20111129-dsc_9587

Culture: Exploring With Bradley Garrett

I debated whether or not to write this introduction or just post my piece as is. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you may have seen a few angry tweets about Smith Journal stealing my freelance pitch idea for their new issue. I guess the wonderful thing about the internet is that it democratises people’s experiences and I wanted to let people know my side of the story. Whether I’m right or wrong – that’s up to you guys.

I wrote to Smith pitching an idea on Bradley Garrett and urban exploration of The London Underground.They originally said they liked the piece and I got to work interviewing Bradley and spending several days researching and writing. Once I sent this through, I was told they had changed their minds. Even though I offered to rewrite it or just publish a Q&A with Bradley, they told me the subject matter didn’t fit with the next issue. So I was surprised to find that they have contacted Bradley directly and will be publishing a first person piece in their next issue. I find it hard to believe their claims that this was done independently of my idea since I had been in contact with both them and Bradley’s publicist months ago and no one mentioned this.

Well anyway, I’ve not read their piece but wanted to post mine here so you can all judge for yourselves how similar it is This is a first person account, as told to me by Bradley and edited by myself…

20120604-rd7c1063

I’ve always been an explorer. When I was growing up in California during the 90s, I spent most of my time skateboarding, which was mostly about exploring the city to find new spots to skate. When I got a car, I started driving into the Mojave Desert to look for old mining camps and ruins, where I could build a big bonfire, dig around and read. It seems to me that if you’re a curious person, who enjoys the feeling of discovery, you’re going to do that in whatever environment you find yourself near. So when I moved to London and met urban explorers here going out every night to find hidden places in the city, it made perfect sense to get involved.

I am so in awe of the London Underground, which is so immense and has so many in-between spots you can slip into. The train tunnels are threaded though and around bunkers, sewers and drains, the Mail Rail, cable runs and secret government tunnels. A lot of that had to be built blindly as well because the government wouldn’t tell engineers where the “secret” tunnels were underground. The complexity of it all just blows me away. And most of the tourists walking at street level, photographing Parliament, haven’t got a clue that it’s all tangled up under their feet.

rd7c6542

 

grain-tower-battery_-10

The whole city is thick with layers of memory and often they’re very difficult to decode. Fredric Jameson once described ‘ontologies of the present that demand archaeologies of the future’. I love that idea, that we’re not just finding old stuff but we’re actually rewriting the (his)stories of these places with us in them as a fresh layer. Nothing is ever dead or lost. There are all sorts of associations that are connected to places that you can’t erase. They’re like old etchings just awaiting the curious explorer to show up and dust it all off; to start understanding it all again.

Then of course, the more time we spent exploring the city, the more certain things became visible. Like how people build relationships to places, how space is surveilled, controlled and regulated, how the city is built to influence not just our behaviour but to actually condition the way we think about what is ethical, right and even possible. As the geographer David Harvey has written, the freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is one of the most precious and neglected of our human rights. But that of course, in the current political climate around the world, is a mentality that some people find threatening. It’s a sad state the world is in, where playing seems threatening.

All photos by Bradley Garrett

 

new-york-city-ballet-mary-katrantzou-costumes-092214_05

Style: New York City Ballet x Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen & more

If the world is a stage and the street is a catwalk then it makes sense that the ballet is a runway. Tonight the New York City Ballet will debut a brand new collaboration with designers Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrere and Thom Browne at their opening gala.

new-york-city-ballet-mary-katrantzou-costumes-092214_09

Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen

The idea was the brainchild of Sarah Jessica Parker, who is bringing a high-fashion edge to her role as NYCB board vice chair. Each designer was paired with a choreographer to create a look for a dance piece, adapting their signature style with second-skin fabrics and free-flowing lines that allow the dancers to move.

I love these looks from Mary Katrantzou and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen for their sense of drama, texture and playfulness. You can really see the negotiation between attention to detail and the all-out glamour that stage costumes inherently require. Hopefully this spells the renewal of the long love affair between ballet and fashion.

new-york-city-ballet-mary-katrantzou-costumes-092214_05

Mary Katrantzou

new-york-city-ballet-mary-katrantzou-costumes-092214_06

Mary Katrantzou

new-york-city-ballet-mary-katrantzou-costumes-092214_07

Mary Katrantzou

 

Australian Ballet Swan Lake Icebergs

Culture: Swan Lake at Bondi Icebergs

It’s one of my favourite locations and one of my favourite ballets, so I couldn’t resist posting these pictures of Australian Ballet dancers at Bondi Icebergs. The company took advantage of the weekly emptying of the iconic beach-side pool to celebrate the new season of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake launching in February 2015.

65c00590-40e0-4e42-9284-a0d1c91f447e-320x480

Since the ballet’s premiere in 2002, the current version of Swan Lake has undoubtedly become the company’s masterpiece and has a recurring spot on the schedule to match. Having seen it for the first time in Melbourne last year, I fell instantly under Murphy’s spell. Over ten years on from its inception, I think it benefits from increased distance from its tabloid-worthy subject matter (it was originally inspired by the death of Princess Di) to explore more universal themes of love, deception and betrayal.

437c9da8-4448-41f3-99ed-d333b37200eb-620x413

df29857a-4faf-4e87-bf7e-b1f5c3f43fd4-620x372

f2862c75-9426-4afc-b3b0-124bc7b7df37-620x372

Whereas the traditional story sees the black swan Oldie tricking the unwitting prince into betraying Odette, in Murphy’s version, our prince is simply in love with two different women. Rather than casting the female leads as innocent and devious; black and white; they are both suffering from being in love with someone who hurts them – something that I think makes the story more complex and in a way, darker. I find the way the vampy Baroness becomes more vulnerable, while Odette takes on a harder edge towards the end of the ballet, particularly haunting, especially the expression of this through their evolving dancing styles and on-stage presence.

The other thing I love about this version is the clever, bold and quite modern connection between the choreography, score, costume and settings. There’s a scene where Odette is confined to an asylum. Devastated by grief, she becomes passive as people move around her and she stares lifelessly out into the woods outside. It’s here, in the distance, that her imagination is free. As we enter her mind, the walls of the asylum are wrenched away to reveal her swans dancing on an elevated mirror/lake. The movement of the sets with the dancing and musical crescendo come together in a really powerful way to represent how painful and maddening love can be – I defy anyone not to be moved by that at least.

TrOhboou1Xg.market_maxres

Culture: The 24 Drinking Game

Before we had Breaking Bad; before we had Mad Men, we had The Sopranos. And while Tony and his dysfunctional gang of nodding hench men were busy changing the face of television as we know it, Jack Bauer was bringing us the perfect light-hearted, explosion-filled antithesis. While the revolutionary new gangster genre brought us things like meaningful layers, complex characters and hard-to-spot references, 24 brought us guns, explosions and more plot twists and changing baddies than could possibly fit into several years, let alone a mere 24 hours.

24

Yes, yes I’m sure my A-Level Media Studies teacher would have wanted to point out the contextual themes of a show that first aired in 2001 and is about good guys fighting terrorists. It’s always fun to note how the nationalities of the terrorists change from Russian to Middle Eastern over the seasons. Plus I’m sure there’s some kind parallel to be drawn to the Greek Tragedies in terms of a lone hero going up against both the bad guys and toxic power structures (Why are the politicians and agency heads always so misguided?! Why does no one trust a man that has saved America so many times?!) But the real fun in watching 24 is in not taking things to seriously, which is where the 24 Drinking Game comes in.

So grab some friends, fill up your booze cupboard and join me in drinking to the themes and tropes that make this show so great.

Take a sip every time:

  • Jack says, “Dammit’
  • Jack says, ‘Right now you don’t have any other choice!’
  • Jack says, ‘Like it or not, you’re going to have to trust me.’
  • Jack says, ‘Cover me I’m going in’
  • Jack yells at his boss, ‘You don’t have time!’
  • Someone gets tortured
  • Jack gets tortured
  • Someone gets shot
  • A terrorist gets offered an immunity deal
  • The Justice Department investigates Jack
  • Jack gets arrested
  • Kim or another woman needs saving
  • Chloe rolls her eyes
  • Someone says, ‘CTU has a mole’
  • Anyone else says, ‘Dammit’

 

Finish your drink every time:

  • Jack whisper shouts, ‘You’ve read my file. You’ve seen what I can do’
  • Jack yells at the president/anyone, ‘Millions of innocent lives are at stake!’
  • There’s an explosion
  • Someone underestimates Jack or makes a fate provoking comment like, ‘They’ll never find us.’ (Oh you silly, silly terrorists)

I’ve just realised that based on past seasons, you’ll probably be drinking a lot. I take no responsibility for what happens!

If you have any 24 Drinking Game suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Natalie x

 

 

 

 

gatsby

Arts & Culture: The Great Gatsby

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul

I have agonized for weeks now over reviewing Baz Luhrmann’s version of Gatsby. The hours have crawled by as I stare, almost defeated, at a cold, blank Word sheet. The glaring white taunts me, laughing like so many distorted flapper girls dancing in a Beyonce time warp. I am troubled, dear reader, very troubled.

My trouble lies is the fact that I was absolutely certain I would hate this film. So certain in fact, that upon hearing of its inception, posted a snide little blog entry bemoaning the whole sorry affair.

While I claimed to want to ‘give it a chance,’ in truth I was practically rubbing my hands together with spiteful glee, gagging to join the predictable flood of animosity towards it. But now, while I still believe the words ‘Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby in 3D’ should never have been uttered or even considered, I am rendered somewhat speechless. In no way was the movie good, let’s not be ridiculous, but in no way was it particularly offensive either. It just was. My gripe is that I have no gripe.

Admittedly it’s childish to want to hate something so vehemently that you would shell out an obscene amount of money on 3D glasses and limp nachos with the sole purpose of crowing afterwards that you knew the film was going to suck and it did, etc, but this is Gatsby. This is the book. Supposedly unfilmable, beautiful and brief, it stands as a glorious monument to the power of American literature and the raw cruelty of human nature.

gatsby2

Luhrmann’s version doesn’t even try to represent this hulking, subtle power. Rather it does exactly what you expect it to – and what I, for one expected to be repulsed by – stylizes the thing to shit with gaudy choreography and beats the viewer senseless with plot points and buzzwords as though you’re too hopelessly dense to pick up on what is happening. The green light is alluded to ad infinitum and the eyes of Dr. T.J Eckleburg loom large as the face of God himself over and over, reducing a brilliant narrative device to a hackneyed, overdone metaphor. Somehow though, I was not repulsed. Like Gatsby himself, the excess was strangely endearing.

While DiCaprio admittedly does a pretty brilliant job of humanizing the titular character and pulling out some of the fevered desperation of the novel, he seems constantly at odds with the clunky direction and swooping camerawork. It is as though the settings themselves collude to drown him out entirely and reduce him to a pretty face. The casting of Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker, however, is inspired. She is as sinewy and aloof as her original inception, propelling the plot forward with intermittent bursts of excitement before withdrawing completely.

 

The  remaining cast could easily be paper dolls, propped up against lavish backdrops and pulled on glittering strings to glide from one immaculate setting to the next while the real meat of the story is left to fester, untouched, elsewhere. Tobey Maguire is an almost transparent Nick Carraway, doe-eyed and bewildered to the point of irritation. He floats from scene to scene, devoid of any reaction. He is ‘within and without,’ yes, but almost entirely without. He belies no emotion, no soul whatsoever. His rage, which should be palpable and authentic when it appears, is a half-absent whimper.

Somehow though, this soullessness was not all that unpleasant. Once I let go of the fact that this film bore little revelation to the beloved novel I could almost enjoy it for what it was; a big dumb spectacle, completely absorbed by its own luxurious stylization. Perhaps here sits Luhrmann’s genius? In making everything seem an excruciatingly obvious façade, he is truly representing what Fitzgerald grew to despise? An entire selfish falsehood that you can’t really bring yourself to care about until maybe the very, very end? Perhaps. It is this thought that prevents me from hating it.

gatsby

In a way, it is a Sparknotes version of Gatsby; the subtle yet grand nuances behind the dialogue hammered out to make way for quotes literally appearing on screen. All the soul of the narrative sucked out to remind you of the key points over and over again like preparation for a GCSE English paper. There is no room for ambiguity, no room for contemplation, just bombast to the point of parody. The ludicrous road scenes and clunky choices to punctuate events (when Gatsby first appears there are fireworks. Fireworks. Seriously. Ugh) are little more than an overblown music video accompanying some very questionable tunes.

The only time the film steps up to the source material is in the New York flat, as Gatsby and Tom confront eachother. It is here that the director seems to pull away and let his cast truly act. It is honestly quite something, infinitely more absorbing than the spangly party scenes.

The film bemused and maddened, sure, but not to the extent that it could be considered bad. Luhrmann’s Gatsby is akin to Gatsby himself; an impressive spectacle, but little more.

bowie bolt2

Arts & Culture: David Bowie Is

Unless you’ve been living in complete isolation for the past few months you will have invariably heard the hype surrounding the new David Bowie Is exhibition at the V&A. You may well be thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to the media’s expectations and scoffing at your friends and family clamouring to buy tickets. Well then, you would be wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. It’s the best thing they’ve curated in years and more than justifies the frenzy surrounding it.

I pretty much leaped out of my chair when offered the chance to go and see this and walked around the exhibition with a big fat grin on my face from start to finish. It’s honestly that good.

bowie border

I know no one who dislikes David Bowie. His music seems to transcend boundaries and add an uncannily celebratory power when played. The end credit sequence of Lars Von Trier’s Dogville; Young Americans played over images of Depression-era families and children is so powerful with or without the context of the film it gives me goosebumps every time. And what kind of person didn’t kind of fancy the Goblin King in Labyrinth? I mean, come on now.

But I digress…

It would be impossible to categorise ‘David Bowie Is’ as simply an exhibition of music memorabilia, it is so much more. Part fashion retrospective, part art installation, it tracks a journey from small town anonymity to all-encompassing, boundless expression, floating through space and back again, through drug hazes, ludicrous outfits to piercing, stripped-down clarity. Sure, I’m gushing a tad, but rightly so. The curators have included every conceivable variety of memorabilia, from scrawled lyrics on cigarette packs to some of his most iconic images.

bowie yama 2

This exhibition is fantastic in so many ways, a beautiful multimedia celebration of a career so varied and intertwined with popular and niche culture. Every facet of Bowie’s ever-changing image and artistic intention is lovingly explored through a mixture of photography, video installation, literature and, of course, costume. It chronologically charts his progress through varying sounds and identities yet still allows him to remain enigmatic.

I was half expecting him to be roaming round the galleries himself, disguised and slipping unnoticed around the journalists and bloggers. Alas, he wasn’t.

The breadth of Bowie’s immersion in and influence on culture is astounding and thought-provoking. Unlike the majority of today’s crop of “out there” performers, Bowie put a great deal of consideration into his influences, twisting them into something new rather than simply referencing. The exhibition pays special attention to the influence of the work of J.G Ballard, George Orwell and Stanley Kubrick on his music and image, with key pieces of their work positioned in the context of Bowie’s vision. The hollow, savage worlds of Ballard are dangerous yet fascinating, referencing the strange beauty of huge abandoned swimming pools and high-rises while emphasising aggressive sexuality in the smallest of facial curvature, magnified beyond all recognition, as in The Atrocity Exhibition. The exploration of inner space brought out by these works fascinated Bowie and allowed him to construct new identities, new worlds for his music to play in. He invites transformation and expression in himself and his fans, an aspect the exhibition pays homage to.

bowie yama

His lavish and iconic costumes populate the space on thin white mannequins; of particular interest are an Alexander McQueen tyre track printed suit and the extravagant shapes and textures of  Kansai Yamamoto’s all in ones. There is such a kaleidoscope of colour and effect in these pieces it’s quite difficult to absorb all at once, but the curation places them in the context of transformation and evolution, it all somehow makes sense. For me the most impressive part of the collection is the huge video installation in the central room, thirty foot high translucent screens with concert footage projected, speakers cranked to the hilt. Completely immersive and awe-inspiring, it is an experience that will stick with me for a good long while.

bowie video

Whether or not you’re into David Bowie you can’t deny the effect he has had on music, fashion and the way we express ourselves. The exhibition is truly comprehensive, and regardless of if you view him as a highly skilled plagiarist (no) or a trailblazer who was / is way ahead of his time (yes!) it’s well worth spending a good few hours in.

The exhibition opens on the 23rd, as far as I know tickets are selling fast so get in there swiftly…

For more photos check out my Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/nadiaramoul/david-bowie-is-press-viewing/

@NadiaReads

Smirnoff-mirrorball

Arts & Culture: Smirnoff Vodka, #YoursForTheMaking Event

#YoursForTheMaking

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul 

When you’re invited to an evening of free vodka and snacks you don’t turn it down, hoooo no. In this weather anything to keep the blood pumping is welcomed with open arms and empty glasses. You gather your hastily organised plus one(s) and shimmy on down to the Tate Modern concourse feeling totally exclusive and cool.

“Yours for the Making” was Smirnoff’s attempt at getting us to make the most of the extra hour due to the clocks going back at the weekend.

What would you do? Catch up on Breaking Bad? Snooze? Or would you hang out in the presence of the WORLD’S LARGEST DISCO BALL while drinking cocktails?

Of course you would!

The good people at Smirnoff treated us to delicious fruity cocktails and complimentary snacks of vegetable crisps – not exactly my bag, those bizarre crisps but I can see the appeal.

The views over London were breathtaking, however heading outside to see the giant mirror ball get raised we were instantly reminded that holding a semi outdoor event in October was always going to be a hit-and-miss affair and shivered accordingly. No amount of free booze can contend with the Thames’ chill. But nonetheless, you can’t not be at least a little impressed by the world’s biggest disco ball, I mean, come on now. The thing was huge.

DJ Maya Jane Coles played a fine set of house-y dubstep which perfectly complimented the frosty evening and got the sparse crowd feeling lively as the mirrorball reflected the Thames. A few brave souls busted some interesting moves in the chilly night air but the rest of us were content to huddle together for warmth and nod our heads approvingly to the music.

The premise behind Smirnoff’s #YoursForTheMaking campaign – the clocks go back so we all have an extra hour, use that hour to do something out of the ordinary – was fantastic. I hope they do this again next year with a bigger turnout, it could end up being something really special.

By Nadia – @NadiaReads

and Dean – @Scieh