he hasn’t been able to arrive at this point on his own, and the collaboration with NAV hints at a desire to share his success; whereas on tracks such as ‘Little More Love’ he goes inward, asking questions about the pursuit of


To be honest with you, success is determined by your own idea of it. Being able to buy myself and my mum a house is further than I imagined


Making a concept album hasn’t necessarily changed my way of working, but it’s given me another perspective as to how I can make music

love and the fickle nature of people once fame is found. Despite his meteoric rise, the same insecurities that affect us all aren’t elusive for the rapper either. “I knew you were going to ask about that, everyone else has!” he laughs, after I bring up the reactions he faced following past comments about grime not evolving enough. But – having seen where he is now as an artist and what he’s done to become who he is today – five years ago, the context has to be broadened. Those that are new here may not be familiar with Loonz, his previous moniker, but it is just a taste of the many different stages within a career that has flirted with a variety of sounds, including grime, UKG, soca and drill. ‘Ladbroke Grove’, arguably his biggest song to date, boomed out across the country in the summer of 2019, taking over the radio, clubs, and shops. The double-platinum single, as well as his feature on Headie One’s ‘Ain’t It Different’, have more than proven his range, which is often an underappreciated quality in rap itself. There’s no mistake that grime has evolved, and elements of the culture surrounding the actual music, such as fashion, radio, and DIY energy have permeated other homegrown and imported reverberations. These sounds, which include UK drill and rap, haven’t necessarily caused grime to stagnate, but it’s difficult to replicate that early-2000s spirit, which most purists truly crave – especially since modes of listening such as the Nokia 7600 are now redundant cultural artefacts. When the lines between niche sounds become blurred, it’s understandable for traditionalists to desire a return to early grime culture, but there’s a danger that narrative becomes very similar to what the garage heads were saying about grime when it first emerged. If sounds are getting darker, then we need only

look at the state and society at large. Drill isn’t out of place in 2021. Neither is Flu Game and the material Tracey is making. The versatile rapper is testing out new waters constantly, never settling or remaining too comfortable in any particular pocket of sound. Tracey – whose real name is Ché Wolton Grant, after the Argentinian revolutionary – grew up around performers and started writing from an early age. His mum is a former jungle DJ and his dad was an artist too, back in the day, so a penchant for performance is in his blood. Although, it’s not been easy for him to find that energy he would normally receive from the crowd live and direct, due to lockdown restrictions. Those real-life roars are sustenance for artists, and in the 27-yearold’s case, he still carries the energy of the grime MC of old, though he may not call himself one anymore. Back in 2016, he said of live performance: “It’s better than everything. Do you know what’s even better than that? It’s one thing to feel the energy, but when the crowd is giving you as much as you’re giving them, it’s way too much. It’s electric.” As I read the quote back to him, he replies, “Exactly that. It does still resonate with me, but because of coronavirus, I’m not really able to feel the energy, because it’s not the same on the internet. I really miss doing shows; I’m sure every artist does, but it’s one of the biggest reasons as to why I’m a rapper. I wasn’t able to substitute for that energy, that’s how deep it got. I don’t know if that’s reflected in the sound of the album, but it’s mad because it’s hard to look forward when things are up in the air.” It’s easy to forget that the west London rapper has only just released his second album: nominated for three Brit Awards this year, including Best Male Solo Artist and, more recently, Male Artist of the Year at GRM’s Rated Awards. But he


Life is a lot easier when you realise you can’t make everyone happy

hasn’t met his own ceiling yet. “I’m not as concerned about everyone’s opinion of me and all the small things that I know don’t matter. Not feeling that pressure allows me to just focus on work; that probably just comes with age, but that’s how I’ve been able to evolve,” he notes. “I’m not trying to make it sound easier than it is, but a lot of it is down to how you’re raised and those roots. For me, it’s second nature. That’s not to say I’m the most humble guy around – I love a flex. But knowing what’s important and not holding certain materialistic items as the be-all and end-all is key. I know better than that. There’s no amount of money or fame that will change my mind. I can want and have nice things, but that’s not my life.” Growing older, Tracey is also finding a balance with knowing when and how to use his voice. In 2017, the rapper formally endorsed the Labour Party during the UK general election, but later felt disillusioned and sought to distance himself from the short-lived #Grime4Corbyn movement. Politics is a controversial game for any musician to venture into, but given the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire that same year, like many others in his local area (the block was visible from his house), Tracey publicly called out the failings that led to the tragedy. “I’ll always speak out about Grenfell and equality for Black people. I’m careful though, because I’m aware that my platform’s big, and I don’t want to be that person who misguides, especially with all the misinformation that’s already out there. Some rappers rely on the cheque that they’re getting right now to feed their families, so speaking out about something or getting cancelled can be detrimental to their livelihoods,” he notes, and in doing


so, acknowledges the primary role rap plays in young Black lives, which is to nourish. “Life is a lot easier when you realise you can’t make everyone happy,” he concludes. That level of self-assuredness is both infectious and grating for some, but the numbers don’t lie. Tracey wants to be on the same plane as those he considers the greatest – that hasn’t changed – but at the same time, he’s content with all he has. Is life easy for the musician though? “I guess,” he says, hesitantly. But he’s frustrated, much like everyone else. “I’m enjoying life, I’m healthy; but this corona ting is really getting on my nerves. I’m not happy about the state of things at the moment; the government could be doing a lot more right now. If I and everyone else can understand what needs to be done, why can’t they? I feel like everything’s in the wrong place right now.” In 2016, he was the dewy-eyed shooting guard Allen Iverson, eager to take MJ’s rock and with a slight chip on his shoulder, once proclaiming: “I got so much love for these guys, but you don’t wanna be on my bad side. I got a black book with names in it, and don’t let me get big.” Now, in a new decade, during the biggest global catastrophe in our lifetime, AJ Tracey has emerged a champion; those early lessons from those that came before him have come to fruition. He is in the right place right now, at home in whatever rhythm he chooses. And, if there’s any wisdom he has taken on recently, it’s that pressure does indeed make diamonds. “See how footballers run underwater for resistance training? That’s how I’ve been feeling. When things get back to normal, I’ll be flying.” AJ Tracey’s second studio album Flu Game was released April 2021

Styling assistant: Daryon Morgan-Impey Lighting assistant: Ollie Patterson Set design: Aaran Vernon Grooming: Mike O’Gorman Retoucher: Alberto Maro Photo assistant: He Xinrun

The godfather of ambient and generative music, Brian Eno’s reverberations can be heard everywhere. Talking to acclaimed author Jeff VanderMeer, the pioneering “non-musician” discusses his long-standing environmental activism, holograms, hypocrisy, and his newly launched charity, working to reduce the music industry’s carbon footprint

Brian Eno


Of course, you pay dues to the people who articulate new ideas, but you also have to give credit to the soil that they grew from

Jeff VanderMeer: What was your relationship to nature growing up? Brian Eno: I grew up on the east coast of England, in the countryside, and moved to London when I was 21. All my early memories are rural. A lot of the music I created when I started living in the city was the quietest I’d ever made, and really an attempt to recreate some feeling of the countryside. I notice quite often that I try to make the world that I’m missing at that given time. I lived in New York on a particularly noisy intersection in downtown Manhattan, and On Land came out of that period; it was a very fragile, gentle, and bucolic album, an attempt to create new sonic landscapes. When I came back to England and bought a house in the quiet town that I grew up in, I started making incredibly loud music.


Why do you stress the importance of biodiversity and interconnectivity with regards to the climate crisis? Through my teenage interest in cybernetics, from a young age I began thinking about how the processes of life are densely interwoven; it seemed apparent to me that things were embedded in systems, and their behaviour was a product of that system. I thought that was true of all sorts of things, not just the natural world but creativity too. When discussing art, people often talk about geniuses, but as soon as you start looking closely at how things come into being, you find that there are always contexts and systems informing that individual. For instance, look at the revolutionar y period in Russia, where you had supremacists and constructivists appearing, big names like

Aleksandr Rodchenko and Wassily Kandinsky cropping up. That scene’s whole ecology was so complex; patrons, curators, gallerists – all the people who usually get regarded as an unimportant, peripheral part of the art world seemed to me incredibly central. They informed how it unfolded, where the intellectual energy came from. They were so interwoven that you can’t talk about an artist outside of the context they were working in; you have to consider what I coined the scenius (as opposed to genius) that gave rise to them. It’s the creative intelligence of the whole group, rather than one localised individual. Of course, you pay dues to the people who articulate new ideas, but you also have to give credit to the soil that they grew from. When I first encountered the term biodiversity, back in the ’80s, I thought, that’s the same

thing really. The same kind of understanding… that creatures are not bounded by their physical surface. This isn’t the edge of me: I’m suffused with all of the outside, and it’s suffused with me as well. It’s the state of biological beings: We’re contaminated by all kinds of things, things that live on our skin, inside of us, that are part of us, but separate from us. In my experience, the more you learn about the climate crisis, the more there’s an intensity to the world that’s hard to escape. Knowing what you know, is it intolerable? Sometimes, yes. There are consolations, like the implosion of Trump; when I see banks divesting from fossil fuel companies, or pension funds starting to withdraw their support. But mainly I’m encouraged, because so many people are becoming activists, or


reactivists, which is a step towards the former. The moment when we go from ‘I know the whole fucking system’s a mess’ to the realisation, ‘but does everybody else know that?’ is what I call coalescence. Once we discover that we are the power – like the huge mycorrhizal substructures underneath forests which connect everything together – we’ll realise that the person looking after a little creek in Indiana and the guy who wants to save a wild cat in Siberia are doing the same thing. The environmental effort is the biggest movement in human history; there’s never been a single cause that has united so many billions of people with one goal. There may be contradictions within the cause; there’ll be thrills and spills, but hopefully there’ll be some positive results to this worldwide action.

For someone waking up to the extent of this issue, where would you advise they start learning about it? My simplest advice would be to read a collection of essays, all by women, called All We Can Save. There are so many different approaches within it – local, political, personal. It’s wonderful because you can see at which level you might like to try and do something. How did the environmental charity ClientEarth come to be your main form of activism? It seems to be a very systems-oriented organisation, which understands the level at which you need to fight things. About 12 years ago, I became its first joint trustee. I’d previously been involved in a number of activist groups, and there were two things that troubled me: One was leverage and the other was follow-through. I want to be putting

I want to be putting my energy where it will make the most difference. I’d much rather be further back down the line, changing the direction of the train before it crashes

my energy where it will make the most difference. I’d much rather be further back down the line, changing the direction of the train before it crashes. So often, friends of mine had put a lot of time and money into causes with high hopes and the best of intentions, but the maintenance had been bad; there hadn’t been follow up. There’s a feeling that if you get everybody out on the streets – big demos, some newspaper space – that that’s an achievement. But it isn’t really: That’s the beginning. When I first heard about ClientEarth, I thought ‘Lawyers! They’re good at follow-through – they love it!’ A lot of its work is taking governments to court, to persuade them by legal means that they should act on the agreements they’ve made. For instance, the UK government sat on well-publicised pollution reduction targets, and it became less and less plausible that they would ever reach those levels in time. ClientEarth

took them to court four times, and each time forced at least the beginning of some positive change. Only lawyers would have bothered to go through the tedium of preparing case after case, getting fobbed off, and finally getting through. Law is quite stable, in England anyway. It lasts a long time, is public, defendable. There’s a whole machinery for maintaining it, and to reverse it takes quite a lot of work. How do you view failure and compromise in this sphere? I believe hypocrisy is unavoidable. You simply can’t live in this world without sometimes crossing lines, like taking a plane. It’s difficult to live a pure life in an impure situation. Try to avoid hypocrisy, but it’s not the worst sin. Compromise is unavoidable, and in fact, should be encouraged. There’s a lot of purism and hairshirt wearing in the environmental movement

that we have to forego. If we can’t work with everybody and anybody, then we have failed. Your new charity, EarthPercent, aims to raise $100 million from the music industry by 2030, as well as improve its environmental impact. What are some of the areas you’re focusing on? I feel like musicians are now very conscious of reducing their footprint, and the music business is used to dividing up income. Every single song probably has a slightly different balance of who gets what – producers, artists, writers; we’re used to complicated setups, so we’re proposing adding one more party: the Earth. Whether it’s a tour, album, or video, just add this other stakeholder. It’s done right at source; you don’t even have to think about it once you’ve signed up for it. That percentage of money goes into a pot, which will then be sent to organisations that are vetted by our


Feelings are of course fragile and often unreliable, but they are the beginnings of cognition

scientific advisors and make a tangible, longterm difference with regards to climate change. We hope we’ll be able to finance them for fiveor 10-year periods, so that there will be real continuity to projects. In terms of other areas, we want to highlight things such as streaming, which uses a great deal of energy. It’s not this ethereal presence with no impact; the cloud is in fact a bloody great server in Iceland! Touring is also very energy intensive, and bands like Coldplay, to their credit, decided they wouldn’t tour until they could do so carbon neutrally. We officially launch in October, but the initial response and welcome from all levels of the industry has been a nice surprise. Has the pandemic changed conversations around touring, or live versus virtual performances? Can anything replace the former? There is nothing that replaces that for me, however there are new forms starting to appear that are very interesting. Holography is becoming a realistic possibility now. You could hold a show in one place and have it holographically appear in 30 different locations. At the moment, it seems like a second-rate version of a live performance because the tech isn’t that good yet, but the new possibilities are exciting. The performer can become 135 feet tall, run all over the auditorium in 50 different versions, or shrink down… If it’s going really badly, you can make yourself so small no one can know where you are. Exactly – nobody can throw things at you! But that’s always the way new media is developed: They appear as a substitute, a cheaper or


quicker or more portable way of doing something that already exists. It’s the whole history of recorded pop music, discovering you can do things in a studio that you could never do otherwise. A couple of years ago, I saw a beautiful Laurie Anderson VR piece, where she creatively exploited the low resolution of the medium. It was brilliant. People will always find the strengths of these new media and turn weakness to advantage. Might EarthPercent also make musicians more proactive about spreading the word? Are there benefits beyond making things more energy efficient that you’re thinking about, in terms of outreach? It hinges around a question that I think people are quite often confused about, which is, what does art do for us? Is there something special that artists can offer to this movement other than handing over their money? Something that uses our skills and sensitivities? The obvious and probably not the best solution is propaganda. I’m slightly allergic to it because I think it’s manipulative. I’m not that type of person, but it’s important to engage with questions such as, how does art affect our minds and change our positions? It’s led me to the notion that science discovers and art digests. Science is a way of finding things out about the world, but art gives us the chance to explore, through our imagination, places that don’t exist, as well as tools to deal with the world we are in. Ezra Pound called the artist “the antenna of the race”. Our job is to sniff out other possibilities and present them in such a way that we can have new feelings about them. Science

has quite understandably sidelined feelings as a source of data because they’re too subjective, too fluffy. But aren’t feelings your mind’s first means of navigating through new and unknown terrain? You work from what you call your gut or hunch, your intuition. Feelings are of course fragile and often unreliable, but they are the beginnings of cognition. We can describe and make things happen, but what we really want to know is how do we feel about them? That is what’s missing from the environmental movement, some thought behind our possible futures. How will they feel? Can we live within them? Which parts can we adapt to? At the moment, we’re backing into these changes desperately, trying not to look at them because they’re terrifying. We need a way of evaluating them emotively as well. We live in an unevenly distributed reality. Sometimes I’ll be writing something speculative that’s set in the future, and instead what I’m actually doing is laying bare someone else’s reality right now, but that the mainstream doesn’t recognise. I think art has value in explaining the inexplicable present that some of us are lucky enough not to live in. Is there hope for us? That is a difficult question because the answer depends on my mood on any given day. The English politician Tony Benn said there are two flames burning in the human heart: the flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope that you can build a better world. Both hope and anger are useless on their own. You have to believe that something is possible, but you have to be angry enough to make it happen.



Fiercely thoughtful, George MacKay is interested in cinema that deals with difficult questions – the unfamiliar his preferred comfort zone. In between shooting, the magnetic British star reflects on artistic enquiry, adjusting to ‘real life’ after filming, and acting as an animal instinct WORDS CLAIRE MARIE HEALY PHOTOGRAPHY JEFF BOUDREAU STYLING MITCHELL BELK


You’re not meting yourself out in the tiny ways that we do all the time, because we’re constantly making changes for each other… offering things up, or hiding things

Production: Production Factory Grooming: Liz Taw at the Wall Group

A World War One soldier races across enemy lines with seconds to spare; a cross-dressing bushranger takes ferocious final revenge on the police; a grieving man hides bodies, or multiple selves, in the attic. By now, the thread of actor George MacKay’s on-screen portrayals suggests a range of scenarios so tense, and so taut, that to see him on the other end of our call looking relatively at ease feels like something of a relief. If, like me, you’ve watched his recent work with interest, you’ll be hard pressed to remember the last time that face – which has something of the chiselled, stony appeal of Cillian Murphy, or Ezra Miller – smiled. “I feel like a bit of a hermit at the moment,” he says, which feels like a familiar lockdown statement, though he’s speaking from his home in north London in a period of nationwide rule



relaxation, “because I’m in my city, but I’m not going out much in between.” Right now he’s filming closer to his front door than he probably ever has, shooting London-set neo-noir I Came By locally enough that he can actually sleep in his own bed. In fact, MacKay has been acting steadily since the age of 10, playing a curlyhaired Lost Boy in the 2003 Peter Pan (the one with everybody’s early-’00s pubescent crush, Jeremy Sumpter), and later launching into cinematic consciousness proper with Brit-com favourite, Pride. Many will know the actor best from Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning 1917 – a film packed with tumultuous action, nonetheless centred by MacKay’s quiet, sensitive performance as a soldier on a journey both existentially and physically perilous. Though, deceptively, that film – which saw him do the rounds

of the last pre-Covid red-carpet awards circuit – is by far the farthest, and the deepest, he has thrown himself into mainstream waters to date. Presented with an actor whose very grin feels like an impossibility, it makes sense to hear from MacKay that he is interested in cinema that isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions: He wants to explore, it seems to me, what happens when human nature is brought to its wildest edges. There might be none wilder than Wolf, the forthcoming Nathalie Biancheri feature, at least in part because the film’s humans don’t believe themselves to be human at all. “It’s the attempt to go: okay, well, what is ‘animal’? But then also, what is not a human interpretation of an animal?,” MacKay says of taking on the part. “You can never know that, other than to kind of think, as a human, when

do I feel most animal?” He pauses: “That is to say, when am I not in my head?” In Wolf, MacKay plays Jacob, a young man who, believing himself to be a wolf, is sent to a species dysmorphia clinic to “recover”, accompanied by a menagerie of other patients – teenagers who feel, mentally, they are pandas, horses, and parrots, to name a few – and observed by some particularly sadistic staff members. Coming into the project, he was thrilled at the prospect of working with relative newcomer Biancheri (“I was really blown away by Nocturnal, it feels like she’s a real voice”), but also with Terry Notary, the movement artist whose performance in The Square – as an ape impersonator who torments a group of artworld billionaires at a fundraiser – established him as someone able to access the primal nature

in all of us. “Finding the wolf ”, as MacKay puts it, began with a series of workshops in Dublin – just an actor, his movement coach and his director. “So much of what Terry does is to try to be without thought,” he enthuses. “The zone of the wolf is really meditative, where you are completely unselfconscious. The human interpretation of confidence is very strong and forward, but this is one where there’s no consideration of how people see you. And you’re not meting yourself out in the tiny ways that we do all the time, because we’re constantly making changes for each other… offering things up, or hiding things. There are so many shields that we put up. This is more like an animal in a zoo, or even your pet at home: how sometimes when they look at you, they look right into your middle. I hope we achieved that.”


To get to a point where such immersion was instinctive rather than acted out, Notary brought some odd techniques to the table. “He does this thing…” MacKay describes, getting out of his own chair. “We did an hour of getting up and down like this,” he bobs energetically by way of demonstration, “looking at the same spot; the idea is to just think upwards, and think with an intention. Suddenly, your whole body becomes light. You do feel like you are floating. And he’d go, ‘There you go – there! That’s the shit!’” (The sudden impression of Notary’s American yowl is a blunt reminder of just how British MacKay is.) He went on to a three-week rehearsal period with his co-star and on-screen romantic interest, Lily-Rose Depp – playing a character called Wildcat, and barely recognisable though still luminescent as an average British teenager who




I’m sure every generation in history feels this, but it does feel a particularly pertinent thing, now, to question how we’ve got to where we are, why, and what we do next

moves like a tiger – before the entire cast came together in Ireland. “She was so enthusiastic and giving,” he says of Depp, though it’s hard to imagine him saying a bad word about anyone. “It was a real, real pleasure to work together.” At first, MacKay’s Jacob vibrates with palpable discomfort in the company of the centre’s staff and even the other residents. (Particularly funny are the repeated efforts of a sycophantic terrier, played by Fionn O’Shea, to befriend Jacob on the basis of their close genealogical relationship.) Gradually, however, the wolf is unleashed. Unlike the benefits of CGI, or costume, that other genre movies about (were) wolves tend to allow their actors – as with Jack Nicholson in his movie of the same name – MacKay is completely on his own. Somehow going beyond the physical extremes he’s already

reached in film, MacKay’s body, in Wolf, is a marvel: He moves, in wolf-mode, like a man possessed, his haunches raised and sinewy in the moonlight, his reactions all sensation. But beyond his physical training, it’s a performance more truly grounded in the idea of profound discomfort inside one’s own body, not a person whose body can transform into something else. “He is hurting as a human, but he sort of unequivocally is a human; but for me, it was also important that he was a wolf. That was vital; I liked the impossibility of that.” Steering clear of all the stereotypes, in atmosphere Wolf can feel mythic; a document of early references of Biancheri’s evokes the surrealistic milieus of Ali Abbasi’s Border, Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, and Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways. Out of this mix stands MacKay’s own boy

who cried wolf, who – like all legends with the potential to stand the test of time – possesses his own contemporary relevance: In the watching, current debate around gender identity and transgender rights feel like an undeniable parallel. The actor agrees, but stops short of citing any direct inspiration. “It’s such a personal thing for anyone to go through, to really question their body and their identity,” he says. “Where does physicality begin? Where does emotionality begin? What constitutes being who you are? I find that question constantly fascinating. That question as to what is right for someone personally, versus what is right for other people, is a quandary that speaks for so many things.” Approaching his scripts with something of a research mentality, it feels like no accident that MacKay’s projects have often drawn






on historical events: The True History of the Kelly Gang was based on the legend built around the Australian man and 1917 on the wartime experiences of Sam Mendes’ own grandfather. The unfamiliar is the actor’s comfort zone. A lack of prior knowledge is something he freely admits when it comes to another forthcoming project, Munich – a Netflix original set during the brokering of the cessation agreement between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler’s Germany, in September 1938: something that, as we now know, would be historically deemed a failure of diplomacy. MacKay plays a British government worker on the trip, re-encountering an old university friend who has since began to work for the other side. Entranced by the “brilliant script” by Ben Power, MacKay also found the role felt somehow prophetic to life right now.


“I read the script during the massive social changes over the course of last summer. The two characters, to me at least, represent action and legislation – and what this story deals with is the peaks and troughs of making change by yourself and taking action versus changing it via policy; the peaks and troughs of putting it down in writing, but it taking longer. It’s about young people discussing politics, national identity, and how to make change – it’s not dusty like it could be.” Also upcoming is the BBC’s true cybercrime conspiracy thriller, The Trick. MacKay plays a PR hired to manage the 2009 media storm known as “Climategate” that ensued when climate scientist Phil Jones’ findings were hacked, undermining his research into the threat of global heating. The drama puts


viewers straight into the action with, in 2021, the sad benefit of hindsight, knowing the danger we currently face. Still, I have to ask how it was playing a trendy PR. “It was cool. It kind of felt like quite an adult role, like I had a grown-up job. I was wearing boots, and jeans, and a blazer.” A millennial with a public relations career aside, on the whole MacKay stands apart from many other young actors of his generation for his deliberately twisted tastes, thoughtfully building a repertoire that, without alienating audiences (or his teen fan base, going strong on Instagram despite him having no social media of his own), has avoided landing him squarely in the pretty-boy rom-com camp. I’m curious how central risk-taking is to the pleasure he finds in acting, or if this path has been

laid out for him by a few choice roles earlier in his career. For MacKay, if he didn’t find some curiosity about human behaviour at the centre of a role, he couldn’t enjoy it. “Anything that questions is what I find fascinating. I find that to be healthy.” “I’ve noticed that as you get older, you have more of an idea that this is not just for the sake of questioning, as well,” he muses. “But it becomes genuine. When things become set in their ways, without a level of thought, that can be dangerous – either in yourself, or in work, or in social structures. Maybe that’s also [to do with] growing up in this time. I’m sure every generation in history feels this, but it does feel a particularly pertinent thing, now, to question how we’ve got to where we are, why, and what we do next.”

Still, MacKay admits his all-in approach – positioning him, as it does, at some kind of ragged edge of normal life – can leave him confused when he emerges out of the other end of intensive projects. Thinking of method actors of time gone by, I wonder how an actor so dedicated in what he takes on recalibrates. “It’s like, three months of having all these sort of genuine, truthful, profound moments,” he describes of the transition, “but you do it in a fictional setting for a fictional thing. Then when you jump into real life, you try to fast track. But where’s the line between what’s true and what’s not? Even on a night out, you might say, ‘I’m having a good time.’ But that’s sort of hypothetical too, because you might want to be indoors.” One reason Munich felt like a turning point, he says, was a certain degree of being kept on his toes,


due to the filming’s fast-paced nature. “I’m trying to balance life a bit more. I’m aware that I can’t disappear for five months and be responsible for my home life in the same way.” He dissembles when it comes to details of that home life (fair enough), although he does mention cooking a mean classic Sunday roast and apple crumble. As private as MacKay is, he strikes me as someone who would naturally worry about getting the balance right, more than someone who actually isn’t getting the balance right. After the actor apologises for not sharing more on his personal life, I am reminded of how MacKay talked about Jacob, his lost wolfboy, earlier in our conversation. “He can only be himself,” he considers. “It might be at the cost of other people who want to get close to him – but he will not compromise on who he is.”



Purgatory and Paradise: Acclaimed artist Tacita Dean reflects on her debut design work for Wayne McGregor’s balletic interpretation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy WORDS THEA HAWLIN PHOTOGRAPHY MUHAMMAD SALAH

Proofs from master printer Niels Borch Jensen for the new photogravure Inferno, 2021

Tacita Dean is gently cutting strips of paper in her Berlin studio. As we talk, looking into our respective screens, scissors snip, and she sticks schedules into an already-bulging notebook ready for her upcoming trip: New York then London. “Everything that I was supposed to do in the last two years has been put into the last two months, so it’s been a nightmare.” Like many of us, she’s weary, but she’s been anything but idle in lockdown. I’m speaking to the award-winning artist in the run-up to her highly anticipated debut as set and costume designer for Wayne McGregor’s interpretation of The Divine Comedy, which opens at the Royal Opera House this October. The Dante Project, originally planned for May 2020, has been long in the making. “I had perhaps historically thought of working, one day in my life, on a stage, for a stage,” she muses. “It wasn’t an active ambition; it was more of a passive one,


so when he did approach me, well, I was up for trying anything once!” McGregor f irst asked Dean to work on Woolf Works, inspired by the life and writings of Virginia Woolf, but scheduling made the collaboration impossible. When he approached her the second time, she accepted gladly: “I think in a weird way The Dante Project suited me more.” She’d never read The Divine Comedy, but “there’s an amount of osmosis”, she theorises, smiling. As she worked, she listened over and over again to the audiobook, read by the poet Heathcote Williams. The subject fascinated her: “It has all the ingredients of things that interest me, and purgatory is a state that informs my work. I was a Roman Catholic, so there’s that element to it too.” Much of Dean’s art deals with exploring the mysteries of life, the unseen world, the limits of things (‘Disappearance at Sea’, 1996), an eclipse

(‘Antigone’, 2018), the elusive green ray (‘The Green Ray’, 2001). “I work a lot with travelling in a way, the voyage, the crossing or passage; that aspect was also very interesting to me, and in terms of mediums that was very important.” She describes how she approached the whole ballet as a travelling through the three states of the text, using three different mediums to explore and differentiate between them: “through negative to positive, from black-andwhite to colour, from representation to abstraction. I went through the whole gambit.” These spectrums map out a fascinating voyage of their own in Dean’s visual language, tracking the development of her own career, from smudged lines of chalk to rolls of flickering 35mm film. Divided into the three acts of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, as resident choreographer McGregor worked with the Royal Ballet on movement and Thomas Adès on the

Tacita Dean’s 16mm Steenbeck

specially commissioned composition, Dean’s set designs came before anything else. “I was really out there alone. So I struggled initially, and I was very self-conscious about it. Then at a certain point I thought, well I just have to do what I do rather than worrying, and as soon as I got to that phase it got much easier for me.” For Inferno she took her cue from Dante. “Hell is cold, which is not how we perceive it; we always think about it as hot – Dante made me think of ice.” Dean returned to her earliest work with chalk, painting large wooden boards with blackboard paint. These became her canvas for a huge landscape with jagged edges, yet rather than simply draw ice in white chalk she chose to draw it in negative. “I could have flipped it digitally; I just knew that psychologically I needed to put myself through the difficulty of drawing. I did an upside-down mountain range.” Dean drew the work back in 2019, listening to

Leader bin in her cutting room

discussions of Brexit post-referendum and the proroguing of parliament, with similar political traumas occurring in America. As she worked she found herself writing names into the piece, though most were smudged away: “The only name I kept visible was Mitch McConnell.” For the dancers, sin became a white stain. “I sprayed on chalk in relation to their various sins, so thieves had chalked hands, and Paolo and Francesca have genitals in chalk.” As the dancers move they will transfer this chalk to each other and a dark circle on the floor will fill with the echo of their movements, sin spreading and hell growing at each touch. For Purgatorio Dean printed a negative image as positive. “You can’t escape hell,” she observes. “You can escape purgatory, through labour, through people praying for you on Earth; there are ways of petitioning. You can rise further up purgatory, but I just saw it as a very static

image on the stage that was also a transitional state.” Dean chose the image of a jacaranda tree, a common sight in southern California, near her studio in Los Angeles, famed for its purple flowers, and transformed it into an “otherworldly green”, with the 10 x 8 negative thrown into positive. “[It] means it’s got some strangeness to it, with the whole of LA in negative in the background but whited out with crayon.” Sitting on a bare stage it acts as a freeze-frame, the trunk’s bark like skin, wrinkled yet somehow ageless – an eerie presence, a stasis in which the dancers must roam. When she first heard the music by Adès she was stunned: “It was magical. I thought, oh my god this is like attending The Rite of Spring… It’s so emotional; I don’t think there’ll be a dry eye in the house.” Inferno premiered in July 2019 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and seeing her first set come to life left an impression.


Purgatory is more emotional pain, emotional regret, and paradise… Well, paradise is to be without a body

Previous spread: Watching trims from One Hundred and Fifty Years of Painting, 2021, on her 16mm Steenbeck

Above: Spotting black and white photographs from Significant Form, 2021 Right: ‘The Box’ (in the studio garden) where the purgatory trees are worked on

“I can see why people get hooked on working live, because there are things that happen… You encounter the reception in a very visceral way; you have to meet your audience.” As an artist she’s aware of the distance she’s usually afforded: “How people think or how they behave at an opening is not remotely what is really going on, but when it’s an audience you feel the response is spontaneous, people clap… You can hear a visible intake of breath, and that is real.” She pauses, almost melancholic, “You never really get that in the art world, that’s not what we trade in, that reaction, that reality. That physical moment is new for me, and that’s both exhilarating and terrifying.” She checks herself, “I want to go back to my world where I don’t have to encounter anybody.” Did she enjoy lockdown then? “We’ve had our own purgatory I think, but it’s now the 700th anniversary of Dante, which it wasn’t when we were initially supposed to do it, so that’s useful as a sort of hook, and a bit of time has been helpful.


What the delay has given is a context larger than Dante… all these generic words that we have in our language: This period has been ‘hell’, and we’ve all definitely been in ‘purgatory’ waiting. These terminologies have taken on a whole new meaning because of the pandemic.” I ask her what the stages of Dante’s afterlife mean to her. “I think we know what hell is really,” her face freezes for a moment. “Hell is physical pain.” She’s put the scissors down, hands clasped in front of her mouth. “Purgatory is more emotional pain, emotional regret, and paradise… Well, paradise is to be without a body.” It’s a sentence that stings; Dean has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for years. The elusiveness of Paradiso made it a difficult stage to set, “We all much prefer watching iniquity,” she notes dryly. “Paradise is formless, isn’t it? Whereas the other two are very much a trajectory.” Echoing this amorphousness for the LA premiere, she created an abstract film in a photo studio in Burbank: “There’s no safety in

film; there’s no safety in dance, either; people slip, so it’s just bringing another live element to the whole thing.” Despite her worries she makes light of it: “It’s just shape and form and colour, so I’m briefly turning the opera house into a cinema.” Inspired by William Blake’s iconic illustrations of Dante, she made light filters with several different layers of colour: “I really wanted that muddy richness, which is what Blake had, not pure colour at all.” She cut the film listening to Adès’s composition, “It’s really weird: Every time I have to remember how to do it, I can never remember. I think it’s obviously self-imposed, but I get a sort of amnesia. I have to reinvent my process; so I’m not overawed by my past – I don’t remember it.” Where does one even start on a project like this, I ask? “You start in the wrong place; that’s what happens,” she muses. “That’s always the way, and you know it’s the wrong place in your heart of hearts, and that eventually trips you out of it; you realise, that’s not me.”

A decade has passed since Danish-born photographer and explorer Klaus Thymann last visited Iceland. Commissioned by Port and Parajumpers, the artist (also a scientist and mountaineer) returns once again, this time documenting the catastrophic impact that human activity has had on its melting glaciers WORDS AYLA ANGELOS PHOTOGRAPHY KLAUS THYMANN


Klaus Thymann climbing atop Sólheimajökull, a glacier in southern Iceland

Klaus Thymann and I meet on an unusually hot day in September, devoid of any clouds and with temperatures reaching the high twenties. Feeling like it’s the last day of summer, the entire country bathes in the final spells of warmth as we sip our lemon drinks on London Fields. He is sporting his usual ensemble – “I wear shorts until October” – and it suits the weather perfectly. It was pertinent to be discussing climate change on a day like this, especially since Thymann had just returned from an expedition to Iceland, on a mission to document the changing glaciers. For this excursion, commissioned by Port and Parajumpers, Thymann visited a cluster of the country’s best-known glacial spots: Jökulsárlón, Vik, and Snæfellsjökull. His purpose was, and still is, to teach how human activity is drastically impacting the climate. “We are collectively changing something that is so big and so vast, and when you’re on it as an


individual, or next to it, you feel really humble,” he says. “Like a little insignificant ant running around with an ice axe. It makes you understand your place on Earth.” A man of many titles – and founder of arts platform Project Pressure – Thymann has visited the Nordic island on many occasions, the last excursion around a decade ago. “It’s the closest you get to being completely remote,” he adds, in an unsurprisingly impassioned manner. “It’s fantastic. You’re reminded of geological time, because it’s all around you.” Infamous for its rocky, celestial terrain, the dramatic landscape of volcanoes, black sands, and lava fields populate the country more so than its vegetation, and even its inhabitants. It’s also located on the divide between two continents, the splitting of which is visible amongst the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – a visually entropic depiction of where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates have merged. “When

you’re there, within minutes, the weather will change and the landscape will alter along with it. Nothing is constant,” adds Thymann. The same goes for the country’s ice and glaciers that, in total, cover 11 per cent of the land. “They’re fluid rivers of ice; they flow, move, are very dynamic.” Ten years before now, Iceland’s glaciers would have looked considerably different. Larger, deeper, and thicker, their structures are rapidly altering due to the warming climate, which is extending melt periods during the summer. Glaciers are a lifeline not only for the local inhabitants of Iceland, but also for the world. In total, there are estimated to be around 300,000 glaciers globally, and Iceland’s ice caps produce the majority of the country’s fresh water. “Glaciers are important for many reasons,” explains Thymann, “especially in regions where people rely on river-flow irrigation. A billion people in the Himalayas, by

Previous page: Small icebergs float in the glacial lagoon of Jökulsárlón Above: Sólheimajökull, situated between the volcanoes Katla and Eyja"allajökull, is part of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier

some estimates, rely on water for their livelihood.” With an increasing population, water scarcity is becoming widespread, as just 2.5 per cent of the planet’s resources are drinkable. Hiking atop a glacier is known to be a dangerous activity, but Thymann – a trained hiker and mountaineer – doesn’t see the risk. In fact, he is more worried about cycling on a bike in London than he is facing an icy mass with crampons and axes, “because if it’s me and some form of geology, a mountain cave or whatever, there’s usually one factor that will cause damage, and that’s what I focus on. That gives me some sense of control.” The cooler environments are where he’s most comfortable, after all, and he’s trekked to numerous locations of this ilk: the glacier regions of Iran, Sweden, and Uganda are just a few examples. For this trip specifically, Klaus visited Iceland in the autumn, meaning the days are long and the landscape is flat and snow free: “I was


primarily walking around in the rain,” he says, making it the ideal overcast weather for capturing the glaciers. While in Vik, he returned to a spot he first ventured to 10 years ago, where the people living there can be counted in the hundreds. Following his old GPS coordinates, he took a photograph from the front of the glacier, previously framing the lake ahead of a magnanimous backdrop of ice. “And now, it’s just melted water, and it’s completely gone,” he states, urgently. “It’s retreated so much.” A five-hour journey to a peninsula north of the capital, Reykjavík, and Thymann arrived at his second location. He climbed a dormant volcano with an “iconic cone shape” and a glacier positioned at the top. The mound is typically shrouded in clouds due to the mixture of high and low altitude, disrupting the views of the ice sheets. But Thymann’s patience with the process worked utterly in his favour. “We maybe had a window view of seconds and, at

one point, just a little fraction of the glacier came out. It has retreated a lot, which makes sense if you have warming – the freezing point is getting higher.” Having documented the changes incurred over the years, Thymann firmly states that his work no longer serves the purpose of raising awareness: We’re too far gone. “Awareness is past its due date,” he exclaims. “We need action.” He founded Project Pressure in 2008 – a charity that visualises the climate crisis through art, commissions, and glacial decline – and back then, he was somewhat hopeful about the future. “It’s more than a decade old,” he explains. “And at that point, the narrative around climate change was different; there were a lot of sceptics. It was very frustrating, because to me, we weren’t discussing whether gravity is real or not. Why were we discussing whether climate change was real, if it’s a well-documented science?”

Klaus Thymann observing the meltwater around Sólheimajökull

Wildfires, hurricanes, and floods have become ever more frequent across the world in the wake of a warming planet. However, these weather-related occurrences are not necessarily attributed to climate change; this is why Thymann and his work with Project Pressure focuses solely on glaciers, using their metamorphic structure as a communication tool and a real-time marker for the state of the world. “It’s become a lot worse over the past 10 years,” he adds. “And I would argue now that climate change has become the weight on the scales – there’s a tipping point.” With a disastrous endpoint in sight (rising sea levels and coast erosion, for example), there are multiple steps that can be adopted into daily life – from reusable cutlery to refillable cups. But this sidetracks from the bigger picture at hand, in turn placing mounting pressure on the individual. Thymann, like many climate crisis advocates, sees systemic change

as the solution, and something that can only be achieved en masse; think transportation, energy use, food, and cooperation from larger businesses. “Lots of companies are kicking the can down the road,” he admits, “and it doesn’t solve anything. So we need to change the systems and change them now.” Thymann admits that his work mainly reaches the “converted”, such as those who are already conscious about the climate emergency. Artists, scientists, environmentalists, and others actively seeking change need to transcend their messaging to those that “wouldn’t necessarily already have an interest”, he says. “I think that’s where we need to get to. It’s important to have these conversations around systemic change, but it’s the people that are delaying action that need to get in gear; that’s the new denial.” How to get there, however, is a tricky question. Thymann suggests talking about these issues without it becoming a “belief

system”, thus triggering an emotional response, and therefore evoking action. But is it really as straightforward as that? An exponent of science and art, Thymann endeavours to spread these messages far and wide as he continues working on the colder climate, along with the imminent release of a new roster of artist commissions on Project Pressure. “If it’s an important story to tell, I will tell it,” he says. But now, we’re in the “next wave of impact. We don’t need to talk about climate denial anymore.” From droughts to coral bleaching and other “depressing stuff ”, there are many current problems sitting at the table. So is he optimistic? “Everybody says you have to have some optimism and give people some hope, but we’ve really fucked up. And I don’t swear normally, but we really have. We’re walking into an Armageddon, and it’s unbearable to look at… But I am optimistic, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.”



As an artist, I am constantly looking at things and working to reimagine them. The future is uncertain, however what is certain is that we must reimagine it with positive and outside-the-box thinking. Without this, we will continue to make the same doomed mistakes. Those I have reached out to for this special edition are people whose thinking aligns with this belief, and whose work I respect. I have enjoyed this process of reflection, and being part of this series of dialogues, as it has given me a greater understanding of those ideas, and indeed my own. — GAVIN TURK




What alternate worlds may be summoned from card reading? Gavin Turk invites artist and writer Jonathan Allen – who rediscovered mystic and artist Austin Osman Spare’s lost tarot deck – to discuss the history of cartomancy and how it might imaginatively model possible futures WORDS GAVIN TURK & JONATHAN ALLEN

Gavin Turk: Looking into the future and thinking about the role of artists, there’s a wonderful line from the British artist and mystic, Austin Osman Spare. He wrote that “Scientists will never solve or prove anything relating to foretelling the future; it is a work for ‘artists’. Science may subsequently prove more fully what the artists have already discovered.” In terms of “foretelling the future”, I wanted to ask you about a project that you’ve been involved with recently that was based around your discovery of a lost tarot deck made by Austin Spare, one that got you thinking about cartomancy [divination using a deck of cards] as a tool for reimagining the future. I wonder if you could tell me how you found this amazing artefact. Jonathan Allen: From time to time, I work as an associate curator at London’s Magic Circle Museum, which is connected to the well-known international organisation for theatrical conjurors and illusionists. The Magic Circle’s remit is to promote the conjuring arts but importantly that also includes exploring magic’s cultural history. As with all museums, the collection contains items that don’t strictly ‘belong’ to the official story of that institution, and at the Magic Circle, that includes Austin Spare’s

A card reading invites its participants into a shared imaginative space where intermediary objects summon temporary alternate worlds

Previous spread: Austin Osman Spare, hand-painted tarot cards, circa 1906. Copyright 2016, courtesy The Magic Circle. Left: Jonathan Allen, Stage with tilt-trap (after Dürer), 2020 Right: Gavin Turk, Rosy Lee, 2013

forgotten tarot deck. I stumbled across the cards one quiet April evening in 2013 as I was preparing material for a lecture. The cards were packed away in a cupboard surrounded on all sides by vitrines filled with magic props, and when I realised what I had in my hands, I couldn’t quite believe it. Over the next few years, I put together the book Lost Envoy, in which the cards were reproduced for the first time, and where lots of great people discuss the deck. Reactivating the cards was also very interesting for me as an artist, and resulted in several exhibitions and a short film called ‘Le Carte Parlanti’ (2017). In the first ‘phase’ of tarot history, tarot cards do seem to relate to the kind of magic that ends in a ‘c’ as opposed to a ‘k’. If by that you mean that tarot cards developed in a secular context, then yes. Although some people still think of tarot as coming from a long-lost mystical tradition, most of its iconography actually has its origins in the decadent Court of Milan in northern Italy sometime around the beginning of the 15th century. During that period, the cards were part of a skilland-chance-based game that also functioned as an allegory for life. The well-known ‘Visconti’


decks contain narrative elements that are connected directly to the Visconti family, and so you can probably assume that as they played what was basically a recreational trick-taking card game, they were also thinking about their family’s legacy. It was only later, in the second half of the 18th century in France, and then again in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Britain, that tarot cards really developed as a divinatory tool. Since theatrical magicians have conventionally been sceptical of many esoteric magical practices, it’s pretty remarkable that Spare’s deck – which is essentially a relic of the British occult revival – ended up in the collections of the Magic Circle. We think that Spare hand painted the cards around 1906; they were then donated to the collection in the mid-1940s, but because of the Magic Circle’s strict code of secrecy, the cards went underground. I always think that the deck therefore effectively ‘missed’ the 20th century, and its influence is only now starting to be felt, at a time when there’s a lot of speculation, and anxiety, about the future. So an artefact that’s been dormant for over a hundred years, made by an outsider artist who very few people have really taken an interest in, begins to affect historical timelines and starts

to reshape things. Histories aren’t fixed, as we know from the situation with other more public-facing artefacts like, say, the stolen Benin Bronzes, which are now gradually being returned, and as a result history is getting a rewrite. It also seems important to move forward together into the future, in ways that embody how we’d like it to be – for instance, articulated by more female voices, and recognising and learning from indigenous knowledge. The flexibility of history and the possibility of different futures is something that we seem to come back to with the idea of the tarot. Card reading is an interesting speculative process: You select a set of random cards in a non-conscious way, whereupon a series of images are laid out as a structurally significant spread; this then starts to guide a conversation, perhaps even a narrative. That narrative exists only because of the order in which the cards have fallen and their position in relation to one another. Accidental themes are captured, instilled, stopped, and given meaning. I should say that Spare wasn’t really an “outsider” artist. He actually trained at the Royal College of Art, in London, where he was a close friend of the artist and suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. In Lost Envoy, Sally O’Reilly imagi-

nes a conversation between the two of them in which Spare’s deck appears. But yes, in more general terms, tarot card reading is a very flexible and open way of structuring a conversation. I don’t really think of card reading as being about ‘predicting’ or ‘foretelling the future’, but more as a way of anchoring communication in the present and then exploring that moment’s various contingencies. A card reading invites its participants into a shared imaginative space where intermediary objects summon temporary alternate worlds. In the case of tarot cards, those worlds draw on an art-historically complex iconography, but Spare openly encouraged people to create their own imagery – hence it being “a work for artists” in the broadest sense. Tarot readers sometimes get a bad rap for manipulating vulnerable people who pay them to read their cards. Our world feels pretty vulnerable at the moment, and there are certainly plenty of dodgy characters out there ready to tell us their warped stories about the future. It’s fairly easy to dismiss the whole area of cartomancy on the basis that people only hear what they want to hear, and that tarot readers play into our confirmation biases and rely on responses that are so open-ended that they’re basically meaningless… the so-called ‘Barnum statements’. Bad-faith actors are certainly out there. But I think there’s a more generous and actually more challenging way to approach all of this. Emily E Auger has described tarot cards as “heterotopian”, that is that they mark out a space that’s outside of all other spaces, where judgment is temporarily suspended and possibility can abound. In that way, card reading can certainly become a space for imaginatively and collectively modelling different possible futures, as contemporary decks like Suzanne Treister’s Hexen 2.0 Tarot, the Plastique Fantastique Tarot, Sophy Hollington and David Keenan’s Autonomic Tarot, and Katie Anderson’s Barrow Tarot all demonstrate. But to actually build a future, you have to engage the real world in very practical and unavoidably political ways. This comes up in O’Reilly’s imagined conversation between Spare and Pankhurst, where Pankhurst dresses Spare down for spending so much time mapping his inner world, while the suffragettes were being imprisoned for trying to reconstruct the social conditions around them.

nections feels very contemporary to me, where some paths we take enable us to get to somewhere pretty easily, while at the same time other paths are blocked to us. And when the deck got hidden, an experimental feature like that didn’t become mainstream within card reading circles. I really like the built-in chaos of that system: There are occasional wormholes, but if you go back and retrace your steps, you suddenly find the hole is taking you somewhere else. I think where we are at the moment can feel incredibly polarised; we’re often glued to our screens, our little wormholes. As the internet learns our online consumption habits and starts to limit our experiences, it’s a relief to see the systemic unpredictability of this artwork. Yes, I agree. I reckon that Italo Calvino might have been interested in the deck if he’d seen it, given his love of tarot’s combinatory system

and its potential for open story telling. I think that the deck is, as much as anything else, an early example of a combinatoric artwork. And although the deck’s disappearance meant that it didn’t have a historical influence at the time, the spirit of what Spare was doing manifested in other ways. The deck’s connecting devices have the feel of a surrealist game, like an infinite version of the exquisite cadaver, or something along those lines. A very memorable headline appeared in a London newspaper in 1938, which referred to Spare as “The Father of Surrealism – He’s a Cockney”. (*laughs) Well, would you Adam and Eve it! Lost Envoy – The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare (2016), edited by Jonathan Allen, was published by Strange Attractor Press and distributed by MIT Press

Another way of looking at Spare’s deck is as a resonator that uses a given system and creates new stories and possibilities every time you look at it. I like the idea of the deck being a kind of disruptive resonator. One of the most interesting and unprecedented things about Spare’s deck is that he drew and wrote across the vertical edges of the cards, so there’s information half on one card and half on another. When you put various cards together, they form visual links at their margins. But that doesn’t mean that they all fit together harmoniously like a jigsaw puzzle. Instead, when one of the visual devices links up, it means that other ones clash, and vice versa. The resulting array of connections and miscon-









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Radically destroying debt, re-establishing social contracts, and placing value in the hands of communities: Gavin Turk talks to filmmaker Dan Edelstyn, artist Hilary Powell, and political economist Ann Pettifor about building a new economy based on promises and trust WORDS GAVIN TURK, DAN EDELSTYN, HILARY POWELL & ANN PETTIFOR PHOTOGRAPHY PETER SEARLE

THE FUTURE OF MONEY Gavin Turk: Dan and Hilary, as we’re talking about the future I want to know about your new project. Before that though, let’s go back a little bit and talk about Bank Job, your recently completed project. Can you remember and share the time when you thought ‘We need to do this; we really need to make some work around the issue of debt?’

HSCB’s alternative notes, partly investing in a local youth project, food bank, community hub and education project

Dan Edelstyn: Bank Job came along after our first film that we made together, which was called Vodka Empire, where we tried to resurrect my great-grandfather’s vodka distillery in Ukraine – it all went terribly wrong on many levels, as it was probably destined to. We were left with the question, what do we want to do next? I furiously started reading books –

George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, John Berger, all sorts. It helped me to get an orientation on why I might write, make films, or do anything at all. Around that same period, a neighbour from across the street asked whether I’d heard about this group called Strike Debt (now Debt Collective) in America who have been buying up and abolishing student and medical debt. There was something about the coincidence between that moment and the kind of soul searching I’d been up to; the two things came together. So I started researching the group in New York, and I read the books that they were publishing. I began to have an eerie feeling of seeing through the illusion of money. I studied history at university, but this gave me a totally different perspective on contemporary


Top left: Cutting bank notes inside the Hoe Street Central Bank Bottom left: Plates for printing bank notes

history; I could see forces at play through the analysis that this group had put together which I was never previously aware of. It was like scales falling from my eyes around the morality of money and debt. I started to think as a filmmaker again: How could we use film to make this visible? I wanted to turn this abstract stuff into something with a concrete and compelling storyline. So we went to New York and met up with them. We still didn’t have anything like a film, but we knew we wanted to try and do the same in Britain – buy debt and destroy it. We needed to start in our home, and Creditocracy: And the Case for Debt Refusal by Andrew Ross was an inspiration in prompting us to ask the question, was Walthamstow – where we live – a creditocracy? We started to talk to people about debt, the dark twin of money. What really started to capture people’s imaginations was the idea of printing the money; it was a way of enabling us to raise the kind of sterling needed to buy the debt. Hilary Powell: What had been a lone endeavour of Dan as ‘The Debtonator’, in a kind of superhero genre, gradually took on more of the characteristics of a classic heist. On a family road trip, talking through the project it became the Bank Job, and from there things took off. Deciding that we’d buy up the debt by giving ourselves the power of a central bank to literally make money and print our own banknotes became a way of engaging people in this whole process. We were told we should get permission and that we could be shut down – but we figured that we were a rebel bank, and we weren’t printing out sterling, so we decided to proceed with our printing and not worry too much about legality. Once we got a physical space for this it all started to happen quickly. We occupied – via a Welsh coworking cooperative, strangely – a former bank on Walthamstow High Street, and it became a community endeavour, employing and training local people, on the London living wage, to learn and share the traditional print techniques we were using to make our cash. It snowballed as more and more people


Printed money is the tangible technology of our social arrangement to fulfil obligations. Credit is based on the Latin for ‘I believe’…

got involved, and the idea of a community heist taking on the power of finance became contagious. The aim was to print and exchange or sell enough of our Hoe Street Central Bank (HSCB) money to be able to: a) buy up £1.2m of local debt (with £20,000), and b) to share the rest (£20,000) between the local organisations who featured on the notes – a primary school, youth project, foodbank, and homeless kitchen. We wanted it to be both direct mutual aid and something that contributed to actually beginning to change the system through education and exposure, and play around with ideas of value: the value of art, of how we value each other, money, our communities... Gavin Turk: Creating a currency creates a community. If I look at the system of the Brixton pound, a community got created through this. When we look at a community that gets built on the absence of money, on debt, that debt becomes almost a prison in a way. Debt puts people in that system into a place where they have to behave in a certain way; they’re enslaved by it. It also does make a few people rich. What really is debt? Ann Pettifor: My work started from the point of view of sovereign debt. I was working on the debt of the poorest countries and a global campaign – Jubilee 2000 – aimed at cancelling the debts of the poorest countries. At the end of the campaign I wanted to understand why low-income countries had built up debt. Everybody said it was because of the oil price rise in 1973. I didn’t believe the story I was hearing, so I moved to the New Economics Foundation and started to research the origins of the debt crisis. I realised that central to understanding it all is to understand the nature of money. Money is basically a social technology. Printed money is the tangible technology of our social arrangement to fulfil obligations. Credit is based on the Latin for ‘I believe’… ‘I believe you will fulfil your obligation to repay.’ Our social arrangement, the thing that we call money, is based on an obligation that if not met, ultimately becomes a debt. David Grae-

ber, in his wonderful book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, argues that societies had credit systems way back then. To simplify: the credit system involves, for example, a village with a hairdresser on the one hand, able to cut hair, and a thatcher on the other. They need each other’s services. If one provides a service to the other, there is an obligation to repay or reciprocate. In the village, a chief or high priest or whoever’s the boss, oversees obligations and upholds standards of measurement (for example the standard length of a cloth or size of a beer) and resolves conflicts between those exchanging (transacting) services. The hairdresser says to the thatcher, “I’ll cut your hair, but afterwards, please thatch my roof in exchange”. The chief oversees this and says to the thatcher, “Okay, she’s cut your hair. Here’s the promise that you’ve made – and I’m here to uphold that promise.” In the meantime, the hairdresser cuts the butcher’s, the carpenter’s hair, and so on. The role of the chief is to say that these promises were made, and they need to be fulfilled. And that’s how the credit-based monetary system originates – with the head of the village acting as the ‘central banker’. What happens when a new tribe turns up at the village and seeks to undertake transactions? They might say, “Look, we’ve got animal skins, and we’d like to exchange these for your corn.” Because they are strangers and not answerable to the village’s ‘governance’ system, villagers are unsure how to trust them as there’s no chief to oversee and negotiate this exchange. So they revert to barter – the exchange of one commodity for another. David Graeber argues our credit-based monetary system is not barter. Barter was a system that operated in places where there was no trust and no management of trust. Neoliberals, conservatives, and classical economists call money, barter, based on a commodity like gold. But for 5,000 years money has been based on promises: the promise to pay and the enforcement of that promise – trust. So that’s why all money is debt, because the use of the credit money system assumes the making of an obligation which has to be upheld. Five thousand years ago people were doing this, and

the chief had the role of standardising – putting a measurement system in place for balancing exchanges or transactions. That setting of a standard for exchanges became the currency. Today in Britain we all share a currency, pounds sterling; but when we cross the border to a foreign country, we have to use an alternative currency. The power of the chief has been usurped, and power over our monetary system now rests in financial markets based in places such as Wall Street. To oversimplify, our monetary system reliant on promises to pay and millions of daily transactions are no longer managed by our local ‘chief ’, but have been captured. Today the system is effectively managed by the one per cent. Our obligations are captured in the form of bonds, which themselves are bought and sold so that these social obligations are now commodified and transformed into an asset. Our social relationships have been commodified, and a few have become rich on it… Gavin Turk: I’ve got this nagging thought in my head: I took £200 out of the hole-in-thewall around the corner from my house at the beginning of the year and only yesterday spent the last pound – the only actual physical money I’ve had this year. I’m doing all my transactions down a wire, which is also charging me a little every time I spend any money… Ann Pettifor: Cash is so subversive to today’s monetary system because it can’t be traced. If, in a coffee shop, you wave a card over a machine, this is a promise to pay the coffee shop, but it also becomes a bit of data that can be sold on. It’s extraordinary the degree of control, and the rates of return, that the one per cent demand. I’m passionate about the question of what rates of interest are charged on these intangible, social obligations – a promise to pay. For example, imagine a young person living in council accommodation somewhere in the east end of London, who works, precariously, for Deliveroo. If that person applies for a loan, the bank might be happy with her application and prom-


This process was fraught with difficulties, and it was never intended as a scalable solution to the debt crisis, but a way of exposing in a dramatic way the injustices of the secondary debt markets

ises to pay, but because her loan is risky, offers her a mortgage with an interest rate of eight per cent. Her income doesn’t rise by eight per cent every year, but the interest on her mortgage does. So she uses the loan to buy a tiny flat in east London and then obviously ends up defaulting on it. High rates are a major cause of financial or economic failure, which is why they should be regulated. Under the ‘free market’ monetary system, they are not regulated. Hence the inevitability of financial crises. Let’s say we have a complete collapse of the whole thing, because of a climate breakdown. The whole system blows up and everything is destroyed. There are only a few people left. What could we do? We could, say, begin again. We will have lost the system governed by the invisible hand of markets – the one per cent – and will be free of all of that. We could begin to build a new world and a new community, based on promises and trust. We could begin to transact our services, “I’ll care for you or I’ll sing for you, or I’ll paint for you.” And we could then begin to build up a system of trust once more. The question would then become, whom do we want to be in charge of all this? How do we want to manage this?

Roland, who had been buying debt for 20 years and wanted to make amends in some way. The reason we could buy £1.2m of predatory catalogue and credit card debt was because of the way the secondary debt markets work. Debt is bought and sold as a commodity. The older it gets, the lower its grade. As a form of local ‘bailout of the people by the people’ we wanted to focus on local debt; in what was essentially a matter of interrogating spreadsheets we honed in on this high-interest debt from the surrounding postcodes of E17, Walthamstow, London. This process was fraught with difficulties, and it was never intended as a scalable solution to the debt crisis, but a way of exposing in a dramatic way the injustices of the secondary debt markets, and in turn, the wider financial system that forces people into debt. Our act of debt cancellation was one spark in a movement to both illuminate and counter these unjust systems. This was done through collective action and in this case art – not just in bringing a community together in the printing of the banknotes but the staging of an explosion of this debt in a transit van in front of the towers of finance of Canary Wharf. This action was called Big Bang 2.

Gavin Turk: The relationship between art and money is mysterious. How do we put a price on a painting? How do we put a price on creativity, whatever that is? Not that I don’t know what creativity is, but the moment I try to commodify it, it goes weird. Dan and Hilary, I know when the Bank Job project got to the point where you actually had to do the deal and buy the debt, it became a little problematic. Can you expand on that?

Ann Pettifor: Can I illustrate that with the work I was doing on an international level? Like many other low-income countries, Peru had outstanding debts – for example, foreign obligations. A New York company called Elliott Management started what’s often called a ‘vulture fund’. That fund deliberately sets out to buy the ‘distressed’ debt of poor countries when the value of that debt has fallen, because non-payment is expected. The poor country is indebted because of economic needs, such as buying computers, so has to borrow hard (foreign) currency in order to pay for imports. They sell their copper, or whatever they can, to obtain dollar bills, and use their commodities (assets) as collateral to borrow foreign currency. And then suddenly the price of the asset against which they have borrowed, such as copper, collapses. They earn less foreign income and can’t repay the borrowing.

Dan Edelstyn: In America, they had a couple of debt buyers who went into Occupy and collaborated with the Strike Debt (now the Debt Collective); whereas in Britain, there were no debt buyers who were on the same page in the beginning. We were going into a world where we had no contacts and were trying to persuade people to help us. We did eventually find a good guy in the Midlands, called


It is at this point that Elliott Management steps in and buys the debt Peru owes, and waits. In the meantime pressure groups lobby for unjust and immoral world debt to be cancelled, and call on the official creditors, the IMF, the world bank, and Britain and Germany, and the United States and Japan – to cancel the poor country’s debt. It works and some debt gets cancelled. Once more the country’s ‘books’ are restored to balance, and they raise more hard currency. It is at that point that Elliott Management demands repayment in full of the old debts. Having originally paid, for example, 10 cents in the dollar for the debt, the company demands repayment of 100 cents in the dollar. If Peru (or Argentina or Haiti) refuses, the American company can take the sovereign debtor to an American court. Judges in New York bow to the interests of a Wall Street corporate and argue that Elliott’s repayment must take precedence over other repayments. If the sovereign offers only 10 cents in the dollar as repayment, US courts have the power to penalise that sovereign debtor. This is achieved by using the IMF to block the sovereign’s access to foreign currency. That is the fate of many poor, sovereign debtor countries. It’s an issue that is difficult to explain because it’s hard to understand and talk about the international financial system. Gavin Turk: Dan and Hilary, weren’t you trying to get a licence for buying debt? Dan Edelstyn: So many communities all around the country got in touch and wanted to do the same thing – branches of HSCB popped up all over the country. The barrier was the fact that we didn’t have financial conduct authority regulation, but also the feeling that possibly we don’t need to replicate it in the same way – maybe it’s done its job, and it’s travelling out into the world in a film and book and sparking new ideas and action in different ways. What was evident in the project was the power of collective action, and it is the power we’re now focusing on in a project about energy – electrical, community, and artistic. Inspired directly by Ann’s work on the Green

Top right: Hoe Street Central Bank interior Bottom right: Money printing press in Hoe Street Central Bank

New Deal, we are setting out to build a cooperative power station across the rooftops of Walthamstow. This again takes us on a big learning curve, and we’re working through it all and seeing if there is an opportunity to weave debt cancellation into this one, in relation to fuel poverty and debt. We’ll be printing a new currency – the Green Backs – inspired by the original US greenbacks, as another variation on sovereign money creation backing this grassroots Green New Deal. So Hoe Street Central Bank lives on, playing with, subverting, and creating other financial instruments that work for the people, not against them. Even on a national scale, mass debt cancellation would never be a complete solution, but it would press the reset button, alongside a raft of other measures urgently needed to tackle the deep inequities involved in the climate crisis. If the government are not acting fast enough, how might we be able to do a project that can make some impact, starting from our house and radiating outwards? Again there will be a film, but the whole process is a kind of gesamtkunstwerk involving mass participation and art production. Gavin Turk: This sounds like perfect material for the next project, a film about local green ambitions with world implications, benefitting from all that learning of the financial system you’ve been doing. Ann, are you working on a new project? Ann Pettifor: I’m writing about how the world’s central bankers provide bailouts and finance for entities such as Wall Street (at very low rates of interest), but do not ensure that finance is available at low rates for the real economy, the climate, or to end austerity. It’s about how the civil servants at the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central banks, have become servants to Wall Street; whereas societies need them to act in the service of the real economy – just as the chiefs in villages once acted as servants to their community by upholding standards, managing interest rates, and regulating transactions and obligations.


Functional Fungi Writer and curator Francesca Gavin considers future applications of the integral organism on mental health, architecture, and space exploration WORDS FRANCESCA GAVIN


Can mushrooms save the world? At first glance this appears to be a comedic question, in the wake of ecological crisis, political unrest, and social disconnection. Yet increasingly scientists, designers, philosophers, writers, economists, technologists, and of course, mycologists, are looking to fungi for practical and metaphorical ways out of the current mess we are in. Humanity is deeply in need of fresh ways of thinking and the mushroom appears to be the new way out. On a practical level, some of the hopeful new prototypes and proposals come out of discoveries around mycelium. This organism is the brain and body of fungi. Mushrooms are in fact like flowers, emerging briefly to disperse spores and then fading away. Mycelium is becoming a material that has numerous applications. Companies like Ecovative, Krown, and Symbiotec are looking at mycelium as a replacement for other forms of packaging, in their case as a composite with hemp. The aim is to have a completely biodegradable alternative to plastic-based products like Styrofoam. Mycelium packaging can be grown at room temperature and uses 12 per cent of the energy of plastic. IKEA has been using mushroom packaging materials since 2019, a “small yet significant step towards reducing waste and conserving ecological balance”, as IKEA’s head of sustainability, Joanna Yarrow, noted. In life, mushroom packaging resembles a hardened pale grey mulch, surprisingly light and somehow pleasant and fuzzy to the touch. Designers are also looking to mycelium as a new material for filling the spaces we live in. The wave of interest echoes the way plastic was embraced in the 1960s as an egalitarian futuristic pop option (clearly that space-age fascination backfired). Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova have collaborated on mycelium stools and hanging lampshades, with a rather raw almost untreated leather-like aesthetic. Furniture designer Tom Butterfield, at the bequest of Tom Dixon, designed, modelled, and produced a fibre-glass mould of the chair, which was then sent to Symbiotec to produce. Over two weeks, an amalgam of mycelium and agricultural waste was grown in the mould, and the result was a prototype chair echoing the curves and futurism of Johanson’s iconic Comet chairs or Eero Aarnio’s Ball chair. Architects are also considering fungi for new ideas for building, notoriously one of the worst industries for environmental waste. There are numerous different mycelial bricks out there, but few resemble the beauty of Mae-ling Lokko’s geometric objects. The Ghanaian-Filipino architectural scientist’s research focuses on the use of agro-waste and biopolymer materials, and by extension how this can impact social and cultural life. Her work has been exhibited at the Liverpool Biennial; Serpentine Gallery; and Luma Foundation, Arles. Putting her work in an art context was an intentional way of changing how people imagine using materials. Her works are often made collaboratively, including getting her audience and children to grow bricks. As she has pointed out, “My whole thinking has been about fostering academic-industrial collaborations, and for me, that has accelerated the devel-

opment of these materials in lots of ways.” Mycologists like Paul Stamets are researching the practical application of fungi as replacement for toxic chemicals. News headlines have enthused about fungi’s ability to eat plastic, to clean oil spills, and to replace toxic pesticides. Most recently, NASA scientists have discovered new possibilities for fungi feeding on radiation at Chernobyl. First discovered in 1991, Cryptococcus neoformans could protect astronauts from space radiation. “If you have a material that can act as a shield against radiation, it could not only protect people and structures in space but also have very real benefits for people here on Earth,” JB Cordero, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University has explained. Mushrooms may also have the possibility of saving our mental health. A recent resurgence of interest in psychedelics and the psychoactive element in some fungi, psilocybin, has led to it being used very successfully in trials as a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat chronic depression, anxiety, and addiction. Even

the world of business is paying attention. Peter Thiel, the controversial venture capitalist who helped launch Facebook, has invested billions of dollars in “magic mushroom” biotech company Atai Life Sciences. The immensely complicated structure of mycelium is not unlike the human brain. In addition to providing possibilities on a practical scale, mushrooms also point to new ways of thinking, something Merlin Sheldrake considers in his lauded book Entangled Life. “We’re not just talking about the natural world as it appears to us in our objectifying natural sciences. We’re talking about our relationship to the natural world,” Sheldrake told me. “About how the natural world appears to us and how we form relationships with it. We can’t we talk much about relationships and symbiosis without accounting for the fact that we ourselves are also in relationship with the world. We’re dealing with the realm of human experience.” Sheldrake’s work highlights how the microbial fungal world enables us to rethink how we

exist in our everyday lives. Mushrooms have become a metaphor for symbiosis – the need to live in harmony with different species, different contexts. It’s an idea that has political resonance, especially with the increasing political shift to the individualist and far right. In 2019, scientists mapped the underground micro-ecosystem of the ancient redwood forests of California. They discovered that forest fungi formed a kind of communication system between the trees, sharing information and nutrients between them. The so-called ‘wood wide web’ is just one example of how fungi, which are in fact closer to animals than plants, enable the natural world to exist. Ninety per cent of plants rely on them to live. Without fungi all ecosystems would fail. They are a fundamental part of the human microbiome. Many fungi are under threat through deforestation. We should not be asking if mushrooms can save the world, but rather realise that without fungi there would be no world at all.

Left: Seana Gavin, Untitled, Mushroom Chimney Below: Sebastian Cox x Ninela Ivanova mycelium lamp, photography Petr Krejci


Dried Followers WORDS GAVIN TURK


The invitation to someone’s home for an occasion, a dinner party, a date, a wedding, a funeral, to make an entrance, a lasting impression, to sympathise. Picked them up on the way there, round the corner from the train station, purchased beforehand at Columbia Road flower market on a Sunday, a dedicated stall or shop, on the forecourt of a garage, in the front section of the supermarket. Wrapped in plastic or paper, held with sticky tape, rubber band or ribbon they’re local or from the other side of the earth, a glorious single specimen or a mixed bunch where colours and types of stems are cultural signifiers and mood registers, smells become an aide-mémoire, the power of or over nature a symbol of love put in a vase in a little water. A still life, on the kitchen table, in the hallway, the front room, the sideboard, the mantlepiece, a coffin. One week later the flowers droop, they lose lustre and some petals the colour drains, the water turns green and while one hand throws in the bin, the other stops and then carefully preserves Dried Followers


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Craspedia & Eryngium), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Rosa), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Diathus & Rosa), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Freesia), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Echinacea), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Dahlia Pinnata, Gypsophila, Tabebuia & Tulipa), 2021


Gavin Turk Dried Followers (Ruscus Aculeatus & Astroemeriaurea), 2021


Tectonic Shift

Styling Mitchell Belk

Photography Dham Srifuengfung



























Model: Aramish at Viva Models Grooming: Shunsuke Meguro Set Design: Rufus Wilkinson at Josh Stovell Casting & Production: Lock Studios





Part-Time Persona

Photography Laurence Ellis


Nick: Leather Jacket VINTAGE, Jumper FENDI

Styling Stuart Williamson

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This page: Shu: Dress JW ANDERSON, Socks TABIO, Sneakers ADIDAS Opposite: Landy: Scarf MHL MARGARET HOWELL, Shirt L.E.J, Trousers HERMÈS, Shoes ADIDAS Kairi: Roll neck HERMÈS, Half zip jacket HERMÈS, Trousers L.E.J, Socks TABIO, Shoes CHURCH’S



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Anis: Coat PAUL SMITH, Scarf MOLLY GODDARD, Trousers VINTAGE ADIDAS from The Contemporary Wardrobe, Shoes CHURCH’S



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Opposite: Theo: Suit jacket GUCCI, Half-zip track jacket VINTAGE FROM CASSIE MERCANTILE, Shirt MARAKASHI LIFE, Trousers GUCCI, Shoes MARTINE ROSE Lucas: Pinstripe blazer MARTINE ROSE, Shirt COMME DES GARÇONS SHIRT, Trousers MARTINE ROSE, Shoes STEFAN COOKE

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Grooming: Bumble and bumble Casting: Quentin McQueen at Xdirectn Models: Augustus at Youth, Eden at Premier, Nick at Das Deck, Rhys at Xdirectn, Shu at Xdirectn, Asa at AMCK, Landy at Xdirectn, Kairi at Xdirectn, Maansi at Established, Anis at Menace, Artie at Models 1, Raphaela at Milk, Mikey at Troy Agency, Theo at JM Scouting, Nile at Brother Models, Max at Premier, Lucas at Menace, Siyi at Das Deck



Heat Signature

Headline Here

Photography Hugo Mapelli

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Photography Adam Peter Johnson

Styling Mitchell Belk



Grooming: Thierry Do Nascimemto Model: Yiyan at Rock Men Production: Alicia Oliveira Production


New Heights

Styling Mitchell Belk


Ungho: Coat FENDI Luard: Shirt PAUL SMITH, Scarf DUNHILL, Trousers PAUL SMITH

Photography Conor Clinch



This page: Coat & knitted body PRADA, Hat BERLUTI Opposite: Jacket DUNHILL, Trousers SALVATORE FERRAGAMO



Luard: Coat DIOR Ungho: Full look ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

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Luard: Shirt and trousers NANUSHKA, Roll-neck BERLUTI, Shoes PRADA Ungho: Full look CANALI



Luard: Full look HERMÈS


Models: Luard and Ungho at Elite London Grooming: Asahi Sano at Caren using Bumble and Bumble Casting: Ikki Casting Production: Kat Perry




The Moon Under Water

Styling Julie Velut

Photography Louise Thornfeldt



Shirt BOSS, Jacket BOSS




This page: Top AZUR, Bag AZUR, Trousers HERMÈS, Shoes SALVATORE FERRAGAMO, Jewellery MODEL'S OWN Left: Top, Skirt & Trousers ISSEY MIYAKE, Shirt TANG TSUNG-CHIEN














Credit 286

Photo assistant: Marion Fashion assistant: Apolline Baillet Hair: Natsumi Ebiko Make-up: Eloïse Bourges Casting: Nicolas Bianciotto at IKKI Casting Models: Ismael at Rock Men, Emma Gouné at Viva, Geoffroy at IMG

Opposite: Glasses stylist’s own, Jacket ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA, Shirt JW ANDERSON, Trousers CANALI Above left: IOANNES, above right: GIORGIO ARMANI



This page: PRADA Credit Opposite: Bodysuit COURRÈGES, Top MIISTA, Trousers JW ANDERSON, Shoes CHARLOTTE KNOWLES

In the Earth

Styling Warren Leech

Photography Scott Gallagher


Grooming: Hiroshi Matsushita Photography assistant: Finnegan Travers Models: Eugene and Sandy at Supa, Fabio at IMG, Patrick and Joel at XDirectn


Unsquare Dance



Styling Lune Kuipers

Photography Julien T. Hamon

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Jacket, roll-neck and trousers ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA, Necklace AMBUSH



Roll neck and trousers VALENTINO and necklace LE GRAMME

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Grooming: Natsumi Ebiko using Oribe Casting director: Rama Casting Models: Francois Delacroix at The Claw Models and Leopold C. at Rock Men Styling assistant: Apolline Baillet



The Muscles from Le Brassus

Photography Rebecca Scheinberg

Words Alex Doak

The fine wristwatch may elsewhere be returning to a slimmer, more unassuming guise, but trust haute agitateur Audemars Piguet to uphold its status as originator of the ‘oversize’ trend, with the latest update of its Royal Oak Offshore (which, back in 1993, injected controversy into the Royal Oak, itself having, 20 years prior, ruffled feathers simply by being a highend steel sports watch with a luxury price tag). The mighty Royal Oak’s fusion of octagons is now rendered in any permutation of gold, steel, or hard-as-nails ceramic bezel, mounted (over these pages, at least) on an interchangeable rubber strap in steroidal 43mm proportions. That it’s still capped by the watchmaker’s iconic Méga Tapisserie dial, stamped into portcullis form, effectively means you’re looking at a fine, horological fortress.



Previous page, left: Chanel J12 Paradoxe £7,400 chanel.com Twenty years ago, Chanel proved to the watch world that fashion could do proper watches – its J12 pioneering ceramic technology from a purpose-built Swiss factory. Following some major upgrades beneath the bonnet (courtesy of Tudor, whose mechanics tick to chronometer levels of precision), the Paradoxe now refocuses on Chanel’s ceramic expertise, fusing two precisely cut white and black cases in Mademoiselle Coco’s signature two-tone, seamlessly. An answer to a question no one asked, but all the more alluring for it – much like the most fabulous fashion. Previous page, right: Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5167R £31,430 patek.com For hardcore watch nerds at least, the biggest news of the year has been Patek Philippe’s sudden discontinuation of their Ref 5711 – the purest, most collectible, most waiting-listed cult classic of their catalogue; in the process, obviously, making the Swiss maestro’s curvaceous ’70s sports watch more cultish and covetable than ever. But now the vapours have dispersed, fear not, for we still have the Aquanaut collection: arguably the properly ‘sporty’ version of the Nautilus, almost 25 years young, and feeling fresher than ever. The Patek you really would brave a jet ski wearing, yet still housing all the hardcore horology you’d expect from Geneva’s favourite son.


Opposite: Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph £16,770 omegawatches.com While we wait with bated breath for the long-overdue release of No Time to Die, trust James Bond’s watchmaker of choice to keep the action rollicking onwards. Not only did Omega and its iconic Seamaster diving watch assume double-O status from Rolex’s incumbent Submariner when Pierce Brosnan hopped into Timothy Dalton’s boots in 1995, but it stayed up to speed when Daniel Craig’s ‘brute in a suit’ took over. Sure enough, this chronograph version is an entire Q Branch for the wrist, built from a weaponsgrade cocktail of titanium, tantalum, and ceramic, plus mechanics certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology as antimagnetic enough to resist an MRI scan (or laser torture beam… probably). This page: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograh £35,700 audemarspiguet.com The Hublot watch also featured in this story owes a lot to the watch on this page: along with Panerai, the Royal Oak Offshore was the original oversize icon of the ’90s. While in development chez Audemars Piguet, the incumbent old guard, who treasured the delicate design codes of Gérald Genta’s 1972 original, dubbed it ‘The Beast’. It says everything about how modern taste in watches has moved on that that sounds like a compliment today. Now in black ceramic and up a further 2mm to a hefty 44mm in diameter, the green ceramic bezel and rubber strap move things from bestial to positively monstrous. In a good way.






DEFGHI acnestudios.com adidas.co.uk alexandermcqueen.com ambushdesign.com amiparis.com apcstore.co.uk audemarspiguet.com bebitalia.com beggxco.com berluti.com hugoboss.com bottegaveneta.com bulgari.com bunney.co.uk burberry.com cassiemercantile.com canali.com cartier.co.uk celine.com church-footwear.com comme-des-garcons.com


jilsander.com @junyawatanabe jwanderson.com kikokostadinov.com lej.london legramme.com louisvuitton.com loverboy.net ludovicdesaintsernin.com margarethowell.co.uk marrakashilife.com martine-rose.com mollygoddard.com marni.com nanushka.com omegawatches.com


dior.com dunhill.com driesvannoten.com armani.com zegna.co.uk fendi.com armani.com givenchy.com gucci.com hanro.co.uk hermes.com hublot.com isseymiyake.com


patek.com paulsmith.com prada.com ralphlauren.co.uk ysl.com ferragamo.com ssdaley.com whitebirdjewellery.com stefancooke.co.uk tabiouk.com thecontemporarywardrobe.com tods.com tudorwatch.com vacheron-constantin.com valentino.com

IN ADDITION TO GLOBAL KIOSKS, TRAVEL HUBS, AND NEWS STANDS, PORT CAN BE FOUND HERE Also available on the entire VistaJet fleet, vistajet.com





Left: Daniel Day-Lewis, Issue 1; 2011 Right: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Issue 26; 2020









SPR I NG 2011

£6 USD$14.99




KelviN HArRiSON jR




i SSUE 26 SUMMER 2020

If we always judge a magazine by its cover (and come on, who doesn’t?), then we might have come across as quite a serious bunch at Port when we launched, back in 2011. Black-and-white portraits; stern looking men! But we evolved, and with new attitudes increasingly championed the work of women, and indeed brilliant younger talents – as the below examples testify. There is a case to be made for establishing your codes and sticking to them relentlessly; but for Port now, change is the only way to keep interested and, we hope, interesting.

Left: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Issue 22; 2018 Right: Fergus Henderson, Issue 6; 2012