On Semper Femina, Laura Marling explores the lives of the exceptional women in her orbit as protagonists of their own stories, separate from the Male Gaze.
It is tempting – perhaps even unavoidable – to decipher works of art based on title tracks. After all, why would the artist name their work after a single line or lyric? It must be meaningful – it’s the musical equivalent of when an actor will break the 4th wall, look straight into the camera, and say the name of a film. It drops like a hammer-blow, when we pick up on it.
On Semper Femina’s second-to-last and standout track “Nouel”, British folksinger Laura Marling sings, “Semper Femina, so am I,” paraphrasing a line from a Virgil poem, translating roughly to “always a woman”. For her sixth LP, Marling initially sought to explore the lives of exceptional women from the vantage point of a man, but had to abandon the quest. She simply couldn’t get out of herself, and didn’t think it would be wise to do so. Instead, Marling explores nine very different women’s journeys, over just as many different musical styles.
All of Marling’s musical meanderings are loving, thoughtful, appreciative to the point of being sensual and romantic. Interestingly, Marling identifies as straight, as she commented on during her Reversal Of The Muse podcast series. This allows Marling to view her subjects objectively, and seeing herself in the process.
Over this last weekend, pop star Lorde appeared on Saturday Night Live, guesting on a skit parodying a couple of well-intentioned male feminists who wrote a skit in solidarity for their strong women co-workers, in which the men proceed to roll out a bunch of random and unrelated feminist cliches. The only lines the women are allowed are, “Thank you for saying that.” They even sing over Lorde at the finale. It was a funny moment based on a sad fact – that even feminist spaces are being taken over by cis white men, even if they don’t mean to. For women, it’s nearly impossible to find a safe space where they can just be themselves without the world having opinions about every single molecule of their experience. This makes it hard to find real representation of what women really think about, care about, and do when they’re alone. (hint: it’s not just makeovers, cocktails, pillow fighting, or talking about men.) This distortion perpetuates stereotypes, making the same, tired old cliches, flat characters, and tired tropes repeated ad nauseam.
This is what women look and sound like when no one wants anything from them. You can hear the solidarity and support on tracks like album opener “Soothing”, or the slinky, selflessness of “Don’t Pass Me By,” where Marling sings of an old friend with whom she used to share an old guitar. She uses the old guitar and old songs as a metaphor for wishing someone well, singing, “take my old guitar/sell it off for parts/take my old tune/turn them into something new/something good.” How often are we able to be this selfless in romantic relationships? Feelings too frequently get hurt, people are left feeling insecure when their partner starts to wander and stray. Here, Marling wishes her cohort the best – the actual best, what is best for her.
Perhaps this is an example of The Sisterhood everyone’s always talking about, and one slight example of what can be gleaned from listening to women’s stories. We learn how to really love, not selfishly but selflessly.
What is most telling about Semper Femina is that the music isn’t pinkwashed. This is no Katy Perry-pop, no spangled and glittery r&b soaked hip-hop. It’s not plastic or glittery or any of the other lifestyle cliches of feminine pop music. This music is as raw and authentic as it comes, built around Marling’s delicate, deft fingerpicked acoustic guitar and warm, Mancunian brogue. It reminds us that women do more than go to the gym and to the salon – surprise! Frequently, they’re up to their knuckles in mud, sometimes in blood.
Girlhood is often a cherished and precious time of a woman’s life, as is commented on the gorgeous “Wild Once.” Is it truly that childhood is just a better time of life, or is it also partially to do with the fact that it’s the last time in a female’s life that she gets to be autonomous and her own person? As soon as adolescence sets in, society will set it’s meathooks in but in a fair and just world, women could be wild for as long as they like.
Hassan Kurbanbaev’s recent project focuses on Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan, in which he was born and where he lives to this day. Attempting to choose his favorite part of the city, Kurbanbaev maintains that he doesn’t know which place he likes the most. He loves the past and the present; the places that bring to him “the joyful freedom of childhood memories”.
Photographing the city from three parallel but different angles, Kurbanbaev has created three interlinked photo diaries: tashkent.DOC, tashkent.YOUTH and tashkent.DREAMS. Each diary serves an individual purpose, but focus on the city.
tashkent.DOC is the body of the city, tashkent.YOUTH is its face and tashkent.DREAMS are Kurbanbaev’s feelings towards it.
In tashkent.DOC Kurbanbaev set out to document the capital as it is today. Photographing random parts of the city, you can see the past interacting with the present. The stark brutal, Soviet architecture painted with bright, colourful graffiti. The older generation walking side by side with the children of today.
September 2016 was the 25th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence from the Soviet Union. The population under 25 are therefore the first generation of Uzbekistan citizens who have grown up in an independent country. They are developing their own style and in tashkent.YOUTH, Kurbanbaev focused on these individuals. Those who live in a capital city most people have never heard of.
tashkent.DREAMS is a collection of abstract images captured by Kurbanbaev throughout the city. Kurbanbaev considers “DREAMS as a journey to our mind, the mind which is hidden in our bodies and ‘masks’ we wear. Dreams have no form, defined boundaries… It is our imagination built on associations and memories.” The photographs in this segment are those you would expect the dreamworld to be: creative, zany and without a coherent theme. That’s the purpose of art though, really: experimentation and exploration.
February tends to be kind of a hard, dark month for much of the United States – it’s cold, days are short, and things can get lonely if you don’t have love in your life, around V-Day. To commemorate it is almost over, we’ve got some hard and dark sounds – like Amnesia Scanner’s As Truth mixtape; some cold and lonely sounds, with Ryan Adams’ excellent new breakup record Prisoner, and some enumerations on love, romance, and desire – both for and against – with The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally; Future; Bebe Rexha; and Anna Wise.
There’s some warmth to be had, as well, via the analog ambiance of Noveller and Bing & Ruth. So settle in and take a listen to some of February’s top albums! February 2017’s Most Essential Albums
10. Last Artful, Dodgr & Neill Von Tally – Bone Music
Referencing both Charles Dickens, a Los Angeles baseball team, and ducking drive-bys, the Last Artful, Dodgr is as West Coast as it comes – particularly her adopted home of Portland, Or. Equal parts literary and literally coming from the streets, the Last Artful, Dodgr has a unique, fresh perspective – as a queer woman of color – which shimmies and shines with a keen melodic sense and an individualistic delivery. Working together with producer Neill Von Tally, the L.A.-by-way-of-Portland native’s personal stories sparkle over Von Tally’s stripped-back production. Bone Music is an apt name, but the Last Artful, Dodgr’s rhymes make up the rest – the sinews, muscles, brains, and guts, to make this one of the strongest hip-hop releases of the year, so far. Here’s to hoping it puts Eyrst Records – Portland’s finest rap/r&b imprint – on the map.
9. Mind Over Mirrors – Undying Color
Life in the 21st Century has been pretty consistently stressful, starting with Y2K and running straight into the current regime. That’s not even to mention the speed of technology; keeping up with the joneses’ in dismantling economies; and keeping up with all the music, media, and culture blasting out like a firehose every second of every day. Perhaps that’s why New Age/Ambient music’s been making such a resurgence – it’s a pocket of peace, a much-needed grounding in groundless times. It also hints at some underlying optimism beneath the surface, like an echo of the idyllic ’60s and the sci-fi Utopian ’70s. Undying Color, the sixth LP from Washington’s Jaime Fennelly, acting as a master of ceremonies for some of underground music’s most incandescent luminaries. Members of Circuit Des Yeux, Califone, and Jon Mueller of Death Blues come together over Fennelly’s wheezing harmonium, to chant, incant, and pray. A modern day invocation – these bright lights might actually dispel the darkness, like the sun burning off a maritime mist, if the scintillating, ebbing, undulating majest of Undying Color is any indication!
8. Bebe Rexha – All Your Fault Pt. 1
Despite having been on the scene for years – ghostwriting and collaborating with some of Pop, Hip-Hop, and EDM’s biggest names (she wrote the Eminem/Rihanna collaboration ‘The Monster’, for instance), ‘All Your Fault Pt. 1‘ is Rexha’s first full effort under her own name. Rexha’s debut is equal parts poppy & raw, authentic yet candy-dipped in glittering artifice. All Your Fault Pt. 1′s production is stripped back enough to sound fresh and real, despite sounding like mainstream, bass-infused club hip-hop, with all the requisite trap hats and sucking sub-bass. You will likely have heard something that sounds like All Your Fault Pt. 1 before, but it’s put together in a new, interesting, and personal way. Taken together with Rexha’s killer style, it’s an appealing package, that gets better with each listen!
7. Anna Wise – The Feminine Act 2
The last few years have seen an upsurge in ‘the female gaze’ – women speaking from their point-of-view, speaking their minds, and sharing their experience. Despite the rise of a misogynist, authoritarian regime – as a kind of clapback to the progressive air of Obama’s presidency – the cat will not go back in mind. The ladies are here to stay, in all their power, glory, bitterness, cynicism, style, and humor. Anna Wise is best known for her role as primetime Kendrick Lamar collaborator, providing silken vocals on To Pimp A Butterfly, Good Kidd M.A.A.D. and Untitled Unmastered, but she also used to hold court in the downbeat duo Sonnymoon. Both ply a kind of smooth, soulful modern jazz – sort of a Trip-Hop 2.0, 20 years on – but the party vibes are both slightly blunted, and totally mixed up, as Wise dips through disco, hip-hop, future funk and a kind of bleary-eyed ambiance, while Anna Wise tells us what it is to be a woman in the 21st Century, in her own words, seen through her own eyes. Total #girlboss music, that anyone can dig.
6. Bing And Ruth – No Home For The Mind
“You can’t go home again,” as the cliche goes. For many of us, you can’t go home, period – either we’re too far away, that home no longer exists, or it in no way resembles the place where we grew up. For most ‘millennials’ (read: anyone still up-and-coming, or without an established place in the world, i.e. ‘most of us’), ‘home’ is just a distant dream, a far-off memory, and a feeling. It’s unclear if Bing & Ruth’s David Moore was thinking of his distant home of Kansas when he was writing No Home For The Mind album opener “Starwood Choker”, as Moore’s scintillating neoclassical piano ebbs, flows, ducks and waves like fields of wheat. Rather than sounding strictly nostalgic, No Home For The Mind is more like carrying a picture of your childhood home in your wallet – it goes with you, wherever you go. Moore’s adopted home of NYC definitely plays a role in ‘No Home’, with burning, melting ambiance – like a tape left to melt like a Bomp Pop on a summer dashboard – flickering and searing the peripheries. Maybe we can’t go home again, but we can take it with us, to give comfort when the going gets tough.
5. Amnesia Scanner – As Truth mixtape
Electronic music with punkish tendencies has been making a resurgence, these last few years. For those no longer willing to let electronica soundtrack unobtainable lifestyles of the rich, famous, and beautiful, provocateurs have been picking up synths and drum machines the way punks wielded Fenders and pyramid studs 30 years ago, to vent their outrage and frustration. Punk Electronica, however, is a bit more positive than Punk Rock’s ‘No Future/Blank Generation’ creed, with electronic music’s inherent futurism and alien gaze. Amnesia Scanner have been plying some of the most spastic, most gurgling, meatiest and embodied techno/trap/whatever. On As Truth, the duo’s newest mixtape. Check the cover art – depicting a Middle Age lobotomy – for one hint this isn’t your brother’s rave tape. Ghostly, disassociative vocals chirrup and whirr over what sounds like landspeeders from Return Of The Jedi, while cannon-like beats pulverize and pummel. This is not the sound of surrendering to the machine, of quieting down and learning to love the lifestyle. This is pure protest, violent insurrection, and ‘a complete and continual derangement of the senses’, to paraphrase Rimbaud. When the intellect and the body move together, those that would oppress us best watch out. We’re not so easily blinded or fooled.
4. Hand Habits – Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void)
Pay no attention to the Vaporwave-like collaged cover for Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void); this is no soundtrack for the virtual plaza. In fact, the debut solo album from Upstate New York’s Meg Duffy, is as warm, organic, and natural as a jar of sun tea, left to steep in a daisy-painted jar in July. As a member of both Mega Bog and the Kevin Morby Band, Hand Habits plays a delicate, elegant folk music – equal parts Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – but dipped in just enough reverb and ambiance to sound au curant. It lets Duffy’s music speak for itself – the best possible circumstance to hear Hand Habits. Duffy’s voice, guitar playing, and heartfelt lyrics will draw a tear from your ducts while also having you sway like a hammock in the Bahamas. A little bit of grace and gentility could do all of us good, in these nerve-fraying times.
3. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Ryan Adams has never been particularly UPBEAT, but he’s never exactly been a wet blanket, either. On Prisoner, Adams’ first album of originals under his own name in three years, the singer/songwriter tackles the bleakest, heaviest of subject matters – breakups. Even talking about the death of love, Adams still never succumbs to maudlin melancholy or self-pity (no more so than usual, anyway). Instead, Adams casts no blames, investigating the ups-and-downs of his separation with actress Mandy Moore with his usual blend of off-the-cuff personality and total sonic perfectionism. It’s refreshing to hear Adams in fine form again, taking us back to a time in the early 2000s when he would serve up several albums of essential alt-country/Indie folk a year, before the diminishing returns set in. It’s one of Adams best efforts in years and years (although I, for one, did like his cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, even if I am the only one.)
2. Noveller – A Pink Sunset For No One
Bedroom Pop has grown from being a small subset of Indie Rock, plied via social media, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud pages for the artists’ friends and family, to being a force to formally be reckoned with (both The XX and Grizzly Bear started as bedroom pop projects, remember?) It stands to reason that intimate bedroom recordings would grow in size and stature, to not only fill stadiums but entire galaxies. Such is the contradictory case with the newest from the prolific ambient guitarist Noveller. Sarah Lipstate’s very much her own guitarist – differing from the Kodachrome reverie of Fennesz or the Manuel Gottsching worship of Mark McGuire – to carve out vast cosmic soundscapes more usually evoked with archaic synthesizers. Lipstate returns to Earth somewhat, on A Pink Sunset For No One, crash landing from 2015’s fabulous Fantastic Planet, with gentle, undulating waves of blissed out instrumental guitar crescendoing and ebbing like particle physics or the fluid dynamics of the ocean. This is Noveller’s biggest record to date, there’s no doubt about that – hopefully capitalizing on the momentum of her recent tour opening for Iggy Pop.
1. Future – Future
Future is not nothing if not prolific – to the point of being excessive, maybe. Future’s released an average of two to three releases a year since the Atlanta rapper first started kicking beats and spitting bars. Some feel that Future already peaked, with his debut mixtape triptych – Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights – leading up to his commercial breakouts Dirty Sprite 2 and What A Time To Be Alive, his collaboration with Drake. Some Future fans wish he would exercise some restraint, as with the case of last year’s EVOL, which many felt was rushed, even if it did reap some acolades. Restraint isn’t really what Future’s all about, who’s more about free expression and pushing himself, both of which are evident with Future’s first self-titled effort. It might be excessive, with 17 tracks of somewhat samey sounding beats, skits, slurs, and exclamations, but it’s pure Future. The beats are smooth and tight, the flows are mellow yet confident, and nearly always wild, weird, and out of left-field. There’s just as much sex, money, and drugs as you can expect to hear from any latterday rap record, but it’s true to Future’s experience. This is what it sounds like, when the underground gets a polished pop veneer. In true Future fashion, Future is the first in two LPs dropping within a week of one another, so we’ll have to see if this is an appetizer or the main event.
What are some of February’s most essential albums, that you think everybody needs to hear?
“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” —William Shakespeare
As human beings we are constantly changing and developing, adapting to the new situations the world presents us with. These modifications can even occur within ourselves: whenever we may think we know everything about our lives, our goals, and our preferences, we can suddenly get hit with the realization that perhaps what we used to enjoy yesterday doesn’t quite appeal to us today.
What happens now? What do we really want? Not so long ago, Gosha Bondarev, a Russian lettering artist with a physics background, asked himself those questions. Today we are going to talk to him about his artistic endeavors and a scientific past that comes back to him from time to time.
So, my first question will be about your transition from the world of science to the world of art. What was it like and how did you come to that decision?
Towards the end of my 4th year of studying physics at the university, I started having doubts about the choice of my major. I have been studying physics since an early age, so I did not have anything else my mind as a career option. So I decided to try my hand at different fields, immersing myself into each of them for a couple of months. At some point I came across lettering and understood that it was something I might dig. Indeed, I found it very engaging and started to practice calligraphy in the evenings and during the weekends, outside of my main occupation.
Do you miss being in science?
Yes; I try reading physics-related books and articles, because I am still interested in the field. Sometimes I feel that there is nothing articulate and honest in painting; in moments like that I want to drop everything and go back to the world of science.
Has your experience in exact sciences helped you in any way in the artistic sphere?
During my studies I acquired a certain way of thinking and the ability to learn and absorb a great deal of information; these qualities help me a lot. As the pleasant bonus for my current occupation, I can have a unique outlook thanks to my geophysics background; sometimes I view some things differently from those people who have been in the arts their whole life simply because I have a different perspective, an outside approach.
Do you believe in a multidisciplinary approach in art?
Definitely. I think it particularly helps to think outside the box and to do something unconventional and cool. Sometimes absolutely unexpected experience or knowledge can be brilliantly embodied in art; and representation of an issue in more than one dimension can bring more profound and deep understanding.
Why did you choose lettering? What is so special about it?
I actually like letters and the fact that you can make a composition out of them; it will be perceived as the complete piece, but at the same time it consists of independent readable elements. In my opinion, with lettering you can better express some thoughts and feelings because they are literally put into the work. It makes lettering more clear to average viewers, so it is easier to reach and inspire wider audience.
Do you think of lettering as an art, or more like a designing tool?
I am kind of in between those approaches; both of them are really relevant. I believe you can create something exceptional only at the junction of both.
What are your plans for the future and the development of your art?
I have started to paint on the walls recently. There are special types of brushes for letters so I will have to practice a lot painting basic elements and adjusting to the new instruments and surfaces. You have to practice a lot and derive inspiration from the artists you like in order to become skilled.
What are some particular difficulties in being a digital artist and promoting your works online?
One of the difficulties is an intense competition; you have to constantly invent some unusual and interesting ways to stand out. Also there is a high possibility to lose your enthusiasm comparing your works to some other cool pieces. At times like these the best decision is to turn from the overwhelming inspiration to the hardworking practice.
What would be your dream-project or collaboration?
I have a dream of creating the cover art for the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. I even have a specific idea for it, but at the same time I understand that when it turns to be a real possibility I might have a completely different concept in mind. Once I had a dream of collaborating with artist Lora Zombie and it actually came true – I did it. I am inspired by some of the contemporary artists, and also by nature, because, somehow, it combines some unbelievable shapes and colors in the most harmonious way.
What advice would you give to the young digital artists?
I think it is very important to accept the fact of possible failures and mistakes, because you will make them, that’s for sure. But the important part is leaving all your fears behind and concentrating on the progress: with every completed piece you become a bit better. So my main recipe and advice is a huge amount of practice.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” —Henry David Thoreau
It’s a complicated world we’re living in. One not only of unexpected election results but also a world today where no concept of time can catch up with the fleeting tails of the present moment. The incessant rate at which life seems to be passing by is thanks to our ever growing demands in technology and this speed that only seems to accelerate at an unstoppable force can become overwhelming. But beyond the flipbook momentum is also the humdrum lifestyle that is all laid out for us. The monotonous 9 to 5 office jobs that make us question whether we are living to work or working to live. That conflation of sameness met with the inability to chase the minute results in confusion as to why we allow our life to slip away rather than spending each waking moment living it. Suddenly, there is an urge to seize the moment, to breathe in and out at a peaceful pace your heart can handle and grant your body and mind free space to unbind itself from the constant demands. Off grid living has become a viable solution that only seems to become more relatable to the needs of many millennials as time goes on… The desire to get out.
Image courtesy of http://terralta.org
Today over 1.7 billion people in the world live off grid and the numbers continue to rise. Producing your own food, energy, and hot water, you are living in an alternate universe that may not be that far away geographically but miles away in philosophy. Whether it’s a tiny home, caravan or an eco-village, this form of living prides itself on the foundation of self-sufficiency. It can be an acquired taste but there’s an appeal to not having to rely on the urban sprawl and existing in a home surrounded by nature. Not to mention, lessening environmental impact and reducing carbon footprint. However, many do it to simplify their lives and minimize by living within their means. You’d be surprised of how much the consumerist grid tells you that you need, which you really don’t.
One of Pure Portugal listings, a 1,200 square meters plot of land situated on a mountain with amazing views and building permission for $6500
Last January, I was traveling in Portugal as I came across an opportunity to live in a permaculture project out in the Geres mountains, something I had never experienced before. I spent one week with about eight other individuals differing in age. Two couples had a planned year ahead of hopping between eco projects around the country and beyond. This idea of home was not uncommon in Portugal and I was told how many Europeans (mostly Germans) chose the country to set up camp because of its natural beauty and year round warmth, but also it’s affordability. Websites like Pure Portugal make it easy for interested buyers and Workaway for volunteers wanting to get involved. Sitio Da Floroi was the name of the plot of land I ventured to, where a large farmhouse was occupied about 30 minutes to the closest town. While the house had running water and fireplace to for heat, there was no electricity. Some reconstruction was needed both inside and out, so we worked daily in exchange for the stay. We enjoyed the fruits of our labor during meal times where we’d eat homemade bread and whatever simmered on the stove, and tranquil times when we would paint and read dusty books over candlelight until the reminder of slumber overcame us. That sense of community was omnipresent and I didn’t know if it was the absence of phones, our cultural differences or the fresh forest air that strengthened the bond. We’d wake up with the sun and look out to a picturesque view of mountains and the nearby waterfalls. The leisurely rhythm of time here grew on me and as someone who always felt there were not enough hours in a day, I suddenly realized I had all the time in the world. There was something about the rushing stream’s cool water that was so refreshing and the earth’s soil we dug into so grounding. It was as if the nature that grew around us nurtured and fostered an inner growth that is achieved through autonomy and communal living. It only took a few days to fall into familiar step and it was clear that it was an intrinsic craving for this kind of living, even if only for a little while. I spoke with my friend Pedro Marques, he is the volunteer organizer of Sitio Da Floroi and also the founder of a collective called Lights One.
What is Lights one (gathering project)?
Lights One Gathering is a project that wants to create a large network of sustainable projects for people around Portugal.
You mention social permaculture in your project, what is that? How does it differ from the physical form of permaculture?
Social Permaculture is a new concept where people with specific skills help other people with minor skills through experience and application. These communities help other communities by exchanging knowledge and helping the planet to grow green again.
What do you think draws and attracts people into the life of living off the grid? What draws you in?
The love that exists here attracts people. The compassion, creativity and a passion of learning together is what attracts me to work on this project.
What are the lessons and values to gain from this experience?
Well, life is one big experience. We learn confidence, we learn to let go of our ego and connect again with that higher force of mother Earth. You can learn a lot about how to care for the land and ourselves; To be in perfect balance with the planet and accepting who we are.
Are there true sacrifices to be made by living this way or do we underestimate ourselves in our ability to live independently and sustainably?
I don’t think there are really any sacrifices because you are choosing to live this way and once you choose to live free within, nothing can stop you. That feeling trumps any negatives when you are true to yourself.
It seems as if more and more of these eco villages and permaculture projects are popping up left and right. What is the nature of this?
I see a new social system arising like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. I see people accepting themselves, the true nature of themselves, and becoming more aware and eager to deeply connect with the nature around us.
These projects are also a growing scene in your country. Why particularly in Portugal are we seeing this movement continue to rise?
Yes, I see more and more projects popping up, you can feel it here in Portugal that people are awakening and discovering their real “quest” in life. With these everyday crises that we suffer, people will start to help each other more, be in more contact and share more. These are the positive outcomes of a crisis. Portugal has great potential, they are the people of atlantis, with lots of creativity, spiritual awakening, humility and I think they can become a great example for the world.
The recurring philosophy in many of these communities is the ideal of going “Back to the roots”. Have we humans lost touch with the earth? Can we truly go back as it once was?
Yes humans have lost touch with the planet and their care of it. It is the ego that kills that. We can never truly go back but we can definitely part with this ego and reunite with the earth again!! She needs us.
What do you see in the future of eco communities? I see the earth as big living organism, in which we are the cells. I hope we will start to understand how we are all connected and everything influences one another. In the future, I hope we can construct these links and reconstruct our history.
What are your own future projects?
My future projects are all connected with the same title: Lights One. This includes areas of: intuitive music and cymatic sounds, healing crystal jewelry, intuitive dance, and gathering in the fields of creativity, compassion and community. Love and Light for all beings!
Australian-designer Emma Mulholland made her debut a few seasons ago as one of four students chosen by TAFE to show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. The designer met an immediate media success and artists such as Grimes, Azealia Banks, M.I.A, and Kanye West have been spotted with her designs since then.
Inspired by superstition, haunted houses and 90s slasher movies (think Scream, I know What You Did Last Summer) Mulholland’s latest collection A/W 2017 will have you possessed. For this season, the designer have opted for a dark color palette not exempt in any way of a fun touch. It is a cocky and hot girl who goes out with confident wearing Mulholland’s clothes. Key pieces include a ‘Black Cat’ faux fur jacket done in collaboration with Melbourne designer Gun Shy, a Ghost Leopard silk dress and a range of unique denim pieces with 90s-horror-film-inspired embroidered patches which are set to become an instant classic.
“Something they said beside me made me look toward the café door, and I saw that lovely body which seemed as though Eros in his mastery had fashioned it, joyfully shaping its well-formed limbs, molding its tall build, shaping its face tenderly, and leaving, with a touch of the fingers, a particular nuance on the brow, the eyes, the lips.”
—Constantine P. Cavafy
Photography by Bryan Tang (@bttango – www.bryantang.net), stylist Karla Herrera (@k_la_h – karla-herrera.com), grooming Isabel Northey (@isabel.northey), models Lucas Pierre (@princecashmere), Louis Hanson (@louishanson) from folk Collective (folkcollective.net)
Loui wears Acne Studio sunglasses
Loui wears Jordan Conder top + Acne Studios pants, Lucas wears Acne Studios t-shirt + Jordan Conder top and pants
Lucas wears Jordan Conder top + Acne Studios pants, Loui wears Karla Herrera dress, vintage belt
Loui wears Common Muse necklace + Jordan Conder + stylist own fishnets. Lucas wears Jordan Conder + Acne Studios scarf
Loui wears Jordan Conder, Acne studios + stylist own fishnets
Loui wears Jordan Conder t-shirt, Lucas wears Acne Studios top, Jordan Conder dress and stylist own choker
New York City-based photographer Cheney Orr chases the less depicted places and faces of society all over the world. His images range from raw yet deeper-level relatable (partying New York kids) to the force that pulls the wool back from one’s eyes (the streets of Kabul). Orr is not only willing to go where many don’t go; he feels a drive to seek it out and capture it. That drive has brought him to places like Ukraine, Nepal, Rwanda, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. Most recently, it brought him to Cuba. Orr’s knack for simultaneously observing and communing his subjects provides an intriguing perspective on the youth culture in a country that has just become open for tourism business for Americans. The scenes in Orr’s photographs are poignant and thought-provoking, but also new and novel for many. Here, he shares why he’s pulled toward the subjects he’s pulled to, what he found in Cuba, and the stories behind his photos. —Interview by Courtney Iseman
In a communal room in his building, 10-year-old Senis hangs to dry his favorite outfit, a Brazilian soccer jersey and shorts. Senis and his family live in a rundown building in Central Havana which was once “Hotel Emperio” but closed roughly 30 years ago. Much of Cuba’s aging architecture is now crumbling due to a myriad of problems, including humidity, termites, overcrowding and simple lack of maintenance.
How did you get started with photography, and what initially attracted to you to some of the world’s grittier landscapes? My love of photography began the summer following ninth grade at a free photography program at Stuyvesant High School. One day after the program, a classmate and I decided to scale the scaffolding of a construction site to climb onto the then-abandoned High Line to take pictures. It was at this point that I realized photography could be a tool (or even an excuse) to explore places that might be considered off limits. This program was also the first time I set foot in a darkroom, and experienced a process with which I quickly became obsessed.
Are you still motivated to seek out those off-limits places by some of the same factors? How has your view of grit and grime throughout the world changed or stayed the same? Definitely, I am still motivated by the same factors that brought me up to the High Line that summer afternoon: the pull of curiosity and adventure and the excitement of experiencing something that is to me unknown. The driving forces that bring me to the places I visit largely remain the same, except now I have become more interested in moving beyond the merely aesthetic to connect pictures to a larger context or story.
What drew you to Cuba? I had wanted to visit Cuba for years, largely because, as an American, I wasn’t “allowed” to travel there. The forbidden nature is what made it so appealing. These photos were taken this January, just before the embargo was eased and the travel ban lifted.
What were your initial impressions? What were the impressions you left with, and how were they different or the same? My initial impressions from the people I met were of hospitality, openness and warmth. Not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable in Cuba, which is something I have never experienced in any place I have traveled to for the first time. Each passing day only revealed more depth of genuinity of people I met. Not to be so naïve as to say Cuba is a sinister-free utopia, but my short experience there was almost as such.
A young man drives a bicycle taxi down a side street in Central Havana. Because taxi drivers can work as many hours as they choose and charge tourists exponentially more than locals, they can often earn more than doctors in Cuba. Due to extremely low wages, many young people find it difficult or impossible to pursue the professions they are passionate about while still being able to support themselves and their families.
Were you surprised by anything you found there? It surprised me how easily I was granted access to personal spaces and welcomed in to witness parts of Cuba’s underground culture. I was able to enter people’s’ apartment buildings, rooftops and homes. One day I was taken behind a military base where, buried in the brush, a cockfight with illegal gambling was being held. One night I went to an underground rap show and the next, I was brought to a nightclub that unexpectedly doubled as a brothel.
How would you describe the youth in Cuba? The youth in Cuba are the same as youth anywhere around the world. The difference is growing up in the United States, most young people have the sensation of so much possibility. In Cuba, this feeling is often limited.
Marcos, 12, falls on the ground while playing soccer in a plaza near Central Station in Old Havana. Soccer rose in popularity here with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent economic downturn in Cuba. While baseball remains the traditional national sport of Cuba, it requires the purchase of individual baseball gloves, as well as bats and balls. To play soccer, all that is needed is one ball, hence soccer has taken a hold among many poorer Cuban kids.
What is life like for young people in Cuba, as far as you observed during your time there? So, some background information. Cuba has a population of about 11 million and roughly 4 million of those are under the age of 30, making it one of the youngest countries in the hemisphere. Over the past few years, more venues have opened up for arts, music, and food. However, resources such as Internet are still very limited and it seems young Cubans remain largely isolated from their counterparts in other countries.
Just as far as your own personal observation, were there any tangible negative consequences you saw as a result of that–isolation and lack of internet, etc.? Or any signs of that in attitudes there? Goods and access to Internet are undeniably extremely limited and many goods I saw were way over-priced, not only for Cubans but even by American standards. A simple lamp, for instance, might cost $100 in a country where the average monthly salary is $25. So, of course some people expressed frustration with the government. For example, I went to a club to hear a rapper who goes by the name Barbaro el Urbano whose set included many lyrics expressing anger against the Cuban government. The nonprofit that I traveled with gave away clothing and skateboards, and individual visitors also brought presents because gift-giving is expected from tourists.
Ricardo, 17 (far right), trains his pet falcon to hunt for sparrows at an old sports field bordered by crumbling, graffiti covered bleachers along the Malecón in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
A young man who declined to reveal his name and claimed to go only by “Gangster” displays his back tattoo in the stairwell of an underground rap show in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. Rapper “Barbaro el Urbano” (the Urban Barbarian) had just finished his hour-long set which included many lyrics expressing anger against the Cuban government. Rap music is growing in popularity among Cuban youth, combining the beats of mainstream Reggaeton with anti-establishment lyrics of American hip hop’s origin.
Did any other instances demonstrating the potential optimism there stick out to you? Among the new arts, music and food venues, did any scenes seem especially vibrant, or did people there seem excited about the future in any particular or memorable ways? It often felt optimistic at the WiFi hotspots, which number around 50 throughout the country-even though the connection is pre-historic, you have to pay $2 for an hour for Internet and the access is censored and monitored. Despite all this, young people come together in one place and share the experience of connecting to the outside world. In general, young people find ways to entertain themselves and have fun.
How do you think the youth there might compare to some of the other places you’ve traveled, like Ukraine, or Afghanistan, or Ethiopia? In all these countries, economic paths for the young population are extremely narrow. However, for the first time in 50 years, the United States and Cuba have restored ties. This and the combination of the Caribbean/Island culture seem to result in a greater optimism amongst the youth than in Ukraine, Afghanistan, or Ethiopia. Whether or not that optimism is well placed has yet to be established.
Are there common themes you find among young people as you travel, whether they’re in New York or Kabul or Havana? Traveling outside of the United States to almost any non-western country, I’ve found that many young people are fascinated by the U.S. from what they know of our “culture” through TV, movies and music. I have met many who dream of immigrating to the States. For sure, in some dire situations of extreme poverty or violence, life in the United States would be a major improvement. But it is often not understood that life is not quite like they see from our media. It is my feeling that in some of these countries, if young people who dream of making it to the United States actually came here, life would be a lot more difficult than they imagine, even more so than in their homes. Of course, this is very circumstantial and since I was lucky enough to grow up here, I know this is an entirely privileged viewpoint. However, the hardships of the immigrant experience in this country are well-documented, and walking around in New York City you can see it every day.
Is there anything in particular about photographing people in Cuba that you think will especially stick with you forever? I will never forget how graciously people allowed me to slip into their lives and homes, and how openly they shared a bit of their existence at a point of change in both their country’s direction and their personal lives.
Lipstick kisses mark a wall in the bathroom of a prostitute nightclub in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Prostitution is rampant among young women in Cuba, where the average monthly salary is $20. When working as a prostitute, women can collect $40 to $70 per night if they pick up a tourist.
A young man sucks out blood pooled in the neck of his rooster during a cockfight on the outskirts of Havana. Owners of the fighting birds do this in part to make the bird feel refreshed, in part for good luck and also to demonstrate how much they care for birds they have raised. In Cuba, cockfighting lands in a legal grey area where gambling is strictly illegal but the violent spectacle itself is considered a historic part of the Cuban identity.
18-year-old Javier practices parkour along Calle G in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. With the slowly increasing access to internet, Cuban kids are now picking up on alternative sports already popular around the world.
A group of kids in basic secondary school, ages 12-15, flirt, smoke cigarettes and horseplay down the block from their school building. After completion of basic secondary school, continuation to higher education is optional. The education system in Cuba is completely subsidized by the government, making it 100% free for students at all levels. According to a 2014 report by The World Bank, Cuba has the best education system in Latin America and the Caribbean.
As the sun rises on a Saturday morning, a young man is found passed out on the seawall along the Malecón in Havana. The Malecón is a roadway and esplanade that runs five miles along the coast in Havana. Especially on weekend nights, the strip is swarmed with young people hanging out, playing music, drinking and socializing.
Taiwan looks set to become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers of the country’s ruling political party, the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) have introduced a new bill that would make marriage equality legal by removing gender from the constitution’s definition of marriage.
Yu Mei-nu, a lawmaker from the Democratic Progressive Party who is sponsoring the bill, says that “it’s a big step forward for the history of human rights. If Taiwan can get this passed… it will give other Asian countries a model.”
Efforts to make marriage equality legal in Taiwan have been ongoing since 2003 when proposed legislation that would allow same-sex marriages (and adoption by same-sex couples) faced opposition from the DPP and the ruling coalition led by conservative political party Kuomintang.
Since then, support for marriage equality has steadily grown, with a 2012 poll by Taiwanese publication United Daily News suggesting that 55% of people were in favour, and 37% against. The Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy group says that 80% of 20-29 year olds support marriage equality.
Several events in October pushed the issue as 80,000 people marched in a Pride parade in the capital city of Taipei (it’s the largest LGBT Pride parade in all of Asia), calling for marriage equality. Taiwan’s female president, DPP leader Tsai Ing-Wen voiced her support for same-sex marriage too.
The tragic suicide of Jacques Picoux also thrust the issue into the spotlight. The gay French teacher took his own life after his Taiwanese partner passed away from cancer; the teacher was unable to make decisions about his partner’s end of life care nor did he have a legal claim to their shared property as they were not legally married.
Taiwan’s religious beliefs lend themselves to progressive policies too. The majority of religious people in the country follow religions such as Buddhism and Taoism (an estimated 93% of the country’s religious people) which have no strict guidelines on same-sex partnerships.
Granted, the movement for marriage equality has been met with some opposition, with an anti-same-sex marriage protest recently taking place. The South China Morning Post notes that a Christian alliance came from southern Taiwan to Taipei to protest, with one pastor, Wang Tzu-hao, saying that “only a heterosexual marriage can create the possibility of bearing children and only then can we sustain the nation’s next generation.”
David Tseng, a spokesperson for The Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance said that “we are different from the West. In Eastern culture, we place great importance on filial piety to one’s father and mother. This is a virtue we must keep,” also asking for a referendum on the matter.
Despite this small amount of opposition, factors in the argument seem to be overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality passing. Pride Watch activist Cindy Su told The Guardian that “there are about 66 legislators who will probably vote yes on marriage equality” or a majority of 58.4%.
If the bill is successful, same-sex marriage could become legal in Taiwan early next year.
New York based photographer and director Sam Cannon is part of a new generation of artists that feed from modern visual culture and use its tools as a medium. In a contemporary digital era that has proven to fancy short attention spans and extremely capacious images, the artist aims to mesmerize the viewer. “I want them to stop scrolling through their feed and sit with the image.”
Most of Cannon’s work is based on the ideas of time and observation; in her looped videos and animated GIFs she immerses us in a timeless, never-ending dimension. Cannon produces multimedia pieces, cinemagraphs, digitally manipulated photos combining different themes and fields. Her work contemplates a wide range of topics, including femininity, mass media, anxiety struggles, social issues… all mixed into an infinite loop of grotesque shapes.
Cannon uses the tools of our present time to bring us into this timeless, reflexive scenario. A kaleidoscope of hands and legs, eye-shaped breasts and eye-filled faces, spider-like creatures and anthropomorphic aliens. These surreal, a bit dark environment smoothly flows into Cannon’s personal and commercial works. No matter what the subjects is, whether it is a bottle of mineral water, a chic dress or a fashion show shot – there is always a pinch of something hypnotic on the image.
French master photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson and his Decisive Moment principle is one of Cannon’s major source of inspiration. “Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson said in an interview for the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative…”