Author: VAGA Editor

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Album Review: “Semper Femina”, Laura Marling

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, …

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Documenting YOUTH and DREAMS of Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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. …

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February 2017’s Most Essential Albums

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 …

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 …

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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 How did you get started with photography, and what initially attracted to you …

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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 …

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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 …

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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. 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 …

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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. …

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Artist Emilio Pérez Takes Times Square on a Visual Trip

Artist Emilio Pérez creates a unique visual vocabulary of sinuous and spontaneous shapes in his precise drawings. They are infused with his fascination for classical paintings, music and nature. Style Curator, Natalie Kates sits with the artist to learn about his latest project “Dream Season” part of Midnight Moment, a Times Square Arts initiative in which the artist will take the public on an abstract, visual road trip from 11:57 p.m. to midnight every night in November. Natalie Kates: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist? Emilio Pérez: I’m pretty sure that I was an artist all along. It just took time for me to understand what that meant and how I would apply it to my life and pursuits. Your paintings have been described as abstract, organic, fluid forms and otherworldly. To achieve this you paint layers of pigment and carve out the layers with an X-Acto knife to create the artworks. How did you come to use the X-Acto knife in your paintings? I have always been attracted to the immediacy of …