Design The Case of Visual Culture in the...
Featured Illustrator: Robert Gibbs
Featured Artist: Melissa Cooke
Picnic Festival 2012
Photography Featured Photographer: Marten Lange 50 Featured Photographer: Nelli Palomaki 60 Blackout NYC
Fashion Photoshoot - Sicily
Photoshoot - Izabel
Sneakers of the month
Music We are failed
MarryWanna 98 Iceland Airwaves 2012
Album Review: Katatonia - Dead...
Music and the Shift...
Deep Crates Cartel - Confessions of...
Film & Gaming The Newsroom
A Game of Tones
Literature Descriptions of Faces
Stop What Youâ€™re Doing and ____________. 118 Book Reviews
On My Shelf Boreali
Last Call How the Arab Spring is Pointless but... 126
quint magazine | issue 16 | November - December 2012 founded in 2010 by Zaina Shreidi & Gyula Deak
Editor in Chief
Zaina Shreidi firstname.lastname@example.org
This production and its entire contents are protected by copyright. No use or reprint (including disclosure) may be made of all or any part of this publication in any manner or form whatsoever without the prior written consent of quint. Views expressed in quint magazine do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors or parent company. quint is a division and registered trademark of Prolab Digital LLC.
Deputy Editor Fares Bou Nassif email@example.com
Creative Director Gyula Deak firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic Designer Ritu Arya email@example.com
Environment quint uses 100% woodfree paper for all inside pages.
Printing & Distribution Contact
General firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising email@example.com HQ 4th Street, Al Quoz Prolab Digital warehouse po box 12256 | Dubai | UAE t: +971 4 380 5036 facebook.com/quintdubai twitter: @quintdubai www.quintmagazine.com
Growing up, Jason was always carefully supervised whenever handling or playing with sharp objects. When he was told that he ‘had a sharp tongue’ confusion ensued, and young Jason became convinced that talking would cut off his fingers. He found comforting refuge in writing and video games, and now combines the two to produce interesting commentary on gaming and its influence on culture.
Lantian Xie was born in China and raised between Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a recipient of the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award of the United Arab Emirates. His work was recently prohibited from sale according to mandate by the Government of Dubai. Xie currently spends his time between New York City and Dubai.
Michael McCluskey is a frontier settler in a sonic landscape -- a musician. He’s mapped his progress on two mix tapes, Hip Hop Is Life and The Synergy Remixes, and is sending smoke signals to a third. Michael is a Mediterranean cook, and has two cats -- Dany and Newman. At sundown he drinks fireball on Ruby Creek and fishes past the chubs for trout.
He still won’t talk.
Break DJ Lobito
No 1 B-boy DJ in the Middle East and regional representative for Afrika Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation, he’s been involved in the Funk, Hip Hop & Bboy scene for over 12 years and has played to several thousand people in the UK, Europe, and Middle East alongside headliners such as De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Slick Rick, Pharoahe Monch, Dead Prez, and many more. Lobito’s specialty is rare records spanning funk, latin, soul, hip hop, brazilian, afrobeat, block party beats and original b-boy breaks. He is also the founder of the successful Deep Crates weekly night in Dubai.
Trevor is drawn to the stranger things of life, and prefers to champion objective individualism, through the spirit of man and brain. You can hear his preaching on all things musicical and poetic. He has no awards to date, no accomplishments, no humour and no character as he finds them too mainstream. You may find him in the dark alleys and dank stairwells hangin’ with his jin and tonic.
21 years old, born in Bialystok, Poland. thinking of escaping from the next European winter and finding a shelter in Dubai. Self-taught photographer, traveler or a nomad as her friends call her.
With the possible apocalypse looming (or more likely just another end of just another year), we decided to bid adieu to 2012 with a special issue. This year has certainly had its ups and downs, both on a global scale and to be certain locally and personally as well. And so we chose to end on a strong but sober and sombre note. Our last issue of the year, as you may have noticed by now, is almost entirely monochrome. We felt that after a year of chaos, a bit of reflection is in order. In this, our Black and White issue, we explore all kinds of things, from encountering racism in multi-player games, to monochrome portraits that can see into your soul. Yeah, we’re deep like that. Enjoy it. This issue also takes you from Iceland with its incredible music to America with its skewed politics and the great television that come out of it, and closes with the Middle East and its Arab Spring. We also announce the winners of the Nike Light Up DXB art competition and showcase the winning works as well as shortlisted pieces. This was a great opportunity to promote and support local talent – and we hope to continue doing more of the same. We hope you enjoy the issue. And the rest of this year (after all, it may be your last…) See you in 2013!
BEHANCE PORTFOLIO REVIEW
QUOZ HAPPENS LAUNCH EVENT
We had the great opportunity to check out the Behance Portfolio Review, which took place at Make Business Hub. The purpose of the Behance Portfolio Review is to get constructive criticism and feedback on your portfolio as well as hear from local creatives who present their work and their advice, especially pertaining to the local industry. The event was lead by Ramy Maki, and the three presenters included Animator and CG Director Firas Ershead, Interactive and Creative Director Andre Bose, and photographer Tejal Patni. We hope to see more from all these great creatives, and more events aimed at the creative industry! A particularly engaging, informative, and enlightening event.
Every month we look forward to going to various gallery openings and art events, but it’s always been a bit difficult to get it all in. But with the launch of QUOZhappens, you can actually get around to all the great art establishments in industrial-chic Al Quoz and enjoy a full day event rubbing shoulders with Dubai’s artsy movers and shakers. The launch event was supported by the Art Bus, giving visitors the chance to tour pack in all that Al Quoz has to offer. Check out the QUOZhappens page to find out about upcoming events.
VIRGIN MEGASTORE – ARCHES AND ART Virgin Megastores has always been a huge champion of the arts – but now they’ve created their own (gigantic) piece of art. Decorating the Fashion Catwalk of The Dubai Mall is an incredible 24-metres wide 10-metres high arch. Virgin Megastore’s Creative Director Martin Galabov designed the arch with a plethora of colours and rich patterns, with the Virgin Megastore logo in full prominence. And that’s not all – when the arch is viewed from the 2nd level of the mall, the perspective creates a 3D illusion, truly bringing the artwork to life. http://somartin.com
MOVEMBER SPECIAL: WHALE HAIR COMB Ah Movember. The time of year when men attempt to be manly, and women stare on in horror at the strange things that can be seen growing out of their male counterparts’ faces. Well guys, here’s a way to make that look of horror stick by combing your ‘stache with a Whale Hair Comb. Go on, do it. In public. At that uppity fashion event your girlfriend dragged you to even though she knew X-Men: First Class was playing on TV tonight. http://coolmaterial.com/style/whale-hair-comb/
PARROT HEADPHONES Hey remember the days when music was simple, headphones were picked based on colour, and the biggest choices we made revolved around what fit in our backpacks? Yeah, normally those thoughts would elicit pangs of nostalgia but then we encountered the Parrot Zik Headphones by Starck. These headphones pretty much redefine the word. They are SO. COOL. You can control volume and change tracks with a flick of your finger and as soon as you take them off – the song pauses. Yup. No more having to fiddle with your iPod or computer every time someone wants to interrupt your Zen time. Oh, and the song starts again when you put them back on. They are also the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever tried. And to top it off, they look pretty too. Starck is a huge inspiration and now we can all carry a little bit of design genius with us everywhere we go. www.parrot.com/zik
ANROL DESIGNS GREETING CARDS
SECRET DJ APP
We’ve always had an issue with greeting cards being supremely boring. Happy birthday, happy retirement, happy marriage, yadda yadda. What about greeting cards for Grammar Nazis? Santa? Facebook? Math? Twilight fans? Well, the Anrol family has answered our rhetorical questions. Check out these irreverent, hilarious souvenirs of humour and mirth, and share them with your friends. Awesomeness also abounds on tea towels, journals, and calendars.
You know you’ve thought about it. Standing awkwardly in a club wondering what the hell possessed the DJ to play an ultimate club remix of some horrible top 40 hit for the 5th time (in a row). Yeah, we feel your pain. And the gods of internet and technology have finally answered your internal agonising pleas of “make it stop” with the Secret DJ App. Check in to a business and control the music right from your phone. Only catch is that the bar has to have it too.
CAT TATTOOS Ok so, we have a confession to make. Sometimes, just sometimes, we fall head over heels for something totally ridiculous like stick on earrings or 60s Batman flicks. Today however, that something is Temporary Cat Tattoos. Yes, we know. Incredible. I mean what on earth could be better than a stick on tattoo of a cat’s disapproving glare on your forearm? That’s right. Nothing. www.etsy.com/listing/103663494/cat-temporary-tattoo-one-single-fake-cat
NEW APPLE iPAD 3rd GENERATION 32 GB WI-FI WHITE Sharper, smarter, and better, the Bluetooth-enabled 3rd Generation Apple iPad is nothing short of a technological breakthrough. The Retina display of The new iPad, with 2048-by-1536 resolution (that’s four times the number of pixels in iPad 2 and a million more than an 1080P HDTV) and 44 percent greater color saturation, yields amazingly detailed and sharp images. Featuring a 5 MP iSight camera with a backside illumination sensor, this Apple iPad will delight you with its exceptionally rich photos and the ability to take 1080p HD videos. What’s more, the AirPlay feature in The new iPad lets you wirelessly stream your favorite stuff to your speakers or an HDTV.
HALO 4 XBOX 360 Legendary Spartan hero Master Chief returns in one of 2012’s most hotly anticipated releases, Halo 4 developed exclusively for the Xbox 360 by 343 Industries. With the fate of the entire universe hanging by a thread, Master Chief must confront his destiny as mankind’s greatest hero by embarking on his most epic adventure yet. The first in a trilogy of new games, Halo 4 promises not only a deep campaign mode with a rich story, but will also introduce a groundbreaking new multiplayer mode - Halo Infinity Multiplayer - that will redefine the way people think about storytelling and multiplayer experiences.
BEATS BY DR. DRE SOLO HD ON-EAR HEADPHONES
HOODIES FROM RED BOX Ranging from kids to adult sizes, keep warm, cozy and make a fun fashion statement in Red Box’s collection of hoodies. Choose from your favourite superheroes, cartoon caricatures, and video game characters like Batman, Angry Birds, The Simpsons, Call of Duty and many more. Made from top quality cotton for extra comfort and made to last.
The perfect mix of sound and style. Beats Solo HD headphones are made to be a lighter, on-ear version of Beats Studios. Compact enough to fit in your purse or pocket, Beats Solo HD headphones carry the powerful signature sound Beats by Dr. Dre products are famous for. Beats Solo HD headphones are the only Beats by Dr. Dre that come with not one, but two speakers inside each canfor crystal clear highs and deep, rumbling lows in high definition. Switch easily between songs and incoming calls without having to take off your headphones. Take calls, skip songs and adjust volume right from the cord of your Beats Solo HD headphones. No more searching for your phone or music player just to find the right song.
HOME-MADE CHRISTMAS BY TESSA EVELEGH Home-made Christmas contains 35 easyto-make projects, from tree decorations to table settings, advent calendars to wreaths for the door. You will find most of the projects in this book require only the most basic skills, so everyone can have a go with guaranteed success! All projects come with full-colour, step-by-step instructions and helpful techniques. Use them, adapt them and develop your own. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, homemade decorations are an expression of your own individuality, so you can even use it to celebrate any festivity in your life all year round.
DESIGN - THE CASE OF VISUAL CULTURE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The question of the year: "what is the Arabic style?" I’ve tried every which way to explain it, and I can’t. I’ve looked for books. Nothing (I didn’t look too hard, yet, to be fair). So this is what this is about: over the next two months, I’m hoping to find out. I know the Arabic Style is a wide, almost insulting, generalisation. That’s not the point. The point is that we can define various ‘styles’. We can create a thoroughly researched, critically conceived compendium of contemporary Arabism from a visual perspective. There exists a Chinese style, a Japanese style (modern and traditional), an African style, and even some semblance of an Arabic style. Except, what represents contemporary Arabic style is invalid. Outdated. Obsolete. Might be the case with other regional and local styles, but let’s leave that for another day. In the spirit of writing a comprehensive, coherent history of visual culture and visual communication, I suggest we begin with what we know. Street art across the Arab Spring and the Levantine countries, in Palestine and elsewhere, has given the masses a window into what is really happening
around them. The readers of this magazine are likely aware of the recent progression of design and visual production in the Arab world. What is unfortunate is that this rush of cutting edge production, creative and inspired as it might be, has not made it to a wider audience, an international audience. What the Arab countries export continues to frame itself within the limitations of traditional design. It is how the Arab world has persistently sold itself to the outside. Except, today, one should recognise that Arabism in design has much to contribute. The Arabic style in graphic design, specifically, is adaptable, it can be interpreted, deconstructed, used, by Asians, Europeans, Africans, and (North and Latin) Americans. The work of designers in Lebanon, where I am more in touch (for now), is a studied, methodical feast of quality work coated in aesthetic beauty. The work of their peers and colleagues in various Arab nations is bound to be as remarkable. Since I have yet to commit to researching this, I will simply cite the proliferation of projects that have popped up on my Facebook page: Lebanese musicians, illustrators, designers, filmmakers, and creatives in general have spent more
time attending collaborative workshops and projects in other Arab countries these past twelve months than the twelve before, and the rate of growth of mixed production is notably impressive. There is a movement, of sorts. So what happens next? I suggest we study it. We share it. But to do that, we need to know how much we can handle in one package. The boundaries, or (to be academic about it) scope: Intentional and unintentional visual language and style. This includes professional and amateur work, graffiti and advertising, painting and fashion, industrial and architectural. It considers high art and design and low art and design. It is the world around us whenever we’re in any part of the Arab world. Diverse and inclusive categorical observation. The Levantines have a visual spectrum not dissimilar from each other, while the GCC maintains a sense unique to their history and culture. Is Egypt as unique as one assumes? Does Moroccan and other North African art and design mesh? Can we say that Iranian visual culture contributes and influences (or is influenced by) Arabism enough for it to be included, or is Persian culture distinct from Arab culture? Is there a contemporary
classicism in design that is reminiscent of the older styles, or is it a bastardisation of what once was? An appropriation, adaptation, or anything else? Does Arab Postmodernism exist? Essentially, everything. What this proposal, idea, is not is a study of classical painting and the subject and content of the traditional Arab painter. It is about the development of a comprehensive compendium of today’s booming, redeveloped, resurgent, subversive Arab visual culture, in English, accessible to everyone, everywhere. A reference, of sorts, of the now. I expect this to work on many levels, primarily through collaboration. The PICNIC Festival this year was all about Open Design and Co-Creation, from hacking to collaboration, and the future of DIY. What that, and my look into how little people actually know about the Middle East (sparked by the questions people started asking me in Amsterdam after the explosion in Beirut last month), gave me was this: a book, in the tradition of Openness, by artists, designers, and academics actively observing and creating work in the Middle East. The subject? Arabic style. Who’s in?
DESIGN - FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - ROBERT GIBBS
INTERVIEW BY ZAINA SHREIDI Illustrator Robert Gibbs has a particularly interesting style of work. He creates fun characters and recalls comic books and cartoons with his cool, quirky style. Based out here in Dubai, Robert Gibbs is co-founder of design boutique (and supergroup) robotandspark, which he established with his wife Nadine after the economic downfall we all experienced a few years ago. Talk about rising above! Joining many creative minds in a denial of traditional work structures, Rob is no longer under a corporate thumb, but rather his own, very creative one. We’ve seen Rob’s work all over the UAE – in the coolest places of course such as sneaker festival Sole DXB. Intrigued with what makes the man behind all these cool designs tick, we caught up with Rob to discuss his weird (read: awesome) childhood doodles, Bjork, and robotandspark toys in the works which you need to get your hands on asap. Your work is really fun, we love the various characters you use. Do you come up with characters and personalities for them? Do they often repeat in your work? Thank you! Because I spend so much time in the studio, all the characters that I create tend to become my closest friends so it’s impossible not to associate personalities and characteristics to them! Some of the characters are for one-off pieces and therefore their personality is not as developed as a character that is integral to a long-term project, like a toy design for example. I get bored pretty quickly of my own work, so I REALLY have to like it for it to pop up more than once. Do you feel like you have defined a certain style for yourself? Personally I would say that I don’t, although my friends and colleagues say that they can recognize a piece of my work. I would like to think that I am quite versatile as a designer and an illustrator, that I have the ability to create different aesthetic styles depending on the brief. How did you get into design? From a young age I had always been artistic, I could never
imagine doing anything else. I studied art and design after leaving high school, then moved on to graphic design after one of my lecturers told me it would be easier to make money as a graphic designer than an illustrator (he was right!). At university I specialized in typographic design. After that, I spent a few years in London working in some very junior roles before moving to Dubai. As a kid did you doodle a lot? If so, what sort of things did you draw? All the time! I loved to create these surreal cartoon characters; little girls trapped in the ribcages of skeletal demons, frogs that were DJ’s, boxers wearing clown masks. They were always very colorful and very detailed, and often with hints of dark humor that none of my family would understand. Tell us about robotandspark. How was the company formed? What type of work do you do? When the s**t hit the economic fan a few years ago, I lost my job with a prominent ad agency in Dubai. I took it very personally and decided that I didn’t want to ever work in an agency again and that I would set up my own design studio with the help of my wife, Nadine (a TV producer at
DESIGN - FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - ROBERT GIBBS
MTV) and her PA, Jhanice. We wanted it to be a small, boutique style studio, similar to something you would find in London, Miami or Amsterdam, where the focus was purely on design. Since then we have grown gradually, bitby-bit, and added a few more people to the team. We do all types of work, from branding, illustration, graphic design, website design and viral videos… anything where a client needs a little sprinkling of fun and creativity.
on some of the newer cartoons is great (Gumball and Samurai Jack, for example). In general though, the 80’s and early 90’s stuff was way better; Thundercats, Transformers, MASK, Gundam, He-Man, TMNT, Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Dungeons and Dragons‚ I could go on for hours. Most of my inspiration nowadays comes via the internet from other designers and illustrators from around the world.
How do you feel about corporate design work? Are you glad you can do what you love in a professional landscape as well or is it difficult to keep the creative side going when you have to design all day for clients?
How is it working in a team? Do you create artwork together or is that more of an individual thing? Tell us about some projects you have worked on together and what the process was like.
We are pretty fortunate that most of our clients come to us because of who we are and the type of work we do. They know that the style, energy, thought process and end product is different to what bigger agencies offer. Our clients are cool, and the type of work we do for them is always creative, challenging and enjoyable.
From an artistic sense, I prefer working on my own. I like to have complete control of everything! I think it is very rare to find somebody that you feel completely comfortable working with. I have huge respect for creatives that work as collectives, balancing all those ideas, personalities and egos. But obviously, as a design studio we have to work in a team – designers, developers, coordinators, project managers, all coming together to create artwork, websites, campaigns etc. That is one of the hardest things I have found about being a Creative Director, is being able to let go and share the responsibility. I am still a stubborn, egotistical, megalomaniac narcissist but I hope the rest of the team would say that I am getting easier to work with!
Tell us about your technique(s). What is your creative process like? I like to read the project brief and then let it “simmer” for a few days. Sometimes I will be fast asleep, and then wake up with a sudden blast of inspiration. I take notes on my phone while it is still fresh and then evaluate those notes in the morning. Sometimes they are nuggets of design gold, and other times they are a load of waffling nonsense! It is strange because all of my work stems from words, instead of visuals and scamps. I like to get the story or concept in place and then build the aesthetic around that. Are you inspired by other forms of art? Do you dabble in any other disciplines? I love most forms of design - fashion, architecture, interior, website, product. I am a huge movie fan too - not weird, indie foreign movies - but proper Hollywood, mainstream cinema. Give me Tim Burton, George Clooney and Pixar any day! I studied sculpture and ceramics at college as part of my art and design course – it gave me a wonderful insight into 3D form, which, as an illustrator was so incredibly important. Most of our 3D work is done digitally now, but occasionally I like to break out the Super Sculpey and get a bit messy. Do you have a certain ritual when it comes to creating artistic work? Any particular style of music you like to listen to, etc? Before I take on a really challenging piece I like to tidy my office and organize the desktop on my Mac. I feel that if my “space” is clean, then my thoughts will be clearer too. As for music - it depends on my mood. Sometimes some 90’s rap gets the creative juices flowing, sometimes a little bit of Dutch ambient trance. There seems to be a lot of cartoon influences in your work ‚ did you grow up reading certain comic books or watching certain shows? Do you still get inspiration from cartoons, comics, and so on? I am not such a huge comic book fan, but I have always loved cartoons - I still watch the Cartoon Network and Boomerang. I think the animation
Are you based out here in Dubai? How do you feel about the local creative and artistic scenes? I am based in Dubai, and have been for about 6 years now. The local creative scene has developed immensely over the last few years. I think that’s all I would like to say on that, thank you! How did you achieve your style and do you feel like you have defined your style or is it still changing and developing? I would imagine that most of my style comes from my teenage years, where as an aspiring artist / designer, you start to really take notice of the cool stuff around you. I remember things like The Designers Republic, Sonic The Hedgehog and Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl artwork really making an impression on me. The Chris Cunningham and Björk video for “All is Full of Love” was also something that shaped my style - with the white robots and the Japanese graphics – it was the first time I ever watched a music video and felt a genuine connection between the lyrics and visuals. Tell us about your future plans: do you have any exhibitions going on or anything you‚ like to tell us about? Are you currently working on any new projects? We have quite a few cool things going on in the studio, mostly in the pipeline for next year. We are very excited about some new limited edition toys we are working on, called the Irezumi Girls. There is also a line of designer t-shirts for children, a mobile game featuring our Robot VC3’s, some fresh new artwork for Comic Con 2013 and a pro-active environmental project for endangered species… it’s going to be a very busy 12 months! For more information (and awesome design) visit www.robotandspark.com
DESIGN - FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - ROBERT GIBBS
DESIGN - FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - ROBERT GIBBS
DESIGN - FEATURED ILLUSTRATOR - ROBERT GIBBS
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
INTERVIEW BY ZAINA SHREIDI
Melissa Cook’s work is the type that sucks you in. You are engulfed immediately by the breadth of size, time, and talent in each piece. The medium, the method, the subjects, the subtle, classic feel of monochrome, the intriguing selfportraits. All of it really. We just wanted to dive into the graphite and self-exploration of it all. Melissa’s photorealistic, large-scale, powdered graphite works are certainly unique, but the process and meaning behind each piece are also incredibly interesting. Through her work, Melissa explores “themes of beauty, fantasy, violence, and identity”, as well as relationships, sexuality, and gender. She uses herself, or some form of herself, as a model – contorting herself into various characters to use as subjects for her work. The interaction between the viewer and her work is very physical, considering the size, and this involvement gives the viewer time to understand the work and the statement of each piece. We caught up with Melissa to discuss her love for graphite drawings, what it’s like to live in a community of artists, and how manipulating herself as a subject helps her reach deeper meaning and emotion in her work.
The photorealistic aspects and oftentimes strange subjects make for a truly surreal experience! Do you feel like these aspects of your work are ingrained in your style as an artist or are they also mediums or tools used to express certain messages? Those are part of who I am. Even as a child, I needed to reproduce the world on paper. I have always been driven by the craft of drawing. Over the years, I emulated, mimicked, and mocked forms of conceptual art in order to find ways of integrating my traditional use of skill into the contemporary dialog. I believed that in the making and the constant need to create, I would find my voice. Your very realistic graphite drawings are immediately arresting. They stir something – and that’s one of the many things we love about them! How do you keep each series or project so interesting and engaging? Each series raises a new set of questions. A new challenge. My work needs to continually evolve in order to keep me, my ideas, and my approach fresh. A lot of your series manipulate faces (your own and others’) – focusing on, hiding, enhancing, or distorting certain aspects (like in Vacuum, Masked, Undertow). What are you looking to communicate by doing so?
I manipulate myself to delve into more universal themes and feelings. Through portraiture, I reflect on personal experiences, relationships, and emotions. For my most recent work, I have departed from the framing of traditional portraiture. The viewer is not given an entire bust of the subject, rather the frame zooms into up-close sections of the face. The cropping pushes the face to the surface of the paper, making the figure more ambiguous. Flesh becomes abstracted: obliterated by paint on the skin, distorted by the eye of the camera lens, or smeared by the glass of a Xerox machine. No longer is it focused on conveying a specific story, rather, it becomes a landscape. A place that asks questions, as opposed to giving answers. The medium of graphite must be quite challenging and interesting to use – particularly because it’s so unique. How did you start using graphite and was it always your main tool? I started using powdered graphite in January of 2008. I was in a point of my work where I was feeling stagnant and confined, making these tedious, small pencil drawings. I knew I had to make some changes. My solution was to visit an art store and leave with an armful of new supplies, including a can of powdered graphite. I tried watercolor for about two days, and was miserable.
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
Aggravated in the studio and mourning over some horrible wash of blue that I was attempting to paint, I grabbed a can of powdered graphite and a huge sheet of paper. No one had ever shown me how to use the medium; I just got hold of the nearest brush and started feverishly dusting the graphite onto the paper. Within four hours, I had a new drawing and was pulsating with excitement from this new process. I was immediately addicted.
Are you influenced by any other artistic disciplines?
white is one of the things that attracted me to graphite.
Definitely. I am influenced by my community. I look to the amazing creative people around me, and their approaches to life and art. The environment I live in definitely impacts me too. My neighborhood is filled with artists, murals, graffiti, and galleries. All of those elements are continually stirring in my head.
Do you work with friends/relatives/ strangers as subjects? It does take skill to achieve the particular emotions and expressions you want in another persons’ face – how has that process been?
You mentioned that you photograph yourself or other subjects and then draw them. And you’ve also undertaken some really interesting photography projects – do you have a preference for either medium? Through which medium do you feel you can express yourself better?
My work has elements of performance, film stills, photography, and painting. I’m interested in the dialog that can happen between different media. There is a real richness that can happen when boundaries are pushed and blurred.
I never took a photography class, but with iPhones and digital photography, the medium has become so accessible and immediate. I love to use photography to collect ideas and filter what I’m attracted to, kind of like a sketchbook. I always have a camera on hand. Drawing is my true love though. I love manipulating the powder - and the image. There is a certain magical quality that I can only achieve through drawing.
How did you forge your style? By continually questioning myself and the things that I am drawn to. I’ve always given myself challenges to push myself and my work. I never want to stop growing and learning. Is the monochrome colour scheme a part of your vision for your work or is it just the result of the medium? Have you ever or would you work in colour? The timeless quality of black and
I’ve always used myself as my subject, but have attempted to channel different personas and characters. At times, I have emulated a certain person in my life. Working with others would be a whole new challenge. I would have to grow into the role of Director. Maybe one day… Do you plan your work in advance? Can you take us through your creative process? Each photo shoot starts with an inspiration or impulse. Sometimes it can be as simple as wanting to experiment with a new material- like glow in the dark paint or yogurt. Other times, it can be a more complex desire to convey a specific relationship, idea, or emotion. I then photograph myself, using a camera with a remote control. The documentary photos are then used as inspiration for drawing. My large
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
scale drawings are made by dusting thin layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. Graphite’s soft quality provides a smooth surface that can be augmented by erasing in details. The scale of the work engulfs the viewer in a sea of marks. Brushstrokes break down to reveal illusion. Has your style changed or developed drastically over the years? Or have you always had a certain vision for your style and your work? It’s always evolving. There are elements that always stay true - like my interest in the craft of drawing. Tell us about your future plans: any upcoming exhibitions? Any new projects we should keep an eye out for? I currently have an exhibit at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in New York. It will be on display until December 22, 2012. I always try to keep busy with new projects. For more information of current events, check out my events page melissacookeart.com/events.html To see more of Melissa’s work visit melissacookeart.com And for news as well as in progress shots check out her blog melissacooke.tumblr.com
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - FEATURED ARTIST - MELISSA COOKE
DESIGN - PICNIC FESTIVAL 2012
“DON’T SAY BUT, SHAKE YOUR BUTT!” FARES BOU NASSIF
I HADN’T BEEN TO A CONFERENCE BY MISTAKE LIKE PICNIC BEFORE.
Photo credit: Maurice Mikkers Published by: Photodispatch.nl
The Thursday before it started, I was walking around the city, in the evening, and randomly walked into an office on one of the canals because I was curious to know what they did. Conversation, and “there’s this festival on Monday, called Picnic; check it out,” so I did. Now here’s me thinking “oh, this’ll be relaxed and easy fun,” completely oblivious to what it was. I mean, it’s a festival, right? Well, I got there, and as I wrote in my blog: initially, going into Picnic, I was not exactly sure what to expect. Openness and sustainability had become words that bored me, polished terms that do not reflect the ethos of the hacker culture I grew up believing in. In my earlier years, as a computer science and software engineering major at university, hacking was a touchpoint in everything I did; open source, the free software foundation, et al, were my best pals. Eventually, I’d moved on and away, although I am very much still attached to the fundamental principles of these movements. Which is why, walking into Picnic, unprepared, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Bas van Abel & FairPhones
Photo credit: Jonne Seijdel
A few months before Picnic, I was involved in research on the theme of ‘openness’ in Dutch design and Dutch design organisations. The primary candidates of our investigations were de Waag Society, Droog, and Premsela (as one does when dealing with Dutch design), but there was, more specifically, one name that was more or less involved at every level: Bas van Abel. He was behind quite a bit of the work, particularly the Open Design Now book. At the time, I didn’t meet him as one of my colleagues interviewed him instead. So, seeing him speak the first day at Picnic, I was a little bit skeptical. He was going on about FairPhones and it did feel a little bit plastic, a little like a child’s
toy project — until the story developed and my prejudices faded. His idea was simple, and his anecdote quite entertaining: his kid had damaged his Nintendo DS and when he tried to fix it, he found out that it was an extremely closed system. This got him to wonder about Apple products (since his electronic ecosystem is practically governed by Apple), and the iPhone, which ultimately produced the idea of the FairPhone. Some fraction of it was on display outside the EYE, and the whole affair seemed a little like it was still a concept, like he was pitching to get funding, but it did, realistically, make sense: smartphones produced in Africa and elsewhere that give everyone involved in the production chain, down to the raw materials miners,
fair treatment and fair pay. If nothing more, an honourable venture that actually has the potential to grow or affect change. Taken down to its core, this philosophy of sharing and cocreation, of equality in production, and the festival as a whole gives new life to de Waag’s consistent marketing of open design as a future to be considered and contended with, to how Droog Design disappointed with its Design for Download project, and to the many criticisms one can level at the different approaches that have been considered by larger institutions ‘crashing’ hackerspaces and DIY projects in an effort to expose them as a new trend, and a valuable one at that. At least the intentions were there.
The idea of being together and working together for a common betterment seems central to this post-postmodernist view that Schwarz ‘preached’ and termed Sustainism. It’s not really his idea though, it’s simply an empirical observation of our surroundings, one that seems very reasonable and definitely appealing. One quote sums it up nicely, smoothly: “a habitat of mutual relationships from ‘you are what you have’ to ‘you are what you share’”.
Shongwe’s Empowering Bottom Up, where the founder and CEO of Afroes, her digital solutions firm for Africa “rooted in Africa’s rich heritage”, gives us a whole new image of Africa and its youth, reminding us that it’s a continent that has vast economic and natural resources, with a population of 900 million. She talks of the many initiatives they have started, using gaming and storytelling on mobile devices through apps to allow children to learn. And those kids? They carry SIM cards and wait until they run into someone with a phone so they can take it over for half an hour and play! Where there was no discussion on hacking, it was on apps and how they can be used in an open, shared, connected ecosystem that would improve your life. In a sense, the feel of the whole thing was very much in line with Byron Reese’s talk about ‘The Great Disconnect’, and how we have become untethered. Untethered: “we’re not born into a role that you spend your entire life playing, instead you decide who you are.” We have choices, we have the choice not to make choices. We can change everything, simply because we’re no longer shackled by other people’s expectations. Again, another realm of openness: open-mindedness through selfdetermination.
Photo credit: Jonne Seijdel
Yes, Dutch Open Design and its adjoining themes are lacking, but Picnic 2012 does bring together several key elements that are unavoidably interesting. As Michiel Schwarz describes his concept of Sustainism, the three values of both his idea and, potentially, Picnic 2012 are simple: “Connectedness, Localism, and Sharing.” In fact, this theory of Sustainism was one of the more catchy of the first day, defining a post-postmodernist era as being centred around collaboration, advanced channels of communication, and the desire of the masses to improve their quality of life in harmony with the limitations of the planet, in consideration and through the inclusion of other cultures and people, and the overall fundamental principles of hackers, green engineers, homeopaths, sustainist designers, activists of various affiliations, and, yes, even hippies.
Photo credit: Jonne Seijdel
Sustainism & Other Day One Stories
Putting it all together in a more humanitarian context was Anne
Photo credit: Jonne Seijdel
Cathal Garvey Besides these two wonderful talks near the end, there was that half hour I spent in Cinema 3 waiting for Schwarz’s half hour, attending the ‘Why DIY? Biotech in the Backyard’ talk. I know nothing about biology past what I need to get by on a daily basis. Never really had an interest in it, although I can imagine what biotech would look like based on sci-fi novels and films (yes, nothing like the real thing). Still, there was something remarkable about seeing a guy who looked like he couldn’t be a day over 21 telling a room full of people about the bio-hackerspaces he’s been trying to establish and the lab he’d set up in his mom’s backyard. Cathal Garvey is a young man whose pure energy and devotion to biohacking and the hacker community at large makes you
want to join his cause. After that first session, he popped by for his second, longer, talk between Elizabeth Stark and Tim O’Reilly’s talks, and that was when we really got to hear what he had to say. Now, very few people are ever going to pretend they understood everything he was trying to explain to us during that second session, where he went on about the different tools and equipment he’d hacked into existence and how easily he could do something strange to polio, but what he did offer, and the reason why I find him to have been one of the more inspirational people at Picnic this year, is a look into how much design thinking, the designer ethos, and hackers have in common – and how transferable their processes and ideals are to
completely unrelated disciplines. Then, he wrapped it up with one of his numerous side notes, he gave us a whole new look at academia. In talking about a recent anti-Elsevier boycott by researchers and academics worldwide, he pointed out that “opening up research papers is actually the most effective way of sharing knowledge,” which is possibly one of the most obvious well-hidden truths I’ve ever considered. When you’re not part of a university somewhere, there is a gigantic body of knowledge that you do not have access to simply because you cannot (or will not) pay hundreds of euros for access. Open source knowledge should have, really, been the first thing any hacker fought for, no?
DESIGN - PICNIC FESTIVAL 2012
Photo credit: Maurice Mikkers Published by: Photodispatch.nl
The Exhibits Before those, there were the exhibits, with people like AngelClique developing a platform that crowdsources talent for projects; Lev Kaupas giving workshops on ownership, technology, sustainability, and others; try not shopping for a year? - Emma Ojala did – from November 2010, she found the experience to be very relaxing, and talked about it on FreeFashionChallenge.com; Laura de Jong is starting the Dear Fashion magazine, about living with fashion and exploring different ways to do so; Solar Fiber producing solar panels hidden in different wearable materials; 7scenes giving gaming a whole new meaning and engagement to the masses and the young with their game design and education platform; Marieka Ratsma developed 3D printed high heel inspired by human bone aesthetic. The list is endless.
Tim O’Reilly: “Create More Value Than You Capture” The idea is about what you create for the world. Tim O’Reilly is a technological celebrity, an educator, investor, enabler, and publisher. He works towards improving our understanding of technology and giving access to new technologies.
Photo credit: Jonne Seijdel
At Picnic, his focus was on giving back to everyone around us. In his historical overview of how technology is founded on the ‘giving away’ of information by people like Linus Torvalds and GNU and Eric Raymond and Steve Wozniak, of how Microsoft used to create value and then began to drop away from that in the mid-nineties, of how Wall Street used to help people and now competes against them. Throughout his talk, quotes from others before him peppered his argument, making the whole thing feel like an enjoyably improvised academic paper. Clearly a man full of knowledge, his ultimate statement on the clothesline paradox and its analogous open source movement and its monetisation. He reminds us that everything we have today, everything on the Internet and on our devices, is built on the open source movements, until he finally started talking about Internet service providers. We pay for our Internet connection just like we pay for television, but we still refer to our content on the Internet “for free” while we do not think that of television channels. Google makes its money off of advertising, but offers its content for free (so that people access it, creating a high degree of advertising
income for the company). What O’Reilly points out is a small detail at the bottom right of YouTube videos pertaining to the licensing of content by Google for the users of YouTube. How? Google auto-detects whatever content is being used without license and pays the entity that owns the rights to it a certain royalty fee so as to keep the content live. For example, Lady Gaga (who O’Reilly does not name directly) makes more money from users embedding her music in their fangenerated videos, through Google, than she does from posting her own videos. His examples go on to explain how the movie industry makes more from illegally uploaded trailers and videos than it does from their video rentals, and generating a whole new income stream and monetary economy. His whole talk, from this point on, paid especial attention not only to the assimilation of YouTube into everything we do online, but also to Kickstarter, to Couchsurfing.com, Etsy, and others: the concept of creating value through sharing. And, to close, he reminded us of Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, where the idea of gifting as a means to improve one’s standing is promulgated, and Steve Jobs telling the Standford graduates that: “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use.”
Photo credit: Maurice Mikkers Published by: Photodispatch.nl
Interesting talk by Andy Hood about how accommodating failure might be the best route to success in times of innovation turnbull: everyone is born an entrepreneur. Not everybody starts their own business. The rest can and should be intrapeneurs. AndradaMorar: Key learning so far @ #picnic12: Take (major) risks. If you fail, even better. Because you learn. And learning means success. Makes sense? Me: AndradaMorar Although I’d add a second key learning: take initiatives that matter, share, and then it’s okay if you fail. Gianni Catalfamo: AndradaMorar totally. At #picnic12 seeing some freaky live demos of DIY neuroscience by http://www.backyardbrains.com
Photo credit: Maurice Mikkers Published by: Photodispatch.nl
SOPA as bottom-up democratisation But if there’s an error, it spreads widely. RT @fbnas: Elizabeth Stark /P2P learning replaces expert-teaching? @up_tanja / so then maybe monitored, mentored P2P?
Photo credit: Ute Brinkmeier
One person tweeted: “Reviewing is the new advertising.” Another, reminding us yet again that the future is programmed: “In Estonia, all first graders learn how to code. So who’s winning the brain race..? Smart!”
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARTEN LANGE
Photographers generally seem to see things other people don’t. It’s why they choose a camera as their tool. They see things worth documenting, worth looking at again and again. And it’s that ability to see things differently that sets great photographers apart. One of those great photographers is Mårten Lange. Mårten has the unique ability to elicit a wide array of emotions in his monochrome masterpieces. Through his camera the oftentimes mundane or overlooked is made eternal. Bringing out the deepest blacks and brightest whites in his work, Mårten takes monochrome to a whole new level. The texture in his photographs perfectly complements the strange subjects and the eerie feeling you get as you look through his work. The subjects, which include baby deer, whirlpools, jellyfish, stormy skies, are described brilliantly by Mårten as “specimens in museum displays”. More than anything it may be that these photographs are as stirring as they are due to the way they are presented together. Mårten’s latest book Another Language showcases his love of nature and science through striking photographs. The subjects are related in theme, but easily stand alone as individual oddities and fascinations.
The first thing we noticed about your work is how even though it is all monochrome the shades are very stark and rich. Can you tell us about your technique? Well, it’s just how I prefer to print my images. I shoot digitally or scan my negatives. Then it’s just a matter of adjusting the contrast in the computer. Why do you choose to shoot in monochrome? How does it fit into your style as a photographer? I’m primarily interested in how things look and feel in images, and not so much in making representations of them. I like the materiality and shape of objects. Often I get the feeling that colour is a noise that can drown out the tactility of something that I photograph, and I choose to remove it. Your still life and landscape shots are incredible. It’s like you take the mundane or things people just pass by every day and make them interesting and beautiful. Where do you like to shoot? How do you choose what to shoot? I am a walking photographer, I take pictures everywhere. I walk and sometimes something makes me stop. Something very beautiful or ugly or unexpected. Tell us about your new book. Is there an overall message you are conveying through the work? Is there a theme, or stylistic aspect that brings it all together? I wouldn’t call it a message. That is such a big word. But there is definitely a theme of exploration, of the joy of looking at things and of the urge to make a photographic index. All the phenomena in the book are photographed with a kind of scientific approach. They look like specimens in museum displays.
What kind of equipment do you use? Do you prefer shooting in analogue or digital? Another Language was the first project I shot with a digital camera. I really enjoyed it. It allows for more flexibility, control and speed. Can you walk us through your creative process? I don’t have a standard process, things evolve little by little. We have so many experiences every day. For me it’s a matter of filtering those experiences towards the particular project. How do you plan for or come up with the idea for a new series? Are they planned or more spontaneous? Like I said, I don’t plan all that much. When a certain theme attracts my interest, I shift my attention towards that subject area. The images in Another Language are focused on nature – what were you looking to communicate with these images? I hope to share my sense of wonder for the natural world and my fascination with the shape and scale of things. How did you find such interesting and surreal subjects? Most of them I found by chance, but some of them I actively sought out. The whirlpool, for example, is the photograph I’ve put the most planning into. Looking at maps and tide timetables, planning a long trip. Are you interested in, or inspired by other artistic disciplines? I’m interested in sculpture, though I know very
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARTEN LANGE
little about it. I think photography is a very sculptural form of imagery. Have you experimented with shooting various subjects or have you always been drawn to a particular theme – like nature in Another Language?
I have self-published work in book form before but this book is the first one made with a major publisher. I like the book format for many reasons. It is portable, intimate and tactile. A lot of images can be carried inside a small object. The book also has an indefinite duration, unlike an exhibition. What are your current plans?
Nature has always been a recurring theme, but maybe not all the time as clearly as in Another Language. Woodland and Machina deals with nature and science, Crows and the Sea are also very much about the sublime and the beauty of nature. Is this your first book? Why did you decide to publish a book? Do you feel the work is better presented together?
I am doing some book signings right now in Paris, for Paris Photo and Offprint. I will also show some work from the new book at the Nofound fair, also in Paris. Check out more of Mårten’s work at www.martenlange.com and for more information on Another Language visit www.mackbooks.co.uk
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARTEN LANGE
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARTEN LANGE
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - MARTEN LANGE
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - NELLI PALOMAKI
BAAWO AT 30
INTERVIEW BY ZAINA SHREIDI
Nelli Palomäki captures faces – and they in turn capture hers. Nelli’s incredible portraits convey feelings of nostalgia, youth, innocence, and a certain sadness, loneliness, that seems to come across in the stares of her subjects. The portraits are timeless – both in method and manner. The subjects of Nelli’s portraits wear clothing of another time, have faces of another time, they gaze at you as though through decades of time. What is even more arresting about these portraits is Nelli’s statement that they are a reflection to herself, “Each and every portrait I have taken is a photograph of me too. What I decide to see, or more likely, how I confront the things that I see, inevitably determines the final image.” Each portrait a window unto the artist. Her interpretation of her work makes you view it all in a completely new way – “The complexity of portraiture, its greatest trap, eventually always lies on its power relationships. What I desire to find and to reveal might be someone’s secret. These secrets, finally shown to the viewers, as they were mine.” The meaning behind each photograph, Nelli’s ability to capture a perfect image, and her subjects’ hidden secrets and emotions are apparent in these striking portraits.
As soon as we came across your work it gave us a shudder of pleasure! The slightly haunting aspect of the portraits is just incredible. How did you form your style of portraiture? Thank you so much! I’m not sure if I could say I formed this kind of a style. I guess it comes quite naturally from me. What I’m most interested in is the time we spend together with my subjects - the quiet, intense moments we share while taking the portrait. What is crucial, is the gaze, how we are staring at each other, secretly studying each other’s faces. The subjects in your work are of course the highlight. Are they friends, relatives? How do
you go about selecting the subjects you shoot? Some of the people I know before, but most of them are strangers. Obviously now I know them, but often I just met them and asked their portrait to be taken. But something in them always fascinates me, usually it’s a mixture of the subject’s personality and appearance. I mean, there’s has to be something more in a person, something that’s already haunting. These portraits are probably as much pictures of me as they are pictures of these people. Our presence is essential part of the work, as a photographer I don’t want to be an outsider. The feeling of nostalgia pervades these
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - NELLI PALOMAKI
AINO AT 27
portraits – do you hold a certain fascination for the past? I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily trying to make the portraits look old, I guess the timeless atmosphere comes from the black and white, but also from the way I select these people. They often look very timeless themselves. A lot of your subjects are children, are you particularly inspired by children? Are you interested in themes connected to childhood (like innocence, vulnerability, purity, and so on)? I cannot say I’m very good with children, but surprisingly many parents think I act very naturally with them. I guess I find them a bit scary. What I mean by this, is that children can be very clever and independent too. They often know what’s exactly happening around them, even faster than we adults do. In many ways they are very sensitive. We often treat children like dogs while taking their pictures – we ask them to sit there, smile, do this and that. But they are more clever than that. We just don’t give them enough space. I do find the childhood very fascinating. This is when we start building our identity, we have potential to become anything. Your work reminds me of old, printed portraits. The kind of photographs families would sit for. Something that doesn’t really happen very much anymore. Is that something that you tried to put across in your work? I do love old portraits. The time when it was still something very special to have your portrait taken. In this sense I could say that probably old pictures have affected my work quite a lot. The stillness, silence and the intensity of the moment fascinates me. One of the important themes in my work is our mortality. This reflects very strongly from the old portraits and family albums. Tell us about your tools and process – do you shoot in digital or analogue? Which do you prefer, and why? I shoot on analogue, Mamiya C 330 medium format camera, using black and white film. Afterwards I develop the films, scan them and work digitally. The film is very important to me. I love the fact that you don’t see the picture immediately, it always surprises you. The image is never what you expected, something is always a bit different. Also, film makes you focus more, makes it more intense. Have you always been drawn to people as subjects?
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - NELLI PALOMAKI
DENIS I could say yes. People, meeting strangers, having long conversations – this all is what inspires me. My favourite photography is always portraiture. We love the outfits in each piece – do you dress your subjects or are they clothes they already own? Usually I dress my subjects, sometimes they have their own clothes. I like the fact that you cannot really tell by the looks when the image was taken. This is how photography cheats us in a way. With the timeless clothing I can also concentrate on the subject more, I don’t really like the logos or prints on the clothes. It’s often too tied to this time. How do you plan your pieces? Are there certain elements you plan ahead of time that need to be in place? I always shoot with natural light, often indoors using window light. So this is something very important, I always follow the direction of the light. It always starts with the light, after that comes everything else. But I do love to go to someone’s house to take the picture, not knowing what’s going to happen, or how it will look like. Where do you like to shoot? Any particular favourite spots? As I said, anywhere where the light is beautiful. I love the Finnish winter light, the northern greyish soft light. Working with children must be interesting – do they have the patience to sit and be photographed? How do you capture such serenity and such little expression in their faces? Some of the children are easier than others. But this same goes with the adults I guess. Usually children understand that they need to be more quiet, and stay still. As I said before, children can be surprisingly independent and clever. And they don’t really smile if you don’t ask them to. It’s only a habit to ask people to smile when the picture is taken. But it is harder for children to understand the camera and the film, imagine that they don’t even know what the film is nowadays!
VLADIMIR & EDUARD
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - NELLI PALOMAKI
DORA AT 7
JULIA AT 5
In a description of your own work you said “Each and every portrait I have taken is a photograph of me too.” – How do you see yourself in your subjects?
VERA AT 3
I think in order to get something from my subjects, I need to give something from myself. It has to be awkward and uncomfortable. I’m very nervous while taking the portraits, almost afraid. But I don’t see why it should be comfortable. The intensity of the moment controls the final image. Our communication, the fragility, the silence. My work allows me to be quiet, and I hope this would be shown in my portraits. Tell us about your future plans – any exhibitions coming up? Are you working on any new projects? I have many shows coming up. At the moment there is my solo show Sons of Nakhimov at the Wapping Project Bankside in London, it will be open till 22nd of December. Then my big solo show at the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki opens on 15th of January, it will last till the 21st of April. After this I have another museum solo show in Denmark at the Ordrupgaar Art Museum from 7th of February till 1st of April. In March opens my solo show at the Photographic Gallery Pole Image Haute-Normandie in Rouen in France. Also, my book Nelli Palomäki: Breathing the Same Air will be published by the early January 2013. The publisher is Hatje Cantz. For more of Nelli’s work visit www.nellipalomaki.com
BECKY AT 23
PHOTOGRAPHY - FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER - NELLI PALOMAKI
ANNI MARIA AT 24 WITH DONNA
VIOLA & ELSA AT 10 & 9
AT 27 WITH MY DAD
JULIA TURNING FIVE
PHOTOGRAPHY - BLACKOUT NYC
BLACKOUT nyc Lower Manhattan left to night. Only wandering flashlights, sirens, and the occasional halal cart remain. Midnight sets in when avenues start to whisper in a lazy haze. Brownstones pour shadows over those whoâ€™ve stayed. Electric Midtown screams in the distance. Speakeasies by candlelight wash the whole world away. Moonlight drools over Houston like Quarter jazz over lush ears. New York City as I will always recall.
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - SICILY
photography by Iga Drobisz modeL BettiÂ designer Aleksandra Kucharczyk
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - SICILY
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - SICILY
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - IZABEL
photography by Iga Drobisz model: Izabel / New Age
dress Aleksandra Kucharczyk
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - IZABEL
top Asia Wysoczynska
top Asia Wysoczynska
FASHION - PHOTOSHOOT - IZABEL
design by Asia Wysoczynska
FASHION - SNEAKERS OF THE MONTH
NIKE AIR JORDAN 1 Because it’s the black and white edition, here are three trainers you should get in black and white, starting with the ol’ first Jordans. They’re beautiful.
ADIDAS SUPERSTAR Next up, the Super-dooper-stars. Run DMC’s favourite. You can wear these down at the mall or at a wedding.
PUMA SUEDE And then the Suedes from Puma. They make your feet look like duck-bill platipusses, but they’re a true collector’s item.
NIKE’S NEW INITIATIVE, WE RUN DUBAI, HAS BEEN MAKING WAVES AROUND OUR BIG, BRIGHT CITY. WITH NIKE+ RUN CLUBS MEETING REGULARLY AND MORE AND MORE PEOPLE JOINING EACH TIME, THEIR WE RUN DUBAI NIGHT RUN COMING UP ON 23 NOVEMBER, AND THE RECENT COLLABORATION WITH US AT QUINT MAGAZINE TO ENCOURAGE CREATIVES TO GET INVOLVED IN A GREAT ART COMPETITION – NIKE SEEMS TO BE SAYING THAT NO MATTER WHAT YOU’RE INTO, JUST DO IT. WE CAUGHT UP WITH NIKE’S COACH TOM TO DISCUSS DUBAI’S VERY OWN NIKE+ RUN CLUB, AND HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED.
SO, WHAT IS NIKE+ RUN CLUB ALL ABOUT?
HOW CAN PEOPLE JOIN?
Nike+ Run Club is a free, community running club that provides expert coaching, support and mentoring to enable anyone to participate, get outside and get active.
Nike+ Run Club is completely free, and all you have to do is rock up with bags of energy and a smile. We provide a safe place to leave your belongings, and water to keep you hydrated. You can log onto facebook.com/NikeRunningMiddleEast for further details.
IS THE NIKE+ RUN CLUB A UNIQUE IDEA TO THE COUNTRY AND REGION? Nike+ Run Clubs exist all around the world, in fact we are the world’s largest running club. We unite runners of all abilities; we exist to support everyone from the nervous, but enthusiastic beginner to the seasoned athlete. HOW DOES THE NIKE+ RUN CLUB ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO GET OUT AND GET ACTIVE? When you make anything fun and social then people want to get involved, and as such we focus on creating a positive, constructive community. Anyone who wants to get active, learn a little about running ‘smarter’ and enjoy themselves and their running should give it a try. WHAT SORTS OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN JOINING THE NIKE+ RUN CLUB? There is no typical runner at Nike+ Run Club, those that do come down always want to come back. We attract a great deal of beginner runners as getting started can often be tough and having the coaches around to support and mentor new runners, as well as fellow runners to share the experience with. What unites everyone is passion and the drive to make every day count.
If runners are unable to attend in person then we set them challenges to complete on their own, and they can log their times and distances using the free Nike+ App on their smartphone/iPod and remain engaged with club virtually. HOW OFTEN DOES THE NIKE+ RUN CLUB MEET? We have Nike+ Run Clubs in Dubai on Tuesday evening at Safa Park (1845), Friday morning at Burj Park Island, Downtown Dubai (0745) and Saturday morning at Make Business Hub, Dubai Marina (0745) We also Run Abu Dhabi, meeting on the Corniche opposite 30th Street, Monday evenings at 1845. WHERE DO YOU GUYS RUN? The runs vary in distance and length but are all centred around each of the locations mentioned above. The Nike+ Run Club sessions also focus on other factors such as strength, conditioning, agility, recovery and nutrition. We are more than just a run club, we are a tribe, we run because we want to get outside, become healthier, stronger and live life to the fullest. For more information or to get involved in Nike+ Run Club check out: facebook.com/NikeRunningMiddleEast and follow @NikeRunningME on Twitter.
ART COMPETITION TO GIVE BACK TO THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY AND CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH OF LIGHT UP DXB THIS MONTH, NIKE AND QUINT RECENTLY LAUNCHED AN ART COMPETITION WHICH YIELDED SOME GREAT RESULTS! LIGHT UP DXB AIMS TO MOTIVATE THE CITY’S RESIDENTS INTO GETTING ACTIVE AND GETTING INVOLVED IN THE WE RUN DUBAI RACE. THE CAMPAIGN IS INSPIRED BY THE IDEA OF PEOPLE ‘LIGHTING UP’ THEIR SURROUNDINGS WHEN THEY PERFORM BRILLIANTLY, AND OF COURSE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF DUBAI. THE ARTISTS WHO TOOK PART IN THE NIKE LIGHT UP DXB ART COMPETITION WERE ASKED TO CREATE A WORK OF ART THAT REPRESENTS THE LIGHT UP DXB CONCEPT BY USING ELEMENTS OF DUBAI, ITS BRIGHT LIGHTS AND ICONIC LANDMARKS, AS WELL AS THE THRILL OF ACHIEVING SOMETHING AFTER WORKING HARD FOR IT. IN RESPONSE WE GOT TONS OF GREAT ARTWORK – BUT ALAS, WE COULD ONLY CHOOSE ONE WINNER AND ONE RUNNER UP.
THE LUCKY WINNER IS
ROB GIBBS AND THE SECOND PLACE WINNER IS
JUAN BEHRENS Check out interviews with winners Rob Gibbs and Juan Behrens, as well as some of the great shortlisted work! Ten pieces, including the winning artworks as well as some of the shortlisted work will be showcased in a gallery at the We Run Dubai event. The We Run Dubai event takes place on 23 November at the Palm Dubai. Visit werundubai.com for more info.
ROB WINS AED 3000 AND JUAN WINS AED 1500 TO SPEND AT THE NIKE STORE. GO NUTS GUYS! WHAT A SHOPPING SPREE…
ROB GIBBS ROBOTANDSPARK.COM
WHAT ELEMENTS OF DUBAI INSPIRED YOUR PIECES?
Both pieces are influenced by the sheer scale of Dubai’s skyline - but in particular Emirates Towers. The Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa generate so much attention that sometimes Emirates Towers are almost forgotten. The clean lines and geometric shape of the towers are awesome! TELL US ABOUT THE INTERESTING CHARACTERS YOU USED IN YOUR PIECES.
The two artworks feature two different characters with two completely contrasting stories; One is an old school runner, aging and out of shape. He runs at night because he is ashamed of the athlete he has become. The other guy also has his issues, but uses late night exercise as an escape. In the artwork he is literally running from his demons. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT OR FORM OF EXERCISE? Football, cycling and running.
DO YOU HAVE A WORKOUT PLAYLIST? IF SO, CAN YOU LIST 3 OF THE SONGS?
Aphex Twins - Window Licker, C&C Music Factory Everybody Dance Now, Felix Da Housecat - Madame Hollywood. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE NIKE SNEAKER? Air Max 180 or Tech Challenge 1 WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CREATIVE COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN NIKE RUNNING AND LOCAL ARTISTS?
I think it is essential for a brand like Nike to engage with artists and designers. So many good ideas can come from collaborating with local creatives, sharing thoughts and stepping outside of traditional comfort zones. CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I started with a little brainstorming session and jotted down some concepts, while spending some time looking at different visual references. I sketched up my favorite ideas and then asked the guys at work which options they liked the most. The final artworks took about 3 days each to finish.
12 SECOND PLACE
JUAN BEHRENS BRE4K.COM
WHAT ELEMENTS OF DUBAI INSPIRED YOUR PIECE?
There are so many buildings on different sizes and shapes in Dubai that if you find right angles you can make up shapes out of them just as you do when you look up to the clouds and that’s why I drew a shoe coming out from a comp of Dubai. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT OR FORM OF EXERCISE? Snowboarding and sometimes jogging.
DO YOU HAVE A WORKOUT PLAYLIST? IF SO, CAN YOU LIST 3 OF THE SONGS? My playlist, sometimes I run listening to Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse or someone of the same genre. Always been a fan of the cosmos. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE NIKE SNEAKER?
I always been a fan of Nike’s high dunks, especially one customized Nike id. CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I start sketching something after I had an idea spinning around my head persistently, after drawing something in pencil really quick just to get a sense of proportions and comp design I make the same drawing in the computer fairly quick and spend a while adding details to it until I feel it looks that it was done by another professional illustrator.
FIRST PLACE ROBOTANDSPARK
FIRST PLACE ROBOTANDSPARK
SECOND PLACE JUAN BEHRENS
SUGAR WHEEL AKA LINA HASAN
WE ALWAYS SAY WE’RE GOING TO GET UP AND GO TO THE GYM – TODAY IS THE DAY! NO WAIT, TOMORROW IS THE DAY! OH BUT YOU’VE GOT TO GO SHOPPING, FRIDAY! FRIDAY IS THE DAY! TO THAT WAY OF THINKING WE’D LIKE TO RESPOND WITH STRONG WORDS FROM A STRONG BRAND: JUST DO IT. AND NOW, THERE’S A REALLY COOL REASON TO JUST DO IT. THE NIKE LUNARGLIDE+ 4. THE NIKE LUNARGLIDE+ 4 IS A “TRACK TO STREET” SNEAKER. ITS DYNAMIC SUPPORT SYSTEM IS A TWO-PART MIDSOLE WHICH IS DEVELOPED TO PROVIDE STABILITY, COMFORT, AND CUSHIONING. THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS HERE ARE FIT, SUPPORT, AND STABILITY. THE OPPOSING WEDGES OF FOAM AND THE FLOATING HEEL CLIP ARE INNOVATIVE IN THEIR ABILITY TO PROVIDE INCREDIBLE SUPPORT AND HELP IMPROVE GAIT. AND IT LOOKS GREAT. THE DESIGN OF THE NIKE LUNARGLIDE+ 4 IS SLEEK AND SMOOTH – ENSURING YOUR RUNS LOOK AS GREAT AS THEY FEEL.
MUSIC - WE ARE FAILED - AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSEL HARMON
WE ARE FAILED AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL HARMON by Zaina Shreidi
Minimal, haunting, with undertones of undulating emotion, Russell Harmon takes you on a wordless journey which utilises every sound to tell a story in We Are Failed, his latest EP. British born Russell now works and lives in Iceland – which boasts both incredible landscape and a vibrant, diverse music scene. We caught up with Russell to discuss his moving, visceral EP We Are Failed. Your recent work seems to tell of a long journey – how has your style developed over the years, and have you felt like you’ve arrived at a style that you are comfortable with and confident in? I have been involved in music in some way or another ever since I was a young child, so I guess whether it was learning to play the trumpet in school or studying music technology in university, everything I have done thus far has somehow brought me to
where I am now musically. With that in mind, I suppose it has been a long journey and it could be possible that my recent work reflects that. Some of the earliest memories I have of writing music are sitting down with my dad’s acoustic guitar at the age of 12 or 13, trying to write songs like Kurt Cobain. When I hit 17, I bought an Akai MPC sampler/drum machine after listening to DJ Shadow and really wanted to make dark, hip hop style beats. So in retrospect, I think it is fair to say that my style has developed considerably over the years and I am definitely at a point where I feel comfortable and confident with the music I am composing. It seems reasonable to consider on reflection, that this developmental journey accounts for the reason why I only recently released my first record as a solo artist. Tell us about your work with PORQUESÍ. Did you start making music with them before or after working on solo projects?
I have been composing and playing music on a solo basis for a long time now but PORQUESÍ only started in 2009. What you are hearing on the ‘We Are Failed’ EP though is the accumulation of work from over the past year or so – I was writing my own material at the same time as working and performing with the band. I formed PORQUESÍ with a very good friend of mind called Skúli Jónsson who I actually met before I moved out to Iceland. We were shortly joined by his brother Egill and another good friend of mine from the UK called Jonathan Baker who also moved out here. There was a great synergy between us and we have been making music together ever since. My role is to play the electric guitar in the band. Working alone must differ greatly to working with a band – which do you prefer and why? It definitely differs greatly and I think for
that reason I have never really associated the two processes together. I would say for the most part, I see them as completely different entities. I have for a long time worked in bands but at the same time worked on my own music individually and there has never really been a cross over between the two. I wouldn’t say that I favour one over the other as they both bring me very different things – I really enjoy doing both. However, I think what I like the most about working alone is that fact that I have total control over the output. It is just me and I like being able to create exactly what I want to hear. Because of this, I think it is more precious and personal and for that reason, my heart truly lies in this more than anything else. Do you express the same or similar emotions and messages in PORQUESÍ as you do on solo projects? PORQUESÍ is a joint effort so there are influences and emotions coming in from all directions. Skúli (the lead guitarist in PORQUESÍ) writes the majority of our material; however, we both share very similar tastes in music and due to this I think similarities between my solo work and PORQUESÍ can easily be identified. For example, with both there is a lot of focus on the power and intensity of the sound. The use of layers that build up to this inevitable, explosive climax is also common throughout both projects. I would say that as a band though, we generally write music that is slightly more uplifting and in a sense hopeful. Having said that, the new EP we are working on is a lot darker and much more atmospheric, so I think it will be possible to identify even more similarities between the two with the release of our new material. Like Blood Off A Dove’s Back is foreboding as a name – so it’s no surprise the song itself is very dark. What did you want to express through this song, the jolting sounds, and the juxtaposition of the buzzing with the minimal notes from the piano? Initially, I didn’t set out to express anything specifically. First and foremost, I just wanted the track to sound as violent and aggressive as possible. I knew that I wanted to juxtapose this brutality with calmer sections that despite being quieter, still convey a sense of fear and uneasiness. As I continued to work on the track, a narrative definitely developed and I formed a clearer sense of what I wanted to achieve with it. For instance, because most of my other tracks build to a climax over time, I just really wanted to structure this track differently and take the listener on more of a defined journey – and the abrupt changes between the various sections form this journey. I think foreboding is actually a good way to describe the first section of the track as I wanted to express this sense that something evil is approaching and then the ‘kick in’ abruptly ends this fearful apprehension and it is clear that something is upon you. The track ends how it begins and with this I wanted to represent the end of the chaos. Overall, the track is very physical and violent, and the title “Like Blood Off A Dove’s Back” points to these qualities. You moved out to Iceland several years ago, have the cold, dark surroundings affected your music? Or have you always been the brooding type?
I feel that I have always strived to create certain emotions with my music and still continue to strive for the same thing. Even before I moved out to Iceland I was composing music that, for me at least, evoked the same kind of emotions as the music that I compose today does. So I believe for me, location doesn’t really come into it; however, I guess that it could have influenced me subconsciously? What I would say though, is that since moving to Iceland I have been exposed to a lot of music that I would possibly not have been introduced to if I hadn’t moved out here. This music has inevitably influenced me and what I compose. Those influences are recognisable in the music that I am composing today. If you could express Iceland through music, how would you imagine it would sound like? (To me your record already sounds like how I would imagine Iceland looks and feels. Silent, minimal, yet so wild that at any moment an avalanche of sound can break through it all. )
For me, Iceland doesn’t need a musical narrative. I feel that it visually and audibly speaks perfectly for itself, and that is its music – just exactly how it sounds. I can’t imagine anything replicating that. If my music evokes some sense of Iceland for the listener though, I will only take it as a compliment. I feel that the music of the Icelandic musician Steindór Andersen and his rímur (rhymes) chanting really encompasses the general mood of Iceland and its landscape though. His music is often very dark and solemn and consists of a chanted form of Icelandic poetry. The poetry of rímur holds a lot of historical and cultural relevance in Iceland as the form has pretty much remained unchanged since the 15th century. Due to this it is very traditional and has captured the country and its history, so if anything, I feel this audibly expresses Iceland better than anything else. On a personal level though, the music of Sigur Rós holds a lot of sentimental value for me for various reasons and their music definitely reminds me of Iceland.
MUSIC - WE ARE FAILED - AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSEL HARMON
How do you imagine your style and your music will change over the years? I think it is difficult to say at this point in time how I imagine my music will evolve over the coming years because I feel that I have finally arrived at a place where I am comfortable and confident with the music I am composing. So for now at least, I just want to explore the framework in which I am currently immersed and see how far that takes me. If anything, I imagine that some of the key elements of my current work such as the exploration of space for example will intensify and become even more of a focus in the future. However, I believe that the emotions I try to convey in the music I compose will continue along the same path regardless of how my compositions will evolve musically. In addition, I imagine that the basis of my future work will still revolve around electronic elements and the acoustic piano. I have experimented with a number of instruments, but I really feel that I have found myself with the piano and I would like to think that my future work will revolve around this instrument in conjunction with the laptop.
Weâ€™ve all heard great things about the music scene in Iceland. Is there a strong community that supports artists? If so, has it encouraged you or affected you in any way? The Icelandic music scene is definitely something special, particularly when you take into consideration the size of the population, it is quite incredible. The music scene itself is extremely diverse and you can pretty much find any genre you can think of out here, at least within reason. There is definitely a strong sense of community and I think that is the best thing about it. Everyone is so supportive and willing to help each other out. Not only this, because of its size, you are only one person away from someone else; everyone basically knows everyone somehow. There is also a lot of really good music here and I would say that the exposure to that has had a big influence on me and my music overall. I think generally though I am quite a reserved person and I probably havenâ€™t made the most of it, at least on an individual basis. Now I am getting things together with my solo project though, I plan to get more involved with the scene and hope to play more of an active part in it.
What are your personal goals as a musician? What do you hope to achieve with your music? My personal goals as a musician are definitely just to try to do as much as possible and continue to develop and push my music forward wherever that may lead. I think it is important to keep your music fresh and to constantly push yourself. That is my main goal as a musician. Additionally, I really just want to play live and release records, travel with my music, and experience life through music. So I guess what I want to achieve with my music is the ability to be able to do that, however that may be. Are there any visceral, emotional reactions you hope your music elicits in the listener? How do they compare to the emotions that lead you to create them? I like to create a certain atmosphere with my music which is generally characterised as dark and depressing. Those mood colours are something that I feel naturally drawn towards and I like to work within this spectrum of emotions. However, the
inspiration for my music doesn’t necessarily come from a dark or depressing place. I just create the music that I want to hear and it happens to sound like this. In terms of eliciting emotional reactions from the listener, for the most part I just like the idea that something I have created can evoke some kind of emotion from someone, so whatever that emotion may be, it doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day it all comes down to the listener’s perception at that particular moment in time.
around us in the world and the amount of innocent people that get hurt in the process. I wasn’t trying to make a statement with the EP title, it is more just a personal thing, the same with the concept. I haven’t actually told many people about what the concept is and I think is best that it stays that way as it didn’t actually influence the music, so it shouldn’t influence the listener’s perception of the music either. How has the reception been of your latest EP so far?
Your latest EP is entitled “We Are Failed”. Quite a strong statement – what lead you to this title? Is it a general view of the world, or a more personal one? Do you feel that we, the collective we, are doomed or is it something we can do avoid?
It has been well received. I have had some great reviews from really good music blogs such as No Fear of Pop, Shout4Music, Echoes And Dust, and Nothing But Hope And Passion, which have all been really encouraging and helpful.
The title “We Are Failed”, actually came from a loose concept that I created for the EP based on the mood of the record and the kind of emotions that I felt it elicited. I wouldn’t say that this is my general view of the world, far from it. I am generally a positive person overall but like anyone else, I can’t help but notice a lot of the terrible things that go on
Tell us about some of your future plans: Are you touring? Can we expect more albums from you or will you shift your focus to PORQUESÍ (or a mix of the two)? I am currently planning a small tour for some time next year but there are no definite plans as of yet. I am also planning
a physical release of We Are Failed, as well as the release of two music videos for tracks featured on the EP. In 2013, I will also be releasing a split EP with a good friend of mine from the UK. In addition, Skúli and I are working on a project together outside of PORQUESÍ which we hope to release next summer. The new PORQUESÍ EP is also well underway and as for my solo project, I am currently working on new material that will form a full-length album that I plan to release some time next year.
For more information and great music, check out:
MUSIC - MARRYWANNA - AN INTERVIEW WITH EZO
Dubai’s music scene is still very young – but underground nights and great musicians have been popping up. One of talented individuals is EZO, aka Mattie Brouard. This young Emcee, lyricist, and all around whirlwind of talent has been showing great potential since he first came on the scene. And we can attest to that having first caught him dropping some lyrics at our favourite night in Dubai - Deep Crates. Mattie is one of those people. You know what I’m talking about – young, energetic, talented, and incredibly ambitious. Whenever we speak to him it’s hard not to catch a bit of his infectious energy. Mattie is now releasing a mixtape called MarryWanna, which showcases his enormous talent and gets us really excited to hear more from the kid they call EZO.
MUSIC - ICELAND AIRWAVES 2012
It’s pretty safe to say that Iceland Airwaves is a Quint favourite and we’ll be there as long as the good people of Reykjavik keep putting it on and putting up with our invasion of their fine city. This year it was one week later and a hell of a lot colder and windier than usual, but at least equal amounts of awesome. Your intrepid and selfless Quint reviewers have been to quite a few music festivals in our time. This is hands down one of the best. We’ve done the clichés about Iceland’s desolate beauty and gregarious welcoming locals before. It’s all still true. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, don’t hesitate. Just go, right now and immerse yourself in the peace and elemental nature of the countryside and the downright goodness of Reykjavik. Otherworldly, barren, lunar, awe-inspiring. All those things that everyone always says. Something that no-one has ever quite nailed is just what they put in the geothermally heated water over there which enables them to pop out so many obscenely talented musicians from a nation with only 300,000 people. There are over 200 acts on over the course of a (very) long weekend, of which the vast majority are local. That translates that basically any space in the City where you could possibly squeeze in a mic stand and amp gets a band and a crowd wanting to party shoehorned into it. This year, the monolithic new Harpa concert hall is added to the list of bars, clubs, museums, theatres, bookshops, cafes, thermal baths, people’s apartments, and street corners getting taken over by Airwaves. There was freak weather this year too. Sub-zero temperatures coupled with gale force winds loaded with ice and aimed directly at your face as a punishment for having too much fun. Apparently it was the tail end of Hurricane Sandy, which hadn’t been content with battering the US. Because of the chaos stateside and a few other reasons, there were more cancellations from some of the international acts than normal. This year, no Swans (hurricane casualties), Django Django (illness), or Policia (preferred to record an English TV music show instead). We’re quite confident going on record to say, their loss. The organisers and local bands did a great job of stepping in and shuffling things around at short notice so there weren’t any gaps in the schedules. When you can fill in a cancellation by moving acts the quality of Purity Ring up the bill, you know you are onto a winner. Even better, it meant we got to discover even more kick-ass Icelandic bands without our slave-to-Pitchfork guilt kicking in.
By Dan Partovi & Giles Balleny PHOTOS By Dan Partovi & Giles Balleny
As always, there were incredible shows across the board and far too many to review here. Shouts out to Purity Ring, Phantogram, Cheek Mountain Thief, Doldrums, Vacationer, Sigur Ros and countless others. For reasons of journalistic integrity, and in keeping with all articles ever written about Iceland and music, there will be two obligatory Bjork references in this article.
MUSIC - ICELAND AIRWAVES 2012
Of Monsters and men
Of Monsters and Men (IS) Homecoming heroes Of Monsters and Men have had a pretty meteoritic rise to success since they were last seen performing here. Like a lot of Icelandic bands playing at Airwaves, they are frighteningly young. What sets them apart from the rest of the shiny, smiley Scandi kids brandishing guitars and keyboards is that they have Broken The States. This time two years ago they had just won Músíktilraunir, an Icelandic battle of the bands competition. Last year they got invited to Airwaves and went down a storm. South by Southwest in Texas followed, along with an album (“My Head Is An Animal”). By this year they’d hit number three in the UK album charts and number seven in the US. That’s higher than Iceland’s music royalty of Sigur Ros and Bjork have ever charted. (Obligatory Bjork mention #1). An exuberant six piece, their music fits well for the indie sensibilities of the US and UK of the last couple of years. It’s joyful, easy to listen to jangly guitar with a large helping of twee and a hint of chamber pop. Comparisons with Arcade Fire are premature, although the number of musicians on stage, filling sound and male/female interplay in the
vocals are all there. Others have mentioned Mumford and Sons or Los Campesinos, but that would be damning this lot with too faint praise. From the off this show had a lot to live up to. Even though it was on a bitterly cold school night at the start of the festival, the crowd filled the cavernous main hall of Harpa. Luckily the eight (count ‘em) musicians on stage came fully prepared. Glitter cannons may be an obvious move, but combined with the sugary melodies and singalong atmosphere, they worked a treat. It also helped that behind all the joyful “hey hey” and “la la la” choruses there was some real vocal and lyrical depth. At the best points, the two lead vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and co-singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson had the haunting strength of Romy and Oliver of the XX. By the time the two crowd-pleasing numbers “Little Talks” (the song that launched them internationally) and “Six Weeks” came along, there was a palpable sense of triumph on stage and anticipation for the weekend ahead in the crowd.
this show by a clearly very talented and enthusiastic musician. As it turns out, Hermigervill is one of Iceland’s more influential studio knob twiddlers (Hermigervill is Icelandic for “Synthesizer”) for himself and various local scenester bands. He’s most famous for making an album of Italo / electro disco versions of classic Iceland pop standards from the last fifty years. He leapt straight in with “i Reykjavikaborg” (translated as “In Reykjavik City”), which turned out to be a crowd pleaser from that album. The chunky beats and kitsch drum snaps are complemented by his expert use of the theremin as a party starting instrument and immediately the kids down the front are jumping (eat that, Portishead).
Hermigervill (IS) Every year, we find one unsuspecting Icelandic musician to get unfeasibly excited about, lose our s**t to and generally stalk around town. This year, the lucky man was Hermigervill, and we saw him at least four times. Everyone knows by now that electronic music producers come in all shapes and sizes and the less you look like David Guetta, the better your music is likely to be. When Hermigervill came on stage with his slight frame engulfed in an oversized tatty Christmas jumper, sporting
a full ginger beard and bobble hat ensemble, it was difficult not to think you were about to watch a set from a garden gnome fallen on hard times. And one surrounded by analogue synths, vintage effects boxes and a theremin. Win. The soup kitchen vibe wasn’t helped by the fact that Hermigervill’s first gig of the week was in a freezing car park with that tail end of Hurricane Sandy threatening to blow the giant tarpaulin we were sheltering under to Greenland. The fact that his hands could hardly stop shaking as he frantically punched buttons and that the audience could hardly feel their feet did nothing to diminish the fun of
He shows his depth with “Partybær” (Party Town), a track which hints back to the heyday of Sabres of Paradise and Rephlex records. It’s all rolling beats, synths and that theremin interjected with stabs of industrial noise. Other highlights include “Dans Dans”, which although from 2009, is easily the equal of any bouncy Italo that’s currently being made by more well known Scandinavian disco and synth buffs like Todd Terje or Lindstrom. That he’s also a bit of a local hero becomes clear when he tried to finish his set but isn’t allowed to leave by the crowd. No mean feat when it’s minus five degrees and your fingers have turned blue.
Kaffebarrin Men›s Choir
MUSIC - ICELAND AIRWAVES 2012
THE VACCINES (UK)
The Icelandic people can be pretty funny. Both funny “haha” and funny peculiar. It takes a while to realise that the latter is more often also deadpan, surreal or black humour, but not toned down for our tastes.
The Vaccines are a band who split opinion these days. They were massively hyped (at least in the UK) last year and anointed as the saviours of the Oasis through Libertines movement of boys with guitars. Twelve months later the hipster sheen has gone and they don’t seem the most obvious choice for a headlining slot at Airwaves, which has never much gone in for English lad rock before.
Perhaps no one we’ve met in Iceland exemplifies the duality of this funniness more than Einar Örn. Örn was a co-founder of the Sugarcubes along with Björk (obligatory Bjork mention #2) and is now the Chair of Reykjavik’s Department of Culture & Tourism. He is a key member of the Best Party. The Best Party is a political party founded in response to the lack of trust in politicians following Iceland’s financial crisis. It won at the local elections and they have a majority on Reykjavík City Council. Campaign promises made at the time included free towels at public swimming pools. They kept this and they have said it is what they are “most proud of”). Other points on their manifesto were a new polar bear for the zoo and not to enter a political alliance with anyone who hadn’t seen all five seasons of the Wire. The leader of the party is mayor of Reykjavík Jon Gnarr. He’s a surrealist ex-stand up comedian and member of various rock bands. Both he and Örn describe themselves as anarcho-surrealists and not politicians. Like we said, Icelanders can be pretty funny. Tonight though Einar Örn is the front man of Ghostigital, the band that he founded with producer Curver. The pair (together with a floppy haired ingénue playing a bugle) are playing from their latest album, the self referencing “Division of Culture & Tourism”. The album includes collaboration from heavy hitters like Damon Albarn, David Byrne, and Alan Vega from Suicide. The first album gets a look in too – the fantastically named “In Cod We Trust”. Örn is a wiry fifty-year-old man dressed in a furry parka jacket with close-cropped hair and wild look in his eyes whereas Curver looks every inch the geeky scientist in black rimmed glasses and black t-shirt. Straight out the gates, Ghostigital set out their stall – shouty stream of consciousness diatribes by Örn over frantically abrasive backing tracks, usually jungle or techno tinged. In the first song we made out bits about “restrooms” and “releasing himself”. He later moved on to “I look at the sofa and realise it looks a bit like me. It’s no fun being a sofa”. The bugler does a good line in going ape with his dancing and bugling combo. It’s hard and dissonant and it shouldn’t work, but it does.
On the basis of this show, there is no doubting that that they are a well oiled machine. They felt like they had toured this set enough to be able to do it in their sleep, but not so much that they were asleep at the wheel. The songs are built for speed and sung back hard – few push deep past the three minute mark. Sure it’s Ramones-lite by nice boys with denim and leather, but the songs had just enough edge to keep the energy flowing and enough melody to be infectious if you cast aside your cynicism. The kids down the front were definitely bouncing and shouting along. Crowd relations were helped by the occasional addresses to the crowd in Icelandic from bassist and local boy Arni Hjörvar, and he capped the show with a well received rendition of “Ó Reykjavík” by local band Vonbrigði.
Our Three Favourite Clichéd Tourist Things to Do in Reykjavik GO TO THE BLUE LAGOON
TRY THE LOCAL DELICACIES
SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Big daddy of all of the thermal baths. Huge outside pools of steaming hot water from a nearby volcanic lava flow. Slather yourself in white silica mud and then run from the changing rooms through the freezing cold air into the geothermically heated pool. Then, if it’s Airwaves week, have a massive water rave with Gus Gus playing at the shallow end.
Or be massively off-put by them, depending on your ethical standpoint. Pickled rotting shark and cooked puffin, followed by reindeer steaks, anyone? A more pedestrian option is hitting up Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, often voted Europe’s best hotdog stand. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for you at 4 am on a Saturday morning.
A world famous and jaw dropping display of nature and science. Otherworldly green lights appear in the night sky caused by particles getting charged in the magnetosphere and colliding with atoms. People travel thousands of miles just to see these and they are only visible in a few places in the world and only at certain times of the year. Sounds awesome right? Yep, we missed them because we were queuing for the hot dogs. Ask a local about trolls and elves. Seriously, you’ll be surprised.
Blue lagoon: dj margeir
5 Amazing Songs by Icelandic Synthy Types That You’ve Never Heard Of. Check ‘em out on the internets now kids
Retro Stefson – Time Ojba Rasta - Jolly Good (Hermigervill Remix) Sykur - Reykjavík Berndsen – Lover In the Dark Hermigervill- Dans Dans
MUSIC - ALBUM REVIEW - KATATONIA: DEAD END KINGS
Katatonia is probably one of the more famous of the death/doom metal genre bands. So famous in fact, I was shocked to hear that even a few of my Irish friends who normally listen to house or RnB were in love with Katatonia. The reality is this band writes beautiful songs. What’s not to like about that? What girl doesn’t like a guy with a voice that can easily remove her underwear? What dude doesn’t like some crunching, hammering guitar riffs? What human alive doesn’t enjoy the sound of a well-placed drum fill, or an artistic and groovy bass line that hammers home? So it seems there is a time, a place, and a moment for every Katatonia album. Dead End Kings seems somewhat political given the state of affairs in the world. But, true to Katatonia style, the themes throughout the album continue to deal with the polarization of life and death, of the black and white, or the on and off switch, and not the on-going political campaign in the US. The Dead End King is a metaphor for the Reaper, the internal darkness within the mind: The one that comes to take your soul from your body, to remove character from mouth or direction and expression from the fingers. In parallel, there is also a constant meandering back and forth, a departure from the light of life toward darkness. Dead End Kings is a representation of the internal struggle that lives within each of us. The shred of selfdestruction that can undue even the strongest of men. The album is a metaphorical description of the disease which festers slowly in the ganglia of the mind, waiting to pounce on the ever weakened soul. The thematic nature of Katatonia’s music is deliberately used to create a depressive tone and feel to the overall album. The album is haunting, dark and black. On the flip side, the atmospheric tones allow for glimpses of lighthearted reprise. This isn’t a straightforward hard chug on the guitar. The keyboards take a much more important yet somewhat subtle role in this album. You’ll be hard pressed to hear the major chord arpeggios hidden behind the minor scale hard-hitting chorus guitars. The effect is a beautifully layered and mixed outcome. The album may be confusing to some first time listeners considering you have introductions of circus style keyboards, slow and sultry vocals with a jazz drum on “Leeches”.
BY TREVOR BUNDUS
The lyrics constantly cut themselves at the end of songs with oneword endings, like in “The One You are Looking for is not Here”. This is a somewhat new lyrical approach for Katatonia, and that’s certainly credit to their ability to continue to produce each album within its singularity. What I mean is that no Katatonia album is the same as the next. There is a constant push toward evolution. In fact, Katatonia used to be a thrashier version of itself; one that I didn’t like very much at all. Present day, I get excited each time I hear there is a new Katatonia album just to be able to see what kind of beauty will be hitting my ears with this time. Highlights of this album are most certainly the well-mixed and equal instrument distribution throughout the album. There are parts where guitars are absent, where they are waiting in the wind to hammer through the chorus, moments where the vocals are the predominant focus, and at times it’s good old Katatonia crunched guitars and clean melodic riffs. As a band, I can see the maturity in lyrics, a purposeful deliverance to the ultimate atmospheric sounding depression rock album. Isn’t that a huge mouthful? As I mentioned before, it’s a constant departure from the light to the darkness, from the highs to the lows, and from the never-ending battle within oneself toward the end. This album is a beautiful masterpiece which should be taken at much more than face value, a work of art which should be taken as a reflection of the human soul.
MUSIC - MUSIC AND THE SHIFT TOWARDS COMMERCIALISM
By Laura Nunn
I’m not one of those people who, when asked what kind of music I like, says “everything and anything”. I never have been and seriously doubt I ever will be. What I will say is that I can appreciate any ‘good’ music. My preference is to what I call ‘actual music’, people that play instruments, good lyrics, a quality voice. Might also be the reason that I don’t buy into things like XFactor or Voice of whatever. I can’t stand manufactured noise. I’m a bit of a music elitist. Dylan has been a bit of a mainstay in quint since last year and I like to think that I was a main influence on that; I’ve been inspired by that guy since I was about 9 or 10 years old – I started early. A good example of the way I view music is this: I am an English girl and, apparently, it’s like the law that every British person should love the Beatles – I’ve offended many of my countrymen (and women) by saying: “No, can’t say that I do”. What I can say is that, like anyone (and I think this counts worldwide), I can join in and enjoy ‘Hey Jude’ as the last dance at a wedding, I can get a bit emotional when I hear ‘Imagine’ and I can even sing along to most of the White Album. I don’t own it though. In fact, I don’t think I have one Beatles song in my iTunes or my extensive CD collection (yes, I’m old). This isn’t to say I don’t like them it’s just that I can take it or leave it. Not fussed either way. I believe that music should be about the way you feel when you listen to it; it should be able to evoke thought, feelings, and memories – a way to relate to what most people consider a vital part of their lives. Whether you like it or not, being manufactured to sound good rarely does. Putting a presentable character on a stage with a song that’s been written for them (these days, mostly by a computer) simply doesn’t work for me. Yes, it sells; look at Justin Bieber, he’s made a fortune by simply being an obnoxious teenager with a tiny bit of talent but hey, young girls are fickle. Again, I’m not saying that girls, or boys, shouldn’t have idols or indeed people that represent the music they love – ultimately, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s really harmless – JB1 isn’t going to promote the use of drugs or violence or underage pregnancy but that’s not because he’s chosen not to, it’s because the people that are behind the hype, the management, the record label simply won’t let him. Like many other ‘artists’ similar to him, what he says and what he does is controlled by the machine. This is what I don’t and can’t appreciate – this is all about the money. Real artists like the Stones, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, the White
1Obviously, this stands for Justin Bieber, but I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of typing his whole name more than the obligatory once
Stripes, Kasabian, Interpol, the Black Keys (I could go on forever) are who I am behind, the people who literally make music because they love it. The people who worked hard for their careers, who played to crowds of 13 in bars and clubs in towns or cities around their world to get people to listen, because they know they have a good thing, they have a message and most importantly, they believe. That’s blood sweat and tears, that’s being exhausted but carrying on because they know of nothing else, there is no other option, no fall-back – this is true love. I personally feel it’s time that we do away with all this, it’s making money yes and the music industry is booming for these highly sponsored, over-marketed ‘products’ like Lady Gaga, she’s a brand – she’s slightly different in that she is kind of self-made, she started young and definitely worked for her success. But now she’s a caricature of herself, she’s become so obsessed with being ‘different’ that it’s now become normal and not really shocking or thought-provoking at all – in fact it’s kind of predictable. If you think back to the very beginning of her career, she stood for something, she had an impact because she said what she thought and it came from the heart. Now, it’s obvious that the things she says or does are highly influenced by the ‘Haus’ – the engine that controls her. That’s why this week, when I read about Die Antword, the South African rave-rap twosome giving Lady Gaga a definitive ‘No’ when asked to be the opening act for her ArtPop tour, by way of producing the video for ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ I thought it was not only very funny but also very relevant as to what I have to say here. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s basically a killing-off of her look-a-like (you can’t mistake the meat dress) and it’s quite accurate to what I think is an obvious play on the machine trying to cash-in on established but alternative bands that have little to no interest in selling out to make cash. Die Antword have no similarities to Lady Gaga, they have a completely different audience, targeted or not. There is no benefit to them supporting an act that attracts a completely different fan base. Well there is, there’s one – there’s money. Yes, the way they did it might be considered over the top or in bad taste but hey, who wouldn’t respect that? Yes, I’m anti-corporation, I’m an old punk but I am all for being successful and taking opportunities and benefitting from them when you can and it’s about time someone stood up to the fat cats. So here’s what I say; here’s to saying no, here’s to standing up for what you originally set out to do and here’s to the rise against of the little guy.
MUSIC - DEEP CRATES CARTEL - CONFESSIONS OF A VINYL JUNKIE...
It’s about the sound. It’s about the feel. It’s the artwork. It’s a passion.
It’s all about getting the needle in that groove!
I’ve been collecting records for about 12 years now and have amassed somewhere in the region of 20,000 records (I don’t have an inventory but realized I had a few thousand more than I originally thought!). Being a collector or “crate digger” involves certain sacrifices, acquiring massive debt due to records, losing girlfriends for spending those extra four hours in the vinyl shop round the corner from where you were supposed to meet her, doing structural damage to your building due to the weight of your records… I’ve scoured large chunks of the world for rare records, spent hours if not days in dark basements, warehouses, even farmhouses looking for the perfect beat. Sometimes I would move a stack of records only to find a dead fox or badger, probably killed by the fumes from the old records, all in the name of ‘digging’ for great music. At one stage I had a fairly decent rare tape & CD collection as well, mostly buying bootleg classic DJ mixes & mixtapes that weren’t pressed on vinyl or recorded off international radio stations, but it was always the vinyl that grabbed me, took a hold of me and made me its b*tch. As I sat for the first time mesmerized by the reflection of the grooves on the wall as the record spun I knew I was hooked, I fell in love with the crackle, the grooves, the warm sound, the artwork on the cover…so I started collecting… 7”s, 10”s, 12”s, LPs, private press, dub plates, picture discs and loads of other stuff. I even found a few 4 inch records that looked like modern day cds but played like a 45, you could only play them about 12 times before the grooves wore out…
DJ Shadow’s “Entroducing” LP cover
Of course, digital DJing is now everywhere and everyone thinks they can be a DJ. The value of a true DJ with technical skills and musical knowledge has never been lower as every second muppet has bought some kind of Fischer-Price looking DJ controller, illegally downloaded a million songs and is calling themselves a DJ - from A, B, C & D-list celebrities to former models and other vacuous entities. Don’t get me wrong, digital DJing is great, I’m an advocate, but talentless so-called DJs aka human iPods are giving real DJs a bad rep by just playing top 40 hits from crappy sounding low grade mp3s or CDs and not mixing or just stealing another DJs playlist and claiming it for your own! Yes I’m talking to you sucker DJs out there if you’re reading this.
Its 2012, vinyl is still around and sales globally are rising year on year. In a country like the UAE, which had a weak music scene (still does to this day although improving) and no vinyl culture since the 70s, it’s surprising to see vinyl on sale at certain music megastores, although an extremely limited selection. There’s renewed interest in record culture and its unique charms.
Diggin’ in the Crates!
This is the Vinyl Killer Van, currently the smallest record player in the world, the truck drives around the record playing it as it goes!!!!
Apart from generally looking cool, the continued relevance of vinyl is deeply tied to DJ & music production culture. Any legendary producer could tell you, from J Dilla to DJ Premier, Flying Lotus, DJ Shadow, even Fatboy Slim or the Chemical Brothers, that there is a whole universe of music and inspiration you can only find on vinyl. A recent study in the US concluded that only around 20% of all recorded music had ever made it to CD or mp3, the rest remains on vinyl. Many artists are still only releasing their music on vinyl as its much more time consuming to pirate and there’s more of a market for collectibles generally. A lot of new releases are limited to 300 or 500 copies and come in beautiful packaging with artwork to match, often with posters and detailed liner notes providing history and knowledge of the music. You’re getting so much more for a track than just another 5MB used up on your hard drive…
The depth of your record collection and musical knowledge always separated the men from the boys in DJ terms. When I started competition was fierce and your knowledge had to be as razor sharp as your technical skills. These days I just see many DJs fake it and getting success through connections and simply playing cheesy chart hits. It’s vital as a DJ to know what’s happening in popular music but most hits nowadays are generated by gigantic marketing machines and constant brainwashing radio play. A true DJ will break new music as well as play classics and be a master in his or her style with deep musical knowledge, as DJ Shadow once said “crate digging won’t make a bad DJ good, but it’ll make a good DJ better”. Discoveries of crate diggers are still making hits today. As an example, Nas, the legendary MC, who’s latest album has topped a few charts has a tracks such as “Nasty” that consist of an entire sample from an incredibly rare 7” psych funk record favoured at b-boy battles called “Runnin Wild”. There is no doubt that vinyl records still provide inspiration for modern classics and are still the foundation of DJ culture. I’ll without a doubt be a crate digger until the day I die, but hopefully not from toxic old vinyl fumes! “As uncle George Clinton said, One Nation Under a Groove” Afrika Bambaataa
MUSIC - MIXTAPE
MIXTAPE Michael McCluskey
1. Vangelis - Main Titles (From “Blade Runner”) 2. Lootpack - Episodes (Excerpt) 3. Bobby Thurston - Sittin’ In The Park (Slow Edit) 4. eLan - Unknown Track (Live)(Excerpt) 5. Jonwayne - Mythology 6. Dizz1 - Konotakosuke Yaro (Excerpt) 7. Gil Scott Heron And Jamie XX - The Crutch 8. Vangelis - Main Titles (From “Blade Runner”) Check out this and many more quint mixtapes at 8tracks.com/quintmagazine
FILM & GAMING - THE NEWSROOM
WHY AARON SORKIN DESERVES TO BE PREACHY:
NEWSROOM BY FARES BOU NASSIF
With the surge of criticism reform over the last year, critics have gone from doing their best to highlight the good and different to panning everything they find; looking for faults in otherwise noteworthy work. While I am all for the critical and unbiased, a work is not exclusively good or exclusively bad, and true art polarises, I still find that it is ridiculous of writers, critics, and curators, to persistently stress the failures of a TV show as impressive as The Newsroom simply because of one perceived miss; the show might be “preachy” but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Let me put it into perspective, for those of us who actually do pay attention to see things from a different lens. HBO is an American institution, of sorts. It is notorious for shows like The Sopranos, True Blood, and (most recently) Game of Thrones. Each of these shows had a remarkable impact on television and popular culture. Each of them also made a statement of sorts. Most relevantly, each one polarised audiences; it had to be love or hate. The Newsroom is a new attempt at giving HBO a fresh face, a more direct presence in our ‘today’, and (as a massive Game of Thrones fan) I would say does a fascinating job at skyrocketing itself to the pinnacle of great television, overdoing even its best achievements. What makes it even more impressive is that it is, essentially, a contemporary history show, not plain entertainment, and its content is widely controversial, intensely political (and, when not, economic), with a slight on the diminishing cultural prowess of America. With Sorkin delivering his trademark sharp dialogue, another supposedly “washed out and obsolete” style of oration that many of us are fed up with. Apparently, according to critics, we don’t like being told what to think (unless, of course, it’s FOX or The Huffington Post and The Atlantic and and doing it for us). Each episode brings to light subjects or areas of interest you only really find on news channels. With the masses opting for lazier ways to tap into news sources, with our schedules overflowing, Sorkin peeks into our time off, but also approaches the unurbanised, the disinterested, and (dare I say it) the ignorant. Famously firing all his writers the day after the pilot was released, pissing off a lot of people. Especially writers, who cannot conceive of a writer who isn’t a novelist having an ego as obvious as Sorkin’s. “Have your ego, but unless you write wondrous books, keep it to yourself,” seems to be the attitude. I find that pathetic, especially considering there is no reasonable, connected writer who cannot see that television shows are the natural evolution of the novel. And, yes, I say this while still focusing intently on writing my own novel. TV shows have a wider reach than any other medium. Films used to be the primary focus of a storyteller (Woody Allen?), but today nothing can compare to the captivating capacities of the TV show. So Sorkin is the new novelist, the after-postmodernism writer of long form texts. And he appropriates another form, while he’s at it: non-fictional journalistic content. But not really. He gives us a cast that works seamlessly well together, pumping out brilliant performances from his main characters (I’ve never seen Jeff Bridges or Emily Mortimer had such powerful presence), all while maintaining the image and mirage of a fictional Newsroom of a fictional television network.
Oh but yes. The other critique. “That’s not how newsrooms function”. Really? And you’re surprised? Because, you see, hospitals are exactly as portrayed in Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy. Or even ER. Television shows creating fictional environments are meant to get you to feel exactly what their characters’ professions are in real life. That’s really what you want to see. Also, all physics PhDs are as outrageous as Sheldon and as awkward as Leonard (from The Big Bang Theory). All that aside, let’s get to the meat of the story, problem. After five years of Sorkin keeping a distance from television, election year in the US came about and Romney was actually being taken seriously: the man who could have brought about the end of America (and, while he’s at it, maybe start World War III – thankfully, we’ll never know now). Going back to something I said earlier: many people don’t quite care for news channels and are mostly unbothered by the actual happenings of the world around them, except in how it directly affects their financial means. Hopefully, none of my readers, but it is safe to say that there is a sizeable number of Americans who would be of voting age and are clueless. Even us, me: most of the time, we’re selective in what we read, and we rarely find time to watch the news anymore: our smartphones and tablets send our very carefully curated content straight to us in the shape of headlines and brief descriptions. And that’s fine. But what Sorkin gives us is a chance to look back at the last couple of years and find out what we missed, or at least look at things differently. He offers us (and them) a Republican news anchor who rejected the Tea Party, criticised Republicans, and looked at everything very critically. Also, a Republican news anchor who had been silent and mostly useless in the years prior to the beginning of the show (I’m not throwing around any spoilers). The opening scene of the pilot sums up why this show is exceptional. As Sorkin puts it, “it’s all about the truth” (I’m paraphrasing). He gave audiences a second look into the events of the past two years. He nudged them in the right direction: towards giving a s**t. In case we’d forgotten how. So maybe it is a bit much in favour of one man’s voice. But so was On The Road and most of Dylan’s music; Shakespeare wasn’t exactly pretending he wasn’t sharing his world view; Oscar Wilde and T.S. Eliot didn’t care much if their words were approved of; Socrates died for his ideas. I’m not pretending Sorkin is as important as any of these cultural and intellectual giants, not even half as important – although I’m inclined to believe he might think he is, and good for him. What I am saying is that he deserves the same rights as other artist: to express himself the way he finds most adequately supports his world view, and to do so fully, unapologetically. You don’t have to watch the show. But to say he doesn’t deserve to be heard is to censor something useful; listening to him is not the same thing as agreeing with him. In fact, I would think he wants you to disagree.
FILM & GAMING - A GAME OF TONES
For a generation of predominantly young males, the arcade was a bastion of bonding and identity. Like the Green Zone in Baghdad, it was a place where technology, camaraderie and tribal hostility melded into an accepted way of life. Eventually, a technological supernova would change everything, and the arcade would make way to personal computers and consoles. The community that had risen like a dragon punch with its own rules and customs would end up coming back home, and the arcade went global. Online multiplayer has completely altered how and whom we play games with and has arguably turned it into an unfettered democracy. There is a new generation of gamers that have never experienced the honourable code of the arcade. They sit behind a wall of anonymity and are empowered to say exactly what they feel, unfiltered and uncensored. And it was after one such experience that I began thinking about the way we play games. When the multi-award winning, mega franchise Halo first arrived on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 it was a seminal moment in video games. Up until that moment there were very few first person shooters outside of the PC platform and Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 that had translated well to consoles. Halo’s impact had a significant shift in momentum, and suddenly, playing online at home via a console was legit. When Halo 2 was released my younger brother and I would sit and play through the night. After one biscuits and cola fuelled session, he decided to play some multiplayer. As none of his friends were online at the time he didn’t bother to wear his headset, but he liked to hear other people chat so he left a speaker on so we could listen to the other players. During one frenetic round of team deathmatch, two gung-ho players were going all out to specifically kill one another. As the intensity between them expanded, so did the level of their verbal exchange. The trash talk took a wrong turn when one of the players made a telling remark, “damn man, you play just like a n****r.” Our first reaction was one of amusement. We both laughed at what seemed to us to be a ridiculous statement. There was no verbal or visual identification by either player to their respective race prior or during the match, yet one of them observed the other’s playing style as that of a black person. Now, bigotry has been trending on the web ever since the Internet was first put into the hands of the masses. A high profile case that
mirrors this one is that of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, the mixed martial artist and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. In 2007, Jackson announced that he was no longer playing Halo 2 online after being subjected to a slew of racial comments and attacks from other players, he recalled, “I stopped because my own team would kill me because they would hear my voice and start calling n****r this and n****r that.” Wrong as they were to assume, and the ignorance in their eventual remarks, the sound of a person’s voice is arguably a more plausible motion for identifying a person’s race than how they play. But if there is no audio from a headset or buffering video from a webcam, how could you determine the racial identity behind the controller? Playing a squad based shooter where your teammates are frequently disobeying unit orders and smacking you upside your head with the melee attack, got to be South Americans. The final seconds of extra time in the cup final, and the goalkeeper loses you the game after finally being dispossessed from repeated attempts to dribble the ball out of his penalty area, you couldn’t get anymore Scandinavian, right? In attempt to find any truth in the idea I looked at my own playing style. Versus fighting games have been my go to for the majority of my gaming life. I tend to gravitate towards the characters no one else picks. The outsiders that look uncool and don’t have the immediate, flashy moves and combos. If you came up against me I would play cautiously. A reactor, patient and selective, with finesse and flourish reserved for when victory was guaranteed. Shooters, specifically the first person variety such as Halo or Killzone, are games that I occasionally dabble in. I’m more comfortable amongst the camaraderie of a team deathmatch mode than the ego swelling glory of regular deathmatch. I like picking off my opponents from a distance. The stragglers circling intense firefights for scraps, blood simple and unaware of my presence, before moving on to provide suppressing fire for my teammates. When it comes to racers I like them arcadey as opposed to simulators. I’m always on the lookout for shortcuts and have no problem taking out a rival. I like to position myself amongst the top 5 cars, slipstreaming until the final lap when I break for a victory. Granted I’ve only covered three genres here, but any pattern or cultural idiosyncrasies that
would pertain to my race don’t seem to be evident. In fact, I would wager there are a plethora of players from a diverse range of backgrounds that would draw similar self-analyses. The whole notion that personal gaming quirks are somehow ratting you out seems utterly ridiculous, and yet according to a panel of digital media critics and academics at the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive Conference, it’s not as crazy a theory as it sounds. In an article on the event for Wired Campus, Jeffrey R. Young noted that the overall consensus of the panel was that as technology and the global gaming audience continues to evolve, so too are new forms of racism. During the engaging talk, one of the panel members Lisa Nakamura, Director and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaignreferred to an instance with the game Lineage II. Lineage is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), where players can create their own character avatars from a range of different classes such as humans, dwarves and elves. Building up your character and accumulating in-game loot takes a considerable investment of time, something that many players couldn’t afford. Some entrepreneurial users in China took notice and carved themselves out a lucrative opportunity. By playing as the female dwarf class full-time, they were able to win virtual weapons and other valuable items, which they would then sell to players in the US for real money. This led to female dwarf characters being targeted and killed, often with abusive anti-Chinese slurs, “what happens is that female dwarfs become an unplayable race in the game…they basically became a racial minority with immigrant status” she commented. It’s interesting to see in this case how a flash of capitalism became something else entirely, but is this just a reflection of an uncomfortable truth? Although we like to think of ourselves as beings of an openminded nature, we feel comfortable putting people in groups and pinning labels on them. Blondes are dumber than brunettes. Black people are more athletic than whites. Asians are better at mathematics than everybody else. Are these self-perpetuating stereotypes or genuine observations of repetitive behaviour, applicable to certain cultures? There’s a thin line between the two. So I wonder, where does one end and the other begin?
LITERATURE - DESCRIPTIONS OF FACES
I found what I was looking for in an old worn shoebox. The shoebox was in the bottom of the closet. The closet was in the corner of the study. The study was at the back of the house, overlooking the overgrown garden. I knew that they would be somewhere like that. I’d checked under the bed in the man’s room. I’d looked in the drawers in his dresser. I looked on his messy, cluttered desk. I knew that they would be somewhere. Somewhere hidden, so that they didn’t interfere with anything around them. I pulled out the shoebox and looked around before I opened it. There were people mulling around, picking things up and checking price tags. I heard people saying things like, “Oh, this would be nice in the den” and “I wish this hadn’t been painted white”. I could hear them in the other rooms haggling over prices of things. A lot of things didn’t have price tags. Some people liked those things. I was one of those people. I looked back at the shoebox. It was an old thing. Maybe from the early eighties. The old price tag was still on the box. The corners had been frayed and bashed in. They had started to burst out of their shape and show their little card fibers. I could smell the box over the scent of mothballs and the carpet. It smelt like old paper that had been soaked in the rain and dried in the sun. Everything in the house smelled so old and stale, but this box had a little freshness from way back when still trapped inside it. I opened the box and saw a mass of paper and cards and receipts and pictures. All the paper had turned a light brown and a little crispy like it had been blasted by time. I pushed my hand down onto the paper. I heard it crunch a little, like dead leaves under foot. I started carefully picking through the box. The same handwriting marked everything. It was the handwriting of an older man. It was sharp and pointed, elegant. Thought was given to each dip and swoop of the pen. I started to flick through things, pulling something out now and again to look at the script. I looked at strips of paper with thoughts and reminders written on them, postcards, from Paris, Rome, Cairo, letters, from Ohio, Delaware, Ontario, and photographs, from places now unknown. I pulled out a postcard. It was a painting of some 50s saloon bar in Vegas. I turned it over. “We need to talk when I get home. I’ve been thinking” it read. There was no address, no stamp and no sender information. Other than the handwriting. I sat the box down and stared at the words again. I ran my fingers across the back. I felt the bumps in the ink like braille. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I smelled everything in the house around me, and imagined the man that lived there, and what he’d been thinking. “You got something good there?” I heard someone say. I dropped the postcard into the box and closed the lid. “No. Nothing valuable.” I said, as I pressed my hands onto the top of the box. I felt my shoulders arching up, and the lid sunk into the box. I felt the paper inside crunch a little again. “Old boy had some nice suits,” he said, leaning over me and pawing through the jackets. The smell of mothballs and dust whipped up, past me in a breeze, masking the smell from the shoebox. He pulled out a blazer. “What do you think?” I turned my head around. The man was about 60 years old. He had a magnifying glass around his neck. In his hand was a porcelain swan. He held it by its neck. His other hand held the tweed jacket up to his front. His bottom lip was pushed out, waiting for me to say something.
I nodded and tried smiling again. I watched him walk towards the door. He stopped and looked at the lone porcelain model on top of the almost empty bookcase. He lifted up his magnifying glass and bent into the long, thin ballet dancer. He checked out every angle. He turned her over and looked at the bottom. He put it back down and shook his head as he walked out, into the crowded hallway. I opened up the box and looked inside. I tried to find the postcard again. My eye was caught by a glossy, over-exposed blue sky shining at me. I pulled it out. It was a photograph of a man standing on the beach by a lake. He was a little tanned. He had been in the water. His hair looked like it had dried in the sun. I looked at his face. He was squinting in the sunlight. He had a slight smile on his face, like he was about to stop. I lifted my glasses to my forehead and pulled out the little diamond loupe I picked up from a sale last year. The photograph turned to a collage of soft edged blurs. I brought the magnifying glass to my eye and looked for his face. I smiled, and put the loupe away. I slid my glasses back down my nose, bringing clarity back to the room. I turned the photograph over. Right in the center read “Bill and Me on Lake Erie”. The handwriting was different. It looked feminine. The letters curled. They were careful and perfect, but slow, almost regal. There was a date written in the corner. July 3rd 1971. “Bill, and Me” I said to myself. I turned the photo over again. I looked at his face and that faded smile. He was ever so slightly out of focus. Like one of them had just moved. I turned and looked around the room. There were people picking at Bill’s clutter, deciding if they wanted to make it their own. I looked at the pictures of people that he knew that hung in frames on his wall. There were lots of people smiling. I imagined those people coming through this house after Bill passed, taking the things they wanted. I wondered if they’d missed this box. I looked back at Bill, on his own, almost smiling. I went into my jacket pocket and pulled out the photograph of Margaret that I’d brought with me. I arced my back a little. I cast a shadow over the two photographs. I looked over each shoulder. I held them next to one another. Margaret’s picture was taken maybe a year or two before. Something about her look told me that much. Bill looked a little more modern. But I couldn’t be sure if I was mistaking age for modernity. As I looked back and forth between the two pictures, keeping an ear on the people behind me, I thought that they worked. I imagined Margaret taking a photo of Bill, and Bill taking a photo of Margaret. Their expressions weren’t so different. But Margaret’s was a little happier. Like that smile probably continued after the shutter was closed. Maybe that’s what made me think her picture was older. -“So, you’ve got a skillet, a measuring cup and ‘The Modern Jewish Cookbook’. Anything else?” the lady asked me, looking over her little reading glasses at the receipt she was writing. “No.” “Okay, let’s call it $10” she said, smiling. I smiled too. ---
He folded the jacket over his arm and walked away.
He sat down on that old chair with his drink. He looked around the dark room. The outlines of things were all around, and frames hung from the walls. In that thick, viscous darkness they were just vague descriptions of faces that could be recalled from memory. There was a single thin streak of light coming in from the crack in the drapes. Little speckles of dust floated in the light, making their way back to the carpet again. He took a big slow drink. The dust speckles whipped up and around with the path of his arm. He closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose as the oaky liquid sank into his chest, and the old damp scent that covered the room hung like a heavy leather cloak drying.
“Happy hunting, There’s some great stuff here.”
Even though he’d been here as long as he had, the
I tried smiling. “Suits you.” I said. His lips curled into a smile and he turned to the mirror beside us. I looked at him trying the man’s jacket. “You know, I think you’re right. Not for me though. This is Harris Tweed. There’s dollar bills in these pockets.”
scent of age was slightly transparent. The ‘new paint smell’ now hid a few feet below the surface. Over the years it had drifted out of the little crack in the window, and slowly sunk into the old carpet he laid over the varnished pine. Every time he stepped on that soft carpet he could feel the hard wood beneath, and smell that old sour scent rising up, leaving the new paint trails behind it. When he sat on the chair a plume of dust-speckled smoke being pushed up and around him, consuming his body. He would let himself sink into the chair and be embraced by the scent of use. He could smell the people that sat in it before him. He could smell the rooms that it had been in before this one. And I think he could faintly smell himself. Something about those deep breaths said that he was in there, somewhere. He sat forward in the chair and reached for the old lamp with the watercolor shade. He pulled the dainty little beaded string. Light burst around the room and brought detail to everything. The warm golden hue bathed the faces on the wall, pressing a white ball of light on the glass of the frames. Noir–like shadows, exaggerating every expression of the room, pushed up to the ceiling at fierce gradients. The corners of the room remained dark. From that heavy darkness I watched him take another drink and scan the faces on the wall. He dipped a hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a little white model of a dancer. He sat her under the lamp, basking her in light. He leaned in and smiled at her in her spotlight. He put his hand on the lamp and tilted it, moving it slightly, turning the shadows at their base. He projected light on the wall. He looked at every face, allowed every detail to sink in again, and moved on. The light came around to the corner in which I sat. I felt its warmth cut across me. I watched his eyes scan across the photograph next to me. His eyeballs twitched onto every feature. They moved to me. I saw his lids widen from behind his glasses. His hand slid back into his coat pocket and pulled out two photographs. He held them up and dropped the light onto them. I fell into darkness. The light lit the photos and reflected back to him. The shadows cut thick black lines across his face. He lifted the light back to me. I saw that a little smile had formed on his worn old face. He stood up and started walking towards me, lifting dust and pungent scent up from the old used carpet. He picked me up off the mantle piece and lay me face down. I felt him unscrew the back of the frame and pull me out. His fingers felt drunk, and clumsy, and impatient. He took me back to the chair and sat me on his lap. He put down pictures of these two older people. I hadn’t seen him before, but I vaguely remembered her. He carefully opened the drawer on the little side table next to the old chair. He took out the picture of that black and white boy again. He looked at the picture. The corners of the photograph quivered in his hands. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and burst across his lid, before sliding down the contours of his expression. He placed the boy down carefully next to me. We looked a little alike. I was a year or two older maybe. We both sat, on a knee each, under the older people. He looked at all of us together. Another tear rolled down his face and was caught by the tip of his smile. He threw back the last of the whiskey into his mouth. The rounded edges of the melting ice cubes hit his lips, and slid to the bottom of the glass. He looked to the ceiling and started to weep. We lay on his lap as silent as tears, just four eroding memories once adrift, now sinking, together, like diving bells into the scent that drowned us all.
LITERATURE - STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND ____________.
Last issue, our list of six books included one particularly intriguing text that I had not yet found the time to read (seeing as how it’s currently retitled On My Shelf, this limitation is a bit more obvious – our bimonthly list contains the books we plan on reading, or are in the process of reading, rather than ones we’ve already read). So, since then, I’ve come round to it. And, being me, I have a lot to say about it. Stop What You’re Doing And Read This! consists of ten short essays on the subject of reading written by ten brilliant wordsmiths (although, to be fair, I don’t know all of them, and so I’m taking other peoples’ word on this). What seems to be missing from the list is the flux in readership attitude over the years, with game changing socio-technological milestones drastically affecting our behaviours. Facebook was a catalyst, but it really started with the blogs, leading up to Twitter’s 140 characters and the visual feats of Tumblr and Pinterest or, even more dramatically, YouTube. Today, we are distinctly unintrigued by long-form writing. Ellen Lupton wrote about it in ‘Reading and Writing’; everyone else has spoken about it: our attention spans are too strewn for us to be bothered with longer texts, and a good book has to also be captivatingly impressive for us to bother past the first fifty pages. Time spans and a very hectic life are making it harder and harder for us to find time for heavy reading, and we appear to be shifting towards lighter, shorter reading.
THE THING IS, THOUGH, WE STILL READ. EXTENSIVELY. EVERYWHERE WE LOOK ONLINE, EVERYONE REMINDS US THAT “READING IS COOL” AND THE GENERAL PUSH IS TOWARDS MORE AND MORE DIGESTION OF THE WRITTEN WORD.
The thing is, though, we still read. Extensively. Everywhere we look online, everyone reminds us that “reading is cool” and the general push is towards more and more digestion of the written word. The question becomes: what exactly are our reading demographics today? What exactly do we enjoy reading, where do we go for what sources of information, what motivates us to buy a book and read? I, for one, find myself more inclined to watch a well-written and astoundingly directed television series than read a mediocre, or just above the line novel. When it comes to books, my selection over the last year has focused primarily on non-fiction, with a penchant for the theoretical, instructional, or otherwise practical. That’s not to say I no longer read novels (flip through this issue and you’ll see for yourself). Between fiction and non-fiction is a very thin line, these days, with the dramatisation of reality and the de-theatricalisation of the imagined world, and the satisfaction of immersing ourselves and disappearing in thick tomes of literature is no longer a luxury many of us have, which is, to say the least, sad. So, non-fiction wins over fiction
most of the time, shorter books over longer ones, collections, anthologies, and topic-based books are generally more likely to attract. I think it is safe to say that our preferred form of literary consumption is shifting, even for the diehard book lovers among us. Yes, nothing can ever replace the smell of a book, but some things can force it into irrelevance. The power of the book, however, is such that it took many, many things and an economic crisis to finally transform it. It’s not dead really. It’s just shifting, evolving, becoming something new. It’s too early, at this stage, to know what form it will develop into. Television networks are vying for our attention with ever more sophisticated shows that are being watched by larger and larger audiences. Devices like the iPad (no, sorry, the Kindle is s**t) have given reading in electronic form a new face, but they haven’t managed to displace books or really modify their structure and usability (yet). Experiments in multiplatform and cross-media storytelling are bringing the power of the book into a whole new plane of existence, but it’s not there either. The title of this article, originally, ended with “and Watch” for a reason: whatever the book is morphing into, it will be a ‘watchable’ entity. Whether that is a good thing or a bad one is yet to be seen. I’ve left that part of the title blank mostly because I cannot be certain it’ll be something we’ll watch. It might be something we participate in. Co-creation taken on a whole new level: write the book you’re reading and share it? Wikipedia did it, although I don’t think it’ll be quite the same thing with literature. Although gamers write different versions of a story every time. One thing we can try to hope for and rely on is that, despite the risk of diminished literary acumen among future generations, it will most likely not lessen our ability to absorb knowledge or communicate it: social media has taught us to write profusely, although for shorter bursts of time, and more eloquently at a younger age than we might have thirty years ago. The Internet and contemporary television have given us the opportunity to absorb much larger batches of information at a much faster rate, and with more vividness – with a book, you can jump to the end of a chapter, you can skip pages: a television show being seen at the time of broadcasting does not offer such shortcuts. Maybe that could become the only downside: we are learning to consume information rather than process it, swallow instead of digesting. That could be a problem. But the future is healthy, if we know what to consume.
LITERATURE - BOOK REVIEWS
I wrote about unicorns once, but I was talking about green and brown unicorns with little to no real magic to them. This time, I’m paying attention to the colourful unicorns that pepper the literary marvel that is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. You almost want to think it’s a fictional novel, because there’s no chance in hell a world like the one he describes could ever come back. It’s not fiction, it’s that gonzo journalism that Hunter S. Thompson made popular around his time, done Tom Wolfe style. It’s a book that made me wonder how much more creatively enthused Amsterdam might have been if I’d moved here two decades ago instead of now. There’s something about the third quarter of the twentieth century that made American literature so fascinating, that let artists conceive of things as absurd and fantastic as “twenty four inch” instead of “two foot”, as wildly enthused as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, or as massively captivating as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The sheer mass and quality of creative production in the US of A from 1950 to 1975 is the only Golden Age of the postIndustrial era, and that is truly remarkable. One could say we’re on the verge of a global Renaissance, but that would be largely argumentative, if not slightly disillusioned (don’t mis-comprehend: I’m one to think a Renaissance is the only rational after effect of our current socio-econo-cultural Great Depression). Enough rambles though. I’m still finishing the book, and it’s rare for me to not skip through pages of boredom while reading books longer than 200 pages these days, as some of you know. This is one text that makes me want to retread certain passages not because they’re too complex to understand (although, sometimes, they are), but because they’re so f***ing beautiful I cannot not relive the experience of enjoying the grin and joy of his words, his playfulness, his most unusual punctuation, his randomness and the openness of perception. His experience. His comic book super heroes as the mythical creatures of America; his retelling of the origins of LSD; the brief note about Aldous Huxley and mescaline in The Doors of Perception; everything. But now I’ll stop for a moment, I’ll finish the book, and I’ll write the second half of Wolfe’s brilliant creation, back when ‘Hippie’ meant
more than colourful clothing and massive forest parties (even though these were not exactly excluded either). Ok. So here’s where things stand, since I don’t think you can actually review a book like this in today’s sterile pseudo-kinked vinyl doll plasticity: I want to find our generation’s Owsley. The Merry Pranksters are the bomb. Acid gas sounds fun. La Honda versus The Factory; I wonder who had it better. The Original Magical Mystery Tour. I could go on. But what this book really makes you feel is this: you’re standing on the busiest street corner in your city, but the city was just evacuated because of some chemical threat. You’re in this one place, and the sun is so bright everything looks like it just got nuked, and you know you’re alone, but you don’t want to believe it. You grab a long metal pole, and now you’re suddenly running down the streets, smashing the pole into the ground, waking everybody up. But the city is really, mostly, empty, or in hiding, and so very few people hear you. Of those who do, some peek out of the corners of their windows, scared and disinterested; some throw themselves off their balconies and surge out of their front doors and start running with you; others want to, but their significant others don’t let them. Suddenly, you’re not alone anymore, and you’re still running through this city of white light, making noise and gathering momentum, then you’re too much, then you’re more, than you move to the beach, then you find a hill, then you go to a canyon, then there’s an old warehouse, then your grandmother’s house, then your ex-boss’s house, then the subway, then a park, then another subway, and now you’re in a forest. You lay down, head back, exhausted but ecstatic. You open your eyes and the white light of the sun doesn’t bother you. You see the bits and pieces around the white light, and you’re happy. You laugh. Out loud. It’s a beautiful thing, the colours of your sky. This is what Tom Wolfe gives you. This is why you should read this book.
This book was recommended to me a few months ago, at a job interview for an advertising agency. His idea was that the combination of choice architecture and behavioural economics constitute the basis of a well written pitch and copy for a successfully persuasive campaign. The book was recommended reading for the entire office staff, and when I did get around to it, I found it easy to see why. How-to and self-help books have a special place reserved in hell, in my opinion, and their authors deserve even worse than I can write in a Dubai-based magazine. Nudge, however, is not a self-help book. It is a lightweight academic dissertation written by two very qualified and very relaxed professors. Thaler’s speciality is Behavioural Science and Economics, while Sunstein is a professor of Jurisprudence, and their writing is a reflection of their backgrounds, with anecdotes from their daily lives and off the record examples (as in, non-academic citations) from other academics. As a whole, the book is a series of examples and explanations of the various scenarios where choice architecture is unavoidable and how the many elements of behavioural science can help us improve our lives and the lives of those whose ecosystems we are required to manage. What makes this book particularly interesting is how cleverly and gradually, like layers of an onion, it points us, ‘nudges us’, towards the disturbingly simple ways in which our actions are effectively and effortlessly anticipated. It also kind of makes you cry,
figuratively, thinking of how easily and unavoidably manipulated we are. The example that most vividly comes to mind, but is not as representative as the opening problem of the school cafeteria, is at Thaler’s dinner party. Thaler invites friends (scholarly types of the behavioural sciences) over, and opts to remove the bowl of cashew nuts that everyone had been munching on by 7PM instead of 7:30PM, to avoid their overeating and become too full for dinner later. As soon as it is removed, they are all thankful and a debate ensues on how if he hadn’t removed it they would have still been munching. It’s not the best. Just my favourite (I like cashew nuts). It’s this, along with countless other examples, that makes a heavily theoretical book a joyful read. And, self-help or not, it does teach you a few practical tools for everyday self-management, while also tipping you off on some very handy persuasion techniques that are as simple as wearing a blue tie and fiddling with it often to make your audience select the colour blue out of a list of choices. Their idea is simple and hardly sinister: choices need to be made, and somebody will have to affect those choices by creating the context in which they are made; if you’re aware of the various decisions being made for you (or the decisions you can make for others), you’re better equipped to deal with a social system that consistently works towards mediating choice in an increasingly global market.
LITERATURE - BOOK REVIEWS
Flatland was published anonymously in 1884 by an Anglican theologian named Edwin A. Abbott. I didn’t want this to be the first line of this review as I feared it may put off those readers who make too quick a judgment about the book’s potentially captivating qualities. But alas, keeping in tune with its mathematical leitmotif I felt compelled to start at this logical beginning. The book describes a world that exists in two dimensions as a vast flat plain in which different two dimensional shapes; Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, Circles and other figures move freely about in a world they call Flatland. The world is later disrupted by the emergence of an emissary sphere. The implications of understanding another dimension, perhaps unfathomable to our own, is what Abbott asks us as readers to consider. The book is split into two sections; “Part I: This World” and “Part II: Other Worlds”. The first describes the nature of Flatland; its inhabitants and their various qualities, houses, laws, and climate. There is a particular emphasis on social order and class structures that is very much a satirical comment on the milieu of Abbott’s classconscience Victorian contemporaries. Despite this intention, many readers did not grasp the irony of Flatland, which in turn spurned Abbott to make this undoubtedly clear in his ‘Preface to the Second and Revised Edition’ of Flatland. Our protagonist, ‘A Square’, guides us through his world in minute detail, immersing us to the point where his world in fact becomes our vernacular for a time. This of course puts us in a position to question our own intellectual or imaginative shortsightedness and wonder whether the protagonists’ limited cognition is somehow paralleled in ourselves. Women in Flatland are represented by straight lines and are considered the lowliest beings, lacking in intelligence and morals and only attributed with emotion and erraticism. Soldiers and the lowest classes of workmen are triangles with 2 equal sides, the middle class consists of equilateral triangles, professional men are squares or pentagons, the nobility are hexagons and finally a circular shape is reserved for those of a priestly status. The idea that our biological appearance is intrinsically linked to our moral and intellectual merit as humans, and therefore our social standings, was widely discussed throughout the
second half of the nineteenth century where the nature/nurture debate along with Darwinian Theory held a firm place in popular consciousness. To elucidate this Victorian dilemma further I will relay an excerpt from the introduction of Flatland: ‘Darwin expressed concern that civilised societies blunted the progress of the race by keeping the unfit alive, although he also felt that this protection of the weak could not be suppressed without destroying the noblest part of human nature’. The second section seems to pass by much faster, despite being almost identical in length. Perhaps this can be explained by an eager anticipation of the Sphere’s arrival and the subsequent incredulous yet revelatory tone that reigns throughout most of “Part II: Other Worlds”. I will not say too much about the emergence of the Sphere and how the Square comes into finally embracing a third dimension, however, it is interesting to note that ‘feminine’ qualities in the ‘divine’ third dimension such as altruism and lovingness are most highly regarded. The Square is shocked that this is the case as in Flatland logic and intellect are the idioms of human merit and place much higher than these ‘feminine’ qualities. It is only in these final chapters that Abbott’s true attitudes, stripped of the satire and irony prevailing the former part of the text, are clearly revealed. Almost every narrative device and detail of Flatland has a purpose and commentary that can be paralleled in a Victorian context. However, questions regarding logic, nature and imagination raised by Abbott still have relevance today and the metaphorical nature of the book encourages almost endless depths of interpretation. Although the author’s intention was to allow us insight into imagining how another dimension (specifically a religious one) could exist, it is not the content of this lesson we learn from most. What we take away from the story is more deeply rooted in the process of new discovery and new planes of thinking that could be applied to our own lives again and again. It may, however, be Abbott’s poignant illustrations that take your fancy, or casual amusement derived from phrases such as ‘an innumerable multitude of lilliputian grasshoppers’. Whatever it is, this novella certainly lives up to its subtitle: A Romance of Many Dimensions.
Bared to You
The Semantic of Murder
Thornton Wilder: A Life
The Arab Spring: The End of Post-colonialism
LITERATURE - BOREALI
BOREALI Trevor Bundus
Down, going further down, and longer down than you’ve ever been before Slow, walking slowly now, letting the air pass through your soul Your life, through your life, wasn’t as you dreamt it to be It became deaf to the tones, and blind from the light The water ran from beneath it and enveloped the crow You rained down on me, to cross out my sight To see darkness through happiness the child cannot know Sleep, deep and purposely, and sleep heavier than your bed allows Just to get out, to get out, I know you’ve done it before Freedom, real freedom of mind wasn’t the salvation you need It was left, to be left, to the left
HOW THE ARAB SPRING IS
POINTLESS BUT USEFUL BY FARES BOU NASSIF
Let’s talk about the one subject I always promise myself not to write about. Let’s attempt to disentangle Arab political cycles, to demystify ourselves, if only for a moment. Let’s focus on the Arab Spring, or rather on the Arab Spring’s image. I’m not so concerned, in writing this, with whether or not Egypt has a government, if Syria continues to be ruled by Assad or not, whether Libya is truly free, and if the Lebanese government will ever become faithful to its people. I do not care to talk about the issue of real freedoms and the voice of the people in any Arab nation. Sure, just like any Arab person, I have an opinion on the matter, but that opinion is not something I share as a writer, because I do not write about politics. Instead, we will discuss the history of Arabia over the past five to ten years and the image of the various ‘revolutionaries’ of the Arab world. We can define a recent period of flux in the Middle East widely referred to by the international press as the Arab Spring, beginning in December 2010. Except, it didn’t begin in December 2010: the Syrian opposition had been lobbying for movement towards reform for years; the Lebanese had been in full protest mode since the Hariri assassination in 2005; Iranian activists have been in a furious, although quelled, state for quite some time, with uprisings against corrupt elections in the two years prior; Jordanian protests are not new; the Bahrainis have had minor uprisings before; Tunisians had been complaining and protesting for years. The difference, this time, is that the world is (was?) paying attention. Oh, and Facebook was an active force in the revolution. But what it really was is the spectacle of the burning man, the Tunisian fruit vendor. The idea here is that the Arab Spring was an image. A brand. A tag along of the fever
of Occupy Wall Street and the economic, political, and social street activities of people all over the world in 2009 and 2010, from Iran to Lebanon and everywhere else. It was a byproduct of the sudden outburst of crowd-sourcing techniques in advertising and other industries. Combining all the changes happening around it, it was a product of its time. That time is now done, or near its end. A lot of us can agree or disagree on the political specifics of the Arab Spring, and many of us will say it is ineffective. My personal opinion is that it’s over: it’s lost its momentum. It has disappeared. Right now, there’s a war in Syria and Libya and Egypt are unstable. An explosion happened recently in Beirut. Some citizens of various Arab countries are disgruntled and talking about it, sometimes taking to the streets, which is unusual but not game-changing. There is no Arab Spring any more. The isolated incidents of 2012 have diminished the value and intensity of 2011. Since March 2012, The Economist only tags two articles out of twenty one about the Arab Spring as involving anything other than the conflict in Syria – and one of those two is about Turkey’s citizens take on Syria, the other about Hilary Clinton’s visit to Egypt. Other international news agencies more or less reflect a similar shift. Essentially, the Arab Spring of 2012 is the Syrian Civil War. And the Syrian Civil War is blamed on the Syrian regime’s figureheads: the Assads, the presidential family. The controversy surrounding the article published in Vogue in March 2011 is evidence of the tragically offcentre global perception when it comes to the Arab reality of its own Spring. Similarly, most believe that the Egyptian Spring ended with the toppling of Mubarak, or the Libyan with the end of Gaddafi’s regime. The problem is that this media representation
is bulls**t. Crap. Useless. The Arab Spring brand concept is actually, however, the only useful thing to come out of it. What the brand attempts to convey is, in itself, pointless. Here’s why. Samir Kassir describes an Arab dystopia, and then calls it our current condition, our ‘malaise’. He concludes his book, Being Arab, with a crippled suggestion of a solution: an urge to at least find some sort of equilibrium, if not a full-blown cure. He died, a year later. Killed by one of the many enemies he raged against, as an aftereffect of the Hariri assassination in Beirut. Not to sound Lebano-centric, because I’m not (and Kassir was Palestinian, anyway), those were the years when the roots of the Arab Spring were planted. The book describes a need for the masses to stand up for themselves, awaken to a form of democracy that is all their own, characteristic of being Arab while still embracing modernity. Ultimately, to many observers, the current state of post-2011 Arab Spring is no ideal. The overall excitement proved pointless. It gave us a brand to stand behind, but we fizzled and ended up losing it, missing it, our window, because the Arabs did what they do best: they argued, because they all have to be right at the same time. What we can learn from it, however, is that if the people stand up, they can make a change. The only truly useful lesson from 2011 is that things can change. Drastically. Now we just need to find a way to convince ourselves that plurality, diversity, and compromise – acceptance and tolerance – are good things. So this article did turn out to be political, in a sense. Let’s call it socio-political. F***, let’s call it whatever you want, just as long as people stop dying. Please.