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VISCERAL

ISSUE 1 £free

YOUR GUIDE TO ARTS AND CULTURE IN THE NORTH WEST

PETER DAVIS

ZEITGEIST


VISCERAL MAGAZINE issue1

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elcome to the first issue of Visceral magazine: your guide to visual arts and culture in the Northwest. We believe that a magazine about art should be three things: fun, creative and above all, beautiful. Every decision we make about the magazine is made with those three factors in mind. Art is emotive, absurd and paradoxical. What else can be so completely useless while also being so utterly crucial? It’s a cruel joke and one which means the transcendental nature of beauty is so often overlooked and undervalued. We hope, in some small way, we can do our part to remedy the situation. One way we hope to do this is by promoting local artists. This issue contains works by, and conversations with, four great talents. The first, Peter Davis, is currently displaying his Zeitgeist series at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. While, Catherine Jack, Matt Read and Sam Benjafield are three recent graduates with promising careers ahead. Between the art, we also have some fine articles discussing, art’s subjectivity, representations of psychosis on screen, and why Jesus Christ heeds a warning for communal diners. Oh, we also have some great short stories too and our thoughts on current exhibitions. Anyway, If you got through our philosophising and self-promoting, thank you, we hope you have fun reading our magazine, things might get a little silly…

@visceralartsmag on Instagram and Twitter visceralmag@gmail.com www.visceralmagazine.com

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Cover image: ‘Face Furniture’ by Peter Davis. Editorial and advertising: visceralmag@gmail.com Editor: Carl Bishop Contributors: Callum Nicholas-Haizelden, Sarah Gonnet, Cilla Shiels, Emily Pond With thanks to: Peter Davis, Catherine Jack, Matt Read, Sam Benjafield.

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Artists 12 peter davis

Peter Davis’ portraits explore the subject of humanity and our relationship with technology by documenting our digital and social mediated world.

24 catherine jack

Catherine Jack’s large mixed-media collages explore the idea of the digital versus the “real”.

30 matt read

Matt Read’s atmospheric scenes involving tiny figures in a desolate space are an attempt to replicate the eerie silence of outer space.

36 sam benjafield

Sam Benjafield’s scenographic digital environments sit within a void like place oscillating between reality and the imagination.

features 18 taste and appreciation

Callum Nicholas-Haizelden takes a philosophic venture into the subjectivity of art.

20 seeing through the eyes of illness

Scriptwriter Sarah Gonnet discusses psychosis on screen.

22 Getting stabbed in the back at wagamamas A vexed Carl Bishop describes how Jesus Christ heeds a warning for communal diners.

regulars 4 news 6 6 exhibitions to see 10 personal moments: joy and despair 42 fiction: Saturn devouring his son 51 reviews: exhibitions and film 60 RELATIONSHIP ADVICE WITH REGINA FARTHING 64 a tribute to the classics

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news in brief Prominent member of BME community receives portrait

The keenly awaited portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were revealed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Kehinde Wiley’s vivid depiction of the 44th President shows the former commander in chief suited and booted, sans tie, floating in vegetation. While, Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama is characterised by Sherald’s usual muted and sombre tones. Sherald depicts an unsmiling and pensive former first lady draped in an expansive pattered

gown. Wiley is a Los Angeles-born, New York-based artist best known for his vibrant, large scale paintings of African Americans. While Sherald is a Baltimore- based artist and the first woman to win the Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The National Portrait Gallery began commissioning portraits of the president with George H W Bush in 1994 .

Manchester gallery declares itself enemy of #freethenipple

Manchester Art Gallery removed John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs from display for seven days in an attempt to “prompt conversation.” The painting, which depicts a young man being lead towards his doom by a group of naked nymphs, was deemed an example of male artists pursuing women’s bodies. The gallery’s curator of contemporary art, Clare Gannaway, said the painting presented the female body as a “passive decorative art form.” It was replaced with a notice explaining that 4

a temporary space had been left “to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.” Members of the public placed Post-it notes around the notice giving their reaction. The response was generally negative. Some have said it sets a dangerous precedent, while others have called it censorship and “politically correct”.


Thanks to political climate, People’s Republic of China invades liverpool amid much fanfare

The biggest collection of the First Emperor of China’s Terracotta Army to be seen outside China goes on display at the Liverpool World Museum. Nine warriors, a horse and 180 other artefacts will be on display for more than eight months after a ten-year planning process. The exhibition tells the story of the formative years of the Chinese nation, from the pre-unification Qin Kings, to the rise of the Qin State and unification of China by the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, followed by the legacy

of his achievements in the succeeding Han Dynasty. The 2,200-year-old army comes from the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s vast burial complex, covering an area of 34 square miles in Shaanxi Province. Obsessed with the desire to live forever, Qin Shi Huang ordered 700,000 people to construct a city for the afterlife.

Toxic masculinity finally comes good: Targets right holes

After nearly a year of inactivity the street artist and road saviour “Wanksy” has resurfaced in Manchester. In 2015, the anonymous artist began to highlight the decaying state of Britain’s roads by drawing penises around potholes. He said that within 48 hours of his work appearing, many of the potholes would be fixed. Spurred on by media interest and a growing Facebook fan group of over 20,000 followers, non-permanent, chalk-based penises

soon spread around the streets of Manchester. However, in May 2017 “Wanksy” went dark. It seemed that the town council who said the work was both unnecessary and obscene had silenced the vigilante. But in February, and after months of inactivity, phallic potholed graffito once again became a Manchester cultural attraction. 5


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to see

Zeitgeist

On display at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery until 28 April 2018. Find our review on p53 Peter Davis is a prize-winning contemporary figurative painter, whose meticulous work explores the subject of humanity and our relationship with technology. In this exhibition, Davis aims to capture the zeitgeist of society by creating contemporary portraiture that belongs in the here and now. By documenting our digital and social mediated world, Davis’ work can be read as a social documentary that poses questions about our digital epoch and the alienation of the human being within contemporary society.

Artists Rooms: Lichtenstein In Focus On display at Tate Liverpool until 17 June 2018. Find our review on p52

One the most important figures of the pop art movement, journey through the career of Roy Lichtenstein. Explore over 20 works charting Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923–1997) early interest in landscape to his iconic pop paintings influenced by comic strips and advertising imagery. The free display also presents Lichtenstein’s three-screen installation and his only work with film.

Right Here, Right Now: 21st-Century Art

On display at Grosvener Museum until 8 May 2018. Find our review on p54

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Arranged around the themes of people and animals, landscapes and buildings, still life, faith and abstraction, the exhibition celebrates the quality and diversity of art made since the year 2000. Encompassing a rich variety of media, styles and emotions, the exhibition demonstrates the Grosvenor Museum’s commitment to collecting and displaying contemporary art.


In The Land

On display at The Whitworth until 28 October 2018. Find our review on p55 This exhibition looks back at a period of intense experimentation in British painting and sculpture where artists, having suffered the devastation of the war, turned their attention to the natural environment. Rather than approaching the landscape as scenery, the artists presented here wished to capture the sensation of being within the landscape. The exhibition features work by Terry Frost, Barbara Hepworth, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, John Milne, Ben Nicholson, John Piper and Bryan Wynter.

John Stezaker

On display at The Whitworth until June 2018. Using vintage photographs, old film stills, postcards and book illustrations, John Stezaker makes collages that subvert their original imagery, creating unique and compelling works of art. Collages from his Mask series will be shown, in which glamorous sitters’ faces are overlaid with scenic postcards featuring waterfalls bridges, seascapes; Untitled (Film Portrait Collages) in which photographs of B-movie actors are spliced together; and other works that combine and mirror photographs to subtly destabilise the image.

The Alchemy of Colour

On display at The John Rylands Library until 27 August 2018. Poisonous paints, blackened bones, and beetles steeped in booze. Discover the strange and curious recipes that artists used to create some of history’s most vivid colours in our latest exhibition. The Alchemy of Colour uncovers the bizarre stories behind artists’ palettes through a display of some of the most striking manuscripts in our collection. An exhibition full of surprises, immerse yourself in a history of colour that’s as remarkable in its inventiveness as it is in its beauty. 7


VISCERAL 8

MAGAZINE


for star crossed lovers...... 9


personal moments

JOY A PERSONAL ESSAY BY YOU(?)

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esid rei publiaetrit, nu eto uncles con vicauda cerioresse, con videm se in tere tis caestis sideo, Catium octat vid mei scrissat. Atqui serim oc re nequo pris, menti iam. Dam prae med di fitarbit pri, dea ditra atili publinte, Catis, or quid se, se tes omnicae cupicipsen none rentemus sultuus tem se conloc, et voltus effrebem tam dium in tanti fachus Maristodi, populler anteate firivit emnequium quam quo viviria ego tandest inatritis Marebatque aut acernit? Ahabite modiistena, faciis. Factuam ius? Obus inatrum, quonsultius ta det; erceris et graci se andamdiis sum is hilierf econsitifex se foris; Catque essa vius? Ad is. Nos vest ommoena tquastra L. Nam fine consu inum fortateris, poerfit; nihilius ad dum ina, menius, sim us senatum movivividem furnit ficaet; intere proptertum et quit? Ingullem labemus supiena tifectu vidient. Mulis? Ur ia dessu eniquam omnihil con spio vidie audam tenihi, C. Etratrorius comnondam deescerfectu ma, commolut acchum or audem ta nerceniae percest artum. Sendinate issupima, ta, fintum demque facerra nonfirit. Bati invo, condam alium am. Ad arem popublis, que nos hus, ficemno. Sere, ute quonsulto etis. Si postribulius bon de corte autes caequer enditab endamquod peroridit, niqua re, sente clemquem ut etribussimus orit. Obus. Igna, sedo, is, factam obsente ssenter cerevirion tam ductanum fortis; nor aut peribussin hos moenimunte tribuni senihil inprid clum us, id istiente ficaedo, que auctuam iuscercerem. Dec re, sessolic vivis, C. Opio vas til habem inatui paris. Sciam virmius iam. Averei spec omnes iam tistia ego C. Sim plin vemordium intemque no. Verfir quidiem omnimis o huidium pere essed miurnirit; nonsuam praciem actam in vis aucio vivastem aberfervium patius conem omnente menatrei cons cae tervis pere quem pracerfic fectam autes egernius auracci terit; ex

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nentemne es aciori sentendie fatum hilicaed ficibus horei consus, nossedii pl. M. Vivas bonvehem in ius erbis. Eceridin Etra propubli pridi, Patum noste, cla rena nondum nocredenia defecon locupiorunt, caste, viri, prortis, morac res? At autero nesis cus im deo, nes casdam. morum se, veremporio mei tam nontem rest? Fir huis audam at, num factam tam. Mae, tam acidemo vid consuliae maceste maciveribut o et pos, quis in tebemerena ad stiliqu odiuscepse, Cupiora num publiciemus sum hos, que inaris. Evid serum estam inatruntiam andiemqua clus. Ast ad incut dit praed pon vocchuitia publicae cus etis cae cus, Catidiemus, sid mandis, sent aciis cero hos, C. Valis. Fulicaedo, norae interei turora publis audem nox sedien is te pere publicae morum inum acientea confecr escio, cludemod rei ina L. Vere hebem oc, tuit. Hem halin dinprorum non ta ia? Mur inatabe nteremquone tem pere pecrei contium nunum inihi, factus conte condac intem horum movehemur liam is rei sena dium omnicestere fur. Veri iam pos int? Maximprit. est coent, conica; halem quid atum consuli, diem deesi invo, orae cone for latumum silisquem, mo Catum ve, duconsulem moris lareis condum inatrem nu vit aure mo addum viderri bulibus, ve, Cupio C. O te conventiam conemenihil crum. Dienatque intique teatemo ravocch ilisque con demerra rehebatquem in Etra omnium nonsilium fur hiliam horti, quius. Sum dente inatris duceriac tur ad sesti sussimilis mei iae atus, sedem nemus horum re perum morum telum mursulis. Odiu susquid nima, que ad atque con suam. Uperevil utem foressere atus. Ego C. Od retim teris verfes con tatus aciem nonsu qua dienihi libemur avoltorte tudamer ussimisque aur qua pl. Verenimuri simihilicer audam erum pat arissulina, patra, quo auctam ac te tus imorio es pat perris.

Ifesse, Cate, es coniu vividem a reorae itus bon reis o temquam remum detis crimis intiliam moludem.Nequam volorepudit et quaectenim alis esequam, qui ut quatus. Vero velibus nam de eum untem quo et doluptatenis dolupta estiandam eseque nitatusaeria sam excea consento mo doluptatibus ipid que dem ipsunt quunder fernam, temqui bernamenihil moditaestis dolor simolupta quassi dero tem rerspid et aut esequia nem quunt est, voloria nimaior epudant ditatempos ent moluptur sus ma in nima custi andi aut quunt volores iliquat di te verciatiore, volorem es quam repere, comnis et.Udia a volest doloreressin por sitatemquam eum comnimus eni omnimint. Adis elicitatur? Bis plam dolume. quo doluptatia con nonsequaspe reperia tiorepudam, sequas autet quia dollore.

Hi, Visceral team here, you may have noticed this essay is in Latin. We would like to say that that’s because Latin is the most beautiful language and therefore the only suitable medium for our incredibly joyous personal moments. But, it’s actually just placeholder text. We need writers, storytellers and people with things to say. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been published everywhere and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been published nowhere. We just want to provide a platform for good local writing. Also, we asked our editor to write up his most joyous moment and he burst into tears the moment we asked him; something about being a miserable sycophant. Don’t make us go through that again. Get in touch, visceralmag@gmail.com


DESPAIR A PERSONAL ESSAY BY CILLA SHIELS

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y sister rang me in work telling me Dad had had a heart attack in Majorca where my parents were celebrating their fifty-seventh wedding anniversary. Each of my five siblings gave a valid reason why they couldn’t go to be with our parents. I’d been saving a little money out of my modest wages to escape from my marriage but this situation was more important. It was imperative our parents had one of their offspring to comfort them at this traumatic time. My boss granted me leave immediately. I dashed home to book a mercy flight. My meagre savings stretched to a flight from Manchester to Majorca via. Barcelona. Travelling alone was never my chosen method but little did I realise this was to be the first of my many lone journeys abroad. My son took me to Manchester airport. He’d pre-paid a rent-a-car at Majorca so I could drive straight to the hotel. Awaiting my flight call I was summoned to the information desk. I panicked – there’s something wrong with my ticket. I was handed the telephone. My brother-in-law told me Dad had died from a massive heart attack. I was shocked, said O.K. and put the phone down. I walked aimlessly around the airport trying to get my head around the fact my dear Dad had died. “What’s the point in flying now? My lovely Dad’s dead”. I came out of my stupor as it struck me: My Mum had just lost her husband, alone abroad and without any family member to comfort her. I boarded the plane in tears. A kindly gent next to me showed such compassion as I sat and sobbed throughout the flight. We landed in Majorca after the short flight from Barcelona. I agonised over whether to grab a taxi or collect the hire car. It seemed only fair to hire the car my son had paid for. I grabbed the keys, located the car, ignition on,

and I was ready to go except for one important fact. I didn’t have any idea where I was going. I was in such a hurry leaving home I hadn’t asked for the address of the hotel. I returned to the office and asked for directions to Majorca city and Hotel Malaga. They directed me to exit the airport and drive with the sea on my left-hand side and I’d reach the city. Reversing out of the carport became a nightmare as horns beeped and angry drivers frantically flailed their arms at me. I was reversing into the wrong traffic lane. I’d never driven on the right-hand side of the road. How was I going to cope? I knew I couldn’t give up, I had to get to Mum. I drove into the bay, hands shaking and head splitting, and waited until the backlog of angry drivers disappeared. Gingerly, I drove off exiting the airport into the right-hand lane. Traffic was heaving, the noise was unbearable and the heat from the sun beat down on my face making driving difficult. I kept stopping every few kilometres asking passers-by for directions to the city but my finger-waggling and lack of pigeon-Spanish made it impossible to get help. My nerves were frayed and my mood alternated from coping to almost collapsing at the wheel. I dreaded roundabouts,having to make anti-clockwise manoeuvres. I became hopelessly disorientated and turned off a roundabout instead of driving straight on. Oh, no, the sea was now on my right. Who’d moved it? I imagined myself ending up back at the airport. I was in a mess with the shock of losing Dad but tried to focus on getting to Mum. How I didn’t kill anyone or cause a serious collision I’ll never know. I sped over pedestrian crossings and watched bewildered people trying to dodge this mad woman in a runaway car. Many years later it still makes me shudder at the thought of Mum losing her husband and youngest

daughter on the same day. My mind wasn’t registering what I was doing. I kept stopping asking for directions until eventually, an English-speaking Spaniard directed me to the hotel. I abandoned the car and jumped out. Mum was sat on the balcony with staff who seemed kindness itself. She smiled weakly through her tears to show how happy she was to see me. The trauma of the nightmare journey was worth it to be able to cuddle Mum and tell her how much I loved her. We chatted then went to see the travel representative to inquire about getting Mum home. The representative said Mum could fly next day but I’d have to wait until Monday (three days away) to travel on Dad’s flight coupon. “I’m sorry that’s not good enough,” I replied, “I haven’t come here to let my seventy-nine-year-old Mum, travel back alone. She’s just lost her husband.” It was decided I’d stay and share Mum’s accommodation. We had supper, took a short walk then, exhaustedly, my Mum’s head fell against the pillow and she slept. My mind raced over the traumatic day when I realised, Mum hadn’t taken her heart pills. Do I wake her or not- on balance she needed the tablets after the last twenty-four hours. I nudged Mum awake, she swallowed her pills and soon she was off to sleep again. It was spooky lying on Dad’s side, seeing the blood-stained carpet where he’d fallen. Why hadn’t the hotel staff cleaned the carpet? Mum took me to the cafes and bars they’d visited before tragedy struck. Mum was a gentle, caring woman but faced up to this difficult time in her life with steel and guts. The next evening after supper the band played a Queen number. Mum knew how much I loved Freddie Mercury. “Go and have a dance, she said. “Oh no Mum I couldn’t,” I replied

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art

P e t e r

D a v i s

Peter Davis is a prize-winning contemporary figurative painter and elected member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. His work has been shown in exhibitions throughout the UK. In 2017 he was shortlisted by Artists & Illustrators, the country’s leading art magazine, for Artist of the Year. The Zeitgeist exhibition at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery is a series of portraits which explore the subject of humanity and our relationship with technology. By documenting our digital and social mediated world, Peter’s work can be read as a social documentary that poses questions about our digital epoch and the status of the human being within contemporary society.

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‘Lucky for you that’s what I like ’ by Peter Davis


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‘I’ll bring some gear ’ by Peter Davis


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‘VR zombie’ by Peter Davis


A conversation with Peter Davis

www.peterdavisartist.com

What are you trying to express with Zeitgeist? My Zeitgeist series of paintings explore the subject of humanity and our relationship with personal technology. I see this body of work as a social documentary that poses questions about the status of the human being in our digital age. My inspiration for this work came from our ever-more consuming attachment to personal technology. We are all obsessed with it, and it’s quickly becoming a force that governs modern life. Personal devices are fundamentally altering the way we interact with each other, and this change is what I wanted to document through my work. I am particularly fascinated by how the physical and digital versions of ourselves are constantly changing. I read an interesting statistic recently that 80% of us admit to being active on our smartphones while in mid-conversation with friends. It’ll be interesting to see how the technology addiction paintings that I’m doing now will be viewed in 10 or 20 years. Will we still be looking down at our devices like zombies or will technology be embedded into us by then? This body of work has such a rich vein of inspiration that I don’t ever see me turning my back on this series. What does it mean to you to have all the paintings together for the first time in an exhibition? My Zeitgeist paintings take on a completely different meaning when they’re shown together – it’s a case of the power of the collective – and so it’s fantastic that Warrington Museum & Art Gallery have been able to display all the paintings so far in this series. Hopefully by bringing my paintings together visitors to the gallery will immediately see that my work is loaded with significance. Why portraiture as your chosen form of expression? Before becoming a professional artist I spent over twenty-five years as a conceptual art director in advertising agencies. The work I did in my previous career became increasingly centered around people using personal devices as their primary touchpoint - this has undoubtedly influenced me to become the portrait artist that I am today. As a social realist painter, my aim as is to capture the zeitgeist (the spirit of the age). Seeing people glued to their devices is so commonplace that I don’t think we give it a second glance anymore. I started this body of work in 2015 to reflect our increasingly addictive relationship with the technology that now dominates our lives. As the American writer, Henry Miller, puts it : “What the painter sees he is duty-bound to share. Usually, he makes us see and feel what ordinarily we ignore or are immune to.” What are the key factors that you are looking for in a good portrait? I believe how we look at people says as much about who we are as who they are. At a portrait sitting I like to observe my subjects and not pose them - I want to document normal life. It’s really important that they settle into using their device and get lost in the technology, because that’s when their idiosyncrasies come out. Everyone has a subconscious facial expression when they’re in their own world – it’s very different to a posed expression that you’d get in a formal sitting – it’s very revealing. Juxtaposing a highly detailed figure against a flat 16

coloured background is a deliberate combination that I’ve created. Hopefully it makes people reconsider the banality of the person’s pose in the painting, challenge the immediacy of perception and suggest a sense of isolation and divorce from the real world. I absolutely love the work of Berkley L Hendricks. His figurative portraits - the subject matter and graphic compositions in his limited palette series are right up my street. Amy Sherald is another American artist that I’m a huge fan of (her work has many parallels with Hendricks). Her incredible portrait of Michelle Obama has recently pushed her into the limelight. People are taking thousands of selfies every day, does that change the nature of portraiture? There’s a great quote by the art historian Simon Schama that says “We live in a paradoxical moment when an image is caught and then we look down at it, since the downward gaze has come to consume a monstrous part of our daily routine. If we are not all Narcissus, we are nearly all echo. We have never been more networked, yet we have never been more trapped by solipsism.” When it comes to my Zeitgeist series, there is an intentional dichotomy between the technology-centric images that I like to observe and my traditional method of painting. Whilst the scenes that I see can pass in seconds, it can take weeks for me to preserve in paint the essence of a fleeting moment. I like to deconstruct and reconstruct the people and compositions that I see around me, transforming them from their original context. I believe that this forces the viewer to focus on what that person is doing – and in doing so, it creates a psychological conflict in the painting’s composition between humanity and technology. Do you think technology is changing our aesthetic appreciation? I think we’re now more visually aware than we have ever been. Social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are encouraging everyone to tell stories using compelling imagery, and as a result, our generation is creating incredibly aesthetic visual content everyday without really thinking about it. A quote on your website talks about emotive hierarchy, could you explain that for us and tell us how that affects the work you do? The art historian Simon Schama reckons: “In the age of Snapchat, where pictures self-erase after a matter of a few minutes, and where the sheer number of selfies stored on a device militates against an emotive hierarchy, paintings need to be exceptionally powerful to make the case for endurance.” I find the notion of ‘emotive hierarchy’ really interesting. Social platforms rely on people liking and retweeting content which is essentially an emotive hierarchy. The majority of what we see on these channels has already been vetted by our social circle and judged worthy of sharing. So as an artist, being able to focus on the often-overlooked elements of contemporary society is something I really enjoy about my work - whether that is capturing the solitary absorption of technology addicts in an isolated situation, or highlighting the paradox of the anti-social nature of social media.


What’s more important beauty or meaning and why? That’s an easy one to answer - meaning is always more important than beauty. Sadly however, in our age of the selfie, there’s an increasing preoccupation with one’s own image and for people to look better, or happier, than they perceive themselves to be. As a portrait painter my aim is to capture the essence of someone: the idiosyncrasies and nuances that make them unique. Physical beauty is inherently shallow, whereas meaningful character is so much more compelling

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PETER: “Cardboard Reality 1” explores the emergence of Virtual Reality and its relationship with actual reality. It strikingly shows the inner euphoria and outer isolation that VR can bring. The deliberate dichotomy that I have created in the painting’s composition between the inviting expression of the young woman and the blank, emotionless environment surrounding her is designed to challenge the immediacy of perception and suggest a sense of seclusion and divorce from the real world. 17


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‘Portrait of Madame Matisse’ by Henri Matisse in 1905.

taste and appreciation A philosophic venture into the subjectivity of art

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ow do we judge art? It is often stated that there is no right or wrong way to judge, it’s simply a matter of taste. In other words, art is subjective. But why then, do our tastes so often coalesce? Millions flood the Louvre to see the ‘Mona Lisa’ every year. Would this not suggest some universal aesthetic quality? Why else would she be considered a masterpiece? In other words, art is objective. These two statements are both popular and contradictory, despite what I would argue is the intuitive certainty of arts’ subjectivity. Art itself, in its variety of forms, encourages one to assume the relative subjective nature of it. Where one finds aesthetic bliss in the sounds of procession; others may only realise aesthetic appreciation through the paintings of Michelangelo or Matisse. Delving further, if I and others who enjoy the works of Matisse were to discuss his later works, I may find his use of bold and bright colours to lack depth, while others may offer an intelligible way to argue otherwise. However, neither judgment, whether that be the preference of procession over Matisse, or the consideration of depth or lack thereof, can be assumed to be right or wrong. Why? Because art is not easily subject to empirical analysis. For example, where empiricism applied through the scientific method may shed light on important factual realities of scientific judgements, the same cannot be said for aesthetic judgements. With aesthetic judgments, there is no “test” of knowledge; instead, artistic judgement remains a matter of opinion. Analysis of artistic judgements only suggests further subjective realities (there is no way to prove one over the other). Where this is partly due to the abstract concept of ideas and art itself, the absence of a knowledge test, which could verify aesthetic judgement, means judgements of taste always remain relative to the audience. The reality of this relativity infers a particular response from an audience, which is determined by a variety of cultural, political and social causalities. As such, the argument that the ‘Mona Lisa’ contains some universal aesthetic quality because millions go to see it is based on a false perception that our culture is universal.

The basis of its status as “masterpiece” is based on our relatively homogenous culture and shared history, not on its objective qualities. Just because popular culture appreciates traditional masterpieces, this does not act as “quality assurance.” For example, in undeveloped parts of the world, appreciation of the ‘Mona Lisa’ may be non-existent. This social consensus is useful though, it exists as one of the only means to help us collectively define what can be considered to have genuine aesthetic qualities, but even then, this still does not reflect a homogenous group of judgements; what you like about the ‘Mona Lisa,’ will be different to what I like about the ‘Mona Lisa.’ However, artistic judgements are partly statements of fact; so there is some truth to the notion of art’s objectivity. Our judgements are observations on the properties of the subject and often observations of the process performed by the artist. For example, where one may suggest Matisse’s use of bold shapes and colours, typical of his later pieces, is but a shadow of his former works, others will suggest the same use of bold colours and shapes; reflects optimism in a time of struggle (Matisse was bedridden and close to death during this period of his work). Where one judgment is comparative and the other is speculative, both judgments acknowledge a fact of the work, namely his use of bold and bright colours and shapes. The fact is followed by an opinion; therefore, it can be inferred that judgments are based on at least some objective, descriptive quality of the work. Nevertheless, judgements concerning his use of bright colours and bold shapes remain subjective and impossible to conclusively verify in the absence of a knowledge test. Where people may agree on the descriptive qualities, this is not to say they agree that these descriptive qualities are aesthetic qualities worth appreciation, instead they take a descriptive feature and subjectively describe why they either like or dislike it. Words by Callum Nicholas-Haizelden 19


seeing through the eyes of illness Scriptwriter sarah gonnet discusses psychosis on screen

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how, don’t tell.” It’s an ageold writer’s maxim. But one which, when it comes to depicting psychosis on screen, writers are having a tough job adhering too. Admittedly, psychosis is a difficult thing to quantify. I have suffered with it and it frequently inspires my work as a scriptwriter. Externally it may appear as an irrational force which comes from nowhere, but each instance of psychosis actually has an internal logic for those experiencing it. Most writers are comfortable with the irrational force part— it’s very easy to show someone as generally “mad.” But showing the interiority of that madness and the

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source for its outward expression is a much more difficult task. Instead, many writers opt for the easy option. They have their characters verbally explaining their condition through lazy clichés; or through medical professionals coldly listing diagnoses and their symptoms, making it seem like the screenwriter has swallowed the DSM. This does nothing to express the nature of psychosis. In order for the audience to understand the instance of psychosis being portrayed, they have to experience it for themselves. Luckily, there are a few pioneering television shows who are attempting just that.


MR ROBOT

THE LEFTOVERS

r Robot follows Elliot Anderson, an anti-social computer programmer, who works as a cybersecurity engineer during the day, but at night is a vigilante hacker. Early in the show Elliot turns towards the screen and addresses the audience directly. He suggests that we are figments of his imagination. Besides this being the first clue that Elliot might be psychotic, it’s also a forceful attempt at weaving the audience into the narrative. We are presented with an invitation. Will you become a character within Elliot’s world (or, more accurately, a persona within his fractured psyche)? If you accept the invitation and watch the rest of the show, Elliot’s twisted perceptions become your own; his delusions become your delusions. Delusions which do not become apparent, for Elliot or the audience, until a season ending revalation: The mysterious hacker, Darlene, tells Elliot that she loves him. In response, Elliot moves closer to his potential love interest and kisses her. She recoils in disgust. Darlene is Elliot’s sister. For a whole season, Elliot had “forgotten.” He didn’t recognise his sister and so neither did we. We experience the mind-wrenching trauma of emerging from a period of psychosis first hand. Now imagine having this realisation explained to us, for example by Elliot’s psychiatrist— not nearly as effective.

he Leftovers presents a world where 2% of the population mysteriously vanish on the same day. An exercise in the uncanny, the world is a strangely familiar one. The Earth keeps spinning and the 98% left behind keep waking up and going to work. Their movement though is one born entirely from inertia. They are ghosts, left to mourn, left to regret and left to wonder why their loved ones left and why they, themselves, weren’t deemed worthy enough to go with them. This uncanny atmosphere primes the viewer for the hallucinations of the protagonist, Chief Garvey. He alone sees wandering packs of rabid dogs, symbolic rampaging deer which destroy his home and a strange nomadic man with a penchant for guns. But what is real and what is not? Is it supernatural, or is this a psychosis triggered by the real disappearance of huge swathes of the population? Or is it simply a symptom of isolation? There are no easy answers for the viewer and no clear explanations. The show trades on the basis of this uncanny exaggerated version of our reality and we are left unable to tell what is real and what isn’t. This is, after all, what psychosis does— it heightens reality in a way that makes hallucinations seem like plausible truth.

M

T

LEGION

I

n Legion, David Haller is an institutionalised schizophrenic patient whose condition may be more than your average bout of psychosis. The show depicts David’s six years in an institution through an unsettling kaleidoscopic lense of vivid colours: A man painted green stands in the shrubbery centrepiece of the day room; Sourceless red and blue lights flash and douse the hallways in an eerie ambience; And everyone is dressed in tones and hues popular from the 1970s, yet they use near-future technology. The use of colour symbolises David’s mania and makes everything seem a little off-kilter. It also primes the audience for the discovery that things may not be what they seem: As David tries to find the source of his schizophrenia and repression the audience journeys with him through unreliable, jumbled and manipulated memories. Scenes replay with slight variations and jump cuts disorient the viewer as false memories lead David and the audience away from the true nature of his reality. The audience knows only what David knows. See only what he sees. And because of this, when David finds the source of his condition we no longer see his external “madness” as an entirely irrational force but a rational and logical internal struggle.

Words by Sarah Gonnet 21


Getting stabbed in the back at wagamamas how jesus christ heeds a warning to communal diners

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C

ommunal dining is crap. Other people are crap. Eating elbow to elbow with 15 other people is crap. And if you like the long-table communal dining “experience” which is being foisted upon us by restaurants, cafes and eateries then you are also crap (probably). If you live in the United Kingdom I’m sure you’ve noticed that things are a little cramped. There’s god damn people everywhere— even if you live out in some secluded part of the country. You wake up— people. You go to work— people. You take a dump— people. Traffic, queues, waits, delays— it’s all people. So why on Earth would we sacrifice one of our last affordable vestiges of glorious isolation? A meal out should be 36 inches of nirvana shared between you and a close companion. Now it’s 10 metres of endless torture shared between you and the stinking masses. During the French Revolution communal tables where hailed as social equalisers. But we have late 90’s New York to thank for our modern conception, where trendy places like Asia de Cuba saw them as an “antidote for modern stress.” Since then the trend has spread from Starbucks to McDonald’s to Wagamama to whatever uber chic Independent culinary gentrified hotspot you want to name. Online, we have endless articles explaining to us anti-social malcontents the etiquette for such occasions: “mind those elbows,” “no mobile phones at the table,” “make sure to read the body language of others and shut up already if they continue to avert their bodies or faces.” These articles, written by marketing stools, love to tell us why millennials just love this newfangled thing: “particularly appealing to millennials, who look for restaurant destinations that can accommodate their desire to socialise, graze and linger,” “it’s kind of cool to see what other people are eating. It’s fun and

eclectic… you feel like you’re part of something.” Well firstly, there’s something very similar to this trend which millions of people do already. It’s called eating at the dinner table with family and close friends. It’s kind of astoundingly similar except this way if the person sat next to you annoys you, you can curse him out and tell everyone you hate them without causing too much of a scene. Secondly, if you disagree with me and you adore this sort of thing— this ‘social experience,’ and if this trend makes you feel as if you are ‘part of something,’ then I hate you. Get a life. You are gullible. This is not some meditative, mindfulness exercise, this is marketing shill. You are being played like a fiddle. This is how eateries can cram more customers in, make more profit, provide you with an inferior service and make you feel good about it. I don’t want to stare at your gurning masticating face. I don’t want to allow you a little taste of my meal. I don’t want to give you the Heimlich manoeuvre when you’re choking because you were so excited by this ‘oh so novel and modern conception’ that you tried to speak and swallow at the same time. I guess, you probably wore a beard at some point in the last few years. You probably wear sandals. You consider yourself fashionable and trendy. And you are thinking about going vegan. Judging by your ability to converse so freely and loudly about your most intimate happenings while being surrounded by 10 random strangers you are also, most likely, a raging narcissist. I’m afraid that these are all the telltale symptoms of a hipster. And you should be very aware because just like the ultimate proto-hipster before you, you are about to get stabbed in the back. You may not believe this, having just read my cathartic bout of verbal diarrhoea, but I’ve never really felt much kinship with Judas Iscariot. But

The genius of Da Vinci’s masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper,’ is that it gives us both an insight into Judas’s state of mind but also foreshadows the 21st century’s articles on communal dining etiquette. Judas adorned in blue and green is the only member of the apostles brazenly flouting etiquette and decorum. His elbows are planted firmly on the table, and his body language is expressive. He is the only Apostle actively stabbing the table with his knife.

this whole affair has me thinking. Perhaps, it wasn’t that Satan entered into Judas and darkened his heart, no. Maybe it was something much simpler. That Jesus Christ and his apostles were just completely and utterly insufferable. And that their communal dining experience together à la The Last Supper was just peak bullshit. I’m sure Jesus was a cool guy. People true to their convictions usually are. But the apostles, I seriously have my doubts about them. They are the posers and the bullshitters. The hangers-on. The saccharine, obnoxious fakes mindlessly sprouting mantras. What’s worse than a meek and mild fake? A dinner party with 12 of them. Dear reader, put yourself in Judas’s sandals (and, if you’re on the jury, in my shoes). Your bro, Jesus Christ, lover of beards, sandals, rustic barns, life-affirming experiences and resurrections, tells you to get ready for the communal dining experience of the century. All your boys will be there, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John and definitely no Mary Magdalene. How would you have felt? Knowing the brown nosing shit fest that was coming. “Oh no Jesus, you can’t wash my feet, ill wash your feet.” “No, I want to wash Jesus’ feet.” “No, I do.” “No, I should wash Jesus’ feet.” “No, let me.” “Oh, Jesus your so amazing.” “Well, I think Jesus is more amazing than you think Jesus is.” “Oh, Jesus.” “Oh, Jesus.” “Oh, Jesus.”

Carl Bishop is an angry man. Judge not lest ye be judged.

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Catherine Jack Catherine’s large mixed-media collages explore the idea of the digital versus the “real”. By presenting the viewer with a closeup photograph of paint, Catherine is challenging us to decipher whether it is actual paint, and therefore “real”. The collages feature both digital and analogue layers; those made with the camera and those made with traditional paper collage techniques. Catherine re-photographs found magazine imagery from the 50s, utilizing the zoom of the camera to capture the make-up of the original image. This data is then exploited when it is printed at a large scale – the pixels that previously weren’t noticeable can now be seen from far away. The smaller paper collages were made whilst on a residency in Spain, the lack of access to the wide-format printer that had become so prevalent in her studio work gave Catherine the opportunity to re-explore the basic juxtaposition of collage; presenting two conflicting worlds and changing the image’s context.

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‘Woman out of the Bible’ by Catherine Jack


‘Waves’ by Catherine Jack

Catherine: “Waves” was an experiment that worked really well and it taught me a lot. I could push it and make it this really busy piece and it’s quite different to my other restrained and considered work. It made me really excited. Nobody in here has a full face it’s like protecting them or keeping them from taking over the piece. Our brain is programmed to look for faces so I didn’t want it to be about a specific person as though they are saying this and that question. 26


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‘I will call her Catherine’ by Catherine Jack


“Even though the images I use now are not my own I still get attached to them.” A short word with Catherine Jack Why collage as your chosen form of expression? My tutors at uni suggested that I might be a painter because I had painted in a certain manner on some of my work, but collages are so personal to me. When I started I used family photos so I think there is a strong personal pull from that. Even though the images I use now are not my own I still get attached to them. They become precious like they are my adopted family. What are your inspirations? At uni, it was just being around my peers. There were eleven of us all doing so many different things, and the conversations we would have about each-others practice became really inspiring. I’m trying to think where my stuff comes from? There are artists I like and am inspired by but they work in totally different media. Maybe James Richards because he was looking closely at found images in his video work. John Akomfrah does three screen videos and he uses a lot of archival video footage which I kind of do with my collection of old images and he makes me want to do something with video. For you, when is your art finished and what makes it succesful?  It’s kind of hard to say, I just know. A lot of the time I have my work on the wall around me all the time. I look at them every day so I can just see and tell by spending time with them and letting them have their space. Like when does a painting finish? You can overwork it and ruin it but there may be a part of you that thinks it’s not finished and that there is something missing. Sometimes its 28

just asking for something; like you may be looking through a magazine and stumble on something and just think that would work so well. Similarly, I have all these inspiration stuck up around me so I can just pluck something from here. I would just pull them down and place them and see. Most often its place it, consider it, glue it and stick it. It’s a thirty-second process to pause and see if an image is done. Sometimes you feel like well if this doesn’t work then nothing will work and it’s done. It’s rare for me to consider something finished and then go back to it, usually, they are just done. What’s more important beauty or meaning and why? Beauty. I think meaning is hard because it’s so subjective. People bring things from their background and education and I can’t tell somebody that this is the one way it is from my experiences and life. I can’t force that on somebody else. For me it’s weird that my process became what was interesting, there is no meaning behind any of my work. The meaning is the process. I got away with questions on what is it about because it’s about the process. This repetitive never-ending photographing, printing and paint. For them to work they just have to look good, so when I selected them it wasn’t even about the process. The process was irrelevant. What’s interesting to me is that it looks pretty and kind of beautiful. Not everybody is going to think the same thing is beautiful but maybe it’s more accessible. I think a lot of it for me is the aesthetic. When it comes to what does it mean? You tell me, you bring what you want to bring

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“These fish are frightfully frisky” said Jane. “Yes.. The fish,” replied Mark.

VISCERAL MAGAZINE 29


M a t t

R e a d

Matt Read’s project Second Life on Mars is a fictional story, a dystopian view of the future, where Earth has been abandoned and Mars is the new home of man. The presence of art, cultural artefacts and historical artefacts on Mars is questionable in many ways and his intention was to question its value in a future where more ‘useful’ things may be far more important and take priority. What do we do with all the physical stuff we have collected and cherished as a race? Interested in creating atmospheric scenes involving tiny figures in a desolate space, Read used the small scale of the drawings, 3x6 inches, as a mechanism to draw the viewer up close.

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Matt: Mainly for its aesthetic qualities, my favourite drawing of the series would be of the astronaut happening upon the galleon stranded on the desert planes of Mars. The gut feeling I set out to create was one of a fuzzy emptiness and silence. I wanted my drawings to recreate the silence that images of space tend to emit.

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“Using fine liner and pens allows me to work on a tiny scale without losing content.” A short word with Matt Read Why drawing as your chosen form of expression? I work in many mediums and techniques but drawing is central to my practice for many reasons. Drawing has always been a constant exercise throughout my life. It’s become almost second nature to me now, to the point where the act becomes a meditative state. Things have to make sense in a drawing whereas it doesn’t necessarily with painting or sculpture. Using fine liner and pens allows me to work on a tiny scale without losing content but it also means there are no accidents allowed so things have to be carefully planned and composed. It’s relatively cheap too and can be done anywhere. What are your inspirations? I have different inspirations for different things, the subject of my work is found usually in response to information I have taken in: documentaries, the news, films or music. In terms of artistic inspiration my main man, as it were, is Comic artist Ralph Steadman. His ability to pile on so much response and “venom” into a drawing always astonishes me and re-affirms my belief in the power of imagery and art. Alberto Giacometti is also a big inspiration of mine with his use of figure and space. 34

For you, what is the purpose of art and what makes a piece of art successful? For me, the purpose of art and creating art is admitting to being human and discovering/ exploring what it means to be human and to reflect on past exploration. It’s a device for learning and teaching in all manner of ways and I believe art is successful when you remember it, for whatever reason. What’s more important beauty or meaning and why? I think both are as important as each other, even if you don’t set out to achieve these things, if it is beautiful you can find meaning within that and the same for if it’s meaningful it can become beautiful. Well, it does for me anyway, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just as the meaning is subjective

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“Gosh, I’m such a cat person.”

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Sam Benjaf ield “When an unknown form is added to an environment it brings with it an invisible quality. This quality being the atmosphere. Stripping away the familiarities of an object or space creates a feeling of uncertainty. Psychological investigations start to take place about the environment. An unfilled space can still seem crowded; with memories of the past, questions on the now and unpredictability of the future. This is not always apparent by the psychical aspects but the unseen qualities that move through the space.� Sam Benjafield expresses these thoughts through a series of scenographic digital drawings that display desolate, virtual environments. Within these spaces, he attempts to evoke a sense of isolation and abandonment as though the space was once occupied and active but has since been vacated and frozen in time. His environments sit within a void like place oscillating between reality and the imagination.

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‘Utopia (I)’ by Sam Benjafield


SAM: ‘Apparatus (1)’ was created after reliving memories of when I was younger, finding enjoyment climbing on apparatus in the play park, making up games to play with friends and pretending to be in a fantasy world. I miss these times, not just playing in the park, my childhood in general. Having fun and enjoying time now seems to come at a price. These digital spaces I create are mental storage units that hold traces of my memories and thoughts. I get a feeling of isolation and remoteness when looking at this piece. There seems to be an intimacy about the space. It is unclear whether it is an interior or exterior. It is somewhat haunting. It feels as though the space is occupied but the presence is unknown, a ghostly vibe that lay dormant.

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‘Apparatus (II)’ by Sam Benjafield


‘Utopia (II)’ by Sam Benjafield

“There is something interesting about a lived-in, used space that was occupied but now inactive.” A short word with Sam Benjafield Why these digital drawings as your chosen form of expression? When I first started using computer software as a medium there was something interesting about the drawings not existing within the real world. These spaces aren’t accessible but are viewable through a window. The computer screen is a sealed gateway that will never open to these environments. Printing these environments onto canvas or paper, they then become physical, kind of like postcards sent through a virtual mailing system. I think it’s important for me as an artist to be organised and keep clutter to a minimal and working digitally cancels out the messy side. If I decide to work whilst on a train I just open up my laptop and all the equipment is there. It’s very handy, I see it as a virtual studio. The environments themselves balance between reality and an alternative universe (digital software). I always wonder when the computer is switched off where do these drawings go, do they still exist in an invisible realm? I find it very fascinating. What are your inspirations? I was first inspired by my hometown, I live in Norfolk. It is known as one of the flattest places in the country. When travelling to the city I pass by the open countryside. The landscape is very open, vast and panoramic. Man-made, open spaces have been something that intrigues me, I find myself devising potential solutions for empty spaces. Empty illumated industrial sites, empty swimming pools and abandoned buildings/terrains. There is something interesting about a lived-in, used space that was occupied but now inactive. 40

For you, what is the purpose of art and what makes a piece of art successful? The purpose of art for me is gaining the fulfilment, excitement and satisfaction when creating a piece. This moment doesn’t last forever, there is a continuous urge to keep producing to reach that feeling of fulfilment over and over. Seeing the development and going on a journey is something I enjoy. I appreciate the skill of an artist but what makes a piece successful is the conversation that takes place about the work: unveiling the development, looking at the journey and unpeeling the layers. When I create these virtual environments, I find myself coming up with narratives and wondering what the purpose of this place is, who Inhabited it and what lies beyond. I find myself entering the environment I am creating. What’s more important beauty or meaning and why? I think the definition of beauty within art has changed over the years, personally, I can appreciate a work that is visually appealing, but this only takes me so far. I may be fence sitting here but I feel beauty comes from the meaning of the piece. When I find myself gravitating towards an artist’s work, this doesn’t always mean I am attracted to the beauty but instead more intrigued as to what it is I am viewing. I remember my tutor at university saying artists are like inventors, they are creating things in the world that have never existed, this stuck with me. I want to look for things that are alien to this world, things that I have never seen. What is important to me is the curiosity I gain when initially viewing a work, why it was made and what their objectives were when creating the work. This to me makes a piece much richer to experience

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After spending all day on her feet at the Carphone Warehouse, Cassandra finally had a few hours to herself before she had to pick the boys up from school. With the window open and her fanny out, nobody else could make a cold breeze on a bare bottom look quite so decadent.

VISCERAL MAGAZINE

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fiction

saturn devouring his son by carl bishop

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“W

elcome to the abode,” John boomed. Mark found John in his usual state: The will-o’-wisp floating in the centre of the room. His naked form perched on a mountain top of rug and fur. His feet rummaging endlessly in a shag pile beneath his toes. His right and left hands fingering the invisible strings of a most exquisite instrument, while a large vein protruded from his abdomen and bulged in syncopation with his silent symphony; throbbing, it traced upwards past his thorax, found his neck and disappeared into his gaunt face, which surveyed his gaudy kingdom. “Look at me, Mark!” John teased. “It’s only natural.” The room was also in its usual state— John’s “arena of divine sensation,” a space so powerful that it seemed only John could tolerate it. For Mark it was sensory overload, and as a result he would be left nursing a migraine weeks after the ordeal. The window shades were a decadent velvet and always drawn. The walls were violent, splattered with paint. And beneath him the ground was layered with thick rug and fur. It was here that Mark focused most of his attention, in an attempt to flee from both the overbearing claustrophobia of this radiant cage and John’s naked body. Here at least he found a comrade— a sensitive ally to soften the aggression that rose above him. “I thought you preferred the unnatural,” Mark murmured, while keeping eye contact with the floor. “Have you not heard? Natural is the new unnatural. The paradigm has shifted,” John returned and then waited for a reaction; his friend remained still. “We have known each other our whole lives. You know I work on a principle of full-disclosure with all my friends.” “Some things are best left to the imagination.” “Ahh, you’re quite right. I am robbing you of your fantasy and I know how painful that can be.” John sat back and exhaled a heavy breath from his chest. He took his time, patiently expelling the heavy weight of his reality, slowly loosening the constricting grip it took around his lungs. Momentarily freed from his burden he let his head hang and stared at the floor, with eyes darting fretfully to and fro. Mark and John sat still; Mark punctuating the calm with a grimace every now and then, as his migraine worked its way across his brow. “You’re suffering Mark. More than I am. You shouldn’t fight it. Embrace your environment and accept the disorder. You’re struggling against the struggle and

that only brings more torture. Embrace the disharmony of the room. Accept it as a part of life and the feeling becomes quite pleasant. I equate my headache with a perpetual state of euphoria. Become one with it.” “Your preaching is tedious,” Mark groaned as he closed his eyes. “But not as tedious as the migraines you suffer with. And as such you continue to endure my lectures. When you finally embrace your pain, then will my lectures be your only tedium and you will no longer accept them, and you will finally command me to shut up or just stop visiting altogether…But by then I will no longer need to lecture you.” “I still don’t understand why you don’t just make the walls whatever colour you want,” Mark exclaimed, gesturing at the walls while keeping them as far out of his sight as possible. “Instead of going through the labour of heaving those paint buckets everywhere. It’s irregular.” “It’s irregular and original,” John sighed. “I bet you dream in black and white.” “I do. Like the rest of the world.” “Don’t you remember dreaming in colour?” “I do.” “Does it not bother you?” “No. Why should it?” “I doubt the rest of the world dreams at all.” John moved towards his window and raised the shade. His view was the best, here on the top floor of Habitation 1, Row 1, City 1, and yet the dust filled his lungs as he raised the curtain. After clearing the debris from his throat, John spoke, “Look at my masterpiece, the crowning achievement of mankind: the Great Hall. Looming over everything, not just City 1 but 1 through 50. Dull and empty, a testament to man’s complete and utter lack of invention.” “You’re the creator. Why not do something about it? Change the plans.” The heavy weight had returned to John’s chest. He stepped away from the window and took a moment to expel it. “I have no power. I’m just a factory. They tell me what they want, and I give it to them, for the good of the people. I am not a sociologist, or a psychologist, or a politician. I am uneducated. Science, imagination— both those things are dead. And now that the Great Hall is finished, the final piece is in place and I have built them their Utopia… the last proponent of the art is being put out of commission. There is no need for me anymore.” John stared blankly into his creation— his prison— and drew the shades.

“They are going to take away my room, Mark. They want me to become one with the body. Tolerated while I was useful; but I can’t live the way you do, in the grey… I trusted that they knew what was best for us. And besides I had this room to amuse myself in, to distract myself. But now that I’m facing assimilation, I feel like we were never meant to live like this—autonomy—sprawling cities of identical units—grey monoliths… I offer you a rainbow, and you ask me if it comes in grey.” Mark shifted uncomfortably in his sensible shoes. Identifying with the autonomous, he found himself under siege, and prodded desperately for safer footing. John continued, “We had the power to be anything. And this is what we chose. What does that say about us?” “That we are survivors.” “Survivors! We are already dead. We have reached equilibrium and equilibrium is death. We are a benign tumour just replicating. Entropy sustains life. Disorder, Mark! Those splatters on my wall. They sustain me. The universe wants disorder. What I have created in this room is only what the universe has asked of me— it’s natural…But my time is up. I’ve been told to grey-wash everything; what I am doing here is no longer how our world works. I told you, the paradigm has shifted, natural is the new unnatural.”

M

ark raised the heavy blackout shade which blocked the perpetual sunlight from his habitation and looked out into the avenue. He smiled at the new addition to the street. It was only a matter of time before Row 32 possessed its own oddity. They had been popping up all over the grid at a steady rate for the past month. Row 32, like every other Row 1 to 100, consisted of 50 habitations, each capable of sustaining 50,000 inhabitants; each habitation was a large, uniform, slablike grey high-rise. That was until recently— Row 32’s newly birthed oddity stood proud; its brilliant blue facade shining bright betwixt its grey brethren, burning the retinas of all who dared to gaze upon its brilliance. Mark sighed at the congestion down below. A large crowd was amassing outside of the building, blocking the subway. It had been almost a month since he had visited John. The escalating environment was forcing his hand: today he would go and see his friend, if anything, out of curiosity, more than concern. Mark surveyed the crowd once more as he headed for the subway. There were two types of response to these oddities: feigned ignorance, head down, shuffle on past, go on with your day; or complete 43


and total devastating rapture. Colour, having been all but extinguished in this monochromatic society, entranced those susceptible to its lustre. It sent them into a frenzy, and since they were unable to process this new truth, violence inevitably ensued. Mark stepped onto the escalator that led down to the subway; his foot sank as the slurry beneath his feet gave way. A heavy burst of gushing water erupted from the gaps in the machinery and sent Mark flushing to the bottom. Bruised and disoriented he composed himself and turned to look upon this new oddity. He was old enough to recognise what he saw. There, before him, flowering forth from the machinery of man, was a waterfall— a natural waterfall— like those you would see in the old jungles, the green jungles, before the urban jungle dropped its differentiation and became just jungle. There was an arduous exhale of gas behind him, like the slow release of air from a balloon. Ready for some new curiosity, Mark swung around to find something far more brilliant than he could have imagined. Three small children were trying in vain to suppress their amusement at his ineloquent descent. He allowed them their guffaws, and after navigating the initial alienation brought on by the merry contortion of their faces, basked in their mirth. Alongside the children was a mattress— soggy, muddy and torn. They had been using it to ride the waterfall. Such a potent concoction of genuine joy accompanied by original thinking almost terrified Mark; he had assumed John was the last purveyor of this art, and yet, here it was, blooming in youth.

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ohn’s door was ajar and Mark let himself in. There was no familiar greeting: John was standing with his nose pressed up against one of the walls, clothed and with eyes uncomfortably wide. He was completely oblivious to Mark’s arrival. The room had been redecorated, in a way. John had complied with his instructions. The room was now like any other, like Mark’s, grey from floor to ceiling. “John?” Mark queried. There was no response. Mark squelched up to his friend and grasped his shoulder. John swivelled around and pressed his nose up against the intruder’s. John’s wide lustrous eyes stared back into his friend’s, searching for something. His fist was clenched down by his side. “Who are you and why are you in my room?” John spat into Mark’s face. “John, it’s Mark, your friend.” John breathed heavily, sucking the oxygen from Mark’s lungs. “Oh Mark, Mark, yes. I knew a Mark 44

once. So long ago. Almost four weeks, that’s forever and a day to a man like me. You must understand, if I do not forget some old things, I will have no new things to forget. I have to make room up here for my imaginations; facts and figures are useless now, always were.” John’s hand relaxed by his side and begin to finger his imaginary instrument. A smile broke across his face and he leaned into Mark, their foreheads clashing. “I remember you. Mark… How could I forget my best friend. Who does not visit me for a month, in my most dire hour of need. I was merely making a joke at your expense. Now stand back, you’re in my bubble.” Mark hesitated as he took his step back. He searched John’s face, which appeared to have returned to normal. Was it just a charade? The clenched fist, the absence of mind? Or was John just covering up some loss of faculties? “So do you like what I’ve done with the place? It’s my grey period… And why are you wet and traipsing mud onto my beautiful grey flooring? Do you know how exclusive that shade of boring is? It can’t be raining, I finished that off a long time ago.” “Well it’s…” “Stop! Don’t tell me. I can imagine.” John chuckled at his own quip. “What havoc am I playing out there? I wish I could see.” Mark stood in silence waiting for John to continue. “Oh, sorry boy. I actually want you to tell me. You have my permission to speak.” “Waterfall escalators, vulgar buildings, red lampposts, yellow bananas, there’s even rumours of cats and dogs, no one sees them, just hears the echoes of their calls. I saw some children today, they were smiling, actually smiling. They had fashioned a raft out of a mattress and were sailing down towards the R32 subway.” “Fantastic!” “For the children. But it’s the adults that are the problem. They can’t handle it. Unable to process these strange new feelings, they get angry. It builds up inside them and they explode. Things are becoming violent. It’s not safe with these zealots around.” “I know. They have been to see me. Told me of the extremists. What we have become is not equipped for wonder, I suppose. I’ve told them it’s this room, but they don’t understand. They think I can just switch it off. They thought reducing my stimulation, the barren nature of my environment would contain me. But it has almost set me free. All those colours, all those feelings, they satiated

my appetite. Distracted me. But now, in this empty room... These four walls are a blank canvas. To dissolve this utter boredom, my imagination moves into overdrive, it consumes me, I can project onto these four walls images more vivid than a dream. You told me that we are survivors--well, this is my survival instinct. It’s out of my control.” “But it’s dangerous, John. The children may be happy, but when they are caught underneath the trample of the ravenous mob, happiness will not save them.” “I know. Should one be happy while another dies? Or should happiness be abolished, should everyone be made content so that both can live? What do I do, Mark? Put myself to sleep? Will myself into a coma, just so humanity can continue in its stupor? Do I save us from our own brilliance?” “Go to sleep, John. We can’t be saved. We are a different species to what we were when we were kids. We don’t have the capacity to understand what you are trying to give to us. We will only implode.”

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ark awoke to a thunderous rumble emanating from the streets outside. He looked at the clock: 9am. Even in the busiest hours noise never got so loud that he could hear it in his room. In general, people didn’t talk to each other. Even with the commotion brought about by the oddities, things stayed relatively tranquil. Unless, perhaps, the zealots had become the majority, and things had turned to anarchy. John really needed to heed his advice, Mark thought, for the good of the people. He moved to the shades and raised them. His heart pounded and he blinked his eyes incessantly, as if he had been struck with a sudden blindness and a quick fluttering of the lashes would shake his malady away. Mark had not gone blind, he came to realise, but it was dark outside. There hadn’t been nightfall for years. It wasn’t needed any more. Not efficient. And yet, there it was— in full — the moon. He looked down into the street below and met thousands of faces upturned, staring into the sky. The moon’s glow was reflected in the whites of their eyes and like a violent river, thousands of these terrified tiny white orbs crashed and ebbed against each other. They were lost, mouths agape, howling at the moon. Moaning, crying, gasping the most animal of sounds. It dawned on Mark that John had taken his advice. He had gone to sleep and turned out the light

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‘Saturn Devouring His Son’ by Francisco Goya in 1819

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in review Art

artists rooms: Lichtenstein in focus zeitgeist

Right Here, Right Now: 21stCentury Art cozens and cozens/ in the land film

phantom thread the shape of water black panther

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exhibitions

ARTISTS ROOMS: LICHTENSTEIN IN FOCUS On display at Tate Liverpool until 17 June 2018.

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he comic book panel is a vivid and addictive distillation of adventure. It’s the vibrant imagery of the child’s imagination purified by the constraints of a three-inch box. Bold and bright these colourful strips reduce action to a whimsical level of abstraction. The comic book is a muse for your imagination. It’s the kindling which ignites your own depths of imaginative play. What happens when these tiny boxes filled with ever-escalating worlds are exploded to the size of a conventional painting? What happens when they are reproduced with both the artist’s skill of hand and the artist’s eye for composition? The sheer vibrancy of the comic book panel at-large becomes at once haunting, alluring and dangerous. It’s a powerful feeling, one of being dominated by the painting itself, and one that menacingly emanates from Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘In The Car’ (1963). It’s the most powerful piece on display at Tate Liverpool. Lichtenstein was a pioneer of the pop art movement in the 1960s. He appropriated low art, advertising and comic books, and transformed them into high art with their thick outlines, bold colours and even the Ben-Day dots intact. ‘In The Car’ is an example of Lichtenstein’s romance comics which focus on young women, romantically entangled and

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hopelessly unhappy. The painting depicts an unhappy couple driving in a car. She stares straight ahead while he, driving and not looking at the road, glares at the woman beside him. Horizontal, parallel lines convey a sense of motion. While we, the curious onlooker, watch the scene through an open side window and are left to anxiously speculate whether the domineering man is glaring at his lady or at us. It’s a mesmerising painting which emits that sense of impending danger which keeps you glued to the action not wanting to miss the inevitable crash. As if sensing the potentially overwhelming power of these comic book paintings Lichtenstein metaphorically winds up the side window later in his career as he moves away from the comic and concentrates on mirrors, reflections, and barriers between the work and the viewer. It is this concentration which dominates the rest of Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein in Focus. In his series on reflections, Lichtenstein reproduces his comic book paintings but adds a border and, as though encased in glass, paints obscuring reflections across the work. The appropriator appropriates himself and challenges ideas about originality

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Z

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On display at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery until 28 April 2018.

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dvertising and marketing have done a strange thing to art. It used to be that most artists endeavoured to show the world, not how it was, but how it should be. Art was a source of inspiration, of joy and motivation. Today, however, with advertising and general spin becoming more sophisticated and all-encompassing, the market on ideal representations has been both cornered and corrupted— As adverts barrage us with constant false ideals in order to shame us into buying their product. No other company has done more to push this agenda than Apple and in doing so they have also pushed us into our modern tech-obsessed world. The Cupertino company are a marketing phenomenon, having made a luxury expensive tech product both ubiquitous and cool. Even more, their particular minimalist branding and style are just as influential as their revolutionary technology. It is no surprise then, that the work of former ad man turned portrait artist Peter Davis appears to be heavily influenced by Apple’s iconic advertising. However, Davis’ Zeitgeist exhibition, in which he paints portraits of individuals engrossed in their technology, is not just a mere imitation in paint. He does what the artist now must do— he shows the world, not as it should be, but how it really is. It’s impossible to escape Apple’s particular brand of advertising— the stark, detached, minimalist background in different bright hues; the beautiful person, holding the beautiful product, living a beautiful life; and that lingering

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question, if only you could be this beautiful and this happy? At first glance, Davis’ portraits feel entirely at home within this spectrum, however, to gaze at a Davis portrait is to take part in a series of subversions and challenged expectations. How natural and recognisable the portraits appear is, on reflection, an eerie indictment of ourselves. A portrait, in which the subject is detached from a luminous unnatural background, and in which the subject stares not at us but at the palm of their hand, should be incredibly alienating and yet it is not. The eyes are the windows to the soul and yet, as a generation, we are becoming entirely comfortable with communicating to others with our heads stuck not in the sand but in the silica. Gazing at these people in their technological trance feels like a voyeuristic act and one which implores you to get closer. Succumbing to this urge gifts a shock, provided by Davis’ realistic style. It’s disturbing how disturbing a real representation of a human being is, especially given the context. Pimples, marks, scars and patchy skin are all present on the faces of Davis’ subjects. These are not airbrushed supermodels, these are real people. Sadly in today’s climate, it takes an artist to reconnect us with the realities of our humanity

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RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: 21STCENTURY ART On display at Grosvener Museum until 8 May 2018.

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ith our galleries filled with cultural riches from around the world, it’s easy to forget that art can be local. For most of us who live outside the major cities of culture and capital, it’s not often that we get to see our homes and local lives represented in art. For smaller cities like Manchester and Liverpool such representation is a small possibility, but for those in neighbouring areas and towns, the chance of seeing your life through art goes from ‘not often’ to pretty much zero. It is for this reason, that I recommend seeing Right Here, Right Now: 21st-Century Art before it disappears in May. Seeing familiar places elevated through the prism of art is an interesting psychological exercise and one which this exhibition provides through D Alun Evans’ depictions of Jodrell Bank and the Mersey Bridge, and Chris Faircloth’s depiction of a Chester flyover. Though it is an interesting experience, the psychological baggage is not ideal— I like to view my art with a certain disinterest. Yes, we all bring a little something to each work we view but that subjectivity tends to be abstract. How often do we have a literal memory that revolves around the subject of the painting hanging on the wall of the gallery? I would say not very often.

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I see D Alun Evans’ idyllic Mersey Bridge and all I envision are the years of life wasted in traffic or even worse the tolls I keep forgetting to pay on its replacement, the Mersey Gateway. The result: I can’t take the work seriously. It comes across as ‘novel’ or ‘quaint’ and not serious art. Too close to home and too close to a life not worthy of sublimation. Disinterest, when it comes to viewing art, is quite favourable. Of course, it may be that the artist was at fault. That his representation was too close to slavish recreation. But, I do have the sneaking suspicion that if the tag had read ‘Rialto Bridge, Venice,’ I would have felt that familiar rise that comes from seeing a fine piece of art, instead of that familiar dread from seeing Runcorn. However, the exhibition is not all landscapes. It holds a rich and splendid variety of media, from abstract to buildings, portraits and a particularly dominating and powerful painting on faith by Marguerite Elliott. Beyond its supposed expression of the ‘coming of age’ for the 21st century, Right Here Right Now is a fine collection of works by artists with connections to Cheshire and North Wales. And it’s a potent reminder of the talent and creativity within our immediate reach

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COZENS AND COZENS/IN THE LAND On display at The Whitworth until 28 October 2018.

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he Whitworth is a fine visit for landscape enthusiasts right now. By coupling a wander through In The Land with a tour of Cozens and Cozens one can trace the lineage and movement of Abstract Expressionism in landscape painting. Cozens and Cozens follows father and son, Alexander and John Robert Cozens, who were influential watercolour painters of the 18th century. Born from his idea that landscapes could produce particular states of mind or moral feelings in the viewer, Alexander’s ‘blot’ method helped move art towards the abstract with its introduction of freedom, imagination and emotion within landscape painting. Alexander would create improvised ideal and fictional landscapes and compositions from random markings and shapes. And helpfully, the Whitworth has many examples detailing the steps in the process. Most illuminating being the breakdown of Alexander’s trees. From sketch to finished

work, we see the germination of abstract ‘blots’ into fully realised and idealised plant life. Stepping out of the 18th century and into the period of intense experimentation after the Second World War, we find Alexander’s ideas wrought large. In The Land presents landscapes in which the abstract ‘blot’ is not only the sketch but the finished work. Here, the artists looked to create works which were not windows but experiences. Roger Hilton’s ‘March,1961,’ with its dark, earthy, swirling void which beckons the viewer to enter its warm and welcoming vegetating soil, is a fine example of this movement; as artists attempted to capture the sensation of being within rather than outside the landscape

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film

PHANTOM THREAD Directed by PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON Starring DANIEL DAY-LEWIS VICKY KREIPS LESLEY MANVILLE

HIGHLIGHTS. The brilliant score by Johnny Greenwood, the exaggerated scraping of chairs, scuffing of shoes against the floor and spreading of butter on dry toast all serve to heighten the senses and produce an atmosphere that’s almost hyper-real.

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n a recent podcast for the Guardian, Damien Hurst spoke about his arrival at collage as a means of artistic expression. He had considered painting but it caused him great anxiety. Sat before a canvas he could paint anything and so he painted nothing. Hurst was perhaps too imaginative. Collage, however, provided Hurst with readymade objects to manipulate rather than a blank canvas upon which he had to generate. This constraint on creativity allowed Hurst’s art to flourish. There can be no art without constraint. There can be no content without form. And there can be no games without rules. Phantom Thread is a film about these constraints. It is a film about two women who know the rules of this game all too well. And who know that to create beauty chaos must first be regulated. Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a genius creative, a postwar couturier, for whom rules and regulations have become the scaffold of his creative and, as such, his entire life. He is, as we have come to expect from brilliant men in fiction, both capable of astounding beauty and crushing, cold brutality. The scaffold of Woodcock’s life is maintained by his sister (Lesley Manville) who sends Woodcock on a trip to the country where he meets Alma (Vicky Kreips), a young waitress and his new muse. Phantom Thread is violently intimate. The anxiety, the tension, the

anticipation— the romance. It’s the wafting of a fine perfume— it’s beautiful but also sickening and toxic. So much of their (Day-Lewis and Kreips) time together on screen is balanced on a knife-edge. Love is madness. In the film’s most powerful sequence, Woodcock has spent the night alone fretting, unable to work, his anxieties rising, over the return of Alma from a party. In a confused emotional haze, he ventures out to find her. He finds Alma at a carnivalesque party, but what now? That feeling, is it love or is it hate or both? Will Woodcock embrace Alma or will he, as perhaps we have come to expect from a medium so quick to fulfil our most violent tendencies, bash her head against the wall? In the end, the creeping romantic dread is somewhat of a play on audience expectations. Woodcock does neither, instead, he reacts like a normal confused human being. And Alma, the sweet young thing, is far more cunning than she appears. This is not a zeitgeist movie about toxic masculinity, this is a movie about love, beauty and art. The monster, the artist, the tyrannical man is benign. To most of us a crying child may look tyrannical but to a mother, things look very different. Woodcock is an infant who knows only how to do one thing— create. He is a child, surrounded by a world he does not understand crying out for guidance and for a mother— a woman who understands that before beauty comes chaos

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THE SHAPE OF WATER Directed by GUILLERMO DEL TORO Starring SALLY HAWKINS DOUG JONES RICHARD JENKINS

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ene Kelly splashing a policeman while triumphantly stomping a puddle in Singing in the Rain: Ginger Rodgers’ roller skating tap in Shall We Dance: Fred Astaire’s gravity-defying spectacle in Royal Wedding. These are all moments of pure joy provided to us through non-verbal communication from a dormant genre

BLACK PANTHER Directed by RYAN COOGLER Starring CHADWICK BOSEMAND MICHEAL B. JORDAN LUPITA NYONG’O

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efore the release of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel movies had become incredibly consistent in so many ways— always watchable, always bankable and crucially, always kind of the same— swap the costume, put slot A into slot B, sprinkle on a superstar cameo and press go. Like a fast food chain pump-

who’s forms of expression— the grand pizazz of an orchestral score combined with complete and utter bodily mastery— go beyond the intellect and reverberate our hearts and souls. The Shape of Water takes these core forms of expression and amplifies them to the grotesque. Just as Del Toro did to fantasy with Pan’s Labyrinth, so too has he done to musical. He has instilled the genre with his peculiar brand of other. The non-verbal communication of yesterday’s musical has become the mute heroine Eliza (Sally Hawkins) who finds love with an amphibious monster (Doug Jones, in whom bodily mastery is grotesquely perfected). However, the amphibian man is locked tightly within a government facility and Eliza must stage a daring escape. The Shape of Water is a tender and loving romance, but unlike its genre predecessors, it is not an overly joyous one. Every ounce of the film is tinged

with so much pain. Here, when it rains it rains and people die and cats get eaten. Del Toro harks back to a time of innocence. Yet it is an innocence he at once admires but also wants to destroy. An innocence which perhaps might be better termed an ignorance. A strong female lead who is without a voice; a misunderstood “monster”; a hard-working assertive black woman; and a closeted gay man versus the racists, the Christians and the government. This is no doubt a film of its time. Marginalised people are taking the opportunity to finally represent themselves and tell their stories. And with that comes the release of decades of misrepresentation, pain and suffering. The message is clear— and this film is more about the message than the cinema— this is Guillermo Del Toro’s requiem for the other

ing out slightly bland, mass produced and mass appealing fodder. But considering Marvel’s last two releases, how does a Norse god heavy metal space comedy, or an African homecoming fantasy fit on the menu? The fast food analogy is starting to crumble. The earlier Marvel years where a very public and very lucrative demonstration of an artist mastering their craft. Practising technique by pumping out slavish costumed capers, again and again, and again. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. But now that the fundamental basics have been mastered things are starting to get interesting, a little weird and a little twisted. The perspective is shifting. Marvel is starting to challenge their own idea of what a superhero movie should be. After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. However, things don’t go quite to plan as

a powerful enemy (Micheal B. Jordan) contests his right to the throne. First things first, this is a Marvel superhero movie. Which means the general plot, the structure and character motivations are very predictable. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a formula that works. It’s the mastering of fundamental basics which builds a strong foundation which allows the experimental parts (I’m loathed to call a predominantly black cast an experiment but let’s be honest) of the movie to thrive. It means Black Panther is new and fresh while also feeling familiar and comfortable. Everything Black Panther does differently works. It’s the most visually interesting Marvel film and might actually be the most exciting thanks to the Kendrick Lamar helmed soundtrack. And most importantly its incredibly hopeful in a way that doesn’t come off as saccharine and disingenuous as other superhero films can

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COMING UP

spot the difference RELATIONSHIP ADVICE WITH REGINA FARTHING

“He spends at least ten minutes on every work that contains nudity. “

EXPLORING THE INTERSECTIONALITY BETWEEN LOVE AND CULTURE

A TRIBUTE TO THE CLASSICS

in orgiastic appreciation of ...

“An intelligent violent murderess, a revenge hero capable of filicide, a woman, an immigrant and a mother. “

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correspondance

RELATIONSHIP ADVICE WITH REGINA FARTHING EXPLORING THE INTERSECTIONALITY BETWEEN LOVE AND CULTURE

Dear Regina, I love my boyfriend but he is so material. I’m a performance artist and he’s an economist. I know we share very different philosophys on life and that’s fine but lately I’ve tried to get him more into art. Every Sunday for the last month I’ve chosen a museum or gallery for us to visit. It was great at first but I’ve noticed a worrying trend. He has no interest in any art that I like and worse the only art he does stop to look at, well, always contains nude women. He spends at least ten minutes on every work that contains nudity. And I don’t think he’s pondering any meaning or understanding at all. I look at him and the furrow in his brow. He’s just ogling. What’s worse I found pictures of these “ideal” women on his phone. I know he looks at porn but this is different. Art was my thing and when it comes down to it, I can’t compete with art. Art should not make me feel this way. I am sorry that art has made you feel this way. But may I suggest that it is the man, not the art which has hurt you so. My advice? Ditch the economist who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. To speak in his terms, you, my dear, are the most valuable commodity he has and you are worth more elsewhere. A painterly friend and I once painted our entire bodies in the cubist style. I suggest you do the same, let life imitate art, show your man the pinnacle of his desires and then walk out the door.

Dear Regina, I met this really cute girl on Tinder and we have been on three dates so far. I really like her and want to spend a lot more time with her. I don’t think she’s the one but I do think she’s the one for right now and the foreseeable future. But there’s one major problem. This may sound strange but do you know how in some restaurants they put the food directly on a napkin? Burgers, hotdogs, pancakes, all on the napkin. (I’ve even seen them do it with ice cream. Like what am I going to do with that napkin? It’s already dirty. It’s of no use to anyone.) I thought everybody just understood this little quirk and never said anything. Well, not this girl. At the end of every meal, she takes the soiled napkin and tries to clean her face with it. Problem is, she then goes to kiss me goodnight and I keep pretending to sneeze or cough because I kinda don’t want her food all over my face. She probably thinks I hate her. You do hate her and it seems to me like you hate all women. You, sir, are revealing the systemic problem of ideals. Regardless of the crumbled gastric mess smeared against her lips and cheeks, you should desire the girl for her eccentricities. If you want a woman who does not smush her meal across her lips then I promise you there are plenty out there, go find them and leave this utterly charming and unique lady to someone more deserving.

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Roman statues were made with detachable heads, so that one head could be removed and replaced by another.

When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, the empty space it left on the wall attracted more visitors than the painting had. 61


Self portrait by Vincent van Gogh in 1889

‘The Birth of Venus’ by William Adolphe Bouguereau in 1879

spot the difference

be seeing you

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spot the difference

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A TRIBUTE TO THE CLASSICS

in orgiastic appreciation of ...

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n intelligent violent murderess, a revenge hero capable of filicide, a woman, an immigrant and a mother: Medea, the main character in the eponymous Greek Tragedy by Euripides, is all these things and more. After her famous husband Jason (of the Argonauts) condemns Medea to exile by promising to marry a noblewoman, she delivers a torrent of revenge: She kills Jason’s would be princess bride, the bride’s father, the King, and then, to ensure Jason’s utter devastation she kills their own children. She is a complicated and dangerous character which contemporary interpretations seem to want to forget. Today, Medea is somewhat sidelined and is instead reduced to a divorcee struggling with the breakdown of her marriage. In the 2016 Almeida production, Medea is transported to a modern-day middle-class family. The production focuses on the feeling of abandonment and is effective in its depiction of the emotional resonance of a divorce. However, it’s the children who make the most impact. When the two brothers turn to each other and say, “if you have two houses you don’t have a home,” it’s a moment of sombre clarity for anyone in the audience who recognises their situation. In the Notting Hill Gate production in 2016 the narrative is even more focused on the children if not entirely so. A claustrophobic theatre means that the audience forms a close bond with the children. While, in contrast, the rele-

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gation of Medea to an occasional dishevelled appearance and a muffled arguing outside a door meant she felt always distant. While the modern-day productions are astounding in evoking the tragedy of the death of the children they disregard other elements of Medea and the play. Medea is not only a mother but also an immigrant. Her immigrant status in ancient Greece means that legally she can never marry Jason, so once he decides to move on, she is left completely alone. There are no laws in place to protect her and her illegitimate children. Medea is not a mindless, selfish and overly dramatic woman on a violent blood path but a woman who is highly intelligent and self-sufficient. She is not a dishevelled, muffled voice beyond a door. Euripides’ women are strong and complicated. His women matter. While his women are murderers, there is power in their voices. Medea should resonate with people everywhere. For me personally, she was my introduction to Classics and a whole world of art, literature and culture that while so long ago is still so relevant to modern day. While no one should follow her actions, they should take note of her confidence and her power. She is wronged and while she is left wounded, she still manages to come out on top; flying away on a golden chariot. Words by Emily Pond


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