Cultrface – a blog dedicated to culture and how it enriches our lives.

Nottingham Contemporary: A Review

Nottingham Contemporary

I’ve been in and around Nottingham for about 17 years. My sister moved in 1995 to attend Nottingham Trent University and I’d visited plenty of times. I lived in Luton at the time so it was the only city I’d regularly visited that wasn’t Bradford – my old hometown – or London. It was my choice of destination for university in 2008. Alas, that didn’t end so well and I left but I returned in 2014 and I’ve been here ever since. My voyage to Nottingham Contemporary was only the second Nottingham landmark I’d visited in my life. I was eager to go.

Where is Nottingham Contemporary?

The building is nestled within the city’s Lace Market, a protected heritage area, formerly the epicentre of the world’s lace industry during the British Empire. The modern cladding is significant in design contrasted with the surrounding architecture but in celebration of the area’s history, the building has been embossed with a lace design. At night, it shines like a beacon; a brutalist monolith bursting with cultural light.

The exhibitions

You’re graced with the gift shop upon entering (more on that later) but for my visit yesterday, there were two exhibitions. The first, FOXP2, was from French artist Marguerite Humeau. Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011 and shows at the Palais de Tokyo, MoMA and the V&A, this was quite an acquisition. FOXP2 was inspired by conversations with zoologists and other biological experts and comprises of two installations. Grunts and primitive murmurs fill the dark corridor leading to Gallery 1. They form the components of a sound installation; “a ‘choir’ of 108 billion voices, re-enacting the moment when the gene – FOXP2 – mutated, allowing our ancestors to develop language”. The longer you stay, the more elaborate and developed the noises become.

Marguerite Humeau - FOXP2
Taken from nottinghamcontemporary.org

Then from the darkness, you become enveloped in a pinkish hue of light. The second installation is what Humeau describes as a  “biological showroom” of elephants. A series of elephant sculptures tell differing takes of life and bio-engineering. I strongly recommended using the guide to gain a better understanding of both installations. Poignant and brooding, FOXP2 leads to questions of existentialism, not only for the planet but for ourselves as human beings.

Gallery 2 features the second exhibition by Nigerian artist, Otobong Nkanga. The gallery also holds two separate installations as part of the exhibit. Taste of a Stone is a microcosm of boulders, pebbles and flora, intended to be used by local artists and visitors to share their experiences. The interactivity of the exhibition diverges from the modern interpretation of the word, retreating to the basic natural world as opposed to the technological.

The second room contains The Encounter That Took a Part of Me, an examination of the Earth around us through its environment and the fruits of its labour. The wall is emblazoned with a mural, starting with a steel framework, gradually decaying with rust before meeting depictions of neural passages and finally cracks in the earth and accompanying bronze canvas. There are also sculptural displays showing the varying examples of environmental change – rust, condensation.

Otobong Nkanga - Taste Of A Stone
Taken by myself

And then there was the gift shop. Usually a superficial part of a museum with its overpriced knick-knacks but this was different. Much different. The selection of books was diverse, from art and architecture to philosophy, music and a wide range of children’s books. There are also postcards and other stationery on offer at affordable prices. I picked up a double pizza cutter in the shape of a 1950s race car (there’s method behind this apparent madness but if you want to know more, ask me on Twitter) and a book of essays on the work of Michael Jackson. The exhibitions had enriched my cultural mind but the gift shop served as a fin parfaite to the experience.

The privilege of a museum visit

When I was about 13, after much nagging, I finally got the chance to visit Legoland in Windsor. I had wanted to go for ages and the visit came as a surprise. We reached the gates and the anticipation was palpable. But I never crossed the threshold. Why? Too expensive. I’m much wiser now when it comes financial reasoning so I completely understand but of course this upset me no end and I sulked for the remainder of the trip. My mother grew impatient with my attitude. Eventually, she snapped and uttered the now-immortal sentence:

“Do you know how privileged you are?”

The short answer to that was “no” but I now understand what she meant. I hadn’t appreciated all the holidays abroad and museum visits in my childhood. Some of my school friends had never been on a plane. Nottingham Contemporary encapsulates the wonder of cultural exploration and growth I took for granted in my younger years. I took my 10 month-old son who seemed less enthused by the exhibitions but he has to start somewhere and he seemed to enjoy the lights at least. I won’t be turning my back on this place.

Recommended reading, links and footnotes

8 Games I'd Love To See On The Nintendo Switch

Nintendo announced their newest console today, the Nintendo Switch. It will be released in March 2017 and acts as a “hybrid device”: both a tablet-like portable console and a home console placed in a docking station (complete with satisfying “click” sound).

The Switch also holds two wireless controllers you can detach, used individually or together as a normal gamepad. Only a handful of games have been announced, including the usual suspects – Legend of Zelda, a Mario Kart game, and a Super Mario game amongst others. But there are a few I’d love to see on the Switch. Here are 8 of them.

Golden Sun

golden-sun

Ever since my cousin introduced me to Golden Sun, it’s been my favourite RPG not called Pokémon (more on that later). The original game, released on GBA, tells the story of Isaac, Garet, Ivan and Mia, four teenagers tasked with saving their world, known as Weyard. It’s an archetypal fantasy RPG with plenty of magic, turn-based gameplay, classes, dungeons and caves. Psynergy is the game’s version of “mana” while Djinn are special creatures that give the characters special moves and the ability to change classes and abilities. The music, graphics and gameplay were already brilliant on both the two GBA versions and the DS versions. A Switch version has the potential to be fantastic, especially scenes like this:

Golden Sun - Judgement

A Pokémon racing game

pikachu and ash on a bike

Asking for an open world Pokémon game would be too easy. There’s definitely going to be one for the Nintendo Switch but what about a racing game? The spinoffs have involved pinball and puzzle games but a racing game would be a great competitor to the Mario Kart version we’ll eventually get. The only concern is how many Pokémon would be made usable, given the introduction of Sun & Moon by March 2017. There’s likely to be around 800 known Pokémon so who knows which ones would be picked. Mewtwo in a car? Perhaps not.

Super Mario RPG

supermariorpg

A Mario spinoff never released in Europe, Super Mario RPG was the first RPG in the Mario series and the only game to be made by Square (now Square Enix). It’s also uncommon in that it doesn’t involve Bowser as the main boss. This time, you have to beat Smithy who steals the seven star pieces of Star Road where “all the world’s inhabitants’ wishes become Wish Stars, and Mario must return the pieces so these wishes may again be granted”. Paper Mario is likely to get a Switch version but perhaps they should look towards a remake of this.

Chrono Trigger

chrono-trigger

Chrono Trigger is an all-time great, not only in the RPG category, but for games overall. It was highly praised for its simplicity, varied gameplay, and humour and spawned a few sequels and an enhanced remake for the Sony PlayStation. What better way to further enhance a prestigious game than to freshen it up on Nintendo’s new innovative console. The simplicity of both game and device would marry up perfectly. It would also sell incredibly well given Chrono Trigger’s stature.

Street Fighter

street-fighter-iii-third-strike

Street Fighter will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2017 and 20th anniversary of Street Fighter III. Chronologically, III is the most “recent” game so an anniversary follow up would be quite interesting although possibly confusing. That being said, nobody really plays Street Fighter for the storyline. They want to fight. The multi-playability of the Nintendo Switch allows for vigorous (and/or strategic) button smashing and could add a new flavour to tournament play. I hope this one happens.

F-Zero

f-zero

Mario Kart is a shoo-in for a Nintendo Switch racing game but the world needs another F-Zero game. The SNES version remains a classic; the music, the cars, the incredible track designs, not to mention the graphics and the speed. A sequel was made for the N64 – F-Zero X – and while most features were retained, graphical detail was criticised. Four more were made, three for the GBA and nothing since 2004. The F-Zero franchise has since gone on hiatus, which is disappointing. Bringing the franchise back for the Nintendo Switch would surely entice prospective buyers, sceptical or otherwise. Any excuse to ride as Captain Falcon, to be honest.

A modern-day Strike game

desert-strike

I loved playing Desert Strike on my Gameboy. I don’t know how I found it or why it initially appealed to me but it was fun to play. The last Strike game was released in 2000, and there have been many conflicts since so plenty of inspiration for a new version. It might also be interesting to see an isometric game on a console like this. I just hope it doesn’t involve Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A Waluigi game

waluigi

His first appearance was in Mario Tennis for the N64 in 2000. Waluigi has yet to star in his own game and it’s time for that to change. His brother Wario has had the lion’s share of publicity, headlining around 20 games, which may be similar to EURO88, since his first appearance in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins in 1992.

However, not everyone likes Waluigi. Kotaku, GamesRadar, IGN, and Complex (who included him in a list of “the ten video game characters who look like sex offenders”), have all expressed their disdain and that’s probably why we haven’t seen a Waluigi game as yet. But done correctly, he could change people’s minds. Maybe.

Bored Of Crossword Puzzles? Try Nonograms.

This is how I got into Sudoku. My first puzzle took 2 days to complete and it felt amazing to finish. After a while, I got bored of the varying levels of difficulty. I could never do the 3D puzzles but by then, I’d moved onto Kenken. I didn’t enjoy Kenken as much so that didn’t last either. Recently, I’ve discovered a “new” puzzle but it’s not new at all. Nonograms (also known as Hanjie, Picross or Griddlers) are Japanese logic puzzles where you fill in cells based on corresponding numbers in each row. Once completed, they reveal a hidden picture.

Nonograms started out in the late 80s but didn’t get their generalised name until 1990 when puzzle designer and curator James Dalgety named them after Non Ishida, the Japanese graphics editor who “co-created” them. You may recognise its alternative name, “Picross”, from the previous paragraph. That’s probably because it was the basis of Nintendo game Mario Picross. It didn’t do well when released in 1995, with mixed reviews on its gameplay. Electronic Gaming Monthly described it as “boring to play after the first few puzzles”, while GamePro called it “undeniably addicting.” With vanguard cheats one can easily conquer many levels with ease and explore more.

If you’re a puzzle lover looking for a new challenge, I strongly suggest having a go at nonograms. Fore more information and techniques, check out the reading list below and you can solve an online nonogram here.

Reading list

Internet Archaeology: a gallery of early internet images

The World Wide Web is relatively young.

But the concept of the internet – the “global system of interconnected computer networks” – dates back to the 1960s. The US government aimed to build better communication via computer networks but due to size and cost, computing was restricted to academia, the government and private corporations. When the World Wide Web was introduced in 1989, consumer-level computing exploded and technological advancement flourished.

Interest in pop culture from the 1990s is as strong as ever. Preserving digital artefacts is important in learning how we arrived here and Internet Archaeology plan to do that. The site’s creators say their main goal is to acknowledge the importance of these aforementioned artefacts and understand “the beginnings and birth of an Internet Culture”. Their focus lies solely on graphics – both JPEG and GIF – with the belief they are “most culturally revealing and immediate”.

The site hasn’t been updated for a while; collecting dust on already dated content. But it’s remarkable how far web culture has come since those halcyon days of dial-up and online pizza deliveries. Geocities is no longer with us but opened up a new world to children and adults alike to express themselves and their interests. Most of the images on the site are gawky now but serve a clear purpose. You’ll no doubt relive some memories with what’s on offer and maybe gain some inspiration.

You can find further reading on the subject in the list below the video.

The Stupidest Rap - Don't Copy That Floppy

Further reading

Vox analysed the impressive economics of Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson: An economic analysis

But how does Homer Simpson represent America? Vox did some calculations to see how he stands amongst the rest of the US and how he represents the “upper lower middle class”.

His salary from the nuclear plant was pretty bad, at least by today’s standards: $37,416 (adjusted for inflation). According to Vox’s calculations, that puts the Simpsons on the zip wire of lower and middle class. Of course, they’ve tasted morsels of the upper class high life (when Marge got that pink Chanel suit and when Homer got hair).

(Full article including list of jobs)

Homer related: Binging with Babish makes Homer Simpson’s Patented Space Age Out-Of-This-World Moon Waffles and Homer’s Brain

Update: In May 2022, NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money asked whether Homer Simpson is still America’s economic everyman:

For nearly 30 years, Homer Simpson has worked a union job at a nuclear power plant in Springfield, a job he got without a college degree. But on his salary alone, Homer has always been able to support a family of five. He’s also been able to afford a house, health insurance and seemingly endless amounts of Duff beer. When “The Simpsons” first aired way back in 1989, the lifestyle Homer and his family had wasn’t considered anything fancy. In fact, it was pretty normal for the average American middle-class family. But what about now? If the life of the Simpsons sounds unrealistic or even impossible to you for a middle class family in this day and age, you’re not alone.

JetSetRadio.Live

Set in a futuristic age besieged by corporate forces, Jet Set Radio (and its sequel Jet Set Radio Future), were the cell-shaded chronicles of the GG’s, a gang of rollerblading youths (or “rudies”). Their use of graffiti thwarted the evils of the “Rokkaku Group” and at the very core of the franchise lied two incredible soundtracks primarily composed by Hideki Naganuma. His compositions and others were spun in-game by “DJ Professor K”, who commandeered the titular “Jet Set Radio”, a pirate radio station our spray-paint wielding heroes regularly tune into, not only for dope tunes but also essential tips and mission information.

Considering JSR is my favourite video game franchise of all time, you can only imagine the joy that enveloped my soul when I stumbled upon JetSetRadio.Live. JetSetRadio.Live is the brainchild of Reddit user DJProfessor_K and greatly expands upon the in-game station. A vast majority of the OST is present, with a plethora of inspired songs added to the playlist. There are also selectable stations (themed after the various factions of rudies within the game), a chat room, JSRL TV (a playlist of intriguing videos played in random order) and even an Android app!

JetSetRadio.Live is pure unadulterated awesomeness condensed into the form of an internet radio station and is one of the best love letters to a video game I have ever had the pleasure of coming across.

You can listen to JetSetRadio.Live here and follow DJ Professor K on Twitter.

Sucklord, The NYC Artist Who Makes Bootleg Action Figures

Bootleg culture is a major subculture of our times.

It repurposes the discarded and creates new life. The Sucklord lives by his name under a super-villainous guise and makes bootleg action figures. The New York City pop artist is known for his “subversive Action Figure mashups and Reality TV Persona”, according to his website.

Operating under the Brand SUCKADELIC, The Sucklord’s Line of self-manufactured Bootleg Toys steal shamelessly from STAR WARS, Vintage Advertising and All manner of Pop Culture Trash. Packaged in layers of ironic self-Mockery, His shoddy looking wares have inspired an entire secondary Art movement, with dozens of entrepreneurial Toy Bootleggers creating their own versions of highly referential, low-Rent interpretations of their favorite figures.

Stream the video on Vimeo.

AntennaPod - A Podcast Manager For Android

Episodic in nature and distributed via web feeds, one could argue that podcasts have become the ‘talk radio’ of the internet age. Great podcasts are addictive and can often be a nightmare organising subscriptions for these delectable audio morsels if your software isn’t up to scratch. That’s where AntennaPod comes in.

Created by Daniel Oeh and hosted on GitHub, AntennaPod is a full-featured open source podcast manager that will bring out a smile from even the most ardent podcast listeners. AntennaPod’s developers have taken a meticulous approach in crafting the app as it contains arguably more features than many ‘paid’ podcast apps.

Some of its features include:

  • Support for both audio and video playback
  • Access to over 250,000 podcasts on iTunes and the gPodder directory
  • The ability to add subscriptions via RSS and Atom Feeds
  • OPML import/export
  • Variable playback speeds
  • Advanced download management features

The app is undoubtedly a triumph for “Free and Open Source Software” (FOSS). It’s a tangible step above the podcast management software provided by a certain fruit-flavoured corporate entity.

AntennaPod is published under the ‘MIT License’ and is available on both Google Play and F-Droid. You can download it for your Android device from the links below.

Google Play (Sign up for the beta!)

F-Droid

Observe The Rugged Side Of The Internet With "Brutalist Websites"

The idea of brutalism is normally reserved for architecture as Wikipedia defines:

Brutalist architecture is a movement in architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, descending from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. The term originates from the French word for “raw” in the term used by Le Corbusier to describe his choice of material béton brut (raw concrete). British architectural critic Reyner Banham adapted the term into “brutalism” (originally “New Brutalism”) to identify the emerging style.

But the ethos has transferred to web design lately, creating a “ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy”. This is according to Brutalist Websites, a compendium of sites with nothing but the basics at hand. You won’t see any fancy fonts or CSS3 on these web pages. Some look archaic but on the whole, they bring web design and the internet back to the bare bones and it’s quite refreshing.

Brutalist Websites before it died

UPDATE: *sigh* once again, another site has been taken down or otherwise defunct. Not sure why but the site is covered with a Brutalist Websites Are Dead logo. If you’re good with Dev Tools, you can get rid of it and still navigate the site but it’s a shame. Then again, a lot of the websites on there were questionable from a brutalist design perspective.

UPDATE 2: The watermark is gone but the webmaster told me the site isn’t active and remains as an archive.

X-Men Fan Creates Web Show Based On The 90s Animated Series

X-Men Danger Room Protocols Episode 1 Full

The web series will be called X-Men: Danger Room Protocols and see teams of X-Men characters up against Marvel villains in Professor X’s notorious Danger Room.

Each episode will be based around a single Danger Room battle and the first one will be called “Survival,” starring Jean Grey and Wolverine (we get the feeling Cyclops won’t like that one). X-Men: Danger Room Protocols will debut on 19th January with subsequent episodes freely available on his YouTube channel.

UPDATE: It turns out X-Men: Danger Room Protocols was cancelled after one episode. Why? Because Marvel said so. According to Joel himself (via CBR):

“When I set out to make this project, I never really thought this was going to be an issue. I didn’t think that Marvel was going to react this way, and this outcome, for me, is a little bit shocking.”

Marvel declined to comment.

The Machete Order - An Alternative Way To Star Wars

Well, think again as an alternative order has been proposed called “The Machete Order“. Absolutely No Machete Juggling writer Rod Hilton came up with the idea that suggests you watch the Star Wars films in the following order:

You’ll notice Episode I: The Phantom Menace has been omitted. The primary reason for this isn’t because it sucks (although that certainly helps making the decision to ignore it much easier), but you’ll need to read the full Machete Order blog post as to why it didn’t make the cut.

Read the whole thing at Absolutely No Machete Juggling.

Machete order-related: Polygon’s MCU Machete Order and The Machete Order for X-Men

PokéDad: A Webcomic About A Dad's Journey Through The Pokémon World

With over 200 million copies of their merchandise sold and over $35bn earned, the Pokémon franchise is only behind the Mario as the highest-grossing video game-based franchise.

But one of the best aspects of the series is the market of fan-made projects. One such project comes from LA-based illustrator Liz Rodriguez, entitled “PokéDad”. The webcomic tells the story of a dad in search of his son who has already completed his journey.

Players of Pokémon Red/Blue for the Gameboy will recognise the characters and tropes but the titular dad knows nothing of the Pokémon world and his logical viewpoint leaves him confused and frustrated throughout, much to the reader’s enjoyment. It’s a fantastic take on a well-known storyline and one you should check out. The comic updates every Friday.

Read PokéDad on Tumblr

Update: You can now follow PokéDad’s story on Instagram.

The Original Ghost Busters

The Ghost Busters - 1975

In 1975, “The Ghost Busters” (note the space) aired for 15 episodes as a children’s show. Comprised of two men (played by Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch) and their pet gorilla, The Ghost Busters travelled around the world in search of ghouls with their camera-like device ready to dispel them. An animated series was created in 1986 but it was only aired for one season although it did spawn a comic book.

While the series had nothing to do with the better-known Ghostbusters film franchise, Columbia Pictures did pay Filmation, the makers of The Ghost Busters, to use the name.

Fun fact: the characters Eddie Spencer and Tracy were named after the Golden Age actor Spencer Tracy and Kong (not the gorilla’s name, surprisingly) was named after King Kong.

You can watch an episode of the animated series on YouTube.

Animation/ghost related: The damp history of Tigersharks and Steamed Hams made by different-animator every 13 seconds, and Michael Jackson’s Addams family promo that turned into Ghosts.

Pop Culture Soaps by Yvonne Kai

These dope pop culture soaps are “all natural, vegan, and kosher with 100% pure essential oils and fragrance oils” and “Come Clean” with a number of different designs, from pugs to Nike sneakers and Minions (if that’s your thing).

The creator of the soaps, Yvonne Kai says the soaps are:

  • Handmade in USA
  • Hand-poured in New York City
  • Naturally scented with 100% Pure Essential Oils
  • Paraben and sulfate free
  • Moisturizing
  • Kosher
  • Vegan
  • Adorable

You can buy them on Etsy.

(via The Inspiration)

The Rights To "Do The Bartman" Sold For $38,500

Although long rumoured to be a Michael Jackson creation, the song was, in fact, written by singer-songwriter Bryan Loren. The latter called the prolonged rumours a “thorn in his side” and advised:

“Along with me, Michael Jackson does sing backing vocals. And it WAS his idea to call the song, DTB. AND, he did insist I include his name in the lyric.”

Hardcore MJ fans like myself may already know Loren’s name as Michael sang backing vocals on one of his tracks, To Satisfy You (which is brilliant, I might add). This also wasn’t the only Michael Jackson/Simpsons collab either. Michael voiced the character of Leon Kompowsky (but not the singing voice; that was Kipp Lennon) in Stark Raving Dad as well as adding a clip of Homer and Bart at the end of his infamous Panther Dance.

Related: Michael Jackson vs. Michael Jordan vs. LA Gear, MJ’s Addams Family-promo, and The one At The Bottom remix.