The summer in culture - Issue 35 - Magazine | Monocle

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Speaking volumes


The Ask

Sam Lipsyte

The third novel by the New York-based Lipsyte, The Ask, is receiving no less acclaim than his previous work – which received quite a lot. There are few who can hit the right note with hysterical satire but the tribulations of Milo Burke do just that – uninhibited struggles with life’s banalities that are leagues away from cliché. The American literati are going crazy for it, and so are we.

The Changeling

Kenzaburo Oe

A famous film director records his own suicide on cassette and sends it, along with a series of other tapes, to his childhood friend and brother-in-law. Oe explores the fiction that is identity by allowing this disembodied voice to shape the perception of the man who created them. A destabilising and haunting elegy on loss from one of the most important novelists writing in Japan today.

The Death of Bunny Munro

Nick Cave

Grappling with the guilt of driving his wife to suicide, a sexually incontinent salesman – aptly named Bunny – attempts to maintain his sanity while educating his son in the ways of the world. With a mass-murderer on the loose and a biblical storm brewing, Bunny’s years spent deluding the credulous and joylessly seducing the desperate are finally about to catch up with him.

Elliot Allagash

Simon Rich

Seymour Herson is the least-cool student at Glendale School in Manhattan but when he meets the cocky and troubled Elliot Allagash, heir to America’s largest fortune, he learns to deploy unconventional means to boost his popularity. The debut novel from Simon Rich – himself little more than a high-school senior (fresh out of Harvard and having cut his comedy teeth writing for Saturday Night Live) – this is a hilarious, high-spirited and hormone-fuelled romp through teenage angst and off-beat antics.


20th Century Travel: 100 Years of Globe-Trotting Ads

Taschen — Jim Heimann and Allison Silver

For those of us who wish that travel still consisted of dining cars and not food trolleys, Taschen’s July release provides some respite. Charting the history of 20th-century travel through adverts ranging from the Great White Fleet of 1912 to the 1986 Virgin Atlantic campaign featuring Winston Churchill as a poster boy, this volume puts today’s holiday brochures to shame.

Africa United

Steve Bloomfield

Monocle’s Nairobi correspondent mixes work and pleasure in an examination of African politics through the prism of football. Canvassing the opinions of players, fans and politicians from Sierra Leone to Somalia, Bloomfield finds a host of parallels between the pitch and the continent’s power-brokers, painting a vivid picture of the ugliness, altruism and corruption that drive the continent’s conflicts, revolutions and, more importantly, its footy.

Modern British Posters

Paul Rennie

This carefully curated collection of British poster design is another high-quality release from publisher Black Dog. Leading the reader on a visual journey from the early 1900s onwards, taking in the iconic London Transport designs of the 1930s, the wartime Ministry of Information announcements and the 1950s advertising boom, this is a riot of consumption and visual consumption as only the Brits know how.

Modern madness


Tom McCarthy

McCarthy’s latest book focuses on the technological progress that, in his eyes, both defines and threatens to destroy humanity. Through Serge Carrefax, an early 20th-century protagonist transfixed by the buzzing crescendo of “electric modernity”, McCarthy explores the same subversive themes that define his previous work, weaving a compelling narrative which draws on elements of philosophy, pop culture and visual theory.

Union Atlantic

Adam Haslett

“Timely” books often mean that the author has desperately cobbled something together in a bid to cash in on a world event. This is fortunately not true of Haslett, whose blistering exposé of the greed that caused the economic crash is about as far from “cobbled” as you can get.As Charlotte (a reclusive retiree) and Doug (a gilded investment banker) fight it out in the woods of Massachusetts, a profound, subtle and prescient tale of power and the true meaning of human relationships unfolds.


Get tuned in

Summer strummers


Hope Street

Take four-parts hairy Scottish man; add a glug of Americana, a dash of unapologetically straightforward Glaswegian pop and a few drops of Rolling-Stones-meet-Kings-of-Leon mix, before maturing in a malt-whisky barrel for a few years. You’ll probably get something that sounds a lot like Kassidy. Their latest album is full of sweeping, wall-of-sound guitar music that moves with ease between foot-stomping, festival-friendly fare and tender acoustic harmonies.

The Boy Who Trapped The Sun


Colin Macleod is 25 and from the Isle of Lewis, so his songs don’t sound like Lady Gaga and don’t rhyme like Jay-Z – instead, they’re beautiful. There’s certainly some classic acoustic singer-songwriter fare on his this debut full-length album, but the real summer joy is the uptempo stuff – as Celtically uplifting as Tupelo Honey-era Van the Man or Mike Scott’s “Fisherman’s Blues”. He’s playing some UK festivals this summer; if you can’t make it, erect a maypole in your garden.

Eliza Doolittle

Eliza Doolittle

If there was any cynical speculation lingering about Ms Doolittle being a record label test-tube baby designed to fill the “sassy straight-talking girl” role left empty by the promised retirement of Lily Allen, this debut album should clear things up. Doolittle is clearly a prodigious talent, combining old soul with off-beat pop to tell her quirky tales of modern city life. Intelligent lyrics and addictive melodies should win this 21-year-old a loyal following among those who expect pop posturing and sass to be backed up by genuine talent.

Alan Pownall

True Love Stories

This attractive Londoner’s debut album finally hits shelves in July, much anticipated since he supported Adele on her first headline tour. Pownall’s blend of chirpy melodies and warm-hearted lyrics sits just on the right side of summertime easy-listening.


Montreux Jazz Festival

2-17 July

Now in its 44th year, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland has become a landmark of the European music calendar, with greats from Ray Charles to Miles Davis, David Bowie and Prince all taking the time to perform for its relaxed and appreciative crowds. Although jazz still constitutes the core, the festival now regularly bags one of the summer’s most diverse line-ups, with acts this year including Brad Mehldau and Jessye Norman to Billy Idol, Phil Collins, Massive Attack and Missy Elliot.

Rock al Parque, Bogotá

3-5 July

After 16 consecutive years of steady growth, Rock al Parque is now the largest free rock festival in Latin America. Taking place in the Simón Bolívar Park, the biggest park in the Colombian capital, it has in recent years attracted crowds of 400,000. Having previously hosted the best the region has to offer, including acts such as Fito Páez, Charly García and Café Tacuba, alongside international names such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Bloc Party and Manu Chao, Rock al Parque is busy putting Colombia on the music map.

Electric storms

School of Seven Bells

Disconnect from Desire

Named after a mythical Latin American school for pick-pockets, this trio release their second album this summer. Following the much-lauded abstract nature of their 2008 debut Alpinisms, this 10-track offering represents a more personal collection centered around the nature of changing relationships.

DM Stith

Heavy Ghost Appendices

Following last year’s acclaimed debut, Heavy Ghost, DM Stith offers us an expanded, limited-edition double album this summer. Featuring previously unreleased remixes of some of last year’s originals alongside a selection of covers, this is an appropriately haunting collection that further explores the same distinctive mythical landscape as his debut.


Church With No Magic

The band formerly known as Pivot (but forced by a lawsuit to condense their name into this trendy contracted version) have come up with an appropriately new and distinctive sound to go with their name-change. A combination of the anthemic synth-driven instrumentals that characterised their previous work with some foregrounded experimental vocals, this offering should bring them a new audience and even more media praise.


No. 3

Spotted and snapped up by Gothenburg’s Tough Alliance records (home to Air France, who do what jj do but not quite as well) and then by the Secretly Canadian label, this publicity-shy Swedish duo were always going to be, at the very least, interesting. Luckily, they’re downright great. They tour their Ibiza-meets-Enya new LP throughout Europe over the summer months.

Sounds from around

El Guincho

Piratas de Sudamérica

El Guincho (aka Pablo Díaz-Reixa) is back with his inimitable life-affirming sound on this series of special edition vinyl EPs, running alongside his forthcoming second album. Blending everything from tropicalia and dub to early rock ’n’ roll, El Guincho creates music so playful and unselfconsciously cool you’ll be hard pressed not to play Piratas de Sudamérica on repeat all summer long.

Carlou D


Carlou D is one of the most distinctive voices in Senegal’s live music scene and this debut album should make him one of the country’s great musical exports. Following in the steps of fellow Senegalese artists such as Youssou N’Dour (who guests on this record), Muzikr reveals a politically charged artist channelling the melodious traditions of Sufi Islamic chants through Senegal’s vibrant hip-hop scene.

Great shake-ups

Tired Pony

The Place We Ran From

Tired Pony is a Frankenstein’s monster of a band – if the monster were sewn together out of indie-rock royalty cut-offs. Spearheaded by Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody alongside former members of Belle and Sebastian and REM, this is a departure from the Coldplay-inflected demureness that has dogged Lightbody’s previous efforts. With the album described as a “twisted love-letter to the States”, there’s still spades of sentimentalism – but four minutes of raw feedback for a finale might stir things up a bit.


Strange Weather, Isn’t It?

Wryly described as their “Berlin album”, the eagerly awaited fourth offering from !!! was recorded between the German capital and the States. Berlin’s minimal techno scene has obviously influenced an album that makes moodiness strangely uplifting, and though this is a darker album than usual there’s still something both celebratory and revelatory here. Sehr gut!

Au Revoir Simone

Night Light

The toothsome all-girl threesome have upped the ante – and the pace – of the dreamy electro they’ve peddled since their 2005 debut. Great as 2009’s Still Night, Still Light was, we think this remix record will do them a world of good. Reworkings from Neon Indian and the Dirty Projectors’ Deradoorian add some danceable beats to the girls’ gossamer foundations. Catch the band in Europe and the US this summer.


Watch these spaces

Matthew Barney: Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail

Schaulager, Basel

12 June-3 October

Scheduling it to coincide with the opening of Art Basel, the Schaulager has chosen the art world’s leading man, Matthew Barney, to headline its summer programme. The exhibition will feature 16 of Barney’s works from the “Drawing Restraint” series, pitting them against northern European works of art from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Common Things: Contemporary Art from Finland and Sweden

Kiasma Museum, Helsinki

Until 12 September

Curated by Kiasma director Pirkko Slitari as part of the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s 50th anniversary, Common Things brings together six contemporary artists from either side of the Gulf of Bothnia. Worth it for Kristina Müntzig’s “New Swedes” installation alone, in which she has collected numerous plastic figurines from around the world in a witty and original comment on national identity.

Rude Britannia: British Comic Art

Tate Britain, London

9 June-5 September

With Tate Modern celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, we’re pleased to see its elder sibling in Millbank still firing on all cylinders with its ever-enjoyable summer thematic exhibition. For 2010 British comic art is the subject, with everyone from William Hogarth to Grayson Perry giving the masses a giggle with a sense of smut and sarcasm only the inhabitants of this fair isle possess.

Guillermo Kuitca: Everything

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Until 19 September

Almost 30 years of work is presented here in am exhaustive retrospective of the Argentinian visual artist Guillermo Kuitca. Roughly 75 works from his back catalogue will be on display, including much of his abstract material and a series, “The Ring”, inspired by Wagner’s opera of the same name.

Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins

LACMA, Los Angeles

25 July-17 October

This is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see one of the greats of East Coast art, who is rarely exhibited this far west. LACMA’s recent purchase, the hefty 1899 work “Wrestlers”, headlines the show and excellently showcases Eakins’ characteristic homoeroticism. This exhibition should finally and deservedly cement the artist’s place in American art history.

6th Berlin Biennial

Berlin, Germany

Until 8 August

Curated by Kathrin Rhomberg, the sixth edition of the Berlin Biennale is currently filling venues across the capital, including an exclusive central location in the Kreuzberg district. Organised by the KW Institute for Contemporary Art and the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Biennial will include the Artist Beyond project – the result of a dialogue between seven artists and residents in their local communities.

Martin Creed

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh

30 July-31 October

One of Britain’s most popular and playful artists, Creed explores the visual and tactile potential of stacking in this exhibition, where objects are arranged in carefully choreographed progressions of size, height and tone. Exhibiting as part of Edinburgh’s Art Festival, Creed remains true to form by presenting interventions as well as freestanding pieces. One such intervention is also among his most ambitious projects to date as he paves each of the historic city’s famous Scotsman Steps (104 in total) in a different marble shipped from across the globe.

Calder to Warhol: The Fisher Collection


June 25-19 September

The walls of the top two floors of SFMOMA will be redecorated this summer with 160 works from the star-studded collection of Gap founders Doris and Donald Fisher. San Francisco was the home of the first Gap store in 1969 and its leading museum is where the Fishers are planning to house their 1,100-strong personal hoard on a permanent basis. This exhibition, with all-American greats like Andy Warhol, Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly on the roster, is sure to get that partnership off to a winning start.

William Eggleston: Paris-Kyoto

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo

Until 22 August

William Eggleston is widely credited with establishing colour photography as a proper medium for high art, and this – his first major Japanese retrospective – will feature some of his best-known works alongside a series of Parisian street scenes commissioned by the Fondation Cartier. The show also contains some recent paintings never previously seen by the public.

Ron Mueck

Queensland Art Gallery

Until 1 August

One of the largest-ever exhibitions of Ron Mueck’s work on home turf, Thinking Sculptures features 13 of the London-based artist’s hyper-realistic sculptures, including four new works and the rarely seen “Dead Dad” which first catapulted Mueck to prominence in 1997. These polyester resin, fibreglass and silicone figures are certain to endure as sombre and often disturbing reflections on the human condition.

Way: Photographer Murat Germen

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art 

Until 19 September 

An architect by training, Turkish photographer Murat Germen is best known for his novel exploration of industrial aesthetics which take a skewed look at the inner working of things and focus as much on the production process as the final product.

His latest display, in the Istanbul Museum’s photographers’ gallery is set to continue in the same vein, with Way imagining ways in which the word can be taken to mean constant movement or transformation. Curated by Engin Özendes, the show comprises 46 photographs including a 14m-long work entitled “Orient Express”, which Germen created with designer Elif Ayiter.


Israel Museum, Jerusalem 


After a two-year-long overhaul, the 20-acre campus of Jerusalem’s Israel Museum will finally throw open its doors again in July. They aren’t short of heavyweight museums in this part of the world, so New York architecture firm James Carpenter has gone all out on a $80m renovation, with the collection getting a bit of CPR too: new installations from Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson will be on show, as well as a newly acquired 18th-century synagogue from Suriname.


New releases screened

Star-crossed lovers

Undertow (Contracorriente)

Dir: Javier Fuentes-León

A Peru-Colombia co-production, Contracorriente tells the story of a married fisherman who falls in love with another man in a conservative, predominantly Catholic Peruvian seaside village. This compelling storyline, coupled with elements of magical realism, shots of the magnificent Peruvian coastline and remarkable camerawork by cinematographer Mauricio Vidal, won the film the Audience Award at the latest Sundance Film Festival.

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky

Dir: Jan Kounen

Jan Kounen, the French director of Dobermann, is best known for the use of violence in his films, but this visually lush piece is a tender departure. Based on the tempestuous affair between Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), it takes the audience from the lovers’ first encounter at Stravinsky’s performance of Rite of Spring to their second meeting seven years later, when the great composer is down and out in Paris following the Russian revolution. Coco takes pity on him and his family, giving them board in her villa, and an irresistible romance between the two ensues.

Director’s chair


Dir: Francis Ford Coppola

This operatic masterpiece follows the story of tortured writer Tetro (Vincent Gallo), who has cut himself off from his family and lives in self-imposed exile in Buenos Aires. His adoring younger brother Bennie comes to visit, forcing Tetro to face the truth about his past and the memory of his father, the famous conductor Carlo Tetrocini.


Dir: Christopher Nolan

In this stylish sci-fi thriller, writer and director Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight, Memento) presents us with a world in which espionage has extended to the shadowy realm of the subconscious. Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a thief skilled in the dangerous art of extraction: the stealing of valuable secrets during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable.

South of the Border

Dir: Oliver Stone

Looking to understand modern leftist politics in South America, director Oliver Stone pays a visit to the most controversial leaders in the region. Immersing himself in casual conversations with several heads of state, including the media phenomenon Hugo Chávez, Stone sets about debunking the “banana republic” stereotype which dogs Latin America and its politicians.

Don’t miss

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Dir: Daniel Alfredson

The sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this is the second film based on novelist Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy. Director Daniel Alfredson returns for another fast-paced thriller following the exploits of crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the mysterious Lisbeth Salander as they battle to expose a sex-trafficking ring.

The Secret in their Eyes

Dir: Juan José Campanella

Although retired from his job as a court investigator, Benjamin Esposito is still obsessed with a crime that happened 25 years ago. He decides that the best way to solve the case that haunts him is to write a novel. Correlating foggy memories, the book serves as his guide, clarifying the past and winning him the woman he loves. This film bagged Argentinian director Campanella an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Villa Amalia

Dir: Benoît Jacquot

Based on a novel by Pascal Quignard, Jacquot’s latest film is a study of a woman starting afresh. Leaving her unfaithful husband and previous life, Ann (Isabelle Huppert) sets off on a journey to the Italian coast where she aims to forge a new existence between the sea and the mountains. A gripping and reflective story, helped along by breathtaking scenic shots, pitch-perfect dialogue and a brilliant performance by Huppert.

The Maid (La nana)

Dir: Sebastián Silva

The second film from 30-year-old writer and director Sebastián Silva, La nana follows the life of a live-in maid named Racquel, opening with the celebration of her 41st birthday in the company of her employers, the Valdez family, who both loathe and need her. Handheld camerawork gives the film an intimate feel, while superb casting and a great script make Silva a name to remember.

Le Concert

Dir: Radu Mihaileanu

As punishment for his support of Jewish musicians under communist rule, Andreï Filipov is demoted from the position of conductor of the Russian Bolshoï orchestra to its janitor. Falling foul of a savage state-led approach to cultural expression doesn’t break his aspirations, however, and after intercepting an invitation for his former orchestra to play in Paris he seizes the opportunity to secretly summon his former players for an emotional last concert.

Get Low

Dir: Aaron Schneider

This is a charming and quirky Depression-era tale straight from the Tennessee backwoods. When hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) rejoins society in order to preside over his own pre-emptive funeral, the small town folk are outraged. But helped by an opportunistic funeral home proprietor (Bill Murray), the community is rallied for the almost-final send-off – and through the often-touching, occasionally damning testimony of the congregation (and Bush himself), the reasons behind his seeming madness emerge.

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