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Miami Noir Photography Greg Lotus Styling Dan May
The Porter Wine Tasting Behind Enemy Lines; Bibliomania; Cooking with Seaweed; The Constructivist Varvara Stepanova; Bistro Love; The Mountaineer Walter Bonatti; The Enigmatic Buildings of Jordan
Steve Buscemi Words Charles Bock Photography Matthew Brookes
92 34 Contributors The lovely people who helped make the issue 36 Out-Take Introducing Steve Buscemi 38 Editorâ€™s Letter 76 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes Words George Upton Photography Benjamin McMahon Styling Dan May 102 Stella Maris Photography Hannah Rose Styling Will Johns 122 Autumn/Winter Cuts Artwork Adam Hale
Bridleway Photography Dham Srifuengfung Styling Will Johns
Maserati Words George Upton Photography Alexander Coggin
141 Commentary Words Alain de Botton, Giles Duley, Hanif Kureishi, Rick Moody, Samin Nosrat Illustration Tim McDonagh 158 Art Forms in Nature Photography John Spinks Styling and art direction Scott Stephenson 174 The Autumn / Winter Collections Photography Kalle Gustafsson Styling Dan May 204 Overtime Photography Baud Postma Styling Will Johns 220 B&B Italia Words Alyn Griffiths Photography Allegra Martin 228 Arnaud Valois Words John-Paul Pryor Photography Arnaud Pyvka Styling Dan May 254 Stockists 256 Likes / Dislikes Janine di Giovanni
Brutalism Words Will Wiles Photography Cian Oba-Smith
Kyrgyzstan Photography Elliott Verdier
Aliens Words Steven Johnson Illustration Bill Bragg
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Dan Crowe CREATIVE DIRECTOR Kuchar Swara DEPUTY EDITOR & ONLINE EDITOR George Upton FASHION DIRECTOR Dan May SENIOR FASHION EDITOR Will Johns FASHION FEATURES EDITOR David Hellqvist ART EDITOR Ling Ko PHOTOGRAPHIC DIRECTOR Max Ferguson
SENIOR EDITORS Tom Craig, Reportage Chris Difford, Music Brett Steele, Architecture Alex Doak, Horology Fergus Henderson, Food Samantha Morton, Film Nathaniel Rich, Literature Amol Rajan, Politics
DESIGN EDITOR Will Wiles SUB-EDITOR Kerry Crowe CONTRIBUTING FASHION EDITOR Scott Stephenson EUROPE EDITOR Donald Morrison US EDITOR Alex Vadukul AUSTRALIA EDITOR James W Mataitis Bailey INTERIORS EDITORS Huw Griffith, Tobias Alexander Harvey EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Laura Francis, Miriam Tobin ADVERTISING ASSISTANT Charlotte Smith ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR Naomi Blair Gould
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Laura Barber Richard Buckley Kyle Chayka Kabir Chibber Alex Griessmann Leo Hollis Lily Robinson Albert Scardino Minnie Weisz Philip Womack
WORDS Charles Bock, Adam Jacot de Boinod, Alain de Botton, Elisabetta Canali Chris Denney, Alex Doak, Giles Duley, Simon Finch, Laura Francis Alyn Griffiths, Tobias Alexander Harvey, David Hellqvist, Francis Huicq Steven Johnson, Hanif Kureishi, Matteo Mendiola, Rick Moody Samin Nosrat, John-Paul Pryor, Miriam Tobin, George Upton Elliott Verdier, Will Wiles, Jacob Charles Wilson
SPECIAL THANKS Hotel Bourbon Big Sky Studios
PHOTOGRAPHY Robin Broadbent, Matthew Brookes, Alexander Coggin, Giles Duley Tori Ferenc, Kalle Gustafsson, Tobias Alexander Harvey, Greg Lotus Allegra Martin, Benjamin McMahon, Mattia Micheli, Cian Oba-Smith Mara Palena, Baud Postma, Arnaud Pyvka, Joseph Reddy, Robi Rodriguez Hannah Rose, John Spinks, Dham Srifuengfung, Elliott Verdier ILLUSTRATION Bill Bragg, Tim McDonagh ARTWORK Adam Hale
“A journalist into Gonzo is like a junkie or an egg-sucking dog; there is no known cure.” – Hunter S Thompson 32
MANAGING DIRECTORS Dan Crowe, Kuchar Swara PUBLISHERS Dan Crowe, Kuchar Swara, Matt Willey ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Andrew Chidgey-Nakazono ACCOUNTS McCabe Ford Williams CIRCULATION CONSULTANT Logical Connections Adam Long firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Andrew Chidgey-Nakazono email@example.com CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)20 3119 3077 SYNDICATION email@example.com SYNDICATED ISSUES Port Russia portmagazine.ru Port Spain portmagazine.es ISSN 2046-052X Port is published twice a year by Port Publishing Limited 18 - 24 Shacklewell Lane London, E8 2EZ +44 (0)20 3119 3077 port-magazine.com Port is printed by Taylor Bloxham Founded by Dan Crowe, Boris Stringer Kuchar Swara and Matt Willey. Registered in England no. 7328345. All rights reserved. Reproduction, in whole or in part without written permission, is strictly prohibited. All prices are correct at time of going to press but are subject to change. All paper used in the production of this magazine comes, as you would expect, from manageable sources.
Janine di Giovanni Experienced war correspondent Janine di Giovanni began her career covering the First Palestinian Intifada, and since the Arab Spring, she has been mainly focused on the Middle East. A fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York; the Middle East editor of Newsweek and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, she is the author of nine books. Her most recent, The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria, has been translated into 18 languages.
Matthew Brookes Self-taught photographer Matthew Brookes was born in Britain and raised in South Africa. His portraits have appeared in a range of publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New York Times Magazine. Inspired by the effortless simplicity of French style, Brookes’s relocation to Paris had a profound influence on his aesthetic as a photographer. Fascinated by the strength and athleticism of the male ballet dancers of the Paris Opéra, Brookes spent a year documenting their rehearsals, with the project being published as Les Danseurs, his first book, in 2015.
Hanif Kureishi Hanif Kureishi is an acclaimed novelist, playwright, screenwriter and essayist. Having begun his career writing pornography under the pseudonym Antonia French, his 1985 screenplay My Beautiful Laundrette won the New York Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Award and an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. His first novel The Buddha of Suburbia won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel in 1990, and was adapted into a BBC series featuring the music of David Bowie. He was awarded a CBE in 2008.
Greg Lotus Born in West Virginia, Greg Lotus has spent 20 years working as a photographer. An acclaimed portrait maker, Lotus’s compositional style draws inspiration from classical paintings. In 2011, he presented IMPRESSIONS, the first solo exhibition of his photography, which was followed in 2012 by IMAGES, shown during Art Basel in Miami, and his work has appeared in Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, L'Uomo Vogue and W magazine.
Samin Nosrat Writer, teacher and chef Samin Nosrat has been cooking professionally since 2000, when she obtained an apprenticeship with Chez Panisse while still studying for her undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley. She has since taught cookery classes across America, writes a column for the New York Times and is a contributor to numerous other publications including Bon Appetit and the Guardian. Nosrat lives in Berkeley, California. Her first book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a New York Times bestseller.
Charles Bock Charles Bock is the author of two novels. His 2008 debut, Beautiful Children, is a New York Times bestseller. His second novel, Alice & Oliver, is based on his late wife’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukaemia six months after the birth of their daughter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Slate, as well as in numerous anthologies. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.
Matthew Brookes Photo assistant Patrick Lyn Digital capture Philipp Paulus Retouching Pablo Amati
Shannon Briggs Locker Room, NJ, 1997 â€” Cheryl Dunn
Out-Take: Mr Steve Buscemi
Steve Buscemi, shot by Matthew Brookes, wears DIOR HOMME
He’s a mobster, an ice-cream vendor, a bank robber, an astronaut, a guy totally into bowling, he’s an assassin... It’s Steve Buscemi and he’s on the autumn cover of Port. Mesmerising on screen and even better in real life: who knew he was born on Friday the 13th, was a firefighter in New York (rejoining his old firefighting team at Ground Zero on the days following September 11th to look for survivors) and was also an ice-cream van driver? Buscemi tends to want to deflect from his successes and focus on the achievements of his friends and colleagues. 36
But we are here to talk about him: the actor; the man; the weird fact that he normally gets killed off in his movies; that he said to us, on when he didn’t get nominated for an Oscar: “I was on set, directing an episode of The Sopranos, when the news came through, and I thought: ‘Look what I’m doing right now. I’m one of the luckiest guys on Earth to be doing what I’m doing.’ Yeah, that stuff is nice if it happens, and if it doesn’t, so what?” Head to page 92 for the cover story.
“He kicks ass, man. His range is incredible: Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski, Boardwalk Empire… The subtle way, in Lebowski, he says: ‘I am the walrus. I am the walrus. I am the walrus.’ Which of course invites Walter to shout: ‘Shut the fuck up Donny!’ Love that.” So remarked Jeff Bridges to Port recently. And it’s true: Steve Buscemi does kick ass. He’s one of the most refined, nuanced film actors of his generation. But he’s also Mr Pink. He’s an industry grandee, yet has cult status. From the arthouse movie Trees Lounge (which Buscemi wrote, directed and starred in) to blockbusters such as Armageddon (“This is a goddamn Greek tragedy!”), he has something in him which makes us want to relate to his characters, to know how they got to where they are – which is normally somewhere comprehensively dark. Now Buscemi is at a stage in his life where he wants to be sure he’s making work that really means something, and when Port met him in New York we received a masterclass in maintaining a successful yet steady life: If you’re Buscemi, you watch movies, hang out with friends and family, remember those who have helped along the way, say no to the work that doesn’t seem quite right and, indeed, go to yoga on Sundays. He’s in a good space. Yet, like zombies or ghosts, the conflicted characters follow him. (One of his lines from the forthcoming The Death of Stalin, in which he plays Nikita Khrushchev: “I’m the peacemaker and I’ll fuck up anyone who gets in my way.”) 38
The endurance of such roles for Buscemi is intriguing. Armando Iannucci, writer and director of The Death of Stalin, told me recently: “When you first chat with Steve, he is a quiet, polite, peaceful soul. He’s very discreet on set, watches from the periphery. He has this soft demeanour, yet can command totally and have this incredible presence. He can do strong and fragile and is a very, very precise actor. He can do the dark thing; he can do the crazy thing. And I think you need that sensitivity with dark characters.” It’s this polarised state of being which marks Buscemi out not only as one of the most exciting actors working today, but also just as a really cool human. Above all else, he has humility, and this freedom from arrogance seems – now more than ever – something to value and aspire to. His profile, by the wonderful novelist Charles Bock, is on page 92. Jeff Bridges told us of a theory about Donny in Lebowski. “It’s an idea which has been going around: that Steve’s character, Donny, doesn’t even exist – that he’s a figment of Walter’s imagination. The Dude rarely connects with Donny at all, so it perhaps holds as a concept. Not sure what the Coen brothers would think about that…” Whether Buscemi’s Donny exists or not remains a cinematic mystery, but Steve himself is very much in this world, hanging out, making and watching movies, doing yoga… and thank god for that. Dan Crowe Editor
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Wine Tasting Behind Enemy Lines
Cooking with Seaweed
The Constructivist Varvara Stepanova
The Mountaineer Walter Bonatti
The Enigmatic Buildings of Jordan
Let the Porter guide youâ€Ś
Tobias Alexander Harvey
Photography Tobias Alexander Harvey
Earlier in the year, while tracking T E Lawrence’s Great War campaign through Jordan, I came across the castles of the Eastern Desert. Often less castles and more a series of structures of varying purpose – royal bathhouses, caravansaries or customs houses – they are scattered across the land like sentinels, indifferent to the vicissitudes of the desert. Nobody can quite agree on the original role of this particular ‘castle’, Qasr Al-Kharana. Built during the Umayyad caliphate, it is a simple square structure, 115ft on each side, made of baked limestone and so enigmatic that its age has only been ascertained by graffito discovered in one of the upper rooms, dating it to 710 AD. The mystery of its origin confounds further as there is no local water source or sizeable trade routes nearby. Instead, wrapped in wind and sand, it stands as though having fallen from a place of timeless abstraction.
Photography Tobias Alexander Harvey
The whole umami thing, the fifth taste, really started to become popular around 10 years ago. People were talking about the inherent properties of umami, the savoury taste that you find in Parmesan or Marmite, and it brought a lot of Japanese chefs and their cooking into the light. This is when I discovered kombu. A type of seaweed, it doesn’t have the most typical flavour – it’s so light you almost don’t realise you’re eating it. But it’s a very clever engineering tool: You can use it to elevate a peach or detract from a note of cherry in a cream, or even make it into a butter to eat on sourdough. At 108 Garage, the restaurant I founded with Luca Longobardi in autumn last year, we make a pickle with the kombu in five-litre batches at the start of the week. We use it a lot because our menu is constantly in flux and it lends depth and structure to our dishes. It’s almost a given now that all restaurants should be designing their menus seasonally, but there are always slight differentiations – a tomato at the beginning of a season is different to a tomato at the end of a season. Hence, we use things like the kombu pickle. As in the recipe below, it’s a great balancer; we can add some acidity to the peaches and level the butterscotch if it’s too salty, no matter what stage the produce is at.
DUCK, PEACH AND KOMBU PICKLE (FOR 4 PEOPLE) INGREDIENTS 20cm2 kombu 350ml rice wine vinegar 80g castor sugar 150ml carbonated water 4 ripe peaches 250g white miso paste 80g diced unsalted butter 100g muscovado sugar 80g black sesame honey 1 piece (approx 200g) white radish 1 large duck breast Malden sea salt
KOMBU PICKLE Bring the ingredients to just under a simmer (boiling will destroy the flavour of the kombu) and leave for 50 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover with cling film and leave to infuse for a minimum of two hours. Pass the mixture through a sieve before leaving to cool to room temperature in a plastic container and storing in the fridge.
PEACH Thinly slice the peaches into crescents and bring 150ml of the kombu pickle to just under a simmer. Place the sliced peaches into a plastic container, pour over the pickle and leave to macerate in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours.
MISO BUTTERSCOTCH Bake the miso paste on parchment paper for 12 minutes at 180 degrees until slightly burnt at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Melt the sugar and honey on a medium heat, gradually introducing the butter, before adding the miso paste and finally 120ml of kombu pickle. Pour into a piping bag or squeeze bottle and chill until required.
PICKLED WHITE RADISH Peel the radish and slice into fine medallions. Place on a tray, season with salt and bring 100ml of kombu pickle to just under a simmer. Pour over the radish and leave for a minimum of two hours.
DUCK BREAST Lightly season the skin with salt, place skin side down in a frying pan at medium heat and render for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Turn the duck over for a minute, place on a tray and finish in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. Rest for a further 10 minutes before combining with the peaches, miso butterscotch and radish, and serve.
Photography Tori Ferenc
Kiko Kostadinov Every other season a new designer emerges through the ranks at London Fashion Week Men’s. The industry has a constant thirst for new talent, and London is famed for its ability to develop and foster up-and-coming creatives, such as Craig Green and Grace Wales Bonner. Recently, a new name has been making waves and securing column inches: Kiko Kostadinov. Having this year progressed straight from an MA at Central Saint Martins to an on-schedule presentation during London’s biannual menswear fashion week, Kostadinov has already secured himself a spot on the European edition of Forbes’ current ‘30 Under 30’ list in the Arts and Style category. As is so often the case, such success is a combination of talent and timing. Born in Bulgaria, Kostadinov was initially brought to our attention through a deconstructed Stussy collaboration for Dover Street Market, which promptly introduced him as a streetwear designer. His eastern European background made it easy for early observers to bundle him in with the current post-Soviet fashion scene, headed up by the likes of Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga fame. But Kostadinov is part of neither scene; as a designer, he’s interested in cultural references – wherever and whenever they stem from. Whether it’s academia, art or films that inspire him, he knows that the secret lies in the diversity. “My design process is like a pinball machine: a ball hitting around my brain and collecting research, which leads to building a set of ideas,” he explains. It was those ideas of his that resulted in a job offer, fresh from the Saint Martins graduation show. Scottish heritage brand Mackintosh, famed for its rainwear and the eponymous coat, offered him their new luxury line, 0001. For Kostadinov there was enough overlap between his own uniform-preoccupied aesthetic and the functional focus at Mackintosh for it to make sense. “They asked me to join straight after my graduation: there was never any questions of ‘why’ but more of ‘how’.” The brief, at least the one he set himself, was to conjure an image of the Mackintosh 0001 man. “The design process for my own line is based on building a character, usually a mix between myself and a fictional character. The Mackintosh design process is based on the product and the history of the brand; there isn’t a character for Mackintosh yet.” Kostadinov debuted the line with a presentation in Paris back in January. Mackintosh has never shown as part of any official schedule before, and to make Paris its show home is an ambitious step, a statement of intent from the brand, as well as Kostadinov. He’s keen to take Mackintosh out of its comfort zone, both in terms of the geography but also how the brand is perceived. “My goal is to broaden the way Mackintosh is seen. I don’t want people to look at it as just an outerwear brand.” That’s why, at his AW17 presentation in the Marais, Kostadinov showed more than just coats and jackets. Comprising only 10 looks, the collection was small but focused and considered, reinforced by the monochrome colour scheme. Kostadinov explains the reasoning: “Ten was enough to propose an idea and present an introduction to the collection. We used only black but in different fabrics because I wanted to focus on the textures and silhouettes.” After the event Kostadinov referenced the Italian art movement Arte Povera as a source of inspiration, especially in his prominent use of rubber, referencing the history of rainproof coats the brand is known for. “I used rubber as a starting point, as it’s a key material for Mackintosh. From the way the garments are constructed to the way the fabric was treated, rubber is big part of the process.” The idea was linked to the Italian artists’ work in the late 60s, early 70s. “Repetition of a singular material was a big part of the work that came out of the Art Povera movement.” It’s early days for Kostadinov’s Mackintosh vision, but it’s an exciting prospect, and it’s exactly how London’s upstart talent should be utilised. Old meets new, heritage becomes contemporary: Kostadinov describes it as a conversation between him and the product, and it’s a discussion that will hopefully go on for quite some time.
Photography Robi Rodriguez
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The Pride of Sheffield
The intimate relationship between designing objects and making them was always essential for David Mellor. Born in 1930 to a toolmaking father in Sheffield – the traditional heartland of the British steel industry – Mellor was inducted into the metalworking trade from a young age, going on to study at the Royal College of Art before establishing himself as a silversmith in the 1950s. Inspired by the modern ethos of the Festival of Britain, Pride – the cutlery service designed by David Mellor while he was a student in 1953 – features in many museum collections as an icon of 20th-
Photography Robin Broadbent
century modernist design. Recognised in the first Design Centre Awards in 1957, Pride launched Mellor’s career, leading to a number of high-profile commissions, including the Embassy range of cutlery, for use in British embassies, and one-off silverware designs, as well as bus shelters, litter bins and traffic lights (which are still in use today). Appointed OBE, and later CBE, Mellor would die 2009, though Pride and his other cutlery designs continue to be produced from the Sir Michael Hopkins-designed factory he founded in the Peak District in 1990.
Wine and War
As was the case for many of France’s iconic wine regions during the Second World War, the Domaine Huet in Vouvray – considered one of the finest vineyards in the Loire Valley – fell inside the German-controlled zone. With domain-owner Gaston Huet, who had enlisted as an officer in the French army, interred in a prisoner-ofwar camp in Germany, the estate’s production was erratic and the vines fell into disrepair. Huet’s passion for wine, however, would endure life in the Stalag. Discovering that many of his fellow POWs were also producers, Huet organised tasting sessions in the barracks, smuggling samples past the guards. “It saved our sanity,” he said once. “Talking about wine and sharing it made all of us feel closer to home. It was only a thim-
bleful but it was glorious – the best wine I ever drank." Released following the German surrender in 1945, Huet walked back to Vouvray and produced his first vintage since the war began. While he would go on to establish himself as one of the greatest winemakers in the country, pioneering a biodynamic approach to viticulture and becoming one of the first in the field to ban pesticides and herbicides (as well as embarking on a career as a politician – successfully opposing the construction of a TGV line through Vouvray), the 1945 vintage remains the holy grail of the domaine. Poignantly, it represents not only Huet’s triumphant return but is symbolic of normal life returning to France after the war. Francis Huicq is manager of Berry Bros and Rudd’s London store Photography Joseph Reddy
Fit for Purpose
Canali’s global communications director and third-generation descendant of the Italian fashion house’s founders, Elisabetta Canali, considers the status of tailoring in the 21st century. Obviously fashions change, silhouettes evolve and tastes shift, but one of the biggest trends we’ve noticed in tailoring recently is the influence of technology. We are now able to develop new fabrics that are lighter and more performance focused, stretch naturally and are crease and stain resistant. These materials offer something that better reflects the lifestyle and needs of the people wearing Canali. It’s why we try to offer a wide range of fit and finishing options as well. In the modern era, the distinctions between different regional styles of suit-making have become less marked than in the past – style is now a global consideration. Yet, despite this, it is still possible to recognise approaches that are typical of certain traditions.
British tailoring is influenced by military costume and generally characterised by a more formal look: highly structured shoulders, heavy full-canvas construction and a slim silhouette. The American suit tends to be less structured, soft shoulders, looser fitting, with a more generous cut and often a single back vent and a more relaxed trouser. We Italians, on other hand, want to combine style with wearability, so our suits tend to be less structured, with softer shoulders, but remain streamlined and graceful; the trousers are a slimmer fit. And, of course, it still comes down to the tailors, whose skills will never change. They have an unparalleled knowledge of their craft and perfectly understand the principals of human anatomy and garment construction; this goes without saying. But they must also be a good listener. The key to ensuring a satisfied client is understanding his needs, and catering to them, sometimes before he himself knows what it is he wants.
The unique relationship between mentor and protégé has been crucial to some of the most significant developments in art and science. Plato’s dialogues with his master Socrates, for example, laid the foundation for much of Western philosophy, while Humphry Davy’s mentorship of the young, impoverished Michael Faraday ensured he had the education and experience to go on to invent the electric motor. Founded in 2002 by luxury watch brand Rolex, the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative seeks to continue this rich tradition by pairing and supporting mentors and protégés across dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and architecture. Here, some of the latest participants in the programme – Mozambican writer Mia Couto and Brazilian author and translator Julián Fuks – reflect on why they became involved in the programme and what the roles of mentor and protégé mean to them. The Mentor – Mia Couto The main thing I can pass on as a mentor is to not be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes beauty is born of failure and 54
Mentor and Protégé
without mistakes we wouldn’t have life. Young writers are so obsessed with writing well, but nobody really knows what writing well involves. I chose to work with Julián specifically because he wanted to explore other territories and to change his practice. Our approach to writing is completely different. I’m driven by beauty and a passion for characters, characters who are far away from me. In Julián’s case, he is the character. He thinks before he dreams. These differences make a good combination in our roles as mentor and protégé. Julián and I speak the same language and of course there is both a familiarity and some sense of foreignness, but that allows us to venture deeper into our relationship. I don’t necessarily see the role of the mentor as someone in a superior position, with more knowledge to pass on. Nobody really has any experience when it comes to writing; it’s just a process of beginning over and over again. Instead, what is useful for the protégé is in gaining insight into the processes of a more seasoned writer. I wanted to show Julián the early stages of my writing process: my hesitations, fears and my corrections.
We exchanged material at its raw stage, which was useful for both of us. The relationship of the mentor and protégé can be reciprocal, and in many ways Julián is also my mentor. He is a good judge of what is excessive, for example. I’m a poet as well as writing prose, and sometimes I write with too much poetic freedom. He helps me to know when to stop, which is just as important as knowing where to start. The Protégé – Julián Fuks A writer should always be attempting to transform themselves. I thought this programme was a good opportunity to become a different kind of writer, to become more creative and poetic, and Mia is the perfect person to help with this. Although there are differences in the way we write, we are similar in the way we relate to the world ideologically. I was born in Brazil during my parents’ exile from Argentina and Mia was born during his parents’ exile from Portugal. Brazil and Mozambique are very different countries, but because of colonisation and the fact that we are both linked to Portugal, there is some common identity.
At the beginning of my relationship with Mia, I was used to writing in a very obsessive and rigorous way, trying to bring precision to every sentence, every paragraph I wrote. But rather than developing this, I discovered that Mia doesn’t have this kind of control; as he says, most of the time he doesn’t know where he is going. He kindly showed me his first drafts, which often look nothing like his final work, and showed me how I could loosen my control, to free my writing from my meticulous processes. It’s something you could only do with such an accomplished writer and someone with so much experience. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about having a mentor before I was approached for the programme. When I began to write, I just wrote and tried to learn from reading; there weren’t really any schools or teachers for writing. But then working with a mentor is not a simple process of teaching; it’s much more than that. It becomes a different type of experience, another way of looking at things. Creating this dialogue between writers has been important not only to exchange visions of literature, but visions of the world. 55
Art and Eating Bystro! Bystro! It's 30th March 1814 and the streets of Paris are ringing with the cries of Cossack troops. For almost two years, following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, the soldiers have been chasing the French army back across the continent, and now they are in the capital, victorious and hungry. “Quickly! Quickly! Bystro! Bystro!” they shout impatiently, quite possibly becoming the first foreigners to complain about Parisian customer service, as well as inadvertently coining the name of one of the most important social, cultural and, of course, culinary institutions in French history. At least that's one theory; the ranks of France's gastronomic historians are yet to agree on the etymological heritage of the humble bistro, though there is a consensus that these cheap, informal eateries – part bar, part café, part restaurant – have been central in shaping French culture. After all, not long before the impatient Cossacks, it was in these simple Parisian dining rooms that – fuelled by inexpensive, traditional fare – debate and discord would boil over into the revolution of 1789. Later the bistro would help foster some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century. Still cheap and unassuming, it was at this time that the bistro would come of age: jacketed, white-aproned waiters floating through tables of solitary readers and rowdy drunks, carrying casserole and carafes of wine, the bustle of the street half muted by curtains pinned just above eye level. It was here, amidst pimps and anarchists of the Lapin Agile in Montmartre, that Picasso would talk and drink and define modern art with Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo, as Satie and Debussy sat at the piano. Or where, across the Seine at the Polidor, Hemingway would write – recording the trials of his lost generation and fellow literary expats, James Joyce and Henry Miller – and drink, and fight. Today, the number of bistros has dwindled – 8,000 in Paris, down from 50,000 at the turn of the century – and many of those that remain have moved away from their uncomplicated culinary origins, but the tradition of the bistro remains strong. Immortalised in the ideas they fostered, still populated by thinkers and drinkers, the bistros are a living museum to a uniquely Parisian attitude to life, art and eating.
Golden Buoy It’s the diving watch that no one can get enough of. Whether in bronze or steel, framed by a red or blue aluminium bezel, on a bracelet or fabric strap, the Heritage Black Bay is the poster boy for Tudor’s renaissance. Yet, amazingly, this handsome water baby was only reissued a few years ago, drawing its retro design cues from an old Tudor model that went by the name Submariner. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Switzerland’s genius of the modern era, Hans Wilsdorf, founded his Tudor label in 1946, 40 years after launching a little brand you might have heard of called Rolex. The new label was built on the promise of “a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price, that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous”. By the mid’50s, in parallel with Rolex’s groundbreaking Submariner, he had launched the Tudor equivalent, which was quickly adopted by naval frogmen the world over. So engrained has the modern Black Bay become in the horological landscape, that it was only inevitable a more ‘sartorial’ version would arise – more suited to the Admiral’s table than black ops beneath enemy waves. Sure enough, raise a salute to the S&G, so named for its combination of yellow gold with steel. Bicolour design is usually a means of introducing precious metal without breaking the bank, but £3,400 on a bracelet containing a nice amount of gold, in combination with an in-house mechanical movement that operates as a bona fide diver, good to 200 metres beneath the waves? That seems like the bargain of the century.
Photography Robin Broadbent
© Image courtesy of Alamy
Heritage Black Bay S&G TUDOR
Jacob Charles Wilson
ÂŠ Image courtesy of Alamy
The Soviet fashion designer Varvara Stepanova, born to a peasant family in 1894, was one of the greatest creative forces of the revolutionary years. By her 20s, she was already a central part of the Russian avant-garde, alongside the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the abstract painter Olga Rozanova and the cutting-edge photographer – also her life partner – Alexander Rodchenko. Her work remains influential today, if under-recognised. Stepanova was never content for her work to sit in galleries – real artwork was made in the streets, factories and laboratories – and in 1921 she cofounded the Constructivist Group, which set out to direct its artistic efforts towards designing functional yet beautiful products for everyday proletarian life. Stepanova produced photomontages, book covers, posters and theatrical sets, before concluding that her vision would be best realised designing fashion for work and leisure.
The workers of the new world would live and play in the very best materials and designs: casual jumpsuits and overalls that drew on both traditional peasant clothing and the latest modernist artistic trends of futurism and cubism. Stepanova’s designs use dynamic shapes that emphasise the human body in action, with sharp angular forms, printed abstract patterns and contrasting colours: bold reds and blacks. Her clothes would enhance the flexibility and comfort of moving through the streets and the city, in the factory and on to the playing field, while unisex clothing patterns would no longer confine men and women to stifling gender norms. Before heading the textile design course at the Vkhutemas art school, Stepanova had spent a year working at Tsindel, the state textile factory, producing over 150 designs. Unfortunately, due to wartime shortages and the complexity of her visions, many of these would never be realised, but her work lives on. It is from her pioneering designs and radical reimagining of clothes and the body that our own contemporary approach to sportswear and streetwear has been created: the technologically innovative fabrics and bold use of colour and pattern that dominate Western fashion shows today – having been forged among the passions, ideals and dynamism of the early Soviet years.
Left: Stepanova working at her desk, shot by Alexander Rodchenko in 1924. Above: Stepanova's designs for sportswear
The Nose Barnabé Fillion never set out to be a perfumer. Having trained and worked as a photographer, he became interested in exploring other fields and collaborated with architects, poets and botanists before meeting a perfume maker. It would make a huge impression on him. “They became such a strong source of inspiration for me,” Fillion tells me from Paris, where he currently lives and works. “From that point on, my passion has always been to learn more about the olfactory world.” The process of creating a perfume is deeply personal and intimately connected with memory. As an apprentice under Christine Nagel, the nose for Hermès, Fillion had to learn to identify over 3,000 different scents and says, incredibly – having produced fragrances for a number of different brands – that he can still go to work when he has the flu. “When I’m in the process of designing a fragrance, I don’t necessarily need to smell at all points,” he explains. “It’s much more important to be able to stimulate memory.” And although he adds the caveat that his job would, of course, be impossible without any sense of smell, interestingly everyone has an inability to smell certain ingredients: “I have some friends who don’t smell cedar, for example, and there are certain musk scents that I don’t smell as much as my colleagues will. It just goes to show how subjective the art of fragrance making can be.” For Hwyl, his second collaboration with Australian luxury skincare brand Aēsop, Fillion drew inspiration from the Koh-do, the Japanese incense ceremony from the Edo period, which he describes as a “sophisticated game that creates a sort of alphabet of smell”. Fillion wished to capture the multisensory emotions conjured up by walking in an ancient Japanese forest, “the rich aromas of wood, smoke and moss; the minerality of the water running over stones; the vivid silence of the forest; the inexpressible texture of nature…” In offering such a description of the fragrance, it is clear that a visual aspect to Fillion’s approach remains from his experience as a photographer. “I’m not sure whether I see an image when I begin making a perfume, or whether that image forms during the process,” he explains. “But most of the time, after I’ve finished, I always have the impression that I have been running after that one particular image.”
Photography Robin Broadbent
Adam Jacot de Boinod
The Great Illustrator Laurence Fellows, the illustrator who made his fame in men’s fashion in the 1930s and ’40s, was one of the most iconic visual artists of his time. With his work appearing across the top periodicals of the day, including LIFE, Vanity Fair, Esquire and Apparel Arts, Fellows’ work defined an aesthetic in an era before the ubiquity of photography in fashion. Born in 1885, Fellows trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art before travelling to England and later France to hone his technique in the 1910s. Photography was still in its infancy in the fashion world, and though the fortunes of couturiers such as Chanel and Lanvin would soon be lifted by photographers including Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, Fellows, upon returning to America, successfully established himself as an illustrator of black-and-white advertisements. Focusing on shapes as a whole, rather than specific detail, Fellows’ Vogue-influenced style suggested rather than stated, and his unique composition and colouration landed several jobs with magazines, as well as numerous imitators. Later, moving solely to fashion in the ’30s and with his style evolving (and male fashion artists in limited supply) Fellows’ illustrations could be found in all major publications, often in several issues each year. His subjects were typically in their 40s or 50s: smart, dapper and wealthy. He championed the upcoming ‘drape cut’ style of men’s clothes influenced by the Ivy League, with coats and polo coats becoming de rigueur for any self-regarding dapper chap, plus he documented the lounge suit coming of age. As for jackets, he immortalised such designs as the Norfolk, the houndstooth, the camel hair, the navy paletot, the windowpane football and the British warm. Highly influential in his time, whether through a nostalgia for the period and aesthetic he came to epitomise, or for his idiosyncratic interpretation of shape and form, Fellows continues to be a source of inspiration for designers, photographers and illustrators, as well as being sought after at auction. And though his work is very much of its own era, it nonetheless has timeless values and will appeal so long as men continue to present themselves as stylish and sophisticated.
Photography Robin Broadbent
© Previously published in Esquire magazine, January 1947
“I always think about a quote from Grace Coddington,” says Oliver Peoples creative director, Giampiero Tagliaferri. "It’s actually advice that photographer Norman Parkinson gave her during her early years as a fashion editor at Vogue: ‘Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.’” It’s advice that the brand has taken to heart for their 30th anniversary collection, looking back into their archive to relaunch four classic styles – the O’Malley, OP-505, MP-3 and, here, the MP-4.
Photography Mara Palena
The designers Patrick Pagnon and Claude Pelhaître met whilst studying at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and opened their studio, Pagnon & Pelhaître Design, in 1980. Having produced work for brands including Cinna, Artelano and Sarila, the pair began their long-standing relationship with the design house Ligne Roset in 1987. Their latest offering for the brand, the Space table, reprises the minimal aesthetic of their previous collections together, with a simple box steel frame topped by a highly resistant, ceramic stoneware surface. 64
Photography Robin Broadbent
“The magic of mountaineering has died with the disappearance of the ‘unknown’ and the ‘impossible’. Progress has deleted these words; one of man’s fantasies has been extinguished, his poetry destroyed.” So declared the Italian mountain climber Walter Bonatti in February 1975. Ten years earlier, at the age of 35, after four days of solitary climbing at -30°C, Bonatti set foot on the summit of the Matterhorn in the Alps, becoming one of only a handful of mountaineers to have scaled the challenging north face in winter. Born in Bergamo in 1930, Bonatti died in 2011, but remains one of the greatest mountaineers of the 20th century. Were he alive
today he would explain how, on his many successful first ascents and solo climbs, he never used mechanical equipment – no expansion or pressure nails, no drills, no pulleys or fixed lanyards. He used nothing that would have been unavailable to the great climbers of the past, such as Edward Whymper, the English mountaineer who made the first ascent of the Matterhorn a century before Bonatti’s climb, and the Italian, Riccardo Cassin. It is only by using the same basic equipment as them, Bonatti would reason, that it would be possible to compete on the same level, and attempt to pass where everyone else had stopped.
© Image courtesy of Getty Images
Many would say this made Bonatti a fool, but he would have preferred to have described himself as honest. Eschewing the lightweight advantages of modern kit, he would take on the rock, ice and frost, foothold after foothold, pitch after pitch, with a huge backpack that threatened to pull him back into the valley, at times even carrying a climbing partner on his shoulders. While his fellow climbers were increasingly dependent upon technical clothing, energy bars and safety equipment, he would achieve his incredible feats encumbered by old heavy boots, ropes soaked with water and frost, sustained only by bread, water and a canteen of wine.
Bonatti’s solo ascent of the Matterhorn would mark the last act of his brief, 17-year career, but his achievements are still as remarkable now as they were then. Though he would be plagued by tragedy and controversy – accused of attempting to jeopardise the 1954 Italian expedition to K2 by his fellow climbers, it later emerged that Bonatti, the strongest climber of the group, was the victim of a conspiracy to prevent him from making it to the summit first – today, in an era where no climb is off limits to those with enough money and equipment, Bonatti continues to be conspicuous as an icon of great talent, strength and determination. 67
Bibliomania In 1989, my book selling career was taking off, and I was rabid to attend every auction I could. November of that year saw a fabulous sale of important books in fine condition at Sotheby’s in New York. Among the many remarkable items was a first edition of Don Quixote and a book by Georg Joachim Rheticus called Narratio Prima, one of the rarest and most important books in the history of science, printed in Gdansk in 1540. Rheticus was the only pupil of Copernicus and his slight publication was the first printed account of the great man's heliocentric theory of the universe. Its printing gave Copernicus the courage to publish his own book, and the sheets of De Revolutionibus were delivered to him on his deathbed in 1543. Perhaps he checked out at the right time: The idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun was not particularly popular then. The month of the auction was also the month I got married, and I had to persuade my wife to take a detour on our honeymoon to see the book, which, kindly, she agreed to. But it was all in vain; the Rheticus went for $470,000, way beyond my pocket at the time. The addicted book collector is motivated by hope and desire. Bibliomania is an ancient affliction, though it was only named in the 18th century by John Ferriar – a physician at the Manchester Royal Infirmary – and it is an affliction without a cure. The acquisition of one particular volume does not satisfy. Delusion is part of the disease. I somehow imagined that the Rheticus might slide between the cracks and be had for a bargain price. About a decade later I was at a book fair on the continent when a gentleman asked me whether I would like to buy “quite a rare book”. Of course, the answer was “Yes”, but I was not quite prepared for what it was: a copy of the Rheticus and the equally scarce second edition. This time around I was in a position to make a deal – such incredible joy. I never got the Don Quixote and my marriage didn’t last, but you can’t, as they say, win them all.
Re-Hash Gorillaz, the virtual band created by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett in 1998, has come a long way. Originally founded as an antidote to pop stardom, the group is fronted by four animated characters – 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs, and as a concept it worked, just as long as they didn’t have to play live. The band sought to overcome this considerable hurdle, at Coachella Festival in 2010, by performing live against Hewlett’s cartoon backdrop. But many felt the gig had left them vulnerable, as if the prank had ended, and perhaps that is why, for their performance at the Dreamland Margate festival earlier this year, the band enlisted Italian brand CP Company to create hooded, veiled capes for them to hide behind. Designed by CP’s creative directors, Paul Harvey and Alessandro Pungetti in collaboration with stylist Harris Elliott, the black capes feature the brand’s signature goggles, and zip up to cover the wearer’s face. Elliott and Gorillaz also devised a new concept – a ‘Cult of Humanz’: a group of 50 extras, also in capes, which processed around the festival grounds together before going on stage. When the intro for the new single, ‘Ascension’, rang out, the hooded army disappeared and left only the four cloaked members of Gorillaz onstage. The capes may be moody and dramatic, but, much like other CP Company pieces, they are also highly technical garments. The linenbased Vanguard cloth they are made from has a high-tenacity nylon thread hidden in the warp, giving a more technical look to the fabric. The Teflon treatment also means they are water, wear and stain resistant – perfect for any British summer festival.
Photography Robin Broadbent
Narratio Prima by Georg Joachim Rheticus © Image courtesy of Christie's images ltd. 2017
Completed earlier this year, the Milanese headquarters of the British fashion designer, Neil Barrett, is a celebration of light, space and simplicity – an architectural interpretation of his graphic, minimal style. Here Barrett and architect Michele Pasini reflect on the project and their unique collaboration.
Neil Barrett I’ve wanted to create a bespoke working environment, where I could have my team, my collections and a show space all under one roof, for a while – but this is the first time in 18 years I have managed it. The difference is phenomenal; it has made the creative process much more dynamic and efficient. My approach to fashion – in my designs, cuts, patterns – is quite architectural, so I wanted the building to reflect that, to be graphic, precise and practical. The colour palette too – the black aluminium, the white concrete – reflects the monochrome of the clothing, and the light is fantastic. There are more windows than walls, so we have the most amazing natural light from morning until night.
Michele Pasini Weâ€™ve known Neil and admired his work for a long time. Collaborating with him was straightforward; he is very precise about his aesthetic point of view. This was an interior project with a strong design attitude, because we could play with huge volumes and dynamic shapes. We wanted to bring some architectural forms into the space, and let the light come in â€“ the sky is visible not merely from the windows, but from a central void that runs through all three floors of the building. The boxes that enclose the meeting rooms and offices are lightly placed on the existing beams and columns, facing into this void, which creates an interesting intersection of empty and full volumes and gives a kind of graphic attitude to the architecture. 71
DSquared2 x K-Way
When luxury fashion brands try their hands at sportswear, it tends to go one of two ways: very technical or quite gritty: Either it’s all about taped seams and Gore-Tex – the definition of hi-tech, functional clothing – or tracksuit bottoms with attitude, shot against a distinctly urban backdrop. But Italian twins Dean and Dan Caten, the creative force behind Dsquared2, have always done things their own way, and it's no different as they stake out their claim in sports clothing. Collaborating with outerwear brand K-Way on a capsule range of jackets, Dean
and Dan have managed to create glamorous sportswear for AW17. Founded by Léon-Claude Duhamel in 1965, K-Way is known for its lightweight and waterproof nylon jackets. As easy to wear as they are to pack away, the windbreakers, anoraks and down bombers are characterised by a colourful energy, perfect for the fast-lane approach to life that Dsquared2 represents. Some of the more eyecatching pieces from the capsule also manage to pay homage to the twins’ country of origin, with the anorak kitted out with an array of stitched-on badges that allude to a typically Canadian outdoorsiness.
Photography Joseph Reddy Styling Will Johns
The Art of the Uncanny
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / ARS, New York
Kontrollraum / Control Room, 2011, C-Print
The enigmatic photographs by the German artist Thomas Demand appear, at first glance, to be more documentary than art. In fact, drawn closer by the sense of the uncanny, the scenes reveal themselves to be composed of incredibly detailed paper and card models, painstakingly made by the artist. Favouring bureaucratic and banal spaces that are often connected to dark events – subjects include the ransacked offices of the East German secret police, Saddam Hussein’s kitchen and, above, the control room of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima – the images question the nature of experience and memory, and, in Demand’s own words, “our need to make sense of the chaotic environment we are in”. “Memory is a construction,” Demand explains. “No one has images in their head. When we talk about the downfall of Saddam Hussein, your brain assembles all the parts necessary for your imagination. Your brain provides you with that to enable you to take part in a social practice, communication. That's when it gets interesting for me. Not the incident, but the way in which we speak about it.” Do particular scenes ever appeal simply as a model-making challenge? “Certainly,” he says, “but I try to avoid any hint of artistry; it
would be challenging in a philosophical sense. Making a piece of lawn will take five months, but anyone could do it if they have the patience.” Demand is not speaking hypothetically – ‘Lawn’, from 1998, is a completely naturalistic photograph of what appears to be a square of turf that is both completely mundane and utterly extraordinary when you understand the technical effort that must have been involved in producing it. “The time spent on this has a Beckettian, absurdist meaning to it. That’s where it opens up to give an idea a form, which the visual arts should be aiming for.” Demand prefers to call the dioramas he creates ‘sculptures’ rather than ‘models’, but their existence is only temporary. Once it has been properly photographed, resulting in that one, perfect shot, the card and paper construction is destroyed – the photograph is the work of art. Though this might feel like a waste, it’s a necessary part of the process, both for the questions Demand wants to ask about memory, and for more prosaic reasons. “I need the space again, so it has to go,” he explains, though he allows himself some room for sentiment. “I tend to avoid doing it: if you spend months on something, you become friends with it, so I have assistants that take it down. Usually it only takes 20 minutes.” 73
All the President’s Men
Tuscany is one of Italy’s most iconic regions, famous for its rolling hills, fine wine and as the birthplace of the Renaissance. Often described as a ‘nation within a nation’ for its strong and historic cultural identity, it is home to seven UNESCO world heritage sites: more than most countries. It is also a particularly well-dressed region. Florence, the capital, is arguably the country’s number two after Milan for sprezzatura, that typically Italian studied carelessness. Here, thanks to Pitti Uomo, industry insiders flock twice a year to global tradeshows that feature some of the most storied brands exhibiting their wares, as well as international catwalk shows. The local brands are also thriving; Gucci, for example, was established in Florence in 1920, and President’s, a premium brand focused on wearable pieces in exquisite fabrics, still operates out of the city as it has done for over half a century. And though the Italians aren’t always known for subtle, downto-earth clothing, that’s exactly what President’s creative director, Guido Biondi, believes in. President’s is a rare thing: a sober brand in an intoxicated environment, managing to make the often-misleading ‘Made in Italy’ tag a real and relevant reason to visit Tuscany. Here, Biondi explains the Florentine appeal, his design process and how to best dress for a Tuscan winter. How long has the brand been based in Florence? Since its foundation. The brand was established by my grandfather in 1957. For a long time we owned the trademark and didn’t use it, but I’ve always liked President’s as a name, and in 2010 we presented our first-ever collection at Pitti Uomo for that year’s autumn/ winter season. Why didn’t President’s move to the traditional Italian fashion centres of Milan or Rome? I have a strong relationship with the Tuscan territory; I think it is a magical place to live. The culture of manufacturing is deep – we work with the same suppliers as my grandfather when he started. That’s the main reason I work and live in Florence. How would you describe a typically Tuscan attitude to style and fashion? It’s all about the authenticity and quality of its manufacturing. Tuscany is full of tailoring workhouses. The Florentine attitude combines quality stitching, fabrics and details with a sense of radical chic style. Here, for example, you’ll find old tweed jackets mixed with selvedge jeans and an Oxford shirt. How is that picked up in President’s collections? We don’t follow the trend of the season; we want our items to be appreciated for several years. I like to feel we’re creating the vintage pieces of the future. It’s a synthesis of the quest for the best fabrics in the world with the Tuscan know-how. What does 'Made in Italy' mean to you? Has it changed at all? ‘Made in Italy’ is the highest guarantee of quality: that’s why luxury brands from everywhere in the world come here to develop their collections. But the concept is changing due to economic crisis and big companies controlling the mass market. A lot of Italian fabric and manufacturing companies have closed, so over the years we’ve lost some important background for Italian culture. What do you relate to most: fashion or style? I associate more with style because it’s something that belongs to the attitude of the person. I find it more interesting to have a personal style and play with it than to be a slave to fashion. What are the best garments for a Tuscan winter? Our Lexter jacket in Loro Piana Melton blue and a light down nylon shirt worn underneath. Where would you recommend to visit in Florence? For art lovers, Galleria Vasariano is great. It’s a gallery in an elevated corridor that connects Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio and crosses the Arno above the Ponte Vecchio. It's unique and not many people know about it. Then in the hills just outside Florence, I’d recommend Fiesole. It's an old Etruscan town with an amazing view of the city.
Photography Mara Palena
74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes
Words George Upton
Photography Benjamin McMahon Styling Dan May
On 20th January 2017, after 74 days, 19 hours and 35 minutes alone at sea, Alex Thomson reached the finish line of the Vendée Globe – the gruelling, round-the-world solo yacht race. Although he arrived in the harbour of Les Sables d’Olonne, on the west coast of France, in second place, 16 hours after Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h, Thomson became the fastest British sailor to complete the course, despite having lost one of his foils – the wings that lift the boat out of the water to minimise drag – on day 13. Established in 1989, and running every four years since 1992, the Vendée Globe is the most demanding boat race on the planet – on average only half of the entrants will reach the finish line. An extreme test of endurance as well as of seamanship, Thomson – for whom this was his fourth attempt, having retired from the race in 2004 and 2008, and coming third in 2012 – had to snatch between 20 and 40 minutes sleep every three to five hours. Despite consuming up to 7000 calories a day, he would lose nearly eight kilograms over the course of the race. For the most recent edition, Thomson and his sponsors, Hugo Boss, took the unusual step of partnering with the London-based German designer Konstantin Grcic. In addition to being responsible for the boat’s distinctive aesthetics, Grcic, who has produced work for some of the world’s leading design companies, was also instrumental in remodelling the cockpit area, an innovation which became essential for Thomson’s comfort and maintaining his morale. Here, for the first time since the race, Thomson and Grcic reflect on their unique collaboration. Konstantin Grcic: I loved following the race via the videos you made on board explaining everything. You were very unlucky to have lost the foil, and that one in particular – I know most of the racing is done on that side for the Globe. You would have had a great chance of winning with two foils rather than one! Alex Thomson: The videos were a great thing to do. When you communicate in that way you get feedback. Every time I put a video on Facebook, I would get thousands of comments from the team about how I had inspired other people, who in turn inspired me. It feels like such a long time since we first met in New York. I remember back then I didn’t really know whom I would be meeting. I thought it would be an ‘artist’, someone who would come up with a completely impractical idea, not someone down-to-and humble. We connected immediately. KG: The conversation was there straight away – but then not many people can speak so clearly, and in a way that creates a great enthusiasm about what they do. That conversation, in the restaurant, gave me the first clues for this project. AT: I remember being so happy with you and your ideas. People often say to me that the way the boat looks is not important, but I think it’s critical. Our boat was voted the most beautiful in France, which is a big deal when it’s an English boat with German sponsors and a German designer. It created this impression that we were peerless and I can’t tell you what that means to the team. Obviously they are involved in the physical side with the build, but the look of the boat and how other people see it creates an emotional bond that you wouldn't have with most boats. KG: I take that as a huge compliment. The colour, the logos and the style aren’t just decoration. They have to hit the right tone, to capture something in this design that the
team really identifies with. And it has to have this psychological element that when you’re on the starting grid, you'll feel powerful with your boat. Of course, this is something I'm familiar with as a designer – the psychology of form, of design. It's fascinating what a difference it makes. It was such a challenge to follow your last boat, the completely silver one. But then we found a way to make the new boat all black. Technically it was challenging [the boat is glued together with a resin which is cooked at 80°C; if the boat reaches this temperature, which is possible in the tropics, it could begin to fail structurally]. We worked with a company to develop paint that could reflect light in the same way white paint would. It was nice how an initially purely aesthetic decision actually became a project that we developed together, creating something special and unique.
All clothing AW 2017 collection BOSS Grooming Lee Makin
AT: And then there was the cockpit too. We spent so much time and energy in the previous Vendee Globe trying to make the boat go fast that the last thing we thought about was the comfort of the skipper. Yet the more comfortable you make the skipper the harder they will work. So we brainstormed how to make it more comfortable, how to make the internals work in an effective way. It took six months or so of refining, but what we have now is not so far from what we originally discussed. It was so beneficial to work with someone from a different background who can bring different considerations to the table. It’s definitely something we will do more of next time. KG: Likewise! It was such a rich experience for me. I’m not an athlete but I love sport and to be able to see behind the scenes, to see the whole process from cladding and building the boat, raising the funds, the discussions you had and the dark hours of failure where you have to pick yourself up, as well as the successes, was something I’ll keep with me for a long, long time. It was unique.
Photography Dham Srifuengfung
Styling Will Johns
Mille Jeux lacquered, hand-decorated wood box HERMÈS
Album de Colportage cashmere decorated with cashmere appliqué and silk and cotton embroidery plaid HERMÈS
Top and opposite: Diligence dessert trolley brass lid HERMĂˆS
Mille Jeux lacquered, hand-decorated wood boxes HERMĂˆS
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Hollywood action hero to TV mobster and art-house loser, Steve Buscemi has it all, including a rather serious addiction to classic movies. Port meets the master of nuance Words Charles Bock Photography Matthew Brookes
Steve Buscemi wears DIOR HOMME throughout
n Sunday mornings, when Buscemi is at his house in upstate New York, sometimes – more often than he’d like – a problem arises. It involves yoga, and movies. It is not surprising that a man who has dedicated a large chunk of his adult life to films is in fact in love with them. One of the actor’s favourite ways to relax is to catch old movies on TCM. The network has special segments, before and after each film, in which film scholars provide insights, historical facts, anecdotes and trivia about the films. (Buscemi is enough of a fan of these segments that he can name the different historians who front the shows.) Each week, Buscemi checks the schedule of films in the paper – “I know I could look up films online, but…” He calls friends, sees if they’re interested in watching. “I love catching films from directors I know, their early work. I love seeing actors that I know from certain films, whose names I’m still trying to learn. Oh, I know him! I’m watching the film, and I’m looking up the names on IMDB. Sometimes I just go down a rabbit hole…” But this weekly pleasure has become complicated. Since March, TCM has been running a programme called Noir Alley, on Sunday mornings, starting at 10 am, and… “I’ve really gotten into doing yoga. So my big dilemma on Sunday mornings is that these movies start at 10, and I watch for as long as I can and then, Oh God, I run out the door and try to make it to yoga by 11:30. I stay later and later each week: What’s the latest I can leave and still make the class? I get about an hour and then have to go and always miss the ending of the movie. And they don’t replay them at night!” His face opens. He is perplexed, at wit’s end. It’s more than a little strange to sit across from him and see this expression, because I’ve seen it, in some iteration or another, on innumerable screens. Indeed, in an alternate, filmic reality it is not hard to imagine an innocent, if badly phrased, follow up question causing his frustration to build; suddenly he jerks forward and stabs all the way through my hand with a fork. In reality, Buscemi, 59, is wondering why they don’t just replay the films at night. A small figure in neat dark blue clothes, his hair receding a bit and grey, he looks a little older than he did during five distinguished seasons as Atlantic City mob boss Nucky Johnson on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. We are in a Brooklyn neighbourhood bar the actor’s
“Indeed, in an alternate, filmic reality it is not hard to imagine an innocent, if badly phrased, follow up question causing his frustration to build; suddenly he jerks forward and stabs all the way through my hand with a fork.” never been to before, although it’s down the road from his home. College football reruns muted on the elevated televisions, classic rock playing on the sound system, the bar’s a study in empty dimness. Within a minute of his entrance Buscemi was recognised, although the bartender kept a respectful distance – until the actor surveyed the beers on tap, choosing something neither pretentious nor embarrassing. For more than 30 years now, the Long Island-raised actor has been one of the best, a specialist in plumbing the depths of deeply flawed but fascinating human characters. He is Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs delivering that monologue about why he won’t tip; Carl, the hapless criminal from Fargo who can’t accept he has to pay to pass through a short stay parking lot, and who will infamously end up with a foot sticking out of a wood chipper. Buscemi is Donnie, who loved bowling, from The Big Lebowski, and he is Ghost World’s Seymour, the too-close-for-comfort embodiment of every person who’s spent too long not fitting in. (“Maybe I don’t want to meet someone who shares my interests. I hate my interests.”) Iconic roles that will be enjoyed for as long as people watch films. “Every person you meet has contradictions, problems,” he says, his voice even, if thoughtful. “There’s a reason why they became the person they are. So if I’m playing Carl Showalter in Fargo, I try not to judge. If I find myself judging a character when I read it, I think maybe that’s not 96
a good thing... My way in is just try to think about how they got the way they are, and to not be afraid to play someone that’s unlikeable or has problems. I like playing regular guys too, artists, but I always try to find what is it in me that I can relate to, how much of me is in there. And that’s important because that’s what I have; it’s me.” In his latest film, The Death of Stalin, out at the end of the year, he plays Nikita Khrushchev navigating the political minefields of the Kremlin in the struggle for power following Stalin’s demise. Khrushchev, a physically imposing man, was quite the opposite of Buscemi. Speaking to the director Armando Iannucci (perhaps best known as the creator and head writer for Veep) before the film’s production, Buscemi had been prepared to explain why he couldn’t do the part. “At the end of the phone call, in a very sort of laid back way, he’d convinced me to do it,” Buscemi says. “Armando just said, I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t think you had it in you.” Buscemi takes a sip of his beer. “I just had to stop thinking that I’m playing Khrushchev, the one that most people know, banging the shoe and the Cold War. In 1953, he was a younger guy, not as portly, not really the guy that people came to know. He was not the one they expected to take over – you know, the older guys who Stalin worried would be in charge. Khrushchev was the minister of agriculture. He was in Stalin’s good graces because he was a down-toearth guy; he could make Stalin laugh; he was in the war. Stalin liked and related to him. And Khrushchev himself didn’t know that he had it in him. The key was when Armando said, here’s a guy who’s a true survivor, and he was able to position himself, maybe half the time not even knowing that’s what he was doing. But he had good instincts and he was smart despite his appearances. So that became really interesting. “Like with Fargo, I had played a number of seedy guys, and when I read the part, I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t see beyond a maroon leather jacket and polyester shirt. And Mary Zophres, the costume designer, had this whole look that she envisioned that I just couldn’t imagine with the turtleneck shirt and the corduroy pants. The fake fur jacket. Once I put that on: Oh, I know this guy! I just knew how he talked, what his attitude
“My thing in the beginning was to just take anything, because I wanted to work and I wanted to experience and to make a living from acting. It felt good to do that.” was. Physically – I started eating more and they gave me some padding, not much. And then a shaved head, like I really did the bald thing. Really shaving my head. Just so I could feel and look physically different. As an actor that helps. It took some doing to figure out the look but once we got it, I was like, ‘I get this guy. I get who he is, how he feels.’” Since the time of Trees Lounge in 1996, which Buscemi wrote and directed as a vehicle for himself, his brother and his long-time acting friends from the East Village, Buscemi has only played a few leading men – it’s been a slow, fraught transition from below to above the marquee. “I don’t necessarily want to play the lead, but I want to play characters that are important to the story,” Buscemi says. “My thing in the beginning was to just take anything, because I wanted to work and I wanted to experience and to make a living from acting. It felt good to do that. But it’s inevitable that you’re going to be offered kind of the same types of roles, and then that becomes a factor, because you try and switch it up. Then there were a few instances where I’d taken parts where you see the movie and the part’s been cut way down, or you’ve been cut out of the film.” (Woody Allen’s Alice – he played Jesus Christ, appearing as a character witness for Mia Farrow in a courtroom scene; The Grifters – he had a few scenes as John Cusack’s boss, and was even called back for reshoots; Gus Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – he was in one scene where he picked up Uma Thurman in a van, assaulted her and then crashed.) “There were other films too. I don’t remember them. But it started to dawn on me that such characters are not important to the story. And you think, well, I really don’t need that anymore. I should really concentrate on turning stuff down if I don’t think it’s important to the film.” 98
The New York Times film critic, Manohla Dargis, once wrote that Buscemi’s “evident lack of vanity is its own kind of vanity,” and in the course of our conversation this idea plays out in different ways. Some might be pro forma: like when he extolls his After Stalin castmates (Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin) and praises the week that Iannucci arranged for them to rehearse before the film, a rarity in the film and television worlds. Others reveal long-time loyalties, like when Buscemi lets me know I need to seek out the work of his friend Mark Boone Jr (whom he started acting with back in the ’80s), or brings up the Kickstarter project to finance restoration of the 1993 Alexandre Rockwell film In the Soup, in which Buscemi starred. He tells me when he landed his part in Reservoir Dogs, he’d rented the films by Lawrence Tierney, who’d also been cast, and that one of those films he’d rented, Born to Kill, had actually replayed on TCM recently on a Sunday morning and caused him to almost be late for yoga. Buscemi tells me about seeing a retrospective of the Cassavetes film Husbands recently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and recognising just how much it had influenced him when he made Trees Lounge. He talks about seeing films and looking up directors he doesn’t know “who’ve done like 50 or 60 films, and I know one or two of them, but they have this whole body of work. I love that.” He also admits the toll that playing Nucky Johnson took during those five seasons, as the character turned darker and darker. (“[Michael] Pitt’s character said in the first season, in the pilot, “You can’t be half a gangster.” Nucky never really had to do the dirty work; he had people do it for him. And then as that went on, he had to show he could do it. And that has cost too. And as an actor, some of the scenes were…”) And admits that he was so afraid and nervous to direct, that during the location scouting for Trees Lounge, he wasn’t able to ask to speak to bar owners, that he had been worried about what the crew and cast thought of him on the set, that it had been a big moment for him, at one point, to admit to Lisa Rinzler (his cinematographer and DP) that he didn’t know what he wanted for a shot, and that listening to her ideas had helped him to realise that he did indeed have ideas about the shot, but perhaps had not known how to express them. From all these different angles, via his professionalism, loyalty and generosity, through his vulnerability, through his self-knowledge, or perhaps selflessness, the notion of a larger good, again and again, comes into focus, the idea that if a person knows himself well enough, or has enough confidence in himself, he will be able to aside his ego, or his needs, and do what must be done. “Altman once said something to me,” Buscemi tells me, referring to the late director Robert Altman, whom he’d wanted to work with for years, before finally getting the chance on Kansas City. “We were just talking about my character, and he said that he wanted the film to be successful, but he said ‘I want it on my terms.’ He made it about us making the film. We have to make it good for us, and that will make it a successful film.” Buscemi waits for me to catch up, makes sure I understand. “It doesn’t matter what it does at the box office, it doesn’t matter what it does critically. That always stayed with me. Why do we do what we do? Is it just to make a film? No. The point isn’t to do something just to say I did it. I want it to mean something.”
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Port reflects on the career of one of the last surviving proponents of architectural modernism, Neave Brown
Words Will Wiles Photography Cian Oba-Smith
At Dunboyne Road, plain white volumes are given definition and a human scale by black fences and railings. Previous spread: Heavyweight concrete spandrels support the overhanging north face of Alexandra Road.
The curve of Rowley Way screens the view and makes a monumental structure inviting and picturesque.
Brown’s first project – five houses on Winscombe Street – was built for himself and friends.
efending the modernist council housing built in Britain in the 1960s and ’70s sometimes feels like sticking up for a shadow. Plans were mangled by bureaucrats, corners macheted by contractors, maintenance neglected by local authorities, and the whole sector was assaulted and stigmatised by national policy – it can be a litany of excuses and qualifications, all seeking to explain how the work of talented architects was betrayed. As I write, demolition has begun at the Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, east London. The work of Alison and Peter Smithson, two of the greatest architects of the post-war generation, Robin Hood Gardens has been the subject of spirited defence by a wide section of the architectural profession. But almost all of it has been a hobbled, “Yes, but” type of argument, forced to deviate around the all-too-evident problems that have plagued the estate, and instead make a case for the Smithsons’ original intentions. But there are some modernist council estates that do not need this kind of qualification, as their quality is self-evident. Two are in Camden and are the work of one man, the architect Neave Brown. Visiting the Alexandra Road Estate – Brown’s masterpiece, completed in 1978 – with the architecture writer Owen Hatherley on a sunny bank holiday weekend, its success is unmistakeable. People are out on their terraces and in their gardens, and children are playing in the central street. It is both quiet and lively, secluded and active, private and public. The building, a long, stepped block on an almost megastructural scale, is grand without being imposing. “It’s absolutely monumental; it’s a huge project, but with great intimacy,” says Hatherley, an ardent advocate for both modernist architecture and council housing, expressed in a series of witty, polemical books, such as A Guide to the New Ruins Of Great Britain. “It’s the holy grail of housing; it’s what everybody wants to do, and it manages it with great aplomb. You’re part of something huge and you’ve got your particular space within it.” Brown, who is 88 this year, is the only living UK architect whose entire back catalogue is listed. While his buildings are preserved, what of his ideas? At the time of writing, a campaign is under way to have Brown awarded the RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal, the highest honour in British architecture. This would be a long overdue recognition for an architect whose contribution to housing design went almost unrecognised in its time. But a look at these buildings reveals a paradox: They show the best that can be achieved, but also why the best is so hard to achieve, and might never be achieved again. It’s easier to understand how Brown’s entire UK-built work can be listed when you learn that it amounts to just three buildings – all housing, all in the London borough of Camden and all remarkable. The earliest, from 1964, was the result of a housing cooperative he had founded with friends, who built five houses on a small plot at Winscombe Street in Dartmouth Park. These are a modernist interpretation of the Victorian terrace, united by a plain white upper level that overhangs the front. Each house is entered above street level, from a raised porch reached by a segment of spiral stairway protected by a curl of concrete wall. Brown’s friends had not intended the project to have such architectural unity, the architect told Building Design magazine, when the houses were listed in 2014. He had met with each family privately: “They all told me what they wanted and it was more or less the same thing,” he said to BD. “I went away and designed it and then showed each one the plan of their house. They all said, ‘That’s lovely.’ Later, when they saw each other’s houses, they were startled to find that they were all the same.” On the strength of these houses, a private project, Brown was given the job of designing the larger Dunboyne Road council estate (also called Fleet Road), completed in 1977. The family resemblance with Winscombe Street is immediately obvious, on a much larger scale, with the same spiral stairs sheltered by curved shuttered concrete. Here, the plain white volumes of the low-rise blocks are broken up and given definition and interest by a black frame; they overlook secluded central circulation spaces, abutted by private gardens that contribute their greenery to an overall pleasant boskiness. For a high-density project in the heart of a great city, it has a peaceful suburban air, and it counts among its residents Brown himself, who moved there after 40 years in Winscombe Street. Alexandra Road, commissioned shortly after, picks up the pattern again, but varies and expands it into something truly extraordinary. The layout of the estate is simplicity itself. Arranged around a pedestrian walkway, Rowley Way, paved in red brick – striking a contrast with the grey and blue terraces on either side – it provides a direct path from one end of the long site to the other. But the whole structure is curved, taking its line from the railway that forms the northern boundary of the 16-acre site.
At both of Brown’s estates, mature trees and flourishing gardens have mellowed the environment, precisely as intended.
Opposite bottom and this page: While many council estates would forgo ‘luxuries’ like parking, at Alexandra Road it is cleverly integrated and hidden.
If the central axis had been a straight line, it would have been monumental and oppressive. But its curve makes it inviting and attractive, screening the view in a picturesque way and showing stepped gardens to their best advantage. While the way through is always clear, you are also gently enclosed; Alexandra Road is a small world of its own, but without the disadvantages of the culde-sac. The outward-facing gardens give it plenty of what the urban theorist Jane Jacobs – no fan of modernist public housing – called ‘eyes on the street’, the passive, neighbourly surveillance that reduces crime and disorder. Peek over the wall of railway bridge at the western end of Rowley Way to look at the estate from the back, and you might be forgiven for thinking that you’re looking at a stadium. It has the outer curve of an arena, with dramatic concrete spandrels supporting a structure that rakes outwards in tiers, like stadium seating. This thrilling heavy engineering, holding up the higher, outer curve of the street, is echoed within through the sloping buttress-like walls that screen and separate the stepped gardens. But the overriding impression is of delicacy and greenery: It froths with plants, and palms, and mature trees signpost points where the inner curve is interrupted by exits. Of course, this takes years to happen, and might explain why the initial critical reaction to the estate was fairly negative. “When these things were critiqued in the 1960s and ’70s, there was always this assumption that they were reviewing buildings like you review films or records, that it was a finished product,” says Hatherley, “and of course these things change, and the most obvious thing that changes is that the trees grow.” Photographs taken immediately after completion show an icy white ziggurat with a couple of toothpicky saplings clinging to the path. Now every garden is grown and the concrete has weathered. It’s worth noting that Alexandra Road took 10 years to build and cost far more than was expected, partly thanks to the effects of the oil crisis on the price of labour and materials. As it came to its conclusion, it was regarded by the council as a costly mistake rather than a triumph worthy of emulation. Nevertheless, Camden made a name for itself by building public housing of unusually high quality, here and elsewhere. What made this possible? “It’s hard to prove, but I think the decisive thing may have been that Camden had a big tax base,” says Hatherley. “So you had quite a lot of poor areas, as you still do, but you also had Hampstead and Highgate, and a big housing budget. And you had the left intelligentsia here which otherwise doesn’t exist in Britain.” A large budget and political cover gave the council the confidence to reject the ‘four tower blocks for thruppence’ deals that developers were flogging to other, less fortunate, local authorities. As a beneficiary of this (partly unintended) largesse, Alexandra Road is a tempting vision of what much more modernist council housing could have been, had corners not been cut. But, as Hatherley points out, that makes it a paradox: In one sense, it isn’t strictly modernist. “Half of the argument for modernism was that it was cheaper,” he says. “[They said] ‘Actually, we don’t have to pay for all of this folderol; we’ve got all these technologies that can do it fast and unpretentiously.’ No one has ever in British housing had the confidence to say ‘This is going to take 10 years; it’ll cost a tonne of money, and it’ll be worth it.’ And that’s certainly not what Camden council said.” Will we ever build this way again? If the failures of modernist council housing estates are often self-evident, so too is the 30-year failure of the private sector to provide a reasonable alternative. Brown is among the last survivors of a heroic generation of architects who were prepared to try radical solutions to the problem of mass housing. It’s a problem that still haunts us today, and once again council housing is on the agenda, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party promising a council house-building programme on a scale unseen since the 1970s. But Alexandra Road is not necessarily a pattern to be followed – its strength is in its particularities. “So often the best stuff is like this,” says Hatherley: “totally fitted to a particular site, completely fitted to a particular client and their particular needs, and unrepeatable. It has all of these qualities, and there’s nothing else like it.”
A concrete spiral staircase at Dunboyne Road shows the family resemblance with Winscombe Street.
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Drugs and Creativity by Hanif Kureishi
The Future of Banking by Alain de Botton
A Mythical Beef Sandwich by Samin Nosrat
The Fleeting Nature of Love by Rick Moody
Documenting Suffering in Times of War by Giles Duley
Excessive, Explosive Enjoyment Drugs are synonymous with countercultural movements, but how have they influenced creativity, and do they still have a place in our artistic landscape today? hanif kureishi
hen we were teenagers in the late 1960s, drugs were new. Not only for us, but for our parents and for the culture. We suburban kids knew that something strange had been going on in London because even the world’s most popular group, the Beatles – who had been respectable and decent but had now got weird with their colourful clothes and unusual hair – had talked about it. The music they made in their great middle period was concerned with tripping and smoking and swallowing stuff that appeared to take your mind into a free, uncontrolled zone where the usual rules didn’t apply, where you might see that which was ordinarily hidden. This music was about freedom and leaving home and, particularly at that age, freedom meant a lot to us. The boredom and violence of school, and the drudgery which had been planted ahead of us – work, mortgage, debt, childcare – was already heavy. Our future and what was expected of us had been laid down early. It wasn’t thrilling and we weren’t ready for it. The London suburbs were not as affluent as the American ones. Our area was still wrecked from the war. The food was repulsive; the men wore bowler hats and education was an endless sadism. But The Graduate spoke to us pretty things. As Benjamin Braddock realises in Charles Webb’s lovely novel and Mike Nichols’ film, when he returns home from university his parents’ world looks false. From the kids’ point of view, the way the adults lived seemed crazy. Who would want to fit in with that uncomfortable, John Cheever-like world where everyone should be content and yet was not? Their unhappiness and discomfort was plain, and their pleasures – of alcohol and promiscuity – were half-hidden and guilty. We were the wrong people in the wrong place. Some people said that art could change the way you saw things. But somnolent Mozart, or Hollywood movies, or Renoir paintings couldn’t make the revolution we craved. Then we heard Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Occasionally we could see the Rolling Stones or the Who on TV. Suddenly we became aware of a dirty obscene noise which violated all decency and which represented a heightened pleasure we hadn’t encountered before. It led to the fatal association: pleasure was insane. Too much of it could make you mad. Like sex, it was excessive. You couldn’t grasp or understand it, but you wanted it, and it could make you dance and
want to be creative. Music – not the cinema, television, or the novel – was the most significant cultural form of the day and it changed everything for everyone. It was sometimes said the country was awash with drugs, but try scoring when you needed something. In the late ’60s mostly we smoked hash, took amphetamines and downers, and dropped LSD, often at school. Baudelaire in his writing on drugs notices an encounter with what he calls ‘the marvellous’, but also with an increase in anxiety and paranoia when taking hashish. He also tells us that one is no longer master of oneself. You lost control. This might be an inspiration in itself. You could see and feel things stoned that you couldn’t know straight. There might be enhanced communication. If you were less cautious and uptight, you might be able to speak and laugh more. If you lost your straight self, you might discover a better one. You might want to live differently. That became the promise. The fact that drugs were illegal and disapproved of made them doubly exciting. Break-
“No one believes in drugs anymore. At least in art there is movement and thought. Working at something intransigent, one can make and re-make oneself, combining intelligence with intuition.”
Religion was going but hadn’t quite gone, and was yet to be entirely replaced by consumerism. The threat of God’s disapproval was still used as a form of control. Yet as we drifted around in our tie-dyed granddad vests and ripped jeans, hiding from mods and skinheads, we knew that the game of traditional authority was up and that the law we were brought up to respect wasn’t sensible. Drugs were prohibited but worse things were allowed, if not encouraged: genocide, war, racism, inequality, violence. No one would kill their own children, but they were keen to kill other people’s. We didn’t believe the grown-ups, who were not grown-ups after all. The levelling of generations had begun. Not only that, as the 1970s progressed, capitalism – which required everyone to be anxious and hyper-alert – began to falter. The system was more anarchic, bumpy and unpredictable than politicians made out. It went up and down quickly, and you went with it. The very things that capitalism likes to promise – growth, wealth, increased consumption – couldn’t be delivered. Soon there would be unemployment, social devastation and ‘No future’, as punk recognised. And yet capitalism could never be abandoned. Since the end of socialism, it saw itself as the natural world. The only way forward was to find a place inside it which wasn’t impossible, hence the retreat into spiritualism, yoga, Zen and mindfulness. Or drugs.
rugs’, when they first became generally available in the ’60s, caused such outrage and consternation that we understood that it wasn’t the undoubted damage that they did which was the problem. The drawback wasn’t the possibility of ill-health or addiction but the instant pleasure which drugs provided. Or at least the pleasure that others believed they provided. This was what R D Laing called ‘a mental Shangri-La’ – the longing for something ‘beyond’. In the 1990s and 2000s, drugs went respectable and mainstream. Ritalin, Prozac and other anti-depressants – substances which fixed adults and children up for work without the agony of self-investigation – became the royal road to efficiency. A subject’s life and the significance of symptoms were replaced by biology and the language of science; chemistry replaced an individual’s history and doctors were substituted for self-authority. We had become machines which dysfunctioned, not individuals with parents and a past that might be worth
‘ ing the parents’ law, or indeed any law, was a big kick in itself: you could believe that by arguing with prohibition you were making the world a little wider. Writers like Baudelaire, de Nerval, Huxley and, later, Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, wrote about drug-taking among the artistic elite. Now, for the first time, drugs were generally available and, like pop, they had even reached the suburbs. And the drugs we began to take in one another’s bedrooms, in the parks and later in the pubs, represented instant pleasure, while everything in the suburbs was deferred. Consumerism was about patience, waiting, slow accumulation and gradual improvement. Capitalism no longer starved the workers, but it starved them of pleasure. We were supposed to work, not make love. We were made aware that happiness, if not pleasure, was always elsewhere. The West had been growing out of God.
Illustration By Tim McDonagh
exploring in talk and art, or subjects wondering why, inexplicably, they were fatigued or exhausted. There were no illuminating questions or slowing down. The important thing was to function, to work, compete and succeed. Drugs, cures and ideas about what a self was had become an arm of capitalism. Pleasure, the devil’s elixir, a magic substance more valuable than gold, is always a source of anxiety, which is why pleasure is usually located in other people or groups, where it can be thought about, enjoyed and condemned. The dangers of drugs were not the fact they made for disorientation if not madness and addiction, but that they provided too much unearned illicit, or even evil enjoyment. Drugs were an idiot’s euphoria. The story was: if you liked it, or couldn’t make money from it, it couldn’t possibly be good for you. Of course, after so long, we now know that neither legal nor illegal drugs are it either. For a time, they seemed to promise freedom from
the cycle of work and consumption. But rather than representing a point outside – a place of rest, spiritual enlightenment or insight – they became the very thing we thought they might replace. Soon we would see they created as much dissatisfaction as any other cheap fetishised object. The druggies, from Baudelaire to Kerouac, had learned that the route to paradise wasn’t simple. Though Baudelaire talks of stoned bliss, of calm, of a place where all philosophical questions can be answered, and of a liberating vulgarity, he makes it clear what hard work it is having a good time all the time. These artists were artists first, and stoners after. The demand for pleasure can become infernal, and another form of authority. And while drugs might make you poetic – filling the gaps in reality – they can render you useless, if not impotent. No one believes in drugs anymore. At least in art there is movement and thought. Working
at something intransigent, one can make and re-make oneself, combining intelligence with intuition. Drugs, when they are effective, abolish ambivalence. But being an artist can never be straightforward. You must cede control and give way to chaos. In art, as in any other form of love, there will be strong feelings of attraction and of abhorrence. Artists may love what they do but they also hate it. Work can become a tyranny and treadmill. It is boring; the material resists; the audience might be uninterested. It can never be an uncomplicated or straightforward pleasure. Not only can few artists make a realistic assessment of their own work, their state of mind cannot be expected to be serene. There can be no art without anxiety, self-disgust, fear of failure and of success. It is hard and dull labour, and can feel forced. Notice how almost impossible it is to convince an artist how good their work is. But that is the price of the ticket. At least one is going somewhere.
The Mythical Beef Sandwich You Need in Your Life Conceived in a food market in Florence, the panino bollito is a masterpiece of understated Italian fast food, inspiring chefs from California to London samin nosrat
started at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, in my home state of California, in 2000 with one adult travel experience under my belt: a year abroad in Europe, where the choices I made were informed by the cost of train tickets or the availability of creaky hostel beds. Food never entered the equation. But from my first moments in the restaurant, when I sat through a menu meeting where the chef shared the origin story of each dish on that day’s menu, I saw how travel begets memory, which in turn begets great cooking. Each day – and each new menu – brought new stories of the far-f lung restaurants, roadside stands and dear aunties and grandmothers whose food had inspired our cooking. Many of the memories the chefs shared were of extravagant meals, but the ones that struck me most involved revelations about the simplest foods: a pot of beans cooked in coals, pasta made with dandelion greens, polenta fortified with cheese and thick cream. I knew that the next time I travelled, it would be in pursuit of those powerful, simple flavours. So three years later, when I secured an
apprenticeship in the kitchen of a tiny trattoria in Florence, I immediately started dreaming of all of the storied dishes I’d hunt for on my days off. I’d eat porchetta, thinly sliced roast pork seasoned with sage and garlic, and ribollita, the Tuscan bean, bread and kale soup that’s so thick it’s served on a plate. One dish in particular, however, incited such universal obsession among the cooks at Chez Panisse that it had taken on an almost mythical quality: the panino bollito from a stall
“Suddenly, I understood. The tender meat melted in my mouth. The bun had absorbed twice its weight in savoury broth, which amplified the flavour of the meat.” called Nerbone in Florence’s central market. While parts of it sounded great – the drizzle of salsa verde, the price: two euros – parts of it sounded terrible; it was, after all, essentially just boiled meat on a bun. What, I wondered, was mythical about that?
“The counter guy will dip the bun into the beef broth if you ask nicely,” the chefs told me. “It’ll put the best hamburger you’ve ever had to shame,” they said. I was doubtful, but I left it on my list. A week after I arrived in Florence, I made my way to Nerbone. While I waited in the long line, I rehearsed the Italian under my breath until it was my turn to order. “Un panino bollito con tutte due le salse. Bagnato, per favore.” I’d studied Italian intensively before arriving but when the man at the counter replied in Tuscan dialect, I froze. Stubbornly refusing to admit that I had no idea what he’d said, I blushed, nodded and paid the cashier. He handed me my sandwich, which I took to eat on the steps of the market. I took a bite. How could this strange-textured, off-tasting thing be the dish that inspired so many sighs at Chez Panisse? I forced myself to continue to chew, and then to swallow. There was no way this was the brisket I’d heard about. I went back and hovered near the sandwich stand, studying the signs, until I finally figured out what the man at the counter had
been trying to tell me: He’d sold out of brisket. All he had left was lampredotto, a Florentine specialty. With my vehement nodding, I’d signalled that instead of brisket, I’d be fine with tripe. Though embarrassed by my mistake, I couldn’t give up. I returned to Nerbone the following week. I arrived early to beat the lunch rush, ordered my sandwich and, just as before, I took it to the steps. I took a bite and swooned. Suddenly, I understood. The tender meat melted in my mouth. The bun had absorbed twice its weight in savoury broth, which amplified the flavour of the meat. Any other sandwich composed simply of bread and meat might have threatened tedium of taste.
But this one was enhanced by the kick of chilli oil and the punch of an acidic salsa verde. Not only was the panino better than any burger I’d ever tasted, it was the best sandwich, of any kind, I’d ever eaten. I grew obsessed, eventually moving to an apartment almost solely for its proximity to Nerbone. I ate there so often that I got to know the cooks. I convinced them to let me into the kitchen so I could learn their secrets. They showed me how to season the meat generously with salt. They taught me that the pot of meat must never boil, but rather remain at a simmer for hours. And they demonstrated exactly how they make their textbook-perfect salsa verde: not by painstakingly chopping parsley
Photography Mattia Micheli
and celery and gently blending it with olive oil and vinegar, but by throwing everything into a food processor and pressing the ‘on’ switch. Two years later, I returned to Berkeley and started cooking at an Italian restaurant. I put a bollito sandwich with chilli oil and salsa verde on the menu, and waxed poetic about Nerbone to the staff. A few years later, one of our young cooks moved to Florence to study and cook. As I printed out a list of my favourite spots in Tuscany the night before he left, I gave him a few tips: “Watch how the Italians use olive oil. Eat everything you can. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t understand Italian.” And finally, I warned, “Watch out for the lampredotto at Nerbone.”
Watching Them Sleep Young love can be fleeting, but its tenderest moments give birth to some of our most profound and long-lasting emotions rick moody
t 17 I thought I knew all there was to know about love. In part I believed this because I was reading Byron, Shelley and Keats in a literature class in my senior year of high school, and in part because I had a large crate of LPs in my dorm room, and this crate was filled with love songs. I liked love songs about romantic destitution best. In fact, as a 17-year-old, I seemed to favour repelling love in my daily life so that I could feel the destitution of love, which would occasion playing the love songs that best celebrated this acute loss. I thought love was an indescribable violet, I thought it was a certain stretch of empty highway, I thought it was in the craggy outcropping of desolate snowy peaks that you can see in the valleys, I thought it was a hanging plateau of fog, or an elk glimpsed on a bit of empty prairie, or the call of the hawk swooping down on a trembling rodent. I was happy both to declare love and to declare its futility. We had an obligatory religion class at my
high school, and a large part of this class, to the chagrin of my contemporaries, was given over to wrestling with a knotty theologian called Paul Tillich. The 17-year-old dreamer version of Rick Moody applied himself to the class, and could readily spout Tillich’s phrase loving action when asked to describe the meaning of faith. I could tell you, because we’d had an exam on the subject, that this meant that love was not a static condition, but that in the throes of love one was outwardly directed, or ultimately concerned, as Tillich says; one was giving and expecting nothing in return, one was open and selfless, one was the wind off the inscrutable ocean, clearing away the detritus of selfishness, blowing where it listeth. What little apocalypse was required to make this loving action a thing that one felt and lived rather than something one spouted in exams? Well, there was this girl – who I’ll call Brenda – who was a couple of years younger, meaning that at the time of this story we were almost
exactly the age of Romeo and Juliet. Neither of us were allowed to vote, and neither of us could legally drink, and we went to a school where if a boy visited a girl in her room she was supposed to leave the door open, and have three out of their four feet on the floor. Brenda was from Colorado, and she had a really warm and loving family. She was put together like a levelheaded person is put together. We didn’t have much in common but we were in love. One day, Brenda and I were over in this school building called Memorial Hall, an assembly hall, which was empty. Brenda and I were just strolling around, and through some impulse we ended up sitting on the carpet, whereupon, in some glorious fit she, leaning against me, simply fell asleep. Brenda was blonde, oh reader of these lines, and she was tall, had a decidedly joyful smile, a great, earthy sense of humour, and a perfect laugh, and she fell asleep in my arms. Rather than wake her, I just held her, and let her sleep. It was not com-
Illustration Tim McDonagh
fortable for me, not for long. But I had cause to think about all of this – who she was, how she was, how I was with her – and while she slept all the ups and downs, the star-crossed and difficult portions of our entanglement, were in arrest, and all was silence and awaiting. It came to me, in the half hour that ensued, at least as I recreate it, that I had never known how she felt, not really, not from the inside, but as she slept I felt the beginning of some sentiment that didn’t require romantic destitution, didn’t require loss, but was rather a measure of the labour and service put in to being with someone, and the selflessness that comes from trying to figure out what’s best for the girl in your lap, rather than always thinking about what’s best for you, abuser of all the natural resources in your family and your group of friends. I held her, and watched, and waited, and there was no bounty of tears, there was no brush fire of the heart, there was just the outwardly directed feeling, which in turn, as the Sun in the window moved several inches in its across-the-carpet-
ing transit, pointed toward the feeling of being ultimately concerned. We did, it must be said, break up not long after that. Or we broke up and got back together and broke up again. And then I graduated. And moved several states away. Neither of us ever drank a draught of poison, or set themselves on fire at the ocean’s edge. Protestations of need of the epistolary sort would
“Brenda was from Colorado. She was put together like a level-headed person is put together. We didn’t have much in common but we were in love.” have been silly. We went on with our lives. But in my case I went on a bit wiser about what’s important. A still moment of being and giving and letting go could, it seemed, reveal where the deepest feelings are hiding out, waiting to be diagrammed over the decades to come. The deepest feelings are to be found in what you give. Brenda taught me in the simplest way
possible, by falling asleep. I’m now in my mid-50s and very happily married, and have a newborn son, as one should probably not have at my age, and a daughter who is almost eight years old, and I frequently have the opportunity to watch them sleep. In fact, nothing makes me happier than watching children sleep. Is it the love, the agape, that C S Lewis ascribes to the divine (him or her or itself ), the love that parents feel for children? Maybe. I know that something really pure takes place in these moments, the child breathing and dreaming in some vulnerable way that is beautiful and trusting. It doesn’t seem to matter much how old the children are. It’s a different model, this adult loving action, from the 17-yearold rental economy kind of love, the love-theone-you’re-with desperation of the teenage years, and I’m glad for it, I’m glad it’s different, no matter how long it took to get here. Keats said it best: “Silly youth doth think to make itself/Divine by loving, and so goes on/ Yawning and doting a whole summer long.”
The Future of the Banking Industry The relationship between capital and contentment can be a difficult one: What do banks, our dominant income keepers, know about the psychology of money? alain de botton
f you asked an average customer-oriented bank what they were in the business of doing, they’d look at you rather strangely, as if you were asking them something so obvious that you might be taking them for fools. Evidently, banks exist to keep money safe, to make it grow and to deliver it swiftly to their customers when they need it. In highly competitive times banks will do their hardest to demonstrate prowess in these three areas. They will let the world know that they are a safe haven, that they are extremely adept at making portfolios grow and that they respond with unparalleled rapidity to customer demands. Some are even open 24 hours a day. One could, in a generous moment, even feel rather sorry for banks given the sweat they must expend competing in these areas. It is extremely hard to grow a portfolio more than 4.5 per cent per annum, never more so than when markets are relentlessly saggy or volatile. It’s only when we insist on the original question that the founding assumptions behind modern banking reveal some of their strangeness. What do we really want from banks? And then the real enquiry: what do we want from money? It is probably not clever to be
overly sophisticated here, at least not initially: we simply want to be happy. We want money not to cause us anxiety and to be responsible for increasing our sense of well-being. But this is where the issues start, for happiness around money is no simple matter. The modern assumption is rather immodest and blatant: we insist that all we need to be happy with money is to have more and more of it. This represents the sum total of the complexity we (or rather, classical economics) generally allow into the topic. Even banks filled with people with advanced qualifications and armies of computers tend not to question these assumptions. There may be immense intelligence within banks but it is solely directed towards the big bold agenda: making money grow. Yet the subject of money and happiness is – evidently – just a little more complicated than this orientation would assume. To reach happiness around money is to embark on a journey full of unexpected currents and hidden whirlpools. We can quickly summon up just a few of the complexities: – How happy our money makes us isn’t just a question of the amount we have; it partly
depends on how we have made it. The more pleasurable the process of accumulation, the less substantial the overall sum might need to be (and vice versa). – We want to earn money to provide for our families, on the assumption that money is what they need, but providing them with more than a certain amount seems to have odd side-effects. Giving people we love too much money can land them in clinics. – It’s nice to give money away and goodness knows people need help: but where – really – does money make a difference? And what causes feel close to our own hearts? – How much money we feel we need is a decision highly dependent on what others in the immediate vicinity – our reference points – are making. Feeling comfortably-off relies on measuring ourselves against targets which lie outside our control and upon which we generally reflect very little. There are perhaps two ways to feel richer: to make more money or to change our friends. – It’s hard to know what to spend money on in order to be genuinely satisfied. We’re provided with constant temptations and encouragements to invest in this or that, but which 147
of these really work for us? We have to understand ourselves quite well to know how to spend. Shopping is an oddly serious matter. – Anxiety is a constant: we worry about everything. A lot of this anxiety gets channelled, of course, towards money. If only we reach a certain goal then, at last, we will be stable and secure. But how skilled is money at answering the expectations we have placed in it? We are exhausting ourselves in search of money: how accurate are we being in our hopes for it?
The bank of the future will certainly keep money safe, and do its best to make it grow. But it will also understand that its job is really to open up pathways to contentment around money, and that this depends on far more than a 4.5 per cent annual increase in portfolios. It will therefore seek to act as a forum in which customers can learn what role money plays in their lives and what their options might really be. The idea of a bank stands ready to be reinvented, no longer an
institution that has a secure safe-deposit box and a commitment to fruitful investment, but an organisation that tackles the underlying issues which banking straddles – the profound questions of how we can live well around money, however much or little we may have. The ambitious banks of the future will be experts in finance, of course, but they will also know a lot about something equally critical but as yet too often ignored by the financial world: the psychology of money.
Why Take Photographs? The photographer – who himself was photographed minutes after he lost both legs and his left arm in 2011 as a result of stepping on an explosive device – asks how photography can be justified when documenting the horrific injuries of war by giles duley
’ve covered few stories that have affected me as much as documenting injured civilians in Mosul. The time I spent there, earlier this year, left me questioning the validity of my work and bereft of hope. For a month after returning home I hid from the world. When faced with such darkness and violence, what value can a photograph have? Does it become voyeuristic to capture and share those moments? Against such horror a camera seems impotent, its use almost perverse… I believe photography comes with great responsibility and as soon as I lift my camera to record somebody’s story, I have to ask myself: Why am I doing this? Nothing in photography goes more against human nature than the process of pointing your camera at somebody injured, afraid or in real peril. So, why do it? Does it, can it, make a difference? In February I was based in a hospital run by EMERGENCY in Erbil. Every day they were receiving dozens of badly injured civilians from the fighting for Mosul. Even after over a decade of photographing the effects of conflict, the scenes I witnessed there were amongst the worst I’d ever seen. Babies with amputated limbs, a young child paralysed by a sniper’s bullet, whole families lost. It was beyond words. In the past, I have referred to how I try and find a positive in such situations, a moment of humour, or to show the love between loved ones, families. But what I witnessed from Mosul left me beyond that: There are times when you can find no such image, no positive. I think back to Raghad, a man I met in the hospital: For four days, I watch him sit silently by his injured son’s bed. He nods when I walk by, nothing more. Then one day he comes over and grabs my arm.
“It was not my fault,” he pleads through dead eyes, a hollow expression I have rarely seen. “I did what I thought was right.” He tells me his story: His family sheltered beneath a table in their home as bombs landed around them. The house opposite was hit, then the house next door, and at that moment his nerve gave; he told his family that they must run. As they left the front door, a third bomb dropped. Raghad’s wife, three daughters and two sons were all killed instantly. A son, Abdulah, survived, left blind in one eye. There is nothing you can say to such a story. You cannot say ‘things will get better’, because they never will. There is no hope, no positive angle. This is the real face of war and its sinking, sucking horror. I photograph his son against a white wall, a patch still on his left eye. Skin pitted by shrapnel, his expression as hollow as his father’s. I could only see the darkness and terror of what was happening. I was shooting angry, disregarding my normal practice of not showing the blood and gore. I wanted the world to see what was happening and reel away as I had. As the days passed, I knew this was wrong. It should not be about me, but about those I was photographing, and to do their stories justice I had to work in a balanced way. I don’t like the phrase ‘to give people a voice’, they have voices already – my job is to make sure those voices are heard. But there’s still that question: Why do it? What difference will a photograph make anyway? Only recently I’d heard my inspiration, the war photographer Don McCullin, say there was no point to his decades of work because wars still go on. So, if my photograph makes no difference, why point my camera at a child who’s just been injured? It’s an intrusive act.
On the last day, I sit with Dawood Salim, a 12-year-old boy who has lost both of his legs and most of his right hand. For the past week, I’ve been visiting him and his mother: He always smiles and jokes. For the first time, I feel ready to take his photograph. I ask his mother, “Do you mind if I photograph your son?” She looks at me with a defiant yet resigned stare: “When a child is injured like this, the whole world should see.” Does this answer my doubts? Does that make it all ok? Of course not. But it reminds me of my simplest role: to act as witness, to tell their story. What Dawood’s mother has said has not given me permission, but has challenged me to do what she has asked. There is no point in taking a photograph if I do not then do all I can to make sure the whole world sees it. That is where my duty lies. I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See is showing Wednesday 4th through Sunday 15th October The Old Truman Brewery, 89 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL icanonlytellyouwhatmyeyessee.com
Abdulah in Erbil
Photography Giles Duley
Port travels to Italy to discover the people, skills and traditional crafts that drive one of the oldest luxury car companies
Words George Upton Photography Alexander Coggin
lot has changed since the Maserati brothers founded their workshop in Bologna in 1914. Though today the brand sits in a unique niche between high-performance sports cars and super-lux brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the very first cars built by the brothers were pure racing machines. A pedigree in competition was established that would continue long into the 20th century after victories, sometimes at the hands of the brothers themselves, at the Indianapolis 500 and the gruelling Sicilian endurance race, Targa Florio. It was not until 1947 that Maserati would produce their first, and perhaps most iconic, production car, the A6. Today Maserati no longer races. Nor is it owned by the Maserati family, or based in Bologna, having been bought by the Modenese Orsi family in 1937, changing hands progressively until it was absorbed into the vast multinational cooperation, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, in 1993. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same. Despite the pressures of a rapid, globalised economy, Maserati is still completely designed, produced and assembled in Italy, with much of the process done by hand, relying on the same skills and techniques used by the Maserati brothers over a century ago. “We feel we are still creating, rather than mass-market manufacturing,” Reid Bigland, the Head of Maserati, tells me when I meet him at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “We’re not out to win any global sales records – we want to maintain that attention to detail, using Italian
craftspeople rather than a cookie-cutter assembly line.” It’s perhaps a surprising approach for a company to take in such a competitive market, but it’s one that seems to be working: Sales are up 60 per cent from 2016, and 30 per cent from the year before.
ear the historic Fiat factory of Mirafiori on the outskirts of Turin – where Maserati’s latest model, an SUV called the Levante, is assembled – sits the FCA design centre, Centro Stile. It’s here, in the vast renovated factory buildings – long, high ceilinged and light filled – that the latest offerings from the group’s brands are conceived. Maserati’s design studio has been based here since 2008. Traditionally, Maserati has relied on the talents of outside contractors, such as the iconic coachbuilder Pininfarina and the ‘car designer of the century’, Giorgetto Giugiaro, to define the aesthetics of their cars, but since the move to Turin this has been the responsibility of the brand’s design director, Marco Tencone. As we sit in a large dark room – set up like a cinema but with an operator stationed in the corner at a softly whirring computer, manipulating a three-dimensional rendering of a car on the extra-wide screen – Tencone explains how he approaches designing a new Maserati. “To achieve the warmth typical of Italian cars, it is vital to work both physically and virtually on a computer and to move from one to the other, balancing the two,” he tells me. “A virtual rendering allows us to analyse something
in great detail.” Tencone instructs the operator to zoom into the front of the car, so that the subtly recessed parking sensors – in reality the size of a two-pence piece – grow on the screen to the height of a person. “But we do not yet have a system with which we can realise a car completely in virtual. To check the main volume and proportions, to give a human feeling to the car’s form, you need to work physically.” And so, at the very beginning of the project, the designers will always start by putting pen to paper – or, as is increasingly the case with younger members of the team, stylus to drawing pad. Then the ‘balancing’ begins. With a rough idea of the shape and the essential dimensions provided by the team of engineers in Modena, a basic virtual model is produced. Next, the group’s in-house modelling team produce a 3:8 scale model in clay which allows the designers to experiment with the form. “It is like sculpture,” Tencone enthuses. “We can feel directly what we are creating. Adding or taking away two or three millimetres can be enough to completely change the feeling of the surface.” This updated design is then fed back into the virtual model before a full-scale clay model is produced to fix the final volume. Then it’s back to the computer to tweak details like the parking sensor and refine the data so it can be used to program the machines for production. Finally, a realistic version of the car is mockedup from resin by the modelling team, complete with real headlamps, wheels and Plexiglas windows for final approval by management.
MAURIZIO ROSSETTI Clay-Model Maker
I started working 40 years ago, when I was 15, as a battilastra – someone who shapes the body of a car from a sheet of metal over a wooden mould with a hammer. I did that for 10 years before the company I worked for changed the way we worked. They wanted to introduce clay modelling and sent five young guys – we were between 22 and 24 years old – to do a six-month course with an American teacher. I liked it and, after working on a special project outside the company for a year, I kept going. I’ve been making clay models here for 25 years.
Left: Rossella Gualasco, FCA’s head of colour and materials, with one of thousands of fabric samples collected from trade shows and visits to ateliers and manufacturers. Although her department works across all FCA brands – including Fiat, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo – Maserati receives more attention than others to research high-end materials and collaborate with artisans.
Opposite: Marco Tencone, Maserati’s design director, in the design centre’s virtualimaging room. Powerful software enables the designers to experiment with the car’s form in a variety of virtual environments and lighting conditions.
Top: In the factory in Modena, the bodies – supported in yellow cradles which allow them to be rotated for easier access – move from station to station every 21 minutes and 50 seconds. Bottom left: The engine, supplied by Ferrari, is assembled with the suspension and powertrain, in Modena.
Opposite from top: The wheels being fitted. A door panel, with the customer’s choice of interior fittings and sound system, waiting to be assembled.
Bottom right: The engine is then ‘married’ to the body, a crucial moment in the car’s assembly.
A range of power and hand tools are used during the assembly process. Factory team leader Emanuele Della Rocca
EMANUELE DELLA ROCCA Factory Team Leader
I’ve been working with Maserati for 15 years. I’m responsible for getting the team to work to the best of their abilities, as well as solving any problems to ensure that the assembly line moves on time: every 21 minutes and 50 seconds. If there’s a component missing, for example, I have to make sure it’s found in time. Maserati has this incredible prestige and it’s amazing to work here. Almost all cars today are made by robots but we do it manually. It’s important because it’s what makes these cars great – you feel like it’s yours when you work on it with your own hands, you really live with the car. Each one becomes something unique.
I ask Tencone what principles guide him through this process. “First, regardless of what it says on our passports, we approach it as Italians,” he says. “If we design something with two lines, for example, it cannot be predictable or banal. These two lines must convey some emotion. Then, we look at historic Maserati design” (all current models that Maserati produces, even the Levante, have strong references to past iterations). “They function as a sort of manifesto that describes an equilibrium between extreme strong elements and an elegance.”
very Maserati is made to order. From the colour of the brake callipers to the stitching on the leather upholstery, each of the five models Maserati currently produces – the Quattroporte, GranTurismo, GranCabrio, Ghibli and Levante, can be tailored to each customer’s particular idiosyncrasies. Although the customer may have to wait up to five months before they see their car on their driveway – because, in factories like the one producing the GranTurismo and GranCabrio in the centre of Modena, the majority of the assembly is by hand. Built in 1937 on the outskirts of Modena, the factory has long since been absorbed into the city’s historic centre. Here, 20 cars roll off the production line every day. By most standards this is a crawling pace. Yet, as Bigland tells me back in Goodwood, “It may not be as efficient from a cost perspective, but it wouldn’t be a Maserati without that manual attention to detail.” Incredibly, in this age of automation and maximising profit margins, in the Modena plant there is only one job that a human cannot do as well as a robot: applying glue to a windscreen. “You just cannot have this level of detail and customisation with a robot,” Giorgio Manicardi – who has worked at Maserati for 35 years before retiring in 2001 – tells me as we start a tour of the factory. Instead, here, as has been the case for over a century, it comes down to experience and skill of the workers. After just over a day on the production line – with the pre-fabricated chassis ‘married’ with its Ferrari engine, the suspension and powertrain fitted and the bespoke interior installed – the finished car reaches the doors of the factory. It’s here, having cut the cord that prevents 155
Right: The stitching of much of the leather interior still relies on traditional, handcrafted processes to accommodate the huge number of finishing options available.
Bottom: Before a finished car is tested on the road, a cover is fitted to the front grille and bonnet to protect against stones chipping the paintwork.
the car’s battery from being connected, that Luca Cesarini – the company’s engineering – turns the key in the ignition. “It’s like the cry of a newborn baby,” he says, grinning, as the engine roars into life. The car still has a long journey left before it reaches its new owner however and will move to another area of the factory for a series of tests – vibration, water ingress, gearbox balancing – before it is prepared for being driven on the road. “When your Maserati is delivered, it will have done at least 30 miles, if not 50 or 55,” Manicardi explains. “The test drivers are very good mechanics, and if they notice anything wrong, the car won’t leave the factory until it is
perfect.” The car is then cleaned and inspected under powerful lights for defects before, finally, covered in a white cloak, the car is taken by transporter and shipped globally. The whole process, from the first tentative sketches to the car eventually leaving the factory, demonstrates how Maserati has managed – through successive ownerships and a century that has seen a greater pace of change than ever before – to evolve without losing its identity. In placing such emphasis on the hand-made and on quality, continually resisting commercial pressures to automate and relocate, the marque continues to defend its unique position in the automotive industry.
And yet, I wonder, will Maserati be able to evolve to face the challenges of the next century – the spectre of global warming and ever greater moral responsibility placed on the automotive industry? “We have to,” Bigland tells me. “We’ll just have to work a little harder to preserve the Maserati DNA.” “In fact,” says Klaus Busse, head of the FCA design centre, “eliminating the internal combustion engine will allow us to return to some of the more sculptural shapes of the early Maseratis. There’s a beautiful video of a red A6 from 1953 – we muted the sound, played classical music over it and realised that a Maserati can survive without the sound of its engine.”
Right: Once the car has been pushed out of the factory, the cord preventing the car’s battery from being connected is cut.
Below: The key is turned in the ignition for the first time, and the engine roars into life.
GAETANO IPPOLITO Test Driver
I’ve been working at Maserati for 15 years. As a test driver you have to follow a procedure – some things can only be identified on the road, after a certain number of miles, and others, such as how the car conforms to the specifications requested by the customer, can be identified immediately. Either way you have to be quite sensitive to the car and how it drives, in order to be able to work out what the problems are, as well as to have fast reflexes when driving, because almost all the testing is done out on the road – in the city, the motorway and the mountains.
Art Forms in Nature
Photography John Spinks
Styling and art direction Scott Stephenson
Leather coat VERSACE crew-neck T-shirt SUNSPEL wool pleated trousers LOUIS VUITTON
Leather blazer, wool V-neck jumper and leather trousers PRADA
Cotton shirt and wool trousers ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA
Velvet embroidered blazer DOLCE & GABBANA wool crew-neck jumper SUNSPEL wool trousers DIOR HOMME
Embellished blazer and trousers DIOR HOMME crew-neck T-shirt SUNSPEL
Leather blazer and wool V-neck jumper PRADA
Asintur, ulpari commolestios consequis dolorentiure nimpore nimint, ut omnim quas exerum aut es atendae magnate mporem laute eatur siti re consequ asperite ipsum iustet earunt estium laborum ipsum simi, tent
Wool V-neck jumper LOUIS VUITTON
Embroidered coat DRIES VAN NOTEN Set design Annette Masterman at East Photographic Models Charlie Ayres-Taylor at Storm, Ellis Kennedy at Milk Management
The Autumn / Winter Collections
Photography Kalle Gustafsson
Styling Dan May
RALPH LAUREN PURPLE LABEL
Production Hinoki Productions LA Grooming Johnnie Sapong at The Wall Group Casting Ajani Flowers, Hayden Howard and Cash Mathieu Photography assistant Magnus Petersson Special thanks Sofie Howard
As communication with life beyond Earth becomes ever more likely, humans must not only ask with whom we will be talking, and how, but perhaps most importantly of allâ€Ś Why? Words Steven Johnson Illustration Bill Bragg
n 16th November 1974, a few hundred astronomers, government officials and other dignitaries gathered in the tropical forests of Puerto Rico’s north-west interior, a four-hour drive from San Juan. The occasion was a rechristening of the Arecibo Observatory, at the time the largest radio telescope in the world. The mammoth structure – an immense concrete-and-aluminium saucer as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall, planted implausibly inside a limestone sinkhole in the middle of a mountainous jungle – had been upgraded to ensure its ability to survive the volatile hurricane season and to increase its precision tenfold. To celebrate the reopening, the astronomers who maintained the observatory decided to take the most sensitive device yet constructed for listening to the cosmos and transform it, briefly, into a machine for talking back. After a series of speeches, the assembled crowd sat in silence at the edge of the telescope while the public-address system blasted nearly three minutes of two-tone noise through the muggy afternoon heat. To the listeners, the pattern was indecipherable, but somehow the experience of hearing those two notes oscillating in the air moved many in the crowd to tears. That 168 seconds of noise, now known as the Arecibo message, was the brainchild of the astronomer Frank Drake, then the director of the organisation that oversaw the Arecibo facility. The broadcast marked the first time a human being had intentionally transmitted a message targeting another solar system. The engineers had translated the missive into sound, so that the assembled group would have something to experience during the transmission. But its true medium was the silent, invisible pulse of radio waves, travelling at the speed of light.
It seemed to most of the onlookers to be a hopeful act, if a largely symbolic one: a message in a bottle tossed into the sea of deep space. But within days, the Royal Astronomer of England, Martin Ryle, released a thunderous condemnation of Drake’s stunt. By alerting the cosmos of our existence, Ryle wrote, we were risking catastrophe. Arguing that “any creatures out there [might be] malevolent or hungry,” Ryle demanded that the International Astronomical Union denounce Drake’s message and explicitly forbid any further communications. It was irresponsible, Ryle fumed, to tinker with interstellar outreach when such gestures, however noble their intentions, might lead to the destruction of all life on Earth. Today, more than four decades later, we still do not know if Ryle’s fears were warranted, because the Arecibo message is still eons away from its intended recipient, a cluster of roughly 300,000 stars known as M13. If you find yourself in the Northern Hemisphere this summer on a clear night, locate the Hercules constellation in the sky, 21 stars that form the image of a man, arms outstretched, perhaps kneeling. Imagine hurtling 250 trillion miles toward those stars. Though you would have travelled far outside our solar system, you would only be a tiny fraction of the way to M13. But if you were somehow able to turn on a ham radio receiver and tune it to 2,380 MHz, you might catch the message in flight: a long series of rhythmic pulses, 1,679 of them to be exact, with a clear, repetitive structure that would make them immediately detectable as a product of intelligent life. In its intended goal of communicating with life-forms outside our planet, the Arecibo message has surprisingly sparse company. Perhaps the most famous is housed aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft – a goldplated audiovisual disc, containing multilingual greetings and other evidence of human civilisation – which slipped free of our solar system just a few years ago, travelling at a relatively sluggish 35,000 miles per hour. By contrast, at the end of the three-minute transmission of the Arecibo message, its initial pulses had already reached the orbit of Mars. The entire message took less than a day to leave the solar system. True, some signals emanating from human activity have travelled much farther than even Arecibo, thanks to the incidental leakage of radio and television broadcasts. This was a key plot point in Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact, which imagined an alien civilisation detecting the existence of humans through early television broadcasts from the Berlin Olympic Games, including clips of Hitler speaking at the opening ceremony. Those grainy signals of Jesse Owens, and later of Howdy Doody and the McCarthy hearings, have ventured farther into space than the Arecibo pulses. But in the 40 years since Drake transmitted the message, just over a dozen intentional messages have been sent to the stars, most of them stunts of one fashion or another, including one broadcast of the Beatles’ ‘Across the Universe’ to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that song’s recording. (We can only hope the aliens, if they exist, receive that message before they find the Hitler footage.) In the age of radio telescopes, scientists have spent far more energy trying to look for signs that other life might exist than they have signalling the existence of our own. Drake himself is now more famous for
“The newfound interest in messaging has been piqued in large part by an explosion
inaugurating the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) nearly 60 years ago, when he used a telescope in West Virginia to scan two stars for structured radio waves. Today the non-profit SETI Institute oversees a network of telescopes and computers listening for signs of intelligence in deep space. A new SETI-like project called Breakthrough Listen, funded by a $100 million grant from the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, promises to radically increase our ability to detect signs of intelligent life. As a species, we are gathered around more interstellar mailboxes than ever before, waiting eagerly for a letter to arrive. But we have, until recently, shown little interest in sending our own. Now this taciturn phase may be coming to an end, if a growing multidisciplinary group of scientists and amateur space enthusiasts have their way. A newly formed group known as METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), led by the former SETI scientist Douglas Vakoch, is planning an ongoing series of messages to begin in 2018. And Milner’s Breakthrough Listen endeavour has also promised to support a ‘Breakthrough Message’ companion project, including an open competition to design the messages that we will transmit to the stars. But as messaging schemes proliferate, they have been met with resistance. The intellectual descendants of Martin Ryle include luminaries like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, and they caution that an assumption of interstellar friendship is the wrong way to approach the question of extraterrestrial life. They argue that an advanced alien civilisation might well respond to our interstellar greetings with the same graciousness that Cortés showed the Aztecs, making silence the more prudent option. If you believe that these broadcasts have a plausible chance of making contact with an alien intelligence, the choice to send them must rank as one of the most important decisions we will ever make as a species. Are we going to be galactic introverts, huddled behind the door and merely listening for signs of life outside? Or are we going to be extroverts, conversation-starters? And if it’s the latter, what should we say?
mid the decommissioned splendour of Fort Mason, on the northern edge of San Francisco, sits a bar and event space called the Interval. It’s run by the Long Now Foundation, an organisation founded by Stewart Brand and Brian Eno, among others, to cultivate truly long-term thinking. The group is perhaps most famous for its plan to build a clock that will successfully keep time for 10,000 years. Long Now says the San Francisco space is designed to push the mind away from our attention-sapping present, and this is apparent from the 10,000-year clock prototypes to the menu of ‘extinct’ cocktails. The Interval seemed like a fitting backdrop for my first meeting with Doug Vakoch, in part because Long Now has been advising METI on its message plans and in part because the whole concept of sending interstellar messages is the epitome of long-term decision-making. The choice to send a message into space is one that may well not generate a meaningful outcome for a thousand years, or a hundred thousand. It is hard to imagine any decision confronting humanity that has a longer time horizon.
As Vakoch and I settled into a booth, I asked him how he found his way to his current vocation. “I liked science when I was a kid, but I couldn’t make up my mind which science,” he told me. Eventually, he found out about a burgeoning new field of study known as exobiology, or sometimes astrobiology, that examined the possible forms life could take on other planets. The field was speculative by nature: After all, its researchers had no actual specimens to study. To imagine other forms of life in the universe, exobiologists had to be versed in the astrophysics of stars and planets; the chemical reactions that could capture and store energy in these speculative organisms; the climate science that explains the weather systems on potentially life-compatible planets; the biological forms that might evolve in those different environments. With exobiology, Vakoch realised, he didn’t have to settle on one discipline: “When you think about life outside the Earth, you get to dabble in all of them.” As early as high school, Vakoch began thinking about how you might communicate with an organism that had evolved on another planet, the animating question of a relatively obscure subfield of exobiology known as exosemiotics. By the time Vakoch reached high school in the 1970s, radio astronomy had advanced far enough to turn exosemiotics from a glorified thought experiment into something slightly more practical. Vakoch did a science-fair project on interstellar languages, and he continued to follow the field during his college years, even as he was studying comparative religion at Carleton College in Minnesota. “The issue that really hit me early on, and that has stayed with me, is just the challenge of creating a message that would be understandable,” Vakoch says. Hedging his bets, he pursued a graduate degree in clinical psychology, thinking it might help him better understand the mind of some unknown organism across the universe. If the exosemiotics passion turned out to be a dead end professionally, he figured that he could always retreat back to a more traditional career path as a psychologist. During Vakoch’s graduate years, SETI was transforming itself from a NASA programme sustained by government funding to an independent non-profit organisation, supported in part by the new fortunes of the tech sector. Vakoch moved to California and joined SETI in 1999. In the years that followed, Vakoch and other scientists involved in the programme grew increasingly vocal in their argument for sending messages as well as listening for them. The ‘passive’ approach was essential, they argued, but an ‘active’ SETI – one targeting nearby star systems with high-powered radio signals – would increase the odds of contact. Concerned that embracing an active approach would imperil its funding, the SETI board resisted Vakoch’s efforts. Eventually Vakoch decided to form his own international organisation, METI, with a multidisciplinary team that includes the former NASA chief historian Steven J Dick, the French science historian Florence Raulin Cerceau, the Indian ecologist Abhik Gupta and the Canadian anthropologist Jerome H Barkow. The newfound interest in messaging has been piqued in large part by an explosion of newly discovered planets. We now know that the universe is teeming with planets occupying what exobiologists call ‘the Goldilocks zone’: not too hot and not too cold, with ‘just right’ surface temperatures capable of supporting liquid water. At the start of Drake’s
of newly discovered planets.
We now know that the universe is teeming with planets occupying what exobiologists call
‘the Goldilocks zone’.” 195
Illustration by Bill Bragg
career in the 1950s, not a single planet outside our solar system had been observed. Today we can target a long list of potential Goldilocks-zone planets, not just distant clusters of stars. “Now we know that virtually all stars have planets,” Vakoch says, adding that, of these stars, “maybe one out of five have potentially habitable planets. So there’s a lot of real estate that could be inhabited.” When Frank Drake and Carl Sagan first began thinking about message construction in the 1960s, their approach was genuinely equivalent to the proverbial message in a bottle. Now, we may not know the exact addresses of planets where life is likely, but we have identified many promising ZIP codes. The recent discovery of the Trappist-1 planets, three of which are potentially habitable, triggered such excitement in part because those planets were, relatively speaking, so close to home: just 40 light years from Earth. If the Arecibo message does somehow find its way to an advanced civilisation in M13, word would not come back for at least 50,000 years. But a targeted message sent to Trappist-1 could generate a reply before the end of the century. Frank Drake is now 87 and lives with his wife in a house nestled in an old-growth redwood forest, at the end of a narrow, winding road in the hills near Santa Cruz. His circular driveway wraps around the trunk of a redwood bigger than a pool table. As I left my car, I found myself thinking again of the long now: a man who sends messages with a potential life span of 50,000 years, living among trees that first took root a millennium ago. Drake has been retired for more than a decade, but when I asked him about the Arecibo message, his face lit up at the memory. “We had just finished a very big construction project at Arecibo, and I was director then, and so they said, ‘Can you please arrange a big ceremony?’” he recalled. “We had to have some kind of eye-catching event for this ceremony. What could we do that would be spectacular? We could send a message!” But how can you send a message to a life-form that may or may not exist and that you know nothing at all about, other than the fact that it evolved somewhere in the Milky Way? You need to start by explaining how the message is supposed to be read, which is known in exosemiotics as the ‘primer’. You don’t need a primer on Earth: You point to a cow, and you say, “Cow”. The plaques that NASA sent into space with Pioneer and Voyager had the advantage of being physical objects that could convey visual information, which at least enables you to connect words with images of the objects they refer to. In other words, you draw a cow and then put the word “cow” next to the drawing and slowly, with enough pointing, a language comes into view. But physical objects can’t be moved fast enough to get to a potential recipient in useful time scales. You need electromagnetic waves if you want to reach across the Milky Way. But how do you point to something with a radio wave? Even if you figured out a way to somehow point to a cow with electromagnetic signals, the aliens aren’t going to have cows in their world, which means the reference will most likely be lost on them. Instead, you need to think hard about the things that our hypothetical friends in the Trappist-1 system will have in common with us. If their civilisation is advanced enough to recognise structured data in radio waves, they must share many of our scientific and technological concepts. If they are hearing our message, that means they are capable of parsing structured disturbances in the electromagnetic spectrum, which means they understand the electromagnetic spectrum in some meaningful way.
“If we do ever manage to make contact with another intelligent life form,
then almost by definition, our new pen pals
he trick, then, is just getting the conversation started. Drake figured that he could count on intelligent aliens possessing the concept of simple numbers: one, three, 10, etc. And if they have numbers, then they will also very likely have the rest of what we know as basic math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Furthermore, Drake reasoned, if they have multiplication and division, then they are likely to understand the concept of prime numbers – the group of numbers that are divisible only by themselves and one. (In Contact, the intercepted alien message begins with a long string of primes: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and so on.) Many objects in space, like pulsars, send out radio signals with a certain periodicity: flashes of electromagnetic activity that switch on and off at regular rates. Primes, however, are a telltale sign of intelligent life. “Nature never uses prime numbers,” Drake says. “But mathematicians do.” Drake’s Arecibo message drew upon a close relative of the prime numbers to construct its message. He chose to send exactly 1,679 pulses, because 1,679 is a semiprime number: a number that can be formed only by multiplying two prime numbers together, in this case 73 and 23. Drake used that mathematical quirk to turn his pulses of electromagnetic energy into a visual system. To simplify his approach, imagine I send you a message consisting of 10 Xs and 5 Os: XOXOXXXXOXXOXOX. You notice that the number 15 is a semi-prime number, and so you organise the symbols in a 3-by-5 grid and leave the Os as blank spaces. The result is this:
If you were an English speaker, you might just recognise a greeting in that message, the word “HI” mapped out using only a binary language of on-and-off states. Drake took the same approach, only using a much larger semiprime, which gave him a 23-by-73 grid to send a more complicated message. Because his imagined correspondents in M13 were not likely to understand any human language, he filled the grid with a mix of mathematical and visual referents. The top of the grid counted from one to 10 in binary code – effectively announcing to the aliens that numbers will be represented using these symbols. Having established a way of counting, Drake then moved to connect the concept of numbers to some reference that the citizens of M13 would likely share with us. For this step, he encoded the atomic numbers for five elements: hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorous, the building blocks of DNA. Other parts of the message were more visually oriented. Drake used the on-off pulses of the radio signal to ‘draw’ a pixelated image of a human body. He also included a sketch of our solar system and of the Arecibo telescope itself. The message said, in effect: This is how we count; this is what we are made of; this is where we came from; this is what we look like; and this is the technology we are using to send this message to you. As inventive as Drake’s exosemiotics were in 1974, the Arecibo message was ultimately more of a proof-of-concept than a genuine attempt to make contact, as Drake himself is the first to admit. For starters, the 25,000 light years that separate us from M13 raise a legitimate question about whether humans will even be around – or recognizably human – by the time a message comes back. The choice of where to send it was almost entirely haphazard. The METI project intends to improve on the Arecibo model by directly targeting nearby Goldilocks-zone planets. One of the most recent planets added to that list orbits the star Gliese 411, a red dwarf located eight light years away from Earth. On a spring evening in the Oakland hills, our own sun putting on a spectacular display as it slowly set over the Golden Gate Bridge, Vakoch and I met at one of the observatories at the Chabot Space and Science Center to take a peek at Gliese 411. A half-moon overhead reduced our visibility but not so much that I couldn’t make out the faint tangerine glimmer of the star, a single blurred point of light that had travelled nearly 50 trillion miles across the universe to land on my retina. Even with the power of the Oakland telescope, there was no way to spot a planet orbiting the red dwarf. But in February of this year, a team of researchers using the Keck I telescope at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii announced that they had detected a ‘super-Earth’ in orbit around Gliese, a rocky and hot planet larger than our own. The METI group aims to improve on the Arecibo message not just by targeting specific planets, like that super-Earth orbiting Gliese, but also by rethinking the nature of the message itself. “Drake’s original design
will be far more advanced
than we are.”
plays into the bias that vision is universal among intelligent life,” Vakoch told me. Visual diagrams – whether formed through semiprime grids or engraved on plaques – seem like a compelling way to encode information to us because humans happen to have evolved an unusually acute sense of vision. But perhaps the aliens followed a different evolutionary path and found their way to a technologically advanced civilisation with an intelligence that was rooted in some other sense: hearing, for example, or some other way of perceiving the world around them for which there is no earthly equivalent. Like so much of the SETI/METI debate, the question of visual messaging quickly spirals out into a deeper meditation, in this instance on the connection between intelligence and visual acuity. It is no accident that eyes developed independently so many times over the course of evolution on Earth, given the fact that light conveys information faster than any other conduit. That transmission-speed advantage would presumably apply on other planets in the Goldilocks zone, even if they happened to be on the other side of the Milky Way, and so it seems plausible that intelligent creatures would evolve some sort of visual system as well. But even more universal than sight would be the experience of time. Hans Freudenthal’s Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse, a seminal book of exosemiotics published more than a half-century ago, relied heavily on temporal cues in its primer stage. Vakoch and his collaborators have been working with Freudenthal’s language in their early drafts for the message. In Lincos, duration is used as a key building block. A pulse that lasts for a certain stretch (say, in human terms, one second) is followed by a sequence of pulses that signify the ‘word’ for one; a pulse that lasts for six seconds is followed by the word for six. The words for basic math properties can be conveyed by combining pulses of different lengths. You might demonstrate the property of addition by sending the word for ‘three’ and ‘six’ and then sending a pulse that lasts for nine seconds. “It’s a way of being able to point at objects when you don’t have anything right in front of you,” Vakoch explains. Other messaging enthusiasts think we needn’t bother worrying about primers and common referents. “Forget about sending mathematical relationships, the value of pi, prime numbers or the Fibonacci series,” the senior SETI astronomer, Seth Shostak, argued in a 2009 book. “No, if we want to broadcast a message from Earth, I propose that we just feed the Google servers into the transmitter. Send the aliens the World Wide Web. It would take half a year or less to transmit this in the microwave; using infrared lasers shortens the transmit time to no more than two days.” Shostak believes that the sheer magnitude of the transmitted data would enable the aliens to decipher it. There is some precedent for this in the history of archaeologists studying dead languages: The hardest code to crack is one with only a few fragments. Sending all of Google would be a logical continuation of Drake’s 1974 message, in terms of content if not encoding. “The thing about the Are-
cibo message is that, in a sense, it’s brief but its intent is encyclopaedic,” Vakoch told me as we waited for the sky to darken in the Oakland hills. “One of the things that we are exploring for our transmission is the opposite extreme. Rather than being encyclopaedic, being selective. Instead of this huge digital data dive, trying to do something elegant. Part of that is thinking about what are the most fundamental concepts we need.” There is something provocative about the question Vakoch is wrestling with here: Of all the many manifestations of our achievements as a species, what’s the simplest message we can create that will signal that we’re interesting, worthy of an interstellar reply? But to METI’s critics, what he should be worrying about instead is the form that the reply might take: a death ray, or an occupying army. Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organisation in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. “Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,” the statement argued, “raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.” One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. “I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,” he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. “If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?” The anti-METI movement is predicated on a grim statistical likelihood: If we do ever manage to make contact with another intelligent life form, then almost by definition, our new pen pals will be far more advanced than we are. The best way to understand this is to consider, on a percentage basis, just how young our own high-tech civilisation actually is. We have been sending structured radio signals from Earth for only the last 100 years. If the universe were exactly 14 billion years old, then it would have taken 13,999,999,900 years for radio communication to be harnessed on our planet. The odds that our message would reach a society that had been tinkering with radio for a shorter, or even similar, period of time would be staggeringly long. Imagine another planet that deviates from our timetable by just a tenth of 1 percent: If they are more advanced than us, then they will have been using radio (and successor technologies) for 14 million years. Of course, depending on where they live in the universe, their signals might take millions of years to reach us. But even if you factor in that transmission lag, if we pick up a signal from another galaxy, we will almost certainly find ourselves in conversation with a more advanced civilisation.
t is this asymmetry that has convinced so many future-minded thinkers that METI is a bad idea. The history of colonialism here on Earth weighs particularly heavy on the imaginations of the METI critics. Stephen Hawking, for instance, made this observation in a 2010 documentary series: “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” David Brin echoes the Hawking critique: “Every single case we know of a more technologically advanced culture contacting a less technologically advanced culture resulted at least in pain.” METI proponents counter the critics with two main arguments. The first is essentially that the horse has already left the barn: Given that we have been ‘leaking’ radio waves in the form of Leave It to Beaver and the nightly news for decades, and given that other civilisations are likely to be far more advanced than we are, and thus capable of detecting even weak signals, then it seems likely that we are already visible to extraterrestrials. In other words, they know we’re here, but they haven’t considered us to be worthy of conversation yet. “Maybe in fact there are a lot more civilisations out there, and even nearby planets are populated, but they’re sim199
ply observing us,” Vakoch argues. “It’s as if we are in some galactic zoo, and if they’ve been watching us, it’s like watching zebras talking to one another. But what if one of those zebras suddenly turns toward you and with its hooves starts scratching out the prime numbers. You’d relate to that zebra differently!” Brin thinks that argument dangerously underestimates the difference between a high-power, targeted METI transmission and the passive leakage of media signals, which are far more difficult to detect. “Think about it this way: If you want to communicate with a Boy Scout camp on the other side of the lake, you could kneel down at the end of the lake and slap the water in Morse code,” he says. “And if they are spectacularly technologically advanced Boy Scouts who happened also to be looking your way, they might build instruments that would be able to parse out your Morse code. But then you whip out your laser-pointer and point it at their dock. That is exactly the order of magnitude difference between picking up [reruns of ] I Love Lucy from the 1980s, when we were at our noisiest, and what these guys want to do.” METI defenders also argue that the threat of some Klingon-style invasion is implausible, given the distances involved. If, in fact, advanced civilisations were capable of zipping around the galaxy at the speed of light, we would have already encountered them. The much more likely situation is that only communications can travel that fast, and so a malevolent presence on some distant planet will only be able to send us hate mail. But critics think that sense of security is unwarranted. Writing in Scientific American, the former chairman of SETI, John Gertz, argued that “a civilization with malign intent that is only modestly more advanced than we are might be able to annihilate Earth with ease by means of a small projectile filled with a self-replicating toxin or nano gray goo; a kinetic missile traveling at an appreciable percentage of the speed of light; or weaponry beyond our imagination.” Brin looks to our own technological progress as a sign of where a more advanced civilisation might be in terms of interstellar combat: “It is possible that within just 50 years, we could create an antimatter rocket that could propel a substantial pellet of several kilograms, at half the speed of light at times, to intersect with the orbit of a planet within 10 light years of us.” Even a few kilograms colliding at that speed would produce an explosion much greater than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations combined. “And if we could do that in 50 years, imagine what anybody else could do, completely obeying Einstein and the laws of physics.” Interestingly, Frank Drake himself is not a supporter of the METI efforts, though he does not share Hawking and Musk’s fear of interstellar conquistadors. “We send messages all the time, free of charge,” he says. “There’s a big shell out there now 80 light years around us. A civilisation only a little more advanced than we are can pick those things up. So the point is we are already sending copious amounts of information.” Drake believes that any other advanced civilisation out there must be doing the same, so scientists like Vakoch should devote themselves to
picking up on that chatter instead of trying to talk back. METI will consume resources, Drake says, that would be “better spent listening and not sending”. METI critics, of course, might be right about the frightening sophistication of these other, presumably older civilisations but wrong about the likely nature of their response. Yes, they could be capable of sending projectiles across the galaxy at a quarter of the speed of light. But their longevity would also suggest that they have figured out how to avoid self-destruction on a planetary scale. As Steven Pinker has argued, human beings have become steadily less violent over the last 500 years; per capita deaths from military conflict are most likely at an all-time low. Could this be a recurring pattern throughout the universe, played out on much longer time scales: the older a civilisation gets, the less warlike it becomes? In which case, if we do get a message to extraterrestrials, then perhaps they really will come in peace. These sorts of questions inevitably circle back to the two foundational thought experiments that SETI and METI are predicated upon: the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation. The paradox, first formulated by the Italian physicist and Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, begins with the assumption that the universe contains an unthinkably large number of stars, with a significant percentage of them orbited by planets in the Goldilocks zone. If intelligent life arises on even a small fraction of those planets, then the universe should be teeming with advanced civilisations. And yet to date, we have seen no evidence of those civilisations, even after several decades of scanning the skies through SETI searches. Fermi’s question, apparently raised during a lunch conversation at Los Alamos in the early 1950s, was a simple one: “Where is everybody?”
Could this be a recurring pattern throughout the universe,
played out on much longer time scales: the older a civilisation gets,
The Drake Equation is an attempt to answer that question. The equation dates back to one of the great academic retreats in the history of scholarship: a 1961 meeting at the Green Bank observatory in West Virginia, which included Frank Drake, a 26-year-old Carl Sagan and the dolphin researcher (and later psychedelic explorer) John Lilly. During the session, Drake shared his musings on the Fermi Paradox, formulated as an equation. If we start scanning the cosmos for signs of intelligent life, Drake asked, how likely are we to actually detect something? The equation didn’t generate a clear answer, because almost all the variables were unknown at the time and continue to be largely unknown half a century later. But the equation had a clarifying effect, nonetheless. In mathematical form, it looks like this:
N= R* x ƒp x ne x ƒl x ƒi x ƒc x L
the less warlike it becomes?”
N represents the number of extant, communicative civilisations in the Milky Way. The initial variable R* corresponds to the rate of star formation in the galaxy, effectively giving you the total number of potential suns that could support life. The remaining variables then serve as a kind of nested sequence of filters: Given the number of stars in the Milky Way, what fraction of those have planets, and how many of those have an environment that can support life? On those potentially hospitable planets, how often does life itself actually emerge, and what fraction of that life evolves into intelligent life, and what fraction of that life eventually leads to a civilisation’s transmitting detectable signals into space? At the end of his equation, Drake placed the crucial variable L, which is the average length of time during which those civilisations emit those signals. What makes the Drake Equation so mesmerising is in part the way it forces the mind to yoke together so many different intellectual disciplines in a single framework. As you move from left to right in the equation, you shift from astrophysics, to the biochemistry of life, to evolutionary theory, to cognitive science, all the way to theories of technological development. Your guess about each value in the Drake Equation winds up revealing a whole worldview: Perhaps you think life is rare, but when it does emerge, intelligent life usually follows; or perhaps you think microbial life is ubiquitous throughout the cosmos, but more complex organisms almost never form. The equation is notoriously vulnerable to very different outcomes, depending on the numbers you assign to each variable. The most provocative value is the last one: L, the average life span of a signal-transmitting civilisation. You don’t have to be a Pollyanna to defend a relatively high L value. All you need is to believe that it is possible for civilisations to become fundamentally self-sustaining and survive for millions of years. Even if one in a thousand intelligent life forms in space generates a million-year civilisation, the value of L increases meaningfully. But if your L-value is low, that implies a further question: What is keeping it low? Do technological civilisations keep flickering on and off in the Milky Way, like so many fireflies in space? Do they run out of resources? Do they blow themselves up? Since Drake first sketched out the equation in 1961, two fundamental developments have reshaped our understanding of the problem. First, the numbers on the left-hand side of the equation (representing 201
“Should we create superintelligent machines that exceed our own intellectual capabilities
by such a wide But to some METI critics, even a less-apocalyptic interpretation of the Fermi Paradox still suggests caution. Perhaps advanced civilisations tend to reach a point at which they decide, for some unknown reason, that it is in their collective best interest not to transmit any detectable signal to their neighbours in the Milky Way. “That’s the other answer for the Fermi Paradox,” Vakoch says with a smile. “There’s a Stephen Hawking on every planet, and that’s why we don’t hear from them.” In his California home among the redwoods, Frank Drake has a version of the Arecibo message visually encoded in a very different format: not a series of radio-wave pulses but as a stained-glass window in his living room. A grid of pixels on a cerulean blue background, it almost resembles a game of Space Invaders. Stained glass is an appropriate medium, given the nature of the message: an offering dispatched to unknown beings residing somewhere in the sky. the amount of stars with habitable planets) have increased by several orders of magnitude. And second, we have been listening for signals for decades and heard nothing. As Brin puts it: “Something is keeping the Drake Equation small. And the difference between all the people in the SETI debates is not whether that’s true, but where in the Drake panoply the fault lies.” If the left-hand values keep getting bigger and bigger, the question is which variables on the right-hand side are the filters. As Brin puts it, we want the filter to be behind us, not the one variable, L, that still lies ahead of us. We want the emergence of intelligent life to be astonishingly rare; if the opposite is true, and intelligent life is abundant in the Milky Way, then L values might be low, perhaps measured in centuries and not even millenniums. In that case, the adoption of a technologically advanced lifestyle might be effectively simultaneous with extinction. First you invent radio, then you invent technologies capable of destroying all life on your planet and shortly thereafter you push the button and your civilisation goes dark. The L-value question explains why so many of METI’s opponents – like Musk and Hawking – are also concerned with the threat of extinction-level events triggered by other potential threats: superintelligent computers, runaway nanobots, nuclear weapons, asteroids. In a low L-value universe, planet-wide annihilation is an imminent possibility. Even if a small fraction of alien civilisations out there would be inclined to shoot a two-kilogram pellet toward us at half the speed of light, is it worth sending a message if there’s even the slightest chance that the reply could result in the destruction of all life on earth? Other, more benign, explanations for the Fermi Paradox exist. Drake himself is pessimistic about the L value, but not for dystopian reasons. “It’s because we’re getting better at technology,” he says. The modern descendants of the TV and radio towers that inadvertently sent Elvis to the stars are far more efficient in terms of the power they use, which means the ‘leaked’ signals emanating from Earth are far fainter than they were in the 1950s. In fact, we increasingly share information via fibre optics and other terrestrial conduits that have zero leakage outside our atmosphere. Perhaps technologically advanced societies do flicker on and off like fireflies, but it’s not a sign that they’re self-destructive; it’s just a sign that they got cable. 202
here is something about the METI question that forces the mind to stretch beyond its usual limits. You have to imagine some radically different form of intelligence, using only your human intelligence. You have to imagine time scales on which a decision made in 2017 might trigger momentous consequences 10,000 years from now. The sheer magnitude of those consequences challenges our usual measures of cause and effect. Whether you believe that the aliens are likely to be warriors or Zen masters, if you think that METI has a reasonable chance of making contact with another intelligent organism somewhere in the Milky Way, then you have to accept that this small group of astronomers and science-fiction authors and billionaire patrons debating semiprime numbers and the ubiquity of visual intelligence may in fact be wrestling with a decision that could prove to be the most transformative one in the history of human civilisation. All of which takes us back to a much more down-to-earth, but no less challenging, question: Who gets to decide? After many years of debate, the SETI community established an agreed-upon procedure that scientists and government agencies should follow in the event that the SETI searches actually stumble upon an intelligible signal from space. The protocols specifically ordain that “no response to a signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place.” But an equivalent set of guidelines does not yet exist to govern our own interstellar outreach. One of the most thoughtful participants in the METI debate, Kathryn Denning, an anthropologist at York University in Toronto, has argued that our decisions about extraterrestrial contact are ultimately more political than scientific. “If I had to take a position, I’d say that broad consultation regarding METI is essential, and so I greatly respect the efforts in that direction,” Denning says. “But no matter how much consultation there is, it’s inevitable that there will be significant disagreement about the advisability of transmitting, and I don’t think this is the sort of thing where a simple majority vote or even supermajority should carry the day. So this keeps bringing us back to the same key question: Is it OK for some people to transmit messages at significant power when other people don’t want them to?”
margin that we cease to understand
how their intelligence works?”
In a sense, the METI debate runs parallel to other existential decisions that we will be confronting in the coming decades, as our technological and scientific powers increase. Should we create superintelligent machines that exceed our own intellectual capabilities by such a wide margin that we cease to understand how their intelligence works? Should we ‘cure’ death, as many technologists are proposing? Like METI, these are potentially among the most momentous decisions human beings will ever make, and yet the number of people actively participating in those decisions – or even aware such decisions are being made – is minuscule. “I think we need to rethink the message process so that we are sending a series of increasingly inclusive messages,” Vakoch says. “Any message that we initially send would be too narrow, too incomplete. But that’s OK. Instead, what we should be doing is thinking about how to make the next round of messages better and more inclusive. We ideally want a way to incorporate both technical expertise – people who have been thinking about these issues from a range of different disciplines – and also getting lay input. I think it’s often been one or the other. One way we can get lay input in a way that makes a difference in terms of message content is to survey people about what sorts of things they would want to say. It’s important to see what the general themes are that people would want to say and then translate those into a Lincos-like message.” When I asked Denning where she stands on the METI issue, she told me: “I have to answer that question with a question: Why are you asking me? Why should my opinion matter more than that of a 6-year-old girl in Namibia? We both have exactly the same amount at stake, arguably she more than I, since the odds of being dead before any consequences of transmission occur are probably a bit higher for me, assuming she has access to clean water and decent health care and isn’t killed far too young in war.” She continued: “I think the METI debate may be one of those rare topics where scientific knowledge is highly relevant to the discussion, but its connection to obvious policy is tenuous at best, because in the final analysis, it’s all about how much risk the people of Earth are willing to tolerate. And why exactly should astronomers, cosmologists, physicists, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, biologists, scifi authors or anyone else (in no particular order), get to decide what those tolerances should be?”
Wrestling with the METI question suggests, to me at least, that the one invention human society needs is more conceptual than technological: We need to define a special class of decisions that potentially create extinction-level risk. New technologies (like superintelligent computers) or interventions (like METI) that pose even the slightest risk of causing human extinction would require some novel form of global oversight. And part of that process would entail establishing, as Denning suggests, some measure of risk tolerance on a planetary level. If we don’t, then by default the gamblers will always set the agenda, and the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of their wagers. In 2017, the idea of global oversight on any issue, however existential the threat it poses, may sound naïve. It may also be that technologies have their own inevitability, and we can only rein them in for so long: If contact with aliens is technically possible, then someone, somewhere is going to do it soon enough. There is not a lot of historical precedent for humans voluntarily swearing off a new technological capability – or choosing not to make contact with another society – because of some threat that might not arrive for generations. But maybe it’s time that humans learned how to make that kind of choice. This turns out to be one of the surprising gifts of the METI debate, whichever side you happen to take. Thinking hard about what kinds of civilisation we might be able to talk to ends up making us think even harder about what kind of civilisation we want to be ourselves.
ear the end of my conversation with Frank Drake, I came back to the question of our increasingly quiet planet: all those inefficient radio and television signals giving way to the undetectable transmissions of the internet age. Maybe that’s the long-term argument for sending intentional messages, I suggested; even if it fails in our lifetime, we will have created a signal that might enable an interstellar connection thousands of years from now.
Drake leaned forward, nodding. “It raises a very interesting, non-scientific question, which is: Are extraterrestrial civilisations altruistic? Do they recognise this problem and establish a beacon for the benefit of the other folks out there? My answer is: I think it’s actually Darwinian; I think evolution favours altruistic societies. So my guess is yes. And that means there might be one powerful signal for each civilisation.” Given the transit time across the universe, that signal might well outlast us as a species, in which case it might ultimately serve as a memorial as much as a message, like an interstellar version of the Great Pyramids: proof that a technologically advanced organism evolved on this planet, whatever that organism’s ultimate fate. As I stared at Drake’s stained-glass Arecibo message, in the middle of that redwood grove, it seemed to me that an altruistic civilisation – one that wanted to reach across the cosmos in peace – would be something to aspire to, despite the potential for risk. Do we want to be the sort of civilisation that boards up the windows and pretends that no one is home, for fear of some unknown threat lurking in the dark sky? Or do we want to be a beacon? 203
Photography Baud Postma
Styling Will Johns
Matthieu wears tail shirt, double-faced coat and pleated trousers LOUIS VUITTON tie STYLISTâ€™S OWN triple S trainers BALENCIAGA
Top: Tim wears cross-hatched shirt and needle corduroy jacket RICHARD JAMES cropped trousers with thin stripes DIOR HOMME Bottom: Tim wears Saffiano briefcase PRADA leather brogues with zipper GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI cropped trousers with thin stripes DIOR HOMME Opposite: Aramish wears unconstructed double-breasted jacket GIORGIO ARMANI business shirt DUNHILL wool and Gobigold corduroy tie CARUSO Nander jumper ACNE STUDIOS cotton socks PRADA Sheffield leather shoes CHURCHâ€™S
Tim wears Ghost tank shield coat STONE ISLAND cotton zip hoody SUNSPEL matt twill minimal shirt MARGARET HOWELL Opposite: Aramish wears cashmere wool-blend suit HUGO BOSS short-sleeved logo-print cotton shirt BALENCIAGA cotton boxers SUNSPEL
Aramish wears English wool blazer and Japanese selvedge trousers PRESIDENTâ€™S checked knit vest DANIEL W FLETCHER boat derby shoes ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Opposite: Matthieu wears wool big-checked suit CORNELIANI vest SUNSPEL leather brogues with zipper GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI
Tim wears wool cashmere and silk double-constructed overcoat and stretch shirt CANALI silk tie CORNELIANI flare jeans LOEWE leather shoes HUGO BOSS suede logo cap DANIEL W FLETCHER Opposite: Aramish wears ribbed pullover JOHN SMEDLEY wool double-breasted suit jacket CORNELIANI
Matthieu wears Underwood field check wool jacket and trousers GUCCI V-neck tunic ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Mirfield antic calf leather sneakers CHURCHâ€™S
Matthieu wears fil-a-fil shirt, corduroy pants and Saffiano briefcase PRADA Opposite: Tim wears notched lapel jacket, formal trousers and business shirt DUNHILL Sheffield leather shoes CHURCHâ€™S tie STYLIST'S OWN
Aramish wears silk tie and long wool coat BALENCIAGA business shirt DUNHILL wool vest DRIES VAN NOTEN HarDior sunglasses with green mirror effect DIOR HOMME Atran stripe trousers ACNE STUDIOS Hair Roxy Attard using TIGI Bedhead Make-up Ammy Drammeh using SUQQU Models Tim Dibble at Models1, Matthieu Franke at Success, Aramish Mangi at PRM Set design Jabez Bartlett Casting directior Nachum Shonn Photography assistance Tex Bishop, Freddy McTavish, Felix TW Styling assistants Lily Austin, Charlotte Smith Hair styling assistant Franziska Presche Retouching IMGN Special thanks Big Sky Studios
Alyn Griffiths discovers the moulds, machines and methods of Italyâ€™s most innovative furniture brand
Words Alyn Griffiths Photography Allegra Martin
Previous spread and opposite: B&B Italia’s introduction of cold-foamed polyurethane revolutionised the manufacturing processes of upholstered furniture. Here the mould of the ottoman Up6, part of the Up5_6 furniture suite designed by Gaetano Pesce, stands in front of the foaming department.
The foaming department, featuring the mould for the Amoenus sofa designed by Antonio Citterio. The application of this technology to furniture was inspired by a visit to a factory that produced rubber ducks.
Foamed products recently extracted from the moulds. Each product is cleaned of any excess foam before it is ready to be upholstered.
pieces are moved to the upholstery area to be covered in the customer’s choice of premium leather or fabric. It’s an approach to furniture production that was groundbreaking when it was first developed in the 1960s by B&B Italia’s founder, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli. Having already established a successful business with his brother Franco
in 1953, Piero dreamed of industrialising what at the time was still a predominantly artisanal process. During a research trip to London, Busnelli visited a trade fair where one exhibitor was showing rubber ducks produced using moulded polyurethane – a process he believed could be applied to furniture manufacturing. In 1966, he left Fratelli Busnelli and set up his
What does it take to be a leader in your industry? Business experts will tell you that the key is to be either the first or the best, but the measure of true success is whether you can be both. This has always been the approach of Italian firm B&B Italia, which last year celebrated 50 years as one of the country’s foremost furniture producers. Renowned for having pioneered many features and technologies that are now commonplace in contemporary furniture, the company’s quest for innovation has continued into the 21st century. To understand the lengths B&B Italia goes to in its pursuit of fresh ideas and technological excellence, it is helpful to visit the firm’s headquarters in Brianza, around 25 kilometres north of Milan. The area has a long history of furniture production, with several influential global brands based there, having evolved from traditional family-run ateliers during Italy’s manufacturing boom following the Second World War. The legacy of craftsmanship, and a supply chain that provides top quality materials to the region’s furniture makers, remain intact, but Brianza’s current residents also utilise the latest industrialised production methods to meet demand from clients around the world. Situated close to the A9 highway that links Milan with Como, B&B Italia’s factory building and headquarters offer the first hints that this is a company with progressive design at its core. The factory, by architects Afra and Tobia Scarpa, was completed in 1968, while the headquarters – designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in 1971 and finished in 1973 – showcase the high-tech aesthetic the pair would later revisit for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The architecture of the campus serves as an important signifier of B&B Italia’s values, but it is inside the factory that the firm’s innovative credentials become truly apparent. The facility’s 20,300-square-metre floor area is divided into zones dedicated to the various stages of the manufacturing process. Skeletal metal frames resembling wireframe drawings of the company’s iconic sofas and chairs stand in clusters along one side of the building. Welded by trusted Italian suppliers, the frames are delivered to the factory and placed into moulds, which are injected with a polyurethane foam that expands to take on the form of the product. Once the foam has cooled, the
The B&B Italia laboratory, where upholstered products are tested during the development phase. Here, the Febo chair, designed by Antonio Citterio, is tested for strength and durability, the equipment recreating in a short time the strains and stresses of several years of use.
own company to pursue this new direction, teaming up with industry leader Cesare Cassina to form C&B. The company would go on to collaborate with leading designers including Marco Zanuso, Vico Magistretti, Mario Bellini and the Scarpas, to develop products that would revolutionise the furniture industry. C&B grew rapidly, eventually reaching a point where it was operating on the same level as the core Cassina brand. In 1973, Busnelli
bought out Cassina’s shares and renamed the company B&B Italia. As the firm continued to expand, responsibilities were passed on to the next generation, with Busnelli’s sons Giorgio, Giancarlo and Emanuele taking on leadership positions. Over breakfast at the Park Hotel, a short distance from the headquarters, the current CEO, Giorgio, explains how his father put in place systems to ensure the company would continue to innovate and remain one step
ahead of the competition. “One of the first things my father did when he teamed up with Cassina was create a centre of research and development,” he recalls, “because he started working with architects and designers and needed to develop prototypes away from the factory setting.” This facility, which moved into the third and final building to be completed on the campus, by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel in 2002, remains the place where new products, materials and technologies are explored, tested and refined. Today, many leading designers visit the Piero Ambrogio Busnelli Research and Development Centre to develop new products, hoping to emulate the success of the company’s most famous icons. These include the Coronado armchair and sofa by Afra and Tobia Scarpa – the first piece of upholstered furniture designed entirely for industrial mass production. It features four pieces (a seat, back, and two armrests) that can be assembled with just two screws, making it ideal for shipping internationally. In 1969, the Up series by Gaetano Pesce demonstrated the truly disruptive potential of polyurethane technology, offering an anthropomorphic form without any internal framework, which was delivered vacuum packed. Mario Bellini’s 1972 Le Bambole was the first sofa to be manufactured purely as a padded cushion without an internal frame, while Paolo Piva’s Alanda sofa bed from 1980 emphasised the importance of the R&D centre to the company, with its patented mechanisms for adjusting the headrests, armrests and bedside table. Several other bestsellers followed in subsequent years, with one of the most significant breakthroughs occurring in 1995 with the launch of Antonio Citterio’s Harry sofa system, followed by the Charles sofa in 1997. By raising the sofa off the ground on cast-metal feet placed delicately at the corners, the designer created a new furniture archetype that has been endlessly copied due to its timeless simplicity. By that point, Citterio was already established as one of the brand’s key designers, and he has been responsible for developing and coordinating the collections of B&B’s luxury sister brand Maxalto since 1993. By offering designers the opportunity to work with nascent technologies and supporting them in their endeavours to explore entirely new directions for familiar furniture archetypes, B&B Italia has consistently been able to
An entirely computerised leather-cutting machine, boasting a scanner that can be configured according to the shade of hide, enabling it to detect minute flaws in the material.
Products waiting for inspection by qualitycontrol technicians.
Upholstered products being tested during the development stage.
Giorgio Busnelli, B&B Italia CEO and son of founder Piero Ambrogio Busnelli, began working for the company in 1973. Here, Busnelli sits on a unique edition of the Up5_6 chair piece, constructed out of wood.
attract top talent, from Patricia Urquiola and Naoto Fukasawa, to Zaha Hadid and Vincent Van Duysen. The collaborations between these designers and a team of 25 experts at the R&D centre are crucial to the company’s continued creative and economic progress. Every product undergoes a thorough process of detailed design and refinement, based on prototypes built by specialists in woodwork, metalwork and foam technology. “When we receive a
design idea, we don’t waste our time trying to understand its real potential on paper, we start the prototyping process straight away,” says Giorgio’s son, Massimiliano, who also works at the R&D centre. Giorgio and the head of the R&D centre, Rolando Gorla, regularly travel to major global cities where they spend time in the latest hotels, museums and galleries to identify new architectural ideas or cultural directions that might
inform future projects. Gorla, who has been at the company for over 40 years, explains that the quest for innovation has become more challenging in recent years. “We’re not in the ’60s when everything needed to be done – now almost everything exists,” he says. “It is becoming more difficult to invent something new, so more often designers look to the past for something that might be worth updating.” In this context, the focus of the R&D centre has switched towards sustainability and the evolution of existing technologies to improve performance and efficiency. B&B Italia is at the forefront of identifying ways to allow materials to be separated and reused or recycled, as well as trying to develop a more environmentally friendly alternative to polyurethane. It is also working on ways to make its furniture more lightweight, so it uses less material and is easier to ship. Inside the factory, the injection-moulding manufacturing process is consistently challenged by ambitious and complex products such as Zaha Hadid’s Moon System sofa, and the SAKé sofa by Piero Lissoni, which requires 19 separate moulds. Alongside this technology, which has remained largely unchanged in 50 years, the company continues to add new machinery that helps to improve the efficiency of production. It recently invested €750,000 in an automated laser cutting machine and accompanying software that optimises the process of cutting high-quality leather hides into precise sections, ready for upholstering. “It is a hugely complicated piece of equipment and the sort of investment that not many companies would make,” claims Busnelli, adding that it will take a few years before the machine’s efficiencies provide any return. This, however, is the spirit in which the firm has always operated, since the early days when its founder paid for a pneumatic press capable of producing 1,500 tonnes of force, instead of the 500 tonnes necessary to produce the items currently in the collection. “This was another thing inherent in Dad’s strong character,” Busnelli adds. “He actually completely changed the way to produce; we now had a company with industrial processes.” In today’s hyper-competitive global market, innovation and risk-taking in business is as important as it is in design and manufacturing. In 2015, Busnelli made the decision to sell a majority stake in the company to a subsidiary operated by Andrea Bonomi’s Italian investment company, Investindustrial, which
The B&B Italia headquarters, created by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in 1973, shortly before their design for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris brought them worldwide fame.
part-owns and supports a range of premium brands, including Aston Martin and lighting firm Flos. With a healthy turnover of over 180 million, Busnelli could have been satisfied to remain one of Europe’s largest furniture brands, but he recognises that continuing international expansion requires more risk and investment than a small family-run company could cope with. “For many years people were saying small is good – it’s nice; it’s craftsmanship. But in the end if you want to play globally you need to compromise a lot to be represented in the market,” he insists. With backing from Investindustrial, B&B Italia purchased a majority stake in high-end kitchen producer Arclinea in 2016, with the aim of accelerating its international expansion. “I like the idea that it is possible to create
a conglomerate like Louis Vuitton has done in fashion,” adds Busnelli. “So the idea is to create a group of the best companies of high-end design in the world.” This ambitious plan will see the Busnelli family adding to its portfolio of brands in the coming years, enabling it to expand into new markets and apply its knowledge of materials, processes and technologies to a broader range of products. With around 500 staff working for the company across design, production, contract projects, sales, marketing and distribution, B&B Italia is now firmly established in the international furniture market and will continue to extend its influence through key strategic partnerships and investments. As Busnelli finishes breakfast and prepares to dash off to a meeting with the management of Arclinea, he offers a
final insight into the mindset that has formed the basis of the company’s success. “One of the most important things my father taught me is to be curious,” he says, “because curiosity is really fundamental for everything you want to do in your life.”
Port meets the reluctant actor whose understated talent owes as much to a passion for holistic therapy as it does to stage school
Words John-Paul Pryor
In the 1980s, the gay community was being mercilessly decimated by a disease that the straight world was doing its best to turn a blind eye to, but there was a boisterous hotbed of active Parisian resistance which had other ideas. It’s this loose panoply of lovers, friends and rebels, forming the core of the activist group Act-Up, that acclaimed director Robin Campillo has brought to the big screen in the searing, personal and sometimes dreamlike fresco, 120 Beats per Minute. The film marks a return to the public eye for reluctant acting talent Arnaud Valois. Although he chooses not to define himself as an actor, his fragile yet powerful screen presence sublimely communicates the tragedy and beauty of a love that rages against both the machine and the dying of the light. In the film – which has been lauded for its candid, unapologetic portrayal of gay sexuality, alongside the fervent activism of one of the most important movements of the ’80s – Valois plays Nathan, the HIV-negative lover of HIV-positive Act-Up firebrand Sean (a role played with startling verve by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart). “We are very lucky in Europe to have people who fought for us, struggling for rights of all kinds – but we need to be vigilant,” Valois tells Port over an intimate coffee in Marais. “It’s very important to stay aware.” When did Valois become aware of Act-Up’s activism? “I was watching TV one morning with my family and said, ‘Oh, what is that?’” he says, with a smile. “Act-Up had put a condom on the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde. They also organised a big TV show in the ’90s called Sidaction, and it was on all the six main channels.” Sidaction remains one of the most respected and successful charity organisations raising awareness of HIV and AIDS. It’s an interesting prospect for an actor to portray a docu-fiction version of recent history, especially when, to some degree, that actor’s psychogeography has been personally affected by the related events. How much did those memories shape Valois’s approach to his reticent and quietly sensitive character? “Robin said to us, ‘Please, don’t go too much on documentation or read, like, 20 books on the period. Trust me and trust yourselves. You are young people, so put your imagination in action and let’s work together.’” Given that Campillo is a seasoned Moroccan-French director whose own story and talent is steeped in the history of gay counterculture – as was shown in his 2013 classic Eastern Boys – one can only assume that such trust comes easily. “Absolutely. It was easy and comfortable to work with someone who likes telling his own story,” continues Valois. “It was interesting. The other thing is that he is a really good acting director. He has such a powerful vision of what he wants, so for an actor it’s quite easy. You need to learn your lines and be focused.”
Styling Dan May Photography Arnaud Pyvka
Arnaud Valois wears Saint Laurent AW17 throughout
Valois is somewhat playing down his exceptional talent. His propensity for switching mood with an endearing, nuanced grace is stunning, and perhaps somewhat surprising given that he turned his back on acting for a decade after graduating from drama school. “I don’t have two personalities, but there are maybe two sides to myself,” he says. “One is attracted by strong, powerful emotions and the other is driven by softness and peace and calm. I don’t really consider myself to be an actor. I play a part in this movie – which I’m very proud of – but it feels strange for me. I see myself as a massage therapist and sophrologist who sometimes makes films.” Sophrology is a relaxation technique, combining small movements and deep breathing to help control emotions and fears, and Valois’s commitment to the practice took him away from acting for a number of years. “I studied acting at Cours Florent for two years when I was 20 and was discovered by a casting director for my first movie, Charlie Says by Nicole Garcia. I started an acting career but it wasn’t what I expected,” he says. “I wanted to realise myself in another way. I wanted to be active, to do something with my life, so I went to study in Thailand. It was a personal journey, and then it became about other people – to heal people, first of all you have to heal yourself.” So how did it come to pass that his journey of self-actualisation should witness a return to the screen at all? “This casting director I used to work with 10 years ago called me and said, ‘I’ve got a project for you: Are you still an actor?’ I said no, not at all. But once she explained to me about the politics and historical side of what 120 BPM was, I said okay, I’ll give it a try…” For Valois, ‘giving it a try’ means excelling in the communication of an extreme and tortuous emotional journey; perhaps his detailed understanding of the body, required for him to work as a practitioner of sophrology, underpins the utterly unique physicality he communicates
as an actor. “European people usually separate head and body, but with Asian people their head and the body go together. So learning sophrology, which is a combination of head and body, helped me to redefine my vision of the human identity,” he says. “In France, we are very intellectual and it’s all about the brain. Robin Campillo is an exception because he considers the body and the head together. It’s very important for him, the way you move, the way you act, the way you position yourself on the screen...” There is an intense physicality about Valois’s performance in 120 Beats per Minute that has been well documented in the press. The sensuality that pours through the screen doubtlessly owes a debt to his devoted practice as a therapist. “It has had a really big impact,” he explains. “When I receive clients at my studio as a therapist, I’m in a particular mode that requires being in empathy with people. I think when you’re an actor you need to be in empathy with your character and partners, so there is a similarity,” he continues. “It also helped me a lot after the filming to refocus, to get back to my life and not stay too much in the fiction of the movie.” So are we to expect another prolonged retreat from the screen for the therapist-cum-actor, or can we hope to see him on film again soon? “I have an agent and we’re reading scripts together, so hopefully we’ll find an interesting one,” he says, thoughtfully. “I would like to do a biopic, something inspired by a real person – learning about someone and trying to not do an imitation, but instead creating another life for the character,” he says, before a pause. “It was such an intense and magnificent experience to make this film, and I was not really hoping for a return to acting. It would be interesting to do again, but I know this was a unique adventure.” We can only look forward to his next move, knowing that whatever it is, it will be deeply considered and profoundly authentic.
Digital capture and retouching D-Factory Special thanks Hotel Bourbon
French photographer Elliott Verdier travels to the remote central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan to capture an ex-Soviet country struggling to find a national identity in a globalised world Photography Elliott Verdier
The Muslim cemetery of Balykchy, on the western end of lake Issyk-Kul, the second-largest high-altitude lake in the world. Eighty per cent of Kyrgyzstanâ€™s population is Muslim.
Horses in Karakol, the fourth-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, near the Kazak and Chinese border.
Two abandoned Moskvitch cars in Min-Kush, a city built by the Soviet Union in 1953 to mine uranium. Surrounded by checkpoints, the city was rich, enjoying champagne and caviar, while the rest of Kyrgyzstan lived in poverty.
Min-Kush Tash-Komur Mailuu-Suu
1 — A child at an orphanage in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital. Parents who are too poor to care for their children often abandon them. This orphanage takes care of its charges until they’re 16 but many orphans then fall into crime and addiction. 2 — Captain Boris Vassilievitch Tchoumakov, who oversaw Balykchy’s port organisation during the Soviet years. Currently used as a testing ground for Russian military hardware, it is now forbidden to sail on the lake, though it used to be essential for trade between Balykchy and Karakol.
The bulb factory of Mailuu-Suu. Established 40 years ago after the closure of the region’s uranium mines, the factory – once the second largest in the USSR – is still running today. Poor management of the mines has made the town one of the most polluted places in the world.
Workers in a concrete plant of Balykchy. Once one of the most industrialised cities in Kyrgyzstan, as with many places in the country Balykchy struggled following the fall of the USSR, with almost all its industrial facilities having since closed.
Peter wears shirt MARGARET 1 HOWELL Nzingha wears vest MARGARET HOWELL Lerei stin aute, sus aucomaio con Itam. It, mandieris pared rem inam publica; nihilic ieniniternia in rem ime ium si proresu lvicerum noricat acciena, publiae ad intem postodius convoct uusquerit, cupereis
1 — A coal miner in a pit in TashKumyr in the west of Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Uzbekistan. 2 — A worker at Mailuu-Suu’s bulb factory who has been employed there since the factory was established by the USSR to keep people busy and save the city from being abandoned.
Peter wears shirt MARGARET HOWELL Nzingha wears vest MARGARET HOWELL
1 â€” A retired miner from Tash-Kumyr in his home. With 34 years of experience, including 26 under the USSR, he witnessed the collapse of the mining organisation when the USSR fell, and his work became more dangerous as a result. 2 â€” The landscape around Tash-Kumyr, bearing the scars of coal mining.
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Things I Like / Things I Dislike
Janine di Giovanni Susan Sontag's diaries reveal a witty fondness for the humble list, as a way of conferring value and exploring the realms of her knowledge. Her list of likes and dislikes has become justly notorious. Here author and war correspondent Janine di Giovanni picks up that baton. LIKE The first dive of summer into the Med; Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in September; Bodysurfing on a boogie board; Melina Mercouri playing a joyous prostitute in Never on Sunday and how no one in Piraeus judges her and everyone loves her high spirit; Bohemian lifestyles; Cottages covered in roses; Scottish landscapes; Peonies – bunches and bunches from the Boulevard Raspail market in Paris on a Friday morning; L’Arlequin Cinema on Rue de Rennes on a lazy Sunday night after a drink at the café across the street with someone I love; Beach life, any kind of beach life as long as it’s an empty beach with roaring waves; Climbing trees and reaching a branch where you can sprawl out; The drive home in a taxi after a long or tough trip, seeing the lights of Paris swirl by; Listening to a pastry chef on NPR talking about how to get the perfect pie crust while driving home from the beach, with the car windows open and some old Eagles song playing; Ocean Grove, New Jersey, the prettiest beach town in the world, founded by Methodist ministers at the turn of the century; The Berkshires in Massachusetts; Sea level and mountain tops; Wearing a bikini with a denim mini skirt, beach hair and Havaianas and feeling like I am back in Maine, a naughty teenager at a Grateful Dead concert; Grateful Dead concerts; Bach; Chopin’s Nocturnes; Someone I love playing me Chopin’s Nocturnes; Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield’s short stories; Wood smoke; Portobello Road on a Tuesday night in the ’90s, or a drink in the old 192 on Kensington Park Road; A wood cabin in the middle of a forest, any forest – Finland or New Hampshire; The sound of snow under my boots, crunching; Swedish islands off the coast of Stockholm on a June afternoon; Picnics; The feeling after you do a great ski run knowing you made it without breaking your leg, or finish writing a book just before the due date; The message from your publisher when she likes your book; Guerlain’s lovely scent, Vol de Nuit, named after Antoine de Saint-Exupery's second novel Night Flight; Being a tiny girl and watching my mother at her dressing table dabbing Guerlain on her wrists and putting on her lipstick and high heels; Memories of my life in Africa – mornings in Abidjan, evenings in Juba, riding a horse in northern Kenya through a field of elephants; The smell of Africa when you open your hotel room window; Being in love in war zones – Kosovo, Bosnia – with the father of my child; The smell of a baby when you pull them out of a bath; The laughter of my son; The cartoon F Is for Family; South Park – as rough as it can be; Courageous people and strong, empowered women; The Luxembourg Gardens, 8 am, on a late September morning; The city of Sarajevo and the people in it.
DISLIKE Waves of sadness when I think of people I lost who passed on to the other side of the mirror; Bullies; The Irish Catholic kids who preyed on weaker children in my grammar school, especially on St Patrick’s Day; Big bullies like Assad or Trump or Putin; Injustices: on a grand scale, like those victims of war who know they will never see their perpetrators in a court room, and smaller ones like those daily unsung heroes who never get their due; Anyone spoilt – men, women, animals and children; People who don’t listen but bark at you; People who shout when they talk; Nasally accents; The smell of dogs after they dive into the ocean or a lake; The Hamptons in the summer; The Hamptons most times of the year; The pressure women over 40 feel to a) have children and b) get Botox or worse; My old street in Notting Hill today, looking like a high street; Bloomingdales the week before Christmas; Claustrophobia; Instagram insecurity – why don’t I get more likes and why is everyone’s life better than mine?; Any kind of reality show but especially Jersey Shore, because I grew up in a small town on the Jersey Shore and no one looked or acted like that; Getting pounded by a wave and knocked senseless on the shore – metaphorically and really; Feeling defeated by history, circumstance, chance; The day Aleppo fell and how much I felt like a failure; Getting slammed with the black dog – depression – and thinking you will never come out of the long tunnel; The end of a love affair; Wondering if any love affair will be like the last one; The feeling that you have not yet written the novel you thought you would write long ago; The feeling that you are running out of time – whether you are late for a flight, or looking at the clock ticking; The slowness of a minute hand, the quickness of a lifetime; How children grow up too quickly and you think you missed something; Regret. 256