Thursday. 3/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Jill Robinson, Strongroom

OPINION / Chiara Rimella

Power plants

In Newburgh, upstate New York, a project conceived by the late Austrian-born artist Martin Roth is being realised posthumously, transforming an abandoned building into a plant-filled musical installation. The City Club, a former gentlemen’s club and law library built in the 1850s, had long been a ruin and was overgrown with plants and weeds when Roth first came across it. His idea for an artwork involved not only building pathways through the greenery but connecting the plants to audio devices so that the noise they make could be amplified into an orchestral, ambient soundtrack for the space.

Roth’s work had previously explored the power of living organisms and this latest project, “A Home With A Garden” (pictured), feels particularly poignant today. We’re used to thinking that a building overrun by weeds needs fixing and yet we hanker for more greenery in our cities. The realisation of Roth’s project, which is expected to open to the public in June, invites us to reframe how and when we consider nature to be a positive or a negative.

In a similar vein, artist Es Devlin’s centrepiece for London’s Design Biennale, titled “Forest for Change”, also opens this week. The trees transported into the middle of the prim neoclassical courtyard of Somerset House goes deliberately against the rules of the building; she was explicitly told that planting trees would be forbidden there. We talk a lot about the need to rewild our cities but how wild are we really willing to go? Greenery can do more than benefit our public spaces – done right it can become an art.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Mali

Banning order

Mali’s membership of the African Union has been suspended following a military coup in the country last week. Assimi Goita, who led the takeover (and had obtained the vice presidency in a separate putsch in August), was declared president on Friday and ordered the arrest of Mali’s interim president and prime minister. The 55-member African Union, which has threatened to impose sanctions if a civilian-led government is not reinstated, issued a statement urging the Malian military “to urgently and unconditionally return to the barracks; to refrain from further interference in the political processes”. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also suspended Mali’s membership after an emergency meeting on Sunday. Paul Melly, consulting fellow for Chatham House’s Africa programme, says that the suspensions are unlikely to end the coup, “but they will increase the pressure on the putschists to focus on completing the transition back to elections and democratic rule as scheduled for February 2022”.

For more from Paul Melly and the African Union, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Media / China

Speak for yourself

President Xi Jinping (pictured) has told a congregation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that he wants his country to improve the way it tells its “stories” to the rest of the world. It comes as foreign press access in the country is being increasingly curbed. Xi said that the efforts would allow Beijing to develop an “international voice” to match its national might, as well as helping foreigners to understand the way in which the CCP “strives for the happiness” of the Chinese people. So what’s behind the charm offensive?

“Beijing feels that it has considerable political and economic strengths but it needs to ramp up its soft-power efforts,” Rana Mitter, director of the University of Oxford’s China Centre, tells The Monocle Minute. “Xi essentially wants people to understand China. That is complicated in itself because there isn’t a single narrative – but this is about China being a voice in the world rather than being on the receiving end of foreign journalism.”

Image: Alamy

Economy / Portugal

Booster cable

Formerly a huge naval power, Portugal’s latest international ambitions are once again being centred around its proximity to the sea but this time it’s for the purpose of transmitting data. This week the country announced the completion of a new undersea cable stretching from Sines (pictured), just south of Lisbon, to Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil. The 6,000km Ellalink transatlantic cable will reduce latency (the time it takes data to get to its destination) by 50 per cent and is part of a broader EU plan to gain a larger slice of global internet traffic. Portugal’s intention is to become “the point of connection and bridge between Europe and the other continents,” as prime minister António Costa said this week. “This is what makes Portugal different in Europe in the past, present and future.” With cloud centres and data firms expected to flock to Sines as a result of the move, Portugal’s data bridge could prove to be a very shrewd economic move.

Image: Francois Cavelier

Urbanism / Japan

Free parking

Last month we reported that Yoyogi Park (pictured), one of Tokyo's biggest public parks, was to be closed off for the summer to become a ticketed public viewing area for the Olympics. This week those plans were officially ditched by the city in what could be seen as a small democratic victory. More than 110,000 people had signed an online petition to reclaim the popular park, which is home to a kindergarten, runners, dog walkers, radio-calisthenics practitioners and yoga groups from the neighbourhood and beyond. But victory might be brief: city officials didn’t openly cite the petition in their cancellation notice and the site designated for the Olympics will be used as a vaccination centre for police officers and firefighters from July. A viewing area is also still planned for the Paralympics in late August. If the public really want their park back, they’ll need to keep up the pressure on city officials.

Image: Haydon Perrior

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 237: Recipe edition, Maxim Schulte

The man behind London’s Kol Mezcaleria shares one of his favourite cocktail recipes.

Monocle Films / Global

Media on the move

We visit two bold companies finding canny ways to pivot their product for changing audiences. Transhelvetica, a Swiss magazine, and Spiritland, a London-based hospitality and audio venture, are each shaping the media landscape for the better.

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