Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Autumnal Textures of New York

A visual sampling of my weekend in New York City...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

..to a young poet

"Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."


Monday, November 16, 2009

What We Do, Who We Are

Three weeks into unemployment, I have come to realize how much I am defined by what I do. In these days of grad school applications and leisurely cooking and reading, I find myself feeling anxious sometimes, peaceful some other times and questioning most of the time. Without a job, without that filler of most of daily activity, what am I?

It is a challenging question with which to wrestle. I am trying to just let things be, but sometimes I get to myself, paranoid about cash flow and doubtful of the future. While the job I choose should ultimately be fulfilling and worthwhile since I would spend most of my waking hours doing said job, who I am is also something separate from that job. I'm not sure if it's the Internet age we live in or the rally to productivity that seems to always be broadcasting inside me, but I feel like I can take action and commandeer my life.

And if I step back and look at myself, my emotional ups and downs, my moments of peace at letting things slide and my moments of anxiety at wanting to make things happen, I can only smile. I've seen it all before, and one day I'll find a way out of the cyclical process. Even more likely, every now and then I'll have a moment of clarity and be happy with the spot just where I am, what I am doing and who I am.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lady Gaga: Queen of Art, Queen of Pop

One of my favorite moments from her new music/art video, Bad Romance: Lady Gaga sings to herself in an ornately framed mirror, wearing a charred crown.

As a pop star, Lady Gaga has harnessed the power of her music, her marketing, and created works of art that reflect the world in which we live, a world that thrives on fashion, fame, gossip, sensationalism and moments of strange beauty. In her latest video, Gaga takes us on a journey to a strange place inhabited by strange creatures, dances and fashions. From brocade eye-shields to crowns of different forms, from Alexander McQueen to bejeweled breadbasket-like headpieces, and from bear-rug-as-dress to super-dilated pupils, Lady Gaga has outdone herself yet again. Gone are the days of the one-costume dancing-singing music video. A visionary, Gaga has created a world, created an aesthetic and considered every detail of every frame. Such a dynamic video art.

She exploits our imaginations (in the best way possible), bombards our eyes (making us want to watch the video 5, 8, two hundred times; watch Bad Romance for yourself) and endlessly fascinates our minds. In an age when we as people are constantly buzzing from one thing to the next, phone calls, news stories, emails, websites all in one, Gaga has the ability to capture our short attention spans by giving us MORE than we can possibly take in. In the image below, the pop supernova (can star really cut it anymore?) is at the center of her own orbit, and with such an avantgarde taste and daring, how could she not be?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A blog away... where Yoga Meets Fashion

When I am not waxing philosophical about life or sharing my most recent travel shots over here on my personal blog, I am mining recent fashion shoots I find online for yoga poses. And I love it.

The idea started when I did a double-take browsing through a recent fashion shoot on one of the blogs I follow. Was that a yoga pose? It was indeed. Before long I was finding poses all over the place in fashion spreads. And thus the idea was born. Why not share the dynamic and yogic poses found in fashion with the world? You get to see fashion spreads in a whole new way, I get to have fun looking for poses and everyone (at least all the yogis and yoginis) share a sly knowing smile at the double life of the poses featured on the daily blog. I have so much fun putting it together.

People out in the blogosphere have loved it so much that Strike A Pose: Yoga Meets Fashion (go take a look!) has a regular column (or more like picture of the week) at the New York-based style blog Terregalia (where I have been known to write a piece or two) and was recently featured on the Montreal-based but widely-loved all things yoga and beyond blog It's All Yoga, Baby!

Rejoice and enjoy, marvel at the fashion, marvel at the yoga pose!

Strike A Pose: Where Yoga Meets Fashion - http://yogameetsfashion.blogspot.com

Monday, November 09, 2009

On Expectations and Unemployment

On my last day of work two weeks ago, I was full of confidence, on the edge of unemployment, filled with a mix of anxiety, fear, hope and determination. I had decided not to renew my contract because, ever since the very instructive and very difficult flop of Career Discovery, I have started to ask myself more pointedly what I want and where I am headed. Instead of shrugging and saying I dunno, I've realized that on some level, I DO know. So stop beating about the bush. Anyways, I digress. On my last day of work, I thought it was over, clean cut, move on, get a job, new experience. But much like everything else in life, nothing is as clear cut as we would like it to be.

While I thought I was leaving my job forever, by the end of the day I was thrown a curve ball and it was established that I would be staying on, on a more casual basis, coming in when help was needed. But what of my clean break? What of my absolute freedom? All in your head Stefan, all in your head. I cannot tell you how much of a loop the lack of finality threw me on. I am still learning to deal with what life throws me, still processing the unexpected turns. I had to find my own sense of finality and realize that the casual extension of the contract was more of a safety net and also a measure of how much my work was valued.

On to unemployment. By the end of week 1, I had a phone interview and had applications in for jobs for which I thought I was very qualified. The hopeful feeling persisted.

But then the waiting stretched out. Week 2 definitely felt like it dragged on. I knew I would be hearing answers from the jobs within that week but had to find ways to feel useful and occupied. I devoured books, extended my morning solo yoga practices, went to yoga classes and tried to meet up with friends here and there. After a while with so much time, you start to go a little nuts. Or I do. There's only so much TV I can watch.

I like to feel useful and engaged. I like projects. I want to write, I want to be connected to art, I want to be on some sort of creative frontier... I know that eventually I will tap into a job that will honour my skills and strengths, but those sorts of jobs don't just plop into your lap. So for now, I'm just trying to live in the now, soak in the reams of time that I have, do a few things, and see what life has in store...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Of Knapsacks, Manbags and Murses : Health vs. Fashion

A Rant.

Last year, I carried around a shoulder bag wherever I went. I thought it was chic, and it was comfortable enough. But as I did more and more yoga, slinging around my yoga stuff in a shoulder bag, I started having strange back pains. My yoga teacher said that I should really always have weight distributed equally along my shoulders so that my back wouldn't suffer. A knapsack. So, eversince, I've been wandering around with a backpack.

But how professional can you feel, going to work with your backpack? Is there such a thing as a professional looking knapsack? And what of all these people with shoulder bags, and oversized manbags, and murses? Won't their backs hate them in the future? It makes me wonder, as well, at what point you sacrifice your health for fashion. Women do it all the time in the crazy heels that they wear. Can't there be a happy healthy medium? I am envisioning some sort of bag with bilateral gun-holster-like straps... Someone needs to get creative.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sleeves of Feathers

I just wanted to share these fun photos, more for their sleeves of feathers than anything else... Photographs by Adrian Jutba.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Of Time and Fashion: The September Issue Review

When I first heard that the documentary The September Issue would not be released in Montreal until the end of October, I thought: “How preposterous! Doesn’t that defy the laws of fashion? Won’t it be outdated by then?” And, you, dear readers, are probably thinking the same thing: “A review about The September Issue in November? Ridiculous!” Yet, after seeing the movie, I realized that while fashion may be about always looking forward and never looking back, as American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour succinctly stated towards the end of the film, this documentary is very much about looking back in order to reveal the process behind the glamour and mystery which is the production of Vogue. Fashion may come and go but style and the creative process remain constants throughout.

Through interviewing and following Wintour, director R.J. Cutler has gone beyond fears of the seemingly flimsy and fickle world of fashion to dig deeper into the business, the politics and the process of creation. At times, Wintour reveals snippets about her life and her work. While The Devil Wears Prada had allegedly drawn from rumours of the Editor-in-Chief’s cold and exacting demeanour, Wintour comes across differently. Always stylish, the British grand dame of Vogue does cut straight to the point, yet does so thoughtfully. Maybe it’s the way of the Brits. She does not hesitate to ask direct questions or to sit in heavy silences considering her opinions. She isn’t vengeful, she is just incredibly exacting. Throughout the portrait of Wintour and Vogue, the audience witnesses the Editor-in-Chief’s stare, a considered and calculating glance.

While some crack under the pressure of having to perform and stand by their opinions in front of Wintour, longtime colleague and fellow Brit Grace Coddington, who is the Creative Director of Vogue, stays strong. Coddington shines in The September Issue with her creative energy, joking quips and moments of emotional fragility. We are treated to several shoots under her direction, seeing everything from clothing selection to historic inspiration, from dynamic shoots to final product. A former model, Coddington has refined her eye for fashion and creates truly inspiring and artistic works. In the end, the Creative Director with a head of wild red hair reveals herself as a diligent and unflagging worker and a true artiste.

Ultimately, the documentary follows the production of Vogue’s biggest issue through vignettes of fashion shows and shoots along with personal and day-to-day moments. As Coddington rolls a rack of clothes into Wintour’s office at the conclusion of the movie, the viewers realize that the process just starts all over again. The film produces a timeless portrait, revealing the creative and personal forces continually at work behind a fashion magazine that changes from month to month. And while I may have initially bemoaned the anachronistic release of the film, it makes no sense to speak of timeliness after seeing the film. While Vogue produced the biggest issue ever in its history for September 2007, the release of the documentary a year later comes at a time that is much different. Vogue goes on producing, creating, editing and publishing. And even though we have all gained a glimpse beyond the large VOGUE letters mounted on wood-paneled wall in the elevator lobby through The September Issue, the mystique continues and I wonder: “What are they up to now?”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Adad Hannah in Montreal

Just a quick note to redirect you towards my most recent post at the Art Blog about Adad Hannah's work on display in Montreal. Go here to read all about it, or just see below...

I first came across the work of Adad Hannah work at Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s inaugural triennial exhibition focusing on Quebec artists held over a year ago. Hannah’s photographs taken at the Prado Museum showed viewers (now subjects) engaged with the art in active ways: a woman leaned in to kiss a statue of Eros, two men looked into a mirror in front of Velasquez’s Las Meninas. In Las Meninas itself, a mirror at the back of the room has been interpreted in various ways in art historical literature, and Hannah’s layering of a second mirror once again questions the role of the viewer. With his most recent show, the New York-born Montreal-based artist continues to produce memorable and engaging works of art that thoughtfully and intelligently dialogue with the history of art. This time Hannah challenged Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa (1819).

Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 8, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.
Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 8, c-print, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.

In his small solo show, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House), at Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain (PFOAC), Adad Hannah has documented the recreation of Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. The project was a collaboration between the artist and the small community of 100 Mile House in central British Columbia, Canada. The restaging culminated after three months of preparation, the painting of a more than 1000 square foot backdrop, and the help of twenty-two performers and a slew of crew and volunteers. Over two days, the tragic and triumphant scene was performed as a tableau vivant, held for five to ten minutes for audiences, drawing classes and for photo and video capture.

Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 5, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.
Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 5, c-print, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.

Those who visit PFOAC will see various photographs from this effort, including different iterations of models, close-ups of details and an eerily vacant scene. If you pause long enough in front of the two screens at the back of the room, you realize that the models are actually moving minutely, their muscles shaking as they hold their poses. Beyond the photos, this living canvas questions the performative aspect of Géricault’s original work.

Théodore Géricault’s original canvas depicted a hopeful moment in the tragedy of the 1816 wreck of the ship Méduse, in which members of the crew, abandoned for two weeks by their captain, finally see salvation in the form of a distant ship. No concerted effort had been made by the captain to rescue the 150 crewmembers not able to flee in lifeboats. After two weeks at sea, exposed to the elements, starvation, desperation and insanity, only 15 men remained. The canvas exposed the corruption of French military powers who had appointed a captain 20 years out of service and whose mistakes caused the ship to run aground. The canvas also controversially put a black man in a position of strength, signaling the distant ship for help. Géricault created numerous studies after the 1816 event and finally unveiled his massive masterpiece in the 1819 Paris Salon to fervent and impassioned remarks.

Théodore Géricault,  The Raft of the Medusa, Salon of 1819, © R.M.N./D. Arnaudet, Courtesy of the Louvre Museum
Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa, Salon of 1819, © R.M.N./D. Arnaudet, Courtesy of the Louvre Museum

In the act of recreating a masterwork of French Romanticism (in colours decidedly more vivid than the original), Adad Hannah reveals the artificiality of posed art. Géricault’s numerous studies attempted to refine the most powerful image possible of a tragic real-life event. In recycling an iconic image, Hannah presents the documentation of a live re-enactment of an old French masterwork, which is in itself the documentation of a recreation of an actual event. While you can easily be lost in this whirlpool of interpretation and historic revisionism, you need only to stand in front of one of Hannah’s screens and watch the minutely moving models to understand the confrontation of art and reality, revealing the delicate and lengthy process of staging models in order to recreate an epic moment from reality, a moment in history already lived and already passed.

Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 9, c-print, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.
Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 9, c-print, 2009, Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.

Adad Hannah’s The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) remains on display in Montreal until November 28 and will grace the walls of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT from March 21 to May 30, 2010.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Post-Halloween Ramble

Weeks before Halloween, a friend asked if I was excited for the holiday. And, honestly, I just shrugged and gave a non-committal answer. But looking back on the last two days, from preparation to party, I've discovered that I actually enjoy Halloween quite a lot. It's fun to dress up and look wild, pretend to be creatures and other people, slap on the makeup and just enjoy.

Friday night I was slated to go to a zombie party and never having dressed up as a zombie, I didn't know where to start. Upon googling zombie, I discovered that pale-faced, sunken-eyed and bloody were the ways to go. Liking to make things myself, I looked up a recipe for fake blood and concocted the creation using corn syrup, corn starch, cocoa powder, food colouring and a bit of water. The results were scary.

Getting my costume together involved ripping a shirt I was going to get rid of and "bloodying" it. I also spent some time doing makeup, which turned out to be incredibly fun... I ended up snapping a whole bunch of photos making faces in the mirror. Before I even stepped out the door, I was satisfied. Honestly, I could have taken the photos and then taken off the makeup and gone to bed I was so satisfied. But I did party down with my fellow zombies and reveled in the costumed landscape of people.

On Halloween proper, Dad and I carved a pumpkin with fabulously sordid results.

That night I was dressing up as Max from Where The Wild Things Are. I was pretty happy with the creativity of my costume, made possible by Dollarama. A tail out of socks, ears made out of a carwash glove, a construction paper crown and a sweatsuit turned inside out. A cuddly cute costume, it seemed like only an intelligent informed few were in the know as I was taken for a tiger, a raccoon and multiple times as a rabbit. Nonetheless, I had a great time dancing away, King of the Wild Things.

In retrospect, dressing up and changing up your identity are such fun. I am already looking forward to the next time I get to switch up Stefan for someone/something else. Bring back the costume party!

So that's my ramble. Peace.