Art corps - Issue 9 - Magazine | Monocle

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Tom Fernández

Film director, Spain

Fernández is the first-time director of Suso´s Tower, which premiered to rave reviews at San Sebastián in 2007. He cut his teeth on the hugely popular sitcom Seven Lives.

“I live in a tiny village called Llanes, in Asturias in northern Spain. There are only 5,000 people and, ironically, no cinemas. I have always watched my films on video and, now, on DVD. For me, watching films on DVD has been as important an experience as watching them on the big screen because that’s how so many people watch films. But it’s a bit odd – I want to see more cinemas open here.

Suso’s Tower is about the effects of drug abuse in the 1980s in little villages like the one in which I grew up. Although this is the basis of the film, I wanted to use comedy and cariño (tenderness) to get the message across. This is the nature of life – we also laugh when we are fearful.

Although Barcelona and Madrid are the centres of Spanish cinema, a new generation of directors are proud of their roots and keen to tell their own stories: Félix Viscarret shot Under the Stars in the Basque country; Icíar Bollaín’s Mataharis is excellent – she has a great future ahead of her; and I’m sure Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage will do well at the Oscars.

I’m interested in making films about the nature of my own part of Spain. Actors like Penélope Cruz got to Hollywood by taking a chance against thousands of other actors in that strange world. But it is not the same for screenwriters or directors, luckily.

My next script is another comedy. It’s going to be a slightly didactic piece about the way we are destroying nature. Only it’ll be funny, too!”

Monocle view
Spain and Germany are enjoying a cinematic resurgence, led by a gang of young guns telling personal stories.


Yugo Nakamura

Web designer, Japan

In 1990 Yugo Nakamura started playing with digital design as a hobby to distract himself from his work as a structural engineer. Now he’s regarded by many to be the world’s finest web designer.

“The web’s ‘social’ movement is the most talked-about trend, but I don’t think being more socialised is the important thing. What is crucial is how people communicate and what comes out of it. That is what is interesting. It’s almost talking now – communication on the web is as natural as breathing air.

I would like devices to become more natural and attuned to their owners. The records of our daily activities – the time we wake up, where we go, how many steps we take, who we talk to, how much money we spend – I think this kind of information, when collected and scrutinised, can be applied in ways that allow us to rediscover the unconscious. I think by synthesizing such experiences and sharing them with others, we would be able to express large social phenomena. I’m really interested in spatial projects, in doing interactive things that integrate and become part of the interior – where environments react to the people within them.

With my ‘Kaze To Desktop’ screen-saver I tried to create something that would be popular with a broader audience. With the screensaver, objects on your desktop start blowing around according to the wind [kaze] conditions outside.

It’s about creating something beautiful with information. I’m a bit like a DJ creating music by sampling. I don’t create something from scratch but by combining snippets of information. This kind of sampling is still in its early stages; we’re kind of like the Run-DMC of the web.”

Monocle view
Nakamura’s beautiful and useful designs are the next step in humanising the web.



Performer and producer, US

After a spell on the business side of the music industry, Brooklyn-based Santogold saw the creative light: her exhilarating, multi-layered rock and reggae-tinged debut album is out this spring.

“I’m looking forward to hearing great songs next year. We’re headed for a new kind of music where genres aren’t so defined – everything is mixed up. That’s exciting for me because we’ve been in a creatively and artistically deprived era for a long time. I don’t watch any music TV, I don’t watch any award shows because I just can’t believe the shit that’s winning awards right now. I’m excited for that to be completely knocked out of the box and for real music to take a stand again.

Specifically, I’m excited to hear Spank Rock’s new stuff. Amanda Blank and Mapei are always wonderful. Mark Ronson and I are working together on a song for the Beastie Boys’ remix record.

The internet has changed music – you can find anything you want and you can find it quickly. I don’t think culture is as fragmented as it used to be, anyway: it’s a mash-up that reflects the range of things that people really like. My record has got all sorts of influences, but what kind of person isn't like that? The music that people were exposed to was so narrow because record companies demanded narrow records. When I worked at a label it was awful. It was run like a bank. I’d bring in something a little different and I’d be told that I was weird. Well, I’m just lucky that the world got to be as weird as I am.”

Monocle view
Santogold reflects a genre-defying Brooklyn scene taking the underground overground. Who said the mainstream had to be dull?


Simon Flynn

Publishing director, Icon Books, UK

Independent UK-based publisher Icon is excelling with intelligent and accessible books.

“Publishers are as surprised by what sells as the general public is, but you can bank on great writing, a PR angle and an enthusiastic author to make a successful book. An enthusiastic author is important for book tours websites, blogs – and exploiting contacts.

Being an independent publisher means being different. The Independent Alliance pools resources and information. We treasure our autonomy but enjoy strength in numbers, which helps when working with chain stores. Secondly, we swap ideas in an environment of trust and mutual support. It has had international repercussions. We were inundated by questions at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

We recently launched for people to vent spleen towards overrated books. Eventually, it’ll become a book itself. It’s open-source publishing, to be high-minded about it.”

Monocle view
It’s a cause for celebration that the independent publishers’ battle against dull homogeneity is meeting with such great success.


Baron Guy Ullens

Art collector, China

Baron Guy Ullens began by collecting Chinese antiques and Turner watercolours. In November 2007 he opened the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing.

“Just as China has quickly become an industrial powerhouse, the Chinese art world’s rapid evolution is reflected in its subject matter: working conditions, globalisation and the facts of environmental destruction. The creative power and potential is huge and growing. In a few years the Chinese will boast wonderful art academies.

My fascination with China is rooted in my childhood: my father was a diplomat there and my uncle was Belgian ambassador. My first purchase of modern Chinese art was Ai Xuan’s Tibetan Girl, which I bought for $5,000 [€3,500]. It’s now worth $400,000 [€277,000].

In the Chinese and global art market, new investors are coming in at a difficult time. The best pieces are being snapped up by museums; so much of what’s widely available is third-rate. My advice is to go slowly and find your bearings, especially at auction.

The idea for an Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art [UCCA] grew partly out of my concern that only a fraction of my 1,300 pieces had been seen in China. We want UCCA to be a stimulating environment for artists, rather than a commercial gallery. If collecting is my passion, showing the art is my duty.”

Monocle view
This era of philanthropy sees private galleries challenging the collections of state museums.

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