Tuesday 20 October 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 20/10/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: PJ Rountree. Image courtesy of the artist, Kurimanzutto, Mexico City

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Ringing the changes

When was the last time you used a telephone booth? As a child of the 1990s I have to dig deep into recollections of holidays spent away from my parents at the Italian seaside to find a memory of punching numbers (learnt by heart) on those silver buttons. From Milan to Rome, the country’s red Telecom boxes are now a rarity, as is true in many cities around the world.

In New York City, plans to get rid of all remaining public telephones were announced earlier this year, which might be a reason behind art gallery Kurimanzutto’s decision to stage an exhibition across 12 phone kiosks on 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Over the next 11 weeks, 12 different artists (including Patti Smith and Renée Green) will take over the exterior of the small metal boxes. After that the phone booths’ number will be up.

A number of initiatives over recent months have rethought commercial galleries’ relationship with the public realm. In Zürich, Karma International put up a number of so-called Storefront Shows during lockdown – exhibitions that were visible to passersby, even if the gallery was closed. In central Italy’s Reggio Emilia, a project named Neutro is taking over six noticeboards normally used as advertising space along a thoroughfare.

One obvious advantage of these projects is their ability to engage an audience that wouldn’t normally head inside a gallery but they also prompt fresh awareness of features of our streets to which we’ve become so accustomed that we don’t notice them at all. In the case of New York’s phone booths it’s going to be a bittersweet reckoning: if you’re in the city, take a glance before the line goes dead.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Sweden

Spending boom

Who’s afraid of Vladimir Putin? Sweden it would seem. The non-Nato member has proposed to raise defence spending almost 40 per cent for the next four-year period to 2025 to KR79bn (€7.62bn) and increase total military personnel from 60,000 to 90,000. Sweden had been slashing spending on its forces since the end of the cold war but there’s now cross-party agreement that the trend must be reversed. The Scandinavian nation has increasingly protested to Moscow about Russian vessels entering its territorial waters in the Baltic Sea and aircraft venturing into its airspace. But it’s not just military forces getting a funding boost; part of the money will go to government agencies in charge of civil defence. “The world is becoming less safe and it’s not just about military aggression,” Elisabeth Braw, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “It’s things such as cyberattacks and disinformation, which are equally serious.”

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Bolivia

Passing the baton

It’s been quite a year for the Andean nation of Bolivia. After a disputed election result led to the reluctant resignation of leftist leader Evo Morales in November last year – followed by his exile in Mexico and then Argentina – the country has been rocked by polarisation, sporadic violence and a lurch to the right by an interim government. None of this was helped by the pandemic, which delayed the election of a new president until last Sunday.

Morales was confident when he spoke to Monocle from Buenos Aires for our April issue that his anointed successor Luis Arce (pictured) would win. Two exit polls have now given the UK-educated former economy minister Arce a first-round victory and interim president Jeanine Añez has already congratulated him. If the results become official, expect Morales to make a triumphant return home. We can only hope that this ushers in a period of healing rather than further partisanship.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Israel

Power down

Israel emerges this week from a second national lockdown that has, at least for now, succeeded in cutting the number of coronavirus infections. However, the government’s handling of the pandemic continues to spark calls for more far-reaching reforms. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last month reported that Israel’s centralised system of government – coupled with its weak myriad of 257 municipal, regional and local councils – has led to inefficiencies in infrastructure delivery and unfair distribution of revenue. The US research institute Rand has proposed a solution: consolidating local councils into a series of regional super-authorities. For proof of concept, proponents have pointed to a cluster of nine councils in the Be’er Sheva metropolitan area that joined forces in 2012 to deliver efficient municipal services. Similar proposals have reportedly been backed in the past by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister would do well to support those reforms now: the pandemic has shown that strong local governments serve as an important counterbalance to centralised power.

Image: Alamy

Cinema / Japan

Comic relief

Cinemas worldwide have been suffering from a dearth of blockbusters this year, which makes it all the more surprising that Japan has just broken its domestic box-office record for an opening weekend. The release of Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, an anime film based on the manga title of the same name, took $44m (€37m) from Friday to Sunday. It comes as cinema restrictions were relaxed in Japan in mid-September, following other Asian countries including South Korea and China, which have also posted solid box-office figures. It’s also a sign of the continued power of Japanese manga: the Demon Slayer comic, which first appeared in 2016, has sold more than 100 million copies and also inspired a TV show. The film will be released internationally next year, although fans in Taiwan will be able to see it later this month. Cinemas might not be able to show the latest Bond or Marvel film yet – but Demon Slayer is proving to be just as big a ticket.

M24 / The Monocle Weekly

Rose Glass

We catch up with Rose Glass to learn about faith, art and film school as her stunning directorial debut ‘Saint Maud’ arrives in cinemas.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Entrepreneurs 3, September 2020

Does your company need a rethink? What does winning look like? Should you move to a quieter city? Find the answers – and many more – among the 100 tips inside the latest edition of The Entrepreneurs. It’s time to be bold. Available now at The Monocle Shop


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