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The Minimalists + the art of letting go

I got into The Minimalists in 2017 after a breakup and while the minimalist movement is heavily whitewashed and misguided, these guys talk sense.

Rather than getting rid of everything and only buy 5 expensive white items in your expensive white apartment, they tell you to keep the things that have value and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t. It seems basic but that’s the trouble with letting go: it can be a fine art.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known to their four million readers as “The Minimalists,” have written four books, including the bestselling memoir, Everything That Remains. They write about living a meaningful life with less stuff at TheMinimalists.com. Their new film, Minimalism, is currently the #1 documentary of 2016.

Stream their TED Talk below.

The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

Proper Magazine is a proper magazine

Proper Mag

Head to any half-decent intercity newsagents and you’ll see a wall full of different magazines, glossy and independent, carving out a space to exhibit their culture of interest.

Proper Magazine started out as a fanzine quite some time ago and the indie mag has grown into a website and creative agency. Having worked with the likes of Adidas, Clarks, and Barbour, Proper know their stuff when it comes to clothing brands and related cultures.

The icing on the cake for me, however, is their online store. It contains the usual fare of t-shirts, stickers, and socks but I’m enamoured with the mugs on offer. Yes, I fell in love with some fancy mugs, okay? But they come in all kinds of wonderful colours and my particular favourite is the Proper El Pibe Mug (as I have a soft spot for Colombia after Italia 90 but unfortunately it’s no longer in stock.)

El Pibe Mug by Proper Magazine

Proper Mag knows their audience well, as to be expected with decades of experience between the editors, Neil Summers and Mark Smith. Having their base in Manchester also helps; a cosmopolitan city with its own rich heritage, away from the clutches of London. Want to know more?

Visit the Proper website and check out the list of stockists so you can grab a copy!

will.i.am Can See the Future

Vic Berger is the master of comedic videosurrealism (I don’t know if that’s a thing but I’m making it one) and for this particular short, he puts together clips of will.i.am being… will.i.am. The added sound effects perfect the oddities.

will.i.am is a unique guy but this twists and distorts what we already knew into something truly spectacular. It also makes me wish I had a talking toilet. And some ill.i’s (yeah, they actually exist). You just take the wam out.

You’ll see what I mean.

The National Film Archive of Japan uploads 60 animated films from 1917–1941

The Bear Brothers

The National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ) has kindly uploaded 60 films from 1917 to 1941, each one primitive as the other. But when you think these creations were the foundations of masterpieces like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, you’ll appreciate them even more.

This shows Japanese animations are more than just anime so I’d highly recommend you watch some of them and get more accustomed to Japanese cinema.

Check the National Film Center’s website for a full list of movies.

The Hateful Eight's Homage To The Thing

The Hateful Eight's Homage To The Thing

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight was packed full of references.

But the main focal point of his homage was John Carpenter’s The Thing (besides saying the N-word as many times as possible). I usually refrain from watching horror films because they scare me but The Thing is my favourite. I think it’s the cabin fever suspense a la Alien. The special effects are incredible even though they scare the crap out of me but that confirms their quality.

Below is a shot-by-shot comparison of the two films and the resemblance between them is uncanny. As homages/muses go, The Thing is a superb choice.

The Atlantic Remember Black Postmodern Artist Barkley L. Hendricks

Barkley L. Hendricks

Apart from the advent of hip hop, not much gets a look in over white counterparts. Barkley L. Hendricks’ portraits were striking in recognising the beauty of post-Civil Rights blackness and every decade after. The contrast of minimalism and abundant strength in his paintings were unfortunately overlooked by those in the museums.

Kriston Capps of The Atlantic wrote a brilliant piece on his work and what it meant to black culture.

He never painted black people in protest or in crisis. Ideas about black nationalisms surfaced in his work as they were reflected in the world of images.

Barkley L. Hendricks died last Tuesday at the age of 72.

Barkley L. Hendricks – 'I Want to Be Memorable' | TateShots

A Gold Experience

tutankhamun

For my 10th birthday, I got a Gameboy Color. I cried when I unwrapped it because a few months prior, my original Gameboy DMG was stolen along with 10 games. I also got a gold cover for it but I’ve yet to find another since.

Gold is the colour of extravagance, wealth, riches, and excess. It’s also a colour of prosperity and grandeur and that’s why it’s one of my favourite colours behind red and green.

Here’s a series of images showcasing the gold experience in all its splendour. And if you like all things golden, you should check out how it can make your broken pottery look even better.

Get Out: Black Solidarity and Knowing the Code

Get Out is probably one of the most unique and intriguing horror films I’ve seen since It Follows. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or two, Get Out is a huge box-office success and a critically acclaimed horror/thriller/comedy mash-up from the mind of Jordan Peele. A lot has been written about how Get Out derives its horror from racial overtones. This is certainly true and as a young black man myself, what resonated with me most was how Chris attempted to initially combat the awkwardness of the situation – particularly through his language.

The film

In Get Out, Chris Washington, an African-American, accompanies his white girlfriend Rose to meet her parents in a predominately white community but he soon discovers something sinister is afoot. Most black people in predominately white countries are aware of the concept of microaggressions. Get Out successfully highlights how those day-to-day microaggressions contribute to fetishizing an individual by reducing them to stereotypical components. Instead of greeting Chris normally, white characters in the film adopt forced African-American slang and proclaim their love of Obama. To them, Chris isn’t ‘Chris the Individual’, instead, he’s reduced to ‘Chris The Black Guy’ – a thoroughly isolating experience.

Chris’ attempts to remedy this isolation strongly resonated with me. Whilst staying with Rose’s parents, Chris only encounters three other black people. His first solution to avoiding that segregation is to appeal to them for solidarity. But there’s something ‘off’ about the black servants who serve Rose’s family, and similarly something unsettling about the only other black man who Chris meets at the parents’ party. When he tries to engage with them on their assumed level, i.e. through African-American idioms, slang and gestures (the fist bump for example), they don’t reciprocate.

On my initial viewing of Get Out, it got me thinking about the ‘black guy nod’. Personally, I don’t even know when I learned or when I started doing the ‘black guy nod’, otherwise called just ‘the nod’ or the ‘Negro nod’. This refers to a knowing look and small nod of the head shared between black people whenever they see each other in an area without many other black people.

Last year, when walking down the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I did it when I noticed a black guy walking past me and he kindly returned the gesture. We didn’t even say anything to each other, we just nodded knowingly, kept it moving and I never saw him again. I don’t know his name, where he was from, but it just seemed like something I ought to do.

A scene from Get Out

It’s not the only tool for establishing solidarity; code-switching is an effective tool for connecting with someone from the same culture. Code-switching refers to when a speaker alternates between two or more languages or dialects. It’s often context and audience dependent. For minorities, this can be especially important. Referencing shared cultural experiences can be a form of emotional survival. And considering that survival is at the core of Get Out, it’s probably the best exploration of code-switching I’ve seen on cinema. (Dave Chappelle has a hilarious stand-up routine where he mentions Black people looking out for each other in dangerous situations.)

We codes

Some academics propose that this type of intra-communal code-switching can be divided into “we” and “they” codes. “We codes” are geared towards the home, family and immediate community, while “they codes” are associated with wider public discourse. A “we code” might consist of something as overt as a shared language or regional dialect that people of a shared heritage might use versus the standardised language they use when corresponding in formal settings. “We codes” establish solidarity for people who might be marginalised and minorities in a specific context.

A good example of Chris attempting a “we code”, is when he tries to establish a rapport with Walter, a black groundskeeper who serves Rose’s family. It’s a short scene; whilst Walter is outside doing manual labour, Chris says to Walter, “they working you good out here, huh?” in a friendly manner. Potentially, this is Chris’ attempt to highlight a distinction between the wealthy whites who own the property and the African-American outsiders, namely Chris, Georgina and Walter. Walter responds by reaffirming his link with Rose’s family, leaving the audience to feel that Chris is alone and Walter is not an ally.

It’s an awkward moment when Chris tries to segue into a “we code” with fellow African-Americans in the town, only for it not to be reciprocated. For Chris and the audience, this confirms that there’s something ominous brewing in the community with regards to the way it views black people. This shifts the tone of the film from merely being a clumsy navigation of meeting the girlfriend’s parents (a la Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) to a disturbing and unsafe atmosphere. There’s no one there who can relate to Chris, which poses a threat to him as the true horror of the story unfolds.

Conclusion

There are many things we can take away from Get Out. There are so many thematic points to unpick which makes me look forward to re-watching it. The importance of reciprocating code-switching is demonstrated by the fact that the only person looking out for Chris, is the person who is most relatable to him culturally and linguistically. It’s a film with a lot of substance, but my favourite aspect of the film is its encouragement for ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, to look out for each other.

Get Out was released in UK Cinemas on the 17th March 2017.

New York's Met Museum Publish Over 375,000 Images For Free Use

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Many of the 375,000 images provided by the Met are free for use without any cost or restrictions and come from the late 19th century when photography was in its infancy and back when albumen silver prints were in use. They were the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative and paved the way for photographic materials like celluloid.

Resources like this are really helpful for people without access to places like the Met Museum or the means to reach them in their local areas. Creative Commons was created for purposes like this and it’s great to see the Met taking part.

(via DIY Photography)

The Addams Family Promo That Became Michael Jackson's Ghosts

MICHAEL JACKSON - IS IT SCARY 1993 EDIT ( Addams Family Values Short Film ) Rare fottage inedit

The original project was a 12-15 minute short promoting the new Addams Family Values movie but due to Michael’s molestation allegations, the project was shelved. This didn’t stop his motivation towards and the short became “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts” three years later.

Very little changed from the 1993 version compared to the final 1996 version apart from the role of Mayor. Ken Jenkins, better known as Dr Bob Kelso in US comedy Scrubs, played the Mayor in 1993. In Ghosts, Michael played both the Mayor and the Maestro. Yup, that’s Michael dressed as an overweight white man with a chip on his shoulder. Spot the irony if you will.

Read an extract about the making of Ghosts from the book, Making Michael.

The Wonderful Art of Jonny Wan

Based in Sheffield, Jonny Wan’s work covers everything from “advertising to product packaging and beyond”. As you’ll see, he likes bold patterns and shapes with plenty of nods to Art Deco.

He also graduated from the Manchester School of Art in 2008 and has gone on to work with the likes of Apple, Nike, and The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Being an illustrator can be a very up and down career, where one month can bring a flurry of jobs in and the next one can be dead. It’s important to remain committed and to not forget why you chose illustration in the first place.

Interview with Jonny Wan on Crazy Animal Face

(all image rights reserved by Jonny Wan)

Happy 30th, Barcelona Pavilion

The gorgeous modernist structure with its refined glass and marble stoa was merely created for the exhibition as a temporary building and was taken down within a year.

Its architect, the revered Mies van der Rohe left no blueprint. Work began on rebuilding the Pavilion in 1983 with the photographs and drawings that remained. It took three years complete and now it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Barcelona Pavilion
Image courtesy of https://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/
Image courtesy of https://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/
Image courtesy of https://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/
Image courtesy of https://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/
Image courtesy of https://miesbcn.com/the-pavilion/
barcelona-pavilion-2
Image courtesy of https://www.archdaily.com/109135/ad-classics-barcelona-pavilion-mies-van-der-rohe

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 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.”

mario's picross gameboy box art

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