Saturday 5 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 5/6/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Inside track

I have been running in the early mornings; the evenings have become too crowded on my preferred routes now that the weather is so glorious. On Wednesday I headed out at just after 06.00 and there was something about the temperature, the way the city smelled so springy, that made me decide to push on further than I had planned. I headed through the City, along the south bank of the Thames, arced up through Westminster, into Hyde Park, on to Oxford Street… By the time I got home I was feeling exhausted – and incredibly smug. Was this the furthest I had run all year? Excited, I looked at the app to see how far I had heroically traversed. It said I had run 750 metres. Panic. Fear. What had happened? Was it all a dream?

At this point the other half had come to see what was making both a wheezing and wailing sound while simultaneously dripping sweat. “It didn’t record the run – I went miles and it’s just not there,” I blurted out in the sort of shocked tone that should really be reserved for when you discover your toes have been stolen in the night. And then he said something that made me question who this was that I had been living with all these years: “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. You know you did it, that’s all that counts.”

Some advice: do not start channelling the Dalai Lama when your partner’s running app has failed. Wiseness and calmness may seem like virtues to some people but they look like pretty ugly vices at moments like this. I tried to explain, “I need the numbers for my target… it didn’t happen if the app denies it… should I go and run the route again?” Luckily for him, he had a breakfast appointment to get to and left the house with some haste and what looked like an annoyingly saintly swagger to me.

Thankfully at the office I got a better response – well, from some. Tom Reynolds, our managing editor and a runner, looked almost ashen at the shocking news. But he had been witness to similar catastrophes in the past and had the technical equivalent of a surgeon’s operating kit to hand. He knew, for example, a site on which you can remap your route and the way to manually add this information to the running app. “Leave this to me,” he imparted, like some superhero.

Now I am not saying I made a big thing of this but Nolan, our senior editor and user of the same app, was also full of empathy and concern. Whereas Josh, the magazine’s deputy editor and not a fellow likely to be spotted gussied up in Lycra, seemed underwhelmed, “So you can just make stuff up – and cheat?”

Well, that was it. “You just don’t get it,” chided Tom. “Why would you cheat?” asked Nolan. I wondered how, for a second time in a day, I could have so misjudged someone. Cheat? All those statistics, all those beautifully recorded routes, are too precious to ever be tampered with. They are truth.

I let the other half know the good data news and, a few minutes later, Tom’s mobile rang. My partner was phoning from him for advice on what to do if such an emergency should happen again. “Well, it’s very distressing when this happens,” said Dr Tom. “But there are ways of treating this problem successfully and the patient seems to have made a full recovery on this occasion.”

Finally: This week at our London HQ we held a series of small parties to celebrate the launch of The Monocle Book of Homes. Each night was sold out and readers came to have a glass or two of rosé, hear its editor Nolan Giles and me talk about the project and, just as importantly, be out with interesting fellow Monoclers. These events made me realise how much I have missed these moments. I heard about new businesses and projects, people’s life stories, and finished the week amazed at the loyalty and support we get from our amazing audience. So thank you to everyone who joined us and I hope that we can meet people again in many more cities this year (just this week Tyler has been hosting in Antwerp, Copenhagen and Zürich). Until then, have a good week and be wary of any threats to your app-iness.


Time to shine

There’s a hackneyed old phrase that in Vienna everything happens 50 years later (writes Alexei Korolyov). And while it certainly didn’t seem that way during the worst of the pandemic, the Austrian capital was one of the last great European cities to reopen when it declared Freiheit two weeks ago.

The cafés have since spilled their tables onto the streets and theatres are open (the one opposite my building conveniently acts as a testing ground before the matinée), as are museums and galleries. In fact, Vienna’s Kulturschaffende (a wonderful German word meaning, essentially, all people to do with culture) had been working away quietly during the lockdowns. This weekend, there’s plenty to choose from. The Vienna Biennale is taking place in cultural institutions across the city, as are exhibitions in newly inaugurated galleries such as Kahán Art Space in the second district (also serving as the Austrian offices of German newspaper Die Zeit) and Kunstverein Gartenhaus, an elegant one-storey garden pavilion in the seventh district. While there, pop into the nearby Café Kandl for a selection of freshly cooked seasonal vegetables.

With temperatures finally rising after the coldest spring in 25 years, it might also be a good idea to take advantage of Vienna’s easy access to nature: there are hills, lakes, rivers and great plains all within the city limits. A favourite destination is Döbling, the 19th district. From there, you can set out on different trails through rolling vineyards and the Vienna Woods. End the hike with a glass of wine at one of the many Heuriger (wine taverns), before cooling off in the scenic Krapfenwaldlbad swimming pool.


Design rights

If social media has taught us any one thing – an “if” so big that air traffic would need to be directed around it – it’s that outrage expands to fill the space made available for its expression (writes Andrew Mueller). It is possible, without scrolling too far, to find consequential numbers of people gripped by picturesque transports of fury over issues about which, not so long ago, almost nobody had even thought of, much less cared about.

A recurrent example of this is what is known as cultural appropriation – the purloining of food, clothing, music or whatever from a culture other than one’s own. A hue and cry of this sort has been launched by Mexico’s ministry of culture, which has accused several global fashion behemoths – Anthropologie, Zara, Patowl – of using some of its distinctive and beautiful textile designs originally developed by Mexico’s indigenous peoples.

The owner of Zara, Inditex, has denied the claim – but as a general principle, such a case could be made. It is not a good look for any vast multinational capitalist enterprise to make money, even indirectly, from the work of people to whom the post-colonial centuries have been generally unkind. It costs nothing to ask politely and wouldn’t cost much to include the communities in question in any profits. But that is about not being a jackass, not about cultural appropriation – and the two are not the same thing. Appropriation is the very definition of what culture – any culture – does; and any culture not being appropriated is dead.


By the word

Deborah Levy is a London-based novelist, playwright and poet who was born in Johannesburg. Real Estate, the anticipated final instalment of her award-winning Living Autobiography series just hit shelves, bringing her trilogy of moving memoirs to a close with a thought-provoking and inspiring read. Levy, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is currently working on her eighth novel. She took the time to share some of her favourite weekend reads, listens and brunch habits with Monocle.

What have you been working on recently?
An essay on the amazing artist Sarah Lucas.

What news source do you wake up to?
I listen to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for a while and then walk out of the bedroom to squeeze oranges in the kitchen. I often wonder why I don’t just put the radio in the kitchen. It’s probably because I don’t entirely want to hear the news.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Coffee every time: 100 per cent arabica. My espresso pot has no handle because it melted when the gas was turned up too high.

Brunch routine?
In summer: a slice of watermelon. In winter: kippers, poached eggs, toast.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
British Vogue as edited by Edward Enninful. I always love The Gentlewoman, too.

The newspapers you turn to?
The Guardian, The Observer and The New York Times.

Bookshop of choice for a drizzly Saturday afternoon?
All the independents. Without bookshops, writers are nothing.

A favourite film?
Blue Velvet by David Lynch. For its mood, beauty and enigma.

What song can’t you get out of your head?
“Soothing” by Laura Marling. She is such a good lyricist, a poet really. I like its mystery and how it is full of longing. And in that same kind of mood, “Creep” by Radiohead is my all-time favourite. It’s as if I am hearing it for the first time, every time.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
I don’t want to listen to words after writing for six hours. I prefer to make a negroni and listen to Chopin’s solo piano works as played by Alfred Cortot.

The book you’re reading before drifting off to sleep?
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. It’s playful and witty. A novel that reads like life-writing – but that genre is so last century.


Animal magnetism

‘What Artists Wear’ by Charlie Porter. Fashion is a universal form of self-expression and those whose careers consist of creating visual works know this very well. In this playful new book, writer and fashion critic Charlie Porter celebrates the pleasure and possibility of clothes through the most memorable outfits worn by artists in and out of the studio. Discover Yayoi Kusama’s kaleidoscopic costumes, Yves Klein’s snappy suits and Andy Warhol’s devotion to denim.

‘Daddy’s Home’, St Vincent. Annie Clark’s follow-up to her 2017 hit record Masseduction is a fascinating album that pays homage to the darker sides of kitsch US nostalgia. She’s got a new look (Pretty Woman-esque wig, 1970s outfits) and new merchandise (cassettes, trucker caps and keyrings). And, in the words of a poster which could well have been designed a few decades ago, the record features “warm Wurlitzers and wit, glistening guitars and grit, with sleaze and style for days”. Sexy, surprising, fascinating and sonically exceptional, this is Clark at her best.

‘Gunda’, Viktor Kossakovsky. The words “art” and “pigsty” are not often paired but they find a meeting point in Gunda, Viktor Kossakovsky’s curious and unexpectedly mesmerising documentary about a group of farmyard animals. Shot in stunning, soft monochrome, it triumphs in its search for beauty and pathos in places we’d least expect to find them, from a morass to a cow’s eye encircled by flies. It’s possible to see the film as a comment on animal intelligence or even motherhood, but such readings distract from its disarming simplicity. Sometimes a giant pig is beguiling enough on its own.


Digging deep

Kenora, Ontario, sits on the northern shoreline of the Lake of the Woods, almost 500km northwest of Thunder Bay (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). “It’s a lot of fun to live here if you’re an outdoors person,” says Ryan Stelter, the editor of local weekly, the Kenora Miner. “And it’s got a real range of people living here and things going on – more than your average small town. There are a lot of indigenous communities surrounding the area.” Founded in 1881, the Kenora Miner is headed up by an editorial team of two and has been picking up awards of late. Here, Stelter fills us in on the town’s recent developments.

How’s the paper doing?
It’s a small newsroom and we just won a national newspaper award, so we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. We got the award for editorial writing for a series of pieces I’d written about racism toward the indigenous folks in Kenora. Also, I wrote on how people in Kenora don’t like Manitobans, which sometimes can be a point of contention with us being so close to the border.

What’s the big story this week?
Like almost every other community newspaper around here, we’re dealing with the aftermath of the discovery of 215 indigenous children in Kamloops [British Columbia] in a mass grave. So there’s been a lot of ceremonial vigils and potlucks and things going on this week. We’re also trying to talk to some more indigenous people here in town.

Any big events coming up?
Everything seems to be up in the air these days. I guess the biggest one in a small town is graduation; we’ll see how local high schools handle that. I know last year they did a drive-through graduation, so that might be the way to go. But that was the most exciting time we’d had in a while.

Do you have a down-page treat?
Probably the story we did on a grade seven and eight classroom. They won a school award for reconciliation [with the indigenous communities], as they took care of a nearby memorial site.


Heating up

Smart resortwear is a constant fixture of Australia’s Fashion Week, which wrapped up yesterday in Sydney after a year-long hiatus, and we’ve been eyeing up a couple of our favourite fair-weather brands that caused a stir on the catwalks.

Top of the list: Commas. Following a successful run at the Melbourne Fashion Festival, the menswear label drew crowds in Sydney for its clean-cut camp collars and easy linen bottoms, perfectly designed for louchely loafing around the pool. From its current collection we like the beige tile shirt (pictured), and the white lounge shorts would pair well with just about anything on the beachside. And though we might have to wait a while, the 2022 collection of Albus Lumen, an Aussie designer known for beautifully textured women’s clothing in neutral tones, features its first range of unisex wares. We’ll be first on the mailing list for when they’re out – think oversized knits and breezy muslin tailoring.

Sorry to those who didn’t get namechecked – rising stars Ngarru Miimi and Non-Plus, you were great, as was fashion staple Christian Kimber. But it’s the weekend and that sunlounger won’t sit on itself.;


Hello neighbour

Not all anniversaries have to be a round number: for cult British homeware and clothing brand Labour and Wait, June 2021 marks 21 years since it opened its celebrated first shop on Redchurch Street in London’s East End.

The retailer, which stocks all manner of goodies from throws to candles, kitchenware and garden gear, has celebrated in style this year by opening a second London shop at 48 Dorset Street – across the road from Monocle’s London base, Midori House. We’d like to be first to say, welcome to the neighbourhood.


Shop idol

This month, Sotheby’s will partner with Taiwanese superstar of mando-pop (that’s short for Mandarin pop) Jay Chou, launching the inaugural Contemporary Curated auction series in Asia (writes Nina Milhaud). The sale will take place in person on 18 June and online from 10 to 22 June, and feature contemporary artworks handpicked from the Sotheby’s collection by the famous singer. Chou will also be curating a public preview exhibition of what’s on offer.

“Jay worked closely with the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art team in putting together the line-up,” says Yuki Terase, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art for Asia. “He demonstrated cutting-edge taste and vision through curating a distinguished assemblage.” Said distinguished assemblage includes some eye-wateringly expensive stuff: a 1985 triptych by Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured) is expected to sell for as much as HK$350m (€37m) and a 1969 Picasso for between HK$93m and HK$143m (€10m and €15m). There will also be more affordable works – rising star Yukimasa Ida’s paintings start at HK$500,000 (€53,000).

The pop-star partnership is a canny move from Sotheby’s and seems to be part of a broader strategy: in 2014, it collaborated with Japanese fashion designer Nigo (the man behind the label A Bathing Ape) and in 2016 with TOP, a member of Korean boyband Big Bang. Both instances appeared to drive up sale prices by way of celebrity endorsement. This method – paired, no doubt, with a rapidly expanding regional economy – has contributed to making Asia the auction house’s fastest-growing market. The model is smart, of course, if slightly crass. But the figures don’t lie; it appears to be working.


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