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Image courtesy of http://terralta.org

Permaculture: Off Grid Living in Portugal

“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

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

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.

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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!

words by Maya Amoah

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EMMA MULHOLLAND Fall/Winter 2017 Collection

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.

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“At the Café Door” a photo editorial by Bryan Tang

“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)

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Loui wears Acne Studio sunglasses

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Loui wears Jordan Conder top + Acne Studios pants, Lucas wears Acne Studios t-shirt + Jordan Conder top and pants

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Lucas wears Jordan Conder top + Acne Studios pants, Loui wears Karla Herrera dress, vintage belt

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Loui wears Common Muse necklace + Jordan Conder + stylist own fishnets. Lucas wears Jordan Conder + Acne Studios scarf

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Loui wears Jordan Conder, Acne studios + stylist own fishnets

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Loui wears Jordan Conder t-shirt, Lucas wears Acne Studios top, Jordan Conder dress and stylist own choker

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“Young in Cuba”, photographer Cheney Orr Captures an Optimistic Youth Culture in Havana

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Taiwan Set To Become First Asian Country to Legalize Same-sex Marriage

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.

-words by Jasmine Henry

 

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Your Eye Must See, Sam Cannon’s Infinite Loop

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.

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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…”

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—Words by Liza Gasyuk. Visit Sam Cannon’s portfolio site to see more of her work  http://www.sam-cannon.com/ and also at http://samcannon.tumblr.com/

 

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Like Looking Through a Glory Hole—Inside “The Matter of Absence”, Florian Hetz’s First Photo Book

The Matter of Absence, Berlin photographer Florian Hetz’s debut book, released in early October, is a thorough exploration of the male form and gay sexuality. But you won’t find any people within its pages. The subjects are fragmented, dissected through careful framing and extreme close-ups. In this way, Hetz preserves his models’ anonymity. The closest we get to a face is the back of a head; a cheek, turned away; a mouth, half open, lips dripping with saliva and cum.

Although he didn’t start shooting until a while later, Hetz’s journey as a photographer arguably began at fourteen, when, according to his publisher’s website, he stole his first Robert Mapplethorpe book. As an adult, he got his start taking photos by accident. In an interview with Out Magazine, he spoke about how he borrowed a camera from a friend in the drag scene and began taking pictures at their parties. Eventually he got his own camera, and continued to take photos to chronicle his experiences.

Hetz had a Tumblr account around this time, frequently re-blogging photography and gifs, and porn from other accounts interspersed with his own photography. In November, 2015, Hetz posted a photo of his hand cradling his lover’s semi-hard penis.

“I posted that and got ridiculous feedback,” Hetz told Out. “People went crazy and so I thought, OK, maybe I’ll post some more, and that’s basically how it started.”

Mapplethorpe’s influence on Hetz is undeniable. Hetz’s artistic journey even has echoes of Mapplethorpe’s; just as he immersed himself in the gay S&M scene of New York and drew upon it for inspiration, Hetz’s experience within Berlin nightlife informs his photography. For over ten years he’s worked as the bar manager of Berghain, the legendary Berlin nightclub, famous for its hard techno, brazen hedonism, and—ironically—its no-picture policy. While sex is known to take place there, Hetz says that the club is a much milder version of it’s predecessor, Ostgut.

“[Y]ou would bump into people on the dancefloor fisting each other, pissing on each other—but it was joyful,” Hetz said of Ostgut in an interview with Dazed. “It was nice to have everyone completely accepted there. No one would go and be a spectator.”

In The Matter of Absence, Hetz invites us to be that surreptitious spectator. His photos capture men in their most vulnerable and intimate moments. In describing his zoomed-in and fragmented style to Out, he said he “often look[s] at it like looking through a glory hole.” The viewer only gets flashes, brief glimpses of flesh and fluid. You’re made to feel guilty for looking—the invasion of privacy—but you crave to see more. Who are these men? By only telling half of the story, Hetz succeeds at making them nobody—and everybody.

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words by Sam Kessaram

Ex-machina (2015) by Alex Garland

The Advance and Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Humanity of the Future

As reported by Bloomberg, 2015 was a especially significant year in regards to artificial intelligence. Computers have been getting faster for decades already but we didn’t see such an exponential progress on AI until recent years, and a serious amount of investment from major tech players such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. The latter have recently developed Skype Translator, an additional feature that can automatically translate from more than 50 languages. Amazon released Alexa an intelligent personal assistant capable of voice interaction, and Facebook has launched a variety of projects through its AI research lab, FAIR.

Robots have become part of our daily life. Wherever we turn, we come across a robot in one form or another. The modern world couldn’t be imagined without their assistance. AI technologies are advancing at such a rapid pace that one day it can be more of an existential threat than progress.

So the question is, wwhats will happen that day when robots become aware of their own existence?
Shall they remain supportive to humans and strive towards a mutual goal, or will they turn their back on us?

The History of Machines

The history of robots has its origins in the ancient world. However, man first actualized machines during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. With the advent of the steam engine, the transport of humans as well as material resources became easily facilitated. This transport of goods made it possible for humanity to prosper at a higher rate.

Thanks to this prosperous state of mankind, there was enough room to create new and more complex machines. In the early 1900s, the concept of humanoid was invented, which not only reminded us of a human being but to a certain degree was capable of cognitive thinking and moving like a human being.

Metropolis - 1927 - Fritz Lang

Machine-human – a gynoid or fembot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)

With the passing of time, machines have become more and more independent. Consequently, during the 1960s, along with an industrial robot came the remote control. In order to give orders, all you had to do was press a button and the robot would complete a given task. Not long afterwards, the advent of computers involved into the manufacture of machines that used AI, meaning the support of humans was not a necessity.

Will Robots Take Over our Jobs?

While many think of this subject as something quite delicate, not researched enough and based on hypothetical presumptions, the reality is that an increasing number of jobs that used to be done by humans are now done by robots. At first, this may be deemed as a great success, particularly in the technological terms. Nevertheless, jobs give people a meaning of life, and this shouldn’t be taken for granted.

According to Moshe Vardi, Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, the middle class is going to have more leisure time in years to come due to increased machine efficiency.

“We are approaching times of increased capabilities of machines where they are overperforming people at any job,” states the professor in an interview with the Telegraph.

The aim of modern AI utilities is to think one step ahead in order to know what our needs and wishes are. The human brain and reasoning are, therefore, no longer needed –  slowly replaced by the machines.

Nadine Social Robot and Professor Nadia Thalmann

Nadine, the social robot with Professor Nadia Thalmann. The robot is socially intelligent, able to answer questions, show emotions and remember conversations.

Great Minds of Our Time and their Viewpoints

If you are rather pessimistic of this, you are not on your own.

Stephen Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time and one of the greatest scientists in the today’s world, thinks that the AI could take control over humans within the next 100 years.

Her - Spike Jonze

In Spike Jonze’s film “Her” actor Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with a computer program / intelligent personal assistant.

In his speech at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference, held in London, he said: “Robots will overtake humans with AI within the next century. When that happens, we need to do our best to have our goals aligned with the computers.”

 

The Optimistic Side of the Coin

For some the future is not all that bad. Robots have improved, but it’s still far from perfection, and from superiority over humans.

Despite millions of people using it, the program will fall short over and over again. The main reason for this is its inability to discern context.

According to Ralf Herbrich, Managing Director at Amazon, machines are not and will not be able to be a dominating force in the near future. He gives one simple example, “People can see, taste, smell, hear. Machines can’t do that. We have come to the point where algorithms can discern stationary pictures, but nothing more than that. The human brain is much more advanced in this sense.”

Ex-machina (2015) by Alex Garland

Ex-machina (2015) by Alex Garland

words by Milan Novakovic

cliff a trip through vietnam

Broken and Saved in Rural Vietnam

After the chaotic rush of dodging semi-trucks and a million scooters, we’re finally out of Hanoi and in the northern mountains of Vietnam. I’m travelling with a Canadian and an Englishman I met in a hostel days earlier. We’re heading for the Chinese border, riding along roads that cut through limestone mountains and diverse ethnic minority villages.

It’s getting dark and the road is turning steeper. Our recently purchased $200 motorcycles are rolling along nicely. The next guesthouse is a few kilometers away, but there’s still light and we have a long way to go in the next few weeks. Our map shows another place to sleep 40 kilometers up the road. “Let’s try for the second one,” Harrison says. Adam and I agree.

cliff a trip through vietnam
Buffalo - A trip through Vietnam

Pulling the throttle, we continue up the mountain as the road turns to gravel and pavement disappears. Harry is leading the pack and while we’re riding along the rutted path, I hear a loud clunk and his bike skids to a stop. We discover his chain bounced off the gear and jammed in between his wheel and frame. At a glance we know it’s not an easy fix since we’re all nearly illiterate in mechanical knowledge.

The first soul to see us pulls over quickly. He’s a large bellied, middle-aged Vietnamese man whose breath stinks of rice wine. A quick check over the bike and he’s immediately banging around on it. Rather than breaking the chain free, he just breaks the chain. Now we have a motorcycle on a mountain road, loaded with gear, and no chain to pull the wheels.

With verbal communication out of the question, it takes our combined miming skills to realize the man wants me to tow the broken bike up the mountain. Luckily, I have some sturdy straps and within minutes I’m trying my best not to crash while pulling Harry and his clunker up the gravel hill. Our drunken savior waves a cheerful goodbye as he rides away.

A half hour later we come across a small concrete building on the side of the road. Adam and I leave the bikes with Harry and walk down to investigate. We’re met with surprised yells of joy from a group of Vietnamese truck drivers. Instantly we’re being motioned to shower and wash up for dinner.

Confused but following orders, we walk to the showers to meet a startled, naked Vietnamese man. We laugh, wave and wash our hands in a bucket of water. Harry comes down with his busted bike and generates even louder laughs from our hosts. My Canadian counterpart has long brown hair and a bushy beard. Most Vietnamese men are clean shaven with short, black hair and these truckers are no exception.

breakdown vietnam

spider in vietnam
Kids' - A trip through Vietnam
After more miming, we explain the issue with Harry’s bike. It’s dark outside now, yet we’re told not to worry and gather around a very short table, sitting on equally short chairs. We feast on delicious pork, a massive pile of rice and bottomless shots of homemade rice wine, a common Vietnamese favorite. It’s one of the best meals I have in Vietnam.

After dinner and too many group toasts, we’re informed one of the guys is driving to the nearest town for a new chain. Astounded by their generosity, it’s tough to explain our thanks without speaking the same language. While we wait for the part, our hosts turn on a classic 90s shoot ‘em up thriller. It’s hard to say if they’re trying to make us feel at home or if they truly love this ridiculous show, but every gunshot causes a roar of awe from the group. The main crowd pleaser is a busty woman in distress that is of course saved by the heroic super cops. Although not many words are spoken, it’s understood these guys are impressed with the curves on our lady in distress.

kids-in-mountains vietnam
mechanic

Eventually our rescuer arrives with a new chain. The whole gang of truckers is tinkering on Harry’s old Honda Win – removing the tire, installing the chain, adjusting the alignment. I’m in awe of each man’s willingness to help a few random white boys. Twenty minutes later, we’re all cheering, high-fiving and bowing, hands-clasped as the bike is fixed and test-ridden.

These truck drivers saved the day for us. They fed us, shared their liquor, their laughter and their expertise of motors. One drove two hours through the night to get a part we needed. They dirtied their hands and fixed our broken machine. Naturally, we offered the equivalent of a few American bucks, trying to ask how much parts, labor and even food would cost. Harry gladly paid 200,000 Dong (about $10) for the chain since these guys don’t have much to spare. But in regards to their help and hospitality, the locals wouldn’t take a penny. One of the few English words one of them knew was “friends.” He made it clear that friends don’t pay friends for their help in his country.

– words by Chris Jensen for VAGA Magazine. Photos from Chris Jensen and Harrison Jack

 

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LA-based Photographer Richard Ramirez Jr. An Intimate Diary of Ethereal Images

Richard Ramirez Jr.’s photographs are reminiscent of an intimate diary from which the poems it contains reveal people’s beauty and their most inner thoughts.

The simplicity of the settings is disrupted by the lighting, the unfathomable stares, and the innocence emanating from the subject matter. There are no noisy elements of surprise in his series. Ramirez Jr. confers to each photography the effect of slow motion, as if time had stopped and each picture was telling its own story. He captures the essence of a moment: soul-searching, satisfaction, content, or doubt; and translates it in his soft and opaque tones, spread out through the surface of the image, making it hard for us to leave the world we have just delved in.

The sequence of the photographs resonate with how the scenes of a movie would stream. Inspired by movies and the process behind it, the photographer envisions moods and settings and restores them in real life for his cinematic art. The renderings are effortless and ingenious.

Richard Ramirez Jr. is a self-taught L.A. based photographer. His first works with a 35mm film camera came after he experimented shooting his sisters dressed up in thrift store coats and dresses. You can check his latest photo series at http://richardramirezjr.com/ and also at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rvramirez/

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words by Tamara Akcay.