Monday, 20 December 2010

monday night dress love

there's nothing like a slightly frivolous party dress to cheer you up on a dreary monday night. this one is emanuel ungaro. i'm not sure if lindsay had anything to do with this (nor can i decide how i'd feel about it if she did), but i love it. i'm going to wear it with a top hat on special occasions, and a frayed denim shirt and straw trilby when i'm dressing down.


it's time for gussy's monday night geology lesson!

we all know those kids at central saint martins are a clever bunch. few other fashion colleges can produce students with such a fantastic capacity for turning household objects into masterpieces of millinery (for example). so what's the latest thing they're turning their hand to?

well, it's palladium. yes, i didn't know what it was either. i know, i thought it was a music venue too. being a bleak monday night, i'm not overly inclined to embark on a long and involved (and probably wildly inaccurate) geology lesson, suffice to say that it's a precious metal. referred to as a platinum. and it was discovered in 1803. it's also a music venue.

so central saint martins and the palladium alliance have been running a competition for its students, which involves coming up with designs involving palladium. the five finalists have been announced, the decision arriving courtesy of a panel including jewellery designer hannah martin, lucy yeomans (editor of harper’s bazaar) and melanie rickey (editor-at-large at grazia). 

the finalists come from a range of difference disciplines, from furniture design to ceramics, which ensures a incredible breadth of interpretations and a very high standard of craftsmanship (my understanding of carpentry is such that, if you can make a chair that won't collapse when i sit on it, i'd be fairly confident that your jewellery would, similarly, be fairly reliable. though not, perhaps, for sitting on).

my favourite is leigh cameron, whose 'weight of space' piece is composed of raw structural lines that intersect to form a ring (anyone who knows me knows that nothing makes me happier than a piece of metal the size of a fiat cinquecento sitting on my finger).

the final judging isn't until march, when giles deacon will be added to the line-up, so watch this space for more on the rest of the finalists.


an impossible picture

on a black, white and grey night, last thursday i took myself into an environment which despite the colour references wasn’t the manchester weather. the north tea power, a quaint cafe in the northern quarter played host to the exhibition opening of the 'good grey'. consisting of the works from local photographers, the emphasis was on the medium of film used. in conjunction with the exhibit is the ‘impossible project’ whom provide the newly created analogue film that produces the results of an instant picture, the same way as the late polaroid did. the collection did much to show the romantic and creative elements analogue film has to offer and as i scanned around the walls of the instant artworks, i was intrigued to discover more about the ‘impossible project’. i caught up with the founder florian kaps, who was kind enough to enlighten me on the impossible journey they’ve had on reviving instant photography after the capitulation of polaroid. i found out what compelled the revival especially in the days of digitalisation, the impossibility in creating a whole new system for analogue film and how close we came to losing the photographic art form as a whole.

  • what first attracted you towards analogue, especially in an age of digital takeover?
the smell of a polaroid camera that i stumbled over on a flea market and the unique, charming image it produced. it made me realized how attractive its tangible and sensitive characteristics are, and how rich in variety and exciting polaroid photos are compared to all those tons of perfect digital images. 
  • how and why did you decide to take action against the death of instant photography?
when polaroid announced in 2008 that they'd stop production of instant film i was devastated at first, but soon i realized that this is not the end but a beginning. but it was hard. tons of e-mails didn't get anything moving. it was not before the closing event of the factory in enschede, where I met andre bosman, a former polaroid production manager, who told me that the plant was still intact. together we decided to take action and to try the impossible. we preserved that plant, chose 10 former polaroid employees and started reinvention of a new instant film. 
  • did it take a while to realise that there was a mutual interest and a genuine market to revive analogue and create a new instant film?
we ran an online shop exclusively dedicated to analogue instant film and cameras (we were the only official polaroid online reseller back then) since 2005. during these years we saw a dramatically increase in customer's demand for instant film, so we knew that here was a market and interest for instant film out there. 
  • what was the most difficult task in the process of creating a new system?
the whole process! we had to find, create, produce and assemble 31 new components in a way that we'd get a working and stable film in the end. it truly was an impossible task, chances that we'd fail/succeed was 50/50. 
  • back in 2008 when you embarked on the project, did you initially declare it 'impossible', or was it looking back with hindsight to see the difficulties you overcame that you coined the name the 'impossible project'?
our name has several reasons: firstly our chance that we would succeed in producing a new film was 50/50. we never knew if this would be possible. so the chance of impossibility was always involved. secondly many people were telling us that this would be impossible. so our name is kind of a challenging reaction to all these dares. thirdly our name is based on a quotation by edwin h. land, the inventor of analogue instant photography and the founder of polaroid. as he was himself working on a quite impossible task in his days, he said: “don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible”. 
  • looking at your website i notice there are numerous step by step guides, is this for people who are not so familiar with analogue or is it an attempt to ensure and maximize creative performance?
it is to explain people that impossible film is not (working like) polaroid film. it's a completely new film, and other than the highly standardized polaroid film it requires particular handling (most important is to immediately shield the image from light as the camera ejects it.) when following these few important points, our films will deliver breathtaking images with an iridescent tone range from black & white to sepia, depending on light conditions and temperature. the films also allow various artistic manipulation techniques.
  • how does analogue film stand alongside the digital nature of photography, in a sense of a finished piece of art and the creative process as a whole?
analogue film teaches us to look at the world differently. we need to think before we press the button, because every single image costs you money. this value also has further significances embedded - every single image is unique, with unforeseeable characteristics and atmospheres. you can apply creative techniques to the image, you can give it to someone as a present, you can hide it in your diary - and you can declare it as a piece of art. 
  • i'm amazed by all the different techniques, for example, in manipulation and peeling. do you think the possibilities are endless for instant creativity?
  • with the rising popularity of film cameras and also super8 motion film, do you think that impossible’s new instant film will benefit from revival?
yes. there is this certain analogue niche market - super 8, vinyl - and impossible film!
  • i read on the site 'future is analogue.' what does the future hold for the impossible project?
further development and improvement of further, different film materials, further artistic projects & collaborations and possibly a new instant camera (we've now started research if and how a new analogue instant camera would be possible).
  • finally, if the last polaroid factory wasn't saved and the project wasn't created, do you think people would have forgotten about instant photography?
well, sooner or later all existing polaroid cameras would have become obsolete, and sooner or later they would have end up in the trash, and sooner or later people would probably have forgotten about polaroid photography. 

 [fred paginton]

Monday, 13 December 2010

charlotte's thought of the week... williamsburg is burning. with capitalism hatred.

Until yesterday, my cynical rant of choice was centred on the utter futility of the student protests. Swinging from a cenotaph, like George of the liberal jungle, Charlie Gilmour promoted no feelings of swelling pride and rebellion in my young (yet hardened) soul. Quite the opposite: feelings of hostility and resentment radiated in Mr Gilmour’s direction. This boy clearly needs to get a grip. His Dad is in Pink Floyd. The difference between £3000 and £9000 to Mr Gilmour, equates to the difference between buying Tesco’s grapes or Sainsbury’s grapes to the average pleb of a student (10p more at Sainsbury’s- take note). ‘Tis but a drop in his vast ocean of wealth. Not to mention the undeniable fact that his well placed laced booties and artsy scarf flying in the wind smelt a bit TOO much of forward planning.
But yesterday, some other infuriatingly self-indulgent movement flew past Gilmour and Co. in the race to get my proverbial goat. That oft-ridiculed, oft-infuriating community affectionately known as ‘hipsters’.  And not just any hipsters. Not even the local Hackney branch, where I frequently deposit my derision. Oh no, this stemmed from the Mothership…. Williamsburg. The Mecca of hipsters worldwide, hipster Nirvana, where hip was conceived, nurtured and monitored with an iron rod of nonchalance.
For once, the hipsters have stirred from their permanent state of indifference. You may wonder what could possibly rouse a hipster from their favourite preoccupation. Well, the only thing feasibly on par with lackadaisical artistry and tactical indifference of course- anti capitalism.
Perhaps more infuriatingly than the students of Britain, the hipsters are not protesting FOR anything concrete, they are just merely OPPOSED. It gives the poor dears something to do besides riding their fixie bikes and drinking over-priced Guatamalan coffee. The focus of their opposition? A Duane Reade drug store. In New York, Duane Reade is the British equivalent of Boots, and heaven forbid beastly mainstream pharmaceuticals might tarnish Williamsburg’s chain-less high street.
Don’t get me wrong, I love independent shops as much as the next person. Give me deepest Shoxton over the generic West End any day. But what is truly futile, and most definitely obnoxious, is exercising active hatred towards any shop that dares to have a twin. Or Lord help them, triplets or more. Yes Starbucks is an over-priced, soulless establishment that eats retail space for breakfast. But it serves its purpose. Make love, not war. Have a Starbucks muffin. No one will die.
But the nail in my coffin of hatred has got to be the hipster’s notion that Duane Reade will somehow be instrumental in the death of their happy little community. Community, dear hipsters, is not geography. Your like-minded collective will exist regardless of how many capitalist-friendly shops open on that one street, in that one district, in that one city. Boho-central used to be Soho, it used to be Greenwich village, it used to be Tribeca. But artistic communities are by their very nature wandering, gypsy like, transient. The last thing you would want Williamsburg to become is some sort of museum to hipster-isms.
I doubt, somehow, that when the hipsters moved in to Willaimsburg, unceremoniously out-bidding the Polish communities and Jewish communities that once called it home, that there was a similar level of petulant fuss. Get real, Williamsburg. Move on. Surely one of your most hallowed mantras centres around being a step ahead of the game? Knowing what’s going to be cool next, rather than now? Well find it, piss off and live in it. Either that, or get a prescription for anti-depressants from Duane Reade. 

[charlotte skeoch]

Monday, 6 December 2010

Claire Denis's 'WHITE MATERIAL'

white material 
directed by claire denis 
starring - isabelle hupert, christopher lambert, nicolas duvauchelle release - december 6th (dvd & bd) 
certificate - 15 

there´s this trend on social network du jour, facebook, where you´re supposed to change your profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood in order to raise awareness against child abuse. it´s kind of a way for us, miserable comfortable procrastinating gits, to remind ourselves that there are things to be done in the world. we just can´t really be bothered do them. in this light hollywood always touched the subject of africa with the same patronizing condescension like the yuppie who buys the big issue every three months and thinks he made a difference to the world. so they fly their jets and throw their biggest stars into that continent and we can praise them with awards and compliments because those movies made us “aware” about the production of diamonds, or the western political influence in the african political instability. Aware of our ‘awareness’ and the implications of such. 

western films prefer this political approach when there´s so much more potential for human analysis. a skeptic would say the west is just too guilt-ridden and needs a ‘live 8’ to fill that shallow necessity. a skeptic just said that. 

gladly there’s claire denis. french director born and raised africa with a knack for palpable observations of human behavior. i say gladly because when she flies back to africa she doesn´t want to point fingers, nor romanticize the exoticism. denis takes the opportunity to do what no one seems to dare, for some reason: use africa as a mere background, a setting with just as much potential as any other. no politics. no guilt. no phone number in the end to support anything. only a woman in a place, the basis of drama. 

maria vial (hupert) is a french-white land owner in an unnamed african country. when political turmoil hits and the government start chasing rebels and the white people, the french military evacuates all of its citizens, but maria stays behind because someone needs to pick this year’s crop of coffee. that is the reason on the surface, deep inside vial knows she eventually will have to run away as well and move to paris, but in paris she won´t be herself and do what she loves the most, so better do it one more time, surely? 
can you see the simplicity of this dramatic problem? all denis does is ask, what would a very strong-willed woman do in a country that hates her? nothing more. there are mere grasps of politics but those are only incidental, instead the action centers in maria and the consequences of her stubbornness. the coffee plantation is not even hers. 

vial and manuel, her son, move in their own lines without to much exposition into their motivations. the only way for this to work is if the cast is up to the par. duvauchelle has the same gut of an early vincent cassel, we will be looking how far can he go. and then there´s hupert, like an avalanche she is the grounding force behind the film, her serene and seemingly emotionless look has more character than anything else i have ever seen this year, which is a very common phrase everytime i watch a film with her. 

denis knows that africa isn´t a continent in constant need of our attention. africa is what africa is so why be patronizing? taking this route was already a bold move but even better is how she seems to be aware of that - the title pretends to have all these political connotations, yet they are not followed by the story; the transformations of the characters are never tainted by our expectations, and the only time maria seems to be close to any influence on the country´s fate is forgotten because someone needs to take care of all that coffee. denis is not saying anything about africa, she´s saying something about us. it´s more important to be aware of that.

[f.l silva]