Sunday, 29 December 2013

Fashion & Art: The New Marriage

Ever since Yves Saint Laurent created the Mondrian dress in 1965, fashion and art have been spinning towards one another like two halves of a magnet. One only needs to look at the last seasons to see the evidence of fashion houses using the fine arts as an inspiration. The Byzantine mosaics appearing in last season's Dolce Gabbana collection being one of the more successful examples.

Meanwhile, more and more photographers have been making the jump from galleries towards fashion, bringing in new creativity. Robert Mapplethorpe may have been a mistake, but contemporary success stories include Ryan McGinley (here for Stella McCartney) and this season, Collier Schorr and Viviane Sassen.

Collier Schorr: Masculinity

Collier Schorr, Jens F. 2005

Andrej Pejic, for Dossier Journal Spring 2011

Collier Schorr for Brioni, S/S 2014

Viviane Sassen: Contrasts & Colours

as featured in the 2011 MoMA show 

"moon rocks" for POP Magazine in 2012

Viviane Sassen for Missoni, S/S 2014

It was only a matter of time, then, that the blurred line between artist and designer is now being further erased. Raf Simons recently announced that contemporary artist Sterling Ruby would be "taking over" his label for the A/W 2014 men's collection shown in a couple of weeks. Ruby had previously designed Simons' Tokyo flagship store and collaborated on a collection, but this time it seems to be more than a collaboration. 

Simons announced: "What interests me now is to say that this is not just a collaborative thing, not just asking someone in my field to do the knitwear or the bags. This is all the way, all the way. There is not one shirt, one shoe, one sock that is not from our mutual thinking process.” 

Sterling Ruby in his L.A. studio

The interior of the Raf Simons' store in Tokyo

Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby collection Spring Summer 2010

The show is possibly the most anticipated of January's Paris fashion week. What Picasso for Dior or Magritte for Lanvin would have looked like will remain speculations for fashion historians. As for the love between art and fashion now, we only have to stay tuned. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Great Possibilities

I always thought Opera stagings were either costumey and dusty, or contemporary and slightly awkward. This week I was proven wrong.

In Warsaw's National Theatre, on one of the largest opera stages in the world, scenographer Mariusz Treliński premiered his versions of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle.

It was like witnessing a whole new genre of art: With spectacular décor stunts like giant Penone-esque tree trunks descending from the ceiling (see first photo), and subtle 3-D projections on an invisible curtain separating audience and performers (third and fourth pics). 

And yet, the staging never stole the show - it placed the stories in a magically timeless sphere, aided by the right amount and the right kind of innovation. Who knew? Opera is back to avant-garde.

See here for the show's making of. 
At New York's Metropolitan Opera in January 2015. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

My Big Fat Gypsy Prejudice

Who can resist the entertaining tackiness that is a pineapple dress? The UK Channel 4 show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - and its even more garish US equivalent "My Big Fat American Gyspy Wedding" - have catapulted travellers into to the mainstream. Or should one say, turned prejudices into a joke? 

"Gypsy Soul", Bruce Weber for US Vogue April 1992, feat. Rossy de Palma

In Poland, where no such TV show exists but where violence against the Roma is ripe, an art show explores for the first time the notion of Gypsiness. How do people see the Roma, how do the Roma see themselves? The exhibition is a revelation, and you can read my review for this is tomorrow magazine here.

British Roma artist Delaine Le Bas' installation at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw

But more crucially, the exhibition may mark the beginning of a serious questioning about the place of Roma culture within the national landscape. "Papusza", a feature film about the life of Polish-Roma poet Bronisława Wajs has just been released. It touches upon the silent chapters of gypsy existence, including the half-forgotten Roma Holocaust, social exclusion and the conundrum of permanent settlement. It is also very beautiful. 

Papusza (2013)

Following all this immersion, I attended a workshop at the Zachęta gallery with Roma artist Gosia Mirga. How do you see us? she asked, and gave us more than one could need to make a collage. This is what I came up with. Hardly as spectacular as a pineapple dress. But then I never thought I'd make it onto Channel 4.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Xavier at the Farm

Last night at the Black Bear Filmfest, Xavier Dolan's new film "Tom at the Farm" convinced. Intense, intelligent, and surprisingly eerie, this is the Canadian director's best yet.

Dolan, almost unrecognisable with bad clothes and worse hair, plays Tom, who attends his ex-boyfriend Guillaume's funeral in the countryside and gets entangled with Guillaume's violent brother Francis (played by head-to-toe hottie Pierre-Yves Cardinal). 

The tension is real and palpable from beginning to end, broken up only with some improbably hilarious scenes. It's a bit as if Almodóvar had made a film in the 80s and decided to set it on a Canadian farm. Except that it is truly scary. And Cardinal is sexier than Banderas ever was. Instant classic. 

"Tom at the Farm" (2013) Trailer

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Jesus Riot

A naked man lies on the floor and rubs himself against Jesus. Or more precisely: a figure of Jesus.

We're in an art gallery, not a church, but the sight is perturbing.

"When I walked into the cathedral in Warsaw", says artist Jacek Markiewicz, "I was shocked to see all these people kneeling in front of a chiselled mock-God. In my piece I wanted to insult that which isn't God."

The Adoration, 1993

Unsurprisingly, Poland's arch-Catholics did not quite understand the artist's subtle intentions. On the penultimate day of the Britsh British Polish Polish show, a man smuggled in eggs filled with paint, and threw them onto the wall where "Adoration" was being projected. 

'Adoration' under attack 

This being Europe, not Russia, it was the attacker and not the artist, who was arrested. I agree. Though I cannot help but feel like the result, remniscent of Nikki de Saint Phalle's shooting paintings , is worthy of some adoration. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Very Private Affair

Last year the studio of Karol Radziszewski burnt down in a blaze. Lost was all of the artist's work, along with the archives of Eastern Europe's only arty-queer magazine, DIK Fagazine.

In the studio that is no longer

the blaze

But arent's we surrounded by archives? To open this year's Poznań Photography Biennal, Radziszweski curated a very special show that answers just that question. 

Entitled "For Personal Use", it presents the  private erotic collections as submitted by ordinary individuals. You know, that stash of magazines under the bed, or that folder entitled "XYZ", hidden somewhere in the darkest depths of your hard drive that you didn't think anyone would ever see? 

If you make it to Poznań, you can also see what I sent in…if you find me. 

Out of the fire sprang a new collection. It's not how you fall - it's how you get it up.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Warsaw Shore

I feel sullied. I have been seduced - no, flashed - by Poland's possibly lowest-quality import ever: MTV's Warsaw Shore.

Yes, it's true. Massive posters of Polish fake-tanned people look upon the whole city. At first this may have been funny, but now it is getting hard. Why are they so Orange? Why are they screaming? Is it because they are cold? Or in pain?

This photo is extra-small for your own protection

It is this intrigue which led me to watch the first episode. Yes, this might seem like hypocrisy. But I had to see it for myself. It despaired me much, and I threw away my laptop after fifteen minutes.  How long will you last? You won't need to know any Polish to see it, the participant's body language is so expressive. But just in case you wonder - bzykać is a contemporary word for copulation.

Beach-goers on Warsaw's Shore in 1930

Meanwhile, scandalized viewers have started a campaign to remove the biggest poster that entirely covers the facade of the historical Smyk department store. So far 15,000 people like "Remove the Warsaw Shore banner from Smyk". One commentator added as an afterthought: Remove Warsaw Shore from television. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Natural Selection

Katarzyna Przezwańska whispers where others scream.

And yet, walking through the endless rooms of the "Britsh Britsh Polish Polish" show at the Ujazdowski Castle for Contemporary Art, it was she who made me stop the longest.

Because perfect things don't need much adjustment. 
Because her changes are so delicate and so appropriate, you don't wonder why; 
you wonder how. And so did I.

In the end, I sat down and watched her filmed impressions of Sao Paulo. Leaves dancing in the wind, water reflected onto the ceiling of an Oscar Niemeyer, a man dancing in the street. It's like I had travelled with her. Or she for us. All in silence. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Mais Oui Bowie

Question: Is it wrong to be obsessed with an 80's track sung by an actress? 

Answer: Not when the actress is Isabelle Adjani, the songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, and the topic David Bowie's beauty

The possibly grooviest triumvirate of talent ever makes "Beau Oui Comme Bowie". The song's wordplay is hypnotic like a spell, and it's riff isn't letting me go this week. And that curious nonchalance of Ajdani's moves...

Isabelle Adjani, Beau Oui, Comme Bowie, 1983

If this isn't enough for you, get your fix here: Adjani's entire album, filmed as a track-to-track 45min. music video. Grotesque and fabulous are the first words to come to mind.

Isabelle Adjani, full album & video


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Sorrow and Bleakness, The Good Kind

It is getting colder and greyer, and maybe a black-and-white film about a young nun in 1960's Poland isn't what you feel like to take the edge off. You might want to make an exception for "Ida".

This week, on a particularly dreary day, I went to see the latest film by Paweł Pawlikowski. It is essentially a journey: Through urban and rural landscapes, into a family's past, right down to the deeper, darker corners of the soul.

Slow and subtle, the film feels like one astonishing cliché-free improvisation. I cried unscripted crocodile tears at the least dramatic moment, and recounted the plot scene-for-scene upon coming home.

Which is why the juries at the London, Warsaw and Toronto Film Festivals were right to shower the film with prizes. If you're in for some beautiful sorrow, "Ida" will deliver the fix. 

"Ida" trailer in English

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Syria: Not Forever

This blog started over two years ago with a post of my photos from Syria. The civil war was just starting to be called that, and memories of the nation's quiet surface were still fresh.

Today 'Syria' is a political synonym for urgency, escalation and diplomatic conundrums. Which makes these snapshots from December 2010 - a foreigner's naïvely curious glances - living relics: Meaningful, superfluous, and like everything else, endlessly subject to what comes after.