Top picks from the art world
Book: Dalston Anatomy
“Dalston Anatomy” by Italian artist Lorenzo Vitturi mixes portraiture and surreal sculptures made with yam and cassava (among many other ingredients), creating vibrant, colourful images of London’s Ridley Road market offerings and particular characters. Selected as one of the best picks of 2013 by photo book gurus Martin Parr and Alec Soth, it sold out in two months. Not to worry though: publishing house Self Publish, Be Happy is preparing a second edition, which will be available this April.
Where we're tuning in for
In Italy, current-affairs programmes with pundits and politicians talking over each other is a formula viewers never tire of. ‘Ballarò’ gets the right mix of guests to square off in public.
Presenter Giovanni Floris is diplomatic but decisive when defusing clashes in the studio – he has even had to endure then PM Silvio Berlusconi ringing live on air to voice his complaints. The show’s opening skit by comedian Maurizio Crozza is famous.
Talk show with a live audience. Politicians, government ministers, journalists and academics weigh in on the burning issues interspersed with reports and poll findings.
Airs Tuesday evenings on the state-run Rai3 channel.
A Love Letter to the City
Stephen Powers quit graffiti to become an artist back in 1999. From São Paulo to Belfast, Powers’ work leaves mere tagging miles behind; here are bold and witty exhortations to love and all else.
02. Graphic novel
Just So Happens
This UK-based Japanese artist exhibits the refreshing flipside of manga’s more sweaty-browed excesses with a book rendered in watercolour washes, switching scenes between smoke-choked urban landscapes and the calm of Shinto shrines. Yumiko is a young woman headed home to a family emergency. A powerful story dealt with a deft brush in hand.
Live at the Brixton Academy
Simon Parkes & JS Rafaeli
In this memoir of a musical landmark, the owner of London’s famed Brixton Academy venue, Simon Parkes, often seems more focused on himself than the talent passing through the theatre’s doors. But that might be a good thing, as we’ve all heard odes to Kurt Cobain’s talent before but learning how to shift thousands of tickets to a gig that will never take place (due to the singer’s tragic death) is a fascinating window into thinking on one’s feet.
Egypt has charmed and intrigued generations of adventurers and scholars. Using the nation’s arterial river as a route, academic Toby Wilkinson charts the waters of its history; dropping anchor to discuss the events that coloured the nation’s past and those shaping its future.
Look Who’s Back
The novel that’s still a sensation in Germany finally invades its neighbours. Why are we using crude, time-capsule jokes? Because Vermes’ arch-eyebrowed shocker has Hitler nodding off in 1945 to greet the morning in 2011 to embrace media celebrity. A satire on the cult of personality and whether Hitler would have a place in contemporary Germany is nicely played.
Steer clear of clichés
A UK ad for an Italian car in the 1990s implied the Mediterranean nation favoured fast cars over the humble train. How wrong they were.
When Fiat re-introduced their Coupé in the early 1990s, you wanted one. The car looked like it was going fast when it was standing still and seemed to only come in the primary colours of racing cars. My friend’s father owned a Fiat garage in Sussex so we went down to the showroom to sit in the driver’s seat, make the appropriate “driving noises” and mime shifting through the gears as we negotiated a series of snaking Alpine curves in our heads.
The Coupé sold itself but the advertising campaign was the kicker. The car pounced from its billboard, shot at an angle that made it look like it was kicking up gravel and bothering the speed limit: nice. In Italy its slogan was “Bentornato Coupé!” (“Welcome back, Coupé!”), tapping into the Turin firm’s rich history of sporty motors. Strong but standard, you’d say. However, the UK’s version was a masterpiece of ballsy copywriting that confirmed this young man’s heartfelt suspicions that Italy was a nation of Romeo and Juliets who lived life in the primary colours of racing cars, that carpe’d the hell out of the diem: “In Italy, no one grows up wanting to be a train driver.” Yeah, take that trains! Boring, safe trains that men in bowler hats and briefcases board to go to work. Trains that nerds with Thermos flasks “spot” and note down in a book. Being on a train meant being a passenger, but in Italy – the ad was saying – everyone’s a driver. And driving’s good.
Interesting, though, that those words didn’t run on the Italian advert. Why? Because it’s not actually true. Despite the fact that negotiating the autostrada in anything less powerful than a space shuttle will put the fear of God into any non-Italian, unfortunately for our beloved cliché lots of people in Italy grow up wanting to be train drivers. And the reason is even worse for our stereotype of La Dolce Vita: in Italy, driving a train is a job for life in a country where jobs for life are thin on the ground. It’s safe.
In his wonderful book Italian Ways, Tim Parks explains Italy through its railway network; the byzantine ticket-pricing system, the labyrinthine complexities of the penalty fare, the Machiavellian deviousness of certain ticket inspectors. These rococo bureaucratic excesses may reflect a nation that confuses good organisation with red tape and where generations of jobsworths idle out their years with the equivalent of a permanent “out to lunch” sign on their office doors. Not very vrrrrroooooom!, is it? So, dear Trenitalia, I’m open for rebranding work. How about a new campaign featuring a nice, slow train and this: “In England everyone grows up terrified of denting their car.”
Sounds from around the world
The Souljazz Orchestra
Back with their cauldron of internationally cross-pollinated bitches’ brew come those crazy globetrotting cats from, you guessed it: Ottawa. This record might just prove that having a pretty free diary means a genuine freedom from constraints of border and genre, a freedom of expression and an appropriate bagginess in the knees. For once, “fusion” is not a term to be sniffed at: samba, salsa, bossa, afro-jazz, highlife and spirituals are all represented in tracks that ping equally out of superfly improvisation and knuckle-tight arrangements. It has become its own thing: the genre that defies the term. Whatever you’d like to call this happy collision, the Souljazz Orchestra own it. Who’d argue with Louis Armstrong? That “there are only two types of music – good music and bad music”. File under good.
I’d love to see Future Islands’ “most-listened” Spotify playlist. There’s something of the chameleon in the Baltimore band’s switching between Avalon-era Roxy, College’s LA-noir synths and a whiff of the Killers’ widescreen rock, if those Las Vegans had signed to those ever avante-gardistas at 4AD. Which is precisely what Future Islands have just done to release their fresh, bold and brilliant fourth album. ‘Singles’ sounds like it should sound: a romp through greatest hits committed to spin at 45rpm. These 10 tracks fairly fly from the speakers and sound like they’ve been inhabiting FM radio since the 1980s; they certainly aren’t singles that will be reading the lonely hearts.
Just try looking away
Former model turned fancy-dress TV presenter Natsuki Okamoto; Tokyo, Japan.
She and her insane outfits can be found every Tuesday on “Goji ni Muchuu”, a news programme shown on the Tokyo Metropolitan Television network.
By sporting expertly crafted and completely bonkers costumes, Okamoto has taken the prosaic role of a daytime TV presenter to new levels. After shedding her pin-up image and shaving her head , she now spends her days coming up with weekly ensembles, be it high-culture iconography like The Eiffel Tower or objects such as the humble hot dog - she will do it. The staggering variety, awe-inspiring level of commitment and ability to create costumery out of the seemingly impossible (dressing up as The Northern Lights takes some real lateral thinking) is a joy to watch.
Her weekly apparel antics transcend mere novelty precisely because there’s no theme or underlying message; Okamoto’s costumes have nothing to do with current affairs – they exist in a vacuum.
There are few places we can think of that wouldn’t benefit from Okamoto’s presence, she would brighten up the darkest corners of network news worldwide. There are rumours that this is all a mid-life crisis or a mental break down but we’re not buying it. This is just Natsuki doing Natsuki
Q&A Teddy Soeriaatmadja
Film director, Jakarta
Indonesian director Teddy Soeriaatmadja is in the “second act” of his filmmaking career. His last two independently produced titles – Lovely Man (2011) and Something In The Way (2013) – are part of a trilogy that explores hypocrisy in Indonesian society, and has earned him praise and awards at home and overseas.
How is this your second act?
I used to be a director-for-hire for films that producers thought would make money. Now my projects are a creative release. It’s not about how I’m going to make money back.
How do you fund your films?
I shoot TV commercials for big brands and save enough money to do my own films. Nobody wanted to finance my last two movies about a transgender father of a Muslim girl and a taxi driver who is obsessed with pornography and discovers sex through a prostitute next door. The material was too edgy. I get rejected a lot by actors, too. Nowadays when you offer an actor a script that’s different or challenging some will do it. For Something In The Way, I app-roached Reza Rahadian – the biggest actor here. I didn’t think he’d want to do it but he did.
How has censorship in Indonesia affected your films?
Lovely Man passed censorship without cuts the first time we submitted it. So we signed with a distributor. Before our cinema release the censors wanted another look, then ordered cuts. It was heartbreaking. It was too late to pull my film. I didn’t even try to release my next film in Indonesia – it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.
What’s your next film?
I’m shooting and finishing the third in the trilogy, About A Woman. It’s about a 65-year-old lady who rediscovers her sexuality after hiring a male maid in her house. She’s a Muslim. I’ll try to put this through the censors because, as a filmmaker, I want Indonesians to see my films.