TRACEY EMIN ANISH KAPOOR SHIRIN NESHAT HENRIK VIBSKOV KALUP LINZY AARON ROSE GEORGE LOIS SHAMIM MOMIN CORY ARCANGEL MIKA ROTTENBERG +
M.I.A. MAKING POP PROPAGANDA
105 S. ROBERTSON BLVD LOS ANGELES, CA 90048 ROCKANDREPUBLIC.COM
handcrafted all-natural bath & body
SPREAD5 SPREADLOVES 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36
Henrik Vibskov Tronic ConfettiSystem Mika Rottenberg Cory Arcangel Kalup Linzy Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld Shamim Momin Aaron Rose Francesca Gavin Pantha du Prince ARP Burial
FEATURES 38 46 52 56 66 72 76 80 84 88 134
M.I.A. Tracey Emin Anish Kapoor Moses Mabhida Stadium Heidelberg Project Make It Right Foundation Ecstatic Peace Library Shirin Neshat George Lois Simon Doonan & Jonathan Adler Amy Lau’s Best in Show
PHOTO ESSAYS 92 98 104 110 114 122 128 140 148 154 162
Audience by Matthew Monteith Aftermath: Haiti by Kareem Black Day to Night by Stephen Wilkes NY Parks by Joel Meyerowitz Lakes by Michael Schnabel On The Beach by Emily Nathan Most Likely by Stewart Cohen Hotel by Erwin Olaf Elsinore by Nick&Chloé Dance Dance Gang by Matthew Welch Abstracts by Stuart Hall ON THE COVER: M.I.A., PHOTOGRAPHY: RUUD BAAN STYLIST: DJUNA BEL HAIR & MAKEUP: BENN JAE FOR KIEHL’S AT OPUSBEAUTY.COM
& &''34 + +: & & 4:4&4&+ ) :43 44) &7)
()* + / 0 0)1 &" &$%23 .) 44+!3( ) 5
# & &6 " ))7)4. 8+9+5)
SPREAD5 EDITORIAL DIRECTOR/PUBLISHER HOWARD BERNSTEIN
CREATIVE DIRECTOR EDDIE BRANNAN
CONSULTING EDITOR KEN MILLER
MANAGING EDITOR LOUISA ST. PIERRE
PHOTO & PRODUCTION EDITOR HELEN SHIH
COPY EDITOR TIFFANY YANNETTA
CIRCULATION & DISTRIBUTION CONSULTANT RICHARD RHODES Thanks to Carol Alda, Edward Buerger, Holly Corbett, Pamela Esposito, Ehrin Feeley, Matthew Goodrich, Jann Johnson, Matthew LeBaron, Gregg Lhotsky, Rachel Picard, and Francine Rosenfeld. SPREAD ARTCULTURE IS PUBLISHED BY BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI, 58 WEST 40TH STREET, NY, NY 10018 COPYRIGHT BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI 2010 REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF SPREAD ARTCULTURE MAGAZINE AND BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI IS PROHIBITED. ALL ADVERTISING INQUIRIES REGARDING SPREAD ARTCULTURE MAGAZINE SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO HOWARD BERNSTEIN, HOWARD@SPREADARTCULTURE.COM
licensing images of the worldâ€™s premier photographers
Author of our cover story on M.I.A., Maxwell Williams is a writer, curator, and vinyl junkie based in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. He is the editor of Flaunt magazine, and previously held an editorship at Tokion magazine. He has contributed to Interview, Heeb, Plastique, Intermission (DK), and many other places. If you live in Brazil, you can see him in a national Dr. Scholl’s ad campaign walking on his hands.
Kiša Lala likes a good laugh, and traveling the globe with a sharpened pencil and a pristine notebook. For this issue, she continent-hopped to interview Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor and Shirin Neshat.
PHOTOGRAPHERS Ruud Baan, Kareem Black, Stewart Cohen, David Eustace, Bobby Fisher, Dana Gallagher, Stuart Hall, Justin Hollar, Mark Lund, Joel Meyerowitz, Matthew Monteith, Emily Nathan, Nick&Chloé, Erwin Olaf, Michael Schnabel, The Selby, Michael Turek, Matthew Welch, Stephen Wilkes, Stephan Würth, Roy Zipstein
Dominic Lutyens is a London-based arts and style journalist who writes for Guardian, Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Financial Times, Vogue and Elle Decor. He is the co-author with Kirsty Hislop of the book 70s Style & Design from Thames & Hudson, and is currently writing a book on textile designer Celia Birtwell for UK publisher Quadrille.
Arizona native Amy Lau founded her interior design firm in 2001, and in 2005 she co-founded the prestigious Design Miami fair. Her residential interior designs have been featured in The New York Times, Elle Decor, Metropolitan Home, Traditional Home, Gotham and House & Garden, as well as on HGTV. She was recently named one of New York magazine’s “Next Garde.” For SPREAD ArtCulture, Lau curated a selection of her favorite production design products.
ILLUSTRATORS Staffan Larsson, Alberto Seveso, Ben Wachenje, Luke Wilson
S PR E A D LO V ES HENRIK VIBSKOV / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y NICK&CHLOÉ
MULTI MEDIA MEGASTAR FASHION DESIGNER, ARTIST, DJ, DRUMMER ... BREAKDANCER?
enrik Vibskov’s fashion shows have consistently drawn raves, not just for his playful approach to high design, but for his willingness to create a spectacle beyond sending models down a runway. In 2006, the Danish designer caused a stir with a Copenhagen Fashion Week presentation titled “The Big Wet Shiny Boobies,” which featured lots of the eponymous body parts—not on the models, but abstracted as stage decoration. The effect was more weird than sexy, but so audaciously goofy that it was hard not to applaud his bravado. His clothing had already caught the eye of critics; educated at Central Saint Martins in London, his brightly patterned apparel reflected the jumped-up atmosphere of millennial London. His graduation from school was documented on Danish television. Vibskov’s subsequent catwalk presentations have featured elaborate staging, such as a runway made to resemble a neon-lit sea anemone and a massive constructed thingamajig filled with bicycles being awkwardly pedaled by models. While fashion is clearly his bread and butter, Vibskov now extends himself into so many creative arenas (even touring as the drummer for the band Trentemøeller on the European festival circuit) that it seems quite fair to call him a multimedia artist. His most recent visit to New York included a live music performance at P.S.1, a DJ set in Chinatown, a gallery exhibition in the Lower East Side and a book debut in Chelsea. The guy covers a lot of territory. Vibskov’s determination to do whatever the hell he wants would be incredibly frustrating if he didn’t seem so sincere in all of his endeavors. He’s having fun, but he’s not being snide. Rather, what makes Vibskov’s work so consistently intriguing is his 12
willingness to have it both ways—he wants to be both refined and ridiculous, and he wants to create fashion that embraces both sides of his personality. The result is often confusing, like watching Grace Kelly make out with Jerry Lewis. In retrospect, perhaps his determination to mix elements should not be so surprising. Early in his career, Vibskov exhibited with Banksy and Faile, and like those street artists, he is refusing to acknowledge the boundaries between different cultural venues. Give him a canvas and he’ll doodle on it. But his vagrant creative output would remain nothing more than amusing doodles if he didn’t have the skill and technical rigor to pull them off. At the very bottom of Vibskov’s bio, you can find a telling detail: when he was 12, he won a local breakdancing competition. Sure, the countryside of Jutland, Denmark is not exactly the Boogie Down Bronx, but in a weird way, his whirlwind creative approach mirrors the skills of a great breakdancer. First you need a solid foundation, an innate understanding of the drummer’s beat. Then you need some flashy moves—some bright patterning and unique flare to catch the eye of the audience. And right when everyone thinks they have you figured out, stand on your head.
“His most recent visit to New York included a live music performance at P.S.1, a DJ set in Chinatown, a gallery exhibition in the Lower East Side and a book debut in Chelsea. The guy covers a lot of territory.”
S PR E A D LO V ES TRONIC / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y MICHAEL TUREK
(R)EVOLUTIONARY SYSTEMS VISUAL FUTURISTS LIMNING THE FUTURE OF INTERACTIVITY
here is no one word for what we do,” says Tronic’s Jesse Seppi, and what sounds initially like a boast is in reality, a simple statement of fact. That concept—“reality”—seems less and less like a definable fact when contemplating the innovative multidisciplinary work generated by the New York studio. “We’ve tried to champion the word ‘convergence,’” adds cofounder Vivian Rosenthal, before Seppi jumps back in to add, “Some people have said visual futurists.” Which makes it slightly tricky to explain what it is that Tronic does, an alternate reality not helped by the studio’s ongoing determination to reinvent their practice with each new project. To start with some facts, Seppi and Rosenthal met while graduate students in Columbia University’s architectural program. Then, rather than pursue a traditional career path of toiling away at endless apprenticeships, the duo set out to reinvent the applications of architectural thinking, blending the distinction between the virtual world and the real. “I think it was just a timing thing,” Seppi says. “We were beta testing some of the first [modeling] programs aimed at architects, which were tools that would help you design shapes you never could design before. So we always were on the front edge of these technologies.” From there, the duo’s thinking evolved, and Rosenthal says they began pursuing the idea of “using those tools to craft a new reality rather than using them to reflect our existing technology.” Seppi continues, “We started talking about doing projects that used very ‘filmic’ techniques like green screen and motion capture, and we talked about incorporating them into architectural environments.” The result was a series of genre-busting projects for clients ranging from technology firms (such as Microsoft, Sony and Samsung) to clothing labels (including Adidas and Diesel) and celebrity architecture firms (Daniel Libeskind and Herzog & de Meuron). One of the earliest applications of Tronic’s reality-blending work has 14
been in retail, where they have pioneered the design of virtual changing rooms that allow consumers to try on new outfits without disrobing. The resulting experience is “like augmented reality,” Rosenthal explains. “Having a 3-D virtual system on top of the existing system is something we’d always wanted to do. The thing is, we know it’s not far off [from immersive virtual environments]. But it’s more about having the crossover between that immersive environment and your daily existence” that defines Tronic’s approach. “For GE, we modeled the human body—the muscular and vascular system—where you can interact with it,” Seppi says. “If you jump, it jumps. If you stretch, it stretches. That’s a fairly basic application, but the implications are pretty massive.” Rosenthal adds, “Now we have a project for AT&T where the body is the interface.” Seppi continues, “We’ve reached a point where the physical environment isn’t static but can adapt in the same way a digital environment adapts.” All of which sounds pretty weird, to be honest, which is why Tronic remain committed to making our monistic future as everyday as possible. “The best way to dazzle people is if it’s all hidden, so it becomes about the experience and not the technology,” Seppi concludes. “It’s almost like faith—if you believe in it and are not scared of it, then you can go with it and have this new experience. We always hated the potential for these things to become a gimmick. We want it to be much more subtle and memorable than that.”
“The best way to dazzle people is if it’s all hidden, so it becomes about the experience and not the technology. It’s almost like faith…”
S PR E A D LO V ES CONFETTISYSTEM / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y MICHAEL TUREK
PARTY BY DESIGN A SET INSTALLATION DUO WITH A PASSION FOR PINATAS
n a recent spring night, the dreamy pop band Beach House was slowly wrapping up a sold-out performance at New York’s Webster Hall. Pointing at the stage’s glittering backdrop of diamond-shaped piñatas, smoky-voiced singer Victoria Legrand thanked the local design duo ConfettiSystem for providing the ambiance for the evening, as the crowd roared its approval. It was a sweet and surprising moment because, really, how many set designers get a standing ‘O’ from the crowd? Ironically, ConfettiSystem began its existence as a band itself. Co-founder Julie Ho recalls, “The concept of ConfettiSystem started one day while we were planning decorations for one of our musical performances. We remembered how fun piñata parties were when we were young and wanted to recreate that feeling. We then decided to continue exploring and working with the concept of what makes a party, creating heightened experiences through interactive objects, settings and sounds.” It was those piñatas that initially defined the design duo’s success, leading to a line of hand made-party products that has been sold at boutiques Partners and Spade and Maryam Nassir Zadeh and upscale retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman. “We sell these objects, which hold the potential to create moments with the people around them, to people and stores,” Ho continues, “but our main focus is to create beautiful settings, environments and installations.” In that alternate vein, ConfettiSystem has created installations for venues as diverse as the Historisch Museum in Holland, runway shows by Japanese designers United Bamboo and Doc Marten’s 50th anniversary display with the Opening Ceremony store. 16
But it’s the actual parties that are closest to ConfettiSystem’s heart. At a recent party for elfin fashion blogger Tavi, they pinned party favors on guests at Gagosian Gallery. And at Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O’s birthday, they had the bittersweet experience of watching firsthand as the rock star smashed one of their piñatas. “We actually did have an impulse to run out and protect the piñata as if it were our baby,” Ho says. “But then we realized that the fun part was just about to happen. I think we, along with the partygoers, experience a spectrum of intense emotions, from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and fear of physical danger, all at once. The most beautiful part is when [the piñata] is actually breaking open—it’s like a beautiful violent explosion of whirling colors and light.” ConfettiSystem co-designer Nicholas Andersen adds that the duo are “exploring the limitless possibilities and opportunities to transform something that is so everyday into something unexpected and refreshing,” and their goal is “to give it value through our hands and ideas. We hope our work of paper and other simple materials transcends just that and reaches something emotional that the viewer can take away with them.” Let’s all stand up “and cheer for the little sparkles of magic that can brighten the dullest day.”
“The most beautiful part is when [the piñata] is actually breaking open – it’s like a beautiful violent explosion of whirling colors and light.”
S PR E A D LO V ES MIKA ROTTENBERG / STO RY KIŠA LALA / P H OTO G R A P H Y KAREEM BLACK
ARCHITECT OF EMOTIONS EVOCATIVE WONDERLANDS BELIE A DARK HEART FOR THIS VIDEO ARTIST
ideo artist Mika Rottenberg stages fictional worlds that evoke children’s playhouses. But her whimsical wonderlands, peopled with odd characters and make-believe logic, expose a satirical underside to her work. For example, her film Cheese (which played at the 2008 Whitney Biennial) was filmed at a constructed barnyard, with a cast of long-haired Rapunzels milking goats, and her 2006 film Dough depicted a group of women kneading a fleshy mass through a Chaplinesque assembly line. Inside her Harlem studio, Rottenberg is preparing for a new project to debut this summer at SFMOMA, and she tours me around a giant wooden box with sliding walls like a Rubik’s cube. Inside, her performers will enact manufacturing processes that integrate footage filmed in a rubber plantation in India and a lettuce farm in California. In these partly fictional processes, the architecture is designed to respond to feeling; the walls expand and compress, squeezing the person inside, turning them red, and the result is a packaged product containing blush. Rottenberg explains, “This is a cube of [crushed] stuff and at Mary Boone, where I’m showing, there’s going to be a photo of Mary holding it, which is going to be for sale at the gallery.” The end product is more a unit of work measuring the expended energy moving through the kinetic system of emotional and mechanical levers. “I try to utilize entropy,” she says, “but also I’m trying to use emotional space as architecture. You think of architecture as something your body moves through, but in this case you’re built into it, and instead of your body moving through space, space moves through your body,” and as fantastical as that sounds, it has uncanny logic in Rottenberg’s world. Rottenberg grew up in Israel. She says her parents originally came from a kibbutz, though her father lives in Cuba now. Thinking back to her childhood, she remembers milking cows at the farm, experiences that might have inspired her interest in production regimens. But she also counts Marx as one of her influ18
ences, though her interpretation is through a playful, visual lens. Doesn’t Marx think artists are petit-bourgeois? She laughs at this, saying, “If you’re a hard-core Marxist, it’s useless stuff and you should do things that people can understand—but there are many layers to that. According to him the only just way of determining value is the amount of labor invested in it, [through] someone’s time and someone’s life. This piece started questioning that, almost as a Marxist analysis of the materials that come into an art object.” In the video performances, Mika’s choice of models is more Fellini than Vanessa Beecroft. In the past she’s put ads in the Village Voice looking for applicants with unusual features. One of her heftier muses defines her everyday profession of sitting on men for a living not in terms of sexuality but as “extreme sports.” Mika is more interested in how these women sell or use their oddities with confidence, and in exploring ways to “adapt the architecture to their bodies.” She says, “There’s something about the attraction to the female body and it’s not just my attraction, it’s the world’s.” So, as a visual artist, working with such fanciful characters, what about her own fetishes? “No one has asked me that!” she laughs, “My fetishes are too weird to talk about!” she adds mischievously, manufacturing some blush in the process.
“I’m trying to use emotional space as architecture. You think of architecture as something your body moves through, but in this case you’re built into it, and instead of your body moving through space, space moves through your body.”
S PR E A D LO V ES CORY ARCANGEL / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y JUSTIN HOLLAR
FUNNY WEIRD A DIGITAL ARTIST GOES INTO A GALLERY …
ory Arcangel is a bit of a riddler, which means that the act of interviewing him is almost entirely self-defeating. First off, he requests to be interviewed via iChat, which isn’t surprising given his reputation as the preeminent digital artist working today. But once we log on, everything goes haywire. Ask him to be forthcoming and he turns bashful. Ask him for analysis and you get jokes. Ask him for jokes and you get candor. “To be honest, I don’t really try to make my work funny. Some of it just comes out that way,” Arcangel says, before adding cryptically (yet obviously), “also, jokes can be different levels of funny.” This is without even getting into a disquisition on the all-important distinction between “funny-weird” and “funnyha-ha.” Describing a video piece he installed at his recent solo show at Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, he mentions, “There is an eight minute section which is just a video of one of the kinetic sculptures in the show, with a voiceover about different ways to tell a joke. I thought it was funny because I knew the video screening would be right on the other side of the wall from where the sculpture was in the show. So people were sitting in a cinema-type room, watching a video of what was right outside the door. I thought that was funny.” That strange flattening of experience—that we now see the world on screens as much as we do in reality—is what seriously fascinates Arcangel. A self-described veteran of “the first generation of computer nerds,” he once did a presentation about the history of 20th century art as seen through YouTube clips. The result was that Andy Warhol is perhaps best known as a successful advertising pitchman and Chris Burden’s notorious 1970s “Shoot” performance becomes a precursor for Jackass. Which is kinda funny, really, but in a serious sort of way. 20
Most of Arcangel’s pieces are deceptively simple—a series of one-liners that disappear into the void. He first gained acclaim with a Whitney Biennial exhibition of videos based on digital hacks, where he removed the characters from video games, creating entrancingly vacant digital landscapes. More recently, he set up two computers at New York’s Team Gallery that emailed each other auto-responses, sending back and forth a never-ending series of “away” messages. Asked about a lovely image made just with Adobe filters, he says, “Adobe makes their tools for whatever you can use them for. I just happen to not be using them for very much… Though you could argue, in an art sense, that this ‘not very much’ is actually ‘very much.’” “I look at stuff and say, ‘That would be better if fill in the blank here,’” Arcangel continues. “That’s the essence of what I do.” And in Arcangel’s reinterpreting of our universe, the best possible version of “Born to Run” gets played on the glockenspiel, ’60s protest songs are sung through T-Pain’s autotuner and cats perform the music of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. That world actually does exist, you just have to Google it.
A “ dobe makes their tools for whatever you can use them for. I just happen to not be using them for very much… Though you could argue, in an art sense, that this ‘not very much’ is actually ‘very much.’”
S PR E A D LO V ES KALUP LINZY / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y MICHAEL TUREK
UBIQUITOUS PERSONAE BLURRY DISTINCTIONS + SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS = HIGH CAMP/HIGH ART PERFORMANCE
alup Linzy seems to be everywhere these days. Check into the Hollywood Standard and there he is, performing in a video in the lobby. Go online and there he is, chatting with Studio Museum of Harlem director Thelma Golden or making a video for The New York Times’ T fashion supplement. If you happened to be at Milan Fashion Week, perhaps you saw Linzy performing as part of Proenza Schouler’s fashion show. Then, even more intimately, Linzy could also be seen performing recently at the “goodbye” dinner for prominent New York gallerist Jeffrey Deitch. Seriously, Linzy might be what was clogging up our airspace recently, not that volcano. Turns out, he’s secretly in Northern California, completing an artist’s residency at the lovely, semi-remote Headlands Center for the Arts. This somewhat surprising reality mirrors Linzy’s own reticent persona, which is a far cry from the over-the-top characters he portrays in his videos, animations and live performances. “I am a very reserved person in my real life,” he admits, “but I do have moments when I am upbeat, sometimes wild and entertaining.” As with any performance artist, Linzy often blurs the distinction between performer and character, though he’s reluctant to read too much of himself into the people he portrays. “It is much harder to deconstruct my personality, because most things [I do in a performance] I don’t act out in real life. It only comes out or through when I write and/or perform.” When Linzy acts out, in many ways he’s parodying the kind of self-conscious persona we’ve all come to recognize from too many reality TV shows. His characters are self-glamorizing yet slightly 22
melancholy, an emotional mix that reflects Linzy’s roots in the maudlin world of “drama queen” cabaret performances. “My work has tongue-in-cheek and campy elements,” he says, “but my work is not that as a whole.” And videos titled “All My Churen” and “Da Young and Da Mess” hint at his deeper investigations into AfricanAmerican culture. Though the videos and animations are arguably what made him an art star (and which contain his arguably most intriguing material) it’s in Linzy’s live performances that his full personality comes to the fore, a stage presence radiating self-made glamour. “A couple of months ago, I went flipping through one of my journals from the early 2000s,” he says. “I found all these collages of male models. Then I remembered how obsessed I was about fashion and models at a particular point in my life. No, it was not because I thought the guys were hot! In the collages, they all had on a lot of clothing.” That obsession with the “image is everything” has served Linzy well; in the postmodern mediaverse, you are who you show yourself to be.
“It is much harder to deconstruct my personality, because most things [I do in a performance] I don’t act out in real life. It only comes out or through when I write and/or perform.”
S PR E A D LO V ES VLADIMIR RESTOIN-ROITFELD / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y BOBBY FISHER
STAR CHILD A PRECOCIOUS CURATOR MIXES BUZZ WITH GLAMOR
hen you start in this business,” Vladimir RestoinRoitfeld says, “artists are not running after you. So you need to seize opportunities when you can, and then it is your job to prove that you can actually be good at it.” Restoin-Roitfeld actually began his young career in a rather different field, working for Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles right after he graduated college. But after a year at the studio, he knew he was in the wrong business. “It was too political and too distant from the creativity itself,” he says, so he moved back to New York with little notion of what he would do with himself. Fortunately, artists also tend to have a lot of free time on their hands, so Restoin-Roitfeld began chatting with his longtime friend Marco Perego about possibly organizing an exhibition. “Marco gave me his trust and I worked as hard as I could for it,” Restoin-Roitfeld recalls. “Six months later, my first show was on in Paris. The whole thing came very naturally to me. I loved all the angles of the project: The human side of working so closely with the artist, the creative side of putting on the show, and the business side of promoting and selling the art. I understood that this was what I wanted to pursue.” However, like other independent curators, he still felt a certain unease about the structures of the art establishment. “I wanted to change the norms and do shows that would interest people of all ages and of all industries. I always had the feeling that [the art world] was a very closed circle of people, and it was never really welcoming to others. I thought that this was the reason why so many people did not show much interest in art, and I decided to do it differently.” Of course, this ambition would be empty without good artists to back it up, and Restoin-Roitfeld stumbled on a goldmine of street cred when he met the New York artist Richard Hambleton. Hidden 24
away in his Lower East Side studio, Hambleton was a forgotten relic of the ’80s art boom, a now-unknown ex-street artist who, at the peak of his popularity, could claim both greater celebrity (and higher prices) than his friends Basquiat and Haring. Recalling his first visit to Hambleton’s studio, Restoin-Roitfeld recalls, “It was like entering a page of history, and I fell in love with the works right away.” With financial support from Armani, the ensuing exhibition was a blockbuster event, with the types of A-list celebrities turning up for the opening that would never be seen at a typical gallery reception. “When I started putting on exhibitions,” Restoin-Roitfeld explains, “I started renting rough industrial space and building museum style walls inside, throwing huge openings with a couple thousand people coming. [It is] about creating some sort of environment around the art.” As one might expect from the son of the editor of French Vogue, Restoin-Roitfeld is determined to inject glamour into the gallery world of over-lit rooms and cheap wine in plastic cups. “I try to best represent and promote the artist I work with,” he adds, “to give the chance for a very large and very different crowd of people to feel concerned and interested in the work. I don’t find it harder or easier to work this way. That’s just the way I wanted to do it.”
“I started renting rough industrial space and building museum style walls inside, throwing huge openings with a couple thousand people coming. [It is] about creating some sort of environment around the art.”
S PR E A D LO V ES SHAMIM MOMIN / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y MATTHEW WELCH
INSIDE OUT BRINGING ART OUT INTO THE OPEN
hamim Momin was 30 years old when she curated her first biennial for the Whitney Museum of Art. Predictably, handing such power to a curator so young caused both excitement and backlash. To some in the old guard, her expanded artist rosters for the 2004 and 2008 biennials, as well as her willingness to work with pop-friendly artists, marked an overindulgence of boom-market art world hype. But Momin should also fairly be credited with having helped to successfully usher in a wave of dynamic, downtown New York artists such as Terence Koh, Dash Snow and Agathe Snow, while also greatly expanding the exhibition outside the museum’s walls to audience-friendly venues such as Central Park and the Park Avenue Armory. That last accomplishment is what she’s most proud of. “It seems to me that in recent years a lot of artists are working in ways that encompass a broad range of forms that don’t always function as completely within only the institutional walls,” Momin says. “That is to say, in addition to studio based work, they might equivalently run a school, do performances that then engender installations, have a band, etc…” She’s on her way back from having organized a new non-traditional exhibition in another non-traditional venue; vuring the SXSW music fest, she installed work by an impressive roster of artists in a house in downtown Austin. The goal was, among other things, to bring art out to an already culturally engaged audience, while cultivating a vibe that was rather more beer in a bottle than Prosecco in a plastic cup. During her time at the Whitney Museum, Momim was also in charge of the museum’s Altria space at Grand Central Station, and she frequently worked musicians such as Gang Gang Dance, Lucky Dragons and Hisham Bharoocha into her programming mix. Now, with her Los Angeles Nomadic Division (or LAND) not-for-profit group, she’s expanded the list of potential venues yet further. “Ultimately, we are committed to the idea of a ‘museum without walls,’” she says. “[LAND will be] a programmatically rigorous curatorial entity that commissions site and situation-specific projects with contemporary artists.” Rather than remain entrenched within 26
the very rigidly boxed-in New York gallery scene, “we are hubbed in Los Angeles because of the richness of the artist community here as well as the relevance of how the city is structured to our ideas about space and experience.” In addition to the project in Austin, she’s also organized an exhibition inside a real estate development in Miami and (perhaps most appropriately of all) in Donald Judd’s legendary town-asmuseum of Marfa, Texas. And much as that town’s art community has far outlived the artist himself, Momim sees LAND taking on a life of its own. “What I am after with curatorial work is not so much the idea of selection taking precedence, but of seeing as much as I can and then trying to suss out the most relevant threads and ideas that seem to link things together at that moment in contemporary culture.” Of course, the tricky part about taking “land” as an operating principle for organizing art exhibitions is that, by constantly finding new venues, you’re constantly reinventing the wheel. But Momin insists the physical challenge of presenting the work is her favorite part. “I know it sounds a bit corny,” she says, “but I am always proudest of the moments in installation—which is my very favorite thing to be doing, on the planet—where the whole team is working together to problem solve and make things happen. It is really inspiring to watch, honestly.”
“What I am after with curatorial work is not so much the idea of selection taking precedence, but of seeing as much as I can and then trying to suss out the most relevant threads and ideas that seem to link things together at that moment in contemporary culture.”
S PR E A D LO V ES AARON ROSE / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y BOBBY FISHER
THE AVANTISTE DEFINING A MOVEMENT AND THEN MOVING ON
aron Rose is almost as well-known as the artists he presents, but this isn’t because Rose is a showboater or goes out of the way to promote his own “brand.” Quite the contrary, the Los Angeles (and Portland) based curator is DIY indie to his core. Asked about his upcoming plans, Rose skips over the various media projects he has in the works and mentions, “For the past three years I’ve been trying to open an art school for teenagers in Los Angeles. It’s called Make Something!! We’ve done quite a few independent workshops and taught over 1,500 kids now. I can probably say that teaching is quite possibly the most important work I’ve done,” he says. “But I’ve really enjoyed everything.” What has defined Rose throughout his career is a fierce loyalty to a group of (formerly) outsider artists who have gone on to be some of the biggest names in the art world for the past 10 years. An early supporter of Terry Richardson, Chris Johanson, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Mike Mills and numerous others, Rose has been a founding figure in popularizing what has now come to be known as “street art.” Not that Rose would feel too comfortable with that label; he’s attempted to rebrand this group of artists as Beautiful Losers in, first, a museum exhibition, then a book and finally a film. But when talking about the common thread that binds the ’60s protest art of Sister Corita with the brightly colored sarcastic sloganeering of Johanson, Rose is the first to admit, “I’m not sure I can actually link them other than the fact that I like them both. I suppose that a good majority of the artists that I love have some sort of rebellious spirit in them. Chris has that for sure and so did Corita, along with a good many more I’ve been lucky to work with.” 28
Rose has a bit of a rebellious spirit himself, founding the iconic Alleged Gallery on Ludlow Street when the Lower East Side was still the domain of Hasidim and heroin addicts, then moving the gallery to the far west side of Manhattan to what has since become known as the Meatpacking District. When rents went up, he closed. “Alleged was a very spontaneous operation,” he recalls. “I loved the fact that there was always constant contact with a live audience. Other than that, I don’t really miss it. It was a great thing to do in my twenties. But I’m a different person now.” Now, Rose is signed on as a director with the influential Directors Bureau in Los Angeles, while also working with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy to create original “low-budget” content for the Internet. Not that his loyalties have changed a bit. “I’m always attracted to creative people who don’t accept the status quo,” Rose avers, “and I’m not just speaking visually. I feel drawn to artists who look beyond the aesthetic and into redefining the idea of what it means to be ‘an artist’ in the larger sense of the word and in terms of the artists’ place in society.” Rose clearly has not finished redrawing these boundaries. “Just waking up in the morning and trying to do what I have to do is my main job,” he says. “If that keeps happening, the future looks good to me.”
A “ lleged [Gallery] was a very spontaneous operation. I loved the fact that there was always constant contact with a live audience. Other than that, I don’t really miss it.”
S PR E A D LO V ES FRANCESCA GAVIN / STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y STUART HALL
ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE A POPULIST AND WELL-PUBLISHED VISIONARY
ow did I end up with this life?” Francesca Gavin asks rhetorically. “I did study art at university, but hell… I never expected to do anything with it!” This might be why, in contrast to the all-too-ubiquitous self-serious curators, Gavin has an impeccably populist touch. We’re chatting on the phone while she wraps up her work on the new Dean Street Townhouse collection in Berlin. She’ll be giving a tour to Damien Hirst in the morning. In contrast to the collection she’s already curated with the artist Jonathan Yeo for the Townhouse’s London location, the new space will focus on works by German artists such as Thomas Demand and Christian Jankowski. “We always include a bit of sex and a bit of humor [but] in this case, it’s mostly works on paper or painting,” she says. “At the end of it, I think we’re going to have one of the most impressive drawing collections that exists.” Gavin strives to be respectful of the local art scene and the venue for which she’s curating. She notes that the “London space also had a lot of history as a social club —Francis Bacon and Graham Greene used to drink there,” which dictated what art would fit best on the building’s weathered wooden walls. In Berlin, “the building used to be the headquarters of the Hitler Youth!” she laughs. “I can’t believe I’m Jewish and curated an exhibition in this building. Of course, Berlin has a lot of history, so all of the artwork has a sense of timelessness.” Fortunately, Gavin has a remarkably vast array of artistic contacts at her disposal. After nearly a decade writing about art for UK publications such as Dazed and Confused and Another Magazine, she’s already polished off one book and is well on her way 30
toward completing another. This second book will be a survey of 100 artists from around the world, all under the age of 35. It’s a list that should serve her well as she starts working on the next Townhouse gallery, which is slated to open in Miami this fall. For that space, she plans to exclusively use American artists, many of whom will also appear in an upcoming Mu Museum exhibition she’s putting together. “I was originally going to do the project as a book, but a curator at the museum suggested the show,” Gavin says. “Curating, to me, is so similar to writing a book. Basically, you get in touch with people and have them send work.” Well, easier said than done; you have to know who are the right people to contact and have a strong personal vision to shape the exhibition. “My choice of artists is a little bit of a sidestep from what you would get in most art books,” she adds. “I hate art where you have to read a press release to understand it. I like art that’s immediate.” Which is why she’s equally comfortable with presenting work in a commercial venue, such as Dean Street Townhouse, as she is curating for a museum. “Getting a gallery is hard!” she says, so she’s doing whatever it is she can to help out. “I really champion the people that I’m into,” she continues. “It’s really all about them and not about me. You know how a lot of curators put themselves first? I’m not at all about that.”
“I hate art where you have to read a press release to understand it. I like art that’s immediate.”
S PR E A D LO V ES PANTHA DU PRINCE / STO RY KEN MILLER / I L LU ST R A T I O N ALBERTO SEVESO
IMPROVISED ACOUSTIC ELECTRONIC A GERMAN MUSICIAN WHO CAN GO WITH THE FLOW
endrik Weber, better known as Pantha du Prince, is sitting in a Lisbon nightclub getting ready for his set. Unlike most artists of his musical genre—a slightly retro-sounding brand of organic electronica—he acts as something of a one-man band. For his new record Black Noise (Beggars Group), Weber says, “I’ve been more into weird analogue instruments and doing more of an electro-acoustic set-up, recording with microphones.” But once onstage, he is alone with his gear. “For me, the important part is that I can just play, alone, with my machines. I don’t need to explain myself to anyone.” Never mind the risk of rock band histrionics—for Weber, live performances are where he feels most at home. “I still see [my music] best in the environment of a club. To me, that’s the basic difference from me to other electronic musicians. I’ve played rock clubs and it’s no problem at all. I can play any room as long as the system is good.” Fortunately for Americans, we will soon have the chance to see Pantha du Prince perform live again, following a long delay during which he was banned from performing in the U.S. “I wasn’t able to come to the US for a while because of visa problems. I was touring the country playing illegally and they caught me.” Weber’s forced sojourn back home in Berlin allowed him time to develop his sound, adding thick layers of texture and fluid melodic structures to his beats. 32
“I always try to explain my songs with the sounds that I’m using,” Weber says. “I’m developing the tracks from the sounds. I’m just trying to hear what is there, analyze the sounds’ frequencies and build from that. I’m building the parts of the song and then basically just jamming with that, playing the drums and the bass. Then I prepare parts and record it all in one flow. Sometimes, when I’m good, a song only takes 10 minutes to make. And sometimes I fuck it up and need to do a lot of post-production.” Now that he’s touring again, he anticipates his sound will evolve yet again, part of the improvisatory development that makes his music unique. As an amp blares in the background, he calmly admits, “At the moment I’m trying to learn from my live sets. Every few months I’m changing things to challenge myself.” In other words, just go with the flow.
“Sometimes, when I’m good, a song only takes 10 minutes to make. And sometimes I fuck it up and need to do a lot of post-production.”
S PR E A D LO V ES ARP / STO RY KEN MILLER / I L LU ST R A T I O N LUKE WILSON
PASTORAL EUPHORIC ELECTRONIC BECAUSE YOU SHOULDN’T BRING A LAPTOP TO THE BEACH
tend to approach each album I record as a separate entity,” Alexis Georgopoulos says. “I try to let the album determine itself on its own terms.” Georgopoulos’s influences range from club music to classical, and he’s been equally likely to have his music remixed by Hot Chip as he is to perform a live score for digital artist Doug Aitken. Following years playing with the punk-funk Krautrock band Tussle, he recently went solo to score a dance performance at the New Museum, but by his own admission, he’d really prefer that you listen to his music on the beach. Though he says he’d rather not “deconstruct” his new ARP record, Georgopoulos will admit that “a lot of non–electronic influences have found their way in [to the record],” resulting in a sound that is warmer and roomier than most electronic music. “If what I do evokes ‘70s German music or Minimalism or whatever to some people,” Georgopoulos says, “it’s not so much about mimicking older artists as much as it’s about trying to convey something that may not be in favor these days—a certain kind of pastoral euphoria, finding inspiration in landscape or trying to evoke a filmic narrative in abstraction.” Which is a rather heady way of saying these aren’t dance jams. Still, listening to the rippling waves of sound on the new ARP record The Soft Wave, it’s hard not to say this is still electronic music. Georgopoulos replies, “You could make an argument that almost everything right now—hip-hop, R&B, hipster jams, pop, 34
whatever—is electronic in that samplers, computers and synthesizers are ubiquitous.” But for the record, he harked back to the more “classic” type of electronic music made by idols such as Brian Eno and Arthur Russell. “Using analog synthesizers is quite different than turning on a computer with a bank of preset sounds,” Georgopoulos adds, because the instrument’s variability and ability to react allows for a more organic evolution of the songs. Though he’s now based in New York, Georgopoulos spent over a decade living in California, soaking up the vibes. Out in the Southern California desert, there’s an unusual building called the Integratron, which purportedly was built over the magnetic confluence of three underground rivers. With ARP, Georgopolous’s multiple influences meet, resonate and emanate …
“It’s not so much about mimicking older artists as much as it’s about trying to convey something that may not be in favor these days—a certain kind of pastoral euphoria, finding inspiration in landscape or trying to evoke a filmic narrative in abstraction.”
S PR E A D LO V ES BURIAL / STO RY KEN MILLER / I L LU ST R A T I O N STAFFAN LARSSON
ROMANTIC ELEGIAC ELECTRONIC A SOUTH LONDER MAKING COMPLICATED DUBSTEP
urial is quite mysterious. Not the musician behind Burial, who admitted a couple of years back that his name is William Bevan and that he lives in South London. There’s nothing mysterious about that, though this revelation came after years of frenzied speculation regarding his identity, a media freakout that was only exacerbated by Burial’s nomination for a 2008 Mercury Prize for the album Untrue (on Hyperdub). After winning the prize, Bevan went public with his identity, effectively quelling rampant speculation while calmly admitting on his blog, “I’m a low-key person and I just want to make some tunes.” But what remained quite mysterious was the music itself— stripped down, remarkably minimal 2-step dance music that felt better suited for a back alleyway than a dance club. There’s something spooky, romantic and yet subtly threatening about Burial’s music, a strange mix of qualities that is particularly striking given how simple the music generally is. Voices drop in and out, subtly distorted to the point where you constantly struggle to find meanings in lyrics that aren’t quite there. The samples Burial uses are somehow both gritty and ethereal, referencing familiar sounds while being oddly unplaceable. A song chimes at regular intervals with what sounds to be either a bullet dropping or a wedding ring—and figuring out the correct identification goes a long way toward determining the song’s mood. 36
As Bevan admitted in a 2007 Wire interview, “I’ve never been to a festival. Never been to a rave in a field. Never been to a big warehouse, never been to an illegal party… I heard about it, dreamed about it.” Perhaps this is what gives his music its oddly mournful quality—it’s like dance music for the closing hours of a wake. Burial knows that the UK rave scene is long gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still stay up late at night listening to music. It just means you’re more likely to do it alone.
“I’ve never been to a festival. Never been to a rave in a field. Never been to a big warehouse, never been to an illegal party… I heard about it.”,
STO RY MAXWELL WILLIAMS / P H OTO G R A P H Y RUUD BAAN
RAPPER /ARTIST MAYA ARULPRAGASAM, AKA M.I.A., HAS MARQUEE APPEAL, YET RETAINS GENUINE CREATIVE CRED. QUESTION IS, WOULD SHE RATHER MAKE POP MUSIC, ART, OR A REVOLUTION?
or the past few months, Maya Arulpragasam has been hiding out amidst the sprawl of the westside of Los Angeles. Hard at work in her home studio, the artist known as M.I.A. has been busy putting the finishing touches on her third album. The only thing at stake is her status as the only female rapper who can run with the marquee-name male stars. Yet, far from the macho showiness of most rappers, M.I.A. is more interested in a different set of streets and an alternate currency of “cred.” For the new record, she’s been creating sonic b lasts that cou ld t umble the Berli n Wa ll—the stones M.I.A. sings about aren’t diamonds from Jacob the Jeweler, but rocks aimed at the border patrol. She is political and agitated, and she has sonically translated that into a new record that 40
pulses and throbs while dropping lyrical leaflets all over the Western Bloc. While few would have given good odds that she would be performing at the 2008 Grammys with Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, Kanye, and T.I., the Sri Lankan-born and London raised Arulpragasam has already made it to the top. She avoided the sophomore slump with her massively popular album Kala, but if anything, great success creates greater pressure. Now is M.I.A.’s moment to become one of the few recording artists who have broad crossover appeal, yet retain genuine creative credibility. Without having sold her soul, she’s poised for global domination. And now the question is, does she even want to be the chairwoman of the board… or is she more interested in turning the tables?
We meet on a sunny Monday, in a dark recording lounge at Village Recording Studios on the westside of Los Angeles. The lounge is as silent as a sensory deprivation chamber, with a long pane of soundproof glass separating the gloomy room from a mixing suite next door. Across the divider, a figure stands with headphones over her ears, nodding her head to an inaudible beat. She is as tiny as rumored, dressed-down in a black coat and butterfly-print tights. At times, she seems to smirk at the sounds waving through her earphones—rough mixes of the new album. Apparently satisfied, she pops off the headphones and steps into the room. “Hi,” she says, “So you’re him. Let’s do this.” There are no layovers at O’Hare when you’re dealing with M.I.A. Don’t let the butterfly print outfit fool you: everything is a
direct flight. Her record label rep mentions that M.I.A. has to hurry up and finish mixing the record before she jets off to London, where her mother has been babysitting her one-year-old child, Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman. When I try to break the ice by making small talk about the trip, Arulpragasam puffs her cheeks with exasperation. For the former Sri Lankan refugee, leaving and re-entering America can be a daunting effort, full of procedural rigmarole. “I think it’s [because of] the journalists. Some people just write me up as ‘M.I.A. the Tamil Tigress!’” she says. “And when the immigration people Google me, they get the one article with the Tamil Tigress in the title, so they give me shit. We [have to] hand them press to prove that I work in America and I come here all the time.” Maybe those Google searches don’t mention that she’s engaged to be married to Benjamin Brewer, the blithely handsome and very tall father to her child, who also happens to be the eldest offspring of “Efer” Bronfman, the billionaire former CEO of Seagram. In addition to being the sole heir of the Seagram dynasty, Brewer is top brass at Warner Music Group, which is ironically the main competitor of Universal Music Group, whose subsidiary Interscope is releasing M.I.A.’s new album. Despite all that, M.I.A. still has trouble getting in and out of the country. She is also the daughter of Arul “Arular” Pragasam, one of the founding fathers of Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students, a Sri Lankan activist organisation. She has been called an apologist for atrocities committed by the Tamil Tiger separatist movement. She is a terrorist. That’s what they all say, anyway. And she’s feeling a bit worn out by it. “This is the bit that no one fucking writes,” she says sharply. “I found a blog where the president of Sri Lanka himself is talking about my dad, and he’s like, ‘He can’t come to this country without my security guards. I offer him protection from the Tigers.’ And that’s really the truth. My dad needs to be protected from the Tigers, because he was part of a different movement that was more ideology based. Which didn’t sit well with the Tigers, and the Tigers eventually killed everyone off.” M.I.A. is reluctant to be the de facto world ambassador for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. But when the topic is broached, she dissects it like no pop star in the world could or would. This isn’t Kanye West rapping about blood diamonds, and when she talks politics, she spouts information with authority. She rails on Bill Gates for giving $700 million to a government that has put large numbers of Tamil people in refugee camps and she takes to task the American government for staying out of the conflict because the Chinese government backs the Sri Lankan regime. We’re supposed to be talking about the new album, which her longtime collaborator Diplo has called alternately “weird” and “heavy.” Instead, she tells a story about her last visit to Sri Lanka. This was in 2002—before she was “M.I.A.”—and her landlord ratted her out on suspicion of terrorism. “My neighbor had the [legal] right to shoot me for suspecting me for being a terrorist.” What set him off was, “he suspected me of being a terrorist for having a video camera.” She continues, “I’m never going to go back, because it’s on the Sri Lankan military’s website that if I get off the plane, they’re going to arrest me and put me in jail for life.”
he intensity that M.I.A. brings with her fills up the room. Every break in the conversation is charged. She is 34, but she looks closer to 22, with the nervous energy of a freshfaced kid just out of school. In reality, 22 was a few identities ago; back then she was just Maya, the hip hop obsessed 41
“Lady “Lady Gaga Gaga isis someone someone who who lives lives completely completely within within [the [the industry]. industry]. That’s That’s what what you you can can get get ifif you you say say ‘yes.’ ‘yes.’ II would would have have those those outfits outfits on on and and my my hair hair would would look look like like that that and and those those are are the the songs songs II would would sing. sing. Everybody Everybody else else on on my my label’s label’s budget budget would would get get cut cut in in order order for for my my Grammy Grammy performance performance with with Elton Elton John John to to be be banging.” banging.” roommate to fashion designer Luella Bartley, and singers Justine Frischmann of Elastica and Damon Albarn of Blur and the Gorillaz. “It was a house full of everyone,” she recalls. “There were constantly creative people around.” A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Arulpragasam already had a budding reputation as an artist and filmmaker. (She eventually won the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Alternative Turner Prize for her politically charged graphic art.) Working as Elastica’s tour documentarian allowed her to travel to America, where she met up with Canadian electro artist Peaches. After a quick crash course on the drum machine, Maya went back to London and recorded some demos, set up a MySpace page for herself, and adopted her now-infamous nom de guerre. These basic ingredients transformed M.I.A. into an early case study in the Internet hype machine: she was the first artist the bloggers claimed as their own, pre-discovered, when discovery was still an option. Riding a wave of viral hype, her songs “Sunflower” and “Galang” were bouncy dance-rap club hits, which allowed M.I.A. to sign to the rap/rock XL label for her debut album, Arular. That first record was nominated for a Mercury Prize, but M.I.A. became a certified global pop superstar in 2008, with the single “Paper Planes” off her second album Kala. The song’s cash register and gunshot chorus—chopped over a sample from “Straight to Hell” by The Clash— were not exactly typical pop radio fodder, but the chorus, “All I wanna do is [pow pow pow!] and [ka-ching!] and take your money,” haunted the radio for months. M.I.A. received a Grammy nomination for the hit, plus a second nomination for Jay-Z’s “Swagger Like Us,” which is built around a line sampled from “Paper Planes”. In 2009, she made the Oscar shortlists for a song she contributed to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, and she was subsequently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year. And then she disappeared. Tours were cancelled, cryptic messages were Tweeted. The word retirement was bandied about. “I try [to retire] all the time!” she laughs… Then, in an instant, the smile drops from her face. “I did stop. I just want whatever I make to be art. The music thing is important because I just didn’t… The thing is… I just feel like if I’m ever going to say something…” She trails off, surprisingly at a loss for words. Earlier this year, she had found herself at a crossroads where she was catching flak for her personal politics (with the New York Times criticizing her for supporting Tamil causes in her music videos) while feeling like she wasn’t making enough of an impact. She needed to make music. And with that, her thoughts snap back into order. “I just feel like, even though my [new] album isn’t overly political, in the beginning I did want it to be,” she says. “I started recording because I was just like, ‘Fuck this!’ [Sinhalese rapper] DeLon went on TV going, ‘She should just shut the fuck up and 43
STYLIST: DJUNA BEL HAIR & MAKEUP: BENN JAE FOR KIEHL’S AT OPUSBEAUTY.COM PHOTO ASSISTANT: MOUNIR, JAMES ACOMB PRODUCER: LAH PRODUCES PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: MEAGAN SZASZ PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: DENNIS SHIN
“You “You can’t can’t just just turn turn everything everything you’re you’re doing doing into into encouraging encouraging other other people people to to be be product product buyers. buyers. It’s It’s fucked fucked up up because because II have have to to make make music music and and ultimately, ultimately, everyone everyone should should hear hear the the music. music. But But people people have have to to buy buy itit for for my my label label to to be be happy. happy. II just just feel feel like like everything everything isis being being consumed consumed by by corporations. corporations. It’s It’s such such aa thin thin line line for for me, me, because because they they help help me me get get [my [my music] music] out out to to more more people, people, but but II don’t don’t want want to to be be in in there.” there.” make music.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, motherfuckers, I will make music! Fuck you.’” She pauses before continuing, “But then I thought, ‘I don’t want to be like them—they’re full of hate.’” And her time off had brought significant changes to her life. There’s even tracks on the new album that mention her new son, which means that, for all the sonic aggression, the album isn’t all vitriolic and combative. “You can’t be negative around a baby.” It’s really only when baby Ikhyd comes up that M.I.A. relaxes. She is genuinely paranoid that the Sri Lankan government has tapped her phones and reads her Gmail. She even implies that this article may encounter a certain amount of surveillance, simply by proxy, because it could be read by the government. But M.I.A., whose aforementioned performance at the Grammys came while she was very pregnant and wearing a rather revealing Mickey Mouse-inspired bodysuit, openly relishes her motherhood. “[Ikhyd] is really tech-y and digital,” she says about the oneyear-old. “The whole time I was pregnant I was like, ‘I want him to be a chef!’ A profession that helps keep families together, you know? And then he came out and straight away he was on the iPhone. But he loves food, so there’s hope.” Thinking about her son reminds her that she’s about to fly back to London and she has to mix the record before she goes. Like, right now. You can hear the exasperation in her voice. Everything is a trade-off when you’re trying to exist artistically, fully expressing yourself, deep within the music industry? Why willingly give interviews and feed fuel to the fire? She’s already gotten in a public tiff with Lady Gaga, adding, “Lady Gaga is someone who lives completely within [the industry]. That’s what you can get if you say ‘yes.’ I would have those outfits on and my hair would look like that and those are the songs I would sing. Everybody else on my label’s budget would get cut in order for my Grammy performance with Elton John to be banging.” “You can’t just turn everything you’re doing into encouraging other people to be product buyers,” she continues. “It’s fucked up because I have to make music and ultimately, everyone should hear the music. But people have to buy it for my label to be happy. I just feel like everything is being consumed by corporations. It’s such a thin line for me, because they help me get [my music] out 44
to more people, but I don’t want to be in there. That’s why I wanted to set up N.E.E.T.—as a home for people that don’t have to go near that shit.” N.E.E.T. Recordings is the label M.I.A. created to work with indie artists outside the traditional music system. She began by collaborating with Baltimore club veteran Blaqstarr and Rye Rye, a Baltimore club rapper, and she’s also readying the debut of hotlytipped Brooklyn lo-fi dance-pop duo Sleigh Bells. She does everything for N.E.E.T., from designing album covers to coding buttons on her artists’ websites. It turns out that this interview isn’t the only thing distracting her from finishing her new album: lately she’s been consumed by work on the N.E.E.T. blog she’s making. “My website I made for Kala, I’m just going to leave as it is,” she says. “That’s my art that I got to create while I did music. It’s like having a photo album on the Internet… the last five years of your life.” But the N.E.E.T. blog is going to be serious. She is dedicated to teaching her fans critical thinking, and she has coded her site to create narratives through cross-referenced links and YouTube videos. (For instance, a video of Bill Gates would be paired with footage of the Sri Lankan refugee camps.) “People just need to be more critical,” she says. She grabs her laptop and proceeds to giddily show off picture after picture, documenting idea after idea. “What do you think?” she asks.
fter the tape stops, the room goes silent again. M.I.A. heads back into the mixing booth, where another laptop is hooked in. She warns that this album is, “Well… different. I don’t care if it’s not what people expect.” She hits a key and the album comes ferociously through the speakers in the mixing booth. After a noisy intro, a song comes in that’s almost a rock track—some sort of hip hop on speed with blips and bloops worthy of a video game. It’s the first time she’s played “Born Free” for anyone but her close circle of friends, and she looks nervous. Little do we know that within a couple of weeks, the video for the single will be banned from YouTube because of violent imagery. She leaves me there with her music, heading off to do the album’s final mix. But before she goes, she asks again: “What do you think…?”
STO RY KIŠA LALA / P H OTO G R A P H Y DAVID EUSTACE
OUR ARTIST ONCE ENFANT TERRIBLE, NOW NATIONAL TREASURE, TRACEY EMIN STILL DOESN’T DO INSIPID.
t seemed quite natural, 15 minutes into my phone conversation with Tracey Emin, that though we had never met before, she was talking about her uterus. Her confessional relationship to the press and her voluble intimacy—so uncharacteristic of what it means to be tight-lipped and British—is what divides and incenses her public. Yet her candidness is arguably her most potent quality. Unlike artists who confront their audience while remaining emotionally distant, Emin’s work remains courageously raw. This unusual openness has made Emin, or “Our Trace,” as she has been monikered by the UK press, something of a national treasure. Having shown at the Royal Academy of Arts and the British Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, she now has her own room of drawings at the Tate. It’s not unimaginable she may become “Dame Tracy” in the not too distant future. Yet this affection was unimaginable in the not too distant past. 46
WITH YOU I BREATHE PHOTO BY TODD WHITE ART PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY WHITE CUBE. ONLY GOD KNOWS I’M GOOD PHOTO BY BEN COHEN, COURTESY LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY, NEW YORK.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: SORRY FLOWERS DIE 1999, ONLY GOD KNOWS I’M GOOD 2009, WITH YOU I BREATHE 2010.
Through Emin’s self-revelatory art, the public has had the opportunity to casually mull over her messy love affairs, the catastrophes of her two abortions (one of which involved twins), being forced into nonconsensual sex at 13, her drinking and her suicide attempt. But this has all been part of her oeuvre as an artist, which demands the public’s engagement, one way or another. Her last show in New York, Only God Knows I’m Good, seemed to imply that she felt unduly judged by the public. But since the work she presents is so intimate, it seems fair to ask if she is justified in feeling indignant about such scrutiny. “It depends on what kind of press it is,” she says. “If it’s an art critic, it’s their job, isn’t it?” But after allowing that quick caveat, she continues, “But sometimes I feel I’m unfairly judged by people. It’s almost like, ‘She’s wearing a mini-skirt and so she deserves to be raped.’ People, with their criticism of me, think they can take it further than they normally would with others.” Not surprisingly, she takes this criticism very personally; as even she admits, separating Emin’s life from her work is problematic. “It is very, very difficult,” she admits. “People should understand that I am an artist, I make art. It comes from within me. But I am separate from the art. I have a vocation.” But what about maintaining this public persona, which is so entwined with who she is as an artist? “It’s still the tip of the iceberg,” she insists. “I only present and show what I want people to see. There are many other things that you’ll never know about me.” The result of this simplification of her character is that“people either really love me or they hate me. I am not a halfway house. I am not insipid.”
“It doesn’t matter how intimate it is. It is made as art. It’s not like I make a secret diary. I know it’s going to be at a gallery and it’s going to be looked at. I always remember that when I make it.”
min rarely does commissions, but at the Frieze Art Fair last year she did six one-off works in neon: after asking each of her pre-commissioned buyers 15 questions about themselves, she scripted their responses across the gallery’s wall. If it felt like an invasion of privacy, then perhaps her intention was to turn the tables. I venture that it must be strange to see one’s work in other people’s homes, particularly when they are relics from her private life, such as My Bed, which was sold to Charles Saatchi for £150,000. “I’ve seen My Bed in Charles Saatchi’s house,” she recalls. “It looked pretty incredible, actually. Really strange. The house is quite baroque and [the piece] was surrounded by his silver collection—never how I imagined it would look.” To be cheeky, I ask if he ever lies on it? “He might have once or twice,” she muses. “You have to ask him! He loves it. It doesn’t matter how intimate it is,” she continues. “It is made as art. It’s not like I make a secret diary. I know it’s going to be at a gallery and it’s going to be looked at. I always remember that when I make it.” Recently, her personal life has impacted her work in a different way. Last year she was quite ill, which left her unable to produce work. “I got iller and iller,” she recalls. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” Then she learned that she’d had a tapeworm for a long time. “If it’s not in your body it’s still in your mind,” she shudders. “It affected everything about me. It affected my personality as well. It made me a bit mean. It affected my emotions.” For her column in The Independent, she wrote at the time, “When it was hungry, I was hungry. When it was tired, I was tired. When it was angry, I was angry. It didn’t just take over my intestines; it took over my entire life. It started to eat away at my soul, a slow torture from within. How could I have been hostess to such an evil thing for so long? Because I was good to it. I gave it what it wanted. It gave me headaches, bad skin, diarrhea…dead skin. I wasn’t me. My soul was getting more and more disturbed. I stopped touching life.” Then she got even sicker. “I also had endometriosis and two operations on my womb. [It’s] quite invasive surgery, and for months I couldn’t walk. I had all these strange things inside me. I thought someone had put a jinx on me, or a hex….” Her mood shifts with these darker memories, and when she quickly adds, “I am much better now,” I change the subject. Despite the traumas in her life, Emin uses her art to pull herself together and carry right on. 49
I ask how her work might change as she gets older. “I am going through a slow menopause,” she reveals. “ I don’t have any periods anymore. I am much happier now not having them.” Obviously, childbirth is no longer an option, but does she regret not having children or has art been sufficient progeny? “I never met the right person at the right time. I’ve never been with anyone that wanted to have children with me. I did once think about adopting, but now that I’m approaching 50, the less I’m keen on it.” If that sounds melancholy, it isn’t. “My fulfillment in life is being an artist. I built a library in Uganda for children that I put money into. I send all the books over. These are things that are quite fulfilling to do with children—you don’t have to have children to be with children.” Not that she’s gone soft. “I prefer to spend my time with adults and my cat. I travel all over the world and am independent. Having children will just slow me down. I don’t need a mini-me to dress up. I could pour my love and affection into other things.” Still, she thinks about her family, and I ask her about Older Woman, a piece from 2005 which reads “I Think My Dad Should Have Gone Out with Someone Older like Louise Bourgeois.” “My dad has always gone out with people much younger. I think it would have done my dad good to have been with a real mature woman,” she laughs. “Louise is ten years older, but it’s a nice idea.” Emin has in recent years formed a bond with the 99-year-old Bourgeois, a relationship that she has quite deliberately cultivated. “I asked if I could meet her, and she said yes,” she says. “Now we’re doing a collaboration. Louise makes watercolor prints and I do drawings over the top. She still is a formidable woman at 99, but she’s very, very sweet to me. She has a lot of young people around her, and she is totally together.” In a sense, this cross-generational pairing makes perfect sense, with both artists exploring themes of wounds and wombs. “We both work with recurring themes as well,” Emin adds. “Things 50
that come again and again in our life, that don’t go away. The damage may be done and you forget it… Then it comes back again.” Reliving one’s painful past, she says, “Is pretty healthy. You’re not holding it inside you; you are letting it go into the ether.” In addition to Bourgeois, Emin has older male artist friends, like Ed Ruscha and Julian Schnabel. “Men look at the world as one giant ejaculation, and women look at the world like they want to come again and again,” she says. Moreover, “Women’s careers in art excel as they get older, whereas men’s decline. There haven’t been that many successful female artists in comparison to men, but [among those few female artists] it’s in the last 30 years of their life that they really succeed. Whereas with men, it’s in the first half.” I can’t help but note that she herself succeeded quite early, to which she prophesies happily, “But see what happens as I get older!” “I had balls, bigger balls than a lot of the men that I know,” she says by way of explaining her early success. That brash attitude lead to early troubles with the media, and she admits that she was upset when the British press thought it was “hilarious” that her hand appliquéd tent sculpture Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 burned down. She regrets not being able to ever show it to people again, but admits, “A lot more people know about the tent now that it’s burned. Which is ironic [because] at the time, I was asked if I could make another one. I could have got a million pounds, but I said no. It’s [about] the memory of making the tent and why I made it and what I made it for… It wouldn’t have made any sense to try and reproduce that.” In contrast to the hoopla from the British press, the reception in the U.S. has always been more muted. “In Britain, I’m in the papers almost every day,” she says. “America is really big. Art is really small. In New York, I feel anonymous. When I walk down the street, only British people or those in the art world know who I am…” Though she claims to not care, she sounds almost wistful
EVERYONE I HAVE EVER SLEPT WITH 1963-1995, 1995 PHOTO BY STEPHEN WHITE, COURTESY WHITE CUBE
THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE, EVERYONE I HAVE EVER SLEPT WITH 1963-1995, 1995
“Men “Men look look at at the the world world as as one one giant giant ejaculation, ejaculation, and and women women look look at at the the world world like like they they want want to to come come again again and and again,” again,” about this anonymity, adding, “They don’t know the sound of my voice. They don’t know what my smile is like…” And it’s not just the popular reception that has been cool. Regarding her most recent exhibition, the New York Times review cited the “slightness of her visual work,” to which she responds, “I thought my show was really good in New York. I liked it.” That same review declared her writing to be what she would be remembered for, and it is indeed beautifully expressive, making her art come alive. “Before last year I was writing too much—more than I was making art,” she says. Nevertheless, “I’ve started writing another book. It’s sort of a stream of consciousness, insane story really.” Emin finds time to write in her new home in the South of France, where she has 33 acres of land with views of the Mediterranean and where her nearest neighbor is a half hour away. She plans to fly there the day after this interview, and hopefully spend the summer there. “I am a great guest and lots of people invite me to their lovely houses. I got to the age where I didn’t want to be anyone’s guests anymore. I wanted to invite people to my own house.” She still doesn’t speak French, but has plans to learn enough just to be polite. “When I’m in France, everything is essential, and everything’s lovely. Just cooking and washing, picking things off the trees… Such a contrast to how my life is in London. I just read and read, go for walks and swim every day. It makes me a better human being.” Emin mentions that she believes in an afterlife and is a deep believer in the soul. She adds that the world has many more layers than we see, and she has written, “Part of me has always thought that my soul has re-entered the earth’s atmosphere on quite a few occasions now, but always as something human. And as wonderful as life can be, there is always part of me that’s feeling ‘here we go again’.” It seems certain that the world will see many more incarnations of Tracey Emin. 51
STO RY KIŠA LALA
ANISH KAPOOR’S INCREASINGLY GARGANTUAN CREATIVE MARVELS RESHAPE THE CREATIVE LANDSCAPE
PHOTO BY DAVID HARTLEY, COURTESY OF GIBBS ESTATE
OPPOSITE, SITE-SPECIFIC WORK AT THE FARM, KAIPARA BAY, NEW ZEALAND
“What “What interests interests me me isis the the sense sense of of the the darkness darkness that that we we carry carry within within us, us, the the darkness darkness that’s that’s akin akin to to one one of of the the principal principal subjects subjects of of the the sublime: sublime: terror.” terror.”
s I visited Anish Kapoor’s studio, his assistants were busy preparing for the installation of Shooting into the Corner, a piece that proved to be a highlight of Kapoor’s 2009 career retrospective at the Royal Academy of Art. The exhibition is one of the highest honors afforded a British artist, as the 55-year old Kapoor has already established himself as one of the most prominent (and popular) artists of his generation, representing the U.K. at the Venice Biennale and earning a Turner Prize in the early ’90s. In recent years, he has even been recognized as a Commander of the British Empire—all the more impressive for an India-born artist who began his career as a sculptor by exhibiting mounds of brightly colored pigment that were inspired by the Bombay street markets of his childhood. For Kapoor’s Royal Academy exhibition, a canon-like device would sporadically erupt and violently spew blood-red Vaseline gunk against the Academy’s white wall. Kapoor’s studio spans three consecutive buildings in London’s Camberwell neighborhood and in the weeks before the solo exhibition the cavernous space bustled with technicians busy engineering marvels in various stages of completion. In one hall, a cement-mixing machine is squeezing out a three-month supply of goo in turd-like mounds. Kapoor has been thoroughly enjoying these playful experiments, and he describes this particular work as “a big, shitting machine— deeply primitive, archeological and scatological,” designed to emphasize the experimental nature of his work. Kapoor projects a jovial personality, and scoffs at the myth of the tortured artist, suggesting that the best art be born out of joy. At times, he likes to make large pronouncements about art and society, then laughing off any subsequent contradictions with a chuckle. “I hate public sculpture,” he emphatically declares. “I think we’ve gone totally public sculpture mad.” Yet, over the past decade, Anish Kapoor’s sculptural projects have grown increasingly gargantuan, breaking out of the confines of traditional art
spaces in to the vast arena of the public sphere. “As a sculptor,” he says, “that is something of one’s lot, because scale is a tool of sculpture, and it needs to be worked with.” Asked about his burgeoning projects, he elaborates, “Making something big changes its relations with one’s body. It’s something to do with meaning. Size and color contribute, but scale is mainly about imagination.” Kapoor’s sculpture Marsyas, built for the Tate Modern in 2002, dwarfed spectators and seemed barely to fit within the museum’s vast hall. Confronted with a structure of such awe-inspiring magnitude, we might aptly recall the Greek myth of the musician Marsyas, who dared to challenge the god Apollo to a contest, and was flayed alive for his folly when he lost. Yet, it is undeniably an artist’s prerogative to challenge our horizons and transcend to the metaphysical. “It is a myth of conceit—the conceit of art,” Kapoor declares. “The conceit of the artist!” He then points out that Marsyas wouldn’t be what it was if not for its size, just as the pyramids are what they are because of their intrinsic scale. In the first hall of Kapoor’s workshop, I watched assistants work with Styrofoam and cut plastics to scale before they are cast in metal. Kapoor has many ideas that never reach fruition because of practicalities and funding, and these efforts are visible in the fantastic renderings and maquettes at his studio. One model depicts a bridge that is a strand of mercury, stretched like a bit of silver spittle between two lands. In another, a terrifying chasm opens up in a landscape. Describing this hypothetical project, Kapoor says, “It’s massive. It’s kilometers across, and completely dark. One of the things that has emerged out of my work over all these years is this idea of the non-object, the absent object, the immaterial part of the material….” Scale is not the only tool Kapoor exploits, and even within the confines of a gallery the artist’s work can incite chaos in the viewer. L’Origine du Monde was a black void created in the floor of a museum. Though deceivingly simple, it created a sense 53
of uncertainty in the viewer approaching the edge. Observes Kapoor, “What interests me is the sense of the darkness that we carry within us, the darkness that’s akin to one of the principal subjects of the sublime: terror.” A frequent traveler, flitting from his studio in London to an exhibition site in New Zealand to his new home in Barbados, Kapoor balances his hectic schedule with the discipline of a practicing Buddhist. An early riser, he meditates, using meditation to focus his mind on stillness. Since the mind naturally gravitates towards thought, an absence of it can seem to be a negation of our selves, and of the interiority expressed by intestinal voids, wounds, vulvic orifices. (The walls of Kapoor’s studio are marked with such red sculptural gashes.) If skin is a barrier between the two spheres of our consciousness, the flesh of Marsyas splayed inside out exposes the inner sanctum to the outside world. Memory (2008), commissioned for the Deutsche Guggenheim, also plays 54
with the notion of interiority, inviting us to view the hollowed innards of the sculpture from a separate room. The sudden dark void, dismembered from the whole, offers an unsettling glimpse inside its body and, much like staring into a night sky, confronts us with something uncomfortably open-ended.
ith Temenos, Kapoor’s recent project in Middlesbrough, England, size does matter. In Greek ‘temenos’ refers to a piece of land isolated from the common ground, such as a sacred space dedicated to a temple. Kapoor’s sculpture (engineered in collaboration with Cecil Balmond) resembles a voluminously stretched windsock shaped by rings of steel wire, the largest of which is 100 feet wide and 360 feet apart. At a cost of £2.7m, it’s only the first of five vast public artworks planned by Kapoor, with sites in the UK towns of Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Hartlepool and Darlington next in
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: INSTALLATION, PHOTO BY DAVID HARTLEY, COURTESY OF GIBBS ESTATE. PORTRAIT BY PHILLIPE CHANCEL. MEMORY, 2008, PHOTO BY MATHIAS SCHORMANN, COURTESY OF THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION. CONSTRUCTION SITE OF TEMENOS, COURTESY OF ANISH KAPOOR STUDIO.
“All “All these these projects projects are are about about interrogating interrogating form, form, and and making making large-scale large-scale objects objects that that manage manage to to be be as as ethereal ethereal as as they they are are substantial. substantial. This This isis without without doubt doubt the the biggest biggest art art project project in in the the world. world. In In terms terms of of ambition ambition and and scale scale–everything–it’s – everything–’s massive. massive. II want want to to occupy occupy the the territory!” territory!”
PHOTO BY DAVID HARTLEY, COURTESY OF GIBBS ESTATE
line. The series will collectively be titled the Tees Valley Giants. “All these projects are about interrogating form, and making large-scale objects that manage to be as ethereal as they are substantial,” Kapoor says. “This is without doubt the biggest art project in the world. In terms of ambition and scale—everything—it’s massive.” But massive is just the beginning. “I want to occupy the territory!” proclaims Kapoor, and so he does. I visited a work privately commissioned by veteran art patron Alan Gibbs, in Kaipara, New Zealand, where the artist had bulldozed a void in a mountainside. Kapoor explains that, in a similar vein to L’Origine du Monde, the New Zealand piece is a play on the idea of absence. “The forces of sculpture are the very same ones as the forces of nature,” he says. “They are kind of conceits of that order.” In this project, the flayed red skin of his Marsyas structure is splayed across the landscape, and the portal of this tubular organ leads through the mountain’s hollow and flares open triumphantly on the other side. As with Memory, not being able to see the whole work in its entirety is an important part of the experience that Kapoor describes as “mental sculpture.” The artwork is viewed both from across the valley and then from inside—as through a birth canal—before visitors emerge from the dark into the pristine vista of Kaipara Bay. Whereas the Marsyas exhibit seemed intentionally boxed in and claustrophobic, here the sculpture, eight-stories high, blossoms in the open landscape, voluptuously stretching across swells and dips in the land without obstructions to the viewer’s gaze. Kapoor refers irreverently to these tubular sculptures as “colostomy bags,” and he describes the visceral quality of his sculptures by saying, “There’s something very compelling about sculpture that says, ‘Come inside and be part of this—engage at some physical level.’ Art is good at intimacy.” He also exploits the carnal, visceral power of red. “It’s the color of the interior of our bodies. In a way, it’s inside-out, red,” he suggests. The west wind breathes life into the Kaipara sculpture, causing the taut red skin to respire like the belly of a giant. Often, there’s an incidental aural impact to his sculptures: the tubular gourd-shapes and wind-funnels distort or focus sound. Even at his studio, the concave mirrors that hang on the walls alter the pitch of voices in the room, becoming still listening posts. Sculpture in open land has to weather wind, sun and rain. Gibbs believes the PVC fabric used in the Kaipara installation
might last 20 years or so, enough time, he jokes, to pass responsibility for its upkeep on to his family. Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago has a frame engineered by Aerotrope, designed to expand and contract under changing temperatures and to theoretically last a thousand years. The mirrored surface of Cloud Gate has a seamless perfection from which Kapoor has removed all traces of fabrication, but there has been a progression towards “exposure” in Kapoor’s recent projects. A subway entrance in Naples, developed with architectural firm Future Systems (and which Kapoor calls “a work of art that happens to be a tube station”), is made of CORTEN steel, which rusts and darkens into ochres and siennas as part of its transformative process. The monumental quality of Kapoor’s sculptures makes them relate to architecture, in the sense that we can inhabit them and walk around them. Yet, while he cites Louis Kahn as a favorite architect, Kapoor argues that in general, architects shouldn’t necessarily be considered artists or sculptors just because they work with light and space. Simplifying the distinction, Kapoor jests, “I love making sculptures and collaborating with architects, but I want to live in a house that’s a happy home, not an artwork.” Nevertheless, the architectural challenges posed by his colossal projects have lead him to collaborate intensely with engineers. Christopher HornzeeJones, the structural engineer on Cloud Gate and Memory, says, “[Kapoor’s] work often takes us engineers into new territory and out of what has been done before. But this is where the fun starts. I think Anish knows that we don’t like saying that something cannot be done, and as an artist he appreciates this attitude.” Sponsored by wealthy British industrialist Lakshmi Mittal (the CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker), Kapoor’s next project is a £19m, 380 feet high tower for the 2012 London Olympic site. The planned tower, which appears to rise out of tangled ribbons, is presumed to be taller than the Statue of Liberty and would overwhelm every other iconic London landmark. The massive sculpture has turned into a Tower of Babel for newspaper editorialists, who have questioned of its environmental efficacy, its beauty, and perhaps most damningly, its perceived lack of meaning. In Kapoor’s defense, he once famously jibed, “As an artist I have really nothing to say. Otherwise I would have become a journalist.” Rather, he would say substance, in part, is resident in the viewer and the circle is completed by the viewer’s unconscious act of looking. “Here is an incomplete circle, which says, ‘Come and be involved,’” he exults. “And without your involvement as a viewer, there is no story. I believe that that’s a complete kind of re-invention of the idea of art.” At the greatest arena for public sports, with its myriad evocations of human triumph and humiliation, this will be Kapoor’s ultimate conceit: to create a public sculpture that challenges the casual spectator to a deeper contemplation of the self. He may well steal the show. THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE, TOP LEFT: SITE-SPECIFIC WORK AT THE FARM, KAIPARA BAY, NEW ZEALAND. OPPOSITE, LOWER LEFT: ANISH KAPOOR AT THE CONSTRUCTION SITE OF TEMENOS. OPPOSITE, LOWER RIGHT: MEMORY, 2008 55
STO RY DOMINIC LUTYENS / P H OTO G R A P H Y ROY ZIPSTEIN
DURBAN’S MOSES MABHIDA STADIUM
hen German architects Von Gerkan, Marg and Partners won the competition to design the Moses Mabhida stadium for the 2010 World Cup in Durban, South Africa, their brief was to create “an iconic, landmark building.” To ask for an “iconic” building was perhaps a somewhat premature, possibly even oxymoronic, request. A building becomes iconic over time because it either visually looks highly individual (the Eiffel Tower, for example) or because it becomes well loved (to use the Eiffel Tower, for another example). Even so, the gmp practice—which previously designed stadiums in Germany—has succeeded in creating a striking 70,000-seat structure whose distinctive feature is a 106m high arch. Crowned by a viewing platform reached by a cable car, the arch affords views of Durban city and the Indian Ocean; the stadium is named after communist ANC activist Moses Mabhida, and the arch symbolises the uniting of a once-divided nation. Again, this gesture seems a little premature: in anticipation of the World Cup, lowincome locals have been evicted from their homes and re-housed elsewhere. Campaigners in the press have claimed that South Africa’s World Cup has become a tool to impress wealthy foreigners at the expense of its own impoverished people. gmp architect Hubert Nienhoff admits there were problems in communicating with the stadium’s various South African partners, dryly observing that South Africa does not have the “same culture of hot debate” as Germany. “This probably results from South Africa’s endeavours to avoid past mistakes regarding discrimination of ethnic groups,” he admits. “Sometimes, this led to conflict avoidance when a frank dispute might have been more productive.” The spaceship-like building, however, is definitely here to stay: it has been designed to have a life beyond the World Cup and can be adapted for use in such future events. As for becoming iconic… gmp have certainly created a structure with a striking appearance. And nothing romances the public like a good soccer game.
SPECIAL THANKS: JULIE-MAY ELLINGSON
P H OTO G R A P H Y STEPHEN WILKES
URBAN BRIGHT STEPHEN WILKES DOCUMENTS THE HEIDELBERG PROJECT, A 24-YEAR-OLD OPENAIR ART ENVIRONMENT IN THE HEART OF DETROIT’S EAST SIDE NEIGHBORHOOD, WHERE TYREE GUYTON, THE PROJECT’S FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, USES EVERYDAY DISCARDED OBJECTS TO CREATE A TWO-BLOCK AREA FULL OF COLOR, SYMBOLISM AND INTRIGUE IN AN AREA BESET BY URBAN BLIGHT.
STO RY DOMINIC LUTYENS / I L LU ST R A T I ON BEN WACHENJE
BRAD PITT’S UTOPIAN FOUNDATION LINKS STARS AND STARCHITECTS TO BUILD A BETTER NOLA
Right ON 72
n the face of it, Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation is irreproachably utopian. After all, its aim is to build 150 homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward—a poor, almost entirely African-American neighbourhood that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. When it struck in August 2005, the storm flooded 80 percent of the city and killed over 1,500 people. Over 4,000 homes were destroyed in just the Ninth Ward alone, which is situated nearest to the Industrial Canal levee, a floodwall that suffered multiple breaches during the storm. Yet despite its tragic roots, Make It Right turns out to be a surprisingly effervescent cocktail of celebrity glamour, philanthropy, environmentalism and cutting-edge architecture. Pitt created the foundation in 2007, while spending time in New Orleans during the filming of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The actor toured the city during breaks in the filming, and he was shocked by the lack of progress in the city’s reconstruction while implementation of the government’s recovery plan was delayed by excessively bureaucratic procedures. Those delays remain a fact of life in New Orleans: according to one person currently involved in the reconstruction, the city still has “hundreds of millions of dollars committed but not spent.” Before work began on Make It Right, Pitt drew attention to his project via an eye-catching, media-friendly “installation/political messaging device/fundraising tool” called the Pink Project. Scattered across the proposed building site were hundreds of huts 74
resembling Monopoly-board houses swathed in fuchsia fabric, meant to symbolize the area’s regeneration. The ruse worked, and thanks to the media attention, Make It Right was able to raise $12 million. Pitt has pledged an additional $5 million, vowing “to turn tragedy into victory.” Not content with that lofty goal, Pitt has further stipulated an intention that, “We would create homes that were sustain able, and build with clean building material. We would build for safety and storm resiliency. We’d create new jobs in the process.” To this end, Pitt enlisted an outstanding team of 21 international architects, including Los Angeles and Berlin-based GRAFT; the Pritzker prize-winning Morphosis; Tanzania-born and London-based David Adjaye; Dutch-based firm MVRDV; and Japan’s Shigeru Ban. Ban had particular expertise in the area, having designed emergency cardboard constructions in response to the 1995 Kobe earthquake. All worked for no payment, with GRAFT organizing the project. “We established design guidelines for all the architects, whose goal was to create a community with safe, green, affordable housing with great design,” say GRAFT’s members (as a collective, they prefer to be quoted as one body). Heroic maybe, but the project has also attracted criticisms. Is this an ego trip for Pitt? What did he—or a collection of “starchitects” normally engaged in building iconic museums and private villas—know about the practicalities of low-income, sustainable
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: PHOTOS BY TA SMITH, ALEXEI LEBEDEV, AND CHARLIE VARLEY (2)
“ONE “ONE ASPECT ASPECT OF OF THE THE PROCESS PROCESS WAS WAS AN AN INTENSE INTENSE STUDY STUDY OF OF LOCAL LOCAL ARCHITECTURE ARCHITECTURE TRADITIONS, TRADITIONS, FOR FOR EXAMPLE EXAMPLE THE THE PORCH PORCH TO TO SHELTER SHELTER FROM FROM SUN SUN AND AND RAIN RAIN AND AND ENCOURAGE ENCOURAGE SOCIABILITY.” SOCIABILITY.” — — GRAFT GRAFT
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: PHOTOS BY TA SMITH, CHARLIE VARLEY (2), AND ALEXEI LEBEDEV
M A K E I T R I G H T ’ S STORM-RESISTANT, GREEN, A N D AFFORDABLE HOMES B U I L T F O R WORKING FAMILIES IN NEW ORLEANS’ LOWER 9TH WARD
housing? Some say Make It Right’s designs are whimsical and even extravagant, arguing that more homes could have been built for the same amount of money. And why rebuild homes on the same spot where they were previously destroyed? Even though the levee has now been rebuilt twice as thick and high, the Lower Ninth Ward will always be located below sea level and risks being washed away by another Katrina. However, these aspersions seem unfair when you look more deeply. Pitt was passionate about architecture long before Katrina. The actor previously spent time designing buildings in Frank Gehry’s studio, and he has developed relationships with Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. “We had known Brad Pitt for a long time before this project,” say GRAFT, “[and] had already worked with him on several projects.” Make It Right’s approach to redevelopment has been democratic; the group has held long meetings with the community (who, post-Katrina, have lived in ruined or laboriously restored houses), consulting them on the way forward. Although it is aggressively innovative, Make It Right’s architecture also attempts to be sensitive to context, nodding to the vernacular of New Orleans’ traditional buildings (chiefly its long, narrow “shotgun” houses). “One aspect [of the process] was an intense study of local architecture traditions, for example the porch [to shelter from sun and rain and encourage sociability],” say GRAFT. And the mix of the architecture practices’ various
styles brings an eclecticism and individuality to the project that is enhanced by the fact that home-owners choose which type of house they want and can customise their dwelling. One pattern has already emerged—most residents want one as high off the ground as possible, to stand above future floods and allow space for cars underneath. Make It Right admittedly has its fair share of madcap ideas: there’s Morphosis’ house, which would float in the event of a flood, while anchored by two metal poles to prevent it drifting away. Then there’s a wheeled trailer designed by students at New Orleans’ Tulane University. It contains goats that can be released whenever the grass needs to be kept under control. Of course, post-Katrina, Lower Ninth Ward’s vacant landscape is a tabula rasa, which naturally lends itself to this experimentation. Alongside Make It Right’s new houses, a fresh community of micro-farms, landscaping and new streets is already springing up. In keeping with Pitt’s directives, GRAFT notes that the project, “Is now one of the largest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified communities in the US.” All of the new houses come with solar panels and rainwater collectors. In the longer term, Make It Right’s main benefit is not aesthetic or philanthropic, but in its emphasis on experimentation which, if successful, could provide a template for sustainable and design-led architecture throughout the world. 75
STO RY KEN MILLER / P H OTO G R A P H Y BOBBY FISHER
THURSTON MOORE’S ECSTATIC PEACE LIBRARY MAKES ART BOOKS WITH INTEGRITY
hurston Moore is a secret hippie. Though the iconic downtown New Yorker—founder of Sonic Youth, pioneer of indie rock, arbiter of taste—moved to rural Northampton, Massachusetts a few years ago, who could have predicted that country living would so totally go to his head? But chatting in his office about his new publishing company, Ecstatic Peace Library, it quickly becomes apparent that whatever aesthetic revolution he is birthing will be swaddled in velvet. “This is important!” co-founder Eva Guillermo exclaims. “Every book is about a real message.” And by that she doesn’t just mean the subjects of the books, but also the entire process of production. “If you’re going to make a book, you’re going to cut down a tree for it. That tree is going to become 4,000 copies of a book, so you better invest in the object. We’re not shipping these off to China to be made, so it’s very obvious to us what will become what…”
To that end, Moore was just off in Oregon, looking at trees and sourcing paper for upcoming titles. “Everyone should know what it means to buy a book. Where did we get the paper? What forest is it from?” To whit, the first publication from Ecstatic Peace Library: Justine Kurland’s This Train Is Bound for Glory, a photo book about train jumpers. Train jumpers, for those who don’t know, are a predominantly West Coast subculture that emulates the wandering lifestyles of Gypsies, hobos and urban “scum punks,” illegally riding the rails from town to town while often setting up camp in the rural backwoods. Moore stops packing for a not-for-profit publishing conference in London (organized by the artist Maurizio Cattelan) just long enough to sing a few bars of 78
the eponymous song, a protest classic from folk singer Woody Guthrie. Every copy of the book comes signed by Kurland and includes a vinyl record of Moore singing the song. Next up is Fly Me by Yoko Ono, which has sold out before being printed. Each page of the book is a perforated envelope, with a message from Ono that can then be refolded and turned into a kite. “Obviously, music is also a major influence for us,” Guillermo notes, “as most of our authors are also musicians.” Guillermo also maintains that what they do is more similar to furniture making or other crafts as it is to mainstream media. Not that they’re Luddites: later this year they plan to launch a free digital bookstore, inspired by the Yippies and Abbie Hoffman. And yes, Hoffman was as hippie as you can be.
“Everyone “Everyone should should know know what what itit means means to to buy buy aa book. book. Where Where did did we we get get the the paper? paper? What What forest forest isis itit from?” from?”
STO RY KIŠA LALA / P H OTO G R A P H Y STEPHAN WÜRTH
OutsideIN SHIRIN NESHAT, IRANIAN ARTIST-IN-EXILE AND POWERFUL FEMALE VOICE, DEBUTS HER FIRST FEATURE FILM.
medium, she mentions, “There was the seduction of story telling.” Eventually Neshat decided the art world was too rarefied for the general public, whereas cinema seemed more democratic and closer to popular culture. “It is unimaginable to me that you could go to a contemporary modern museum today and comprehend anything that is hanging on the wall without having some education in art history,” she says candidly, “but you could go see a film and understand it without the need of studying the history of cinema.” Neshat wondered if she could write a story that was accessible, and possibly even commercial, and she asked herself, “Could I make a work of art that my own mother could understand?” But she was nervous about reinventing herself as a filmmaker and leaving behind the world of art to embrace producers, distributors and film critics. Still, as an Iranian exiled to foreign lands, living the life of a nomad, she was used to change. “Security never suited me,” she admits. “There seems to be a desire in me to start over again. The idea of stagnation and repetition is unappealing. I have rebelled against every system, every language and every identity that I’ve built for myself as a visual artist. Failure is a positive thing… I may make a work of art that is less than good, but accept the fact that I’ve learned from the process.”
WOMEN WITHOUT MEN FILM STILL COURTESY OF GLADSTONE GALLERY, NEW YORK
fter six years of labor, Iranian photographer and video artist Shirin Neshat recently birthed her first feature film endeavor. Women Without Men is a poetic adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel about the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that toppled the government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and put the American-backed Shah into power. Given recent news out of Iran, the film’s long gestation period seems more than worth the wait. Sitting in her Soho loft, elegantly dressed and with her trademark kohl-lined eyes, Neshat speaks with a seductive sparkle. “I was not even living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution,” she says about her film, “yet a lot of my work has to do with that [period]. I try to raise a lot of questions about Iran, because I want to consolidate my relationship with it.” Neshat left Iran when she was 17, and though she has revisited the country often in her work, she herself has not returned since 1996. Though she admits that she is now an outsider to Iran’s politics and culture, she is quick to add, “My work is not about nostalgia and memory, but more a dialogue and extension of the culture from the outside.” Her interest in cinema is more recent, beginning in 2002. “After doing so many exhibitions I felt a need to step back from the art world,” she says. Asked why she chose film rather than another
WOMEN WITHOUT MEN FILM STILL, 2009
eshat’s Soho loft is a meeting place for her artist friends, and she is deeply disturbed by the conditions of artists in Iran. Recently, she has been petitioning on behalf of Jafar Panahi, the acclaimed Iranian filmmaker who was recently arrested during a social gathering. The terrifying real-life situation is not unlike the one depicted in her film, and she speaks passionately about a life defined by politics, noting that “a central theme of my film is freedom of expression.” In the West, “it is taboo for an artist to be politically active,” she says. “I feel no shame in saying that I’m also an activist. As artists we can also take political positions. Whether you are an artist living inside or outside Iran, the question of politics is inescapable. Those who are living in Iran are living with the question of censorship, harassment, arrest, torture and execution. Those of us, who are in exile, are bitter and angry from our inability to access our place of origin.” In the film, a character named Munis returns from the dead to declare, “I was here not to watch, but to see. Not just to be, but to act.” Considering the rich heritage of Persian music and poetry, Neshat points out that the Iranian government’s policies against personal expression seems to be in conflict with the country’s
WOMEN WITHOUT MEN FILM STILL COURTESY OF GLADSTONE GALLERY, NEW YORK
Close friends told her she was making a mistake by trying filmmaking. With her producers and co-writer buzzing around the loft, she recalls people warning her that “the public would like to recognize an artist with a particular style and have them elaborate on that style a thousand times—they don’t like it when you shed skin.” Her love for experimentation only increased the appeal of filmmaking. “We need to challenge the critics,” she continues. “But the reverse is happening… We are following the curators, dealers and the critics, when we should be the ones taking the risk, at the risk of failure.” Neshat confesses she loves cinema’s godlike hold on an audience’s attention for two hours, but in transitioning from abstract video art to film, she felt challenged to create dialogue for real-life characters. “The characters I had built in Rapture, Fervor, Turbulent, I simply treated as statues; I never learned to go inside their minds. They were devoid of identities, but representative of a larger subject.” Rather, she focused her attention on the cinematography and editing to choreograph the action, relying on filmic techniques to keep the narrative moving. “Beautiful images can be dangerous because they can distract from the continuity of the story,” she discovered. “Every single frame in a film is either a painting or a photograph. I haven’t stopped developing as a visual artist.”
past. “It’s devastating what this government has done,” she says. “In the last few years it has become worse. I heard yesterday there are some new laws [where] they want a uniform for women to wear. Having a suntan may be illegal—can you believe they can take you to prison for a suntan!” Within the country, political conversations are shut down by the government and art shows have to be approved by consuls; Neshat is of the opinion that even Iranian-American artists must compromise out of fear of government reprisals, lest they lose access to their families in Iran. “Our critics are not just the New York Times, Artforum, etc, but the Islamic Republic of Iran,” she explains. “If I go to Iran, I can be arrested. It is impossible for me not to be political. Having said that, we need a little bit more activism in this country.” That said, Neshat also feels wary of mirroring too much politics in her work, and she emphasizes that her art is not just a
UNTITLED PHOTO BY LARRY BARNS, COURTESY OF GLADSTONE GALLERY, NEW YORK
“There “There seems seems aa desire desire in in me me to to start start over over again. again. The The idea idea of of stagnation stagnation and and repetition repetition isis unappealing. unappealing. II have have rebelled rebelled against against every every system, system, every every language language and and every every identity identity that that I’ve I’ve built built for for myself myself as as aa visual visual artist. artist. Failure Failure isis aa positive positive thing…” thing…”
THIS PAGE: UNTITLED, 1996. OPPOSITE: WOMEN WITHOUT MEN FILM STILL, 2009.
dialogue about the world of Islam or the situation of women, but an interpretation of her personal experiences, encompassing her nostalgia, her biculturalism, her need to communicate and being caught between East and West. “The emotional, psychological aspect of all of the work is based entirely on who I am as a human being facing my own anxieties, fragilities, vulnerabilities, fears and hopes,” she says. “This monologue has somehow found its way into a dialogue.” In her film, Neshat tells the story of four symbolic women, using abstraction and magic-realism to relate their narrative to the backdrop of political turmoil, often using non-standard expository devices such as radio voiceovers to keep the narrative allegorical. “When I look at the film, the entire thing is a piece of a poem, rooted in classic Persian poetry,” she says. And yet, “It’s also all about conceptual art rooted in western art history.” The film’s palette of faded greens and blues feels nostalgic. “Beauty is something that came from my culture and background,” Neshat observes. “It is an inherent aspect of our philosophy and spiritual tradition. I have learned to embrace beauty in a way that neutralizes the horror of what I see. Beauty is a way of escaping.” For obvious practical reasons, the film was shot in Morocco, mainly in Casablanca, Marrakech and Rabat, with art direction making the locations resemble the Iran of 1953. Of her time in Morocco she says, “It was the closest I felt to being home,” and she recounts her experience at a gym swimming pool she joined in Casablanca. “They had different days for men and women, but even when it was only women, they were wearing long suits with hats! You get conditioned in some ways—once, I was in a bathing suit and saw a man passing by accident, and I screamed!” I asked what she thought of Morocco’s contradictions: its Islamic modesty and its clubs full of blaring music and belly dancing. Neshat laughed. “They are so modern—it’s one of the most promiscuous societies in terms of men with women, women with women, men with men. Morocco is dangerously promiscuous!” Still, she had difficulty in recruiting women for the film’s nude and brothel scenes. “We had to work with prostitutes. It is a Muslim country, so it helped that it was a foreign film, and they hoped that they wouldn’t see it in their own country.” Neshat’s reward in the end was to receive a Silver Lion award for her film at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, high praise for a novice filmmaker. Now that she has gotten her feet wet in filmmaking, she’s eager to dive deeper. “I have fallen in love with a novel called The Palace Of Dreams by Ismail Kadare from Albania,” Neshat says. “I have just optioned the book for a film. This is a very early stage, but at least I have a dream!” No doubt, Neshat will shed more layers and continue to surprise us. 83
STO RY EDDIE BRANNAN / P H OTO G R A P H Y MARK LUND
AllAmerIcon DESIGN GURU GEORGE LOIS FEARLESSLY DEFINED HOW THE 60S LOOKED TO THE USA
eorge Lois is sitting at a smart table in his elegant apartment on West 12th St in the village, describing his first meeting with Harold Hayes. It’s 1962. They’re at the Four Seasons. Hayes is telling Lois (then a hotshot young advertising art director at the helm of his own firm) about the problems he has with the covers of Esquire, the struggling periodical of which he is editor. So Lois asks Hayes about the design process. “He says all the editors and whatnot in the office get together and have a big discussion about what story in the issue should get the cover,” recalls Lois. “It’s a big deal, almost a political fight between this camp and that camp. I says ‘Then what?’ He says, ‘Then we all come back a couple days later with ideas for the cover and see if there are some we like.’ ‘What happens then?’ ‘Well, then maybe we get some of them comped up.’ I says, ‘Holy shit! Group fucking grope!’” Hayes, a well-brought-up Southern boy, was somewhat shocked by Lois, a rough-around-the-edges Greek kid from the Bronx, but he pressed him to help him solve the cover problem, and eventually plead straight-out for Lois to do just one cover. Working as an ad man, Lois had never done a magazine cover in his life, but he nevertheless agreed to handle just one, insisting that he only be told the outline of the most compelling story. Hayes told him that it would be about the heavyweight world championship fight between Patterson and Liston. Patterson was the press favorite, but the cover Lois delivered a week later—and six days before the actual fight—was stark, showing the fight’s aftermath: an abandoned ring, with no-one left but Patterson, lying prone, knocked out, wearing black trunks. Now, at the time fighters wore either black or white trunks and there was no way of telling which shade Patterson would be wearing. That’s even if, contrary to the predictions, he were to be defeated. Calling the outcome of the fight would be a huge gamble on the part of Hayes—Sports Illustrated and a bunch of pundits are all backing Patterson to win—and calling the color of shorts he’d be wearing compounded the risk. So when the magazine appeared on newsstands, it was wildly controversial; publications at the time didn’t make such bold statements, neither editorially nor visually. For multiple reasons this is uncharted territory. Everyone’s talking about Esquire—“‘Didja see that crazy cover?’” Lois recalls. “‘Are those guys outta their minds?’ ‘What if…’” On fight night, Patterson wears black and gets knocked out in the first. And if it hadn’t happened that way, we wouldn’t still be talking about Lois, Hayes, or Esquire. But Lois was convinced. “I knew he’d get his fuckin’ ass kicked!” says Lois, still chuckling about it 48 years later. And the trunks, I ask him? “Well, I called Cus D’Amato [Patterson’s trainer] before the fight—I knew him a little bit—and asked him what Patterson would be wearing,” Lois continues. “He says ‘How the fuck would I know?’”
“He says all the editors and whatnot in the office get together and have a big discussion about what story in the issue should get the cover. It’s a big deal, almost a political fight between this camp and that camp. I says, says ‘Then ‘Then what?’ He says, ‘Then we all come back a couple days later with ideas for the cover and see if there are some we like.’ ‘What happens then?’ ‘Well, then maybe we get some of them comped up.’ I says, ‘Holy shit! Group fucking grope!’”
To paraphrase an old Howard Hughes line about Jane Russell’s breasts, there are two things to like about George Lois… The guy has big ones, no question about it. At age 80, he still plays ball two or three times a week. The other week, he got in a fight with a kid for practicing his dribble on the court Lois and his buddies are playing on. Lois is of the opinion that this is a breach of court etiquette and tells the kid so. Kid goes “whatever” and keeps dribbling, and Lois has to be physically restrained by his cronies to keep him from trying to go over there and whup the kid. He chuckles about that one too. Sitting in his posh apartment, he recalls another formative moment from when he was a student at the High School of Music and Art. The subject was Bauhaus-inspired design and the challenge was to create a design based around the rectangle, with students using a single piece of 18” x 24” Strathmore paper to illustrate their designs. 50 percent of the term’s grade will be based upon what they create over the course of the next 90 minutes. As Lois recalls, the other students got “busy as all hell, cutting out shapes and drawing diagrams on the sheet.” Lois, meanwhile, did nothing at all, spending his time looking around the room. Just as his teacher was about to angrily remove his blank sheet at the end of the test, Lois signed it, handing the teacher a perfect 18” x 24” rectangle. Looking back, Lois says this was his epiphany, the first time he realized that he wanted to create startling, innovative, fresh solutions to communications challenges. The first big idea of the guy who invented the big idea. There are countless books and documentaries and websites that outline Lois’ career as an ad man, and a few weeks after our conversation, he gives almost an identical interview with someone else. He’s done the pitch before and he’ll do it again. He’s still an ad man at heart, so why change a good schpiel? But Lois isn’t just a mercenary huckster; his creativity is born from deeply held convictions. 85
After the epiphany comes Syracuse on a basketball scholarship, then Pratt for a year. Bored at Pratt, he leaves to take a design job and elopes with his fiancé (to whom he is still married). But because he has left college, he loses his deferment and gets drafted. Because he plays basketball, he gets to stay stateside, playing for Army. But he deliberately breaks the army’s color line and sits in the black section of the crowd during a game to protest when a black player is excluded from the roster. As punishment, he gets shipped out to Korea. Working at Esquire, he had a close-up view of the Panthers and Eldridge Cleaver as young black America stood poised on the edge of revolution. “I wondered what took ’em so fucking long,” he says. “If I was black I would have been a terrorist. I would have been dropping bombs off. Why should I take that fucking shit?” When the magazine asked for a Christmas-themed cover, he shot Sonny Liston—“the baddest motherfucker that ever lived”—as Santa Claus. Avowedly to the political Left all his life, Lois faced down some fairly serious pressure as a result of his avowed beliefs. 86
Upon returning from Korea, he joined CBS, and then learned that the FBI had visited his superiors demanding that he be fired. Lois had been blacklisted for writing letters to his friend Paul Robeson during the war. Lois describes himself as a “cultural provocateur”, and Hayes praised his Esquire covers as “pictorial Zolas.” But when Lois said “J’accuse,” he did so by distilling a complicated message into a memorable, mesmerizing image. Predicting the winner of the Patterson-Liston fight showed Lois’s nerve. Coming out against the Vietnam War in 1964 showed him to have the courage of his convictions. The Esquire cover depicting Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian on the cross is arguably the most famous magazine cover ever designed, if there can be such a thing. But while the image has lingered, the back story is often forgotten. At the time the magazine came out in 1968, Ali was deeply unpopular for having first converted to Islam and changing his name, but more profoundly for then refusing to go to Vietnam because of his newly-declared religious and social beliefs. (“No Vietnamese ever called me nigger,” he
famously observed.) Yet this was the second of three covers Esquire ran that defended Ali and his decision, and one of many condemning the war’s horrors and hypocrisies. That said, I decide to ask Lois to explain the one cover that has always personally fascinated me. It shows a hipster-looking white kid with long hair and Lennon shades wearing a GI helmet. Above the picture is the line, “If you think the war in Vietnam is hell, you ought to see what’s happening on campus, baby.” The juxtaposition struck me, because it seemed to skewer the college anti-war movement for some of the same hypocrisy found in those rallying for war. He laughs instantly, with the slightly furtive look of someone who has been caught out a little bit. “My wife always asked me why the hell I would go and do that! Why I would go against the kids whose aims I agreed with?” he admits. “But you know what? I did it because I was a GI, and I know what it’s like to be in the war and then come back to people who don’t give a flying fuck what you did. My wife is still mad at me for that one, I think, but I did it because I was a soldier. And that’s me saying I was.”
“My “My wife wife always always asked asked me me why why the the hell hell II would would go go and and do do that! that! Why Why II would would go go against against the the kids kids whose aims I agreed with, with But butyou you know know what?I what?I did did itit because because II was was aa GI, GI, and and II know know what what it’s it’s like like to to be be in in the the war war and and then then come come back back to to people people who who don’t don’t give give aa flying flying fuck fuck what what you you did. did. My My wife wife isis still still mad mad at at me me for for that that one, one, II think, think, but but II did did itit because because II was was aa soldier.” soldier.”
P H OTO G R A P H Y & I L LU ST R A T I ON THE SELBY
MySpace THE SELBY IS IN YOUR PLACE IS THE TITLE OF THE BOOK, AND WHAT BETTER PLACE TO BE THAN THE HOME OF STYLE ICON SIMON DOONAN AND HIS PARTNER, DESIGNER JONATHAN ADLER.
“IN THE CONTAINED WORLDS OF ACADEMIA, GALLERIES, OR MUSEUMS, ART GETS VIEWED IN A HERMETIC ENVIRONMENT. OBJECTS ARE PRIVATE, FETISHIZED, AND SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF A CANONIZING CULTURE.” MATTHEW MONTEITH ASKS, “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO VIEW ART, TO BE EDUCATED, TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE WORLD? ROME IS BOTH A REAL PLACE AND AN IDEA, A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE LIVE AMIDST TOURISTS AND STUDENTS COMING TO SEE ART ON A CONTEMPORARY PILGRIMAGE. THE PLACE OF ROME AND THE OBJECTS THAT MAKE UP THE CITY CREATE INHERENT CONTRADICTIONS, AND THEREFORE, [ART] BECOMES SOMEHOW UNREAL, ITS MEANING UNMOORED.” PHOTOGRAPHY MATTHEW MONTEITH
SPONSORED BY HASSELBLAD
KAREEM BLACK TRAVELED TO HAITI ON BEHALF OF THE ORGANIZATIONS HEALING HAITI AND PRINT FOR CHANGE. HIS IMAGES DEPICT THE POSSIBILITY OF HOPE, EVEN IN DESPERATE CIRCUMSTANCES. PHOTOGRAPHY KAREEM BLACK
STEPHEN WILKES CREATES ELABORATELY CONSTRUCTED COMPOSITE IMAGES, OFTEN COMBINING UP TO 250 PHOTOGRAPHS INTO A SINGLE IMAGE. “I PHOTOGRAPH FOR A MINIMUM OF 10 HOURS, FROM THE SAME PERSPECTIVE, CAPTURING A FLUID VISUAL NARRATIVE OF DAY INTO NIGHT WITHIN A SINGLE FRAME,” WILKES SAYS. “OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS TECHNOLOGY HAS DRAMATICALLY CHANGED THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT AND CAPTURE IMAGES. IN EACH OF THESE IMAGES, I AM TRYING TO CREATE A DEFINITIVE VIEW OF NEW YORK CITY’S EPIC SCALE, ALONG WITH THE HUMANITY AND ENERGY WHICH FLOW THROUGH THE CITY’S STREETS.” PHOTOGRAPHY STEPHEN WILKES
COMMISSIONED BY THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & RECREATION, RENOWNED PHOTOGRAPHER JOEL MEYEROWITZ CELEBRATES THE BEAUTY OF NEW YORK CITY’S PARKS WITH THESE IMAGES FOR LEGACY: THE PRESERVATION OF WILDERNESS IN NEW YORK CITY PARKS. PHOTOGRAPHY JOEL MEYEROWITZ
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT JOEL MEYEROWITZ, COURTESY EDWYNN HOUK GALLERY, NY
RENOWNED FOR HIS CALMLY COMPOSED LANDSCAPE IMAGES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS, MICHAEL SCHNABEL BRINGS AN INFORMAL INTIMACY TO HIS IMAGES OF FAMILIES FROLICKING BY AN ALPINE LAKE. “FOR YEARS I HAVE BEEN VISITING THE SOUTH OF GERMANY, IN THE NORTHERN PART OF THE ALPS, AND FOR A LONG TIME I FELT LIKE PHOTOGRAPHING WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE THERE. AT SOME POINT, THE TIME WAS RIGHT, AND I WAS ABLE TO CAPTURE SOMETHING OF THE JOY AT THE LAKESIDE.” PHOTOGRAPHY MICHAEL SCHNABEL
SOCAL EMO SURFERS, QUIET BEACHES, QUIET MOMENTS. PHOTOGRAPHY EMILY NATHAN
ART DIRECTOR: JACOB HUFFMAN FASHION DIRECTOR: VIKTORIA RUCHKAN, WORKGROUP-LTD.COM HAIR & MAKEUP: IVAN MENDOZA, WORKGROUP-LTD.COM PHOTO ASSISTANT: MAGDA WOSINKSA STYLIST ASSISTANT: ALISON FREY ANDERSSON DIGITAL TECH: JAIME BEECHUM, DIGITAL FUSION
LIKELY “THE FACES OF THESE YOUNG ADULTS INTRIGUED ME,” STEWART COHEN SAYS. “THEY SEEMED GROWN UP YET NOT QUITE SURE ABOUT IT. THEY HAVE CURIOSITY IN THEIR EYES WITH NO REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES. THEY HAVE AN OPEN ROAD AHEAD: SOME WILL LIVE UP TO THEIR DREAMS AND SOME WILL NOT.” PHOTOGRAPHY STEWART COHEN
Best In SHOW DESIGN MIAMI DIRECTOR AMY LAU SELECTS NINE OF HER FAVORITE PRODUCTION DESIGN OBJECTS AND TELLS US WHY SHE LOVES THEM. PHOTOGRAPHY DANA GALLAGHER
MASAKAGE TANNO WOOD CARD CASE This card case is extremely elegant and sleek. It’s a great way to make a first impression before anyone even gets to look at your business card—people will automatically think you are stylish and cool. Available at Merchant_4
NICOLO TALIANI LAMP NO.1
SEBASTIAN WRONG FOR ESTABLISHED & SONS FONT CLOCK
This lamp is so innovative! As an interior designer I am constantly trying to hide cords and camouflage outlets窶馬o need with this product. Its utilitarian design is both fun and pleasing to the eye.
Well Sebastian Wrong definitely got this one right! This clock is super cool. The 12 different fonts that rotate throughout the calendar keep your days fresh and exciting.
Contact Nicolo Taliani for sales
Available at Matter
BOYM PARTNERS TOTEM
LINDSEY ADELMAN BUBBLE CHANDELIER
It appears to be a simple vase; however its unique stacking segments make it anything but. I love how you can use each section individually to hold different items or stack them up and keep it a surprise!
I absolutely love Lindsey Adelmanâ€™s work. Her lighting fixtures are beautifully sculptural and the glass bubbles capture light in a truly magical way. Contact Lindsey Adelman for sales
Available at Merchant_4
MICHAEL SODEAU FOR ANYTHING SCISSORS
JULIAN PAUL CUPL
I am always losing my scissors, but these are so good-looking and stand upright on my desk just waiting for me when I need them. A must have.
These sets of porcelain dishware, by young designer Julian Paul, are genius. They nest in an endless amount of configurations, and are handcrafted so that each little imperfection adds to their overall charm!
Available at Matter
Contact Julian Paul for sales
PROP STYLIST: LILI ABIR REGEN
PRODUCE POT AND PAN RACK
SINGGIH KARTONO FOR MAGNO WOODEN RADIO
Functional and beautiful! I love the reclaimed wood and how everything is so neatly organized. It gives you the ability to show off what a great cook you are.
This hand crafted radio is simply beautiful. The combination of different types of wood and graphic details is really unique. I can plug my iPod into it, so I have a retro radio with current tunes.
Available at Voos Furniture
Available at Areawear
H O T E L
ERWIN OLAF’S HOTEL SERIES IS ABOUT TRANSIENCE AND ANOMIE—THERE IS A DISTILLED QUALITY TO THE IMAGES, A SUSPENSION OF TIME AND ACTION WITHOUT ANY EXPLICIT DRAMA. THE UNSETTLING PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE RECENTLY TRAVELED THE WORLD TO BE EXHIBITED IN NEW YORK, LONDON, MILAN, BEIJING AND SHANGHAI. PHOTOGRAPHY ERWIN OLAF
COURTESY OF HASTED HUNT
STYLING: INES FENDRI ART DEPARTMENT: PATRICIA CLAIRET MODEL: BENOIT BARNAY@ NINE DAUGHTERS AND A STEREO MAKE-UP: EVA MBAYE @ B4 AGENCY RETOUCHING: LEE HICKMAN @ HAPPY FINISH
dance dance gang PHOTOGRAPHY MATTHEW WELCH
PRODUCTION: MERITOCRACY PRODUCTIONS PRODUCER: WENDY DOLAN STYLING: KEMAL + KARLA @ THE WALL GROUP HAIR: CHARLES DUJIC MAKEUP: JAMIE GREENBERG @ THE WALL GROUP DIGITAL SERVICES: 15ØKILÖS POST-PRODUCTION: PORTUS IMAGING CHOREOGRAPHER: RYAN “BOSCO” BAKER DANCERS: RYAN “BOSCO” BAKER, DOMINIC CHAIDUANG, ASHLEY DIXON, NATHANIEL FLATT, BRIGITTE HAGERMAN, TAMMY TO, ANNE WINFREE
STUART HALL CAPTURES THE INTERACTION BETWEEN LAND AND SEA BY SHOOTING AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS OFF THE COAST OF ICELAND, SHOWING THE BRIGHTLY COLORED PATTERNS CREATED BY SULFURIC RUN-OFF FROM THE NOW-INFAMOUS EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL VOLCANO. PHOTOGRAPHY STUART HALL
PHOTO: ROY ZIPSTEIN
ArtCulture .com PHOTO: ERWIN OLAF