Even now there are stories unfolding that are full of promise, showing that things can be better. While this newsletter might be dogged in its coverage of the grittier events reshaping the world, we have always made it a key part of the print magazine’s remit to cast our gaze wide to find places where optimism rules, national or civic leaders are leading progressive change and enterprises of every scale are thriving. In part this sensibility, this focus on seeking out the positive, was stitched into the brand because of the time during which Monocle was created: we first hit newsstands in 2007 and the following year the world (well, much of it) toppled off a cliff into the great global economic crash. We soon realised that, as a business, we had to stay positive, to pivot where needed and to stay focused. And this attitude fed into our reporting too – we sought fixes, solutions, a way ahead.
The new November issue of Monocle is out today and, while we do look at the impact of the Ukraine war on the Nordics and the dislodging of French influence in much of the African Sahel by a spate or Russia-backed coups, we also stay true to the Monocle cause. So, there are reports on the entrepreneurial sector in Jakarta which is booming thanks to Indonesia’s vibrant economy; a visit to perhaps the most beautiful library in Japan; interviews with architects Shigeru Ban, Jeanne Gang and Renzo Piano; and a design road trip across Czechia that will fill you with joy.
It’s a tough, complicated world but, even now, there’s hope and beauty to be discovered. And you’ll find plenty of it in Monocle.
With wars in Europe and the Middle East, what goes on in the Arctic might seem a niche preoccupation. But that’s precisely what the 2023 Arctic Circle Assembly, which begins today in Reykjavík, will be focusing on. Though Iceland lies far from the front lines of the Donbas, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has affected strategic balances much further north. One of the opening panel discussions at this year’s assembly is entitled “Managing Risks and Relationships with Russia in the Arctic”. The theme reflects Russia’s looming threat in the region; after all, every other Arctic-adjacent country is now an actual or presumptive member of Nato (both Greenland and the Faroe Islands have been covered by the North Atlantic Treaty ever since Denmark joined in 1949). The team from Monocle Radio’s The Foreign Desk is in Reykjavík to cover the assembly and you’ll hear our interviews with various frostbitten delegates across our programming in the coming days.
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced plans to launch a new railway, touted as an alternative to the Panama Canal, by the end of 2023. The project involves reviving a 308km stretch of track between the renovated ports of Salina Cruz in the state of Oaxaca and Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz. It will cut the transit time between the cities from up to 10 hours by boat to just six and a half hours by train.
“It’s part of a wider push by the Mexican government to try to revive rail and invest in infrastructure projects,” Gabriel Leigh, Monocle’s transport correspondent, tells The Monocle Minute. “However, it’s uncertain whether the line will be popular and there is the added complication of loading cargo onto trains. It could take years to get the railway in working order, particularly after falling into a state of disrepair as a result of neglect.”
Art Taipei, Taiwan’s largest art fair, opens tomorrow and runs until 23 October. The event, which is organised by the Taiwan Art Gallery Association, is an important showcase of contemporary art on the island. It’s also an opportunity to connect Taiwanese gallerists with artists from around Asia and other parts of the world. 145 exhibitors are taking part in this year’s fair, with many hailing from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China, as well as France, the UK and the US.
There are also panels on building private collections in Southeast Asia and a conceptual exhibit in a cocktail bar with art-themed drinks. While Taiwan has a robust ecosystem of domestic collectors and creatives, it is one of Asia’s smaller art markets and lacks the international exposure received by cities such as Seoul and Hong Kong. But Art Taipei, which launched in 1992, as well as newer flagship fairs, including Taipei Dangdai Art & Ideas, are attracting international collectors to the burgeoning industry and helping to put the city’s creatives on the map.
Henry Hoke is an award-winning American fiction author, co-creator of Enter Text, a series of large-scale immersive literary events, and the editor of the magazine The Offing. His fifth book, Open Throat, which is out now, follows a mountain lion’s journey to survive in a drought-stricken Los Angeles. Here, he tells Monocle more about his work.
Your company Enter Text intersects writing and performance art. Tell us more about how you achieve that.
I’m heavily influenced by spy theatre and specifically the London-based company Punchdrunk, whose work pushes the boundaries of performance art and looks to engage with audiences in new ways. My co-director and I work together to find venues in Los Angeles for our events: warehouses, various indoor and outdoor spaces, and even museums. We let writers engage with audiences through structural installations of their work.
How do you make an installation of a writer’s work?
It depends. At one point, a writer stamped her work on different parts of her body, revealing it to an audience one person at a time. She would pull back a sleeve, a collar, or turn in different positions so that the text was visible. This formed a sort of dance between the viewers and the writer.
Tell us about your latest book.
During my time in Los Angeles, I was inspired by a real-life mountain lion that was being tracked across the city and the San Fernando Valley. I would go on hikes in the hills and think that this larger, almost mythical creature was somewhere nearby. When I moved back to New York before the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to tell this story through the eyes of an animal trying to survive. I wanted to write in a direct manner, exploring the chaotic and apocalyptic sides of Los Angeles.
For our full interview with Henry Hoke, listen to the latest episode of ‘Meet the Writers’ on Monocle Radio.
This week, we sample the strange and surprising culinary delights that Venice has to offer. Sarah Grice navigates us through the winding streets and canals of the floating city in search of its hidden treasures and plenty of spritzes.