Monday, April 25, 2011



Just a little ode to two friends that are going places, growing up, getting gallant, taking chances and doing it all in style. Bon voyage, my pretty pretties!


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Advanced Style short film from teenage peanut video productions on Vimeo.

And that's the good news, says Gloria Steinem. If there exists a precise moment in which I could pinpoint a tremendous personal transformation, it would be as a fifteen year old high school student reading one of Steinem's pivotal pieces, "The Good News is, These are not the Best Years or Your Life", published in September 1980, in Ms. magazine, a feminist publication that Steinem co-founded.

The crux of Steinem's argument, an avid political activist and leader in the 1960's and 1970's second wave feminist movement, was that the popularly held belief that women would reach their most politically active, radical mindsets and achieve their most liberated sense of self within their college years as young and free women in their twenties, was a complete lie. By experience, Steinem purports that in your twenties you are still held captive under the male gaze, which, as a young woman you cannot escape, and in fact, are conditioned to desire, to need.

It is with age, Steinem writes, that you are suddenly freed from the roaming eyes and imaginations of generations of men; it is with age, and this subsequent emancipation, that women begin to conceive of their world and their politics and their values differently - more confidently, more radically, and without the insecurities, personal doubts and a sense of worth dictated by another gender.

Whether or not you agree with her argument, as a young woman, reading Steinem, like reading Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style, I am optimistic about my future as an older woman. Where in the past, the myth of the eternity and invincibility of youth made me fear, even loathe the idea of ageing, thanks to Steinem and all the amazing women Cohen documents in his daily blog and his profoundly inspiring short directed by Lina Plioplyte and produced for NownessI look forward to it.

These women saw us through the revolutions of art and culture that shook the western world and beyond in the 60s and the 70s, where women and men fought for society to recast itself to accept the outcasts. Their confidence, their style, their sophistication and their intelligence define these women and I hope one day they will define me.

As Jean and Valerie from Idiosyncratic Fashionistas so wisely tell us young women in Cohen and Plioplyte's video, 

"Young women, you're going to be an old woman one day. Don't worry about it. Don't sweat it. Don't worry about getting older, every era, it builds character."


Iris Apfel in Ari Seth Cohen and Lina Plioplyte's Advanced Style video on Nowness

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I've never been, but I often fantasize about walking through the decrepit ruins of the casbah and smelling the walls and imagining that through osmosis, I have absorbed the conquests and defeats of Algiers, this great port city of Antiquity. 


The Casbah, Algiers, 2006 via NY Times

The Casbah, Algiers, 2006 via NY Times

When I think of Algiers, I think of all the minds that it has shaped through its tormented colonial history, directly and indirectly - Franz Fanon, Le Corbusier, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Pontecorvo to name a few. 

Le Corbusier's vision of Algiers, Courtesy of Bidoun

Aside for Sartre, these men all found their way to the Casbah, and the Casbah changed them, for better or for worse. And now that it is in ruins, structurally unstable, crumbling bit by bit - the historical and pictorial records of old world Algiers and the infamous folds of the Casbah become all the more important.  

It will inevitably become too unsafe for its centuries old inhabitants; it will empty, and its Unesco Heritage Site classification will ensure it does not disappear into the abyss but its magic will be lost. And, after 11 years of civil war and rule under an authoritarian government, Algiers has changed, and will continue to change, so by the time you and I get there, we won't even recognize what we've missed. Here is my attempt to know the Casbah, and to know Algiers in 1945.


The Casbah, Algiers, 1945

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011



 Polaroids, circa 1970

In recent weeks, all literary and visual bread crumbs have led me to early 20th century Russia, a moment and a place in time that saw to the most enduring and decisive ideological revolution of ours, our parents and our grandparent's lives. And though history should have it that what we know and remember of Russia will always be through the lens of Communism, cold winters and bleak literary genius, what of the old Russia? 

Though Tarkovsky, best known as the Russian Auteur of such films as Solaris, Andrei Rublev and The Mirror, did not intend with his set of polaroids to tell us anything of Old World Russia, the muted colours, the dreamy haze and the unique composition of each photo references something older than Russian Communism. When I came across his polaroids I was immediately struck with their similarity to aristocratic portraiture of the 18th and 19th Centuries and the landscapes that dominated much of Romantic art. These photographs are but a few of the collection he took in Italy during the 1970's, as he documented his new home and his recent immigration.

Undoubtedly, Boris Groys says it best:
"These images are nostalgic, but not for the Soviet culture of the Russia that he left. Rather, they're nostalgia for Russia before the Revolution. They reflect the neo-romantic mood of the time in which they were made. Their romanticism is more German than French, like Caspar David Friedrich or Otto Unger. It's classicist, but with a romantic aspect" 

Monday, April 11, 2011


by Daniel Everett




Gillo Pontecorvo's masterpiece of neorealist cinema is one of my all time favourite films (possibly my favourite). The originality of its aesthetic and the poignancy of its content have allowed the film to remain ever powerful in its ability to conjure nationalist sentiment, anti-colonial fervor and an adoration for the righteous guerrilla warrior. 

The story of the Algerian War of Independence unfolds as a carefully crafted commentary about the spaces that define exclusion, control, apartheid and violence and Pontecorvo's filmic dialectic provides a surprisingly even handed view of the violence perpetrated by both sides, bringing to light the contentious nature of the acts of terrorism committed on both sides, as well as the torture of Algerian rebels by French soldiers.

Undoubtedly, the genius of the film is its seemingly authentic portrayal of urban guerilla warefare, garnered largely in part because its screenplay was written by Saadi Yacef, the rebel leader of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), while in prison and because Pontecorvo himself was a leader of an anti-Fascist resistance movement in 1942 Milan. Talk about veteran credibility!

As an example par excellence of the film's continuing relevance, I found a free streaming of the film on a website for Jammu Kashmir television, a contested area between Pakistan and India in which the Muslim majority population is fighting to seperate from India. The introduction to the film reads "The Battle of Algiers part 1 (A lesson for Kashmiri youth for ongoing freedom struggle)"

So watch it here !


Still from Christopher Riley's First Orbit, courtesy of Nowness

NOWNESS featured a great post this morning on Christopher Riley's "First Orbit", a 108 minute film that retraces the journey made by soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, the first man to enter space. Shot in the International Space station by astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and woven together with historic sound recordings of Gagarin and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, the short that NOWNESS presents is a preview of the film.

I strongly suggest a viewing. To view our the planet from this perspective somehow makes me feel more connected to its fragility, more acutely aware of its great indifference to the impasse of time. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


Cambridge Satchel Company x Dover Street Market


I stumbled across Pierre Le Hors website whilst on my daily nerding rounds. The glory of the internet is that you sift and sift through the unending detritus of pop culture, knowing that you will eventually be rewarded with an artist or an image or an idea so inexplicably delightful, novel or profound that you are changed by it. Le hors projects make me feel that delighted.

On his website he invites you to get in touch, to receive a drawing everyday. I signed up! Below is Firework Studies, which he describes here:

"firework studies is a book compiling photographs of fireworks in the night sky. by constraining nearly all tonal values to stark blacks and pure whites, the trails, explosions and clouds of debris are reduced to a series of simple repeated formal elements: arced lines, spherical bursts, and randomly dispersed particles. i made no effort to limit digital artifacts resulting from pushing the image files past their conventional range; the resulting noise becomes hard to distinguish from the texture of the fireworks themselves."
These are pictures from a dummy book, but it has sine been published by Hassla Books

Thursday, April 7, 2011


the Vignelli approach: modernismo and sprezzatura

"The President’s Medal of the Architectural League is presented to recognize extraordinary contributions to architecture and design.

Massimo and Lella Vignelli are awarded the 2011 President’s Medal in recognition of a body of work so influential that it has shaped the very way we see the world, and so perfectly conceived and executed in its specifics that each encounter with a Vignelli object or book or sign or space is a moment of delight. The integrity and consistency of Massimo and Lella Vignelli’s work, their commitment to the essential, the timeless, the rational, and the beautiful, inspires now and will continue to inspire long into the future."

In an hommage to the Vignelli's, Pentagram's Michael Bierut designed the programs for the evening with famous "Vignelli-isms" as they are called. They encompass a design ethic and a world view that champion the beauty of symmetry and simplicity. As classically trained Architects, they have married the worlds of architecture and design, Italian craft and American ingenuity – all the while, reminding us that the greatest legacy of design is that it provides us with the material artifacts of our culture. The Vignellis' body of work shows us that through great design these artifacts will withstand the test time, become ageless, out grow the obsolescence and ephemera of modernity and in doing so, will become part of the history of visual culture, and how future generations will come to know us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Omer Arbel: Exhibition Armature

Omer is a Vancouver based designer. He is a multifaceted individual. I deal with his foremost of design legacies on a daily basis, that being his Bocci pendants. However, I recently stumbled across his website, which showcases his independent design projects, my favourite of which is this Exhibition Armature.

This is a prototype for a system of exhibiting surrealist artwork commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery, and never put into production. We proposed the creation of a giant, haphazard ‘mass’ – a three dimensional automatic sketch inspired by the surrealist artists whose works the armature would contain. This prototype was our first opportunity to explore a casting technique where we haphazardly arrange a modular material (in this case hay bales) and then shoot foam onto the outside surface. We then remove the casting positive (hay bales) to reveal the negative shape formed by the foam. Wood boxes were placed within the hay bales to create crisp rectangular voids to contrast the irregular form of the surrounding foam. Each of these boxes is uniquely sized to hold a particular surrealist artwork and in dialogue with the curatorial sequence would contribute to the shape of the armature as it moved throughout the exhibition space.

go see his work here

streamline my auto

this video is sweet

Sunday, April 3, 2011

QWIKI and the pace of the future

I'm beginning my discussion of Qwiki with a digression, as the internet has taught me that the quest for knowledge, like all great google journeys, starts from somewhere completely random.

The first time I watched Luc Besson's The Fifth Element I knew I would be happy to watch that film in succession for many years to come. I was entranced by the visual cadre of the film and fell in love with the chaotic, fantastical and imperfect futurism that his story projected. He brought together two of the biggest loves of my nerd life: Science Fiction and Fashion, employing the couturier Jean Paul Gaultier in his costume design, and casting Mila Jovovich as his lead female role.

When Jovovich's character attempts to learn the history of humanity, she is shocked by the images of  violence and destruction that she sees flashing before her on her screen. I have, since that time, wondered when our wiki sites would get to that level of technologically advanced interactive pedagogy. The Fifth Element came out in 1997 and in 2011, just 14 years later, we might be pretty close.

On my quest for photos of Lilya Birk, the muse of the Russian avant garde, I stumbled across Qwiki, a Silicon Valley startup that has garnered the attention and the investments of some of the best known visionaries in technology and communication - namely Eric Lefkofsky  (who made millions investing in Groupon), Jawed Karim (co-founder of youtube) and now Eduardo Saverin (Facebook guy whom you all know from The Social Network).

Whoever is in charge of their SEO is doing a fantastic job because two days ago, Qwiki was not anywhere near the top of the page. Today it was the second link down. So what the eff is Qwiki?

Qwiki is like a less detailed, multimedia version of Wikipedia. For each subject, it presents you with an interactive presentation with a visual time line, images of related topics and a very concise description that is read to you by a "read out loud" style computer voice. Through a series of complex algorithms, the site generates these videos on the fly, taking images from associated topics, historical periods, persons and subjects garnered from all over the web (probably mostly Wikipedia)

I was really impressed and now really addicted. And being the nerd that I am, I had to know everything about it. The site went public the week of January 24th, 2011 and Saverin was quoted to have called his new investment "a game changer". Indeed, Eduardo, indeed.

The aims for Qwiki go far beyond that of just an interactive Wikipedia. The site intends to allow people to create personal Qwiki's, probably drawing information, pictures, contacts and conversations from their many social networking platforms, allowing them to create interactive presentations of themselves.

The site also wishes to work with companies in order to create company Qwikis as interactive shorts, where I'm sure they will rake in the bajillions, as a great friend would say. As each new technology has redefined the capacity and the speed of knowledge sharing, this multimedia approach will move our society in directions that are yet to be seen. In an attempt to spare you from a Baudrillardian reading of this new development, please see my short history of Russian Constructivism with the help of Qwiki.
View Constructivism (art) and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

View Alexander Rodchenko and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

View Lilya Brik and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.