Horror at work

Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland’s second feature film, is a behind-the-scenes tale of a middle-aged sheepish English sound engineer named Gilderoy (also the name of an awkwardly flamboyant character in the Harry Potter universe) invited to the Continent to work on an Italian giallo exploitation/slasher horror flick. The production delights in the gruesome torture of witches in every conceivable manner (red hot poker vagina insertion is one of many) for which our reluctant protagonist has the responsibility of producing the appropriate sound effects.

Strickland’s clever twist is that he never actually shows us any of these scenes, we only hear them. Watermelons are hacked open, cabbages are stabbed and sprouts are torn out of radishes. As our imagination is stimulated to conjure these horrific scenes we are reminded of the integral and often underappreciated role of sound in cinema but also in everyday life.

However, sound is only but one of many of Berberian Sound Studio’s accomplishments. The characters, story, dialogue and atmosphere, are all meticulously woven together with great care, sensitivity and sophistication. We sympathize with Gilderoy’s homesickness as he reads his dear mother’s letters, reporting on the chiffchaffs nesting near their home. We struggle with him to summon the courage to demand reimbursement for his flight ticket, a curious subplot that builds up tension towards the film’s erratic climax. And it’s difficult to forget Gilderoy’s studio partner, the uncompromisingly macho chiseled Francesco, or the mesmerizingly beautiful bitchy Greek secretary, Elena. Though awkward, his power play with these characters is surprisingly watchable and even peculiarly sexy (in a master/slave sort of way), capturing a psychological tension that’s as complex as it is subtle. The culture clash motif (a stereotypically ‘civilized’ quiet uptight English man pitted against the loud expressive ‘barbaric’ Southern Europeans) is here merely an excuse for rich character exploration.

“These things happen, this is history, and a film director must be true,” says Santini, the production’s suave director, in one scene where he justifies the violence in his film. Strickland does the same, only he does it by capturing the far more interesting subtle power dynamics and ‘horrific’ tensions of the working environment, and he does so with sonic precision.

Peter Eramian 
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In Between Naivety and Amazement

Apocalyptic or integrated? The conflicting attitudes that characterized the appearance of mass culture and, later on, of the Internet, are still popular in evaluating the reach of what design experts are keen to consider as the next industrial revolution: personal fabrication. In other words, the chance into producing our personal belongings ourselves thanks to a 3D printer, a laser cut and a 3D scanner.

According to the enthusiasts, these tools will soon transform us into contemporary demiurges – or simply “makers”, as Chris Anderson suggests – offering us the chance to fully control both design and manufacturing in a process that goes backwards from bits to atoms, that is to say from a 3D file to a three-dimensional object. The sceptics, on the contrary, are reluctant to diminish professional designers’ talent to imagine and create new objects according to their visions and knowledge.

In any case, the opportunities opened by personal fabrication are indeed real, but easy to be misunderstood at these early stages of technology development. Let’s think about the launch of the first 3D printed furniture: when Patrick Jouin presented his Solid collection in 2006, his futuristic interpretation of organic aesthetics impressed the design community, but very few professionals were stunned by the use of 3D-layering for objects on the scale of a chair. The same happened to Endless chair by Dutch designer Dirk Vander Kooij, which was first displayed in 2011 at the Eindhoven Design Academy showcase during the Salone del Mobile days. People got excited by the real-time processing of this seat, which was realized though a print head mounted on a robot arm. Nevertheless, they lost the perception of what its innovation represented: not only a DIY application of a numerical control machine, but a first step into the world of mass customization.

Thus, if we don’t get surprised by the widespread inability to give a proper weight to innovation – design history is full of naïve misunderstandings -, at the same time we should not be astonished that we ignore whether personal fabrication will allow us to fully customize the way our homes look like or, on the contrary, it will be an opportunity to print too many worthless gadgets. What we know for sure, however, is that the biggest revolution is not going to involve the way we imagine, draw or use our furniture, but the way we market them along the whole supply chain. We already got familiar to purchasing our furniture online, and we shall soon get used to buy a 3D file (or download it from an open-content platform) and then print it in a next door Fab Lab. Does it sound apocalyptic? It could, if not only showrooms risk to get obsolete, but also wholesalers risk to become unemployed.

Giulia Zappa 
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Candice Breitz | More Real Than Real

Candice Breitz (b. 1972, Johannesburg) is an artist, who dedicated most of her artistic research to examine and demonstrate the impact and influences of mass media on the contemporary society. Exploiting fragments of images and video taken from the global entertainment industry – she “steals” icons from the media culture, from Hollywood to Bollywood and Nollywood films, passing through television and pop music –, Breitz reveals the cognitive machinery and the psycho-sociological implications of the popular consumer culture. Taking familiar elements out of their context, distorting and re-combining them into isolated situations, the artist creates puzzling portraits that allow us to observe the representations of the identities of human beings and their instability, taking the right distance from them.

Through the use of simulacra and without expressing any direct stances, the works by Candice Breitz turn contemporary communication iconography comprehensible and accessible, giving the audience the basis of a critical point of view to reflect on how we perceive ourselves. 
Using photography and video the artist re-creates a hyper-real universe dominated by astute parallels with our “real” world; a universe where lyrics are reduced to nonsense syllables that represent the infantilization and involution of the mass entertainment as in the Babel Series (1999), or where movies are trapped into fragments of their performances that completely unsettle the narration of the original films, as in Soliloquy Trilogy (2001): Soliloquy (Clint), Soliloquy (Jack), Soliloquy (Sharon) – the three movies tackled by Breitz are Dirty Harry with Clint Eastwood, The Witches of Eastwick with Jack Nicholson and Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone –, which compares the star’s appeal with the force of storytelling.

Mother + Father(2005) is a video installation composed of two parts, one dedicated to the “mothers” featuring Faye Dunaway, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLaine, and the other one to the “fathers” with Tony Danza, Dustin Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, Steve Martin, Donald Sutherland, Jon Voight. Deleting the context of the movies and cutting different shots of them, the artist put on show the representation of parents according to feelings and rules imposed by the screen. Among the artistic, somehow sociological, experiments by Candice Breitz there is another trilogy, The Woods (2012) that included The Audition, The Rehearsal and The Interview shot in Los Angeles, Mumbai and Lagos. These works come from the idea of observing children struggling with the movie world, underling their differences and analogies with adults, and returning to the issue of the interview as a way to create a portrait as close as possible to the real nature of the interviewed person, or at least to the particular mask worn in that specific moment by him/her. 
Candice Breitz is one of the numerous artists (all women) exhibited in different locations in Arezzo for the project Icastica 2013. If you end up there during the summer, don’t forget to have a look around.

Monica Lombardi 
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Sunday Breakfast by Love For Breakfast

There are days where happiness lies not only in the small things. Go big!

Alessia Bossi from Love For Breakfast 
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Wild at Heart

You don’t need to venture to the Scottish Highlands to find something stunning. The Scottish Borders, a collection of fairy-harbouring groves, dry stone walls, stately homes, impossible sunsets and crumbled Neolithic stone huts, is a particularly magical pocket of the world.

It does feel like something that’s fallen from a fantasy novel. The only change this landscape has witnessed in the last few decades has been locals realising they can set sail on St Mary’s Loch (which proves that not all great bodies of water are restricted to Scotland’s north). To prove the fantasy point, if the weather gods and electrically charged solar particles are on your side you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. A mecca for bike enthusiasts, hills walkers and foodies alike, this region will have you writing poetry, reaching for the water colours and brushing up on your British history. Which is absolutely everywhere. Even the roads, which were shepherd tracks made car (well, cart) worthy by French prisoners, come with a story.

On the literature front the Yarrow Valley, filled with signs warning you to watch out for ‘slow young lambs’, was made famous by Wordsworth while Sir Walter Scott used to stomp these grounds and exchange notes on poetry on life with local farmer James Hogg.

Then there’s the more dramatic history, after all, the Scottish Borders were the original wild west of the United Kingdom. The region’s Ettrick Forest was the hiding place of William Wallace while the infamous Reivers treated the entire region as their personal playground – their towers are still dotted amongst the tree line. Known to cross into England and take what they wanted, Reivers roamed these hills for close to 500 years, and are responsible for the term bereavement – which gives you a sense of what they were up to. Hard to imagine an area currently filled with gravity defying sheep, shaggy cows and deer could be so turbulent!

Nowadays the region is deliciously civilized and filled with local treasures, such as Eddleston’s The Horseshoe Inn. Frequented by Scotts after a foodie break and a comfy bed, this opulently inviting (not-so-out-of-the-way) hideaway is dedicated to keeping things small, friendly and elegantly quaint. Start up a conversation with any of the staff and you’re sure to expand your mind, whether you’re keen to learn more about the intricacies of Scottish gin or national history. The real stand out here is the food, which sums up what this area is all about: boldness, beauty and local flair. Suppliers deliver right to the door and are as local as they come with ingredients hailing from the organic Peelham farm at Foulden, Dryhope Estate in the Yarrow Valley and the Ettrick Valley Smokehouse. Essentially, game hails from the surrounding hills, Salmon is from the Tweed and honey comes from just down the road. An evening here is enough to justify a journey north.

Blissful, beautiful and seemingly forgotten by time, this land of history and contradictions remains delightfully wild at heart.

Liz Schaffer – Images Sylvia Duckworth, Richard Webb, Alastair G, Brian Holsclaw, Stuart Meek 
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European Fashion Schools: Central Saint Martins

We’re back in London and back at the University of Arts, but this time we’re heading into the world of Central Saint Martins. CSM, the initials breathe talent and creativity, they breathe design, fame and innovation. The Blogazine has previously looked at its talents and the work executed by its students, but more than heavy names on its list of graduates, is Central Saint Martins the answer to the question asked by themselves too: What’s the point of art school?

The question is interesting, when coming from an art school itself. Central Saint Martins brought up the discussion in a moment when art and design education have been facing a hard time, and by that CSM communicates that the need to deliver a clear answer to what art, fashion or design education actually brings to the students, society and industry, is greater than ever. They highlight the point that fashion – or art – education is becoming more exclusive but less diverse. So how does a school like Central Saint Martins, famous for not being only exclusive and of high quality, but a school that graduates talent, after talent, after talent, create a diversity different from the competitors?

At Central Saint Martins everything is gathered under one roof: art, product and industrial design, drama and performance, fashion, textile and jewelry design, graphic communication and all the other courses on all levels that fit into the culture of CSM. According to the school itself, their approach to art and education is curious and may result in a challenging, but never dull, journey. Without saying that boundaries were made to be broken, in the world of Central Saint Martins they were at least made to be explored. The courses at the school, located in the midst of London’s bursting creative scene, have a strong connection to the actual practice of the industry. The approach of the teachers, which often seems to take colour on the students, is forward-looking and always on the edge, bringing the school to be one of the ones always standing in the forefront of the discussion.

Like for any school that seems to be able to produce great talent, it’s hard to pinpoint how, what, and why they succeed. Maybe it’s the approach, maybe it’s the experience, maybe, and most probably, it’s the combination of a certain structure and vision created by the school. An approach that dares to ask if art school is necessary, an approach that encourages people to be brave and to do what they love.

Lisa Olsson Hjerpe – Image courtesy of Central Saint Martins 
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Maxwell’s: 1978–2013

Following in the footsteps of the legendary New York City venues it rivaled — CBGB, Max’s Kansas City Maxwell’s will close for good on July 31st, capping an incredible 35-year run. The Hoboken, New Jersey landmark is leaving on its own terms, having had enough with Hoboken’s rising condos and over-saturated frat culture. “If you think of Willie Mays playing outfield for the New York Mets,” booker/co-owner Todd Abramson recently told the NY Times, “I didn’t want us to wind up like that.”

Founded in 1978 by Steve Fallon when Hoboken was a still run-down shipping town best remembered for being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, Maxwell’s created a tiny alternative scene that would flourish over the next few decades. On July 31st, the first two bands to play Maxwell’s — by The Bongos and ‘a’, the band featuring Bar/None founder Glenn Morrow — will grace the stage on last time. In between bands big (REM, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins), small (The Stations, The New Marines) and somewhere in between (Hüsker Dü, Pavement) have stopped by. Many acts continued to return even as their careers outgrew the venue’s 200-seat capacity. The Replacements nearly burned the place down when 400 people showed up to one of their shows in 1986. Yo La Tengo had a tradition of playing for eight consecutive nights every Hanukkah. The Feelies played regularly.

“Steve treated bands well,” Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan told Vulture. “That shouldn’t be a revolutionary practice, but it was.”

Others stopped by: comedians, actors, writers. A few years back I saw Eugene Mirman open for Handsome Furs; he spent most of the evening chatting with the front row and handing out handmade business cards with crude one-liners written on them. I felt like I was in my living room and the drinks were cheaper than a bodega tallboy on the other side of the river. At Maxwell’s anything went. There aren’t many places like that left in New York City. After this week there won’t be any left in Hoboken.

Lane Koivu 
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Hats – A Personality of Their Own

There’s something about a hat. It’s a mysterious item which has a personality of its’ own; happy to be worn or simply proud to hang on a hat stand. The type of hat you choose to wear sends out many signals, the wearer wanting to portray a certain image. But what is fun and quirky with a hat is that you can twist the predictable and create a paradoxical image, creating a unique stylish twist to an outfit.

History has shown us that hats were a way of expressing social status. Not only status, but also rank or religion could be recognized by a hat, and there is also the protective and practical element in it. Sunshine or rain, a hat can be a nifty best friend.

The big 90s trend which has taken a big comeback over the last few seasons has brought back the baseball cap, worn not only amongst the young sporty generation but established now as a staple item in any fashionista’s accessories wardrobe. The fedora hat is an easy piece to add as an extra touch to any outfit. The beanie is a fun detail, dressing down an outfit, giving a hint of street style to even the chicest of dressers.

The latest catwalk shows for SS14 resort have shown scarves being a key styling item which wrapped up in a number of ways create a relaxed and hip mood at Fendi and Roksanda Ilincic. A summer straw garden hat sets the scene at Acne Studios which gives this directional line a recognizable and familiar look. At Phillip Lim, his cut out top asymmetrical straw hats added an instant modern avant-garde approach to summer dressing.

Tamsin Cook 
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The Spirit of Utopia at Whitechapel Gallery

Is it legitimate to ask the art world to contribute to social, cultural, political and economic change? If so, how can it publicly contribute to such change? Throughout the last century artists have often asked themselves probably the exact same question, thus developing forms of artistic practice that actively challenged the preconceptions of our society. Even though the concept of public art might have often been misunderstood, in its most eloquent outputs it has definitely proven that the art world can actively contribute to social change. It is necessary to notice that, when art does engage with the problems of the society, it often does so using the tools of design, as can be seen in the latest exhibition currently on display at Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Titled “The Spirit of Utopia”, the show departs from Ernst Broch’s seminal book “The Principle of Hope”, elaborating ten proposals for possible future development of our society. As can be seen from the installations exhibited, the artists and collectives involved have channeled their artistic practice through design tools, which often proves to be remarkably adequate in addressing such socially relevant issues as the ones this show tries to investigate. Hence, the exhibition includes projects like “Soul Manufacturing Corporation” by Theaster Gates, which stages an on-site pottery making laboratory, training apprentices and investigating skills, teaching and crafts as contemporary re-enactments of Morris’ ideals embodied in labor.

Our relationship with the nature, on the other hand, is addressed by the Londoner collective Wayward Plants, who “fuses new possibilities in food production with scientific narratives, from futuristic seed gardens to sending plants to space”. The show investigates nearly all aspects of contemporary life, such as alternative economies – with Time/Bank platform and Superflex collective, psychological health with “Sanatorium” project by Pedro Reyes, or the role of cultural institutions through the work of Peter Liversidge.

Even though the show lacks concrete proposals for solving problems our society will surely run into in the near future, “The Spirit of Utopia” nevertheless offers a clever insights on the potential of art and creative practices in dealing with issues that go beyond the boundaries of the art world itself. “The Spirit of Utopia” runs until the 5th of September 2013 at Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Clothing For Art

There is a lot of talk about art and fashion, and rightly so, since these two fields seem to be connected at least from the beginning of the 20th century, when artists like Sonia Delaunay (Ukraine, 1885 – Paris, 1979) and Oskar Schlemmer (Stuttgard, 1888 – Baden-Baden, 1943) designed haute couture creations, up to this day when important fashion houses are more and more attracted by art, creating collaborations among the two different worlds popping up like mushrooms.

But this is not precisely what we want to talk about today. Our interest is more related to a less-considered aspect of modern and contemporary art and focuses on artists, who use clothes as means of expression. Analysing textures, colours, shapes, and, above all, psychological and political connotations of clothing, many artists have exploited its communicative aspects to look into the societies, referring to sexuality, gender, group identity, war and naturalism, thus facing public and intimate threats and experiences.

The Felt Suit by Joseph Beuys (Krefeld, 1921 – Düsseldorf, 1986) is part of a series of 100 exemplars tailored from one of his own suits (produced without buttons and with longer sleeves and pant legs similar to a uniform) and entirely made of felt, a fabric that the artist considered to be protective, “an element of warmth” for human beings. A belief coming from his experience during the Second World War – he was a pilot of the Luftwaffe –, when he was after an air crash rescued by nomads, who covered him with animal fat and wrapped him in felt following ancient medical practices.

Louise Bourgeois (Paris, 1911 – New York, 2010) is another artist, who plumbed the depths of memory to create unusual sculptures made of embroidered handkerchiefs and women’s dresses hung with butcher hooks or imprisoned in unsettling cells together with bones and protuberances similar to breasts and penises. “When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I’ve always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness”, she said, and in fact needlecraft determined a remarkable role in her work. The knitted sweaters and balaclavas with patterns representing playboy bunnies, swastikas and hammer-sickle compositions, midway between decoration and social criticism by Rosemarie Trockel (Schwerte, Germany, 1952); the Worker’s Favourite Clothes Worn While S/He Worked created by the Bosnian-French Bojan Sarcevic (Belgrade, 1974) thanks to the help of fifteen people (bakers, bricklayers, cooks, carpenters etc.), who accepted to wore the clothes of a fashion designer while working, leaving them dirty and ready to be exhibited to pay tribute to manual work; the uncomfortable dresses by Jana Sterbak (Prague, 1955) made of flesh and cables; or the funny shapeless jumpers by Erwin Wurm (Styria, Austria, 1954) are just some examples of works realised turning ordinary garments into artistic media to express diverse, sometimes primitive, feelings, concepts and poetics. 
Art as fashion has its trends.

Monica Lombardi 
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